• Prelude – Peace Memorial, Pianissimo Brothers
  • Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – Here I Am To Worship, Phillips, Craig & Dean
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Scripture Reading – Proverbs 19:20-21, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 5:1-2 & 13-20
  • Message – Salt, Light & Law – Rev. Ohle
  • Closing Anthem – Shine On Us, Phillips, Craig & Dean
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – This Little Light of Mine, Sam Cooke


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

Folks, before we begin, I just have to share with you that … even though it may not seem like it right now … I want to assure you that God is working a plan and has definitely got Union Grove in His mighty hand. I am so very blessed to be here with all of you and so privileged to watch His plan as it unfolds. I am looking forward to when we can gather in person so you can feel it too, and I know you will.

On that note, I hope in your prayers you’re asking God how you can serve the church here at Union Grove. We continue to look for folks who can help lead us into this new beginning.

OK, routine business – At the end of this video, you’ll find information on how to find our website, Facebook page, contact me, sign up for our email newsletter and worship bulletin list, and where you can safely send your offerings by mail or through a secure online service.

And now, let’s begin today with a prayer:

God, this is the day that you have made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Thank you so much, God, for this time together and for those who make the choice to spend it with you and with me. I pray your voice and will supplant my own. I ask that Spirit come and fill us each, emptying us of ourselves and filling us with all you would have us to hear and to be.

In Christ’s name, amen.


This is the time we lift up our joys and concerns, our praises 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 any prayers of your own. Also, this morning we’re going to incorporate something new this prayer. There are points in the prayer where you will be prompted to respond out loud.  Just watch the screen for the words to appear in front of me and say them with me.

Let’s pray:

Father, we come to you now in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings you bestow on us. We thank and praise you for the companionship and love of friends and family, For the laughter of children, the wisdom of the elderly, and the optimism of the youth that this can and will be a better world.

We thank and praise you for our waking breath, for each new opportunity, each and every second chance, for hearing our prayers and for hearing our hearts when our prayers have no words.

We thank and praise you for all creation and for this new season, for the beauty of the changing leaves, the coolness of the air, and the bounty of the harvests.

 We give you thanks and praise for those who are turning to you now, some for the first time, and some turning back to you again. And Lord, we confess that those who are turning back may have been turned away by our actions or lack of action, by our words or lack of words, by our own arrogance and self-righteousness. Forgive us Lord and help those turned away to forgive us as well.

We go forward from this day with hope, O God, hope for a more intentional and engaged faith.

By paying attention to your grace already at work in every life, wherever we meet those made in your image, move us to share stories of the grace that has reshaped our own lives.

As we come to see resonant patterns of grace, make clear to us the ways you are repairing the world’s shattered wholeness so that we may learn your ways.

May we go forward with a new resolve to listen to the stories of people made in your image.
People: God, hear our prayer.

May we go forward with all who are called to become all love through your son, Jesus.
People: God, hear our prayer.

May we go forward with those whose loneliness and isolation call for listening love.
People: God, hear our prayer.

May we go forward with friends in faith who serve and witness through deeds and words that heal and free.
People: Savior, hear our prayer.

We lift to you now in a moment of silence those prayers buried deep in our hearts, the prayers for which we have no words, the fears which do their best to steal our hope, and the frustrations from which we seek your divine healing.

People: Lord, hear our silent prayers.

(Moment of silence.)

Hear our prayers, O God, and help us embody your glory and presence – vessels of grace bringing mercy and justice to your world.

We ask these things in the name of your son and now, with the confidence of your children, we pray to you in the words he taught us to pray:

“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. Amen.”


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.

Proverbs 19:20-21

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

[From] Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.

For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Matthew 5:1-2 & 13-20 (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 …

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

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.

We’ve spent three Sundays learning the blessings bestowed on us when we follow the way Jesus taught us.

Today, we’re looking at Matthew 5:13-20, about salt, light, and law and again, while it might feel like he’s placing requirements on us, it is yet another blessing.  

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” In his words, we’re already there, but …

Jesus reminds us that if the salt loses its saltiness, it becomes useless, tasteless, and just gets thrown away, and that if you hide that light, well … that would just be foolish. No one does that, so we should let the light shine out for all to see.

Jesus was good at using metaphors when he taught, and in this passage he paired the idea that we – his disciples – are the salt of the earth with a warning reminder – that salt could lose its flavor.

That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? I’ve never tasted flavorless salt. Have you? It’s an odd enough concept today that I decided to do some research. 

As it turns out, in its pure form, sodium chloride or salt as we know salt today, is extremely stable and cannot lose its flavor.

In Jesus time, salt was used as a seasoning but, more importantly, as a preservative.  It was also a valuable commodity. Often, it had to be brought in from distant mines, so the salt merchants would store it in mounds on the floor of whatever building they used to warehouse their goods.

If the stored salt was exposed to moisture … absorbed during storage or maybe from a roof that leaked or whatever, the sodium chloride would disappear leaving behind a white powder that looked like salt, but that had no salt flavor and no preservative value. You’d end up with a product you thought was salt, but that was essentially useless or, as Jesus said, good for nothing but gravel for the pathways and roads.

Just to top it off, not all the salt merchants were upright righteous folk. Some were dishonest and they would add things to the raw product that looked like salt … things like gypsum … rendering the “salt” just as useless.

OK, great. Salt can lose its flavor, but what does that have to do with us being the salt of the earth?

First consider the two things we’ve learned can steal salt’s flavor: dilution and substitution.

Substitution is easy. If we allow things of the world to interfere or substitute for the things of Christ, we are allowing ourselves to become corrupted. We will be salt without flavor.

Dilution is, for us, more subtle. We’re still believing and we’re still practicing our faith … to some degree. In other words, earthly things aren’t being substituted … but maybe our hearts aren’t in it.

Maybe we come to worship faithfully and maybe we even participate in a small group or two before or after church, but we get a little frustrated if that Sunday service takes more than 1 hour of our day and when there’s an opportunity for doing some kind of mission or community service project, we don’t participate or even vote against it because … well … we already put 1-3 hours in for church each week and besides, there are other groups that do that … aren’t there?  

Maybe, just maybe, we start to make excuses for not going to worship: We have small children and getting ourselves to worship means getting the entire household ready and it’s just such a burden. Maybe it’s been a long work week, we spent Saturday doing all those things that had to be done at home, and we really just want a day off. Maybe the effort and energy it takes to get up, get ready, and leave the house is too much.

Our faith is still present, but it’s watered down, weakened, and at risk of being eroded away entirely.  

Sometimes, it’s a combination. Sometimes a slow substitution of earthly things begins to dilute our faith. That can happen when we lock our faith and our beliefs into a kind of time warp. We cling to what we’ve always known and become totally unwilling to ask or entertain any hard questions or doubts or new ideas about God or Jesus or the Bible or how we carry out our faith or function as a church. We stop growing spiritually and that allows earthly influences to build up and both corrupt and dilute our faith.

As the salt of the earth, we become without flavor. The blessing is gone.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” and explained that you can’t hide a city built on a hill and that no one lights a lamp and then places it under a bushel basket, but instead places the lit lamp on a stand so that it lights up the whole house. Then he tells us that, in the same way, we should let our light shine so others can see by it.

To look beyond the surface of this verse, we need to understand what Jesus means by “light”. To do that, we need to take a brief trip to the Gospel of John.

Light and darkness in John’s gospel is an antithesis, a contrast, which has symbolic meaning. The author of John saw history as a permanent conflict between Good and Evil, and used Light as a symbol of Truth and Righteousness, and Darkness as that of Falsehood and Evil.

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” and again in John 9:5, when Jesus says, “When I am in the world, I am the Light of the World.” These statements are culminated in John 9:39 where Jesus explains he came into the world so that the blind could see. If you’re blind, you most likely see only darkness. To Jesus, those who couldn’t see the truth about God were blind and he was there to bring them into the light that was God as stated in 1 John 1:5: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

If Jesus who is God incarnate is the light of the world, then, how can we be the light of the world, too?

  Well, for starters, we are created in the image of God. If God is light, then that light is in us like spiritual DNA.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul asks the Corinthian believers, “Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” Paul wasn’t speaking poetically or metaphorically. He truly meant that Jesus Christ is literally, practically dwelling within every believer, and this is just one of many other verses confirming the indwelling of Christ and of the Spirit.

So, if Christ is in us … if we allow Christ to dwell in us … then his light is going to shine through us and it’s our job not to hide that light.

We can believe all day long. We can pray daily, we can read the Bible, we can read devotions, we can watch worship on TV and the Internet, but if we are otherwise silent and the extent of any outward display of our faith is going to worship for an hour a week, we are, in essence, hiding our light under a basket. We’re cloaking it, keeping it to ourselves.

We let our light shine by purposefully sharing it with others … by stepping fully into the Great Commission to go forth and share the Good News with others.

Now, I know how daunting that can be, but I also know that the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

All this leads to the Law. Remember in today’s passage, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

When Jesus is talking about the law in this passage, he is referring to the Torah or what we know as the first five books of the Old Testament. It’s important to know … and this happens because of the difficulty translating ancient languages, especially when those ancient languages are actually interpretations of other ancient languages … the Hebrew term Torah enters into the Greek as nomos which translates to law. However, the Hebrew term the way Jesus would have understood it is better translated not as law, but as “instruction.”

The prophets he is referring to are all of the Old Testament prophets. Remember that in the Old Testament, it was the prophets through whom God spoke his instructions to the People.

So, it was the Torah combined with the stories of the prophets and especially the Psalms, that were the basis, that ground Jesus’s teaching, became the charter for the Gentile communities of believers that Paul founded, and that are the bedrock of both Judaism and Christianity.

With that in mind, rethink what Jesus was saying about the law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the ‘instructions’ you’ve been given or contradict the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

We get this passage wrong a lot. We kind of assume that what Jesus meant was that once he would say or do something related to the ancient text, the text he was referring to could be checked off as complete and then ignored. What he was actually saying was that he had come to spell out more clearly the full implications of the text.  In other words, and remember at that point he was speaking only to other Jews, he was teaching them how to better understand the instructions they continuously failed to follow. 

That makes it extremely advisable that we pay attention to what he says from now forward if we’re to have any hope of understanding and following the instructions he and God gave us.

We’ll get a clearer picture of how he extends or expands the instructions for us next week as we finish up Matthew 5. Until then, remember … you are the salt and the light. Don’t allow the world to dilute or corrupt you and let his light shine through you.

Let’s pray:

God of mystery and of judgment, who has made us to be salt and light in a tasteless, shadowed world, guide us in this coming week.

Grant us understanding and spiritual discernment so that others may see your good works through us, give you the glory, and be moved to serve you. Amen.


May our love be like salt that makes life tasty and worthwhile.

May our Christian living be a light to those who live in darkness.

May our Christian communities be cities of light to be seen from afar as signs that God lives and works in his people.

And may God bless you all for this mission: Go now, and let the light of Christ shine on all those who live around you. Thanks be to God!

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, be a blessing and be blessed, and go in peace. God be with you.


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!