ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – Who Can, Cochren & Co.
- Welcome & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – Church (Take Me Back), Cochren & Co.
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2, 29-32, Matthew 15:10-28
- Tithes & Offering – Rev. Ohle
- Anthem – One Day, Cochren & Co.
- Message – Say What? – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Hymn – Speak Life, Toby Mac
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Nobody, Casting Crowns featuring Matthew West
A transcript of this service will be provided after the 11:00 a.m. worship hour has concluded.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity, Lord, and we pray that you will help us restore unity to our church, our community, our nation, and the world, because we desperately need it, God. It’s like a summer rain which restores the parched earth. It’s like a cool breeze at the shore of a lake, at the top of a mountain, or through a crowded city street.
Unity is where you meet us, God.
We gather now to worship the Maker of Our Days, the Restorer of Our Souls, and the Breath of Our Lives.
God, thank you for this time to worship you and for those who are taking the time to worship with me. I pray they take what they hear today and share it with others.
Spirit, we call on you to join with us today, to fill each of us to overflowing so that we may hear and carry out God’s will not ours, God’s voice not ours, and God’s words not ours.
In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We praise your abiding guidance, God, for you sent us Jesus, our Teacher, and Messiah, to model for us the way of love for the whole universe.
We offer these prayers of love on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors, on behalf of your creation and our fellow creatures.
- The Sick
- The Addicted
- The Isolated
- The Grieving
- The Community
- The Nation
- This Church (growth)
Loving God open our ears to hear your word and draw us closer to you, that the whole world may be one with you as you are one with us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
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.
Psalm 133 (CEB)
Look at how good and pleasing it is when brothers and sisters live together as one! It is like expensive oil poured over the head, running down onto the beard — Aaron’s beard! — which extended over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew on Mount Hermon streaming down onto the mountains of Zion because it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing: everlasting life.
Romans 11:1-2, 29-32 (CEB)
So I ask you, has God rejected his people? Absolutely not! I’m an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God hasn’t rejected his people, whom he knew in advance. Or don’t you know what the scripture says in the case of Elijah when he pleads with God against Israel?
God’s gifts and calling can’t be taken back. Once you were disobedient to God, but now you have mercy because they were disobedient. In the same way, they have also been disobedient because of the mercy that you received, so now they can receive mercy too. God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them.
Matthew 15:10-28 (CEB)
Jesus called the crowd near and said to them, “Listen and understand. It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It’s what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person.”
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended by what you just said?”
Jesus replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father didn’t plant will be pulled up. Leave the Pharisees alone. They are blind people who are guides to blind people. But if a blind person leads another blind person, they will both fall into a ditch.”
Then Peter spoke up, “Explain this riddle to us.”
Jesus said, “Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you know that everything that goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer? But what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight. Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual sins, thefts, false testimonies, and insults. These contaminate a person in God’s sight. But eating without washing hands doesn’t contaminate in God’s sight.”
From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” But he didn’t respond to her at all.
His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.”
Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”
He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.”
She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.”
Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed.
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.
Today’s passage from Matthew picks up where we stopped last week, only for Jesus and the disciples, it begins later that same day.
It seems odd to jump from a Psalm about unity to a passage where Paul seems to be placating the Jews because Gentiles are being included to a rather confusing discussion about handwashing and eating and digestion and the blind leading the blind, and then all the sudden, Jesus takes off for the northernmost trip he will make during his earthly ministry to Tyre (tīre) and Sidon (sīduhn), two Gentile countries 25 and 50 miles away from where he’d just been, only to encounter a Canaanite woman that he equates to a begging dog.
It kind of makes one throw their hands in the air and exclaim, “Say What?!?”
Let’s back up a bit to just before today’s passage in Matthew and piece this together.
Just before our passage from Matthew begins, Jesus essentially goes toe to toe with the Pharisees and scribes over the disciples’ failure to follow the law … a rather odd law about “ritual handwashing.”
Matthew 15:1-9 says, “Then Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why are your disciples breaking the elders’ rules handed down to us? They don’t ritually purify their hands by washing before they eat.”
Jesus replied, “Why do you break the command of God by keeping the rules handed down to you? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘The person who speaks against father or mother will certainly be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If you tell your father or mother, “Everything I’m expected to contribute to you I’m giving to God as a gift,” then you don’t have to honor your father.’ So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you.”
Say what?!? Did you catch it? The Pharisees are upset because the disciples didn’t follow a tradition … a “rule” handed down by “the elders,” but … as Jesus quickly pointed out to them, they are breaking one of God’s laws by telling people they don’t have to honor their father or mother as long as whatever they would have given their parents were instead given as offering to the temple.
They’re ignoring God’s laws and following manmade rules. It’s no small wonder Jesus went on to say, “Hypocrites! Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you, saying “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human rules.” That brings us to today’s passage. Jesus calls the crowd closer to him and turns the encounter with the Pharisees into a lesson, explaining that it isn’t what goes into your mouth that keeps you from God’s favor. It’s what comes out that God pays attention to.
Wait. Say what?!? So we get judged by the things we say? But we’re just saying what everyone else is saying, what people have always said! It was just a joke. We didn’t mean any harm. Or, so what if it wasn’t politically correct? We’re just being honest about how we feel.
Aha! There’s the rub, isn’t it? That part about “just being honest about how we feel?
Jesus goes on to explain that what comes out of our mouths … or these days, through our fingers and keyboards to Facebook, Twitter, or just private messages and texts … starts in our hearts … you remember your heart … the root of how you feel?
If our heart is angry, we speak (or type) out in anger. If we don’t like or love someone, we speak (or type) out in hate. If we’re hurting or fearful, we tend to speak (or type) back defensively, even to those who didn’t hurt us. Arrogance speaks out as self-righteous condemnation of others. The list goes on.
How do we fix that? Several phrases my grandmother used to say come immediately to mind. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” “When someone says something bad about someone else, try to point out something good about that person.”
Peter pointed out that the Pharisees were offended by what Jesus said to them and then the crowd, but Jesus was like, “Oh, those guys? Don’t worry about them. My father will sort them out. They’re just the blind leading the blind.”
So, do we follow Jesus’ lead to ignore those who speak out harshly or hurtfully? We’ll come back to this in a moment.
Jesus and the disciples leave the crowd and head the furthest north Jesus will venture during his earthly ministry …. the borders of Tyre and Sidon … a distance of 25 to 50 miles … and straight into what was then pagan or “Gentile” territory.
Just as they reach the border, a Canaanite woman comes out, crying, “Son of David, have mercy on me. My daughter is possessed by a demon.” But Jesus didn’t respond to her at all.
That’s a little odd, isn’t it? Jesus ignoring someone … anyone … asking for his mercy? And yet there she was and apparently continuing to beg for his help because the disciples finally asked him to send her away, so she’d stop shouting at them.
Jesus tells the disciples, “I’m only here for the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” The woman kneels down before him and continues to beg, saying, “Lord, help me,” after which he calls her no better than a dog!
Say what?!? Here’s Jesus who just did a lecture about how what comes out of your mouth comes from your heart and he calls this Gentile woman from Canaan a dog!
She doesn’t flinch, though. She tells him even dogs get the scraps and crumbs that fall from the table. Her comment changes everything. Jesus commends her for her great faith and heals her daughter.
I’m not sure the disciples would have picked up on it at the time, but from a distance of centuries, his encounter with the Canaanite woman was the ultimate example of what he’d just taught those crowds back in Galilee.
What comes out of your mouth can defile you before God … or it can bring you nearer to God. In this case, Jesus demonstrated silence by ignoring the woman and then demonstrated the “rule following” nature of the Pharisees by telling the woman she wasn’t his problem and was unworthy.
That’s righteous, isn’t it? He would have known best whether she was worthy. He was staying within that rule of “only being there for the lost sheep of Israel,” wasn’t he?
And ultimately, he spoke life to her issue. To someone that wasn’t a member of the lost sheep of Israel. To someone that wasn’t like him. To a woman. A, as far as the disciples would have been concerned, pagan woman. A gentile.
A gentile, it seems, that understood him better than almost everyone else. She honored him by acknowledging him as the Son of David. She called him Lord. She knelt before him. She didn’t retaliate when he compared her to a dog. She didn’t scream and rail and call him out for refusing her. She humbly said, “I’ll settle for the same crumbs the dogs get if you’ll let me.”
Her faith in him made all the difference. Because of her faith, he healed her child, the only thing she’d asked of him. He demonstrated that God’s grace extends to everyone.
And that’s the secret to all this, that’s the key to make sure that what comes out of our mouths brings us nearer to God. If what comes out of our mouth or, more accurately and especially given the digital age we live in, our hearts, doesn’t speak life, we shouldn’t let it out.
But, speaking life doesn’t always go over very well, does it? Standing up against social injustices can bring on an avalanche of condemnation, ridicule, and name calling from some or many of our friends, family, and even total strangers, that, far too often, leads to a verbal or digital debate as we try to defend our position with the folks who were lambasting us going, “Seriously. We thought you were one of us. But you’re one of them.”
Just look at Paul in the passage from Romans. He’s clearly at that point where his Jewish counterparts have said, “You’re one of them!” There he is, pointing out that no, he’s an Israelite just like they are. He even provides a short form of his pedigree. He then goes on to speak life to the issue … to point out that just like them … God’s grace extends to everyone.
The inability, the lack of desire, and effort we each make to speak life is the greatest cause of division in the world today. It’s easier to lash out It’s easier to call names. It’s easier to deny. It’s easier to plug our ears and refuse to hear or consider the other side of the issue. It’s easy to say, “This is what we have always known, done, believed. This is the way it is, the rules we go by and we will not do or believe any differently.”
Remember, though, what Jesus told Peter about the Pharisees? “What my Father did not plant will be pulled up.” Jesus didn’t tell Peter to go pull up the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t go pull up the Pharisees. In essence, Jesus said, “My Father will sort it out,” and then explained in greater detail how important what we say is. And just think what a different world it would be if we were all careful to speak life to one another?
Holy One of Israel, covenant-keeper, you restore what is lost, heal what is wounded, and gather in those who have been rejected.
Give us the faith to speak as steadfastly as did the Canaanite woman, that the outcast may be welcomed, and all people may be blessed.
The Psalmist was right, God. It is good when we all get along and live in unity and, Lord, in your mercy, we could really use some unity in this tired old world right now. Help us to speak life, that we may become the Peacemakers you intended us to be.
In Christ’s name, amen.
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, speak life, 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!