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Sermon and Liturgy for The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year A
I Peter 2:1-10; John 14:1-14
"Our Desire and Our Growth"


READING:  I Peter 2:1-10 and John 14:1-14
SERMON :  "Our Desire and Our Growth"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea05sm.y-a 668
                  
     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 for the sermon include some text and illustrative 
     items from Duncan King "'I Can Have Anything?' (John 14:1-14) 
     as found in Dynamic Preaching, Mar-Apr-May 1996.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
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.
P  And also with you.
L  God is our refuge and our defence, 
   a strong fortress to deliver us.
P  We will rejoice and be glad because of his constant love.
L  God sees our suffering and knows our trouble.
   We are always in his care.
P  Our trust is in him.  He is our God. 
L  The Lord preserves the faithful.  
   He hears our cry when we call for help.  
P  Wonderful are the good things God keeps 
   for those who honour him. 


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of heaven and earth, you who are revealed most perfectly in
Christ Jesus our Lord, we thank you this day for calling us to be
your people and for watching over us and guiding us in the way we
should go.  We come before you now, O God, aware of our need for
you.  We come before you to worship you and to seek your will for
our lives.  Bless us in this holy time.  May we find words and
thoughts of hope; may our feelings, as well as our minds, be
engaged in your message and in your living presence.  Help us to
find the living Christ not only in scripture, but in song and in
praise, in prayer, and in one another.   And with what we find,
may we reach out to others in his most holy name.  We ask it
through him and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


* HYMN:   "Morning Has Broken"                           - VU 409


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND 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)


A READING FROM I Peter 1_25 - 2:10
   (NRSV) {25}  but the word of the Lord endures forever." That
   word is the good news that was announced to you. {2:1}  Rid
   yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile,
   insincerity, envy, and all slander. {2} Like newborn infants,
   long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow
   into salvation-- {3} if indeed you have tasted that the Lord
   is good. {4} Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by
   mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and {5} like
   living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual
   house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices
   acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. {6} For it stands in
   scripture: "See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone
   chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be
   put to shame." {7} To you then who believe, he is precious;
   but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the
   builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,"
   {8} and "A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that
   makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the word,
   as they were destined to do. {9} But you are a chosen race, a
   royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order
   that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you
   out of darkness into his marvellous light. {10} Once you were
   not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not
   received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

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


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "The Right Direction"
Object    Road Map
Theme     I Am the Way, The Truth, and The Life
Source    Based on Children's Sermon Service Plus.  Vol 23.  No.2 1996

Good morning.  Recently I went on a trip that took me through a
place I had never been before.  I had to come from the Ferry
landing off Vancouver Island - through Surrey and Fort Langley to
get back onto the Trans Canada Highway which leads home to
Golden.  I had never been there before.  I didn't know where
exactly to go or the best way to get there so that I didn't spend
a lot of time in traffic and running through the city.  Do any of
you know how I figured out how to get there?  Yep - I used this
map.  Look - it's right here....  From the Ferry to Highway 10 -
and along Highway 10 all the way to the Freeway.

When you go on vacation do your parents sometimes give you road
maps to follow???  A road map is very important when you are
going places that you've never been before.  (Hold map so kids
can see it)  Let's assumes I want to go to Kamloops - and instead
went this way -- what would happen???

So, when I get a road map, I need to follow it correctly, or it
won't help me at all will it?

What if I wanted to find God?  What do I do???

Philip, who was one of the disciples, asked Jesus how to find
God.  Our gospel lesson this morning gives us Jesus' answer to
Philip.  The lesson says that Jesus is like a road map to God. 
Listen to what Jesus says about finding God -- he told Philip, "I
AM THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.  NO ONE COMES TO THE
FATHER BUT THROUGH ME." 

Jesus is our road map to finding God.  So when you are travelling
on vacation, or to visit a relative, a road map like this one
will get you there.  If you want to find God what do you do???  

You look at Jesus.  Jesus will show you the way to God.  That's
one of the reasons we are in church this morning.  We are looking
to Jesus to have him show us the way to find God.

   Let us Pray:  "We thank you Lord - for your guidance and
   your grace. - You are the way, the truth and the life. -
   Help us to follow you each day - and be the people you
   want us to be.  Amen"


*HYMN:  "Jesus Loves Me"                                 - VU 365


A READING FROM JOHN 14:1-14
   (NRSV)  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God,
   believe also in me. {2} In my Father's house there are many
   dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you
   that I go to prepare a place for you? {3} And if I go and
   prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you
   to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. {4} And
   you know the way to the place where I am going." {5} Thomas
   said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How
   can we know the way?" {6} Jesus said to him, "I am the way,
   and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
   except through me. {7} If you know me, you will know my
   Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
   {8} Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we
   will be satisfied." {9} Jesus said to him, "Have I been with
   you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?
   Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say,
   'Show us the Father'? {10} Do you not believe that I am in
   the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to
   you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me
   does his works. {11} Believe me that I am in the Father and
   the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me
   because of the works themselves. {12} Very truly, I tell you,
   the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do
   and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am
   going to the Father. {13} I will do whatever you ask in my
   name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} If
   in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

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


CHOIR ANTHEM:


SERMON:  "Our Desire and Our Growth"

   "Gracious God - bless now the words of my lips and the
   meditations of our hearts.  Breath your Spirit into us and
   grant that we may hear and in hearing be led in the way
   you  want us to go.  Amen.

Peter begins the second chapter of his first letter to God's
chosen people with an exhortation - 

   He writes: "Rid yourselves then, of all evil; no more lying or
   hypocrisy, or jealousy, or insulting language.  Like newborn
   babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you
   may grow up in your salvation."

   In the last verse of today's gospel reading Jesus says: "You may
   ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

What do you crave?  What do you yearn for?  What blessing do you
ask God for?

A couple of items for you to ponder as you think about that
question.

   A few years ago a well-known televangelist sent green
   prayer cloths to thousands of his viewers.  God supposedly
   told him that the prayer cloth would be a point of
   contact, between him and the audience, for releasing God's
   blessing - with one essential condition.  His viewers
   needed to send lots of money with the prayer cloth, or as
   he put it, "Sow your very best seed."  

      To those who returned the green cloth with some money, the
   televangelist promised great prosperity:  "Send me your
   green prayer cloth as my point of contact with you!" he
   pleaded. "When I touch your cloth, it will be like
   touching you!  When you touch this cloth, it will be like
   taking MY hand and touching me.  I want the anointing that
   God has put upon my life for miracles of finances and
   prosperity to come directly from my hand to yours... You
   can reign in life like a king!"  According to this
   televangelist, within months of sending in her prayer
   cloth, one woman received $286,000 in bonds and $65,000 in
   cash.  Also, as a bonus, her husband was delivered from
   alcoholism. 

That's interesting.  Get rich and have your family problems
solved in a moment by just sending for a prayer cloth.  It seems
like a good deal.

The second item is something that appeared in a newspaper not so
long ago.

   The Rev. Patrick Leary is the rector of the Shrine of the
   Most Holy Redeemer in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He says visitors
   to the cathedral there often make the same request.

Can you guess what it is??

   "Father, will you pray for me to win?"  

   The article continues by saying that Father Leary pointing
   around at the beautiful church and said to the reporter,
   "I tell them if it was that easy, do they think we'd still
   have a debt on this place?  I believe in the power of
   prayer, but even prayer has its limits."

"Even prayer has its limits." 
Do you believe that??

If you do - what do you do then with these words of Jesus: 
"If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it"? 

Think of the possibilities - a new car, a new home, a cure for
baldness.  All we have to do is ask.  

"If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." 

   Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, a well know preacher many years
   ago, said that once, when he was a high school student, he
   had a very difficult examination.   But he had discovered
   that verse,  "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that
   will I do..."  

   He believed that verse meant that all he had to do was ask
   and he would pass the exam. He told God he was believing
   God's promise, and he wanted a good grade.  The next day
   young Weatherhead took the examination, but when the
   grades were in, he had failed.  He was disillusioned.  He
   rebelled and almost lost his faith.  He came to the
   conclusion that the promises of the Bible were not good -
   all because God had not granted his wish for a good grade. 

   The next year he repeated that course.  He worked hard,
   and he passed.  This time he decided that he did not need
   God, that he could get along by himself.  

I think that this is a conclusion that many of us reach -
we need something, we want something, we and we pray for it -
and - when we don't see the results that we want
we come close to losing our faith.        
At the very least - we conclude as did Dr. Weatherhead
that we can, or we must, get along by ourselves.

Fortunately, Leslie Weatherhead changed his opinion over the years.
Fortunate because his life touched hundreds of thousands of people,
bringing to them the blessings of God in a way that the
televangelist I mentioned earlier has not.

   After some years had passed, Dr Weatherhead came to
   understand that his own powers and abilities were in
   reality the power that God had given to him.  He began to
   realize that God had already given him the power to pass
   the examination, but he had not used that power the first
   go around.  

God never gives us more power than we need.  As Dr. Charles L.
Allen has said, "Until we are willing to use what God has already
given us, there is no need to ask for any more."

"If you ask Me anything in My name," said Jesus, "I will do it." 
Quite a claim. But let's examine it a little closer. 

Notice first of all that Jesus is talking to his disciples. 

   "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the
   Father is in Me?", Jesus asks his disciples.  "The words
   that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but
   the Father abiding in Me does His works.  Believe Me that
   I am in the Father, and the Father in Me....  I say to
   you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he
   do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because
   I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that
   will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the
   Son...." 

Jesus is giving his disciples words of encouragement." You've
seen the blind recover their sight," he is saying. "You've seen
the lame made whole.  Hey, You're going to do greater works than
that!"

Jesus was talking to the church. He was not talking about new
houses or new cars or passing examinations.  He was talking about
the work of the Kingdom.  He was saying that when his disciples
decide to get into action doing the work God has called them to
do, and when they enlist God's help, nothing is impossible!  And
that's true.  Nothing is impossible for the church of Jesus
Christ! 

What do you crave, what do you desire the most?

Do you thirst for pure spiritual milk?
Do you yearn to do the works that Jesus did?
Do you desire that the church, that the people of God, that you
yourself, might make a great witness to the world and bring glory
to God's name?

Dr. Robert Schuller, that legendary advocate of Possibility
Thinking, says that there are two words that have killed more
God-inspired dreams and hopes than anything else he can think of. 

The two words are "Be realistic!"  

If we Christians, Dr. Schuller says, were "realistic" then
nothing would be accomplished.  He cites the example of Tom
Dempsey--a young man who was born with half a right foot and
deformed right arm but a ton of faith. 

   Dempsey wanted to be a football player--in spite of his
   considerable handicaps. And he did play football.  He
   became a kicker for his high school team.  But that wasn't
   enough. He wanted to play college ball.  And again, he
   became the kicker on his college team.  But when he
   graduated from college, his dream became even wilder and
   more fantastic.  He wanted to be a professional football
   player!  

   A professional football player with half a foot and a
   deformed right arm.  Impossible!  No coach would accept
   him.  They all shook their heads.  All except one, and it
   is ironic and more than coincidental that Dempsey became a
   kicker for the professional football team, The New Orleans
   SAINTS!  

   The rest, as they say, is history. In 1972, Dempsey kicked
   the longest field goal ever--63 yards!  All because he was
   not realistic!  All because, Schuller tells us, Tom
   Dempsey had faith in Jesus Christ who gave him the
   strength to do what he dreamed. 

Amazing things are accomplished in this world by people who
believe and will not give up.  Our text for the day says that you
and I are capable of amazing things when we set out to serve
Jesus Christ.  Jesus was speaking to his church when he said, "If
you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." Nothing is
impossible for the church of Jesus Christ. 

But there is something else just as important... Jesus adds a
qualifier: "And whatever you ask in My name," Jesus promises,
"that will I do, that the Father may be glorified..." 

Christ will do anything we ask if it glorifies the Father. 
Here is where we generally stumble.  
Not everything we do in the church is done to the glory of God. 

Isaac Asimov, familiar to many as a noted scientist and author,
once told a hilarious story about a Rabbi Feldman who was having
trouble with his congregation. 

   It seemed they could agree upon nothing.  The president of
   the congregation said, "Rabbi, this cannot be allowed to
   continue.  Come, there must be a conference, and we must
   settle all areas of dispute once and for all."  The rabbi
   agreed. 

   At the appointed time, therefore, the rabbi, the
   president, and ten elders met in the conference room of
   the synagogue, sitting about a magnificent mahogany table. 
   One by one the issues were dealt with and on each issue,
   it became more and more apparent that the rabbi was a
   lonely voice in the wilderness.  The president of the
   synagogue said, "Come, Rabbi, enough of this.  Let us vote
   and allow the majority to rule."  He passed out the slips
   of paper and each man made his mark.  The slips were
   collected and the president said, "You may examine them,
   Rabbi.  It is eleven to one against you.  We have the
   majority." 

   Whereupon the rabbi rose to his feet in offended majesty. 
   "So," he said, "you now think because of the vote that you
   are right and I am wrong.  Well, that is not so.  I stand
   here" --and he raised his arms impressively-- "and call
   upon the Holy One of Israel to give us a sign that I am
   right and you are wrong." 

   And as he said this, there came a frightful crack of
   thunder and a brilliant flash of lightning that struck the
   mahogany table and cracked it in two.  The room was filled
   with smoke and fumes, and the president and the elders
   were hurled to the floor.  Through the carnage, the rabbi
   remained erect and untouched, his eyes flashing and a grim
   smile on his face.  Slowly, the president lifted himself
   above what was left of the table.  His hair was singed,
   his glasses were hanging from one ear, his clothing was in
   disarray. 

   Finally he said, "All right, eleven to two.  But we still
   have the majority."

We all know that not everything that is done in the church is
done to the glory of God.  

But wouldn't it be great if we had a dream for this church that
   was big enough that we would have to depend on God to
   accomplish it?  
And wouldn't it be great if we searched our hearts and souls with
   prayer so that our dream would match God's dream?  
Wouldn't it be great if we yearned for the pure spiritual milk
   that will helps us to grow in our salvation - and which
   affects the whole around us?

George Barna, a church-growth specialist, asked a group of
pastors how they believed Christ would rate their church if He
were to return today.  Fifty-three percent of those pastors said
Christ would rate their church as having little or no positive
impact on souls or society.

How sad.  How very sad.  Wouldn't it be great if we could see
concrete evidence that our community is a better community and
our town is a better town because this church is here? 

Christ tells us we can see such evidence - if we dream great
dreams and if those dreams are to God's glory and not our own. 

What do we crave?  What do we yearn for?  What do we desire?

All prayer is answered my friends.  Even the prayers that we ask
strictly for ourselves and for our families.

Sometimes the answer is no - I have plans - trust me in this.
sometimes it is - no, not yet, the time is not right.

Other times it is yes - I thought you'd never ask
And still other times it is yes - and just wait to see what else
I have in store for you.

What God does for the faithful - what God allows to happen to
them  - how God answers their prayer - always works for the good.

As that is true for each of us as individual believers is doubly
true for us as the church -- for us as the people who gather in
God's name to worship and work together the works he calls us to
work.

If we dream a dream for this church and if it is truly God's
dream, then great things will happen and each of us can be part
of it. 

What is your dream?  What do you desire the most?
Is it pure spiritual milk that you may grow in your salvation and
continue to know that God is good?
Is it to do the works of God - even greater works than Christ did
- that God's name may be glorified?

I started this message with the first words from today's reading
from the First Letter of Peter.  I would like to conclude with
the last words from that reading - where Peter writes:

   "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy
   nation, a people belonging to God,  that you may declare
   the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his
   wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you
   are the people of God; once you had not received mercy;
   but now you have received mercy."

We have a purpose - and we have the tools that we need to
accomplish that purpose, so much so that we can do even greater
things than did Christ - should we desire to.

"You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Why not put Christ to the test?

Blessed be God, day by day.  Amen


----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Easter 5 - Year A 
for a different prayer or meditation with which to conclude the sermon 
and/or lead into the prayer time below.


* HYMN: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                      - VU 288


LET US PRAY
Gracious and loving God -- you have bestowed upon us mercy upon
mercy and we thank you.  We thank you for calling us out of
darkness into the glorious light of your presence - we thank you
for  sustaining us in our times of deepest need and for granting
unto us the abundance of your love.  Grant O God, that we may
always desire the most those things that cause us to grow to
maturity in our faith - to seek those things which help us to
live in such a way that our every action and our every thought
declare your praise - to thirst for those things which cause your
healing power and your saving grace to touch all whom we
touch....  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord - help me to take time for you each day, no matter what my
schedule; to meet you and sit quietly at your feet.  Help me to
follow your voice, and not be turned aside from that centre from
which everything flows.  Please give me your grace to minister to
the needs of others; to truly listen with my heart; to honestly
and faithfully do what I can, and trust all to you...  Lord hear
our prayer...

Thank you, God, for carrying us when we cannot walk in your way
on our own strength.  Bless our loved ones with an awareness of
your presence always.  Meet each one's need with your gracious
help: To the sick, give health; to the anxious, give peace; to
the unemployed, give rewarding work; to all who long to know your
will, give the guidance of your loving Spirit.... Lord hear our
prayer...

Father, Christ promised us that whatever we ask in his name, that
he would do that your name may be glorified through him.  We
pray, individually -  and as a congregation of your people, that
we may dream a dream for our church - a dream big enough that we
will have to depend on you.  We pray that we may dream your dream
- and that then we will go out and see that dream come true...  

We ask all these things - through  Jesus Christ, our Risen
Saviour - he who taught us to pray to you, saying... OUR
FATHER...


* 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 hear the words of Jesus saying that
   anyone who has faith in him will do his works.  We who
   have faith in the risen Christ stand here today - and we
   offer to  you not only these tithes and offerings - but
   ourselves.  Bless us and what we offer so that your love
   and your saving and healing power may be evident to all
   and so that your name glorified, forever and ever.  Amen


* SHARING THE PEACE: We greet those around us with a sign of peace
(handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be
with you".  This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to
the peace that God gives to those who hear and do his word.


* COMMUNION HYMN: "Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God"     - VU 356


COMMUNION LITANY
L  The peace of the Lord be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.


The Eucharistic Prayer


The Words of Institution
   So it is, we remember how on the night he freely gave himself
   to death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and when he had
   given thanks to you (as we now thank you O God for our daily
   bread), he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying
   "Take , eat, this is my body, given for you"....  We recall
   too, how when the supper was over, Jesus took the cup, the
   cup of blessing, and after giving thanks to you - as we thank
   you Lord for the cup you give us to drink, he gave it to his
   disciples saying "Drink this, all of you; this is my blood,
   the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for
   many, for the forgiveness of sins......."  As often as you do
   this - do it in remembrance of me".

The Prayer For The Spirit
   Loving God, recalling his death, proclaiming his
   resurrection, and looking for his coming again in glory, we
   offer to you the bread and this cup.  Send your Holy Spirit
   upon us and upon these gifts that they may be for us the body
   and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and that being built up by
   this precious sacrament of his grace we may receive with him
   the gift of eternal life in your blessed kingdom.  We ask it
   in his name, singing together the prayer he taught us.... 
   The Lord's Prayer (Sung)

 Sharing The Body and Blood of Christ  (In the pews.  Please take
   bread /wine from the person next to you and pass it to the
   next person, saying words like "the body/blood of our Lord,
   broken/shed for you". If you can hold the same till the
   presider is served and gives the signal for us to eat/drink
   together.)
                        
Departing Prayer
L  Let us Pray.... Gracious God;
P  We thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your
   Son Jesus Christ.  May we, who share his body, live his risen
   life; we who drink his cup, bring life to others; we whom the
   Spirit lights, give light to the world.
L  Father, keep us firm in the hope you set before us, so that
   we and your children shall be free, and the whole earth live
   to praise your name, through Christ our Lord.  Amen


* HYMN: "To Show By Touch and Word"                      - VU 427


* 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 -
- knowing that the Spirit is always with you and that under you
are God's everlasting arms 
- and may God bless you richly with every Spiritual Blessing 
that you may both know and do his good and gracious will 
- both now and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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