• Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Opening Hymn – Sweet Hour of Prayer (UMH 496)
  • Affirmation of Faith – A Modern Affirmation (UMH 885)
  • Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Scripture Readings – James 5:13-20 (CEB), Mark 9:38-50 (CEB) – Rev. Val
  • Message: WDJD – Rev. Val
  • Offertory – Rev. Val
  • Doxology (UMH 95)
  • Closing Hymn – Be Thou My Vision (UMH 451)
  • Benediction – Rev. Val


Good morning! For those who’ve worshiped with us before either in-person or online, welcome back. For those who are joining us for the first time this morning, we’re glad you here. Welcome home!

A few quick announcements:

First, the “Worship-by-Phone” service is going to be discontinued. I subscribed to it when we were online only hoping it would provide an option for folks who don’t have internet. It has had relatively little use since we started it, and it is more difficult to set up since we went to livestreaming on Facebook.

Second, I’m also going to discontinue the service I use for reserving the Virtual Fellowship Hall and other appointments. Again, it hasn’t had enough use to make the expense worthwhile.

Third, I will most likely discontinue the Amplify Media subscription in the next 60 days. This is, again, an underused service.

These are not expenses the church is covering. I’ve been paying for these myself and I can always resubscribe to them if a need arises. If you have questions or other ideas, please see me after the service today.

Okay! If you are worshiping online with us and haven’t done so, please consider signing up for our weekly worship bulletin email. There are connection card forms on our Facebook page and on our website that make it easy. We rarely send more than one email per week, but it keeps you up to date on each week’s worship plus upcoming activities and events. Also, don’t forget to check out our app

Save the date!

  • On-going Prayer Vigil
  • October 3, 2021 – World Communion Sunday
  • November 7 – Communion Sunday & All Saints Day
  • November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
God Whispers To Each of Us – Michael Parker

God whispers to each of us: you are my beloved, created in love for love.

My spirit answers, here I am, Lord. Speak to me anew.

Then let us gather, old and young, small and great, to dream God’s dreams, receive God’s power, and do God’s deeds.

Here we are, Lord. Shine the light of your love on us. Kindle your Spirit within us. Work your redeeming will in us, that the world may be one through the power of your love.

Opening Prayer – The Peace We So Desperately Crave
Based on Psalm 1 and James 3:13-4:2, Cynthia A. Bond Hopson, The Africana Worship Book for Year B (Discipleship Resources, 2007), 160

Our Creator and sustainer, we confess that we are not always strong like the trees planted by the water’s edge. Sometimes we are weak and indecisive. When the first big wind comes, we lean and break. We plot revenge instead of letting you fight our battles. By our silence and busyness, we let wickedness and ugliness fester and flourish. Today Lord, forgive us when we covet and lie and when we get caught up in things that displease you. Heal us, direct our paths, and be for us the peace we so desperately crave.


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – A Modern Affirmation (UMH 885)


Creator, when we recognize the blessings you bestow on us, we sing your praises. When we are suffering, we beg you for help. And when our own voices are too loud to hear Your voice, we cry out in rage that you have forsaken us.

Too often we make you into the God we want you to be rather than worship you for the God you are. Too often, we push you into the tiny box built of our biases and fears. Too often when we pray, we strive for the eloquence of the Psalmists or give up entirely because we don’t know what to say.

We are so grateful for your forgiveness, for the sacrifice of your Son, and for the gift of your Spirit to guide and teach us.

We come to you now to lay our petitions and our burdens at the foot of your Son’s cross and ask for your intercession, should it be your will.

We pray for those among us and among our neighbors who suffer any form of illness whether physical, mental, or are sick at heart, those who are suffering, who are grieving, and who are lost.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We pray for those among us who are frustrated, who are angry, who feel inconsolable, who have been misled, misunderstood, mistreated, who feel abandoned, rejected, excluded.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We pray for our nation and its leaders, that they may be reminded of your consistent instructions to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, to welcome the stranger, to do no harm, and that justice rolls down like a river upon all lands and peoples.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We pray for your church, that it may be reminded its allegiance is to you and your Son, and only to you and your Son, and that it reaches out fearlessly to share the Good News and to transform the world.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We pray for your people, for all created in your image, and for all those persecuted in your name.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We pray for our neighbors and our enemies alike.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

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 and oppression in any and all forms

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 5:13-20 (CEB)

If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Mark 9:38-50 (CEB)

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”

Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.

“As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and to be thrown into the lake. If your hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It’s better for you to enter into life crippled than to go away with two hands into the fire of hell, which can’t be put out. If your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It’s better for you to enter life lame than to be thrown into hell with two feet. If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out. It’s better for you to enter God’s kingdom with one eye than to be thrown into hell with two. That’s a place where worms don’t die, and the fire never goes out. Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? Maintain salt among yourselves and keep peace with each other.”

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.

Sometimes it takes a lot of work to align the scriptures with contemporary times, but not today. Today’s passages have everything to do with what’s going on in today’s world. You see in today’s passage from Mark, John reports to Jesus that they had run into someone who was doing some of the same things they’d been doing but, because that person wasn’t part of their group, they’d tried to stop him. Clearly, John’s attitude was that you couldn’t do the things he and the others were doing if you weren’t part of what John considered the “in” group.

Today, we might call that attitude tribalism. In a paper by USC Shoah Foundation called “Why We Hate,” a tribe is defined as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.”

The word, Tribe, often makes us think of indigenous people here, in Africa, or in Latin America. There were many tribes in the Bible, the most well known being the tribes of Israel.  

In modern usage the term can also refer to people who share common ideas and allegiances. Tribalism is defined as “behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.”  

Tribalism isn’t always bad. It can be beneficial, providing a sense of belonging and trust, or of having a network of support. But it can be costly, too. The negative consequences occur when it is used to exclude individuals or groups or to take away their rights, status, and/or independence rising from the perception of a common threat that promotes fear, anxiety, and prejudice, all of which make us more susceptible to fake news, propaganda, and conflict.

A type of tribalism has been going on in the religious world for a long time, arising out of differences of interpretations and traditions. It created the differences between the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, between Catholics and Protestants, between all the various Protestant denominations, and even differences within those denominations, although … most of the contemporary tribalism between and within American Protestantism is driven as much by politics as it is differences of interpretations and traditions. And, it seems now, religious tribalism is driving more and more of our politics.

So, why does that matter?  Well, last Sunday afternoon at District Conference, our superintendent, Rev. Jason Gattis, shared a devotion with us that got me to thinking about things. He also suggested to us that we spend a year focusing on the words of Jesus, of Christ. I’ve been thinking about what he said ever since, and I agree with him. What Christ had to say is imperative and we tend to spend far too little time really focused on what he had to say.  We study Paul, we study the Old Testament prophets and Moses and some of the kings. We don’t focus all that much on Jesus, though, at least not as a whole church.

Oh, we make cute and clever marketing slogans by cherry picking some of his words or, more aptly, the words of Paul or Moses or David or all the others … just enough to fit on a t-shirt. We even invented a whole new phrase that isn’t anywhere in the Bible at all … WWJD. What would Jesus do? And therein lies a big problem because it leaves too much wiggle room. Before we knew it, we had put God in a box with signs on the outside about who could or couldn’t get in the box with him making sure he hated the same people we do, and then we sit around and speculate about what Jesus would do.

What Rev. Gattis was getting at last week was that we need to really look not at what we think Jesus might do in our shoes, but look hard at what Jesus did do. No interpretations of Paul or Peter. No speculation. Just look at what’s going on in our lives, our church, our community, our nation, the world … and then study what Jesus said … or didn’t say about it … what he did … or didn’t do about it … and work from there. What did Jesus do? WDJD.

With regard to John’s suggestion that only those in their group should be able to do what Jesus had given them authority to do, Jesus wasn’t at all pleased and he had a definite answer.  

“Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath slam me. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.

“On the other hand, if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? If someone is doing something good in Jesus name … and I think we can all agree that the person John tried to stop was doing good things … don’t get in their way.

The rest of the passage is a bit harder.

“If your hand or your foot gets in God’s way, chop it off and throw it away. You’re better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.

“Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.”

Obviously we’re not going to cut off our hand or our foot, gouge out one eye, but think of it metaphorically.  What he was saying was to not let our own “tribalism” get in God’s way. To not put God in that “who’s in and who’s out” box. And that makes sense since he traded his own life for the world … not for just the select few in what John considered the “in crowd.”

This is where we are going to focus the remainder of our Pilgrimage … on what Jesus did do because the best way to become better disciples is to learn and emulate what he did. That’s where the passage from James comes in.

There was one thing Jesus did consistently.  He prayed. He prayed before doing things. He prayed with the disciples and with the crowds. He would even go off by himself to pray. He fed people, he healed people, he taught people, and he prayed.

James isn’t trying to interpret what Jesus was saying in this passage. He’s very much reminding us what Jesus did and taught:

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

And then he reminded us what Jesus did when someone was lost, was struggling with their faith, or who had maybe even lost their faith:

If you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

Today, we have an epidemic of people wandering away from God. And we have been commissioned and equipped to do something about that … to go forth and make disciples for the transformation of the world.

So, let’s do what Jesus did, shall we?



Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:

God of the beginning, God of now, and God of what will be; in your claiming us as your own, you have given us the most gracious and powerful invitation – to pray to lift all that weighs on our hearts, with the confidence that you will hear. As we offer gifts to you this morning, we pray that you will dedicate them so that they might bring love, compassion, joy, and mercy to people who are in need. Then remind us that we are not done until we have offered to you the prayers of our hearts. In the name of Jesus, our rock and our redeemer.



We Are Your Children – Curry F. Butler

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. I look forward to and encourage you to join us next Sunday as we and churches around the globe celebrate World Communion Sunday and please know that everyone has a seat at the Lord’s Table in this house of worship!

Now hear this benediction:

Let us go out into the world, understanding that we are not of it, knowing that we are your children and baptized in your Holy Spirit. So let us walk in unity, showing the world that knew not our savior that we are indeed one. We cannot be divided. We cannot be conquered. We will stand together.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen!


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Union Grove UMC
1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737

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