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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 04 - Year A
I Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-12
"Where We Meet God and Where God Meets Us"


READING:  I Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-12
SERMON :  "Where We Meet God and Where God Meets Us"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or04sesn 466819
                    
     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 Micah 6:6-8)
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  Be still before God and wait patiently, for he will appear. 
   Delight in God, for he will satisfy your hunger.  Call upon
   God, for he will answer.
P  With what shall we come before God?  Who among the living is
   worthy to stand in his presence?
L  A gentle and contrite heart God will not despise.  A humble
   spirit he will not turn away.
P  We will stand before God and trust in his righteousness
   rather than our own, for God alone is holy - only he is full
   of glory.
L  God delivers the needy, he has regard for those who are
   merciful, he heeds those who love and serve Him.  He is
   compassionate towards those who make peace.


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


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Almighty and ever loving God, we gather to praise you this day
for your mercy and kindness - to give you thanks for your living
word - Christ Jesus our Lord, and to seek your favour that we may
be strengthened and built up in the faith you have called us to. 
We know, O God, that not one of us is truly worthy to approach
you, yet you bid us come, and promise to forgive and to help all
those who seek you in Spirit and in Truth.  Grant, we pray, that
your Holy Spirit might touch us this day and make us more what
you want us to be.  Help us to be a people who are gentle and
contrite in our hearts, and humble and obedient in your service. 
We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen.


* HYMN:   "Just As I Am"                                 - VU 508


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 CORINTHIANS 1:18-31
   (1 Cor 1:18-31 NRSV)  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. {19} For it is written,
   "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment
   of the discerning I will thwart." {20} Where is the one who
   is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this
   age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? {21}
   For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God
   through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our
   proclamation, to save those who believe. {22} For Jews demand
   signs and Greeks desire wisdom, {23} but we proclaim Christ
   crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to
   Gentiles, {24} but to those who are the called, both Jews and
   Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. {25}
   For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's
   weakness is stronger than human strength. {26} Consider your
   own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by
   human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of
   noble birth. {27} But God chose what is foolish in the world
   to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to
   shame the strong; {28} God chose what is low and despised in
   the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things
   that are, {29} so that no one might boast in the presence of
   God. {30} He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who
   became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and
   sanctification and redemption, {31} in order that, as it is
   written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

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


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "God's Team"
Object:   Choosing Teams
Source:   Self
Theme:    God does not Chose As We Chose

Good morning...  Have you ever been out somewhere where a game is
about to be played and all the kids line up and two kids are
chosen as team captains and they begin to take turns choosing
people for their side in the upcoming game?  What kind of games
are usually going to be played???  (Soccer, Baseball, Football,
War)  

How do you think the captains decide who to pick???  (By the best
at the sport, by the fastest, or the strongest or who looks the
biggest.  Sometimes by the fact that they know one kid and not
the other)

There is often something very sad about what happens when a team
is being picked -- do you know what that might be???  (Being
picked last - or even not picked at all).   

How do you think that the kids who are picked last feel???  (Not
good enough, not liked by the others, inadequate, inferior, etc). 

There is a way to make the picking process more kind - and that
is to have everyone number off, one, two, one, two, one two... 
That way everyone is made to feel welcome at the beginning.

God has a special team that he picks so that they can help Jesus
do his work in this world.  God doesn't get people to number off
- but he does go to and he first welcomes on his team anyone who
feels inferior - anyone who seems inadequate - anyone who is
feeling sad and wants God's help.  And then God performs a
miracle - he makes those people, those that others would pick
last - the strongest and the best - and because they are so glad
to be chosen - and because they know that God's team is a winning
team - because Jesus is a winning team captain - they are known
as the blessed ones.  Those people that other people reject, God
accepts and he honours - just as he accepted Jesus when he was
rejected by the world and gave him the greatest honour of all -
to sit on his throne in heaven and help make a better world.

   Let us Pray:  "Loving God -- we thank you for how you
   choose us -- to serve on your team. -- We thank you for
   looking at our need -- rather than at our ability -- or at
   what we have done.  -- Help us to love others - in the
   same way you love us.  Amen"


* HYMN:  "Come, Children, Join To Sing"                  - VU 345


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 15 (Voices United 736) and Refrain

   A Psalm which describes those who may dwell in the house
   of God forever


CHOIR ANTHEM:


A READING FROM MATTHEW 5:1-12
   (Mat 5:1-12 NRSV)  When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the
   mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
   {2} Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: {3}
   "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
   heaven. {4} "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be
   comforted. {5} "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit
   the earth. {6} "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
   righteousness, for they will be filled. {7} "Blessed are the
   merciful, for they will receive mercy. {8} "Blessed are the
   pure in heart, for they will see God. {9} "Blessed are the
   peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. {10}
   "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness'
   sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} "Blessed are
   you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all
   kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. {12} Rejoice
   and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the
   same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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


* HYMN:  "Take Time To Be Holy"                            VU 672


SERMON:   "Where We Meet God and Where God Meets Us" 

   Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of
   our hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to
   thee, oh our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

Today I want to talk about where we meet God and where God meets
us.

I think all of us are familiar with the idea that God is  best
met in special times, times in which we go to special places,
most often by ourselves, and dwell in silence.

Most of us have felt  specially blessed when we have been able to
spend time away from the bustle and hustle of daily life and to
actually go up on a mountain side and look around and see nothing
for miles and miles but clouds passing by and hills and valleys
receding into the distance.

The scriptures tell us that this is what Jesus did.

Others have the sense feeling when they go deep into the woods 
where they can hear nothing but birds singing in the trees and
the sound of their own breathing,
   still others contemplate by a river with the eddies of water
   swirling by, carrying leaves and bits of wood to a
   destination hundreds of miles from where they sit.
       
For some - like my wife - it is the beach - an ocean beach where
the waves  roll in one after another, pushing and pulling the
gravel and sand and making whispering rattling sounds punctuated
by the noise of the waves crashing and breaking on the shore.

I like going out at late at night and staring up at the stars and
the moon and the planets.

All of us have our places of refuge,
our places where we go to meet God and to allow him to minister
to us in the midst of the beauty, and the quiet, and the
loneliness.

We have a great sense of peace in these places,
we can think - or even better - we can let go of thinking,
and just sense the wonder and beauty of the moment,
and then, sometime later, we return to our normal world,
feeling more refreshed and stronger than we were than we left it.

This kind of retreat is marvellous -
it is one of the ways - one of the important ways ,
in which we meet God.

Others ways exist of course - ways which involve other people -
ways which are not quite as quiet - but which bring us into God's
presence none-the-less. 

Anyone who has ever seriously prayed with a group of fellow
believers about matters that are of deep concern to them or those
that they are with
   - anyone who has sat in a chair and had his brothers and
   sisters in the faith lay their hands on his head and
   shoulders and intercede for him, 
       - anyone who has gone to church for a number of years and
       kept her ears and eyes and heart open during the hymns 
       and sermons and readings,
          - anyone who has  ever heard the scriptures read and
          then interpreted by a close friend  
has - as is promised to those who do these things - met God.

The interesting thing about all these encounters with God is that
we are often seeking them...

We do something special,
We expend effort,
We set aside time,
We go somewhere that is different or out of the ordinary, 
We seek out privacy - or the company of certain people,
We - as the old hymn goes - take time to be holy.

And that time makes us holy -
Whether we feel it or not -
Whether we are immediately aware of it or not,
Whether we have a fantastic emotional experience
or simply come away feeling that we have done "the right thing"
we have sought God and we have received from God.
We have met God.

But - what about where God meets us?

If we search for God 
- and I believe we all do at one time or another,
If we search for God in special times and places -- Where does
God search for us?  Where does God meet us?

A lot of us you know - do not think we have met God unless we
FEEL that we have met him.

We gauge the success of our search for God,
our meeting God,
by whether or not we feel certain things.

We judge whether or not we have met the Lord,
by whether or not we gain a sense of peace,
by whether or not we have an emotional high - an emotional rush,
by whether or not we have the Spirit send those marvellous chills
and tingles up and down our backs.

And by those criteria - most of the time - even in those times
when we seek God out in the special places and in the special
ways we know about - we fail to meet him.

Life is not, after all, full of special times, full of special
moments.  Life is full of other stuff, it is full of routines, of
ordinary things:
we work, we eat, we sleep,
we play and relax,
we suffer and feel pain,
we sorrow and grieve,
we are insulted and injured,
we struggle and fight against trials and tribulations.

In these ordinary times we are as well in ordinary places,
at home,
at work,
in hospital,
visiting with a friend,
driving in our cars,
standing in elevators,
or sitting in an lobby or a meeting room.

What about these ordinary times, and these ordinary places
these times when we are not taking time to be holy,
and those places where we do not expect to meet God
but are actually getting on - or trying to get on - with living
our lives?

Well - those are the times and the places where God meets us...

There was a TV commercial that played a fair bit a few years ago
that I really enjoyed.

   A fellow is setting up a blind date with a young woman
   over the telephone.  They agree to meet at a certain
   street corner at a certain time and then she asks him "How
   will I know you".  He replies  "I'll be driving a
   Volkswagon".  The next scene is at the street corner.  He
   is standing by this sleek looking car and she comes
   wandering along looking for him - and goes right by him
   because parked just around the corner from him is a
   classic BEETLE or BUG.

Do any of you remember that Ad?

I remember it because that is kind of like us when it comes to
God - we expect to meet God in a certain way - and we often end
up missing His presence in our lives BECAUSE HE HAS COME TO MEET
US - but he has done so, he has come to meet us, in a slightly
different way - in a slightly different form or place - than that
which we expect.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit 
- for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,
Blessed are they that mourn 
- for they shall be comforted,
Blessed are the meek,
- for they shall inherit the earth,
Blessed are the those who hunger and thirst for righteousness 
- for they shall be satisfied,
Blessed are the merciful 
- for they shall obtain mercy...
Blessed are the pure in heart...
Blessed are the peacemakers ...
Blessed are those who are persecuted falsely...

What these words mean is quite simply this -
Those who are living out their lives in faith;
Those who go about - seeking to do what is right;
those who are able to feel their pain and express it;
those who are trying to show mercy;
those who are willing to accept insult and injury for the sake of
doing what is right;
those who seek to make peace;
those who are walking humbly before God - are met by God.

God encounters them.
God inhabits them.
God strengthens them.
God rewards them.

They did not have reach out to God in some special manner,
though that is what all of us are called to God,
so that they might meet God.
God comes to them, and meets them - where they are.

Some years back I knew a woman who was dying of cancer.  She had
struggled with the disease for a number of years.  She went
through radiation and chemotherapy and all the ills associated
with both the disease and its treatment.  

I asked her about how she felt about the whole ordeal and where
it was surely leading her.  She said that it was very difficult
at times, she knew she was dying, but even so she felt an
astonishing amount of peace and joy.  When I asked her if she was
scared of what was coming she replied "Why should I be afraid?  I
believe in God.  I know where I came from and where I am going."
                 
She was blessed and she felt it - and others knew it - even when
they could not accept what she was suffering....  Blessed are the
pure in heart.

I met a woman not so long ago who was the victim of child abuse.
She had no real anger left, she understood what had happened -
she did not like it -
but she prayed for her father that he might prosper,
that he might learn, 
that he might love better.
At the time I met her she was  helping her brother  work on his
relationship with her father - and she was helping.

She was a peace maker.- and she was blessed.  God was with her. 
God met her in what she suffered and gave her a vision of
himself..

I meet a lot of people who have lost someone - a lot of people
who mourn.

The ones who do the worst - are the brave ones - the ones who
refuse to let it get them down, the ones who "carry on" with a
stiff upper lip - never seeking help, never seeking to understand
what is really going on in their hearts..  

The ones who do best - are the ones who feel their loss and
express it, the ones who cry and get angry, the ones who really
sense their loss and can talk about it.  Always they are
comforted, always - after the days in the tomb - they find new
hope and new life

Blessed are they that mourn.

Similar things can be said about all the beatitudes.
Similar stories can be told.

God meets us in ways we do not expect,
at least those of us who think in the way of the world,
rather in the way of God.

He meets us in our weakness,
in our grief,
in our hunger for salvation,
in our attempt to do what is right,
in our pain and suffering when we are persecuted.

He meets us in the cross that we share with Jesus.

Paul writes: about this in his letter to the Corinthians -
he reminds us that God has chosen the way of foolishness -
   because in wisdom the world does not acknowledge God
that he has chosen the way of weakness, because in strength
   the world does not accept God.

The proof that God meets us ultimately is found in us -

That proof is not found in our great visions and great moments of
religious ecstasy, though these are wonderful things;
It is found 
   in our growth in understanding,
   in our increase in love, 
   in our  acceptance and faith in the midst of continual
   tribulation,
   in our doing of justice,
   in our love of kindness, 
   in our humble walking,

Peace I  give you, said Jesus - not as the world gives it do I
give to it you.

We can go to meet God in many special ways and places and that is
good -- but know and celebrate this -- God comes to meet us  - in
all ways and in all places.  And all he asks us of us as he comes
is that we trust and believe in his name.  Praise be to him, now
and forevermore.  AMEN

----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Ordinary 04 - Year A 
for a prayer meditation with which to conclude the sermon and/or 
lead into the prayer time below.


* HYMN:  "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"                   - VU 670


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Gracious God, stir in us the courage to own our true condition as
unfinished souls, frail and sinful and in need of grace -- open
to us the door of true blessedness - set our feet on the path of
humble obedience, joyful thanksgiving, and transforming love... 
Lord, hear our prayer...

O Lord, we thank you that when we are at our lowest, you do not
leave us comfortless, but rather near to those who are broken
hearted and close at hand to those who are crushed in Spirit.  We
thank you that your foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of
humankind and your weakness stronger than  our strength.  We pray
for those who do not know your compassion, that they may be drawn
to eat and drink of you, and for those who are bond by the chains
of fear and despair, that they may come to know the truth that
sets us free,...  Lord hear our prayer...

We pray, O God, for the well being - physical, emotional, social,
and spiritual of the world around us.  We think of those who are
sick - those who are vulnerable, those who are alone, those who
full of darkness - and we ask your blessing upon them....  We
think too of our governments and our corporations and of the need
for justice and mercy in the affairs of all nations, and between
all nations...  We think of the pain of the earth - and of the
promise you have made to one day restore the glory that the world
knew at first - and we pray that the power of the cross might
permeate our minds and our hearts and soon bring the
transformation that is needed....  Lord hear our prayer

We rest, ourselves, O God, in thee.  Do we pray, as you will. 
Bring to life in us the fullness of the gospel and make us ones
who pray as one family, as Jesus taught us to do when he said,
"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

   Thank you God for hungers satisfied and dreams fulfilled. 
   Thank you for the inheritance of faith which you have
   given us which blesses our life on earth.  We trust you, O
   God, not only to meet our daily needs, but to bless and
   multiply all that we offer you.  Receive, we pray our
   tithes and our offerings and help us to dedicate to you
   our moments and our days - we ask it in the name of Jesus. 
   Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Blessed Assurance"                   - VU 337


* 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 blessing of God, 
the companionship of Jesus Christ, 
and the anointing of the Holy Spirit 
be with you and upon you all, 
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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