READING: Genesis 15:1-12,17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:20-35
SERMON : "A Question of Focus"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
Sources - The Children's Story is based on one found in
"Children's Sermon Service Plus", vol. 22, no. 2. The first half
of the sermon is adapted from "Messies Anonymous" as found in
King Duncan, "Dynamic Preaching" Jan, Feb, Mar 1995.
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 Give praise to God and rejoice in his love.
P Like a hen with her brood beneath her wings,
God has brought us together!
L Rejoice in God's presence and sing songs of praise to God's name.
P We seek God's will and pray that we may walk safely in his path.
L Let everyone thank the Lord for his many benefits.
P Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
* INTROIT: "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1) - VU 315
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Lord God - your ways are holy and good and your love is strong and true.
You are swift to answer those who trust in you - those who walk in your
ways and who make your living word their daily hope. Bless, we pray, our
gathering today. Touch our hearts and our minds with the fire of your
Holy Spirit. Grant that our praise may be more than words - our prayer
more than speech -- our songs more than mere harmony. Teach us and
comfort us - strengthen us and lead us - that we might draw closer to you.
We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
* HYMN "Come In, Come In and Sit Down" - VU 395
CHILDREN'S TIME: "Monkey See, Monkey Do"
Theme We Are Called To Imitate Christ
Source based on story from "Children's Sermon Service Plus", vol. 22,
Good morning -- How many of you have ever played the game of Monkey See,
Monkey Do??? I would like to play it with you today. Monkeys like to
imitate or copy each other - and today I want you to copy whatever I do.
STAND UP --- remember do everything I do --- PUT HANDS ON HEAD -- CLAP
HANDS -- FLING HANDS OUT AND BACK -- now I am going to make it a bit
harder -- I'm going to make some faces . whatever I do you do it too.
SMILE WITH A TIGHT LIPS CHEEKS RAISED --- DO MOUTH SIDE WISE AND NOSE
WRINKLED -- MOUTH OPEN AND HAND TO EAR --- now I am going to do two or
three things at once ---- STAND ON ONE LEG AND ROTATE ARM WITH JAW WIDE
OPEN --- Is it getting harder????
Now I am going to choose another monkey --- (when you are ready say Monkey
See, Monkey Do and begin -- let Child do it for a while and try to copy
him or her).
NOW lets try TWO MONKEYS -- begin ---- That's really hard isn't it? Can
you say why?? (don't know which to follow -- would be easier if they did
the same thing)
Our lesson from Scripture today is all about playing the game "Monkey See,
Monkey Do". Jesus' friends travelled around the world to tell people
about Jesus and how Jesus wanted everyone to act. The people always had
questions about what they were supposed to do to be a Christian or a
follower of Jesus. In one of his letters to the church in Philippi Paul
said that People should imitate him and his friends. They knew how to be
followers of Jesus. Do you know what the word imitate means??? It means
to copy like we did in our game. The funny faces we made weren't really
showing people how to be followers of Jesus. Paul and his friends copied
Jesus's example of how he went about taking care of the sick and the
lonely and telling them about God's love and showing them how to forgive
those who had hurt or offended them. They said that they should imitate
them and not copy others who are mean or nasty or greedy or rude. When we
see people doing good things - we know that they are followers of Jesus -
and it these we should copy.
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Dear Lord Jesus - we want to be your followers - we want to do what
you did - to be loving and forgiving - to be honest and true - to
worship God with joy - and to be a help to others. - Help us we
pray - to follow the right examples - to imitate you - and the good
and loving people around 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
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 AND CONCERNS
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
A READING FROM GENESIS 15:1-12,17-18
(NIV) After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do
not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain
childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of
Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a
servant in my household will be my heir."
Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir,
but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him
outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars - if
indeed you can count them."
Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of
the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain
possession of it?"
So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each
three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought
all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite
each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds
of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As
the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and
dreadful darkness came over him.
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire-pot with
a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that
day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants
I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the
L This is the Word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 27 (Voices United 754 and Sung Refrain)
A READING FROM PHILIPPIANS 3:17-4:1
(NIV) Join with others in following my example, brothers and sisters,
and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears,
many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is
destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their
shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is
in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus
Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything
under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will
be like his glorious body.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for,
my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord,
L This is the Word of the Lord.
P Thanks be to God.
* HYMN: "Dear God, Who Loves All Humankind" - VU 608
A READING FROM LUKE 13:22-35
(NIV) Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he
made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a
few people going to be saved?"
He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door,
because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.
Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will
stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "
But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'
"Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our
streets.' "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from.
Away from me, all you evildoers!'
"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God,
but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and
north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the
kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first,
and first who will be last."
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this
place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."
He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people
today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any
case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day - for
surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent
to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a
hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look,
your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me
again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
L This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord.
P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
SERMON: "A Question of Focus"
O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the
thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.
Recently a researcher for a publishing company was interviewing a number
of people to determine what kind of books they liked to read. The Bible,
Shakespeare, and the classics were high on nearly everyone's list.
In return for their cooperation, the researcher offered each person
a choice of a free book from a list of titles published by the
company. The most popular choice of this high-minded group was
"Murder of a Burlesque Queen."
As I look at our culture today it seems clear that we prize comfort more
than commitment, self-indulgence more than self-sacrifice, possessions
more than people.
And the sad thing is that many of us do not even realize that our values
are askew. And this includes - though it ought not - folk within the
church of Christ Jesus.
In today's epistle reading St. Paul says there are two kinds of people:
those who have their eyes set on worldly pleasures, whose God is their
belly - and those who citizenship is in heaven and who await a saviour
from there - our Lord Jesus Christ.
And he calls us - as we wait - to stand firm in the Lord.
So where are you at?
Are you a person whose life is oriented toward this world,
or is your life oriented beyond this world to eternity?
What is that you actually focus on?
What do you seek out for yourself and your family?
What do you value?
I've said before that people don't talk much about heaven anymore,
even people who claim to be followers of Christ.
C.S. Lewis in his book, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, written almost 50 years ago
now - puts it this way:
"We are very shy nowadays, of even mentioning heaven. We are
afraid of the jeer about `pie in the sky' and of being told that we
are trying to escape from the duty of making a happy world
here-and-now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere."
"But", Lewis continues, "either there is 'pie in the sky' or there
is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this
doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this
truth, like any other, must be faced... whether it makes us popular
Lewis is right.
Either our primary focus is on this world and its pleasures
or it is on heaven and the saviour that we await
- the one who does not simply labour to make earth more like heaven,
but whose mission is, instead, to have us become citizens of heaven,
- a people who are ready for the new heaven and the new earth that
will come when the old heaven and earth pass away,
- a people who live - and live forever - because they depend more upon
the bread of heaven than they do upon that bread made from grain and
other things of this earth.
As I said last week in speaking about the temptations that we experience
There is a choice that must be made
and that choice primarily consists of what we focus upon.
Are we concerned to discover what it is God wants us to do with our lives?
- Who it is that God wants us to touch with his love,
- What it is that God wants us to say to our friends when they are in
- Where it is that God wants us to go so that we might be a blessing
to others - and perhaps receive a blessing ourselves?
Or do we seek instead to determine how we will get a bigger home or a
newer car or take that vacation we have long wanted.
Do our values reflect a higher order of things
- a divine order - a heavenly order?
Or do they focus more on what Paul calls the things of the belly?
Are you able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life,
those things that God has made and placed in your path,
or must you surround yourself with the things that humankind make
and then sell at price that only we here in North America can afford?
In an old READER'S DIGEST from February of 1994 a story appeared called
"Life In These United States"
Two of the characters were brothers - David and Michael. They were
complete opposites. Michael was a successful businessman, while
David took seasonal jobs at dude ranches, parks and resorts.
Concerned for David's welfare, businessman Michael tried to entice
David with the so-called "good life." He would send David photos
labelled "My new sound system" or "My new car." The campaign
ended, though, when Michael received a poster from David showing a
breathtaking view of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park.
On the back David had written: "My back yard."
Whether it is the latest stereo equipment, a new car, the latest computer
system, a massage at the neighbourhood spa, or a membership in the local
health club, there are some people who are desperately seeking happiness
and length of life through those things that money can buy.
It's sad, but our world is wrapped up in the pursuit of power, pleasure
Some can only enjoy a sunset if it is in Acapulco. Exercise has no lure
for others unless they are in the right club or at least have on the right
attire. Even the food we eat must be served with the proper ambience.
I'm not saying that all the things of this earth are sinful in and of
I am saying if you have to have these things to be happy, you are in
trouble - and you are most especially in trouble when you consider that
well over ninety percent of this world's population do not and cannot
experience even ten percent of the physical abundance that is ours... and
yet seem fully able to live and to love and to know joy and peace.
Dr. Eugene Brice once read an account written by a woman born near
the turn of the century. She wrote of raising a family on a farm
during hard, hard times. She told about one terrible winter when
their 18-month-old daughter came down with a cold, then flu, then
pneumonia, then diphtheria. Living 18 miles from town, they
resorted to home remedies and the help of neighbours. The baby's
condition, though, went downhill rapidly and they grew more
desperate. The worst night, the woman wrote, was when snow fell,
making any more travel to town extremely difficult. That night the
baby lay virtually lifeless. The baby's father wrote in his
journal, "Heavy snow. How can we bury our baby in this? The
blackest day of my life thus far."
The next day the doctor came out from town, making the last 8 miles
of the trip on horseback over terrible roads. He said that the
infection seemed to be lessened, but that the child was still very
near death. If they could just get some nourishment of some kind
down her, with a bit of strength and a lot of luck, she might make
it. Maybe, he said, an egg would help.
An egg! Simple suggestion, but it was the dead of winter and the
hens were not laying and there was no way to get to town. Someone
went to the recently installed rural party line and rang the
neighbours. The word went out quickly. Did anyone have an egg?
The baby's life depended on it. Fortunately, one distant neighbour
did! One egg was found, and the neighbour rode over with it. Into
the house he came as they rejoiced. The baby was given an eggnog
of sorts, and continued her improvement. The crisis was over, and
the baby was soon well again.
The woman who wrote that account of life on an East Texas farm was
Eugene Brice's mother; the baby was his twin sister. Brice says he
thinks of this occasionally when he opens the refrigerator door and
sees eggs stacked there in every season of the year. He often
compares his life, all that he has, with theirs in those far more
difficult days when, in comparison to us, they had so little. And
yet, he occasionally wonders if in his entire life he has ever felt
the depth of joy they felt when that one egg was brought carefully
into the house on that snowy December day of 1932.
"A person's life," Jesus said, "does not consist of the abundance of his
Indeed not. Our possessions are but a temporary illusion,
a package of materials that can not and will not accompany us to heaven,
and whose weight, in fact, might help hold us back from taking that trip.
It is all a question of focus - a question of faith,
of what we seek.
Are you seeking, by the grace of God, to live a Christ-like life?
There's no use, you see, of talking about the eternal joy of life on the
other side of the tomb if we don't really enjoy living for Christ on this
side of the tomb.
Are you and I seek to live as followers of Jesus here and now?
You might quickly say - - - YES - OF COURSE - Why else would I be here
today? But think about it for a minute.
Think of the parable found in today's gospel - the parable of the narrow
Think of how Jesus says to those who are locked outside the door, how he
says those who are knocking on it - "I do not know where you come from."
And think too of how they reply to him -- "but we ate and drank with you
and you taught in our streets". And of how Jesus again replies: "I do not
know where you come from."
A religious pedigree means nothing -
Knowing Jesus' name - and saying the odd prayer
- especially when you are in trouble - means even less.
Even doing things in the name of Christ - good things - is no guarantee of
heaven - no guarantee that your values are right - that your focus is
correct - that you really trying to live as Christ calls you to live.
Hear these word's of Jesus. Word's found in the gospel according to
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom
of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in
Heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not
prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do
many deeds of power in your name?'. And I will declare to them: 'I
never knew you; go away from me, you evil-doers."
And hear these words again from today's gospel reading - hear them as if
you were there with Jesus as he laments what might have been:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and
stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to
gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings, and you were not willing."
Are you willing to do the work of God as Christ did it
- even when it will lead you to some loss in this world
- even when it might mean that there are some pleasures you may have to
avoid, or some people whom you will never be popular with?
Are you willing to follow Christ even though it may mean that you may have
to give up certain business practices - or confront your boss or your
neighbour or even your husband about their unacceptable behaviour? Are
you willing to imitate the example of our Lord - even though it may demand
of you that you forgive those who have hurt you badly and give all of
yourself for those who don't even care for you?
Are you willing to follow Jesus
- even when it might lead you to a cross???
Are you ready to stand firm in the Lord??
- or is there another God to whom you sacrifice?
These are the questions of our Lenten Season as we watch Christ himself
struggle to focus on what God has called him to and to resist doing what
his mortal flesh suggests to him he should be about.
it is all a matter of basic orientation. A matter of focus.
Stand firm by looking at Jesus and trusting in Him rather than pursuing
the things of this world.
Remember that God promises that he will not turn away those who turn to
him in faith and trust and obedience. And that He promises eternal life
to those who seek day by day to walk in the way that leads to eternity.
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, How often would I have gathered your children
together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings... but you would not"
This morning, once again, Jesus Christ calls you and me.
He calls us to the shelter of God's protecting wings.
He calls you and me to the loving embrace of his arms -
the arms that he stretched out on the cross - for you - and for me.
PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Lord God - in your holy word today we heard that you call us to - that you
ask us to come to you - and that more - that you seek us out like hen
seeks out her chicks - that you offer us the protection and the safety of
your strong wings. Help us O God to stop each day and to listen for your
call - to pause and allow you to overtake us -- to wait and to have your
warmth and your wisdom overwhelm us ---- Lord hear our prayer....
Father and Mother of us all - you have given us many images of what you
are like in the law and the prophets and through the ministry of Christ
Jesus our Lord -- you have been compared to hen seeking out her chicks, to
a rock which cannot be moved - to a mother suckling her child - to a wind
which cannot be control and a fire which cannot be quenched - to a woman
seeking out a lost coin -- to a king who invites everyone to his wedding
feast - to an eagle who stirs up her wings and shields the young in her
nest -- and in each of these images we learn more about you. Grant us,
O Lord, a personal image of your presence - an image which will sustain us
we seek to love you with all our heart and soul mind and strength and as
we seek to love one another as Jesus loves us ----- Lord hear our
Loving God - we stop here today to think not only of ourselves and our
needs - we pause not just to have our cups filled by your love - we stop
as well on behalf of others. We hold before you those whose cups are
filled with bitterness and anger, those who have lost their way and who
worship success and the idols of our world, we name them before you and
ask that you give them new hearts - hearts that are filled with goodness
and with faith. Lord hear our prayer....
Lift too we pray, O God, the burdens that are upon us for those around us
- here in our church - our community - and our world. We name thees
burdens - we hold these people - before you now in the silence of our
hearts and with the words of our lips....(BIDDING PRAYER)
... Lord Hear Our Prayer....
We thank you God - in the name of Jesus. 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) & Prayer of
L You, O Lord, have given us all work to do.
You have blessed us with all that we need to fulfil our God-given tasks.
P Help us to do what you have called us to do:
To give and not count the cost;
To go where you have commanded and not fear the dangers:
To serve others and not expect reward;
To love others - even when they do not love us in return.
L Bless, O God, the offering of these gifts. Use them in your work.
We ask it in the name of Jesus Christ - our crucified redeemer - Amen
* DEPARTING HYMN: "How Firm A Foundation" - VU 660
* COMMISSIONING (unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go
forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the
body of Christ.
* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace - love and care for one another in Christ's name;
- and may the blessing of God Almighty
- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit go with you,
this both now and forevermore. Amen
THREE FOLD AMEN & SUNG 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.