ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – Praises, Wind Spirit, Bill Miller
- Welcome, Call to Worship, & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Praise Song – Holy Lands, Bill Miller
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Readings – Creation Story by UMC NAM, Rev. Ohle (Luke 24:36b-48)
- Message: See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Thee – Rev. Ohle
- Anthem – Hear Our Prayer, Bill Miller
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – I See the Lord, Bill Miller
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! It’s April 18, 2021, and this is the 3rd Sunday of Eastertide. We’re headed back into that locked upper room with today’s message titled “See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Thee,” and no, we’re not going to watch the Rock musical, Tommy. Jesus had a point to make in that room that we need to be in touch with for the sake of our world now and our own faith walk today, so stay with me this morning.
Today is also Native American Ministries Sunday, one of the UMC’s special Sundays, which explains the music playing in the background among some other additions to today’s service. To learn more about UMC’s Native American Ministries, you can also visit umcgiving.org/nams (the link now showing on your screen).
I have only two announcements this morning, but this will take a moment, so please … don’t skip forward. This is important information. Please hear me out.
Announcement No. 1: After 1 year, 1 month, and 4 days, we are finally there. Union Grove United Methodist Church will reopen to in-person worship two weeks from today on Sunday, May 2nd, at 11:00 a.m. Masks will be required as will social-distancing and things will seem different, but that’s okay because we will once again be able to gather and worship together and I can barely wait!
You’ll be seeing ads on Facebook and reminder posts as well. PLEASE … share them with your friends, your family, your neighbors, and let folks know the doors are opening and all are welcome to come in.
My request that you help spread the news is tied directly to Announcement Number 2.
I believe God has held Union Grove closely to Him and that He purposefully brought me here to walk through this time with all of you. I believe He has a special plan and purpose here and I don’t believe that, based on all the things that have happened over the past nine months, it is His intention that Union Grove United Methodist Church comes to an end.
That’s where you come in. Union Grove Methodist Church has been a part of the Friendsville community and this has been Holy Land here since 1885 … even longer if you count the camp meetings that were held her prior 1885.
Over the past couple of decades, she has gone through a number of transitions that created a steady decline in active attendance, the most recent of which occurred last June and created the need to rebuild her beloved community if she is to survive.
And, like most churches during the past 1 year, 1 month and 4 days, offerings and tithes have also declined. She is once again in good physical condition, but there are regular expenses like utilities, insurance, taxes … yes churches pay taxes, and maintenance that have to be paid. We have an income off the rental of our parsonage, but that still leaves another $15,000 per year that we need in order to stay open and break even.
So, Announcement No. 2 is this: In order for Union Grove to stay open past June 27th of this year, we are creating and implementing the Union Grove Manna Campaign.
Our goal is to raise enough in pledges to show that we will be able to cover her expenses for one more year, and enough pledges for participation to show that she will have the physical presence from her community.
What’s required of you? Search your hearts, go to God in prayer, and determine if you can make a pledge to both return to Union Grove in person and also make a financial pledge to ensure she can continue into the future. And share all this with your extended family, with your friends. If you are or were a member of Union Grove who stopped coming during one of the transitions, share this with others you know who are or were members, too. And lastly, share this with anyone you know who is looking for a new church home.
God willing … and I believe He is and that He will provide … together, we can save her and continue to come and see God’s plan for her.
Thank you, so much, for taking time to hear me out this morning. Please join me for the Call to Worship and Prayer:
Luke 24:48 says, “You Are Witnesses of these things.”
“Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.” (Micah 6:1)
Mountains and hills are God’s witnesses.
Isaiah prophesied, “The mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12b)
Hills rejoice, and trees applaud our God.
Jesus said, “I tell you, if these (disciples) were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)
Even stones trumpet God’s praise.
And what about us?
And what about us?
What will we do?
What will we do?
What will we do for the God who breathed life into Adam, life into dry bones, and life into our congregation?
We will be God’s witnesses.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
We will pray.
The apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.” (Romans 1:16)
We are not ashamed of the gospel. We are not ashamed of our faith.
Who will be a witness for our God?
Who will tell the nations of God’s goodness?
We declare God’s goodness before all creation; we will be God’s witnesses!
Come, let us worship the Creator with hearts open to all peoples, where pride and prejudice once dwelt.
Let us worship Creator with minds open to the wisdom of Native peoples, where listening and respect once had no place.
Let us honor the One who freely gives by showing honor to those who were once and still remain oppressed.
Let us worship the God of diversity, who made the world in colors, in seasons, in endless variety; who created the diversity of the earth’s peoples in His own image.
We were created to honor one another and in so doing we honor the Creator. Let us honor Him today by reflecting in our worship and in life His image — love.
Let us remember always we are standing on Holy Lands.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Pastoral Prayer)
Please join me as we lay our prayers and petitions at God’s feet and ask for His help. For those of you who have sent me prayer requests for yourself or others, please understand I do not say their names in the prayer to protect their privacy, but I am lifting up any prayer requests you’ve sent me, and your unspoken prayers as well.
There may be one or more moments of pause during the prayer for you to lift any private prayers of your own. There may also be points in the prayer where you will be prompted to respond out loud. Just watch the screen and, if words appear in front of me, say them with me.
Lord Jesus Christ, the light of your love shines on, illuminating the places where you are present. As the bewildered disciples pondered the stories of your appearance, you penetrated the darkness of their fear and doubt with your word of peace. You showed them the appalling marks of evil pierced on your hands and feet. You opened their minds to understand why you had to die to defeat such evil and death. Increase our understanding, we pray, and open our minds and hearts to receive you . . .
Lord, hear our prayer . . .
Bring to us O God, the sense of your living presence as we go into this new week. Renew in us the faith you want us to have, the faith that is not afraid to reach out in your name and to share the treasure you have given us, that treasure which is greater than silver and gold . . .
Lord – you know our hearts, you know our needs, and you know the hearts of those around us and their needs. In silent prayer and in the privacy of our own homes and hearts, we lift ourselves and them before you at this time . . . (pause)
Lord, hear our prayer . . .
Lord, we specially hold before you today . . .
The families, students, and faculty of Austin-East Highschool, especially the family of Anthony J. Thompson, and to you, Lord, we commend his spirit.
We lift to you the people of Chicago and Hennepin County Minnesota, and all those whose fears, worries and frustrations are rekindled each time this type of violence occurs.
We lift to you the people of Indianapolis, especially the families of those killed or injured by yet another act of gun-related violence for reasons we have yet to know.
We lift to you our brother who was recently hospitalized, that you would continue healing his body and giving strength to his family who is tasked with caring for him.
In silent prayer and in the privacy of our own homes, we lift to you all those known to us who need your peace, your comfort, your strength, your healing, and your protection. (pause)
Lord hear our prayer . . .
Wondrous God, we confess that at times our doubts and fears override our hope and faith. Forgive us when we lose sight of the joy of Your love and instead fall into despair and gloom. Lift up our spirits, Lord, and help us to remember the promise of new life here and now, not just the hope of resurrection for the future. We give thanks for Your Son, Jesus the Christ, who continues to offer us new life, who continues to turn us around and upside down, who continues to break down the walls of death in our own life. Forgive us, restore us and renew us.
Lord hear our prayer . . .
Finally, O Lord, we ask that you would bless us at Union Grove with vision for the future and reverence for the past. Guide us each day as we minister to one another and to world for which you gave yourself. Help us each day to bear witness to your name and to do that which you would have us do.
We ask it through Christ Jesus our Lord, and pray the words he taught us:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by 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, and the power, and the glory forever.”
Friends, hear the Good News: The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. There is no darkness now, only light. God continues to renew us and restore us. We are forgiven, loved, and restored, receiving the gift and promise of new life and resurrection, an called to share the wondrous news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Resurrected God, though we have hidden ourselves in a locked room and huddled together as ones who build barriers, send your Living Word through our locked doors and into our guarded hearts that we might be witnesses of your grace and couriers of your goodness.
By the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the trust to believe the Gospel not because we see it but because we have been seen by it and transformed through it. Amen.
Our first scripture is a retelling of the Creation Story from the UMC’s Native American Ministries (available in the worship video only)
Our next scripture is taken from The Message.
Luke 24:36b-48 (MSG)
While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.
He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.
Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”
He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Thee
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
Last week if you’ll recall, John’s gospel was very focused on seeing the Risen Christ appear among them there in that locked room. This week, we hear Luke giving his account of that same evening. What we haven’t heard is the story leading up to the passage from Luke.
There was a lot that transpired between Peter and Andrew finding the empty tomb that Easter morning and the encounter in today’s passage. Most notably is the story of the Road to Emmaus where two of Jesus’ followers had an encounter of their own, ate supper with the stranger who they recognized as he broke the bread and blessed it. Then they rushed back to that locked room to tell the Eleven and whoever else was present what had happened.
The fears and anxiety the followers and disciples had been feeling hadn’t gone away. As Rev. Derek Weber describes it, “There is a scene of confusion and a faint tinge of hope sneaking in around the corners. They have gotten together in that room, maybe the Upper Room, maybe another gathering place where the hurting and the hopeless gathered together not knowing what to do. They were pooling their experiences, what they had heard and seen. Their hearts were pounding, and their eyes were bugging out. They didn’t dare hope.
Then suddenly, he is there. No one saw him come in; no one met him at the door or grabbed a towel and offered to wash his feet. He was just there. “Peace be with you.” That’s what he said, and they picked themselves up off the floor and wondered if they’d ever know peace again. They were haunted by him, by the idea of him, by the blood of him. They were terrified of their shame, of how they had abandoned him, of how they wouldn’t believe in what he had told them before or what the women said they saw.
“Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” What kind of question was that? Surely he knew why doubts were rising in their hearts. Surely he had an inkling of just how incredible this event was. Sure, he had gotten used to the idea, but they never let themselves hope. So they were gasping for air and clutching their chests while he stood there asking them if they were ok.”
They must have been rendered speechless, because he went on: ““Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.”
As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.
And then he asked them if they had any food there. Like a ventriloquist drinking a glass of water, or a magician pulling up his sleeves to show nothing hidden there. A “This is real, folks. Watch me eat this piece of fish. I’m no ghost, no figment of your imagination, or delusion brought on by a lack of sleep and constant terror. I’m as real as you. I am here with you. And I am who I said I am” moment …
And they gave him some leftovers and watched him eat.
I can kind of see it, can’t you? The disciples and followers in the room standing there with their mouths hanging open … some of them possibly chewing and swallowing a piece of imaginary fish along with him as he chewed the real fish they’d given him.
And Jesus, sitting there eating like nothing was wrong, probably leaning back when he finished and indicating his hunger was now satisfied.
Everything he’d done since appearing in that room showed the disciples he wasn’t a ghost, but flesh and blood. He didn’t just say, “look at my hands, my side, my scars,” as John implied. No, Luke said he told them to touch him, to grab hold of him … “grab hold of me. Ground yourselves in me.” And the verb, ψηλαφήσατέ, (psēlahphēsahtay) isn’t directed to just Thomas who doubted. It’s a second person plural. All y’all, grab hold and hang on. Grab hold of me and “behold!” ἴδετε, (EE-day-tay)… See … an imperative and another second person plural, another “All y’all”. Imperative. Grab hold and see! As if your life depended upon it. As if your hopes would be found in it. Grab hold of the reality of Christ and see not just him but see yourself, too. See your path, your future, your mission, and your very reason for being.
He was saying to them, “See me, feel me, touch me … I came to heal thee … to make you whole, to give you the ability to understand the scriptures, to have the same authority here on earth that I have … to build my kingdom here on earth, my church”. Touch and see me … flesh and blood me. And, in me, see you.
Where John’s version ends with the commission Jesus gave us … to go forth and make disciples, to carry the Good News to all nations and every corner of the earth, Luke’s ends with the realization that Christ truly has risen and that life … the life we know, the life we experience is stronger than death.
Not that we won’t die. Even Jesus died on that cross. But that wasn’t the point of Luke’s text.
Luke’s text was about right here, right now. It is real. It is grounded in the reality in which we live. Touch and see. The gospel, the life of faith has to be grounded in reality. That’s why Luke dwelled on this moment. That’s why we can take a breath at this point before we launch into a life of going to the ends of the earth to tell the story.
If we don’t start here, if we don’t watch that piece of fish being eaten, if we don’t grab hold, we won’t see. And if we don’t see, then we are likely to turn our message into one of the hereafter, the sweet by and by and not the here and now.
We’re liable to think that all the Resurrected one cares about is getting souls into some spiritualized heaven somewhere else, instead of feeding those who are hungry for breakfast right here in our own neighborhoods.
We’re liable to think that injustice here doesn’t matter because it will all be sorted out one day instead of advocating for the oppressed and working for justice in our own communities.
Take hold of me … psēlahphēsahtay … and EE-day-tay … see … is about wanting to live in the world that he lived in and bring hope to our reality every day.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he offered his nail-scarred hands and feet as proof that he was, indeed, the Risen Lord. Then, he ate in their presence (from Luke 24:39-43).
Lord, we are living in a world that behaves as though you never lived. Our eyes behold atrocities and insults that we never thought possible and that our grandparents thought they would never see again. We live in a world that is longing for proof of the Resurrection, proof of the Living Lord.
Lord, show us how to prove your living through our lives. Put our hands to doing what you would have done were you still on this earth. Place our feet on a path that leads others to salvation. Pull us out of our caves of isolation so that we might be seen as ordinary, living, breathing, caring people of the Resurrection.
When the people of the land cry out for proof that you are alive, or even that you ever existed, may we be able to offer our hands and feet and our lives as living proof.
Thank you, again, for worshipping with me today. And please, again, give prayerful consideration to making your pledges to the Union Grove Manna Campaign to ensure we can stay open.
Now hear this benediction:
Go now as God’s chosen witnesses to testify that Christ has been raised and that we are raised with him.
Do not look for him among the dead, but be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
And may God raise you from all that would entomb you; May Christ Jesus call you by name and go ahead of you; And may the Holy Spirit empower you for all that is good.
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, get your COVID vaccination as soon as you’re eligible, really truly love your neighbors … especially the ones who doubt and those who you doubt. And dare to dance again. God be with you. Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord in the name of Christ. Amen.
- Call to Worship – Kwasi Kena
- Opening Prayer – Rev. Jeff Rammsland
- Pastoral Prayer & Pardon – Rev. Richard J. Fairchild, Moira Laidlaw, Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
- Portions of Message – Rev. Dr. Derek C. Weber, Discipleship Ministries
- Closing Prayer – Safiyah Fosua
- Benediction – Nathan Nettleton
All music in this service is by Native American recording artist, Bill Miller. “Raised on the Mohican tribe’s Stockbridge-Munsee reservation in Wisconsin, Bill Miller fulfilled an American’s dream by going to Nashville and becoming a successful singer-songwriter.
Titles include: Praises, Holy Lands, Hear Our Prayer, and I See the Lord from the album, Hear Our Prayer, (c) 2000 Integrity Music, and Wind Spirit from the album, Spirit Songs: The Best of Bill Miller (c) 2006, Vanguard Records.
Copyright Disclaimer: Under §107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights belong to their respective owners.
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!