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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 28 - Proper 23 - Year C
Jeremiah 29:1,4-7; Psalm 66; II Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
"More Than Normal"



READING:  Jeremiah 29:1,4-7; Psalm 66; II Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
SERMON :  "More Than Normal"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or28smsu 630951
                    
     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".  
	 
     Sources: The Prayer of Invocation and the Benediction is based upon
     material cited in John Maynard, (maynard@DCSI.NET.AU) "Prayers and
     Litanies for Ordinary 28-C" as sent to the PRCL List, Oct. 01. 
     Elements of the Sermon and it's illustrative material are taken
     from William H.  Willimon, "Healed From Death To Life" in "Pulpit
     Resource" vol. 23, No. 4. (Year C&A October, November, December
     1995)


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)
             

* WORDS OF WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Psalm 111:1-8)
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  I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.
P  In the company of the upright, in the congregation, 
   I will praise the Lord's name.
L  Great are the works of the Lord.  
   They are full of honour and majesty.  
   They are studied by all who delight in Him.
P  God's righteousness endures forever.  
   The works of his hands are faithful and just.  
   All his precepts are trustworthy.
L  They are established for all time 
   and are to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.


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


MUSIC AND SILENT PREPARATION
       

* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Almighty God, source of every blessing, Your generous goodness comes to us
anew every day and the hand of Your loving kindness powerfully, yet gently
guides all the moments of our life.  As we render you the worship you so
greatly deserve this morning, we pray that your Spirit will lead us to
acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve you in
willing obedience.   Indeed be with us and help us to rejoice in your
presence and to be the people you created us to be - through Your Son,
Jesus Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen


* HYMN:  "Spirit of The Living God" (and repeat verse 1)              - VU 


CHILDREN'S TIME
Theme:    Giving Thanks More Than Words
Object:   Banner of Word "Thanks" and of "Giving" to be cut and retaped
Source:   Self

Good morning.  Last week was Thanksgiving Weekend and I am sure we all
celebrated very much.  What did your family do for Thanksgiving????

We had a good time as well - we had dinner at two different homes on two
different days - and it was really good.  Thinking of this reminds me that
today is World Food Day - a day in which we remember that everyone in the
world needs food and that the Food that grows on our farms and on all the
farms around the world is meant by God for all.  Not everyone in the world
gets to eat - the latest figures are that 40,000 people die of starvation
every day around the world - while enough food is grown to feed everyone.

So today - I thought I would bring along a special kind of Thanksgiving
poster to help us remember what Thanksgiving is all about.  On the first
sheet of paper we have the word "THANKS" - Now all by itself it can mean a
lot of things - for example when you jiggle someone's arm when they are
drawing they might say "Thanks" - but say it in such a way that you don't
believe them.  You know "Thanks For Nothing..."  "Thanks for making a
mess" - does that ever happen to you.

But when you put THANKS together with this word GIVING it makes more
sense.  Thanksgiving means both Giving Thanks = and out of Thankfulness,
Giving.  As Christians we Give Thanks because God has helped us - and as
Christians we Give Help because we are thankful.

As we remember today in Sunday School those who are sick and hungry - and
how God helps them - and how God has helped us - we are also asked to Give
Our Help to others.  That is what being thankful is really all about. 


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   We thank you God - for giving us your help - for loving us and
   feeding us - and for watching over us.  - Help us to help others -
   as a sign of our thankfulness - to give thanks to you - by giving
   to others - those things they need.  - We ask it in Jesus' name.  - 
   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


A READING FROM JEREMIAH 29:1,4-7
   (NIV)  This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent
   from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the
   priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had
   carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

   This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I
   carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: {5} "Build houses and
   settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. {6} Marry and
   have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your
   daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. 
   Increase in number there; do not decrease. {7} Also, seek the peace
   and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. 
   Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will
   prosper."

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


RESPONSIVE PSALM READING:   Psalm 66 (Voices United 784, Parts 1 & II) 


A READING FROM II TIMOTHY 2:8-15
   (NIV)   Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from
   David.  This is my gospel, {9} for which I am suffering even to the
   point of being chained like a criminal.  But God's word is not
   chained. {10} Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect,
   that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with
   eternal glory. {11} Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him,
   we will also live with him; {12} if we endure, we will also reign with
   him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; {13} if we are
   faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. {14}
   Keep reminding them of these things.  Warn them before God against
   quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who
   listen. {15} Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
   a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles
   the word of truth.

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


* HYMN:  "Ask Me What Great Thing I Know"                          - VU 338


A READING FROM LUKE 17:11-19 
   (NIV)  Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border
   between Samaria and Galilee. {12} As he was going into a village, ten
   men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance {13} and called
   out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" {14} When he
   saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they
   went, they were cleansed. {15} One of them, when he saw he was healed,
   came back, praising God in a loud voice. {16} He threw himself at
   Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan. {17} Jesus asked,
   "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? {18} Was no one
   found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" {19}
   Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

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


SERMON: "More Than Normal"

   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.

On the way to Jerusalem to face the cross - while he was near Samaria -
Jesus encounters ten lepers - ten outcasts - ten people with, for their
time at least, the equivalent of AIDS.

They are under a sentence of death - no one will come near them - no one
will touch them - no one will even touch their clothing and their eating
utensils. 

By the rules of their society, rules created because of the fear of
contamination, lepers were forced to live apart from everyone else, and on
those occasions when they drew near to others for one reason or other,
they rang little bells to announce their presence and to warn others to
stand off.

Until very recently Lepers were treated as the living dead 
- shunned and avoided, 
they were regarded as unclean,
- as people most likely guilty of great sin,
- as men and women of the greatest misfortune,
- as people beyond help and beyond all but the least significant form of
compassion - charity.

As Jesus enters a village ten lepers approach him and,
    mindful of the rules of their society,
       mindful of their need to avoid contaminating anyone,
          and mindful too of the fear that others had of them,
they call out to Jesus from a distance: 
"Jesus, Master, Have Mercy On Us."

What a plaintive cry that must have been.  With what sense of futility,
what desperate hope - must they have called out?

But Jesus does respond - even to them -
but he does so in a most unusual manner.

Rather than saying, as he had said to others 
   - "be healed - rise up - look and see - take up your bed and walk",
Jesus responds to their cry by saying 
   - "go and show yourselves to the priests".

It helps us to know that Jesus was referring to Leviticus, chapter
fourteen, verses two and three, which specifies what a priest is to do
with a leper who happens to get healed.  

Lepers were not allowed in the temple because they were regarded as
"unclean".  If cured, however, the leper could gain re-admission to the
temple, and to the rest of society, if he was ritually purified and
certified as "clean" by a priest.

Still, Jesus' command to the ten lepers is a bit confusing.  They have
asked for mercy - they have asked to be healed.  But Jesus does nothing
for them but tell them to go and act as if they are healed - to go and
present themselves to the priests as if they were whole, healed, accepted,
living people.

Yet, despite the unusual response of Jesus 
- despite the possible confusion in understanding what Jesus is about,
they go, and as they go 
- as they walk down the path towards the priests in the village 
they are healed.

The Greek for the word healed here - in verse 14 and again in verse 17 is
IAOMAI - which literally means cleansed or cured.

As we know - one of the ten - a Samaritan man
   upon realizing he has been made clean, turns back 
and praising God with a loud voice he comes up Jesus
   and prostrates himself, 
he falls on his knees and his face before Jesus's feet, 
   and thanks him.

And Jesus looks upon him - and he says something very strange - and very
important to his disciples.  He says:

   "'Were not ten made clean?  But the other nine, where are they? 
   Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this
   foreigner?'  And then he says to the man: 'Get up and go on your
   way, your faith has made you well.'"

The word for well that is used here in the Greek is SOZO 
- which like the word IAOMAI - can be used to mean "healed" 
- but unlike IAOMAI, SOZO also means to be made whole or to saved.

My friends, we all know, or ought to know, that faith makes us whole. 
That is a basic tenant of our teaching.  But here, in this story, we have
the opportunity to see faith in a different light than we might normally
see it.

We have the opportunity to see faith as something that leads us to a life
that is more than normal.

And we have the opportunity  to see faith as nothing more difficult and as
nothing more profound as remembering what God has done and giving thanks
to him for it.

What, after all, is the difference between the nine lepers who are made
clean and the tenth leper who is not only made clean, but made whole? 
Between the nine who go to the priests as commanded and the one who
returns to Jesus praising God and thanking Jesus for healing him?

Robert Capon, in his book "Parables of Grace" urges us to think about it
this way.

   The ten lepers are all dead people.  Whether you are talking
   physically, spiritually, or socially, they are dead.  They would
   love to get healed which, in this context, means they would love to
   get raised from the dead, and return back home to a "normal life".

   That's all that they, like most people, ever really asked for. 
   Just a chance to "be like other people", an opportunity to go back
   home be like everyone else, to be normal.  They assume that this is
   what Jesus is all about - a return to the normal, a revival of the
   ordinary for people who, because of their infirmity and illness,
   are abnormal and sub-ordinary.

But one of the healed lepers, the Samaritan, realizes real resurrection. 
He alone comes back to say "Thanks".  He realizes that his healing comes
from God - through Jesus - and that God has put him in a relationship to
Jesus - and that relationship alone has made him whole and alive again.

   All that the other nine wanted out of Jesus was to made well, to go
   back home and start all over again, doing what everybody else had
   been doing: going to school, driving to work on Mondays, attending
   synagogue on Friday night if nothing more interesting is going on,
   eating yogurt out of plastic containers, meeting someone and maybe
   starting a family of nice, normal, ordinary kids?  And who would
   blame them?

But that one Samaritan comes back not only cured, but saved, made whole.

He comes back - saved - because he alone saw that his healing, his
resurrection, for what it was.  

He was saved and accepted by Jesus - by God - while he was a leper,
   while he was still sick, 
   while he was untouchable, 
   before he got well.

He realized that Jesus didn't just want to heal people, 
   much less make them normal,
but that he wanted to, and had the power to, raise them from the dead,
   now.  Today.

Nine lepers got healed, one got saved.

Nine people go away from Jesus healed, but not saved, because they put
their lives as lepers, as outcasts, as dead people, behind them.  

They go in obedience most certainly, but they go in a hurry, 
anxious to be on with it, to begin living like everyone lives.
.
They go away unsaved because all they really want is a normal life 
- a life like that they have dreamed of, 
a life like that which they had before they became lepers, 
- a life like everyone else's. 

But the tenth leper - he is not in such a hurry to forget how bad it was 
- he's not in such a hurry to get a normal life.
He realizes something important.

He realizes that the hand of God has touched his life;
that Jesus has accepted him - as he accepted the other nine, 
before he, before they, were healed.

It didn't matter to Jesus that they were lepers,
that they were outcasts,
that they were dead in their sins.

And the Samaritan realizes this - he realizes how unusual, how out of the
ordinary, how exceptional this is, and he gives thanks to God, and to
Jesus for it; and his acknowledgement of this fact - his Thanksgiving - is
called faith by Jesus, a faith that saves.

How many of us have made vows to God to do something for him if only God
in return would do this or that for us - and them promptly forgotten those
vows when our lives have returned to normal?

Too strong an example?

Well then, how many of us have had an experience of divine grace,
- only to forget that experience shortly there afterward
like those who have never encountered grace?

How many us have had an experience of knowing that God is truly out there
and that he truly cares,
- only to go on with living our lives like normal people,
like those who have never known the grace of God's forgiveness or the
wonder of his many gifts?

Too remote an example?

Well, how many of us have been in trouble,
how many of us have despaired,
how many of us have been rejected by friends and by family members,
and then encountered one day a person who has really helped us,
   or experienced an event or a series of events that has allowed us to
   live again, to live and rejoin those whom we had feared forever lost
   to us 
and then failed to treat each day thereafter as a incredible gift from
God?

I fear that all too many of us are in the position of the nine lepers who
went onward to the priests and to a renewal of their "normal lives".

What a shame to have met Jesus, the Lord and Giver of Life,
   to have met the one who loves to eat and drink with sinners
   and to worship in the synagogues and in the temple
   and to pray alone on the mountain tops and in the wilderness,
and to then come away from that meeting with nothing more than our health.

What a shame to have met Jesus, the risen Christ,
   the one who takes us and embraces us just as we are,
   the one who forgives us and gives us his resurrection power,
and come away from that meeting with nothing more than normal.

The power of salvation, of wholeness, is in remembering our previous state
   - what was normal for us - how we were enslaved by the powers of
   despair, darkness, and death, 
and seeing the miracle of what we have now 
   - of seeing that God has acted and is still acting 
of then acting like this is the day that the Lord alone has made, 
and rejoicing and being glad in it.

Our faith is not about how to live a normal life,
It is about how God touches us and Christ embraces us,
and raises not only that which was dead to new life,
but transforms that which was ordinary 
into the blessedness of the more than normal,
   the blessedness of knowing that God's hand and God's heart is in each
   and every moment of each and every new day.

One day Jesus healed ten lepers.  Of them nine went away as commanded to
show themselves to the priests and to return to their normal lives.  But
one of them, a Samaritan, turned and gave Jesus thanks - and he was made
whole, he was saved - on account of his faith.

Blessed be God, day by day.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"                        - VU 326
          

THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Let us pray now in silence for our ourselves, our families, our church,
and our community as we meditate on what God has told us and is even now
telling us through the still small voice of his Holy Spirit.  Let us
pray....

Lord - in and through Jesus you make known to your healing will and your
saving desire.  In Him you give life, as fresh as on the first day of
creation, without fanfare and without fuss.  You bring us wholeness as we
journey on our way - asking nothing from us except that we remember and
give you thanks - and that we in turn offer your good gifts to those
around us who are in need.  O God, we thank you and we praise you.  Like
the Samaritan leper you healed, we return our gratitude to you...  Lord
hear our prayer...

Father - so often we come to you as the God who gives us what we want,
rather than as the God who is able to give us what we really need.  Teach
us the wisdom that comes from looking at the world with a view broader
than that of our desires.  Help us to not only pray for our daily bread -
but for your kingdom to come and for your will to be done.  Help us to not
only pray for physical healing - but also for the ability to live
abundantly in your Holy Spirit.  Bless us with a life that is more than
normal - help us to be aware of your goodness day by day - and to witness
to your power and your love by all our words and our actions.....  Lord
hear our prayer...

Father - we pray today for all those who afflicted by disease and hunger -
by war and by terrorism.   For them we pray - that life will be blessed -
and that their needs will be met - and more - that they may also  not only
receive healing or food for their bodies, that they may not only know the
absence of violence and fear - but that they may be blessed as well with
any spiritual healing and any spiritual food  that they may need - and
with the inner and outer peace of your Kingdom.

Finally Lord we pray for ourselves and for those who were named before you
this day by their brothers and sisters in this place... BIDDING PRAYER
...Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord hear all our prayers of thanksgiving and intercession to you - those
we pray with our brothers and sisters - and those we pray at home and at
work and when we rise in the morning and lie down at night.  We ask it in
Jesus's name.  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

   Gracious God, we bring to you our tithes and our offerings, symbols
   of the work you make it possible for us to do, that they may be
   used in works of love, thankfulness, and obedience.  And we offer
   to you our lives  - that you may use us as your grateful servants,
   to bless one another and the world you have made.  Amen. 


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "I The Lord of Sea and Sky"                     - VU 509


* 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 our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, 
- and God our Father, 
who love us and in His grace give us unfailing courage and a firm hope, 
- encourage you and strengthen you by the power of the Holy Spirit, 
granting to you the joy of your salvation and the compassion and the
tenderness of your Saviour,
this 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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