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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 03 - Year A
I Corinthians 1:10-18 and Matthew 4:12-23
"Them Is Us"


READING:  I Corinthians 1:10-18 and Matthew 4:12-23
SERMON :  "Them Is Us"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or03se 465000
                    
     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.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)

                            
* CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Isaiah 9:1-4)
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  God has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the
   Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
P  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
L  God has brought great joy to the nation.
P  People rejoice before him because of what he has done.
L  God has broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that
   beat their shoulders.
P  He has shone the light of his love upon them and set them free.


* INTROIT: "This Is The Day" (VU 412, verse 1) 


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Gracious God, we thank you for calling us here today to refresh
ourselves in your presence  - to grow strong in your praises and
wise in your counsels.  We ask that your radiance penetrate any
darkness that may be upon our hearts at this time and that you
would grant peace to us as we meditate upon your word.  This is the
Sabbath that you have made, O Lord, we would rejoice and be glad in
it and give glory unto your name.  Blow through this place with the
power of your everlasting Spirit and lift up your people.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"             - VU 232


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 MATTHEW 4:12-23
   (NRSV)  Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he
   withdrew to Galilee. {13} He left Nazareth and made his home in
   Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,
   {14} so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah
   might be fulfilled: {15} "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on
   the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the
   Gentiles-- {16} the people who sat in darkness have seen a
   great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of
   death light has dawned." {17} From that time Jesus began to
   proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
   {18} As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
   Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a
   net into the sea--for they were fishermen. {19} And he said to
   them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." {20}
   Immediately they left their nets and followed him. {21} As he
   went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of
   Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father
   Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. {22}
   Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed
   him. {23} Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their
   synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and
   curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Gone Fishing"
Object:   Picture of Fisherman
Source:   Self
Theme: Jesus's favourite Sport - to be ours too

Good morning...  What is your favourite sport or hobby???  Do any
of you know what the favourite sport of Jesus was????   It was
fishing.  Many, many times in the bible we are told that Jesus went
the  seaside with his disciples, that he got into their boats, that
he told them where to lay their nets, and  when to haul them in. 
Jesus fishes with them and Jesus eats fish with them - not the kind
of fishing  we do, with rod and line and lure - but fishing.

Today when you go to Sunday School you are going to be told about
another kind of fishing that Jesus does - a kind he wants us to do
as well -- it's called fishing for people.  Do any of you know how
to do that???  

Yes it's acting kind - and loving too - but it is more than that -
it is telling people about God and about the wonderful things that
God is doing and wants to do for us.  It's following Jesus and
doing  what he tells us to do -- Just as he told his first
disciples where and when to fish.

I hope you all become good fishermen.

   Let us Pray:  "Loving God -- we thank you for hook, line,
   and sinker - and for all the things - that allow us to fish. 
   -- We thank you for calling us -- to be your disciples - and
   for asking us -- to fish  each day with you.  Amen."


* HYMN: "All Things Bright and Beautiful"                - VU 291
                 

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 27 (Voices United 754) and Refrain

   A Psalm which praises God for his faithfulness and asks God
   for help in times of trouble


CHOIR ANTHEM:


A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 1:10-18
   (NRSV)  Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name
   of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and
   that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in
   the same mind and the same purpose. {11} For it has been
   reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among
   you, my brothers and sisters. {12} What I mean is that each of
   you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I
   belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." {13} Has Christ
   been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized
   in the name of Paul? {14} I thank God that I baptized none of
   you except Crispus and Gaius, {15} so that no one can say that
   you were baptized in my name. {16} (I did baptize also the
   household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I
   baptized anyone else.) {17} For Christ did not send me to
   baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent
   wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its
   power. {18} For the message about the cross is foolishness to
   those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is
   the power of God.

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


* HYMN:  "I, The Lord of Sea and Sky"                    - VU 509


SERMON: "Them Is Us"
  
   O Lord your faithfulness to us and to the world you made
   causes our hearts to tremble.  Come now O God, speak your
   word to us and help us to hear it.  Grace my lips and anoint
   our ears with your Spirit and touch our hearts and our minds
   with your redeeming power.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

First disagreement or thoughtlessness or greed
next hurt feelings and resentment
then anger and accusation,
followed by slander and smoldering division
and finally complete disunity followed by isolation or total war.

It is a chain of events that many of us are all too familiar with,
A chain of events that often occur, in whole or in part, in our
families, in our work places, and in our churches.

What can we do about it?

How can we become - as the old slogan proposes - 
part of the solution instead part of the problem?

It is an important question - one that I am sure many of you have
asked when you have looked at your own family squabbles or have had
to deal with your neighbours bickering and fighting.

The Apostle Paul had to deal with this question when he wrote his
first letter to the church in Corinth - a church, which despite all
the spiritual gifts that it had received, was gravely divided, with
cliques and camps and different groups taking shots at each other
and claiming for themselves moral superiority and greater wisdom
and righteousness.

Paul gave to the Corinthians a prescription for their healing
 - a way for them to find their way back to the unity and the joy
and the peace that they, as a church so much needed.

In this prescription Paul speaks over and over again about the
cross and its power.  Indeed he elevates the cross above all other
things in his letter to the Corinthians.

It is in the cross and what it means that we also find the answer
that we need in our offices and homes, in our clubs and lodges, in
our churches and our families.

Simply put - Jesus calls us all to the cross.
He calls us to die with him so that we might also live with him.
And whenever we forget that this is our calling, whenever we seek
to put ourselves first - to put our interest first,  we deny the
cross and we set ourselves up for the death that sin brings:
   - the death is found whenever brothers and sisters cannot sit
   down and share a meal with each other,
   - the death that is found when fathers cannot speak to their
   sons, and mothers cannot bring themselves to say a civil word
   to their daughters..

Janet Silman, who used to write for the United Church Observer once
passed on the advice that her choir leader gave to the choir she
belonged to - she said: "If you can't hear the voices beside you -
you're singing too loudly."

              "If you can't hear the voices beside
              you - you're singing too loudly."

Harmony requires that we be able to hear others,
that we deliberately alter our behaviour and our attitudes so that
we can hear our brothers and sisters. hearts and voices.

In Corinth at the time of Paul, no one was listening.

They were not listening because each person was fully convinced in
his or her mind that he or she was correct - that they had the
whole picture - the only right picture - the picture that others
needed to have if they were to be truly called righteous, if they
were to be truly considered part of the body of Christ.

In fact in Corinth almost everyone was shouting - almost everyone
was putting their views, their understanding, their philosophy
concerning what was right and good first - and ignoring,
neglecting, or condemning anyone who differed from their norms and
their rules.

I follow Cephas, his is the right way.  He knew Jesus.
I follow Apollos, he has been touched by God.  He baptized me.
I follow Paul, he knows the way, he understands.

In Corinth almost everyone had forgotten, in the heat of the
moment, that long and deadly moment that ultimately stretched into
years and years of strife, that the only leader they were supposed
to follow was Christ 
      - that the only example they were to be concerned about was the
   example of the cross, 
       - that the only law they were supposed to observe was the
       law of self-giving love,
- and that they were supposed to do so with the people that God
gave to them, that church, that community, that both nurtures our
faith and tests the quality of our faith.

Where do our loyalties lie?  
   - Is our loyalty with God - a living reality which we can only
   understand imperfectly?
   - Or is our loyalty confined to our understanding of God - to
   our small piece of the jigsaw puzzle?

Where does our hope lie?
Is it in the crucified and risen Christ working his works of love
in our midst?  Or is our hope only in our plans and our ideas of
what should and should not be?

Where does our love for God and our neighbours lie?
Is it in greeting our friends and cursing our enemies - which even
heathens do?  Or is it in blessing those who curse us and caring
for those who despise us?

We are each, my friends, entitled to hold onto our piece of the
picture, in fact it is all that we can do - but we are also called
to see the pieces that others hold, to listen to the heavenly choir
- which is composed of many voices,and to appreciate the
differences in each of them, the unique gifts that each brings to
make up the whole.

It cannot hurt us to do this - 
It cannot hurt us to listen to the voices that are so different
than our own,
It cannot hurt us to recognize that there are other pieces to the
puzzle,
In fact it can only help us - 
And in helping us - it can help the world.

But we can't do that if we refuse to associate with a particular
part of the community of faith because they differ from us - or if
we  reject one group because we think that they don't listen to us
well enough - or if we pull away from one part because they don't
do what it is we think they should be doing.

One of my favourite stories concerning the teachings of the early
church concerns the story of an 2nd century scholar and theologian
who wrote an instructional work called the Didache.  The method of
instruction in the Didache was quite simple - it proposed the right
way to do something and the wrong way..

One of the lines in the Didache is this one:

   "We do not insist on fasting on Mondays and Thursdays like
   those other hypocrites - we fast on Tuesdays and Fridays."

Crazy isn't it!  Absolutely absurd.  And yet - don't we, when we
forget our Lord and his example, do the very same thing?

Don't we - because of how we have been hurt - reject others
completely?  Don't we - because of some offense, or simply because
of some cultural differences, or variation of skin colour, dismiss
the humanity and the goodness that can be found in others?

Think of how some people might protest this statement,
of how they might say - I am not taking their particular situation
seriously.

I was hurt,
I was cheated,
I was insulted,
I was ignored,
and I will be damned if I ever speak to that person again,
if I will ever let them onto our property,
if I will ever do anything nice for them.

Some, because of how they care deeply for someone else, might even say:
it is not for me I protest, but it is for my friend,
my friend was hurt,
my friend was insulted,
my friend was unjustly maligned and persecuted,
and while I would not care if it was for me,
I will be dammed if I ever let that person hurt my friend again,
if I will ever let them near anyone else for whom I care,

Insult and injustice, hurt and anger are serious things my friends,
I would be lying to you if I say they weren't; but the feelings and
attitudes which are expressed by those involved who get caught up
in such things are all too often a long way from the cross of Jesus
- the cross about which the apostle John speaks when he says:

       "God so loved the world, that while we were yet
       sinners, Christ lay down his life for us"

The power of the cross is a power that reaches across the walls
that divide us from God and from each other.

The way of the cross, that cross which brings us the light and the
salvation of God, is a way that totally ignores whether or not we
deserve light or salvation.  The cross was endured for our sakes
freely, in the hope that it's healing will be accepted, that it's
power would be embraced.

The way of the cross is the way of self-forgetting
that we may come alive to God.

The way of the cross is the way reaching out to all of God's
people, even though some of them - no all of them - help to drive
the nails in   for they - for we - as Jesus said - know not what we
do.

Let me circle around this one last time today -

Have you ever considered how we use and join the words "them" and
"us" and the words "wrong" and "right".

I would lay dollars to donuts that if you honestly examine how you
speak on all those occasions when you used those words in the same
sentence or paragraph, that the words "we" and the word "right" and
the words "they" and "wrong" are joined together far more often
than the words "us" and "wrong" and the words "they" and "right"
are joined together.

Statistically speaking such a predominance of correctness simply
does not wash!

And even if it did wash - even if we are more often correct and
they are more often wrong, what difference does it make?

What is so important about our correctness that God in his justice
will not honour it?

I think the only difference our correctness makes is the difference
it makes with our brothers and sisters when we insist on it and
cling to it like some holy grail; and that difference is the
difference between continuing the pain we, and they, and in the
end, all of us feel - and bringing it, in so far as it depends on
us, to an end.

Paul writes these words to the Corinthians - those sad individuals
who were squabbling and fighting over which apostle was the best
apostle, and which one had the true truth and which was mistaken. 
I am paraphrasing now verses 14 through 18 and a bit beyond in
Chapter two:

   "I thank God that I did not baptize any of you - except
   Crispus and Giaus and the household of Stephanas - because
   this means that none of you can say that you are my
   disciples.  For Christ did not send me to baptize people, to
   make them disciples of my way of understanding things, but
   to proclaim the gospel of God's love for us.  And I did not
   proclaim the gospel with words of great wisdom, lest you
   become slaves to that wisdom and to the form of the words I
   used, but I proclaimed it with demonstrations of the Spirit
   and of power - the power of the love shown by Jesus in his
   humbling himself unto death for each of us."

God my friends is the only one who is completely correct.
God is right, God is holy, there is no wrong in Him!
And Jesus - wonderful Jesus - he had no sin - he had no defect,
And he was persecuted, and maligned, and finally he was put to death.
And the only words that he could utter about those who killed him
was this: "Father forgive them, for they know not what do."

Do we want to make difference in our families and our clubs or
lodges, in our work places and in our churches?
Do we want to do what we can to break down the barriers that
divide?
Then we need to hold to the way of the cross -
- the way that listens to the others voices in the choir
- the way that appreciates the other pieces of the puzzle,
- the way that recognizes sin - and fights against it,
  but at the same time forgives the hurt that is done,
  and continually, because of the love that dwells within, 
  offers the chance of reconciliation and healing.

If we want to make a difference,
if we want to be a light in the darkness,
a healing presence in the midst of pain,
then we need the way of Christ,
the way of that faith which asserts, that even though we may die,
 we will also rise, and in our dying and our rising, God's kingdom
will come closer to all.

----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Ordinary 03 - Year A 
for a prayer meditation with which to conclude the sermon and/or 
lead into the prayer time below.


* HYMN: "Though Ancient Walls                            - VU 691


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Let us pray to God concerning those things which hold onto us and
those things we hold onto - the  habits of our life  - the
loyalties which guide our actions  - the standards which we do not
question...  Let us pray that we might love God more than we love
these things.......  Lord hear our prayer...
 
Thank you, Father, for this time we have spent here contemplating
the good news of Jesus Christ and the love that he has for us - the
love that he displayed upon the cross...  We pray that it may be
rich and real in our hearts as we live this week together.  Let it
do its great work of cutting down and eliminating from our lives
those things over which we take pride and which separate us from
others; these distinctions that make us dislike our brother or
sister, and turn our backs on them.  Help us, dear God,  to judge
these things in the light of the cross and, by its light, and the
light of your living word - to walk before you all our days....
Lord, hear our prayer...  

Father - make us what Jesus calls us to be -- make us ones who care
deeply about other people - who care so much that we are not afraid
to show them your love - so much that we are eager to bring them to
you so that they may know the blessing of a closer walk with
you.... Lord, hear our prayer....

Father, hear our prayers for those we know who need your special
care this day.....  We ask your blessing to be upon them, O God.

We ask these things in Jesus' name, saying as he taught us... OUR
FATHER...


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

   Lord God - take these tithes and these offerings - and all
   that we hold before you in our hearts at this time - hallow
   them - use them - and make us fitting servants of your most
   gracious will.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:   "Your Hand, O God, Has Guided        - VU 274


* 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, 
- and may the power of Christ's cross work it's way in your lives
- may his gospel light your way
- and may God's eternal love and strength and tenderness and glory
rest upon you and all our brothers and sisters,
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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