READING: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; Mark 8:27-38
SERMON : "The Wisdom of God"
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.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand)
* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Psalm 119:105-112)
L The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P And also with you.
L God's word is a lamp to guide us.
P God's word is a light for our path.
L God calls us to walk by his word.
By it life is given to us.
P God's ordinances and teachings are our heritage,
an eternal possession by which the wise are guided.
L When we are filled by God's Spirit
they become the joy of our hearts.
P God calls us to hear and to do all that he has commanded.
Blessed be the name of our God.
* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Let us pray - God of grace and God of glory - we gather today as your
people to worship you and to be strengthened by your wisdom and your power.
We gather in the name of your Son, Christ Jesus, your living word. We
gather to thank you that your ways are greater than our ways and that your
purpose for creation is loving and life giving. Help us, we pray, to walk
in the way of life. Be present with us as we call on your name and lift us
in the light and peace of your presence. Amen.
* HYMN: "How Great Thou Art" - VU 238
CHILDREN'S TIME: (or use A Liturgy For Covenanting With The Sunday School
Theme Start of Sunday School Year
Today we are all entering into a new beginning - we are beginning Sunday
School here at St. Andrew's for the next three seasons. You will all be
going downstairs and meeting - or re-meeting your teachers and you will
begin some activities that will hopefully be fun and help you to come to
love God and one another more than you do now. There are lots of new
beginnings in our lives times when we start new activities or have things
happen to us that mark a new direction in our lives. Can you think of some
new things that you are doing this year? Or things that you are
restarting, after not having done them for awhile?
Eating Granola (haven't done it in a long while)
Going to School for the first time
Coming to Sunday School
Learning to sing. etc
As you begin this year's Sunday School - you will first look at the most
important of all beginnings - the one that was needed before all of us
could be here. Can you guess what that is?? (Creation of the World - how
God first made all things ).
Our world had a good beginning because God made the world. Our prayer
today is that in all things new that you do - and in everything you do -
God may be with you and help you - so that you might have a good beginning
too - and a good ending as well. Let's all pray after me....
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Most Loving God - we thank you for being here - for loving each
one of us - and for making us one family. - Help us dear Lord -
as we start this year together. - Bless our teachers and helpers
- our parents and our friends - and each person in this church -
and people all around the world. - We ask it in Jesus' name Amen.
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
CHILDREN'S HYMN: "This Little Light of Mine" (GATHER CHILDREN)
Today, we begin our year in a new way - with the singing of a song. For
the next few weeks we will start this time of the service with the same
hymn - "This Little Light of Mine" and then proceed to do things like tell
stories or to do special things together with all who gather here as the
family of God. So, to get us going I would ask Mickey and Sharon and Bev
to come forward and to help teach us all the words and actions of the
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. (3x)
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, No! I'm gonna let it shine.(3x)
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Don't let anyone whff (blow) it out, I'm gonna let shine. (3x)
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Let it shine in my hometown. I'm gonna let it shine (3x)
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
See the light spreading round the world. See all the faces shine.(3x)
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
-- Note verse 1 Hold right forefinger up to represent light
-- Note verse 2 Hold let hand, palm down, as cover over right forefinger, when
you shout "No!" extend both hands and shake head vigorously.
-- Note verse 3 For "whff" blow at the top of right forefinger, but say words "it
-- Note verse 4 As verse one
-- Note verse 5 Both left and right forefingers up, arms spread wide and upward.
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 PROVERBS 1:20-33
(NIV) Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in
the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries
out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
"How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long
will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you
had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to
you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me
when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I
in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity
overtakes you when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when
disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and
trouble overwhelm you.
"Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look
for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did
not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my
advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their
ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the
waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of
fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in
safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."
L This is the word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 19 (Voices United 740-41) 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 MARK 8:27-38
(NIV) Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around
Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and
still others, one of the prophets."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered, "You are the Christ."
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to
teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be
rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law,
and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He
spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to
rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples,
he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not
have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and
said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his
life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the
gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole
world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange
for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this
adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed
of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
* HYMN: "Take Up Your Cross" - VU 561
SERMON: "The Wisdom of God"
Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of our
hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, oh
our rock and our redeemer. Amen
Listen once more today to the word of God as found in our reading from the
Book of Proverbs. It begins like this:
Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the
public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: "How long will
you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers
delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
And it ends this way -
The waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency
of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live
in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."
Today we are told that Wisdom ignored - leads to death.
and that Wisdom heeded - leads to life.
It is not something that I believe many folk care to hear. They do not
care to hear it - because it is ever the human desire to do as we want to
do without having to suffer any negative consequences.
Many of us believe that with regard to the promises of God that it is
enough to say I believe, and to attend church from time to time - to
receive the rich inheritance that God has said he will give to us.
But it is not so. God calls us to listen to him - and to follow in his way
- to live by his wisdom. And his promise is that it is when we do this -
that then we will find what we seek and enjoy the fullness of what a
relationship with creator of the world is meant to bestow upon us.
So what is the wisdom of God like? This wisdom that leads to life?
Well, the scriptural record is clear about it. The wisdom of God seems
foolish in the eyes of men. It seems foolish because it goes against our
natural tendencies - because it reverses all that the world teaches us as
The Wisdom of God teaches that we must give up our selves if we are to find
ourselves, that we must acknowledge our weakness if we are to become
strong, that we must die - if we are live.
The gospel today puts this in the starkest terms possible.
Jesus has just told Peter and the disciples for the first time that he must
suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and
teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise
As you know - Peter protests against this teaching.
He takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, and we can imagine can't we
- what he might have being trying to say to Jesus before Jesus cuts him
Not you Lord you are good - no-one would kill you.
Stop thinking negatively. You will be OK.
It's not right to say that one who is meant to save Israel
will be rejected by his own people,
you are meant to deliver us from bondage - not to suffer and die.
But Jesus turns all this around. And he tells Peter - "Get behind me!
Satan You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
And then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up
his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will
lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel
will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his
soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous
and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when
he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
It is hard stuff to hear is it not? Hard stuff to deal with.
Especially when we are so often a people who keep our faith to ourselves
for fear of ridicule,
especially when we are so often a people who work day and night to
build our homes and our futures,
and who judge the success of a matter by how much pleasure or how
much profit it affords us.
This past year has been a particularly difficult one for Charlene and I.
Several close personal friends have been dying and have died in this year.
The last one died on Wednesday - a man whom I married to a dear friend from
Ontario up in the Blaeberry River Valley two summers ago.
When we first heard that Jim and the others were ill, and when the
prognosis turned more and more to an early earthly departure, it was tough
to bear, difficult to accept. In our very human wisdom we didn't want our
friends to go, to leave us before (what we think is) their time. We had a
struggle with God's purposes for us and for our brothers and sisters.
I think that it was likely a very similar gut reaction that Peter had when
he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him when he announces his coming
rejection and suffering and death.
How much do we set our mind on human things rather than divine?
I am reading a novel by a Christian writer right now. It is called "The
List". It concerns a non-believer by the name of Renny and Christian woman
he meets by the name of Jo.
Near the beginning of their relationship Jo tells Renny "The
panorama of the sky and the water is a much better sermon about
freedom and the nature of God than you would hear in many
Renny replies: "Is that like the guy who says he doesn't need to
go to church because he can meet God in bass boat?"
Jo replies - "There is some truth to that old excuse. 'The
heaven's declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of
his hands.' However, you have to be looking for God to see him."
You have to be looking for God to see him. How similar that is to the
message from the book of Proverbs this morning. And to the words of Jesus.
God may indeed be all around us. And even within us. But that is not
We are called to look for that God and to listen to his word. We are
called to set our minds on the way of the divine and to strive to live by
it, for only by doing so can we in fact live.
We are saved by grace alone, most certainly.
But it is by grace through faithfulness -
the faithfulness of God towards us in Christ Jesus
and our faithfulness towards him and his way.
The way of divine things does not at first appear to be an easy road. It
holds some mystery. The human part of us doesn't want to deal with the hard
stuff; we don't want to deal with talk of mortality - of suffering - of
sacrifice and of death. Even when there is attached to it talk of
resurrection and of eternal life.
Hard or not - Jesus calls us to deny ourselves,
to deny our fear and our weakness and pettiness
and to pick up our own cross of faith and to follow him.
He asks us to lose our lives, to give up our own little restricted
imaginations in order to embrace the larger vision of God's will, God's
He reminds us that none of us can "buy" our lives or stave off the
inevitable, for we all die.
And he tells us, as does Wisdom in our reading from Proverbs today, that we
can only choose life - that we can only live and prosper - if we embrace
his way, if we take into ourselves the divine way.
The divine wisdom tells Charlene and I that our friends have not ceased to
live. Rather they have been transformed - and made complete - and are in
the eternal presence of God where tears and pain and suffering are no more
and where there is joy and thanksgiving and celebration beyond anything we
And it tells us too that we need to walk in the way of Christ and by his
power if we are to inherit with them all that has been given to them. That
we must take up our crosses - that we must give up our lives to God - if
God is in fact to take us up with him, if we are to receive the life that
God wants to give to us.
These are things divine.
To inherit them we are called to set our minds upon them,
and upon the wisdom of God which leads us to them.
The apostle Paul writes in the first chapter of his First Letter to the
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did
not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was
preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs
and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a
stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those
whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of
God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser
than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than
In order for you to take up your cross what in your life would have to
change? What are you most afraid of losing?
For many of us it is what I call our comfort margin.
Throughout the scriptures we hear stories of what God is like and how God
operates in our lives. All of them point to the need for us to have a
radical trust in Him - to give up our strength in favour of his.
We see it in the stories of the wars in the Old Testament - where God
reduces the number of the men of Israel going into battle to the point
where the odds are overwhelmingly against them - so that when they later
win the battle they may not claim the victory - but rather see it as being
We see it in Jesus' talk of how hard it is for the rich to enter into the
kingdom of heaven, and Paul's talk about how when he is weak - then is
How often my friends do we look at task that we believe we may be called to
perform, and rather than asking if it is truly God's will that we perform
it, we ask if it is possible for us to do it?
God's wisdom is no head counting wisdom - no resource counting wisdom.
Rather it is that in trusting in him - in listening to him - and then doing
what he tells us to do, that all that we need to have happen will happen.
It is not a comfortable thing this kind of radical reliance upon God and
God's way of doing things. It can lead us - as it led Jesus - from the
familiar territory of Judea - to the city of Jerusalem -
from the place where we fit in easily with those around us - to the
place where the authorities may indeed plot against us and where those
who oppress the people of God are indeed ready to strip us and beat
us, and put us to death should we disturb their peace and their
comfort, their rule over us with talk of a better way - a way that
shares with all people - a way that is just and loving and merciful.
What might we lose if we are to let it be known that we value the ways of
God over the ways of man? What might we have to give it up if we are to
actually live according to the vows we have made to God?
What might we have to do if we are to heed God's words and desires rather
than our own or those of our friends, our families, and our neighbours?
Those who tell us that we will be doing the right thing - and they will
care for us forever and that we will be blessed beyond all people, if only
we do things the way they tell us we should be doing them?
A few years ago now, after giving an address in Melbourne, Australia, the
famous Viennese psychiatrist Victor Frankl was given a boomerang as a gift.
Dr. Frankl thought for a few minutes and then said that he felt the
boomerang symbolized human existence. People assume that the
function of the boomerang is to return to the thrower. But this
isn't true. The boomerang returns to the thrower only when it
misses the target.
The same is true of in life, he said. We return to ourselves to become self-
centred and self absorbed when we have failed to find meaning in life. If we
live for ourselves, spend our money only on ourselves or those closest to
ourselves, if we squander our time, and exert our strength only for those
things that please us, we pay the price of a meaningless existence.
That analysis of life coincides with what Jesus has to say in today's
"For those who want to save their life will lose it. And those
who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,
will save it."
God's wisdom is not like ours.
God's thoughts are vaster than our thoughts.
His ways greater than our ways.
Blessed be the name of God. Amen
THE PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Let us Pray -- your wisdom, O God, is greater than ours. We are nothing.
Yet you love us - and so we praise you and we thank you. We thank you for
giving that we may receive; for dying that we may live; and for rising that
we may be born to eternal life.... Lord hear our prayer
We confess, O God, that we are so often a people who want Easter without
Good Friday, the empty tomb without the cross, the fellowship of the family
without the discipline of discipleship. Help us, Lord, to overcome our
greed and our fear and to walk the path that Jesus shows us... Lord, hear
We are on the way again Lord - the time of busyness, the time of new
schooling, of new activities in church and in the community. We ask you to
guide us and bless us in our activities - that what we do what you would
have us do, both here in this Sanctuary of your presence and among our
brothers and sisters of this congregation, and in the world beyond this
special place. Indeed help us to serve you without counting the cost and
so bring your power and glory to light in our lives and in the life of the
world.... Lord, hear our Prayer...
Lord we pray also to you for those situations and those people you have
most especially placed upon our hearts this past week - and this past
hour..... Lord hear us as we lift them up to you now.... BIDDING
PRAYER..... Lord, hear our prayer....
We ask all these things, O God, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. 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
Lord Jesus, out of your love for the Father and your love for us,
you gave yourself to us, walking in the way of peace and
righteousness despite the cost. Bless we pray the gifts we offer
to you at this time. Use them - use us - in the work of your
kingdom, both now and forevermore. Amen
* DEPARTING HYMN: "Nearer My God To Thee" - VU 497
* COMMISSIONING (unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth
into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body
* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN - VU 971
Go in peace,
and may the strength of God uphold you,
the wisdom of God guide you,
and the love of God fill you
day by day, now and forever. Amen
SUNG BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2003
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.