ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Opening Hymn – O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (UMH 57, v. 1,2,3, 7)
- Responsive Reading – Psalm 19 (UMH 750)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38 – Rev. Val
- Message: War of the Words – Rev. Val
- Offertory – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Closing Hymn – I’m Goin’ a Sing When the Spirit Says Sing (UMH 333)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
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.
First, and this is especially for those here in the community of Friendsville and our neighboring communities, I will be keeping the sanctuary open until 3:00 p.m. today for those who need a place to come pray, weep, meditate, reminisce, or just be still for a time. If you’re feeling as I do, yesterday was hard and I wanted to give you a place to come lay those burdens at the foot of the cross.
Also before we begin, it is with great regret and after a great deal of deliberation that I have decided to postpone our “Coming Home Sunday” celebration scheduled for next week. This decision is based on the level of COVID cases in the area right now.
Now, if you would, please join me in the Call to Worship on page 1 of your bulletin.
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 Worship and Picnic – POSTPONED DUE TO COVID
- October 3, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
Inspired by James 3, Mark 9:33-37; Written by Bruce Prewer and posted on Bruce Prewer’s Home Page, © B D Prewer 2006, http://www.bruceprewer.com
We come here today not because we are clever
but because God welcomes the slow learners.
We come here not because we are wise,
but because God loves us in spite of our folly.
We come knowing that the greatest persons will be found
among those who humbly serve like Jesus did,
and that the brightest ideas and the deepest truth will come
from those who see themselves as little children in Christ’s school.
O Lord, open up our mind and our hearts
and enable our lives to declare your praise.
Curry F. Butler, Africana Liturgical Resources, Pentecost Package #2, ed. Safiyah Fosua.
One: Lord, I am not perfect. My mouth is just a little too slick and my soul is just a little too sick and tired of stumbling.
Many: Lord, we’re made in your likeness.
One: I keep falling because sometimes my tongue gets in the way. I know right from wrong, but sometimes my tongue gets the best of me.
Many: Lord, we’re made in your likeness.
One: It starts arguments and ignites fires that not even the firefighters can extinguish. My tongue, this sword of fire, has become an instrument of life and death.
Many: Lord, we’re made in your likeness.
One: “If you want it, you can come and get some,” is my attitude. I am a Samurai. I am not the first, nor am I the last. I tried to put this all in my past, but it presently keeps finding itself in my future.
Many: Lord, we’re made in your likeness.
One: I don’t want to keep living this way. I am ready to lay down my sword and shield to study war no more, but it’s hard. People keep coming for me when I never sent for them.
All: Lord, I am your child and I need you. Please help me control my tongue because we praise you and curse our brothers and sisters with the same tongue. And this should not be. Amen.
RESPONSIVE READING – Psalm 19 (UMH 750)
PASTORAL PRAYER – Rev. Val
Timothy J. Crouch, OSL, Nancy B. Parks, OSL, Chris E. Visminas, Mark R. Babb, OSL, And Also With You: Worship Resources based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, OSL Publications, 1993, 125.
Glorious God, your law, and your grace is poured upon us and we delight in it. We join with all the company of heaven and earth to offer praise. Speaking your Name is like honey in our mouths.
You have provided everything we need, even the means of salvation through your Son Jesus Christ. But your ways are not our ways. When you show us your plans and they do not meet with our preconceived notions of how they should be, we reject them, and you. We are very good at speaking out of both sides of our mouths when it suits us. O Lord have mercy upon us. Rescue us from our hidden faults; keep us from sin that we might be able to stand before you once more.
We have been commissioned to be teachers and witnesses to your great majesty. Let your Holy Spirit give guidance to the words we speak and the works we do in your Name that in all things we might do honor to you and bring others into your fold.
The way of life is one of bearing the cross of Christ, and for this we give thanks. We lift up before you the people who bear other kinds of crosses. Lift the burdens of those who stumble under the weight of physical distress; aid the ones who struggle with confusion and emptiness. Lead them in the way to eternal life.
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 Afghanistan, in all other war torn nations, and in all nations under authoritarian regimes, especially the women and girls of those nations
• For Haiti, for the coasts stricken by storms, for the states in the west stricken by drought and wildfires, and for all those first responders who are battling the effects of extreme weather caused by climate change
• For the healing of the planet
• For the protection and preservation of democracy here and around the world
• For an end to discrimination in any form
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
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 3:1-2 (MSG)
Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
Mark 8:27-38 (CEB)
Jesus and his disciples went into the villages near Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
They told him, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets.”
He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 30 Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – War of the Words
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
If you were in our Wednesday night Bible Study group, you would know my feelings about war. The 1960s song, War sung by Edwin Starr, sums them up pretty well: “War! Huh! Good God, y’all, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’…”
Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
And yet, humanity has been at war in some form or another since we were exiled from the Garden. This nation we live in has just ended the second longest war in its history … I know, I know … all the journalists and public figures are saying it’s the longest, but that’s a lie. It may be the longest war on foreign soil, but the longest was the war waged against the Indian nations on the High Plains, a truth that’s rarely taught in schools. But, I digress.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to you about peace making and the week after that, how we perceive ourselves … see ourselves as compared to the image of Christ we are called to represent, then last week about those three coins … three choices we have about who we are.
This past week and especially yesterday, I’ve watched as documentarians, citizens, past and present elected officials, military leaders, and first responders remembered 9/11 … where they were and who they were before, during, and after. I heard about victims, and I heard about heroes. I heard children born a decade after speaking about family they would only ever know through the memories of those living through the hell of that day. I heard grief in so many of those voices, peace in some, and an abiding anger in one or two. I heard over and over about how we, as a nation, pulled together in unity … at least for a moment.
So many words this week, so many images invoking those words … Words, words, words, words — words are just collections of letters but, what power they have.
The words we heard then gave us more in common than recovering and rebuilding after the attacks that fateful day. Carefully spun, carefully crafted, they played upon our emotions and if our emotions didn’t play back with the proper response, new words began to be spoken with the intent of shaming or, if that didn’t work, “othering” us. Word after word after word that brought us to where we are today … collections of people hurling words at one another in an endless and bloody War of the Words.
Every news program is full of stories of he said or she said or they said … words. And all those stories are about how what he said or she said or they said is pitting him or her or them against each other. The level of angry diatribe in this nation is immeasurable.
The readings today all speak to the effects and consequences of what we say, what we proclaim, how we use our tongues. James, especially and quite clearly, warns us about the power of the tongue and admonishes us to tame it and keep it under control. That we can praise God, confess Jesus as the Christ, speak words of wisdom — or we can ignore wisdom and speak folly, curse God, and deny the costs of discipleship. What we listen to and what we proclaim makes all the difference in our lives … in our communities … in our nation … in the world … even in our churches.
James’ message was geared toward the teachers, preachers, and leaders of the early church which he considered “highly responsible work,” and it is. In those roles, we’re expected to set the example and the tone for the people we teach, minister to, or lead. He reminds us that we are held to higher standards. “Mind what you say,” he tells us. “A word can accomplish … or destroy … anything.”
He also reminds us, though, that none of us in those roles is perfectly qualified … in fact, according to James, we get it wrong from the moment we open our mouths. It would take a perfect to speak perfect truth. And we know there has ever been only one perfect person, that being Christ.
In the passage from Mark, Peter’s words get him into trouble. When Jesus tells the disciples what he is going to have to go through, Peter scolds him, calls him Satan, and tells him he’s not thinking the way God wants him to but as a human.
Clearly, the words we choose matter. There is an Arabian proverb, “While the word is yet unspoken, you are master of it; once it is spoken, it is master of you.” But here’s the thing. We choose the words we use so the onus is on us as to how … and when … and where … we use our words and what words we use.
We shouldn’t let this make us fearful of speaking, though. We can choose to speak whatever comes into our minds, we can parrot the words of others, we can let others influence us with the words they choose … or we can pause … and think … and weigh each situation to see which of the teachings of Jesus it is similar to … and then decide which words … if any … should be spoken.
There are times when we do need to use words … times when we need to stand up and speak truth to power, stand up and speak for those whose voices are being silenced. There are times when we need to speak words of encouragement, of support, of comfort. It is always the time to speak the Good News.
And when words are chosen well, miracles happen. Let me tell you about one called GATE A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Ms. Nye wrote:
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — from her bag — and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate — once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.
Yes, well chosen words can heal. Well chosen words can bridge divides and mend fences. Well chosen words can even end the War of the Words. Let’s pray the prayer of Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
– St. Francis of Assisi
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Loving God, Jesus taught us “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We offer our gifts to you knowing they are part of our treasure, and we do so with the hope that our hearts, our actions, and the words of our tongues will likewise follow. We acknowledge that the tongues that praise you are often the ones that hurt you, when we use them to diminish or discount one of your precious children. Guide our hearts, minds, and tongues to the words that bring you joy. In Christ’s name, we pray.
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 forth with the words of wisdom crying in your ears.
Go forth with songs of hope singing in your heart.
Know that you are called to be faithful followers of the One who will always be near you, will always guide and encourage you to walk the path of life.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
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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