ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – Quietly, Scripture Lullabies
- Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – Praise Him, Shane & Shane
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Isaiah 43:4, Proverbs 19:20-21, Matthew 5:1-2, 17-48
- Message – You Have Heard It Said – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Anthem – City On the Hill, Casting Crowns
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Lift the Light, Shane & Shane
Good morning. My name is Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church. Welcome and thank you for joining me today!
A quick update on the status of re-opening Union Grove. At this point, it is unlikely that we will make my original goal of November 1. There are still a few things that have to get done in order to re-open. I hope to have better news for you later this week.
I also want to call your attention to a special edition of “From the Pastor’s Heart” posted on our Facebook page and that will be added to our website later today. It is a small offering of a sung prayer, benediction or blessing, and another prayer. My hope is that, in watching or listening to the video, you will find yourself praying along with it and also be reminded that we are beloved by God.
Ok! at the end of today’s 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.
Let’s begin with prayer:
God, we come to you now to praise you and to worship you. Thank you for this time together. Lord, we invite the Spirit to join us now, to wash our will and our words away and fill us with your will and your words.
In Christ’s name, amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
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. 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.
Father, thank you again for this time together to worship and praise Your holy name. Thank you for the blessings you’ve given us, both known and unknown. For those who have been healed this past week, we give you thanks. For those who have found comfort this past week, we give you thanks. For those who have found the strength to carry on this past week, we praise your holy name and give you thanks. For those who are still in need of healing, in need of comfort, in need of your strength and reassurance, we ask that you be with them, heal them, guide their caregivers, and strengthen them in this time and that all may know the blessing of your peace, your comfort, and your grace.
P: Lord in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
We pause now in silence to lift up those we each know are in need of your mercy.
(Moment of Silence)
P: Lord in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
Lord, we are tired.[i]
We are tired of this pandemic, as it moves along, relentlessly, uncompromisingly, randomly affecting so many causing havoc to so many lives: illness, bereavement, emotional pain and fragility, unemployment …
And the latter brings its own extra set of worries: Despair. Downheartedness.
And then … Lord, we are Tired of political fighting.
What do we do? Where do we turn?
To you of course.
P: In our brokenness, hear our cries.
Open our eyes to the beauty and simplicity of nature
Let it remind us that life has its seasons and that all seasons pass, and so will this.
P: Still us Lord, quiet our minds and hearts.
Calm us, Lord, encircle us with your ever-changing seasons of love and differences.
Circle us and strengthen us with your abiding love and teach us not to be afraid, but to be free.
And now I come to you, Father, and I ask … if it pleases you and be your will … that you would stir the hearts of your children worshipping with me today to heed this call written by Bishop Steven Charleston:
Rise up[ii], rise up, rise up people of faith, rise up, and work together. Now is the time when you are needed, now is the time of your great witness. The shadows of sorrow still linger over many homes, the old fears still wait at the street corner of our cities. Look, you can see the Spirit already at work in the lives around you, bringing comfort to the elders, food to the families, healing to the sick, mercy to the poor.
Rise up, rise up, rise up, people of faith, for your help is needed now, your chance to make a difference has come. The world is weary of the illness that has taken so many, the hearts of your neighbors are longing to see a sign of hope. You are that sign. You are the messenger of good news. Rise up, people of faith, rise up and work together, for you are grace that can be seen, you are love that can be felt, you are joy in a land that needs to remember joy is still possible.
We ask these things today 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.”
[i] Prayer by Eunice Hawkins, https://www.facebook.com/groups/18171697856/permalink/10157836592212857
[ii] Ret. Bishop Steven Charleston, Facebook post, October 24, 2020.
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.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
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.
Matthew 5:1-2, 17-48
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 …
“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.”
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID …
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote: “The Christian scriptures speak of a “way”, but it is not the path of our expectations. It is not the 10-step plan for inner peace. Instead, this way calls us to deeper and more radical trust and to realize that the way is made by walking. Each step is shaped by listening to how the divine presence calls us forward, the direction we take, the choices we make, and how much control we are willing to yield.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets about teaching his disciples … and everyone else who is listening … “the way” he would have us follow. He opens with bestowing blessings and then moves to the laws found in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.
He tells the listener, “I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law.”
If you heard last week’s message, you’ll recall my mentioning Dr. Amy-Jill Levine who revealed that “instructions” was a much better translation from the original texts than “law.” The same is true of Jesus’ statement we’ve read as “I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law.” According to David Biven, founder and editor of the Jerusalem Perspective, a more accurate translation from the original language would be, “My purpose is not to cancel or uproot the instructions, but to sustain the instructions by properly translating them.”
Another way of saying it according to Biven would be, “I would not think of abrogating the Torah through misinterpretation. My intent is not to weaken or negate God’s written Instruction, but to sustain and establish it by correct interpretation. I would never invalidate the Torah by effectively removing something from it through misinterpretation. Heaven and earth would sooner disappear than something from the Torah. Not the smallest letter in the alphabet, the yod, nor even its decorative spur, will ever disappear from the Torah.”
In Jesus’ time when one rabbi disagreed with another rabbi’s interpretation of the Torah, the first rabbi would say, “You are canceling (or, uprooting) the Torah!” In other words, “You are so misinterpreting Scripture that you are negating or canceling part of it.” If you know the Gospels fairly well, you know that odds are Jesus was frequently accused of “uprooting” the Torah. The verses in today’s passage from Matthew are, to a large degree, Jesus’ rebuttal of such accusations, which explains why he begins each topic with “You have heard it said, but I say to you …”. He’s referring to what the disciples and other listeners have been taught about the Torah from other rabbis and then speaking not only from his own knowledge of the Torah but from the authority he has been given from his Father, God.
Dr. Levine has a similar explanation. She says that Jesus’ “but I say” statements are not negating the instructions, but are actually extending the instructions and making them clearer.
Jesus goes on in verse 19 to tell the listeners that one should not consider unimportant even the most seemingly insignificant commandments of the Torah.
As Western Christians, when we hear the word “commandment,” we instinctively think of the ten commandments and our reaction to the idea of an insignificant commandment or … in Dr. Levine’s translation, “instruction,” would most likely be, “Say, what? Which one is insignificant?”
The truth is, though, there are 619 instructions or laws in the Old Testament. Jesus is saying, “sin is sin” whether it’s a GREAT BIG SIN or a teeny tiny sin. He provides an example of that in each of his “but I say” extensions of the laws.
Take, for instance, when Jesus says, “You have heard it said you shall not commit murder, but I say don’t even hate your brothers in your heart.”
Or “You have heard it said you shall not commit adultery, but I say don’t even look their way and daydream about it.”
Or, “You have heard it said ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord,’ but I say don’t swear on the Lord or anything else because everything belongs to the Lord and you’re inviting trouble. Just be honest. If you say, ‘yes,’ mean ‘yes.’ If you say, ‘no,’ mean ‘no.’”
Or what about, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say don’t retaliate. Forgive. If someone hits you, turn the other cheek. If someone sues you for your shirt, give them your coat, too. If someone demands you go a mile with them, go two miles.”
And then there’s the one we find hardest to live into, especially in today’s world. “You have heard it said that you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
In each example he gave, Jesus illustrated that the least or, in rabbinic terms “lightest” of the instructions was as important as the greatest or “heavy” instructions. And, if you think about it, each of his “light law” examples was predicated on love.
Think about the message of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
If you are truly living into Christ-like love, you can’t, you wouldn’t be able to violate the light laws and if you don’t violate the light laws, you’re less likely to violate the heavy instructions.
In his sermon, though, Jesus taught that a disciple who abolished (i.e., misinterpreted) the light instructions, who did not do them or broke them, or who did not emphasize their importance when teaching, would be considered “light” in the “Kingdom of Heaven.”
Jesus summarizes this portion of the Sermon with a reminder that sun God created and set in the heavens rises and sets on both the good and the evil, that God sends rain down upon both the righteous and the unrighteous alike, that there is no reward for loving only those that love you back, and that we should strive for being as perfect in our love as God is.
This can be pretty hard to do right now, especially when it comes to loving our neighbors and our enemies in a society that is extremely polarized on almost every issue. Achieving God’s level of perfect love seems like a distant, almost invisible goal, but remember something …
The human eye can see a single lighted candle at an extraordinary distance and can see the light reflected off the planet, Uranus that is 1.7 billion miles from earth.
God is love and God is light. Jesus is the light of the World and told us we are the salt and the light as well. When we pull together. When we gather in Beloved Community, when we let our collective light shine through by living into the Way that Jesus taught us, we become that City on the Hill that can’t be hidden.
The important part is to follow the Way. Christine Valters Paintner wrote:
The way is not a freeway. It is not even a two-lane highway wandering through the Oregon Outback. It is not a way firmly established, paved with rules and principles. It is a way made by walking, by putting one foot in front of the other as we seek, moment by moment, to follow Jesus.
Indeed, it is the way of following almost blindly, offering radical trust to this One who leads us through each day, through each moment, through each choice. It is never defined but is always emerging.
God’s new thing!!!!
This means this way is full of surprises and full of challenges. This means we are taken, often into dark primeval forests, where all we have left is to trust in the One who leads us, in the One who guides and instructs through those inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes we get lost. We wander off “to find where demons dwell” (Borning Cry -Jacque Darragh), but the one we follow seeks and finds us, as if we were lost and foolish sheep, and places our feet back on the way where one thing counts, one thing matters: Love.
Ah yes, there are rules, of sorts. We love God and follow. We love ourselves and claim our rightful place as Sacred Children. We love others and see them and treat them as Sacred Children, too.
So here is to the journey. Here is to putting one foot in front of the other. Here is to following the One. To following the breadcrumbs of God through swamps deep and forests dark and mountain jagged. Here is to following the way through the wilderness we call life.
God, we confess we are not good at following the lightest of your instructions, let alone the heaviest but, with your help, we will do better. We will try harder.
Help us, Father. Set our feet upon the Way and send Spirit to keep us on track and on the path. Lead us to find one another in the journey and to build a city on the hill too bright to ever be hidden. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
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
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!