• Prelude – Hymne, The Pianissimo Brothers
  • Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – Great God (Psalm 150), Revive Worship
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Scripture Reading – Matthew 5:1-12
  • Message – Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (Part 1) – Rev. Ohle
  • Closing Anthem – Oh Mercy, Stu G featuring Matt Maher
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – The Pianissimo Brothers


Good morning. My name is Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church. Thank you for taking the time to be here with me today!  

I had planned to make some brief announcements at this point, but these announcements deserve more time than I can give them here, so I will be sharing them through a special “From the Pastor’s Heart” message later today on Facebook, on Vimeo, in an email through the newsletter mailing list, and on our website. Please keep an eye out for that message. It’s going to have some exciting news in it about reopening our building and more!

Now, let’s begin our worship today with a prayer:

God, thank you for this time together and for all those who’ve made time to worship with me.

You are our creator and our deliverer. You walk with the meek and the poor, the compassionate and those who mourn, and you call us to walk humbly with you.

When we are foolish, be our wisdom; when we are weak, be our strength; that, as we learn to do justice and to love mercy, your rule may come as blessing.

Fill us now with your Spirit that we hear what you would have us hear and take from this worship what you would have us to take.

In Christ’s name, amen.


This is the time we lift up our joys and concerns, our praise, and our petitions. To protect the privacy of those we pray for, we do not say any names. Please know that I am lifting up any prayer requests you’ve sent me, and your unspoken prayers as well. There will be one or more moments of pause during the prayer for you to lift up any prayers of your own.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank you for our many blessings received and especially for those blessings we have yet to recognize. Thank you for your forgiveness despite our unworthiness, and for your faithfulness.

Lord, we lift up all who are ill or injured, who are hurting in any way. We entrust them to your healing care. If it be your will, make them whole.

We lift up those who are mourning, God. You promise comfort to the mourners. Show us how we can aid in that comfort. Give them peace.

We lift up those who are struggling, who are suffering hard times, and who feel they’ve lost all hope. Lead us to restore their hope, remove their burdens, and provide for their needs. It is our desire to serve them and in serving them, to serve you.

Save us from ourselves, God. It is far too easy to fall into the traps of this earthly world. It is easier to react than act, to give in to the anger and hate, and to close our ears and eyes. Soften us, God, and help us to be better.

Lord, I ask that you call leaders for this beloved community here at Union Grove. I ask that you make known to me those who you’ve called and I ask you to join us all together and guide us in building a new community, a new church family here.

Lord, we pause now for silent prayer to lift up our personal prayers and petitions.

We 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 … :

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.



O God, most holy and praised: As Your Son gathered disciples to himself to teach them your ways, so your Spirit has gathered us in this time and place. Make us alert and attentive as we read and reflect on Jesus’ words; help us take them to heart and live into them so that your will is truly done on earth as in heaven. We pray in the name of our true Teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.


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

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them …

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

While many have over the years interpreted poor in spirit to mean weak in faith, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine tells us it’s actually a synonym for people who have enough humility that they do not operate from a sense of pride: the poor in spirit are those who recognize that they are both the beneficiaries of the help from others and part of a system in which they are to pay it forward and help those whom they can. The poor in spirit recognize their dependence on God. To quote Isaiah 66:2, “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.”

They don’t sit around and boast over their accomplishments. They don’t get resentful if they haven’t gotten sufficient honor. They just do the right thing, know they’re doing the right thing, and know that God knows they’ve done the right thing and that’s more than sufficient recognition for what they’ve done.

The poor in spirit align themselves to others and to God … not toward self.

The poor in spirit are not necessarily also poor economically. It is possible to have wealth and be poor in spirit. Being poor in spirit is recognizing the gap between what one has and what one should have. It’s recognizing that one may have a bank account, but not have compassion, generosity, or love. To paraphrase Tony Campolo, there is nothing wrong with making a million dollars, but there is something wrong with keeping it … an explanation made clear in 1 John 3:17 that says, “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him … how can God’s love reside in him?”

Neither is being poor in spirit limited to material things.  The poor in spirit are aware of their privileges and because they are aware, they work to help others who do not have the same benefits.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Paying attention to the semantics of this verse, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn”. Not everyone can mourn. For whatever reason, their emotions are repressed and they are unable to express what it is they feel.  

So, in part, it is a blessing for those who can mourn are able to say, “I loved this person, and I desperately miss this person” … a hear that knows how to grieve is a heart that knows how to love.

Being able to mourn also takes time and to do so in our own time. My late brother and I were very close, almost like twins even though he was three years and three days younger than me. His death was unexpected and devastating, he and his family lived a state away from the rest of us, and he died while he was two more states away from them on a job. We were all in pain and that pain expressed itself in a variety of ways. Two families juggling arrangements, one of which was doing so long distance, led to tensions. It was hard, but things had to be dealt with. There was no time for weakness or tears or hurt feelings. It was hard to find the words to express my own feelings, especially when those I needed to express them to were raw with their own grief and less than willing to hear me out.

It would be almost a year before I was actually able to stop and grieve for my brother in my own time and in my own way and it was through the comforter who turned out to be my horse that my grief for my brother was released and I mourned. God indeed works in mysterious ways.

Mourning is not limited to the death of a loved one, nor is it limited to families. Those of us who are able mourn the loss of iconic figures such as Justice Ginsburg, Representative John Lewis, or Mr. Roberts.

Mourning is not limited to death. Those of us who are able mourn for abused children, for victims of violent and unjust acts, for victims of senseless wars, and for victims of natural disasters like floods, fires, and storms. We mourn the theft of memories from those who suffer Alzheimer’s or dementia. We mourn the living death of those we knew before their addictions turned them into people we can’t even recognize. We even mourn things and ways lost that we took for granted until they were gone.

Jesus reminds us, though, that those who mourn will be comforted. Comfort comes in the visitation of friends and family when we’re grieving a loved one, in the empathy of a horse who sensed his human’s pain and nuzzled her into much-needed tears. Comfort comes in collective actions that channel communal grief into positive actions. Comfort comes in righting the wrongs, in seeing justice done, and sometimes it comes in the form of an ally who’s willing to stand with you and for you while you mourn and lament.

Always, the comfort is sent by God who is the ultimate Comforter.

Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.

  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

If you look at the Hebrew word for meek, aniwim (ann-a-weem), you find out it’s the Hebrew synonym for poor in spirit. The Greek word, praus (prah-OOS), however, is more nuanced. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle … praus .. and humble in heart.  In Matthew 21:5, the “triumphal entry”, Jesus quotes Zechariah, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble … praus … and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Clearly, the meaning of praus or meek in these verses and therefore in the Beatitude does not mean “insignificant compared to you.”  On the contrary, a meek person is a person with great authority … or privilege, but who does not lord that authority or privilege over others.  A meek person promotes servant leadership over despotism. A meek person puts others before him or herself.

Jesus was the ultimate meek king, made clear in the “Christ Hymn” found in Philippians 2:6-11.

Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death … even death on a cross.

To be meek is to understand how to listen … really listen … to those in need, how to share resources, how to realize that you may not have all the answers or knowledge.

One might think, then, that Jesus is telling the disciples that those with authority who are able to show humility and put the welfare of others before their own will be richly rewarded… after all, he says they’ll inherit the earth.

To be the heir of something means that we have been given something treasured and we are now responsible for taking care of it in order to be able to pass the legacy forward.

Considering environmental issues happening in God’s creation right now, it has been a good long while since we have had any truly meek kings … perhaps as long as just over 2000 years, amen?

I want to share with you a spoken word poem by Stu Garrard and Becky Harding. This poem is part of Stu G’s Album and project, the Beatitudes. It goes like this …

What does it mean to listen?

I mean, really listen

With no distractions or divisions

Clear, careful decisions

Where the outcast is first to be considered

Listening to listen, not to respond

Words are now that listening with our eyes just does not correspond

See, when the Rabbi gave the sermon he called us to look beyond

But as humans, it seems to be a process that we love to prolong

The people around us

Whose presence we completely ignore, those we label as poor

Or people who just can’t do this anymore

Or those who society has decided are just not worth fighting for

We are called to do more

To no longer be silent or hidden

This is an invitation to the Beatitude vision

To understand the message more accurately than sniper precision

To bring forth a world a misfit envisioned

Listening in harmony

Dealing boldly but respectfully to hostile authority

Standing up for the ones who are not the majority

Or bring faith, hope, and love to the rest of humanity

Refuting the idea that it’s all about prosperity

Because if we believe that the angle is success

Then we haven’t grasped the message that we are blessed

Believe me, this upside-down message is not a test

Because when it all goes wrong, well He’s got us

Even then

See, when we want certainty He offers us Presence

Demonstrating love is the most powerful weapon

Encouraging us as the community to step in

Teaching us the wisest lesson

To lift our heads in the midst of our poverty and our brokenness

Our grieving, our ache for justice and wholeness

To never lose focus

To care for others by showing mercy

To go against the grain despite the controversy

To share a message with a guarantee

No need for microphone or marquee

No iPad or hands-free

No drum roll or melodies

Just a learning, listening community.

Imagine … a learning, listening community of Christ’s disciples seated around him there on the mountainside … not questioning, not arguing points, not distracted by text messages and social media notifications and email and phone calls … just sitting there listening intently as Jesus begins to deliver the greatest series of teachings in the Gospels …

Now imagine that you are one of those disciples because you are.

Jesus was creating a new family or community … a learning, listening community … and a new movement, but not a movement in the political sense. He was teaching his disciples what it would look like to live in this new family where the members actually acted out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.  He was teaching them that, if this new community would do these things, then God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, and he was teaching them in a way that spoke across generations and continues to speak.

He was teaching them … and us … that, if we are poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is ours … present tense … now. No waiting to cash in the golden ticket to paradise. The kingdom of God is at hand.

He was teaching them … and us … that mourning is a healthy and natural extension of love, and that God will bring us comfort in our grief.

He was teaching them … and us … that we are to be servant leaders and that as servant leaders we will become responsible to care for his father’s creation, but we will be worthy of that inheritance.

He was teaching them … and us … the Way.

Next week, we’re going to look at the remaining five beatitudes, but before closing today’s message, I offer you a prayer written by Rev. Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. Let’s pray:

Jesus, we receive your blessings and pray for the Holy Spirit to make them real in our lives.

Renew a right spirit within us, a poor spirit, a spirit which knows our deep need of your grace and deliverance. Free us from trying to save ourselves. Free us for the fullness of your kingdom.

Soften our hard hearts with the gift of tears. Help us mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of our world. Help us feel it fully. Help us welcome the refreshment of your comfort and share it well with others.

Generous Savior, you fill each person with gifts, talents, and strength. Open us to meekness, that we may gladly surrender them to your authority and discipline. In our hands, they are often weapons. With you, they are refined for your glory and the common good.

Bread of Life, sour every false and destructive appetite, that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness alone- a right relationship with you, a right relationship with others, and between others, a right relationship with ourselves, a right relationship with your creation.

We bless you and honor you for your unending mercy, a flood of grace, pouring out and spilling over. Make us mercy-full. May all people know you like this.

Suffering One, break our hearts as yours is broken. In the breaking, create in us clean hearts, pure hearts, undivided hearts. Our deepest desire is to see you at work in us and all around us and to one day see you face to face.

In your grace, please don’t stop with our hearts. Re-Birth us fully in the breaking and creating. Named your beloved, your children, forever.

Make us …

One with you and each other

One in your great work of peace

One in your words and ways

One in commitment to reconciliation and righteousness

One in facing of falsehood

One in the bloody bonds of persecution

One in your joy

One in your promises

One on earth and one in heaven

In Christ’s name, amen.


Now hear this benediction:

May Spirit teach us to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. May we not be intimidated by opposition or criticism. May we keep firm in the faith God has set before us through Christ who has triumphed and reigns with him and the Spirit forever and ever.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, tell someone the Good News, be the church, listen … really listen, 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
Holston Conference
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!