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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 23- Proper 18 - Year C
Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-33
"Counting The Cost"



READING:  Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-33  
SERMON :  "Counting The Cost"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or23su 946000

   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:  Part of the Prayers of the People are based on a
   confession offered by John Maynard, "Prayers and Litanies For
   Ordinary 23, Year C" as offered on the PRCL List, September 2001. 
   The Prayer of Dedication is based on one by Moira Laidlaw and the
   Benediction is based on one by Bruce Prewer - also as offered by
   Maynard (ibid). The Children's story is based on one for this
   Sunday as found in "CCS Plus - Cycle C - Vol 25. No4.", CSS
   Publishing, 1995.


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  Blessed be God, creator of heaven and earth.                        
P  He is the source of love and life for all creation.
L  Like a potter at the wheel God forms us,
   shaping us for a fellowship that will last forever
P  Through Christ Jesus, God calls us to be vessels of the Holy Spirit
   a people who bear the light of God into the world.
L  Let us thank God today for his gracious love 
   and call upon him to strengthen us within in his will.
P  Let us draw near to God in praise and thanksgiving.


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Almighty God, Creator, Mother and Father of us all, unto whom all hearts
are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the
thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may
perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your Holy Name.  Grant to us the
joy of your presence, the wisdom of your word, and the wholeness of your
eternal love -- through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.


* HYMN:  "Breathe On Me, Breath of God"                            - VU 382


CHILDREN'S TIME:   "Count The Cost"
Theme: The cost of following Jesus 
Object:   Loonie
Source:   based on a story for this Sunday as found in "CCS Plus - Cycle
          C - Vol 25. No.4.", CSS Publishing, 1995.

Good morning.....  I brought money again this week to show you.  I want to
tell you a story about this poor little Loonie.   I wanted to use it to
buy a treat at the 7-11.  A sign there that there were chocolate bars
there for one dollar.  I had this loonie and I thought I had enough money. 
 I picked it up and put it on the counter and the clerk said - that will
be one dollar and fourteen cents!  "Wait", I said, "the sign said only one
dollar - and you want more than that - that's not fair is it?"

The clerk told me that it did only cost a dollar - but the fourteen cents
was for tax.  Unfortunately I didn't have the fourteen cents, so I
couldn't get the treat.  I hadn't counted the cost, the true cost, of my
treat.

Has something like that ever happened to you?

Jesus said one day that anyone who wants to follow him should count the
cost.  Anybody following Jesus should first ask, "how much will it cost me
to be a Christian".

Most people don't know that it costs something to be a follower of Christ. 
Can you tell me how it costs to be a Christian?    (The cost of our
offering each.... the cost of doing good over doing what we feel like....  
The cost of forgiving someone who has hurt us....  The cost of spending
time learning God's will when we want to just go and have fun....).

It costs us time and talent and treasure to be a follower of Jesus - but
the cost is worth it because Jesus promises to us a much better and
happier life if we follow him> Jesus promises to forgive our sins - and to
make us into beautiful and loving people that make the world a better
place.  He gives us true joy and true peace.

The cost of following Jesus is called discipleship.  As you go to Sunday
School today and this fall you will learn about Jesus and about what it
means to be his followers.  I hope you will always be his disciples and be
ready to give to him all that he asks of us - so that you can enjoy all
that he wants to give you.   


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord God - thank you for giving us Jesus - and for the joy and
   peace he offers us - help us to be his followers - and to give to
   you everything - that he asks of us.  Make us into true disciples -
   true followers - in his way.   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:  "All Things Bright and Beautiful"                         - VU 291


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 JEREMIAH 18:1-11
   (NIV)  This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:  "Go
   down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." 

   So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the
   wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his
   hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as
   seemed best to him.  

   Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not
   do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD.  "Like clay in
   the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 
   If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be
   uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned
   repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the
   disaster I had planned.  And if at another time I announce that a
   nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does
   evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the
   good I had intended to do for it. 

   "Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in
   Jerusalem, 'This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a
   disaster for you and devising a plan against you.  So turn from
   your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your
   actions.'

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 1 (VU 724)


A READING FROM LUKE 14:25-33
   (NIV)  Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them
   he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and
   mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even
   his own life--he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not
   carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 

   "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit
   down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to
   complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to
   finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This
   fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 

   "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. 
   Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten
   thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty
   thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the
   other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In
   the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has
   cannot be my disciple.

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


* HYMN:  "Take Up Your Cross"                                      - VU 561
                 

SERMON:  "Counting The Cost"

   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.

If anyone's followed the news out of Afghanistan or out of India or
Philippines over the last three or four years they will know that
Christian aid workers and church workers, both foreign and domestic, have
been imprisoned or killed for no other reason than that they bear the name
of Christ.

Some things have not changed in the last 2000 years.

As it was in the Roman Empire - where, over a period of about 250 years
hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people were tortured and
executed for saying "Jesus is Lord" - so today it can still cost people
everything to be a disciple of Jesus.

Most of us will never face that kind of choice in our lives.
We will not be asked to give our freedom or perhaps even our lives for the
sake of the Gospel.

But what about the other costs?
   the giving up of self that we are so reluctant to do?
   the giving up of a lot of our self control - which is no easy thing -
   so God might rule in us?
   the giving up of hatreds and resentments against those who injured us
or slighted us?
   or - and this can really hurt - the giving up of meaningful amounts of
cash money to God's work - money that could be better spent on our
pleasure and comfort?

Discipleship is what today's passage from the Gospel according to Luke is
all about.
The discipleship - the following - that calls us to love God - to love
Jesus - above all other things,
to love God more than our mother and our father, 
more than our wife and children 
more than our brothers and sisters, 
more even than our own lives.

What is the commandment - the commandment that comes to us from the
Covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai - and which is lifted up by
Jesus for us as the greatest of all of God's commandments?

Is it not the greatest commandment "Love God with all your heart, with all
                                   your soul, and with all your mind and
                                   with all your strength"?  

How we talk about love is most interesting to me - and I am sure it is to
you as well.

I know people who love the views that they can get from the top the
mountains round about here.  I know I love it.  There is nothing quite
like what you see when you ascend the gondola to the Eagles' Eye
restaurant.   It is absolutely incredible.

But - I ask myself - what if that easy and beautiful ride was not there?

People have told me that view around Gorman Lake is absolutely wonderful.
   I love that kind of view.  I love the pictures that folk like Peter
   Shular have taken there, but I have not yet gone there myself.  I
   haven't expended the sweat and the energy it requires to ascend the
   trail.

It seems that I love ice-cream and watching  television as well - and I
find it easier to pick up a spoon and push buttons on my remote control
than to strap on a pair of running shoes or hiking boots and start
climbing.

I have to ask myself from time to time - and perhaps you do too 
- is my love of God like my love of the view from the top of those
mountains out there?   

My love of God a real and genuine thing;
- but is it one in which I am willing only to put in so much effort.?
Is it but one love, as it were, among many?

These kinds of questions, my friends, my brothers and sisters,
   as we allow ourselves to struggle with them
serve a deep purpose in our lives.
          
They are like the hands of the potter we heard about in the reading from
the prophet Jeremiah, the hands that shape the clay into a pot  - and when
he see that the clay is marred pounds and reshapes the clay into a new and
better form - until it is pleasing and useful to him.

We can assume that is not always a comfortable process for the clay -
but the results are worth it - for the potter is God 
- and God, as the bumper sticker says, does not make junk.

There is a difference between loving God and doing what God wants us to do
- a difference between loving Christ and being his disciples" being those
who take up their crosses and follow him.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote his History of the Jewish people
during the time that Rome  ruled Israel - in the middle of the First
Century - talks about the cross and what it was like in those days to walk
the main road that led into Jerusalem.  He records how, along that road
there would be - at times - as many as 2000 or 3000 crosses lining the way
- each with either a fresh victim of Pax Roma - the peace of Rome - nailed
or tied to a cross - or the decaying and rotting body of an unfortunate
one baking in the heat and causing a great stench to hang over the
roadway.

Unless we have seen with our own eyes and smelt with our own nose the
horrors of places like Vietnam, Rwanda, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq we
can't really grasp what it must have been like to walk into the city
beside a row of crosses with folks dying or rotting on them.

Nor can we grasp the absolutely insanity that the words of Jesus must have
conjured up for his prospective disciples - when he told them - a people
who often said "cursed is the one who hangs on a tree" - that to be truly
his they must "pick up their crosses" and follow him.

It was the worst possible image that Jesus could have used if his whole
intention was to get people to love Him - and to love God - in the way
that I and so many other people love the view from our mountains.

Jesus uses graphic images today to remind us that God wants more from us
than our eagerness to receive bread without cost and wine without price.

He uses words about hating all those we should love to shock us  
he uses words about taking up the cross to horrify us - and help wake us
up to what is at stake:
   to help us realize that for his followers there is more to loving God
   than simply feeling thankful to God,
       more to loving God than simply waiting for God to pour a handful of
       goodies into our laps.

God wants us to be disciples, to be followers 
- to be vessels able to receive his love 
- vessels able to hold his love and then to pour it out upon others.

Jesus is telling us that being half-hearted is about as much good as
having no heart at all.  Giving up some things, but not everything, to God
- he tells us - can only earn us the ridicule of others.

"Count the cost", he says in our reading today, 
"and pick up your cross and follow me."

Oh, how much I want it all to be easy.   
How much I want every mountain to have a Gondola ascending it.
How much I want to not have to suffer or die, 
to live forever without having to pass through the grave, 
   or - as my mother always put it 
- how much I want to have my cake and eat it too.

I want to be a beautiful vessel for God my potter but I don't want to be
shaped or formed on the wheel if it means that I will be pounded on and
pushed  around and have water soaking me and wires and wooden edges
cutting and shaping me.

And isn't the truth about most people?
Isn't that the reason why Jesus talks to his followers in the way he does?
Isn't that why Jesus challenges us?

How easy I want it to be 
- and how awful the way of the cross appears to be.
But - I can't help thinking - because the gospel has touched me -
   that perhaps all the suffering that I fear
       all the self-sacrifice that I am loath to make
          all the humility, 
              the thinking about myself self less and about others more
   is more than worth it for the sake of that which has been revealed and
is yet to be revealed to the children of God.

You see the cross that Jesus speaks of, the cross that he himself was
raised upon, does not end the story.  If that was so - the story would not
be told and people would not offer their lives in service to God in places
like Iraq or Afghanistan or India.

The one who talked about the cost of loving God not only shown us what
true love is like when he died for us upon the cross - he also shown us
what God's love for us is like when he was raised from the dead on the
third day.

God's intention and purpose is to have us become beautiful vessels -
beautiful pots - ones that can hold his love and pour his love out upon
others.  God's intention is to make us like more like Christ in every way,
every day, to make us ones who are a blessing to others - and who
ourselves know the blessing, the presence, the peace, that only He can
give.

What do we need to give up?   
What do we have to give up?  

Well, we don't live or work in Afghanistan or any of the other places in
our world today where people are killed for telling others that Jesus is
Lord of Life, and of Death, and of Life beyond Death - unless of course
God has called us to one of those places specifically.

But there are things to give up to God right here; perhaps those things
indicated in the beatitudes of the Devil that someone sent to me this
week, things of the self.

The Devil's beatitudes for believers in Christ - for those who start, but
do not finish, go like this:

   Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to
   spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians, they are my
   best workers.

   Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be
   thanked - I can use them.

   Blessed are the touchy. With a bit of luck, they may stop going to
   church - they are my missionaries.

   Blessed are the troublemakers - they shall be called my children.

   Blessed are the complainers - I'm all ears to them and I will spread
   their message.

   Blessed are the church members who expect to be invited to their
   own church - for they are a part of the problem instead of the
   solution.

   Blessed are they who gossip - for they shall cause strife and
   divisions.  That pleases me.

   Blessed are they who are easily offended - for they will soon get
   angry  and quit.

    Blessed are they who do not give their offering to carry on God's
   work - for they are my helpers.

   Blessed are they who professes to love God but hate their brother
   or sister  - for they shall be with me forever.

   Blessed are they who read or hear this and think it is about other
   people - I've got you..

Our gospel reading today ends with the words: 

       "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything
       he has cannot be my disciple."

Some things are well worth giving up to God 
- they cause us and others nothing but grief.
Other things are well worth giving up to God 
- because God can renew them and remake them,
- because God can renew and remake us.

In any case those things we treasure that get in our way,
   we can't keep them anyway.
All flesh is mortal and suffering will come to us whether we are dedicated
to God or dedicated only to ourselves.

How much better then that if we are to suffer - we suffer for the Lord who
is forgiving.   

How much better then if we are to die - that we die for the Lord who gives
life to those who call upon him.

God is the potter - we are the clay.

May we - may you - may I 
   be ready to have to him mould us and fill us.
May we follow Jesus
   not counting the cost as people of this world count the cost
       wondering if we can do what we purpose to do,
   but rather counting the cost as Jesus counted it 
       - knowing that this slight, momentary affliction will prepare us
       for eternal glory.
       - and knowing that in Christ we can do all things  for he loves us
with a love that overcomes the world.

Blessed be God - our Father - our Creator - the one who forms us as Potter
forms the clay.  Amen


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


THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Dear God, You are the great potter whose greatest joy is to remould what
is spoiled and useless into something of beauty.  We thank you for your
redeeming and saving love and pray to you today to forgive us and remould
us before we become set in our ways.....   Lord, hear our prayer (and in
your love answer).

When we turn our backs on those who need our help ... our families, our
friends, our neighbours... forgive us and remould us before we become set
in our ways.....   Lord, hear our prayer....

When we enjoy saying things that hurt our families, our friends, our
neighbours ... forgive us and remould us before we become set in our
ways.....   Lord, hear our prayer....

When we are dishonest with others and with ourselves ...forgive us and
remould us before we become set in our ways.....   Lord, hear our
prayer....

When we are selfish and demanding ...forgive us and remould us before we
become set in our ways.....   Lord, hear our prayer....

When we are irritable and bad-tempered and hard to live with ... forgive
us and remould us before we become set in our ways.....   Lord, hear our
prayer....

When we boast and think we are better than we are ....forgive us and
remould us before we become set in our ways.....   Lord, hear our
prayer....

When we criticise others but ignore our own faults ...forgive us and
remould us before we become set in our ways.....   Lord, hear our
prayer....

When we seek your favour without being prepared to follow in the path of
your Son...  forgive us and remould us before we become set in our
ways.....   Lord, hear our prayer....

When we profess love for you and for our neighbours, but do not show love
and live love... forgive us and remould us before we become set in our
ways.....   Lord, hear our prayer....

Loving God, we know that You want us to grow to maturity in Your  hands. 
And we know that You do forgive us and You will remould us before we
become set in our ways.   So we thank you - and we pray now not just for
ourselves - we pray for those around us: 

For the sick and the suffering....  Lord, hear our prayer....

For the homeless and the hungry....  Lord, hear our prayer...

For the despairing and the depressed...   Lord, hear our prayer...

For the lost and the lonely....  Lord, hear our prayer....

For those persecuted for the faith...  Lord, hear our prayer

Lord hear our prayers for our friends and our neighbours - for those near
at hand and those far away.  Bless them and those specific people and
situations that we now hold before you in hearts and with the words of our
lips....  (Bidding Prayer)....  Lord, hear our prayer....

Creating God, Lord Jesus, transforming Spirit, we know that in your love
you answer all our prayers. So we ask you to bless this congregation of
your people and make us into true disciples of the Saviour.  Bless our
hopes and plans for this year - bless our children and their teachers and
helpers, bless our worship and our work - that all we do may glorify you
and bring life and light to our community and to our world.  Hallowed be
your name, now and forever.  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

   Eternal God, we offer these gifts and the service of our lives
   praying that they are acceptable to you.  May they be evidence of
   our desire to follow Jesus, and our turning away from all that
   hinders our discipleship.  Bless, O God, us and all that we do that
   we may be a blessing to you and to our world.   In Jesus' name, we
   pray. Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:   "Faith of Our Fathers"                         - VU 580


* 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, love and care for one another in the name of Jesus,   
and may God make safe to you each step,
may God open to you each door,
may God make clear to you each road.
And may God enfold you in loving arms,
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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