• Prelude – All Who Labour, Poor Clare Sisters
  • Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – The New Doxology (UMH 95), Gateway Worship
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Scripture Reading – Isaiah 40:21-31 (NRSV), 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (MSG), Mark 1:29-39 (MSG)
  • Message – Stay Focused – Rev. Ohle
  • Closing Anthem – Start Right Here, Casting Crowns
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – All Who Labour, Poor Clare Sisters


Hello! I’m Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church in Friendsville and I want to welcome you to this morning’s worship service.

If you’re financially able, please consider returning to the practice of making weekly or regular offerings just as if you were sitting in the sanctuary and were handed the offering plate. That we are worshipping online is not a factor in whether we honor our commitment to God through weekly offerings. Our commitment to God doesn’t change based on location.

Offerings can be made online through a secure service provided by Holston Conference or you can mail them in. The information needed to do either is available on our website, at the end of this video, and in our weekly worship bulletins sent through our email list.

Speaking of locations, our passages today take our Journey with Jesus to the home of Simon and Andrew, to a number of differing cultures, and more. 

Let’s start this week’s journey with a prayer:

Loving God, whose touch can heal the broken places of life, touch us today…

God of peace, whose spirit of peace can quiet our spirits of confusion and despair, reassure us today…

Forgiving God, whose call to repentance promises grace upon grace, place your mercy in our souls today…

You who heal the sick and liberate the imprisoned, who brings justice in the midst of oppression and strength in the midst of weakness, pour out your spirit of power upon us today.

Open our hearts to new faithfulness, redirect our waywardness, and hold us gently in your goodness.

We confess our need to you, and we turn to you with hearts filled with hope, remembering the promises you have made to us.

May your name be glorified in us and through us. We ask it through Christ Jesus, your only begotten son, he who is our Lord and our Savior, our brother and our friend.


Please join me in this morning’s call to worship:

God comes into a world filled with uncertainties and darkness.

God seeks out the voids of belief and conviction.

God embraces the wounded and broken.

God knocks down the walls of division and strife.

God is the candle shining in the darkness of our days.

God is the light of our lives.

God is the one who makes all things new.

Praise be to God, now and forevermore!


Praise God from whom all blessings flow and now let us praise him and lift our joys and concerns to him. For those of you who have sent me prayer requests or made me aware of others in need of prayer, 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 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.

Now, please join me in prayer:

Lord, we praise you and thank you for the gifts and blessings you bestow on us, especially your gifts of grace, peace, strength, and courage.

We lift up to you now all those who are in need of healing from infirmities of body, mind and spirit, all those who are facing difficult decisions about their own health or the health of a loved one, and all those who are caregivers and care guides.

Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.

We lift up to you now all those who are grieving any loss whether of life, love, job, home, companionship, financial security, faith, sense of well-being, or sense of direction for their future.

Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.

We lift up to you now all those who suffer from rejection, exclusion, oppression, and isolation, who have been pushed out, told their unworthy, feel they’ve been abandoned, made to feel less, who have forgotten, never known, or been told they are no longer Your child because of the color of their skin, the way they believe, or who they’ve chosen to love.

Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.

We lift up to you now all those who are living in a state of confusion, who are victims of misinformation and misdirection, who suffer the manipulation and exploitation of dark and malicious forces both earthly and underworldly, all those who have been taught that your scriptures justify their hate, and all those too blind to see your truth.

Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.

We lift up to you our church, the universal church, all church leaders, our nation and its leaders, and the nations of the world that you would move us and them to serve all your children.

Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.

God of all power, you are the One who called this world into being and we acknowledge that you have no equal in the extent of your power.  Yet, you want to share your power -your strength – with those who are powerless; you ache to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up the wounds of the lost and rejected folk of this world. Such radical love leaves us speechless, but you gave it human form and shape in the person of Jesus, in whom your promises of healing and empowerment were fulfilled. 

We give you thanks and praise for blessing our lives in this way, and we pray that in Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we too can become radical lovers of the powerless, and passionate bearers of hope to those whose lives are filled with despair and hopelessness.

May this time of worship be a true expression of our desire to praise and glorify you, O God, for the many ways in which you bless us, and may our lives reveal our gratitude in all we think, and do, and say.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.

Hear us now, as we pray this prayer with one voice…

“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 Your scriptures; 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.

Isaiah 40:21-31 (NRSV)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:     Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,     the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;     his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (MSG)

Still, I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I’m not writing now to get something. I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or question my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

Mark 1:29-39

Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

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.

Remember that last week, our journey took us to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and a fishing story?  This week’s passage from Mark takes up shortly after.

Leaving the shore with Simon, Andrew, John, and James, Jesus and the new disciples entered Capernaum where he spent the day teaching. The crowd was surprised at his teaching—so forthright, so confident—not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.

While he was there, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed because he was possessed. Jesus immediately cast out the demon. The incident caused a stir and news of it traveled quickly throughout Galilee.

From there, he and his disciples went to Simon’s house where, as we’re told in the passage when Jesus learned that Simon’s mother-in-law was there very sick with a fever, he went straight to her room, took her hand, and pulled her to her feet. She was immediately healed and began to serve them.

Think about that for a moment. Last week was that compelling call from the fishing boat. The incident earlier in the day at the synagogue was loud, a confrontation with a demon-possessed man, an exorcism.

But nothing up to this point has suggested the kind of power it would take to heal with a mere touch.

And what must the others present have been thinking as Jesus went striding off to find the fevered woman and pull her to her feet? There were numerous taboos about contact between men and women, laws of hospitality between guest and host, being in the presence of the sick, too many to mention. And yet Jesus went down that hall without so much as a word.

And the healing itself was silent. There was no “your sins are forgiven” or “your faith has made you well.” He just took her hand and pulled her to her feet. Eyes were popping and necks were cracking all over the house.

Except for Simon’s mother-in-law. Mark, in what will become his familiar spare prose, described the only proper response to a miracle such as this: “and she began to serve them.”

Now, while Peterson’s translation in The Message that I read today suggests she got up and cooked them all dinner, most translations just say, “and she began to serve them” without specifying how she served them, but in all translations, we know who she served. Everyone.

Notice that she served them. Not just him. When we are blessed, then the blessing spills out on those around us. We don’t just bask in the healing, in the blessing. We get to work.

To be clear, however, she wasn’t paying a debt. She wasn’t earning the gift. She was simply responding to the blessing. All our work, all our service is in response to what has already been given.

Moving on in the passage, Mark wrote, “That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.”

The people of Capernaum must have been filled with hope when they heard there was someone who could heal their sick loved ones, who could with a word drive out whatever demons were tormenting those they loved.   

We also know from Mark’s story that, in the early hours of the morning, Jesus was able to slip off by himself to pray, possibly to recenter himself and catch his breath. After all, it had been a busy night.

And we know he was gone long enough that Simon and the others became concerned and looking for him and, when they found him, told him everyone had been searching for him.

Everyone – the crowd, the hungry, needy, demanding crowd – was searching for him.

But instead of returning to that crowd, he told the disciples they were heading out to the neighboring towns because he’d come to proclaim the message there, too.

There’s an important point about leadership in his actions that we need to take note of and that is to stay focusED.

While Jesus had the power to heal and cast out demons, that wasn’t what he’d come here to do. That wasn’t his mission. His mission was to proclaim the good news to as many people as possible … to teach as many as possible how it is we are to live in this world, how we are to work to build the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth as it is in heaven.

For many years now, churches have pulled more and more into themselves, focusing the majority of their efforts on existing members, often at the expense of congregational growth and the development of new leadership.  And, because this inward focus doesn’t appeal to younger generations, many churches have gotten stuck in “the way we’ve always done things” trap, limiting themselves to traditions and routines that are of little or no interest to younger generations, hence attendance has continually declined. In the last few decades, there has also been an increase in “othering” wherein certain groups stay away because they are aware they’re not welcome.

In other words, the churches have lost their focus and forgotten their mission … that Great Commission which was to go forth … not stay in … and make disciples and to serve them … all of them.

So how do we refocus? How do we get back on mission? Remember way back that I said God didn’t bring this pandemic to us, but He was most definitely working in it?

In every struggle, every obstacle we face, there are always hard lessons, and this pandemic has been full of some really hard lessons. However, those obstacles have also generated changes for the better.

Take, for instance, online worship.  While it may not be to the liking of those of us who are old school and miss the fellowship of in person worship and activities, it has allowed the church to reach beyond the four walls of its building.  It has allowed people who were seeking but for whatever reason couldn’t attend regular worship services to worship … and even to participate … at times and in places where they could rather than be left out completely.

Not only are new folks now able to watch a worship service, they’re able to, and … more importantly … are becoming engaged throughout the week through posts and articles and sharing information on various Internet platforms. In other words, we’re moving from worshipping once a week to worshipping all week and that, brothers and sisters, is what keeps me going. I hope it encourages you, too.  

And heed also the words of Paul in that passage from 1 Corinthians. Paul tells us that he has not become of the world, but that he has gone out into it in order to reach as many people as possible. We’re called to do so and right now, the virtual church is reaching across a multitude of cultural boundary lines. It is amazingly mind-boggling just how far we can reach out if we only try.

Does that mean the church has stopped caring about those of you who have been lifelong dedicated members? Not at all and, like you, I look forward to the day when we can once again meet in person on Sunday mornings. The difference though is that you already have each other and have the experience of knowing Jesus to share with one another and build on … or at least I hope you do. You are already part of this beloved community.

But you, I, those of us who carry the name of Jesus before us must, like him, carry it out to those who haven’t yet heard֫—those who don’t yet know him. We are making disciples, even as we are being made disciples. That is our service. Like Simon’s mother-in-law, we don’t just serve him; we serve them. All of them. Any of them. We serve them.

Let’s pray:

 Lord, here we stand with the whole city gathered at our door waiting for our Sunday celebrations to end, hoping that we will notice that there is a community outside these walls longing for healing, help, and hope.

As we rise from our knees, help us to worship and work with our eyes open.

As we walk through these doors, remove the blinders from our hearts so that we might love and feel and even ache with our neighbors.

When tomorrow comes, let worship continue to flow through our hands, testifying to your love and greatness.

In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.



Thank you, again, for worshipping with me today. Again, if you can, please consider making your weekly offering just as if we were meeting in person. The information for doing so will be on your screen in just a moment.

Now hear this benediction:

We are being sent into a world in need of healing. We have been given all that we need to be God’s messengers of peace. Go now into the world, rejoicing in God’s presence with you. Bring the news of peace and hope to all you meet.

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 … even the ones you’d rather not. God be with you. Now go in peace to love and serve in the name of the Lord,

……..In the name of Christ. Amen.


  • Opening prayer, call to worship, portions of pastoral prayer, closing prayer, and benediction from or adapted from liturgical resources for Feb. 7, 2020, by Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

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!