• Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Responsive Reading – Psalm 14 (UMH 746)
  • Scripture Readings (all readings CEB) – Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-15 – Rev. Val
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Message: Loaves, Fishes, Hang Ups, & Habits – Rev. Val
  • Offertory – Rev. Val
  • Passing the Peace
  • Benediction – Rev. Val


A couple of quick announcements and then I want to go through your bulletin with you.

First and of utmost importance. Thank you for indulging me in allowing me to take a vacation and thank you for being here to support Rev. Foote and Ginny West Case as they filled in for me. I owe a debt of gratitude to them and to all of you, with special thanks to Sue and Tracy.

Second, and hopefully last, we have two dates on the calendar – August 22 and September 19 – that we need to plan for. August 22 is the tentative date for the Faith Fair at Maryville College and September 19 is our “Coming Home Sunday” celebration to commemorate our declaration that we are a Reconciling Church and as an outreach event to members of the larger community that for whatever reason find themselves without a church home. If you all are available, I would like us to meet for about 15-20 minutes after the service to talk briefly about these two events.

Does anyone have anything else? Then let’s begin with our Call to Worship found in your bulletin.

Call to Worship – Beth Merrill Neel, Hold Fast To What Is Good

L: Into this world we are born,

P: Into the beauty and sorrow of everyday life.

L: Into this day we awake,

P: Into possibility and the unknown.

L: Into this church we are welcomed,

P: Into God’s grace and each other’s truth.

All: So let us worship our God this day, we who are called and loved.

Opening Prayer – © 2007-2021 www.lords-prayer-words.com

Father, we thank and praise you for the life you have so richly given us. Thank you for the incredible blessing of being your sons and daughters and for the intricate and beautiful creations you have made us to be. Lord, we give you all that we are and ask that we might engage with your Spirit today. We lift our hearts that you might fill them with new love. We lift our minds that you would pour fresh hope into our thinking. We lift our souls that they may bathe in your grace. We lift our hands and our voices to sing your praises, as we come to worship and adore you our Lord, our great Creator. Today we offer you our whole beings in worship to you.



Open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, gracious Lord, as we turn to your scripture. We long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed. Examine us, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth.


Our scriptures this morning are taken from the Common English Bible.

Epehesians 3:14-21 (CEB)

This is why I kneel before the Father. Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him. I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.

John 6:1-15 (CEB)

After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.

Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain.

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

PASTORAL PRAYER – adapted from prayers by Rev. Terri C. Pilarski, Words Matter Episcopal Site, and Rev. Gord, Worship Offerings

Holy God, bless our lives, sanctify us,

and in your way, grant us our hearts desire.

Anoint us with your grace, that what we desire is also what you desire.

Help us to understand that our hearts’ true desire is the love of you.

May the love of Christ urge us on, may we walk by faith.

Thank you God, for all our blessings.


Holy God, bless those who govern –

Bless the leaders of nations, countries, towns, and cities.

And those who lead in all manner – social, political, and religious –

Bless us all. Fill the hearts of all with your wisdom.

Guide us in the way of justice and integrity for all.

Guide us to walk by faith.


Holy God, tend to those who suffer in mind, body, and spirit.

Tend to the tired, the dying, the poor and the hungry.

Help us to follow the love of Christ, a love which urges us on.

Help us to seek and serve Christ in others, bringing forth a new creation.


God of all creation, we come to you now with our prayers and petitions.

We pray today for those who are suffering long term and serious illnesses such as cancer, especially for those who have been recently diagnosed, for those for whom the diagnosis adds to a lengthy list of illnesses and injuries, and for those who provide emotional, physical, professional, and financial care and support to the victims of cancer. We ask that you bring comfort, peace, strength, understanding, and we petition you to heal them, to eradicate cancer from their bodies and make them whole.

Lord, in your mercy – hear our prayers.

We petition you today to remove COVID-19 and all its variants from our world. We petition you to send Spirit to move those who are refusing to be vaccinated for anything but true medical reasons to get vaccinated, and to silence those who speak against the vaccines solely out of political posturing, purposeful and partisan divisiveness, and ignorance born of lack of knowledge and understanding. We pray for the healing of those stricken by this deadly disease, for comfort and strength for the medical professionals caring for them, and for comfort, strength, and peace for their families, and for the loved ones and souls of those who will not recover from it.

Lord, in your mercy – hear our prayers.

God of gentle rains and warm sun, God who encourages growth;

we are creatures who sometimes grow quickly,

and sometimes get stuck.

God of freedom, of liberation, of binding ropes being cut;

we are bound in ways we don’t always understand or recognize.

God of exodus and exile and homecoming,

God who calls us to leave where we are and come home;

help us to have the courage to make the journey

and to trust in the path.

God of health and healing,

God who wants us to be made whole;

we come as people who are wounded in body and in spirit,

people who seek healing.

God who has laid out a way for us to live,

who has given us rules for living in community;

we come as people who sometimes go astray,

people who stretch the rules.


God of Grace,

we come as people who live through that Grace.

And so we praise you for the growth,

we rejoice in being set free,

we dance along the path that leads us home,

we give thanks for the healing we have received,

we relax in the knowledge that we are forgiven

and we live as people of Grace.


Holy God, we ask all this in the name of Christ, our redeemer.

Holy God, we ask all this by the Holy Spirit who activates your love in us.

Holy God we ask all this that your love may be like seed scattered—

manifesting in small and unexpected ways—the greatness of You.

May your love take root in our lives, and we may walk by faith as we pray the words your Son taught us,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those ewho trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

MESSAGE – Loaves, Fishes, Hang Ups & Habits (adapted from Preaching Notes, July 27, 2021, Discipleship Ministries)

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.

The Letter to the Ephesians – the book our first scripture passage comes from – is considered to consist of two parts. The first part, Chapters 1- 3, are the author’s theological understandings of what God had done, while Chapters 4-6 make up the second section, the ethical application of those understandings or how to live in light of what God had done as followers of Jesus.

The author of Ephesians begins his prayer with “This is why,” referring to everything he’d just told them in the first part leading up to the prayer, and what he told them was all about God’s immeasurable grace. Because in that grace, all are welcome; all are included. All. And for the author, all means all. Some of the rest of them had to struggle with all. Surely not gentiles, they said; surely not pagans, surely not enemies, surely not those whose lives are just way too different from ours, who don’t speak our language, who don’t dress like we do, think like we do, work like we do. Not all, surely. No, says the author, all means all. And for this reason, he says, “I fall to my knees in awe of God.”

Ephesians presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the answer to the brokenness in this world – to a culture that is marred by injustice and oppression. Ephesians reveals that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to see true transformation in the world.

The author goes on to say, “I pray for more. More of this grace freely offered. More of the love that staggers the imagination. Give us more. Give us strength.” That’s first on the author’s list. Strength in the inner being. Strong hearts, strong souls. He wants us strong at the core of our being. Knowing that we are subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, he wants us strong where it counts. We pray for bad things to go away or not come to us, but the author prays that we have the strength to stand when the bad things come. He prays that we might have power.

Power that comes from the Spirit and from the Christ who dwells in us. We receive the capacity to love by grace. It is a gift. Boom. Instant. Like a new life waiting for you. But it takes time to learn to live that life of love. It takes effort. It takes moving forward and falling back. It takes success and failure to learn to live a life of love. We have to rock the vehicle, back and forth in order to break free of the rut we find ourselves in from time to time. We are being rooted and grounded in love. Being rooted, but we’re not done. As soon as we think we are done, as soon as we think we’ve got it, we’ve lost it. We have to hold on to the Christ who dwells within.

That’s why we contemplate Christ. That’s why we study his life, listen to his words, weep at his example, rejoice at his blessing – so that we can know. Know what is unknowable. Know what is beyond knowing. The breadth and width and height and depth of him. Of his love. The author wants us to know that which surpasses knowledge. If your head isn’t spinning yet, then go back and read it again. The author prays that we are to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. And this knowing of the unknowable, or maybe better, this knowing that we didn’t come to on our own but that was given to us allows us to be filled up.

But only if we don’t get hung up. Only if we learn not to sit in judgment of others. Only if we learn to and work at seeing others through the eyes of Christ.

When I left on vacation, we had been talking about the Means of Grace. We learned that the Means of Grace are both formational and transformational, that they include prayer, Bible study, worship, Holy Communion, fasting, Christian conferencing, and acts of service and compassion, and what each of those were. And we talked about needing to make the Means of Grace part of our daily routines, our habits.

It is said that we don’t have habits, we are habits. As creatures of habit, bad habits deform us whereas life-giving habits built around carrying out the Means of Grace help form us into the image of Christ. Bad habits can render us spiritually, emotionally, and even physically immobile while good habits can help us overcome that immobility and rise above fleeting emotions. So it’s important that we don’t let our personal hang ups stop us from working to give up our bad habits and replace them with good habits, especially habits centering on the Means of Grace.

Now you may be wondering what any of this has to do with our second passage and loaves and fishes.  Remember that part of our pilgrimage in this Season After Pentecost is not just faith and spiritual formation, but also discipleship. Learning to become disciples.

We probably all know the basics of this story – that there was a huge crowd there that needed to be fed, and that Jesus performed a miracle that fed five thousand people. But there’s a really important part in the middle that gets overlooked most of the time, and that’s the boy who brought them his lunch, the 5 loaves and two fishes. The people needed to be fed, the disciples didn’t have a solution, but that boy offered what he had – 5 barley loaves and 2 fishes – the loaves and fishes that Jesus turned into a meal that fed five thousand.

We have the same task as that little boy. To bring what we have – our own loaves and fishes, our gifts, our talents, our time, our good habits – and let Jesus turn them into the miracle of feeding the masses.

OFFERTORY PRAYER – Ephesians 3:14-21

Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:

Mighty and all-knowing God who sees us as we are and as we might be: What offering can we give that will bring you joy? We have brought gifts this morning that you might dedicate them to the work of caring and compassion in our neighborhoods, in our nations, and throughout the world. Yet all the money we have can’t accomplish what you can make happen if we simply let Christ dwell in our hearts – not for an hour on Sundays but every hour of every day. This is the offering we dedicate this day. In Christ, our redeemer, we pray. 



I ask God to strengthen you by the power of the Spirit— 

not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—

that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.


And I ask God that

with both feet planted firmly on love

you’ll be able to take in with all Christians

the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.


Reach out and experience the breadth!

Test its length!

Plumb the depths!

Rise to the heights!

Live full lives—full in the fullness of God.


God can do anything, you know—

far more than you could ever imagine or guess

or request in your wildest dreams!

Not by pushing us around

but by working within us,

through the power of God’s Spirit.


All glory to the God of Creation!

All glory to the Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ!

And all glory to the Spirit of God, at work among us and within us!


Go in the love of God!



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Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering.  When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.

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Union Grove UMC
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Friendsville, TN 37737

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