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Sermon (2) and Liturgy For The Second Sunday in Lent - Year B
Romans 4:18-25 and Mark 8:31-38
"Acting As If"


READING:  Romans 4:18-25 and Mark 8:31-38
SERMON :  "Acting As If"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-le02smsu 534874

   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.
 

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
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  God is merciful and forgiving.
P  In Christ he washes us clean of all our sins.
L  God is gracious and keeps all the promises he has made to us.
P  God is loving and can be trusted each day to uphold us.


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Let us Pray -- Most Holy and Gracious God - creator of all life and source
of all that is good - help us this day to come unto you and grant that we
may prove faithful to all the vows and promises that we have made before
you.  As we speak of your covenant love ,help us to love one another
better; as we praise you for your gracious care, help us to show tenderness
to each other; and as we pray to you, help us to have thankful and generous
hearts.  We ask this in the name of Jesus - he who died that we may live -
and lives that we may never die.  Amen


* INTROIT:  "Spirit of The Living God"                   - VU 376 (verse 1)


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


* HYMN:  "Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayers"                       - VU 385


CHILDREN'S TIME: "A Conversation With God"
Object:   None
Theme:    Praying The Lord's Prayer
Source:   Dramatic Reading - Source No Longer Known 

Introduction: It has been suggested by several people that the prayer after
our Children's Time each Sunday should be The Lord's Prayer.  This will
give the children a chance to say our "family prayer" with all of us before
going down to Sunday School Classes.  It seems good to try this for the
next few weeks to see how it goes.  Today, for our Children's Time on this,
a Sunday where we have no Sunday School classes, Barbara Blysak and Audrey
Weatherall are going to present a dramatic reading concerning the Lord's
Prayer for us.  AT the conclusion we will say the Lord's Prayer together.

Please note the source of this reading is not known any longer - but I
have seen it around and about on the net, preaching lists, and youth groups
for a large number of years.


DRAMATIC READING 
Our Father who art in Heaven....

Yes?

Don't interrupt me. I'm praying....

But you called Me.

Called you? I didn't call you. I'm praying. Our Father who art in
Heaven.

There, you did it again.

Did what?

Called Me. You said, "Our Father who art in Heaven..."  Here I am. 
What's on your mind?

But I didn't mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my
prayers for the day.  I always say the Lord's Prayer.  It makes me feel
good, kind of like getting my duty done.

All right. Go on.

Hallowed be thy name.

Hold it. What do you mean by that?

By what?

By "Hallowed be thy name."

It means... it means... good grief, I don't know what it means.  How
should I know?  It's just part of the prayer.  By the way, what does it
mean?

It means "honoured," "Holy," "Wonderful."

Hey, that makes sense.  I never thought about what "Hallowed" meant
before.  Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in
Heaven. 

Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

What are you going to do about it?

Doing?  Nothing, I guess.  I just think it would be neat if you got
control of everything down here like you have up there.

Have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

That isn't what I asked you.  What about that habit of lust you have?
And your bad temper?  You've really got a problem there, you know.  And
then there's the way you spend your money... all on yourself.  And what
about the kinds of books you read?

Stop picking on me!  I'm just as good as some of the rest of those
phonies at the church.

Excuse me....  I thought you were praying for My will to be done.  If
that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying
for it.  Like you, for example.

Oh, all right!  I guess I do have some hang-ups.  Now that you mention
it, I could probably name some others.

So could I.

I haven't thought about it until now, but I really would like to cut out
some of those things.  I'd like to, you know, be really free.

Good, now we're getting somewhere.  We'll work together... you and I can
have some victories that can truly be won.  I'm proud of you.

Look, Lord, I need to finish up here.  This is taking a lot longer than
it usually does.... Give us this day our daily bread.

You need to cut down on the bread too... You're overweight as it is.

Hey, wait a minute!  What is this, "Criticize Me Day?"  Here I was doing
my religious duty, and all of a sudden You break in and remind me of all
my hang-ups.  Praying is a dangerous thing.  You could wind up changed,
you know. 

That's what I'm trying to get across to you.  You called me, and here I
am.  It's too late to stop now.  Keep on praying.  I'm interested in the
next part of your prayer....  Well, go on.

I'm scared to.

Scared? Of what?

I know what you'll say.

Try Me and see.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

What about Sally?

See I knew it!  I knew you would bring her up!  Why she's told lies
about me, cheated me out of money.  She never paid back that debt she
owes me.  I've sworn to get even.

But your prayer......What about your prayer?

I didn't mean it.

Well, at least you're honest.  But it's not much fun carrying the load
of bitterness around inside is it?

No, but I'll feel better as soon as I get even.  Boy, have I made some
plans for ol' Sally!  She'll wish she never did me any harm.

You won't feel any better.  You'll feel worse.  Revenge isn't sweet. 
Think of how unhappy you are already. But I can change all that.

You can? How?

Forgive Sally.  Then I'll forgive you.  Then the hate and sin will be
Sally's problem and not yours.  You may lose the money, but you will
settle your heart.

But Lord, I can't forgive Sally.

Then I can't forgive you.

Oh, you're right!  You always are.  And more than I want revenge on
Sally, I want to be right with You.  All right! I forgive her.  Help her
to find the right road in life, Lord.  She's bound to be awfully
miserable, now that I think about it.  Some way, some how, show her the
right way.

There now! How do you feel?

Hmmm... not bad.  Not bad at all,  In fact I feel pretty great.  You
know, I don't think I'll have to go to bed uptight tonight for the first
time since I can't remember.  Maybe I won't be so tired from now on
because I'm not getting enough rest.

You're not through with your prayer.... Go on.

Oh, all right....  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from
evil.

Good... good.  I'll do that.  Just don't put yourself in a place where
you can be tempted.

What do you mean by that?

Quit hanging around the wrong places, watching inappropriate movies and
television, listening to sinful conversations; getting into compromising
situations.  Change some of your friendships.  Some of your so-called
friends are beginning to get to you.  They'll have you completely
involved in wrong things before long.  Don't be fooled.  They advertise
they're having fun, but for you it would be ruin.  Don't use me for an
escape hatch.

I don't understand.

Sure you do. You've done it lots of times.  You get caught in a bad
situation, you get into trouble and then you come running to me.  "Lord,
help me out of this mess, and I promise you I'll never do it again." 
You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?

Yes, and I'm ashamed, Lord.  I really am.

Which bargains are you remembering?

Well, when the woman next door saw me backing away from the
neighbourhood bar.  I'd told my wife I was going to the store.  I
remember telling you, "Lord, don't let her tell my wife where I've been. 
I promise I'll be in church every Sunday."

She didn't tell your wife, but you didn't keep your promise, did you?

I'm sorry Lord, I really am.  Up until now I thought if I just prayed
the Lord's prayer everyday, then I could do what I liked.  I didn't
expect anything to happen like it did.

Go ahead. Finish your prayer.

Oh yes....For Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever
and forever. Amen.

Do you know what would bring me glory? What would make me really happy?

No, but I'd like to know.  I want to please You.  I can see what a mess
I've made out of my life, and I can see how great it would be to really
be one of Your followers.

You just answered the question.

I did?

Yes, the one thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you
truly love me.  And I can see that happening between us.  Now that some
of these old sins are exposed and out of the way, well, there's no
telling what we can do together.

Lord, let's see what we can make of me, OK?

Yes, let's see......


THE LORD'S PRAYER


A READING FROM ROMANS 4:18-25
   (NIV)  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the
   father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your
   offspring be." {19} Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact
   that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years
   old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. {20} Yet he did not waver
   through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in
   his faith and gave glory to God, {21} being fully persuaded that God
   had power to do what he had promised. {22} This is why "it was credited
   to him as righteousness." {23} The words "it was credited to him" were
   written not for him alone, {24} but also for us, to whom God will
   credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our
   Lord from the dead. {25} He was delivered over to death for our sins
   and was raised to life for our justification.

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


ANTHEM


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 22:23-31 (Voices United 746 and Refrain)


A READING FROM MARK 8:31-38
   (NIV)  He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many
   things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the
   law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. {32}
   He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to
   rebuke him. {33} But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he
   rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in
   mind the things of God, but the things of men." {34} Then he called the
   crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come
   after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
   {35} For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
   his life for me and for the gospel will save it. {36} What good is it
   for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? {37} Or what
   can a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} If anyone is ashamed of
   me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of
   Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the
   holy angels."

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


* HYMN: "He Leadeth Me"                                            - VU 657


SERMON:  "Acting As If"

   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

It is hard for us to think of the cost of discipleship,
   especially our own personal discipleship.
It is hard to face the fact that Jesus lost his life 
   and calls us to lose our lives as well,
that he took up a cross - and tells us that we must also do the same.

It is hard too to face the future - not knowing what will happen,
to think like Abraham and Sarah that you will end up childless,
to think that your life will end without hope or meaning.

It is hard to believe - when all around you it is dark,
and all you have is a promise.

Such at situation calls us either to despair,
   to giving up, to an endless life of wondering why,
or it calls us to faith,
   to "acting as if"

The author Ron Lee Dunn tells the story of two altar boys.

   One was born in 1892 in Eastern Europe.  The other was born just
   three years later in a small town in Illinois.  Though they lived
   very separate lives in very different parts of the world, these two
   alter boys had almost identical experiences.  Each boy was given the
   opportunity to assist his parish priest in the service of communion. 
   Ironically, while handling the communion cup, they both accidentally
   spilled some of the wine on the carpet by the altar.  There the
   similarity in their story ends.

   The priest in the Eastern European church, seeing the purple stain,
   slapped the altar boy across the face and shouted, "Clumsy oaf! 
   Leave the altar."  The little boy grew up to become an atheist and a
   communist.  His name was Josip Tito - dictator of Yugoslavia for 37
   years.

   The priest in the church in Illinois upon seeing the stain near the
   altar, knelt down beside the boy and look him tenderly in the eyes
   and said, "It's alright son.  You'll do better next time.  You'll be
   a fine priest for God someday."  That little boy grew up to  become
   the much loved Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

I tell this story to illustrate the importance of "acting as if" at a very
practical level.  One priest acted as if the child was deliberately sinful
and unteachable.  The other - as if the child could grow and change and
learn.

As it is with our behaviour towards children 
so it is with every area of our lives, 
and especially so it is with the challenges we face,
the crosses we are called to carry,
the work we are asked to do for the Lord,
the life we are called to lose.

When we consider the future,
When we consider the choices we must make,
and the price we may have to pay,
we owe it to ourselves - and to those around us - and to God himself 
- to act as if.

We are called 
   - to act as if Jesus is Lord
   - to act as if Death is conquered
   - to act as if faithfulness makes a difference
   - to act as if God will do as he promised.

Four things. Or simply one - it depends on your point of view.

What is clear, however, is that many people have a sense of hopelessness
despite their belief in God,
   and this sense of hopelessness communicates itself, dragging down all
   those around it.

What is clear, too, is that those who have faith and not simply belief,
   end up with a better life than the one that they give up ,
and that those who act as if God can be trusted and his word relied upon,
   end up bringing light and hope to the world around them.

Perhaps the best example of the "acting if" type of faith I am talking
about is to be found in a movie made a few  years back - a movie which I
recommend to you all.

It is called "Field of Dreams" 
and the line that I want you all to take hold of from that movie is this 
- "build it, and they will come." 

You've got to watch the movie 
- but I want to say this over and over again today -
      - build it and your dream will come true, the promises be fulfilled,
      - build your life as if the only thing that mattered was God's
   promises, and they will come to pass,
      - build your attitude each day as if God is your hope and your joy -
   and you will have peace,
      - build your actions each day as if mercy and forgiveness conquers sin
   and death - and you and the people around you will become whole.

All of us are called by God to build our lives on a dream and a promise.

We are called to face all that life may throw at us, and to do all that God
may ask of us - no matter what the cost, in the raw hope and simple belief
that God will make us more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The biblical scholar Ernst Kaseman writes:

   "One single beam of light in our existence seems to me more
   important than the full sun of any orthodoxy.  For what is decisive
   for all time is not how much we have believed, but that we have
   believed and followed him - however little we have understood him."

Abraham is the father of faith - 
because he believed - and waited patiently - 
all the while acting as if God would do as he said.

He left home and country and wandered in a foreign land as commanded by God
   he faced old age and the slow decline of the body
       and while he occasionally jumped the gun and tried to do on his own
       that which God had promised to do for him,
            and while he had moments of doubt 
all in all he had confidence that God would fulfil his word,
even when God called him to sacrifice the child of promise - Isaac.

For this Abraham is called the father of faith.

Abraham is the Father of faith.
And Jesus is our model of faith 

Jesus is the model of faith because he believed 
and went about doing great good,
even though he knew a cross waited for him.

Jesus endured persecution, scorn, and hatred
   because he was convinced that God was with him,
       that the Kingdom of God was near at hand,
          and that God was able to do all things,
and because he acted as if all these things were true
he was able to make those around him whole.

Abraham and Jesus - believed and they acted as if,
they acted as if God was, and is, and will always be,
and so they were able to endure the trials set before them,
and so they found the glory promised to them.
 
The wonderful thing about what I am telling you today is this -
even when we don't believe,
if we act as if we do believe,
what God has promised comes to pass,
and our belief grows.

It's called stepping out,
its called standing on the promises,
and it makes hope come alive,
and turns the darkness of doubt into the brilliant light of faith.

Who rains on the parade of hope?  And who has faith to act as if all things
are possible to those whom God calls?
 
Consider these two examples of folk who rained on the parade of others.

In 1878 a distinguished person who made a study of Edison's plan to work on
an incandescent lamp reported to the British Parliament - "Edison's ideas
were good enough for our trans-Atlantic friends but unworthy of the
attention of practical or scientific men."

Well, we know about that don't we?

How about this one:  At the turn of the century a Methodist Bishop by the
name of Wright declared that humans would never fly.  

Care to guess the names of his two sons?  
His sons names were Wilbur and Orville.

Do you have a challenging problem in your life?  
Do you have to face something that seems unfaceable?

Start off by acting as if the problem can be overcome, 
   - as if the unfaceable is faceable,
and continue by thinking 
   - God is with me and God has promised that I will overcome when I walk
   in the path of Christ.

Go forward - in trust,
   despite your doubts, 
   despite your fears, 
despite the easy ways out that are offered to you.

We all want good things - none of us wants a cross,
None of us really believes that the Son of God should have to die,
but - when we face these things,
and actually take up our cross as Jesus suggests,
and walk with the one who was crucified as if he was risen,
we discover that not only are the written words of scripture true,
we also discover that they are lead to great goodness.

Abraham hoped against hope, and became the father of nations.
Jesus believed that God would use him - even in death 
- and he become the way, the truth and the life.

There is no easy way out of what life demands of us,
there is no avoiding the words of Jesus:  

   "those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose
   their life for my and for the sake of the gospel will save it."

But there is a dream, 
and there is a promise,.

There is a poem that goes like this:

   The tree that never had to fight
   for sun and sky and air and light,
   that stood out in the open plain,
   and always got its share of rain,
   never became a forest king,
   but lived and died a scrubby thing.

   The man who never had to toil,
   who never had to win his share
   of sun and sky and light and air,
   never became a manly man
   but lived and died as he began.

   Good timber does not grow in ease.
   The stronger wind, the tougher trees;
   the farther sky, the greater length;
   the more the storm, the more the strength.

   By sun and cold, by rain and snows,
   in tree or man good timber grows.
   Where thickest stands the forest growth
   we find the patriarchs of both,
   And they hold converse with the stars
   whose broken branches show the scars
   of many winds and much of strife -
   this is the common law of life.

There is no easy way out of what life demands of us,
there is no avoiding the words of Jesus.

But there is a dream, 
and there is a promise, 
which we can act upon.,
and which, when acted upon,
leads us the life that God wants us to have.


LET US PRAY 
O Lord, we give you thanks for the example of Abraham and for all the
saints who have gone before us - for those who waited in patience for your
promises to come to pass - for those who lived in hope while around them it
seemed to be only darkness.  Help us today, O God, to examine the level of
our faith - our resistance to suffering, and our anger and confusion when
trouble comes.  And help us then O God to live more like those who have
gone before.... Lord hear our prayer....

Father, we give you thanks today for the example of Christ - who walked the
road to the cross, not knowing, but believing, that you would give him the
victory.  It is not an easy matter, O God, for us to think about the costs
of discipleship, about how you call us to walk as Jesus walked and promise
us victory in him only if we are willing to die with him.  Help us, O God,
to set our eyes upon the victory of Christ that has been promised to us,
and set our feet upon the path that leads to it.  Lord hear our prayer....

We pray too today, O Lord, that you would assist us to stand by those
others in our midst who are walking by faith.  Help us to minister your
hope and your comfort to them when they face tribulation, your grace and
your forgiveness when they face trail and temptation.  Enable us to make
visible to all our brothers and sisters the spiritual reality of your
constant care... Lord hear our prayer...

We pray, O Lord, for those who suffer affliction of soul, mind, or body...
we remember before you especially those we name now in our hearts and those
we named in our sharing time.......

We pray as well for our Nation this day -- bless our Queen and our
Government, all those in authority, and every citizen of this land - making
us all a more caring and just people.... Lord hear our prayer...

We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus your Son, he who is our Lord, our
Brother, and our friend.  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

   Loving God - we recall today how Jesus offered all of himself for
   our sakes, trusting in your promise to raise him to new life.  We
   ask you now to accept our offering - our time, our talent, and our
   treasure.  Bless us and use us in your service.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN: "How Firm A Foundation"                          - VU 660


* 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 the faith of Abraham and Sarah be within you; 
- may the love of Christ and of God the Father surround you; 
- and may the Holy Spirit guide you in the way 
- day by day, day by day.  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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