ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Opening Hymn – All People Who On Earth Do Dwell (UMH 75)
- Responsive Reading – Psalm 130 (UMH 848)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Scripture Readings – Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (MSG); John 6:24-35 (MSG) – Rev. Val
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Hymn – Fix Me, Jesus (UMH 655)
- Message: Truth Be Told – Rev. Val
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Closing Hymn – Be Still My Soul (UMH 534)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Hello and welcome to our worship service! I’m glad you’re all here whether in-person or watching us live on Facebook. If you’re here in-person, please refer to the your bulletin for today’s announcements (below). For our online viewers, you will find them on the transcript that will be posted to our website later today. Very quickly, if you’re here in-person, please stay seated following the service for a brief meeting. Alright, everyone, put your praise face on and let’s continue our Pilgrimage as we go forward to learn more about Discipleship. We’ll begin with our …
Save the date!
- August 22, 2021, 5:00 p.m. – Maryville College Faith Fair. We will have a display and members present to welcome incoming freshman and others as the school year begins.
- August 28, 2021 – Rev. Val will be traveling to Kingsport, TN, to attend Annual Conference.
- September 5, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- September 19, 2021 – Coming Home Sunday Celebration Worship and Picnic
- November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
A Litany based on Ephesians 4 and 5, Eugene Blair, The Africana Worship Book for Year B, Discipleship Resources, 2007, 96
One: Come, let us put away all things that divide us and love one another.
Many: For we are members of one another (Eph. 4:25b)
One: Come; let us not be divided from one another by gender, race, color, or status.
Many: For we are members of one another.
One: Come; let us put away lies, anger, stealing, and corrupt words.
Many: For we are members of one another.
One: Come; let us put away bitterness, wrath, clamor, and malice.
Many: For we are members of one another.
One: Come; let us put away uncleanness, idolatry, and deception.
Many: For we are members of one another.
One: Together let us speak truth, labor together, and do what is good and edifying to the Lord.
Many: Let us be imitators of God, walk as the children of God, and love as Christ first loved us.
One: Come, let us be the people of God we are called to be.
Many: For we are saints, God’s chosen people, and members of one another. AMEN.
A prayer for John 6:35, 41-51; Taylor Marie James
Lord, you described yourself to us as the Bread of Life. You told us that whoever comes to you will never be hungry or thirsty. If we eat of your bread, Lord, not only will we not hunger or thirst we will have eternal life. As we come to you on this Sunday in Pentecost, we declare our faith and belief in you. Lord, we yearn for your bread and the eternal life that we can have only through you. We pray that we will be like the disciples and wait patiently for you, living our lives in love and fellowship with our neighbors, just as you taught us. We declare our love for you and our faith and trust in you. We ask that you rain down upon us, as you did upon your disciples. We ask that you continuously quench our thirst for you and comfort us when we allow the challenges of the world to steal our joy and keep us from hearing your voice. Thank you for all that comes from you and all that we find in you. We give you our love and praise in your name.
Psalm 130 – UMH 848
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.
Our scriptures this morning are taken from the Common English Bible.
Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (MSG)
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
John 6:35, 41-51 (MSG)
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me.
And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own agenda but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.
At this, because he said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”
Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me.
“I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread — living Bread! — who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
Inspired by 2 Samuel 18, Ephesians 4:25-5:2, Richard Einerson in Prayers of the People: Pastoral prayers for Worship and Personal Devotion, Bloomington, AuthorHouse, 2006
Eternal God, whose message to us has always been that our relationship to you is intimately related to how we treat our sisters and brothers, bend low your Spirit this day and touch us with your power.
- Wean us from our tendency to nurture perceived slights and to put hot coals to our anger.
- Wean us from all tendencies to take advantage of others for personal gain.
- Wean us from negativity and from becoming bitter whether or not we think we are justified in our feelings.
- Wean us from the all too human and common tendency to gossip about others and to slander them in any way.
- Wean us from carrying malice in our hearts and from giving in to anything that would poison relationships with others.
Make us over again, O gracious God.
Give us a consistent kindness and compassion for others. Keep us always tender hearted even when the world delivers difficult blows and setbacks to us. Teach us once again about your redeeming grace in order that we may learn, however slowly and however tentatively, how to forgive others. Teach us how to live abundantly into the future as victorious and expectant people, greeting each new day with eagerness and excitement. And indelibly remind us that we are among your forgiven and beloved community.
We present to you all who have special need of your grace today. Keep them in your gracious care and insofar as we are able use us to make their burdens lighter. Be with those who war and who are victims of war and grant to us a peaceful world.
And, God? I know despite everything this tiny church has been through this past year, that you brought us together for a reason and I know you had Spirit plant a seed in us this past week to address a very serious need in our community, so I especially pray that you will provide the resources and means for us to nurture this seed and guide us in bringing it to bear good fruit.
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 ewho trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
MESSAGE – Truth Be Told
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
Does it seem to any of you like there’s a lot of untruth flying around out there? That it’s reaching a point where opinion is the new truth and the old truth based on fact is long since dead and buried? That this new replacement for truth is tearing at the very fabric of society?
And the moods out there. Heaven, help us, it’s hard to find anyone who can maintain a joyful attitude for even a full day, myself included! Everyone, and I do mean everyone seems to be angry at someone or something all the time. No wonder violent crimes are on the rise.
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single country in this world that doesn’t have some kind of mis … or dis … information campaign going on, some kind of division within its citizens, some kind of polarization in its politics, some level of unrest.
Living “in community” is a concept that most of the world, especially here in these “United” states, seems to have forgotten. Truth be told, we’ve been moving further and further from community for decades. It seems as though, everywhere around the world, any sense of community has disappeared and now its each for his or her own. Neighbors don’t even know each other’s names anymore.
Paul or whoever was the author of Ephesians knows differently. Earlier in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he recognizes that we won’t all be the same, that we won’t all have the same thoughts and feelings and ways of operating.
He understands that we’re still who we are both as individuals and as followers of the Way Christ taught us, and that we still bring the gifts we have been given to the community. And that’s great in that it adds to the vast and diverse tapestry that is the human community called the church, but can also be difficult when we bump up against one another and sometimes get upset by different points of view.
Paul knows that living together isn’t easy. Remember that he’d been on the other side of the community in which he now devoted himself. He’d been on the side that sought to persecute and even destroy the side he was now on, so he knew full well how hard it would be.
So, in this part of the letter to the church at Ephesus, he is telling the church … and therefore telling us … how to go about getting along while living in community, and he doesn’t mince any words:
“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”
He’s reminding us that any lies, even those uttered when it feels safer to lie than tell the truth, are dangerous. Be honest because we’re all connected to one another in this community. What we say to one another has a ripple effect.
He tells us that it’s okay to get angry sometimes, even implies that we’d do well to be angry, but it’s what we do with that anger that matters. If we let our anger fire our desire for revenge, we’re walking away from the Light that is Christ to the dark that is not. And he warns us not to go to bed or stay angry. He knows from his own previously bitter heart that anger can eat at you like a vicious, fast moving cancer.
Paul goes on in today’s passage to tell us that, even if taking things that aren’t ours is how we’ve been surviving, we need to stop. We need to live honest lives doing honest work and we need to work with a goal of helping others who can’t work.
We need to be careful what we say, to not speak ill of others, not say hateful or mean things. The same goes for, as he puts it, “cutting, backbiting, profane talk.” I was worried about that profane talk part. I’ve been known a time or two … okay maybe countless times … to cuss like a sailor. I was so worried, I looked it up. Profane means irreverent or disrespectful, so Paul is saying don’t cut down, back stab, or say irreverent or disrespectful things about others. Even if you’re sure in your heart of hearts they deserve every word of it. That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what Jesus would have us do.
“Say only what helps” because each word we speak to another is a gift to that person. Ask yourselves, if you were the recipient of that kind of a gift, would you want it to be condemning, cruel, demeaning? Or would you rather receive a word gift that lifts you up, bolsters your confidence, and reminds you that you are a beloved child of God?
Paul tells us to be gentle with one another, sensitive to one another’s feelings, mood, condition, situation. In other words, walk a mile in their sandals. And forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave us.
He reminds us not to cause God to grieve, not to break God’s heart, that God’s Holy Spirit he sent to us is moving and breathing within us in our own hearts and we shouldn’t take such a precious gift for granted. And oh, what a gift the Spirit is! Why, remember … in Acts 1:8, “Jesus tells his disciples before his Ascension that “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Then you will be my witnesses . . . to the very ends of the Earth.”
Paul tells us we’re to watch what God does, and then we’re to emulate Him just the way we watched our earthly parents and learned from them. God loves us, so we should love others like God loves us and we can learn that by spending time with God. Christ loved us not cautiously, but extravagantly. His love was not conditional on getting something back from us. He loved us so that he could give everything about himself to us, and that’s how we should love, too. With no expectation of a return of any kind.
Paul tells us if we do these things, we can create, maintain, and live in the kind of community that the church is supposed to be, and I want to remind you of something here … the church is not this building or buildings like it. The church is We the People. And not just We the People of the USA, but all the people all over the world. God so loved the world … everyone … and His goal is that all the people throughout the world will be His church. That’s what the prayer Christ taught us means when He says, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Those of us who follow Christ’s Way aren’t simply in a holding pattern until we cross to the other side and join him in heaven. Our lives are to be spent building His kingdom here. Piece by piece, person by broken person.
But it’s hard, isn’t it? I know it’s hard for me. Every single day, I totally blow almost all of what Paul is telling me to do. It usually starts about 6:30 in the morning when I turn on the news. Simple solution, don’t watch the news, right? But we can’t live that way. We can’t ignore what’s going on in the world because we’re supposed to go out into that world and build the kingdom. It gets worse as the day goes on and I hear about the way a client has been treated by an estranged spouse or, in reading the statements and interviewing people, I witness two parents using their children as pawns to inflict pain to one another. I get boiling mad and all those things Paul warned us not to do if we want to live in this beloved community just flow from my mouth and become apparent in my body language and by the end of the day, I have to give strong consideration to donning a hair shirt and doing some serious penance.
How in the world can I act like God? How can I love like Christ? Inadequately, incompletely, with lots of fits and starts, that’s how. Yet it is our goal to become like Christ. That’s the name we have taken – Christian, little Christ. That’s the road we are on. But since we are striving to imitate God, then we also imitate God’s grace, even with ourselves. Certainly, with everyone else around us, but us too. It doesn’t mean, though, that we only pretend, that our effort is only half-hearted. No, our goal, our drive, our vision for ourselves and our community is to be like God in how we deal with one another and the world.
So … I have to get up and try again every day to do better … we all have to try every day to do better. And we have to hope and pray that, when others see us trying to do better, they’ll try to do better, too. And right now in this chaos weary world, we could all use a whole lot of “better.”
The best way to do hard things is to turn to Jesus. I suppose to some hearing this, that might sound cliché, but it’s true. And I want to assure you that what John recorded Jesus saying in today’s passage is also true. Once you turn to Him, he won’t let go of you ever, no matter how many times you mess up or backslide or falter or fail. He is with you every stumbling stuttering step you take. Each time you remind yourself about that, you are filled with his peace.
So, how do we, this tiny bit of God’s larger church, go about building the kind of community Paul talks about … the kind of community Jesus taught us to build?
Well, it isn’t by looking at today’s whole scripture and figuring out how to be the best me I can be, to individualize everything. The push around the world toward “individualism,” toward taking care of me first, foremost, and exclusively is a lot of what put the world into chaos to begin with. No, we have to do this in community with others. Consider the concept of imitating God for a moment. As an individual, to claim that my goal is to act like God has hints of megalomania. But within the bounds of the community, imitating God becomes a check on behavior and a way of lifting up the body as a whole. Imitating God is not, in other words, a reference to who I am in my essence, but a model for how I act with and toward others. As a helpful check on us. the phrase “be imitators of God” in the Greek is second person plural: “All y’all, be imitators of God.” Together, we might have a chance to create the kind of community that behaves toward one another, views one another, values one another, as God does.
At the core of this Christ-like love, this God imitation, is truth telling. That brings us back to where the text begins. Jesus so valued truth that in John’s gospel he declares “I am the truth.” Truth is a part of the essence of Christ, and therefore, is something we claim in our behaviors toward one another and the world. Putting away falsehood, Paul declares we speak truth; we remove ego; we build up rather than tear down. This is who we are. To harbor a lie is to contradict our essential nature. To approve deceit is to deny the heart of loving like Christ. We don’t bring the world to Christ via falsehood, but through truth. The truth of our own lives, to be sure, but of the gospel we strive to live as well. Part of our truth is our own failure to imitate God in all that we do, even as we claim that goal. The truth we speak is a truth that we claim as our own, even as we acknowledge that it is bigger than ourselves. It is not contained in me as an individual but governs our relationships within the community and beyond.
We just need to turn to Christ, to trust him when he says once we do, he will never ever let us go. He will be our strength, our courage, our rock, and our redeemer. Spirit will be present with him and will be that indwelling power that we need to continue to strive to do better and better and to bring others into the Light that is Him.
Bread of life,
you taught us to put away bitterness and anger,
and with tenderhearted kindness
to share the fruit of our labor with the needy.
Strengthen us by your grace,
that in communion with you,
we may forgive one another
and live in love as Christ loved us. Amen.
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Patient and Merciful God, we hear your call to live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. Our ears hear these words in our worship; our minds know what they mean; our hearts long to follow them; but we know that tomorrow we will be tempted to slip into the familiar life where we ourselves are at the center of our world and the needs we focus on are almost entirely our own. In our giving this day, help us strengthen our resolve to love as Christ loves us, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray.
Nathan Nettleton ©2003
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:
Go out and imitate God, living in love.
Put your hope in God’s Word
and let your own words be truthful and constructive.
May sin rouse your anger,
. . . but never let anger cause you to sin.
Don’t allow any room for evil.
And may God always hear your voice.
May Christ Jesus raise you to new life;
and may the Holy Spirit nourish you for the life of love.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
. . . In the name of Christ. Amen.
- All works cited within the text above.
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1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737
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