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Sermon (2) and Liturgy For The Third Sunday in Lent - Year B
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19:7-14; John 2:13-22
"Wisdom For All Times"


READING:  Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19:7-14; John 2:13-22
SERMON :  "Wisdom For All Times"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-le03su 875535

   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 children's story is indebted to the thoughts of
   Bill Fulton, Grace & Trinity Episcopal Churches - Arkansas City,
   Kansas, 1997.  I can no longer recall where I found the story 
   by and about the Rev. Charles Cook of Fayetteville, NC.


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  The Lord teaches us his decrees so that we may keep them till the end.
P  With my whole heart I seek you Lord; 
   do not let me stray from your commandments.
L  The Lord gives us understanding that we may keep his law 
P  May I treasure your Word in my heart, O Lord
   so that I do not sin against you.
L  We have chosen the way of faithfulness; O God.
   May we alway bless your Holy Name.
P  May your praise always be upon my lips
   and may the meditations of my heart
   be acceptable to you my Rock and my Redeemer.


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Loving and Gracious God, we ask that you would come into our midst this day
- that you would enter into our hearts and minds and cast out those
thoughts and feelings that are contrary to your will.  Pour out your Spirit
upon.  Make us, and make this sanctuary, a temple of your presence, a house
of everlasting prayer and praise unto your name.  May we hear your Word
with joy and in gladness and in love do it.  We ask it in the name of
Christ Jesus - he who gave himself for us and who now lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen
          

* HYMN: "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!"                     - VU 315


CHILDREN'S TIME: 
Story:    Rules, Rules, Rules
Object:   None
Source:   Self and Bill Fulton, Grace & Trinity Episcopal Churches -
          Arkansas City, Kansas
   
Today you are going the hear the Ten Commandments - those commandments
given to us by God - our heavenly Father.  They are rules meant to guide us
each and every day - just like the rules that your parents make for how
things should be done (or not done) in your homes.

I remember when I was younger that my Mother and my Father had a lot of
rules.   I was told to take out the garbage every day, that I shouldn't
talk back to your elders, that I wasn't to be mean to my sisters, that I
was to be polite to everybody, and that I had to do some homework every
night during the school year.

What kind of rules are there in your house??

I don't know about you, but when I was your age I often questioned the
rules...  Why do I have to take out the trash?  Why do I always have to do
what you say? It's not fair, etc...  Do you do that?  Question them?   What
kind of answer  do you get???

Sometimes I was given reasons for the rules that I had, but those reasons
sometimes didn't satisfy me   I mean why should I be nice to my sister -
just so she might be nice to me - I don't want her to be nice to be...  And
so when I pressed the issue the answer that I got from my Father almost
always ended up being "....BECAUSE I'M YOUR FATHER, that's why."  That
didn't seem to be a great answer either, but that usually was the end of my
questions - and I would have to get on with being obedient.

Now that I am older and have sons of my own, I am beginning to see the
wisdom in my father's answer.  Not because it's the answer of last resort
to shut a kid up and get some action, but because it is ultimately a
statement of relationship.

"...because I'm your father...." In other words, because I care about you,
and I'm determined to help you do what is best for you. Because you are my
flesh and blood and a part of me that I can't let go.  

That's why God gave the Hebrew people - and through them us - the Ten
Commandments.  To help us - because God loved us.   And wants the best for
us - even when we don't want it for ourselves.  God tells us what to do and
what not to do - because he cares about us and about our future.  The rules
make sense, even when we don't like them very much.  They keep us safe. 
They keep us close to God.  They prevent us from hurting ourselves and from
hurting others.

The Ten Commandments remind us to stay in relationship with each other and
with God. You can't stay in relationship without being faithful. You can't
stay in relationship without keeping boundaries strong. 

That's why we have the Ten Commandments. Cherish them and keep them all
your life.   Let us pray.....


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   We thank you God -- for your laws. - They show us what is good - and
   that you care for us very much.  - Help us God to obey you - and to
   love you and our neighbours as ourselves. - We ask it in the name of
   Jesus - Amen

And in the word's that Jesus taught us - let us Sing together our family
prayer:

   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:  "Come, Let Us Sing of A Wonderful Love"                   - VU 574


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 thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


A READING FROM EXODUS 20:1-17  
(NIV)  And God spoke all these words: "I am the Lord your God, who brought
you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods
before me. 

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven
above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow
down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,
punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth
generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations
of those who love me and keep my commandments. 

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not
hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labour
and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your
God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or
daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the
alien within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the
earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. 
Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 

"Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land
the LORD your God is giving you. 

"You shall not murder.

"You shall not commit adultery. 

"You shall not steal. 

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

"You shall not covet your neighbour's house.  You shall not covet your
neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or
anything that belongs to your neighbour."

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 19 (Voices United 740-41)


A READING FROM JOHN 2:13-22
   (NIV)  When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up
   to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep
   and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a
   whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and
   cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned
   their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here!
   How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"   His disciples
   remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." 

   Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to
   prove your authority to do all this?" 
 
   Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in
   three days." 

   The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,
   and you are going to raise it in three days?" 

   But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from
   the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.  Then they believed
   the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

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

       
* HYMN:  "Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God"                        - VU 356


SERMON:  "Wisdom For All Times"

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the words of my
   lips and the meditations of our hearts - grow thou in us and show us
   your ways and inspire us to live by your truth.  Amen

When I was fifteen I envied a friend of mine - his name was Bob.
Bob was allowed to do anything he wanted to do.
Most especially, Bob could stay out late - as late as he wanted.

Many was the time that in the middle of roaming around Nanaimo with Bob all
evening, I would have to leave him and head home in time to meet my curfew.

There it was - only ten o'clock - nine on weekdays - and I would have to
report to my father while meanwhile Bob - could continue on - playing games
- talking to girls, whatever it was.

I resented having to go home.  
I resented the rules that were imposed on me.
I wanted to be like Bob.  
I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do.

One night - as my time limit approached - I told Bob how much I envied him,
how I wished my I did not have leave, how I wished my father was not so
strict.

To this day I remember his response to me - 
he said - "Richard - you are lucky.  My parents don't care what I do. 
They've given up on me.  At least you know that your parents care - they
care enough to give you rules."

This, my brothers and sisters, is what the law and the commandments of God
are all about. They are a sign of God's care.

The ten commandments which we heard read this morning - were given by God
to the people of Israel after God delivered them from bondage in the land
of Egypt.  They were given to the people as part of the covenant God
offered to them - a covenant that they were free to accept or reject - a
covenant in which God promised to be their God and to watch over them and
protect them.

From this covenant we get the name of the first part of the Bible - the Old
Testament. 

The word Testament is a translation of the word Covenant.

The Old Testament was given to Israel by God through Moses.
The New Testament is given to us by God through Christ.  

It too has its law.  

Jesus told his disciples

   A new commandment I give to you -- that you love one another.  Just
   as I have loved you, you also should love one anther.  By this
   everyone will know that you are my disciples - if you have love for
   one another.

The law of God is a sign of the love of God.
It is meant for our good, no matter how restrictive it may appear at times,
no matter how narrow-minded it may at first seem.

The Rev. Charles Cook of Fayetteville, North Carolina served with the US
Army.  He tells the story of the day he arrived on a Boeing 707 in Vietnam. 
He writes

   "I noticed off the end of the runway a thousand little three-foot-
   wide depressions that I assumed to be craters caused by shelling. 
   From a thousand feet up it looked as though the earth had small pox.

   "Is that a minefield?" I asked.

   "No, they are graves.", said the senior NCO, "the Vietnamese
   Buddhists break the legs of their dead so that they can bury them
   sitting upright in the lotus position.  Their graves are round."

   Hearing the mechanical scrape as the landing gear deployed, I looked
   down upon my new home.  "There's your minefield, over to the left",
   said the NCO.

   It was not what I expected.  What I saw looked like a beautiful
   soccer field.  All around our compound were the flattest and most
   verdant fields I had ever seen.  They were as green and flat as the
   top of a billiard table.... their moist greenness begged to be
   massaged by bare toes, to be played on, to be marked off for a game
   of football.  The only problem was that they were deadly fields. 
   These inviting fields were killing fields.

   I remember one afternoon not long after, seeing a group of kids
   playing stickball right in the middle of one of those minefields. 
   The MP's who were supposed to be watching the field went colourless,
   then started yelling, screaming, and waving their arms at those
   kids, who did not understand a word of English.  It would have been
   funny, had it not been so dangerous.  One sweating MP quickly found
   a map of the field that gave the location of the mines, and his
   squad beat a careful route to the children.  Grabbing the children,
   who were writhing and screaming in terror, they carefully began to
   retrace their steps back to the end of the minefield.  At about the
   same time the children's parents arrived to see their kids flailing
   insanely and being hauled off by a squad of hefty GI's.  I could
   only wonder at the terror of these children and their mothers, who
   were gesticulating in helpless anguish.  They tried to run toward
   the children, but they were held back at the edge of the minefield
   by another squad of MP's.  These mothers, I am sure, believed their
   children were being killed.  Actually, exactly the opposite was
   happening.  They could not realize that the MP's prohibition was
   infinitely more merciful than a thoughtless permission would have
   been.

   That night, as I lay on my cot, I wondered what would have happened
   if, in the name of a shallow and indulgent love, the company
   commander had listened to the cries of those children.  I tried to
   imagine him saying - "Oh, I'm sorry.  We really did not mean to
   inconvenience you.  Go ahead and finish your game of stickball."

   Would it have been loving for the commander to relax the rules
   against playing in the minefield?  As a lay awake on my cot,
   listening to explosions in the distance, I could not help wondering
   if the God of the ten commandments is less interested in spoiling
   his children's fun than in telling them that they are in a
   minefield.

From time to time in the media we are treated to a long series of opinions
about changing or not changing the laws of our nation regarding assisted
suicide.  The Sue Rodriguz case here in BC and the Robert Latimer case in
Saskatchewan really brought this matter to our attention a few short years
ago.

As in the abortion debate - those most in favour of changing the law - of
making assisted suicide legal in certain circumstances - appeal to the
suffering, to the cries of despair, to the struggles of certain people. 
They state that the current restrictions are cruel and cause suffering.

Those against changing the laws argue that assisting someone to kill
themselves is simply wrong - that there is a world of difference between
not taking extraordinary measures to prolong life, and actually causing a
life to end by injecting that person with a chemical.

My friends, we live in, or next to, a minefield.

God knows this - and he knows our hearts, 
and that is why he has given us his law -
and as hard as that law may seem at times, 
holding to that law keeps us safe.

There is nothing in the life of Christ, or in his message, that makes the
law of God less relevant to us than it was and is to the people of Israel.

Some say , of course, that love is superior to the law,
that it is more important than the law 
- and most certainly they are correct!
the law, after all, is given because of love 
- love does not come from the law.

But having said this let us also remember that while love is superior to
the law it does not render the law null and void.

Jesus said

   I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfil
   them.  Truly I tell you - until heaven and earth pass away, not one
   letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all
   is accomplished.

And he goes on - and this should give pause to anyone who claims the name
of Christ; he goes on to say   

   Therefore whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and
   teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom
   of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called
   great in the kingdom of heaven.

It is a minefield out there.  And unfortunately some of those who should be
teaching us what the rules are so we can navigate that field safely, are
too busy breaking them and telling others to do the same.  They say that
God is love - and love would never deny anyone what they want and need.

We have professors of theology that teach that abortion is an act of
kindness - that no one should have to have a baby that they do not want,
and while this may be true - they do not tell us about celibacy, monogamy,
or the sacred vows of marriage, nor do they speak of adoption - of gifting
one's child to someone who really wants one.

We have MP's that break the laws of the nation for the sake of the cries of
terror of a woman who was suffering - but who do not tell us about the real
gains medical science has made in pain control - nor about the hundreds of
men and women who have not given into despair - but who have fought their
diseases - and made great gains for the world - for their families - for
themselves  - before their time came.

My friends - the law should always be interpreted by love 
   - Jesus himself pointed this out when he stated that the Sabbath was
   made for man, not man for the Sabbath;
but for those who have accepted the new covenant that has been offered to
us in Him,  this does not mean that the law can be watered down and then
finally discarded.

Jesus refused to walk the path of compromise when it came to the law -
indeed he pointed out the Spirit of the Law of Love is far more demanding
than the written letter of the law.

Where the ten commandments outlaw adultery, 
   Jesus outlaws even the thought of adultery,
where the ten commandments outlaw murder, 
   Jesus outlaws even the hateful intent.

If we wish to ignore the law of God  
- or just to water it down in the name of love
then let us not pretend to the name of Christ 
- to the name of the one who kept the law perfectly..

The law is given to us out of love.  It is designed to keep us safe and
provide us with guidance and light as we navigate the minefield of this
world.

The law is part of the covenant that God has made with us to be our God.

That covenant is not harsh or harmful; 
it is loving and forgiving,  it is merciful and kind.

So merciful and kind is that covenant 
- the covenant that we have in Christ,
that a promise is made to us -
the promise that when we break the law,
and then realize what we have done and are repentant,
that God will forgive us - and heal us,
that God will reckon to us the perfect righteousness of Christ..

The law should not be a cause of despair for us,
   but rather a cause for joy -
for it is the expression of God's love for us
   every bit as much as Christ's death on the cross is an expression of
God's love for us.

The law which God has given us to guide us in the ways of love can be found
in this book,

The love of Christ which forgives us and saves us - 
   the love which we are called to show to one another,
       the love which embodies the fulfilment and completion of the law 
- that love is found in every one who believes in him and seeks to walk as
he walked, trusting in God and in his word.  

Listen to that love - listen to the Lord your God - and be faithful. 

Praise be to God - now and evermore.  Amen


LET US PRAY 
L  The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
P  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
L  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
P  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
L  The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
P  By them is your servant warned; 
   in keeping them there is great reward.
L  We give you thanks O God for your love and for the law you give us to
   guide us in your ways.  Help us to live as you have shown us.  Lord
   hear our prayer.
P  And in your love answer.

Holy and Merciful God, God of law and of love, in the Gospel today we how
Jesus drove from the temple those who were turning it into a den of
thieves.  Keep us, O Lord, from actions, no matter how well intended, that
hinder others from approaching you.  Cleanse our lives through the power of
your Spirit and write your commandments upon our hearts, bring the way of
love to our minds by day and by night.... Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord, your Word provides wisdom for all times.  It shows us the way of life
and the way of death and calls us to chose which path we will walk.   We
pray O God that we - and our world - and most especially the leaders of our
world - may walk in the way that leads to life.  Help them to trust in you
rather than in the strength of their own arms, help them to seek you rather
than worldly greatness or power.  We ask, O Lord, for a miracle, the
miracle of a world that abides in peace....  Lord, hear our prayer....

Today, O Lord, we pray for all who are the victims of war - we pray for
those who have lost their innocence, for those who have lost their homes,
for those who have been injured and maimed, for those who have lost a loved
one.   Bring, O God, your healing love to them.  And may your Spirit of
mercy and forgiveness inspire and lift up all who are in need of it.  Raise
up the humble, O God, and bring the prideful to their senses....  Lord,
hear our prayer...

Hear our prayers too O God for those we name before you in our hearts -
those for whom you have given us a special burden of care this day.... 
(Bidding Prayer) .... Lord, hear our prayer....

Loving Father, we ask all these things 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

   We pray to you most Merciful and most Gracious God, accept these
   tithes and offerings given in love and in obedience to your word. 
   Make us, your humble servants, ever more holy, so that in all that
   we say and do your mercy and your power and your love may shine
   forth - and the world render you praise on account of us.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN: "God of Grace and God of Glory" (cwm rhondda)    - VU 686



* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace;
- And may the love of God uphold you
- the mercy of God sustain you
- and the Word of God direct you
The Lord bless you all - both now and forevermore. Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2003 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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