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Sermon and Liturgy For Lent 04 - Year B
- Holy Humour or Laughter Sunday -
Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107, and John 3:11-21
"The Medicine of Eternity"


READING:  Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107; and John 3:11-21
SERMON :  "The Medicine of Eternity"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-le04smsu 536876

   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.

   See our Laughter Sunday Page page for a little background to 
   the following service.  The structure of the service is a bit 
   different than normal.  The homily is a brief reflection on the 
   texts using a number of humourous stories to keep the whole 
   thing light.   You will find that there will be a lot of material 
   offered by the congregation and the time will go quickly.   
     

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 103:1-5, Isaiah 66:10)
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  Bless the Lord, O my soul.  
   May all that is within me bless God's holy name.
P  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
L  The Lord forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.  
P  The Lord redeems us from the grave 
   and crowns us with steadfast love and mercy.  
   He satisfies us with good as long as we live.
L 	Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her.
P	All you who love her; rejoice with her in joy. 


PRAYER OF APPROACH
L  Most loving God, we praise you for the light you have sent into the
   world. Help us, we pray, come to that light.
P  Lord, we do not want to live in fear of the truth.  
   We are tired of concealing from you and from others what we have done.  
   We know we cannot hide from you.
L  Forgive us Lord for turning away from you.  
   Overcome our fear with your grace.
      ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L  Help us Lord to remember that you seek to save the world, not to
   condemn it.
P  We praise you for offering your love and forgiveness to all through
   Christ Jesus.  We thank you for calling us to walk in his light.
L  Eternal God, fount of every blessing, source of all good, author of all
   truth, hear us and attend us as we gather to worship you, to learn from
   you, and to show care for our brothers and sisters.  Make this time a
   time of faithful prayer and fellowship.  Remind us of the depths of
   your love, the cost of your mercy, and the glory of your deeds, that we
   may worthily magnify your name and grow in the grace show to us through
   your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.  Amen


* HYMN:   "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee                            - VU 232


CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Good Gifts of God"
Object:   Cake (prepared by church)                                        
Theme:    God Gives Us Good Gifts
Source:   Self

Good morning.  Today's scripture readings reminds us that we are special to
God - and it got me to thinking - who is a special person in your life??? 
Who is really important to you???

Do you do anything special for these people???  How do you treat them???

Today in the gospel reading we heard that God so loved the world that he
gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him might not perish, but
have eternal life.  That is a lot of words - but what it means is that each
one of us is very special to God.  We are so special, that Jesus died for
us so that we might live not only here and now - but also in heaven later
on.  That is very special treatment and I would like you all to think about
it and about how we treat other people so that they might know we love them
and that they are special to us.

That is what the cake is about today.  Many times in my life when I went to
visit someone unexpectedly, they would tell me that I was special to them -
and then sing a line from a little song - which went like this "If I had
known you were coming,  I would have baked you a cake."

Because we want to have some fun today, to laugh a bit, and to enjoy each
other - I got Colleen and Myrtle to bake a cake for everyone who came here
today - and we are now going to share it with you.  First though - let us
say our family prayer together.


THE LORD'S 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

   
                             Distribute Cake 


* HYMN:  "Come, Children, Join to Sing"                             - VU 345


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

  
HUMOUR INTERLUDE - Sharing From the Pews
Good morning.  I would like to read a scripture passage.  It is from 
the Book in the Bible called Ecclesiastes (3:1-4)and it goes like this:
          
	For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter 
	under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to 
	plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, 
	and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
	a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time
	to dance.
            
Today is a time to laugh - a time to rejoice.  People here today have brought some 
funny stories and jokes to tell in church – that we might enjoy them and allow 
laughter to fill our hearts and work it's healing power in our lives.  I was 
wondering if any of you know any funny stories you would like to tell today?

Well I have one.......
          
	There was an older man, Bud, and his wife, Millie, who lived out in 
	a rural area and didn't make it into town very often.  One day his 
	wife obtained a copy of a ladies' magazine that touted the benefits 
	of taking a milk bath.  She decided that this was just what she needed 
	to make her feel beautiful and sent her husband to a neighbouring dairy 
	farm to purchase the milk.  When he arrived, Bud told the dairy farmer 
	that he wanted to purchase enough milk for his wife to take a milk bath.
	The dairy farmer asked, "Do you want the milk pasteurized?"  
         
	"No," replied Bud, "just up to her neck will do just fine."
            
Let's see if anyone out there has another they would like to share with you...

	SHARE   SHARE   SHARE

I have some questions for you - see what you think of them?

- Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?
- Why is it that night falls but day breaks?
- Why do they call it "chili" if it's hot?
- Have you ever seen a toad on a toadstool?
- Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavour, and dishwashing liquid made 
with real lemons?
- If cats and dogs didn't have fur would we still pet them?
- If peanut butter cookies are made from peanut butter, then what are Girl 
Scout cookies made out of?
- If tin whistles are made out of tin, what do they make fog horns out of?


* HYMN:  "Give To Us Laughter"	                                    - VU 624


A READING FROM NUMBERS 24:1-9
   (NIV)  Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he
   did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward
   the desert.  When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by
   tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him {3} and he uttered his oracle:
   
   "The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees
   clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a
   vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are
   opened: 
   
   "How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! 
   
   "Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes 
   planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.  Water will flow 
   from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. 
   
   "Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.  

   "God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. 
   They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their 
   arrows they pierce them.  Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a 
   lioness--who dares to rouse them? 
   
   "May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!"

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


HUMOUR INTERLUDE - Sharing From the Pews
There is a time to laugh.  Well - this is it.  Who has a story or joke 
to tell?
	
	In a large Florida city, the local rabbi developed quite a 
	reputation for  his sermons; so much so that everyone in the 
	community came every Shabbos.  Unfortunately, one weekend a 
	member had to visit Long Island for his nephew's Bar Mitzvah.  
	But he didn't want to miss The Rabbi's sermon. So he decided 
	to hire a "Shabbos goy" to sit in the congregation and tape 
	the sermon so he could listen to it when he returned.  

	Other congregants saw what was going on, and they also decided 
	to hire "Shabbos goys" to tape the sermon so they could play golf 
	instead of going to shul.  Within a few weeks time there were 
	500 gentiles sitting in shul taping the Rabbi.

	The Rabbi got wise to this.  The following Shabbos he, too, hired 
	a Shabbos goy who brought a tape recorder to play his prerecorded 
	sermon.

	Witnesses said this marked the first incidence in history of 
	"artificial insermonation."

	SHARE 
	SHARE
	SHARE


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 107 (Voices United 831 and Refrain)


HUMOUR INTERLUDE: Sharing From the Pews
There is a time to laugh.  Well - this is it.  Who has a story or 
joke to tell. 
	
	If a jogger runs at the speed of sound, can he still hear 
	his Walkman?

	SHARE 

	SHARE 

	SHARE

	If swimming is good for your shape, then why do the whales 
	look the way they do?


A READING FROM JOHN 3:11-21
   (NIV)  I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify
   to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
   I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how
   then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  No one has
   ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of
   Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son
   of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may
   have eternal life. 
   
   "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that 
   whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For 
   God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to 
   save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, 
   but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has 
   not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 
   
   This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved 
   darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone 
   who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for 
   fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth 
   comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has 
   done has been done through God."

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


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


HUMOUR INTERLUDE - Sharing From the Pews
There is a time to laugh.  Well - this is it.  Who has a story or joke 
to tell. 
	
	If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several 
	times, does he become disoriented?

	SHARE 
	SHARE
	SHARE

	If Barbie's so popular, why do you have to buy all her 
	friends?


SERMON:  "The Medicine of Eternity" 

   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

The are many ways of worshipping God - of thanking God for his love - for
his gift of Jesus - for giving us the opportunity to live new lives, for
his promise of eternal salvation.

We who were once dead in our trespasses - are now alive together in Christ.
That live is a full life 
- a life of light rather than darkness,
- a life of both seriousness and of laughter; of joy, as well as of
sobriety.
- a life in which life overcomes death.

Humour - humour that is clean and joyful - is part of any full life -
   it not only makes us feel good to laugh, it makes others feel good.
Humour is medicinal - good for us - and for others -
   so much so that I wrote a proverb many years ago about it -

That proverb is this -- "if you don't laugh, you don't take life seriously
enough"

Centuries ago Solomon said - "A merry heart is good medicine, but a
downcast spirit dries up the bones".  He also wrote, "He that is of a merry
heart has a continual feast"

Today I want to share the gospel with you with a series of stories, stories
in which the nature of the life that God gives us through Christ are
revealed. 

   Gracie Allen once received a small live alligator as a gift from a
   fan.  Gracie didn't know what to do with the gator so she put it in
   her bathtub and left for an appointment.  When she returned home she
   found this note from her maid.

   "Dear Miss Allen.  Sorry.  But I had to quit.  I don't work in
   houses where there is an alligator.  I'd a told you this when I was
   hired, but I never thought it would come up."

God never leaves us - or gives up on us - no matter what we do 
   God makes provision for the alligators in our lives,
       he has a plan for dealing with our sins.

God is a bit like the guest preacher who stepped up to the pulpit and
addressed the congregation with these words: 

       As I understand it, my job is to preach and your job is to
       listen.  If you finish before I do, please let me know."

God hears the cries of his people and in love - answers them.  That is the
meaning of both the Old Testament reading and the gospel this morning. God
cares - and reaches out in forgiveness to heal those who turn to him those
who believe in him, those who repent.

The people of Israel when they sinned in the wilderness prayed to the Lord
to take away the snakes that were afflicting them - and they were given a
sign by which they could be saved if they but gazed upon it.

We too are given a sign, by which we are saved - when we look upon it and
believe. 

Of course - without that looking and the repentance it implies - without
faith - without an attempt to walk by the light - the grace of God is of
little use to us.

   The story is told of three men who showed up at the gates of heaven
   one day.  To their surprise their was a guard at the gate.  They
   immediately asked what was going on - that they thought Saint Peter
   would be there to meet them.

   "Heaven has a new policy", replied the guard.  "Before entering
   heaven everyone must pass a spelling test."

   "OK", said the first man.  "If that is what God wants, that is what
   I will give him."

   "Spell the word GOD", the guard asked him.  "G O D" replied the man. 
   The gate opened and in he went.

   The second man stepped forward., a smile on his face.  The guard
   glanced at his bright sunny face, and asked if he was ready.  

   "Most certainly", replied the man, "I only hope that you will not be
   too hard on me."

   "No problem", replied the guard.  Spell GOD "

   "G O D", replied the man and the gate opened and in he went.

   The third man watched all this with increasing irritation.  "This is
   ridiculous", he said to the guard.  "Who ever heard of something
   this stupid!  Whoever dreamed it up is an idiot.  I worked hard all
   my life - and I have to face this when coming to my rest.  As soon
   as I get in, I'm going to register a complaint."

   "I'm sorry", said the guard, "but the rules are the rules.  Are you
   ready to spell your word?"

   "Of course I am" the man snapped.  "I've got nothing else to do with
   my time.  Ask away."

   "Very well", said the guard, "spell Czechoslovakia"

Jesus came to give life, and give it abundantly - now - and eternity.,
In return - he simply asks that we follow him whole heartedly,
that we turn our lives over to his care completely, holding nothing back.

   When I worked for the Department of National Revenue and Taxation
   back in 1971 and 72 it was my job to read all the letters that came
   into the department and decide who should receive them.  Several
   times it was my pleasure to read letters from people who had just
   given their lives over to the Lord and who wished to start their new
   lives with a clean slate by paying back money that they had cheated
   the government out of.

   Commenting on this marvel of repentance and new life to one of my
   co-workers, I was told that the tax department officials didn't
   quite know what to do with a letter that they had received a couple
   of years earlier.  The man who wrote it explained that he hadn't
   been able to sleep well since 1960 when he cheated on his income
   tax.  Enclosed in the letter were five $100 bills.  The man
   concluded the letter by saying that if he didn't sleep better now,
   he would send the rest."

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  God did not send
the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world
may be saved through him.

Those who believe in him, will live forever - in God's kingdom.  

None of us knows just what that kingdom is like -
but we do know that in it there will be not more suffering, no tears, no
scorching heat,
nor anything else that is unpleasant.  

   A suburban lady who was not only disagreeable, but a bit of snob,
   was chatting over the fence with a neighbour.  "We are going to be
   living in a better neighbourhood soon", she said.

   "So are we", replied the neighbour.

   "Oh, are you moving too?", the snob wanted to know.

   "No", said the neighbour, smiling sweetly.  "We're staying right
   here."

In heaven we will not be afflicted by those who work evil, 
nor will we have to deal with those who walk in darkness.
Meanwhile - we do have to deal with them.

A good way of doing so is by not taking their insults too seriously, by
turning the other cheek when we can, and speaking the truth in love to all
whom we meet ---- kind of like the brother in the monastic order which was
low on funds.  The Abbot decided that the brothers would set up a fish and
chips stand outside the monastery - which happened to border a very busy
street and after a few days had gone by they were ready to sell their
product.

   The very first customer came up to the counter and with smirk asked
   Brother Alfred, "Are you the fish friar"?

   "No," said Brother Alfred with a straight face, "I'm the fish
   friar".

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the Captain of a ship that was approached
by a sailor who said "I have a special message from the admiral, captain. 
It is to you personally."

   "Read it to me", snapped the captain.

   The sailor read, "Of the blundering, stupid, idiotic morons, you
   take the cake."

   "Have that message decoded at once, "ordered the captain.

When dealing with difficult people, it helps to have a divine view of
things; to recall for example that in biblical days it was considered a
miracle for an ass to speak, and that now it often requires a miracle to
keep one quiet.

Which reminds me of the atheist who asked the preacher "do you honestly
believe that Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of whale?"

   The preacher replied, "I don't know sir, but when I get to heaven I
   will ask him."

   "But suppose he is isn't in heaven?", the atheist responded.

  "Then you ask him!" said the preacher.

Remember too, that when people who never goes to church defend their lack
of faith by insisting that they is just as good as half the folks who do,
they rarely specify which half.

Remember as well when you are being annoyed by someone who attacks you for
your faith the preacher's answer to the heckler who said "Christianity
hasn't done much good.  It's been in the world for nineteen hundred years
and look at the mess we're in."

His answer - "Soap has been in the world longer than that - and look at the
dirt on your hands."

You might also want to remember that the man who tries to prove that there
is no hell, generally has a personal reason for doing so.

But all in all my friends remember this - that for us there is no hell -
there is no hell for us because Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom
of heaven.  He has opened the gates - and he invites us in and that all he
asks is that we believe - and that we follow him - trusting in his word,
and relying upon his love, a love which comes from God above, and which
gives light to all who turn toward it.

By grace you are saved through faith - and this is not your own doing, it
is the gift of God.  Amen


LET US PRAY 
Gracious God - we are so thankful for your love towards us.  So often Lord
we can't believe that anyone loves us., we feel our mistakes so strongly -
we feel rejected - we are lonely, afraid, and angry.  Thank you Lord for
your love - a love so strong that it can reach even me... Lord hear our
prayer....

Help us O God to lead lives of faith.  You have promised to shine on our
path and to lighten our burdens when we forsake all other things and follow
you.  Help us to follow in confidence, in joy, and in peace, trusting in
your mercy and your grace and your care...  Lord hear our prayer.

We pray, today, O God, for all those who live in darkness rather than the
light.  Show them through our lives and our witness that there is new hope,
and that the darkness around them can be overcome and that they are
forgiven when they believe in your Son -- Lord, hear our prayer...

Bless those, we pray, who go forth in your name to bring light to the
world.  Anoint those who work in missions - and grant we pray that Peter
Charlton and those who go with him to Mexico may have all their needs met
and return to us able to do a good work in your name....  Lord hear our
prayer....

Look in favour we pray upon those who dwell in sadness and despair this
day.  Bless those who are suffering in body, mind, or spirit - and fulfil
their needs as they and we call upon you., we especially remember before
you  

- intercessions as shared in sharing time
....  Lord hear our prayer

Finally Father, help all those who feel weighed down by their efforts to
care for the world to lighten up in their practice of love and of justice
and to testify to the new life in Christ with laughter as well as with
seriousness, with joy as well as sombreness.  We ask it in the name of the
one who taught us that seven days without prayer makes one weak.  Amen.


FINAL HUMOUR INTERLUDE - Sharing From the Pews


* 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

   Gracious Lord - you have given us grace upon grace, you have freed
   us from the bondage of sin and granted us the strength and the
   guidance of your Holy Spirit.  All that we have and all that we are
   is the work of your hands.  Receive, we pray, these offerings, and
   use them and us as you will.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen..


FINAL HUMOUR INTERLUDE - Sharing From The Pews
   
 	Are part-time bandleaders semi-conductors?

	Can you buy an entire chess set in a pawn shop?

	How can there be self-help "groups"?

	Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?

   
* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Joy To The World"                               - VU 59


* 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 blessings of the God of Love Amazing and Divine be upon you, 
- indeed may the love of God the Father - the Son - and The Holy Spirit
fill you and use you wondrously
both now and forevermore.  Amen


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

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



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