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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 04 - Year A
I Corinthians 1:18-31; Psalm 15; Matthew 5:1-12
"That Which God Has Chosen"


READING:  I Corinthians 1:18-31; Psalm 15; Matthew 5:1-12
SERMON :  "That Which God Has Chosen"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or04sm 650000
                    
     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 Prayers of Invocation and Dedication are lightly
     based on John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for Ordinary 4,
     Year A", 1999 (as sent to the PRCL-List).  The children's story
     "The Happy Puppy" is used with permission of  Charles
     Kirkpatrick, Sermons4Kids, 2002 (and may be used in worship - but
     not reproduced without his permission).  Some sermon citations
     from 'God's Tools' by Ray C. Stedman, Catalogue No. 3574, 1
     Corinthians 1:26-31, Discovery Publishing (A ministry of
     Peninsula Bible Church) 1978,1995.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* GREETING AND 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, 
     for God alone is holy - only he is full of glory.


* 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: (followed by silence then prayer)


 PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Loving and compassionate God, you desire that your people might do justice
and love kindness and walk humbly with you.  We want that too, O Lord. 
Today, as we turn to your Holy Word in the Scriptures, as we pray and as we
sing, and as we share with one another the good news of Christ, Jesus visit
us and continue his work in our lives.  Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace and in the renewal of our lives make know your
heavenly glory.  We ask it through Christ Jesus - our Lord and our Saviour,
our brother and our friend.  Amen.


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


CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Happy Puppy"
Object:   The Song "If You're Happy"
Source:   Charles Kirkpatrick, www.Sermons4Kids, 2002 
Theme     Happiness is not brought about by what happens to us, it is
          brought about by what happens within us. (Matthew 5:1-12)

Probably every one here this morning has sung the song, "If You're
Happy."  You know the one I'm talking about:

-- "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap, clap)  
-- If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.  (clap, clap)  
-- If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it, 
-- if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap, clap)  

I wonder how that song would go if a bunch of birds sang it?  Maybe it
would go like this, "If you're happy and you know it, flap your wings. 
What do you think a dog might do to show that he was happy?  Wag his tail?  

-- If you're happy and you know it, wag your tail. (swish-swish)  
-- If you're happy and you know it, wag your  tail.  (swish-swish)  
-- If you're happy and you know it, then your tail will surely show it,
-- if you're happy and you know it, wag your tail.  (swish-swish)

I heard a story about a little puppy that noticed that whenever he was
happy, his tail wagged, so he thought he had discovered the secret to
happiness.  One day he shared the secret of happiness with an older dog.

He said, "I have learned that the best thing for a dog is to be happy, and
that happiness is in my tail.  So I am going to chase my tail; and when I
catch it, I shall have happiness.  

The old dog replied, "I too believe that happiness is a marvellous thing
for a dog, and that happiness is in my tail.  But I have noticed that
whenever I chase my tail, it keeps running away from me; but when I go
about my business, it follows me wherever I go.

The Bible has a lot to say about being happy.  It doesn't say, "Happy are
they who have a lot of money" or "Happy are they who live in big houses
and drive fancy cars."  It doesn't even say, "Happy are they who only have
good things happen to them."  

What the Bible does say is, "Happy are the merciful, happy are the
peacemakers, happy are the pure in heart."  The Bible also says, "Happy is
he who trusts in the Lord."  

Many of us are like the little puppy chasing his tail - trying to find true
happiness that is always just out of our reach.  What we need to do is
learn that if we will just go about our business and trust in the Lord,
happiness will follow us where- ever we go.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
     Loving God, Lord Jesus - help us to place our trust in you -- so
     that we may experience the happiness - that only you can bring. 
     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:  "Give Me Oil In My Lamp"                                - SFGP 130


A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 1:18-31
     (NIV) The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are
     perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.   For
     it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the
     intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

     Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the
     philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the
     world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom
     did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was
     preached to save those who believe. 

     Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach
     Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to
     Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks,
     Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of
     God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger
     than man's strength. 

     Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. 
     Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were
     influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish
     things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of
     the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this
     world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to
     nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It
     is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us
     wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

     Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 15 (VU 736) and the 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 MATTHEW 5:1-12                                         - XXX
     (NIV)  Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and
     sat down.  His disciples came to him,  and he began to teach them,
     saying:

      Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
          for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
      Blessed are those who mourn, 
          for they will be comforted.
      Blessed are the meek, 
          for they will inherit the earth. 
      Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
          for they will be filled. 
      Blessed are the merciful, 
          for they will be shown mercy. 
      Blessed are the pure in heart, 
          for they will see God. 
      Blessed are the peacemakers, 
          for they will be called sons of God. 
      Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
          for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
      Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say
          all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be
          glad, because great is your reward 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:  "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go"                            - VU 658


SERMON:  "That Which God Has Chosen"

     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.

          "For consider your call, brothers and sisters, not many
          of you were wise according to worldly standards, not
          many were powerful, not many were of noble birth, 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, God chose what is low and despised in the
          world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing
          the things that are..."

Consider your call.  Consider who you were - who you are  - and what God
has promised to do for you and through you.

And consider too these words 

     "The message of cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
     but to us who are being saved it is the power of God....  For
     since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not
     know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was
     preached to save those who believe."

What God has chosen is a confounding thing.
A thing which overturns the wisdom of the world.
A thing which overturns all social expectation,
     all scientifically determined truths,
     all human strength and power --
And establishes in its place the inexplicable.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit - Blessed are they that mourn - Blessed are
the meek. - Blessed are they who are persecuted because of righteousness. -
Blessed are you when people insult you and say all manner of evil against
you falsely because of me...

That which God has chosen - 
     that which God blesses - 
is not what the world would choose 
     or what the world would bless - 
and God states that straight up front when he says:
     "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise 
     and the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

God has chosen you
     - you with your worries and anxieties about the future 
     - you with your grade school education 
     - you with your bad back and your aching neck and feet -
     - you with your private thoughts - and your secret past -
     - you with your desperate needs and your hidden fears,
just as he chose so long ago 
     Peter with his bull headed stubborn bravado
     - and Matthew with his unsavoury background as a tax-collector,
     - Simon, with his reputation as a Zealot 
     - and James and John, two fishermen with a strange ambition to somehow
     be first in the Kingdom they thought Jesus was going to establish
     somewhere in the middle of the Roman Empire.
     
The Lord chose nobodies to be the first to know his teaching,
     the first to witness his miracles,
     and the first to spread the good news 
- the good news concerning the message of the cross.
- the good news that God has acted to bring salvation to the world and that
all we have to do is to believe and trust in him.

God chose nobodies to be the first to know and to spread the good news that
eventually would change the world.

We all look my friends, for salvation - for wholeness.
          
But some look, not to God, but to other things 
they look not to faith in Christ Jesus and in the message of the cross, 
      but to programs and blueprints and clever items of organization
          to doctors and lawyers and those wise in the ways of science and
          technology.

They look for better jobs, bigger pay cheques,
     more interesting hobbies,
     different marriage partners,
and while all these things have an appearance of wisdom,
     while they all, in turn, may indeed be very good 
     and even very necessary things
they do not save anyone 
- often they do not even make us very happy...

In Corinth the church was divided in various factions and groups as the
people there became captivated by one or another viewpoint concerning what
was good and what was true and what was of saving benefit.

As we heard last week some boasted of how they followed Apollos, how he had
the better way - and indeed Apollos was an eloquent and persuasive person,
a person who planted many seeds of faith in the lives of others.

Others thought the way the message was preached by Peter was best 
that heeding him was the only thing to do - that because he was one of the
twelve he should be heeded before all others - and so it went.

There was a group of people who insisted that all moral codes were
irrelevant because the written law had been superceded by the spiritual law
of freedom and of life,
     and others who were incredibly strict about what a person could or
     could not do  - for the exactly same reason,
          and they argued back and forth incessantly about who was right
          and who was wrong and whether or not it affected one's status in
          the eyes of God, whether or not it affected one's salvation or
          the salvation of the entire community.

In our day and age and after close to 2000 years of faith in Christ Jesus
you might think that we are exempt from such disputes - from such
misunderstandings about what is important and what is helpful to us before
God -- but sadly we are not.

There are still those who believe that all the problems that they have
     and all the problems that our church and our community and indeed our
     nation has 
can be solved by following one person instead of another;
     that they can be solved by changing one's minister or mayor - or by
     promoting one kind of theology or promoting one particular way of
     doing things over another.

There are still those who believe that if they could only change the
programs that are offered,
    if they could only do things in a modern manner - 
         or if they could only do them in the old fashioned way -
               or if they could only do them in the way that they are
               personally comfortable with 
that everything would be fine in the church 
or in their lodge or club -
or even in their families...

I do not know, my friends, if the message of the cross is modern or old
fashioned.  But I do know that it isn't always comfortable.   

It isn't always comfortable because it tells us that we are a people in
desperate need - that we are a people who easily descend to acts of
rejection - and ultimately to violence - to silence the voices we do not
like to hear.

The message of the cross isn't always comfortable 
because it tells us not just that we are forgiven by God, 
but because it tells us well that we need forgiving in the first place.

And because it tells us that salvation is not something that we can win or
earn, but rather that it is something free and gracious  and ultimately
only available to those who humble enough and hungry enough,
to accept it.

Some people don't like that.  

They think that they are pretty good, that they have good ideas, and that
while they are not perfect, they still have a valuable contribution to
make, one that will help set things straight - and well they might;
     but as long as you think that it is from you or from so other human
     agency or effort that the goodness comes - that healing power comes,
     you are missing the good news concerning the cross of Jesus Christ -
     you are missing all the marvellous freedom that comes when you embrace
     the truth concerning God's love.

Consider your calling my brothers and sisters.

Not many of  you were wise according to worldly standards, 
not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
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, 
God chose what is low and despised in the world, 
even things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are..."

These words do not mean that God does not use people of status and stature
as well.  

     "He does - but only, remarkably enough, when they have learned
     that their usefulness does not derive from their position or
     their abilities, but rather from his presence in their lives."

It is God's presence that makes the difference.  And it is to God that we
should turn when we have a problem, or when we are looking to promote
healing and wholeness in ourselves and in those around us.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who was for many years an outstanding pastor in
London, England, says this:

     "We Christians often quote 'not by might nor by power, but by my
     spirit saith the Lord,' and yet in practice we seem to rely upon
     the mighty dollar and the power of the press and advertising. We
     seem to think that our influence will depend on our technique and
     the program we can put forward and that it would be the numbers,
     the largeness, the bigness that would prove effective. We seem to
     have forgotten that God has done most of his deeds in the church
     throughout its history through remnants. We seem to have
     forgotten the great story of Gideon, for instance, and how God
     insisted on reducing the 32,000 men down to 300 before he would
     make use of them. We have become fascinated by the idea of
     bigness, and we are quite convinced that if we can only stage,
     yes, that's the word, stage something really big before the
     world, we will shake it and produce a mighty religious awakening.
     That seems to be the modern conception of authority." 

There are many different things that we turn to for salvation - many
different things that we seek out as a means of solving our problems - both
those that are personal - and those that linked to our life together as
church or a community.

     "I find people everywhere who seem to think that it takes money
     to do God's work, that nothing can happen unless you get money
     first -- "If we could only get so much money, then we could begin
     a great ministry." It seems to me that is a reversal of the whole
     position of scripture, for in scripture you do not begin with
     money, you begin with ministry.  Anybody can be a minister of
     God.  That is the glory of the Church, because God has put us all
     in the ministry.  If you begin to do what God wants you to do,
     right where you are, and God begins to work through you, all the
     money that is ever necessary, will come.

God has chosen what seems foolishness and weak to save the world.
He has chosen to use the way of faith and of trust to bless the world.
And he calls us to rely upon him, and his Spirit, his presence in our
lives, for everything.

He calls us to understand that 
     - no programs and devices,
     - no surveys and samples
     - no methods of government or organization
     - no raw use of power 
     - or clever use of technology
     - no fund raising nor system of taxation
     - no single leader or person 
can gain us what we need,
what we all need.

What the Lord requires -
what we require -
is that we act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Believe my friends 
- believe that God can help -
- believe that only God can help -
- and believe that God does help -
and ask him to do so -
ask him 
and seek to follow the in the way of Christ -
in the way of justice and mercy 
and salvation will come to you - and to your household - 
and indeed to the church and the world.

Blessed Be God, Day by Day, Amen


* HYMN:  "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee"                         - VU 560


PRAYER TIME
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 pray, O God, for those we have named before you today as congregation -
a community - of your people - and for those whose names even now are
coming to our hearts and our minds....  BIDDING PRAYER ....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 of Christ Jesus 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

     O God.  Receive our gifts as we seek to walk in Your way.   Where
     justice is sought, use these gifts to bring Christ's liberating
     word.  Where there is a need for mercy and kindness - use them
     and us bring your hope, your strength, and your love.  Lord - you
     have blessed us - help us to be ones who bless others.   Amen.


* HYMN: "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me"                          - VU 635


* 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
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name
- 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.


THREEFOLD AMEN and CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - SFGP 67


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


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