ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Affirmation of Faith – Apostle’s Creed (UMH 881)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – James 2:1-17 (MSG), Luke 10:25-37 (MSG), John 7:37-38 (CEB) – Rev. Val
- Message: Three Coins in the Fountain – Rev. Val
- Offertory – Rev. Val
- Service of Holy Communion
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! It’s nice to see all of you again this week. Thank you for coming to worship with us, and to our online viewers who can hopefully hear us this week, we’re glad you’re worshipping with us, too.
For those here in-person, you will find the announcements on the back of your bulletin and also on the bottom of page 2. If you’re worshipping online, the announcements were included in the weekly worship bulletin email that was sent out yesterday. If you’re not getting that email, please visit our website at uniongroveumc-friendsville.org and fill out the connection card at the bottom of most pages there. We typically send you only one email per week and we do not share or sell your information.
Save the date!
- On-going Prayer Vigil
- September 19, 2021 – Coming Home Sunday Celebration – Suspended
- October 3, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
inspired by James 2:1-17, Psalm 125, The Message, Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press. Posted on the Ministry Matters website. http://www.ministrymatters.com/
We can trust God.
God is like the mountain: rock solid.
God loves all the people:
the poor, the disabled, the outcast, the stranger.
We can depend on God.
God feeds the hungry, heals the sick,
and restores relationships.
Praise our Loving God.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Based on James 2:1-17, Valerie Bridgeman Davis, The Africana Worship Book for Year B (Discipleship Resources, 2007), 160
Generous God, we give thanks to you for your kindness toward us. Thank you for loving us all and calling us all your children. Help us to recognize our kin and to give our lives to peaceful family relationships with all creation. Free us from our self-centeredness and from fear of strangers so that we may meet the Savior in broken humanity – even our own. We pray in the name of Christ.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – Apostle’s Creed (UMH 881)
B. David Hostetter, Prayers for the Seasons of God’s People: Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, Abingdon, 1999, 177-178
God of all work, who created for six days and rested on the seventh, bless all who work to create things of beauty and things of utility from the elements that you made from nothing. Divine Redeemer, direct and teach all who repair and renew what has been broken and what no longer works as it should. Bless those who care for people who cannot care for themselves.
Healing Spirit, inspire with loving wisdom those who counsel any who have lost their way and are seeking new direction and are having trouble getting it all together.
Head of the church, so enable your body to respond with fidelity to all that you command that your work may proceed with little interruption and the goals you have set be achieved in our community and our world, which is really yours.
Governor of governors, bring a fuller measure of justice to our world, that the rights of all may be protected, from childhood to old age, from the simplest worker to the most responsible manager, male and female, all created in your image.
Free us from any activity that is a detriment to ourselves and to others. Grant us all joy in our work that we may have satisfaction in knowing that what we do makes a difference for good, benefitting our common life.
God our Creator, you have created people who go out to their work and to their labor until the evening. We rejoice in both our vocation and our retirement. The rest at the end of the day is sweeter after a day of good work. The retirement at the end of years is satisfying when we can look back at what our work has helped to accomplish.
We celebrate the rest you have prepared for the people of God. We rejoice in the memory of those who rest from their labor, and their good works follow them to heaven by your gracious acceptance in Jesus Christ. May we not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give. So by your earthly sacraments prepare us for the heavenly rest, through Jesus Christ, who finished his work, to whom with you and the Holy spirit be all glory and praise, time without end. Amen.
May your love take root in our lives, and we may walk by faith as we pray the words your Son taught us,
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.
Open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, gracious Lord, as we turn to your scripture. We long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed. Examine us, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth.
James 2:1-17 (MSG)
My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
Luke 10:25-37 (MSG)
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
John 7:37-38 (CEB)
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted,
“All who are thirsty should come to me!
All who believe in me should drink!
As the scriptures said concerning me,
Rivers of living water will flow out from within him.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Three Coins in the Fountain
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
I want to share something with you this morning, but before I do, do you remember that song?
Three coins in the fountain … each one seeking happiness.
Three coins in the fountain … which one will the fountain bless?
What I want to share with you was written by Rev. Hill Carmichael, Exec. Pastor of Canterbury UMC in Mountain Brook, AL. Rev. Carmichael posted it to Facebook on Sept. 1, 2021. He wrote:
A few years ago, a seminary professor of mine decided to use the parable of the Good Samaritan to make a point about how fear influences the decisions we make. He turned to Luke chapter 10 and began to read. I zoned out for a few minutes. I know – best seminary student ever and something you never want to hear a pastor say. But it’s a familiar story. One we’ve all heard a million times. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a cultural norm to point to the Good Samaritan in everyday life. I use it regularly with my boys. I imagine you’ve used it as well in an attempt to convey what it means to be kind in a hurting world. So, I took a little mental break in class. No harm, no foul, right?
After my professor finished reading, he looked up and said, “This is not a story about being nice. This is a story about the transformation of the world.” All of the sudden I was paying attention again. And then he went on to explain that Jesus is responding to a question by sharing that there are three types of people along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.
The first type are the robbers, whose ethic suggests that “what is yours is mine at whatever cost”. And the robbers will take whatever they need through violence, coercion and whatever means necessary. These are the people who will leave us physically, mentally and emotionally beaten and bruised along life’s road with nothing left but our shallow breath.
The second type of person to walk along the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho is represented by the priest and the Levite, whose ethic suggests that “what is mine is mine and I must protect it even if it means you get hurt in the process”. They aren’t bad people. Both the priest and the Levite are deeply respected in their communities. They very likely follow all the societal rules and norms. They sit on local boards. They pay their taxes on time and likely coach their son’s or daughter’s teams. They also show a great deal of love to those within their immediate communities, but because of what crossing the road to help might cost them, they put their head down and go about their business. So, without even recognizing it, they do more harm than good. Their focus is inward toward their needs and the needs of those who are most like them. It’s an ethic that leads the good and decent priest and Levite toward a life of valuing their reputations instead of relationships. And it often results with them choosing their own individual rights over the health and well-being of their neighbors. Unfortunately, this is the category where I fall most often throughout my life. And if we’re all being honest, I’d say it’s the category that most of us fall into more than we care to admit.
Then there is the Samaritan, whose ethic is love. And along one of the most dangerous roads in all of history seems to live by a code that says “what is mine is yours…if you have need of it”.
My safety is yours…if you have need of it.
My security is yours…if you have need of it.
My resources are yours…if you have need of them.
My health is tied to your health.
My well-being is tied to your well-being.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. preached on this text often and once said that the real difference between the priest and the Levite from the Samaritan is the question that each must have asked. The priest and the Levite likely asked, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”. The Samaritan likely asked a very different question – “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Fear has a way of making us all behave badly. It was true for the priest and the Levite, and it is still true for us today. When fear is the ethic of our lives, we tend to cling to our own safety and our own individual rights. When fear is the ethic of our lives, we retreat, mind our own business and rarely cross to the other side of the road to help. And when fear is the ethic of our lives, we end up placing our hope in mottos like “We Dare Defend Our Rights” or “Don’t Tread On Me” as opposed to Jesus’ greatest commandment to “Love God and Love Your Neighbor”.
It doesn’t take looking out the window for very long to know that we are all on a road somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho right now. It’s dangerous out there. The heart-break and exhaustion are real. It’s not just the virus. It’s everything. It’s layers and layers of being beaten and bruised along a dry, hard road these past 18 months.
So, we have some choices to make. We can choose to make our decisions with an ethic of fear. And for a time, choices based on fear have a way of making us feel safe, but that is fleeting at best.
The other choice is to cross the road to help our neighbor. When we cross to the other side, we’ll get a glimpse of something Jesus talked an awful lot about. We’ll see what transformation looks like. We’ll finally understand who we are called to be. And best of all, we’ll finally encounter the Kingdom we’ve been longing for.
Our passage from James gives us some much needed advice about the choices we’re called to make as we make our own pilgrimage on the proverbial road to Jericho. He reminds us that God operates differently than the status quo of the world. That God purposefully chooses the down-and-out … the folks lying beaten down in life’s ditches … as the kingdom’s first citizens. He warns us to “love others as you love yourself,” and that doing otherwise is to violate that ever so important Rule of the Scriptures. He essentially says we’ll reap what we sow. If we fail to act kindly to others, we’ll be treated unkindly. And we can’t just say we’ll treat others well … lip service doesn’t count. You can’t walk up to that man lying there, half-dead in the ditch and say, “Oh, you poor fella! Take heart. God is for you. This too shall pass,” and then go on down the road with your “thoughts and prayers.” You need to do as the Samaritan did.
Three types of people walking the road … Three coins in a fountain …
It’s likely that, at times, we have been and perhaps will be again each of the three types of people walking the road … and other times we may have been the man lying broken and half-dead in the ditch. And, each time, we have tossed a spiritual coin into the fountain of Living Water. But it’s the choices we make going forward that determine whether that fountain will both quench our thirst. It’s the choices we make that will determine whether the coin we toss will be blessed.
I want to close this message with the words from a recent post to Dancing Faith by Stephen Paul Kliewer.
There are times when the world seems to be collapsing around us.
Justice is gone from the courts,
Compassion is missing from the church,
Kindness is simply missing.
It is as if Kali is dancing on the bones of the world,
as if those four grim horsemen are riding in our midst
and we sometimes stumble through each day
with acedia and despair
we are tired and without hope
we shut down and cower
hiding from the grim realities
we see injustice and inequity
we watch the planet burn,
we see the war on women
and we stagger to a halt, unsure, bewildered.
we close our eyes and ears
and seek the bliss of denial
Sometimes, we obsess over the evils
watching the news for hours, pouring over articles on the internet,
drowning ourselves in the dysfunction.
And then there are the times when we snap
when it all becomes too much and anger roars through our souls
like an unholy fire
we react, we rage,
we throw thoughts and words at others
like grim weapons
becoming a part of the problem
seeking to overcome evil with violent resistance
Yesterday I danced with anger
My thoughts were clouded
and I reached that place where in my compassion I lost compassion
in my thirst for truth, I could no longer see the truth
in my hope for justice, I became unjust
There is, as our world implodes
a need for action
a need for people to speak up
we cannot stand idly by
we cannot become what we disdain
we cannot overcome evil with evil
but must overcome evil with good
with true compassion
these are times that try our souls
but these are also times
when we must be rooted in Love
in communion with that power
in which we move and breathe and have our being
we must believe in Love
trust in Love
be transformed by Love
and then act in Love
for the power of Love is greater than all darkness
As for yesterday?
Mea maxima culpa
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
God of all good gifts, you have provided all that we need for full lives, and yet we don’t stop there – we continue to fill our lives with things in an elusive search for security. As we bring gifts to you this day, remind us that only deeper faith will bring peace, and good works—caring for others through generous giving—will help us know the joy of full lives. We pray this in the name of Christ, who gave all out of love for all your children.
SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION
Rev. Dr. Pat Whittemoore, ALPS & Tennessee-Memphis-Holston Course of Study
We do not provide a transcript of this portion of our service.
Written by Rev. Daniel B. Randall and posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website
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 you have been fed, go to feed the hungry.
As you have been set free, go to set free the imprisoned.
As you have been received – give.
As you have heard – proclaim.
And the blessing which you have received from the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit be always with you.
- All works cited within the text above.
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