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Sermon and Liturgy (3) for The Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year C
Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; John 14:23-29
"If Anyone Loves Me"


READING:  Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; John 14:23-29
SERMON :  "If Anyone Loves Me"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ea06su.y-c 934000

   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: The invocation and prayers of the people are adapted from
   John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for The Six Sunday of Easter C"
   as sent to the PRCL List in May of 2001.  Sermon elements are 
   indebted to a discussion between Fred Kane and Bob Allred on the
   PRCL List in 2001 on how grace and faith work together.  The 
   children's story is that of Charles Kirkpatrick, "Sermons4kids.com"
   for Easter 6, Year C, 2004 and is reproduced with permission. 


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME and CALL TO WORSHIP
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The Lord calls to us 
   and asks us to gather in his name. 
P  Christ calls to us 
   and asks us to love him and keep his word.
L  The Lord calls to us 
   and promises to pour out his Spirit upon us.
P  Christ calls to us 
   so that he might grant us his peace.
L  The Lord promises to comes to us 
   and to make his home with us.
P  We gather in his name to hear his word,
   and to keep it 
   and to celebrate how we God has made us
   part of his family 
   - both now and forevermore. 


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
O God, you have created us, you have called us, and you chosen us to be
your people.  We praise your most holy name.  You have promised to make
Your dwelling place within the hearts of all who hear Your words and put
them into practice.  We give you our thanks.  Send Your Spirit to bring to
our mind all that Your Son, Christ Jesus our Lord, did and taught, and
empower us to bear witness to Him in our own words and deeds.   Grace this
time of worship and lift up our hearts and minds in your holy peace.  Amen


* HYMN:  "On Eagles' Wings"                                        - VU 808


CHILDREN'S TIME "I Will Be Back"
Theme     Jesus will return and take us home to heaven. (Easter 6-C)
Object    None needed, but you could use a book such as "We're Moving"
          published by the WeWrite Corporation or "Let's Make a Move" by
          Beverly Roman. You can probably find a book at your public
          library or call a local moving company and see if they might
          have a free brochure or booklet.
Source    Charles Kirkpatrick, "Sermons4kids.com", 2004.  Reproduced here
          with permission.

   But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my
   name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I
   have said to you. "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am
   coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am
   going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  
                                                    (John 14:26,28 NIV)

Has your family ever moved from one city to another?  Sometimes, a move
to a new city can be very difficult for a family.  It can be especially
hard for children.  There have been many books written to help children
adjust to moving to a new city.  There was one move that my family made
that I remember very well.  My mom and dad had to go to a new city so
that my dad could start a new job and find a place for us to live.  I
had to stay behind to finish the school year.

It was hard for me to be left behind, but my father explained that
they had to go ahead and find a place for us to live and make sure
that it was ready when it was time for me to join them.  He told me
that there was nothing to worry about because he was leaving me with
some very good friends who would look after me and make sure that I
had everything I needed.

During the time that I was separated from my parents, they called to
talk to me on the phone every day.  They told me about our new home and
how much I was going to like it.  It helped me a lot to talk to them
and know that they would soon come for me and I would join them in our
new home.

That is very much like what Jesus has done for us.  Before Jesus
returned to heaven to be with his Father, he said that he was going to
heaven to prepare a place for us.  He promised that he would come again
and take us to our new home in heaven.

When Jesus went to heaven, he didn't leave us alone. He asked his
Father to send the Holy Spirit to watch over us, teach us, and remind
us of all that he has told us in the Bible. Not only that, we can talk
to Jesus every day in prayer. In fact, I would like to talk to him
right now.


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Jesus - we are thankful that you are in heaven - preparing a
   home for us. - We thank you for the Holy Spirit - who guides us and
   comforts us each day - and we look forward to the day - when we join
   you in our new home in heaven. - 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    


* SONG OF PRAISE: "God is So Good"
   God is so good, God is so good,
   God is so good, He's so good to me!

   He cares for me, He cares for me
   He cares for me, He's so good to me!

   I love Him so, I love Him so,
   I love Him so, He's so good to me!
   
   I praise His name, I praise His name,
   I praise His name, He's so good to me!


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 16:9-15
   (NIV)  During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia
   standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 
   After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for
   Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to
   them.  From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for
   Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.  From there we traveled
   to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of
   Macedonia.  And we stayed there several days. 

   On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we
   expected to find a place of prayer.  We sat down and began to speak
   to the women who had gathered there.  One of those listening was a
   woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of
   Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God.  The Lord opened her heart to
   respond to Paul's message.  When she and the members of her
   household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you
   consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my
   house." And she persuaded us.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 67 (VU 786) 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:   "We Are One"                                             - VU 402


A READING FROM JOHN 14:23-29
   (NIV)  Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. 
   My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home
   with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These
   words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent
   me. 

   "All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counsellor,
   the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach
   you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you
   as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not
   be afraid. 

   "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' 
   If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father,
   for the Father is greater than I.  I have told you now before it
   happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.

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

* HYMN:  "Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God"                        - VU 356


SERMON:  "If Anyone Loves Me"

   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.

One of the hardest things for folk to grasp about faith and the salvation
that arises from faith is the connection between what we do - and what God
does,
   the connection between the work of God in our lives and the work that
   we must do if God is, in fact, to be in our lives 
       in our lives in a way that makes a difference to us,
       in a way that makes a difference to our world.

Our story today from the Book of The Acts of The Apostles tells us that
when Paul arrived in Philippi and began to preach the good news there, a
woman by the name of Lydia - a dealer in purple cloth (which was an
extremely valuable commodity in those days) responded to Paul's message
and, with the members of her household - was baptized. 

The scripture says this about that event:

   She was a worshipper of God.  And the Lord opened 
   her heart to respond to Paul's message.

The implication seems to be that it is "God's action that opens people's
hearts", that it is God who brings people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet, almost in contrary fashion, in the Gospel reading this morning, 
we hear say Jesus say this:

   If anyone loves me, they will keep my word, 
   and God will love them, 
   and we will come to them 
   and make our home with them.  

The implication seems to be that if we don't keep God's word, 
if we don't obey the commandments that God gives us, that Jesus gives us,
that God won't love us or make a home with us.

This seems to a problem:
   - Just how much of faith and love is a result of God's doing and how
   much is our part?
   - Just how much of the peace God gives comes because God gives it
   freely, and how much comes because we are doing what God wants.

There is no simple answer to this. 
In fact I think it is one of the mysteries of our faith; but I think that
it is a wonderful mystery; a mystery that both keeps the grace of God held
high as a grace, a gift; and the individual's response to grace held high
as an important part of what it means to be a believer.

The Methodist tradition - from which our Church, in part, arose, speaks to
this issue by talking of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives - by
speaking of how the Spirit seeks to lead all people to respond to God's
love and to come to a deep and saving faith in him - and in Christ    

This work of the Spirit in our lives  - before faith is discovered - is
called  "Prevenient Grace."   God is seen as something like the "Hound of
Heaven" - pursuing us - seeking to claim us.  

And God - in this view - seeks us all.
   God seeks to work in all our lives.
       God seeks to bring all people to an awareness of his love
          God desires that everybody comes to a faith that He can use to
change their lives.

But persons who are thus called 
- those who are thus sought 
- those who are thus desired 
and that is all of us here, 
must eventually respond with Faith, 
they must make a decision if the fullness of the love of God, the fullness
of the peace of God, is to inhabit them; 
   just as one who receives a proposal of marriage must eventually
   respond, yes or no if they are to enter in the fullness of the love of
   the one who freely proposes to them and if they are to inhabit with
   each other in the fullness of the way that only marriage can provide.

In this sense then - Lydia's heart, like our own hearts, is opened by God,
to respond to the Gospel.  But - in that - it is Lydia who decides to say
yes to the message that she finally "hears" through Paul just as we, have
responded today
   - responded to the degree that we are here to listen to the Word of God
   to seek God's wisdom
   - and just as we - to one degree or another - have said yes to the
   message of God's love
- yes - I believe
- yes - I want to follow Jesus and to keep his word 
- Yes - I want to have him, to have God, dwell fully in me.

In short - God is not to blame for those who do not respond to Him,
   but God is to be praised for opening our hearts,
and God is not to blame for those who do not experience the fullness of his
presence in their lives,
   but God is be praised for helping us follow Christ 
   and in that following for dwelling in us and granting us 
       an ever greater sense of peace, an ever increasing ability to love, 
          an ever growing sense of the assurance of our immortality
              and an ever expanding sense of how God will in fact bring his
kingdom to pass and create a new heaven and new earth in which there is no
darkness - no pain - no evil.

   I recall the story of a little girl who, when trains were popular
   transportation, was taking her first train ride with her parents. As
   night descended, the mother took the girl, who was clearly quite
   anxious, and placed her on the upper bunk of the sleeper. She told
   her little one that up there she would be nearer to God and that God
   would watch over her.

   As silence enveloped the young lady she became afraid and called
   softly, "Mommy, are you there?"

   "Yes dear," came the response.

   A little later, in a louder voice, the child called, "Daddy, are 
   you there, too?"

   "Yes dear," was the reply.

   After this had been repeated several times one of the passengers
   sharing their sleeper car finally lost his patience and shouted
   loudly, "Yes, we're all here, your father, your mother, your
   brother, and all your aunts and cousins; now settle down and go to
   sleep!"

   There was a moment of silence and then, in hushed tones a little
   voice asked, "Mommy, was that God?"

Jesus, in offering peace, in offering to dwell within us, does not say, 
"I'm here, the Holy Spirit's here and God is here, now be at peace!"   

The peace that Jesus offers cannot be had simply by desiring it. 
The peace of God is a gift.

A gift that can only be received as a by-product of faith 
- as a by product of saying yes, I believe; and yes - I am going to keep
your word - I am going to obey you as best I can.

I am going to keep your word, O Lord,
knowing that it is in your word and by your word that the gifts you offer
to us all arrive.

Keeping the Word of God is not as common as it might be in our world.
That's why the world is largely a stranger to the peace of God.
That is why there is still darkness.
And that is why it is so important to share the word of God with as many
people as we can.

By accepting the word, the word comes to dwell in us;
By living the word the word lives in us.
 
And the word that lives in us does what the living word does best, it
shines - and it attracts others, It gives them the opportunity to hear -
and to see - and to feel - to have their hearts opened
   opened to the degree that they decide to say yes to the marriage
   proposal of God
       or - no - not at this time - because I do not want to live in the
       house you have made nor to have you live in my house.

In two week we celebrate the pouring out of the gift of the Holy Spirit
upon all who believe; a gift that enables the apostles and disciples of our
Lord to move from being men and women afraid to speak the message lest they
be mocked, scorned, or killed - to ones who not only speak the message -
but speak it in a way that everyone, regardless of their language - or
culture - or background - could hear.

In two weeks we celebrate the manner in which Christ - in which God - comes
to live with us and in us, and we celebrate what that relationship does for
us - and for the world.

What is that God does?
And what is it that we must do?

God proposes to us a kind of marriage - and I thank God for that - 
God does everything God can do to lay the foundation 
- and then God proposes to me - and to you - and to all people saying 

   "love me and let me live with you and in you and give to you all
   that I am let me change your life.  Let me build a wonderful home
   for you in which we can dwell a home of joy and peace - a home that
   has room for all who are one with us."

The response - well that is ours to make,
and ours to pray for and work for so that others might make it to.

And when we say yes and keep the word of God, the word of Christ 
- the word keeps us.

I note about Lydia's story what she did after her heart was opened to
Paul's message, 
   she did what God wants us all to do - she believed.

She kept his word by being baptised - and then she opened her home to Paul
and his companions, saying to them, "If you consider me a believer in the
Lord, come and stay at my house."

Isn't that a fascinating connection with the Gospel reading?  

Lydia invites Paul and his companions - strangers to her city - but now
brothers to her in faith - to come and stay at her house.  In the Gospel
today it is promised that God will come to make a home with us.  

Both stories point to the faith which is lived as one of hospitality and
home making.  

As the Spirit makes a home with us, so we are moved to make a home for
others.  And as we make a home for others - as we keep God's word - so God
makes a home with us.

A mystery and a marvel.
God loves us - and calls us to himself.
God dwells within us and loves us - even as we say yes - and love him.

Blessed be the name of God, day by day.  Amen


PROFESSING OUR FAITH: The Nicene Creed                             - VU 920
L  With the whole church - with the company of all the redeemed
   let us confess and proclaim our Easter faith.
P  We believe in one God....


PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
In joy and hope, let us pray to the source of all life and the font of all
hope - all blessings - all truth.  Lord God, hear our prayer.... and in
your love answer....

We pray,  O Lord, that our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of His
holy and life-giving resurrection and that we may keep his word always...
(silence) ... Lord hear our prayer.... and in your love answer....

We pray, O Lord, that our servant king may grant us humility to be subject
to one another in Christian love ... (silence) ...  Lord hear our
prayer.... and in your love answer....

We pray, O Lord, that isolated and persecuted churches may find fresh
strength in the Gospel of the one who died on the cross for them ...
(silence) ... Lord hear our prayer.... and in your love answer....

We pray, O Lord, that through Christ you might open the hearts of those who
till now have closed them to you, and that you might grace the church -
that you might grace us - so that we might be ones who shine upon the world
with your inviting love ... (silence) ... Lord hear our prayer.... and in
your love answer....

We pray, O Lord, to so work in us and in others - and in creation itself -
that there might be ample provision for those who lack food, work, or
shelter ... (silence) .. Lord hear our prayer.... and in your love
answer....

We pray, O Lord, that by His power wars and famine may cease through all
the earth and that his realm of  peace may extend throughout the world ...
(silence) ... Lord hear our prayer.... and in your love answer....

We pray, O Lord, that He may reveal the light of His presence to the sick,
the weak, and they dying, that they may be comforted and strengthened ...
(silence) .... Lord hear our prayer.... and in your love answer....

Lord, hear too our prayers for those persons and those situations that are
especially upon our hearts and minds at this time... those who we raise
before you now in silence and with the words of our lips... (BIDDING
PRAYER)... Lord Hear Our Prayer.... and in your love answer.   

Lord God Almighty:  Send upon us the Spirit of Christ whose death has
purchased peace for all.  His light outshines any temple and His love
fulfils all the commandments.  Be our light and our life until all shadows
scatter and glory is seen upon us; we ask it in his name.  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, with these gifts we now offer in obedience to your word
   we desire to honour you and thank you as you deserve.  Receive what
   is upon these plates - and that which is in our hearts at this time
   - and bless it to your work in this world that there may be an
   abundance of light and love - of care and of mercy among us and
   among all persons whom you love and seek to save and redeem.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:   "Faith Of Our Fathers"                         - VU 580


* 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
- and may the peace of God keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and
love of Christ Jesus our Saviour, and may the Spirit of the Lord guide and
lead you, support and comfort you 
both now and forevermore.


* 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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