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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Fourth Sunday In Lent - Holy Humour - Year C
II Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3,11-24
"Young Goats and Fatted Calves"

READING:  II Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3,11-24
SERMON :  "Young Goats and Fatted Calves"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-le04su 924000

   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.
   This is also a Holy Humour Sunday service.  Please see our 
   page regarding it abc-laughtersunday.php. 
   Sources: The Call to Worship is based on that of John Maynard
   ( , "Prayers and Litanies  For Lent 4C" as sent
   to the PRCL List, March 2001.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

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  O Come, magnify the Lord with me!
P  Let us exalt God's name together!
L  I sought the Holy One, and God answered me.
P  The Lord delivers us from our sins.  
L  God delivers us from our enemies 
   and exalts those who humble themselves.
P  Let us worship the Lord our God, the God of our salvation! 

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

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 faith and love and understanding.  Many are the
reasons we have for coming before you to worship 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  "This Is The Day"                                          - VU 412

CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Laughing With Our Children"
Object:   None                                                             
Theme:    Rejoicing With Laughter
Source:   Self

You know it is a good thing to laugh - not at people - but with people. 
To see the lighter side of life.  To enjoy the things that God has put
here for enjoyment.   So I am hoping that today maybe you have brought
along your favourite joke or story.  Does anyone have one?

- Kids Share

While you are thinking another I would like to share with you some letters
written by Dogs to God.  How many of you have a dog at home?  Then maybe
this is from your dog:  Here is one:

   Dear God,   When we get to Heaven, can we sit on your couch?  Or is
   it the same old story?   

    Dear God, If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human
   hears him, is he still a bad dog?   

   Dear God,   Is it true that in Heaven, dining room tables have

   Dear God,  More meatballs, less spaghetti, please.   

   Dear God,  When we get to the Pearly Gates, do we have to shake hands
   to get in? 

   Dear God,  We dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand
   signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent IDs,
   electromagnetic energy fields, and Frisbee flight paths.  What do 
   humans understand? 

   Dear God,  Are there mailmen in Heaven?  If there are, will I have to

   Dear God,  Is it true that dogs are not allowed in restaurants
   because we can't make up our minds what NOT to order?  Or is it the
   carpets again? 

   Dear God,  When my family eats dinner they always bless their food. 
    But  they  never bless mine.  So, I've been wagging my tail extra
   fast when they fill  my bowl.  Have you noticed my own blessing? 

- Kids Share

   Gracious and loving God - we thank you for today - for the joy and
   laughter you give - for the friends and family we have - for the
   beauty of the day - and for Jesus Christ our Lord.  - Help us to
   grow in faith - and be yours forever and ever.    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.

- Announcments
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
- Birthdays and Anniversaries

* HYMN:  "Give To Us Laughter"                                     - VU 624

  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
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

   (NIV) So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. 
   Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 
   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old
   has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled
   us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of
   reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in
   Christ, not counting men's sins against them.  And he has committed
   to us the message of reconciliation.

   We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making
   his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf:  Be
   reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
   so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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

INTERLUDE ONE: A TIME TO LAUGH - Stories From The Congregation
Lightening up in Lent is an old tradition - and we are here - now just to
do that.  We have four interludes today in which you can share a joke or
story - one meant to amuse - and perhaps even to edify.   I would like to
begin with a story that you may appreciate.

   Back in the 1800s the Tates Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted
   to produce other products and, since they already made the cases
   for pocket watches, decided to market compasses for the pioneers
   travelling west.  It turned out that although their watches were of 
   finest quality, their compasses were so bad that people often ended
   up in Canada or Mexico rather than California.  This, of course, is
   the origin of the expression, "He who has a Tates is lost!"


   New evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were 
   avid bowlers.  However, all the league records were unfortunately
   destroyed in a fire.  Thus we'll never know for whom the Tells

A READING FROM LUKE 15:1-3,11(b)-24 
   (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. 

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

INTERLUDE TWO: A TIME TO LAUGH - Stories From The Congregation
As we move on into our second interlude - I thought I might share with you
a few headlines from around the world.  These are real headlines - 

   First the one about a rally planned in Washington DC last year.  
   The headline read:- "March Planned For Next August"

   Then there was the one about the robbery in Los Angeles last fall.  
   It read: "Lingerie Shipment Hijacked--Thief Gives Police The Slip" 

   Also from  Los Angeles, this one - "LA Voters Approve Urban Renewal
   By Landslide"


   A final headline before we sing - it concerns one of the periodic
   downturns in the economy  that  we keep on hearing about.  Are you
   ready for it?  The headline read: "Diaper Market Bottoms Out"

* HYMN:   "How Great Thou Art"                                     - VU 238

INTERLUDE THREE: A TIME TO LAUGH - Stories From The Congregation
I have shared with you Prayers by Dogs, a couple of puns, and some really
really bad headlines.  Now I would like to share with you some rules or
facts of life:

   Rule number one      Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed
                        of checks.
   Rule number two      Borrow money from pessimists-they don't expect it
   Rule number three    No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize
   Rule number four     Puppies still have bad breath, even after eating
                        a tic-tac.
   Rule Number Five     Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same

   A couple more rules:
   The colder the X-ray table, the more of your body is required to be
   on it.

   And finally -- The hardness of the butter is proportional to the
   softness of the bread.

   (NIV)  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 him!' 

   "'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 our Crucified Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "Amazing Grace"                                           - VU 266

SERMON:  "Young Goats and Fatted Calves"

   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.

The striking thing about the parable of the prodigal son is not simply how
wonderful it is that the prodigal returns home and how the father rejoices
in that return.  It is how the older brother does not.

The older brother is a major grump.  He is a very serious man, too serious
really, and he berates his father and speaks in anger about his brother
when he discovers what is happening.

Perhaps he is like this because of worry that his younger brother will
hurt his father again;
   Perhaps it is because of his feeling that he is not valued by his
       Perhaps it is simply because he thinks that his younger brother
       doesn't deserve anything more than he already has received;
Whatever the reason, it is clear that the older brother, like the
   Pharisees and scribes to which this parable was first told, does not
   like the idea of sinners being embraced by God, no matter how
   repentant they may be.

For him, there are rules to the game - rules that should always be

It reminds me of a story:

       St. Peter and St. Paul are at the Pearly Gates.  Paul is
       looking through The Book of Names, and he says to Peter,
       "There are more people in heaven than there is supposed to
       be!  Go find out what has happened!"  

       Peter runs off, and some time later he returns to Paul. Paul
       says,  "Did you find out why there are too many people

       Peter says, "It's Jesus.  He's helping people in over the
       back fence again..."

Jesus indeed is one who helps people in over the back fence.  He is one
who welcomes home those that the scribes and pharisees believed did not
deserve to be welcomed home - he is one who eats with sinners and tax-
collectors and teaches them the joy of being re-united to God..

The Elder Brother, the one who has always been responsible, the one who
has always worked hard and asked for nothing in return, needs to learn to
lighten up.  His sense of what he has done and is doing has caused him to
be too full of resentment - too full of anxiety  - and too jealous for his
Father and for himself.

He is kind of like the proud Irishman by the name of Pat who went to
heaven and saw St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. 

   St. Peter asked, "Who are you?" and Pat replied,  "My name is Pat,
   I'm an Irishman, born on St. Patrick's Day, died on St. Patrick's
   Day, marching' in the St. Patrick's Day parade."

   St. Peter said to Pat: "Yes, this is true!  Here's a little green
   cloud for you to drive around heaven in and here is a harp that,
   when you push this button here, will play 'When Irish Eyes Are
   Smiling.'  Enjoy it, Pat.  Have a good time in heaven." 

   Pat jumps on his little green cloud, punches the button, and heads
   out with a smile on his face and a song in his heart.  He's having
   a wonderful time in heaven, driving his little green cloud around. 
   But on the third day, he's driving down Expressway H-1 with the
   harp playing full blast when, all of a sudden, a Jewish man in a
   pink and white two-tone cloud with tail fins roars past him.  And
   in the back of this cloud is an organ which is playing  all sorts
   of celestial music.

   Pat makes a U-turn right in the middle of the Heaven Expressway and
   charges back to the Pearly Gates.  He says, "St. Peter, my name is
   Pat, I'm a proud Irishman.  I was born on St. Patrick's Day, died
   on St. Patrick's Day, marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade.  I
   come up here to heaven and I get this tiny, insignificant little
   green cloud and this little harp that plays only one song, 'When
   Irish Eyes Are Smiling.'  But, there's a Jew over there.  He's got
   a big, beautiful pink and white two-tone cloud and a huge organ
   that plays all kinds of celestial music and I, Pat the Irishman,
   want to know why!"

   St. Peter stands up from his desk.  He leans over and motions Pat
   the Irishman to come closer.  Then he says: "Pat, shush! He's the
   Boss's Son!"

In heaven we are all the boss's sons and daughters!   

And we will all be treated just fine - God will wipe away the tears from
every face - and give joy to all who have come to him.  There will be no
distinctions between the types of clouds that we sit upon; each member of
the family will feast at God's table  and sing praises at God's throne.

And what is so bad about that?  What's so bad about the heavenly
homecoming being so wonderful for everyone that we  can't abide the
thought of it being shared by everyone - - even by those who come to their
senses later in life and who at long last call upon God's name in faith
and in repentance?   

In heaven I don't think there will be the kinds of distinctions between
folk that we are all too fond of making.  And in the parable of the
Prodigal Son the Father tells the older brother that there is no special
distinctions either. 

He tells his older son that all he has is his.

He tells him, in effect that he could ask for a young goat or a fatted
calf at any time.  That he could have a party with his friends whenever he

And he tells him that no matter what - he - and indeed all of us - really
do need to rejoice.

He needs to rejoice - and we need to rejoice 
   because he who was dead - is alive.
   Because he who was lost - is found.

It is powerful when you think about it.

How would we feel if the one in our family who has wasted everything and
hurt everyone actually came to their senses and came home in repentance -
seeking only to serve us and do whatever we wanted? 

And how would we feel if that one was welcomed by our parents
and welcomed not as a mere slave, but welcomed with joy and celebration as
a full part of the family?

That can be a tough one  - especially if you are an older brother or

But the word of the father is "rejoice"  
- rejoice because he who was dead is now alive.
- rejoice because he who was lost is found.

Indeed my friends, rejoice in all who are saved.
- Rejoice over those who come to their senses and return home - .
- And rejoice too in your own salvation as well.

Ask for a young goat that you can enjoy with your friends.
Ask for a fatted calf.
For bounty of God is given to all his children - to share and enjoy - both
in this life and the next..

Hear once again the story of the prodigal son - and of the older brother
and his father,
hear it done as a "Melody in F"

   Feeling footloose and frisky, a feather-brained fellow forced his
   fond father to fork over the farthings.  He flew far into foreign
   fields, and frittered his fortune, feasting fabulously with
   faithless friends.  Finally, facing famine and fleeced by his
   fellows in folly, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy
   farmyard.  Fairly famishing, fain would he have filled his frame
   with the fodder fragments.
   Phooey!  My father's flunkies fare far fancier," the frazzled
   fugitive fumed feverishly, frankly facing facts.  Frustrated by
   failure and filled with foreboding, he fled forthwith to his
   family.  Falling at his father's feet, he foundered forlornly:
   "Father, I have flunked, and fruitlessly forfeited family favour."

   The faithful father, forestalling further flinching, frantically
   flagged the flunkies to fetch the finest fatling, and fix a feast
   -- fast!  

   But the fault-finding frater frowned on the fickle forgiveness of
   the former falderal.  His fury flashed, but fussing was futile, for
   the far-sighted father figured, "Such filial fidelity is fine; but
   what forbids fervent festivity?  For the fugitive is found!  Unfurl
   the flags!  With fanfares flaring let fun and frolic freely flow!"

   Failure's forgotten!  Folly forsaken!  Forgiveness forms the
   foundation for future fortitude. 

Let us pray

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 and that you gave to
us brothers and sisters - mothers and fathers  - people to love and to
enjoy and to work for and pray for.  As we think about all our family, O
God, help to remember our own sinfulness before you and how you forgive it
- help us to remember the Cross of Christ - and why he died upon it.  And
make us, within our families and within this world, messengers of your
reconciling love, ambassadors for your kingdom, a people who show forth
your grace, and celebrate with joy all that knits us closer together and
makes your heart glad...  Lord hear our prayer...

Father and Mother of us all - we pray today for those of our brothers and
sisters who have misused you and the rest of our family.  Indeed we pray
for all those who have broken their parent's hearts and wounded themselves
and those around them.  May they may return home safely and may our family
be made whole -  and our hearts, like your heart, made glad...  Lord hear
our prayer...

We pray too O God today for those both in our family and those yet outside
it - who are in need of a special grace today -- for the sister who is
very ill - for the father who soon will be dwelling in your kingdom - for
the brother who must yet face consequences of his actions - for the mother
who is living in a house of fear -- we remember too the children who are
hungry -- and the men and women threatened by war or insurrection...  
Lord hear our prayer for these and those like them - those whom we hold
before you now in our hearts and upon our lips... (BIDDING PRAYER)... Lord
Hear Our Prayer.... 

Blessed be your holy name O God - on account of your holy and redeeming
love.  Amen.


   I have  short - one perhaps you can all relate too...

   A little girl became restless as the preacher's sermon dragged on
   and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered,
   "Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?"

   Your tithes and offerings will now be received.....

* 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

   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.  Bless these gifts for that work and grant that we may
   have the heart and mind of Christ, and so with all our words,
   thoughts, and actions,  do what you, in love, have asked us to do -
   to the glory of your name.  Amen

Each year I end this service with three or four questions to ponder.  So
as we prepare to sing our final hymn - which is number 236, here they are:

   First one  - Can you be a closet claustrophobic?

   Second -  If a book about failures doesn't sell, is it a success?

   Third  - When companies ship Styrofoam, what do they pack it in?

   And finally, for  the Scottish among us - How do you know when it's
   time to tune your bagpipes?

* 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 Christ.

Go in peace - love and care for one another in Christ's name;  
- 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.  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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