ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: This Is Our Father’s World (UMH 144)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- Creed: A Modern Affirmation (UMH 885)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: When the Poor Ones (UMH 434)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Hymn: There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy (UMH 121, sung to UMH 331)
- Message: We Hold These Truths – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Be Present at Our Table, Lord (UMH 621)
- Service of Holy Communion
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scripture readings and the message. The majority of the other content (minus the message) is available through our weekly digital/email bulletin (you can sign up on our Contact Us page). Union Grove UMC began celebrating Holy Communion weekly as part of our regular worship service on July 17, 2022. You are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*All scriptures today are from the NRSV.
2 Kings 5:1-14 – Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.
Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.
And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.
Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”
But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!
Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.
But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16 – My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.
All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time if we do not give up.
So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised–only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!
As for those who will follow this rule–peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 – After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”
He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – We Hold These Truths …
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, signed by the founding fathers of this nation on July 4, 1776.
In many places this weekend, someone will stand up in front of a crowd and recite full Declaration of Independence – the document that thumbed the collective noses of those who would become We the People at the British government. There will be cheers shouted, flags waved, and anthems sung as the birthday of the nation is celebrated with parades, barbecues, and fireworks.
Twenty-nine of my ancestors served in the subsequent War of the Revolution. While most were military – privates, corporals, Captains, even one regiment drummer and one Army surgeon.
They did this for love of country and to be free of the shackles and oppression of the Empire. They did this to be able to worship as they chose, even if they chose not to worship at all. They did it to be free.
In today’s passage from 2nd Kings, we hear about Namaan. Namaan was the top commander for King Hazael of Aram. God had the prophet, Elijah … you remember Elijah and Elisha from last week, right? … God told Elijah to anoint Hazael the king of Syria. Later, Elisha prophesied about the atrocities Hazael would one day commit against the Israelites which, of course, Hazael adamantly denied that he would do so. Eventually, though, Hazael and the Arameans would go to war with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, ultimately defeating both at Ramoth-Gilead. In those days, you didn’t fight to free yourself from the Empire. The war was for conquest, for land. Once you gained control of the land, you – if you were the ruler of the conquering side – determined the laws under which everyone in your kingdom lived.
Namaan’s story comes before the battle at Ramoth-Gilead. The Israelites – both those in Israel and those in Judah – were hanging on by threads. The Arameans were between sieges, so Namaan, who suffered from leprosy had some free time. At the behest of his wife based on information she received from the Israeli servant girl – a “spoil” of some battle or another – Namaan went to see King Hazael to ask his permission both to leave for a time and to ask that Hazael provide something that would motivate King Jehoram of Israel to give Namaan what he was after – the cure for his leprosy.
Namaan’s leprosy must have been easy to keep fairly well hidden. After all, lepers were considered unclean by all nations. You don’t get people to follow you into battle if they think you’re weak and leprosy would be considered a weakness – which might explain why Namaan was such a strong commander. He probably channeled his frustration into an intimidating strong arm leadership style that showed little patience and even less mercy. His bad temper was certainly clear in today’s passage as was his arrogance and ego. He was Namaan; commander of all the armies of King Hazael of Aram. No one, and especially no Israelite like that upstart Elisha refuses to come out when ordered to do so. Worse, no Israelite tells Namaan to go take a bath. In a river known for its lack of cleanliness.
The story of Namaan and Elisha is an example of Empire versus a faithful follower of God. Namaan does his best to use the Empire to get Elisha to comply. Elisha, faithful to God only, stands strong for the church. He doesn’t go out to Namaan. He doesn’t need to. He just sends a message to Namaan about getting his leprosy cured. He sticks to his faith. It’s the story of a lot of faith – the faith of the servant girl in gathering the courage to tell her mistress about Elisha as well as faith that, in doing so, no harm would come to Elisha. The faith of those among Namaan’s servants and aides traveling with him that whatever Elisha told Namaan to do, Namaan should go do and stop mincing about it.
We don’t know if, when he was cured by following Elisha’s instructions, whether he saw the light and began to believe in the God of the Israelites or not. But that’s not the only point. Another point is that, in the end, the representative of the Empire followed the advice of the representative of God and was cured. God is faithful, even to those who don’t yet know Him.
In our nation today, there is a move by some to not just advise the Empire – they seek to have the Empire put their beliefs into laws that everyone must follow. It’s pretty clear from Namaan’s story that God doesn’t force or even enforce. Namaan had a choice – do what God says and be healed, or don’t do it and continue to suffer from the illness of leprosy.
The passage from Galatians is a little different. In this passage, Paul is telling the church in Galatia how not to be a Namaan. Do it right, he says. If one of your buddies is messing up, don’t come down on them like a hammer. Be gentle. Talk them through and out of whatever it is and don’t you get tempted to participate in whatever your buddy is doing that messed him or her up. Help one another! Don’t worry if your neighbor isn’t doing an equal amount of work. Worry about you and leave your neighbor out of it. And mind you, don’t be fooled. You reap what you sow. Sow hate, you’ll get hate. Sow love, you’ll get love. Sow good seeds. Sow good seeds to the Spirit.
If we pay attention to this “doing what is right” thing, we won’t get tired, and our work of making disciples for Christ will be fruitful. Don’t give up. Keep trying. Work for the good of all – and it’s okay to ask for an extra portion for you Pastors and officers. And don’t brag about it. Just do it for God – regardless of whether it’s seen or heard from again.
This is one passage from Paul that we should pay more than a little attention to. The world has plenty of Namaans right now. We could use more love, less judgment, and more doing what is right.
And then there’s the passage from Luke. The instructions Jesus gave to 70 of his followers. Jesus saying to them, “Here’s how I want you to behave out there. Give everyone you encounter an equal chance. Don’t force anyone. If you’re message is accepted, great! If it isn’t, wipe your feet on the way out and move on. You need to do this without money or supplies. You need to learn to rely on, to trust, strangers. Don’t insult your hosts. Accept what they give you with humility and grace. Take care of folks that need care. And whatever you do, remember who you’re doing it for – for God.
We hold these truths to be self-evident … the truth in these passages … the lessons on what … and what not to do … these are the truths we should hold and hold tightly. They’re also not rocket science when you think about it in that the tasks set forth in them are not hard to do.
And yet … we live in a world where secular segregation is regaining steam. We’ve got far too many Namaan wannabes running around on behalf of the Empire. There are far too many poor, too many homeless, too many … many. And there is far too much of the Empire invading the church and too much of the church trying to take up a seat at the Empire’s table instead of at the Lord’s. And that, brothers and sisters, is a problem. We have way too many in our beloved community that are putting the Empire first and the church last. It’s time to change that up … time to tell the Empire to go back to its house.
And we need to continue to be the Church that God designed, Christ built, and the Spirit guides. We need to stick up and stand up for one another and for our neighbors and everyone else. We need to stick together, be a community of Jesus-believing Christians. We need to at minimum double down on our efforts to reach out to others for the making of disciples of Christ because, after the two commandments, making disciples was his directive to us. We need to stress that diversity is okay for the sake of the body of Christ.
As Henri Nouwen wrote:
“Together we are more beautiful…
“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.
That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say: “I make God visible.” But others who see us together can say: “They make God visible.” Community is where humility and glory touch.”
We need to tell the Empire that this space where our allegiance is to God, Christ, and Spirit. We need to continue to avoid, restrain ourselves from, or in any other way embrace “Christian Nationalism. About that, a friend of mine shared a post from Rev. Stephanie Lape of Cross and Crown Lutheran church. It goes like this:
“We don’t live in a “Christian nation,” but in a nation that is on record to support religious freedom and pluralism. We live in a relatively new social experiment. As a Christian and a pastor, I would most definitely not prefer to live in a “Christian nation.” Theocracies go horribly wrong and are characteristically unloving and oppressive to any who question the system or think otherwise. Look at Ancient Egypt, Europe of the Middle Ages, places in modern day Middle East like Saudi Arabia, etc. Read pretty much any dystopian novel, like Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Brave New World, etc. The stronger and surer we humans enforce religious law, the more we move away from love. It is predictable.
Christians are clearly asked to support love as the primary value. Read the Gospels. There is no denying Jesus values love above labels, law, and coercive force.
In the social experiment of the United States, we must keep religion and state in their separate spaces. To do so allows for respect, for freedom, and truly for the love that Christians are asked to demonstrate to all people.
God does not need to be “defended.” We don’t need to be on any “winning team” scoring political victories for God, over and against other people, other children of God. Again, read the Gospels. See what Jesus thought about legalism and “us vs. them” thinking.
The United States is not a Christian nation, but it is a perfect place to practice your faith if you happen to be a Christian, practice the one job we are asked to pick up — love. It involves trust in the process, trust in God, compassion and kindness for fellow human beings, and truly allowing the freedom that this country values.”
- All works cited within the text above.
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