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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 33 - Year C
Malachi 3:13-4:6; Isaiah 12; Luke 21:5-19
There Is A Point To All This

READING:  Malachi 3:13-4:6; Isaiah 12; Luke 21:5-19
SERMON :  "There Is A Point To All This"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or33se 452000
                    
     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".
     The reading from Malachi is taken from a previous edition of the
     RCL and is well matched to the Gospel.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                          (* = please stand)


* WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 98:1,7-9)
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    O Sing to the Lord a new song for he has done marvellous
     things.
P    His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
L    Let the sea roar and all that fills it; 
P    The world and those who live in it.
L    Let the floods clap their hands; 
P    Let the hills sing together for joy.
L    For the Lord is coming to judge the earth..
P    He will judge the world with righteousness, and the
     peoples with equity.
L    O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous
     things.


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


MUSIC AND SILENT PREPARATION
       
	 
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Lord God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by your Holy 
Spirit that, always keeping in mind the end of all things and 
the day of judgment, we may be stirred up to holiness of life here 
and may live with you forever in the world to come.  Open our eyes 
to your presence, our minds to your grace, our lips to your praises, 
our hearts to your love and our lives to your healing, through 
your Son, Christ Jesus our brother and our Lord.  Amen.


* HYMN: Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayers                         - VU 385


CHILDREN'S TIME
Theme:    Turning To God For Courage
Object:   Plastic Snake / Spider
Source:   Self and Wiesheit "The Gospel For Kids, Series C",
          1979, pp 123-24.

Good morning.  Today I brought along this great big spider -- do
you know anyone who is afraid of big spiders???   What kind of
other things are people afraid of???   Can you say what you are
afraid of???  When you become afraid what do you do????

Fear is a good thing most of the time - it tells us that there is
danger - and it gets us to run away or do other helpful things to
avoid the danger.  But sometimes fear is not very helpful - it
makes it impossible for us to go on and do the things we should
be doing.

Jesus talked to his disciples about many things that people are
afraid of - about earthquakes, famine, persecution, and wars.  He
said that when we saw such things coming we should know that
these things are really bad -- and do everything we can to try to
stop them - but that we shouldn't be afraid of them because he
would be with them and help them.  Jesus promised that while
people may try to hurt us that they will not be able to destroy
us.  While we may have pain and sorrow like other people - and
while we may even be killed - Jesus said that  not a hair from
our heads will be lost - because he will raise us from the dead.

When you are afraid of things remember Jesus and us his promise -
get out of way of the danger if you can - but do not worry about
what might or might not happen to you  - because God has a
wonderful  plan for everyone who loves him and tries to do what
is right..

      
PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord Jesus - we thank you for your promise - that those who 
   love you will live forever - and that nothing bad can destroy them 
   - help us not be afraid - but rather to trust you - and to pray for
   your help each day - 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:  "God of Grace and God of Glory"                          - VU 686


A READING FROM MALACHI 3:13 - 4:6
    (NRSV) You have spoken harsh words against me, says the LORD.
     Yet you say, "How have we spoken against you?" {14} You have
     said, "It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping
     his command or by going about as mourners before the LORD of
     hosts? {15} Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only
     prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape." {16}
     Then those who revered the LORD spoke with one another. The
     LORD took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was
     written before him of those who revered the LORD and thought on
     his name. {17} They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my
     special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them
     as parents spare their children who serve them. {18} Then once
     more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the
     wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve
     him.

     See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the
     arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes
     shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will
     leave them neither root nor branch. {2} But for you who revere
     my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in
     its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
     {3} And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes
     under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the
     LORD of hosts. {4} Remember the teaching of my servant Moses,
     the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for
     all Israel. {5} Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before
     the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. {6} He will turn
     the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of
     children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike
     the land with a curse.

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


PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L    Spirit Divine, attend our prayers.
P    Make this house your home.
L    Cleanse your people from all unrighteousness.
P    Make the lost world your home.
L    Living God, forgive and cleanse us that we may be ready for
     the time of judgement.  Hear the prayers of our hearts and
     grant mercy we pray.
P    Forgive us Lord for the times when we doubt;
     when we let our hands lie idle 
     and our hearts flag in zeal for your way.
L    Forgive us for the times of despair, when we give the
     victory to Satan by denying in our thoughts and our words
     your love and your power. 
P    Forgive us Lord for the times when we have sinned, 
     for when we have deliberately ignored and broken your law
     and the times we have done so through ignorance and neglect.
L    Forgive us Lord for the times we have sinned.  
     Put within us a new spirit of commitment and dedication.
     ............... (silent prayer) ...............
L    Help us Lord to overcome the evil one.
P    Grant us strength and the ability to endure the time of
     waiting.
L    Give us peace, and make us good witnesses to your name till
     your return.
P    Touch us and make us whole.  Amen

-- SUNG RESPONSE (VU 948):    
   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
  It is written in the Prophet Isaiah that before we call, the 
  Lord answers, and that while we are still speaking, our saviour 
  hears us. 

  My brothers and sisters, God has chosen not only to bring about 
  a new heaven and a new earth, but to grant those who call upon 
  his name new life, a life in which the former things shall not 
  be remembered or come to mind.  

  Therefore know this - in Christ your sins are forgiven.  If you 
  would have the joy that God promises forgive  others as you have 
  been forgiven.  Amen      


CHOIR ANTHEM:


RESPONSIVE READING: Isaiah 12 (VU page 880)and Sung Refrain


A READING FROM LUKE 21:5-19
     (NRSV)  When some were speaking about the temple, how it was
     adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he
     said, {6} "As for these things that you see, the days will come
     when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be
     thrown down." {7} They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be,
     and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?"
     {8} And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many
     will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is
     near!' Do not go after them. {9} "When you hear of wars and
     insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take
     place first, but the end will not follow immediately." {10}
     Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and
     kingdom against kingdom; {11} there will be great earthquakes,
     and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be
     dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. {12} "But before
     all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they
     will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be
     brought before kings and governors because of my name. {13}
     This will give you an opportunity to testify. {14} So make up
     your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; {15} for I
     will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents
     will be able to withstand or contradict. {16} You will be
     betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and
     friends; and they will put some of you to death. {17} You will
     be hated by all because of my name. {18} But not a hair of your
     head will perish. {19} By your endurance you will gain your
     souls.

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


* HYMN: "Will Your Anchor Hold"                                   - VU 675


SERMON: "There Is A Point To All This!"

     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

There is a story told about the monk who once approached Buddha
and asked 

     Do the souls of the righteous survive death?

     Characteristically the Buddha gave him no reply.  But
     the monk persisted.  Each day he would repeat the
     question and each day he would get silence for an
     answer, till he could take it no longer.  He threatened
     to abandon the path to enlightenment unless this
     crucial question was answered, for to what purpose, he
     wanted to know, was he sacrificing everything to live
     in the monastery if the souls of the righteous perished
     with their bodies?

     Then Buddha, in his compassion, spoke.

     You are like a man, he said, who was dying from a
     poisoned arrow.  His relatives rushed a doctor to his
     side, but the man refused to have the arrow pulled out
     unless three vital questions were first answered.

     First, the man who shot him - was he a white man or a
     black?  Second, was he a tall man or a short man?  And
     third, was he a Brahmin or an outcast?

How many of us are in the same position as that monk?  How many
of us question God and refuse to go on in our faith walk until
those questions are answered to our satisfaction?  How many of us
have had friends and family leave the church - leave the faith -
leave God - because they have not received the answers they
wanted to hear when they wanted to hear them?

Many people refuse to belief in God,
they refuse to act as God wants them to act,
until their questions are answered.

Lest we become too judgmental about these people, I want you to
know that many of those who ask these questions are very sincere
people.  For them it is not so much a matter of avoiding God, or
of refusing to consider the path of faith, as it is a matter of
being convinced that they will not be wasting their time.

For many the questions that they have revolve around one simple
matter, it revolves around the apparent success that evil people
have in this world.

The sincere amongst the questioners are very concerned:
- they are concerned by the fact that while God is supposed to be
a God of justice, the wicked do not seem to be hindered in their
evil ways at all.

This was certainly the situation for some of the people of Israel
during the time of the prophet Malachi, and it continues to be
the situation for so many believers and, of course, for so many
sceptics , in our land today.

They cry out - or they just plain assert:

     It is vain to serve the Lord.  
          What do we profit by keeping his command?
     or by going about as mourners before Him?  
          What does it avail us? 
          The arrogant are happy and evildoers not only prosper, 
     but when they put God to the test,- they escape. 

I admit that these are tough questions and statements.
I can't count all the times I have heard them from both those who
openly disbelieve, and from those who claim the name of God as
their own.

What is in it for us?
How do we profit if we do all that God says we should do?
Why should we follow the Lord since we see that wicked people do
very well, and that evil people all too often do not suffer?

These are tough questions - yes they are -
yet I can't stop thinking that these statements and questions
miss the mark -
that when they are asked amongst believers 
     these questions reveal a lack of understanding concerning
     God's ways,
and that when they are asked by unbelievers, 
     they reveal an unfortunate willingness to snuff out the
     light of hope in this world and have everyone dwell in
     darkness.

I was playing around with the title for this sermon earlier this
week.

I told Charlene I was thinking of calling it - "The Victory of
the Righteous, The Defeat of The Evil".  She asked me what the
message of the passages were.

I said that they were about the coming day of judgement  
and that the old testament reading featured a group of people
complaining to God and saying "what is the point of serving God -
the wicked prosper, and the evil ones do not get punished."

Right away she said - why not call the sermon "There is A Point
to All This" and that is what I have done.

There is a point to all this my friends - A point to our worship
of God.  A point to our serving Him and obeying his laws, even
when all around us evil seems to prosper and wicked people seem
to go off scott free.

Actually there are several points -
But the one I want to high light today is one of the most
fundamental ones - the one that we so often forget when we look
out on the world and complain about how things are going and
question what profit there is in following God.

That point is the one made by God through the prophet Malachi
after he listened to the questions and doubts of his people

     There is a day coming sayeth the Lord, a day coming
     "when all the arrogant and all evil doers will be
     stubble.  The day that comes will burn them up, so that
     it will leave them neither root nor branch -- but for
     you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall
     rise, with healing in his wings.  You shall go out
     leaping like calves from the stall.  And you shall
     tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the
     soles of your feet, on the day when I act."

That is the image that is provided to us in the very last chapter
of the last book of the Old Testament - and it is an image that
is repeated over and over again in the New Testament -- there is
a day coming when:
     the wicked will perish,
     they will be ground underfoot,
     they will be burned up like so much straw and stubble,
     while the righteous,
     those who keep faith with God,
     those who attempt to follow in the path of Christ,
     will be spared as parents spare their children who serve them.
     They will be more than conquerors through him who loves them
     they will be richly blessed and live eternally.

There is a point to all this,
A point to faith,
A point to keeping the law of God,
A point to believing.
Even when the wicked seem to prosper,
and the good suffer seem to suffer and died without any kind of
relief.

Those who righteous live by faith.  Those who are evil - perish -
at the last day.  That is the long and the short of the point to
all this.

I would be the last person to say to anyone, believers and
sceptics alike - do not ask questions about evil, do not ask
questions about the fate of the righteous.

Indeed I am convinced that between now and the time of Christ's
return that there is a place for the questions we have for God,
and that God has provided an answer for almost all of those
questions within his holy word - and within the faith we have
inside ourselves.

But that really is the secret of it all -
and one must be willing to act in faith and live in faith
before the answers to the questions of faith are revealed to us.

We must be willing to allow God to pluck out the arrows that
poisons our lives, before we have all the answers as to who shot
us, and why poison arrows are allowed in the first place.

Hearing about the judgement to come will avail us nothing as an
answer to our questions unless we are willing to allow Christ to
enter our hearts, and minister to us his life giving word, and
share with us his life-restoring powers.

We all my friends end up this life the same way
We all die - whether young or old, good or bad.

The question we need to ask is not - why do the wicked seem to
prosper?  but rather - with whom do we want to be numbered?

The story is told of a village preacher who was visiting one day
at the home of an elderly parishioner.

     Over a cup of coffee, he ended up answering questions
     that were being put to him by the kindly old
     grandmother.

     "Why does the Lord send us epidemics every so often?",
     asked the old woman.

     "Well", said the preacher, "sometimes people become so
     wicked that they have to be removed and so the good
     Lord allows the coming of epidemics."

     'But", objected Grandma, "then why do so many good
     people get removed with the bad?"

     "The good ones are summoned for witnesses", explained
     the preacher, "the Lord wants to give every soul a fair
     trial."

God gives to all a fair trial,
but even more - he gives to all a fair chance before the time of
judgement: a fair chance to observe his life-giving laws, and to
follow his Christ - the one who was willing to die so that we
might live, willing to suffer so that we might not perish.

There is a point to all this - and there is an end.

Those who endure in faith will win their souls.
Jesus came to tell us this and to ensure it.

Praise be to his life giving name.  Amen


* HYMN: "O Day of God, Draw Nigh"                                 - VU 688


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Help us dear God to interpret the signs correctly - the
circumstance that we find ourselves in - and to discern what it
is that you are telling us.  We confess that there are things in
our lives that need to come to an end - that there are steps to
be taken that we have put off too long - that there is a
reluctance within us to see in what is happening our need for a
deeper communion with thee.  Help us, we pray, to hear your word
- and to obey your will - so that we might be able to rest
ourselves in thee with the full confidence that Jesus promised to
those who follow him...  Lord hear our prayer...

We thank you O God, for the spiritual peace that keeps us from
panic; for the sustaining grace that holds us steady in the face
of all that threatens.  Grant that we may be able to discern the
Spirit in those things that occur both in our lives and in the
world around us.  Help us to stand up and to lift our heads and
behold the salvation that approaches - and in the trials and
tribulations that are coming upon the world to use the time you
have given us to testify to others concerning the coming
judgement and to witness to your love and mercy towards those who
seek to live by faith in you.  Indeed, we pray, O God, that you
will grant revival to us, and to our church and make us
instruments of your redeeming purpose within our families and our
community and our world, Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, for our friends, our community, and our world we pray. Listen
to the words of our lips and the thoughts upon our hearts as we now
lift up to you what is there - who is there.... BIDDING PRAYER....
... Lord, hear our prayer..

We ask all these things not in our name, but in the name of Jesus
Christ - he who taught us to pray to you for ourselves and for
the coming of your kingdom.  Amen


MINUTE FOR MISSION


SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  The Offering; The Doxology (Singing Red
290); and The Prayer of Dedication

     Lord, you have spoken and said that when we bring the
     full tithe into your storehouse that you will open the
     windows of heaven and pour down upon us abundant
     blessings - but when we withhold what you first gave us
     - that the land itself will dry up - and that we will
     be accounted before you as robbers and thieves.  We
     pray, O God, that what is offered upon these plates -
     and what we offer now to you in our hearts - is even
     more than the sacrifice that you have commanded - and
     that it will bring not only blessings upon us - but
     praise and glory unto you.  Amen


* HYMN: "Forth In Your Name, O Christ"                            - VU 416


* 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 THREE-FOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Jesus,
and the blessing of God our Holy Judge - our Sure Hope - and
our Loving and Faithful Redeemer go with you 
   may his Spirit touch you
   his word guide you
   and his grace surround you
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"  


copyright	- Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks,  2001 - 2006
		please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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