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Sermon and Liturgy for The Third Sunday In Lent - Year C
Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63; I Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
"One More Year"


READING:  Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63; I Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
SERMON :  "One More Year"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le03smsu.y-c 603923

   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 this sermon are from the "The Secret
   Ingredient Of Success" as found in "Dynamic Preaching" Jan, Feb,
   Mar 1995 (till One More Question...)  Sources also include Glenn E.
   Ludwig, "On Golf, Swimming, Gardening... And Lent?" in "Walking
   To... Walking With... Walking Through - Sermons For Lent and Easter
   Gospel Year C",and Earl C. Davis, "The Parable of The Extra Year"
   in "The Abingdon Preaching Annual 1995"


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Psalm 103)
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  Bless the Lord.  Let all that is within you bless God's holy name.
P  We will bless the Lord and remember God's acts of goodness.
L  The Lord does not deal with us according to our sins.  
P  God forgives all our iniquities and heals our diseases.
L  The Lord keeps us from the grave and crowns us with love and mercy.
P  The Lord satisfies us with good as long as we live.
L  As a father has compassion for his children, 
   so the Lord has compassion for those who honour him.
P  As the heavens are high above the earth, 
   so great is God's love toward those who have reverence for him.


* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy"  (verse 1)                          - VU 315


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Compassionate and Merciful God - we call upon you this day with wonder at
the extent of your love, grateful for your presence with us in our daily
living.  We come knowing you welcome us as we are: persons who know both
good and bad influences, effects, and choices.  We come desiring to be
closer to you - we ask that you answer us and help us to walk closer with
thee.  Bless our worship and our prayer and our song - that you may be
glorified and that we may be strengthened - we ask it in the name of
Christ Jesus our Lord - Amen.

        
* HYMN  "Praise To The Lord"                                       - VU 835

            
CHILDREN'S TIME:  "The Things That Help Us Grow"
Object - Apple / Pruning Hook
Theme  - God gives us the chance to get things right
Source - based on "Children's Sermon Service Plus", vol. 22, no. 2.

Good morning --  Today I brought an Apple - and these -- do you know what
they are??? (Pruning Clippers).  I brought them so we could talk about
growth this morning.  How many of you eat apples???  Drink apple juice???  
Apple juice comes from apples - and apples come from apple trees.  And
where do apple trees come from???  (seeds).

If you plant an apple seed will it grow right away???  It takes a lot of
time for an apple tree to grow - and as it grows it needs a lot of care.  
The first thing an apple tree needs is good soil to grow in.  What else do
you think it needs???  (Sunshine, right amount of rain or irrigation,
sometimes it needs fertilizer, and something to kill the bugs that attack
the leaves.)   It also needs these clippers - to thin out the branches and
keep the suckers from growing. 

What happens if you don't take care of the apple tree by watering it,
fertilizing it, spraying it, and clipping it????   (it won't grow strong)  
What happens to the fruit???  (it becomes small and hard, or wormy, or
blighted)   Is it good to eat???  It doesn't even make good juice!!!

The Gospel lesson today - which you will look at during Sunday School is
about another kind of tree - a fig tree.  Jesus told a story about a
farmer who came every year to look for figs on the tree, but there weren't
any.  So the farmer told the gardener to cut the tree down.  But the
gardener asked the farmer to give it another chance for another year. 
During that year the gardener would take special care of the tree so that
maybe it would produce fruit for the farmer next year.

Jesus was really talking about us - and about God.  God wants us to do
good things - he expects it of us.  When we don't do good things he is
very disappointed - sometimes he is angry - but like our parents, when we
get things all wrong, he is willing to give us another chance.   Jesus
says that he will take care of us - that he will help us to grow and do
good things.  For that to happen we need to believe in Him which is like
the sun to us, and to study his word which is like the water we need, and
pray to him - which is like the fertilizer and bug spray that we need to
stay healthy.  God gives us the chances we need to get things right - let
us all turn to Jesus that we might do so.  Please pray after me....


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord Jesus - we want to grow healthy and strong - we want to
   do good things - to make beautiful fruit for God. - Help us do this
   - give us faith and hope in you - and the desire to do all you have
   commanded -- 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:  "The Shepherd"

   The shepherd is the man we know
   who guards his sheep each day.
   And that is how Jesus watches us
   when we're at work or play.
           
   The shepherd leads his sheep to food
   and shows them where to rest,
   And so does Jesus lead us too,
   and help us know what's best.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ANTHEM


A READING FROM ISAIAH 55:1-9
   (NIV)  "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who
   have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without
   money and without cost. {2} Why spend money on what is not bread, and
   your labor on what does not satisfy?  

   Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will
   delight in the richest of fare. {3} Give ear and come to me; hear
   me, that your soul may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant
   with you, my faithful love promised to David. {4} See, I have made
   him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the
   peoples. {5} Surely you will summon nations you know not, and
   nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the
   LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with
   splendour."

   Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
   {7} Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. 
   Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our
   God, for he will freely pardon. {8} "For my thoughts are not your
   thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. {9}
   "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
   than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 63 (Voices United 781 and Sung Refrain)


A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 10:1-13
   (NIV)  For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers,
   that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed
   through the sea. {2} They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud
   and in the sea. {3} They all ate the same spiritual food {4} and drank
   the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that
   accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. {5} Nevertheless, God was
   not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the
   desert. {6} Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from
   setting our hearts on evil things as they did. {7} Do not be
   idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat
   down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." {8} We
   should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did--and in one
   day twenty-three thousand of them died. {9} We should not test the
   Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by snakes. {10} And do not
   grumble, as some of them did--and were killed by the destroying angel.
   {11} These things happened to them as examples and were written down
   as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. {12}
   So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't
   fall! {13} No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
   And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you
   can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so
   that you can stand up under it.

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


* HYMN:  "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"                          - VU 664
 

A READING FROM LUKE 13:1-9
   (NIV)  Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about
   the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. {2}
   Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners
   than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? {3} I
   tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish. {4} Or
   those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you
   think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?
   {5} I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
   {6} Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his
   vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.
   {7} So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three
   years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and
   haven't found any.  Cut it down!  Why should it use up the soil?' {8}
   "'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll
   dig around it and fertilize it. {9} If it bears fruit next year, fine!
   If not, then cut it down.'"

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


SERMON: "One More Year"

   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.

When we lived in Ontario we had a pear tree in our yard that was over one
hundred years old.  The fruit on it the first year we were there, in 1990,
was small, and while abundant, it was not worth a whole lot.

The second spring we were here I asked an old man - Clarence Gough, who
knew just about all there is to know about fruit trees, what I should do
to make the tree produce the kind of fruit it ought to.  

I told him that the tree was far too large, and quite clearly very old and
that it had not seen a pruning hook for many years.  I asked him if we
should take it down and plant a new tree - a better tree.

Clarence got on his lawnmower, loaded up his wagon with a ladder and
various types of pruning clippers, and came over and examined the tree.  

He pruned and he trimmed and he worked over it for several hours with me
on two different days.  It was hard for him, he was very old, but he told
me that his labour should be worthwhile, even though the tree was older
than he was.

He was convinced that the tree would produce fruit - good fruit
and he tended it as carefully as he could to make sure that it would.

That fall the pears were larger than they were the year before, even more
plentiful, and far less blighted and marred.

The following three years I pruned the tree - the lower half anyway, with
excellent results, but since I don't have a ladder, and since the top of
the tree was very high, and the branches were too frail to climb on, a
certain amount of neglect accumulated over those three years.

By the end of those years the results of the neglect were self-evident.
The fruit - even on the lower branches - had once again became less
plentiful - smaller - and less pleasing, and Charlene once again heard me
mutter about taking the old thing out, or at the very least cutting the
top fifteen feet of it off so that it would become manageable.

The connection with today's parable of the Fig Tree is self-evident
especially to those of you who are gardeners,
to those of you who go looking for fruit in it's season.

Jesus told a parable about a man who owned a vineyard.  In that vineyard
was a fig tree--a fig tree that had no fruit on it.  "Cut it down," the
owner said to his vine-dresser. "For three years I have been looking for
fruit on this tree and have found none. Cut it down. Why should it use up
the ground?" 

Time and time again God has shown his impatience with people who do not
take advantage of the opportunities he has given them.  Time and again God
has judged his people and found them wanting.

That is the message of today's Epistle Reading - a reading in which Paul
reminds us of all the opportunities that God's chosen people missed - and
the results.

The people of Israel in the Wilderness had seen God's goodness, and they
opportunity to praise and to trust God - but they grumbled and complained
instead - and they were struck down.

They had been given all that they needed to have by God, they had been
given freedom from slavery, but rather than placing their trust in God,
they worshipped the golden calf and the success it was supposed to bring -
and 120,000 of them died in a single day.

They drank of the same spiritual drink and ate of the same spiritual drink
that we eat of through Christ, but they did not enter the promised land.

These things, Paul writes, occurred as examples to us, 
that we might not desire evil as they did;
   that we might not become idolaters;
       that we might not become people whose only desire is to sit down to
eat and drink and to rise up to play.

What is it that you are passionate about? 
What is it you are giving your life to accomplish?  
What fruit are you bearing? 
Will you be able to stand when the time of judgement arrives?
Or will you be cut down and tossed onto the fire?

Note, FIRST OF ALL, from the parable of the Fig Tree that the fig tree
isn't asked to produce bananas. 

The Owner of the Vineyard doesn't ask anything extraordinary out of the
fig tree.  He isn't asking the fig tree to become an oak or a redwood.  
He asks only that it accomplish what fig trees ought to accomplish. 

You and I have differing gifts.  Some of us have nice singing voices. 
Some have high IQ's.  Some are artists.  Some are good with numbers;
others are good with people.  All of us have some natural ability, though. 
The secret is to find our natural abilities and give them all we've got. 

That's what genius is.  When we say that someone is a genius, all we are
saying is that they gave maximum effort in the area of their lives where
they have natural ability.  That's it.  That's the secret of being
fruitful - find what we're naturally good at and give it our best. 

A person who can't carry a tune will never sing with the Met no matter how
hard they work.  On the other hand, there are many performers who as young
people had quite ordinary voices, but through hard work--thousands and
thousands of hours of practice - have become accomplished singers. 

It was not that they had extraordinary talent to begin with. It was that
they took what they had and used it to the utmost of their ability. 
       
   Enrico Caruso was told by one music teacher, "You can't sing. You
   have no voice at all." Yet he became of the best-loved singers of
   his time. 

   Beethoven's music teacher said about him, "As a composer he is
   hopeless." 

   An editor told Louisa May Alcott that she was incapable of writing
   anything that would have popular appeal. That, of course, was
   before LITTLE WOMEN. 

   Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor because he was
   thought to have no "good ideas." Tell that to the millions of
   people thrilled by Walt's movies. 

   When F. W. Woolworth was 21, he got a job in a store, but was not
   allowed to wait on customers because he "didn't have enough sense." 

Each of these famous people proved to have a certain genius - but was it
innate or did it grow out of their dedication to developing what they had
been given? 

The point is that God does not ask us to become what we are not.  The fig
tree was only required to produce figs. No more.  You and I are asked only
to accomplish what our God has given gifts allow. 

BUT WE ARE ASKED TO ACCOMPLISH THAT.  

A man was walking through the countryside when he noticed a young fellow
standing at attention in a field.  In the afternoon, the walker came back
along the same path and noticed that the fellow was still there. 

   Curious, he approached and asked what the young man was doing. 

   "I'm practising for the Nobel Prize," the man replied. 

   "How's that?" asked the visitor. 

   "Well," said the young man, "one of the criteria is to be
   outstanding in your chosen field." 
       
God is not asking of us that we win a Nobel Prize.  He is not asking that
we produce more fruit than everyone else - or better fruit than that which
our brothers and sisters in Christ produce - but he does expect us to
produce the fruit that we are able to produce.

And each one of is able to bear fruit - each one of us is gifted by God
with the ability to produce what the Scriptures call in some places "the
fruit worthy of repentance" and in other places "the fruit of the Holy
Spirit, the fruit that is described in the fifth chapter of the Letter to
The Galatians as consisting of  "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control"

The question is, is it that important to us?  Are we willing to give it
our best?
  
Are we willing to love our enemies?  
To forgive those who have hurt us?  
To bring hope to those who despair.  
To encourage those who are faltering?  
To share the good news of Jesus with those who are looking for new life?  
   To sacrifice our possessions and our time for those who are in greater
   need than us?  
To judge others by the standard that we would be judged by?  
To render unto God the praise that He deserves?  
To show others that we believe fully in a living and loving God,
- a God who lives and acts in and through us 
- a God who seeks to heal others and make the world a better place for
all?
  
To a man by the name of Jim Mertz the question was phrased like this: 
Do we really love Jesus that much? 

   Jim once watched a movie on television.  In it he saw a Muslim from
   India fall on his knees in the dust and heat of the day.  Five
   times a day this Muslim stopped, faced his holy city of Mecca and
   worshipped Allah.  Jim asked himself the question - do I really
   love Jesus like that? 
       
   Jim read of a young mother who was seen throwing her precious,
   new-born infant child into the Ganges River!  She told someone that
   her child was a sacrifice, a love offering to her god!  "You see,"
   she said, "we always offer our very best in sacrifice to our god!" 
   Jim then asked himself the question - do I really love Jesus that
   much?  What have I sacrificed for him?  Have I truly given my best
   to him? 
     
   Jim once lay in a hospital for 10 days recuperating from a bout
   with pneumonia.  It was a Saturday morning in the wintry days of
   January.  He glanced outside at the cold, grey skies and watched
   the blowing rain that came down all day.  How thankful he was to be
   inside!  Then, he happened to see at a busy intersection of the
   city, below his hospital window, a young lady - a teenager perhaps
   - who was standing on the street corner selling roses.  She never
   stopped smiling all day in that cold rain, in the midst of
   congested traffic, in spite of jeers and sneers of those who on
   occasion nearly ran her down.  She never stopped, all day, in the
   rain to sell flowers for her cult leader -The Reverend Sun Yung
   Moon.  Jim wept as he asked himself that question again - do I
   really love Jesus that much? 
     
   Early one Saturday morning Jim's doorbell rang.  He hastened to the
   door and was met by two lovely and enthusiastic young people.  They
   were smiling and anxious to talk about the doctrines of their
   religious sect.  They were not doctrines Jim could accept, but
   these two young people were so sincere, and so dedicated to their
   cause that Jim couldn't help but be impressed.  As Jim closed the
   door, he peered out the window to watch as they left his driveway. 
   Jim then asked himself the question again - do I really love Jesus? 
   Am I ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Would I go out and
   knock on doors and tell others about Christ? 

It is not a matter of opportunity, is it? 
It's not for want of ability. 
It is a matter of passion, of desire, of giving one's best to the Master. 
       
Of the barren fig tree the owner of the vineyard said to his vine-dresser,
"Cut it down; why should it use up ground?"  And the vine-dresser
answered: "Give it another year, sir.  Let me put fertilizer around it and
if it bears fruit, well and good; but, if not, you can cut it down." 
       
There's still time.   Wouldn't this be a good time and a good place to ask
ourselves whether we are bearing the fruit that Christ means for us to
bear - in our jobs, in our homes, in our communities, in serving him? 

We're not asked to be something we are not.  

All Christ is asking of us is that we be the best that we can be.   

All that he is asking is that we, with his help, bear the fruit that we
are meant to bear.   

He understands that we have barren years.  And he pleas before the Father
for us - he pleas for one more year.  

May each of us use that time in the way that he intends for us to use it,
to use it in growing in the way we should go and bearing the fruit we are
meant to bear.


PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We give you thanks, O God, for the growth that we see in the world around
us -- for how you arrange things so that life produces life and
everything has its place, its purpose, and its season.  Prune and clip us
as you desire.  Bring our hearts and minds into the place where they
should be.  Help us value what you value and do what you want us to do...
Lord, hear our prayer...

Thank you God for the love that we see in the world around us.  For the
mercy and the grace that we experience from your hand.  For the chances
you grant to us to begin anew.  For the people you have sent to us - those
who love and care for us.  Help us grow in faith, O Lord, and to produce
the fruit of goodness, and so be a blessing to you and your world.... 
Lord hear our prayer

You expect us, O Lord, to be a forgiving and loving people, a people who
care for the afflicted and the oppressed, a church that seeks the lost and
works to bring hope to those who despair.  You ask us to speak truth with
compassion, to give to those who are in need, to pray for those who our
enemies, and to bless those who are strangers to us.  Show us God the work
you have for us to do this day - the acts we should perform, the people we
should see or call, and the prayers that we should say...  Lord hear our
prayer...

Speak to us Lord - even as we speak to you.... take the burdens of our
hearts from us and put in their place your peace and your guiding word.. 
Hear our prayers for those whom we hold before you now in our hearts and
upon 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
Dedication

L  Bless, O God, the offering of these gifts.  Use them in your work.
P  You seek, O God, fruit from the trees you have planted
      and produce from the gardens you care for.
   Help us to produce the fruit that you expect to receive
      and to offer it to you as you have commanded.
   Bless the fruit of our daily labour that we present on these plates.
   Bless too every thought, word, and action that we have
      that they may be the fruit of true repentance,
      and of strong faith and a caring love.
   We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus, our crucified redeemer - Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                     - VU 288
              

* 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 our God of Grace shine upon you and cause you to grow  
- may the Living Word and grant you the energy and the nourishment that
you need, 
- and may the Holy Spirit produce in you the fruit that she seeks, 
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.



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