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Sermon (2) and Liturgy For The Fourth Sunday After Epiphany - Year B
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and Mark 1:21-28
"Speaking With Authority"


READING:  Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and Mark 1:21-28
SERMON :  "Speaking With Authority"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or04sm 529000

   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 
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 fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
         kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
P        Against such things there is no law.
L        Since we live by the Spirit, let us stay open to the Spirit's
         calling.  Seek the Lord while he may be found.  Speak the
         word he gives; bless him and proclaim his greatness.
P        God is here, near at hand.  His Spirit is all around us.  We
         will rejoice and worship the Lord.  We will do all that God
         has commanded.


* INTROIT: "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee"      - VU 232 (verse 1)


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Most loving and gracious God - King of creation and Lord of all -
we thank you for how you have established your Holy Word as a
living force in this world - for how you have shown forth your
power, your glory and your love for us in the words and actions
of the prophets and in your Son Jesus, whom you sent to us to
lead us in the way of peace.  Help us to hear your word this day,
to absorb your love and to become more worthy disciples of Christ
Jesus.  We ask it in his name.  Amen


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


* HYMN:  "Spirit of The Living God" (verse 1, 2, 1)      - VU 376


CHILDREN'S TIME
Object:  Rock, Scissors, Paper
Theme:   Love is The Strongest
Source:  Concept from Harold Uhl "Object Lessons From Gospel of
         Mark"

How many of you know how to play the game "Rock, Scissors and
Paper"?  Rock is strong (fist) so it can break scissors (two
fingers) and scissors can cut paper (flat hand).  Paper can cover
rock.  The way you play is to put your fist in the palm of your
hand and as a person counts to three you bring your fist down
three times into your hand.- on the third count you make rock,
paper or scissors.  Since each one is stronger than something
else you know who wins.  Lets do it..

Oh - The winner gets to slap the wrist of the other person.  Lets
do it again...

This is a game and it can hurt after a while.  That is because
the stronger person can hurt the weaker one.  He is given
authority by the rules of the game to do what he wants. But every
time you play someone new wins - someone new is given the
authority.  That is like life - some people have authority and
power over others - and they use it to do what they want. 
Sometimes what they want to do isn't nice - like in the game.

Jesus shows us that he is stronger than anyone today in the
scripture reading.  He shows that he has power over evil - that
his love - that God's love can defeat the worst enemy.  The nice
thing is that Jesus uses his power and authority to help others
instead of to hurt them.  Instead of slapping us, or taking what
he wants - he heals people.  Jesus is the strongest and the best. 
When we follow him, his power and authority do good things for us
and through us.

     Let us Pray -- Dear Lord God - we thank you for giving
     Jesus power -- we thank you that his power is always good
      -- we thank you too that Jesus always helps us -- that he
     never hurts us -- help us follow him -- and use our power
     to help others -- Amen


* HYMN:  "Jesus Loves Me"                                - VU 365


A READING FROM DEUTERONOMY 18:15-20
    (NRSV)  The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet
    like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a
    prophet. {16} This is what you requested of the LORD your God
    at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: "If I hear
    the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this
    great fire, I will die." {17} Then the LORD replied to me:
    "They are right in what they have said. {18} I will raise up
    for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I
    will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall
    speak to them everything that I command. {19} Anyone who does
    not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I
    myself will hold accountable. {20} But any prophet who speaks
    in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my
    name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak -
    that prophet shall die."

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


PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L        Merciful God, from you comes all truth, all healing, all that
         makes our world good and whole.
P        Forgive us, O Lord, those times when we have listened to
         those who do not speak for you.
L        Forgive us for the weakness that has led us at times to seek
         the water of life at springs which can never satisfy.
P        Forgive us for not testing the spirits that are around us:
         forgive us too for how we play with empty knowledge and
         delight in useless predictions that help neither us or those
         around us. 
L        Have mercy on us and speak once again to us.
P        Help us to hear the word you send and to turn away from the
         words that come from false prophets and those who do not know
         your ways.
                  ............... (silent prayer) ...............
L        Lord, hear our prayer.
P        Touch us and make us whole.

Assurance of Pardon
This is the promise of God -  "If my people humble themselves and
pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will
I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their
land.   (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Therefore I tell you - as you have confessed, so you are
forgiven.  Listen to the Lord and to the Lord only and his mercy
will cover you and all that you do.  Amen


CHOIR ANTHEM:


RESPONSIVE READING:Psalm 111 (Voices United 833 and Sung Refrain)


A READING FROM MARK 1:21-28
    (NRSV)  They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he
    entered the synagogue and taught. {22} They were astounded at
    his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and
    not as the scribes. {23} Just then there was in their
    synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, {24} and he cried
    out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have
    you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of
    God." {25} But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and
    come out of him!" {26} And the unclean spirit, convulsing him
    and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. {27} They were
    all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is
    this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the
    unclean spirits, and they obey him." {28} At once his fame
    began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

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


* HYMN:  "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"              - VU 326


SERMON: "SPEAKING WITH AUTHORITY"

    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

Did your mother ever say any of the following to you?
        - I could plant potatoes in those ears.
        - I'm not your maid.
        - If your friends jumped off a cliff does that mean you have
         to jump too?

Perhaps these phrases are familiar to you as well
         - Just wait till you have kids of your own
         - Don't talk with food in your mouth
         - You weren't born in a barn, so stop acting like you were

And of course I am sure you have heard, if not uttered, the all
time classic - "Because I'm your mother, that's why!"

Each of these statements are expressions that have been passed
from generation to generation.  They are expressions of authority
- the authority of a parent over a child.

Authority however is weaker in some people and stronger in
others.

We have all heard parents who say things like "I really mean it
this time" and known that it means nothing.

Equally, we have heard others say simply and quietly - "Children,
come" and seen an entire brood tumble into the room, waiting for
what is to be said next.

The strength of a person's authority comes from the strength of
the Spirit within the person.

Further, the Spirit within a person can be good,
or it can be evil 
         - exercising its authority negatively not only upon others,
         but also upon the person in whom it resides.

Today's scripture readings are about authority and power .
         
The old testament concerns the authority God will give to a
prophet like Moses - the authority to speak his word and so lead
the people in righteousness.

The gospel reading concerns itself with the authority that Jesus
held - an authority that allowed Jesus to command evil to depart
and to teach in a manner unlike that of the scribes and
pharisees..

As Christians each one of us is granted authority by God to speak
in his name, we are called by Jesus to go out and to preach, and
teach, and heal; to care for others and to show them God's love.

Jesus even gives the authority to forgive the sins of others in
the name of God, saying to Peter

        "what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what
         you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven.."

Jesus gives to us a tremendous power, a tremendous authority..

So what happens to us?
         - what has happened to the church, 
         - what has happened to the people of God
that so many fail to exercise this authority 
         - this power to speak for God, to help and to heal,
while others, who clearly have authority, end up using it so
badly:   as did the Rev. Jim Jones so many years ago in Guiana?
         as did David Koresh in Texas some seven or so years ago?

         A certain Army man had been a heavy drinker for 35 years. 
         He had the temperament of a particularly vicious sergeant
         long after he had become a Colonel.  Finally, he
         encountered Christ and his whole life changed.

         He was speaking once before a group of medical people.  He
         told them of his personality change, how he was now
         temperate as he once had been intemperate; considerate as
         he once had been severe; concerned for others as once he
         had been selfish and self-serving.

         A psychiatrist, who believed that personalities are so
         firmly set in early life that no one can change, protested
         to the colonel that at his age a person could not have
         such a radical transformation.

         "Well ", replied the Colonel, "that may be true.  But I am
         under new management - I answer to another authority - the
         highest and truest there is."

I am under new management.
What a profound thing for the Colonel to say.

I think that what happens to us -
         - what happens to the average Christian who seems to have so
         little influence upon the lives of others - so little to say
         to those who are in need - so little power to affect things
         for the better,
         - and what happens to make others turn into people like
         Koresh and Jim Jones,
is that we get our management principles confused.

We either don't listen for what the boss is telling us to do, or
we don't do it the way we have been shown, or we simply don't
care about the boss at all.

We try to solve problems on our own power, using our own
insights, our own wisdom,
         or we, once we see what power and authority are like, get
         carried away by it and use it to seek our own glory and our
         own prestige, and so become false prophets, workers of great
         evil instead of great good.

We are looking at two levels here - 
         - those who do not use the power and authority they have been
         given by God
         - and those who do - but who end up serving masters other
         than the one true God.

All true power and authority,
         that power and authority that creates and heals, and does
         good instead of evil
comes from the Lord that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

All other power and authority is either a corrupted version of
this true power and authority, or it is the power and authority
that comes from pure evil.

In Deuteronomy, when the people of Israel are promised another
prophet like Moses, they are told that they should heed that
prophet and do all that he says because what he says comes from
the Lord.

They are also told to beware of false prophets -
     of those who speak in the name of other gods 
          or who presumes to speak in the name of God 
a word that God has given them.

They are warned, in other words to not listen to people who sound
good, but who, in addition to teaching what God has taught -
teach what God has not given them -
         as did Jones and Koresh - who both claimed to know when the
         end of this age was coming, something that Jesus said no one
         knows, not even the Son of Man.

They are warned not to listen to those who teach and speak for
other gods -
         - like the gods of astrology - the ones that make millions a
         year telling us how the stars control our personalities and
         our destinies.
          - or like the gods of the new age spiritualists - who
          claim that our planet is a female god and that men and
          women are meant to live like all the other animals and
          creatures of upon the face of the earth.

The book of Deuteronomy, in fact the entire bible, proposes tests
that we can apply to those who claim to speak for God; tests
which determine whether or not they speak for God, or someone or
something else.

First - the word they speak must come true - if they predict
something - it must happen. -
         thus, for example - the Jehovah's witnesses, despite the good
         they have done, do not speak for God because all of their
         predictions about the end of the age have been wrong.
          
Second - the word they speak must not contradict the other words
God has spoken.
         thus - people like Koresh and Jones are false prophets
         because they both told their followers that it was God's will
         that they should kill others and then kill themselves.

Third - the word they speak must glorify God - not themselves. 
         - thus the humility and poverty of a Mother Teresa are truer
         signs of a prophet than riches and earthly power of a man
         like Oral Roberts who has built a university and a city with
         his own name on it.

And Fourth - the person who speaks for God must produce good
fruit - not bad.
         - thus the lives of those who heed these prophets must change
         for the better, not the worse.  If a prophet's followers are
         narrow minded and hide from others or condemn them - the
         person they follow is more likely to be false prophet than if
         the people who follow a prophet's teachings are loving and
         caring and unafraid.

Jesus himself warns us in the sermon on the mount that a false
prophet often does many mighty works - works that include healing
- but that they produce fruit that is evil - they are wolves in
sheep's clothing, their good deeds are like advertising - meant
to encourage us to buy things that are a bad for us.

All this deals with the topic of those who actually exercise
power and authority. and whether or not it is a godly power and
authority that they exercise.

But what about the other situation?
- the situation in which so many Christians seem to find
themselves 
- the situation in which they find themselves powerless,
having no authority, no influence over evil, no ability to change
things around them?.

As I said - it is a matter of management, of who is in control...

In the gospel reading today we see a man who possessed by a
demon.

The people around this man surely knew what he needed.
Demon possession is pretty obvious stuff.
Those who are possessed are no longer in control of themselves.
They are sick - not in a way we normally think of sick -
but sick anyway - and it causes them to do things that they do
not want to do,
to behave in ways that they do not want to behave.

Those around this man knew he needed to be healed,
that he needed to have the demon cast out -
but none of them could do it.

They may even have said to one another - "its too bad about that
poor guy - someone should do something about it".

Kind of like what we say about a lot of situations.

Someone should do something about violence in the schools.
Someone should do something about the hungry in the third world.
Someone should do something about battered women.
Someone should do something about all the kids who go on welfare.

Then Jesus came -
and he commanded the demon to come out of the man - and it did.
The spirit obeyed him and the man was healed.

Jesus had the authority and the power needed to make a
difference.
He had the authority and power of God,
a power that can change any situation, heal any person.

Jesus still has this power and this authority.
And he offers it to us. 
He calls us to use it to do the work of God in this world.
He calls us to employ it to heal, to teach, to bring justice, and
to grant mercy with.

When we put ourselves at Jesus disposal.
When we go forth to speak his word.
When we act according to the teachings he has given us.
When we pray and study on the word of God
and ask God to use us - even us - to accomplish his will.
The demons around us will begin to disappear.

The trick is - we need to get in tune with what God wants us to
do and say.

And this requires that we spend a large amount of time seeking
out the will of God,
         it requires a commitment that is equal to, and greater than,
         the commitment we make to watching and learning about
         baseball and hockey or the amount of time we spend on playing
         cards or going out eat.

I told you two weeks ago we have to listen for the call of God if
we are going to hear it.

I told you last week - we have to actually heed the call we do
hear.

This week I am telling you - when you heed that call - do so with
the authority Christ gives you.

Don't try to do what God asks you to do your way -
Instead seek to discover what it is God wants you to say and do,
and then boldly say and do it
and when you do - you will being speaking and acting with the
authority of Christ,
and wonderful things will happen.  Amen.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
We bless you O Lord for your power and your might - and for how
you care to use your authority over all things for good instead
of ill.  We turn to you, O Lord, at this time because we can
trust you to do what is right.  Help us, we pray, to be like you
- ones who build rather than destroy, who cure rather than
infect, who love e rather than hate.... Lord hear our prayer.....

Lord, keep our minds and our hearts fixed on the example of Jesus
Christ, our ears and our eyes focussed on the word you speak and
write for our good.  Awaken within us the awareness of the
authority you have given us to act in your name.  When we work,
help us to do it by your power, when we speak, to do so with your
wisdom, when we step forth, to do so in the fullness of prayer
and the presence of your Spirit.... Lord hear our prayer...

We pray Lord, today, for all those in the world who are given
earthly authority for the sake of others - we think of doctors
who are charged with the task of healing,
         of judges who must decide what is just,
         of rulers who must care for their people,
         of teachers who must nurture their students,
WE pray Lord that each of these may seek your wisdom before
acting, and that you would bless them with the insight and the
power and the will to do good... Lord hear,,,,

Father - you sent Jesus to take upon himself our burdens and to
replace them with his yoke, the yoke that is gentle and easy.  We
pray today for those who are burdened and afflicted - help us as
a church to minister unto them and to grace them with the comfort
of your Spirit.  We especially pray today for those who bound by
the demons of fear, of deceit, of hopelessness, and of despair... 
We also lift before you those people who are upon our hearts who
face grief and sorrow,,, those who struggle in the courts and
with the legal systems of our world,,, and those who face poverty
and financial oppression... Lord hear our prayers.....

Bless us, O Lord, your church, with the power shown by Jesus. 
Make us as caring and as effective as he - we ask it in his name,
praying as he taught us, saying OUR FATHER


* HYMN: "Rejoice, The Lord Is King"                      - VU 213


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

   Lord God - you are never far from us, you are as close as
   our breathing.  We recognize you as the one who heals the
   wounded spirit and gives new life to the broken hearted. 
   We know as the one who feeds the hungry and gives drink to
   the thirsty.  Receive these our gifts for your work and
   bless them and us in your service.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Lord Speak To Me"                              - VU 589


* 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 
- and may God's Word direct your every step; 
- may God's Spirit sustain you in every act, 
- and may God's Living Love fill your every moment, 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


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


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



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