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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 27 - Proper 22 - Year A
(World Wide Communion Sunday)
Exodus 20:1-20 and Matthew 21:33-46
"The Law and the Grace of God"


READING:  Exodus 20:1-20 and Matthew 21:33-46
SERMON :  "The Law and The Grace of God"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or27smsu 508000
                  
   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.   


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 19)
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  The law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul.
P  The commands of the Lord are trustworthy, 
   giving wisdom to those who lack it.
L  The judgements of the Lord are just; they are always fair.
P  They are more desirable that the finest gold;
   they are sweeter than the purest honey.
   They give knowledge to his servants.
   In keeping them there is great reward.


* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (VU-315, verse 1)


* PRAYER OF APPROACH AND CONFESSION
L  Holy and gracious God, as we gather - enlarge our hearts that
   they may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love
   and expansive enough to embrace others and show that love to
   all.  Refresh us and make us new by the power of your Spirit. 
   Lead us in holiness, and show us the way of your grace and
   your mercy, your law and your righteousness - that we, with
   our brothers and sisters around the world, may shine with the
   light of Christ Jesus our Lord.
P  Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you
   in thought, word and deed - by what we have done and by what
   we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole
   heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.  We are
   truly sorry and we humbly repent.
   ................ (silent prayer) ...............
L  Lord God, have mercy upon us according to your promise.
P  For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, touch us and make us
   whole.  Amen
     

* ASSURANCE OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS
Brothers and sisters in Christ -- God does not deal with us
according to our sins, nor requite us according to our
inequities.  Rather the steadfast love of the Lord is from
everlasting to everlasting upon those who love him.

Therefore, in the name of Christ I tell you - your sins are
forgiven.  Give thanks to God and praise his wonderful name. 
Amen

       
* Sung Response (VU 948):   
   O Lord, hear my prayer.  O Lord, hear my prayer; when I call answer me.
   O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer; come and listen to me.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS

   Announcements

   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 EXODUS 20:1-20
   (NRSV)  Then God spoke all these words: {2} I am the LORD
   your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of
   the house of slavery; {3} you shall have no other gods before
   me. {4} You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in
   the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on
   the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
   {5} You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the
   LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the
   iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation
   of those who reject me, {6} but showing steadfast love to the
   thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my
   commandments. {7} You shall not make wrongful use of the name
   of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who
   misuses his name. {8} Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it
   holy. {9} Six days you shall labour and do all your work.
   {10} But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God;
   you shall not do any work--you, your son or your daughter,
   your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien
   resident in your towns. {11} For in six days the LORD made
   heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but
   rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the
   Sabbath day and consecrated it. {12} Honour your father and
   your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that
   the LORD your God is giving you. {13} You shall not murder.
   {14} You shall not commit adultery. {15} You shall not steal.
   {16} You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
   {17} You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall
   not covet your neighbour's wife, or male or female slave, or
   ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
   {18} When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning,
   the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were
   afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, {19} and said to
   Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let
   God speak to us, or we will die." {20} Moses said to the
   people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you
   and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin."

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


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Rules For Cats and For People"
Object:   None   
Theme:    God's Law is Designed To Make Us Better People
Source:   Self

Who here has a cat or two at their home???  Tell me, are they
very obedient???  Do they do what you want???

Most cats don't do what we want them to do.  According to some
people this is because cats have their own special cat rules -
and they always follow them - because they are rules made
specially for cats by cats...  What do you think???  I would like
to share with you today some rules that I think you will find to
be quite funny.  They are rules for cats - and as you will see
they most likely were made up by cats.

1.)    Life is hard, then you nap. 
2.)    Curiosity never killed anything except may a few hours.
3.)    When in doubt, cop an attitude.
4.)    Variety is the spice of life - one day ignore people, the
       next day annoy them.
5.)    Climb your way to the top - that's what the drapes are for.
6.)    Never sleep alone when you can sleep on someone's face.
7.)    Find your place in the sun - especially if it happens to be
       on a nice pile of warm, clean, laundry.
8.)    When eating out, think nothing of sending back your meal
       twenty or thirty times.
9.)    Make your mark in the world - or at least in each corner of
       the house.
10)    Always give generously - a small mouse left on the bed or in
       a shoe tells them: "I love you."

Cats seem to live by these rules don't they...  They certainly
don't live by our rules.  Today, you heard another  set of rules
read out - rules that were made especially for us -- does anyone
know their name???

The ten commandments....  These are special rules made by God for
us.  Just as cat rules help cats be the best kind of cats that
they can be -- so the commandments of God are given to us to help
us become the best people that we can be.  When we keep these
rules God is very pleased and so are all the people around us.

   LET US PRAY --- HOLY AND LOVING GOD -- WE THANK YOU FOR
   THE RULES -- THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN US -- AND FOR THE LOVE --
   THAT YOU ALWAYS SHOW US. -- HELP US TO LIVE IN THE WAY --
   THAT YOU WANT ALL PEOPLE TO LIVE -- AND TO LOVE YOU AND
   THE WHOLE WORLD -- WE ASK IN THE NAME OF JESUS -- AMEN.


* HYMN:  "One More Step Along The World I Go"            - VU 639


A READING FROM MATTHEW 21:33-46
   (NRSV)  "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who
   planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press
   in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants
   and went to another country. {34} When the harvest time had
   come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his
   produce. {35} But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one,
   killed another, and stoned another. {36} Again he sent other
   slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the
   same way. {37} Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They
   will respect my son.' {38} But when the tenants saw the son,
   they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill
   him and get his inheritance." {39} So they seized him, threw
   him out of the vineyard, and killed him. {40} Now when the
   owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those
   tenants?" {41} They said to him, "He will put those wretches
   to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants
   who will give him the produce at the harvest time." {42}
   Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures:
   'The stone that the builders rejected has become the
   cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in
   our eyes'? {43} Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will
   be taken away from you and given to a people that produces
   the fruits of the kingdom. {44} The one who falls on this
   stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on
   whom it falls." {45} When the chief priests and the Pharisees
   heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about
   them. {46} They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the
   crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

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


CHOIR ANTHEM:


SERMON:  "The Law and Grace of God"

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the
   words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts  - grow
   thou in us and show us your ways and inspire us to live by
   your truth.  Amen

Today we are here, as we are here each Sunday, to worship God.
and as part of that we gather to express our thanks giving
and to receive hope and some encouragement.

Each week we gather we do so to devote ourselves anew to God,
and to listen 
   - to listen in the hope that God will speak in a special way
   to us and that we will be able to do what it is that God asks
   of us.

We listen, and we pray, and we sing
   hoping that the comfort of the Holy Spirit will lift us up
   and give us the peace that Christ promised to those who
   follow him.

Sometimes when we worship, however, we are reminded of how far we
have yet to go in our Christian walk: 
   - perhaps the prayer of confession comes a little to close to
   home 
   - or the preacher reminds us of what we have promised - and
   not yet done 
   - or perhaps - the law of God is read - as it was read to
   today 
   - and instead of feeling comforted  by the word we feel ill
   at ease - perhaps even browbeaten..

Certainly in Christian churches all around the world today there
are hundreds, perhaps thousands of preachers who are misusing the
law of God - preachers who are beating up on their congregations
--  but even where that law is not being misused in this way,
there are likely hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of
people who feel uncomfortable because they believe they are
hearing too much about the law of God and not enough about the
grace of God.

What do you think of the law of God?

Do you think that the law and the grace of God are two different
things?  Or at the very least, that God's love for us in Christ 
supersedes the law of Moses?  That the law is restrictive and out
of date?

John Killinger wrote a book on the Ten Commandments a few years
ago.  It is  called "To My People With Love"

   In it he tells the story of a man who came home from work
   one afternoon and found his daughter sitting out on the
   porch.    He could tell something was wrong, so he said 
   to his wife :

   "What's wrong with Puddin?"

   She replied: "Oh, she just found out there's a law of
   gravity, and she's mad about it."

Some people regard the law of God as restrictive and out of date,
they see it as binding  and hemming them in at every side,
and as having no place in a the life of freedom that Christ gives
us.

I think this is sad -
it is sad because the law of God was and is an expression of love
- it is the answer to the old question - what do I do after I say
"I love you?".

The Jewish people call the law "Torah" - and Torah literally
means "guidance" or "help".

That is what the law is meant to be for us - it is meant to be a
guide or a help to us as we seek to love God and to love our
neighbours as ourselves.

What is the loving thing to do?

Sometimes the answer is not easy.
   - a close friend may  ask us to protect him or her by lying
   for them.
   - someone we care for may ask us to go along with them in a
   scheme to cheat or steal from the government or engage in
   some other scam that appears to hurt no-one,
   - our wife or husband may ask us to join with them in a
   judgement they are making about a neighbour whom they  do not
   like,
   - or our child may ask us to buy them something that we
   simply can't afford because "everyone else has one".

What then is the loving thing to do?

The answer is not easy  
   even when we know what the law of God says about bearing
   false witness, 
       and about stealing, 
          and about judging others,
              and about not coveting our neighbours possessions -
the answer is not easy
but at least with the law - we have some guidelines to go by -
   we have some principles by which to determine what is right
   or wrong, by which to determine what is the loving thing, the
   God like thing, to do.

Almost everyday my wife tries to help me to love myself and her
better.  I guess she figures that I am not yet perfect.
   - She reminds me that I need to rest and spend more time with
   her if I am to be healthy, and if our relationship is to be
   healthy.
   - She suggests to me that she, like most other people, really
   appreciates it, when I take time to express my appreciation
   for what she has done,
   - She points out that a little romance goes a long way
   (certainly it goes a lot further than no romance at all).
   - She even tells me to take my vitamins and to dress warmly.

She doesn't say all these things to make my life miserable
She says them to make my life good - my life, her life - our life
together.

So it is with the law of God.  It is not there to make us
miserable.  Nor, in Christ, is it there to make us feel guilty or
inadequate.

It is there to help us to love one another; to help us to love
ourselves; and to help us to love God.

Today - as we partake of the blessed sacrament,
the sign and symbol of  God's love and grace towards us,
it is entirely appropriate for us to consider the law of God -
and to remember that Jesus - when he died for us 
- died entirely blameless under the law of God.

Jesus was not blameless under the law of God because he rigidly
adhered to its every letter.  No - he was blameless because he 
adhered to the  spirit of the law - to the spirit of love.

As we take into our hands in a few minutes the signs and the
symbols of our faith,
   as we hold the bread and the cup with our brothers and
   sisters around the world today,
let us remember that while Jesus has set us free from the law of
sin and death,
   and that while in his love he forgives us completely for all
   that we have done wrong,
he has called us to live by the law of the spirit of life,
   a law which - when it is only expressed on tablets of stone
   leads us nowhere -
but when written upon our hearts - makes all of human life a
   joy and a blessing.


LET US PRAY:  
Father, as we take into our hands in a few minutes  the signs and
the symbols of our faith, as we eat the bread and drink from the
cup with our brothers and sisters around the world today, help us
remember that Jesus is the one who has set us free from the law
of sin and death, that in his love he forgives us completely for
all that we have done wrong and calls us to live by the law of
the spirit of life, a law which when written upon hearts of faith
makes all of human life a joy and a blessing....  
Lord, hear our prayer...

Gracious God, we thank you for drawing us together as one family
today, a family that reaches around the world.  We thank you
Father for your gracious love,  for your wonderful mercy, and for
your living word.- Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Help us this day, O
Lord, to live by faith in him  and to love one another in the way
that he love us....  help us keep jealousy and envy out of our
hearts, help us keep pride and selfishness out of our
conversations, and desire and greed out of our relationships. 
Lord hear our prayer...

Watch this day over your church around the world O Lord, 
help us to witness to your love and your grace,
to share with those who are less fortunate than we,
to support those who work for justice and equity,
to assist those who bring hope and health and healing to those in
despair... 
Lord hear our prayer

We hold before you O God, the particular joys and concerns that
you have placed upon our hearts today - for those of our family
and our church - and those beyond...

We remember before you:
-
-
-
Lord, hear our Prayer...

We ask all these things in the name of Jesus.  Amen


* HYMN: "All Who Hunger"                                 - VU 460


* 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

   Thank you most gracious God for the generosity that
   enables us to share.  We are rich in so many ways.  Help
   us to empty ourselves of pretence, even as we pour out
   gifts of gratitude.  We dedicate our offerings and
   ourselves to you and to your work in this world through
   Christ Jesus - our Lord and our brother.  Amen


* SHARING THE PEACE:  We greet those around us with a sign of
   peace (handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the
   Lord be with you".  This ancient tradition is an appropriate
   response to the peace that God gives to those who hear and do
   his word.


* COMMUNION HYMN:  "Let Us Break Bread Together          - VU 480


COMMUNION LITANY
L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.

L  All glory and thanksgiving be to thee, almighty God, for
   creating the heavens and the earth, all that is in them, for
   making us in your image, and for watching mercifully over all
   that thou hast made.
P  Glory be to thee, O Lord.

L  All glory and thanksgiving be to thee, our heavenly Father,
   for redeeming us in Jesus Christ thine only Son, who took our
   nature upon himself, and in obedience accepted death, even
   death on a cross, and who by thy power was raised from the
   dead and was exalted for evermore.
P  Glory be to thee, O Lord.

L  Therefore with all creation, and with all the company of the
   redeemed, we magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising
   thee, saying
P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord,
   God of power and might,
   Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
   Hosanna in the highest.
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
   Hosanna in the highest.

L  Eternal God, King of heaven and earth: the life and death of
   thy Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we proclaim; his
   resurrection from the dead and his ascension we confess; his
   coming in triumph we await.
P  Even so, come Lord Jesus, come.

L  Wherefore, O Father, we set forth before thee this holy
   supper, following his command, who the night he was betrayed
   took bread and blessed it, as even now we do bless it O Lord,
   and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take,
   eat: this is body, broken for you".   And in the same manner
   he took the cup and gave it to his disciples saying, "This
   cup is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out
   for you.  As oft as you drink it, do so in remembrance of
   me".
P  Worthy is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain, to receive all
   power and wealth, wisdom and might, honour and glory and
   praise.

L  Worthy indeed, O Lord, is thy Son Jesus Christ, who died that
   we might live, and rose again from the dead, that we might be
   one with him in your sight.  We celebrate what he has done
   for us and pray that our lives may proclaim the mystery of
   our faith:
P  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.


PRAYER FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT
L  Most merciful God - we thank you, as Christ thanked you for
   the bread of life and the cup of blessing -and we pray that
   you would send your Holy Spirit upon what we offer to you
   here, that this bread and this cup may be for us communion in
   the body and blood of Christ our Lord
P  Father and Mother of us all, gather into one all who share in
   these sacred mysteries, filling them with the Holy Spirit and
   confirming their faith in the truth, that together we may
   always praise you and give you glory through your Servant,
   Jesus Christ, he who taught us to pray together as one
   family, singing... OUR FATHER


THE OUR FATHER (sung)

WORLD WIDE CONFESSION OF FAITH
L  With the church of Jesus Christ around the world today, 
      let us proclaim our common faith:
P  I believe in God the Father Almighty, 
       maker of heaven and earth; 
       and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, 
       who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 
       born of the Virgin Mary, 
       suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
       was crucified, dead, and buried.
   He descended into hell; 
       the third day he rose again from the dead; 
       he ascended into heaven, 
       and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; 
       from thence he shall come to judge the living and the
       dead.
   I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church; 
       the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; 
       the resurrection of the body: and the life everlasting.


THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS (in the pews)
With all the saints - past and present and future, those here and
those afar - receive the blessing of our Lord.....  As you pass
the plate and the cup to one another, bless your neighbour by
name, saying words like "the body of Christ - broken for you" and
"the blood of Christ, poured out for you".  Please hold the
elements till all are served.

   The body of Christ strengthen and preserve you.
   The blood of Christ draw you closer to one another.

 
AFTER COMMUNION PRAYER
L  Let us pray 
   .....(silence)..... 
L  For the bread we have eaten
P  For the wine we have tasted
L  For the live we have received
P  We thank you God.
L  Grant that what we have done and have been given here today
   may so put its mark upon us that it may remain always in our
   hearts.  
P  Grant that we may become mature Christians, 
   that ours may be the faith that issues in action, 
   through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "To Show By Touch and Word"           - VU 427


* 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 - love and care for one another in the name of Christ 
- and may God, who is in you and around you uphold you in truth, 
- may the Lord who is before you and behind you give strength, 
- and may  the Spirit who is to your left and to your right,
inspire all your thoughts, words, and actions
this both now and evermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1999 - 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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