ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Opening Hymn – I’m Goin’-a Sing (UMH 333)
- Affirmation of Faith – A Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Scripture Readings (all readings CEB) – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35 – Rev. Val
- Message: Grace – Rev. Val
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Offertory – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Service of Holy Communion
- Closing Hymn – Amazing Grace (UMH 578)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! We have a lot to get through today, so I’m going to try keep this part brief.
First, and Sue correct me if I’m wrong, our paperwork for becoming a Reconciling Church has been turned in and there are only two things left to do:
- Take a group photo.
- Plan a celebration service.
Which leads me to the next item. If you’ll notice under Save the Date on your bulletin, there is a new listing for “Coming Home Sunday.” Some of you may be familiar with “Homecoming” Sundays when past and present members are invited to return to the church for a celebration. Playing off that idea and because we are recreating Union Grove as a fully inclusive church where all are welcome, I thought we might extend an invitation to all those who are currently “church homeless” … folks who have felt unwanted or rejected by other churches or even this one in its past … to “come home” to Union Grove. I’ve already had an inquiry from someone in the Holston Reconciling community about when we intend to celebrate because they want to come celebrate with us. I’ve also learned there are a number of people in some local Reconciling Facebook Groups I belong to that are unchurched because they haven’t found a church home. I was thinking we could have a special service, possibly invite one or more guest speakers, and then have a fellowship meal of some sort after the service.
This would take some serious planning and work to pull it all together, but I think we could do it if we give ourselves enough time … which is why I didn’t set a date yet, although I’d like to recommend we plan for September 19 since that’s National Back to Church Sunday. I’ve run the idea past a couple friends, and we can also talk with Helen Ryde about it, but ultimately, doing this is up to all of you. So, show of hands if you want to plan a “Coming Home Sunday” to celebrate our commitment to be a Reconciling Congregation and Church.
As always, if you haven’t done so yet, please consider filling out a Manna Campaign Pledge form. You’ll find them on the table in the Narthex in front of the offering container.
Don’t forget that next Sunday we are receiving new members!
Also, you’ll notice that there is less on your insert today. We will be using the hymnals whenever possible from now on. So, for instance today, your insert has the Call to Worship and the words for a special hymn that is not in your hymnal. All other hymns and readings are located at in the hymnal.
I think that’s plenty for today unless anyone else has an announcement, so if you will turn to the Call to Worship on the insert in your bulletins, we’ll begin.
Call to Worship – Safiyah Fosua
L: Do you hear it? Jesus is calling us, inviting us to journey with him.
P: Count us in! With us we bring our joys and fears, our victories and defeats, our celebrations, and our sorrows.
L: Jesus is calling us, inviting us to journey with him, even in the face of life’s strong winds and unexpected storms.
P: With us we bring our voice and song, both of which are familiar to his ears. When we call, when we shout, when we yell, when we cry, when we sing, when we don’t know what to do, he hears us!
L: Jesus is calling us, inviting us to journey with him, him whose ears are attuned to the voices of his Beloved!
P: His power is great! His voice is strong! His actions are life-changing! He’s just all that!
L: Everything – pain, loss, unemployment, heartbreak, sickness, abandonment, isolation, abuse, evil – it all stops at his command.
All: And so, as grateful people, we who belong to God, we praise the one who brings peace to our lives, and we gather as the grateful, alongside brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, pew warmers and pulpit rockers. We gather to rejoice and bear witness to him, who has done this for us!
Calmer of seas and restorer of lost faith, we come to you seeking faith that would move mountains — faith that is the size of a microscopic seed. Too often, we go through our journey of faith complacent with the way things are, fearful to leave what we know in order to trust you more. Yes, sometimes taking the first step is the hardest: when the boat is rickety, the waves are violent, and our crew is not the one we would have chosen for this voyage. But ironically, in the eye of the storm is where the calm lies. Speak into our storms. Calm our irrational fears, so that with clear eyes we can see beyond ourselves. Unite us in crisis, so that our actions will truly be communal. Continue to invite us to cross to the other side because we know that, in following, we move into deeper relationship with you. We pray in awe and wonder of the Christ whose words continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
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.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 (CEB)
We have the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke. (Psalm 116:10) We also have faith, and so we also speak. We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.
So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.
We know that if the tent that we live in on earth is torn down, we have a building from God. It’s a house that isn’t handmade, which is eternal and located in heaven.
1 Peter 1:13-25 (CEB)
Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy.
Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land. Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. Instead, you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb. Christ was chosen before the creation of the world, but was only revealed at the end of time. This was done for you, who through Christ are faithful to the God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. So now, your faith and hope should rest in God.
As you set yourselves apart by your obedience to the truth so that you might have genuine affection for your fellow believers, love each other deeply and earnestly. Do this because you have been given new birth—not from the type of seed that decays but from seed that doesn’t. This seed is God’s life-giving and enduring word. Thus,
All human life on the earth is like grass,
and all human glory is like a flower in a field.
The grass dries up and its flower falls off,
but the Lord’s word endures forever.
This is the word that was proclaimed to you as good news.
Mark 4:35-41 (CEB)
Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.
Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”
He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Ways & Means, Part 1 (Prayer, Scripture, Worship)
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 Means of Grace is a lot to get through … so much so, that I decided midway through writing today’s message to divide it into three parts, so today’s message is Ways and Means Part 1 and we’ll come back for Parts 2 and 3 next week and the week after. You may want to turn to the “Notes & Questions” side of your bulletin insert for this one to keep track of it all.
I want to begin with something Rev. Dr. Derek C. Weber wrote. Rev. Weber is the primary contributor to a site a frequently use that is designed to give ideas and inspiration on each week’s lectionary texts for United Methodist clergy. Here’s what he said about today’s scriptures:
“Green is the dominant color of this long after Pentecost season. It is the color of life and of growth. Here is where the focus switches from the story of Jesus to the story of the church. Not that we leave Jesus behind, of course, but Jesus is now working through the body of Christ, the church, to continue his ministry and invitation in the world. This is our story, who and what we are called to be. This is the story of disciple making day to day; this is our reason for being.
It is also a story of the real world. This task we are given is glorious, and it is a source of joy to the very core of our beings, but it isn’t easy. It isn’t easy because we live in a messy world, and we are messy people. And stuff happens. That’s the background of our texts for today. Stuff happens – difficult stuff, tragic stuff, stuff that knocks us down and threatens to overwhelm us. This might be natural stuff, like the storms in our Gospel text that seem to come from nowhere and are indiscriminate in destruction. Or it could be human stuff – the way we mistreat, abuse, oppress one another simply because we can, like the abuse Paul suffered that he recounts in 2 Corinthians 6. Stuff happens.
This worship experience is on the first level an acknowledgement of the messy world in which we live. People are struggling; people are hurting; our brothers and sisters of color are dealing with systemic racism and the economic effects of white privilege. The pandemic still has our economy reeling and many unemployed and underemployed, not to mention the long-term health effects on those who were stricken by the virus and the grief over the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives. The lasting impact of the assault on our democracy will ripple for decades as we seek to find ways to live up to the ideals we hold as a nation. Stuff happens. The storm rises and we are in danger of being swept away.
And yet. What an amazing phrase: “and yet.” Facing the reality of the world in which we live is not a recipe for despair. It is instead an acknowledgement of the power of the God we worship. We call upon God to still the storms that surround us, even as we pray for the strength to endure. And not just endure but to help create a shelter for those who are ravaged by the storms that blow unabated.
On the first level our proclamation is that we are not alone. The community is the sign of that presence, the acknowledgement that we face what we face in solidarity. We swim against the tide of individualism to recognize our need for one another. We offer to come alongside those who are suffering, even as we are suffering. This is a celebration of community, of relationship. At Discipleship Ministries, we claim that disciple making begins with relationship. We grow best when we grow together. Let this worship moment be one of gratitude for those who have been instrumental for us in our time of struggle.
Offer up prayers for mentors and supporters of our faith. Give thanks to the teachers and the examples of how to live life as a disciple of Jesus in daily life. Set up a prayer station where we can light a candle or post a note with names or moments when we have been blessed by the presence of another person of faith.
In addition to the power of presence, this worship experience could remind us of the longer-term view that we are called to take. We see beyond this present storm to the hope on the horizon. It may seem a long way off, and this won’t diminish the destructive effect of the mess we might be in at the moment. But it could possibly give us the strength to keep fighting, to keep moving forward. It can help us hold on to hope when there doesn’t seem to be much cause to do so. We lean into the promises of the kin-dom, partly because we believe the word that has been given and partly because we have seen glimpses of that hope at work.
Where are the signs of grace at work in our world? Yes, we are aware of the storms that rage, but we are also keeping our eyes open for the shafts of light that come piercing through. What celebrations can we find in the midst of the body? What answers to prayer and results of hard work can we lift up?
While our prayers continue for the end to the storms that rage, our efforts and our emphasis focus us on the strength and the courage to endure the storm.”
Let me say that I love the way Rev. Weber writes and I especially love how he makes clear the connections between then … the time of Christ and those who wrote the scriptures … and now … our world. Our messy, messed up, needs a lot of help world. But I have to take pause with one thing he said in the piece I just read.
Rev. Weber’s closing line is “While our prayers continue for the end to the storms that rage, our efforts and our emphasis focus us on the strength and the courage to endure the storm.”
Go back for a moment to the passage from Mark and that storm. That storm was major, big enough that it terrified the disciples, at least four of whom were professional fishermen used to being out in a boat in a storm. Here was Jesus, sleeping calmly, and these seaworthy professionals were in a total panic and couldn’t understand why Jesus wasn’t just as terrified as they were. Why was that? Hadn’t they been listening when he revealed to them who he was? Hadn’t they seen him perform miracles?
The storm knew who he was and knew his authority. Just listen:
I was just doing what I do. Well, yeah, I scare people because of the devastation that I sometimes bring, but it’s all a part of the job I ain’t trying to hurt nobody. I’m just doing what I was created to do.
I am a storm, and on this day, I was no ordinary storm . . . I was the perfect storm. I have been working on this for years. I finally got the right wind-to-sea ratio down. You should have seen those beautiful waves crashing against the ship. Then I turned out the lights, and darkness covered the sky. It was so dark that you could feel it. Those wimps on the boat got really scared. They were so scared that they went and woke up this man named Jesus.
What did they do that for?
This marked the beginning of my worries. He stood atop the deck and touched me. I’ve never been touched before, but he touched me; and all of a sudden, the winds started to calm down; and because the winds calmed down, the sea calmed down. My perfect storm was demolished all because he touched me.
And get this…he didn’t even touch me with his hands…he touched me with his words. I shall never forget those words. ‘Til this day I cringe at the very thought of those words.
He said, “Peace Be Still.”
He told the storm, Peace, be still, then he turned to the disciples. Remember what he said to them? “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Those disciples were where many of us are today. We know the stories. We’ve been told who Jesus is. We know of his miracles. But maybe our faith isn’t quite to the point it should be. That’s where the Means of Grace come in. It’s through the practice of the Means of Grace that we form and grow our faith.
This is where Rev. Dr. Weber and I differ. While the Means of Grace most assuredly do give us the tools to endure the storm and prayer is among the Means of Grace, they also give us the tools we need to look at certain storms and say, “Peace! Be still!” with the authority Christ gave us, in other words with the full authority of Christ.
Think of the Means of Grace like the reception needed for a satellite dish. To receive a signal, the dish must be facing in the right direction. While the work of our transformation is ultimately God’s work, actively practicing the Means of Grace points us in the right direction and puts us in the right posture or attitude to receive that transformation and that, friends, is the value of the Means of Grace.
I see from the looks on a few faces out there that you’re thinking, “Well, okay, but it might help to know what the Means of Grace means?” Right?
Two Sundays ago we talked about Grace itself. The Means of Grace refers to actions or practices that are channels for God’s grace; practices we can do that are the ways and means we can expect to encounter God’s grace and that ultimately convey the healing presence of God.
These ways and means are also known as “disciplines” and they help us pay attention to the work of God in our lives and also in the world. In short, they help us hear from God, grow in relationship with God, grow in compassion for others … let me repeat that one … they help us grow in compassion for others, and they help us be reshaped in the image of Christ. They are formational activities through which we as individuals and as a church are transformed by God’s grace.
The primary Means of Grace are … and this is the point where you might want to start jotting down notes:
- Bible Study
- Holy Communion
- Christian Conferencing (talking together about our faith)
- Acts of Service and Compassion
Of those seven, prayer, Scripture, and the Lord’s Supper are the three chief means of grace. Wesley felt that each Christian should be involved in the practices of all in order to produce “holy tempers,” but let’s start with two of the three chief means beginning with Scripture.
Scripture is more than a collection of sixty-six books and more than a history or a source of devotional thoughts. Scripture recounts the story of God’s covenantal relationship with the people of God. When we interact with Scripture through worship, through devotions, through mediational reading, and through study, we discover the nature of God’s love for the world and our place and identity within that story.
While it’s important that we each study scripture individually, it’s also important that we read and study Scripture with others. It give us an opportunity to hear the insights and experiences of others with regard to the Scripture, as we’ve learned in our Wednesday Pray & Study group.
To Wesley, Scripture is our primary source of guidance … the standard from which we determine Christian doctrine … for living in the world. He encouraged us to read and interpret Scripture using what has become known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Again, Scripture is the base or foundation, and when reading or studying it, we should apply tradition, reason, and experience. Tradition is experience and the witness of development and growth of the faith through the past centuries and in many nations and cultures. Experience is our individual understanding in the light of our own lives. We use reason to discern what we’ve gathered from the tradition and experience and come to a logical conclusion of how it applies to our faith today … as individuals and often collectively. These four elements taken together bring the individual Christian to a mature and fulfilling understanding of the Christian faith and the required response of worship and service.
Prayer is something we do both individually and collectively, and far more often than we realize. All those conversations you have with yourself in your head? Newsflash: Someone bigger than any of us is listening and, even when the conversation is what you’d really like to tell the guy in the car that cut you off, what He hears is your fear, frustration, and lament.
But prayer is more than just talking to God or with God. Prayer is being attentive to the presence of God. And not just for ourselves and our issues, but for others as well. Prayer involves listening, interceding for others in need, lifting up the needs of friends, family, strangers, and even enemies.
Prayer doesn’t need to be flowery and verbose. We’re supposed to pray that which is within us, not what we think should be within us.
Another newsflash: We can’t hide anything from God, so why try? When we go to Him in prayer, we should take all of us, the real us, and we should, before God through Jesus Christ our mediator, boldly name our weaknesses, our longings, our cries for others, and for God’s world. That’s what Jesus taught us to do when he taught us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done!”
Prayer is formational in that our longings and desires become reshaped. That’s one of the values of using prayers of the church – to help us find the words and articulate our deepest yearnings. Prayer should be practiced individually and with humility as Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:5-6 when he said,
“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”
Collective or communal or corporate prayer … the act of praying with others was taught by the Apostles to the early church as written in Acts 2:42:
“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.”
The third of our three chief means of grace is the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion also known in some denominations as the Eucharist. We’re going to look at communion on July 4 which happens to be Communion Sunday.
Our worship can also be formative if we are actively participating in it and not merely here as spectators since it incorporates all three of the chief Means of Grace – prayer, Scripture, and communion. The importance here is the difference between participant and spectator.
Worship occurs in the presence of God. When we come to worship as participants instead of spectators. Participants in worship pay attention to and ascribe worth to God and to worshipping Him. Participants in worship are shaped by God as He is encountered in the message and in communion.
Participants in worship are challenged and transformed by the grace of God encountered in worship that sends them in mission to the world. When we’re actively participating in worship, we’re offering ourselves as a sacrifice of “praise and thanksgiving.” We are reminded we are His children, and we offer ourselves to be shaped by His grace.
It’s our understanding of grace that influences how we understand and approach worship. Participants in worship don’t approach worship to be entertained by hearing only the kind of music or hymns they prefer or only hearing messages that itch their scratchy ears and make them feel comfortable in the way they are. Rather, an active participant in worship comes to worship expecting to encounter the transforming grace of God.
It’s through the transformation that occurs as we actively participate in worship and practice the Means of Grace that we are able to carry out the first of the two commandments Christ left us. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s through practicing the Means of Grace that we learn the whys and wherefores of loving God and just how very much He loves us.
In A Room Called Remember, Frederick Buechner wrote, “THE FINAL SECRET, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become, in the end, less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us—loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief. And, loving him, we will come at last to love each other too so that, in the end, the name taped on every door will be the name of the one we love.
“And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you rise.”
And rise we shall, out of the wilderness, every last one of us, even as out of the wilderness Christ rose before us. That is the promise, and the greatest of all promises.”
When we’re faithful to God … even that mustard seed size of faith … when we actively and earnestly work to practice the Means of Grace so that God can transform us, we will know the fulfillment of His promise.
Please join me as we lay our prayers and petitions at God’s feet and ask for His help.
Lord God of all Creation we come to you from our storm-tossed lives to seek your peace; we come to you with our questions and uncertainties, our worries and anxieties, we come to you from our joy and our happiness – each emotion a kaleidoscope of our feeling in life’s changing patterns.
More than all of that we come to you because of what you have done for us in the love of Christ who bought our freedom by his sacrifice on the Cross and showed us new life in his resurrection life. We bless you for the love which has no dimension of length, breadth or height, coming as it does from the perfection of your being. We come to you knowing that sometimes we have received your grace in vain.
We have not relied on your word or wisdom; we have not shown any concern or compassion when we should have; we have not loved our neighbor as we love ourselves. We have remained silent when we should have spoken and spoken when we should have been silent.
We seize the moment to ask you from our discordant lives for yet another chance of hearing you say to us ‘Your sins are forgiven’. May the mark of that forgiveness be your grace in us as we respond with grace and gratitude to your love.
Eternal God as we ask that you accept our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray that from the grace we have received, what we say and what we do will enable those around us to glimpse the life of your Son — who calmed the storm with words which still echo down the centuries, ‘Peace be still’ . . .
Trusting that you always hear us we join now in praying these things in the name of your Son and pray the words he taught us:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by 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, and the power, and the glory forever.”
Friends, hear the Good News:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
A quick reminder that your offerings should be placed in the round container on the table in the Narthex on your way into worship or as you leave, and your Manna Campaign forms should be placed in the bucket labeled “Forms”.
Holy and forgiving God, it is easy for our lives to become singularly focused on our families, yet you call us to a broader understanding of family. We prioritize our money around the needs of our families and especially our children, and you challenge us to a global view of family and to look at all children with the love we look on those who live under our roof. As we give to you, open our eyes to see the wider family; our ears to hear the cries of hurting, hungry children; our hearts to experience the extravagantly generous love you pour down on us. We pray in the name of your son, our brother, Jesus.
Thank you for being with us today. I pray you’ll join us again next Sunday at 11:00 am.
Now hear this benediction:
Go from this place surrounded by the steadying love of God, so that in the face of trial, adversaries, and bullies, you will remember that the Lord who has redeemed you every time before, will do so again. Go in strength and faith to serve God. Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, get your COVID vaccination as soon as you’re eligible. God be with you. Go in grace as Christ’s family for all the world to see. Amen.
- Call to Worship – Michael Saward, The Jubilate Group
- Opening Prayer – Rev. Curry F. Butler, Jr.
- Portions of Message – Rev. Dr. Derek C. Weber, Discipleship Ministries, & Mary Kay Totty, The Upper Room Disciplines
- Portions of Pastoral Prayer adapted from prayers by – Amy Loving, The Worship Closet; Rev. Dr. Mary Catherine Miller
- Pardon – Thirdmill.org
- Benediction – Discipleship Ministries
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If you are able and whether you’re worshipping with us in person or online, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.
Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering. When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Smoky Mountain District
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905
Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!