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Sermon and Readings for Ordinary 27 - Proper 22 - Year A
(World Wide Communion Sunday)
Exodus 20:1-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4(b)-14
"These Things We Share"


READING:  Exodus 20:1-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4(b)-14
SERMON :  "These Things We Share"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or27sx 998000
                  
   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)


A READING FROM EXODUS 20:1-20                                              
   (NIV)  And God spoke all these words:  "I am the LORD your God, who
   brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 

   "You shall have no other gods before me. 

   "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in
   heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.   You
   shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your
   God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the
   fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but
   showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep
   my commandments. 

   "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD
   will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 

   "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall
   labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the
   LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor
   your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your
   animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the LORD
   made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
   but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the
   Sabbath day and made it holy. 

   "Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the
   land the LORD your God is giving you. 

   "You shall not murder. 

   "You shall not commit adultery. 

   "You shall not steal. 

   "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. 

   "You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your
   neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey,
   or anything that belongs to your neighbour." 

   When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and
   saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.  They stayed at a
   distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. 
   But do not have God speak to us or we will die." 

   Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you,
   so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."

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


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 19  (VU 740) & 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 PHILIPPIANS 3:4(b)-14
   (NIV)  Paul writes: "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put
   confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day,
   of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;
   in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; 
   as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.  But whatever was to my
   profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I
   consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of
   knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I
   consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not
   having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that
   which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God
   and is by faith.   I want to know Christ and the power of his
   resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming
   like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection
   from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have
   already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for
   which Christ Jesus took hold of me.   Brothers, I do not consider
   myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting
   what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward
   the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in
   Christ Jesus.

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


SERMON:  "The Things We Share" 

   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.

Today we celebrate, with our brothers and sisters around the world the
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

In some places it will be called "The Eucharist" - in others it will be
called "Communion" - in others it will be called "The Love Feast", in still
others it will be called, "The Table of the Lord" or "The Lord's Supper" -
and as varied as the titles are for what we do today - so will be the means
by which our brothers and sisters come to the table - and the kinds of
bread and wine offered - and the understanding that people and their
pastors, priests, ministers, will have of what they are doing.

Some will come forward to receive as we will do today and receive
unleavened bread in the form of a wafer into the palms of their hands.  
They may or may not then sip from the cup - which may be wine - or
unfermented grape juice - or even some other beverage in those places where
grapes are unknown.

Others, like we will today, will tear a piece of bread from a broken loaf -
and then dip it into the common cup. 

Still others, like we often do, will be seated in their pews and will have
individual cups and pre-sliced bread passed from person to person.

Still others may do these things as a part of a full meal - seated at a
table in a sanctuary of God's presence  - or in a church hall - or a home -
or a school building - or simply sitting in a circle in a hut or in a
clearing in the midst of a jungle or forest or in the middle of a place of
sand and rock.

Some today will regard the bread and the wine - after the word's of
consecration are prayed -  as being fully and actually the body and blood
of our Lord and Saviour.  Others will regard the entire sacrament as an
important "memorial" - and see Jesus as being being spiritually present in
special manner - but deny his physical presence in the elements.

Indeed, there will be differences, some of them quite profound, in how our
brothers and sisters around the world view the sacrament.  Some will think
that their way of doing what they are doing is the only proper way to do
it.  Some traditions will welcome only those persons who have made a public
profession of their faith to the table, while others will welcome very
young children, even babies to the table.   Some will insist that each
person must belong to the denomination and the community where the
sacrament is being observed - others will have an table open to "all those
who love the Lord and desire to walk in his path".
   
There will be a tremendous variety of practices and understandings this day
as we celebrate the Lord's Supper - but one thing will stand out above all
the differences of opinion and practice, and that is that all of us will
consider what we are doing as important, so important that we might even
risk argument with one another about it's meaning.

So what do we make of that?
                                   
What is our communion with one another when we have such a wide variety of
practices and understandings?   What is our communion with one another -
and with God?    Another way of putting this is to ask - Where, given our
differences, is our "Commune - ity"

Right now I am reading a book by Tex Sample, a Professor of Church and
Society at St. Paul School of Theology in the United States.   It is a
wonderful book about doing "Ministry in An Oral Culture".   In a section of
the book titled "Tradition and Social Change" he cites an observation made
by a colleague, that goes like this.

   'What is common in community is not shared values or common
   understanding so much as the fact that members of a community are
   engaged in the same argument... in which alternative strategies,
   misunderstandings, conflicting goals and values are thrashed out."

Think about that for a minute.

What helps to define us as a community - both the community that we have
here at St. Andrew's, and the  community that we share with our fellow
believers around the world - is the fact that we are all engaged  in the
same argument - that we all view ourselves as followers of the Christ and
engaged in working out the best way, the right way, for some the only way,
to order our lives as his people in response to his calling.

Part of what makes us a World Wide Communion - is not that we agree with
one another in everything - but that we believe that the discussion we have 
- even that the arguments that we have - are of importance.

The Apostle Paul, in discussing the differences of opinion in the Church in
Rome over the Holy Days that they should celebrate and whether or not
people should eat or not meats that had been purchased in the market place
- which generally came from the animal sacrifices that were offered at
various pagan temples, writes :

   One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man
   considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his
   own mind.  He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.
   He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and
   he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.    For
   none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself
   alone.  If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to
   the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  For
   this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might
   be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

The important thing that Paul is telling us in this passage, is that -
"each of us should be fully convinced  in our own minds" as to what is
important - and do all that we do - or don't do - with thanks to God and in
the realization that Christ is Lord of all who serve him - both the living
and the dead.

There is nothing wrong with our differences of opinion as to what is right
and what is wrong, what is good - and what is not good, what is true and
what is not true.

Our common argument in fact helps to define us as a communion - as the
people of God, as brothers and sisters of one another.

Think of your own families for a minute - 
families of flesh and blood and how they function.

Is there perfect agreement among you?

Are there not members who believe, sometimes quite passionately, that the
family should do this or that thing while others in the family hold forth
for something else - something entirely different?

And yet - while there are these kinds of disputes - if we are yet a family
- do we not sit down together at meal time - and eat as one that which has
been prepared for us - some taking more from a particular dish as their
tastes and their inclinations lead them - others more from another?

Do we not, if we have any sense at all of being a family, gather on special
occasions and join together at the  table that has been set and give thanks
to God for providing us the opportunity to be together and providing the
food that we eat  - even if our diets are different?   

Do we not seek to bless one another and pray that they may live long and
prosper - that they may do God's will and know God's mercy and help each
day - without demanding that they do exactly what we do or think exactly
the way we think?

The church around the world today is a family.
We are the family of God - a family formed by our common desire to follow
Christ Jesus, who is both our brother and our Lord.

We are the people of God, called together and given life, through Christ
Jesus our Lord.

We are ones who trust in Jesus - and, with Paul and all the apostles and
the saints strive to follow him faithfully and to keep the special law he
gave us - the commandment that we love one another as he has loved us.

How do we commune today?   Where is our community with God and one another?

It is in all the things we share that are of God and are fully agreed about
-- and in the those things that we share that are of God that we differ in.

It is in Christ Jesus - whom we seek to follow in varied scheme and
practice - and in God our Father - who sent Jesus to open the way to life
for all people and to make us one family.

Our communion is a mystic communion - one not limited by time or space -
but rather realized where-ever men and women and children have sought, and
are seeking, and will yet seek to do God's will.

It is a mystic communion that comes to us a gift from God 
   the God who wills that we love him with our whole heart, mind, strength
   and soul,
       and that we love one another as we love ourselves
          and who is able us to do that when we turn to him and trust in
him and strive to do what he asks.

It is communion that is realized - one that is known deep inside us -
when in humility and with gentleness and patience, we bear with one another
in love and accept God's gifts with grateful and humble prayer.

God is with us, Christ is with us - and with all our brothers and sisters
who call on his name today.

I can see them now - all around the world - eating and drinking what God
has provided and each praying, as we have prayed, that God's will be done
here on earth as it is in heaven; 
   - that it be done here in our midst as his people
   - and here within our individual lives as his unique and precious
   children.

Praise be Our God - to Christ Jesus his Son - who has called us here today 
and invites us to commune with him and with one another in love.  Amen

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


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