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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for The First Sunday in Lent - Year A
Genesis 2:25-17,3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
"The Long Way Around"


READING:  Genesis 2:25-17,3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11 
SERMON :  "The Long Way Around"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le01su 969000
                   
   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: Elements of the Call to Worship are based on wording found
   in John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for Lent One, Year A", 2002
   (as sent to the PRCL-List).  The children's story is based almost 
   entirely on a story by Charles Kirkpatrick (Sermons4Kids,com) for
   Lent 1A, 2002 and 2005 (and used here with permission)


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* GREETING 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.
L  We are summoned by a gracious and merciful God.
P  Be glad and rejoice, shout for joy all you upright in heart.
L  Come, let us turn to the Lord, for he knows how we are made.
P  He remembers that we are but dust.
L  Come, give thanks to the Lord.
   He has given us a Saviour to free us from ourselves 
   and from the sin that enslaves us.
P  Be glad in the Lord and rejoice
   God's own son has come to set us free.
L  Come and worship the Lord and serve him with joy
P  We will worship the Lord our God and serve only him.


* INTROIT:  "What Does The Lord Require of You"                    - VU 701


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
God of love and mercy, great and amazing are your deeds and just and true
are all your ways.  You alone are holy and all your judgements are good.  
You reach out to us and call us to accept the mercy and forgiveness of your
Son Jesus and to walk in his path.   We thank you Father, that though he
was tempted in every way as we are tempted, he was without sin and able to
offer himself for us as a sacrifice acceptable to you - and that even now
he lives with you and intercedes before you on our behalf.   Bless, we
pray, O Father of all, our gathering in his name and help us by the power
of the Holy Spirit to grow in righteousness and to bring all praise, honour
and glory to you - both in this time of worship - and forevermore.  Amen


* HYMN:  "O Worship The King"                                      - VU 235


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Simon Says"
Object    None
Source    Based almost entirely on a story by Charles Kirkpatrick in 
          Sermons4Kids, Lent 1A, 2002 (and used here with permission)
Theme     Doing what God asks and not doing what the Devil asks.

Good Morning...  How many of you know how to play the game "Simon Says?" 
You betcha - we have played the game here in church before.   If Simon says
to do something, you do it, but if Simon doesn't say to do it, you don't do
it.  Are you ready to play?  Good, let's play.

Simon says, "Raise your hand."   Simon says, "Raise your other hand." 
"Okay, put your hands down."    
Uh-oh!  I caught some of you on that one, didn't I?   
Did Simon say "Put your hands down?"  No!  Let's try it again.

Simon says, "Put your hands down."   Simon says, "Flap your elbows."  
Simon says, "Clap your hands."
"Touch your nose."    

Ooops!  I caught some of you again.  Let's try one more time.

Simon says, "Touch your nose."
Pull your ear!   Good!  I didn't trick you that time.  
You are catching on to the game now.

In the game of Simon says, you do what Simon tells you to do, but in real
life, you should do what the Bible tells you to do.  Did you know that the
devil will try to trick you into doing what he wants you to do?  

The Bible says, "Thou shalt not steal," but if you go to the store to buy
something and the cashier gives you too much money back, the devil will try
to get you to keep it.  He will say, "That isn't stealing," but if we take
something that does not belong to us, it is stealing, isn't it?  

The Bible says, "Love your enemies," but when someone does something to
hurt you, the devil will say, "Hurt them back, after all, they hurt you
first."  

The Bible says, "Thou shalt not lie," but when you accidentally break your
mother's vase and she asks if you know how it got broken, the devil will
say, "If you tell her you broke it, it will just get you into more
trouble."

Did you know that the devil even tried to get Jesus to do things that were
wrong?  Do you know what Jesus did?  He answered him with Scripture and
refused to do what the Devil asked him to do.  That is a good way to defeat
the devil, isn't it?  Just do what the Bible tells you to do -- not what
the devil tells you to do.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Father in Heaven -  help us to do what Jesus did -  Help us to
   do what the Bible says to do - keep us from listening to the voices 
   - that urge us to do things that are wrong - we ask in Jesus' name. 
   Amen

   And in the word's Jesus taught us:

   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:  "I Danced In The Morning"                                 - VU 352


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries   
- Special Matters     
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

   
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 GENESIS 2:15-17,3:1-7
   (NIV)  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden
   to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man,
   "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not
   eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you
   eat of it you will surely die."

   Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the
   LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You
   must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 

   The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in
   the garden,  but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree
   that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or
   you will die.'" 

   "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.  "For God
   knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will
   be like God, knowing good and evil."

   When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and
   pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took
   some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with
   her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and
   they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and
   made coverings for themselves.

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 32 (Voices United 759) and Gloria Patri Sung
        
       Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy
       Spirit.   As it was in the beginning, is now, and evermore
       shall be.  World without end.  Amen


A READING FROM ROMANS 5:12-19
   (NIV)  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and
   death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because
   all sinned -- for before the law was given, sin was in the world.
   But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 
   Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of
   Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did
   Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 

   But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the
   trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift
   that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the
   many! 

   Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin:
   The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift
   followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the
   trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how
   much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace
   and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man,
   Jesus Christ. 

   Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation
   for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was
   justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the
   disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also
   through the obedience of the one man the many will be made
   righteous.

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


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


A READING FROM MATTHEW 4:1-11
   (NIV)   Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be
   tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he
   was hungry. 

   The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell
   these stones to become bread." 

   Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone,
   but in every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 

   Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the
   highest point of the temple.  "If you are the Son of God," he said,
   "throw yourself down.  For it is written: 'He will command his
   angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so
   that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" 

   Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your
   God to the test.'" 

   Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all
   the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.  "All this I will
   give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."  

   Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan!  For it is written:
   'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" 

   Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

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


SERMON:  "The Long Way Around" 

   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.

A few days ago, as I parked on the street in front of our doors and got
out, I noticed two men checking the entrance to the Bargain Basement, and
then climbing the stairs to check the front doors.  They were looking for
the minister of the church and so I told them that I was he.

The younger of the men - a man about my age - shook my hand and gave me his
name and then waved toward the other man and said that they were in a real
pickle and needed some gas money to get on to Williams Lake.

   "Would you be interested in taking a battery charger - its worth one
   hundred dollars - and giving us $30 for gas money?", he asked.  "I -
   and my older bother", he indicated the other man again, "really need
   to get there and we can come back for the charger sometime and repay
   you and make a donation to the church - or if you want you can sell
   it and use the money for the church."

It seemed to me to be a pretty nice offer 
- and it was a pretty nice looking battery charger
and so I did what preacher types often do  
- I gave them a short form of this sermon.

Come with me now the long way around 
as I examine today's scriptures with you.

The reading from Romans today helps us to unite and make sense of the
readings from the Book of Genesis and the Gospel According To Matthew.

In the first reading Paul speaks to us of how in Adam all die 
- and how in Christ all are given life.  
Of how by the sin of one death entered the world 
- and how by the righteousness of one death has been made no more.   

He writes:  

   The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, 
   but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

That my friend's is part of what this church believes 
- part of what the whole church since the day of resurrection believes.

We understand death to have entered the world as the penalty for Adam and
Eve's disobedience - for their turning away from God and doing that one
single thing they had been told not to do, for on the day that they did
they would surely die.

The story of Adam and Eve is much is discussed and disputed not just for
it's historical truth - that is a dead horse it seem to me - but for it's
theological truth.

Some folk think Adam and Eve have gotten a bad rap.  They ask us to take a
hard look at their situation at the moment the serpent spoke to them.

   Had they encountered deceit before?
   Did they have any idea what a lie was?
   Would they have had reason to doubt anyone?
   How could they have known what "to die" meant?

These are good questions - questions that  have allowed some people to
conclude that Adam and Eve were "set up" by God - with no way to defend
themselves - that God knew they would sin and created the conditions for
them to sin in regardless.

In short they blame God for what happened.   

This strikes me as an all too familiar modern theme - the theme of
abandoning responsibility and of blaming others for the faults that lie
within us.

You know how it goes  
   Spill hot coffee on your lap and burn yourself  
       -and blame MacDonald's for making it too hot and collect a cool two
       million dollars.
   Kill someone when you are drinking  
       - blame the alcohol for it - and get a tap on the wrist.
   Live in a dysfunctional way, hurt those around you, or drive them to
   distraction with your neediness and your fragile self esteem 
       - and blame your behaviour on how your parents raised you.
   Hit your brother or kick or sister in the playground 
       - and blame them for provoking you.

It is a familiar theme - and one as old as Adam and Eve who, upon being
confronted by God after they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, promptly blamed God, one another, and then serpent for their act.

Adam's name, I hope you remember, means "human kind"
and the name of Eve quite simply means "Mother of all living"

Adam and Eve are you and I.

And whether we intend to or not we all play their game 
- we take and eat the forbidden fruit. 
And like them, most of us, if we don't just outright deny doing the deed,
- blame someone else for it. 

At least at first,
before we finally embrace the truth, 
before we finally say "mia culpa" and mean it.

Set up or not, the simple fact is that in the story of Adam and Eve there
   was one simple command given them - the command to not eat of a
   particular tree in the Garden; and knowing that - as Eve so obviously
   knew that when she responded to the Serpent's invitation - they went
   ahead anyway.

That invitation, you will remember, was "to become like God - knowing good
and evil"

And so Adam and Eve, 
   who were already made in the image of God and therefore like God 
turned away from the one who made them 
   and sought to be like God in some other way,
in the way that their inclinations and the inducements of the serpent 
suggested to them.

They sought to take a short cut to the very state of existence that God had
already planned for them; to do it their way instead of God's way.

Think of the many children - never mind children - think of the many adults 
who have insisted taking short cuts to their destinations 
   - short cuts that have been forbidden to them 
   - or that they have been warned about,
only to find out that there were very good reasons for the rule, 
very sound reasons for the advice.

No matter who you blame my friends, the simple fact is that  although the
fruit of the tree of the    knowledge of good and evil was good to the eye
and desirable to make one wise it was - and it still is - very bad for the
tummy.

Within the Gospel Reading we see another child of God, another person made
in God's image, deal with the same tempter and the same temptation that
tempted Adam and Eve.

One way of approaching the story of Jesus' being tempted in the wilderness
is to see it as a personal struggle for Jesus, another is to see it as a
story about a new Adam and a new beginning for the world. 

After fasting 40 days, it must have been very 'tempting' for Jesus to turn
   anything into bread.

And already knowing where his journey was going to take him, it must have
   been tempting to take the short cut to dominion and power and glory -
   how much better to gain the whole world with one simple act of homage -
   than to gain it on journey that would involve dying on a cross. 

And as to having proof that God really is with you if you are going to
   insist on going the long way round - surely there is nothing better
   than a little demonstration of divine love and protection - it will
   really pump you and help show folk that you are someone special.

But Jesus took no short cuts to glory either in the wilderness or later.

He dealt with the world as it is - as it has become - because of the power
of sin and death and, with no special advantages other that which his faith
gave him (and which our faith gives us) he walked the path of obedience to
God in the midst of a very difficult world.

He avoided eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil even though that fruit is very tempting indeed.

Jesus walked the path of his destiny as one made in the image of God 
   - like you and I -  
and he suffered and he died 
   - as we suffer and die 
- to undo what Adam and Eve did.
   - to undo what we do.

No short cuts.   
   
He took the long way, around because, in the end, that is the only way to
take if one hopes to arrive.

And Jesus arrived.  
And because he did - he is able to help us arrive.

As in Adam death came into the world for all 
so in Christ life comes to all who receive him.

I'm sure it's been said before, but whenever we're dealing with sin and
temptation it seems useful to recollect that rarely is a person tempted to
choose what seems an outright evil, rather we're tempted to a good.  A
partial good, a short-term good, but still a good.  That's why temptation's
hard to resist.  If it were always a clear choice between good and evil,
it'd be easy.

That is why the law is given to us  
- from the first law in Eden about the tree in the middle of the garden to
the law given to Moses.

It is given to help us know what is wrong and what is right and to use it
   and the word of God as a whole - in our struggle to resist temptation;
   much as Jesus used the word of God as found in the scriptures to help
   him turn away from each temptation the tempter offered to him after his
   baptism in the River Jordan.

He used the word of God - the commands of God - like they were sign posts
on the roadway - showing which route is safe and which is not, which is
good and which is bad.   

And when the devil attempted to twist those sign posts around on him the
Spirit of Truth that was poured out on Jesus kept him on course.

Jesus arrived 
- and he helps us to arrive.

His death as one whose way was blameless opens the way to life for us,
it cancels the debt that we owe but which cannot pay ourselves.

When all is said and done however, 
our faith is about what Jesus has set us free for, 
not just what Jesus has set us free from.  

It is not so much about what not to do 
- but about what to do.   
It is positive 
- not negative.

So should be our time in Lent, our time before the joy of Easter.

We should indeed avoid certain things 
- we should resist the tempter 
- we should, as the Season of Lent has traditionally suggested, give up
certain things.

But we should go on to express ourselves positively 
- as did Jesus as he moved from the River of his Baptism and the wilderness
of his temptations towards the cross and ultimately to his resurrection.

As the most ancient creed of the church - the Kerygma - expresses it -
"beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached - he and went
around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil,
because God was with him."

God is with us as well.  We are anointed with the Holy Spirit.  And though
we may succumb to temptation, we are empowered - thanks to the one who did
not succumb - to do all he did.

Simon says - clap your hands.   Simon says - flap your elbows.
God says - love your neighbours as yourselves.   
Jesus says - love one another as I have loved you.

Listen to the word of God - do what Simon says -  
   Do good and heal those under the power of the devil.
       Get so busy doing the does of our faith that you don't have time to
       do the don'ts,
   and before you know it you will have arrived at the destination for
   which we all long.

Going the long way round is not always easy - but it always gets us there
while the shortcuts all end up in muck and mire.

I gave those brothers I mentioned at the start of this sermon 
this sermon, but I did it in other kinds of words.  

I told them:

   "The church doesn't do it's business that way
       nor does it make those kinds of loans
   Brothers and sisters should simply help one another if they can
       and not look for advantages or repayments for it.
   The church is about caring for all people 
       and this church can give you $10 to help you out.
   Pass on the kindness to someone else sometime,
       no battery chargers required or accepted.
   Oh, and God bless you on your trip.

My friends Christ Jesus is here to help us in the battle against sin and
temptation, whether it comes in the form of nice looking battery chargers
or in the form of a fruit that is pleasing to behold and good for acquiring
wisdom.

And when (notice I don't say if, but when) - and when we succumb to sin and
temptation, be it in obvious ways or in ways that are only interior (buried
deep in our hearts) God is here to shower his forgiveness upon us, his
forgiveness and his grace for the meeting of a new day, the grace to get up
and to move on doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.

We go the long way round - because that is the road travelled by Jesus 
and because Jesus is still on that road to help us walk it 
and to help us arrive at the destination he has already reached.

Praise be to God - for being with us and in us
and for making us able be with him and in him.  Amen


* HYMN:  "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"                          - VU 664


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of love and blessing - O most holy one above -- once again as we enter
the forty days of Lent, help us to remember that our beginnings were in you
and that it is your desire that our endings be in you.  Help us to remember
that it was in a beautiful garden that our journey with you began and that
it is in your eternal kingdom that we were created to dwell - both now -
and forever.   Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, in our attempts to understand your purpose for us and to live it,
give to us open hearts and minds - hearts and minds open to your guiding
word - hearts and minds open to the leading of the Spirit.  Help us to see
and to hear and do what you ask of us ....   Lord, hear our prayer...

O God, on this first Sunday in Lent, we remember the road to the cross that
Jesus travelled for our sake,  the road that we cannot travel by ourselves. 
 We remember what he did - and we confess our sin before you.  We confess
before you what we have done to offend you and to harm our neighbours and
ourselves  ........ (silent prayer) ...............  Have mercy on us, O
God, according to your steadfast love.  According to your abundant mercy
blot out our transgressions....

Lord, it was and it is your will to create in us a clean heart and to put a
new and right spirit within us.  We thank you for the new life you grant us
- the life we live here now one day at a time - and for the life to come in
which a thousands days are as one - and one as thousand.   While these days
pass, help us and the whole church to live them in joy and to do good and
heal those under the power of the devil....   Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we would pray that you would bless those we name before you now,
bless them and bring in that blessing blessings to your own name.  O God,
we pray for - BIDDING PRAYERS -  ...Lord, hear our prayer...

All these things we ask of you in the name of Jesus.  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

   God of compassion, you minister to us in our wilderness.  When
   barren wastes surround us, you hear our prayers of petition.  In
   times of want, you ease our plight with mercy.  In times of plenty,
   all that we have comes from your grace.  In bringing our gifts to
   you, we return what is already yours.  May these gifts be used to
   bring all your people into the promised land; through Jesus Christ
   our Lord.   AMEN.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "O Jesus, I Have Promised"                      - VU 120
   

* 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 Christ's name,
and may the Lord our God 
- the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit, 
bless you and keep you 
- both now and forevermore.  Amen. 


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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