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Sermon and Liturgy For The Third Sunday of Easter - Year B
Acts 3:1-19 and Luke 24:33-48
"So They Could Understand"


READING:  Acts 3:1-19 and Luke 24:33-48
SERMON :  "So They Could Understand"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ea03sesu.y-b 366883

   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.
   Sources, if any, are as indicated in the text.
   
   The opening portion of the Prayers of The People is taken
   from Moira B. Laidlaw's "Lectionary Generated Liturgy" for
   Sunday, May 7, 2000 (moira@liturgiesonline.com.au)


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (from I John 3:1-7)
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  How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, 
   that we should be called children of God.
P  And that is what we are.
   The reason the world does not know us is that it does not know him.
L  Beloved, now we are God's children; 
   what we will be has not yet been made known.  
P  But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, 
   for we shall see him as he is.


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


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy and Loving God, we praise you for calling us to be your people and for
saving us and gathering us together in the name of your only begotten Son. 
Your mercy, your grace, your tenderness, O Lord, are only exceeded by your
power and your glory and your love.  We pray you, renew us this day through
the ministry of your Holy Spirit.  Forgive those things in our lives that
have offended thee, and hurt our neighbours, and disfigured our own selves
- the selves you made to reflect and show forth the beauty of your nature. 
May we hear your holy word as you intend us to hear it, and may we glorify
Christ Jesus, your living Word, in all that we say and do, both now, and
forever and ever.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Breathe On Me, Breath of God"                            - VU 382


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK


CHILDREN'S TIME:
Object:   Scavenger Hunt: Flowers, Bible, Bulletin, Hymn Book              
Theme:    Witnesses
Source:   Self

Good morning -- today I want us to play a game - I am going to give you
some clues - and I want you to find some things that are here in the
church.  I will pile them up here when you bring them to me.

OK - first - I want you all to find me something that has a lot of songs
about God's love in it....  (Hymn Book)

Next - I want you to find something that tells people about what goes on in
the church and that almost everyone here today reads and many people put on
their refrigerator or in their bibles after church is over..... (Bulletin)

Next- I want you to find something that tells all kinds of stories about
how much God loves us.... (Bible)

Now - I want you to find something that is made by God that is very
beautiful ... (flower)

Now - I want you to find something that holds gifts that God has given to
us .... (offering plate)

Now - I want you to find something that is all of the above - it must be
something that is full of songs about God - it must tell stories about
God's love and about what the church is doing - and it must be beautiful
and holds all kinds gifts that God has given, and finally - it must be able
to be found by people who never come to church and never see Hymn Books,
Bibles, Bulletins, or any of the other things we have up front here..... 
(believer).

That's right - a person who believes in Christ is full of stories and songs
about God - a person who believes is beautiful - and is full of gifts that
God has given - and often is the only thing that a person who never comes
to church can find that can tell them and show them the wonderful things of
God.  God wants each one of us to tell others about Jesus and his love and
to give his gifts to them so that they may have a better life and be able
to live in peace.


THE LORD'S PRAYER


* HYMN:  "Jesus Loves Me"                                          - VU 365


A READING FROM ACTS 3:1-19
   (NIV) (Acts 3:1-19 NIV)  One day Peter and John were going up to the
   temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. {2} Now a man
   crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called
   Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the
   temple courts. {3} When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked
   them for money. {4} Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then
   Peter said, "Look at us!" {5} So the man gave them his attention,
   expecting to get something from them. {6} Then Peter said, "Silver or
   gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus
   Christ of Nazareth, walk." {7} Taking him by the right hand, he helped
   him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. {8} He
   jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the
   temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. {9} When all the
   people saw him walking and praising God, {10} they recognized him as
   the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called
   Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had
   happened to him. {11} While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all
   the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called
   Solomon's Colonnade. {12} When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of
   Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our
   own power or godliness we had made this man walk? {13} The God of
   Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his
   servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him
   before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. {14} You disowned
   the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to
   you. {15} You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the
   dead. We are witnesses of this. {16} By faith in the name of Jesus,
   this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and
   the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing
   to him, as you can all see. {17} "Now, brothers, I know that you acted
   in ignorance, as did your leaders. {18} But this is how God fulfilled
   what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ
   would suffer. {19} Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may
   be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

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


ANTHEM 


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 4 (Voices United 727) and Refrain


A READING FROM LUKE 24:33-48
   (NIV)  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found
   the Eleven and those with them, assembled together {34} and saying, "It
   is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." {35} Then the
   two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by
   them when he broke the bread. {36} While they were still talking about
   this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with
   you." {37} They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a
   ghost. {38} He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts
   rise in your minds? {39} Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!
   Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I
   have." {40} When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
   {41} And while they still did not believe it because of joy and
   amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" {42} They
   gave him a piece of broiled fish, {43} and he took it and ate it in
   their presence. {44} He said to them, "This is what I told you while I
   was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about
   me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." {45} Then he
   opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. {46} He
   told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise
   from the dead on the third day, {47} and repentance and forgiveness of
   sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at
   Jerusalem. {48} You are witnesses of these things.

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


* HYMN:  "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"                        - VU 326


SERMON: "So They Could Understand"

   Bless Thou the words of my lips and the meditations of our heart
   that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, our Rock and
   our Redeemer.

The text of today's sermon is taken from the gospel reading.

We heard in that reading, as we heard from the Gospel of John last week,
that on the day of his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples and 
showed them the marks of his love, those marks engraved on his hands and
feet, and in his side.

Then, while reminding them of what he had said before he died,
he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures,
telling them: 

   "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the
   dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sis will be
   preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem."

He opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures.

I've thought a bit about this and I've wondered, 
Why didn't Jesus do this earlier?  
Why didn't Jesus open their minds to understand the scriptures 
   and then explain it to them before he died?

Surely it would have made it easier for them -
   easier for them to believe in him,
   easier for them to follow him,
   easier for them to accept the miracle of his resurrection.

Surely everything could have gone so much better during the days of Jesus'
ministry if his disciples had understood the scriptures at that time.

But they didn't understand.  Instead, throughout the gospels we see the
disciples bumbling and stumbling, and we see Jesus rebuking them and
teaching them over and over again what the right way is.

So, why did Jesus wait to open their minds so that they could understand
the scriptures and thereby understand him?

I believe that the answer lies in the fact that the disciples had to
experience the reality of Jesus' death and resurrection before they could
really understand the Bible.

Their hearts and minds could not be opened, they could not possibly
understand, until they were prepared for it by all of what they had heard,
seen, and felt with Jesus...

The story is told of the explorer who some years ago had just returned to
his country from the Amazon.

   The people at home were eager to learn all about the vast and mighty
   river and the country surrounding it.  But how he wondered, could he
   ever describe it to them - how could he ever put into words the
   feelings that flooded into his heart when he saw the exotic flowers
   and heard the night sounds of the jungle.  How could he communicate
   to them the smells the filled the air and the sense of danger and
   excitement that would come whenever he and his fellows explorers
   encountered strange animals or paddled through treacherous rapids??

   So the explorer did what all good explorers do - he said to the
   people, "go and find out for yourselves what it is like", and to
   help them he drew a map of the river pointing out the various
   features of its course and describing some of the dangers and some
   of the routes that could be used to avoid those dangers.

   The people took the map and they framed and hung on the wall of the
   local science museum so that everyone could look at it.  Some made
   copies of it.  After a period of time many of those who made copies
   for themselves considered themselves experts on the river - and
   indeed they knew its every turn and bend, they knew how broad it was
   and how deep, where the rapids where and where the falls.  They knew
   the river and they instructed others in what it was like whenever
   those people indicated an interest in it.

I think that many people today are in the same situation,
they know the scriptures, but they do not understand them.

They do not understand them because they are passive concerning the Word of
God, they fail to link their experiences to it and allow the experiences
and the prophecies in it to link themselves to them.

They haven't entered into the wholeness of the message.
   
Rather, some parts they have accepted,
and other parts they have rejected or ignored 
without ever considering the connections between the parts.

Indeed - a lot of us are like the disciples before Easter Sunday.

We shrink away from much of what Jesus says -
   we don't want to hear about carrying the burdens of others
   we don't want to hear about suffering for love,
   we don't want to hear about giving up family and home
       for the sake of the gospel.
   nor do we want to hear about how good people,
       people like Jesus, have to die
   before they can become fully alive.

This material from scripture is not good news to us, just as it was not
good news to the disciples.  We can't see how or why it might be important
for us.

Rather, for us, as for the disciples, good news, welcome news,
consists of hearing about the glory to be given the faithful,
of hearing how the righteous will be given power
the humble given the earth,
and the poor in Spirit the kingdom of heaven.

But - my friends - without the one there cannot be the other,
   
We can't have the earth unless we carry the burdens of others
We can't have the Kingdom of heaven without the willingness to put
   God before our own desires, our own families,
We can't have power without the willingness to suffer, and
we can't have glory without the willingness to die.

Until we understand that,
   until our minds are opened to see the links 
       between what we are now and what will be later,
       between what we experience now and what we will experience later,
   until we see the links between death and resurrection,
the scriptures are a closed book.

This is why Jesus did not open the minds of the disciples so that they
could understand the scriptures before his resurrection.

Until Jesus rose the disciples did not have the experience they needed to
have to have open minds;
   until He rose the link between death and resurrection existed in their
   minds only as an unpleasant idea - it certainly was not there as a
   glorious reality.

Friends - Jesus' life, death and resurrection is the link between our
experience and the message of the scriptures.
   
He is the link that can open our minds, so that we might understand the
scriptures, and indeed so that we might understand our own lives.

On the first Easter Sunday Jesus did not give his disciples special
knowledge so that they could understand the scriptures.

What he did was open their minds,
   he reminded them of what they had experienced with him,
   and of what they were even then experiencing with him,
   and he pointed to the scriptures which spoke of that experience: 
he made the connections for them:  

   He said - "this is what I told you while I was still with you:
   everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of
   Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.

   This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the
   dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will
   be preached in his name to all nations.

My friends, we understand the scriptures and their message
when we know both Jesus's death and his resurrection 
   - both in our faith about him,
   - and in our faith with him inside our lives.

A Jesuit Priest once told, or I should say retold this children's story
when preaching on the message of today's scripture.  It goes like this:

   A grandfather and a grandmother are in a gift shop looking for
   something to give their granddaughter for her birthday.  Suddenly
   the grandmother spots a beautiful teacup.

   "Look at this lovely cup", she says to her husband.  He picks it up
   and says, "You're right!  This is one of the loveliest teacups I
   have ever seen."

   At that point something remarkable happened - something that could
   only happen in a children's book.  The teacup says to the
   grandparents, "Thank you for the compliment, but I wasn't always
   beautiful."

   Instead of being surprised that the cup can talk, the grandfather
   and grandmother ask it, "What do you mean when you say you weren't
   always beautiful?"

   "Well", says the teacup, "once I was just an ugly, soggy lump of
   clay.  But one day some man with dirty wet hands threw me on a
   wheel.  Then he started turning me around and around until I got so
   dizzy I couldn't see straight.  'Stop! Stop!', I cried. 

   "But the man with the wet hands said, 'Not Yet!'   Then he started
   to poke me and punch me until I hurt all over. 'Stop! Stop!', I
   cried.  But the man said 'Not Yet'.

   "Finally he did stop.  But then he did something much worse.  He put
   me into a furnace.  I got hotter and hotter until I couldn't stand
   it.  'Stop! Stop!', I cried.  But the man said 'Not Yet'.

   "Finally when I thought I was going to burn up the man took me out
   of the furnace.  Then some short lady began to paint me.  The fumes
   got so bad that they made me feel sick. 

   "Stop, stop!', I cried.  'Not Yet!' said the lady.

   "Finally she did stop.  But then she gave me back to the man again
   and he put me back into that awful furnace.  This time it was hotter
   than before.  'Stop! Stop!', I cried.   But the man said 'Not Yet'.

   "Finally he took me out of the furnace and let me cool.  When I was
   completely cool a pretty lady put me on this shelf, next to this
   mirror.

   "When I looked at myself in the mirror, I was amazed.  I could not
   believe what I saw.  I was no longer ugly, soggy, and dirty.  I was
   beautiful, firm, and clean.  I cried for joy.  It was then I
   realized that all the pain was worthwhile.  Without it I would still
   be an ugly, soggy lump of wet clay.  It was then that all the pain
   took on meaning for me - it had passed - but the beauty it brought
   has remained."

This is the message of all the scripture:
   Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.

This too is the message of scripture:
   During the days of Jesus' life he offered up prayers and petitions
   to God with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from
   death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 
   Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered,
   and once made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation for
   all who obey him.

And this too:
   You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. 
   This is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the
   prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.  Repent, then, and
   turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out and that times of
   refreshing may come from the Lord.

And this:
   We are now children of God.  What we will be has not yet been made
   known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for
   we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him
   purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Jesus waited before he opened the minds of his disciples because he could
do no other, the story was not complete until his resurrection occurred.

The disciples could not understand the scriptures until they witnessed the
fact that he rose from the dead.
                 
We too, like the first disciples cannot understand the scriptures until our
minds have been opened by our experience with him, and by our faith in his
resurrection.

Without believing in Jesus and the fact that he both died and rose for us
we are like the people who studied the Amazon,
      we can know a lot about him, but never understand him or experience all
   that he has in store for us.

But with him, believing in him,
   even if we cannot read the holy book,
   even if we cannot study the sacred page,
we can understand what God has said there.

A final story - one told about a recent convert to the Christian faith who
was asked by one of his unbelieving friends about Jesus:

   The friend said to him: "I hear you have become a Christian."
   
   * "Yes", said the convert.

   "Then you must know a great deal about Christ", said the friend,
   "tell me, what country was he born in?"

   * "I don't know", replied the convert.

   "Well then, what was his age when he died?" asked the friend.

   * "I don't know", replied the convert.

   "Well, can you tell me how many sermons he preached?  Or how he was
   born, or how he did miracles, or how he was raised from the dead?"
   asked the friend.

   * "I don't know" responded the convert.

   "You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be a
   Christian", said the friend.

   * "You are right," replied the convert, "I am ashamed of how little
   I know - but this much I do know.  Three years ago I was a drunkard. 
   I was in debt.  My family was falling to pieces.  My wife and
   children would dread my return home each evening.  I was desperate. 
   I gave my heart to God.  Now I have given up booze, we are out of
   debt, and my wife and I are in love once more.  All this Christ has
   done for me.  This much I know....

We can know the biography of Jesus that is found in the scriptures,
   - we can explore the laws that are written down, and debate the reasons
   for why this or that happened,
   - we can gain all kinds of knowledge about scripture,
but none of it will give us the understanding that God wants us to have.

If we would understand what the scriptures are really all about, then we
must not only open them, we must allow Jesus to open our minds - by placing
our trust in him, in the one to whom the scriptures point.

Then, like the explorer of the Amazon,
like the clay in the hands of the potter,
like the convert to the faith whose life changed,
we will truly understand,
and we will praise God for it,
and for the life he has given us.  AMEN

       
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Lord Jesus Christ, the light of your love shines on, illuminating the
places where you are present.  As the bewildered disciples pondered the
stories of your appearance, you penetrated the darkness of their fear and
doubt with your word of peace.  You showed them the appalling marks of 
evil pierced on your hands and feet.  You opened their minds to understand
why you had to die to defeat such evil and death.  Increase our
understanding, we pray, and open our minds and hearts to receive you...
Lord, hear our prayer...

Bring to us O God, the sense of your living presence as we go into this new
week.  Renew in us the faith you want us to have, the faith that is not
afraid to reach out in your name and to share the treasure you have given
us, that treasure which is greater than silver and gold....

Lord - you know our hearts, you know our needs, and you know the hearts of
those around us and their needs.  We lift ourselves and them before you at
this time...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we specially hold before today 
- intercessions as shared --
Lord hear our prayer.....

Lord, we hold before you too
- The children of Rwanda and Ethopia, and the homeless and the hungry
throughout our world.
- Those who are in authority over us - and the rulers of every nation
Lord, hear our prayer... 

Finally, O Lord - we ask that you would bless us at St. Andrew's with
vision for the future and reverence for the past.  Guide us each day as we
minister to one another and to world for which you gave yourself.  Help us
each day to bear witness to your name and to do that which you would have
us do.  We ask it through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen


* MINUTE FOR MISSION


* 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

   Lord Jesus - we offer these gifts in gratitude and in obedience -
   thanking you for the hope that you have given us through your death
   and resurrection, and praying that in all that we say and do we may
   bestow upon others the riches of your love.  Grant that our gifts
   may be hallowed and that we may be worthy witnesses to your most
   holy name.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Be Thou My Vision"                             - VU 642


* 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
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may you be blessed by the awareness of God's continual presence and
power, 
- may your path each day be lit by God's all surrounding and indwelling
Spirit, 
- and may the joy and the love and the wisdom of the Risen and living
Christ fill your hearts,
both now and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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