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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 28 - Year A
(In Canada see Thanksgiving Sunday Sermon Resources)
Philippians 4:1-9 and Matthew 22:1-14
"The Man Without Wedding Clothes"

READING:  Philippians 4:1-9 and Matthew 22:1-14
SERMON :  "The Man Without Wedding Clothes"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or28se 338000
                  
   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 Prayer of Approach, Pastoral Prayer, Prayer of Dedication
   and Benediction are taken and/or modified from John Maynard
    "Prayers and Litanies" as sent to the
   PRCL-List for Ordinary 28, 1999


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Isaiah 25:1,4)
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  O Lord, you are my God; 
   I will exalt you and praise your name.
P  In perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things,
   things planned long ago.
L  You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy
   in their distress.  You are a shelter from the storm and a
   shade from the heat.
P  O Lord, you are my God. 
   I will exalt you and praise your name forever.


* INTROIT:  "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (VU-232, verse 1)


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Almighty God, source of every blessing, your generous goodness
comes to us anew every day.  By the work of your Spirit lead us
to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and
serve you in willing obedience.  Indeed we pray you to pour out
your Holy Spirit upon us - your Spirit of joy and laughter - of
comfort and of strength - that we might celebrate with you and
you with us, as we offer our worship and ourselves to you this
day; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Holy Spirit, Hear Us"                          - VU 377


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING TIME

   Announcements

   Gathering in of Prayer Joys and Concerns


PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L  Loving Father, we come before you with humble and penitent
   hearts.
P  We are conscious of how we have offended thee.  
   Our sins are ever before us.
L  Forgive us for our carelessness with the gospel of Jesus
   Christ, for our assumption that the neglect of your holy word
   does not matter. 
P  Where we have overlooked the needs of others and where we
   have proven insensible to the feelings of those around us, we
   ask your pardon.
L  Forgive us for dwelling on the things that are wrong in this
   world and overlooking the good that is being done all around
   us.
P  Where we have been negative and destroyed the hopes of others
   and where we forgotten the comfort and strength of your arms,
   we ask your pardon.
L  Merciful God, hear our prayer.
      ......... (silent prayer of confession) .........
L  Lord, forgive us.
P  Touch us and make us whole.  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.
   

ASSURANCE OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS
Brothers and sisters in Christ -- it is written that God so loved
the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God
did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to
save the world through him.

Having this word from our God, I tell you in the name of Christ -
your sins are forgiven.  If you would have the fullness of life
promised by God - be thou likewise giving and forgiving.  Amen


A READING FROM PHILIPPIANS 4:1-9
   (NRSV)  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and
   long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this
   way, my beloved. {2} I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be
   of the same mind in the Lord. {3} Yes, and I ask you also, my
   loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled
   beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement
   and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of
   life. {4} Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say,
   Rejoice. {5} Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The
   Lord is near. {6} Do not worry about anything, but in
   everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let
   your requests be made known to God. {7} And the peace of God,
   which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and
   your minds in Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, beloved, whatever is
   true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is
   pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there
   is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
   think about these things. {9} Keep on doing the things that
   you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and
   the God of peace will be with you.

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


CHILDREN'S TIME: 
Object:       
Theme:    
Source:   

	No story has been prepared at this time.


* HYMN:  "For the Beauty of the Earth"                   - VU 226


A READING FROM MATTHEW 22:1-14
   (NRSV)  Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
   {2} "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave
   a wedding banquet for his son. {3} He sent his slaves to call
   those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they
   would not come. {4} Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell
   those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner,
   my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and
   everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' {5} But
   they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another
   to his business, {6} while the rest seized his slaves,
   mistreated them, and killed them. {7} The king was enraged.
   He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned
   their city. {8} Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is
   ready, but those invited were not worthy. {9} Go therefore
   into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the
   wedding banquet.' {10} Those slaves went out into the streets
   and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the
   wedding hall was filled with guests. {11} "But when the king
   came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not
   wearing a wedding robe, {12} and he said to him, 'Friend, how
   did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was
   speechless. {13} Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind
   him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness,
   where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' {14} For
   many are called, but few are chosen."

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


CHOIR ANTHEM:


SERMON:  "The Man Without Wedding Clothes"

   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

When you look around at people who go to church,
   do you see people who are rejoicing, 
       people who are happy,
          people who know how richly they have been blessed?

Or do you see long faces, and hear complaints and grumbling?

And when you talk to other Christians, do you sense in them real
joy over what they believe in?
   Or do they only talk of the wonder and peace of heaven as if
   was something that can only be experienced in the future -
   some time after you die?
          
Do you yourself rejoice in your faith?
   Or do you see the gospel of Jesus Christ as a burden?  A
   burden that you carry because you think it is the right thing
   to do?

There are many who do see Christianity as a burden,
   they do not understand that faith is liberating,
   and that being a member of God's kingdom - of God's church,
       is like being part of a wedding banquet
       instead of a funeral procession.

Too many people think of the Christian life as a series of do's
and don'ts that are designed to get them pie in the sky by and
by.
       
They regard the life of faith as only a bunch of shall's and
shall not's there to teach them how to treat their neighbours,
and so they miss out on the fulness of the Christian life.

They miss out on the fact that faith is meant to lead to more
than  good behaviour and a place in heaven later on...
   That it is meant to lead to joyous living - to abundant life
   - to a life, that while not free from troubles, 
   is rich and deep and full of peace, that peace which Paul
   calls "the peace which passes understanding".

Today's parable from the gospel of Matthew compares the Kingdom
of God to a wedding banquet.

Think of the wedding banquets you have attended for a moment -
   were they not times of celebration?
   times of rejoicing over the love between the bride and groom?

In light of that what is missing in so many people's faith, that
it ends up as something that kills joy rather than brings joy?

The problem for many of us is that our faith is incomplete, we
become mired in the notion that all we have to do is show up and
follow a bunch of rules.

And because of that, we end up failing to cloth ourselves in the
   clothing that our God provides for us,
       just as the man in today's parable,
          failed to wear the wedding suit provided,
              and so ended up being evicted from the banquet.

Recall how in this parable of the wedding banquet, after many of
the invited guests refuse to attend, the king opens up his house
to everyone his servants can find.

He throws open the banquet hall - and everyone, regardless of
whether they are good or bad, is invited to come and share in the
royal wedding banquet -     a banquet like that of Prince Charles
and Diana many years ago - which, had we been invited, we surely
would have attended.

These lucky new guests went and met the King's son 
and sat at the King's table.

And then, the king himself comes in to see the guests and he
notices that a man is there who is not dressed as he should be,
   he has no wedding clothes on,
       and he asks that man 
"How did you get in here without wedding clothes"

The man is speechless, he has no answer for the king,
and he is evicted - he is thrown out of the house.

Why do you think that the man speechless???
      
Looking at it from his point of view I think he expected that 
everything was OK.  

He was an invited guest, and all kinds of people were there,
   some of them with very unsavoury backgrounds,
so what did it matter what he wore?
The host surely wouldn't care about that - after all he had
thrown his doors wide open...

But that view point is not really reasonable, is it?

When you go to a wedding do you not put on your best clothing?
   do you not go prepared to celebrate,
       do you not go prepared to enjoy yourself,
          prepared to help the hosts rejoice?

What kind of churl would not do his best, and what host would not
despise a guest who failed to come prepared to celebrate with him
   especially when all the clothing that a guest needed, was
   provided at the door - as indeed it is for us?

We here today, have been sought out by God and invited to his
banquet of life, a banquet in honour of his son Jesus.
              
We have been invited to richly enjoy life,
   both in this world and the next,
       and we have accepted the invitation.
We have come to the wedding banquet of our King.
              
Are we prepared to celebrate as God wants?
   Do we have the faith we need?
       Have we put on the clothing of righteousness that Christ
       offers to us?
              
Have we changed for the feast?  
Or do we try to wear our old clothes and live in the old way.

An legend tells the story of a fisherman called Aaron.  

   Aaron lived on the banks of a river.  Walking home with
   his eyes half-closed one evening after a hard day's work,
   he was dreaming of what he could do if he were rich.  As
   he walked his foot struck against a leather pouch filled
   with what seemed to him to be small stones. 
 
   Absentmindedly he picked up the pouch and began throwing
   the pebbles into the water.  "When I am a rich man," he
   said to himself, "I'll have a large house".  And he threw
   another pebble into the river.  He threw another one and
   thought, "My wife and I will have servants and rich food,
   and many fine things".  And this went on until just one
   stone was left.  As Aaron held it in his hand, a ray of
   light caught it and made it sparkle.  He then realized
   that is was a valuable gem.  He be had been throwing away
   the real riches in his hand, while he dreamed of unreal
   riches in the future."

This legend summarizes the situation of many Christians.

We have been given everything we need or could want,
   it has been placed in our hands,
       and we have been invited to enjoy it.
           
But for some reason we do not look into our hands,
   we do not take what God has given us,
       and actually use it.

Instead we dream of the day when we will be richly blessed,
we dream of the day when the joy of the banquet will be ours.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians, the letter in the Bible
that is called The Letter of Joy, recommends to his audience four
simple ways in which they can begin to experience the joy and
peace of God;
   four ways in which they can don the wedding clothing provided
   for us by Christ and so keep our place    at his wedding
   table.

First Paul recommends that we REJOICE IN THE LORD and reminds us
that HE IS NEAR.

Every one of us here today is near to God,
   
Every one of us here today has been invited by God to meet him
and his Son, and to enjoy his wedding banquet.

I know that when I am down, when I am getting lost in my own
tiredness, troubles or fears, that when someone reminds me that
God cares for me, that God is near to me, I can't hold on to
those things.

When I really think about it -     when I am reminded by someone of
the love that God has for me, or when I begin to think about what
Jesus has done for me - for us - I am moved towards joy.  I begin
to rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord.  I will say it again: Rejoice!

That is a part of the clothing we can wear to the wedding
banquet.      Nothing shines or looks as good as rejoicing; and
nothing is quite as infectious as rejoicing.

Knowing that God is near, Paul then goes on and says:

   DON'T BE ANXIOUS 
   BUT IN EVERYTHING BY PRAYER AND PETITION, 
   WITH THANKSGIVING 
   LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN TO HIM.

The thing that binds so many Christians, the thing that prevents
us from putting on the wedding clothing of God and enjoying his
banquet is anxiety and fear.

The Christian life is not a problem free life, bad things still
happen;  but my friends - God is near to us - and while He may
not prevent those bad things from happening, he can and he will
help us through them.

But we need to ask, 
   for it is in asking, 
       which we do by prayer,
          that we allow his presence to lift us up.

God is near.  Tell Him about your joys and concerns, 
   make your requests know to him, and then thank him, 
       as you would thank a friend,
          for listening to you.

Paul says that when we do these two things,
   when we rejoice in the Lord,
   and when present our requests to him with thanksgiving,
that the Peace of God that passes understanding will fill us,
and will keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

That peace shines my friends,
   I have seen it clothe people others think unfortunate,
       people that others think should be bitter, worried,
          and resentful towards God - yet they are not. 
Instead they have a radiance about them.

The THIRD thing Paul recommends - and it is related to the
others.  It is that we set our minds on good things.

Paul writes:
       
Whatever is true,
   whatever is noble,
       whatever is pure,
          whatever is lovely
              whatever is admirable -
   if anything is excellent or praiseworthy,
   THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS

Think about good things - concentrate on what is good, not bad.  

Make it a habit to look for and dwell on the true, 
   the noble, the pure, the admirable. 
       You will not then be without rejoicing.

The final thing Paul recommends is this and I quote:
   "whatever you have learned or received or heard from me
   or whatever you have seen in me put it into practice 
   and the God of peace will be with you."

What Christian have you truly admired?  What grandmother or
father or sister impressed you with their faith?   With how they
lived?

Put into practice what you have seen and heard -
   their way of prayer,
   their convictions about God and his presence
   their way of thinking about the world.

You know - the Christian life works a bit like the way a 
freezer works.
   
If the freezer is almost empty every time you open it you let out
a lot of cold air, warm air rushes in and makes the motor work
extra hard.  And that is costly.

Now if we keep the freezer closed - there is no problem - but
keeping it closed means that we get no use out of it.

The secret is to fill the freezer with good things - 

Then when we open it to take out something 
   there is no room for the warm air to get in.  
       The motor does not have to work so hard then.
          There is less strain on the system.

We, by putting on our wedding clothing - 
   by rejoicing in the presence of God,
   by praying and offering thanksgiving to our God,
   by filling our minds with good things - 
and practising those things of faith we have seen and admired
in others,
we will discover for ourselves the joy of the Christian life,
   a life that is more than do's and don'ts,
   a life that has richness to it,
   a life that shines and gives comfort and joy to others,
much in the same way that the happiness and joy of a wedding
feast gives to everyone a feeling of the blessedness of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always - again I say - Rejoice.  AMEN


THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER: 
Fill us, Gracious God.  Fill us with those things that are good: 
things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable. 
Help us to put into practice what we have learned from Your
Word...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Loving God, you have invited us to feast in Your promised
Kingdom.  May we never be so busy taking care of things that we
cannot turn to You, and thankfully celebrate the power of Your
Son...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Tender and Merciful God, we pray for those with power and
influence; that they may be grateful for the opportunities their
positions give them and show their gratitude by fulfilling their
responsibilities conscientiously and with wisdom, justice
and compassion...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for those with money and possessions; that they may be
grateful for the security that their money gives them and show
their gratitude by using what they have to enrich the lives of
those who have not...   Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for those who know Your saving love; that they may be
grateful for the joy and peace that faith in You gives to them
and show their gratitude by sharing their faith and living in
love with others...    Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for ourselves, each with special gifts from You; that we
may be grateful for the unique calling that we have received and
show our gratitude by using our talents in the service of others
and so bring glory to Your name...    Lord, hear our prayer...

We hold before you those of our community and our world that you
have put upon our hearts this day in a special way.  We remember:

-
-
- (various intercession as given in the sharing time)
-
-
Lord, hear our prayer...

Father and Mother of us all, we remember with gratitude all those
who lived their lives as a thank-offering to You, and we thank
you for all that You have done for us in Christ.  May we follow
their example.  We ask these things in his name, praying even as
he taught us, saying:  Our Father.... 


* HYMN: "Rejoice, The Lord is King"                      - VU 213


* 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

   O God, You call us to be agents of Christ's way.  We
   dedicate our lives and these our gifts to You as a sign
   that we are members of Your family.  Accept these gifts
   and enhance our endeavours by sending Your Spirit upon us. 
   In all that we do and say, may we be always worthy of Your
   continuing trust.  In Jesus' name we pray.  AMEN.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Now Thank We All Our God"            - VU 236


* 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 God's blessings go with you -
- as you go into places of suffering, may God's love wipe all
tears away, 
- as you go into places of hunger, may Christ's love give bread
and hope to who in need,
- and as you go into places of fear, may the Spirit's love
provide peace and companionship, and help you to speak of grace,
and sing of joy
both now and forevermore.  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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