ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – We Call On Him, Elvis Presley
- Welcome & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – Lead Me, Guide Me, Elvis Presley
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33
- Anthem – Where Could I Go, Elvis Presley
- Message – Stormy Weather – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Hymn – His Hand in Mine, Elvis Presley
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – If the Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side, Elvis Presley
A transcript of this service will be provided after the 11:00 a.m. worship hour has concluded.
God, thank you for bringing us together today to spend time in worship with you. In our frustration about the restrictions caused by COVID-19, we forget that it was you that knit together the creative and inventive people who have given us a way to bring worship into our homes, our offices, wherever we are, so especially thank you for all of them.
We ask Spirit to join with us today, to fill each of us to overflowing so that we may hear and carry out your will not ours, your voice not ours, your words not ours.
In Christ’s name, we pray.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God, thank you for our many blessings and for your protection during this time. Thank you for each new day, for each next breath, for each new opportunity, for each second chance.
In our chaotic turbulence, God, you come to us as on the seething, heaving of the sea. Call us to come, O God, that in our constancy, our eyes upon the Lord, we come unto your presence, laden with all latent joy.
Sometimes, Lord, we fail to see joy because we’re hurting for ourselves and for those we love. We lift our petitions to you now.
Please be with all those who are sick and hurting, who are facing surgeries and long-term treatments. Guide their caregivers and doctors. Healing comes in many forms and we ask that you help us to understand the form of healing you choose for those we love. We ask comfort for the families of the afflicted, and that you give them strength during the healing time. We ask for complete healing for the afflicted whenever possible, God, and that you strengthen them for the journey to full healing.
God, I call on you now to strike down the demons of addiction in my family and the families of all those listening today. Addiction tears families apart. It steals the soul of the addict and replaces it with someone we don’t recognize and cannot understand. It destroys bodies and minds. Help us, Lord, we beseech you. Help us drive the plague of addiction from our land forever. Bring back the souls it has stolen from us. It is a curable disease. It is a preventable disease. Heal the addicts and give comfort and relief to their families.
Father, especially be with those who are grieving right now. The young woman who lost the love of her life in a tragic car accident. Families of over 160,000 you healed by taking them from their earthly life and the clutches of COVID-19 to new life in heaven, but who never got to say goodbye. Those left behind because of uncured diseases like cancer, by violence born out of frustration, by starvation and lack of shelter born of greed, by racism and other unwarranted, unnecessary fears. Help the left behind to understand Your will. Shelter them while they mourn. Help us hold space for them and remind us that grief is a form of deep love.
I lift up this church, God. Spirit guide me to serve it well. Remove my will and my words and fill me with His will and His words. Let all who have ears to hear listen. Fill them too, Spirit, and guide them home to Union Grove. Let this be a church where no one is or feels left out or excluded or unwanted or unworthy.
I 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 … (Lord’s Prayer):
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.
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
Romans 10:5-15 (NRSV)
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.”
But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Matthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.
But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – STORMY WEATHER
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
Today’s passage from Matthew picks up where we stopped last week, only for Jesus and the disciples, it begins later that same day.
Night is approaching, and Jesus compels the disciples to get in a boat and sail to the other side while he stays behind to send the crowds home and then finally … finally … get the solitude he had wanted in the first place, spending the rest of the night in prayer on the mountain.
Meanwhile, back in the boat, the disciples are becoming fearful. The waves are tossing the craft back and forth like a beach ball, and the wind is against them. They’re most likely beginning to fear for their lives.
One has to wonder what Jesus was thinking when he sent his disciples not away from that wild and reckless sea, but straight into it. And yet, that’s just what he did.
Having grown up where the winds are almost consistently strong, I know what a challenge it can be to try to move against the wind. There would have been little the men in the boat could have done because it was the boat itself that was at the mercy of both the waves and the wind.
Then there is their distance from shore … any shore. The Sea of Galilee is seven to eight miles wide … five to six times wider than Norris Lake right here in East Tennessee or, for you folks from out west, twice as wide as Lake McConaughy at its widest point. And they’re out in the middle of it somewhere. I doubt abandoning ship to swim to shore was an option.
Somehow, though, they make it through the night to the early hours of morning … the fourth watch which would have been somewhere between 3 and 6 a.m. They must have been exhausted from battling the waves and wind, and these poor fellows look up only to see a ghost descending upon them!
Now, in those days … and the fishermen among the disciples would have been especially aware of this … it was believed that the sea was a point of origin for evil and chaos … so it isn’t surprising that they would assume any figure walking across the surface of the water would be some kind of ultimate evil or even death itself. It’s also not a stretch to imagine they would have cried out in fear.
But then … a voice they recognized spoke. “Take heart. Don’t be afraid. It’s me.”
Peter, possibly hoping against hope they were to be rescued, asked for confirmation of the source of that voice: “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
And Peter must have been so greatly relieved when he heard his teacher’s voice say, “Come,” that he didn’t think twice. He just jumped out of that boat and began walking across the surface of the water to Jesus.
But then he noticed the world … I mean the waves around him, how it … I mean they … were still crashing all around him … and he began to sink.
That’s how life is, isn’t it? We have these moments of clarity where we recognize the miracle that is God’s plan or we hear and respond to the call of our Lord and, like Peter, we begin to stroll right across the surface of the world to the sound of his voice when suddenly the world crashes around us? When suddenly we feel the world spray up over us, doing its darnedest to drag us back down under the surface? And so, like Peter, we too begin to sink?
In the story, the disciples and Jesus are literally on the sea. For us, that sea can represent anything from daily life to our livelihoods to our health and wellbeing to our freedom or that sea can be a combination of any or all of those things.
Threats to those things begin stirring the waves that then toss and torment us. Obstacles that prevent us from escaping those waves come as winds that hold us where we are or push us even further into the tumult, and … just as Peter … we get so caught up in the wind and the waves, we find ourselves being dragged under.
It happens to all of us. It happens at home when finances get tight or something impacts our incomes. It happens at work if slow downs threaten to cause reduction in staff or when office politics rears its ugly head. It even happens in churches when divergent personal theologies create division or even a falling away, not because one side or the other was righteous, but because one side outlasted the other.
Ultimately, Jesus tells the disciples (and us) not to be afraid … to take heart. To take heart means to be encouraged, to be optimistic, to have and hold onto hope … to not give up. He reaches down and pulls the sinking Peter to safety, chiding Peter for Peter’s lack of faith.
The common and somewhat simplistic moral often associated with this story is to just stay focused on Jesus and everything will be hunky dory. The waves won’t crash, the wind will be always at your back, and you, too, will be able to walk on water. And wouldn’t that be great? But, I don’t think it’s an accurate interpretation of the real moral of this story.
Life is always going to send storms to stir the waves and the wind. God never said that simply believing in him would mean the rest of our lives would be free from trouble. Jesus never said, “Hey, folks! Believe in me and the world is your oyster!”
No, what they said was they would be there with us every step of the way, through every wilderness, through ever drought, through every tempest, through every trial and tribulation. What they said was that if we would draw near to them, they would stay with us through whatever life throws at us.
And therein lies the Good News. We are loved. We are worthy. We are redeemed. We are adopted heirs to the Kingdom of God. All of us. Even the folks we don’t agree with or like or want to sit next to in our churches.
And Jesus gave us a job … the Great Commission … to go forth and take that Good News everywhere … to every nation … to all people … not just the ones we agree with or like or want to sit next to in our churches. No, we are to carry the Good News to everyone.
No judgment of those we carry it to. Remember, Jesus said, “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone …”. We’re to cast the net and pull all those fish in, but it’s not our job to sort them out. That’s up to God and His angels. We’re just supposed to fish for them.
And, folks, there is joy in that fishing! There is joy in sharing the Good News! Remember what Paul said in the passage from Romans? “Happy are the feet of those who bring the Good News!”
I know it’s easy to pick and choose who we spend any time with. Who wants to talk to those whose ideas of what is right or wrong with this or that or the other thing are so vastly different from our own? And, let’s face it. Some people are just too scary, to much of a risk to be around, right? I mean those people we hear about on the news, those people who live and love and believe so differently from us.
My only real goal in what is left of my life is to draw nearer to God, to walk hand in hand with Jesus for truly he is the Son of God, to be constantly in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to really and completely follow Christ.
Not to worship him. Not to merely believe in him, but to follow him wherever he leads me. Even … and especially … when it’s into a stormy sea. Because I need more joy in my life. Don’t you? Happy are the feet that carry the good news. God, give me feet so happy, I can’t stop dancing.
Lord, if it’s you, we need to hear from you
- When we are alone
- When we go away to pray
- When we have little faith
- When we are battered by the waves
- When the wind is against us
- When we get in the boat
- When we’re terrified by our ghosts
- When we seek you on the mountain
- When we cry out in fear
- When we start walking on water
- When we begin to sink
- When we are far from land
Lord, if it’s you, speak to us
- calm our fears
- calm our storms
- Strengthen our resolve
- Remind us who you are
- Walk to us
- Call to us
- Save us
- Reach out your hand and catch us
- Quiet the wind around us.
Lord, if it’s you, we worship you for “Truly you are the Son of God.”
God calls us to step out in faith, to follow where He leads even if what He calls us to do seems impossible.
So, let’s go from here with courage, trusting in God’s presence and power, and eager to do God’s will.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and within you wherever you find yourself this week.
Stay safe, stay home if you can, wash your hands, wear a mask if you must go out, draw near to God and to Jesus, tell someone the Good News, 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
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!