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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 15 - Proper 10 - Year C
Colossians 1:1-14; Psalm 25; Luke 10:25-37
"What Must I Do"

READING:  Colossians 1:1-14; Psalm 25; Luke 10:25-37 
SERMON :  "What Must I Do"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
C-or15smsu.y-c 620940

   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 Children's Story is adapted from Adapted from one for
   this Sunday in "Children's Sermon Service Plus", 1995 vol.25, no.3

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  I will praise the name of the Lord with a song.
P  We will glorify our God with thanksgiving.
L  Praise and thanksgiving pleases our God.
P  God rejoices when his people remember him, 
   when they love him and give thanks for all that he has done. 
L  Let heaven and earth praise the Lord; 
P  Let the seas and everything that moves therein glorify our God.  
L  Let his people open their hearts to Him.  
P  Let them lift up their hands in prayer and in worship,
   now and forevermore.  Amen.

- Welcome and Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries  
- Special Matters  
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


God of grace and of glory, God of strength and of tenderness, God of peace
and of joy - holy God, we ask you to hear our prayers this day and to
direct our actions.  May this time of worship touch us and bless you - we
ask it in the name of Jesus - Amen.

* HYMN:  "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty"                     - VU 315

CHILDREN'S TIME: "No Excuse For Love"
Object    Alarm Clock
Theme     Who Is My Neighbour 
Source    Adapted from Children's Sermon Service Plus, 1995 vol. 25, no. 3

Good morning -- Throughout the Bible we have many examples of people who
make excuses for themselves and their actions.  In the first book of the
Bible Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake for their disobedience to
God.   Do you know of anyone who goes around blaming other people for
things that they have done themselves???   Yes --

I brought this alarm clock today to show you how I might have made an
excuse for not being here this morning.  Can you help me with the excuses? 
   - it didn't work     
   - I forgot to set it 
   - Charlene forgot to set it
   - the time changed from daylight savings  
   - the power went off

Among the biggest excuses we make are the excuses we make for not loving
other people.  Can you think of some excuses for this:
   - he is a mean person    
   - they are dirty     
   - they are from another country
   - she hurt me     
  - he's already got everything he needs ....etc

The gospel reading today is about a man who was looking for an excuse to
not like Jesus.  He asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life
and when Jesus told him to love the Lord your God with all your heart and
soul and strength and mind and to love his neighbour as himself, he
answered Jesus - but who is my neighbour....

Who is your neighbour???  The drug user down the street?  The gay person? 
The kid who hit you?

The man who talked to Jesus probably thought it was OK to not love
foreigners and immigrants - sinners and tax collectors.  Mexicans and East
Indians.  He could still exclude some people from his care and include
others that he wanted to include.  In his religion it was considered OK to
hate some people - to avoid them - to cast them out...

In the gospel lesson you will hear how Jesus answered the man - for now all
I want you to do is think about who is your neighbour...  Let us pray

   Gracious and compassionate God - teach us how to love - show us how
   to care as you care - give us the will and the desire - to be a good
   neighbour -- to all those you send to us.  - We ask it in Jesus'
   name.  Amen
   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

* HYMN OF PRAISE:  "Jesus Loves Me"                                - VU 365

   (NIV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy
   our brother, {2} To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at
   Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. {3} We always
   thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
   {4} because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love
   you have for all the saints-- {5} the faith and love that spring from
   the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already
   heard about in the word of truth, the gospel {6} that has come to you.
   All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it
   has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood
   God's grace in all its truth. {7} You learned it from Epaphras, our
   dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our
   behalf, {8} and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. {9} For
   this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped
   praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his
   will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. {10} And we pray
   this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may
   please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in
   the knowledge of God, {11} being strengthened with all power according
   to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and
   patience, and joyfully {12} giving thanks to the Father, who has
   qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom
   of light. {13} For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and
   brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, {14} in whom we have
   redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 25 (Voices United 752)   

   (NIV) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.
   "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" {26}
   "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" {27} He
   answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
   your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and,
   'Love your neighbour as yourself.'" {28} "You have answered correctly,"
   Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." {29} But he wanted to
   justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" {30} In
   reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when
   he fell into the hands of robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes,
   beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. {31} A priest happened
   to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by
   on the other side. {32} So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and
   saw him, passed by on the other side. {33} But a Samaritan, as he
   travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on
   him. {34} He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and
   wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and
   took care of him. {35} The next day he took out two silver coins and
   gave them to the innkeeper.  'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I
   return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' {36}
   "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell
   into the hands of robbers?" {37} The expert in the law replied, "The
   one who had mercy on him."  Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

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

* HYMN:  "When I Needed A Neighbour"                               - VU 600

SERMON:  "What Must I Do?"

   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

A certain man - a lawyer - stood up to put Jesus to the test, asking him:    
"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus answers:       What is written in the law?  
                     What do you read there?"

The lawyer replies,  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
                     and with all your soul, and with all your strength,
                     and with all your mind; and your neighbour as

Jesus then says      You have answered rightly, 
                     do this and you will live."

Up to this point in the conversation between Jesus and the lawyer
everything has gone fine - the questions and the answers exchanged by Jesus
and the lawyer have encapsulated the essence not only of Judaism, but
indeed of all religions.

Love God - love your neighbour.

But then comes the real question the lawyer wanted to ask,
   - the question to test the character and the faith of Jesus
   - a question that indeed tests the character and the faith that each
   one of has
that question has only five words in it -
   - five words that each of us should try to remember and to answer for
   ourselves at least once a week, if not once each and every day.

That question is this -- "And who is my neighbour?"

It is a pretty heavy question my friends,
- a question upon whose answer depends much of what we say and do
- a question upon whose answer may even depend our relationship with God.

And who is my neighbour?  

Who is it that I am to love as I love myself?
Who is that I am to show favour to?  
Who is that I am called to work for?  
To sacrifice for?  
To pray for?

The scripture states that the lawyer asked Jesus this question as a means
of justifying himself - as a means of showing that he - a teacher of the
law of God - was doing all that God asked him to do.

It has been suggested - and I think rightly so given some of the teachings
of the time and the reality of human nature at all times, that the lawyer
is really asking Jesus:

   "Who is NOT my neighbour?  Who is that I am allowed to ignore or to
   neglect?  Perhaps even to hate?  What is the minimal thing that I
   need to do to keep God's law of love - and what can I safely get
   away with not doing...

That is a horrifying approach to keeping the law of God isn't it?
Who must I love - and who can I get away with not loving...

It is a horrifying approach to keeping the law of God - but it makes sense
when you think about it; it makes sense when you look at the world and
consider the problems within it.

There are sinners my friends -
people so evil that even God surely cannot love them -
Karla Homolka - Bernard Teale - Clifford Olsen - 
people who have broken God's law in the most horrible ways imaginable.

Surely these folk are not our neighbours.  
Surely we do not need to love them.

Surely there are other folk who are not our neighbours as well - folk who
deserve our rebuke, our contempt, our anger, or simply our neglect?

Surely those who live outside the law of God 
live outside of the law that says we should love them.

Such, I think, was the kind of reasoning that lay behind the lawyer's
question, "And who is my neighbour?"

Think about it 
- How often do we write people off because they are beyond the pale?
- How often do we focus our attention, our time, our love, upon particular
kinds of people because of where they live and what they do and how they
are related to us,
   and deliberately ignore, neglect, or slight others because of where
   they live and what they do?

I know that in myself I sometimes feel a tremendous anger toward the lazy,
towards the freeloaders and the takers of our society.  I recall the words
of scripture that state that those who would eat should work - and I allow
myself at times to get carried away by my feelings - by my sense of what is
right - and to judge those whom I have NEVER MET by whether or not they
have a job or are even trying to work.

And I know that in almost every place I have lived in this country there is
a resentment towards an entire class of people who happen to come from
another land - a resentment that is built upon some true horror stories -
but which, in the end, fails to discriminate between persons in that class
of people who have done wrong and those who have not.

In the news this past week out of Aylmer, Ontario - which I lived near to
four years ago - mention has been made of one such group of persons - a
group known there as "Mexican Mennonites" - some of whom have a deeply
conservative faith - a faith that includes the idea that there is nothing
wrong, and indeed something right, about physically punishing children.

On the West Coast - in my logging days - the group most despised were East
Indians.   On the East Coast - Central Canadians, particularly those from
Toronto, all of whom are suspected of thinking Toronto to be centre of the

Refugees, immigrants, boat people, 
   people with AIDS, drug users, welfare bums, criminals, 
the list of the unworthy at times seems endless,
the list of those who are not worthy to be called our neighbours,.
The list of those who for one reason or another do not deserve our love,
or at least not as worthy of as much love as we might give to those we
regard as more pure, more deserving, more esteemed by God.
o not love them as much as we might love those who do good.

Yes indeed, the lawyer was seeking to justify himself when he asked Jesus
   "And who is my neighbour",
and perhaps - in a silent way - in an unspoken way - so do we when we hear
the commandment of God to love our neighbours as our self.

   But wanting to justify himself, the lawyers asked Jesus, "And who is
   my neighbour?" 

   And Jesus replied: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,
   and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and
   went away, leaving him half dead.  And by chance a priest was going
   down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 
   So likewise a Levite when he came to the place and saw him, passed
   by on the other side.  But a Mexican Mennonite - an East Indian - A
   Serb - A Croatian -  a man who had been on welfare for many years -
   an unrepentant sinner -  while travelling came near the man, and
   when he saw him, he was moved by pity and he wrapped up his wounds,
   and took him in his own car, and took care of him, and paid for his
   lodgings until he was well again.

We know, don't we, the answer to the question that Jesus then asks the
lawyer - the question: "which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour
to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?"

We know the answer because we have heard it before.  
   And because deep within us the law of God is indeed written upon our
   hearts by the Holy Spirit.
We know - and - if we are honest - we, like the lawyer, feel unjustified,
unholy - not really as loving as we thought we were at the first.  

And so it should be 
- for each of us has indeed fallen short of the glory of God.

Who was a neighbour to the man?  

The lawyer knew the answer - it was written in his heart as well.
   he knew that the one who showed the man mercy was neighbour to him,
and with Jesus' next words, the words, "Go and do likewise"
   he realized that the really important question concerning loving others
   was not so much "And who is my neighbour "
but rather "What must I do to be a neighbour?"  
"To whom must I become a neighbour?" 

It is not always an easy question to answer.  It is not always easy because
while we know the answer in our head and our hearts - real life keeps
getting in the way.

Quite a few years ago a study was done at Princeton University.

   The study dealt with people's readiness to help others.  Forty
   students were involved.  Half of them were given a manuscript on
   vocational placements of seminarians of which they were to make a
   recording.  The other half were given the text of today's parable
   with the same instructions.  The recording session was to take place
   on the other side of the campus from where they were.

   One third of the students were told that they had plenty of time to
   reach the recording session.  One third was told that they had to go
   immediately in order to make it on time.  And one third were told
   that they were already late.  Each student was given a designated
   route to the recording studio.  Along that route, although the
   students did not know it, a man had been placed.  He was in one of
   the longer and darker alleys - and he was to pretend to be in pain
   and in obvious need of help.

   The results are very instructive.  First of all the reaction of the
   students to the man in the alley was not affected in the slightest
   by the material that they had read and practised before heading for
   their recording session.

   The main factor in whether or not the students stopped to help the
   man in pain was whether or not they had enough time to get to the
   recording studio.

   Only 16 of the 40 students stopped at all.  Of this number the most
   were from students who had plenty of time - 63% of those students
   stopped.  Only 45% of those with just enough time stopped, and only
   10% of those who were told that they were late stopped.

"What must I do to inherit eternal life" 
is the question the lawyer first asks Jesus.

It was a question meant to test the knowledge and faith of Jesus.

The answer to that question  - and to the follow-up question,
"Who is my neighbour", test us.

What are your priorities?  What keeps you from loving others?
From not only recognizing them as your neighbours, but actually helping
them, actually loving them?

Perhaps it is time to stop and think about what is important -
about what leads to eternal life, and what does not.

Each day God sends people to us - people for us to love - 
whether those people be clerks in our banks and our stores, 
panhandlers on our streets, teenagers on our corners, 
or the people who live a few blocks over from us.

A few years ago, back when I lived near Alymer, Ontario - in a village
called Springfield, God asked me to love a woman who was a welfare mother
with more brats than you could shake a stick at.  Her home was filthy, her
children in trouble at school, and her property littered with motorcycle
parts and the refuse from several dogs and cats.
From the moment of our first coffee together - perched carefully on a dirty
chair buried somewhere in her kitchen - it turned out to be an easy thing
to love Gayle - she turned out to be generous and kind and loving and more
spiritual than most people I have met over the years.  

God also brought to me a 90 year old matriarch - a woman of Scottish
origin.   She ruled her extensive clan with a firm and commanding love, 
Mabel Empey - and she was easy to love as well - for she showed love and
care to me from our first meeting in her immaculate and comfortable home.

But it isn't always easy to love the folk we meet.

God has also sent to me on different days folk who have hurt me or hurt
others - and my natural reaction- which is not always one of kindness or
mercy - tries to get in my way - and in the way of Christ's love coming out
from within me.  I want to turn away from - to ignore - to forget certain
people.  I want to be angry at certain folk and groups of folk and to feel
good about that anger - to feel righteous in it 
-- and so it is for most of  you as well.

There are folk out there who do not act like they are our neighbours,
or the neighbours of anyone else.  Folk who do not show love to me - or to
anyone or anything else I care for.

That is the way it is in the world around us. 

But we are not of the world my friends.  We are of God - we are born of the
Spirit into Christ, and we are called to live differently - to think
differently - to do differently.

We are called to be neighbours to those who are not our neighbours -
to love those who do not necessarily love us,
to give to others who may not ever give back to us.

"Who was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
"What must I do to be a neighbour?"  
"To whom must I become a neighbour?" 

These are all good questions, 
questions that each of us do well to ponder as we consider the larger
question that Jesus responds too in today's gospel 

   "Teacher.  What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

And as we ponder his answer:

   'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
   and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your
   neighbour as yourself.'"

May God bless you in your meditation.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Spirit of The Living God"                                - VU 376

Let us take a moment to remember before God the kinds of people we say
aren't our neighbours; people we try to pass by on the other side of the
*  people whose skin is not the same colour as ours
*  people whose bodies are broken or twisted by disease or injury
*  people whose politics differ from our own
*  people who have lived so long on charity that they have never learned 
   of any other life
*  the single mothers who rely on welfare all their days.
*  the young man with AIDS
*  the young person in prison
*  the person just released from mental hospital
*  the person who has hurt us
*  the person who is our servant, the one paid to look after us

And let us confess our reasons for avoiding them, for not loving them:
*  our fear of moral contamination
*  our inability to separate bad actions and poor choices from the people
   who must live with the consequences
*  our fear that what we believe might be proved wrong
*  our love of ease, security, possessions
*  our traditions, our grudges, our pride, our selfishness, 
   our lack of faith

Let us pray - Lord Jesus, we can't hide in the safe shadow of the law anymore.
The light of your love shows us who our neighbours are, 
And it also shows up all the barriers we have raised; 
And all the excuses that we have rehearsed, for not loving as you love. 
Forgive us, and set us free.... Lord hear our prayer.... 

Father - we know that you are love - and that they who abide in love abide
in you and you in them.  We would abide in you -and have you abide in us. 
Help us see the specific and concrete things that we can do to show love to
one another -- and grant us the strength to do these things -- the courage
- and the will - for many forces seek to deter us from doing good, many
forces attempt to destroy what you would build in us and through us -- Lord
hear our prayer....

Gracious Spirit, search our hearts too this day and intercede for us; speak
for us before the throne of heaven.  Grant we pray the blessing we ask for
those whom we name now before you in our hearts and with the words of our
lips....  BIDDING PRAYER...

- Lord, we pray for those who are in need of your healing touch...       
- Lord, we pray for those who struggle today, those in conflict, those who
face oppression or who live in the midst of war...  Lord Hear Our Prayer.... 

Loving God - may we, and your whole church, prove to be neighbours to those
around us.   Help us to indeed love you with all our heart, soul, strength
and mind, and to love all people as we love ourselves.  Amen.


* 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
   Gracious and loving Father - we love you - and we thank you for your
   love - a love that upholds us - a love that surrounds us and keeps
   us - a love that never lets us go.   Receive, O God, our gifts at
   this time - gifts given in obedience to your will - gifts for your
   work in this world.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

* HYMN: "We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)"                       - VU 595

* 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.

Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name,
and may all the blessings of God be upon you 
- may God the Creator renew your life 
- may God the Saviour dwell within you, 
- and may God the Spirit guide animate all your thoughts and actions 
both now and in the world to come.  Amen

CHORAL 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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