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Sermon and Liturgy For The Fifth Sunday in Lent - Year B
Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:5-13, John 12:20-33
"The Star Thrower"


READING:  Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:5-13, and John 12:20-33
SERMON :  "The Star Thrower"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-le05se 361000

   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.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Psalm 89:1-2,14-15)
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  I will sing of your steadfast love forever, O Lord.
P  I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
L  I will declare that your love stands firm forever.
P  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; 
   love and faithfulness go before you.
L  Blessed are they who have learned to acclaim you 
   and blessed are they who walk in the light of your presence.


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Most Holy God, we come week by week to seek from you in this sanctuary some
blessing or other.  We come hoping that you will touch us, that you will
fill us, but often we go away feeling the same as when we arrived.  We feel
Lord at these times that you have nothing to give us and we are tempted to
give up on prayer and worship, we are tempted to abandon you.  We confess,
O Lord, that we are unwilling to consider that perhaps we do not receive -
not because we do not ask, but because we are already full.  Most generous
God, help us empty ourselves so that we might receive your grace.  Help us
Lord give up our vain desire for personal happiness, for financial success,
for a life free from pain and labour.  Help us be rid of the critical
judgements about others and about our world that fill us with anger and
weariness of soul.  Help us Father, to cast out all thought that we can do
without the love of our neighbours and the support of your Spirit.
 ............... (silent prayer) ..............
Loving and gracious God, we thank you for your grace and your mercy.  As we
gather today in the name of Jesus to celebrate the new covenant that you
have made with us in through his death and resurrection, be present with us
and bring to life within us the message that you have written upon our
hearts.  Amen.


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


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


* HYMN: "We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer"                       - VU 218


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Seed Planting"
Object:   Seeds
Theme:    Things Must Die To Live Again
Source:   Self

Good morning...  Today is so beautiful and warm it has got me to thinking
about gardening.  Have any of you ever planted a garden or helped plant a
field with your Dad or your Mom???  Do you like doing it??? 

When I was about your age I was given some seeds to plant.  I thought that
they were very nice seeds - they were kind of round, they rattled in their
package and made a very nice sound.  My mother told me that the seeds were
full of life and that if I buried them they would become a beautiful plant. 
I didn't want to bury them - because they were so nice - and because I was
told that they were alive.  I wanted to put them in a jar where I could see
them - I wanted to save them - to use some of them in a pea shooter and to
watch the rest grow where I could see them. 

Do you ever save seeds???  What do you do with them when you save them???

Anyway - my mother told me to plant the seeds - because if I did something
wonderful would happen to them - they would change and grow and become
great big plants - and that after a while I would get a whole lot more
seeds from them - and I would also get some food from them that we could
eat.

I found that hard to believe.  How about you - do you believe that if you
take a seed and put in the ground that it will become something even more
beautiful than it already is???

Jesus told his disciples that he was like a seed.  He told them that while
he could help them and make them feel good while he was alive - that after
he died and was buried - that he could do even more for them - that he
would change - like a seed changes into a plant - and that he would be able
to help them forever.  He also told them that when they died - believing in
him - that they would get a new life too - just like his. 


THE LORD'S PRAYER


* HYMN:  "Now The Green Blade Rises"                               - VU 186


A READING FROM JEREMIAH 31:31-34
   (NRSV)  The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a
   new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. {32} It
   will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I
   took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a
   covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
   {33} But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
   after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I
   will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall
   be my people. {34} No longer shall they teach one another, or say to
   each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least
   of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their
   iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 119:9-16 (VU 838, Beth, and Refrain)


ANTHEM


A READING FROM HEBREWS 5:5-13
   (NRSV)  So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high
   priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, "You are my Son,
   today I have begotten you"; {6} as he says also in another place, "You
   are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." {7} In
   the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with
   loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death,
   and he was heard because of his reverent submission. {8} Although he
   was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; {9} and
   having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for
   all who obey him, {10} having been designated by God a high priest
   according to the order of Melchizedek. {11} About this we have much to
   say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in
   understanding. {12} For though by this time you ought to be teachers,
   you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles
   of God. You need milk, not solid food; {13} for everyone who lives on
   milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.

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


* HYMN: "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"                         - VU 149


A READING FROM JOHN 12:20-33
   (NRSV)  Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were
   some Greeks. {21} They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in
   Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." {22} Philip went
   and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. {23} Jesus
   answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
   {24} Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the
   earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it
   bears much fruit. {25} Those who love their life lose it, and those who
   hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. {26}
   Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant
   be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. {27} "Now my soul
   is troubled. And what should I say--' Father, save me from this hour'?
   No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. {28} Father,
   glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified
   it, and I will glorify it again." {29} The crowd standing there heard
   it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to
   him." {30} Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for
   mine. {31} Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this
   world will be driven out. {32} And I, when I am lifted up from the
   earth, will draw all people to myself." {33} He said this to indicate
   the kind of death he was to die.

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


SERMON: "The Star Thrower" 

       Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of our
       hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee,
       our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

There is a story in a book called the UNEXPECTED UNIVERSE about a
man called the Star Thrower.  The story is by the late Loren Eiseley 
and it goes like this:

     On a beautiful tropical beach occasionally the tide and
     the surf would be just right, and they would combine, and
     cause a lot of shellfish to be cast far up onto the beach.

     Some of these shellfish were very beautiful, and so after
     they were cast up on the beach professional collectors and
     sellers would descend on the beach and swoop up all the
     shells to take them home where they would boil them and
     clean out all the flesh of the animals inside them and
     then sell the shells to tourists.  Some of the shells were
     very valuable for they were very rare, and a lot of money
     could be made by a diligent collector.

     One morning, after the moon and the wind had been just
     right, and many shellfish had been tossed up on the beach,
     a man was seen at the far end of the beach all by himself,
     picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into
     the sea.

     Curious about what he was doing with the starfish while so
     many other people were busy collecting the shellfish
     someone went over to him and asked him if he too collected
     things on the beach.

     "Only like this", he replied, "I collect only for the living"
     And throwing another starfish back into the sea he said -
     "See, one can help them..."
	 
	 He was asked how what he was doing could make a difference
	 in the face of all the collecting going on.  As he threw 
	 another starfish back into the sea he turned and said, 
	 "It made a difference to that one."

I think that this story has a lot to say to us about Jesus and
about ourselves.

You see, in the midst of this world most people exploit things
for their own personal benefit,
     they take every advantage to get ahead,
     to gain more than they already have,
and even the things of exceptional beauty are not exempt.

Given the right circumstances - people rush to pick up that which
is suddenly and unexpectedly made available, ignoring, meanwhile,
the suffering that is all around them in their hurry to look
after themselves.

Jesus was a star thrower.

He moved among us - who are like the dying starfish, longing for
the ocean from which they have been tossed -
    and instead of taking what he could from that ocean,
    instead of seeking to enhance and enrich his own life,
he paid attention to those who were in need,
    he collected for the living,
    he helped them instead of himself.

In obedience to a higher law Jesus came among us to rescue and
reclaim lost souls, to set them free from the power of sin and
death by returning them to the ocean of God's love, God's law,
God's power.

He came to restore wholeness to those who lay helpless and
stranded upon the shore of life because either the tide and wind
had cast them there,
    or - as is so often the case with us, but not so often in the
    case of starfish, because they had thoughtlessly and
   foolishly stranded themselves on the shore.

And Jesus did this, at cost to himself.  As he said to a man who
thought to follow him    "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the
                          air have nests, but the Son of Man has
                          no place to lay his head".

Jesus renounced everything for the sake of bringing life to those
around him: - his family - his home, - and finally, his very life
he lay down 
     so that others might live, 
     so that others might know the blessings of God, 
     so that others might be returned to the ocean of God's love.

Some might say - the cost of this is too high to expect of us,
we are not Jesus, we do not have the special breaks that he had.
And it is true that we are not Jesus, 
but we are called to follow him, and to have his mind within us.

And it is true too - that Jesus had some special breaks,
but God has promised these very same breaks to us,
if we but would walk with Jesus as he walked with us.

The power of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus,
the joy and the sorrow of Jesus, and the life everlasting of
Jesus, are all available to us - for the asking and the wanting,
if we but follow him,  if we are but willing to walk as he
walked, and die as he died,  in obedience to the Father.

Jesus said -     Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and
                 dies, it remains but a single seed.  But if it
                 dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves
                 his life in this world will lose it, but the man
                 who hates his life in this world will keep it for
                 eternal life.

This is part of the law of God - given in the new covenant;
     the law that is written upon our hearts,
          and which is fruitful in us,
             if we but allow ourselves to hear it and to heed it.

But too often we are like those spoken of in the book of Hebrews,
    while we ought to be teachers of spiritual truth,
       we end up needing someone to teach us the elementary
            truth of God's word all over again;
       we need someone to draw our attention to that which
is written within us, and is very so apparent in the structure of 
our world - if we only have the eyes to see.

Jesus knew this inner law of God, this law that states that the
more we seek for ourselves,
   the more attached we become to the life we have,
   the more we seek to avoid pain and suffering,
   the more we ignore the needs of others and seek instead to meet our own,
the more wretched we become and the closer to death we are.

Jesus did not want the pain of the cross - he did not want death,
he prayed to God that the cup would pass him by --- as do we.
          
Nor can we imagine that Jesus felt good about how his family
doubted him, and his friends betrayed him, 
but even so Jesus was faithful to law of life.

He knew that by caring for others, 
by putting the love of God and neighbour ahead of his own desires 
    that God would be glorified,
    that many who were lost would be found,
    and that he would be raised up - not just on a cross of suffering,
but on a cross of glory as well.

    What profits it a man to gain the whole world, but loose his soul.

There are so many around us today with lost souls, 
    they cling desperately to their families,
    they crave acceptance and love and hope to find it 
        by gaining power and influence,
        or by simply doing whatever anyone else asks, 
    no matter how good or bad it may be for them, or for the one that
has asked it of them.

Others drug themselves into a stupor to avoid the pain they feel
- they use the wonderful things God has given us to conquer
physical pain with, or the things that God provides for simple
enjoyment, to deaden in themselves all feeling, for they do not
like themselves, nor do they find joy in the world.

There are so many who hold so tightly onto their lives in fear,
that they refuse to experience their lives in all the fullness
that is available to them - in both the good times and the bad
times. 

They are turned in on themselves and their own needs, 
rather than turned outward to the world.

Think my friends of the people we have the most difficulty with,
- of those whom we do not like, and find it hard to love...
think of those whom we pity and - when we have the strength and
grace to love them, find it so hard to in fact do so.

Do not many of them share this in common?
Are they not wrapped up in themselves,
clinging to things that others have put aside,
    whether it be resentments and hates and fears,
          or more simply and just as difficult to deal with, 
    an inflated estimate of themselves?

And who do we admire?  Who do we glorify in our heart of hearts?

Is it those who win the lottery,
Or those who are famous for building some great company 
or winning some great war?

Or do we glorify and admire deep within us those who show true love for
others?  Those who have accepted us and others in their weaknesses as well
as in their strengths?

Do we not admire those, and sometimes even gently chide those,
who give of themselves 
and ignore what we think their own needs are or should be?

Don't we want to hug and encourage them and thank them for what they do? 
Don't we want to give them a bit of what they give others?

Jesus put the truth very strongly at times,
    those who love their lives will loose them,
    but those who hate their lives in this world will save them,
and keep them unto eternal life.

But that truth is meant to grab your attention,
and to remind you that you yourself often stand in the way
of what God has in mind for you to see and experience.

So often when walking in the forest 
  - all the lumberjack sees are trees that are ripe for
         harvesting,
  - all the carpenter sees are the different kinds of wood for
         different kinds of furniture and buildings,
  - all the hunter sees is the places in which animals might
         hide when the season is open,
  - and all the farmer sees is fertile land that could benefit
         from clearing.

But the forest is a wondrous place: full of magic, full of
beauty, full of life, full of God's presence for those who walk
in it with eyes free to see it; with hearts free of the desire to
make it into something that meets their own needs - though well
it may meet those needs.

What I am saying to you here today is simply this,
   what we really need in life cannot be grasped by us,
       it cannot be fashioned by our own desperate efforts,
       it cannot be taken by us from the shelf in the store,
   rather it can only be received as a gift of God.
       - a gift that comes to all those who give up trying to grasp
         it, trying to fashion it, trying to take it;
       - a gift that comes to all follow Jesus, and with him love God 
         and those around them that God has entrusted to their care.

Jesus was a star thrower,
he walked among us as one who cared for the living,
and sought to restore them to the ocean of God's love.

Because he was faithful in this, God was glorified by those
around Jesus - those who felt his care and his compassion.  They
praised God for what Jesus said and did and for the love that he
poured out on them, and they in turn gave back to him.

Love given is love multiplied, 
love only taken is love lost.

God himself glorified Christ upon the cross,
he multiplied the work that Jesus did on earth,
rewarding him for his faithfulness 
by granting to all who call upon his name, 
and who walk in his way, 
forgiveness for their sins and life everlasting.

Jesus was a seed -- like you and I,

He was a seed which did not stay lifeless in the bag,
but which instead fell to the ground 
and gave up all that made him a single seed, 
thereby giving life to others.

Like the star thrower, he could have enriched himself in this world, 
but he chose instead to follow the law of love.

In doing so Jesus conquered evil, and destroyed the power of sin and death.

Empty yourselves of your desire to save your life as it is,
- turn to Jesus and call upon his name and his strength, that you
might may become a seed that instead of remaining lifeless in the
bag, falls to the ground and receives new life, and gives new
life to the world.

Alone we are nothing, we have no power that lasts beyond the day,
but with God we are a mighty host, able to endure and to triumph
with those who are responsive to his call.

Praise be to God, and Praise be to Jesus Christ his son.  Amen.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE 


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

   O God - our hearts would not withhold our devotion, or our hands
   grasp for ourselves what you have called us to give.  May these
   gifts signify our commitment to you and to the gospel revealed by
   your Son, Christ Jesus our Lord.  Receive these offerings and lead
   us in his path.  We ask it in his name, Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Nearer, My God, To Thee"                       - Vu 497


* 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 blessing of God fall upon you; 
may the living presence of Jesus, our eternal high priest, surround you; 
and may the Holy Spirit guide and support you 
both now and evermore.  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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