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Sermon and Liturgy for The Fourth Sunday In Lent - Holy Humour - Year C
II Corinthians 5:16-21, Psalm 32; Luke 15:1-3,11-32
"Stuff Sunday"

READING:  Joshua 5:9-12; II Corinthians 5:16-21, Psalm 32; Luke 15:1-3,11-32
SERMON :  "Stuff Sunday"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le04sn 773

   This file represents the very first Holy Humour Sunday that was held
   at St. Andrew's United, Golden.  For a number of weeks before I had
   advertised it as "Stuff Sunday" and invited people to bring some
   stuff to church.  Whenever anyone asked what kind of stuff, I would
   reply, "you know - stuff.  Everyone has stuff.  We are always
   talking about stuff.  Bring some stuff to make us laugh, to make us
   think, stuff to enjoy."  This worked out well in that folk did bring
   show and tell items as well as stories and jokes.

   Note that this service leads off in a relatively normal, RCL kind of
   manner with the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Lent and a
   children's time and prayer of confession that reflect upon it.  After
   that it is all about stuff.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require of You"                     - VU 701

Welcome all to our special service - welcome any visitors - We pray that
   you are richly blessed by this time of Worship and that you will return
   to the world more able to be a blessing to it.  Please stay after
   worship for our coffee and fellowship time at the rear of the sanctuary
   and if you are a visitor today please sign our Guest Book.

This Morning: Is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, known also as Laughter Sunday. 
   This year we asked people to bring some of their "stuff" to church for
   the morning service.  Our message this morning is about "stuff", and,
   of course, it is based on scripture. (Use a concordance to the King
   James Version to find all the references to stuff in the Bible).

Other Announcements

* CALL TO WORSHIP:  (based on II Corinthians 5:16-21)
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  Everyone joined to Christ is a new creation.  
P  The old has passed away, and the new has come.
L  All this is done by God, 
   who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends 
   and gave us the task of making all people his friends as well.
P  We are ambassadors for Christ.  
   God makes his appeal through us to the world.

Gracious God - we gather before you this day for many reasons.  Some of us
seek no more than the peace and the fellowship of this sanctuary.  Some of
us are looking for encouragement as we walk the path that you set before
us.  Others of us are hoping for a word from you - some wisdom - some sign
- that will help us through a period of affliction or show us how to deal
with a problem that we have.  Still others of us are here because we know
that it is the right thing to do - that it helps us and helps our families
to grow together in love and understanding.  Many are the reasons we have
for coming before you at this time O God.  We ask your blessing upon us -
and pray that you will answer the need that is in us through Jesus Christ
our Lord and Saviour.  Amen

* HYMN:  "The Church is Wherever God's People"                     - VU 579

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Lost and Found"
Object    - Lost and Found (use a lost item that has been found, but not
          yet recovered by its owner - in our case it was an earring)
Theme     - God has joy when we are "found" (Luke 15:1-3,11-32)
Source    - Based on a story by Brett C. Blair in "Children's Sermons: The
          Common Lectionary", 1998 (before "Children's Sermons" and
          various other resources by Brett became a commercial site)

Good morning....  

Make a deal about losing things.  Get the earring and ask   

Now ask "Have you ever lost anything?   What did you loose?   How did you
feel when you finally found it?   Yes, you felt just as I did when I found
my watch last week.....  You felt happy and joyful because what once was
lost was now found.  You lost (name one of the children's lost items).  How
did you feel when you found it?   That's right you felt happy and joyful.

Have you ever been lost?  What happened?  You didn't know where your Mom
and Dad were, did you? 

Its scary to be lost. What did your mom and dad do when they found you?
They picked you up and hugged you and they said they loved you.  They were
happy and joyful!  That's the way God feels when we pray and tell him we
love him. 

It's easy to loose things like watches and toys.  But sometimes even we can
get lost.  (Briefly and with the basic elements tell the story of the
Prodigal Son e.g. Wonderful home, ran away, ran out of money, got hungry,
went home and begged to come back, Father hugged and kissed him).  

He remembered that his Father loved him - that he had a home and food and
warm clothes. Sometimes we run away from God and we need to find our way
back home.  And God is joyful and happy when we pray to him and ask him to
forgive us.  God always welcomes us back home.  There is always a place by
his side for us.. 

   Dear God  -- thank you for your love -- a love that seeks the lost -
   - and rejoices over that which is found -- a love that heals the
   wounded -- and embraces the lonely.  -- 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

* HYMN:  "Para, Para, Pitter Pat"                                  - VU 309

LUKE 15:1-3, 11(b)-32
 (NIV) Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around
   to hear him.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law
   muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."  Then
   Jesus told them this parable:

   "There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his
   father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his
   property between them. 
   "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set 
   off for a distant country and there  squandered his wealth in wild 
   living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine 
   in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and 
   hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his 
   fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods 
   that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 

   "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's 
   hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I 
   will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have
   sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be 
   called your son; make me like one of  your hired men.'  So he got 
   up and went to his father. 
   "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was 
   filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms 
   around him and kissed him. 
   "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and 
   against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
   "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe
   and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
   Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 
   For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is 
   found.' So they began to celebrate. 

   "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the 
   house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants 
   and asked him what was going on.  'Your brother has come,' he replied, 
   'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back 
   safe and sound.' 
   "The older brother became angry and refused to go in.  So his father 
   went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, 'Look! 
   All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your 
   orders.  Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate 
   with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your 
   property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for 
   "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything 
   I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this 
   brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is

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

L  Gracious Father - we acknowledge and confess before you our sin.
P  We confess that we are easily led astray by our own desires and that we
   are reluctant to forgive those who offend us.  We acknowledge too that
   we do not always delight in your joy over sinners who repent and that
   we often regard what we do for you as a burden.  Forgive us those times
   when our faith has become a set of rules and regulations and our hope
   has become dependant on what we do or not do.  Help us to draw closer
   to you and to rejoice when you rejoice and to weep when you weep. 
   Through Christ our Lord, restore us to our senses.
   .......... (silent prayer) ..........
L  Lord have mercy.
P  Christ have mercy.
L  Lord have mercy.

Sung Response (VU 948):  O Lord, hear my prayer.  O Lord, hear my
   prayer; when I call answer me.  O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear
   my prayer; come and listen to me.

It is written that "God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering
for our sin, so that we could made right with God through Him."  Indeed
because of him, "God no longer counts our sins against us."    
                                                           (II Cor 5:19,21)

Therefore I tell you, your sins are forgiven.  If you would have the joy
and peace promised by Christ, be though likewise forgiving.  Thanks be to
God.  Amen

ANTHEM: "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee"

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 32 (VU 759) 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

INTRODUCTION TO STUFF:  Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent   and there is an
old tradition on this Sunday of Lent of lightening up - of relaxing - and
recalling the joy of the Lord and celebrating in his presence.  This Sunday
is sometimes called "Laugher Sunday" because of this - in some traditions
there is a special Cake baked and shared after church.  This year I thought
we might have a bit of fun - and be serious at the same time by examining
the concept of "Stuff" as it is found in our own experience and in the
Bible.  So today we are going to have a bit of "show and tell" -- at the
end of which I will tell you what the bible has to say about "stuff".  But
first let us pray....

   "You have caused it to be written, O God, the joy of the Lord is our
   strength.  We pray, O God, that you will grace this time with your
   joy and that we might grow stronger in your presence.  Lift up what
   we say and do now that it may be pleasing to you and of profit to us
   as we follow in your path.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen"

What is Stuff?

It is a word we use a lot   and today we will see some of the variety of
meanings in that word as we share some of the stuff that different people
brought to church today  

As we get underway I thought I might share some of the definitions of the
Word Stuff that are found in The Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary 

1) Material, supplies, or equipment used in various activities.  (PERSONAL

2) Material to be manufactured, wrought, or used in construction.

3) A finished textile suitable for clothing, especially wool or worsted
5) literary or artistic production   writing discourse, or ideas of little
   value (TRASH)

6) AN AGGREGATE OF MATTER (as in volcanic rock is curious stuff)   This is
broken down into     
          -  matter of a particular and unspecified kind - as in we sold
          tons of stuff
          - something that is consumed or introduced into the human body -
          as in we ate a lot of stuff
          - a matter to be considered by people   as in the truth is heady
          stuff - or we are learning a lot of stuff
          - a group or scattering of various objects   as in there is a
          lot of stuff on the floor
7) fundamental and important  material    as in he has "the Right Stuff",
   or she "has the stuff of greatness", or "the teacher really knows his

8) action - action or talk in specific circumstances - as in "don't give
   me any of that stuff"

9) and Last!    unless you want to look at the word stuff as a Verb  
   Stuff also can be the spin imparted to a thrown or hit ball to make it
   curve or change course    as in Baseball where it is said that a ball's
   stuff is the movement it makes outside of its apparent line of fight --
   a good pitcher puts a lot of stuff on his ball.

Anyway - that is part of the dictionary definition of stuff.

What kinds of things did folk bring today   what stuff do you have to share
with us...


As we conclude this time of sharing about Stuff I want to share with you
the few bible passages that speak about STUFF.  

First you should note that if you have a New International Version of the
Bible - raise your hands   you folk need to know right up front the NIV has
absolutely no references to stuff in it.  Not a bit.  Zero.  Now this is
not to say that there is not a lot of stuff in your copy of the Bible   but
none of that stuff is actually called stuff.  So if you want to check out
the word Stuff you have to look elsewhere - in a different bible.  That
kind of takes the STUFF Right out of you doesn't it.  But don't fear - the
word STUFF Does appear in other bibles.

Who here has a New Revised Standard Version of the Bible?  Do you have it
with you?  Well, no matter   the NRSV has STUFF in it -- but it has only
one actual reference to Stuff in it   and that reference is found in
Genesis, chapter 25 - at the very beginning of the story of Esau and Jacob,
where we learn how Jacob obtained Esau's birthright.  Is there anyone
willing to make a wild guess as to where the word Stuff appears in that
story - or to what that word is applied?  The porridge, or bean soup, or
lentil stew, that Jacob made for himself is called "Stuff". I quote Genesis
chapter 25 - verses 29 to 34

   "Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field,
   and he was famished.  Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that
   red stuff, for I am famished!" (Therefore he was called Edom.) 

   Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright."  

   "I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?"  

   Jacob said, "Swear to me first."  So he swore to him, and sold his
   birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew,
   and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised
   his birthright.

Fess up now - how many of you have referred to the cooking of others as
STUFF before?  Well, the word is quite clear for all of you who do that --
watch out that you do not get so hungry that you exchange your birthright
for stuff.


The other bible I checked proved to be quite a fertile ground for
references in it to STUFF.  It is the King James Version and it has TWELVE
references to STUFF in it, ELEVEN in the Old Testament and ONE in the New
Testament.  I would like to share them with you - and make a few comments 
on them as I do so.

First   in the KJV as in the NRSV, the word Stuff appears in the story of
Jacob   but here it is a different passage   the passage wherein Jacob has
married both Rachael and Leah and served Laban, his father-in-law
faithfully for many years - and at long last is on the way home - and
unbeknownst to him, Rachael has taken the household gods of her father, and
hidden them amongst her possessions.  Laban pursues Jacob and demands the
right to search the pack trains and luggage     and having searched - finds
nothing   Rachael is too clever for her father.  Jacob then says to Laban -
with no small amount of anger   and I urge you to note that this a double
hitter --

       (Gen 31:37 KJV)  Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff,
       what hast thou found of all thy household stuff?  Set it here
       before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge
       betwixt us both.

And of course   there is nothing to be set before them.  The stuff that
Laban seeks is not amongst the stuff that Jacob has.  The passage goes on a
few more verses - and ends with a covenant being made between Jacob and
Laban that they will not mess with each other or intrude upon each other's
territory.  In the covenanting ceremony are words that are familiar to many
of you -- the words of blessing and curse which we know as the Mizpah  
"The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another". 


Next we have the words of Genesis 45:20

       (Gen 45:20 KJV)  Also regard not your stuff; for the good of
       all the land of Egypt is yours.

Here Joseph is talking to his brothers - urging them to return to Israel,
and to get Jacob and bring him back to Egypt where he will be safe during
the great famine.  Joseph here utters one of the great biblical principles
concerning STUFF - that we should not think too highly of it - or worry
about too much - because God has better stuff in mind for us.   Clearly
words that Esau would have done well to hear - for he exchanged all the
good of his birthright   for that red stuff.  Joseph urges his brothers to
travel lightly - to forget about their stuff back home because they, as
friends of Pharaoh, will have access to all the stuff that they could
possibly need while they dwell in Egypt.

The next two references to stuff are found in the book of Exodus   the
first is in the 22nd chapter, in the laws concerning Property and Liability
for Property Damage.  In verse 7 it is written:

       (Exo 22:7 KJV)  If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour
       money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's
       house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

Pretty straight forward   while the bible tells us not to regard stuff too
highly - it also recognizes that  if your stuff is stolen - the thief
should pay double for it as a way of making restitution.

The other passage in Exodus, is in the 36th Chapter - the 7th verse - and
refers quite simply to various materials - gold and silver, precious yarns
and linens, perfumes, jewels, and fine wood used in preparing the
Tabernacle of God's Presence for use.   The people responded very
generously with their time and their talent and their treasure so that
finally - as we read from verse 6 and 7 -

       And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be
       proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor
       woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. 
       So the people were restrained from bringing.  For the stuff
       they had was more than sufficient for all the work to make

They had lots of stuff.  And that stuff was to be used for a holy purpose. 
It was sacred stuff.

In the book of Joshua, in the 7th chapter, the 11th verse we hear these

       (Josh 7:11 KJV)  Israel hath sinned, and they have also
       transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they
       have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen,
       and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their
       own stuff.

Here stuff is quite simply the property of the people of Israel - a
property that the people are not to contaminate items that do not belong to
them    with the items taken in conquest that were supposed to be destroyed
or offered to God.


The next reference to stuff is one of my favourites.  

The prophet Samuel had been urged by the people to anoint for them a King -
so that they might be like all the other nations.  Samuel is led by God to
choose Saul, son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin - Saul knew that God
had chosen him - but when Samuel arrives for the public ceremony of
choosing the King from among the 12 tribes of Israel, the following happens
as we hear in I Samuel 10:20-24

       And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come
       near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.  When he had caused
       the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the
       family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was
       taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found. 
       Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, if the man
       should yet come thither.  And the LORD answered, Behold, he
       hath hid himself among the stuff.  

   And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the
   people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and
   upward.  And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD
   hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?  And
   all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.

"He hath hidden himself among the stuff".   I wonder how many of us hide
from God and from what God calls to us to do - among our stuff?   How many
of us are lost in our stuff?  Think about it for a minute   just how often
we talk about all the stuff we have to do - and all the stuff we want   and
all the stuff that is happening around us   is there so much stuff that it
blocks out our view of God?

Think of Esau - who would sell his birthright for a bowl of stuff

Think of Joseph - who tells his brothers not to worry about all their stuff
back in Israel, but rather to travel light and trust that they will enjoy
the goodness of Egypt without their old stuff.
And now Saul   chosen to be king - but who hides among his stuff - hoping
perhaps that  he will not have to do what God wants   using his stuff as a
shield from the demands of God and of his people.

Clearly whatever stuff is -- whether it be our day to day resources and
personal property, food and drink,  or precious materials for the temple
it can be either a hinderance or help to us -- something that we can hide
from God among - or something that we can offer to God.


The next references to Stuff are as follows
   (1 Sam 25:13 KJV)  And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man
   his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also
   girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four
   hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.

Which refers to the supplies and goods for David' army - as does the next

   (1 Sam 30:24 KJV)  For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but
   as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be
   that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.

Household stuff - meaning furniture is mentioned also by Nehemiah in the
thirteenth chapter.  Nehemiah discovers that part of the temple is being
used as personal residence - 

   (Neh 13:8 KJV)  And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all
   the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.

And also household furniture and items are called Stuff several times in
the 12th chapter of Ezekiel, where God instructs Ezekiel to put on a public
display of moving out of his home - as a refugee would move out - as a sign
to the people of the coming time of exile in Babylon.

       (Ezek 12:3-4 KJV)  Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee
       stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight; and
       thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their
       sight: it may be they will consider, though they be a
       rebellious house.  Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by
       day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go
       forth at even in their sight, as they that go forth into

       (Ezek 12:7 KJV)  And I did so as I was commanded: I brought
       forth my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the
       even I digged through the wall with mine hand; I brought it
       forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon my shoulder in
       their sight.

That covers STUFF in the Old Testament - and there remains only one other
reference to stuff - and that is in the New - in the gospel of Luke - the
17th chapter, verse 31 - where Jesus is telling his disciples about the
coming of the kingdom of God - about how it will come upon us suddenly. 

       (Luke 17:31 KJV)  In that day, a man will be upon his
       housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down
       to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him
       likewise not return back.  Remember Lot's wife.  Whosoever
       shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever
       shall lose his life shall preserve it.

I think that the words there are pretty self-evident.  And I think that
that gives you a pretty good idea about stuff in the bible.  So I invite
you to pray now with me to God - about stuff.

Let us Pray      Dear Lord God   help us to not get lost among our
                 stuff - or to value it more highly than the good
                 things you have in store for us.    Help us to
                 dedicate to you what you have asked us for - and to
                 enjoy that which you have given us - without becoming
                 so attached to it that it gets in the way of our
                 salvation.  Help us to remember that stuff is just
                 stuff - sometimes helpful and sometimes not in our
                 daily living  -- and to remember that  you are the
                 source of life - and that is from you that we come and
                 to you that we go.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

* HYMN:  "When Long Before Time"                                   - VU 248


Loving God, we come before you today aware of how you call us to be like
you -  remembering that you made us in your own image - that you entrusted
to us this world and all that is in it - that you gave to us brothers and
sisters, mothers and fathers, people to love and to enjoy and to work for
and pray for.  Help us dear God to remember our own sin before you and how
you forgive it - help us to remember the Cross of Christ - and why he died
upon it.  And make us messengers of your reconciling love, ambassadors for
your kingdom, people who show forth your grace, and celebrate with your
joy......  Lord hear our prayer....

Father - as we pray for the specific needs upon our hearts today - for
those named in our sharing time - and those who are named now aloud or in
our hearts - we ask that you give to us the faith to know that you hear our
prayers and the eyes and ears to look for the answers that you made   and
the heart to thank you for what yo udo:

We pray today for ---- BIDDING PRAYER

Father - thank you for being with us - thank you for your daily help as we
deal with the stuff that happens to us and to our neighbours - thank you
for listening and for answering - through Christ Jesus our Lord and our
friend - he who first taught us to pray to you saying "OUR FATHER"

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the offering is brought forward all stand for
   the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and the
   Prayer of Dedication 

       You call us, O God, to a ministry of reconciliation.  You ask
       us to reach out to the world around us with your message of
       friendship and peace through Christ Jesus.  You call us to
       judge one another by his standards and to allow you to make
       your appeal to the world through us.  Work in us, we pray,
       that we may have the heart and mind of Christ, and with all
       our words, thoughts, and actions, do what you have asked us
       to do.  Bless, O God, the offering of these gifts.  Use them
       in your work.  We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus, our
       crucified redeemer - Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Now, Thank We All Our God"                     - VU 236

* 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

Go in peace,
- and may God so bless you that all who see you or hear you feel welcome in
your presence; 
- may the Spirit so touch you that others are comforted  by your words and
your actions, 
- and may Jesus dwell in you so richly that others are drawn to God by you 
this both now and forevermore.

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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