ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting and Announcements – Rev. Val
- Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – All
- Opening Hymn – My Hope Is Built (UMH 368)
- Responsive Reading
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Colossians 1:9 (MSG), Hebrews 10:11-25 (CEB), Mark 13:1-8 (CEB) – Rev. Val
- Hymn – O Day of God, Draw Nigh (UMH 730)
- Message: The Road Ahead – Rev. Val
- Closing Hymn – The Church’s One Foundation (UMH 545)
- Offertory – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! For those who’ve worshiped with us before either in-person or online, welcome back. For those who are joining us for the first time this morning, we’re glad you here. Welcome home!
A few quick announcements:
- Final reminder on this one – The candlelight Remembrance Vigil at Maryville College is this Saturday, November 20th at 6:00 p.m. in front of the Campus Ministry Building. If you need directions, please see me after the service or send me a message on Facebook. If at all possible, please plan on attending the vigil.
- Our charge conference is Sunday, November 28th, at First United Methodist Church in Maryville. It begins at 3:00 p.m. Again, please make plans to attend if at all possible. The charge conference is in-person only.
- This is a new announcement. A generous anonymous donor has gifted us with a blessing box. The box is located on the table in the Narthex and contains both gift cards and some cash. It is there for anyone that needs some help, no questions asked.
Save the date!
- November 20 – Remembrance Candlelight Vigil
- 6 PM in front of Campus Ministry Building
- 6 PM in front of Campus Ministry Building
- November 28 – First Sunday of Advent (Hope)
- 3 p.m. – Charge Conference (Maryville First UMC)
- December 5 – Second Sunday of Advent (Love)
- Joint Service with Maryville College Pride Club
- Communion Sunday
- December 12 – Third Sunday of Advent (Joy)
- December 19 – Fourth Sunday of Advent (Peace)
- *December 21 – Finding Comfort*
- *December 24 – Finding the Light*
- December 26 – First Sunday After Christmas
- *December 31 – Watchnight Service*
- January 2 – Second Sunday After Christmas
- Communion Sunday
- January 9 – Epiphany Sunday/Baptism of the Lord
*Online only worship. Videos will be available on our Facebook Page & website beginning at 6 p.m. Dec. 21 and 24, and at 11:25 p.m. Dec. 31.
Call to Worship
Rev. Dr. Derek C. Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church, June 2021
L: Not one stone will be left on stone.
P: We worship our Rock and our Salvation
L: Beware that no one leads you astray.
P: We worship our source of wisdom and truth
L: When all seems lost, this is just the beginning of the birth pangs.
P: We are here to worship the Word that endures and the hope that is born among us.
L: Come, let us worship God, as we pray together saying:
Inspired by 1 Samuel 1:4-20, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/21st-century-worship-resources-for-pentecost-25b, Safiyah Fosua
L: Our souls are poured out before you, O God, as we look for more in life than contentment with family, friends, and possessions. We thank you, dear Lord, for all of your blessings. Yet, in our souls, we long to be a blessing to others on your behalf. As Abraham was a blessing to many nations, as Hannah longed for something in her life to offer back to God,
P: We long to make a difference in this world for you.
P: Open our eyes, good Lord,
L: to whatever you have already entrusted for the good of your people.
P: Open our ears, Lord,
L: to intersections between human need and heart’s desire.
P: Open our hearts, Lord,
L: to recognize and nurture new gifts, to consider unique possibilities, dawning on the horizon.
All: Our souls are poured out before you, O God.
Let your servants find favor in your sight. Amen.
RESPONSIVE READING – Praying That We May Be Ready
Based on Matthew 24:1-14, Mark 13:1-13, Luke 21:5-19, Written by Michael Perry. Posted on the Jubilate Hymns website
L: When the skies grow dark and buildings fall, then hear us:
P: have mercy on us, Lord.
L: When deceivers come and the nations rise in anger, then hear us:
P: have mercy on us, Lord.
L: When famines begin, and when the earth shakes to bring the future to birth, then hear us:
P: have mercy on us, Lord.
L: When we take our stand to witness to your truth, when our people are arrested and betrayed, then hear us:
P: have mercy on us, Lord.
L: When the sun is darkened and the moon fails to give us light, and when the stars fall from the sky, then hear us:
P: have mercy on us, Lord.
L: When you come in your great power and glory with your angels from heaven:
ALL: Then, Lord, gather us from the four winds — from the ends of the earth, to be with you for ever and ever.
Rev. Val Ohle (portions adapted from a prayer by Allan Eckert as posted on the South Texas Lutheran website)
It’s us again, God. We thank you for bringing us together here at Union Grove and for being here with us now and always. We give thanks for the guidance of your Spirit and the love, teaching and sacrifice of your Son. We give thanks for this holy place built here generations ago and sustained by all those who’ve worshipped here before us. We give thanks that you’ve entrusted its care to us.
We are still struggling to understand, God. To understand ourselves, our situations, our communities, our nation, the world. It sometimes seems we’ve gone from one step forward and two steps back to standing in place and taking ten steps back. We search and search for those bits of hope and just when that hope is within our grasp, we find ourselves yanked backward and it moves out of reach once again.
We pray and question and doubt and wonder if you hear us, even though we know deep in our souls you hear every word spoken and unspoken. We lament and cry and ask you for this and that and the other thing. Our lamentations grow louder when those requests aren’t immediately answered. We seem to trust our wants and desires more than your timing.
Thank you for forgiving us, God. Thank you for your endless love and gift of grace. Thank you for each new day, each new chance to do better.
Lord God, heavenly Parent and Creator of all, we lift up our hearts to You in prayer once again, trusting in Your help:
You have promised to be our keeper – to guard our going out and coming in from this time forth and forever more, and so we ask that You would be with and uphold those who are ill. Grant them healing according to Your will.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
As we look forward to the road ahead, as we learn to be Christ-like, to walk in his way, help us by Your Holy Spirit to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with You.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
People are struggling, God. We are struggling financially. We are struggling emotionally. We are struggling spiritually. Help us find our footing to continue on the path you have set before us. Strengthen us for the journey. Ease our burdens. Guide us to ease the burdens of others. Lead us to be generous, kind, and loving to those who are suffering hardships. Help us to not grow weary in doing good.
Help us discern the things of this world that are not of Your making and remember that they will not endure forever. In the midst of natural disasters and socio-economic distress and political uncertainty bend us to do Your will, not our own. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we become the hands and feet of Your Son.
Bless Your church on earth. Protect us from false teachers who would deceive by Your name and lead us astray. Help us to always hold fast to the firm foundation of Your Word. In the midst of uncertain times, grant us the mouth and the wisdom to bear witness to Your Son Jesus Christ and the redemption we have in Him.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God we lift up to you our ongoing prayers and petitions …
- For the eradication of COVID-19 in every form and an end to the pandemic.
- For protection of all innocents in all war torn nations and authoritarian regimes.
- For lands and places stricken by natural disasters, drought and wildfires.
- For the healing of the planet.
- For the protection and preservation of democracy here and around the world
- For an end to discrimination and oppression in any and all forms
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
Dear heavenly Father, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to pray:
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.
Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures are read and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace.
Colossians 1:9 (MSG)
Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.
Hebrews 10:11-25 (CEB)
Every priest stands every day serving and offering the same sacrifices over and over, sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when this priest offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right side of God. Since then, he’s waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for his feet, because he perfected the people who are being made holy with one offering for all time.
The Holy Spirit affirms this when saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them. After these days, says the Lord, I will place my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds. And I won’t remember their sins and their lawless behavior anymore. When there is forgiveness for these things, there is no longer an offering for sin.
Brothers and sisters, we have confidence that we can enter the holy of holies by means of Jesus’ blood, through a new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, which is his body, and we have a great high priest over God’s house.
Therefore, let’s draw near with a genuine heart with the certainty that our faith gives us, since our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies are washed with pure water.
Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable.
And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.
Mark 13:1-8 (CEB)
As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”
Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”
Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”
Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ They will deceive many people. When you hear of wars and reports of wars, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen, but this isn’t the end yet. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines in all sorts of places. These things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – The Road Ahead
Rev. Val Ohle
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
The passage from Mark kind of makes you want to break out your copies of the Left Behind series and tune into John Hagee ministries, doesn’t it? Maybe we should all start noting the dates of the blood moons on our calendars? At the very least, make sure any clothes we aren’t wearing at the moment are neatly folded and put away, so we only have one set to tidy up before we float off to the heavenly kingdom? Is that what this is all about?
Let’s look a little deeper into it.
I’m a small town girl. Until I was in my thirties, the biggest city I’d ever visited was Denver, Colorado, I hadn’t been east of the Missouri river in probably twenty years let alone the Mississippi, and most of my life had been spent in towns of less than 6,000 people … towns where the tallest buildings were four stories or less. Then, in 1987, I moved to East Tennessee from rural … very rural … western Nebraska.
As if the culture shock of moving from a town of about 6,000 people to a metropolitan area of over one million wasn’t enough, the company I ended up going to work for sent me to Long Island for a week. Easter week 1988, to be exact, and I was going to be stuck there until the Monday after Easter weekend.
Some friends within the company decided to rescue me that Easter Sunday. They had me ride the train from Long Island into Manhattan. If you’ve never done that, the train ends up turning into the subway and I came out of that long train ride into a dark tunnel, then up through the levels of Penn Station past commuters and panhandlers alike. Finally reaching street, I was struck by the architecture of one of the oldest cities in America and, gazing to the right, that Macy’s straight out of the Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th street. One of my friends had met me as I got off the train, and we took a taxi to meet the rest of our group near the twin towers where we were going to have Easter Sunday brunch at Windows on the World.
I wasn’t all that impressed by the shining glass and steel buildings so tall I couldn’t see the tops from my seat in the tax, but the older buildings we were passing were fascinating. Such amazing works of design, craftsmanship, and artistry. They, along with some anecdotal moments, were the saving grace for that trip that landed me in a city which, ultimately, didn’t live up to the romantic vision I’d built for it out of movies and stories.
At any rate, I can relate to the way the disciples must have marveled at the grandeur of the temple. Especially when they would have known, possibly even witnessed as other buildings were being built the kind of monumental effort it would have taken to move those massive stones. We’re not talking red bricks or concrete blocks. We’re talking huge stones cut from marble or limestone or granite. It’s no small wonder they oooo’ed and ahhhh’ed that day.
And yet, Jesus was like, “pffft … pay no attention to that. Those will be demolished, flattened to the point that you won’t even know it was there.”
No surprise, then, that the disciples were like, “Wait, what?!? When’s that going to happen? How will we know when it’s going to happen?”
Jesus, as he always does, answers them with a rather frightening list of horrific events, things they need to be watchful of on the road ahead and in the days ahead.
Jesus told the disciples these were sufferings associated with the end. But he also told them not to be alarmed. In fact, in verse 30 he told the disciples their generation would not pass away before all these things happened.
And those things Jesus spoke of did happen before that generation passed away. Remember the crucifixion story … the sky darkened, the earth shook. If you read past verse 8 … Jesus followers, especially the disciples, were persecuted and tortured and beaten and executed, and people did turn in neighbors and strangers and family. The persecution of the followers of Christ by Rome and even their initial persecution by the Jewish religious leaders is the stuff of legends and more than one Hollywood blockbuster. Rome was always at war with someone in its constant quest to rule the world and some other earthly ruler or principality was always trying to conquer Rome.
Jesus said, ““But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”
Before I go on, you should know something about this passage. First, the Jewish people believed that God was going to send them the Messiah. However, not all of them believed Jesus was the Messiah. Second, everything he foretold did come true and came true within the lifespan of the disciples. He predicted the disciples would be harassed (beaten) by various councils and synagogues, rulers and kings. He instructed them to say whatever came to mind, as it would be God speaking through them by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he predicted that his message would be given to every nation, which it was as begun on the Day of Pentecost. He also predicted that families would be torn apart, and that they would be hated for following him, but to stay firm in their faith.
He made a startling prediction about an event coming in Judea: ““When you see the disgusting and destructive thing standing where it shouldn’t be (the reader should understand this), then those in Judea must escape to the mountains. Those on the roof shouldn’t come down or enter their houses to grab anything. Those in the field shouldn’t come back to grab their clothes. How terrible it will be at that time for women who are pregnant and for women who are nursing their children. Pray that it doesn’t happen in winter. In those days there will be great suffering such as the world has never before seen and will never again see. If the Lord hadn’t shortened that time, no one would be rescued. But for the sake of the chosen ones, the ones whom God chose, he has cut short the time.
“Then if someone says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Christ,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, those whom God has chosen. But you, watch out! I’ve told you everything ahead of time.”
Surely, that’s a clear reference to the end times and the anti-christ and the second coming! Many certainly believe it is. And yet … Acts of the Apostles 5:36-37 contains a description given by Gamaliel about Theudas and Judas the Galilean, both of who are also mentioned by the historian, Josephus, and both of whom also claimed to be leaders of new messianic movements.
As for that abomination, that disgusting and destructive thing standing where it shouldn’t, it’s not completely clear what it meant to the early Christians or Mark’s audience, with some thinking it refers to Titus’ destruction of the Temple, others that it might be a reference to Caligula’s attempt to have a statue of himself put in the Temple, or possibly the Roman destruction of Jerusalem which was, indeed, seen by that generation.
It is possible, then, and even probable that Jesus was using the apocalyptic language of his time symbolically, as many Jewish prophets did, to highlight the fact that Christian suffering and Jerusalem’s destruction, though seemingly the end of the world, were necessary to achieve what Jesus deems will be the final victory of good over evil. While his language is apocalyptic and many believe it is his prediction of the end of times and his second coming, he’s actually using references to passages from the Torah.
Jesus’ statement about the sun and moon is a quote from Isaiah 13:10 where Isaiah uses it metaphorically as part of his prophecy of the fall of Babylon. The stars falling from the sky is from Isaiah 34:4 about God’s judgement on all the nations of the world.
By using these two quotations together, Jesus might be comparing the Roman domination Israel was undergoing to the Babylonian captivity it had undergone six centuries previously. The coming of the kingdom of God would be replacing Roman rule with God’s rule just as the Jews were freed from Babylon.
Yet whereas the Babylonian captivity ended with the return to Jerusalem, the replacement of Roman rule will be preceded by Jerusalem’s destruction, a sharp change in what people thought of as the coming of God’s kingdom. It was a general belief of the Jews that the messiah would rule from Jerusalem, and many Christians have believed that after the Second Coming Jesus, too, will rule the world from Jerusalem.
Many Christians have seen this as a prediction of Roman tyranny being overcome by Christianity, as Jerusalem, then “Babylon” (Rome), then all the unrighteous nations will be replaced by the Son of Man’s coming.
The Son of Man coming in clouds is from Daniel 7:13. This is from a prophetic dream of Daniel about a kingdom that would “devour” the whole world (Rome was busy trying to “devour” the whole world) and how it would be replaced by the Son of Man’s “everlasting kingdom”.
When he talks about how “The elect” will be “gathered” from every part of the world and “unto Heaven”, he’s giving a reversal of Zechariah 2:10 which said God would come and live among his chosen. God rounding up his chosen people is found in many Old Testament books, but none have Jesus, the Son of Man doing this, showing how Jesus had altered the prophecies about the messiah.
So what does all of that mean for us today? Did Jesus come again and we missed it? Surely there would have been a worldwide news report, an “extra extra read all about it” edition of the local paper or something! Wouldn’t there?
The answer to those questions is yes … and no. To quote Roger Wolsey, author of The Kissing Fish book, “I’m hearing more people, including fellow liberals and progressives, saying, ‘I’m ready for Jesus to return!’ These are expressions of anguish, frustration, and despair about how bad things have become lately. My response is simply that Jesus returns through us. Jesus returns every tie we forgive ourselves and others, love unconditionally, extend mercy, offer compassion, act with loving-kindness, feed the hungry, protect the oppressed, heal the sick, visit the prisoner, speak truth to power, make peace, seek reconciliation, and pursue restorative justice.”
So, yes, there is a second coming and no we didn’t miss it. We are it. Or at least we’re supposed to be, but …
Generation after generation, despite centuries of building houses of worship and elaborate cathedrals, of enlightenment and reformation and revivals and camp meetings, of mass media and even of almost every pulpit in the world taking to the Internet in the last two years, the vast majority of Christians have devolved to maybe … maybe … giving God an hour a week.
And even then, people are too often guilty of only giving Him their physical presence for that hour while their minds wander off to lunch plans, the work week they’re facing, scrolling their phones, the chores they have to do when they get home, and every other thing in the world but God. If we were to color-code their spiritual alert levels, most folks’ GODCON level would be a shade of dirty grey like that of the unfinished walls of a basement.
We know what we’re supposed to do. Christ laid out a very clear picture of it, a foundation for it throughout his earthly ministry. As we’ve made our pilgrimage this past year, we’ve focused almost exclusively on his teachings. Where most of us drop the ball is we know the teachings, we think about, dwell on, even meditate on the teachings, but we aren’t the greatest at actually carrying out what he asked of us.
There is hope, though. We have a loving and forgiving God, a loving and forgiving Savior, and we have the opportunity to do better. We can set an example for others to follow by following in the steps of Jesus, by working together to build the church for which he laid a solid foundation, and by staying alert to the here and now.
We can heed what was written in Colossians … that it is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy … and in Hebrews … to consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds, to not stop meeting together with other believers and instead to encourage each other.
And we can … together … share the Good News for the transformation of the world, go forth and make disciples, and build the kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven, and we can start now.
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Mighty God, Architect of the Universe; your work of creation and building is always before us! We give our gifts this day in hopes that we might be co-builders with you in the creation of your kingdom here on earth! May our gifts also reach others who are hurting, who feel disconnected from your love, that they too may join us in the stonework of kingdom-building, whose mortar is the sharing of Christ’s love with the world. In Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, we pray.
Rev. Val Ohle
Thank you for being here this morning, whether in-person or through our live-stream and I hope you found some value in today’s service.
Now hear this benediction:
As we travel together as disciples in Christ, striving to love God and one another, uplift, uphold, encourage, and support one another on the road ahead. While there will be many challenges, both known and unknown, remain rooted in knowing your strength and comfort are always in the Lord.
In the name of God, Creator of All, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
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