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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 12 -Proper 7 - Year C
I Kings 19:1-18; Psalms 42 and 43; Luke 8:26-39
"The Still Small Voice"


READING:  I Kings 19:1-18; Psalms 42 and 43; Luke 8:26-39
SERMON :  "The Still Small Voice"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
C-or12sn 789000

   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 - In the sermon thanks to Kim Quiggle, Socastee UMC, 
   1998 for the introduction concerning Elijah and to Rev. Martin 
   Fors for passing on the Poem.   Note that this Sunday is 
   "Father's Day" in Canada and the USA. 

   
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

       As you prepare to worship: pray for those taking part in
       leadership roles and for a blessing to be upon those who sit
       next to you.  Ask God, as well, to help you to worship in
       "spirit and in truth" and to speak a special word to you  or
       touch you in some way.  What  we ask for and expect in faith
       almost always will be what happens! 


* CANDLE LIGHTING & INTROIT: "Spirit of The Living God" (VU 376, Verse 1)


* CALL TO WORSHIP
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The Lord is full of light and truth.  
   Happy are those who place their trust in Him.
P  God is the source of our happiness, 
   in him we find joy and peace.
L  Here we offer ourselves to God 
   - and here we are reminded how God offers himself to us.
P  We will sing praises to the Lord and call on his name; 
   for we know that he is good 
   and that his steadfast love endures forever.

   
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Gracious Lord, we praise you for your love and care.  We come here today to
embrace you with our prayer and to be embraced by you by your Spirit.  We
come as your family to thank you for the brothers and sisters you give to
us and to speak to you and listen to you as your children.  We come  to be
instructed and to be fed, to sing and to celebrate.  Bless we pray our
gathering.  Help us to lift up your most holy name and to bring to you to
the glory and the honour that are due to you.  We ask  it through Christ
Jesus our Lord.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Open My Eyes That I May See"                             - VU 371
             

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

TIME OF SILENCE & AND INTROIT FOR THE WORD  (v2 of 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 I KINGS 19:1-18                                             
   (NIV)  Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he
   had killed all the prophets with the sword.  So Jezebel sent a
   messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever
   so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like
   that of one of them."  Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  

   When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while
   he himself went a day's journey into the desert.  He came to a broom
   tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.  "I have had
   enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my
   ancestors."  Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.  

   All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."  He
   looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over
   hot coals, and a jar of water.  He ate and drank and then lay down
   again. 

   The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and
   said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."  So he
   got up and ate and drank.  

   Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights
   until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.  There he went into a
   cave and spent the night.   And the word of the LORD came to him:
   "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 

   He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. 
   The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars,
   and put your prophets to death with the sword.  I am the only one
   left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 

   The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of
   the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."  Then a great and
   powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks
   before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind
   there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
   After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. 
   And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he
   pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth
   of the cave.  

   Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 

   He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. 
   The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars,
   and put your prophets to death with the sword.  I am the only one
   left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 

   The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the
   Desert of Damascus.  When you get there, anoint Hazael king over
   Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint
   Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
   Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and
   Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.  Yet I
   reserve seven thousand in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed
   down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

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


* HYMN: "Teach Me, God, To Wonder"                                 - VU 299

             
RESPONSIVE PSALM READING:  Psalms 42-43 (VU, page 768) and Refrain #2 and
the Gloria Patri Sung.
      

A READING FROM LUKE 8:26-39
   They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake
   from Galilee.  When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a
   demon-possessed man from the town.  For a long time this man had not
   worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.  When
   he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top
   of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High
   God?  I beg you, don't torture me!"  For Jesus had commanded the
   evil spirit to come out of the man.  Many times it had seized him,
   and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had
   broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary
   places. 

   Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"  

   "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him.  And
   they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 
    
   A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside.  The demons
   begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission.
   When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and
   the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 

   When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and
   reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out
   to see what had happened.  When they came to Jesus, they found the
   man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet,
   dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.  Those who had
   seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured.
   Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to
   leave them, because they were overcome with fear.  So he got into
   the boat and left. 

   The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but
   Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return home and tell how much God has
   done for you."  So the man went away and told all over town how much
   Jesus had done for him.

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


* HYMN: "Make Me A Channel of Your Peace"                          - VU 684

                 
SERMON:  "The Still Small Voice" 
          
   Loving God, breath your Spirit upon us that we may receive Your Word
   afresh and anew.  Take my lips and speak through them; take our
   minds and think through them;  take our hearts and set them on fire.
   We ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I would like to start with a little poem today   it came to me from the
Reverend Martin Fors a few years back now.  It is called "Fathers Are
Wonderful People" and it goes like this:.
 
Fathers are wonderful people 
                too little understood, 
And we do not sing their praises 
                as often as we should  
For, somehow, Father seems to be 
                the man who pays the bills, 
While Mother binds up little hurts 
                and nurses all our ills  
and Father struggles daily 
                to live up to his image 
as protector and provider 
                and hero of the scrimmage  
And perhaps that is the reason 
                we sometimes get the notion 
That Fathers are not subject 
                to the thing we call emotion, 
But if you look inside Dad's heart, 
                where no one else can see, 
You'll find he's sentimental 
                and as soft as he can be  
But he's so busy every day 
                in the grueling race of life, 
He leaves the sentimental stuff 
                to his partner and his wife  
But Fathers are just wonderful 
                in a million different ways, 
And they merit loving compliments 
                and accolades of praise, 
For the only reason Dad aspires 
                to fortune and success 
Is to make the family proud of him 
                and to bring them happiness  
and like Our Heavenly Father, 
                he's a guardian and a guide, 
Someone that we can count on 
                to be always on our side. 

The poem is about a model family - with father and mother and children
living together.  Would that this were always the case.  What struck me
about the poem, aside from it's lovely attempt to praise  Fathers - as they
ought to be praised, were the lines in the middle, the lines that go

                we sometimes get the notion 
       That Fathers are not subject 
                to the thing we call emotion, 
       But if you look inside Dad's heart, 
                where no one else can see, 
       You'll find he's sentimental 
                and as soft as he can be   

My experience with my own father over the years,
and with Charlene's father this past week while he was with us,
suggests to me that this is true.

Both are men of the old school.  
   I think that many fathers are -- even young fathers,
and they worked hard and long
they did the best for their families,
and their pains and their sorrows were for the most part hidden
as were their hopes and dreams.

For many in my generation,
   and I think for many in most generations before mine and even those
   after mine,
it was and is easy to get the impression that our fathers had or have no
emotion, that they indeed left or leave the sentimental stuff to their
wives.

But it is not so.

Underneath everything men - as much as women
   fathers - as much as mothers
feel 
and feel deeply.

It is just that so many of them get caught up in the performance of duties
   in fulfilling roles that they are expected to fulfil
   or think that they are expected to fulfil,
that they suppress their emotions.

They are busy every day.
They are trying to make a home and life for their families,.
They have expectations of themselves and of their children,
   and the achievement and measurement of these things sometimes becomes
   more important than their own inner selves and the inner and essential
   aspects of their children.
Performance becomes more important the persons,
   ability more important than attitude,
   learning more important than loving,
   and earning more important than enjoyment,
though they do not intend for this to be so,
though they do not plan for this to be so.

And the result is that some grow tired and depressed, while their children
   become alienated from them, never understanding why daddy is away from
   them so much.

Some burn out 

Some simply acquire a reputation as being demanding and unappreciative of
their children.

But underneath; underneath is flesh and blood
   - flesh and blood that grows tired and that screams out for rest.
   - flesh and blood that demands spiritual food - but believes that it
   must feed others first
   - flesh and blood that needs guidance - but believes that it is
   supposed to be the one who guides.

It is hard to be a man
   hard to be a father,
       and it is hard to admit to this because men, because fathers,
believe that they must be strong, and are expected to be.

In today's reading from First Kings, we are introduced to a man at the end
of his rope.

Elijah was worn out!  He couldn't go any further.  He was exhausted.  
He was at the end of his rope!  

He had fought the good fight.

He had battled against the false prophets of the court of Ahab the King
   He had spoken against the idolatry fostered by Queen Jezebel.
       He had performed his duties - he had lived up to his calling.
And as a result he was condemned to die by those angry with him; 
by those God had sent him to preach against.

And so he fled into the wilderness - alone - afraid - feeling sorry for
himself - and lay down under a miserable old broom tree, a bush barely able
to give shade to bird, much less a man, 
   and wishing that he was dead, 
   telling God that he had enough,
he fell asleep.

And what happened? 

An angel woke him up a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water.  
Elijah ate and drank and lay down again.  

Again the angel woke him and he ate and drank. 

Notice that the angel who ministers to him does not do 'spiritual' stuff,
he does not say to Elijah, "pray about it, Elijah, and you'll feel better".

No the angel feeds him and makes him rest, telling him that if he does not
the journey will be too much for him...

Sometimes we just need time out and someone to support us. We really need
to pause to eat and drink - so that we can continue the journey we are on.
Only then are we ready for prayer - only then can we be ready to be
spiritually restored.  

The story continues with Elijah continuing on into the wilderness until he
comes to Mt Horeb, to the Mountain of God, to the place where God revealed
himself to Moses and to Israel in cloud and in fire: and there the Lord
speaks to him and tells him that he is about to pass by him, that he is
about to show himself to him.

Elijah goes out to the mouth of the cave where he has spent the night and
   looks for the Lord in the strong wind that comes upon the mountain, and
   then in the earthquake that shakes it, and in the fire that follows,
   but he does not find God there.

But after the fire comes a still small voice 
   - some translations call it a shear silence,
   - others a gentle whisper.  
And in this still small voice within - in this inner silence - God visits
with Elijah.

Picture this story.

We have wind, earthquake and fire.  
All of these are busy, busy, busy things.  And LOUD!
But God is not in them.

Have you ever felt like Elijah.
Have you ever felt that God is not listening to you, 
that no one is really following God, 
that you are the only one left and you cannot find God?
That you might as well give up and die?  

Maybe it's all the busyness, 
   all the commotion in your life, 
   all the hurry and activities,  
   all the trying to cope, 
   all the work you do to make a good life, 
that gets in the way of your living,
that gets in the way of seeing what you need to see, 
and hearing what need to hear.

Sometimes we need to just stop and listen.  To listen to the silence.
To look for God in the calm - instead of in the midst of activity.

That is what Elijah was led to do.

Elijah, in his exhaustion, in his fear, timed out.

He got away for a while from the activities that God had called to do;
and in his fear and his pain, his loneliness and his hunger
he called out to God and told God of his weakness
and then sought God's presence.

And God became present to him   in the sheer silence within 
   - and in that visit God equipped Elijah to once again go out and
   perform those things that God wanted him to do,
   - he commissioned Elijah, and he assured Elijah that he was not alone -
   that many faithful persons were yet with him.

Sometimes that is what we need as men - and as fathers.

We need to time out, to get in touch with God, to listen to the silence
rather than to the noise and the activity that comes and goes about us.

We need to pause and to listen so that we might have the strength and the
guidance we need to do what we are called to do.

Think of the number of times that Jesus took time apart; how he would send
the disciples on ahead of him while he paused to pray on a mountain side;
how he would prepare himself for his next round of activity by first going
away by himself to pray, by first going away to listen to the silence.

Fathers need, 
Mothers need, 
we all need,  
restoration.

It can be found in silence.  In being apart - in being with God.

These times allow us to refocus,
to refresh,
to remember what is important
and what is not.

There is a story told in the "Christian Reader" a few years ago now.  It
was called "Priceless Scribbles" and it concerns a father who touched his
child's life in an unexpected way.

It started this way:

   As my father walked into the living room, my brother cowered
   slightly; he sensed he had done something wrong.  From a distance I
   could see he had opened my Father's brand new hymnal and scribbled
   all over the first page with a pen.  Staring at my father fearfully,
   we both waited for his punishment.

   My father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it carefully and
   then sat down, without saying a word.  Books were precious to him;
   he was a minister with several academic degrees.  For him, books
   were knowledge.

   What he did next was remarkable.  Instead of punishing my brother,
   instead of scolding, or yelling, he took the pen from my brother's
   hand, and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles
   that John had made.

   "John's work, 1959, age 2.  How many times have I looked into your
   beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes looking up at me and
   thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my new hymnal.  You
   have made the book sacred, as have your brother and sister to so
   much of my life."

   "Wow", I thought, "This is punishment?"

The author goes on to say how that hymnal became a treasured family
possession, how it was tangible proof that their parents loved them, how it
taught the lesson that what really matters is people, not objects;
patience, not judgement; love, not anger.

These are the things that come to us as men, as fathers, as humans,
when we pause to listen to the silence
when we stop and seek out God.

The poem that began this sermon suggested that we do not sing the praises
of our fathers as often  as we should   and this is true.

We do not appreciate often enough the humanity of our fathers 
how they struggle to do their best by us
how they labour every bit as hard as our mothers to birth us - 
how they dream for us and work for us and grow tired for us.

I call you today to remember   to take some time to pause and listen to the
silence and then to go on,  to do what God is calling you to do - renewed
in the strength that he provides.

I call you to pray for your fathers and for men everywhere: to pray that
they too may pause and eat and drink and listen to the silence, to the
still small voice within, and rise up knowing that they are not alone, that
they have both God and you with them - to will and to do what is good and
right to do.

Praise be to God, day by day.  Amen


* HYMN: "God is So Good"
             
   God is so good, God is so good,
   God is so good, He's so good to me.
        
   He cares for me, He cares for me,
   He cares for me, He's so good to me.
       
   I love him so, I love him so,
   I love him so, He's so good to me.
        
   I praise his name, I praise his name,
   I praise his name, He's so good to me.


A FATHER'S DAY PRAYER, PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION & THE LORD'S PRAYER
Lord, indeed we do pray for our Fathers and for those who have fathered us
over the years.  We pray for them and thank you for them and ask that you
might touch them and bless them.  Help them and all the men we know to be
ones who listen for your voice and receive your strength and widsdom in
their hearing.....  Lord hear our prayer....

Father, all of us here today are here to listen for your voice   we are
here both to touch and be touched by you.  Listen to the prayers of our
hearts at this time, the prayers we make in silence before you, and help us
to listen for your voice in the silence as we pray......
  
"Do not be afraid"
"You are not alone"
"I care for you"

Father God we thank you for being with us and for assuring us of your love. 
We ask you Lord to speak to others that we hold up before you know   for
those who are sick - that they may know you are with them, that you care
for them, that they need not be afraid....Bidding Prayer....

Loving Lord   speak once again to our hearts as we prepare to leave this
place of worship, this place of encounter.....

"Do not be afraid"
"You are not alone"
"I care for you"

Thank you Father, thank you in the name of Christ Jesus who taught us to
pray to you as one family, saying...  Our Father.

   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    


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) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Thank you O God for all your gifts to us - for life and health, for
   family and friends, for the Spirit and the Word.  Receive, we pray,
   our tithes and our offerings, offered in obedience and in gratitude. 
   We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

     
* DEPARTING HYMN: "To Show By Touch and Word"                      - VU 427


* 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, 
know that God is with you, that you are not alone,
and may the power and the love
and the truth and the compassion of our Risen Lord 
uphold, sustain, direct and keep you 
both now and always.  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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