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Sermon (2) and Liturgy The Second Sunday in Lent - Year A
Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5,13-17; John 3:1-17
"A Journey of Faith"


READING:  Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5,13-17; John 3:1-17
SERMON :  "A Journey of Faith"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le02smsu 656970
                   
     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 concluding phrases of the Prayers of the People are
     based on those found in John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for
     Lent Two, Year A", 2002 as sent to the PRCL-List.

	 
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  Have hope in the Lord.  
   He is our strength and our shield.
P  Our hearts rejoice in the Lord our God.  
   We trust in his holy name.
L  The word of the Lord is right and true.  
   He is faithful in all that he does.
P  The earth is full of God's unfailing love.  
   His plans stand firm forever, 
   the purpose of his heart through all generations.
L  Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous.  
   Praise God's name, now and forever and ever.


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


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


MUSIC OF PREPARATION (music and silent prayer)


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Most Holy and Gracious God - you who are the wind that brings new life and
the breath that sustains us - blow  upon this day.  Inspire the words we
hear and speak and sing.  Sweep away the dullness of our minds that we may
know you more fully.  Clear our hearts of those things  that clutter them
that we may love Jesus more deeply.  Banish from our wills any weakness
that prevents us from following him more faithfully.  Be here with us we
pray - and move among us so that your name may be praised both in this
place and in all those places we may go this day.  We ask it in Jesus'
name.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Holy, Holy, Holy"                                        - VU 315


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Risking And Trusting With God"
Object    Scarf - blindfold
Theme     Travelling With God
Source    Self

Good Morning...  Sometimes when we something for the very first time it is
a little bit scary.  Like going to school for the first time - or meeting
some new people you have never met before.  I know that I am sometimes
nervous when I have to go somewhere I've never been before.  I worry about
finding the place - and about getting there on time.  Do any of you ever
worry about trying to do something new???  What kind of things have made
you nervous -- riding a bicycle for the first time??   

Sometimes, when we are about to do something new it really helps if our
mothers or fathers or a really close friend are with us -- When I learned
how to ride my first bicycle my oldest brother walked  beside me and helped
hold me up at the very beginning -- he made me feel I could do it - and
soon I did.  It really helps if we have someone we trust to be with us when
we are about to do something  we have never done before.

Today I need a volunteer - to get blindfolded -- who has never been
blindfolded before - who has never had to try to find there away around
without being able to see???  How do you feel???  How would you feel if I
told you now that you have to go to the back of the church and get a hymn
book and then come back and give it to me???  Now - how about if I go with
you???   Let's try it...

What you just experienced is a bit of what Abraham and Sarah experienced
many years ago.  God called them to leave everything behind and to move to
a new country - a country that God was going to give them.  But they didn't
where they were to go or what they would find when they got there.  It was
like they were blind - but they trusted God - like you trusted me - and
like we trust our parents to help us do new things - and so - even though
they were a bit scared - they left everything they had ever known and they
set out and went to the place that God showed them.  It took many years -
but  they knew that God was with them - just as God is with us today - and
they listened for his voice and  he led them on the way.



PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Help us God - to close our eyes - and to listen for your voice. -
   Lead us on the road - that you want us to travel - and keep us safe
   - each day of our lives. - 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


A READING FROM GENESIS 12:1-4
   (NIV) The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and
   your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  I will
   make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your
   name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless
   you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will
   be blessed through you." 

   So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.  Abram
   was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 121 (Voices United 844) 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 4:1-5,13-17
   (NIV)  What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered
   in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had
   something to boast about - but not before God. What does the Scripture
   say?  "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as
   righteousness."  Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to
   him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not
   work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as
   righteousness.

   It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the
   promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the
   righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who live by law are
   heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law
   brings wrath.  And where there is no law there is no transgression. 
   Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and
   may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not only to those who
   are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.  He
   is the father of us all.  As it is written: "I have made you a father
   of many nations." 

   He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed - the God who
   gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they
   were.

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


* HYMN:  "To Abraham and Sarah"                                    - VU 634


A READING FROM JOHN 3:1-17
   (NIV)  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member
   of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night and said,
   "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one
   could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with
   him."

   In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the
   kingdom of God unless he is born again." 

   "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he
   cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

   Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of
   God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to
   flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be
   surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'  The wind blows
   wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it
   comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the
   Spirit." 

   "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. 

   "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand
   these things?  I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we
   testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our
   testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not
   believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  No
   one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the
   Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the
   Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may
   have eternal life. 

   "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
   whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For
   God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to
   save the world through him.

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


SERMON: "A Journey of Faith"

   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.

Some of you have heard this story before --  it has been going the rounds
the last couple of weeks.  It's about a congregation that undertook a long
and diligent search for a new minister - and at last  settled on one.  

   On the first Sunday the new minister went into the pulpit and
   delivered an absolutely  amazing sermon.  Everyone was deeply moved
   - they laughed, they cried, they were filled with awe.  On the way
   out the door at the end of the service they congratulated the
   minister on his wonderful sermon, and when they got to the parking
   lot they congratulated each other on the wonderful choice they had
   made when they selected the new minister.

   On the second Sunday the new minister went up into the pulpit and
   delivered exactly the same sermon has he had the week before.  Again
   people were deeply moved - but some  scratched their heads and
   wondered what was going on.  But, they gave the new minister the
   benefit of the doubt - perhaps he had just picked up the wrong notes
   on the way to church that morning - and they didn't say too much.

   On the third Sunday the minister once again gave exactly the same
   sermon as he had on the first and second Sundays.  This time there
   was widespread consternation.  The elders immediately called a
   meeting with the minister and asked him what was going on.

   "Pastor", they said, "The sermon you preached today is a really
   great sermon - and we all are deeply impressed by your ability - but
   you've delivered it three times now.  Don't you know any other
   sermons?'

   "Oh, yes!, replied the new minister, "I have scads of them - and
   they are all just as good as the one you just heard."

   "Well then," replied the elders, "Why don't you preach one of them
   next week."

   "I'm not going to do that", the minister replied, "till all of you
   have started following the message of the first one."

Today I have a new sermon, but I have an old message, 
   a message that each one of us needs to hear and to accept
it's the message of salvation.
   And it is found in this book here - and especially it is found in the
   New Testament passage we heard read this morning: 
        - the passage concerning Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus - where,
       and I quote, he says to Nicodemus

              "I tell you the truth, no one can see the
              kingdom of God unless they are born again."

Some of you here today probably had, at one time or another, the reaction
that Nicodemus had to that word from our Lord.  

You have felt confused by what Jesus said, and with Nicodemus you may have
wanted to say:   "How can a person be born when they are
                 old?  Surely they cannot enter a second
                 time into their mother's womb?"

Others who are less literal than Nicodemus - others who understand the
image of rebirth, may still have problems with the message that Jesus gives
and the particular language that Jesus uses in today's gospel story because
it reminds you of all those Saturday morning door knockers and Sunday
morning TV evangelists who get in our faces and ask the same question in
one of two ways - and often in both 
- "Are you saved?"  
- "Have you been born again??"

For some reason a lot of people who come to church, and a lot more who do
not, resent that question - in either way that it may be asked.

Why is that anyway?

Unbelievers most often resent it because they feel put down by it.  
   - They feel that the person asking them the question is trying to sell
   them a bill of goods.
   - That the door knocker doesn't really care for them or want to
   understand them.
   - Tthat the TV evangelist is simply trying thrusting a bunch of
   doctrine and mumbo-jumbo at them and scoop their money from their
   pockets.

That may or may not be true
it depends on who is asking the question -
and why they are asking it.

But why do so many church people resent the question??
Especially when the answer ought to be so easy to give??

I remember when I was a student minister at St. Andrew's United Church in
Maple Ridge - a large community just outside Vancouver.

   My supervising Minister came in one day and said that someone was
   outside who wanted to talk to me -a man who business card said that
   he belonged to an oufit called "Hedge and Row Evangelism"

   For those of you who are wondering where the name comes from - it is
   from the King James Version of the parable of the Great Banquet -
   where - after most of the invited guests fail to appear at the
   King's feast and offer one feeble excuse or another - the King, who
   really wants to have people fellowshipping with him and eating at
   his table, sends his servants out to to street corners and to "the
   hedges and the rows" with the order to compel those they find to
   come in to the banquet.... Isn't that incredible.  What it has  to
   say about God - and what it has to say about us??

   Anyway - the very first thing that this visitor said to me after we
   introduced ourselves to each other was -- Are you saved?

   Quick as a wink - I said - Yes.

   Clearly this man was used to hearing that answer inside a United
   Church - because he started asking me questions in a way that showed
   that he doubted that I had understood him.

   "When were you saved", he asked, "And how were you saved?  Did you
   receive the Holy Spirit?   Do you believe in the forgiveness of sin
   and the life everlasting??"  And the biggy the one that either makes
   us a Christian or makes us something else - "Did you invite Jesus
   into your heart"

   And - as he sat forward in his chair - checking up on me with all
   his questions - I told him all that he wanted to know about my
   relationship with the Lord.

   Finally he sat back in his chair - relaxed - and said to me - "I'm
   so very glad for you.  It's so wonderful to know the Lord.  I've
   been coming here every month or so for a couple years now to see the
   other minister - and he just won't answer my question.  He always
   want to talk about something else - he just seems to want to get rid
   of me."

How sad that was for me to hear those words, 
and how much sadder it was for the minister who was my supervisor
and for the harmless, and perhaps even very good man, sitting in front of
me.

It's such a great thing to be able to tell someone 
- with confidence in your heart 

   Yes, I am saved.  
   By the grace of God I have been reborn
   God's spirit has blown my way 
   and every now and then I can hear its sound -
   and I feel tremendous because of it.

Not only that my friends - but by saying what is so wonderful to be able to
say, I accomplished something that my supervisor had not been able to do
for two whole years.  

I managed to get rid of this persistent evangelist - this hedge and row man
who really was there to obey God's command and to compel people to come to
the banquet of the king.

I just praise God that I had been compelled some 9 years earlier...

Most of you here, but probably not all, have likewise been compelled - or
just perhaps propelled - and are able, as Jesus says to Nicodemus, "to see
the Kingdom of God".

If you have, I know you're going to listen up because you know what I am
about right now, and the reminders that I am giving right now you know are
in the book and that they are important and good to hear now and then.

If you haven't yet been compelled or propelled
let me tell you right now that it is true what you have heard  
- that some things are simple - and some things are not.

It is also true that good things are invariably simple 
- so simple, in fact, that even the smallest child can grasp them.

The things of God are always simple in this way,
   at least when they come down to the basics.

The basics are known in our hearts  
   simply because we all were made by God -
and I'm not talking here about the basics of morality -
   I'm not talking about whether we believe in loving one another and in
   forgiving one another - as we ourselves hope they will forgive us.

I'm talking about the basic thing in us that lets us know whether or not we
have actually connected with the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob 
   - the thing deep in down in us that tells us whether or not the God and
   Father of Christ Jesus our Lord actually lives within us.

You see - God made us in such a way that ultimately it is not enough for
each one of us simply to believe in Him as a force who permeates the world
- and especially nature.

Most everyone believes in this way 
   - yet our corporations and our companies still rape and pillage our
   environment 
   - and we ourselves, in personal and particular ways, still hurt our
   brothers and our sisters and ourselves. 

Everything is not right either in us or around us.

God wants us to connect to him personally
   - to connect to him as one who is able to guide and direct us in our
   daily affairs
   - to connect to him as one who parents us - who is a father to us;  
   - to connect to God as a Father - and to Jesus as a brother - as one
   who is here to walk with us each day. 


God wants us to connect with him as one who nurtures us
   as a mother nurtures her children
   as the rain nurtures the dry ground
   as a friend nurtures another friend at a table - with bread and wine -
and a communion of mind and heart and soul.

God wants to birth us into a new family, his own special family 
- where his love rules
- and his mercy and forgiveness washes and cleanses
- and his spirit gives energy and the seal to the promise of eternal life.

God wants us to know that with him there is a new life to be had and a
whole new world a coming
   that, as it was for Abraham in this morning's old testament reading,
   there is a whole new land out there for us -
and that all we have to do is trust in God and set forth on the journey he
calls us to make, the journey of faith.

       "Truly, truly, I say to you - no one call see the kingdom of
       God unless he is born again"

It's a process my friends, this being born again.  It is journey:
- a journey of faith that leads us to places we have not been before
- a journey that calls us like Abraham away from our old and familiar and
lives into a great adventure where we become part of a great nation 
destined to dwell in a great land.

It is an event - a process - that has a beginning - a place in which we
ultimately say Yay or Nay to the Lord our Saviour
   and an end - when we do not know - when we inherit the kingdom that has
   been prepared for us.

In the middle - when you have said Yay - there are some things you can do
and experience that none other experience:
   - you can feel peace 
   - you can feel confident 
   - you can be humble without being prideful about it 
   - you can love those whom you do not like 
   - you can bless those who curse you 
   - you can be free - and yet give that freedom up to serve others and 
   to help them in their weakness,
you can do this because God is born in you and God is with you to help you.

The journey of faith - the kind of journey that Abraham made
   and which tradition tells us that Nicodemus also made 
is a tremendous journey 
- a journey that we should be glad we are on
- a journey that we need to be on.

It is a journey that gives us new life - which causes us to be reborn -
and it begins - and it ends - in saying  "I believe Lord, and I will
follow"

Blessed be God, day by day.  Amen



* HYMN:  "If You Will Trust In God To Guide You"                   - VU 286


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We give you thanks today, O God for who you are - for your majesty and your
power - for your holiness and your love - for what you have made - and how
you watch over it - most of all we thank you for your invitation to us be a
part of you - to be a part of your family - to be made new by your Spirit -
and to see the new heaven and the new earth with our own eyes...  Lord,
hear our prayer....

Father God, we give our hearts to you once again - our yearning - our hope
- our weakness - and our strength.  We offer to you, O Lord, everything and
ask that hear and see and accept all that we offer so the world indeed
bless itself by us and through us...  Lord... Lord hear our prayer...

Lord we offer to you also the concerns of our hearts for others -  that
they may be made whole, that they may see kingdom of God, that they may
have enough to eat and drink, that they may freedom and the blessings of
prosperity and of health... Hear our prayers that we offer to you now with
the words of our lips and the thoughts of our hearts.... BIDDING PRAYER...

O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, You called our ancestors to a journey of 
faith; and in your Son, lifted up on the cross, you opened for us the path 
to eternal life. Grant that, being born again, from above, of water and the 
Spirit, we and your church throughout the world may serve you in newness of
life and faithfully walk in your holy ways; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


MINUTE FOR MISSION


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: The Offering and Doxology: "We Give Thee But
Thine Own" (Red 296) and Prayer of Dedication

   Gracious God - you have given us a new name and a new start in
   living before you.   You make fresh each morning.  We offer to you
   these gifts - and ourselves - in the trust you will use them and us
   for the sake of your kingdom.  Bless us and all that we do that we
   may be a blessing to others in Jesus' name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Faith Of Our Fathers"                          - VU 590
   

* 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 blessing of God the Creator, 
   the peace of God the Christ, 
       and the power of God the Holy Spirit, 
abide with you as you travel where he leads you, 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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