READING: Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8,14-23
SERMON : "From Within and Without"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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: Portions of the prayer of approach are taken from John
Maynard (firstname.lastname@example.org) "Prayers and Litanies For Ordinary
22" as sent to the PRCL-List, 2003. Some of the phrasing and
thoughts of the sermon are from "Clean From Within: A Sermon For
September 3 2000" by Dr. Robert Flaherty, as sent the PRCL List,
August 31, 2000.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand)
* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Psalm 121)
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 lift up my eyes up to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
P My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.
L He will not let your foot slip -
he who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep.
P The Lord will keep you from all harm -
he will watch over your life.
L The Lord will watch over your coming in and your going out
both now and forevermore.
P Blessed be the name of the Lord our God.
* INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require Of You" - VU 701
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Almighty and everlasting God, You are always more ready to hear than we to
pray. You constantly give more than either we desire or deserve. Pour
down upon us the abundance of Your mercy. Forgive us those things of which
our conscience is afraid. Give us those good things, which we are not
worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Christ Jesus,
your Son - he whom you sent to take our nature upon himself and to be for
us sign and Saviour. Grant, we pray, that by the power of Your spirit
Christ may be born within us today - to the end that our worship and our
ministry may be pleasing to you and helpful to all your people. We ask it
in Jesus' name. Amen.
* HYMN: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" - VU 232
CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Rules of The Game"
Object Pack of Cards
Theme Rules Make The Game
Good morning....last week we talked about the different kind of equipment
one needs to play various sports - how we need to put it on if we are to
play the game or sport well. I said then that there are various things we
need to put on or wear if we are to live the Christian life well. This
morning I want to say something similar, but in a different way.
Who here today likes to play card games??? What games do you most like???
What makes the games fun??? How can you tell one game from another????
(Objectives, definitions, rules) What makes them difficult??? (Different
rules, confusing rules, changing rules, cheats!)
Today's reading from Deuteronomy speaks of the rules that God has made for
the game of life. As in the games we play just for the fun of it, the
commandments that God gives to his people are there to make everything work
for the best. If we do certain things - bad things happen - and if we do
other things - good things happen. The rules that God has for us are very
simple -- when you remember that all of them are based on love -- and they
give much joy to those who follow them. God tells us that we should be
very careful with his rules for life that we not add to them or take away
from them because then things will not work right in our lives and the
lives of those around us.
Rules are very special things. Following them can make life very good -
especially when they are the rules of God - the rules based on his love for
us and his desire that we love each other. They make life good.
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
We thank You God for your rules - they show us what to do - and help
make life good. - Fill us with your love - and pour out your wisdom
on us - so that we may do as you do - and be as you be. - We ask it
in Jesus Name. - Amen.
And in the words that Jesus taught us....
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
* HYMN: "Praise To The Lord, All of you, God's Servants" - VU 835
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS:
- Welcome and Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Special Matters
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD (verse 2 - VU 371)
Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!
A READING FROM DEUTERONOMY 4:1-9
(NIV) Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach
you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take
possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is
giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract
from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The Lord
your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of
Peor, but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still
alive today. See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my
God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are
entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this
will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will
hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a
wise and understanding people." What other nation is so great as to
have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us
whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to
have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am
setting before you today?
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not
forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your
heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their
children after them.
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 15 (Voices United 736) and Gloria Patri Sung
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
World without end. Amen
A READING FROM JAMES 1:17-27
(NIV) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from
the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting
shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that
we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to
listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does
not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get
rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly
accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do
what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what
it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after
looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks
like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that
gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has
heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight
rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is
worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and
faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their
distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
L This is the word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
FAVOURITE HYMN OR SONG
A READING FROM: MARK 7:1-8,14-23
(NIV) The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come
from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples
eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. (The
Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a
ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When
they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash.
And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups,
pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't
your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead
of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"
He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you
hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honour me with their
lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of
the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone,
and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by
going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples
asked him about this parable. "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't
you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him
'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach,
and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all
He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.'
For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come
from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"
L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
HYMN: "Just As I Am" - VU 508
SERMON: "From Within and Without"
Let us Pray - Lord God, Creator and Maker of us all, You who Redeem
us and Sustain us: speak in the calming of our minds and in the
longings of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts
that we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.
Earlier this past week someone sent me a little joke which I would like to
share with you today. It goes like this:
A father is in church with three of his young children, including
his six year old daughter. As was the family custom, they sat in
the very front row so that the children could properly witness the
During this particular service, the pastor was doing a baptism of a
tiny infant. The little six year old girl was quite taken by this,
observing that he was saying something and pouring water over the
little one's head.
With a puzzled look on her face, the little girl turned to her
father and asked, "Daddy, why is he brainwashing that little baby?"
When I received that story I happened to be thinking of today's scripture
readings - that part where Jesus says to his disciples: "Nothing
outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is
what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'"
and it struck me that there was something quite profound about the little
girl's question; that indeed what is required by each of us is that we
allow our brains to be washed - our brains and our hearts as well.
Today's readings speak about laws and regulations and about purity of
heart, mind, and soul. About what makes for cleanliness in the eyes of God
and what does not.
Some Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gather
around Jesus. They are interested to know what it is that he is teaching.
They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their food with hands
that were ritually unclean, that is they had not washed them in the way the
Pharisees said people should, and they complained to Jesus about this
"Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the
elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"
The scripture goes on to say that the Pharisees had many rules about such
things, about what was the proper way to prepare food, to wash cups and
pots and bowls and indeed one's very self if one was to be regarded as
"clean" in the eyes of God.
Jesus responds to them in what seems to be an unduly harsh manner - calling
them hypocrites and telling them that they worship God in vain because the
follow the traditions of men instead of the law of God.
I said that it seems to be an unduly harsh response because the important
thing to understand about the rules and traditions of the elders that are
mentioned in today's gospel reading is that each rule, each tradition, was
devised to help people be in closer relationship to God. To keep them pure
and holy in his sight.
Ritual cleanliness and traditions about what one could or could not do on
the Sabbath, or who one could or could not talk to or associate with,
or what one could or could not eat or touch
were devised for the good of the people, for the good of their relationship
with God as individuals and as a called and chosen people, a called and
chosen community of faith.
Each such rule - each such tradition was based upon Biblical passages, just
as today, in some churches, regulations about divorce,
advice about how you should raise your children,
and information about how women should be subject to their husbands,
are based on Biblical passages.
The difference between the rules and traditions of today's elders and the
elders of Jesus' time is only this - the traditions of our modern day
elders are based on New Testament passages instead of Old.
The traditions of Christianity do not require us, as the traditions of the
Pharisees required the Jews, to worry about how we wash before eat,
- nor do they prohibit us from walking over a mile on the Sabbath,
but they can be just as restrictive, and ultimately just as meaningless as
those kinds of rules were in Jesus' time.
Some of today's traditions claim that a person is not a true Christian
if they do not believe in the literal wording of the Bible,
or if they have not had a particular kind of "born again" experience.
Some state that a person is unclean
if they associate with unbelievers,
or if they take a drink,
or if they do not believe that God did not create the world and all
that is in it in six days and nights some six thousand and four years ago,
I said that Jesus seemed unduly harsh in his response to the pharisee's
criticism of his disciples, but - perhaps - after having thought about in
the terms I have just outlined to you - maybe not. Perhaps Jesus was not
The net effect of the traditions of the elders in the day of Jesus, and the
traditions that are found today in so many churches today, is to misdirect
people - to misdirect them by turning righteousness - by turning
cleanliness - by turning holiness - into matters of how well we adhere to
the external rules and understandings of our faith rather than to the law
that God writes upon hearts that are open to him.
How is your heart?? Are you trying to conform the laws and the traditions
of our faith - but inwardly are empty??
Suze Orman, financial planner and author of "The Courage to be Rich", tells
of her successful career that went through a period when it was
During that time she struggled to save face, to maintain an image of
success. She continued to entertain her friends at fine restaurants
and to drive her luxury car to keep up the image of a successful
professional. The truth was that every dinner, every car payment,
every tank of gas was taking her deeper into debt.
Many folk who believe in God are like Suze. They look good. They keep up
the appearances. But inwardly they are impoverished - and the more they
try to conform on the outside to what is supposed to come from inside the
worse off they get - and in the end those around them are worse off as
What defiles a person are the unclean things that originate from within a
person, not those that come to us from without.
What defiles a person is not what it is we eat, nor who it is that we eat
with, rather it is our anger, our pride, our refusal to listen to others,
our sense of superiority, our sense of our own righteousness.
And what makes a person pure and holy is not who or what we avoid in the
outer world - though there are things that we should avoid, but whether or
not we allow our insides - our hearts and our minds and our souls to be
washed in the love of God. And having been washed, to bring forth from
inside us those things that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and
I want you all to take special note of that today.
The things that are good
those good things that come from within us
are the fruit of the spirit that is within us.
Our acts of goodness and love
arise out of what we allow God to do within us.
Our gentleness, our faithfulness, our kindness grow not according to our
attempts to keep some eternal law about how we should be faithful, kind or
gentle, but rather they grow out of the word that is implanted within our
hearts and minds by God.
And joy and peace and self control, things that are the marks of holiness
and purity, come about not through constant striving to follow some
regulations that are meant to help us be that way, but through meditating
upon what it is that God has done for us - and is doing for us - and
allowing God to direct our steps with all this in mind.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above," writes James, "coming
down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change
like shifting shadows. God chose to give us birth through the word
of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he
Holiness, purity, cleanliness is a gift from above.
One that we should aspire to.
But in aspiring to it we need to remember that it has nothing to do with
that which is without us and everything to do with that which is within us.
And that which is within us can only be changed by the power of God's word
at work within our lives - it can only be changed as we take that word
inside us and allowing it to rule us.
"Do not merely listen to the word", James writes, "and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does
not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets
what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect
law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting
what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he
What we need to learn is that the word that is heard in this church,
the word that God has given us in the scriptures,
the word that God puts into our hearts so that may meditate on it
day and night,
must be lived out.
This can occur only if we welcome the word,
if we let it take root
and then allow it to prompt us to action.
If we don't then like some of the pharisees and scribes who gathered to
hear Jesus we will end up being critics of those who are seeking to follow
him faithfully - rather than helpers, rather than friends, rather than
brothers and sisters who seek to build one another up in love.
We need to allow a place for God to work in our hearts,
a place where we in fact listen to God - as well as ask things of God,
a place where we listen and then we allow God to direct our actions,
our deeds, in the world beyond us.
It is God who makes us holy and it is God who wants us to be holy.
Receive his word into your hearts each and every day. Listen for it as you
worship with your brothers and sisters, and then,
- putting aside those emotions and feelings and thoughts that would
lead you astray,
- and praying in everything that God will lead you and help
let God's word come forth from within you and shine about you in acts of
love and compassion, and in deeds of patience, understanding, and mercy.
Blessed be the name of the one who washes our hearts and our minds and
makes us acceptable in God's sight, both now and forevermore. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Singing #400 at the start of the prayer time. Our
response to "Lord, hear our Prayer" is "And in Your Love Answer")
Lord, listen to your children praying,
Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to your children praying,
send us love, send us power, send us grace!
Lord God, Jesus said that he came to that we might life and have it
abundantly. We praise you and we thank you for his purpose in coming and
we pray to you that we might indeed experience the fullness of the life
that he has promised. Take from us, O Lord, all those things that get in
the way of our relationship with you --- our pride and self-certainty, our
doubt and our fear, and all those things that come from our human nature
that blind us to the wonders of your presence and the glory of what you are
doing in our midst..... Lord, hear our prayer....
Lord, you know very well how our traditions and our understandings can
become instruments of judgement rather than instruments of your grace. We
pray today O God for all those who have been hurt by our unthought
insistence that our particular way is the only right way. Touch the hearts
of those who have turned away from you because we have caused your light
within us to grow dim, and brighten, we pray, our souls with your truth
and your beauty.... Lord, hear our prayer....
Lord, we thank you for the refreshing wind of your Spirit - for how you
breath into us new life and new hope and lead us to new understandings. In
you we find wholeness for both body and soul. We pray now, O God, that
this wholeness may not only not only grow within us - but that it might
enter into and transform the lives of those whom we name before you at this
time. We lift them up, O Lord, and also we lift up those situations and
those persons, in thanksgiving, and with prayers of intercession, that you
have placed upon our hearts this day... BIDDING PRAYER.... Lord, hear
We pray all these things, O God, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord and
our Saviour, our brother and our friend. Amen.
MINUTE FOR MISSION
* 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
Loving and giving God -- accept these offerings from our hands and
the offerings we make to you now from our hearts. Sanctify them and
us in your service so that all that we say and do may be more than
words and rituals. We ask it in Jesus' name. 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
* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN - VU 971
Go in peace and care for one another in Christ's name
and may the grace of Christ attend you,
the love of God surround you
and the Holy Spirit keep you,
both now and forevermore. Amen
* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2003
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.