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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 26 - Proper 21 - Year C
I Timothy 6:6-19; Psalm 91; Luke 16:19-31
"True Riches and The Great Chasm"



READING:  I Timothy 6:6-19; Psalm 91; Luke 16:19-31 
SERMON :  "True Riches and The Great Chasm"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or26su 101949

   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 Prayer of Invocation is loosely based on material from
   Bruce Prewer and "Uniting in Worship: Leaders Guide" as cited by
   John Maynard in "Prayers and Litanies for Ordinary 26C", 2001.  
   Elements of the Prayers of The People and the Benediction are also
   from Maynard.  Portions of the Prayer of Dedication are from Moira
   Laidlaw, also as cited in Maynard.  Sermon quote (modified) and
   some direction from Taylor Mills (taymills@COASTALNET.COM), "A
   sermon on this week's text" as sent to the PRCL-List, 2001.

   
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

     
* WORDS OF WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Psalm 146)
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  Happy are those whose hope is in the Lord their God.
P  Our God upholds the cause of the oppressed 
   and gives food to the hungry.
L  The Lord sets the prisoners free; 
   he opens the eyes of the blind 
   and he lifts up those who are bowed down.
P  The Lord cares for the stranger 
   and sustains the widow and the orphan.
L  Our God loves the righteous, 
   but the ways of the wicked he brings to nothing.
P  I will exalt the Lord as long as I live.
   I will sing praises to my God while I have being.


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Glorious are you, Creator of heaven and earth.  Your handiwork is all
around us.  Help us to see it.  Glorious are you, Saviour of the lost, you
are our light and salvation.  Help us to abide in you.  Glorious are you,
Spirit of Truth, you transform the lives of your people.  Give us your 
grace to overcome our frailties and failings.   Indeed, as we gather to
worship you this day, we ask that you would keep us from those things that
harm us and others - and that you would guide us in the the way of
righteousness, compassion, and love.  May our living render you praise,
our actions exalt your most holy name,  and our every deed provide hope to
those we meet - hour by hour and day by day - both now and forevermore. 
Amen.


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


CHILDREN'S TIME
Theme     True Happiness - true Peace
Object    Piece of 8.5x11 paper
Source    The folding was shown to me by a teacher, source unknown.  The
          patter was adapted to our region.

There once was a man who was searching for true happiness.   So he began
to think of things that could make him happy.   He decided to build a
house.   For sure he would be happy with a big brand new house.
 
       * Fold paper so the that the top right corner comes down as
       a triangle to meet the left side of the paper.  Then the
       right top down to meet the right side of the paper.  It
       should now look like a house.

And he was happy for awhile.  But then he began to get bored and thought -
what I really need is a sail boat.   

       * Unfold one angle so that the paper roughly resembles a
       sail boat with a big triangle sail.

He sailed all around Shuswap Lake, and then Vancouver Island, and then the
World and he saw lots of interesting things, but again he began to get
bored.   One day he saw a jet aeroplane fly over, so he got himself an
aeroplane.

       * Fold paper back into house form, then fold paper together
       and bend the sides down to form wings.  Note, that the fold
       should be straight and parallel to the body of the "plane".

He flew from country to country, he still he could not find the peace and
happiness that he was looking for.   He sat down one day and thought and
thought about it - and finally he decided to go into outer space.   Surely
he could find happiness there.   So he got himself a rocket.

       * Tear the wings off the plane.  It should look a bit like a
       rocket now, especially if you unfold the main fold.

He flew off into the sky and flew right around the moon, yet he still
could not find the happiness and peace he longed for.
Finally he came home, and when he got there he met a man who seemed to
have the peace and happiness that he was looking for.   So he asked the
man, "how can I find peace and happiness?   I have a house, and a
sailboat, and an aeroplane, and even a rocket ship, but I still am not
happy.  Where can I find what I am looking for?

The man smiled and said

       * unfold the paper completely.  It should now be a cross!

"Until you find Jesus and ask him to rule over you and to guide and lead
you each day, you will never bind true joy, or peace, or happiness."   

Let us pray.


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   Loving God - Lord Jesus - only in you can we find - true happiness
   and lasting peace - help us to learn the stories - of your life and
   your death - and to follow you each day.  Guide and lead us - dwell
   within us - and help us dwell in you.   Amen

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Tell Me The Stories of Jesus"                            - VU 357
   

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 I TIMOTHY 6:6-19
   (NIV)   But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we
   brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 
   But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 
   People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and
   into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and
   destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. 
   Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and
   pierced themselves with many griefs.  

   But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness,
   godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good
   fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you
   were called when you made your good confession in the presence of
   many witnesses.  In the sight of God, who gives life to everything,
   and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate
   made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without
   spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which
   God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only
   Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal
   and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can
   see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.

   Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
   nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put
   their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our
   enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and
   to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up
   treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so
   that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

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


RESPONSIVE PSALM READING:  Psalm 91 with Refrain Sung (Voices United 807)


A READING FROM LUKE 16:19-31
   (NIV)  "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine
   linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar
   named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from
   the rich man's table.  Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 

   "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to
   Abraham's side.  The rich man also died and was buried.  In hell,
   where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away,
   with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, 'Father Abraham,
   have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in
   water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

   "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you
   received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but
   now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all
   this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that
   those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross
   over from there to us.'                      

   "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's
   house, for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they
   will not also come to this place of torment.'

   "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them
   listen to them.' 

   "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes
   to them, they will repent.' 

   "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,
   they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

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


* HYMN:  "When Pain of The World"                                  - VU 598


SERMON: "True Riches and The Great Chasm"

   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.

The parable or story that Jesus tells us in today's gospel reading is a
very difficult passage for most of us.  It, along with the epistle lesson
this morning, speak to us of the difficulty that some people have with 
wealth - with money - with accumulating stuff.

Do you notice how I said, some people?   
How I have avoided pointing the finger?
How I have avoided condemning wealth itself?

Indeed I believe that it is as Paul says, 
that it is "the love of money that is the root of all evil" 
- and not money itself.

No - I am not here today to condemn the wealthy,
nor am I here today to make you feel guilt about how much you may have and
to urge you to share it lest you go to hell.

You, after all, may already share generously of the bounty God has allowed
you to receive.

You, after all, may not love money or seek out wealth.

You, after all, may well have the attitude that Paul urges upon Timothy,
   the attitude of godliness with contentment
   the attitude that flees from pursuit of worldly gain 
and pursues righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and
gentleness.

But I do want the Spirit to move among us today
   and for us to think about what true riches are,
       and about the great chasm that divides some people from others, a
chasm in this life that the scriptures suggest may be duplicated in the
next.

A preacher by the name of Taylor Mills says that:

   In today's parable, the rich man crosses paths with poor Lazarus
   every day.  He sees Lazarus waiting at the gate of the house - the
   dogs licking his sores.  Lazarus sees the rich man go in and go
   out.  And he waits for the servant to bring out the rich man's
   breadcrumbs for him to eat.  Indeed Lazarus longs for those crumbs,
   even though - as was the custom in some places where water was
   scarce and food abundant, the crumbs were used, instead of water,
   to clean one's hands with when the meal was done.

   It's clear that the rich man knew about Lazarus.  He refers to
   Lazarus by name, even after both of them have died.  But notice
   something else: the rich man never speaks directly to Lazarus. not
   even from Hell where he is under torment.  

   And when he is in Hell he still expects Lazarus to serve him:
   "Father Abraham," he calls out, "have mercy on me, and send Lazarus
   to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am
   in agony in these flames."  And then again, "Then, father, I beg
   you to send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers -
   that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this
   place of torment." 

   Even after the rich man undergoes the divine reversal of fates, he
   still hasn't changed how he treats Lazarus.  It's as if the chasm
   that separated them after they died also existed when they lived. 
   The rich man kept Lazarus at a distance.  And now that he's in
   trouble, he expects Lazarus to cross that distance to help him.

That's quite the attitude - and quite the chasm.

Now, none of us have a poor person at the end of our driveway waiting for
   the dirty crumbs from our tables.  And as I said - I am not here to
   guilt you out today 

But --- don't you love it when someone says "but" to you -

But, if we allow the devil to make us think that this story really has
little to say to us then we have taken the first step toward becoming like
the rich man. 

I said at the very beginning that today's gospel reading is a very
difficult passage for most of us.  And it is so precisely because it
causes us to ask questions like:

   - how am I like the rich man?
   - who is it I ignore - or treat as less than fully human? 
   - who is our Lazarus?   The one whom I regard as less than I am?  

That's not nice - especially not nice since we are aware that there is a
lot of need out there, and since we are aware that we have only so much
time, only so much money, only so much compassion.

The whole passage - given our context as a people who have so much more
than 90% of the world's population - is distressing; even for those who
share their time, give their money, and spend their compassion on the poor
and needy within our town and indeed within our world community.

I'm not trying to point the finger at you.  Compared to most of the
   privileged people in the world, most if not all of you speak to those
   who have a different station in life.  You do not regard street people
   as your inferiors or treat those on welfare as your servants.  
You do care about the poor of our community and of our world.  You give to
   the Mission & Service Fund of the United Church of Canada - a fund, as
   we hear each week during our Minute For Mission, that supports much
   needed relief and development work around the world.

A couple of weeks from now you will come here, not just with decorations
   of leaves and flowers and bulrushes and the other signs of
   Thanksgiving - but you will make food offerings like many of you do on
   a regular basis  - food that will go to our Sharing Cupboard - and to
   the food bank.

You pray each week for folk like the people of the Sudan, people with
   AIDS, the oppressed and the homeless.  

You work in the Bargain Basement - not simply to help the church make
   enough money to keep the doors open - but as a way of providing
   inexpensive clothing to the community - and free clothing to those who
   cannot pay. 

And on top of all this, you tithe your income as the Bible says you should
   - knowing that what you give to God through the church will indeed be
   blessed by God and used to not only run this place - but to do many
   good works in God's name.

But the parable still is difficult for most of us here in Canada who
believe,
   - for those of us who flee wealth and pursue godliness, faith, love,
   endurance, and gentleness,
   - for those of us who are content, as Paul was content, to have the
bare necessities of life.

Difficult because we know that we have so much 
- and don't know how much more we can afford to give - or are expected to
give....

It is always the wrong people who get guilty feelings
It is always the saints who are most aware of their shortcomings,
It is always the holy who wonder 
   - have I done all I can do?   
   - am I being too self-centred?  
   - am I putting my family and it's comfort way too far ahead of
   everyone else?...

It is not having money that is the problem - it is allowing that money and
concern about money to dominate us to point where we do not care about
others outside our sphere of interest.

It is a good sign that most of us have difficulty with today's gospel
reading.

It tells me that most folk still care - that they are heeding Moses and
the Prophets and have listened to - and are being convinced - by the
testimony of the one who has risen from the dead.

Indeed you are here today precisely to listen to the one who has been
raised from death, the one who the rich man while in Hell told Abraham his
five equally rich brothers would heed.

You are here - I am certain - not simply to be blessed and strengthened by
God, but to show God true worship... to show God true worship by listening
to his word - and then by going and doing it.

You are here - I am certain - not simply to enjoy a song - or have the
kids gain a good experience, but to listen to the words the Risen One and
to be shaped by them so that you may indeed seek justice, and love
kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

So allow the words of Jesus in today's gospel and the teaching of Paul
   that he shared with Timothy to do that - without getting too much into
   guilt -  unless of course God is putting the conviction upon you that
   you love money - and that you have allowed a chasm of non-caring to
   grow up between you and whoever your Lazarus is.

I think that we all need to struggle with this stuff.  And that it is one
of the most difficult things to struggle with since it comes down to
examining how we live - and how we care for one another.

So I encourage you to feel uncomfortable 
- but not to feel guilt unless you really need to feel guilt,
and if you feel guilt - to do what guilt suggests you should do -
to repaint and thin - I mean to repent and sin  - no more,
and to trust in God's mercy day by day and if need be, hour by hour and
minute by minute.

                     - - - possible ending point ---

The sad truth is that those of you who do not feel uncomfortable today 
   are most likely to feel nothing at all 
- except perhaps anger that the word of God,  and that I, your preacher, 
   have raised the topic of money and our attitude towards it in the
first place.

Think back to the parable with me for another minute or so.  

After the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to
warn them about the torment that may await them for not caring for the
poor and afflicted,  Abraham tells him that if his brothers have not
heeded the message of Moses and the Prophets - that they will not be
convinced even by one who has been resurrected from the dead.

That is the sad part of the great chasm referred to in my sermon title
today, my friends.

There is a chasm between those who love money 
   and those who seek true riches,
between those seek out the newest toys that our society is so desperate to
sell us all
   and those who pursue righteousness, faith, love, endurance, and
gentleness.
 between those who need to get ahead - to get a larger home - a better job
- a more exotic vacation
   and those who have sought godliness with contentment.

It is a chasm of blindness and indifference.  A chasm that leads to all
kinds of evil,
   and which plunges people into ruin and destruction,
       perhaps even into the eternal and unbridgeable Chasm between the
Bosom of Abraham 
          and the torment of hell.

Remember how the Rich Man - even in hell - where he knows the truth of his
lack of caring - still does not address Lazarus personally - how he still
regards him as one who can be sent by others - as a servant to help him -
rather than as one who has received his just reward from God?

Those in love with money simply will not get the picture,
if they do get it - they still end up wandering from the faith.

So today I tell you all this 

To those who seek true riches - I tell you 
- continue pursuing  righteousness and faith and love,
   feel uncomfortable, struggle with the question of what you are doing
and not doing,
       the question of how well you love your neighbours - and how well
you love your God,
   feel uncomfortable - but also feel assured - for the one who rose from
the dead has promised to help you and to forgive you    - and he will be true
to his promise - and he will guide you day by day as you continue to yield
your life to him.   He doesn't expect you to do everything for everyone  -
only to do everything you can - and to trust him for the rest.

And to you who love money - should you be here today - I tell you 
- listen to what Moses and the Prophets say
- listen to the one who has risen from the dead,
and know that if you do not change -
   if you make excuses for your lack of caring for others - instead of
making amends
   if you cling to what you have rather than letting it go 
   if you judge others less worthy because of their poverty and others as
greater because of their riches
then you will pay for it.

God is forgiving - but God is not mocked.
If you, being rich, can't bring Lazarus fresh water to relieve his
distress in this life,
then know that he will not be able to do that for you in the next life.

Hear again Paul's words:

   Godliness with contentment is great gain - for we brought nothing
   into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have
   food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want
   to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and into many foolish
   and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 
   For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

To this I might add the Love of God 
   - and loving our neighbours - all our neighbours - as we love
ourselves 
is the root of all goodness.

Blessed be the one who rose from the dead and who speaks to us now.
And blessed are all those who hear his words and act upon them.   Amen


* HYMN:  "Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love"                      - VU 593


THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God, Lord Jesus, as we have sang, so we pray.  Help us to seek that
vision of unity without which we would perish.  Teach us not to deal with
each other falsely, saying "Peace, peace" when there is no peace.  Grant
us grace that we may walk with our children, and with our brothers and
sister, in the paths of righteousness - sharing with them that which is
needful for life - both here in this world - and in the world to come.... 
Lord, hear our prayer....

Compassionate and caring God, you have not only given us Moses and the
prophets, you have brought back Jesus from the dead.   Helps to hear their
call to pursue righteousness, faith, love, godliness, patience, and
gentleness.   Help us to flee the kind of living that values possessions
more than people, and so to live this life in generosity that we shall not
be ashamed in the end.... Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we pray today for ministers and deacons and groups and agencies and
for all those who work with the poor, for those who give fish so that
others may eat for a day   - and those who teach others to fish that they
eat for a lifetime....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we pray for the poor of our nation - abundant in number - and for
the poorer nations and peoples of the world - whose number seems
overwhelming.  Bless them through us - and bless them through the actions
of our brothers and sisters around the world.  Multiply the efforts of
your church - and of the relief agencies and organizations of our world... 
Lord, hear our prayer...

Father - poverty and illness, starvation and homelessness, so often
prevails where injustice is practised, and has its roots in the love of
money that individuals and nations have.   So we pray, O Lord, that their
may be justice in our world - and that the number of those who love money
may diminish and the number who seek justice, and love mercy, and walk
humbly with you, may increase...  Lord, hear our prayer....

We pray Lord for those who are struggling to make ends meet in this life,
For friends and neighbours in times of hardship,
For the church in its desire to stand by the impoverished and the
oppressed.... 
And for those whom we lift up before you now, O Lord..... minister to
them.... Lord, hear our prayer....

Grant us and your whole church the courage to speak out against all evil
and to make no peace with oppression, or violence, or the manipulation of
truth in order that we may be comfortable in self-deceit.   Stir in us the
will for justice -- between ourselves and our children -- and within our
community, our nation and the world.  Teach us Your ways, and lead us in
Your paths of righteousness; for the sake of Him who laid down His life
for us, Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.  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

   Lord God, you have enriched our lives with so many gifts, the
   greatest of these being Christ Jesus our Lord.  He gave himself for
   the world and taught us how to enrich the lives of others with a
   love expressed in practical and caring ways.  Help us to do this.  
   Help us to be faithful stewards of all you have given us.  Bless
   now what we offer to you on these plates - and hear and bless the
   intentions for our daily living that we offer to you now on the
   alter of our hearts....   We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Walk With Me"                                  - VU 649


* 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 God shield you in every steep place,
- may Christ Jesus steady you on every rough path,
- and may the Holy Spirit go with you through every dark pass.
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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