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Sermon and Liturgy For The Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year B
I John 5:1-6; Psalm 98, and John 15:9-17
"But I Chose You"


READING:  I John 5:1-6; Psalm 98, and John 15:9-17
SERMON :  "But I Chose You"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ea06snsu 728884

   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 For Sermon: Steve Southern, Sermonshop Notes for May 4, 
   1997; Terrance McKenna, "Exegesis and Sermon on Friendship", 
   May 97; Bass Mitchell, Ecunet Sermonshop Notes for May 4, 1997; 
   and Pastor Bill Norman, "A Society of Friends", May 4 1997. 
   

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 100)
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  Shout to God, all the earth.
P  Worship the Lord with joy and gladness.
L  Come before God with laughter and praise.
P  Adore the one to whom we belong,
   the shepherd who tends us with everlasting care.
L  Come to God's gates with thanksgiving.
P  Enter his courts with reverence and bless his holy name.
L  Bless God's name for he is good.  His love endures forever.


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


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Gracious and Loving God -- we sing your praise this day and bless your Name
for you have done and marvellous things.  You have made known your victory
and revealed your saving love in the sight of all nations.  You have lifted
up the lowly and given them honour - you remember all your promises and
love us with a love that is strong and true.  We pray to you this day, O
God, that you would confirm in us once again the wonders of your love. 
Touch us with your Holy Spirit and lead us by the power of your living Word
that we might love that which you love and do that which you do - to your
everlasting praise and glory.... Amen


* HYMN:  "Praise To The Lord"                                      - VU 835


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


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK                            


CHILDREN'S TIME:   "Children of God"
Theme:    Those who love God and his children are children of God.
Object:   A senior member of congregation
Source:   based on "Children of God" in Children's Sermon Plus, Cycle B,
          Vol. 24, No. 2, CSS Publishing, 1994.

Good morning.... .  This morning I want you to meet someone from our
congregation.  This is NAME.    Tell me, NAME, how old are you??   How long
have you attended this church??  Do you have any sons or daughters??  How
old are they???

- To children -- How many of you believe that NAME is a child???

The truth is that NAME is a child.   This morning's scripture reading tells
us that NAME is a child of God.  I want you children to meet some more
children, who you never thought were children.   I would like everyone in
the congregation who is over 60 to please stand....  Everyone standing is
also a child, a child of God.   In fact everyone here today is a child of
God.

Our lesson this morning tells us that we are all God's creatures.  But not
everyone is a child of God.  To be a child of God, to be born of God, we
must believe that Jesus is Lord and obey his commandment to love one
another as he loves us.  Children of God love their Father and their 
brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we do that - when we believe Jesus is
Lord and seek to follow him, we are born again - as God's children.  

After church today I want you to remember all of the persons here who are
older than you.  Even though some of them are very much older than you they
are still children, just like you.  They are children of God because they
have faith in God.  They follow what God tells them to do.  When you
believe in God and do what God tells you to do - you are a child of God
too, a child of God - and a friend of God - for God choses us to be his
children and his friends too.


THE LORD'S PRAYER


* HYMN:  "Come, Children, Join To Sing"                            - Vu 345


A READING FROM I JOHN 5:1-6
   (NIV)  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,
   and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how
   we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying
   out his commands.  This is love for God: to obey his commands.  And his
   commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the
   world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our
   faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that
   Jesus is the Son of God.  This is the one who came by water and blood
   -- Jesus Christ.  He did not come by water only, but by water and
   blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the
   truth.

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


ANTHEM or FAVOURITE HYMN 


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 98 (Voices United 818) and Refrain #1


A READING FROM John 15:9-17 
   (NIV) "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in
   my love. {10} If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just
   as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. {11} I
   have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may
   be complete. {12} My command is this: Love each other as I have loved
   you. {13} Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life
   for his friends. {14} You are my friends if you do what I command. {15}
   I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his
   master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything
   that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. {16} You did
   not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit
   -- fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you
   ask in my name. {17} This is my command: Love each other.

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


* HYMN: "It Only Takes A Spark"                                    - VU 289


SERMON: "But I Chose You"

   Let us pray:  Gracious God, as we celebrate your love and your grace
   on this holy day, help us to receive what you have prepared for us. 
   Bless the words of lips and the meditations of our hearts.  Grant
   that we might hear what you would have us hear, see what you would
   have us see, and do what you would have us do.  Amen.

On the night of his betrayal, Jesus spoke these to his disciples.

   "I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not
   know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends,
   because I have made know to you everything I have heard from my
   father.  You did not choose me, but I chose you." 

Some of the best and some of the worst moments of my life have to do with
being chosen...

I remember being the neglected one as a child.  When the kids at the
playground picked captains and chose sides to play baseball - or any other
game in fact, I was always the last to be chosen - if I was chosen at all -
and even when chosen I was rarely allowed to play.

It was pretty ego bruising thing to not be chosen... to be left out, to be
considered the least valuable person...

But what a different feeling to be among the chosen... when one day the
soccer coach chose me to play on his team  - not because I was good - but
mainly because he was good, because he knew that it meant a lot to me to be
chosen...to be a player...

How good too, it felt later, when I was older, on to apply for admission to
the University of Victoria  and get a letter that said I had been chosen to
be a student and then later on, without even asking, have two different
faculties write to invite me to take their honours program..

What an wonderful experience it is to be chosen!  To know that we are
important to someone, that we are valued, that we are desirable.

Being chosen is important stuff.

Today, in our text, we hear that the Son of God, the Christ, the Chosen One
of God, has chosen us - and chosen us not simply to be servants, but to be
his friends - and this without us even seeking him, without us even
choosing him.  

That is incredible to me.  Incredible and wonderful.
We, you and I, are of value, 
of worth,
to Jesus - to the son of the living God.

I want you today to think about what this means.

I am sure you have had the experience of being told by someone that they
love you, or that they think you are very special, and have had a hard time
accepting their statement - a hard time accepting it - not because of their
behaviour - but because of your own behaviour, your sense of your
inadequacy, your sense of your sinfulness, or your lack of ability.

So often as we travel through this life we turn away the love of others,
not because of anything in them that puts us off, 
but because of things inside us: 
   because of the fear that friendship being promised to us isn't
   applicable to the "real me", 
because of the fear that the other person will end up discovering the truth
about us - whatever we think that truth is and turn away from us when we
need them the most.

So many of us are so frightened - so afraid -- so uncertain -- that even
when we are chosen - we do not feel the joy that being chosen can bring to
us.

And again - some of us are so suspicious - so uncertain of ourselves - so
afraid -- that when we are chosen, we get to thinking that we have been
chosen, not for own selves - but what it is that we can do for the one that
has chosen us. 

This ought not be!
Not everyone is user.  
Not everyone judges by the exterior.
Not everyone expects things of us that will end up dragging us down and
wearing us out.

Hear this day and everyday, my friends, that You are chosen! 
   Chosen by the Christ, the Chosen One himself! 
       He wants you on his team -- not for what you can or cannot do, not
for your abilities or lack thereof, but because he loves you and wants to
show his love to you and - through you - to others.

He knows who you are - and he calls you 
He knows what you have done - and what you will do - and he chooses you. 
He chooses you - not to be his servant - or his slave 
but to be his friend,
such is his love, and the love of the Father, for you.

That's what it says in today's gospel reading!   

Jesus calls those who have being following him, those who have been
listening to him, those who have been trying to do what he asks of them,
whether they have done it well or poorly, his friends. 

"I do not call you slaves or servants any longer", he says, 
"but I have called you friends"

Now that is a saying which would be even greater to those who heard it for
the first time than it is to us.  

   The term "Doulos", which is translated as the slave or the servant of
   God in this passage, was no title of shame at the time Jesus spoke it. 
   It was a title of the highest honour. 

   Moses was the doulos of God (Deuteronomy 34: 5); so was Joshua (Joshua
   24: 29); so was David (Psalm 89:20).  Doulos was a title which Paul
   counted it an honour to use (Titus 1: 1); and so did James (James 1:1). 
   The greatest men and women of the past had been proud to be called
   the douli, the slaves of God. 

And yet Jesus says: "I have something greater for you than this, you are no
longer to be called my slaves; rather I call you my friends."  

Christ offers an intimacy with God which not even the greatest and most
worthy people knew before he came into the world. 

The idea of being the friend of God has a background.  

   Abraham was the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). In The Book of Wisdom
   (7:27), Wisdom is said to make us the friends of God.  But this
   phrase of Jesus's is really lit up by a custom which was practised
   both at the courts of the Roman Emperors and those of the eastern
   kings.

   At these courts there was a very select group called the friends of
   the king, or the friends of the Emperor.  At all times they had
   access to the king: they even had the right to come to his bed
   chamber at the beginning of the day.  He talked to them before he
   talked to his generals, his rulers, and his statesmen.  The friends
   of the king were those who had the closest and the most intimate
   connection with him. 

   Jesus calls us his friends.  He has chosen us for that role, that position,
   that intimacy, even when we, like the first disciples, have not thought
   or dared to chose him or regard him in that fashion.  

That is a tremendous thing.  

It means that we do not need to gaze longingly at God from afar off; 
   - we are not like slaves who have no right whatever to enter into the
   presence of the master, but are simply expected to obey his order. 
   - we are not like someone in a crowd whose only glimpse of the king is
   in the passing on some state occasion, but who nonetheless must pay
   taxes and serve that king.  

Rather, we are privileged to enter into the very bed chamber of our God and
to speak with him on the most intimate terms about those things he wants us
to do - and those things we would like him to do. We are allowed to see
what is in his heart - to share his joys and concerns - and we are told
that he will listen to those things upon our hearts, those things that
excite us and those things that disturb us. 

A writer tells the story of an American Negro woman in the pre-civil rights
times in the Southern USA.  

   A lady in Charleston met this Negro lady, who was a servant of a
   neighbour who had died.  

   "I"m sorry to hear of your Aunt Lucy's death," she said.  "you must
   miss her greatly.  You were such friends." 
    
   "Yes'm," said the servant, "I is sorry she died.  But we wasn't
   friends." 

   "Why," said the lady, "I thought you were.  I've seen you laughing
   and talking together lots of times." 

   "Yes'm. That's so," came the reply. "We've laughed together, and
   we've talked together, but we is just "quaintances.  You see, Miss
   Ruth, we ain't never shed no tears.  Folks got to cry together
   before dey is friends." 
 
Our Lord, our friend, our God, has cried with us and for us.
      - He wept over Jerusalem and those who would not come to him for his
   healing touch and forgiving  word.
      - He cried at the tomb of Lazarus for Mary and for Martha and for all
   who were gathered there with him.
      - And he weeps most surely today for us and with us - when we are hurt
   and when we are lost and when are afraid.

He knows us - and he loves us 
so much does he love us that he became one of us.

That is part of what makes the gospel such good news.
Jesus has walked our walk -  and he did it as friend does it 
- not simply to show us how things should be done,
but to accompany us on our way 
- to be our companion as well as our guide,
- our support as well as our teacher.

And all this without a word of judgement, except that judgement which a
friend makes -- the judgement of mercy, and of encouragement, and of gentle
correction.

LIKE OTHER FRIENDS Jesus shares himself with us --
- he trusts us with his treasures
- he is faithful to us even when we do wrong,
- he does things for us - even when we are not able to do things for him,
- he treats us as an equal - as his brothers and sisters before the Father,
- he  forgives us when we ask for forgiveness - and often when we don't
- and he seeks for us the joy that should be ours, 

Indeed, as our Lord says to his disciples in today's reading:

   "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and
   that your joy be full."

Jesus is our friend -- a friend who shares with us all that he knows of the
mystery of God, a friend who opens to us the gates of heaven that we, with
him, might rejoice and be glad and enter in.

WE ARE HIS FRIENDS - CHOSEN BY HIM AND APPOINTED TO BEAR FRUIT, fruit that
will  last - fruit that will please the Father.

As you go forth today - go knowing that Christ has chosen you, that he
finds you worthwhile - that he values you - that he thinks you are
important, that he wants you for his friend.  And rejoice in it!  Take the
joy in it that Christ wants you to have!

And as you go, go resolved to make friends of others, no matter who they
are, or what they are about, or what they have or have not done.  For that
is what it means to have been appointed by Christ to be fruitful.

A final story -- 

   A man went to his pastor to say that he felt there was a lack of
   friendliness among members of the congregation and that people were
   reluctant to greet one another in church.  The pastor agreed with
   him and said that he had devised a plan to change things. 

   During services the next Sunday, the pastor described the situation
   to the congregation and said that the following Sunday they would
   have a brief pause to allow parishioners to turn to those seated
   behind them and greet them with a friendly hello.  After the
   service, the same man turned around to the woman behind him and
   said, "Good morning."  She looked at him in shocked indignation. 
   She snapped, "That doesn't start until NEXT Sunday!" 

The truth is that some folk aren't ready to be friends of either God or us
- but, regardless of their choice, we are called to be friends to them, to
choose to act in love not only towards those who love us -- but to
outcasts, to people we've never met, to anonymous drivers on the road, to
little children who are lost, to aged people who need help to take care of
themselves, and - of course  to our neighbours in the pew - how matter how
grumpy he or she may be......

Remember my friends, that God has chosen you to be his friends - despite
the fact that you - and I - at the first - did not choose him.

Let us therefore chose, as he asks of us, to be friends to others -
regardless of what they think or what they do.  Amen.


LET US PRAY (PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE)
Lord Jesus, Loving God we give you thanks today for choosing us to be your
friends - for reaching and embracing us and supporting us and helping us -
even when we have not been ready or willing to reach out and embrace and
help you.  So often Lord we forget that you are so much than our Creator,
so much more than our guiding light the judge of what is right and wrong.
You know this, O God..., you know how we turn away from you at the very
time we need you most, how we seek comfort in those things which do not
satisfy,  yet you accompany us and reach out to us even in those times. 
Truly Lord, you are a friend to us.  Help us be a friend to you...  Lord
hear our prayer....

Lord Jesus, Holy God, you have chosen us to be your friends and you have
appointed us to go and bear fruit.  We pray that we may indeed bear fruit
that result in bringing praise and glory to your name.  Help us to love one
another as you love us that this may occur.  Show us how to reach out in
friendship to everyone who enters our lives - and not just to those who
reach out in friendship to us.  Protect us from the arrows of our enemies
as we pray for them, bless us as we bless those who curse us, and
strengthen us as we lift up those who have fallen......  Lord, hear our
prayer....

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

Lord, we hold before today those we named in our sharing time, and those
whom you place upon our hearts at this time....
--
Lord, hear our prayer...

We ask all these things and render you our praise and our service, through
Christ Jesus.  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

   Bless O God these tithes and offerings and all that is in our hearts
   and in our minds this day - that they and we may be all that you
   desire and command.  We ask it in the name of your blessed Son, he
   who is both our Lord and our friend....  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"                - VU 664


* 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 all the blessings of God Almighty,
the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, 
rest upon you now and always.  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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