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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 22- Proper 17 - Year C
Hebrews 13:1-8; Psalm 81; Luke 14:1,7-14
"The Table of God"



READING:  Hebrews 13:1-8; Psalm 81; Luke 14:1,7-14  
SERMON :  "The Table of God"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or22su 945000

   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 based on a story by Eldon
   Weisheit, "The Gospel for Kids - Series C", Concordia, 1979, p 101.
   The Call to Worship is from Bruce Prewer as cited in John Maynard
   "Prayers and Litanies for Ordinary 22", August 2001.  The Prayer 
   of Dedication and the Eucharistic and the Departing Prayer are 
   based ones by Moira Laidlaw, also as cited in Maynard.  Billy 
   Graham Conference quote from "Just As I Am" 1997 and Charlemagne 
   story from Gary Maguffee, (mcgary@LOGANTELE.COM) "Sermon" as sent 
   to the PRCL List, August , 2001.


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  We are here to worship a wonderful God.
   Don't come as slaves, come as those made free in Christ Jesus.
   Don't come as the unworthy, come as invited guests of our Lord.
   Don't come as outsiders, come as much-wanted children of God the
   Father.
   Come as the joyful, come as the eager, come as the thankful, 
   come as the recipients of amazing grace.
P  Praise be to God, now and forever.  Amen.
   

* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Loving God - we thank you for inviting us to come into your presence and
to eat at the table your wisdom has prepared.  Here among us are  people
from east and west and from north and south.  Here among us are those who
are in need - and those who are able to give generously from hearts
overflowing with your love.  Forgive us Lord for the sin that has kept us
from knowing the blessings of your table and for those attitudes and
actions which have excluded others or regarded them as less worthy than we
to participate in your sacred mysteries.  Grant that this time may be one
in which we honour your name and in which your gifts are shared as you
have determined.  In Jesus's name we ask that your bread may sustain us
and your wine give us and all our brothers and sisters eternal joy.  Amen


* HYMN:   "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"                          - VU 232


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Sharing and Helping"
Theme     Give without thought of return
Object    Coins
Source    based on a story by Eldon Weisheit, "The Gospel for Kids -
          Series C", Concordia, 1979, page 101.

Good morning.  Today I want to talk to you about sharing and caring and
helping one another.  To help me do that I brought some coins. (Bring
change out of your pocket)  Have any of your brought any coins today???  
Can you go get some? 
 
What I am going to do is give this money to some of you.  Who has a dime?  
Let me give you one.  Now that you have two dimes can you give me yours?  
Who has a nickel?  Let me give you another.  Now - you have a nickel -
could you let me have one?  (etc).

I feel good now - I have given my money away.  Jesus tells us to share -
and I have shared what I have.  But have I really given anything away? 
That is right, I still have the same amount of money that I started with.  
I have only really traded money with some of you.

In our bible reading today Jesus tells us that we are not helping people
when we trade with them.  If I feed only those who also feed me one day I
am helping myself, not others.  If I invite people to my house  knowing
that one day they will invite me to their house - then I am not really
caring for them - because it all comes back to me.  Jesus tells us to help
people who need help.  They are the ones who can't pay us back for the
help we give them.  

Everybody likes to give gifts to people who give gifts back.  But because
we are followers of Jesus we  can do more than that.  We can also give
gifts and help those who can't give back to us.  Jesus came to be part of
our lives.   He gave himself for all people.  He didn't say he would help
only those who were good or those who tried hard.  He came to help
everyone.   He died for the world.  When you know that Jesus loves you
that much and that he is taking care of you, you can help others.  You can
love them and share the love of Jesus with them.  You love them and help
them, not because  they have deserved it, or because they will pay it back
- but because you have received love from Jesus, and so you can in like
manner give it to them.

That is what we do with the Mission and Service fund each week when we
take an offering.  We give  money to communities and churches and groups
in countries that need our help.  They can't help us - or pay it back -
but they can know something of the love and care of God for them - that
love and care we have received.  I would like now to give this money to
you - and maybe today you might want to spend it as you want, or give it
to someone else, maybe even to the Mission & Service Fund, who needs help.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Loving God - you send the rain to fall on the just and the unjust -
   and make the sun rise on the righteous and the unrighteous.  - We
   thank you for helping us - we thank you for loving us .  Help us to
   love and care for others - as you love and care for us - help us to
   feed the hungry - to cloth the naked - and to bring your joy and
   hope to those in need.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  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 of A Wonderful Love"                 - VU 574



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 HEBREWS 13:1-8
   (NIV)  Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Do not
   forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have
   entertained angels without knowing it.  Remember those in prison as
   if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as
   if you yourselves were suffering.

   Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure,
   for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
 
   Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with
   what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never
   will I forsake you."  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my
   helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?"  

   Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider
   the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus
   Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 81, pt II (VU 797) 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 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: "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.  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.  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.  For everyone who exalts himself will be
   humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 

   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.  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."  

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


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

SERMON:   "The Table of God"

   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.

I want you all to do something unexpected - and perhaps a bit
uncomfortable for you.  I want you to change seats - to move around to a
place where you rarely, if ever sit.

So get up - and move - those on my  right - please move to my left.
And those at the back - move to the front.

Let us do it - come - and see what it feels like....

--- (time for finding a new seat) ----

Now you are all seated again - think about how you feel.
Are you happy?  
Are you pleased to have been moved out of your comfortable spot?
The spot you always sit in?

Probably not - I know I would not be - but consider this - whose house is
this that we are in?  And whose seat is it that we sit in?

We just sang what is one of the favourite hymns of our congregation 
- one of the top three actually - the other two being "How Great Thou Art"
and "Amazing Grace"

"Come In, Come In and Sit Down" speaks to us of how we are all part of the
family of God.  How we are all welcomed by the Lord in his sanctuary.  And
how here - in God's place - there is life to be shared in the bread and
the wine.

The version of the hymn found in "Songs For A Gospel People" 
contains a verse that is not found in the version in "Voices United".

It goes like this:

   Children and elders, middlers and teens, 
       singles and doubles and in betweens,
   strong eighty-fivers and streetwise sixteens, 
       greeters and shoppers, long-time and new
   nobody here has a claim on a pew, 
       and whether we're many, or whether we're few
   we are a part of the family.

Nobody here has a claim on a pew.
That is the theme of today's gospel reading.

In that reading we see Jesus eating at the home of a prominent Pharisee
and watching how the guests behave.  Each seeks out the best place - the
places of honour at the table where they can be noticed by the other
guests and, by their proximity to their host, be served first and receive
the best portions that the table offers.

And Jesus speaks about this saying 

   "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.  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.  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.  For everyone who exalts
   himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
   exalted."

Humility is indeed a theme of today's reading,
   - the humility to recognize that it is up to our host, that it is up
   to our God to seat us and to grant us honour or not, just as he
   chooses.
   - And the humility, the trust, to recognize that every seat at the
   table of God is a good seat, a seat that allows us to received the
   fullness of God's blessing, the fullness of what God promises to all
   who respond to his invitation to come to him.

But there is much more to the passage.

That more is found in the words that Jesus then addresses to his host,
saying to him:

   "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.  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." 

Alcoholics Anonymous defines humility this way:

       Humility is not thinking less of yourself.  
       It is thinking of yourself less."  

Let me repeat that: 

       Humility is not thinking less of yourself.  
       It is thinking of yourself less."

This sermon today is not simply about humility, 
but it is about thinking of ourselves less 
-- about ourselves less and about others more.

Back in 1966 Billy Graham held a Conference in Berlin titled "One Race,
One Gospel, One Task".
It's purpose was to help train up and inspire evangelists from around the
world to go into the world and to invite others to receive the good news -
and to become a part of God's family.

The Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie the First, Protector of the
ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church, opened the Conference with these words:

   However wise or however mighty a person may be, he is like a ship
   without a rudder if he is without God....   Therefore, O
   Christians, let us arise and, with the spiritual zeal and
   earnestness which characterized the Apostles and early Christians,
   let us labour to lead our brothers and sisters to our Saviour Jesus
   Christ who only can give life in its fullest sense."

Who are we thinking of when we come to this house of God?
   And who are we inviting to come with us?
       Who are we reaching out to and letting know about the wedding
       banquet of God's Son?

It is only our Saviour Jesus Christ who can give life in its fullness.
That's in my heart and that most surely is in yours - or you would not be
here today.

But are we thinking mainly about ourselves and what we can receive here
today?  

Are we more concerned about what we may or may not receive from God this
morning than we are about the fate of the rest of the family of God?

Is our favourite pew so important to us that we resent it when the
preacher asks us to move? 

Do we choke up when someone else enters this place and gets the attention
that we think we deserve or takes the place that we have reserved for
ourselves?

I pray that God meets your every need this morning.  And I am sure that
most of you are praying for the needs of those seated next to you: those
that you have known for a long time - and those whom you have known for a
short time.

But what about those who are not here today?

Are you praying that those outside this place may enter in.  That they may
come and without thinking about it - take the seat you usually occupy and
come forward to the table to receive the same food, the same grace, the
same love, the same hope, that you receive.

Are you eager - are we are all eager - to risk the discomfort that you
experienced this morning when I asked you to move and to reach out and
have this place of healing so filled each week that each week we may have
to sit in different spot and have different people rub against our elbows?

Do we live as an inviting people?
Do we speaking inviting words?
Do we have inviting attitudes?
Do we lead lives that invite people to Christ?
Especially those people who are poor, crippled, lame, and blind?
Those people who have nothing to offer to us in return?

Do you want God to shower them with favour and to have them become rich,
and strong and able to see?  Do you want them to eat at the table of God?
Do you invite them in - as God has invited you in - so that they may
receive what you receive???

I like the story historians tell about the funeral of Charlemagne. 
Charlemagne was the greatest Christian ruler of the early Middle Ages. 
After his death, a tremendous funeral procession left his castle for the
cathedral at Aix.  When the royal casket arrived, with a lot of pomp and
circumstance, it was met by the local bishop, who barred the cathedral
door.

   "Who comes?" the Bishop asked, as was the custom.

   "Charlemagne, Lord and King of the Holy Roman Empire," proclaimed
   the Emperor's proud herald.

   "Him I know not," the Bishop replied. "Who comes?"

   The herald, a bit shaken, replied, "Charles the Great, a good and
   honest man of the earth."

   "Him I know not," the Bishop said again. "Who comes?"

   The herald, now completely crushed, responded, "Charles, a lowly
   sinner, who begs the gift of Christ," -- to which the Bishop
   responded, "Enter! Receive Christ's gift of life!"

The point, of course, is that in God's eyes, we're all equally needy. 
Charlemagne, Mother Teresa, you and me.  None of us will ever be "good
enough" to expect that the presence of God belongs to us.

As we come to the Lord's Table today, we all come equal before God, 
sinners in need of salvation, 
beggars in need of bread, 
strangers who were at one time, like ourselves, welcomed to this place. 

You gave up your usual seat today 
to someone who is a part of the family of God,
to someone like you who is need of rest and of health,
to someone like you who needs to let go of the burdens that are crushing
   and the yoke that is hard and to take upon themselves the yoke of
   Christ - the yoke that is easy and the burden that is small.

But there are empty places among us today 
- places that will be only filled if you allow God to issue an invitation
through you to those, who like you, are in need.

I ask you today not to think less of yourselves 
   - you are, after all, part of the family of God and God has laid this
   table for you - Christ has given his life for you.
Rather think of yourselves less.

Remember the rest of the family and pray that God will use you and that
God will use me and that God will use each one here today to invite others
to come in and sit down and know that they are part of the family,
   to come in and sit down - and to receive the life that is to be found
   in the bread and the wine,
       the life that Jesus came to give to all who would receive it

Praise be to his name, now and forever.  Amen


THE NEW CREED (VU 918 - or inside cover)

   We are not alone, we live in God's world.

   We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
       who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, 
       to reconcile and make new, 
       who works in us and others by the Spirit. 

   We trust in God.

    We are called to be the Church,
       to celebrate God's presence, 
       to live with respect in creation,
       to love and serve others, 
       to seek justice and resist evil, 
       to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, 
       our Judge and our Hope.

   In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. 
   We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.


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 reach out
with your inviting love to those who are outside of our circle of friends
and relatives.  Help us to think of ourselves less and of others more. 
Put the gospel on our lips, your gracious love in our hearts and minds,
and cause our lives to be an invitation to others to come and to know the
happiness that we have found.... Lord, hear our prayer....

Gracious Saviour, help us to see those who are poor, crippled, lame, and
blind - and in seeing them to invite them to draw near to you with us -
near to you where wholeness and health can be found - and where we are all
part of one great family - a family that dines together on the bread of
life and drinks from the cup that gives eternal joy...   Lord, hear our
prayer.....

Loving God, keep us mindful that true reward is found in loving those who
do not love us   and in doing good towards those who cannot repay us or
help us in any way...   Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray O God for those in our world today who need your grace and your
love - for those who are lost - and those who are found - we pray for the
human family - and we pray for the family of Christ - that it may embrace
all....   Lord hear our prayer...

We pray too, O Lord, for those individuals and situations that were shared
in sharing time  and those who names rest now upon our hearts - those
known to us - and those who are not.... (Bidding Prayer)  
Lord hear our prayer....

O God, You call the poor and the sinful to take their place in the festive
assembly of the new covenant.  May Your church always honour the presence
of the Lord in the humble and the suffering, and may we learn to recognise
and greet and care for one another as brothers and sisters - till that
time we sit together  before your throne in everlasting prayer and praise
and suffering and sorrow are no more.   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

   Eternal God, you welcome us as people beloved by you and you shower
   us with blessings - the greatest of these being Jesus, your Son,
   our Lord.  We share what we have with you, by offering these gifts
   and the service of our lives as signs of our thanksgiving and of
   our desire to follow Jesus and to share his love with all whom we
   meet.  Bless these gifts and services we pray, in Jesus name. 
   Amen.


* SHARING THE PEACE:  We greet those around us with a sign of peace (a
   handshake or hug) and words like "The peace of the Lord be with you". 
   This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to the peace that
   God gives to those who hear and do his word. 
            

* HYMN:  "As We Gather At Your Table"                              - VU 457


COMMUNION LITANY
L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them up to the Lord.
L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is right to give God thanks and praise.

We praise you O God for establishing a hospitable place- a fruitful garden
where the people you loved into being were invited to live in harmony with
you.  When they turned away from you and closed their ears to your words,
you did not abandon them.  Through the prophets you reminded them of your
past deeds, when, liberating them from slavery, you led them to freedom
through the wilderness - simply because they were chosen and beloved by
you.  In the fullness of time you revealed how unchanging your love is by
entering our history in the person of Jesus Christ, who touches our lives
with healing and wholeness and an unending and unconditional love.  And
so, with all the company of heaven and earth we rejoice before you and
praise your holy name saying:

P   Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
    heaven and earth are full of your glory.
    Hosanna in the highest.
    Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    Hosanna in the highest.

At this table we bear witness to the love which has been poured into our
hearts and lives.  We remember when Jesus washed his disciples' feet and
sat down at a table to share the meal with them.  At that meal - he took a
loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, (as we now thank you Lord for
this bread)  he broke it and said, "This is my body given for you. Do this
in remembrance of me."   In the same way he took the cup also, after
supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as
often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."


THE BLESSING OF THE SPIRIT  (Epiclesis)
O Lord God, you gave your Son for the last and the least of all people. 
We remember this and we give thanks to you on account of His love.  Pour
out your Holy Spirit upon us, O God, and upon these gifts of bread and
wine, that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ - his life in
us.  Renewed by his life and recreated in his image, may we set our minds
on fulfilling your purpose for us and this world of which we are a part. 
In Jesus' name we pray. AMEN.


ACTION  
- The body of Christ broken for you  
-  The blood of Christ poured out for you


THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS   (come forward)

                 
POST COMMUNION PRAYER 
   Holy God, we give you thanks that we have been fed at this banquet and
   renewed by Christ's life in us.  We go now to share that life with
   others.  Send us forth equipped with the power of your Spirit to
   entertain angels, to follow Jesus, and to spread the message of his
   love to all whom we meet.  In his name we pray. Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "God Be With You Till We Meet Again"               - 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 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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