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Liturgy and Narrative Sermon for Epiphany - Year B
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
"Star Trek"


READING:  Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
SERMON :  "Star Trek: A Narrative Sermon"

by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-epipsmsx 5251012

   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: The Prayer of Invocation is from  "Celebrate God's
   Presence", United Church Publishing House 2000., page 125.
   
   The sermon itself was written in 1993 and has been on our site
   since the beginning in 1996.  This is the first time that a 
   liturgy has accompanied it.  Those who access the sermon from
   anywhere but our Year B Page will not see the following.  


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)
               
                         
* WORDS OF WELCOME
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.


* CALL TO WORSHIP (Isaiah 60:1-6) AND PRAYER OF INVOCATION
L    Arise Jerusalem and shine like the sun; 
     for your light has come 
     and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
P    Behold, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness the peoples; 
     but on you the light of the Lord will shine, 
     the brightness of God's presence will be seen upon you.
L    Nations shall come to your light, 
     and kings to the brightness of your rising.  
     Lift up your eyes and look about you.
P    All assemble and come to you.  
     Your sons come from afar 
     and your daughters are carried like young children in loving arms.
L    Then you will be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy;
     the wealth on the seas will be brought to you; 
     to you the riches of the nations will come. 
     Herds of camels will cover your land 
     and caravans will come from Midian and Ephah.
P    The people of Sheba will bring gold and spices 
     and proclaim the praise of The Lord.
     ............... (lighting of the candles)...............
L    Let Us Pray
P    O God our Creator, in you alone are the riches of life.
     We come from the East and we come from the West
     knowing we follow, on our different roads,
     the same star to the same place.
     May we share what we know of its light,
     learn from each other the way to the stable,
     worship you, our only wealth,
     and serve the world with Gospel gold.
     We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen


* HYMN:   "The First Noel"                                          - VU 91


CHILDREN'S TIME:   "The Gifts We Offer"
Object    Gift Envelops and Boxes
Theme:    The Things We Offer To God
Source:   Self

Good morning....   I haven't seen many of you since Christmas Day.   How
was it?   What kinds of gifts did you receive???   What kind of gifts did
you give???

 Today is the Last Sunday of the Christmas Season.  Tomorrow all the
decorations will be packed away for another year and we will return to our
routines - hopefully carrying with us the Christmas Spirit - the Christ
within.  Under the Christmas Tree here  we still have a few things -
special things - that many of the people here gave to Jesus - much like the
three wise ones gave gifts to Jesus after he was born in  Bethlehem.

Can you remember the gifts that they gave to him after travelling so far?  
There was gold and frankincense and myrrh.   They were things that Jesus
needed - gifts for his life amongst us.

Back on the third Sunday of Advent, White Gift Sunday, when You did your
pageant, we talked about the great gift that God has given us - and the
kind of gifts that we might offer in turn to Jesus.  When you went
downstairs to celebrate the birth of Jesus the adults all placed a special
note in a special envelop or box saying what it was that they wanted to
give to him this year.   Let's open some of them and think about the gifts
that we can give Jesus...

------ Open and discuss ----

These are all very special things.  Just as opened them for Jesus today -
so we can give these gifts to Jesus  and make him happy - by giving those
things written on these papers to one another and to his church in his
name.   We Jesus the gifts of peace and love and joy and hope by treating
each other well, by forgiving each other, by praying for each other, by
feeding and clothing each other, by telling the truth, and by caring for
others and by worshipping Him and doing the things he asks us to do each
day.

And do you know what is so very special??   When ever we give a gift of
caring to Jesus - Jesus blesses it and it comes back to us so that we have
even more of these things to give to him.   Jesus multiplies joy and
divides sorrow and makes the world an ever more wonderful place as we offer
to him our hearts and minds and our souls and our strength.


PRAYER TIME AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
     Lord Jesus Christ - we pray to you - and to the Father Above -
     and we thank you for all you give.  We ask you to bless - all the
     gifts we give you - that they may bring you joy - and make the
     world - a better place - day by day - now and forever.  Men

And together the prayer that Jesus taught us -

     Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
     come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us
     this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we
     forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into
     temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom,
     the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* HYMN:   "I Am The Light of The World"                             - VU 87


TIME FOR SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries      
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns   


TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD  (verse 2 - VU 371)
  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 they will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!
                      

INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST READING
     In the reading you are about to hear Paul, the author of the
     letter to the Ephesians, talks about the joy he has sharing the
     good news of Jesus Christ - and he reminds his readers that this
     news is for all people, for Jews and Gentiles alike.  We are all
     made to be part of one people, one body, one church, who worship
     one God and one Lord.  This is the theme of Epiphany, the meaning
     of the story of the Magi, and indeed, the purpose of God through
     Jesus Christ.  In him and through him, God's light has come to
     all people. 


A READING FROM EPHESIANS 3:1-12
     (NIV)  For this reason I, Paul, am in prison for Christ Jesus,  for
     the sake of you Gentiles.  Surely you have heard about the
     administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is,
     the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written
     briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my
     insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in
     other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's
     holy apostles and prophets. 

     This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs
     together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers
     together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  

     I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me
     through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least
     of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the
     Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to
     everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was
     kept hidden in God, who created all things.  His intent was that now,
     through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to
     the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his
     eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

     In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and
     confidence.

L    This is the Word of the Lord
P    Thanks Be To God.


INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND READING
     Through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,
     members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise
     in Christ Jesus... Today we remember the wise ones who came
     seeking Jesus were Gentiles.  They came and recognized that the
     child Jesus was not just the King of the Jews, but also the
     Saviour of the World - of Jew and Gentile alike.  

     The Jewish people had always believed that God was their one
     supreme ruler, and that earthly leaders were to act as God's
     servants.  Our Psalm reading today is an ancient prayer of Israel
     that asks for God's blessing to be upon the King as he takes up
     his throne and that all the nations of the world may recognize
     his authority and his righteousness.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 72 (Voices United 790) & Gloria Patri (sung)
           
     Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  
     As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
     World without end.  Amen
                  

SONG: (by Pam Filfil)



INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL READING
     The Gospel Reading for Epiphany Sunday is always the same.  It is
     the story of The Magi, or the three wise men, who travelled from
     afar to greet the birth of a new king.  The Magi were the very
     first Gentiles to worship Jesus and so give to his birth the
     universal tone that his whole life came to have.  The word
     "Epiphany" means revelation - or appearance - and refers to the
     fact that through Jesus God reveals himself to the whole world. 
     .   


A READING FROM MATTHEW 2:1-12
     (NIV)  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of
     King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is
     the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the
     east and have come to worship him."

     When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with
     him.  When he had called together all the people's chief priests and
     teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 

     "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet
     has written:'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means
     least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who
     will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" 

     Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact
     time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go
     and make a careful search for the child.  As soon as you find him,
     report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." 

     After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star
     they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the
     place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were
     overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother
     Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.  Then they opened their
     treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of
     myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod,
     they returned to their country by another route.

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


* HYMN:  "As With Gladness Men of Old"                                 - 81

           
SERMON:  "Star Trek: A Narrative"  

     Let us Pray - Lord God, Creator and Maker of us all, speak in the
     calming of our minds and in the longings of our hearts, by the
     words of my lips and in the thoughts that we form. Speak, O Lord,
     for your servants listen.  Amen.
     
           Please click here to read Star Trek - A Narrative Sermon 
           as it has appeared online for a number of years.  Or 
		   continue on to find it below.

This story of the Magi I am about to tell focuses on the journey - and like
many stories - it has an allegorical aspect to it - that is to say people
or events in the story can be taken to represent people or events in our
own life stories.

Christian life, the life of God's people, is most often represented in the
bible and in literature, as a journey. - a journey that begins with our
confession of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and ends when we at
last meet him and the Father, face to face, in God's heavenly kingdom.

The story of the Magi is our story for that very reason.  It is also our
story because the Magi were the very first Gentiles to whom God revealed
his purpose and who, in the end, not only worshipped Jesus, but met him
face to face.

Now the story:....

 
He was tired,
     the journey had been long and very hard at times,
          and despite the companionship that he enjoyed on the way,
               he had often found himself feeling discouraged.
                    But for all that -tonight was special, 
His journey was over and he felt a peace in his heart he had never felt
before..

It had all begun months earlier - it seemed like years now -
     when he had noticed a new star in the heavens, a star that did not
belong there
          one that had never been there before.
                                                       
At first he thought that he had made a mistake,
that the charts that he had relied upon for years were in error,
but as night followed upon night he saw that the star moved,
that it was changing position against the familiar constellations.
                         
Finally, - certain of his discovery, and not sure what to make of it,
he told another astrologer at the Shah's court about what he had found.

Events followed fairly quickly then... at first anyway.

After his discovery was confirmed by his friend all the Shah's astrologers
and soothsayers gathered to observe the star and to discuss what it meant.

After a few days of intense debate,
     days in which astrological charts were cast in the dozens,
          and clerks scurried back and forth with complicated calculations,
               after an incredible amount of work and confusion,
it was decided that the star signalled the birth of a new king, 
in fact of a great king - 
and that this king had been born, 
or was about to be born, 
in a land somewhere to the west of them.

For another few weeks various attempts were made to discover what king had
been born in the western lands or what Queen was expecting a child, but, 
     - because there was no news to be had from those far lands
     - and because the Shah still expected advice every day, and couples
     still wanted charts drawn up when their children were born,
     - and because business too was very good among the merchants who
     wished to know the best time to buy and sell their goods,
     - because of all these things, very soon most of the wise men in the
land forgot about the new star and the excitement caused by its appearance.

But there were some who could not forget, and he and two others continued
to discuss the star long after the news of its appearance had faded from
the minds of the rest.
               
It seemed to him and two of his companions that the star was a sign of
tremendous significance.  Never had they heard of a new star appearing 
and never had they seen a star move in the heavens.

Together they discussed how the star must be a sign from the gods that
something very important was happening, and that the king everyone had
agreed the star heralded was no ordinary king.

The star was a such a powerful sign, that he finally resolved to set forth
and to find the king who lay beneath it.  He knew that his life would be
incomplete if he did not meet the king the star pointed to.

His two friends, 
who were equally excited by the star and in awe of the power it pointed to, 
agreed to go with him on his trip.

So it was that one night, leaving behind all that they held dear and knew
so well, they set forth.

They had travelled a long way since then,
     a long way,
and often the way had been difficult,
     often there had been delays and uncertainties,
     often there had been danger and confusion..

There were times when he and his friends could not move onward,
     the sky would be obscured by clouds
     and they could not be sure if they were heading in the right direction
and so they would set up camp wherever they found themselves and wait.

Always when he had to wait he lost some of his confidence.
He was never sure if, when the clouds parted once again, that the star
would still be in the sky.
               
Perhaps it would disappear from view as suddenly as it had appeared,
perhaps he was chasing a ghost star,
a star with no real significance,
a star with no real existence.
Perhaps he was a fool on a fool's errand.

At other times - when the star shone brightly and the three of them could
move onward their progress was impeded by terrain that even people
travelling by day would have had trouble with.

A leg of their journey that local residents told them would only take a day
would take three, and the easy paths that other travellers told them about 
never seemed to be as easy as they expected.

It seemed at times that there had never been a easy night for them:
     always there was some anxiety or other to disturb them - even on the
     most level paths;
          sometimes, in fact, those paths worried him the most, for there
others might be roaming, others with evil on their minds, others ready to
kill or steal from passing strangers.

But the worst thing, the thing that made the journey the hardest,
was the comments of others.

Most of the people they met on their way could not understand why they were
following a star.

They thought they were crazy to travel by such an obscure light,
     crazy to have left behind the safety of their own land,
          and the security of their jobs in the Shah's court.

They would ask him and his friends why they had not stayed at home with the
other wise men,
     and they would suggest, without actually saying so, that perhaps they
     were not as wise as those others who had seen the star, but not
     followed it.

"So, a king has be born" they would say, "This happens every day - so what
is so special about this king that you would undertake this journey.  What
possible difference can it make to you?"

And when he or one of the others replied that this king had a special star,
a kind of star never seen before, they would laugh and say that life was
too good to go off chasing after a king that no one had ever seen, let
alone heard about.

Even the other astrologers they consulted along the way thought that he and
his friends were being foolish.
          
"What difference can it make to you", they would ask? "Right now you could
be making a handsome profit casting charts for businessmen or telling your
nation's generals when to make war and when to make peace, and instead here
you are wandering the world looking for someone or something that may not
even exist."

And so the days and the weeks passed. 
     
They pressed onward, but often they wondered if anything would come of it,
and always, even on those marvellous days when they had no doubts of their
own, they had to contend with the doubts of others.

There had been days, when resting by the roadside in their camp,
     or casting charts in a village square to earn money to pay for their
     food and lodging, 
he had been tempted to give up his quest.

He would feel comfortable, money would be jingling in his purse, his belly
would be full, and he would think about the hazards of their journey and
how good he it felt to do what everyone else did, and he would forget the
new king for a while.

But then night would come 
     and he and his companions would look up and they would see the star,
     and it would seem to outshine the others in the sky,
     and realizing just how special it was,
     and how important the new king had to be, 
they would once again mount their camels and set forth to find him.

Yes, he was very tired, the journey had been long and very hard at times,
but tonight was special, he had at last arrived at the place the star had
led him to.

The country he and the others were in that night was not a very important
one.  It lay under Roman rule - and it was primitive and backward.

But they had heard rumours that a king was supposed to be born in it, and
when they had gone to the capital city and asked about that king, the man
who governed the nation had told them to go and check in a town called
Bethlehem.

Earlier that night they had left the city,
the star had shone brightly from the direction that Herod had indicated 
and they had followed it, until they had entered the village of Bethlehem,
and when they had arrived there it seemed to him that the star was, for the
very first time, directly above his head, and that it shone in a special
way upon one house.

He had dismounted and with the other two had entered the house and saw an
infant child in his mother's arms.

For a moment he doubted that he had found the great king, for though the
star shone through the chimney hole so that its light seemed to rest upon
the child's face - everything else seemed to be all wrong.

There was no sign of royal wealth in the house -
     - there were no expensive oils to sooth the skin,
     - no costly furs or linens upon the sleeping pads to bring easy sleep
     to the baby,
     - there was nothing in fact to indicate that the babe was anything but
     the child of a poor peasant, of a man, who by the few tools and pieces
     of wood stacked in a corner seemed to be a carpenter.

Yet - there was a feeling in the room,
a feeling that seemed to radiate from both the mother and the child,
and the star light seemed to cast a halo around them.

So he had explained to the woman why he was there with the others,
     and in return she had told him of a dream she had,
          a dream in which her God had told her she would bear a child to
rule his people and to bring light to the gentiles.

Then her husband told them that the baby was special and that when he had
been born shepherds had seen angels  and come to the stable were the baby
had been born and worshipped the child.

And then he had looked again at the child, and at his mother,
     and he thought about the light she had mentioned,
          and how the star had brought him to this very place,
               and a feeling of joy overcame him,
                    a feeling that he saw had overcome his friends.

Then, without a word to each other, they had knelt, and paid homage to the
new king.

They had prayed that God his father would bless him in all his days,
and make him greater even than the star that had led them to him,
and then they had given the child those things that they had brought to
give to the new born king gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Now, outside the little house he thought about his journey,
     he felt tired,
     but he felt too a peace that he had never felt before,
     he realized that he would never feel incomplete again,
     for the king who had been born,
     was not a kinglike all the other kings he had known,
for he was a king who would look after all those who were like him: 
the poor, the weak, and the humble.

He was a king who would conquer with love, and rule with compassion.  He
realized that somehow the God that Mary spoke of was the only God that
mattered, and that this God was in the child they had seen.
                    
He prayed for the second time that night,
 
He prayed that he might be one of those loved by that child, one of those
     loved by that God; and that he might always see the light of his star
     inside his heart and follow his way, 
and he knew even as he prayed - that his prayer would be answered.

It had been a long journey, 
     at times it had been a discouraging journey
but it had been a worthwhile journey,
     because not only had he found a great king, he had also found a God
who cared so much for the world, that he had taken on flesh and come to
dwell among his people.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Singing #400 at the start and end of the prayer
     time.  Our prayer response to "Lord, hear our Prayer" is "And in Your
     Love Answer")
               
          Lord, listen to your children praying,
          Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
          Lord, listen to your children praying,
          send us love, send us power, send us grace!
              
Lord God, you who set the stars in heaven and made the planets below - open
to us the way of this new year, the way to you.  Help us follow the light
you have placed in our hearts.   Give us courage to go on  each day despite
the dangers, despite the uncertainties, despite the doubts and the fears
that we may experience.   In times of ease when travel is easy help us not
to forget your purpose for our lives.  In times of darkness - give us
encouragement.  When others question us - build us in our resolve to follow
in your path.  When others attack us - defend us with your Spirit.   Bring
us ever closer to your glorious and radiant Son and with a great and
everlasting love help us to worship him in joy, in hope, and in peace.... 
Lord, hear our prayer....

-- Other intercessions as suitable

-- Bidding Prayers...

Lord, hear our prayer....


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 the Prayer
of Dedication. 

     You O God, call us to give all that we have and are to you so
     that you may bless it and cause it to be made good for us and for
     our world.  You ask us to live in trust so that we might discover
     the joy of your grace, you ask us to surrender ourselves to your
     will that we might find the life you have in store for us.  We
     pray you now Lord, accept all that we offer here on these plates,
     and all that we offer to you now in the silence of our hearts so
     that your will may be accomplished and so that your light might
     shine ever more brightly in the world........  We ask it in
     Jesus' name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:   "Many Are The Lightbeams"                      - VU 588


* COMMISSIONING:   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 the blessings of God, 
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you 
and accompany you throughout this year 
- may his light guide you, his strength support you, his grace give you
joy, and his love inspire you - now and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1993-2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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