• Prelude – Faith To Be Strong, Andrew Peterson
  • Welcome & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – Here Are My Hands, Aaron Niequist
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Word of God for the People of God – Matthew 14:13-21
  • Anthem – Do Something, Matthew West
  • Message – Taking Responsibility – Rev. Ohle
  • Closing Hymn – With Every Act of Love, Jason Gray
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – Pray, John McAndrew

A transcript of this service will be provided after the 11:00 a.m. worship hour has concluded.


God, we are so excited and thankful to be here this morning. Thank you for this opportunity to gather in spirit as we worship you online. We struggle with this kind of worship, but we are learning, Lord, that worshipping You is not limited to an hour a week in a building. Forgive us our stumbles in this new medium and lead those who’ve given up worship back to us. We ask that you revive us, Lord. Revive this church. Holy Spirit, make your presence known here today and bring revival to this church. Take away my will and my voice and speak through me today that you may be heard.

In Christ’s name, we pray.  Amen.


Father, you continue to bless us, and we give you thanks. You are ever faithful. We know that you bring all things together for our good, and we praise your holy name.

Today, Lord, I lift up all those who are sick and suffering and grieving, all those who are preyed upon by demons of addiction, all those who lack shelter, who hunger, who are frightened, all those who carry hurt and hate because they have not yet learned how to forgive.

Lord, heal them, heal us. Where the healing comes as a release from this earthly life to an eternal home with You, help those of us left behind to understand and give us comfort. Strike down the demons of addiction be it drugs, alcohol, wantonness, greed, or power. Route out these demons and cleanse us, Lord. Send Spirit to burn away the cause of these addictions in a refining fire.

Soften our hearts, Lord, and help us to forgive those who have hurt or offended us. Teach us to not just forgive, but to pray for those who do us harm that they can know Your love as we do.

Now, Lord, I lift up to You Your church at Union Grove. It has been a presence in the community for over 150 years. You have seen it through its ups and its downs. You have been faithful to it through the ebb and flow of its members. You have sent Spirit to it time and again and she has filled its people.

You remain faithful, God. When, very recently, your people here had lost hope so completely they were ready to bring the life of this church to an end, You intervened. You changed hearts and those hearts heard You and the life and the future of this church was saved. For that, I am forever grateful.

I know from reading the history of this church that it has faced division within its community again and again, always surviving, but never without a loss of some of Your children from its fold.

Intervene again, Lord. Lead us to repair the division in this Beloved Community of Union Grove. Help us reach out to the larger community here in the Grove and invite all Your children here to return.  If the history is accurate, God, this church’s first and foremost mission has always been the needs of the community here in the Grove and rightfully so, since this church was born to meet the needs of this community. It may have lost its way in seeing that mission for a time, it may have turned its focus inward, and for that, I ask your forgiveness. Help me, God, to teach its people once again to look wide, and then wider still, to see all the needs of all your children here in this community and beyond, and to do all the good it can to meet those needs.

Restore us, God. Revive us. Repair any rifts, remove any hesitancy or bias or division, replenish our faith. Help us … help me to rebuild this congregation and to return Union Grove to its place as a beacon for this community and a model for the unity that this nation and this world so desperately needs. Help us … help me to make disciples, to exemplify loving others as you have loved us … as you have loved me. Help us … help me make this church whole once more.

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.

Matthew 14:13-21 (The Voice)

When Jesus learned what had happened, He got on a boat and went away to spend some time in a private place. The crowds, of course, followed Jesus on foot from their cities. Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame. At evening-time, Jesus’ disciples came to Him.

Disciples: We’re in a fairly remote place, and it is getting late; the crowds will get hungry for supper. Send them away so they have time to get back to the villages and get something to eat.

Jesus: They don’t need to go back to the villages in order to eat supper. Give them something to eat here.

Disciples: But we don’t have enough food. We only have five rounds of flatbread and two fish.

Jesus: Bring the bread and the fish to Me.

So the disciples brought Him the five rounds of flatbread and the two fish, and Jesus told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the bread and the fish, He looked up to heaven, He gave thanks, and then He broke the bread. Jesus gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples gave the bread to the people; everyone ate and was satisfied. When everyone had eaten, the disciples picked up baskets of crusts and broken pieces of bread and crumbs. There were 5,000 men there, not to mention all the women and children.

The Word 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.

For millennia when we’ve heard today’s passage from Matthew, we tend to focus on that miracle … you know … the one where Jesus takes a few loaves and a few fishes and turns them into a full four-course dinner with doggie bags for over five thousand people.

And, because we’ve gotten trapped in a habit of taking the Bible as literal … we just stop reading right there. We rarely look any deeper into this passage, so that’s where we’re going today. Deeper.

We aren’t going to look at how the crowd was fed. We’re going to look at why, and we’re going to look beyond that. We’re going to ask some deeper questions of this passage. Like “Was Jesus being serious when he said to the disciples who told him to send the people home because they were getting hungry, ‘you give them something to eat’? Was Jesus trying to stump the disciples, or was he really attempting to get them to solve the problem?”

It could be that Jesus was trying to get the disciples to see that they need him, that they were helpless without him. And we all need that reminder now and again … probably more often than we want to admit. We humans are prone to think we’re capable of fending for ourselves … for the most part, anyway. We read the Bible and then we like to believe we’ve got God all figured out, so we make decisions in our personal, professional, political, and spiritual lives based on that “all figured out” part.

And then … when things start to fall apart … when things don’t go according to that plan we made and declared as being God’s plan … we find ourselves in a personal, professional, political, or spiritual mess, crying, “Jesus, take the wheel!”

Maybe Jesus was trying to get them to see that they needed him, that we need a savior.

Or … maybe Jesus was trying to get them to see something else. Maybe Jesus was trying to get them to see that, by taking the resources they had and allying those resources with the power of Almighty God, they could accomplish the impossible! They would have not merely enough, but more than enough.

Maybe, instead of seeing a problem and solving that problem in a way that would make them personally comfortable and remove any responsibility on their part, instead of supporting any feeling of being overwhelmed, instead of giving in to their request to “send the crowds away …”  Maybe what Jesus was trying to show them when he said, “They don’t need to go home. YOU feed them,” he was saying, “Don’t look at what you can’t do … look at what you can do. They don’t need to leave. You need to take responsibility for them.”

This isn’t a new concept for Union Grove. There is a story in your histories about crowds of people coming to the camp meetings, the Camp Meeting Days celebration, the Lord’s Acre Sale events … more people than you anticipated … and how and I quote, “the women would pick the ham and turkey bones two or three times…” and everyone would go home well fed.

This church knows how to take what resources it has and work from there. You’ve done it before.

When this community needed a building for its camp meetings, school and church meetings, this community rallied together, drug in logs, notched them, put them in place, cut rough boards to make seats, and built the Community Building. That was in about 1865. In 1885, you again gathered your resources and built the Sanctuary … the very sanctuary that still stands today. Then came the new School and Meeting House where the fellowship hall stands, and then the education building and then the parsonage.

Always, it was the people of this church community leading the way and gathering the resources they had to accomplish what the community needed.

It’s no different now. At least it doesn’t have to be.  I can’t make this decision for you. I can only invite you to join me in this.

Right now, it’s up to all of you who are hearing or reading this. Right now, you decide whether you will be a participant in turning a few loaves and fishes into a feast for the masses. YOU decide whether you’ll go forth and invite those masses to the table, and you decide whether you’ll answer God’s continuing call to the Church in the Grove or if you’re going to make excuses.  I’ve made my decision. I hope you’ll join me.

Speaking of excuses, I’d like to remove one from the list.  The inability to gather in-person, while an inconvenience, is not the end of Union Grove. Worship at Union Grove has been happening right on time every Sunday morning since July 5th and will continue to happen. We have simply moved worship to the COVID-19 free space of the Internet.

And, although some of you may have reservations about going to church by watching a computer screen, I want to remind you of something.  I remember my family sitting in my grandparent’s living room watching Billy Graham’s revivals on the television. I sure many of you have watched Billy Graham and other celebrity Evangelists on television just like I did. The fact is, we’ve been participating in worship this way for decades now. We’re just using computer and smartphone screens instead of television screens.

The disciples came to Jesus who, in trying to find a quiet place to just be alone for a bit, had ended up speaking to a crowd of thousands and, at the end of that day, those disciples asked Jesus to just send everyone home to eat.

And Jesus told those disciples, “NO. YOU feed them.”

So many hunger … right now … today.  Jesus left the world in the hands of us … his disciples.

Rise up, church. The people don’t need to go away. In fact, it is time to gather the people back together. It is time to restore this Beloved Community that is and always has been Union Grove. It is time to renew your commitment to support Union Grove with your time, your talents, your resources, and your gifts. It’s time to come home.

No, the people need not go away; we need to invite them to the feast and give them something to eat.

Please join me now as we prepare the Lord’s table and participate in Holy Communion.


Because the Service of Holy Communion can only be carried out by clergy in the United Methodist Church, I will not be posting the transcript of this portion of worship. I encourage you to watch the video at the beginning of this post.


Thank you, again, for joining me this morning. I hope you’ll come back next week, same time, same place. Don’t forget to stop by our website and fill out a connection card so we can keep you informed about the activities and events at Union Grove.

While you’re at it if you’re on Facebook, drop by our page and spend some time. It’s a great place to get to know others in the Union Grove family.

I am going to continue to have a live prayer gathering at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday nights on our Facebook page. You can email me your prayer requests for those gatherings and for Sunday worship prayers as well as any announcements that you feel should be included in the monthly newsletter at the address on your screen.

Now hear this benediction:

Go now into the world, strengthened by the gifts with which Christ has fed you.

Be generous to others, for Christ has given extravagantly.

Live by God’s word, avoiding lies and violence.

Walk in God’s paths and never stray.

And may God’s wonderful love be with you everywhere;

May Christ Jesus feed you with his body and word;

And may the Holy Spirit confirm the truth in you and fill you with God’s presence always.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord, In the name of Christ.

Stay safe, stay home if you can, wash your hands, wear a mask if you must go out, 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
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!