July 26 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
July 26, 2020


“I Love To Tell the Story”
Song by William G. Fischer. Arranged by Robin Thomas. Performed by Maxine Easom


Pastor Laura Patterson


Sarah Sumners

Opening Hymn

“I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”
Performed at Grace Community Church (Sun Valley, California)

Reading: Matthew 13:31-33, 45-52

Sarah Sumners

Sermon: “Kingdom Change”

The Rev. Laura Patterson


“The Rune of Hospitality”
Arranged and performed by The Dale Warland Singers

‘I saw a stranger yestreen. I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place.

And in the sacred name of the Triune he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones

And the lark said in her song, often often often.
Goes the Christ in stranger’s guise, often often often.
Goes the Christ in stranger’s guise’.

Prayer / The Lord’s Prayer

Sarah Sumners

Closing Hymn

“Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God”
Performed by Marantha! Acoustic


Pastor Laura Patterson


“I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”
Words by Timothy Dwight. Music by Aaron Williams. Performed by Maxine Easom

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Lenten Devotional: Friday, March 2

by Joel Siebentritt

Mark 4: 1-9 (NRSV), The Parable of the Sower: Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Jesus.  What an amazing teacher.

I find myself in the crowd captured by his voice, his presence, trying hard to hear the words he is saying.  I’m using my ears and my memory, mostly so I can take home the lesson and tell other people what I know!

Unfortunately, this rabbi doesn’t make it easy for me to live by rote learning.  His teaching offers no specific formulas for solving problems nor does it give clear direction for how to succeed. Nothing for me to memorize and no information building blocks on which I can stack more in hopes of growing just by knowing.

I’m struggling with impatience … I just want the answer!

There must be something more, something I’m not getting. I can only figure he’s telling me to listen, but to hear differently … to ingest, absorb, let the parable sink in and work its pedagogical magic.  How??

My mental meandering and selfish motives constantly get in the way of paying attention and really hearing with all that I am.

It is for this reason I am grateful for Lent and for our listening theme. It strikes me again that hearing and knowing is OK, but not really the point of Jesus’ teaching. There is much greater power in the parables, beyond all knowing to a transformed way of being.

Later in that chapter of Mark, Jesus explains the parable to his disciples ending with,

And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

Prayer: Loving God, give me ears open enough to hear your healing words and a heart broken enough to accept your will for my life.


Sermon: End of the Line

For most of us, we can sympathize with the frustration of the workers in The Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20: 1-16). Our American and Protestant work ethic tell us that if you work longer hours, if you work harder, then you should get more pay. It’s not fair that someone who shows up later than us gets the same benefit. We’re at one end of the line. And we can’t possibly understand how someone at the other end of the line gets the same treatment.

However, God’s love and mercy is abundant, boundless and unlimited. God’s love is for everyone. And the fact that we become jealous or envious of others who receive God’s love, even though they may not go to church every Sunday demonstrates a personal weakness. Are there some of us for whom the generosity and abundant mercy of God reveals the poverty of our own spirit?

It all depends what end of the line you’re at. But for God, it doesn’t matter.


“End of the Line”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 20: 1-16
Oct. 15, 2017


Sermon: Pagan Piety

In the parable of the two sons, Jesus tells the story of two brothers and their interactions with their father, who asked them both to work in the vineyard. One son said “no,” but later changed his mind and did the work. The other son said, “yes,” but never did the work.

Jesus said it is the son that did the work, despite showing disobedience to his father, that is in favor with God. This is significant because it shows us that despite how we have lived our lives, it is how we walk with God in the future that matters. When someone is baptized, they are filled with the spirit of God, and on that day are determined to live a life of faith and service. We need to not get complacent in our faith, and be transformed every day.

We may go to church every Sunday and think we are good Christians, but it is our daily actions that matter in the eyes of God.

“Pagan Piety”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 21: 23-32
Oct. 8, 2017

For the choir anthem, “I Am With You,” click here.

Sermon: “Gimmie Oil in My Lamp”

In the Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids (Matthew 25: 1-13), Jesus tells the story of five bridesmaids who did not bring extra oil for their lamps, and five bridesmaids who came prepared with extra oil. With the groom running late, by the time he appeared for the celebration, the five bridesmaids without extra oil needed to get more, and they were not welcome back into the celebration.

Like the prepared bridesmaids, this parable instructs us to be prepared to enter into the kingdom of God. Faith gets us to the door, but it’s our preparation — through our good works and service to others — that gets us into the celebration. We should proceed with our lives, doing good works with great joy, because we know the time is coming when we will enter the kingdom of God.

“Gimme Oil in My Lamp”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25: 1-13
Oct. 1, 2017

Sermon: Tell All the Truth, But Tell it Slant

The events of Charlottesville and political aftermath have been difficult for us. Perhaps most difficult for us as a church is to determine how we talk about racism.

Jesus began his ministry by talking with moralism, but as his crowds grew and opposition increased, he changed the method of his preaching by talking in parables. The beauty of parables is that they allow people to come around to the teachings on their own terms. As Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant … the truth must dazzle gradually for all the world be blind.”

In our faith, we believe in transformation. Jesus has faith that people can change. Those high school friends planting the seeds of racism on our Facebook feeds, the uncle who spouts racist rhetoric at the dinner table and even Nazis and white supremacists can change.

What are we to do? The world, more than ever, needs the nonviolent message of Jesus Christ. We ought to be kind to our enemies — those who need to hear the message. Hang in there with those people. Don’t blast with the truth. They can’t handle it. It has to “dazzle gradually.”

There is no depth to the love of God. There is no person who is beyond the light of truth. And if it is not us who shows them the way, then who will?


“Tell All the Truth, but Tell it Slant”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 13: 1-17
Aug. 20, 2017

Sermon: Is God really listening to our prayers?

prayerEver felt like God isn’t listening? You pray and pray, and even act, but sometimes it feels like our prayers are left unanswered.

It’s easy to lose hope, and to stop praying. However, the mystery of prayer is the beauty of prayer. God is with us, every step of the way.


The Word in Song: “Standing in the Need of Prayer”

Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 18:1-8
October 16, 2016

Sermon: Does Jesus really want us to be the shrewd manager?

teachings_of_jesus_31_of_40-_parable_of_the_unjust_steward-_jan_luyken_etching-_bowyer_bibleThe Parable of the Shrewd Manager is one of the more confusing parables in the Bible. On the surface, it seems strange that Jesus would praise the manager who wasted his possessions. But this parable is really about not accumulating our worldly possessions. We live in two worlds — this world and the world of Jesus. May God help us to see that the world of Jesus subverts the income balance sheet of this world.

Sermon *Gospel reading not included, please read below

Luke 16: 1-13
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

“Too Weak to Dig, Too Proud to Beg”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 16: 1-9
Sept. 18, 2016

Who cares about the lost sheep?


Photo by @gracillius, morguefile.com.

The parable of the lost sheep makes no sense to many of us. Why would the shepherd put so much effort into that one sheep, when he has 99 sheep to account for? In God’s eyes, everyone is important. And God seeks every single person. And like the joy the shepherd had when he found the lost sheep, God is joyful when we are found. We are all lost, and we come to church to share in the joy of being found.



“From Raised Eyebrows to Rejoicing (with a Little Risk and Repentance in Between)”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 15: 1-10
Sept. 4, 2015