READING: Exodus 20:1-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4(b)-14
SERMON : "Take Two Tablets and Call Me"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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 call to Worship and the Prayer of Dedication is from
John Maynard (firstname.lastname@example.org) "Prayers and Litanies For
Proper 22, Year A," as sent to the PRCL List, in October 2002. Some
sermon materials from Sermonshop Conversations, especially: Extracts
from "Law or Faith?" By Rev. Frank Schaefer, 1996.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand)
* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
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 Come and worship God, who is sovereign over all nations, who loves the
whole world - God, who knows each person by name and who is faithful to
P Let every knee bow and every tongue give praise to God!
L Come and worship God! - who in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness and
reconciliation to the world, breaking down the barriers and hostilities
between people and nations - who calls us to a Table set before us in
the midst of the world.
P Let the peoples come from North and South, from East and West,
to sing a new song to God, to join hands around the Table,
and together seek God's Shalom.
L Come and worship God, who is present in the midst of all God's people,
empowering, guiding and sustaining us by the Spirit, as we seek to
follow the way of reconciliation and peace.
P Come, Holy Spirit! Nourish us by Word and Sacrament,
that we may be one with our sisters and brothers in faith,
and one with you. Amen
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Let us pray Gracious and most merciful God, as we gather today, we thank
you for the word you have given us and for the world wide community of
faith in which you have placed us. We thank you for the communion we have
with you and one another and for the Sacrament of life that we share. We
ask you to attend our worship this day and to expand our hearts that they
may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love and large enough to
show that love to everyone. Amen
* HYMN: "Come In, Come In and Sit Down" - VU 395
CHILDREN'S TIME "One Family"
Object: Photo Album
Theme: Our Christian Family
Bring Photo Album that shows family and friends - ask Children to
name as many as they can in their families - and to consider the
number. Some are close, some are far off. God has given us a big
family - all those who believe in him are our brothers and sisters.
Some are much different than we - but we share one common meal -
like we do on special occasions in our homes when the relatives come
- that meal is being celebrated in a variety of ways around the
world today. The details are different - but the table is the
same. And we pray, as we do with our family's in our homes - that
all will be blessed - that all of us may have one mind of love and
live in ways that are healing and healthy. We also pray that our
family may grow - and that all the world may accept the love of our
Father that has been perfectly show to us through Jesus Christ our
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER (sung)
Let us pray...... Loving God - Creator and Father and Mother of us
All - bless every member of our family today - those who are near to
us - and those who are far off. - May all of us - your children -
live together in harmony and peace - and share your blessings with
one another - and with the whole world. 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: "One More Step Along The World I Go" - VU 639
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 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
"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
"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
L This is the Word of The Lord
P Thanks be to God.
SERMON: "Take Two Tablets and Call Me"
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.
The title of the sermon, "Take Two Tablets and Call Me" is not original to
me, but I use it today because it summarizes for me a bit of what the law
is all about -- it is about healing - about things that are good for us.
The law is a kind of prescription written for us by the doctor of our souls
- and like all good doctors - our God wants us to call him - to check in
with him - and tell him how it is going for us while we are following his
prescription so that he can determine what it is that he should do for us
next - or get us to do for ourselves.
Many of us forget, I think, that the Ten Commandments begin with God
reminding his people of his special relationship with them - a relationship
in which God acted to bring the children of Israel out of the house of
The law - the ten commandments - and the other 603 rules, regulations and
prescriptions to be found in the Books of Moses, have always been
understood by the best commentators to be a gift, a blessing, an act of
grace that God chose to shower on his people. The spiritually awake have
always delighted themselves in the law -- knowing that is meant for our
good, not our ill -- knowing that the counsel they provide is the best
guidance in the whole world - coming as it does from the one who made the
whole world. As the Psalmist writes, "God's commands are more desirable
than gold, even much fine gold..."
But there is confusion -- confusion about the law - and about faith - and
about how they relate together and about how they should relate together.
So I thought today, as we celebrate World Wide Communion Sunday that I
might speak about what I believe is the proper approach to understanding
the relationship between faith and the law. In this I am following Paul
and what he has to say to us in today's reading from the letter to the
According to some people Christianity is split along the lines of law
versus faith: for instance, some say Catholic and Orthodox believers
emphasize the works we should do, while Protestants on the other hand place
most of their emphasis on faith.
Our sacred book - the bible - is, according to some, divided along these
- you have your works righteousness in the Old Testament -the law of
God which, if you obey it, makes you acceptable to God,
- and you have faith- the righteousness shown in the New Testament -
the good news of Christ's forgiveness - if you believe in Him.
I don't agree with either set of descriptions, but whether I agree or not
the fact remains that there is a difference between living by the law and
living by faith - a difference that we do well to understand.
I hope that every Christian would agree that both law and faith are
important and that the difference that we assign to them should only come
in the emphasis we place on them.
The question for us should not be:
"Which is right - law or faith"
Rather the question should be:
"What should come first, law or faith?
Should good works come out of faith,
or faith come out of good works?"
I believe what Paul emphasizes in his epistle to the church at Philippi is
the priority of faith over the law. He speaks of an incredible hope -
one not based on our past conduct and actions in accordance with the law,
but one that is based on the conduct and actions of Christ Jesus - one that
is based on the love and the grace of God - one that is directed toward
the future in which people who have run the race of faith with Christ
are raised, with him, to life in the heavenly realms.
He says in Verse 8b-9:
For Christ's sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I
regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be
found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from
the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the
righteousness from God based on faith."
Note that Paul is not saying here: "forget about the law, it's not
important." Nor is he saying the Law is bad.
Paul is NOT like the young girl that John Killinger describes in his book
on the Ten Commandments which he titled: "To My People With Love".
In that book he tells the story of a man who came home from work one
afternoon and found his daughter sitting out on the porch. He could
tell something was wrong, so he said to his wife :
"What's wrong with Puddin?"
She replied: "Oh, she just found out there's a law of gravity, and
she's mad about it."
Paul is not mad about the law of God at all. In fact Paul was one who
appreciated and loved the law and did everything that it demanded - and
even more - before he gave his life to Jesus Christ and, in fact,
afterwards - albeit in a different fashion than previously.
What Paul is saying in Philippians three - verses four through 14 is that -
in comparison - building your life upon a living relationship with God
through faith in Christ Jesus is far better than building your life upon
obedience to the law alone.
How can we compare this to our own experience? Perhaps everyone
would agree that a passing acquaintance with school subjects is
important. But imagine being 100 feet under water when the hose on
your oxygen tank suddenly splits and you cannot breathe. How
important just then is oxygen to you, relative, say, to a passing
acquaintance with 17th century poetry or modern algebra? We would
say that, at that moment, all acquaintance with 17th century poets
and with algebra can be regarded as loss because of the surpassing
value of breathing. This is not to say 17th century poets or
algebra are not useful and even necessary to a fulfilling life.
Paul never said the law of Israel had no value, even Jesus declared
he did not come to abolish the law, that he came to fulfill it. But
compared to the value of our next breath, there is no comparison.
Paul didn't say he threw away garbage to gain Christ.
He set aside things which were of tremendous value to him,
values, education, a heritage which his parents had patiently given him,
high status among others which he had spent his life achieving.
As the well known preacher Fred Craddock once pointed out (Philippians,
John Knox Press, 1985, p. 58), Paul's testimony is not that of some sodden
convert at a sawdust and tent-stake revival who declares he has set aside a
life of drunkenness and abuse for the way of Jesus. Heartfelt as those
declarations are, they say that the value of knowing Christ is better than
the worst degradations of our lives! While that is true enough, it is not
as compelling as this word from Paul who says that the value of knowing
Christ surpasses everything of highest value to me and the world around me,
including the righteousness that comes from obeying the law - as Paul
obeyed the law..
Friends, the law is good -- for it comes from God.
But faith reminds us of the promises that God has made to us - faith
reminds us of who God is and what he has done and what he is going to do -
and of the goal that we are moving toward and the prize that we are
striving to obtain, a prize that God gives to us - not because we have
somehow earned it, but because he loves us..
Dwelling on the past - on our accomplishments and our sin alike - can
really blur our vision and draw us away from what our faith is all about,
what God is all about. So, in like manner, focussing our attention on the
law before we focus our attention on the Giver of The Law can blind us to
what God is doing in our midst and what it is God is about to do.
Paul suggest most strongly that our focus needs to be upon knowing Christ
and the power that raised him to life. Upon moving forward in life toward
the goal which lies ahead of us - towards "the prize of being called to
heaven" - a prize that God offers to us freely because of what Christ Jesus
From a faith that is focussed like this comes the will and desire to do all
that one can do
- to love as God loves and do as God would do,
- to love as Christ loved and do as he did when he walked among us -
From a faith that is focussed like this comes the will and desire to obey
the law; the law that we find written upon our hearts because of the Spirit
that Christ places in us when we come to him in faith and trust.
Praise be to God for his grace and his love, his Christ, and the Spirit and
the Law which he gives to comfort, strengthen, and guide us. Amen.
THE APOSTLES CREED
L: With the church of Jesus Christ around the world today, let us proclaim
our common faith:
P: I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated on the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church;
the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body: and the life everlasting.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father, as we take into our hands in a few minutes the signs and the
symbols of our faith, as we eat the bread and drink from the cup with our
brothers and sisters around the world today, help us remember that Jesus is
the one who has set us free from the law of sin and death, that in his love
he forgives us completely for all that we have done wrong and calls us to
live by the law of the spirit of life, a law which when written upon hearts
of faith and not only on tablets of stone, makes all of human life a joy
and a blessing.... Lord, hear our prayer...
Gracious God, we thank you for drawing us together as one family today, a
family that reaches around the world. We thank you Father for your
gracious love, for your wonderful mercy, and for your living word.- Jesus
Christ our Saviour. Help us this day, O Lord, to live by faith in him and
to love one another in the way that he love us.... help us keep jealousy
and envy out of our hearts, help us keep pride and selfishness out of our
conversations, and desire and greed out of our relationships. Indeed
protect us, O God, from all our fears and make it our ambition to always do
your will. Lord hear our prayer...
Watch this day over your church around the world O Lord, help us to witness
to your love and your grace, to share with those who are less fortunate
than we, to support those who work for justice and equity, to assist those
who bring hope and health and healing to those in despair... Lord hear our
We hold before you too, Oh Lord, all our burdens, and we bring before the
burdens that others bear..... Answer our prayers for them and for
ourselves, as we worship and serve you in the name of Jesus Christ our
Saviour... (Bidding Prayer)...
Lord, hear our prayer.... Amen
* 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
We rely on Your promise, O God, that you will not forsake us. Our
pledge to You is that we will be faithful. Accept the gifts that we
place here before You, as we in our day make our response. Let what
we do be an example for others so that future believers can learn of
Jesus and His way. Amen.
SHARING THE PEACE We greet those around us with a sign of peace
(handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be with
you". This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to the peace
that God gives to those who hear and do his word.)
HYMN: "We Gather Here" - VU 469
L: The peace of the Lord be with you.
P: And also with you.
L: Lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them up to the Lord.
L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER (based on the Prayer of Hippolytus)
We give you thanks, O God, through your beloved Servant, Jesus Christ. he
whom you sent to save us and redeem us, and be the messenger of your will.
He is your Word, inseparable from you, through whom you made all things and
in whom you take delight.
We praise you, O Lord, for how you sent him from heaven into the Virgin's
womb, where he was conceived, and took flesh. Born of the Holy Spirit and
the Virgin, he was revealed to us as your Son.
We thank you for how, in fulfilment of your will he stretched out his hands
in suffering to release from suffering those who place their hope in you.
In doing so he won for you a holy people .
We recall O God, how of his own free choice Jesus was handed over to his
passion in order to make an end of death and to shatter the chains of the
evil one, to trample underfoot the powers of hell and to lead the righteous
into light, to establish the boundaries of death and to manifest the
L And so, with all the saints and the company of heaven we praise and
magnify his Holy Name, saying.
P Holy, holy, holy, Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.
THE WORDS OF INSTITUTION
So it is as we gather in praise and thanksgiving at this time, we remember
how on the night before his passion he took bread and gave you thanks,
saying: "Take and eat: this is my body which will be broken for you." We
recall as well how, in the same way, when the meal was over, he took the
cup, and gave it to his disciples, saying: "This is my blood, which will be
shed for you. When you do this, you do it in memory of me."
THE PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Oh, Lord, as we have been commanded, and remembering the death and the
resurrection of your Son, we offer you this bread and this cup, thankful
that you have counted us worthy to serve you. We entreat you to send you
Holy Spirit upon the offering of your holy Church (sign of the cross over
the elements) making it for us communion in the body and the blood of Jesus
Christ our Saviour. Father, we pray thee, gather into one all who share in
these sacred mysteries, filling them with the Holy Spirit and confirming
their faith in the truth, that together we may always praise you and give
THE ACCLAMATION AND MYSTERY OF FAITH
L Let us make our acclamation of faith:
P Worthy indeed, O Lord, is your Son Jesus Christ,
who died that we might live,
and rose again from the dead
that we might be one with him in your sight.
L We celebrate what he has done for us
and pray that our lives may proclaim the mystery of our faith:
P Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
The table of the Lord for the people of the Lord. Come and receive the
medicine of immortality, the body and the blood of Christ Jesus which has
been broken and poured out for you. As you come forward, and as you
seated in you pews praying, you may wish to sing or hum number 466 "Eat
Eat this bread, drink this cup: Come to me and never be hungry.
Eat this bread, drink this cup: Trust in me and you will not thirst.
Let us pray (silence)..... For the bread we have eaten, for the wine we
have tasted, for the life we have received, we thank you God. Grant that
what we have done and have been given here today may so put its mark upon
us that it may remain always in our hearts. Grant that we may become
mature Christians, that ours may be the faith that issues in action,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
* DEPARTING HYMN: "God Be With You" - VU 422
* 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
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace,
- and may God, who is in you and around you bless you richly with his love;
- may the Lord who is before you and behind you feed you and strengthen
- and may the Spirit who is above you and below you, and to the left and
right of you, inspire all your thoughts, words, and actions,
both now and forevermore. Amen
* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2002 - 2005
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.