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Sermon and Liturgy (3) for The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year C
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; John 13:31-35
"As I Have Loved You"


READING:  Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; John 13:31-35
SERMON :  "As I Have Loved You"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ea05su 933000

   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: Sermon Stories from Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green citing Rabbi
   Label Lam regarding Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim as sent to the
   dvartorah@torah.org List, May 2001.  he children's time is from 
   Charles Kirkpatrick, "Sermons4Kids.com" for May 9 2004 and is
   reproduced with permission.


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.


* WELCOMING HYMN: "Come In, Come In And Sit Down"                  - VU 395


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
L   Loving God - on this Mother's day we call upon you
    and we ask your blessing upon our mothers 
    and upon all who love others as you love them.
P   Bless this time of worship and of play.
L   Bless this time of prayer and of study.
P   Bless this time of fellowship and of hearing the word of God.
L   Bless this time of saying thank you and of loving one another.
    - even as Christ loves us. 
P   Amen.


CHILDREN'S TIME
Title     He Loves Us All
Theme     Jesus loves all the little children. So should we! (Easter 5C)
Object    A package "Dum Dums"© suckers. (Any brand of suckers with a
          variety of flavours will do.)
Source    Charles Kirkpatrick "Sermons4kids.com", Easter 5C, 2004.  Used
          here with permission.

   "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so
   you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my
   disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

This morning I have a bag of "Dum-dums."  As you can see, "Dum-dums" come
in many different flavours.  There are lemon, cherry, grape, watermelon,
orange, and butterscotch.  I sometimes give "Dum-dums" to the children who
come to Sunday School.  One thing I have noticed is that when I allow the
children to choose the flavour they want, some children are very picky
about which flavour they choose.  It seems I always wind up with all of the
butterscotch left when all of the other flavours are gone.  Children seldom
ever choose the butterscotch suckers.

I don't know why the children don't like butterscotch.  I guess
butterscotch is a little bit different.  Maybe it isn't quite as sweet as
grape or cherry, or some of the other flavours, or maybe they just don't
like the colour of the paper wrapper.  Do you know what I do with the
leftover butterscotch suckers?  I eat them myself, because I love all the
flavours!

These "Dum-dums" remind me of children.  Have you ever noticed that when
children play games, some children are always the last to be chosen?  Maybe
they are just a little bit different or maybe their skin is a different
colour and the other children just won't choose them.

We all need to remember that Jesus loves ALL the children and he said that
you and I should do the same.  Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so must
you love one another."  Have you ever been the one who was left out?  It
isn't a very good feeling, but if you are ever the one that feels left out,
you can know that Jesus loves you just as much as He loves the other
children.


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord - help us to remember - tto love one another - just as you
   have loved us. - 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    


       ALTERNATE PRAYER TIME WITH CHILDREN AS MOTHER'S DAY IS
       CELEBRATED AND SUNDAY SCHOOL IS CLOSED

       We thank you God - for those who care for us - and for those
       who teach us.   We thank you God - for those who help us -
       and for those who learn from us.   Bless we pray - each
       person here today - help us all  to grow in love - and to
       follow Jesus - doing what he did - and believing what he
       believed.   Bless us - bless our church school - bless our
       Christian family - bless our church - and bless all our
       mothers.   Amen.


* HYMN  "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families"                   - VU 556


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries   
- Special Matters     
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


TIME OF SILENCE & AND INTROIT FOR THE WORD   (v2 of 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 ACTS 11:1-18
   (NIV)  The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the
   Gentiles also had received the word of God.  So when Peter went up to
   Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went
   into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." 

   Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had
   happened:  "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I
   saw a vision.  I saw something like a large sheet being let down
   from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was.  I
   looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild
   beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air.  Then I heard a voice
   telling me, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'  "I replied, 'Surely not,
   Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' 

   "The voice spoke from heaven a second time, 'Do not call anything
   impure that God has made clean.'  This happened three times, and
   then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 

   "Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped
   at the house where I was staying.  The Spirit told me to have no
   hesitation about going with them.  These six brothers also went with
   me, and we entered the man's house.  He told us how he had seen an
   angel appear in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa for Simon who is
   called Peter.  He will bring you a message through which you and all
   your household will be saved.' 

   "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on
   us at the beginning.  Then I remembered what the Lord had said:
   'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy
   Spirit.'  So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who
   believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could
   oppose God?" 

   When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised
   God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance
   unto life."

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 148 (VU 871) and the Gloria Patri Sung 

   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. 
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
   World without end.  Amen


* HYMN:   "I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry"                   - VU 644


A READING FROM JOHN 13:31-35                                               
   (NIV)  When Judas was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man
   glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him,
   God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
   "My children, I will be with you only a little longer.  You will
   look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I
   am going, you cannot come. 

   "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you,
   so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you
   are my disciples, if you love one another."

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

* HYMN:  "Our Parent, By Whose Name"                               - VU 555


SERMON:  "As I Have Loved You"

   Loving God, as you opened the tomb and raised Jesus to new life, so
   open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit that as
   your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us
   today, and in confidence go forth to live what you show us.  We ask
   it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Today we speak in the name of Christ Jesus about love - about Christ-like
love - about the kind of love mothers - and fathers - and indeed each one
of us - are called to have - and by the grace of God - do have - should we
in fact be following in his steps through faith.

We know the commandments concerning love - about who we should love and how
we should love them..

What is the greatest commandment Jesus is asked. And he replies       

   Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind,
and the second is like it - love your neighbour as yourself.
 
Rabbi Label Lam, writing about the second of these laws, as it is found in
Leviticus 19:18, tells a story that goes likes this:

   A Russian peasant farmer who never left the small and parochial
   surroundings of his town had occasion to come the big city of
   Moscow.  He arrived at the elegant hotel with mud on his boots and
   overalls looking completely inappropriate.  The man at the desk
   assigned him to a room on the top floor and treated him as any other
   paying customer.

   With key in hand and a few possessions he started the long climb to
   the hotel room.  On the first landing there was a full-length
   mirror.  The man who had never seen himself before was suddenly
   startled and frightened by the imposing image before him.  He
   growled and barked to scare the him away - only to find that the
   image in the mirror was willing to threaten and shout the same.

   He ran to the next floor and confronted the fearsome giant again
   exchanging harsh looks and almost coming to blows.  On the third
   floor they stood nose to nose and exchanged simultaneous insults as
   a deepening war-like attitude was taking root in both of the them.

   Realizing that there was no where to escape this ugly beast-like
   fellow who was aggressively stalking him in the hotel he ran quickly
   back to the lobby and to the front desk to file a complaint.  After
   having given a detailed description of the perpetrator the man at
   the desk understood that the he had met the enemy and it was the man
   in the mirror.   So as to save the face of his guest and to
   disengage the hostility he offered simple advice.

   He said, "The fellow who you confronted is here to protect people. 
   He is really quite harmless. Trust me. If you will show him a harsh
   and angry countenance he will do the same.  However if when you see
   him you just smile pleasantly and continue on your way he will nod
   and smile at you as well.  Enjoy the rest of your stay."  

That's what he did    and remarkably   that's what happened...

King Solomon is reported to have once said:

       "Like the reflection of a face in water so is the heart of
       one person to another."  

To love another is a difficult thing - especially when our experience of
love is flawed, especially when we are unaware of how much we are loved,
and most especially when the reflection in the water is full of anger or
bitterness or resentment - as so many are.

To really love another we often need a standard or guide to follow
   and within that standard or guide - we need help - help to not only
   know what love is - but to know that the love we need is within us;
   that it is embracing us and has the power to embrace others through us,
   especially to embrace those others towards who we do not feel love.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind,
and love your neighbour as yourself.  

These commands, Jesus said - and all the Rabbi's agreed - summarize the Law
and The Prophets, that law which Jesus says will not pass away until all is
accomplished 

To that law - that law which can be most difficult for us to keep - Jesus
added one commandment, and one commandment only, during the three years of
his ministry - the commandment heard in our Gospel reading this morning -
the one given by Jesus as Judas departs from the Last Supper to betray him
to his death.

   "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so
   you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are
   my disciples, if you love one another."

As I have loved you, so you must love another.

And how is it that Jesus loves us?
   Is it not by giving himself away for us?
       - By blessing us even when he knows that we are not following - and
       perhaps will not follow - him.
          - By being pro-active in love - rather than simply reactive?

Look at the cross.  Look at this table where the Lord's body and blood are
lifted up so that we might remember.

This is the love that seeks to embrace us.

This is the love that is more than simply our guide and our model.

It is the love that when received - is more than able to pour itself out
upon others, no matter how we might "feel" about them.

It is the love of the one who gave himself for us while we were yet enemies
of God; the freely given love of the one whose faithfulness destroys our
death and whose resurrection restores our life.

A story is told about a teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten
students put his boots on. 

   He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him
   pushing, the boots still didn't want to go on.  When the second boot
   was on, she had worked up a sweat.  She almost whimpered when the
   little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the  wrong feet."  She looked
   and sure enough, they were. 

   It wasn't any  easier pulling the boots off then it was putting them
   on.  She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the
   boots back on - this time on the right feet.  He then announced,
   "These aren't my boots."  She bit her tongue rather than get right
   in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to. 

   Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. 
   He then said,"They're my brother's boots.  My Mom made me wear
   them." 

   She didn't know  if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the
   grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again.  She said, "Now, where
   are your mittens?"  He  said, "I  stuffed them in the toes of my
   boots..."

Ever have one of those days???   

I think all of us do.  The question is - will we bite our tongues - and do
that good thing we desire to do?  Will we face the countless little crosses
that appear before us each day?  Will we willingly taking on the burdens
that should not be ours to take - despite a lack of appreciation and
understanding among those whom we are helping?

This is what love does - it accepts the little crosses,
   knowing that the large cross has already been taken for us,
       knowing that because Jesus has accepted us, so we can accept others
in his love - that we can trust them into his care, his judgement, his
mercy, and his righteousness.

And never more so than with those towards whom love is hardest to show,
- the self that fears the evil within 
   - that stranger that we see in the mirror
   - and the other strangers, those who are not in the mirror, but who
stand before us in person screaming words like "crucify him" and holding in
their hands the nails of execution.

Love one another as I have loved you.

This means be open to the new and to that which was previously impossible
for us to be open to,
   to be open - as Peter, in today's reading from the Book of The Acts of
   The Apostles, was open - open in his imperfect - human - but inspired
   way - to those he considered unacceptable, to those that all the
   apostles had previously thought to be outside of the loving embrace of
   God, open to the gentiles - the foreigners - 
to those viewed by all as unclean - as unholy - as undesirable.

For us that may mean be to be open to those that our wisdom and our
feelings tell us to be unclean, unholy, unacceptable, and undesirable.

For some that may be someone in their own family who has hurt them beyond
words.  For others it may be the nameless pan-handlers and refugees who beg
at our doors.  Or the sinners who enter into our homes to steal not only
physical treasures, but to rob the entire human family of its joy and hope. 
For still others it may be an employer, a debtor, or some group of persons
that have done us or our world an injury.

God will judge all people.  Not us.  
Blessed be God for that!

Blessed be the one whose love does not fail - and who wills to give us that
love, and who vows to take care of all who follow him, to nurture them and
help them to grow and to usher them into the blessedness of his eternal
kingdom.

God will judge all people.  Not us.
Love one another as I have loved you!

God asks a question of his people through the prophet Isaiah, in the 49th
Chapter of the Book of that Prophet.  He asks of his people who are in
exile for their sins:

   Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the
   child of her womb? 

And he answers:

   Even these may forget.  Yet I will not forget you.  See, I have
   inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually
   before me.  

Christ has inscribed us on the palm of our hands.   
He does not forgot us.  

And so the answer to question of the love of God for us is also answered
with a promise  - a promise that came to pass for Israel, and even now is
coming to pass among those of us who are willing to see:

   Your builders outdo your destroyers, and those who laid you waste go
   away from you.  Lift up your eyes all around and see; they all
   gather, they come to you.  As I live, says the Lord, you shall put
   all of them on like an ornament, and like a bride you shall bind
   them on.  Surely your waste and your desolate places and your
   devastated land-- surely now you will be too crowded for your
   inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away.

Love one another as I have loved you.

God loves us most powerfully.
And gives us the power to love others.

Would you love someone today that you find it hard to love?
Then know that God loves you - - that God loves you without condition
and will make your life full and abundant as you turn to love others with
his love.

Another story for today:

   An elderly woman and her little grandson, whose face was sprinkled
   with bright freckles, spent the day at the zoo. Lots of children
   were waiting in line to get their cheeks painted by a local artist
   who was decorating them with tiger paws. 

   "You've got so many freckles, there's no place to paint!" a girl in
   the line said to the little fella. Embarrassed, the little boy
   dropped his head.  

   His grandmother knelt down next to him. "I love your freckles. When
   I was a little girl I always wanted freckles," she said, while
   tracing her finger across the child's cheek. "Freckles are
   beautiful!" 

   The boy looked up, "Really?" 

   "Of course," said the grandmother. "Why just name me one thing
   that's more beautiful than freckles." The little boy thought for a
   moment, peered intensely into his grandma's face, and softly
   whispered, "Wrinkles."

May all our friends - and all those who would be our enemies if we let them
be, have beautiful freckles and gorgeous wrinkles.  Let go and let God, and
love one another as Christ loves you - with a love that saves and redeems
his people -- both Jew and Gentile alike.   Blessed be God's name, day by
day.  Amen.


PROFESSING OUR FAITH: The Apostles Creed                           - VU 918
L  With the whole church - with the company of all the redeemed
   let us confess and proclaim our Easter faith.
P  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth....


PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Most Holy and Eternal God, your love is from everlasting to everlasting. 
We put our faith and our hope in you.  You show us through Christ Jesus the
love that saves and redeems all who would receive it and you call us to
love one another with his love.  May we indeed show to the world that we
are yours by being filled with that love.   Lord, heard our prayer...

We give thanks, creating God, for the woman who gave us birth and for the
families who have in the past, and who do now, sustain and support us in
our living, those who like Christ Jesus love us no matter what...  Lord,
hear our prayer....

We pray, compassionate God, for those whose  mother has been a source of
hurt and pain, for all those for whom one or more members of their family
has caused them to suffer.  May they find refuge in your love.  May their
wounds be healed.  May they find in you, in us, in others, the nurturing,
sustaining love that is needed for their growth and well-being.  And may
they pray for and bless them and so in your love be made whole....  Lord,
hear our prayer...

We give thanks to you, O God, for all those who, responding to the
difficult lives of others, have stepped in to become surrogate mothers; for
those who, in the absence of our own mothers, have provided the guidance
and stability, the nurture and the love needed.... Lord, hear our prayer... 

We remember single mothers and fathers around the world who struggle to be
both parents to their children - to provide all the emotional, physical and
spiritual needs without the constant support of a spouse.  May they find
the strength, the courage and the wisdom for their task....  Lord, hear our
prayer...

We pray for those mothers who have been hurt, disillusioned, or
disappointed in their  role as mother.   We pray for those who have been
denied a longed-for chance at motherhood, and for those whose years of
mothering have been cut short by the loss of a child.  We pray for them and
for those who have chosen to share the love you have given them in other
ways.... Lord hear our prayer...

We pray too, O Lord, for the members of our family - and of our human
family around the world - who are afflicted or suffering at this time -
those who need healing, those who require bread or shelter, those who  are
preparing for their death, those who are grieving, and those who are
preparing to welcome new life into the world.   Hear our prayers for our
brothers and sisters - and all those who we raise before you in our hearts
and with the words of our lips at this time.... (BIDDING PRAYER)..  Lord
Hear Our Prayer.... and in your love answer.   

Blessed be your most Holy Name - you who are both Father and Mother of us;
and blessed be Christ Jesus our brother, our Lord,  and our Saviour
day by day.  Amen.


MINUTE FOR MISSION


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication
         
   Loving God, in You we find life, health, and strength. Through Your
   gifts we are clothed and fed.  By you comes the love with which we
   can love.  Bless we pray what we offer to you now on these plates
   and those intentions which we lay before you on the alter of our
   hearts.  Bless them and use them that your love and goodness may be
   made known to all.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:   "To Show By Touch and Word"                    - VU 427


* COMMISSIONING:  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 AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace and love and care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus
remember life is short, 
   so gladden the hearts of those who travel with you,
   be swift to love and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God - the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer 
be with you both now and forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"                               - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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