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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for Ordinary 22 - Proper 17 - Year A
Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63; Matthew 16:21-27
"Cross Talk"


READING:  Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63; Matthew 16:21-27
SERMON :  "Cross Talk"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or22sx 993000
                  
   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 Prayer of Approach is loosely based on ones by James G.
   Kirk in "When We Gather", Year A, p. 112) as found in John Maynard's
   (maynard@uniting.com.au) "Prayers and Litanies For Ordinary 22, Year
   A" as sent to the PRCL List, in August 2002. With some minor
   changes, the children's story is from Charles Kirkpatrick,
   www.Sermons4Kids.com, "Message for Ordinary 22, Year A", as sent to
   the PRCL List in August 2002 and is used with permission.   
 

GTHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP  (Based on Psalm 105:1-8)
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  Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; 
   make known among the nations what he has done.
P      Sing praises to God and tell of all God's wonderful acts.
L  Give glory to the Lord's holy name.   
   Let the hearts of those who seek God rejoice.
P  Look to the Lord  and his strength; seek God's face always.
L  Remember the all that God has done:
   the wonders he has done, the miracles he has performed, 
   and the judgments he pronounced.
P      God remembers his covenant with his people forever, 
   the word he has commanded for a thousand generations.


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Creative and loving God, as we gather today help us to remember that every
good thing comes from you.  You are worthy of the praise of all nations,
you stand by and uphold all your people.   You give hope to all who
afflicted and bring new life to those who are bent over.   Indeed even the
tomb is powerless over your chosen ones, graves cannot hold them.  The sun
rises to honour you.   The mountains owe their grandeur to your design. 
The birds sing your songs and all animals that move on the face of earth
reveal  the power and wonder of your word.  Your decrees are full of
compassion and your judgements are just and merciful.  Your will is
entirely good.   Fill our hearts with love for you, increase our faith, and
by your constant care preserve in us the good you have given us.  We ask
this through Christ Jesus your son, who gave himself for us that we might
live - and who lives so that we might never die.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "The Day of Resurrection"                                 - VU 164


CHILDREN'S TIME   "First Things First"
Object        Toy Whistle
Theme:        Putting First Things First"
Source:       With only very minor changes, this is from Charles
              Kirkpatrick, www.Sermons4Kids.com, "Message for Ordinary 22,
              Year A", as sent to the PRCL List in August 2002.   Charles
              states that this message, drawn from his archives, is one of
              his favourites.

Good morning....  Have you ever wanted something so badly that you would
give just about anything to have it?  This morning I am going to tell you a
story about a little boy and a whistle.  The little boy in the story is
named Ben.  His full name was Benjamin Franklin.  Benjamin Franklin later
grew up to be one of the wisest men our world has ever known, but in our
story today, he was a little boy who did something very foolish.

When Ben was seven years old some of his friends gave him some money.  It
was quite a bit of money for a small boy. As Ben told it, "They filled my
pockets with coppers".  That is what they used to call pennies. With his
pockets full of money, Ben headed straight for a store where they sold
toys.  On the way to the store, he met a boy who had a whistle.  Perhaps it
was a whistle like this one that I have with me this morning.  When Ben
heard the whistle, he liked the sound of it so much that he told the boy he
would give him all of the money he had in his pockets if he would give him
the whistle.  The boy gave Ben the whistle and took the money.

Ben headed for home and when he got there, he went all around the house
playing his whistle.  His brothers, sisters, and cousins asked Ben where he
got the whistle and he told them that he had bought it with the money he
had been given.  They all started to laugh at Ben and make fun of him. 
They told him that he had paid four times as much as the whistle was worth. 
Ben was so hurt and felt so foolish that he began to cry, but he learned a
lesson that day that he would remember for the rest of his life.  From then
on, whenever he saw someone who had made a foolish choice in life, he would
say, "That man paid too much for his whistle."

Some boys and girls want to be popular with a certain group of kids at
school.  They may do things that they know are wrong because they think it
will make them popular. They are paying too much for their whistle.

Some boys and girls want to be a winner more than anything. They are even
willing to cheat if that's what it takes to win.  They are paying too much
for their whistle.

Some boys and girls think the most important thing in life is to have fun,
so they spend all of their time playing and they never have time for God.
They are paying too much for their whistle.

Is there something that you want so much that you are willing to do almost
anything to get it?  Jesus once asked the question, "What good will it be
for a person if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?"

Are you paying too much for your whistle?


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Let us pray.....  Dear Lord Jesus - we don't want to pay too much
   for our whistle.   - Help us to place you first in our lives - to do
   what you want - and to follow your example - so that we may have
   your life in us - the life that lasts forever.   Amen

And in the word's of Jesus who taught us to pray together as one family...

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


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


TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD    (verse 2 - VU 371)
                
   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 they will to see.
   Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


A READING FROM EXODUS 3:1-15
   (NIV)  Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law,
   the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the
   desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of
   the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. 
   Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So
   Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the
   bush does not burn up." 

   When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him
   from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" 

   And Moses said, "Here I am."

   "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the
   place where you are standing is holy ground."  Then he said, "I am
   the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the
   God of Jacob."  At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid
   to look at God.  The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my
   people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their
   slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have
   come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring
   them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land
   flowing with milk and honey - the home of the Canaanites, Hittites,
   Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  And now the cry of the
   Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are
   oppressing them.  So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring
   my people the Israelites out of Egypt." 

   But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and
   bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

   And God said, "I will be with you.  And this will be the sign to you
   that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out
   of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." 

   Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
   'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What
   is his name?'  Then what shall I tell them?" 

   God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to
   the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"  God also said to Moses,
   "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers - the God
   of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to
   you.'  This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be
   remembered from generation to generation.

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 63 (VU 781) & 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 ever shall be.  
   World without end.  Amen


A READING FROM MATTHEW 16:21-28
   (NIV)  From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples
   that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of
   the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must
   be killed and on the third day be raised to life.   

   Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he
   said. "This shall never happen to you!" 

   Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a
   stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God,
   but the things of men."  

   Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he
   must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever
   wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for
   me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the
   whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in
   exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his
   Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person
   according to what he has done.  I tell you the truth, some who are
   standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man
   coming in his kingdom."

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

 
*  HYMN:  "O Love, How Deep"                                       - VU 348


SERMON:  "Cross Talk"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in the calming of our minds and in the
   longings of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts
   that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.  Amen.

To really get hold of the significance of today's gospel reading with its
talk of the cross and of suffering and dying and being raised you need to
know what happened just minutes earlier in the scene.

Jesus has led his disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi, and there
he asked his disciples, 
"Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They tell him - "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still
              others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

Then he asks them - "But what about you?"  Who do you say I am?"

And Peter answers "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus answers Peter's assertion by saying that Peter is truly blessed -
that this confession has been revealed to him by God the Father and then he
says to Peter that on him  he would build his church - an everlasting
church - and to him he would give "the keys of the kingdom of heaven so
that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you
loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

And then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

There today's reading begins - with the words

   "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he
   must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the
   elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be
   killed and on the third day be raised to life.   

Notice the word that repeated twice in this single verse,
   the word that Peter reacts to immediately by taking Jesus aside and
   attempting to rebuke Jesus saying 
"Never Lord!  This shall never happen to you."

I refer to the word "must".

I must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things.
I must be killed be killed - and on the third day be raised to life.

I think we can understand where Peter is at.
Many of us feel the same way today as Peter felt then.

It makes no sense to him that the Messiah, the Son of The Living God, must
suffer and die.

It makes no sense to him that the King over Israel, the one promised of old
to arise from the line of David and to rule over David's kingdom, must
suffer many things at the hands of the very people who should welcome him
with open arms.

It makes no sense at all that a dear friend - a holy man - a righteous man
- a man destined to rule God's own people should be speaking of defeat
instead of victory - of disgrace instead of honour - of an ignoble and
early death - instead of a glorious and long life - and saying that it MUST
be so.

Peter simply doesn't hear what Jesus is saying  -
 and what he does hear - he doesn't want to accept.

And Jesus condemns that lack of hearing - that lack of accepting - that
lack of understanding by saying to Peter:

       "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you
       do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of
       men."

And then by telling all the disciples, who have been listening to this
exchange between Peter and Jesus:

       "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself (there
       is that word again) and take up his cross and follow me.  For
       whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever
       loses his life for me will find it...".  

Have you ever wondered why throughout the gospels Jesus rebukes demons who
identify him as the Son of Man and warns his disciples to not tell others
that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living of God?

When I first started reading the Bible in my late teens and early twenties
it struck me as very strange.

I mean is not our whole faith based on the understanding that Jesus is the
Word of God made flesh?
- that he is the promised shoot arising out of the stump of Jesse?
- that he is the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham and to Moses,
to David and to Jeremiah and to Isaiah and all the prophets?

Indeed, isn't it the job of the Holy Spirit to reveal this very thing to
us, much as Jesus says to Peter at Caesarea Philippi that he is blessed
because the Father has revealed it to him?   

"Jesus - You are the Messiah, the Christ,  the Son of the Living God!"   
Why can't we say it??   Why can't we tell the whole world - right now -
today?"

Well, of course, we can.   But at the very beginning the disciples were
told not to. 

And the reason for that is because the people of the time,
the faithful people, the hopeful people, who awaited the Messiah,
would, upon hearing the news, fail - much as Peter failed - to hear the
message of the Messiah.

The message concerning his life    - I must suffer.

       - I must be killed and on the third day rise.

And the message about their lives - If anyone would come after me, 

       he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 
       For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever
       loses his life for me will find it.

We see it today in some churches 
- this failure to hear what the Messiah is all about, and what the Messiah,
the Christ expects, indeed demands, of his followers.

We see it where forgiveness is proclaimed without requiring repentance, 
   where baptism is practised without requiring that one be a part of the
   body of Christ, 
       where communion is offered without the need for confession and
       reconciliation
   and where wealth and health is promised if you just believe - rather
than the service and sacrifice, the humility and the self-giving that is
the sign of our calling, and indeed the sign of sainthood.

Someone once said:   "Jesus promised his disciples three things - they
                     would be entirely fearless, absurdly happy, and always
                     in trouble.".

That's not the kind of message most people want to hear.

Trouble we already have.

What we want is a world without trouble -
a world where all our problems are taken away with the snap of the fingers
a world where our enemies are made to vanish - just like that,
a world of peace and plenty and happiness,
a world where we and those we love can have everything a person desires.

That is what the Messiah is supposed to do -
the Messiah is supposed to make our world better,
   to bring in the age of peace and plenty with one quick snap of the
   fingers
and - if there must be a bit of fighting at the very beginning to get rid
of those who oppress us,
   well, it will be a glorious affair, one with no injury or cost to the
   good guys, one where the enemy will be routed completely and where
   those who have fought for the king will be honoured in their victory
   with him and the world will be safe forevermore....

From the moment that Peter and the other disciples recognized Jesus as the
Messiah, from that time Jesus began to explain to them that he must suffer 
and that he must be killed and on the third day rise.

I would love to be able to tell you that this isn't the way things must be. 

But God's ways - praise be to God - are not our ways.

The emblem our faith is not a crown - but a cross.
   
And the field of battle upon which our Lord wins his victory is not the
sand of Judah and of Palestine but the hearts of men and women like you and
I.
       
And what he fights against  - and what we fight against with him, is not an
enemy of flesh and blood, but rather the principalities and powers of this
world, the world's way of doing things - that way  which began when the
serpent suggested to Eve that she could become like God if she simply
reached out her hand and took the fruit that God said she should not eat.

I am not much of a gardener - but I do know a couple of things.   The most
important of these is that a flower's beauty can be realised only by first
being planted in the ground, in the form of a seed.  

And I know too as someone who has fought forest fires on Vancouver Island
many years ago,
   I know that fighting fire with fire is just about useless when the fire
   is very big and the land is very dry.
But rain 
   - the rain we so often complain about in the middle of the summer 
well, there is nothing like it.

As it is with seeds that are meant to be flowers - so it is for us.
As it is for the blazing fires of our world from which we need deliverance
- so it is with Christ.

Evil is not overcome by evil.

And a life worth the living is not found by clinging to the life we have,
and surrounding it with all the toys that the world affords us.

Rather it is found by letting go of ourselves and our own selfish desires
and our own feeble way of understanding things - and being obedient to the
one who makes seeds to grow.

Yes Peter, Jesus must suffer and must die - and yes, that seems so wrong -
but listen 
- didn't you also hear  him say "and on the third day be raised?"

Or, thinking about the call of Moses which was described in part in our
first reading:  
Yes Moses, I want you to leave the comfortable life you have found here in
Midian
- I know you are wanted for murder in Egypt
- I know you can't speak well,
- I know that you require some kind of way of convincing my people you have
talked to me,
- I know Moses that even though I AM WHO I AM - the God of your ancestors,
has spoken to you,
you don't want to go.  
But haven't you heard me?   I have heard my people's cry - and I am going
to lead them out of bondage and bring them to this very mountain to worship
me - if you but do as I ask.

Or again - Yes Richard - I know that I am asking to go an extra mile when -
in an ideal world - you shouldn't even have had to go the first.  And yes,
I know that John and Mary don't deserve your time and your care after all
that they have done to hurt themselves and their families.  And yes, I know
that you have worked hard for what you have and shouldn't have to share it
with those who haven't worked at all.  I know all that you have done and I
know that other folk should be taking their turn instead of you - but
haven't you heard?!  

It is not only about what you are being asked to give up, it is not only
about dying to your self - to your idea of what is good and what it is not
- it is not only about taking up my cross and doing my will instead of
indulging your own.  

It is also about gaining the very thing you and indeed everyone else needs
the  most: a life worth living - a life that gives life - a life that is
joyful and unafraid - a life which death cannot destroy - a life in which
the kingdom of God draws near and is lived and shared with all.

Yes, I talk about how you need to die to yourself each day and to put my
will first in your lives, and yes, it is not going to be fun or easy -
especially at first; - but think about what is coming and what you will
become.

Or not.

Praise be to Christ Jesus our Lord who died so we might live
and who lives that we never die.   Amen

   Let us gather ourselves together for prayer - first in silence -
   then by our singing our prayer song.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Rx - And In Your Love Answer) Singing #400 at the
   start and the end of the prayer time)

          Lord, listen to your children praying.
          Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
          Lord, listen to your children praying,
          send us love, send us power, send us grace!

God of our days and our nights, of our waking and our sleeping, on this
Labour Day weekend - a weekend that is supposed to remind us of the worth
of workers and the work they do, help us to consider the worth of what we
do and what it is that we labour for.   You know, O God, that we need daily
bread, and through your Son you have even taught us to pray to you for it -
but you have also said that we do not live by bread alone - but by every
word that comes from your mouth.   Help us to be attentive to your word -
and to do all that you ask of us - so that your kingdom might come and your
will might be done here - in our midst ....  Lord, hear our prayer....

Oh Lord, when we are with you - when we remember you and speak to you - our
hearts are often filled with the desire to yield everything to you - but in
our sinfulness we are often afraid to let go.  We tend to cling to our
judgements - to share only those things we think we can afford - to
dedicate to you only a small portion of what you have given us.  We fear
what might happen if we trust you too much.  We are not sure we want to
care for some people - we think that others might abuse us if we bless them
- and still others take from us the very things we most require.  Forgive
us this Lord and help us to remember you each day - and especially to
remember you when we are afraid - and when we are angry - and when we are
anxious - to remember you and  to give you thanks for the life you have
given us - and for the life that you promise to those who deny themselves
and take their crosses and follow you....  Lord hear our prayer...

Nurturing and caring God - we pray for your people in this world and for
the mission you have called us to in this place:

- We pray O God, for our children as they return this week to the schools
of our community; may they be safe and may they learn good things through
the example of their teachers.   Raise up for us here too, O Lord, the
teachers we need to provide Christian teaching and love and joy to the
little ones who come to us, especially to those who often come with so
little experience of what your love is like.  Lord, hear our prayer

- We pray O God, for the poor and the needy of our community and our world-
there are those who hungry this day - those with no home - those with no
family - open the heavens O Lord - and the hearts of those  who have more
than they need for today - so that all may taste of your goodness.   And
make this church a place of welcome and a source of hope....  Lord, hear
our prayer.

- We pray, O God, for those who rule over our land and those who rule in
other nations.   May our governments seek the peace of your kingdom and
desire the welfare of all lands.  Especially move them to care for the
weak, the sick,  and the oppressed and to live with respect in creation.  
Bring to an end the way of war and of greed for power and wealth and create
in all a clean heart and a holy will.  And Help us to in this place of
worship and in our daily lives to show the same care we pray that they may
have.  Help us to speak against injustice and to practice acts of kindness
and mercy.... Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord -hear the prayers you have placed on our hearts for different
individuals and situations...  Bidding Prayer.... Lord, hear our prayer.

Oh God, answer all our prayers.  Help us to have your will and your mind in
us, and to so live that we bring glory to your name.  We ask through Christ
Jesus - who died that we might live - and who lives so that no one may
die...  Amen

          Lord, listen to your children praying.
          Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
          Lord, listen to your children praying,
          send us love, send us power, send us grace!


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

   Loving God - we offer to you these gifts for your work and ministry
   in our world.   But even more Lord, we offer to you our selves - so
   that your life can live in us and through us.  Accept our offering
   and make it holy.  Amen.


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


* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.
 

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus,
- and the love of God embrace you and give you a holy peace and an
everlasting joy,
- may the wisdom of God guide you and protect you,
- may the compassion of God fill you and flow forth from you,
- and may the strength of God uphold,
for ever and ever.  Amen


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

 
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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