ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – I Find Grace, Rachelle Bleakley
- Welcome – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – The Father’s House, Corey Asbury
- Scripture Reading – Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2, 29-32, Matthew 15:10-28
- Anthem – When Life Is Good Again, Dolly Parton
- Message -On Faith – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Hymn – Faith To Be Strong, Andrew Peterson
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – For All My Days, Stu G
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
Romans 12:1-8 (CEB)
So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.
Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.
Matthew 16:13-20 (CEB)
Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter (Petros meaning rock). And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – SAY WHAT?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
One of the comments on last week’s message was that the person felt their faith was the weakest it had been in a while and that they could “relate” to last week’s call to worship about going back to church. I got the distinct impression from that comment that there was, at minimum, a frustration on that person’s part regarding their weakened faith. I’m not sure if the frustration was born out of the inability to worship in-person right now, or if it was that the person may be feeling like they weren’t doing enough to strengthen their faith. I’ve decided to address both, beginning with not doing enough.
I think, sometimes, we put extremely high expectations on ourselves when it comes to faith. We all expect to maintain a rock-solid, can’t be shaken level of faith at all times no matter what. There’s even a very lucrative industry adding to that pressure with every conceivable product bearing cherry-picked Bible verses admonishing us about our faith. You just about can’t escape it.
Remember, though, what Paul said in the passage from Romans: “don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.”
There is some solace in that for those of us struggling just to hold on to what little faith we may have left. And, at the risk of being cliché, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. “God has measured out a portion of faith for each one of you.” That’s important. That matters. That says that God has given us a portion of faith … and not just a bit because that’s not how God works. God doesn’t do “samples.” If He’s given us a portion, it’s a portion sufficient for anything we might face. We just need to learn how to keep it forefront.
One way we can tap into it and keep it in front of us is to heed what we’re told in James 2:14-18. “My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”
So, using our faith to act, to do something for someone else, actually, and ultimately strengthens our faith. Paul even tells us, “We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us.” In other words, we have been given what we need to act on the portion of faith we’ve been given. We just need to do so and, in doing so, our faith will become stronger.
It doesn’t mean we should all run out and try to right every wrong or be the next Mother Theresa or Joan of Arc. It means taking one moment, one day, one step at a time and building up over time.
As I said, it also came to mind that what may have frustrated the commenter was the inability to literally “go to church” in person.
The answer to that lies in the passage from Matthew, specifically verse 18, when Jesus looks at Simon and says, “I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it.”
We could assume that Jesus intended to build a structure, a church there on the place where they were standing … but that would be a wrong assumption. What Jesus was saying was that his church would be built out of his followers. Peter means “rock.”
Where the people of Israel required physical places to worship God, places into which access could be and was too often controlled by a hierarchy of priests declaring who was worthy to come in and who was to be excluded, Jesus was going to build his church in the hearts and minds of his followers that he would, in turn, instruct to carry the Good News out to whoever would hear it.
Even when they were in the wilderness, the people of Israel would need to stop and construct a way to worship … an altar for sacrifices … something.
Christ’s church, on the other hand, required no physical structure, no construction of any kind. Christ’s church was not a temple or even an altar; it was the people themselves.
Paul admonishes us not to conform to the patterns of the world and yet, that is, even among the most faithful, what we do when we fail to see ourselves and one another as the true church; when we complain about not being able to gather together and worship in our traditional buildings; when we fling the arrows of “faith over fear,” or when we suggest that “other denominations are meeting in person so we should be able to as well.”
Do I wish we could meet in person again? Oh, you bet! I miss hearing more than my own voice praying or singing. I miss passing the peace. I miss seeing friends and church family. I even miss seeing the reactions good or bad to the prayers and message. I miss that silent companionship that takes place when we gather in person.
But, I’m not missing “church” because I know where the church is and I know that it is the safest, most secure place it can be right now. I just hope I’m reaching as many of the church as possible so that, someday soon when things are good again, we can all gather safely together and do the rest of the things I’m missing.
Now, then, there is one more thing that I want to address today and it’s the possibility of a third frustration about weakened faith. That is the distinct possibility that your faith may have been weakened because you feel or even have been rejected by the church.
If that is the case … if at some point in your life someone in or from the church has made you feel you were somehow unwanted or unworthy or unwelcome … even if someone from the church has outright told you that … please accept my heartfelt apology for the hurt and harm you suffered and if you can find it within yourself to do so, forgive the church for its part in that hurt. You are as much a part of the church as any other believer. You are as loved, as worthy, as wanted, and as needed as every other believer, and there is no one who will not be welcomed at the Lord’s table at Union Grove.
God, you know our hearts, and you know when we are sincere in our desire to change how we view the world and how we live. You know the portion of faith you’ve given each of us and the gifts you’ve given us to put that faith into action.
Lead us onto the right paths, God. Forgive us, restore us, and lead us to do your work in this world. Remind us that we are all your beloved children and that there is always the time to do something new. Encourage us to go forth, sharing the Good News. Be patient with us when we fail to trust you completely.
In Christ’s name, amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Friends in Christ, God invites us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs.
Loving our neighbors as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world.
Lord, we take this moment of silence to lift our prayers to you now.
Hear our prayers, God of power, and through the ministry of your Son free us from the grip of the tomb, that we may desire you as the fullness of life and proclaim your saving deeds to all the world.
I ask these things in the name of your son, and now, with the confidence of Your child, I pray to you in the words he taught us to pray … (Lord’s Prayer):
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 who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Now go, to serve as God’s people. Work to remove all that divides us from others. share the grace of Jesus, and love others just as we are loved. Be the Spirit’s community, inviting everyone to join us in this life of faith and service.
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, tell someone the Good News, be the church, and go in peace. God be with you. Amen.
Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.
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.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Smoky Mountain District
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905
Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!