ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: We Gather Together (UMH 131)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- PSALTER: Psalm 136:1-9 (Pew Bibles)
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: Christ for the World We Sing (UMH 568)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Teach Us To Pray – Rev. Val
- Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus (UMH 526)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Communion Message: Communion of Community, Ministry of Service
- Service of Holy Communion
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Hymn: Sweet, Spirit of the Living God (UMH 393)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scripture readings and the message. The majority of the other content (minus the message) is available through our weekly digital/email bulletin (you can sign up on our Contact Us page). Union Grove UMC began celebrating Holy Communion weekly as part of our regular worship service on July 17, 2022. You are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Scriptures this morning come from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition, but should be similar to your pew bibles which are the previous version.
Psalm 19:1, 3a, 4a – The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork … There is no speech, nor are there words; … yet their voice goes out through all the earth.
Romans 8:24-27 – For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words. And God, who searches hearts, knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Luke 11:5-13 – And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything out of friendship, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asked for a fish, would give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asked for an egg, would give a scorpion? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Mark 14:32-36 – They went to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me, yet not what I want but what you want.”
Luke 11:1-4 – He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” So he said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, may your name be revered as holy.
May your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
L: The scriptures of God for the people of God.
A: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Teach Us To Pray
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Forming our faith and life in Christ, a spiritual life, has to do with how God relates to us and how we in turn relate to God. Prayer is the essential expression of this relationship. As with the spiritual life itself, prayer is initiated by God. No matter what we think about the origin of our prayers, they are all a response to the hidden workings of the Spirit within.
God’s desire for us ignites the spark of our desire for God. God’s guiding heart nudges forth our prayers to be led. In the passage from Romans, Paul assures us that the Spirit “helps us in our weakness” and “intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” That the Spirit prays in us, and does so “according to the will of God” is a pretty astonishing promise. Our real task in prayer is to attune ourselves to the conversation already going on deep in our hearts – a conversation which, if we pay attention, will let us align our conscious intentions with God’s desire being expressed at our core.
Prayer expresses our relationship with God – a relationship that parallels in significant ways our relationships with others. The relationship can’t be forced, but flourishes in the soil of freedom and mutual commitment. The health and vitality of this relationship depend on clarity and frequency of communication.
Prayer involves freely entering a relationship of communication and communion with God, for the sake of knowledge, growth, and mutual enjoyment.
Now think about relationships in your own lives and remembering that communication is not one-sided, the ones that flourished were those in which you had good and frequent communication. And if you think of relationships that failed, you’ll most likely agree that lack of communication played a significant role.
When we use prayer as a way to communicate with God, we most likely do so through a mental conversation with Him. It’s natural and a simple way to understand prayer and practice praying. Because God as we learn about Him through scripture is personal, we are free to speak with God heart to heart, as we might with a dear friend. The content of our conversation may cover a wide range of feelings and experiences, but we will generally express certain classic human attitudes to Him: praise, adoration, thanksgiving, confession, and supplication. Very often, our prayers tend to bend toward supplication, which includes petitions for our own needs and intercession for others.
There is nothing wrong with this kind of prayer. Jesus tells us in the first passage from Luke to ask with open and persistent trust for what we need. But, if you think about it, it very often turns into a monologue bordering on talking at God, or a spiritual shopping list “launched heavenward on the wings of pious words.” The thing is, God is neither a cosmic bellhop nor is He your fairy Godfather. Relying solely on this type of prayer creates an unbalanced diet of prayer that, over time, will probably lead more to frustration than fulfillment.
True communication is a two-way street. Genuine dialogue requires that we listen as well as speak … that in order to respond, we first have to receive. That means we have to know or learn how to listen to God. Learning to do that regardless of what type of prayer you’re praying requires that you be present to God with conscious awareness. The foundation of all prayer is being present to the presence of God. In order to pray, you have to stop being “too elsewhere” and “be there.” A little confused? Think of it this way. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where your mind wandered off to something and you missed half of what was being said? You were being “too elsewhere.” To “be there” … present in the presence of God, you have to consciously focus on knowing that God is present wherever you are.
Listening, then, is the first expression of communication in prayer. We talked about that last week … about listening for God as we read scripture, about opening ourselves to the Spirit so that we can expect to hear God speak to us through scriptures … through the words of God.
Listening for God when you’re reading scripture is one thing. Listening for God when you’re praying is another. For some, that might be creation itself. Psalm 19 talks of how creation speaks loudly of divine realities:
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
And the firmament proclaims his handiwork …
There is no speech, nor are there words; …
Yet their voice goes out through all the earth.
Creation has a unique language of proclamation and praise and speaks eloquently of its Creator. God speaks through creation to teach us about human realities and struggles. Have you ever “read” the characteristics of creatures and the rhythms of nature as symbols or metaphors illuminating your spiritual life? What about the distress signals creation is sending out right now? People right now are talking about the signs and symbols of the end times. Y’all know how I feel about that. What I hear God saying through those signs and symbols and signals is that God’s children both have the capacity and ability to heal creation, and God’s children must do whatever it takes to heal creation. He’s calling on us to do so.
We hear God through one another. Something is going on in our lives and suddenly someone says something that just makes it all make sense or that nudges us into an action that results in a solution.
We hear God through the circumstances of our lives. You’ve heard the saying when one door closes, another will open? Who do you think is the one opening and closing doors?
Dreams can sometimes be God speaking to you. My native ancestors would say that a dream you can remember is not a dream … it’s a vision … and that you need to pay attention to it to figure out what Creator is saying to you.
There are yet more ways to listen for what God’s saying … keeping a journal like a prayer journal in which you record your insights, questions, and feelings after reading and meditating on scripture, recording those dreams you remember, or focusing on life issues, struggles, and decision-making processes. You could even try writing an imaginary dialogue with a biblical character.
And, sometimes, God speaks to us in more subtle and mysterious ways. When he speaks to us like that, it’s usually unbidden, amid ordinary activities or in the quiet of contemplation: a deep intuition, an acutely clear conviction, or a simple inner sense of how things are meant to be. You may be familiar with phrases such as, “Somehow I just knew this was what I had to do,” or “It suddenly became perfectly clear to me,” or “The words just came into my head.” This is how God told me my calling. Unbidden. Out of the blue. Sitting with my family at Wednesday night fellowship dinner. He said it, pulled me up out of my chair, and walked me over to my then pastor.
And … sometimes … sometimes we get what the Quakers call a “stop in the mind.” Something inside of us says no – a warning that we are moving in the wrong direction.
So now we’re all listening for and consciously being cognizant of the presence of God when we prepare to pray. How do we speak to him?
The second primary expression of communication in prayer is speaking from the heart with unreserved honesty. Let me say that part again … speaking from the heart with unreserved honesty. In other words, don’t hold back feeling just because you think or have been taught in the past that doubt, anger, hatred, or despair are somehow inappropriate to express to God. Newsflash. He already knows you’re feeling those things. You can’t hide anything from Him, so spit them out.
In prayer we need to speak whatever truth is in us: pain and grief, fear and disappointment, yearning and desire, questions and doubt, hope and faith, failure and weakness, praise and thanks, despair and sorrow, anger and, yes, even hatred. If you need proof that such things in your prayers are okay, I highly recommend you read the Psalms.
There are different types of prayers – intercessory where you’re praying for other persons, communities, nations, the earth, and our fellow creatures. And understand that our prayers may not be answered in the way we desire or expect. We pray for healing, and it doesn’t come; we pray for peace and the war gets worse. So we begin to wonder if God is really listening or if we’re somehow not praying correctly or feel guilty because now we’re questioning whether we have enough faith or … we feel angry that evil and suffering are allowed to destroy so much peace and happiness. And yet in many instances, “All we can do for whatever the issue or situation is … is pray.”
We have to remember that, in prayer, we join our hearts in love with the love of Christ, the great Intercessor, through the unity of the Spirit given in Baptism and sustained by the Eucharist. We give our will to the will of Christ and leave the results to him.
We also need to make sure that we approach God in prayer with the right attitude, not casually and at our convenience, but from within an ongoing committed relationship, and not with a wish list of things that have little to do with divine intentions and purposes. God will not be manipulated.
If our relationship is sincere, though, our prayer will basically be one of thanksgiving for grace already received. Prayers for the asking come from a heart offered to God in gratitude, eager to fulfill the divine intent. Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you? When we abide in the vine of Jesus’ life, a single vital sap runs through us. This sap is a love that pours itself out for others. Jesus gives us everything he had and is. To abide in him is to participate in that outpouring of love.
Our confidence in the power of prayer is rooted in the promises that God is continually working for good in the midst of ambiguous situations and that God’s purposes will prevail in the end. Love is the only power capable of enduring all things. It remains immovable after all else has fallen away. Therefore, we can ask for eyes to see where God is already at work, and a spirit ready to cooperate with God’s activity in any given circumstance. The more fully we entrust ourselves to God, the more freely God’s loving purpose can be worked out.
God, we ask you to be with us as we continue this journey of growing closer to you, of better understanding the Way Jesus taught us, and of leaning into and allowing ourselves to be filled and led by the Spirit. Help us to learn to listen first for your voice, and then to allow our prayers to be led by the Spirit. Open our hearts and minds. Hold us closely in your arms. In Jesus’ name we pray.
COMMUNION MESSAGE – Communion of Community, Ministry of Service
Community and Communion both originate from the same Latin word, communis. Both community and communion involve relationships. We often meet or hear of people who say they are searching for an authentic relationship. We have some idea of what they mean and have a sense that it is important for the church and Christian faith formation, but neither they nor we may understand what it is they are seeking.
Having all the answers is not the most important part, though. The key is offering companionship on the journey, being with them and hearing with our ears and, more importantly, listening with our hearts as they one by one tell us the stories of their lives. Being heard, being known, and being accepted are the characteristics of authentic relationships. Humans do not thrive in isolation. Caring relationships are needed throughout life in order to nurture basic trust. Basic trust becomes the seed of faith that later enables one to trust God. When a person is heard, with encouragement and support, that person can grow in faithfulness.
To listen deeply and to hear the heart of another person is a gift beyond measure. Persons discover themselves through the experience of speaking and being heard. This new experience of being heard becomes being known. To be known and then accepted is a gift of grace that opens people to growing in faith as part of a faithful community.
Authentic relationships give purpose and meaning to our lives as we discover ourselves in them. We are formed by the lives which intersect ours. The larger and richer our community, the larger and richer is the content of self. There is no individuality without community. When we are open to the voices of others, hearing builds community, particularly community with those who are different from ourselves. Hearing one another not only helps persons come to new self-awareness and self-understanding, but also transforms community into communion.
In a true community, we don’t pick our own companions but are given companions by grace. Our neighbors and the people we see every day are the community given to us by God, and they become the way God meets us in our daily lives. When we recognize that God is a participant in these relationships, community becomes communion as persons are heard, known, and accepted through the development of authentic relationships within our churches.
Then, through our baptismal covenant, God brings into being a “servant community,” a community whose members serve as representatives of God’s love and saving grace in the world through servant ministry. All Christians are called to love God and the world that God created by serving their neighbors. It is through servant ministry, that the members of the church witness to the life-giving power of God’s saving grace and invite others into the church’s communion to grow in love of God and neighbor. Not just on Sundays or through missions, but every day in every place that Christians walk. Wherever we go, we are servant ministers … go-betweens on behalf of God and the community, building a community of communion as we go.
Christ, if our neighbor does not know your name because you have not been introduced, forgive us.
If a friend or colleague is still searching for the answers we may already have, forgive us.
If this world has yet to see the change that lies hidden in our hearts, forgive us.
If we have yet to find the courage to talk about our faith, forgive us … revive us … empower us to become the community of servants we ought to be, and your name glorified as it out to be.
- Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.
- Portions of these messages were taken from:
- Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Newly Revised Edition), Marjorie J. Thompson, 2015, Westminster John Knox Press
- Formation In Faith: The Congregational Ministry of Making Disciples, Sondra Higgins Matthaei, 2008, Abingdon Press
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1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737
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