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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 34 - Proper 29 - Year C
("The Reign of Christ" or "Christ The King")
Colossians 1:9-20; Psalm 46; Luke 23:33-43
"If I Had Known"



READING:  Colossians 1:9-20; Psalm 46; Luke 23:33-43 
SERMON :  "If I Had Known"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or34sesn.y-c 454808
                    
     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 Children's Story is based on an original concept for
     this Sunday as found in the "Whole People of God" Sunday School 
     Curriculum for 1995.

     
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)
  

* WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Hebrews 1:1-4)
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  Long ago God spoke to our ancestors many times and in various ways 
   through the prophets.
P  But in these last days God has spoken to us through his Son, 
   through whom he created the worlds.
L  He is the one God has appointed heir of all things.
P  He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact likeness 
   of God's own being.  He sustains all things by his powerful word.
L  When he had made purification for the sins of all, 
   he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
P  He was made greater than the angels, 
   just as the name God gave him is greater than theirs.
L  To Him, and to God the Father, by the power of God the Holy Spirit, 
   belong all our worship and our praise.
      

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


MUSIC AND SILENT PREPARATION


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Loving and Gracious God, we thank you for all your mercies - we thank you for
raising Jesus and for making him Lord of All - we thank you for how you
forgive us and continue to transform by the  power of the Holy Spirit - we
praise you and adore you for the living and holy reality of your presence in
our lives.  We worship you today because of all that you have revealed to us
in and through Christ Jesus and pray most fervently that you would help us to
know the blessing of a closer walk with thee.  All praise, honour, glory and
power, be unto thee, O Lord our God.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "This is The Day"                                         - VU 412


CHILDREN'S TIME
Theme:    Through Jesus We See God
Object:   Pictures of Jesus     
Source:   Original concept "Whole People of God", 1995 

Good morning.  Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year -- next week we
will be starting the season of Advent - where we prepare for the birth of
Christ in our world on Christmas Day - and his birth in our hearts.

For the last few months we have following Jesus through his life.  His
friends wrote down in the Bible the things that he said and did.  But do you
know there is one thing that he didn't tell us about Jesus - does anyone have
any ideas about what that is????

They didn't tell us what Jesus looked like.  The gospel writers didn't tell
us anything about his hair colour, his weight, his eyes, his skin, or
anything else.  We often have pictures of those we love - but no one had
cameras two thousand years ago - and no one that we know of drew a picture of
him.

What do you think that Jesus looked like???  Was he tall or short??  What
colour do you think his eyes were - blue or brown??    Was he skinny, or more
like me???   

Lots of people have tried to describe Jesus - just like we just did - I have
some pictures here of him that someone drew - and others can be found in the
church - or maybe even in your home.  Lots of  ideas about Jesus.

Just as we don't have pictures of Jesus that tell us what he was really like
- so none of us have ever seen God --- but we do have a good idea of what God
is like.  Today's reading that you will study  in your class is from a letter
the Apostle Paul wrote - in it he says "Christ is the Visible Image of the
Invisible God".  That means seeing Jesus helps people see what God is like. 
But since we don't know what Jesus really looked like physically, what Paul
must mean is that Jesus shows us what God is like through his words and
actions.  What kinds of things did Jesus do???

That is what God is like -- If you want to know what God is like - listen to
what the bible says about Jesus - and you will know him as well as anyone
possibly can.  


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Let us pray -- Dear Lord Jesus - we thank you for showing us - what God
   is like.   Help us to be like you - so that our lives may show - what you 
   and God are like too.   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:  "Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks"                        - SFGP 34


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 COLOSSIANS 1:9-20 
  (NIV)  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not
   stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge
   of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we
   pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may
   please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in
   the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to
   his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,
   and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to
   share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For
   he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into
   the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the
   forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the
   firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created:
   things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones
   or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and
   for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold
   together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the
   beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything
   he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his
   fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all
   things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace
   through his blood, shed on the cross.

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


PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L  We praise you God for the gift of your Son.  But even as we express our
   appreciation for his Lordship, we also admit our independence often makes
   us ignore his authority over our lives.
P  Forgive us when we live as if we are subject to no one but ourselves, as
   if our judgement is the only authority that matters, our desires the only
   ones that count.
L  Forgive us for how we ignore your word and neglect your law. 
P  Forgive us for how we blind ourselves to the demands of your holy will,
   for how we fail to do that which has been commanded by you.
      ............... (silent prayer) ...............
L  Grant us mercy O God and mould us in the image of Christ.
P  Make us like unto him and help us to be your obedient servants.  
L  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


CHOIR ANTHEM:
       

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 46 (Voices United page 770) and Refrain #2


A READING FROM LUKE 23:33-43
  (NIV)  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they
   crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other
   on his left.  Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know
   what they are doing."  And they divided up his clothes by casting
   lots. 

   The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. 
   They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the
   Christ of God, the Chosen One."  

   The soldiers also came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine
   vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." 

   There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING
   OF THE JEWS. 

   One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't
   you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!"  But the other criminal
   rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under
   the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what
   our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong." 

   Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 

   Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with
   me in paradise."

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


* HYMN:  "Come, Let Us Sing of A Wonderful Love"                   - VU 574
      

SERMON:  "If I Had Know"

   Lord, quieten our hearts that we may listen to Your still small voice,
   so that in hearing Your Word we may respond in fervent faith.  As
   Jesus led disciples of old, so lead us your children today.  We ask it
   his name.  Amen.

Some time ago I watched a television show called "Reasonable Doubts".

The story was a about a female defence lawyer who represented a man convicted
of two brutal killings before a parole board.  He was seeking release from
prison after serving 14 years and she succeeded in getting him released.

A police man who was present at the original crime scene gives the lawyer a
rough time after the hearing, telling her that she should not be representing
such people, that the man she was defending was nothing but scum.

Later that day the police officer discovers that the lawyer's mother had died
from cancer the night before and so, the next time he sees the lawyer he
says, "I'm sorry, if I had known your mother had died I would have gone
easier on you."

Another character in the story - the deaf prosecutor who was the main star,.
also gives the lady lawyer a hard time for representing the killer before the
parole board - and she too, later hears about the mother's death.

The next time the prosecutor sees the defence lawyer she also says to her -
"Sorry,  If I had known I would have gone easier on you."

This got me to thinking just how often we in fact do and say such things.

It happens all the time - in the normal bustle of daily living
   - when we are moving too fast, or feeling in need of help.
       - we fail to recognize what is happening around us,
          - we forget what it is that we should be about.

Sometimes we load up other people with our burdens and pains, we pour out all
our complaints and troubles, only to discover later on that the person is
dealing with their own emotional burden, a burden far heavier than our own..
   
Sometimes we ask someone to do this or that thing without considering their
work load.  We just assume that the other person is, our should be, willing
to assist us, only to discover later on that they have just put in a double
shift at work, or that a relative of theirs' has just be in accident.

Other times we may, in good humour, tease someone about something, thinking
that we know them well enough to have a bit of fun with them, only to
discover later on that he or she is very sensitive about the very thing we
thought was safe to tease them about.

And we realize that we have blown it - that we have acted inappropriately,
and we seek out the person concerned and in almost every case we say
something like:
   if I had known, I would not have asked you that,
   if I had known, I would not have said that,
   if I had known, I would not have bothered you.

If only I had known....

I mention this today, because as we come to the end of the church year,
we are asked to remember that Jesus, when all is said and done, is our King,
and I can't help thinking that when it comes to our obedience to our king,
when it comes to our willingness to show him our respect and honour,
many of us end up making the same mistake with him that we make with other
people: 
   - we blunder ahead on a business as usual basis, being casual, abrupt, and
   insensitive - until, all of sudden it seems, we realize that something
   special is going on.

What is this - If I had known excuse anyway?

I think it is a genuine kind of excuse,
people are very sincere when they offer it,
but does it really count for a lot in the long run?

Shouldn't we be caring and loving and respectful all the time?
Shouldn't we always pay attention - before we say or do something,
to where the person is at - to who the person is - to what the situation is?

Shouldn't we honour our Lord and our King all the time,
and not just at special times like Sunday morning?

Think of the crucifixion of Christ for a moment 
- that passage we heard read from Luke a few minutes ago.

Just about everyone there from the guards and the pharisees, 
to the thief on the cross next to him,
taunted Jesus. saying to him:  "If you are the messiah, if your are the
                               king, then save yourself - and save us."

It is pretty obvious from the gospel story that none of these people
recognized Jesus for who he was:  And this - it seemed - meant to them that
they could abuse him as they might abuse any convicted criminal.

To them - nothing special was going on 
- it was business as usual, business without thinking,
business without considering what it was that God would want out of them
whether or not this man on the cross was the Messiah - or simply a misguided
fool.

I believe that if those who acted this way at the foot of the cross could
come back and stand before Christ today - as we can stand before him - they
would say to him:

   Sorry Jesus, If I had known I would have gone easier on you, 
 
   If I had known I would have taken your part like the other thief took
   your part, I would have wept for you instead of jeering at you."

What does it mean to claim that Jesus is our Messiah, our King, our Lord.
If it does not mean that we are to act differently?  to show him our respect?
and to strive to honour him and obey him and serve him at all times?  and
never more so - so some would say - than when he is actually here with us?

But what happens when we fail to recognize that our God and our King is
actually here among us?
What happens when the King is not sitting on his throne,
or announcing his presence among us with trumpets and waving flags?

Recall what the prophet Isaiah said about Christ?  About our God and King?

He had no form of majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him -
and so it was he was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering and acquainted with grief.

If only I had known.

The story is told about a Guru who was mediating in his Mountain cave.  When
he opened his eyes he discovered an unexpected visitor sitting before him -
the abbot of a well known monastery.

   "What is it you seek", asked the Guru?

   The abbot recounted a tale of woe.  At one time his monastery had been
   famous throughout the western world.  It's cells were filled with
   young aspirants and its church had resounded to the chant of its
   monks.  But hard times had come on the monastery.  People no longer
   flocked there to nourish their spirits, the aspirants had dried up,
   and the church was almost silent.  There were only a handful of monks
   left and these went about their duties with heavy hearts.

   Now this is what the abbot wanted to know - "Is it because of some sin
   of ours that the monastery has been reduced to this state?"

   "Yes", replied the Guru, "a sin of ignorance."

   "And what might that sin be?"

   "One of your number is the Messiah in disguise and your are ignorant
   of this", replied the Guru - and having said so he closed his eyes and
   returned to his meditation.

   Throughout the long journey back to his monastery the abbot's heart
   beat fast as he thought that the Messiah - the Messiah himself - had
   returned to earth and was right there in his monastery.  How was it
   that he had failed to recognize him?  And who could it be?  Brother
   Cook?  Brother Sacristan?  Brother Treasurer?  Brother Prior?  No, not
   he; he had too many defects, alas.  But then, the Guru had said he was
   in disguise.  Could those defects be part of his disguise?  Come to
   think of it, everyone in the monastery had defects.  And one of them
   had to be Messiah.

   Back in the monastery the abbot assembled all the monks and told them
   what he had discovered.  They looked at one another in disbelief.  The
   Messiah?  Here?  Incredible.  But he was supposed to be here in
   disguise.  So, maybe.  What if it were so and so?  Or the other one
   over there?  Or...

   One thing was certain.  If the Messiah was there in disguise, it was
   not likely that they would recognize him.  So they took to treating
   everyone with special respect and consideration.  "You never know",
   they said to themselves when they dealt with one another, "maybe this
   is the one."

   The result was that the atmosphere of the monastery became vibrant
   with joy.  Soon dozens of aspirants were seeking admission to the
   order. - and once again the church echoed with the holy and joyful
   chant of monks who were aglow with the spirit of love.

Jesus, our Messiah, our king, is here today somewhere in this church,
somewhere in this community.

He has no form of majesty about him that we should look at look at him,
nothing about his appearance that we desire him --- but he is here.

And we owe him - for he is our King - and our saviour
we owe him our praise, our obedience, our special honour and care,
not just in our times of prayer - when we address him upon his throne,
but in each minute of each day as we meet him as we go about our normal
business.

None of us can really say to him - if only I had known,
For we do know -- and we are called to show our respect and our devotion
each and every day - AMEN


* HYMN:  "Crown Him With Many Crowns"                              - VU 211


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Let us pray...  Gracious God - we pray for ourselves at this time - that we
might remember who is in control in creation - who hold together all things -
and that he might be the one who controls our  life.  Help us to let go of
ourselves and our fears and worries and to rest ourselves in Christ Jesus. 
Help us to grow in faith, to rejoice always in what you have done, to submit
our will and our plans  to your will and your plan for our lives.  Lord, hear
our prayer...

Gracious God, we pray for others - we pray that those who have ego enthroned
within their lives may meet Christ.  That those who are ruled by money, by
status, by the desire to get ahead, by addictions,  or by any other force
other than that of our Lord, may awaken and realize their poverty, and reach
out to you.  We ask for those who are afraid that their life is in a downward
spiral that cannot be arrested or reversed that they may realize the
authority and the power of Christ over all that afflicts  them; we pray for
those who have no hope - those whose days consist of  a meaningless cycle of
frantic work, desperate pleasure, and restless sleep.  Lord hear our
prayer...

We ask for the special burden is upon our hearts at this time - we praise you
for the special joy that you have granted us without even asking for it....

We pray those who dwell in places of strife, need, and want:

We pray  - for those who have been bereaved in the past week 

We pray too for those others named before you this day by our brothers and
sisters in faith.  We remember  (BIDDING PRAYER)

We pray to you Lord, through Jesus our King - our brother - and our redeemer.  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
         
   We bring our offering to you O God and dedicate both it and ourselves
   to the work of Christ our Lord.  We pray that the dispirited may be
   heartened, the homeless housed, the hungry fed, and your name be
   praised, as we fulfill the ministry which Christ has called us to. 
   Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Give Me Oil In My Lamp"                      - SFGP 130

               
* 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, love and care for one another in the name of Jesus;
and may Christ our Lord 
   bless you with a heart of reverent and joyful obedience; 
may God our Father 
   bless you with a mind that knows his truth and his glory; 
and may the Holy Spirit 
   guide and lead you on the way with power and love and wisdom,
till at last you experience the wonder of the inheritance that has been
prepared for you in the heavenly places.  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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