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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 22- Proper 17 - Year C
Jeremiah 2:4-13 Psalm 81; Luke 14:1,7-14
"Broken Cisterns and Springs of Living Water"



READING:  Jeremiah 2:4-13 Psalm 81; Luke 14:1,7-14 
SERMON :  "Broken Cisterns and Springs of Living Water"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or22sn 796000

   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: Sermon material, in particular the earlier illustrations
   are adapted from a sermon/note shared by Lewis Ford
   (ford@physics.tamu.edu) as it appeared in the RCL List Server
   "GospelTalk" (gospeltalk@cdepot.net) on August 24 1998.
  

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)
   
            
* WORDS OF WELCOME & 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  Our God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
P  The Lord is our helper, we will not be afraid. 
L  Through Jesus, let us offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise.
P  We will praise God 
   and we will not forget to do good and to share with others, 
   for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

THIS WEEK AT ST. ANDREW'S
- Welcome and Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries  
- Special Matters  
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


MUSIC AND SILENT PREPARATION


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
To you we offer our sacrifice of praise, O God, for we know that the fruit
of lips that confess your name and the produce of lives that share and do
good are a pleasing sacrifice to you.   To you we continually come with
thanksgiving in our hearts   for we know that through Christ we are
invited to your heavenly feast   and made fit to come by his sacrifice of
obedience and love.   Truly, O God, you are our helper and we are not
afraid because of it.  Bless now, we pray, with your presence, our prayer
and our song - our hearing  and our seeing   our speaking and our acting -
that glory may be yours and that we may be a part of you   we ask it in
Jesus's name.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Praise To The Lord, The Almighty"                        - VU 220


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "The Heavenly Feast"
Theme     God Invites Everyone To His Table
Object    Cake With Candles
Source    Self

Good morning.... how many of here have birthdays each year???....   Have
you ever had a birthday party???  Why do you have a party???   (Fun for
them   fun for others).

Parties are fun   fun for you and fun for your guests.   In fact whenever
I have a party half of the fun I have is seeing how much fun the others
are having. 

Tell me - if you were going to have a party right now   who would you
invite???   Is that all???   More???

Jesus says in the bible that if we want to have a really great party   one
that will make us really happy, we  should think about inviting people who
are not our friends.  To invite poor kids that have never been to a party,
people who are disabled   who have a hard time getting to a party   people
who might not even be able to bring you a party gift -- and that even
though they will not be able to repay you --- you will be blessed by God
in heaven -- when God has his big party.  

The bible tells us that God is going to have a party really soon - and it
tells us that God invites everyone to come who wants to come -- and that
those who have done the same thing as he does -- will be very special
guests indeed -- because they love just like he does.   

Take this cake - with the number 7 on it - seven is the number of God -
and do with it what you want -- and as you eat it - or share it -- think
about how God holds a party and what Jesus says for us to do.  And
whenever you go to party - think about it too.
  

PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord God  - we thank you for our birthday - and for the
   parties that we can have. - We thank you too God - for inviting us
   to your party. - Help us to be like you - and to show love to
   everyone. - Amen

   And in the words Jesus taught us....  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:  "Come, Let Us Sing To The Lord"                           - VU 222


A READING FROM JEREMIAH 2:4-13
   (NIV)  Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of
   the house of Israel. {5} This is what the LORD says: "What fault did
   your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me?  They
   followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. {6} They did
   not ask, 'Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us
   through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a
   land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one
   lives?' {7} I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and
   rich produce.  But you came and defiled my land and made my
   inheritance detestable. {8} The priests did not ask, 'Where is the
   LORD?'  Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders
   rebelled against me.  The prophets prophesied by Baal, following
   worthless idols. {9} "Therefore I bring charges against you again,"
   declares the LORD.  "And I will bring charges against your children's
   children. {10} Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to
   Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like
   this: {11} Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods
   at all.)  But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless
   idols. {12} Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great
   horror," declares the LORD. {13} "My people have committed two sins:
   They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their
   own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 81, Part II (Voices United 796)


A READING FROM LUKE 14:1,7-14
   (NIV)  One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent
   Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.  When he noticed how the
   guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this
   parable: {8} "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take
   the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have
   been invited. {9} If so, the host who invited both of you will come
   and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.'  Then, humiliated, you will
   have to take the least important place. {10} But when you are invited,
   take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to
   you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.'  Then you will be honoured
   in the presence of all your fellow guests. {11} For everyone who
   exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
   exalted." {12} Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon
   or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or
   your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you
   will be repaid. {13} But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the
   crippled, the lame, the blind, {14} and you will be blessed.  Although
   they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the
   righteous."

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


* HYMN:  "Though Ancient Walls"                                    - VU 691
                 

SERMON:  "Broken Cisterns and Springs of Living Water"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
   listen.  Amen.

From broken cisterns to springs of living water welling up unto eternal
life, and from conversations about how to behave at dinner party and whom
to invite, our readings today cover it all.

Through the prophet Jeremiah God speaks to us today in the language of the
courtroom.

The people of Israel are being put on trial,
and God, who is both accuser and judge finds them lacking.
The counts are spelled out:

- The people have strayed from God.
- They have followed worthless idols and so become worthless themselves.
- They  have forgotten the God that brought them out of Egypt and led them
through the wilderness in safety and brought them to a good land.
- They have defiled that promised land and even their priests do not seek
the will of God or his presence among the people.

It all comes down to two things, says God in verse 13:

   "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the
   spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken
   cisterns that cannot hold water."

Serious charges and yet imagine just hard it is to bring these charges 
    and to actually have them heard 
and hearing them is what is all about.

God is not interested in condemning his people,
   that is not why he kept his promises to Abraham and Sarah and raised
   up a people,
       and that is not why he led those people from bondage in Egypt and
       gave them a rich and fertile land.
God wants his people to prosper.
   God wants his people to live.
       Indeed - in the language of today's gospel reading - God wants his
       people to feast in heaven with him.

And for this to happen   we must listen to God.  We must stretch out our
hands to receive the invitation he extends to us, and, using the resources
he has given us - we must ready ourselves for the day that is coming.

But sometimes it is hard to get people to hear what God is saying.

The land of Israel in the time of Jeremiah,
   was much like the land of Israel in the time of Jesus
       and much like we, here in Golden, British Columbia are today,
despite variations in the particular political and economic conditions of
each.

People worked hard for a living, they married and raised families
   they sought, as best they were able, a piece of the pie,
       and some had more of it - much more of it - and some had much less,
but all in all the dynamics of living are the same from one time in
history to another.

We are social creatures with a social pattern
We are creatures of flesh, with fleshly needs.

And these can conflict with the other thing that we are    which is a
people of God   made in God's image   beings of the Spirit with a
spiritual destiny.

All the sins of Israel came down to two things:
- forgetting God and his goodness;
- and relying upon their own efforts, their own concepts, their own
patterns of behaviour, to live life,
   relying upon cisterns that they dug themselves to collect droplets of 
   life giving water, rather than upon receiving what they need from the
   living springs that God has provided.

In dry land - a land like Israel, 
   heck, even in land like my Grandfather lived on outside Victoria over
   50 years ago,
cisterns are often a necessity - that is, unless you are near a spring,
   a spring like that which watered Bethsaida, and that which lay in the
   heart of Jersusalem at one time; a spring like that which gushed from
   the rock in the wilderness after the people complained to God about
   his  lack of care for them.

   "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the
   spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken
   cisterns that cannot hold water.

You know the sins of Israel at the time of Jeremiah, 
and the sins of Israel at the time of Jesus, 
and our sins, are kind of the same.

We allow our social conditions and patterns,  and our nature as physical
creatures to rule over us and imperil the fullness of life that we could
be experiencing, the life that God created us for in the first place.

We try to capture mere drops of life giving water through our technology,
our labour, our institutions, and our understanding of what is right  
instead of wading out into the middle of the springs of living water that
God provides in his word by his spirit.

We need to hear this charge, this inditement from time to time,
so that perhaps - we can give our head a shake, our bum a boot,
and get ourselves back on track, get our world back on track.

So it is that Jesus talks today to the guests at a dinner being held by a
prominent Pharisee about peculiar things like where they should expect to
seat themselves at a dinner, and who it is they should invite to their
feasts and parties if they want to be blessed by God.

I could go into a whole thing on humility here.   About how we try to put
ourselves first in most things - rather than going with the flow and
allowing our host, our God, to decide who is first and who is last.

I was at a store not so long ago.   I had my purchase on the counter.  The
clerk had swiped my bank card through the bank-card gadget.   Abruptly an
anxious, overbearing woman demanded of the clerk: "Take me first...."

She did not look at me or offer an apology or give a compelling reason why
my transaction should be interrupted.  She did not ask if I minded, she
simply commandeered the clerk.  I said nothing.  As I exited the parking
lot, the woman s car was just ahead of mine.  She had saved ten seconds
time.   

Simply bad manners?  No.
This is a modern example of what happened in today's gospel.

People trying to make themselves more important,
people placing themselves first,
people looking for the best seats rather than letting go and letting God.

The counts against us haven't changed much from age to age in the
courtroom of our God.

But remember, God' doesn't charge us so he may condemn us 
- but so that we may hear,
and in hearing - that we may find our way to his living water 
- to his marvellous feast.

The second portion of the Parable of the Dinner Party comes even closer
us, especially if we are not ones who like the best seats and the
preferred places in life.

It comes closer because it names our habit of doing things the natural
way, the way that common sense tells us to do them, the way our biology
and our society normally does them.

The message of the second part of today's gospel reading is that we need
to learn to start doing things for those who can do nothing for us in
return.  Our love is to be poured out to the poor, the crippled, the lame,
and the blind.   

The wonderful book of sermons, Bread of Angels" by Barbara Brown Taylor 
talks of this very eloquently.  Spend time with God by spending time with
children - no paybacks, no status, no influences, no income.  

   "It is what you do when you think no one is looking, with someone
   who does not count, for no reward, that ushers you into the
   presence of God....  If you want to enter this kingdom [of God]
   there is a way; go find a nobody to put your arms around and say
   hello to God."   

The message of Jesus  is about openness, and about trust,
it is about reaching out beyond our natural reach to embrace others, 
to embrace life, to embrace God.

The sad truth is that most people reach out only to those that came within
their reach.  They do, in other words no more than anyone else does -
anyone with half a heart.

Think about it.  Do we not favour our friends, our family, our co-workers,
those we play with?
For the most part everyone else is "outside"
- "outside" our pattern of thought and concern,
- "outside" our care and attention
- "outside" and forgotten.

We have only so much time it seems.  And that time should go, we tell
ourselves, to maintaining the important relationships that we have - and
to doing those things that help us achieve our goals.

When was the last time you invited a stranger to your table?  
   A panhandler?  A transient?  
   Someone from a nursing home or, worse, a group home?
When was the last time you even talked to a stranger about more than the
time of day?

Have you ever met someone who issued an invitation in the street for folk
to come to his son's wedding banquet?  Or retirement party?

Mind blowing idea is it not?

   But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the
   lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Although they cannot
   repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the
   righteous."

We have difficulties with this kind of thing for some very good reasons 
- reasons I will not condemn -
but do we even stop for those broken down on the highway or pray for
strangers we see rushing by in an ambulance?

   When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame,
   the blind,  and you will be blessed.  Although they cannot repay
   you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Strong words.  Strange words.

A call to think beyond the boundaries that we normally think within.

It is a call to spend the kind of time that we would not naturally spend
with others, 
   those who can't return blessing for blessing,
       perhaps even those who can't even speak a word of gratitude,
or those whom we think will just use us, as they have used so many others.

I got ticked off earlier this week 
  another traveller came through town looking for gas and food money  
  he had a good story of unplanned need and a line abut being willing and
able to do good in return 
and I helped the man,  
- to only discover later that this person was a scam artist, working his
way around the region, paying his rent and his gas on a regular basis by
coming onto churches with his tale of woe and his look of integrity.

As I thought about the matter in the next day or so,
I became ticked off that I was ticked off.

"Why, oh why", I said to myself, "was I ticked off at the traveller and
myself?"

Isn't this a sign that I attached importance to the money and to the
thought I was being really helpful than I did to the fact that God is in
charge and will make it all come out right in the end?

Or was it a kind of pride that caused me to resent being made a fool even
though this scam artist did right in coming to a church, or a series of
churches, he did right in that it he assumed it was a kind of place which
would help such as he, were his need legitimate?

And then again - wasn't his need in fact legitimate?
Did he not need to eat?  To have gas money to get to the next town?

I felt God convicting me.  Suggesting to me that in my reaction to this
stranger that maybe I am still relying upon the cisterns that I and other
people have dug, instead upon his living water

The sins of Israel are the sins of Adam and of Eve,
the sins that you and I have.

And God knows we need to hear that message from time to time,
not so that we might be condemned,
but so that we might receive new life.

A final thought for today.

Someone suggested in the online discussion of the gospel text for today
that they were "uneasy" about the motivation that Jesus holds out for
changing our conduct with regard to the seats we seek at a banquet or who
we invite to parties of our own.   That person writes:

   The passage tells us important things about how to live.  But our
   motivation...  I am not so sure I like what it seems to say about
   that.

   You know about doing good so we might have rewards in heaven. Being
   generous to those who can't pay back because we know a greater
   payback is coming later.

I have some sympathy for this concern,
it is true our motive for things ought to be love, not self-interest,
and our method of doing things guided by a humility of spirit,
but   but what's wrong with remembering what is at stake?

What is wrong with remembering 
   when we begin to lapse into our natural behaviour - the behaviour
   determined by the bonds of family and friends, workers and playmates,
that life is far more than what is can be found in simple survival,
   more even than that which can be found in power and prestige and 
wealth - and health.

That there is a spring of living water that can satisfy us forever,
a spring that makes puny our own cracked and broken cisterns.

There is a God.  
There is a blessedness to being with God.
And there is an eternity.  
It seems to me that we should seek it!

And it seems to me that God speaks the word that he does to us,
   that he indites us in his courtroom
       and pleads with us from the rooftops and on the street corners,
so that we might hear and hearing - remember that he is good,
and turn to him and drink from his springs of living water.

Praise be to God, day by day.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Come In, Come In And Sit Down"                           - VU 395


THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Gracious Lord, every place in Your presence is a place of honour.  May the
vision of Your love so fill us with grace and peace that all may come to
the banquet of life that is Your Kingdom.  Make us a people who truly
reach out past that circle of friends and relatives that cluster around
our lives.  Make us a people who open their hearts even to those beyond
those we work with or play with.  Keep us mindful that true reward is
found in loving those who do not love us   and doing good towards those
who cannot repay us or help us in any way...   Lord, hear our prayer...

Father, we pray that you would expand our world view   and help us to see
those who are poor, crippled, lame, and blind and to invite them to the
celebrations of life that we hold.  We pray that you would bless us with
your heart...   Lord, hear our prayer.....

We pray O Lord for those who undergoing trial or tribulation of the flesh
and of the spirit that you would bless them...  Lord, hear our prayer...
 
We pray O Lord, for the needs of those named here this morning - some of
whom we know - some whom we don't know.   Hear, O God those names   and
touch those people and those situations with your life bestowing spirit
and grant that which they need.... BIDDING PRAYER
... Lord hear our prayer....

All this we ask in the name of the one who convicts us of our sin and who
offers to us your forgiving and reconciling love - Christ Jesus our Lord
and Saviour - our brother and our friend.   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
Dedication

   Gracious God, you walk beside us in our leisure and in our labour. 
   We dedicate these offerings to You.  May our work and our leisure,
   give witness to what we trust in and who we believe, and bring
   honour and glory to Your name, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "God Be With You Till We Meet Again"            - VU 422


* 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, care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus,   
and may the Spirit that was in Christ Jesus be in you, 
   enabling you to know God's will 
   and empowering you to do it in all that you do, and think, and say ... 
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you
now and always. 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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