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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 20 - Proper 15 - Year B
Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
"You Are What You Eat"


READING:  Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
SERMON :  "You Are What You Eat"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or20smsn.y-b 572739 

   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:
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  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
P  We are gathered to hear his word and to open ourselves to his Spirit.
L  Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and with gratitude in
   your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
P  We are here to help one another 
   and to rejoice together in the goodness of the Lord.
L  Whatever you do, in word or deed, 
   do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
   giving thanks to God the Father through him.


* PRAYER OF APPROACH 
Gracious and ever-loving God, your presence gives us strength for each day,
your compassion brightens our every moment and your word provides us with
the guidance we need.   Lord, help us at this time to focus on the love you
have revealed.  Send your Spirit upon us and fill our minds with thoughts
of your goodness and our hearts with joy and thanksgiving that we may truly
praise your most holy name and show forth your light to all those whom we
encounter this day - and in all the days to come.  We ask it in Jesus'
name.  Amen. 


* HYMN:  "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                               - VU 288


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


A READING FROM PROVERBS 9:1-6
   (NIV)  Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars.
   {2} She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her
   table. {3} She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest
   point of the city. {4} "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says
   to those who lack judgment. {5} "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I
   have mixed. {6} Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the
   way of understanding.

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


CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Best of Everything"
Object Story
Theme  More Than Bread is Needed
Source Self

       Historical Note -- I wrote this story on the basis of the
       genetic and child raising experiments in Nazi Germany
       during the late 1930's and early 1940's.  In other words
       it is a true story.

Good morning....  Today I want to tell you a sad kind of story.  Once upon
a time a very powerful man who ruled over many countries decided to create
the best people that anyone had ever seen.   They were to be the strongest,
the best looking, and the smartest people in the world.  So this man sent
his servant out all over his empire to find the strongest, best looking,
and most intelligent men and women that they find.  Then he gave orders for
a special home to be built for them and told them that they were to have
babies and that their babies would be highly honoured.

So the men and women had babies and when their babies were born they gave
their babies to the Emperor.  He put all the babies in a special nursery
and he ordered that the best doctors and nurses and teachers look after
them.  They were fed the best food in the country - all the things that the
doctors said were good for babies, and they were read the best stories by
the teachers, and they were taught to believe the best things, and they
were kept as clean as clean could be.  They exercised every day, they had
the best toys in the country to play with, and they slept at least 10 hours
every night.  The only thing that these beautiful babies didn't have was
one or two special people to cuddle them and hug them when they felt lonely
or when they got hurt, or when they curled up to go to sleep.

Can anyone guess what happened to those babies???  

Well it was very sad what happened.  While all the babies had everything
that anyone could ever want, and while they had the best doctors and
nurses, many of them died  while they were very young, and most of the
rest, when they grew up, were very unhappy and all their beauty, and all of
their strength, and all of their intelligence just faded away.

Can any of you tell me why?

Yes - it was because the man who wanted to make the best people the world
had ever seen forgot the most important thing to give them - he forgot to
give them love.  Thankfully the story doesn't end there.  A few years after
the man died and his empire vanished away all the children who were left in
the special nursery were found and given to people who would love them. 
These ones grew up to be happy and healthy - like you and me and everyone
else was grateful that the man who tried to make the best people ever - the
man who was named Hitler - would never be able to hurt anyone ever again.  


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER    
Dear Lord God -- while we are not the richest people -- and while we are
not the smartest people -- and even while we are not the strongest people -
- we thank you. -- We thank you because we are loved by you -- and by
others -- and because that love -- makes life feel so good. -- We thank in
Jesus' name -- praying as he prayed -- OUR FATHER...


* HYMN:  "Now Thank We All Our God"                                - VU 236


A READING FROM EPHESIANS 5:15-20
   (NIV)  Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise,
   {16} making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
   {17} Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will
   is. {18} Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead,
   be filled with the Spirit. {19} Speak to one another with psalms, hymns
   and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,
   {20} always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name
   of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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


RESPONSIVE PSALM READING: Psalm 111 (VU page 833)


A READING FROM JOHN 6:51-58
   (NIV)  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats
   of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I
   will give for the life of the world." {52} Then the Jews began to argue
   sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
   {53} Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the
   flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
   {54} Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I
   will raise him up at the last day. {55} For my flesh is real food and
   my blood is real drink. {56} Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
   remains in me, and I in him. {57} Just as the living Father sent me and
   I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live
   because of me. {58} This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your
   forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will
   live forever."

L  This is the gospel of the Lord.
P  Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:    "O Christ, The Word Incarnate"                          - VU 499


SERMON: "You Are What You Eat"

   Let us Pray - O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the
   souls that love you, and strength of the thoughts that seek you -
   bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. 
   Breath into us.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

Every preacher likes to create a snappy title for his or her sermon and
today I think I just might have succeeded -- You Are What You Eat.

A title like that should, at the very least, catch your interest,
especially when it is so apparent from looking at me 
that I know a great deal about eating...
or at least about overeating.

Today - as we have for the last couple of weeks - I want to talk about food
again, and more particularly this week I want to talk to you about diet
- diet not in terms of limiting our intake of food, but rather about diet
in terms of what we choose to eat and what we choose not to eat, and how
this has an effect on our health.

As I begin, I want to tell you a little story - a simple story - about
something that could have happened to anyone of you - but in fact happened
to me.

It takes place a few years ago - when my children were about four and five
years old - but it could have happened last year, or last week, or even
today - here on the way to church.

My wife, my children, and I, went to town to shop.  It was about a twenty
minute drive and on the way the children did what children often do when
travelling on a hot summer day -  they made a lot of noise:.
   they complained that it was too hot in the car
   they said - repeatedly - that they wanted to go home,
   they fought with one another, and they generally carried on.

While all this was happening the car itself was acting strangely, 
   there were some unfamiliar noises -  and I was worried about might be
   causing it --
at the same time I was busy trying to plan out the rest of my day,  trying
to figure out how to squeeze too many commitments into too few hours.

So you can imagine how I was feeling by the time I got to the Mall.... 
Take a second now - put yourself in my shoes -- and then leap out of them
as fast as you can!

I was angry, irritable, and bad tempered,
totally without patience,
and ready, like a backyard dog, to bark at anyone going by.

Then a strange thing happened.  My wife and my children went into the Mall,
leaving me alone in the car.  They were after one specific item - and were
to be gone for about ten minutes - 

Hah!!!  Guess how long it took!  

Thirty minutes   
One thousand and eight hundred individual seconds - one thousand and two
hundred of which I should not have been alone,
   - despite my temper,
   - despite my irritation,
   - despite my resemblance to a back yard dog.

But I said that a strange thing happened, and that kind of delay, as we all
know, whether we are male or female, is not strange at all: time always
stretches itself out when you are waiting for someone who is shopping.

No - what was strange was that time did not turn out to be the icing on the
cake or the straw the broke the camels back.  Instead it turned out be a
time of calming, a time of peace, a time in which I went from being a bear
to being a rather nice human being.

And the reason for it was this - I picked up the bible that I keep in the
car and I read from it the three scriptures readings that you all heard
here today, and as I read Ephesians Five, verse 20 - where it says:

   "Always; and for everything, give thanks to God the Father in the
   name of our Lord Jesus Christ"

and as I next read the six verses from the Ninth chapter of Proverbs, where
God's Wisdom is portrayed as calling us to come and eat of her bread and
drink of her wine, I realized that I had been focussing on the wrong
things, that I had been eating and drinking the wrong stuff all day long,
that I was eating the bread of anxiety and drinking the wine of frustration
and that it was doing absolutely nothing for me - nothing good that is..

And as that realization came over me - as the Holy Spirit worked upon me
through the words that I had read - I stopped, and I thanked God for my
children and for all their noise and their trouble, and for the unexpected
opportunity I had while they were all shopping to spend time thinking
things through, to spend time committing myself to a more wholesome diet.

I thanked God for his promise to make things work out for those who believe
and trust, and I thought of good things.

When my wife and children returned to the car I was fit to live with,
and that my brothers and sisters in Christ was very good indeed.
Good for them - and good for me.

Jesus said

   "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of
   Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my
   flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them."

These word are not words that pertain only to what we do at the communion
table, they are not meant to merely apply to the few minutes in which we
celebrate the Lord's Supper,  they are more encompassing than that.  They
apply to every minute of every day

What is it that we feed on every day?
What is our diet like?
What choices do we make from the tables that are spread before us -
   the table spread by Wisdom
   and the table spread by Folly?
Which table do we sit down at most often?

Too often it seems people who should know better - and that includes me -
feed on the food that creates worry and anxiety, selfishness and
intolerance, hatred and despair.

People look at commercials for the latest products.
and take note of what some of their neighbours and friends own,
and in the lack of thinking about the source of true happiness, become
somewhat envious.

They read newspapers and watch the nightly round of bad news
and, in the lack of applying Godly understanding to what they read or see,
and become somewhat embittered or depressed.

They note the hypocrisy of their acquaintances,  and of people in the
church, and of their neighbours,
   and they see the spectacular falls from grace of some of the rich and
   famous,
and in the lack of considering the mercy and grace that God grants those
who come to his table, they become somewhat cynical - cynical about people,
cynical about life.

The wisdom they consume says things like "you can't teach an old dog new
tricks" and "why bother voting or getting involved in political action - it
won't change anything" or "if you help those kind of people - they'll
simply want more."

You are what you eat....
   and if your only bread is the bread of envy,
   and your only drink is the drink of bitterness
you become these things.

A little junk food doesn't hurt a person.  Most of us - but not all of us -
can safely consume potato chips and candy, hot dogs and soda pop, pizza and
chocolate bars, but - if we don't balance this all out, indeed if we don't
tip the scales in the other direction, in the direction of fruit and
vegetables, milk and eggs, water and meat, then our health will begin to
fail, and we will suffer afflictions that we do not need to suffer, and
those afflictions that are common to us all will afflict us more severely
than they do others.

Throughout the scriptures God's word - first his spoken and his written
word, and then, finally, his living word - his Son - our Lord Jesus Christ,
are compared to food - to bread - to drink - because in them there is life
and through them comes life - life now and life eternally, a full and
abundant and rich life which is able to conquer sin and suffering, and
despair and death.

When we have communion - the body and the blood of Christ are not the
physical elements which we touch and handle and taste - no - the body and
the blood of Christ are to be found in and through those elements by our
faith - and by the faithfulness of God.

God's intentions - and ours - work together - they combine - and create in
us a chemistry - a force - that is transforming - much as the chemistry of
the food that we eat and the design of our bodies combine and work together
to sustain us when we sit down for a meal.  The energy in the plants and 
the meats and the drinks that we take in transforms our tired tissues
through the blood that feeds them - and we live.

But remember - what we eat - can be really good - or really bad,
really helpful - or really destructive.

When I drove to the Mall with my wife and children - I was hungry for good
food - we all are - but was consuming bad food.  Food that doesn't even
appeal to me 

While I waited for my family, my focus changed.  I started looking at
things differently because of something that God's word said to me -
through the words that Jenny read today.

I had a snack 
- a healthy snack 
- a snack at God's table
and I felt better.

Snacking - in this form - is good for you and should be engaged in whenever
your bodies and your spirits require it.  And because of how we are built,
nd because of what we encounter and what we do each day, we require it
often.

If you work hard - if you are labouring in the heat - you need to eat and
drink more - and do so more often.  You require more salt, more energy -
and you must be intentional about getting it, or you will suffer for it.

And if you are in comfortable surroundings - where joy and peace abound -
you require less intentionality - you need not seek as much - because the
good food is all around you and it seems to seep into you - like the food
in a busy kitchen seems to be absorbed by those working on it. 

Snacking - as I said - is good for you - 
and it is, as we all know, quite delightful as well.

But nothing beats regular meals, good meals, well prepared and lovingly
served, and relished bite by bite to the very end.

And it is on our journey through life - our pilgrimage - we have worship,
   we have celebration,
   we have ritual, 
   and we have study together.
          
There the ingredients, the food, that we most need is gathered together in
one place,
   the word of God 
   and the people of God 
the people whose faith and whose hope and whose love can lift and inspire
us, the people with whom we can share those gifts that God gives us for the
journey.

I mention this because we as people can't just exist on snacks eaten alone
in a car or on a golf course.  We need real love - real people to show us
the face of God - real people to touch - to laugh with, to cry with, to
pray together with. 

Remember the children's story I told today...
We can have the best of everything 
- but unless we know that we are loved - we wither - and die.

Equally, I say to you, we can do whatever we really want to do  
- but unless we eat of the wisdom of God - we will not be happy and we will
most likely will not make the world a better place.

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.  She has
slaughtered her animals and she has mixed her wine and set her table.  She
has sent out her servants - her prophets, her priests, her kings, and her
commoners - and She calls from the highest places:

   "Turn in here...Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have
   mixed - lay aside immaturity and live and walk in the way of
   insight."

Nourish yourself from the table that wisdom has prepared,
take the word and consume it,
sing and pray and offer thanksgiving to God,
share and make melody together to the Lord and you will be satisfied.

Blessed be God - day by day.  Amen
   
   
PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION
The time that you give to us, each one of us, is precious time O God.  In
it we find a taste of the eternal - in it we are able to feast upon your
bounty and drink from the spring of everlasting life.  We thank you, Lord,
for this, and we pray at this time that we might be people who have a heart
of wisdom, people who fill themselves each day with the food you
prepared.... Lord, hear our prayer...

Help us be mindful, O God, of the shortness of the time we have upon this
earth and to so live in your presence that we might be found righteous
before you.  Grace our hands with kindness, our hearts with compassion, our
minds with goodness, and our wills with a holy resolve.  Make us
instruments of your salvation and channels of your peace....  Lord, hear
our prayer...

We pray, O God, for others around us - that your wisdom may touch them -
and that they too may eat of the bread that satisfies and drink the drink
which truly quenches the thirst.  We pray for the awakening of those whose
days pass in self-serving preoccupations,, for those who are frustrated by
their own frantic business and know not why they are unhappy, we remember
before you those whom we know who are lost, and those who are lonely..... 
Lord, hear our prayer....

We pray, O God, for those who cannot sing to you at this time - those who
struggling with grief or with pain or with the injustices done to them by
their brothers and sisters.  Give them hope and a cause to rejoice....

Bless finally, we pray, all those we name in our hearts and aloud before
you -- those of our community, our family, and our church who are in
need... Lord, hear our prayer... 

We pray and we give you thanks and praise, O God, in the name of Jesus, the
one who came to us and who even now walks with us on our journey.  Amen


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

   Your gifts, O God, are plenteous - your love abundant - your grace -
   all sufficient.  You give life to us and through us you seek to give
   life to the world around us.  We pray you, use these gifts we offer
   before you now for your life-giving work - the physical gifts that
   are on these plates - and the gifts of the Spirit that arise out of
   our hearts and minds - your care, your love, your truth and your
   mercy. We ask it in Jesus's name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Be Thou My Vision"                             - VU 642


* 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 & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace and care for one another in Christ's name.
- and may God bless you with the vision to see His Glory, 
- may Christ bless you with the constant desire to feed upon his body and
his blood, 
- and may the Spirit equip you with every grace to show forth the power and
the love of God and to know his peace and joy
both now and forevermore.  Amen


SUNG 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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