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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 16 - Proper 11 - Year B
II Samuel 7:1-14a; Isaiah 60; Ephesians 2:11-22
"A House Without Walls"


READING:  II Samuel 7:1-14a; Isaiah 60; Ephesians 2:11-22
SERMON :  "A House Without Walls"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or16su.y-b 000889

   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: Elements of the Prayer of Invocation, Prayers of the People
   and the Prayer of Dedication taken from John Maynard
   (maynard@sympac.com.au) "Prayers and Litanies For Ordinary 16, July
   23, 2000; as sent to the PRCL-List, July 17, 2000.  Sermon starters,
   thoughts and citations from Jude Siciliano, O.P., "First Impressions
   Volume 1, Sunday 16B, 07-23-00" and Fred Kane, (fredkane@juno.com)
   "Sermon on Ephesians 2:12-22" as sent to the PRCL-List, on July 16th
   and July 18th respectively, 2000  


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  Shout to God, all the earth.  
   Serve the Lord with gladness and joy.
P  We come before God with laughter and song;
   we approach our Maker with prayer and devotion.
L  To the shepherd who tends us like sheep 
   let us raise our voice in praise.
P  Truly, O God, you are good.  
   You are always gracious and faithful age after age.


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


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Lord God most high, You have come in Christ to redeem Your people. 
Graciously visit us now, that the radiance of your glory may light up our
minds, and fill our hearts with joy and peace.  Pour out upon us the Spirit
to think and do what is right, that we, who cannot even exist without you,
may have the strength to live according to your will.  We ask this through
your Son, Christ Jesus our Lord, our Saviour, our Brother and our Friend. 
Amen


* HYMN:  "All People That On Earth Do Dwell"     - VU 822 (Psalter Version)


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


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK (as needed)


* CHILDREN'S TIME: Playing With A Full Deck
Object:   A Deck of Cards
Theme     Inclusivity
Source:   Self

Today I would like to play a little card game with you.  Something like
SNAP or CRAZY EIGHTS.  Do you know these games??   

Fine - I brought with me a deck of cards.  Lets get them ready...   

(At this point bring out deck of cards - and hand some of them to the kids
ask them to take all the red cards out and with remainder remove the red
cards as well.  As they protest explain that you don't like Red Cards -
that they don't look right, that they make the deck too big to handle, that
they just make things too confusing, that black is a better colour, etc.)

(Then remove the eights   explain that eight is an even number - and that
odd numbers are better, etc)

Then with the deck ready, shuffle and begin to deal and hand cards to the
kids.  Now we are ready.... but there is a problem here.  Seems that we
don't have enough cards.  What is the problem???

That is the way it is with the church.  We are called by God to accept and
embrace all kinds of people.  The red ones, the black ones, the ones that
come from different lands, the ones that are poor, those who are
politicians, those who are little, and those who are big, even those who
are sinners.  But many people think that those who are different from them
don't belong.  So, like this deck of cards, the church ends up been
incomplete.  And being incomplete, we can't do what God wants us to do - we
can't help the world.

Next time you are playing a card game that uses the full deck, remember
that the church is meant for all - and thank God that you - as well as
those different from you, are meant to be included.  God accepts us - no
matter who we are or what our story is.  So we are called to accept others. 
Let us pray....


* UNISON PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER
Dear Lord God // we thank you for your love // the love that accepts us as
we are // the love that accepts people different than us // help us to love
like you // and to build a church that embraces all // We ask it Christ's
name // saying together the prayer he taught // OUR FATHER....


* HYMN:  "In Christ There Is No East or West"                      - VU 606


A READING FROM II SAMUEL 7:1-14a
   (NIV)  After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given
   him rest from all his enemies around him, {2} he said to Nathan the
   prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God
   remains in a tent." {3} Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have
   in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you." {4} That night
   the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: {5} "Go and tell my
   servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me
   a house to dwell in? {6} I have not dwelt in a house from the day I
   brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving
   from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. {7} Wherever I have
   moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers
   whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built
   me a house of cedar?"' {8} "Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is
   what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from
   following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. {9} I have been
   with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies
   from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the
   greatest men of the earth. {10} And I will provide a place for my
   people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their
   own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them
   anymore, as they did at the beginning {11} and have done ever since the
   time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you
   rest from all your enemies. "'The LORD declares to you that the LORD
   himself will establish a house for you: {12} When your days are over
   and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to
   succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his
   kingdom. {13} He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I
   will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. {14} I will be his
   father, and he will be my son.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: "Arise, Shine" (VU 886 - Isaiah 60)


A READING FROM EPHESIANS 2:11-22
   (NIV)  Therefore, remember that formerly you who are
   Gentiles by birth and called 'uncircumcised' by those who call
   themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of
   men)-- {12} remember that at that time you were separate from Christ,
   excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of
   the promise, without hope and without God in the world. {13} But now in
   Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through
   the blood of Christ. {14} For he himself is our peace, who has made the
   two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
   {15} by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and
   regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of
   the two, thus making peace, {16} and in this one body to reconcile both
   of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their
   hostility. {17} He came and preached peace to you who were far away and
   peace to those who were near. {18} For through him we both have access
   to the Father by one Spirit. {19} Consequently, you are no longer
   foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and
   members of God's household, {20} built on the foundation of the
   apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief
   cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and
   rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too are
   being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his
   Spirit.

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

   
* HYMN:  "Though Ancient Walls"                                    - VU 691


SERMON: "A House Without Walls"

   Let us Pray - Bless, O God, the words of my lips and the meditations
   of our hearts that they may be acceptable to thee, our rock and our
   redeemer.  Amen

There is an story that comes out of Poland from many years back - it was
during the Second World War in fact, at a time when the nation was, by and
large a Roman Catholic nation.  

It happened that in a particular village there was a man who was well known
for his care and compassion for others and who was deeply loved because of
it.  He was not a particularly wealthy man, nor was he a native of the
village, nor did he attend the village church.  In fact he was not even
baptised and showed little interest in rectifying that situation.  But both
before and during the War he was known for his good works within the
village that he had adopted as his place to live and work.  If a stranger
came to the village and needed a place to stay, this man would offer a cot
in his little home.  If a village family ran out of food, he was among the
first to offer a loaf of bread or some flour from his meagre supplies.  If
someone was in trouble with the authorities, who by and large oppressed the
citizens of that nation, or if the Germans or, later the Russians, were
performing a sweep of the village to collect up the young men for either
imprisonment, or to force them into the army, or worse, he would help hide
the would be victims in the woods outside town or in some other way.  He
was loved very much by the villagers on account of all these things and
many more.

Finally the man died from some cause or other - what it was the story
doesn't say.  The villagers prepared his body for burial and proceeded to
the village church where they asked the Priest to perform the burial
service and to bury the man in the church cemetery.

The priest, who knew and loved the man as much as did the rest of the
villagers agreed that he would conduct the funeral service - but he
insisted, despite many pleas from the villagers, that he could not bury the
man inside the church cemetery because he was not baptised.  

"I cannot bury him in our cemetery", the priest said, "It is hallowed
ground.  He must go where those who are not baptised are buried.  Those are
the rules of the church and I cannot change them."

The villagers appealed even more earnestly to the priest, saying that the
man was a good man and surely loved by God as much as any of the baptised,
perhaps even more on account of all the good that he had done.  

The priest agreed with them regarding the virtues of the man, but insisted
that the rules of the faith were clear and could be not be broken.  Finally
came up with a compromise that he hoped would satisfy everyone.  "In
recognition of your love for him - and his love for you and all of God's
people in this village", he said, "I will bury him on church land, near to
those who have gone before him - those whom he has loved, but it will have
to be beyond the fence that surrounds the consecrated ground of our
cemetery."

And so it was.  On the appointed day a grave was prepared just outside the
fence that surrounded the church cemetery, and the body of the man was
processed by all the villagers to the site where the priest conducted the
ceremony - and then the grave was filled in and a stone placed before the
night fell.

During the night something very beautiful happened - something that became
apparent when the priest went to the church next morning to conduct morning
mass.   The fence that surrounded the cemetery had been moved by some of
the villagers - so that it now took in the grave in which the man had been
buried....

I first heard that story some 20 or more years ago now.  I don't recall
where it came from or who told me it - but it impressed me then - and it
impresses me still to this day.

For me it captures something of what Jesus was all about - something of
what the good news is all about - namely inclusivity.

As the villagers expanded the fence which enclosed hallowed ground to
include the grave of the man whom they loved - so God, through Christ
Jesus, expands the boundaries of the sacred to include both those whom the
rules of our religion would exclude - and those that the ways of this world
would exclude.

Robert Frost once wrote, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."
That's good news for us because we live in a world of walls. Dividing
walls are everywhere we look. 

Consider our every day language.  How often we call others "those 
people", or use the term "they", and "their kind" in our conversations.

We say, "Those people come over to our country and expect...."  or, 
"They just don't appreciate hard work." or
"Their kind always have their hand out"
and so forth.
 
"They" most often are the strangers in our midst, people from another
country, with accents, a different shade of skin, different customs of
religion and food, and different ways of being family.  

But often too they don't come from another land, but live in a different
part of town and attend other churches - or no church at all.

Whoever "they" are, they are different than us. 

Perhaps they are gay.
Or on welfare.

Perhaps they are conservatives
or liberals
or Catholics,
or fundamentalists.

Maybe they are environmentalists
or loggers.

Perhaps they are folk who are body piercers 
or folk who think casual is loosening one's tie when the weather is hot. 

The walls that we erect take many forms.  Some related to our culture and
to our way of life and of earning a living.  Some related to what we
believe to be true about God or about Jesus.

It seems that we persist in building walls to keep away those who don't
share our understanding - our way of doing things.  That's one reason we
have so many denominations. One reason why I believe that Christ cried out
when he looked upon Jerusalem, saying,

   "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones
   those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your
   children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and
   you were not willing!"

We are all in need of the reconciliation spoken of by Paul in today's
epistle.  We are all in need of a fresh look at just who we are in the eyes
of God - and where we fit in the family of God.

What was read this morning contains the heart, the key message in the
entire letter to the Ephesians. It comes from a section of the epistle that
speaks of the benefits offered to both Gentiles ("the you that is found in
the passage") and Jews ("the we") through the life, death and resurrection
of Christ.  

The writer seems to be aware of a prophecy from Isaiah (57:18-19).  The
prophet says that God notices that his faithless people are suffering from
their infidelities, that they are exhausted from their rebelliousness
against him.  God saw their ways (Is. 57:18) and withdrew from them, but
now has mercy on them.  

"Peace, peace to the far off  and the near." the Prophet proclaims.

God, through the prophet, was addressing the Jews in exile (the "far off"),
but the author of the epistle applies the image to Gentiles who have
accepted the Gospel message.  Just as blood sacrifice reconciled the Jewish
community in covenant to God, so the blood of Christ has reconciled us to
each other and to God - making of us one spiritual house wherein God may
dwell.

The rituals and regulations of the Law that were given by Moses that were
meant to give the people of Israel as a way to respond to God's gracious
initiative toward them are by no means cancelled for them - but the use to
which they had been put in separating the chosen from the un-chosen is
considered to be of no account.

All are called in Christ Jesus to be one - both Jews and Gentiles - for
through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  The barriers
of hostility, the walls of division, are broken down.  God has seen our
human condition and come to our help in Christ, whom God has made "one new
humanity in place of the two". A new creation has occurred, a new people of
God has been made from people who formerly were enemies.

What saves us then, is not that some have kept all the rules and done the
right things all their lives while others are/were oblivious to God and
have no "track record" of Church attendance or observance of religious
custom.  What saves us, Paul reminds us, is that we all have access
to God because we believe in Christ.  

Race, sex, culture, biblical knowledge, conservatism or liberalism, and
heritage have no part in our salvation - for all are chosen by God and all
are loved by him.  God longs to gather all people together as a hen gathers
her brood under her wings - and in Christ God has acted to do so.

How far are we from God?  
Not far at all, the epistle reminds us, thanks to Christ.
How far are those whom we label as different from us from God?
Not far at all, the epistle reminds us, 
for in Christ the walls that divide are broken down.

So, how goes our living response to the unity God has achieved for us?  

We need to look again at those we call "strangers".  We need to see them
not as different from us, but as essentially the same.  

Paul invites us to look at ourselves and others in a different light, a
light created by God.  

We need to look at the barriers we have set up, or that are part of the
local and larger world in which we live.  Barriers are not to exist
between us.  We are called to consider how we contribute to those barriers,
how we add bricks and mortar to their construction and to ask God to help
us remove them and to build a new house in our world, one without walls.

Think of the racial, economic and social barriers that mark the terrain of
our daily lives and determine whom we see, touch and share our lives. 
These walls direct our footsteps, where we go and whose terrain we avoid. 
Think of the gender barriers between us, how we think and talk about each
other; how we relate to one another at work and at home.  Think of the way
we classify each other at church; the liberals and conservatives, the "old
timers" who built the church and the newcomers - and let go of these things
and let God build in their place a new thing.

When people are shunted aside because they are different, we need to offer
them hospitality, some space of welcome in which they can be themselves.
  
Hospitality means people don't have to conform to our ways, but that they
can be themselves in our presence.  It doesn't try to change people but
enables them freedom and space to change at their own pace in their own way
- as God leads them individually and collectively - just as God has done
for us.

David wanted to build a house for God says our first reading this morning.

But God stated that he would build a house for David   an everlasting
kingdom - a place where God's chosen might dwell - and that one of his
descendants would build a house for God's Name.

That house is not just the one built by Solomon - and rebuilt later by Erza
and Nehemiah - nor even is it just the last and by far the greatest house
built by Herod - which was destroyed in 70 AD.  Rather it is the house
built by David's eternal Son - the one whose kingdom is truly everlasting,
the one whom God calls over and over again, "my son".

Listen again to what Paul says of this chosen one of God - and of the house
- the temple - the church that he would build.

   He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to
   those who were near. {18} For through him we both have access to the
   Father by one Spirit. {19} Consequently, you are no longer
   foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and
   members of God's household, {20} built on the foundation of the
   apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief
   cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and
   rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too
   are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by
   his Spirit.

Gays and Straights, Aborginal peoples and Welfare bums, Liberals and 
Conservatives, Catholics and Jews, are all called to be part of the house
that God builds - and are all made part of that house by the Spirit of God. 
A house without walls in a kingdom without end.

That is what we are supposed to be about most particularly in the United
Church of Canada - in that part of Christ's body that takes as it's slogan
"United and Uniting".

Let it be so.  

Let God do the judging.  
Let the Spirit of God do the convicting.  
Let us do the loving and so proclaim God's glory.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
WE give you thanks O God for building a house for David and through him and
his son - the one you call your son - a house for all people - a house
without walls in a kingdom that never ends.  We praise you for acting in
him to break down the walls of hostility that divide one from another and
for granting to all, through him, access to you through the Spirit.  Work
in us, O Lord, by that Spirit, and help us build on the foundation you have
laid....  Lord hear our prayer....

We thank you Lord for how you are present in us and in others this day -
for how you call us to enter into the realm where there is peace,
wholeness, and right relationships between all people and yourself.  Help
us to look and to see how all people are our brothers and sisters, no
matter where they come from or what they have done in the past, no matter
what the differences are even now in how they dress or act or earn their
living, no matter how varied the way may be in how they worship you and
call upon your name.  Give us the eyes of Christ - and place within us his
heart of compassion, his mind of truth, and his words of wisdom and
healing.  Remind us that you are at work in all our relationships and grant
us trust and faith in your power to overcome those things which keep us
apart.... Lord hear our prayer...

We pray, O Father, for all in this world today who experience anxiety or
grieve a loss in their lives  - may they be comforted by your renewing,
strengthening grace... Lord hear our prayer...

We pray for all who are bowed down by guilt and pain and for all who look
to the future with fear and loneliness - may they experience your loving
presence...  Lord hear our prayer....

We pray for those named in our sharing time this morning - for their joys
we give you thanks; for their suffering - we ask your healing touch... 
Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for your church, and especially for the people of St. Andrew's
today, that it will, when any of us are weak and failing, bear witness to
the joy of human relationship and the beauty of our humanness.  Make us a
home in which your name dwells and on account of which you are glorified -
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Loving God, you fulfil all our needs, except our need to give to
   others and to You.  Receive our offerings for the sake of Your Son,
   Christ Jesus our Lord and for the House that you are building
   through him.  AMEN.
      

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)"            - VU 595


* 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 love of God the Father rest upon you 
- may the grace and the mercy of Christ Jesus the Son dwell within you 
- and may God the Holy Spirit strengthen, comfort, and sustain you 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2000, 2003
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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