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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for The Seventh Sunday of Easter - Year A
(Ascension Sunday)
Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68; 1 Peter 4:12-14,5:6-11; John 17:1-11
"The Last Words of Jesus"

READING:  Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68; 1 Peter 4:12-14,5:6-11; John 17:1-11
SERMON :  "The Last Words of Jesus"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea07sm 671000
     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 is adapted from Nathan Nettleton's
     "Eucharistic Preface for Ascension Sunday, Year A" as found at, 2002.  The Prayers of the People include
     elements of the prayer by Bruce Prewer as found in John Maynard's
     "Prayers and Litanies For The Ascension of Our Lord ABC" as sent
     to the PRCL List, in May 2002 and also from "Prayers For Sundays
     and Seasons: Year A", Liturgy Training Publications, 1998., pp
     66-67.  Elements of the sermon are drawn from a work by Lloyd
     Bruce, "You Shall Be My Witnesses" Sermon: Easter 7A -1996 as
     sent to "telos.lf.sermon.swap" 16 May 96.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

 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    With all the angels and saints, O God, 
      we give you thanks and praise with shouts of joy.
 P    Our God has called us to a rich hope 
      and a glorious inheritance.
 L    You, O God, have fixed the world in place 
      and rule over all from your sacred throne.
 P    You formed a people for yourself 
      and through Moses and the prophets you spoke to them
      of Christ who fills all in all.
 L    As it was written, he suffered and was killed,
      but you raised him from the dead
      and he walked again with his chosen ones,
      speaking to them of your glorious kingdom.
P     You carried him into heaven on the clouds
      and made him head over all things for the church,
      seating him at your right hand
      far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
      and above every name that is named,
      not only in this age but also in the age to come.
L     We praise you, O God, with songs of joy.
P     We draw near to you with thankfulness
      You have made us one family on the face of the earth
      and opened to us the gates of heaven.

* INTROIT: "This is The Day" (verse 1)                             - VU 412

Lord, we praise you this morning for the blessings of good weather and for
the fertility of the land upon which we dwell.  We praise you for the sun
that shines upon our endeavours and for the moon and the stars at night
which remind us of your glory.  We thank you for the many good things that
you have bestowed upon us.  Most of all, O Lord, we thank you for your Son,
Christ Jesus our Lord, whom came to deliver us from the power of sin and
death by dying upon the cross for us.  We praise you for raising him up in
glory and for appointing him as the judge of both the living and the dead. 
Help us, O God, in this time of worship, and beyond, to have a heart that
exalts in your grace and goodness, lips unafraid to proclaim your praise
before all people, and minds which are focused on living according your
glorious and living word.  We ask it through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

* HYMN: "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"                           - VU 664

     The first hymn this morning reminds that when we have problems
     that Jesus, our Risen Lord, he who is seated at the right hand of
     God our Father, is with us even today - that he knows and loves
     us - and opens to us the way to God.  Let us sing.... "What A
     Friend We Have In Jesus"

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Bumper Stickers"
Object:   Bumper Sticker "Indians Had Bad Immigration Laws" // T-Shirt
          titled "Property of God"
Theme:    Witnessing to Christ - What We Advertise
Source:   Self

Good morning....  In the scripture reading you are going to look at later
in your classes Jesus tells us that we are filled with the Holy Spirit that
we will his witnesses - people who tell others about him - all around the

When I read that I began to think about how a lot of people tell their
friends and their neighbours and everyone else what is important to them by
putting stickers on the bumpers of their cars or by wearing special T-

Do any of you have a bumper sticker on your family car???   
What does it say????   

I have a kind of funny one here that reminds us that all our ancestors came
from far away countries. 

Some people have bumper stickers that say things like - "I Love My
Grandchildren" \\ "I'm Peddling  As Fast as I Can" \\ "I Owe, I Owe, Its
Off To Work I Go".  Can you think of some others???

I remember a sticker that some people had many years ago - it said "Honk If
You Love Jesus" - and  I always honked when I saw it.  What we put on our
cars - and what we wear - like this T-Shirt that my wife owns -- are ways
we have of telling people things - some of them are important and maybe
some are not.  But we give people messages every day about ourselves and
what we think.

Jesus said that we would be his witnesses - that we would tell others about
him - when the Spirit came to us and filled us.  That's one of the reasons
I became a minister - and one of the reasons too that I often wear a cross
around my neck - so that I might be able to tell others about Jesus and his
love.  He is the one who can help everyone.

The next time you see a bumper sticker - think of what it is saying - and
ask yourself what it is that you tell people about yourself and about
Jesus, not only by what you do and say, but by what you wear or what you
put on your car.

     "Gracious and loving God - as we travel through life -- help us
     to show others - your love and your goodness - and to do all that
                              you ask us to do. -  Amen"    
And in the word's Jesus taught us, let us pray together as his 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: "Jesus Loves Me"                                           - VU 365

- Welcome and Announcements    
- Birthdays and Anniversaries     
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


  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!

    (NIV)  So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at
     this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

     He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the
     Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when
     the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in
     Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the
     earth."  After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes,
     and a cloud hid him from their sight. 

     They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when
     suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  "Men of
     Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? 
     This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come
     back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." 

     Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of
     Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city.  When they arrived, they
     went upstairs to the room where they were staying.  Those present were
     Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and
     Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of
     James.  They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the
     women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

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

RESPONSIVE READING:   Psalm 68 (VU 787) & 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 1 PETER 4:12-14;5:6-11
     (NIV)  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are
     suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But
     rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you
     may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted
     because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of
     glory and of God rests on you.

     Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may
     lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he
     cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil
     prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  
     Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your
     brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of
     sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal
     glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself
     restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the
     power for ever and ever. Amen.

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

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

     (NIV)  After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
     "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may
     glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he
     might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is
     eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus
     Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by
     completing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in
     your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

     "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They
     were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  Now
     they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  For I
     gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.  They knew
     with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent
     me.  I pray for them.  I am not praying for the world, but for those
     you have given me, for they are yours.  All I have is yours, and all
     you have is mine.  And glory has come to me through them.  I will
     remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I
     am coming to you.  Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name
     -the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one.

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

SERMON:  "The Last Words of Jesus"

     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.

Last words are important words...

In a court of law deathbed statements, even though they are unsworn and the
person no longer present to validate them, are admissible as evidence.

And in the arena of our lives what we last said to someone before they
leave us, and in turn what they may have said to us, are very often the
occasion of much joy and encouragement - and sometimes, unfortunately, of
much regret and remorse.

We normally take very seriously the last words 
that our loved ones have uttered to us;
     - we turn those words over in our minds, 
     - we consider them carefully
     - we store them up in our hearts and ponder them - much as Mary stored
     up the words of the angel and of the shepherds and of the magi in her
     heart after her encounters with them. 

If the last words of a loved one to us are uttered in the form of a
     if they are uttered with any seriousness - in the knowledge that soon
     time and space will separate us,
          if they ask of us anything,
we are inclined to do everything in our power to both remember those words
and to do that which was asked of us.

Last words are important words.

Knowing that - today I want to consider with you the last words of Jesus.

If you ask most people  what the last words of Jesus were, chances are they
might tell you that his last words were: "Father, forgive them, they know
not what they do" -- or perhaps - "Father, into thy hands I commend my

When most people think of the last words that Jesus spoke here on earth we
tend to think of those words that he spoke upon the cross - those words he
spoke just before his death - and not of the words that he spoke to his
disciples, and to all of the church, after his resurrection, on the day
that he ascended into heaven.

The last words that Jesus uttered while still on earth in physical form
while still walking about in his resurrection body were these:

     "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set
     by his own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy
     Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
     and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

You shall receive power, you shall be my witnesses...

The story is told of a man who was called to the witness stand in a local
court case.  The lawyer was questioning the man about the events
surrounding the crime...  

     What time was it?  Who were you with? Where were you going?  The
     questions went on and on and finally the lawyer asked... "did you
     see the accused enter the store...?"  


     "Did you see a man with a gun enter the store... "  


     Becoming exasperated the lawyer shouted, "Well, please tell us
     what you did see..."


     "Nothing?" shouted the lawyer.  

     "No. Nothing." said the man.  "When I saw the man with the gun, I
     was afraid and I put my hands over my eyes..."

In a court of law a witness is one who has seen the event in question and
can tell the story.  The court is not usually interested in the character
or personal attributes of a witness.  All the court wants to know is what
the witness has seen and heard.

We use the word witness in a two-fold sense.  
A witness both witnesses an event and then, 
when that witness tells someone about the event, 
he or she witnesses to others about the event.

          "You shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, and in Judea
          and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

"You shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem [right at the centre], and in
Judea [out among the family in the hinterland], and Samaria [the land of
our distant cousins], and to the ends of the earth."

The Christian gospels themselves are early Christian preachers' attempts to
     witness to what they have seen and heard.  The gospel, as a literary
     form, was unknown before Mark invented it.

And as gospels, as attempts to witness to the person and life of Jesus
     Christ, they are not so much history, poetry, or fact - as they are

In the gospel, we aren't just getting information and data about Jesus - we
     are hearing a story about Jesus and how his life touched the lives of
     the people around him.
And as with any good story we find we are drawn into it, just by listening. 
     Our lives become caught up in his life and his in ours...

          "You shall be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, and in Judea
          and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Not... you may be... or you might be... "you shall be"

     "Look, I really like you, really like you.  You make me feel
     stuff that few women have made me feel.  Let's stop by my
     apartment," he said.

     "No, I really don't think we're ready for that.  After all, we
     just met.  We've got to spend a lot more time together before
     getting that close," she said.

     "Is there anything wrong?  Have I said something wrong?" he

     No, its just that I am not going to your apartment," she said.


     "Well..." she said, without really thinking, "well, because I'm a

     "What's that?" he asked.

     "Well, a Presbyterian is a kind of Christian," she said.

     "And what's that?"  he asked.

     "A Christian?  Well, its somebody who believes that some things
     are right and some things are wrong, that God has plans for each
     of us and we ought not violate God's plans," she said.

And he, having never had anyone lately say "No", in a society in which
everyone is encouraged to say "Yes"; having never met anyone with such
self-possession and presence of mind; asked if he could go with her to the
Presbyterian place called "church" sometime.  And he did.

Witnessing - telling others of our faith in God, need not be loud and
boisterous to the point where it threatens and offends others
... in fact, this is not witnessing at all - but proselytization...  

Witnessing is most often done through loving care and personal story
telling, through the kind of thing that you do all the time... 
     - A phone call when a friend loses a loved one...
     - a cup of coffee with a neighbour who is going through a  difficult
     - a visit with a relative who is in a nursing home or hospital...

And in the course of the visit, over that cup of coffee, 
     you express your concern 
     you offer your prayers...
     you share the hope that you have found in God...

As believers in Christ - as people baptized by water and by the Spirit
we have the power, a power given to us by God above, to make a difference
out there: to bring people to the knowledge and love of God through what we
say and do in their presence, through the story we have to share - in love.

     "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set
     by his own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy
     Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses  in Jerusalem,
     and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

     After Jesus had said this, he was taken up before there very
     eyes, and cloud hid them from  their sight.  They were looking
     intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly  two men
     dressed in white stood beside them.  "Men of Galilee", they said,
     "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus who
     has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same
     way you have seen him go into heaven."

Why do you stand looking into the sky?

That same question might just as well be put to us... 
Why do we stand looking up to the heavens... 
Why do we consider so much those things over which we have no control
- the times and seasons of Christ's return, the future of the world, the
coming millennium?

Why do we spend so much time among those who are already a part of the
family of God when there are many to need to hear the story of God's love
for the world
     when so many need the hope and the healing that we have found in
          when so many need not only a kind deed, but what has been
          revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

Paul Harvey, the well known radio broadcaster, once said, 

         "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but
          keepers of the aquarium."

I take that to mean that we are more concerned about the Church
     than we are about touching the lives of other people,
more concerned about preserving our "religion"
     than we are about helping people discover the source of wholeness, the
     fountain of living water that wells up to eternal life.

          "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on
          you; and you will be my witnesses  in Jerusalem, and in
          all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Again I say, as believers in Christ, as people baptized by water and by the
Spirit, we have the power - a power given to us by God above - to make a
difference out there  - to bring people to the knowledge and love of God
through what we say and do in their presence.

One final story,

     An artist, seeking to depict on canvas the meaning of evangelism,
     painted a storm at sea.  Black clouds filled the sky. 
     Illuminated by a flash of lightning, a little boat could be seen
     disintegrating under the pounding of the ocean.  People were
     struggling in the swirling waters, their anguished faces crying
     out for help.  The only glimmer of hope appeared in the
     foreground of the painting, where a large rock protruded out of
     the water.  There, clutching desperately with both hands, was one
     lone seaman. 

     It was a moving scene.  Looking at the painting, one could see in
     the tempest a symbol of humankind's hopeless condition.  And,
     true to the Gospel, the only hope of salvation was "the Rock of
     Ages", a shelter in the time of storm. 

     But as the artist reflected upon his work, he realized that the
     painting did not accurately portray his subject.  So he discarded
     the canvas, and painted another.  It was very similar to the
     first:  the black clouds, the flashing lightning, the angry
     waters, the little boat crushed by the pounding waves, and the
     crew vainly struggling in the water.  In the foreground the
     seaman was clutching the large rock for salvation.  

     But the artist made one change:  the survivor was holding on with
     only one hand, and with the other hand he was reaching down to
     pull up a drowning friend. 

That is the New Testament picture of witnessing - that hand reaching down
to rescue the perishing.  Until that hand is extended, there is no Gospel
-- and there is no hope for the world.

Let us ponder seriously the last words of Christ
let us store them up in our hearts
and let us go forth as witnesses to the faith -
 let us go forth and tell our story so that others might believe.

Blessed be God, day by day, Amen

HYMN: "Go Tell It On The Mountain"                                  - VU 43

Loving and gracious God, Lord of Hosts and Creator of all things, your only
Son was taken up into heaven and in power is seated at your right hand,
where he intercedes for all those whom you have called to faith in Him. 
Clothe us now, we pray, with power from on high, that with the eyes of our
hearts enlightened, we may come to understand the immeasurable greatness of
your power at work in us and in that strength do as Jesus commanded us -
and make disciples of all nations - teaching them those things he has
revealed to us - and showing forth in all that we do the glory that you
have bestowed upon him...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Master of the sea, Lord of heaven and of earth, Father and Mother of your
people, we pray for the Church of your Son, Christ Jesus our Lord.  May we
here at St. Andrew's and all of your children, hear the cry of those who
are lost and in your name show them the way of wholeness that you have
prepared for them.  We pray your blessings on the churches in places where
the faithful are persecuted and your passion on the churches which ail from
too much ease and prosperity.  Lift up the churches that by prayer and deed
are seeking the unity of Christ and shatter the blindness of those
congregations that are entrapped in their own prejudices or selfishness... 
Lord, hear our prayer...

Caring God, Lord of all hills and all valleys, we seek your blessing on our
province and our nation and upon all who dwell therein...
- On the forest industry in the difficulties and setbacks they face.
- On the towns and cities that are losing hospitals and home care workers,
schools and teachers,
- On the communities that are struggling with cut backs to services that
are needed by both the old and the young.
God of mercy, disperse the enemies of human happiness and build up all that
reflects your beauty, courage and love... Lord, hear our prayer..

Holy Friend, we seek your blessing on all nations and communities.
- On places where people suffer from terrorism and war.
- On situations of neglect. abuse or grave injustice.
- On those whose lives are devastated by Aids, TB or famine.
- On all who suffer from cyclone, earthquake, flood or fire.
God of mercy, disperse the enemies of human happiness
and build up all that reflects your beauty, courage and love.

Almighty God, you who are the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega,
we pray for those who suffer with Christ this day and remember before you
all who are beset by evil.   May the worldly powers that scorn and afflict
and oppress the sick, the poor, and the weak be overturned and may those
who are oppressed be set free.  We especially pray for those persons and
those situations that you have put upon our hearts and minds this day. 
Hear the special prayers that we now offer to you now with the words of our
lips and the meditations of our hearts... BIDDING PRAYER... Lord hear our

We ask these things, and we praise you and bless your holy name - through
Christ Jesus your Son, and our Lord, our brother, our friend and our
helper.  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

       Continue here, O God, the work through Christ begun - use these
       symbols of our love, and make our faith and service one.  Amen

* DEPARTING HYMN: "It Only Takes A Spark" (Pass It On)               VU 289

 * 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.

Go in peace and love and care for another in the name of Christ Jesus
-and may the Spirit of God fill you and use you according to God's most
Holy Will
- may the Word of God fill your heart with joy and wisdom and patience 
- and may Christ so dwell within you that all your actions and words
witness to his unsurpassed grace and his transforming love 
this 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.

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