There is no video today due to technical difficulties (there is no sound on the video).
The transcript of today’s service is below.
We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to resolve the issue for next week.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Responsive Reading – Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 (UMH 798)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Exodus 17:8-15 (MSG), Psalm 89:19-26, 35-39 (MSG), John 11:33-44 (MSG) – Rev. Val
- Message: In Seasons of the Silence of God – Rev. Val
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Save the date!
- August 22, 2021, 5:00 p.m. (set up), 6:00 p.m. (fair starts), 7:00 p.m. (worship) – Maryville College Faith Fair. We will have a display and members present to welcome incoming freshman and others as the school year begins.
- August 28, 2021 – Rev. Val will be traveling to Kingsport, TN, to attend Annual Conference.
- September 5, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- September 19, 2021 – Coming Home Sunday Celebration Worship and Picnic
- November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Hello and welcome to our worship service! I’m glad you’re all here whether in-person or watching us live on Facebook. If you’re here in-person, please refer to your bulletin for today’s announcements. For our online viewers, you will find them on the transcript that will be posted to our website later today. An even better option would be to go to our website and fill out a connection card, so you receive the weekly email version of the bulletin.
We’re going to travel back in time a bit for today’s service and it may seem a little out of step with and contrary to our overall theme of “Pilgrimage: Finding and Forming Faith in Christ,” but stay with me, try not to doze off or allow yourself to be distracted. I think … at least I hope … you’ll find it is very much on the path we’ve been traveling in this Season After Pentecost. Also, and I apologize for this, if you’re viewing online and following the email worship bulletin, the Offertory and Doxology are in the wrong order and will follow the message.
Now, if you would, please join me in the Call to Worship on page 1 of your bulletin.
Call to Worship
Beth Merrill Neel, Hold On To What’s Good
One: As we gather this day, each of us brings something to worship –
Many: We bring the burdens of the week.
One: We bring prayers of hope, and prayers of anguish.
Many: We bring our voices, and our offerings, and our questions.
One: We bring our faith, tattered or whole as it may be.
Many: We bring all this to each other and to God, whom we worship today.
Rev. Val Ohle
Lord, we come to you today waiting, desperate to understand your will, hear your voice, understand your way. Each of us faces what sometimes feels like insurmountable burdens and inconsolable sorrows, and yet we come now seeking your comfort, your strength, your peace, and your protection. We come seeking the love and forgiveness of your Son. We come seeking the company and guidance of your Spirit. We come seeking You. Deep inside we know you are always with us and that you always love and forgive us our iniquities, but we ask that you reveal your presence with us today in ways we can see, hear and feel, and that our worship today pleases you.
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 – UMH 798
Rev. Val Ohle
Creator God, dearest Lord Jesus, and Holy Spirit, we come now before you with our prayers and petitions.
We pray for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one whether family or friend. Bring them comfort in their grief and let them know you are there with them.
We pray for those who are lost, that they find their way home, wherever that home may be, and that those that love and are missing them be relieved of their worries and fears.
We pray fervently that this pandemic be halted in its tracks and forever removed from this earth, that those who are valiantly fighting to get it under control be strengthened, and that those who contribute to the inability to eliminate it have their eyes opened and, if need be, their words silenced.
We pray for those that are oppressed, that they be lifted up and that their oppression be ended. We pray their oppressors be brought to justice.
We pray for an end to racism, to economic disparity, to authoritarianism, and to nationalism.
We pray for our planet, God, and for your help, guidance, and intercession in humanities continued exploitation of its riches. We ask that you help us remember that we are connected to one another, to all creation, and that it is not ours to dominate, but to care for just as you care for us.
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.
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 The Message.
Exodus 17:8-15 (MSG)
Amalek came and fought Israel at Rephidim. Moses ordered Joshua: “Select some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will take my stand on top of the hill holding God’s staff.”
Joshua did what Moses ordered in order to fight Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses’ hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down. Joshua defeated Amalek and its army in battle.
God said to Moses, “Write this up as a reminder to Joshua, to keep it before him, because I will most certainly wipe the very memory of Amalek off the face of the Earth.”
Moses built an altar and named it “God My Banner.”
Psalm 89:19-26, 35-39 (MSG)
A long time ago you spoke in a vision, you spoke to your faithful beloved: “I’ve crowned a hero, I chose the best I could find; I found David, my servant, poured holy oil on his head, And I’ll keep my hand steadily on him, yes, I’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
No enemy will get the best of him, no scoundrel will do him in. I’ll weed out all who oppose him, I’ll clean out all who hate him. I’m with him for good and I’ll love him forever; I’ve set him on high—he’s riding high! I’ve put Ocean in his one hand, River in the other; he’ll call out, ‘Oh, my Father—my God, my Rock of Salvation!’
Do you think I’d withdraw my holy promise? or take back words I’d already spoken? I’ve given my word, my whole and holy word; do you think I would lie to David? His family tree is here for good, his sovereignty as sure as the sun, Dependable as the phases of the moon, inescapable as weather.”
But God, you did walk off and leave us, you lost your temper with the one you anointed. You tore up the promise you made to your servant, you stomped his crown in the mud.
How long do we put up with this, God? Are you gone for good? Will you hold this grudge forever? Remember my sorrow and how short life is. Did you create men and women for nothing but this?
John 11:33-44 (MSG)
When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
“Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.
The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”
Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”
Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”
The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”
Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”
They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”
Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.
Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – In Seasons of the Silence of God
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
If your heart has hurt recently, say “Yes, Lord.” If you’ve been troubled, if you’ve been worried, if you’ve been stressed, say “Yes, Lord.” If you’ve reached a point where you don’t know up from down, inside from outside, or which direction you’re supposed to turn, say “Yes, Lord.” If you’ve lost a loved one to death, to addiction, to mental health issues, to something unknown, say “Yes, Lord.”
Does it feel like it has been a while since you heard from God? That He seems to be silent while the promises he once spoke to you remain unfulfilled, nowhere to be seen? Did you start out full of faith and hope because you believed God when He told you, “I’m going to bring your family home to Me. I am going to deliver you. I am going to use your life for My glory,” and now you look at the shambles and shattered dreams and visions of that life and wonder what happened to His Word to you?
For some of us, more probably than we realize, we are in a season where it very much feels like our whole world is falling apart. Those who matter most to us are being taken from us, we’re losing the things we most care about, things we strived to attain, and the plans we have worked so hard toward fulfilling are falling down around us like pieces of concrete raining down from a building that’s just been blown to bits above us.
And then there’s everyone else around us and around the world. Right now, despite legions of prayers, COVID-19 and its variants are ravaging every single country on this planet, climate change seems to have reached a point where we can no longer hope to correct it, racism is rampant, the number of poor increases daily, our democracy is in extreme danger, the opioid crisis continues to escalate, terrorism and extremism have footholds everywhere, and brother is once again fighting brother.
Our anger wells up, our tears fall down, and we cry out, “Why, God, why?! God, please, intercede! Please, God, make it stop!”
And for all our cries and all our pleas and all our prayers …. we get nothing … no sign, no instant miracle, no reassuring voice …. Nothing. Nada. Just … silence.
If you have prayed and cried out and pleaded with God and all you’ve heard in return is silence … say “Yes, Lord.”
We are not the first and not the last that will go through a season of the Silence of God. In our passage from Psalm 89, Israel is in such a season. The psalmist recalls the words from the very mouth of God … an incredible promise given to King David … that God would establish David’s throne and David’s reign over Israel would endure. Then the psalmist, looking around and seeing the dire state of his nation, Israel, and its certain demise at the hands of its enemies, and laments, “But you did walk away from us, God. You tore up your promise to him and stomped his crown into the mud.” The psalmist has lost his confidence and his protection, his hope for the future is gone.
It’s times like the psalmist finds himself in when we struggle to walk in the Way Christ taught, times like this when we struggle to stay strong in our faith. It’s hard to be enthusiastic convincing disciples and witnesses for the saving grace of Christ when we’re confused and lost and feeling abandoned and ashamed because our testimony lacks an account of even a small victory we’ve experienced in our own lives. We wonder, “God … where are the promises that you once spoke to me? What have I unknowingly done that’s caused you to punish me? Those things in my life that I conquered, those past victories you gave me are rushing back at me with a vengeance, those enemies I defeated are now laughing at me and I have no strength left for another battle.”
The psalmist goes on as he questions God: “How long will you remain hidden from me? Forever? I’m human. My lifetime is short. Why, oh why did you even create us if you now turn your back on us?” And, again like the psalmist, we often find ourselves wondering the same things.
So, what do we do when we can’t hear God? Our passage from Exodus holds one clue.
If you’ll notice, God’s voice is missing in today’s verses from Exodus, too. In this passage, the Israelites have been liberated from Pharoah’s cruel rule over them and have been making their way through the wilderness and have arrived at Rephidim when they come under attack by the armies of Amalek, grandson of Esau, the elder son of Isaac.
Moses orders Joshua to pick some men and go out and fight Amalek, and tells Joshua that tomorrow he, Moses, will take his stand on top of the hill holding God’s staff.
Joshua gathers his men and Moses, Aaron, and Hur go to the top of the hill. Moses raises his arms and the staff, and Israel begins winning, but whenever he lowers his hands, Amalek starts winning. As the battle goes on, Moses’ arms got tired, so Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on and each one of them holds up one of Moses’ arms, keeping his arms steadily raised until the sun went down, and Joshua was able to defeat the Amalekite army.
It wasn’t until all this had happened that God spoke, telling Moses to write the story down as a reminder to Joshua to keep going forward.
Was that the clue, then? That no matter what, we have to keep going forward? Not exactly. You see, Moses wasn’t acting as independently as it sounds. Moses was simply doing what God had told him to do before. When the Israelites were caught between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, God told Moses to stretch out his hand and staff over the sea and the sea parted, allowing the Israelites to cross over to the other side. When they reached the other side, Moses lowered his hand and staff over the sea and the waters flooded back down, drowning Pharaoh’s army and ending Pharaoh’s pursuit of the Israelites.
At Rephidim, then, Moses simply recalled what God had told him before that saved the Israelites from an enemy and drew on that to defeat yet another enemy. God didn’t need to say anything, to repeat Himself. God had already spoken. Moses just needed to remember what God told him to begin with.
Sometimes God is silent simply because God has already spoken to you in sixty-six letters and thousands of verses, and there is no need for Him to repeat Himself. We just need to work to understand and remember what He said, or at least to start looking at what He said when we enter a season of silence.
Understanding what He said is vital and we always need to remember that taking it 100% literally is not going to give us an accurate or full understanding. Take for instance when God said in Genesis, “Let there be light.”
Had we been there the day He said that and were we to have taken it 100% literally, at face value, when the dark returned that evening, we’d have panicked. We’d have spent the next twelve hours worrying and wailing until the next morning when the light reappeared. See, God never said there wouldn’t be night just like God has never said there wouldn’t be seasons when we feel like we’re wandering in the dark, like we can’t see where it is we’re supposed to be going. But God did speak the light into being and it always reappears and because of that we are able to see that what God speaks continues to be fulfilled without Him having to speak it again.
Clue One: Remember what God has already told you to do in sixty-six letters and thousands of verses, and keep moving forward.
The prophet, Habakkuk said, “And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.”
Just like a bladesmith making a sword, just like that bladesmith heats and hammers and bends and reshapes the metal again and again to get to the finished sword, we go through seasons where God is heating and hammering and bending and reshaping each of us, preparing our lives for His glory … at the appointed time.
While it isn’t usually intentional, we may be so caught up in the things we’ve acquired, the career we’ve made for ourselves, that we’ve allowed our attention and our devotion to be shift away from God or fooled ourselves into thinking what we’ve promised ourselves is what God promised us so, like a blade that’s been broken or damaged, we need to go through a season of being reshaped, of having those distractions stripped away from us no matter how dear we hold them. In these seasons we must remember to trust God and to trust His timing. Which, granted, can be painful, but …
Clue Two: The things God’s told us will come to pass, but on His timetable, not ours.
Sometimes we only think God is silent when He’s already sent us the answer, but because we get distracted listening to other voices … especially in this age where everyone seems to have a voice and opinion on everything big or small, it gets difficult for us to hear God’s voice.
Clue Three: Start resisting the din and clamor of other voices so you can stop resisting the voice of God.
Now, most of us here today are old enough to remember the marketing line, “When EF Hutton whispers … everybody listens…” And I’m pretty sure all of us have had those moments when the appearance of a parent standing there, arms folded, not saying a word … brought even the noisiest ruckus to a dead stop. Or perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of someone having a yelling, screaming, hissy fit and the only way to stop them is to simply stand there in cold silence and wait until they run out of breath or energy or both and mutter, “Well? What do you have to say for yourself?!”
Sometimes God is silent in order to get our attention, to force us to pause, un-busy our minds, slow down because we’re moving too fast, so He goes quiet, folds His arms, leans against the door jamb, and says, “I’ll just wait until you’re too tired to resist.” And it’s in that moment when we’re worn to exhaustion and have used up every prayer we’ve uttered telling God what He needs to do for us that we finally ask the right question: “God, please speak to me. Please tell me what it is you’re doing with my life and please use small words written in big letters so I can’t miss it this time, because I just don’t get it.”
Clue Four: When God goes silent, stop talking, stop telling Him what to do and ask Him what He’s trying to tell or show you.
In the passage from John, some of the Jews doubt that Jesus loved his friend Lazarus because Jesus didn’t prevent Lazarus from dying in the first place. Martha, Lazarus’ sister, doubts Jesus when he commands them to remove the stone, protesting that after four days dead, the smell will be awful, but Jesus reminds Martha of what he’d already told her. He reminds her, the stone is rolled away, he calls Lazarus to come out, and when Lazarus does, he tells them to “unwrap him and let him loose.”
Too often, we get angry at God when we ask him to prevent a death and he doesn’t or we blame him for taking our loved ones too soon. Sometimes the deaths we mourn or get angry about are not the deaths of people, but of our dreams, of our hopes, of our own plans. And sometimes the deaths we mourn are what feels like the deaths of our own spirits … those times when our soul feels crushed beyond any hope or repair.
It’s then that we need to remember what Jesus said: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God” and “Unwrap him and let him loose.”
Clue Five: Stop doubting, unwrap yourself from the death shrouds of doom and gloom you’ve become tangled in, and let yourself loose.”
There is one last clue that can help you when you’re in a season of silence, especially when no matter how hard we try, we can’t find a reason that God is silent, and we get this clue from Jesus.
Jesus knew the value of silence. He didn’t run from it; he ran after it. The Gospel writers make sure that we get that silence was a part of how Jesus prayed through his journey to the cross. Luke 5:16 says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Lonely places. Quiet places. Places away from the noise of the world around him. Places away from the demands of the crowds. We do not know how or what Jesus prayed during these times. But we do know that he sought them out. He made time and space for quiet, for silence.
What if the silence of God is not something to simply endure but rather, something to embrace? What if, instead of running from silence or being frustrated by it, you simply sat with it, became still, and waited patiently on God? What if you — like Jesus — were to stop resisting God’s silence and simply rest in it?
Clue Six: “Be still and know that He is God.”
I know this sounds easier said, than done, but again … we are not the first and not the last to experience seasons of God’s silence, nor is it likely this is the first time any of us have gone through such a season. So the fact that we have survived this kind of season before and we’re all here today must be proof that God still has plans for all of us and is still busy heating and hammering and bending and reshaping us to the disciples we will be when our appointed times come.
We just need to remember the clues: God has already spoken numerous times, we need to keep moving forward, we have to trust His timing and stop resisting His voice, instead of telling Him what we want Him to do as we pray we need to ask Him what He is trying to tell us, we have to stop doubting, continue believing, and shake of the doom and gloom shrouds we wrap ourselves in, and sometimes … sometimes … we need to embrace the seasons of silence, be still, and remember that we know who God is.
Rev. Val Ohle
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Father, we thank you for the blessings we’ve missed in the darkness of our sorrows and distraction by those things of this world. Take these gifts we offer today and guide us to use them to your will, that we may show the world the Light your Son is and has called us to be. In Jesus’ name.
Rev. Val Ohle
Thank you for being here this morning, whether in-person or through our live-stream and I hope you found some value in today’s service.
Now hear this benediction:
If … or whenever …. you find yourself in a Season of the Silence of God, know that His silence does not mean you have been forsaken. Remember what He’s already told you, what Christ has taught you, and keep going forward. Remember that you, we don’t know the whole story and trust Him as you keep going forward. He is still with you, still loves you, and is continuously working His plan for you, that you are His beloved children and your place in His kingdom is secured.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Today’s worship service is dismissed.
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