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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; Luke 6:17-26
"The Blessed and The Blessed Way"

READING:  Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; Luke 6:17-26
SERMON : "The Blessed and The Blessed Way" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild c-or06sn.y-c 767000 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 sermon is indebted to the work of the late Gerard D Fuller (oblate@JUNO.COM) as it was sent to the PRCL List in February 1998. The Children's Story based on a concept from "The Whole People of God" Curriculum, 1995 GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand) * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Psalm 84:10-12) 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 I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than live in the tents of wickedness. P A day spent near to God is better than a thousand days spent elsewhere. L The Lord God gives light to those who draw near to him . P God is our sun and our shield. He bestows favour and honour upon those who dwell in his presence. L The Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk in his way. P God blesses those who trust in his word and who turn to him day by day. * LET US PRAY Most Loving God your people are gathered. Come we pray and fill us with your Spirit. Speak your words of healing and life. Strengthen us for service in our world. Grant us your peace. In the name of Christ Jesus we pray and we worship -- Amen. * HYMN: "God Is Here" - VU 389 CHILDREN'S TIME: "Planted By The Stream" Object: Picture of Two Trees or two plants - one dried up - one healthy Theme: Blessings Come From Being Close To God. Source: Whole People of God (94-95) and Self Good morning -- Today I want to tell you a story. It is about two trees that lived close to a stream. One tree was so happy to be alive and it sent its roots out to the stream so it could survive and grow. This tree could heard saying, "Thank God I am alive and thank God for this little stream whose waters bring me blessings every day." The other tree was very proud and could be heard saying, "I don't need any old stream. It's too much work sending my roots out to drink it's waters. Besides there is plenty of water from the rain and I can survive just fine without the stream." And for a while it seemed to be true. The rains came regularly and both trees grew and prospered. But then one day a hot dry wind came and it blew and blew. It did not rain for many months. The one tree dried and shrivelled up. Almost all its leaves fell off. It's fruit dried up and fell to the ground. The tree looked like it was going to die. The other tree continued to grow - even as the dry hot wind blew over it. It's leaves got greener and greener and it continued to bear fruit - and its fruit was big and juicy. Everyone who saw the tree said, "God has truly blessed this tree. But look - God has not blessed that tree beside it. See - it has no leaves and it's fruit is all dried up. It is almost dead." Although it had no leaves and it's fruit was all dried up - the proud tree was still barely alive. It heard what people said. It was very sorry and realized that it needed the stream after all. Although it was very weak, it gathered up all its energy and concentrated its efforts into slowly sending out some weak little roots towards the stream. But it was not very strong. Just when it was ready to give up and die, the tree heard a little whisper. 'Keep trying proud tree. I'm very close." It was the voice of the stream." The tree kept trying as the voice had said - and soon - sure enough - it felt the tips of its roots touch water. It had reached the underground spring from which the waters of the stream flowed. "Thank God," the tree cried, "Now I am blessed and I know I cannot live without the waters of the stream." Years later when hot dry winds came again and there was no rain, people who saw the two trees were amazed and said, "Look how God has blessed those two trees. Even when it is a desert, they have green leaves and luscious fruit." Both trees smiled. They knew that what the people said was true. PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Dear Lord God - we thank you for being near to us - and for blessing us with your love, -- Help us to send down our roots -- into your life giving word -- to turn to you each day -- to pray to you -- and to learn from you -- so that we may survive and prosper -- even when times are hard -- we ask it in the name of Jesus -- Amen And as Jesus taught us - let us pray as one family, saying: 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: "Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God" - VU 356 SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: ANNOUNCEMENTS & SPECIAL MATTERS - Welcome and Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Special Matters - Sharing Joys and Concerns TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD (verse 2 - VU 371) Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see. Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine! A READING FROM JEREMIAH 17:5-10 (NIV) This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." L This is the Word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 1 (Voices United 724) 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 A READING FROM LUKE 6:17-26 (NIV) He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." L This is the Gospel of The Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. * HYMN: "Just As I Am" - VU 508 SERMON: "The Blessed and The Blessed Way" Lead us, O God, to streams of living water. Speak to us in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the meditations of our hearts. Bring us freshness, new growth and vitality, that we may be fruitful for thee, our rock and our redeemer. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev in the Ukraine, used to say that he had discovered the meaning of love from a drunken peasant. The rabbi was visiting the owner of a tavern in the Polish countryside. As he walked in, he saw two peasants at a table. Both were gloriously in their cups. Arms around each other, they were protesting how much each loved the other. Suddenly Ivan said to Peter; "Peter, tell me, what hurts me?' Bleary-eyed, Peter looked at Ivan: "How do I know what hurts you?" Ivan's answer was swift: "If you don't know what hurts me, how can you say you love me?" In today's Gospel reading , we hear gives Luke's version of the beatitudes. It is a version that is strikingly different from that found in the Gospel According to Matthew. Instead of Matthew's eight statements concerning those whom God will bless Luke gives four beatitudes - four statements concerning those who are blessed The four blessings at first glance seem familiar enough Blessed are you who are poor blessed are you who are hungry blessed are you who weep blessed are you when people hate you and revile and defame you on account of the Son of Man But then Luke goes on and instead of listing four more beatitudes - he lists four woes -- four disturbing statements concerning those whom God will afflict. Woe to you who are rich now Woe to you are full now Woe to you who are laughing now Woe to you when all speak well of you. That my friend's is incredible stuff upsetting stuff stuff that the rich and the full and the happy and the well thought of do not want to believe -- and can you blame them? Think about what the average person in our society works for. Think about what you work for.... And then consider the scripture you have just heard. I think most of us in this the most blessed of all nations are prepared to accept that the God will bless the poor and the hungry. There is a part of us that is, in fact, relieved by this idea. It kind of takes some of the pressure off us doesn't it? We like too the idea that God will comfort those who mourn - and the idea that those who do right and are hated for it will receive a reward from God is not unpleasant to our ears. We can imagine, after all, ourselves in the position of needing some of that comfort - and we know that doing right isn't always rewarded by those around us - so it is good to know that God will set the record straight. But the idea that the riches we have - may lead to our being cursed by God and that the food we have - may be taken from us and the joy we have - may be replaced by sorrow and the good name we enjoy - may be considered to be an evil well that is a different kettle of fish isn't it?. And so it is meant to be. You know I can't count the number of times I have heard folk, when discussing the beatitudes, say things like "well, you know, the poor - in some ways they are better off than the rich. They have to work together. They know just how good a meal tastes. They are more connected to God, because God is all they have." You ever hear stuff like that? There is, I suppose, a certain truth to it. But it all too quickly can sound like being poor is a good thing. And if that is so - why then don't those folk who say those things sell what they have and give it to the poor, and follow Jesus - as Jesus told the rich young ruler to do? No my friends - poverty - thirst - weeping - and persecution are not good things, and those who are poor and thirty and mourning and persecuted are not told by Jesus that they are blessed because poverty and thirst and sorrow and persecution are, in some fashion a blessing; rather Jesus tells them and us today that they are blessed because God loves them and because it is God's will that they have a full place in his Kingdom. You must remember my friends that in the popular understanding of things those who have wealth and health have it for one of two reasons - they have it because they have worked hard for it - or they have it because they are "blessed by God". Often we think it is a combination of these two things. We are blessed by God because we do things that are pleasing to God. Equally we normally think of misery as being self induced - or as being God's punishment on those who are not following in his way. - the poor are poor because they are lazy or their parents were lazy - and the poor nations - well they are poor because they have the wrong kind of values, because they fight with each other, or squander their resources, or whatever. Indeed - when you read Psalm One, or the Prophet Jeremiah as we did today, it is easy to get into that frame of mind. The bible often speaks of prosperity as coming on the heels of obedience to God - and of unhappiness and misery as coming about as the result of disobedience. And common sense tells us that this is the case as well. God, after all, is not mocked. And his word is not void. Just as when you jump off a cliff you will crash down to the ground, so when you turn your back on the Spiritual principles of life you will end up in misery. And just as when you sow a crop of corn and corn is produced rather than tomatoes, so when you live by the love of God the love of God will be seen in you and what you do. So it becomes all too easy for us to look out on the world and blame the poor and the thirsty and the persecuted and the sorrowful for their own plight. Either way - by the route of blaming the poor for their own situation - or by the route of saying that somehow the situation being poor is better than, or at least as good as the situation of being rich, we can easily let ourselves off the hook of really caring for those around us; of really regarding the less fortunate as people equal to ourselves in every way save that they need a portion of that which we already have. I would like to share with you something called the Parable of the Pit Some of you have heard it before - others have not. It goes on a bit - but that is part of it's effect. Perhaps you all can help me fill in the blanks.... It starts like this: A man fell into a pit and could not get himself out. A SUBJECTIVE person saw him and said, "I feel for you down there." An OBJECTIVE person happened along and said, "It's logical that someone would fall, down there." A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST came along and said, "You only think that you're in a pit." A PHARISEE said............... "Only bad people fall into a pit". A ROCK HOUND asked........ "Are there any rare specimens in the pit?" A NEWS REPORTER asked...... "Can I have the exclusive story on your pit?" A FUNDAMENTALIST said....... "You deserve your pit." CONFUCIOUS said, "If you would have listened to me, you would not be in that pit." BUDDHA said to him, "Your pit is only a state of mind." A REALIST happened along and said, "Now THAT'S a pit!" A SCIENTIST saw him and said..... "I'll calculate the pressure necessary (pounds/square inches) to get you out of the pit. A GEOLOGIST said..... "Just appreciate the rock strata in your pit." An EVOLUTIONIST happened along and said, "You're a rejected mutant destined to die in that pit, before you product any pit-falling offspring." A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL asked........ "Are you paying taxes on your pit?" The LAND USE INSPECTOR asked, "Did you have a permit to dig a pit?" A PROFESSOR gave him a lecture on "The Elementary Principles of a Pit"." An EVASIVE PERSON talked to him and avoided the subject of the pit altogether. A SELF-PITYING PERSON said..... "You haven't seen anything until you've see MY pit!" An ODDS-MAKER noted..... "Chances are that anyone could fall into a pit." An OPTIMIST said, "Things could be worse." A PESSIMIST said, "Things WILL get worse!" But JESUS, seeing the man........" took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit." My friends, when we are confronted by the beatitudes we are confronted with the love of God: a love that - as we sang before this sermon - takes us just as we are, and so also takes the poor, the thirsty, the sorrowful, those who are despised just as they are. A couple of weeks ago we read the passage that is often called Jesus' mission statement, that statement from the prophet Isaiah - that goes The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me top proclaim release to the captives and recovery of site to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. God's love extends to everyone my friends - the beatitudes confront us with this fact. They also confront us with the fact that the rich, the well feed, the joyful and the well thought of persons among us may have forgotten the fundamentals concerning God's love - they may have forgotten just what it is that hurts God - how God is pained by disease when there is so much medicine close to hand, - how God suffers when millions starve while enough food to feed them rots in corporate warehouses, - how God is horrified by indifference and by a society that blames victims rather than helping them. God is not against wealth or those who have full bellies. Nor does God condemn those who experience joyfulness or have good reputations. But God does reminds us today - through the words of Jesus - and Jeremiah and David that there are two paths in this life, a choice of two roads that we can walk. One path leads to life - the other leads to death. The path to death is to rejoice in the blessings rather than in the one who blesses us, it is to seek the goodies that God gives rather than the to seek to do the good that God does. The path of life - is the path of Jesus - who not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped, emptied himself and taking on human form, humbled himself, and became obedient to point of death even death on a cross. You who are in need today - rejoice - for God will bless you, God loves you - and counts you as part of his chosen people, your time of suffering will come to an end. You have abundance today - consider your brothers and sisters and how it is that Jesus gave himself for them - as he gave himself for you, and love them - love them deeply - love them with all you have, for in that love all the law and the prophets is fulfilled. PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING & INTERCESSION and THE LORD'S PRAYER We thank you God that you do not will affliction or grief for us, but are with us in all the circumstances of our lives, in joy and in sorrow, in laughter and in tears, in abundance and in the time of need. We thank you that even as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives - so also through Christ our comfort overflows. Help us to be a people who embrace the life you give - a people who root themselves in your life-giving word and who are open to the refreshing water of your Spirit.... Lord hear our prayer.... O God, you are like an ever-flowing stream, watering the earth and refreshing creation. We draw from your Holy Spirit life-giving sustenance; we receive from your word wisdom to guide us. We praise to you for your life-giving care. Help us be mindful of the abundance of your grace Lord we pray today for those who are poor and for those who are rich. Fill the poor with the riches of your love and with all things necessary to life. Lead the hearts of the rich to the knowledge of their poverty and help them to learn how to trust and share in the way of Christ - who though he was rich became poor for our sakes.... Lord hear our prayer Lord we pray today for those who hunger and for those who are full. Give the hungry the bread of your love and the bread made by human hands. Teach the filled to share the abundance that you have entrusted into their hands... Lord hear our prayer... Lord, we pray today for those who cry and for those who laugh. Console with your peace those who grieve and sorrow this day. Teach those who laugh to dry the tears of those who are in need. Lord hear our prayer.... Lord - we hold before you the specific joys and concerns you have placed on our hearts this day.... BIDDING PRAYER... Lord, hear our prayer.... Father, we thank you for planting us in this place, to bear fruit of the Spirit, to grow leaves for healing, to welcome the grafting in of new shoots and branches, and to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ through our witness and our service... We thank you for your blessing and ask that we might always be a blessing to others. Amen * HYMN: "The Lord's My Shepherd" INSTALLATION OF THE NEW OFFICIAL BOARD Today we install into office the following individuals who were elected to the Official Board at our Annual Meeting at the end of January. As I call their names I would ask them to stand and to come forward. Minister: You have been called by the grace of God and duly elected by this congregation, to be an Member of the Official Board of this Congregation. It is the duty and privilege of a member of the Board to share with the minister in the government and pastoral oversight of the Congregation. You will have responsibility for worship, administration of the sacraments, Christian education, financial stewardship, and many other matters that comprise the life and work of this part of God's people. As you come to take up your duties of your office, I ask you now, before God and this congregation: do you profess your faith in God your heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ your Saviour and Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, your teacher and guide? Rx - WE DO I also ask you - will you endeavour to carry out your responsibilities in this congregation with Christian prayer and devotion, seeking the Lord's will and denying your own? Rx - WE WILL Minister: (to the congregation) Will you support these men and women who have responded to the call of God to minister to you and with you as Members of the Official Board of this congregation? People: We will. Minister: Let us pray: Eternal God, you call all who believe in you into your service and promise grace and strength for the fulfilling of you will. Bless, we pray thee, these men and women who have offered themselves for this office within your church. Lead them to a deeper knowledge of you. Give them diligence and faithfulness in their study of your word, tenderness and patience with all whom they serve, and sincerity, singleness of mind, and humility as they accept the responsibilities laid upon them. Help them and us to follow in Christ's path and to be a light both in this place and to the world. We ask this in the name of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN - Words of Induction (Minister): In the name of God and on behalf of this congregation, I install you as member of the Official Board of St. Andrew's United Church. May the blessings of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you. Amen - Right Hand of Fellowship * 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 Loving Father, in our Lord Jesus you bring soundness of mind, clarity of vision, wholeness of bodies, and wisdom to all we say and do. You bless us richly and call us to be a blessing. Receive now the fruits of Christ's work in us. May what we give be used to make known Christ's healing and saving presence. In His name we pray. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" - VU 635 * 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 - VU 971 Go in peace, and God grant unto you a living hope and a Spirit of love, wisdom, and compassion that you may be ones who bring forth the sweet fruit of Salvation and share with all the joy of God's healing presence no matter what the season, 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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