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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 29 - Year C
Habakkuk 1:1-3, 2:1-4; II Timothy 4:1-5; Luke 18:1-8
"Whether The Time is Favourable or Unfavourable"



READING:  Habakkuk 1:1-3, 2:1-4; II Timothy 4:1-5; Luke 18:1-8
SERMON :  "Whether The Time is Favourable or Unfavourable"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
C-or29se 447
                    
    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".


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


MUSICAL PRELUDE
- Lighting The Candle


* WORD'S OF WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Habakkuk 3:17-19)
L    The Lord be with you.
P    And also with you.
L    Even if the fig tree does not blossom, 
     and there is no fruit on the vines;
P    Though the produce of the olive fails 
     and the fields yield no food;
L    Even if the flock is cut off from the fold 
     and there is no herd in the stalls;
P    Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; 
     I will exult in the God of my salvation.
L    I will rejoice in the Lord and worship him, 
     for He is my God, my strength and my hope.


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
God of our days and our nights, Lord of our valleys and our
mountain tops, we come into your sanctuary and into your presence
at this time to worship you and to give you the praise that you
deserve and to show  you the love that we have for you because of
your goodness; we come to learn from you what you would have us
do and be.  Grant that this may be a time of prayer, of
communion, of praiseful thought and meditation.  Grant too that
we may rejoice no matter what the circumstances in our lives -
and develop a stronger faith in you.  We ask it in the name of
Christ Jesus - our Lord.  Amen.


* HYMN: "Praise The Lord With The Sound of Trumpets"     - VU 245


ANNOUNCEMENTS & SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS

                     
INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated):
  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!  (VU 371 v.2 & refrain)
               

SCRIPTURE READING: Habakkuk 1:1-3, 2:1-4
L    This is the word of the Lord.
P    Thanks be to God.


PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L    O Lord - when there is plenty we often do not render thanks
     or consider from whence our blessings flow.  Yet when there
     is little - we often accuse you of not caring.
P    Father, forgive us for how we accuse you of not being
     loving.
     ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L    O Lord - when there is justice being done we often do not
     praise you or consider from when all truth flows.  Yet when
     evil seems to go unpunished - we often question your very
     existence.
P    Father, forgive us for how we question your power and your
     will.
     ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L    O Lord, when the task is easy we often are ready to do what
     you have asked.  Yet when the demand is great - we often
     take our hand off the plough and complain that there is no
     help or hope for us or our world.
P    Father, forgive us for our lack of faith, for how we talk
     the talk, but so often do not walk the walk.
     ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L    Forgive us O God - and show us the way to new life.
P    Touch us and make us whole.  Amen
     
-- Sung Response (VU 948):    
     O Lord, hear my prayer.  O Lord, hear my prayer; when I
     call answer me.  O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my
     prayer; come and listen to me.

-- Assurance of God's Love & Mercy


CHOIR ANTHEM: 


SCRIPTURE READING: II Timothy 4:1-5
L    This is the word of the Lord.
P    Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE PSALM READING: Psalm 119:137-144 (VU 841 - Part Six)
and Refrain #6


SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 18:1-8
L    This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P    Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN: "This Is God's Wondrous World"                   - VU 296


SERMON: "Whether The Time is Favourable or Unfavourable"

     Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of
     our hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable
     to thee, oh our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

An assistant manager of a large department store saw a boy
standing at the bottom of the escalator one day.  The assistant
became suspicious.  He watched the boy for a while.  The had his
eyes glued on the moving handrail.  Finally the assistant went
over to the lad and questioned him.  "Something wrong young man?"
he asked?  "No sir "., replied the boy, not taking his eyes off
the handrail, "I'm just waiting for my bubble gum to come back."

Perseverance is a theme in all three readings from the scriptures
today - perseverance in the face of suffering and injustice,
     - perseverance in the face of neglect and rejection,
     - perseverance in the face of trials and adversities.

But not just any kind of perseverance is featured in our
scripture readings; 
rather the perseverance of faith is held up to us,
     that perseverance which arises out of the hope that we have
     in God and which plays out in how we live in the world,
     whether the time is favourable or unfavourable.

Often of course the times are unfavourable.

We face issues far more serious than having our bubble gum get
stuck on an escalator handrail - we face a world that to most of
us seems completely mad, completely out of control - and we can
easily slip into despair.

     O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not
     listen?  - pleads the prophet Habakkuk  - Or cry to you
     "violence" and you will not save?  Why do you make me
     see wrong doing and look at trouble?  Destruction and
     violence are before me; strife and contention is all
     around me!

Who can blame a person for pushing the buttons on the remote
control when the news comes on?  For changing the channels when
pictures of starving children in Africa are presented.... it all
seems so helpless and we cannot watch.

Yes, the times can be unfavourable indeed - and it is hard, very
hard, to believe in God some days.  How, oh how, can he let this
pain, this suffering, this gross injustice continue?

It is easy my friends to loose heart - to forget - in the face of
woe - just who we have and what we have in our God.

It is easy to forget the truth upon which the world is founded,
The laws by which it ultimately operates,
And the decrees to which it will finally be subjected to.

The apostle Paul's young friend Timothy went through a period of
forgetting like this.

He attempted to preach the gospel and was threatened by the
authorities; he tried to spread the word - but was ignored by the
crowds; he spoke of healing and of salvation and of those few who
responded many ended up arguing over doctrines and beliefs as if
the dotted I's and crossed T's of each word they had heard was
critically important and God would reject those who did not
believe exactly as they did.

I rather imagine that Timothy felt like he was spitting into the
wind, spinning his wheels, going nowhere in a hurry.

Certainly Paul thought that Timothy had developed that feeling,
that is why he wrote to him as he did:

     Continue in what you have learned and firmly
     believed...  In the presence of God and of Christ
     Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in
     view of his appearing and his kingdom - I solemnly urge
     you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the
     time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke,
     and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching....
     always b sober, endure suffering, do the work of an
     evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

Many forces attack us my friends, often it seems that all there
is is bad news -- and we find ourselves losing heart - indeed
many fall into doubt and unbelief when faced with suffering and
injustice.

And that is very sad - for it gives the victory to the enemy.

     We do not struggle, brothers and sisters, against flesh
     and blood, but rather we struggle against
     principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

Our enemy is Satan, and he wants us to surrender, 
to give up, to let go of God and to sink into despair.

We are in a spiritual battle and we need to use the spiritual
tools provided by God if we are to if we are to be victorious, if
we are keep the faith and not loose heart.

One of those tools most surely is prayer - persistent prayer -
persevering prayer.

Jesus tells the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge to
illustrate what our prayer to God should be like:
it should be continual - and demanding - and never give up,
  never give up no matter what the opposition throws at us,
  never give up until the day when the justice he has promised
arrives

But another tool, and certainly the most basic tool that God
provides, is the faith we have -- the faith that is referred to
in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge when Jesus,
after saying how God will respond to those who ask for justice,
asks:

          "and yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he
          find faith on earth?"

Faith, my friends, is a living thing,
and like all living things produces still more life,
that is - if it survives long enough 
- if it is nurtured and nourished properly.

When I was living in a small logging community on Vancouver
Island, a friend of mine by the name of Ike bought fifteen
chicks.  His intention was to raise them as layers.

     One of those 15 chicks refused to eat with the others. 
     Whenever Ike went out to check on them the chick looked
     up at him and at the sky and chirped pathetically, yet
     it refused to put its head down to the ground with the
     other chicks and eat.

     Ike tried to get it to eat.  He held grain in his hand
     for the chick and tried various other means to get it
     to take food - but still the chick refused.  It got
     thinner and thinner and its cries got weaker and
     weaker.  After almost two days Ike took pity on it and
     put it out of its misery.

Too many of us are like that chick.
We cry out to God and our neighbours for help, 
we complain about how hard things are and how we are suffering, 
but we never get down and do that which we really need to do,
we never feed ourselves on the word of God
and take comfort and strength from all that it says,
and so we end up contracting a case of spiritual malnutrition
and we waste away - all the while expressing great surprise and
disappointment- as if it could be any different!

Will Christ find faith in this world when he returns?

Will he find people nurtured by the living word of God?  People
who are strong enough to weep with those who suffer and to demand
healing and justice from the unjust judges of our world as they
continually pray and wait for the true and final justice of God
to be executed upon the world?

What I am saying to you is quite simply this -
God has provided us with what we need to persevere with,
he has provided us with all the tools we require to live life
triumphantly and well.

There is a victory!  There is justice!  There is a time when what
goes around comes around! -- just as that young boy knew as he
waited at the escalator handrail for his gum.

I ask you to remember God's answer to Habakkuk's cry - an answer
that is also given to us by Jesus in the gospel....

     There is still a vision for the appointed time; it
     speaks of the end, and dos not lie.  If it seems to
     tarry, wait for it.  It will surely come, it will not
     delay.  Look at the proud - their spirit is not right
     within them, but the righteous live by their faith.

My friends , our pain when we look upon the evil in this world is
a good thing - it tells us that we are still alive spiritually,
that we still care.

Jesus lamented over Jerusalem - knowing how it would be
destroyed.  He wept at the grave side of Lazarus - sharing the
sharing the pain of Mary and Martha.  And he raged over the
corruption and injustice of the Temple authorities and the
teachers of the law who placed burdens on the backs of others
that they would not carry themselves.

Should we be different than he who is our Master, our Saviour,
our Friend?

Jesus said

     "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden,
     and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and
     learn from me.  My yoke is easy, and burden is light"  

I have always take that to mean that we put down the burdens of
anxiety and fear that we care - those centred on such things as
what we shall eat and what we shall wear and how successful
should we be - and take upon ourselves the kind of burden Jesus
bore - concern for the poor, care for the sick, anger for the
unjust, compassion for the lost.

And of course - my friends - it is a yoke of service - of walking
the walk as well as talking the talk, no matter what the time is
like.

The burden is light - not because it lacks any seriousness - but
because it is carried within us by the power of faith - of trust
- and of confidence - those things that are nurtured in us by the
word of God and by persistent conversation with him in prayer.

I would like to end with a story about the nature of persistence
- of perseverance if you will -- it is about the first pilot to
fly across the United States from coast to coast.

     On September 17 1911 Galbraith Perry Rogers left Long
     Island, New York and on November 5th he arrived in
     Pasadena, California.  The time Captain Perry spent in
     the air was only 3 days and 10 hours and 14 minutes. 
     Along the way he crashed 39 times and made 30 other
     unscheduled stops.  The only parts of the original
     plane that were left and completed the trip were the
     rudder the drip pan.

Pray always and do not loose heart,
feed upon the word of God
be persistent whether the time be favourable or unfavourable,
and our Lord will give you his yoke and his burden,
and lead you and our world into the fulness of the Kingdom of
God.

Blessed be the name of God, day by day.  Amen


* HYMN: "Friends, Let Us Love Each Other"                - VU 498


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER


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

     O God, we bring to you our tithes and our offerings,
     that they may be used in works of love, thankfulness,
     and obedience.  May they be worthy gifts, a symbol of
     the depth of our faith and our commitment.  In the same
     Spirit, we dedicate to you our lives, that you may use
     us as your grateful servants, to bless one another and
     the world you have made.  Amen. 
      

* HYMN: "Jesus, Teacher, Brave and Bold"                 - VU 605


* 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 AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace - and the blessing of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and
the Life, abide with and within you both now and always.  Amen.


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964



copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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