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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 24 - Proper 19 - Year C
1 Timothy 1:12-17; Psalm 14, Luke 15:1-10
"Seeking The Lost"



READING:  1 Timothy 1:12-17; Psalm 14, Luke 15:1-10 
SERMON :  "Seeking The Lost"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or24sn 798000

   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: Call to Worship based on "Ideas for Worship", Uniting
   Education, Melbourne.  Sermon and illustrative stories based in
   part upon material from Don Hoffman (donhoffman@w-link.net)
   Northwest Christian Church Disciples of Christ), Seattle, WA, Sep
   13 98; and "Bass Mitchell" (bassm@va.tds.net) "Eating With
   Sinners", Sep 7 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  Let us worship together the Searching God.
P  We praise You that You never stop seeking us.
L  Like a good shepherd, who cares for all the sheep, 
   you do not abandon anyone, seeking them out,
   lifting them up, bringing them home.
P  We praise You that You never stop seeking us.
L  Like a poor widow, who cherishes every coin,
   you do not cease from Your searching,
   reaching out, rejoicing in Your discoveries.
P  We praise You that you never stop seeking us.


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
Living God, we thank You that You seek us here in our worship today,
drawing us near to you, embracing us with your love.  Help us to rejoice
with you,  through Christ our Lord we ask it.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"                      - VU 264


CHILDREN'S TIME
Theme:    God looks for us and loves us
Object:   Various stuffies - preferably sheep - one hidden away or lost
Source:   Self

Do you have any stuffies?  What are they like??

I got a bag of them.  They are all rabbits.  Look with me.  One is
missing!!!  There is supposed to be a little pink girl rabbit with a skirt
on.  About this high (show).  This is the stuffy that has been around our
house the longest time.  I know it's awful little, but it is gone.  It
must have fallen out of the bag here in the church.  I know I had them all
with me when I was checking around the pews and choir loft and stuff for
our hymn books.

Can you help me look around for it.....   Some of you go there, some of
you along the side.  Some  up around front.

Thank you.  That's great.  Charlene is going to be so pleased too -
because that is a rabbit that she brought into our home.  

You know - this all reminds me of something Jesus said - that God is like
a shepherd who has 100 sheep and when one is lost - he leaves the 99 and
goes and looks for the one -- or how God is like a woman who has 10 coins
and losses one - and searches everywhere for it. 

God really cares for us all - and he wants us all to be safe in his care. 
Just like I am sure you - when you own a stuffy or two - really come to
love them and don't want to loss them.  Well God's love is like that for
us.  So I welcome you today - as you come to discover more about God's
love.  And I pray that you find what is like in all that we say and do.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Caring and diligent God - we thank you for your love   a love that
   seeks us    a love that finds us - a love that rejoices over us.  - 
   Help us to love like you   bless our time together - this day - and
   in the days to come   we ask 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:  "I Am The Light of The World"                              - VU 87
  

A READING FROM I TIMOTHY 1:12-17
   (NRSV)  I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened
   me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service,
   {13} even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man
   of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in
   unbelief, {14} and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the
   faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. {15} The saying is sure and
   worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to
   save sinners--of whom I am the foremost. {16} But for that very reason
   I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might
   display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would
   come to believe in him for eternal life. {17} To the King of the ages,
   immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and
   ever. Amen.

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 14 (Voices United 735)


A READING FROM LUKE 15:1-10
   (NRSV)  Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to
   listen to him. {2} And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling
   and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." {3} So
   he told them this parable: {4} "Which one of you, having a hundred
   sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the
   wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? {5}
   When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. {6}
   And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours,
   saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was
   lost.' {7} Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over
   one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who
   need no repentance. {8} "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she
   loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search
   carefully until she finds it? {9} When she has found it, she calls
   together her friends and neighbours, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I
   have found the coin that I had lost.' {10} Just so, I tell you, there
   is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who
   repents."

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


* HYMN: "The Lord's My Shepherd" (tune "Happy Wanderer")           - VU 747
                 

SERMON:  "Seeking The Lost"

   Lord of light - shine upon us.  God of love   fill our hearts with
   your wisdom.  Holy Spirit, bring yourself closer to us in my words
   and how we hear them, in our thoughts and how we think them.  Use
   this time - and use us to accomplish your good will.  Amen

The Gospel reading began with these words:

   Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen
   to him (Jesus, that is.) And the Pharisees and the scribes were
   grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with
   them." (Luke 15:1-2)

That is the frame for all that follows in chapter fifteen,
the story of a shepherd and his sheep,
of a widow and her coins,
of a man and his two sons.

It is important to remember the situation which prompted Jesus to tell
these stories and to ask - "whom do we identify with in this situation -
as well as in the stories that Jesus tells".

We do that kind of thing when reading a novel or watching a movie.  We
tend to identify with someone in it.  So, which group or character do you
identify with in today's gospel reading?

With Jesus 
   - the good guy - who tries to straighten out the religious folks? Who
   calls into question all they believe? Who reaches out and loves
   everyone, especially the most unloved?

With the Pharisees 
   - the ones who rightly saw the dangers of too close an association
   with the "wrong crowd" (for what parent has not worried about your
   child falling in with the "wrong crowd"?), but so convinced that they
   and they alone were only in the right? 

With the tax collectors and sinners 
   - those traitors - the tax collectors who were working for the Romans
   and robbing their own people?  With the sinners, the people of the
   land who never attended synagogue and seemed to lack even basic
   morality?

With the shepherd who lost a sheep or the poor widow who lost a coin?

With the 99 sheep who were OK - or the one who was lost?  

With the coins snug in the widow's purse 
   - or the one that was lost between the cracks in the floor?

Interesting isn't it?  And I am sure all of you have an answer - that all
of you do identify more with one than another.  

And yet it can be a bit of problem. 

Sometimes the things or persons we identify with can blind us to the fact
that we are also like someone else in the story.  Maybe someone we don't
like so well.  Maybe we are equally blinded to the fact that we are more
like someone who is really likeable in the story..

Our way of identification can blind us to who we are,
or who we could be,
to where we are at,
and to where we could be at.

Ralph Milton tells of the teacher who, for reasons of her own, asked the
kids one day, 

   "If all the bad children were painted red and all the good children
   were painted green, which colour would you be?"

Think about it.
What colour would you be?  
Red or Green?

It is a tough question isn't it when you pose only two options..

One very wise child answered the teacher: "Striped"

The reason I am going on about this point is simple.  It seems to me that
in the frame of the story - everyone but Jesus is striped.  And that in
the world today - it is the same.

We are a curious combination of the lost and the found.
We are striped.  We are - in some sense - not completely complete.

It is hard language, this language of lost and found,
especially for folks in the middle, as most of us are most of the time.
It seems too absolute.

Rarely are we completely lost.  And rarely are we completely found.  There
is always a part of us that needs to be dragged and cajoled into the
light, and there is always a part of us that is already there.

Some more - some less.  But always something.

The wonderful thing is - that God wants us to enter fully into the light.
The wonderful thing is that God wants to bless us all richly
   to keep us safe,
   to make us strong,
   to help us be like a Shepherd who really cares for his sheep
   like a poor widow who really values all her coins.

The wonderful thing is that the lost part of us is as valuable to God as
the found part, that God does not want any one of us or any part of one of
us - to be ignored, neglected, or lost.

God wants to bless us - all of us
and God rejoices when one of us - or a part of us - is found.

On Monday I did the memorial service for Evva Henderson.
Some of you were here,
some of you knew her well,
some not at all.

Evva was a member of the church - the UCW - and so forth.  Her husband
died when her youngest child was only a few months old and the oldest,
the oldest of seven, was not quite ten years old.  Back in the 30's.

Evva managed and managed well with hard work and lots of loving, she
became Nana to close to a hundred descendants - and to many others in the
town.

Nana - was know as Nana - and that says a great deal.
She was a bit of a character too.

For the last while Nana lived in Durand Manor.  She was the one who was
ornery enough to keep on trying to escape from it and clever enough to do
it - at age 91 - despite an increasing loss of faculty - over and over
again, whiz - she was out the door.  And she was the one who was diligent
and loving enough to continue to be like a shepherd to the sheep, seeking
out to the very last "her babies" - wandering the halls - looking for her
kids - in fact trying to use that line as way of getting clear of the
Nursing Home...

It seems to me that this is what motherhood is all about.
And it seems to me that this is what the gospel lesson today is  all
about.

Clearly Jesus wants us understand something important about God here.
- that God values and seeks out everyone, even the most unlikely persons,
- that God calls and wants to embrace everyone, even those whom others
would not,
- that God rejoices when those who have lost their way are found,
- and that God celebrates when he can once again sustain and nourish those
who for one reason or another have wandered away from him.

Jesus wants us to identify with both the shepherd and the poor widow in
their sorrow and their joy, and to understand that each of us is valued -
no matter what our colour our how many stripes we have.....

All of us are valued.

The 99 and the 1
The coins in the purse - and the one under the floor.
The son at home - and the son who wanders.

Without all we are incomplete.
Without all God the heart of God is incomplete.
So when we are found - there is much joy,
the joy of the widow who finds her precious coin,
the joy of the shepherd who finds his precious sheep.

Rejoice in your value.
Let the shepherd gather you in.
Rejoice in your worth.
Let the widow find you.

And be like the shepherd.
Be like the widow.
Seek, look, find - those of every stripe.
And rejoice when they come in
and their pain and their sorrow is relieved .

Rejoice.

Erma Bombeck, in one of her books, describes a visit to a church one
Sunday.  She writes:

   "...I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at
   everyone.  He wasn't gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing
   the hymnals, or rummaging through his mother's handbag.  He was
   just smiling.  Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage
   whisper that could be heard in a little theatre off Broadway said,
   "Stop grinning! You're in a church!"  With that, she gave him a
   belt on his hind-side and as the tears rolled down his cheeks
   added, "that's better," and returned to her prayers."

Indeed, there are the lost - and there are the found 
and there are parts of us that are in the light, and parts in the dark.  

As you are searched for, 
as you are looked for, 
as you are valued 
and as you are found - rejoice!  

And search for, look for, and find and rejoice over others.

Erma Bombeck adds 

   "I wanted to grab this child with the tear-stained face close to
   me and tell him about my God.  The happy God.  The smiling God, the
   God who had to have a sense of humour to have created the likes of
   us."

I'd say Erma had a very fine instinct.  
A God-like instinct.  
An instinct for gathering and for loving.

God loves you.
God looks for you.
God wants to ease your pains.
God wants to make you whole.

Allow him.
Listen for his voice.
Follow him when he calls to you.
Do as he asks.

You will discover wonderful parts to you that you never knew were there,
there will be less and less stripes 
and more good solid colour,
you will be made whole.

And allow him to use you to seek, look, find, and rejoice over others.
And this place 
and you 
will become known as place and a people of healing and wholeness
a place and a people of joy.

A special place and a special people because in it, in you, God is known.

Blessed be to God, day by day.  Amen


* HYMN: "Amazing Grace" (with "Praise God" verse)                  - VU 266


THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Almighty God, infinite and eternal in wisdom, power and love:  We praise
You for all that You are and for all that You do for the world.  You have
shown us Your truth and Your love in our Saviour Jesus Christ.  You seek
us out when we go astray.  You look for us when we are lost.  You call to
us and rejoice when we are found.  We thank you for the abundant life you
have made us for - the life you give us even before we know to lift our
hands to you.  Lord, hear our prayer...

You are our rock and our redeemer O God - the higher power that restores
us to our sanity - the path  which is light to our feet   the well from
which we can draw that which satisifies.  We know, O God, the wonder of
having been blind - and then being able to see; of being lost, and then
being found.  Today we pray for the parts of us that may yet remain in
darkness and for those who abide in blackness; we pray too for those
things about us that may yet be lost -- and for those who have not been
able to find their way..... Lord hear our prayer...

Today - as we contemplate your mercy and your grace - we hold before our
church and it's ability to reach out to others - we pray for our Sunday
School - our Choir - our Study Programs and our Bargain Basement - our
Board and our Women's Groups - our people   help us to serve you and show
forth your light and your love.... Lord hear our prayer...

Today Lord, as we think of your love and your plan for our earth   we hold
before our government and the governments of all nations   we recall the
need for justice, for an equal sharing of the things that this earth
affords, for a human touch   and a divine way of walking.... Lord hear our
prayer...

Today O Lord, we recall those individuals and those events that our
brothers and sisters have asked that we remember before you...  BIDDING
PRAYER... Lord hear our prayer....

Your name oh God be blessed, now and forevermore   we praise you, we thank
you, we adore, through Christ Jesus who showed us the way of your Spirit -
and taught us to pray to you as your precious children - 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

   In gratitude we give you honour and glory forever, O God, for your
   grace has overflowed for us with the faith and love that are in
   Christ Jesus.  Accept the sacrifice of our hearts and the works of
   our hands - a sacrifice that we can make only because you first
   gave yourself to us.  Use us to do your will, now and always. 
   Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "It Only Takes A Spark"                         - VU 289


* 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,   
   knowing that God values you more than a shepherd values his sheep
   and a poor widow her coins,
and may the seeking, embracing, and joyful heart of God be yours, 
both now and forevermore.  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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