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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 14 -Proper 9 - Year C
II Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Luke 10:1-11,16-20
"Small Matters"



READING:  II Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Luke 10:1-11,16-20 
SERMON :  "Small Matters"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or14su 939000

   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 Prayer of Dedication is from John Maynard, "Prayers and
   Litanies - 46c" as sent to the PRCL List, July 2001.  The
   Benediction is adapted from Nathan Nettleton, "Prayers For Proper 9,
   Year C" (www.laughingbird.net).  The Children's Story is that of
   Charles Kirkpatrick, Story for Ordinary 14C (sermons4kids.com), July
   2004.  Reproduced with permission.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on I Peter 2:9-10)
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.
P  We are chosen by God 
   so that we may proclaim the mighty acts 
   of him who called us out of darkness 
   into his wonderful light.
L  Once we were not a people, 
   but now we are the people of God. 
P  Once we had not received mercy, 
   but now we have received mercy.
L  As servants of God, live as free people, 
   doing all that God asks of you, 
   knowing that as you worship him and call on his name 
   he will provide for your every need 
   and keep you safe in his arms.
P  God's love is from everlasting to everlasting,
   his righteousness endures forever.  
   Hallowed be his name.  Amen


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Lord God - we thank you for bringing us together to this holy place to 
worship you and to pray and sing and to hear your word.   Instruct us, we
pray, with wisdom and lift up our hearts by your Spirit that we may
worthily magnify your name and walk in the way your son, Christ Jesus our
Lord, our brother, and our hope.  We pray for your blessing - for your
peace and for your strength - that we may be instruments of your healing
and saving love and be overflowing  vessels of your saving power.  Hear our
prayer and visit us in this hour.   We ask it in Jesus's name.  Amen. 


* HYMN:  "Worship The Lord"                                        - VU 401


CHILDREN'S TIME: "It All Depends On Jesus"
Object    A suitcase and a list of all the things you must pack when
          taking a vacation.
Theme:    Jesus sends workers to bring in the harvest.
Source    Charles Kirkpatrick, Story for Ordinary 14C (sermons4kids.com),
          July 2004.  Reproduced with permission.

   After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two
   by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to
   go.  He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are
   few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers
   into his harvest field.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among
   wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet
   anyone on the road.  (Luke 10:1-4 NIV)

I am getting ready to go on vacation.  I have my bags all packed and ready
to go. I am really looking forward to this chance to "get away from it all"
so I can relax.  I have a list of all the things I need to take with me on
vacation.

Clothes - enough for two weeks
Hair dryer - in case they don't have one at the hotel
Shaving kit (or cosmetic case) - to stay looking my best
Some comfortable shoes - for when I have to walk
Sandals - in case I go to the beach
Swim suit - for the beach or the hotel swimming pool
Camera - for sightseeing trips
Laptop computer - in case I need to do some work
A book - in case I get bored
Traveler's checks, plenty of cash, and credit cards

Can you think of any other things I may have forgotten?  I want to make
sure that I have everything I might need on the trip.  Sometimes I think
that when I go on vacation, I am not really "getting away from it all" - I
am taking it all with me!

The Bible tells us that Jesus appointed seventy-two of his followers and
sent them out, two-by-two, to go into every town and place where he was
about to go.  Do you know what Jesus told them to take with them?  Nothing!

Jesus said to them, "Go!"  Then he went on to say, "Do not even take a
purse, or a bag, or a pair of sandals."

Now, why did Jesus say that?  I think it is because when Jesus sends
someone on a mission, their success or failure does not depend upon what
they bring with them -- it depends on him!  One reason I can be pretty
certain of that is because of something else Jesus told the people when he
sent them out.  He said, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who
rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."

Just as Jesus sent out the seventy-two people, he wants you and me to go to
people today and share the good news that the kingdom of God is near.  The
results do not depend upon us.  We should not become puffed up when people
receive the message and we should not be discouraged when they reject the
message.  We should just go and tell as if everything depends on Jesus --
because it does!


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Loving God - Lord Jesus - may we be ready and willing - to go when
   say 'go' - and to trust you - for the results. - Amen.

   And in the words that Jesus taught us, let us pray:   

   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:  "To Show By Touch and Word"                               - VU 427


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 II KINGS 5:1-14
   (NIV)  Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram.  He
   was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded,
   because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  He was a
   valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 

   Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl
   from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife.  She said to her
   mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in
   Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy." 

   Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had
   said.  "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied.  "I will send a
   letter to the king of Israel."  

   So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand
   shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing.  The letter that he took
   to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my
   servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy." 

   As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and
   said, "Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life?  Why does this
   fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy?  See how he is
   trying to pick a quarrel with me!" 

   When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn
   his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? 
   Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in
   Israel."  So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at
   the door of Elisha's house.

   Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven
   times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be
   cleansed." 

   But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely
   come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God,
   wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not
   Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the
   waters of Israel?  Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?"  So he
   turned and went off in a rage. 

   Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet
   had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  
   How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!"

   So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the
   man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean
   like that of a young boy.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 30 (VU 757) 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 10:1-11,16-20
   (NIV)  After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent
   them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was
   about to go.  He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the
   workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send
   out workers into his harvest field.  Go! I am sending you out like
   lambs among wolves.  Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do
   not greet anyone on the road. 

   "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  If a man
   of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will
   return to you.  Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever
   they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around
   from house to house. 

   "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
   Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is
   near you.'  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into
   its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our
   feet we wipe off against you.  Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of
   God is near.'  He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects
   you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." 

   The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons
   submit to us in your name." 

   He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have
   given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to
   overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 
   However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice
   that your names are written in heaven."

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


* HYMN:  "You Servants of God"                                     - VU 342


SERMON:  "Small Matters" 

   Loving God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help me to speak and us
   to hear your living word.  On your people pour your power and grant
   that each one of us may be touched and moved in the way you want us
   to go.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

I call today's sermon "small matters" because the texts for today speak to
us about small and insignificant things.

In the first reading we hear about a miracle of healing that occurs in a
most unexpected place, in the River Jordan- which is not much more than a
muddy creek along much of it's course, a river unlike the great rivers that
Naaman, the commander of the armies of Aram, was familiar with.

And in the Gospel reading we hear about the disciples of Christ - who are
few in the face of much need - and who are commissioned to go into the
world - into the harvest that God has prepared - like lambs in the midst of
wolves: and to carry with them none of those things that people normally
rely upon as they travel - no purse, no bag, no sandals - and to proclaim
peace to all who will accept it - peace, and healing, and the nearness of
the Kingdom of God.

The story of Naaman's healing is one of my favourite bible stories.  As I
read it this week I asked myself, what I would want to hear if I was in the
congregation?  What's the good news? 

I think the good news here is found in the solution of the story.

Naaman has a problem, leprosy, one of the most dreaded diseases of the
ancient world, and he needs a solution, he needs a healing.  That's
something we can all relate to.

Naaman seeks his solution and, by the grace of God, he finds his solution.  
All he has to do is "Do it".

All he has to do is to humble himself and to recognize that his great
problem can be taken care of: taken care of in a simple act of obedience
within a small and insignificant river.

As you know, Naaman resists this idea.  

Naaman believes that his healing should come from the prophet Elisha
himself.  That Elisha should come out of his house and stand before him and
call on the name of God and wave his hands over his leprous spots and so
heal him.

Naaman is much like us.

He has a hard time grasping that the small things 
- the seemingly unimportant things
are the things that God most often uses to accomplish great things.

And he has a hard time grasping that solutions - especially divine
solutions - are most often wrapped up in obedience - obedience in what are
seemingly small matters.

I can think of people who have gone to their doctor after a heart attack 
and have been told to walk for 30 or so minutes each day.  It's a small
thing (relatively speaking) but many don't do it. 

Diet change is another one.   
The solution is there.   
And it's up to us to obey.   
But many don't.

In these folk, and indeed in my own life when I have been confronted with a
large problem, I can hear a bit of Naaman saying,  

   "I want the cure, but I don't want to be part of it.  Elisha is
   supposed to care of things for me.  I should only have to show up
   and be healed."

Naaman is told that his healing will be found in washing seven times in a
muddy river and he tramps off in a rage because he wants - and expects -
the solution to be something different, something more dramatic, something
more special, something that is more proportional to who he his and to what
is problem is.

How close Naaman came to walking away from the cure!  

Fortunately, his servants loved him enough to confront him and counsel him
with loving reason, 

   "If it had been a great thing that had cost a lot of money, 
   "if it had required a long journey, 
   "if it had required some heroic effort, 
   you would have done it..."

And Naaman responds to this reasoning, 
he listens to his servants.

I wonder what it must have been like for Naaman after the first dunk in the
Jordan?   

And after the second, third, fourth, and nothing had happened...

I wonder if Naaman began to doubt.  

Fifth.  Still no healing.  
Sixth.  Nothing.  

I wonder if he said, with mud dripping off his hair: 
"Let's get this over with. Yuck!" or "What's the use!"

Yet he persevered - he immersed himself the seventh time - and lo - the
blessing came!  

Obedience.  And then the blessing!
That's usually the way God works.  
  
We don't earn the blessing.  But are granted the blessing when we surrender
our wills in obedience to His will.

When we earnestly seek a solution to our problems, 
God is faithful and will supply a solution. 
 
If we choose to be obedient to that solution, 
our problem will be taken care of.  And more.  
Because not only is Naaman cured physically, but his soul is healed too.  
He knows afterward not only is there a prophet in Samaria, 
but that there is a living God in Israel.

When we are obedient to God's solution, even though God's solutions appear
guised as small matters, the results end up to be more than we wanted, more
even than we could have hoped for.

Small matters matter - especially when those matters are God directed and
we are obedient in them.

As for the gospel reading - well, small matters there as well.

In the case of the gospel reading it is the disciples themselves who are
small.  Small in the face of the task that Christ assigns them - the task
of being ones who go into the abundantly populated fields of God and
bringing in the harvest.

Like Naaman the disciples are told to do something that seems foolish. 
They are told to perform their tasks with absolutely none of the support
that folk normally have when they set forth on a journey or go out to
harvest an earthly crop. 

No purse containing a change of clothing or tools to make the job easier, 
no bag containing food to sustain them as they labour, no sandals to
protect their feet from the rocks of the roadways or the hot sands of the
wilderness.

They are told to rely only upon the welcome of those who will receive their
greeting of peace and to shake off the dust from their feet against those
will not and go on to the next place.

Indeed they are told not even to rejoice in the powers that God will give
them as they go forth: 
   the power to heal - the power to trample on snakes and scorpions and to
   overcome all the powers of evil,
but to rejoice only that their names are written in heaven.

In short they are told to rely on nothing familiar to them, but to rely
only upon what God will provide for them through men and women of peace 
as they proclaim the message concerning the nearness of the kingdom of God.

   "The harvest is plentiful - but the labourers are few" says Jesus.
   "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into
   his harvest field."

And then - his command and his statement of what things will be like....

   "Go!  I am sending you out like lambs among wolves."

Isn't it like that for us today?

We are constantly told by folk both within the church and those outside it
that we are few in number and that the need around us is great; greater
than our ability to address it.

How can we build an addition here - with so few folk - and so many of them
older folk?
   
How can we even make the regular budget, let along build something
beautiful for the work of God?
       
How can we touch the community with God's love when the worldly forces
around us are so strong and so opposed to that love.
          
How can we speak to our neighbours of God's peace and perform healings and
announce the coming of the Kingdom of God - when we have so few resources
and when the kingdom itself seems so small in comparison to the greed, to
the injustice, to the evil, of this world.

Indeed, how can we do anything for God - for Christ - when we are ourselves
are so small, so uncertain - and at times so divided among ourselves?

But we are commanded to go.  To go with nothing but the word of peace and
the promise that we will be looked after.

Like Naaman, like the disciples, we are confronted with a big problem - a
big task, and as with them the solution that has been proposed to us
requires of us two things:
   - to abandon our ideas of what the solution should look like 
   - and to wash ourselves in the cleansing waters of humble obedience,
in those same waters in which Naaman was immersed and Jesus himself was
baptised.

I don't know what all your special and individual problems may be  
All I know is that most of us, like Naaman, have one.

I don't know all the difficulties that each of you face as individuals. 

I do know, however, what the problem of our world is:
   - I do know that every home needs the peace of God to come upon it,
   - and that every nation needs the kingdom of God to draw close to it,
   - and that, indeed there is a huge task - a huge harvest - waiting for
   the servants of God - out there....

And I do know from the story of Naaman, and from the story of the sending
out of the 72 disciples, and from so many other passages of holy scripture 
   - that the answer to our problems is most likely already before us, 
   - and that it is most likely bears a humble form, 
   - and requires of us nothing more than a humble submission, a humble
   obedience.

In our finances - which so often look desperate,
   the Word has long told us that if we give a 10th of what we have to God,
that the windows of heaven will be opened and our land, our crops, our
families, will be richly blessed.

In our longing for peace of mind and a sense of hope and wholeness,
   the Word has long told us that if in everything we make our requests
   known to God with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving; and if we
   but meditate on those things that are worthy, those things that are
   good, beautiful, and true,
that the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep us safe in
the knowledge and love of God.

In our desire to have our burdens lightened or removed altogether,
   the word has long told us that if we but offer to Christ our burdens
   and take upon ourselves his burden, his cross,
that we will have rest.

Small matters - with big consequences; big consequences for those who
accept the word - who accept the solution - and who do what it asks.

Naaman's servants went to him and said, 

   "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing,
   would you not have done it?   How much more, then, when he tells
   you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" 

   So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the
   man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean
   like that of a young boy.

What is it that you need to do today?   

What have you put off doing because it seemed too simple, too small, too
silly to do?

What act of humble obedience do you need to perform so that you might claim
what God is offering to you, and through you - to your family, your
neighbours - and indeed to your world?

Is it as simple as remembering to pray each day?  To pray as Christ told
   his disciples to pray - for more workers for the harvest?  Or to pray
   for the peace of those homes which you enter - and to accept that which
   those who receive your greeting of peace offer to you without question,
   and without seeking more?

Does it require you to abandon your reliance on the small but needful
matters of life?
   - your home, your bank account, your job skills, your knowledge of the
   ways of the world?
And to trust instead in God to do what he has promised to do even as you
dip for the fourth, or the fifth, or even the sixth time into the muddy
waters of a spiritual Jordan?

The solution is not out there somewhere in a place where you have to look
for it.  Rather the word - the solution is here - it is already in your
hearts - and upon your lips, that is the word of faith that we are
proclaiming, the word God wants you to believe and act upon so that peace
may come upon your household and healing may be done in our community.

All in all today - the scriptures speak to us of today of small matters -
with big consequences.

It is up to us to receive the word - or not.

It is my prayer, and it is the prayer of Christ and of the whole church - 
that you may indeed receive the word of peace, and be ones who live by it
in trust and humble obedience.

Blessed be God, day by day.  Amen


SHARING TIME


PASTORAL PRAYER AND THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Let us pray to God - first in silence - thanking God for those things that
the Spirit lifts up as we meditate - and listening for God to speak to us
about who we are and those things we need to be about....

Loving God, your thoughts are greater than our thoughts, your ways, vaster
than ours.  Yet you love us and  call us to the fullness of your peace. 
You bring the Kingdom close to us and call us to enter it.  You provide
solutions to our problems and ask us to receive those solutions - and to
trust in you and do what you ask us to do.  Indeed, you lead us by your
word to new life  - asking only that we follow and so thereby enter that
life.   We praise and thank you Lord - we praise you for being so mindful
of us - and we thank you for coming unto us.   Help us to recognize you and
your word always - and to apply it to our lives by our thoughts and our
actions....  Lord, hear our prayer....

We pray to you Lord for your church and it's mission - the mission you have
entrusted to us.  Help us to be bold for you in the face of evil and
injustice - knowing that you will keep us safe - and to show forth your
healing power in those places which are willing to receive your peace. 
Indeed, bless us that we may indeed be a blessing and bring praise and
honour to your name.....  Lord, hear our prayer....

We pray to you Lord for our country.   Make our nation one known throughout
the world as an example of tolerance and of love - of sharing and of peace
- of justice and of compassion - not only towards it's citizens - but to
every other nation upon the face of the earth.... Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray to you Lord for the persons and situations that you have placed
upon our hearts this day.   Intercede, O Lord, and bring new hope, new joy,
new life where it is needed.  Lord hear the prayers we now lift before
you....  BIDDING PRAYER....  Lord, hear our prayer...

God of glory and love, peace comes from you alone.  Send us as peacemakers
and witnesses to your kingdom, and fill our hearts with joy in your promise
to us of salvation,  through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  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
         
   God of Justice and Love, Your way commands our obedience.  We can do
   nothing apart from the blessings You bestow.  We offer our lives and
   these our gifts to You.  We pray that the work of Your church may be
   enlarged, enriched and strengthened as it seeks to do your will and
   to show compassion, justice, and mercy in our world of need.  Accept
   what we bring, and multiply its effectiveness, through Christ our
   Lord.  Amen.


* HYMN:  For The Healing of The Nations"                           - VU 678


COMMISSIONING:  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 AND THREEFOLD AMEN                                     - VU 971
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name,
- And may God give you mercy and peace;
- May Christ Jesus give you power over all that would harm you;
- And may the Holy Spirit produce within you a rich harvest of joy and
life.
both now and forevermore.  Amen


CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"                                 - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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