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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Seventh Sunday of Easter - Year C
Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97; John 17:20-26
"That All Of Them May Be One"


READING:  Revelation 21:10,22 - 22:5; Psalm 67; John 14:23-29
SERMON :  "That All of Them May Be One"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ea06sn.y-c 783

   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 Pastoral Prayer and the Prayer of
   Dedication from John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for 37c.
   Ascension / 38c. Seventh Sunday of Easter" as sent to PRCL List in
   2001.  Our thanks also to Janet Weiblen (revjanet@rrt.net) for her
   thoughts in "Sermon- John Text", 2001; to Ralph Milton's
   illustrations and thoughts in "Rumors", May 2001 - which we quote
   extensively (rumors@joinhands.com); and last, but not least, to
   Father Jude Sciliano in "First Impressions", Easter 7C, May 2001.
   (firstimpressions@preacherexchange.org)


C-ea07su.y-c 935 
Acts 16:16-34 Psalm 97; John 17:20-26
"That All Of Them May Be One"


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME and CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Ephesians 3:14-20)
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  Christ himself is our peace, 
   he has destroyed the walls that divide.
P  He came and preached peace to those far off
   and peace to those near.
L  Through him we have access to the Father by one Spirit.
P  We are no longer foreigners and aliens,
   we are now fellow citizens with God's people.
L  We are now members of God's household, 
P  Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
   Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Gracious God, we praise you for your great love towards us.  We thank you
for the heritage you have chosen us for, for the promises you have made to
us, for the many gifts that you grant us for the living of our days.  Lord,
we remember how, before your death and resurrection, you said you would be
present with us to the close of the age.  We remember how you prayed that
we might one - with you - and with one another.   Help us to realise your
presence with us now, O God, in this time of worship.  May we in this time
of prayer and praise, of listening and speaking, of interceding and
serving, come alive in You - and You in us - through the power and love of
Christ's Spirit.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Breathe on Me, Breath of God"                            - VU 382


CHILDREN'S TIME  "Jesus Prays For Us"
Theme     Unity Gives Strength
Object    Spool of Thread
Source    Self

Good morning...  Jesus prayed for his disciples - and for you and me one
time - on the night he was betrayed to his death on the cross.   He prayed
a special prayer - that we might be one - as he and the Father are one.

Take a a string of thread and ask a child to hold one end of it   wrap it
around the child's other hand and back to the first hand and get the child
to hold that end also.    Then ask them to jerk their hands further apart. 
The thread is easily broken.  Patter -- "when we are alone - we are weak"   

Try a couple of windings.....   Patter - "when two or three of us are
gathered - Jesus is there - but our ability is still not what it could be.  
We can still be easily divided - even though Jesus is with us.

Wind between the hands  many times.....   Patter - now it is very difficult
to break us apart.  We can do better than we could do on our own.   The
word of God can be better seen in us - and better employed to do the job
our unity is meant to do   which is to show that Jesus is in us - and that
Jesus makes a difference to all of our lives.

And the wonderful thing about this - is that when we are together - when we
are one in Christ - each one of us safer than if we are all by ourselves
trying to be faithful to God.


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   Let us pray   Loving and Gracious God - we pray to you - as Jesus
   prayed about us - make us one - as you are one - make us strong
   together - so that people might believe in you - and so that all the
   world - might know your peace and love.   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:  "It Only Takes A Spark"                         - VU 289



ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND 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 16:16-34
   (NIV)  Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met
   by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. 
   She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 
   This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are
   servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be
   saved."  She kept this up for many days.  Finally Paul became so
   troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name
   of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!"  At that moment
   the spirit left her.

   When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making
   money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the
   marketplace to face the authorities.  They brought them before the
   magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city
   into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept
   or practice." 

   The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the
   magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten.  After they had
   been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer
   was commanded to guard them carefully.  Upon receiving such orders,
   he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

   About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
   and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was
   such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were
   shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's
   chains came loose.  The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison
   doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because
   he thought the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, "Don't harm
   yourself! We are all here!"  

   The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before
   Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what
   must I do to be saved?" 

   They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -
   you and your household."   Then they spoke the word of the Lord to
   him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night
   the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he
   and all his family were baptized.  The jailer brought them into his
   house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he
   had come to believe in God - he and his whole family.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 97 (VU 817) 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:  "O Love, How Deep"                                        - VU 348


A READING FROM JOHN 17:20-26
   (NIV)  "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who
   will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be
   one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.   May they also
   be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I
   have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as
   we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to
   complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved
   them even as you have loved me. 

   "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,
   and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved
   me before the creation of the world. 

   "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you,
   and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them,
   and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have
   for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

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

* HYMN:  "Though Ancient Walls"                                    - VU 691


SERMON:  "That All Of Them May Be One"

   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.

There are a lot of places in the scriptures where Jesus makes promises to
those who believe in him.  But the passage that Bob read today from the
gospel of John is the only section of the gospels where Jesus specifically
refers to us, current believers. Jesus did many things, he taught much, but
only prayed once for those who would believe because of the word of the
disciples. 

And his prayer was that we would all be one,
and that we would be in God - in Christ - in the Spirit  
so that the world may believe that God the Father - has sent him.

There is much more to the prayer of Jesus for us as well:
   Jesus prays that the love of God the Father for him may be in us - and
   that he himself may be in us,
          and that we may see his glory - the glory given to him by God
          the Father,
but the prayer of Jesus for us is, at it's core, a prayer that we might be
one as God as one, that we - to quote the prayer again  

       "..may be brought to complete unity to let the world know
       that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved
       me."

May they be one as we are one.
   May they be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
       May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you
       sent me
          May they see my glory, that glory I have already given them -
          the glory you gave me.

There is a profound outward focus to this prayer; a focus upon how we can
and should impact the world because of our faith.

And there is a profound desire within that outward focus 
   that we have the fulness of God within us.

Indeed that which is outward seems to arise from that which is inward.  Our
unity - that unity which can convince the world that Jesus is the one sent
by God, arises out of the unity of the Father and the Son; a unity that
Christ prays we might dwell in and that which might dwell in us.

It is deep and very spiritual stuff this dynamic of outward and inward
   this dynamic of diversity and unity
       this dynamic of corporate witness and of personal experience.
It is deep and spiritual 
   and it is well the topic of our prayers as much as it was of the prayer
of Jesus for us.

What is unity?  And do we have it?  Do we convince others by our behaviour
- one to another and all to one - that Christ is in us?

There are many ways to envision unity.  
For some people, unity means "sameness."  

Ralph Milton tells a story about how John Henry Fabre, a French naturalist
did an experiment with some Processionary Caterpillars.

   These poor little beasties will follow the next caterpillar ahead of
   them, no matter where that caterpillar happens to be going.  Fabre
   arranged a bunch of his fuzzy friends in a neat circle, each one
   touching the one just ahead.  Faithful to their DNA, each one
   followed the next one.  In the middle of the circle Fabre put some
   of the caterpillars' favourite food. 

   Would they stop following, even for a moment, just for a bite of
   lunch?

   Not on your life. The food was there within inches, but they just
   kept on following each other in circles until they collapsed and
   died from hunger.

Sameness can lead to problems.   

The kind of unity that Jesus prays that we may have is not based on us
thinking and doing the same things, but on having within us the unity of
God, a unity that has to it a present glory and a purpose:
   - the glory of Christ who gave himself for us 
   - and the purpose of God who gave himself in Christ to us.

Ralph Milton tells another story which I would like to share today.  
A story about concrete.  He writes:

   I watched them pour the driveway to our house. The workers laid down
   steel rods, then as they poured the cement, they pulled the rods up
   so they would be in the middle of the concrete as it hardened. 

   "What do you need the rods for?" I asked one of the workers. 

   "It makes the concrete stronger.  Reinforced concrete."

   "Yes, I know, but how do the rods make the concrete stronger?" 

   The worker picked up one of the rods.  "Look, if you push down on
   it, it bends real easy."  His muscles bulged and the rod bent. "But
   you can't pull it apart.  This hunk of rod could pull that truck
   over there.  On the other hand, a piece of concrete is easy to pull
   apart.  But if you push down on it, it won't bend." 

   "So?", Ralph asked. 

   "So they've got opposite strengths.  The steel is strong when you
   pull, the concrete is strong when you push.  Put them together, and
   you've got reinforced concrete, which is strong both ways.  That's
   how they make all those big buildings and bridges.  Concrete by
   itself or steel by itself wouldn't be strong enough."

The moral of the story about the concrete and about the Processionary
Caterpillars, as Ralph Milton sees it, is that you shouldn't hang around
too much with people you agree with or with people who are too much like
you. 

He says: 

   "Take me, as a really good bad example.  I love hanging out with
   people like me who are strong on creativity and short on
   self-discipline.  We know all the old songs and remember all the bad
   jokes and we can have a wonderful time bellyaching about all the
   same politicians.  We whine about all the same institutions.  It's
   great fun, but we're like Dr. Fabre's worms going around in circles,
   following each other's hind ends.  It's really comfortable, but
   intellectually, we starve to death.  

   It's fun being with like-minded, creative people, and nothing upsets
   us as much as someone who insists on being practical -- who starts
   writing down numbers and working out flow charts.  Of course, if you
   have a bunch of number crunchers and flow-chart people sitting
   around by themselves, you will wind up with lots of numbers and
   charts, but nothing much else.  Dr. Fabre's worms again. 

   However, if you can put the two kinds of folk together and help them
   understand how much they need each other, things can really happen.  

   The trouble is, their first instinct is to scratch each other's eyes
   out.  It's really hard to get people with opposite characteristics
   to genuinely appreciate each other and work together.  When we are
   ready to acknowledge our own weaknesses and appreciate other
   people's complimentary strengths when we are ready to listen to
   ideas and opinions we've never thought of before - then we can stop
   going around in tight little circles and build the temple we dreamed
   of. 

That's Ralph Milton's opinion.  

And, without meaning to swell Ralph's head...  I think Jesus understood
things the same way.  What Jesus asks of God in his prayer for us is that
we will be unified in much the same way that the persons of the Trinity are
unified. 

One of the purposes behind the concept of the Trinity is to illustrate how
God works differently at different times, depending upon what's necessary.  

Early on, and some would say even now, the creative power of God was
necessary to form and shape the world.  

But as the world fell into a state of decline due to the force of sin and
death unleashed by human choices, the redemptive power of God was necessary
so that humanity could learn how to work on the side of God and so that the
walls that divide us from God and one another could be torn down, the walls
made by sin.   The power is seen perfectly in Jesus.

And when Jesus left this world the sustaining power of God took over, the
Spirit came, encouraging us and guiding us to be God's hands and feet and
lips in the world. 

God has an advantage over us: all that's required for the creation,
redemption and sustaining of the world is contained in one Godhead. 

The same isn't true for us human beings: we don't individually have all
that it takes to do God's work in the world. 

Some of us are good at some things and others are good at other things.  It
is only as we work we work as a unified team, that we can accomplish all of
what's necessary to be God's people in the world.

And that which unifies us is not simply a common plan, 
but the God who is One - within us.

I say not simply a common plan because, as you all know as a common plan is
being executed,
   be it as simple a plan as holding our Annual Spring Fling,
       or as a complex a plan as building an annex to this church,
          or creating a strategic vision for our community,
it is easy to separate out into Ralph's Milton's groups 
   - the creative persons and the number crunchers; 
       or into some other form of grouping 
          - where each thinks they are doing all the important work, or
          where each counts the contribution of the other towards the plan
          and compares it to their own.  

It is easy to separate into little groups - and to then begin to resent the
other groups - or to criticize them - and so, step by easy step begin to
destroy that which is being done.

It is essential if we are to be united in the way that Jesus talks about,
   if we are to be united in a way that causes the world to believe that
   He has been sent by God,
that our unity arise from the God whom Jesus prays may dwell within us, 
   the God whom he prays we may dwell within, the God who has given him
   the glory that he gives us and wants us to see.

It is essential that we catch the vision of what we are to be about, 
   which is to show the world that God is indeed with us and that we are
   not alone,
and to catch the God who makes it all worth the doing
   - or rather to allow God to catch us - so that we not only dwell in him
   but he dwells in us, as One.

When we see the glory of the Son, the glory of the one who became human
that we may become divine, then we will not be afraid to take second place
in any scheme - great or small that glorifies God,
   nor will we be afraid to suffer, as Jesus suffered, for any scheme,
   that brings people to salvation, to faith in him.

Salvation is what it is all about.


The world is divided.  
It is not divided because of it's diversity 
- rather it is divided because of its sin.

Sin causes us to be separated from one another and from God,
sin in the form of jealousy -
sin in the form of resentment -
sin in the form of pride - 
in the form of self seeking - 
and in the form of caring too much about too little.

But the one who conquers sin is among us!  And - as Jesus prayed - within
us!

When we do what that one calls us to do without comparing or contrasting
   what it is others are doing or failing to do -
When we catch the vision  and let the one who gives the vision catch us
When we subjugate ourselves to the one who gave himself for the good of
   everyone, the one who came to save us from our sin - 
Then the unity that Christ speaks of, and prays may be ours, will be ours.

There are signs of that unity among us even now here in our church
   - there is a unity here that impresses folk and brings them closer to
   God - closer to Christ.
It is found in the love that we show to each member of the family of God
   that walks in these doors,
- and it has often been commented on.

That unity outweighs the sinfulness - the disunity - that we are still
capable of and which we still show to one another from time to time,
   the sinfulness - the disunity - that allows us to speak badly about
   those next to us, or to criticize those who do not those things we
   think they ought to do, or who do those things we think they ought not
   to do.

And praise God for that outweighing, 
for that is as it should be. 
   
Praise God that we know - each one of us - to some degree or another, the
forgiveness that we need from God and that we share that forgiveness as we
are called to share it.

Praise God for dwelling in us 
- even through those times we forget to dwell in God,
and for helping us to love one another 
   - even as Christ loves us.

And pray to God - pray to God as Jesus prayed - that God's love might
continue to dwell in us - and that we may be one.  Pray that our love for
each other - our unity - may be shown not only to each member of the family
of God that walks through these doors - but to those outside these doors as
well - so that all might believe.


Jesus has prayed for it - and it is happening.
Allow it to happen 

Pray for our unity rather than focussing on the things that divide us,
Pray that each one here today may have God dwell richly in them - and that
   they may dwell richly in God,
Pray that you - and your brothers and sisters - may receive and see the
   glory of Christ, the glory that God gave to him.   Amen
              

SHARING TIME


PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God,  your Son Jesus prayed that His followers might be one and that
all the world might see their unity and so come to believe that you sent
him to the world.   We thank you Father for his prayer -  and we pray 
today for ourselves even as he prayed for us.   Father, may we be one as,
just as you are in Christ and Christ is in you...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Father, may we dwell in you and in Christ - so that the world may believe
that you have sent him....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Father, we have received the glory that you gave Jesus from his hands -  so
that we might be one.  He is in us as you are in him.   May we be brought
to complete unity to let the world know that you sent him and that he loves
us even as you love him....  Lord, hear our prayer....

Father, may we, given into your son's care by you, be with him where he is,
and see his glory - the glory you gave him even before the world was
made...  Lord hear our prayer...

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, Christ knows you, and
we know that you have sent him.  As he has made you known to us, may he
continue to make you known to us in order that the love you have for him
may be in us and that he himself may be in us...  Lord, hear our prayer...

O Lord, You are the God of peace. 
   Come to us with Your healing and Your reconciling power.
O Lord, You are the God of justice. 
   Come to us with Your righteous judgements and your mercy.
O Lord, You are the God of love.  
   Come to us with Your extravagant kindness and Your goodness.
O Lord, You are the God of unity.  
   Come to us with Your forgiveness and Your healing grace.
O Lord, You are the God of hope. 
   Come to us with Your promises, come in Your mysterious presence.
Lord, hear our prayer...

Come, Lord, come, and hear our prayers for all our brothers and sisters -
both those who believe and those who have yet to believe in You.  We pray
for you for those who are upon our hearts today.  We hold up before you in
our hearts and with the words of our lips...   (BIDDING PRAYER)..  
Lord Hear Our Prayer.... 


For the unity your church around the world we pray O God; and for this part
of it - your people at St. Andrew's we call upon you.  Hear our prayer and
receive, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, all praise, honour, and
glory, forever and ever.  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,  we have heard your word and what it is that you pray
   for us and through us for our world.  We have confessed our faith in
   Christ our Saviour.  Full of Your Spirit, we come now bringing our
   offerings.  May they symbolise our thanksgiving and reflect our
   commitment.  Accept them and use them to spread the good news of
   salvation here in this place and over all the earth; through Christ
   our Lord.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee"               - VU 560


* 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 God shield your lives with his redeeming love;
- may Christ Jesus pour out upon you the water of life as so that you are
full and overflowing;
- And may the Holy Spirit break all the chains that bind you and lead you
into perfect freedom.
This both now - and forevermore.


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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