ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – As For Us, Fernando Ortega
- Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – Praise To The Lord The Almighty, UMC 139, Fernando Ortega
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Matthew 5:1-2, 6:1-34
- Message – Walking the Talk – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Anthem – How Firm a Foundation, UMH 519, Fernando Ortega
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – As For Us, Fernando Ortega
Good morning. My name is Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church. Welcome and thank you for joining me today!
We return today to our series on the Sermon on the Mount. This week we take a look at Matthew, Chapter 6 – Walking the Talk. As always, I encourage you to let me know what you think of each week’s service, what you like, don’t like, whether you have questions, and what you’d like to hear about in the future.
So how can you do that? At the end of today’s video, you’ll find information on how to find our website, Facebook page, our channel at Vimeo.com, how to 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. You can leave your feedback about the worship videos on our website, on our Facebook page, and also on each video at vimeo.com.
As for the reopening of Union Grove, I am continuing to work toward November 29. The best way to stay up to date on that information is to sign up for our email newsletter.
Now let’s begin this day with a 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 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.
We pause now in silence to lift up those we each know are in need of comfort, peace, grace and healing.
P: Lord in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
For those who mourn, God, we know that losses of all kind cause grief and that grief can cause us to act differently to those who know and love us. Be with them, God. Let them feel your presence and be filled with your peace.
We pause now in silence to lift up those who mourn.
P: Lord in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
Lord, today, we lift up to you our Veterans. We lift all the men and women who gave their time and put their lives on the line for wars they did not start to defend the freedoms we enjoy. We honor them and their families for their sacrifices and we ask that you bless them and heal any hidden wounds they carry.
We pause now in silence to lift up our veterans and their families.
P: Lord in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
We lift up to you our nation, its outgoing administration, and its future president, vice-president and their administration. We lift up to you those leaders who will not be returning and those who are incoming with the new year. We thank you, Lord, for the dedication and service of all, and we ask that you guide and influence them to act for the good of all your children during this time of transition and in all their future endeavors and actions.
We ask that you bring comfort to all who are saddened by the outcome of this election. We thank you for your hand in showing us where now we need to build bridges to restore and reunify our people.
P: Lord in your mercy, be with our nation now as you are with me.
I lift up your church here at Union Grove, God, and ask that you fill it with people from all walks, from all races, from all lifestyles. Let us reflect that diversity of your children and let us become a beacon of light and hope and love for all.
We ask these things today in the name of your son, our Lord, and with the confidence of your children we pray 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. ”
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 5:1-2, 6:1-34 (MSG)
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 …
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
“When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.
“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting , so you can respond to God’s giving . People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – WALKING THE TALK …
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
In Matthew 6, Jesus begins by telling us how to practice piety. Cambridge English Dictionary defines piety as “strong belief in a religion that is shown in the way someone lives.” So in other words, Jesus is telling us how he expects us to walk in the world as believers, as his followers, as his disciples, as his representatives.
In verses 1-4, Jesus tells us the world is not a stage, we’re not actors, and we aren’t supposed to do good for the accolades and applause. He even goes so far as to give examples of the kind of behavior he wants us to avoid: Don’t be one of those people who talks about how generous you were to the homeless guy at Wal-Mart or how you bequeathed part of your estate to the local women’s shelter or how you make and hand out 10 blessing bags each week. Just go do it. Quietly. Unobtrusively. It’s enough that you and God know what you’re doing. The world doesn’t need to know, so don’t tell it. By the world includes your friends on Facebook. Just go do it. Because when you do it quietly or, in Peterson’s words, “behind the scenes,” you doing it the way God works in your life. Quietly. Behind the scenes. Often without your immediate awareness He’s working.
Jesus then goes on to talk about how we should pray. He tells us we shouldn’t make a production out of prayer, just like we shouldn’t make a production out of doing good. He tells us to find someplace quiet where there’s no one to impress and then to just sit for a moment and let your senses begin to focus on God. If you do that, he says, you’ll begin to sense God’s grace.
And then he gives us a gentle warning about praying an agenda, that is using formulas or to fall for those folks that are peddling techniques for praying in a way that they say will get God to give us what we want.
Think about that for a moment, about people who tell you to pray in a certain way. Some will tell you to “plant a seed” of a certain size and then pray God blesses you abundantly. Surely if you do this, God will double or triple or even quadruple the amount of you “seed”. Or so you’re led to believe.
In the last few decades, there has been an increasing number of well-known religious leaders who have called for prayers with political agendas, and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear them petition God for specific actions that benefit one group of people over another. Another case of praying for what man wants instead of what God wills.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t pray for our nation’s leaders. We should and we did this morning. It’s how we pray for them that matters, though. In our prayer, we simply asked God that he guide and influence them to act for the good of all his children now as the transition of one administration to another takes place and in all their future endeavors.
Jesus reminds us that it’s God we’re praying to, and that no one knows what we … you, me, the nation, the world … needs better than God knows. And because he knows us so well and loves us so much, we can keep our prayers simple.
All conversations with God are a form of prayer. It doesn’t matter if the conversation is praise, if it’s lament, if it’s a demand, or even if it’s an accusation because we’re angry at God for some reason. It’s a conversation with our Creator and we’re able to have it because we have a relationship with him and he with us.
Prayer in anger is not hypocrisy, not wrong … it’s being honest, just like prayers that ask why are not signs of disbelief, but an attestation to our resistance to chaos. Prayer should ask why.
Even angry prayers crying out for the destruction of a perceived enemy … and the Old Testament has a number of such prayers … can have value. They allow us to voice our feelings, to cry out, to despair … and then … once we’ve uttered them and recognize how without love our prayer is, once realize the malice in our own hearts, we are able to pull back and remember what Jesus taught us about loving even our enemies and those who persecute us.
Jesus provides an example of a prayer that is simple and that asks for all we need ask for … a prayer we’ve come to know as the Lord’s prayer … a prayer we may say so easily, we fail to remember or understand what it is we’re praying …
Our father … God, Creator, Great Mystery … in heaven, you are most holy. Bring your kingdom here and let your will be done here just as it’s done in heaven. Meet our needs, sustain us, fill us for today. Forgive us for our sins against you, but only if we forgive those who’ve sinned against us. Lead us away from giving in to our earthly desires that cause us to sin and protect us from ourselves and from the enemy, Satan. All heaven and earth are yours. All power is yours. All glory and honor are yours. So be it.
While we’ve learned to say the Lord’s prayer almost without thinking, Jesus didn’t tell us to memorize and only pray this prayer. He said to pray like this.
For believers, the prayer does everything needed. It acknowledges God’s sovereignty and gives Him praise. It surrenders our will to Him. It establishes our trust in Him to provide what we need on a daily basis and, because it only asks for what we need for today, it prevents us from asking for more and putting ourselves at risk of idolizing earthly wealth. It asks him to forgive us to the same degree we forgive others … a reminder and admonition to us to be forgiving. The prayer asks God for his protection from our own weakness and from the enemy, and then closes by acknowledging God’s sovereignty over heaven and earth, his ultimate authority, and his glory.
A simple, quiet, elegant prayer.
Jesus’ final instruction in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount are about living a life worshipping God … not just today for the 30 or 45 minutes this service will last, but daily … consistently … living in a state of constant worship.
Too often when we hear someone say that our minds go immediately to those things we’re used to doing and hearing during services like the one you’re watching, but this is only one relatively small form of worship. Worship like Jesus wants us to worship is much more.
He tells us not to focus on accumulating things and wealth here on earth … that these earthly riches mean nothing … and instead to build up our riches in heaven and to keep our focus on God. He warns that we can’t worship both God and earthly wealth, that we’ll love the one and hate the other.
To live a life of worshipping God, we shouldn’t fuss about what we’re eating. God provides food for the birds who neither reap nor sow and he’ll provide for us. He cares for us even more than he cares for the birds.
Nor are we to worry about whether we’re dressed in the latest fashions. After all, Jesus reminds us, God dresses the wildflowers in the fields more beautifully than any fashion created by man. He points out that if God pays that much attention to flowers, the majority of which will never be seen, he’ll pay even more attention to his children.
Jesus’ purpose in these teachings is to help us see that putting so much focus into “getting” things gets in the way of giving our attention to God and, more importantly, responding to what God is giving us. On the other hand, if we focus on worshipping God daily, on walking the talk, God will see to all our everyday human needs and concerns.
As he says, if we give our entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help us deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Right now, our nation is going through hard times. Right now, more than it has been in a very long time, it is almost impossible to see the light for all the negatives going on around us. It is far too hard to forgive one another for leveling accusations, calling names, or worse over differences in how we vote or who we support. It seems to have become almost impossible to love one another. Right now, it is a struggle to simply pray and accept God’s will be done instead of praying what we want God to will.
And yet … we are responsible for what we do next … we can let all these things distract us, we can cave into them, or we can pull our focus back onto walking the talk. We can practice piety, we can pray simply that God’s will be done, and we can trust that God is at work in this nation and this world and that he is going to provide.
Thank You, God, for the gift and privilege of prayer. Thank You for giving us access to Your throne of grace, and for your help in our time of need. You alone are worthy of our grateful thanks and praise, for this unparalleled birth-right.
Renew in us an increasing desire to know You more, and to love You better, with each passing day. Purge from us any petty attitudes that may hinder our fellowship with You. Instill in us a deepening desire to linger in Your presence and to praise You unceasingly, in spirit and truth. And develop in our hearts an attitude of worshipful prayer, so that our communion with You becomes the essential essence of our very life on earth. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, AMEN.[i]
[i] Closing prayer adapted from Praying through Matthew 6:6, https://prayer.knowing-jesus.com/Matthew/6
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, practice piety, pray simply, worry less, forgive every time, love everyone, 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!