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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 05 - Year A
Isaiah 58:1-12; I Corinthians 2:1-16; and Matthew 5:13-20
"Bowls and Stands, Thermometers and Thermostats"


READING:  Isaiah 58:1-12; I Corinthians 2:1-16; and Matthew 5:13-20
SERMON :  "Bowls and Stands, Thermometers and Thermostats"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or05se 467000
                    
     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 Psalm 1)
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  Blessed are the people who do not walk in the counsel of the
   wicked, but whose delight is in the wisdom of God.
P  Blessed are those who meditate on God's law by day and by night.
L  Those who do so are like trees planted by streams of water -
   they yield their fruit in season and their leaves do not
   wither.
P  Whatever they do prospers, because God watches over them.
L  Come then, delight yourself in the counsels of our God,
   meditate on the word of the Lord and offer to him your praise
   and your holy service.


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


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Gracious God, we praise you and thank you for all that you have
bestowed upon us - for this day in which we have our being - for
your word which refreshes us as we open ourselves to it - for your
wisdom which comes to us as we follow Jesus - for the light that
shines upon us when turn to you in prayer.  Help us this day to
glorify your name in our hymns and songs and in our prayers and
meditations in this sanctuary - and by all that we say and do
before others when we leave it.  Help us to be the salt of the
earth and a light to the world.  We ask it through Jesus Christ our
Lord.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Holy Spirit, Hear Us                           - VU 377


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 ISAIAH 58:1-12
   (NRSV)  Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a
   trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of
   Jacob their sins. {2} Yet day after day they seek me and
   delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that
   practised righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of
   their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to
   draw near to God. {3} "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why
   humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your
   own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
   {4} Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike
   with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make
   your voice heard on high. {5} Is such the fast that I choose,
   a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a
   bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this
   a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? {6} Is not this the fast
   that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the
   thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break
   every yoke? {7} Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the
   naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own
   kin? {8} Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and
   your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go
   before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. {9}
   Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry
   for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke
   from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of
   evil, (10) if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the
   needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the
   darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.  (11)  The LORD
   will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched
   places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a
   watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never
   fail.  (12)  Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall
   raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be
   called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to
   live in.

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


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "The Light In The Chapel"
Object:   Candles lit and unlit
Source:   Whole People of God 1993 For 5th After Epiphany
Theme: Light to The World

Good morning...   Today I want to tell you the story of a church
that was built way in the highest mountains of Switzerland.  It was
a beautiful church that had been built with great care by the
villagers who lived nearby.  But there was one thing that the
church didn't have.  Can you of you think of what that might have
been???  
              
It didn't have any lights.  You couldn't just go into the church
and switch on the lights like we do here.  Yet every Sunday evening
the people who lived on the mountain side opposite the tiny church
saw something magic happen.  The church bell would ring and
worshippers would wend their way up the mountainside towards the
church.  They would enter the church and then all of a sudden the
church would light up brightly.  What do you think happened????

Yes - you see the people had to bring light with them - so they
brought lanterns.  When they arrived at church they would light
their lanterns and hang them around the church on pegs set in the
walls, so the light would spread all around.  If only a few people
came to church the light would be very dim because their would only
be a few lanterns.  But when lots of people came to church there
would be plenty of light.  After the service the villagers would
take their lanterns home.  At this time, to those who watched from
a distance, it was as if a stream of light poured out of the church
and over the mountainside.  For many it was a sign that all was
well.  God's light was with them and in them.  The  only time the
little church lit up was when people were there.  That's when it
truly became a church.  That's when it the light shown most
brightly

So it is here today - we carry in us the light of God - and we
gather here - this place truly becomes a church - a place in which
God's light is seen.  Jesus says that we are the light of the world
- and he asks us to show his love to everyone when we leave here so
that his light might give hope to those who see us.

   Let us Pray:"Loving God -- we thank you for Jesus -- the one
   who lights our way -- help us follow him -- and be people
   who show -- your light to others -- we ask it in Jesus' name
   -- Amen." 


* HYMN:  "Jesus Bids Us Shine"                           - VU 585


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 112 (Voices United 834) and Refrain

   A Psalm which describes the blessedness of those who have
   reverence and trust in God.


CHOIR ANTHEM:


A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 2:1-16
   (NRSV)  When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not
   come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or
   wisdom. {2} For I decided to know nothing among you except
   Jesus Christ, and him crucified. {3} And I came to you in
   weakness and in fear and in much trembling. {4} My speech and
   my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but
   with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, {5} so that
   your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of
   God. {6} Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is
   not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are
   doomed to perish. {7} But we speak God's wisdom, secret and
   hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. {8}
   None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they
   had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. {9} But,
   as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the
   human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love
   him"-- {10} these things God has revealed to us through the
   Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of
   God. {11} For what human being knows what is truly human except
   the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends
   what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. {12} Now we have
   received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is
   from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by
   God. {13} And we speak of these things in words not taught by
   human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual
   things to those who are spiritual. {14} Those who are
   unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they
   are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them
   because they are spiritually discerned. {15} Those who are
   spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject
   to no one else's scrutiny. {16} "For who has known the mind of
   the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of
   Christ.

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


* HYMN: "Lord, Speak To Me"                              - VU 589



A READING FROM MATTHEW 5:13-20
   (NRSV)  "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost
   its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer
   good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
   {14} "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill
   cannot be hid. {15} No one after lighting a lamp puts it under
   the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to
   all in the house. {16} In the same way, let your light shine
   before others, so that they may see your good works and give
   glory to your Father in heaven. {17} "Do not think that I have
   come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to
   abolish but to fulfill. {18} For truly I tell you, until heaven
   and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a
   letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. {19}
   Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these
   commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called
   least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and
   teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
   {20} For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of
   the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of
   heaven.

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


SERMON:  "Bowls and Stands, Thermometers and Thermostats" 

   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

   Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a lighthouse
   that sat on a rocky shore and helped ships get through the
   water safely without hitting any big nasty rocks.  One day
   the lighthouse operator became sick and a temporary
   substitute was put in charge of the lighthouse.  While he
   was there tending the lighthouse a big storm blew up and
   sand and branches and all kinds of things were flying around
   in the wind.  The temporary lighthouse keeper got out a big
   piece of canvas and covered up the lantern so it would not
   get wet or damaged in the storm.  That night a ship blew
   upon the rocks and sank with all hands.

Sounds silly doesn't it - I mean - who, as Jesus puts it, lights a
lamp and then puts it under a bowl?  

Shortly after I first gave my heart to Christ a question was put to
me that I would like to ask you today - a man asked me - "What are
you?  Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

I was a little bit slow that day - I couldn't figure out what he
was driving at - so I asked him a simple question in return:  "What
the heck are you talking about?!

Richard, he said - a thermometer reflects its environment,
   it shows what the temperature is, if its hot outside - it says
   its hot; if its cold, it says its cold; it exerts no influence
   on what's around it - rather it is influenced by it;
but not so a thermostat. 
   A thermostat has power,
   it sets the temperature, it changes things.

So - what are you? A thermometer, or a thermostat?

What a great question!  It is one that Jesus puts to his disciples
in today's reading when he says:

   "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its
   taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer
   good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under
   foot.  You are the light of the world. A city built on a
   hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it
   under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives
   light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light
   shine before others, so that they may see your good works
   and give glory to your Father in heaven." 

Think about it for a minute - Jesus tells us - "You are the salt of
the earth..."  And again, "You are the light of the world".

What an incredible thing that is!  What an incredible gift!
Somehow - because of who God has made us,
Somehow - because of our decision to follow Jesus
we are made into salt - into light - for the world.

That is the beautiful realty of what God does to us.
in fact it is the most important thing that God does through us,
when we live by our faith.

Think of the people who have touched you,
the people who first spoke to your yearning heart,
the people who first, because of their love and care for you, 
inspired you to believe in the God of Love.

Did they not light up your life?  Did they not bring new savour and
zest to the diet you once lived on?  Did they not penetrate and
change your lives with their care and concern and honesty? just as
the presence of Jesus changed the life of Peter and John and James?

The divine is a light within us,
And faith is the match that sets it glowing.

We are here today because the light of God has come into our life
The only question we need to address is - what are we going to do
with that light?

Last week at Bible Study someone asked the group:

   Do you know what Christianity is?  It is a wildly infectious
   disease.  When you got a good case of it everyone around
   gets it too.  The only problem is - so many people try to
   cure it...

People cure faith by stifling it and by ignoring it and by hiding
it.  They destroy faith by living like thermometers rather than
like thermostats.

It doesn't take much to be a thermometer you know,
all you have to do is be agreeable.
All you have to do is to go along with what everyone else wants.
All you have to do is think of your own comfort and ease.

When others around you are scoffing and mocking - all you need do
is be quiet, to not make waves - you may even perhaps join with
them in a gentle put down.

When someone is being racist and intolerant all you have to do is
be silent about how in Christ there is no Jew nor Gentile, no
Packis nor Wasps..

When someone is hurt and alone, or feeling offended or betrayed, or
simply depressed, all you have to do is walk on by - all you have
to do is go on doing what you were doing before, as if nothing was
happening that needed your attention.

All you have to do to be a thermometer - is go with the flow,
to not speak about God's power and love,
to not witness by your deeds to God's grace and mercy. 

Reginald Bibby, a well known sociologist from Alberta, studies
religion.

In one of his books he examined the various churches in Canada,
he polled their members and he polled a large number of non-
Christians  and he discovered an amazing fact - a disturbing fact:

He discovered that on almost all major social and political issues 
Christians did not differ in their opinions from non-Christians.

Bibby concludes his book by saying that the reason that the
Christian church is dying in North America is because it does not
offer anything that anyone else does not offer. 

Indeed, Bibby continues - the very things that make the church
unique - most of the established churches refuse to talk about -
They would rather talk about psychology than about faith, and about
the need for politic reform rather than about spiritual change.

Bibby, with the tools of modern social science echoes the statement
of the 19th century philosopher and sceptic Frederick Nietzsche. 
Nietzsche said this about the churches of his day:

  "They must sing better songs, ere I learn belief in their
   saviour.  They must act like they are redeemed before I will
   believe in their redeemer."

Well, we have great songs - but where do we sing them?...
Are we like the Israelites at the time of the prophet Isaiah?
Do we only sing the songs of the Lord when we are in church?
Do we only sing about our faith when we want something from God?

Are we like those who believe quietly and only when it is safe?
Or do we sing loudly and cheerfully and triumphantly in public?
In those places where those who sing only the songs of the devil
will be confronted; where those who hear only the songs of despair
can at last know that there is hope; where those who have only the
songs of self-hatred to listen to can, at last, hear that they are
loved?

In the winter of 1978 the heaviest snow storm in Boston's history
struck the city.  It lasted a week, and during part of that time
the power went off.  While the power was off a number of things
happened.

   A man got lost trying to find his way to an unfamiliar
   section of the city.  He almost froze to death wandering
   around the streets, until he happened upon a place he knew.

   An elderly woman whose house was without power went through
   a night of terror.  Of fragile health, she sometimes
   suffered hallucinations.  Alone in her dark home her
   imagination distorted all the sounds of the wind and storm
   into signals of some kind of attack upon her.

   In a house just a block away from her - a man died when the
   equipment he relied upon to breath failed to function.

   A few blocks away, made bold by the darkness, vandals broke
   into an appliance store and carried off a lot of valuable
   merchandise.

The reality of one part of this parable I am telling you will help
make all the rest clear.
  
The reality was that the Boston Edison Power Company had sufficient
power in its generating system to meet all the needs of the city. 
The problem was in one simple transformer in the main plant and
with the transmission lines from a substation.

This is like Christ and us as his disciples - we who are the light
of the world.  

Christ is indeed the one who shines with God's light. 
 
But just as the whole city of Boston does not live in the
generating plant itself, no more can people live in the immediate
presence of their source of divine energy.  Power has to come out
into the world were they live.  

That requires "transformers" and "transmission lines".
It requires disciples who will cause their light to shine where
people live and die.

We are the salt of the earth.
We are the light of the world.
We are the thermostats in a world of varying temperatures.
We are the infectious disease that God wants all people to catch.
We are the transmission lines, the transformers, that God has
chosen.  We are the singers of the songs of the Lord.

And what in all this does God ask of us?
   The God who puts his light into us,
   The God who seasons us with his presence,
   The God who imparts his song into our hearts?

God asks very little. 
All he wants is that we be what we he has made us to be.

The power is, after all, his.
The light comes from him.
The seasoning is mined from his word,
and the song is first sung by his lips.

All God asks is that we follow him
and witness to him as faithfully as we can.

And we can do that easily,
All we need do is remember a simple fact,
And do a simple deed.

The simple fact is this:

God makes us the salt of the earth.  Salt, however, does not  
exist for its own sake.  No one sits down to eat salt and salt
alone.  Salt is a seasoning meant to be applied to something, it is
meant to penetrate and preserve and flavour the food that people
eat.  And in the same way light is not meant to be looked at, it is
not meant to be covered and treasured like some precious object, it
is given so that people might see what is around them and walk in
safety, it is meant to penetrate and overcome darkness..

In other words we are saved - not just for ourselves, but to do the
work of God,

And the simple thing we can do is this -
We can stand up for our faith in God.
And we can stand upon our faith in God.

When we do so - when we stand up and stand on 
- when we believe and act in faith,
then we will be full of light, and of power, and of grace,
we will be beacons in a dark place,
and praise and glory unto God will be the result

We have God's word on it,
That word by which we were made,
and by which all life is given,

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good
works, and give glory to your Father in heaven.  Amen


----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Ordinary 05 - Year A 
for a prayer meditation with which to conclude the sermon and/or 
lead into the prayer time below.


* HYMN: "It Only Takes A Spark"                          - VU 289


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
L  Gracious God, we give you thanks for giving to us wholeness and
   salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Help us show these forth
   to others.
P  Make me an channel of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let
   me bring your love; where there is injury, your healing power;
   and where there's doubt, true faith in you.
L  By your Spirit, O Lord, you have made us the salt of the earth
   and the light of the world.  Help us be what you have made us.
P  Make me a channel of your peace.  Where there's despair in
   life, let me bring hope; where there is darkness, light; and
   where there's sadness, joy.
L  O God, we would burn brightly for you.  Give us courage and
   strength, faith and hope, that we may indeed show the way of
   salvation to all.
P  Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as
   to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as
   to love with all my soul.
L  O God, in and through Jesus the blessed life you want us all to
   have is found.  Help us to rest and abide in Him and his
   gospel.
P  Make me a channel of your peace.  It is in pardoning that we
   are pardoned; in giving to others that we receive; and in dying
   that we are born to eternal life. 
L  Gracious God, we pray for these things, and for all the burdens
   and joys upon our hearts at this time

   .... intercessions and petitions.....

L  We ask as these things through Christ Jesus our brother and our
   Lord, saying as he taught us.... Our Father


MINUTE FOR MISSION: News From The Board


* 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

   Use us, O God, in your work of bringing wholeness and
   salvation to the world.  Accept our tithes and our offerings
   and so cause your Spirit to work through the members of this
   church - that even as we raise our hands in devotion to you
   - all those around will give praise and glory to your name. 
   Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks   - VU 179


* 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 God of light 
   illuminate your path and shine forth from you;
may the God of salt 
   flavour and preserve you and bring hope to life through you;
indeed may the God of love 
   the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit - abide in you and
   take flesh through you in our world, 
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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