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Sermon and Liturgy for The Seventh Sunday of Easter - Year A
(Ascension Sunday)
Acts 1:1-14; (Isaiah 40:28-31); John 17:1-11
"Living In The Time Between"


READING:  Acts 1:1-14; (Isaiah 40:28-31); John 17:1-11
SERMON :  "Living In The Time Between"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea07se 448000
                  
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

     The sources of the sermon are lost in the midst of time - much, 
     but not all is original.  The story of Pavlov and his dogs is, 
     something passed in to me in a second year Psychology Course and 
     is one experiment that is not generally known by those who know 
     about Pavlov and his bell loving critters.

	 
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 68)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Prepare a way for God.  
   Sing the praises of the one who rides upon the clouds..
P  We will exalt God's holy name and be glad in his presence. 
   We will shout for joy and declare all that the Lord has done.
L  God gives the desolate a home.  He leads prisoners out of
   bondage and richly blesses them.
P  God causes the rain to fall and restores the land.  
   He provides for the needy 
   and delivers those who call upon his name.
L  Blessed be God whose majesty is over Israel
   whose power is in the skies.

           
* INTROIT:  "This Is The Day"   (VU-412 Verse 1)
       
       
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
Lord, we praise you this morning for the love which grants us
freedom and for the grace which allows us to dwell in peace.  We
praise you for the sun that shines upon our endeavours and for
the moon and the stars at night which remind us of your glory. 
We thank you for the many good things that you have bestowed upon
us.  Help us, O God, in this time of worship, and beyond, to have
a heart that exalts in your grace and goodness, lips unafraid to
proclaim your praise, and minds which are focussed on living
according your glorious and living word.  We ask it through
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

    
* HYMN:  "You Servants of God"                           - VU 341

        
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Sharing of Critical Announcements
- The Candle and Candle Holder on the Communion Table today are
donated to St. Andrew's and dedicated to the glory of God in
memory of Elizabeth Amanda Thompson
- Gathering of Prayer Joys and Concerns


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND OUR LORD'S PRAYER
- As gathered during the Sharing and Caring Time


INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated):
  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!  (VU 371 v.2 & refrain)


A READING FROM ACTS 1:1-14
   (NRSV)  In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that
   Jesus did and taught from the beginning {2} until the day
   when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions
   through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
   {3} After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by
   many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days
   and speaking about the kingdom of God. {4} While staying with
   them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait
   there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is
   what you have heard from me; {5} for John baptized with
   water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many
   days from now." {6} So when they had come together, they
   asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the
   kingdom to Israel?" {7} He replied, "It is not for you to
   know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own
   authority. {8} But you will receive power when the Holy
   Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in
   Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the
   earth." {9} When he had said this, as they were watching, he
   was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. {10}
   While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
   suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. {11} They
   said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward
   heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into
   heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into
   heaven." {12} Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount
   called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's
   journey away. {13} When they had entered the city, they went
   to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and
   John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew
   and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and
   Judas son of James. {14} All these were constantly devoting
   themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including
   Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "What We Advertise"
Object:   Bumper Sticker // T-Shirt
Theme:    Witnessing to Christ - What We Advertise
Source:   Self

Good morning....  In the scripture reading you are going to look
at later in your classes Jesus tells us that we are filled with
the Holy Spirit that we will his witnesses - people who tell
others about him - all around the world.  

When I read that I began to think about how a lot of people tell
their friends and their neighbours and everyone else what is
important to them by putting stickers on the bumpers of their
cars or by wearing special T-Shirts.  

Do any of you have a bumper sticker on your family car???   What
does it say????

I have a kind of funny one here that reminds us that all our
ancestors came from far away countries. 

Some people have bumper stickers that say things like - "I Love
My Grandchildren" \\ "I'm Peddling  As Fast as I Can" \\ "I Owe,
I Owe, Its Off To Work I Go".  Can you think of some others???

I remember a sticker that some people had many years ago - it
said "Honk If You Love Jesus" - and  I always honked when I saw
it.   What we put on our cars - and what we wear - like this T-
Shirt that my wife owns -- are ways we have of telling people
things - some of them are important and maybe some are not.  But
we give people messages every day about ourselves and what we
think.

Jesus said that we would be his witnesses - that we would tell
others about him - when the Spirit came to us and filled us. 
That's one of the reasons I became a minister - and one of the
reasons too that I often wear a cross around my neck - so that I
might be able to tell others about Jesus and his love.  He is the
one who can help everyone.

The next time you see a bumper sticker - think of what it is
saying - and ask yourself what it is that you tell people about
yourself and about Jesus, not only by what you do and say, but by
what you wear or what you put on your car.

   LET US PRAY:  "Gracious and loving God - as we travel
   through life -- help us to show others - your love and
   your goodness - and to do all that you ask us to do. -- 
   Amen"


*HYMN:  "It Only Takes A Spark" (Pass It On)             - VU 289


RESPONSIVE READING: "Arise Shine" (Isaiah 60 - VU 886)


A READING FROM JOHN 17:1-11
   (NRSV)  "After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to
   heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son
   so that the Son may glorify you, {2} since you have given him
   authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom
   you have given him. {3} And this is eternal life, that they
   may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you
   have sent. {4} I glorified you on earth by finishing the work
   that you gave me to do. {5} So now, Father, glorify me in
   your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence
   before the world existed. {6} "I have made your name known to
   those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and
   you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. {7} Now
   they know that everything you have given me is from you; {8}
   for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and
   they have received them and know in truth that I came from
   you; and they have believed that you sent me. {9} I am asking
   on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but
   on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.
   {10} All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been
   glorified in them. {11} And now I am no longer in the world,
   but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy
   Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so
   that they may be one, as we are one.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me"               - VU 635


SERMON:  "Living In The Time Between"

   "Gracious God - bless now the words of my lips and the
   meditations of our hearts.  Breath your Spirit into us and
   grant that we may hear and in hearing be led in the way
   you want us to go.  Amen.

There are a lot of people who do not know how to live without
excitement, without stimulation.  Whether it comes from pleasure
- or from crisis - they thrive on activity, on doing things - on
solving problems - on adrenalin.

The time that exists between one crisis or another,
between one activity or another is regarded by them as dead time,
as time that is lost - time that is unimportant, time that
doesn't count.

Even people who are not adrenalin junkies find it difficult sometimes,
difficult to face a period of time in which not much is happening,
a period of time in which they must wait for a promise to be fulfilled,
for an event that they are looking forward to take place.

Today's scripture reading from the Book of Acts tells us how the
disciples found themselves in this kind of situation - how they
found themselves having to face a period in which they would
simply have to wait for Christ's promise to them to come true.

After the resurrection Jesus visited with his disciples on
several occasions.  He taught them, he encouraged them, he
commissioned them to do a job.  Then - on the day of his
ascension into heaven when they were anxiously asking him when
his kingdom would be established, when the next instalment of the
divine plan would take place, he tells them that it is not for
them to know the times or periods established by God - but that
they should go back to Jerusalem and wait, 
   - wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit,
   - wait for the power they would need to witness to him there,
   and in Judea and all of Samaria, and ultimately in all the
   world.

For many, waiting is a dreadful thing.  Just ask any child.
But it doesn't have to be like this.

Living between times, 
   living between occasions in which all of our minds and hearts
   and energy are absorbed in affairs of significance 
can, in fact, be quite wonderful.

It can be - for us - a pause that refreshes - a time in which we
gain strength - a time in which we quietly grow and are prepared
for that which will come next.

I like to read military history.

   When the machine gun was first invented a problem
   developed with it.  It seems that if it was fired
   continuously for a period of time that the barrel would
   heat up and cause the gun to jam - even upon occasion - to
   explode.

   At the beginning two simple solutions were invented to
   overcome this problem.  You could either change the
   barrels - or you could stop firing for a while.

God knows that we too need periods of rest - periods of waiting -
periods in which we can be changed - refreshed - and renewed,
lest we, like those first machine guns, jam up or explode.

And God provides to us periods of time which are times between -
periods in which we can be strengthened and prepared for what is
to come next.

The prophet Isaiah says that 

      those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength,
      they will mount up on wings like eagles,
      the will run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

In this perspective - waiting is a positive thing,
   the time between the making of a promise and its fulfilment
   is a time which is, or can be, highly beneficial to us.

But living in the times between, 
in those times between one phase of our lives and the next,
   - between one job and another,
   - between the time when the first child has married and the
   last has yet to enter school
   - between the period when we have lost one dear friend and
   have yet to find another,
these times can be difficult for us if we do not know how to wait
in the manner recommended by the word of God.

So how should we live in the times between?

FIRST - we need to remember the times in between are meant to be
active times - not passive times; times in which we are meant to
work at that which is at hand - rather than at that which is yet
to come.

When Jesus ascended into heaven before the eyes of his disciples 
to take his place as Lord at the right hand of God the father 
an angel visited them and asked them:

   "Men of Israel - why do you stand looking up toward
   heaven?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into
   heaven, will come in the same manner as you saw him go
   into heaven."

A Russian psychologist by the name of Pavlov who pioneered in the
techniques of conditioning did experiments with dogs.

   He first rang a bell, and then a second later gave them
   some meat.  After doing this a few times - he rang the
   bell - but did not give them the meat.  Even though the
   dogs did not get the meat - they salivated - their whole
   system was geared to receiving meat when a bell rang.

   The experiment proved what Pavlov wanted it to prove -
   that animals - and indeed people could be taught to
   automatically respond to key signals.

   Pavlov next wondered how long a period of time he could
   create between the time of ringing the bell and the time
   when the dogs would salivate.  So he extended the time
   between ringing the bell and giving the dogs meat. 

   It was quite successful - he could ring the bell and have
   the dogs go for quite a long period of time before they
   automatically salivated.

   But Pavlov finally ran into a problem.  It seems that
   after a certain period of time the dogs would not salivate
   as he had hoped they would - instead they would fall
   asleep - and they would do this because their attention
   was so firmly fixed on where the meat was supposed to come
   from after the bell rang that their entire nervous system
   would begin to shut down.  They concentrated so much on
   what they were waiting for that they had no energy left to
   keep themselves awake with.

We are not dogs - our attention is not supposed to be focussed so
much on Christ's return - or on the next thing that we want to
have happen in our lives that we end up forgetting what else is
going on, that we end up falling asleep on the job.

In the times between, 
our eyes are meant to be fixed on the present moment that God has
given us and what it is God wants us to do with it and in it.  

We are called to live now in the way God intended us - rather to
live in the future.

The disciples heeded the word of the angel who asked them why
they were looking up toward heaven -- and they returned to
Jerusalem as they had been commanded and waited there for his
promise to them to be fulfilled.  

And while they waited - they devoted themselves to prayer.

Which leads to the SECOND important part of learning how to live
in the times between: - namely in those times we are called to
live as Christ has shown us how to live - in obedience and in
connection with Him and the Father.

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:  

       Let us, then, be up and doing,
       With a heart for any fate; 
       Still achieving, still pursing,
       Learn to labour and to wait.

When the disciples returned to Jerusalem - they stayed together -
in fact they joined themselves with the rest of those who
believed in Jesus, with Mary and his brothers and many others,
and they sought to be one as Christ had prayed that they would
be.

They stayed together and they prayed - and in so doing, they
prepared themselves for the job Jesus had told them that they
would do when the Holy Spirit came upon them as he had promised
it would.

In times between people often do take the opportunity to prepare
themselves for what is supposed to happen next.

Between jobs they may go back to school,
Between relationships they may enter into counselling,
Between seasons of endeavour they may sit down and actually relax
and rest so that they have the strength to go on.

There are many ways to prepare for what we believe is coming
next, but in the end - for those who are seeking to do God's will
and to see God's promises come true in their midst, prayer is of
central importance. 

As Jesus told the disciples

   "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon
   you - and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all
   Judea and Samaria - and to the ends of the world"

Prayer and devotion to the mind and will of God is of central
importance because it is this which prepares us for the gift of
the Holy Spirit - it this which allows us to be open to the power
the Spirit bestows.
 
We all know about gimmicks, quick ways to improve your body or mind:
   99 practical solutions to improve your marriage 
   or to create a better business or build a bigger church; 
but the real solution lies not in these kinds of gimmicks but in
having God's Spirit work through you.  

It is the Holy Spirit which enabled and guided the ministry of
the disciples, and it is the Holy Spirit which enables and guides
our own ministry as his followers, our own witness to Christ --
indeed it is the Spirit, and only the Spirit, which allows us to
be fruitful with our lives.

As the word of God says - it is the spirit which gives life...  

Our task in the times between -
   - whether it is a time between what is obviously one work of
   God and another,
   - or simply a time between one event in our daily lives and
   another
is to make ourselves ready to be used of the Spirit; 
that Spirit which may come, as it does so often - sooner than we
think.

How do we live in the times between?

   First - we need to remember in the times between to focus
   on what is happening now, not on what is going to happen
   later.

   Second - we need to be follow the commands of God and keep
   connected with him through devoted prayer so that we are
   strengthened and prepared -

And Third - and last for today - in the times between - we need
to trust and have confidence that what has been promised to us by
God will come to pass.
   - whether that promise is of a spiritual gift,
   - or a promise of comfort and of a new life
   - or a promise to bless us and use us in some particular way
in his service.

We need the confidence, not because our confidence will change
the outcome - what God promises to us will come to pass; 
No - we need this confidence because when we have it we open
ourselves up to the peace of God and the other blessings that God
has for us - right now - now in the time between all those other
promises and the time of their fulfilment.

To return to Isaiah's words - those words that say - 

      those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength,
      they will mount up on wings like eagles,
      the will run and not be weary,
      they shall walk and not faint.

Notice in this promise the words - will and shall -
and the total lack of modifiers in front of them.

It is not - they who wait for Lord might renew their strength,
it is not - maybe they will walk and not faint -
it is - they will renew their strength
and - they shall walk and not faint..

Unconditional promises - attached to a simple statement of
condition - the condition which says  - They who wait for the
Lord -    or as it says in the King James - they who wait upon
the Lord.

In the times between,
the times of waiting,
trust in the Lord to come through,
remember his resurrection and his ascension into heaven to be at
the right hand of God,
remember what he has done for you in the past
and wait for the next act - the next promise to come true with a
firm hope.

Trust in the Lord - not in other things - and live today - this
day - as he asks you to, connected to him and to his word by
prayer and meditation with your brothers and  sisters - and in
holy obedience whether alone - or at work.  

Praise Be To God, day by day.  Amen 


PRAYERS OF THE DAY
Master of the sea, Lord of heaven and of earth, we come before
you today deeply aware of those things you have done for us --
deeply aware of the love that you have not only for us - but for
all people - and deeply aware - from the stories of our
neighbours - and the descriptions in our newspapers and during
the nightly News - of how people need to turn to you and to
receive your love with hands raised high toward you.  We pray O
God for our witness to them as believers - help us to use the
power you have given us to share what we have found in word and
in deed....  Lord hear our prayer....

We thank you, O God, for the church, for those you have called
together for the purpose of worship and mutual encouragement -
for the purpose of teaching and learning about you - for the
purpose of prayer and of care for each other and for the world. 
Truly, O God we find solace among one another, we find your
presence and the peace that it brings.  We pray O God that as a
church,  we would use the power you have given us to go out into
the world - and to fulfill our calling as your people....  Lord,
hear our prayer....

We ask these things, and we praise you and bless your holy name -
through Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour   Amen..


HYMN: "How Firm A Foundation"                            - VU 660


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all
stand for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow -
VU 541) and Prayer of Dedication

   Continue here, O God, the work through Christ begun - use
   these symbols of our love, and make our faith and service
   one.  Amen


* HYMN: "Praise Our Maker"                               - VU 316


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people
   of God, the body of Christ.
                                 
                      
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace; 
- and may the Spirit of God fill you 
   and use you according to God's most Holy Will;
- may the Word of God direct you
   and nourish your heart with joy and wisdom 
- and may Christ our Lord so dwell within you 
   that all your actions and words witness to his grace and his
   love and so bring eternal praises to God's name 
both now and forevermore -- Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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