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Sermon (2) and Liturgy on The Gospel for Ordinary 22 - Proper 17 - Year A
Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
"In The Way or On The Way"


READING:  Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
SERMON :  "In The Way or On The Way"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or22sn 684000
                  
   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.
   
   Part of the Prayers of The People is taken and modified
   from John Maynard's (maynard@SYMPAC.COM.AU) "Prayers and
   Litanies for Ordinary 22" as sent to the PRCL-List, August
   1999).  Using Google I tried in 2005 to locate the source of the
   St. Augustine quote found in the sermon (first taken from a 
   sermon illustration journal many years ago) but could not find 
   the quote.  It seems that online at least, ours is the oldest
   citation of what may be an apocryphal reference?


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
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  Praise the Lord and give thanks to Him for all his mercies.  
P  We will tell everyone what God has done! 
L  Sing to the Lord and glory in his holy name.  
P  We will rejoice and worship God with all our heart.
L  Draw near to God and be made strong by his presence.
P  We will rest ourselves in God and do all that he asks.


* INTROIT: "This Is The Day" (VU-412, verse 1)


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
Gracious God - we thank you for all you have done for us and for
all that you continue to do.  We thank you for the privilege of
work and the pleasure of play - for the love we have received -
and the love we have been able to give - for the honour of being
your witnesses and the joy of being your servants.  There is so
much, O God, you have done and made it possible for us to do.  We
praise you Father for being our God and for calling us to be your
people.  Bless, we pray, this time of worship - use it in such a
way that you may be honoured and that we might hear your word and
in hearing it - do it -- both in this place and beyond.  We ask
it in the name of our crucified and risen Lord.  Amen


* HYMN: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks"            - VU 179


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
Gathering in of prayer joys and concerns.


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 ROMANS 12:9-21
   (NRSV)  Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to
   what is good; {10} love one another with mutual affection;
   outdo one another in showing honour. {11} Do not lag in zeal,
   be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. {12} Rejoice in hope, be
   patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. {13} Contribute to
   the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
   {14} Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse
   them. {15} Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those
   who weep. {16} Live in harmony with one another; do not be
   haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be
   wiser than you are. {17} Do not repay anyone evil for evil,
   but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. {18}
   If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live
   peaceably with all. {19} Beloved, never avenge yourselves,
   but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written,
   "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." {20} No,
   "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty,
   give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap
   burning coals on their heads." {21} Do not be overcome by
   evil, but overcome evil with good.

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


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Getting Even (The Christian Way)"
Object:   None
Theme:    Blessing Your Enemies
Source:   Self

How many of you here today have brothers and sisters?  Do you
ever get angry at them?  Why???

Our brothers and sisters can sometimes hurt us - and so can other
people.  When they do we  get angry - and sometimes we want to
get even.  Some people even dream about what they would like to
do to get even.  There are even proverbs about getting even -
like this one "Revenge is a dish best served cold".

Getting even satisfies something deep within us - but only for a
very short time - because those we get even with then try to get
even with us.  The bible says that the followers of Christ should
not  try to get even - but rather let God take revenge for us. 
And God will.

The Christian way - is - if your enemies are hungry to feed them
- thirsty to give them something to drink - and then there is a
promise made to us - over and above the promise that God will
take revenge for us - and it is this

When we do good to our enemies it is like piling burning coals
upon their heads.

Imagine that!!!  How awful that must be.  Burning coals - by
doing good to our enemies instead of doing evil - by loving them
instead of hating them - by blessing them instead of cursing
them.  What more could a person ask for as punishment if that is
all you are seeking??   Love your enemies.  Do good to those who
despitefully use you.

Remember my friends the word of God - it says this "Don't let
evil defeat you.  But defeat evil with good".  


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Lord God - Help us to love one another - to bless our enemies -
   and to do good things - for those who hate us - and to trust 
   you - to do what is right - on the day of judgement. - We ask it 
   in Jesus' name.   Amen

And in the word's Jesus taught us, let us pray:

   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; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


HYMN:  "Come, Children, Join To Sing"                    - VU 345


A READING FROM MATTHEW 16:21-28
   (NRSV)  From that time on, Jesus began to show his
   disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great
   suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and
   scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
   {22} And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him,
   saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to
   you." {23} But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind
   me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are
   setting your mind not on divine things but on human
   things." {24} Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want
   to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take
   up their cross and follow me. {25} For those who want to
   save their life will lose it, and those who lose their
   life for my sake will find it. {26} For what will it
   profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their
   life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
   {27} "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the
   glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for
   what has been done. {28} Truly I tell you, there are some
   standing here who will not taste death before they see the
   Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

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


* HYMN: "Take Up Your Cross"                             - VU 561


SERMON:  "In The Way or On The Way"

   Let us Pray:  Lord - so often we rely upon our own wits -
   our own understanding of things - and we sin -- for our
   minds are weak - our interest in ourselves strong.  So it
   is that we pray that we might love you even more than we
   love ourselves - that you would guide the words of my lips
   and the meditations of our hearts - at this time - and in
   the days that lie ahead of us.  Amen

Using a variety of Biblical translations for your daily devotions
can be very helpful.

There is a translation that I use from time to time, 
the Contempary English Version
   - for speaking - and it works well - 
   - for listening - and it is great
   - most of all refreshing wording - makes you think anew about
what the passage says.

COMPARE this from today reading - in the NIV 
   23  Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!
   You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the
   things of God, but the things of men."

Or the Good News
   23 Jesus turned around and said to Peter, "Get away from me,
   Satan!  You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts
   of yours don't come from God, but from man."

To this (CEV)
   23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Satan, get away from me! 
   You're in my way because you think like everybody else and
   not like God."

Each is a little different - but the power - and the naturalness
of expression - and what is therefore  most likely closest to how
Jesus would say things to us today if he were here today with us 
- is the CEV.  Satan, get away from me!  You're in my way -
because you think like everybody else and not like God.

Isn't that our problem today --
- we have millions of people - many of them in the church -
who think like everybody else rather than like God

     being served  vs  serving       (Look down on "service
                                     industry")
     winning       vs  working       (Lottery)
     rights        vs  responsibility   (children at school and in
                                      the courts)
     being loved   vs  loving        (Turning love into a bargain)

Love is not a bargain
It is not something we earn - or have a right to
it is a something that we are given freely by God
and that God wants us to freely give.

We have problems - not because other people cause us problems -
that goes without saying
We have problems - because we think like everybody else - we
think the way Satan wants us to think.  And so we get in the way
of Christ - in the way of his power - in the way of his miracles.

Look at the scripture today -- Poor Peter
   - only wanted to tell Jesus that God would not let him suffer
   - only wanted Jesus to stop talking so morbidly 
   - only wanted to say that bad things do not happen to good
   people especially when they are as good as Jesus -
   - he only wanted to protect Jesus - to make him feel better -
   to assure him - and he gets shot down.

He gets shot down because he misses the facts about Jesus -
   even though Peter believes Jesus is the son of God
       even though he believes that Jesus is the Messiah - the
       promised one
          even though he is willing to obey Jesus and follow him
          anywhere
Peter misses the fact that God's law is different than human law
that God thinks and works differently than us
so differently in fact that Jesus - as the son of God - had to
die - for us - to show us how us how things really work.

He died for us to show us how it really works
He died for us to save us from our own sinfulness
He died for us to show us that death has no dominion
and that what we need to fear most of all is not death 
- but what happens to us both before and after death.

   "What will you gain if you own the whole world - but
   destroy yourself?  What would you give to get back your
   soul?"  (Verse 26)

What can we give??
There is nothing.
But there is one who has given everything - for us....that we
might have our souls back -
   - the one whom Peter took aside to chide for his attitude
   - the one whom Peter wanted to shut up when he spoke of what
   was necessary, of what would happen to him because of human
   sin - and because of the love that God has for us .....

The temptations of Jesus did not end in the desert my friends
   they did not end after the 40 days and 40 nights of wandering
   in the wilderness
they continued each day - as they do for us -
   especially as - as it is for us - when he considered what he
   would have to endure to keep his promises and to prove
   himself faithful and loving.

It is hard to love when love demands everything -- is not my
friends.  The last thing we need is someone telling us that there
is an easier way.

Satan, get away from me!  You're in my way - because you think
like everybody else and not like God.

How do we think?
If a pollster came today - if Allen Greg or Reginald Bibby stood
in this sanctuary and asked us questions about life and politics
and sex and business and religion - would we answer them any
differently than those people who are not in this assembly today
- than those people who are not in a church anywhere at any time?

Survey says -- because it has been done - that most of us think
like everybody else.  And we wonder what is wrong with the church
we wonder what is wrong in our own lives...

I am sure Peter meant well when he took Jesus aside and told him
to stop talking about his death
but he didn't understand the ways of God 
      - and all too many of us don't understand God's ways either 
      - and that is why the fire has gone out of so many churches 
      - and that is why the fire has gone out in so many of us
- it's gone out because we are IN THE WAY instead of ON THE WAY.
- because we've fallen into the habit of thinking like everybody
else instead of thinking like God.

Hear these words afresh

   Then Jesus said to his disciples -- "If any of you want to
   be my followers, you must forget about yourself.  You must
   take up your cross and follow me.  If you want to save
   your life, you will destroy it.  But if you give up your
   life for me, you will find it."  (Verse 24-25)

We are in the dying business
It is our job - our duty - and most of all our need - to die -
   God wants it for us - and we need it to happen to us -
       if we are really to discover what living is all about.
   
The bible wants us - God wants - Jesus wants us - to be SELF
DESTRUCTIVE  
   -- not in the sense of going out on the highway and driving
   at 100 mph
   -- not in the sense of doing up drugs with dirty needles and
   having unprotected sex
but in the sense of forgetting about our needs and wants and
desires and becoming more concerned about the needs and wants of
others, and most of all about the desires of God - the
commandments of God - the love of God; those things which are
good and also eternal.

It is said that St. Augustine - (5th century)

   was accosted one day on the street by a former mistress
   some time after he had become a Christian.  When he saw
   her he turned and walked the other way.  Surprised, the
   woman called out, "Augustine, it is I".  Augustine as he
   kept going the other way, answered her, "Yes, but it is
   not I."

It is an amusing story -  one that come close to making the same
point the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made when he
wrote "When Christ calls a man to follow him, he calls him to
die".

Have you died lately?
Have you given up something for God?
Have you given up something important to you for someone else
   - for some poor person  -  for some insignificant one - for
   some pest - some annoyance - for some beggar on the street

Have you given up something really important to you
something you really valued
so that some wretch who did not deserve it could enjoy it?

That is what Jesus did for us on the cross.

That is what Jesus wants us to do for ourselves - and for others
and for him when he says  

   "If you want to be my followers you must forget
   yourselves, you must take up your cross and follow me."

Are you in the way or are you on the way?

It is an important question.  A question upon which our life -
our death - and our rebirth hangs...

I know that it is not a popular thing to day to talk about dying
these days - and that most people in our society do not think it
is possible to lose one's soul - that most have got the idea that
somehow everyone is going to be OK - especially of course
ourselves -- that we can not suffer any loss -- but that is not
the viewpoint that God has.

God knows that is possible for us to gain the whole world - and
yet lose our souls; that it is possible for us to be so intent
upon living - upon earning - upon surviving - upon enjoying that
we die the eternal death.

He knows that - and that is why he came to us in Jesus --
   to show the way to eternal life -
   to open the doors of heaven to those who want them opened -
   to break down the barriers created by sin - and lead us from
death to life.

Are we in the way of Jesus - or on the way that he has prepared
for us?

Do we think like everybody else - or do we think like God?

Jesus implores us to stop think like the world thinks
to stop thinking like humans think
and to start thinking like God thinks.

That is why you are here today -
at least I hope it is the reason you are here today.
   
You are here to so that you might think like God thinks

You are here to worship God 
   and to learn what the Word of God says -- so that you might
   live by that word   (HOLD BIBLE)
       to learn what the mind of Christ is -- so you might put on
       that mind 
          to become the kind of person who actually does strange
          things like blessing those who mistreat them and
          loving those who hate them.
   
Our way my friends - is the way of Christ -
our way is the way the cross -
   the way of emptying ourselves so that we might be filled
   the way of humbling ourselves so that we might be exalted
the way of opening our arms to the power of death so that we
might be raised to newness of life.

Are you in the way of Christ or on the way of Christ?
Are you decreasing so that he might increase in you?

These are questions that we will explore in the coming weeks  as
we work together to become what God wants to be - a vibrant and
loving and caring community - a people who shine with his light
and declare - with our words and our lives - all the wonderful
things that God has done.


* HYMN: "O Love, How Deep"                               - VU 348


PRAYER OF THE DAY 
O God, we thank you for your love, a love seen in your Son who
chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.  Humble us
by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us
strength to follow his commands.  Help us diminish so you might
increase;     to die to self to come to life for you; to empty
ourselves so that you might fill us with your Spirit and your
power....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Bless the ministry of church that we might be a truly servant people,
a people concerned more with how to reach out to others
   than how to survive as a congregation
a people concerned more with how to love our neighbours
   than how to obtain a larger sanctuary
a people concerned more with how to bring glory to your name,
   than how to meet our financial obligations.
   Remind us Lord of the thousands of people in the world this year
   who will give up their freedom, their opportunities, indeed
   their very lives for your sake and for the sake of the gospel
   and grant us the zeal and the faith that they show... Lord,
   hear our prayer....

Lord, we remember before you today those who are persecuted and
those who are killed because they claim your name   we especially
hold before you those who follow your path in India and in China
today....  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, we remember before you those who are persecuted and those
who are killed because they speak for truth and for justice in so
many nations around the world this day....  Lord, hear our
prayer...

Lord, we remember before you the innocent ones of our world -
those who have choices - the poor, the hungry, the sick....  Lord
hear our prayer...

We hold before you, as well this day, those of our own community
who are in need....  BIDDING PRAYER... Lord, hear our prayer....

We ask you to hear all our prayers, O God, in the name of the one
who taught us to pray to you as one family.  Amen


* 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

   Bless and multiply these the tithes and offerings of your
   people, O God, so that others may be fed with the bread of
   earth and of heaven and so that your name may be glorified
   both now and forevermore.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN: "O Master Let Me Walk With Thee"       - VU 560


* 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 - love and care for one another in the name of Christ
and may The Lord bless you and keep you, 
may the Lord make his face to shine upon you 
and be gracious unto you, 
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, 
now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREEFOLD 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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