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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 02 - Year A
Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40; John 1:29-42
"God Believes in You"

READING:  Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40; John 1:29-42
SERMON :  "God Believes In You"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or02sn 817000
     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 Pray of Invocation is based in part on one found in
     John Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for Ordinary 2, Year A" 1999. 
     The sermon uses some quotes from Bass Mitchell's (, 
     "I Believe in You", a Homily for January 17 1999. Indeed that work
     helped to inspire this presentation.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Isaiah 44:1-3)
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 praise and thanksgiving to God, for he made all things, 
   he alone stretched out the heavens.
P  He formed us in the womb and called us to be his servants before we
   were born.
L  Rejoice and be glad, for God remembers his purpose and does not forget
   his people.
P  God pours out water on the thirsty land 
   and his Spirit upon his chosen ones.
L  He blesses the dry ground with streams of living water
    and his servants with all they need.

* INTROIT: "This Is The Day" (verse one)                          - VU 412 

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


O God, Your justice is like the waters that cleanse us from all iniquity,
Your righteousness like streams of goodness washing our souls.  You purify
the thoughts of our minds by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, and
sanctify our actions by the gift of your Son Jesus Christ.  We appear now
before You as children renewed by Your mercy, to give you all glory in
response to your grace.  Hear the praise of our lips and the song of love
and joy that is within our hearts.  We ask it through Christ our Lord. 

* HYMN: "Praise To The Lord"                                       - VU 835

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Being A Light To The Nations"
Object:   Kerosene Lamps
Source:   Self
Theme:    Telling Others About Jesus

Good morning... I brought a lamp today   to remind us of the purpose that
God gives to his people - to this church - and to you and me.  He says "I
give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end
of the world".  LIGHT FIRST LAMP

All the scriptures talk about how God has chosen us to be a light to the
world - to be a people who by how we live and by what we say, attract
people to God. That we are folks meant to share the good news about Jesus
with others - as did John and Andrew in the bible reading you will look at
in Sunday School later.  That they are to give light that this lamp gives
light - the light of God.

What are some of the ways we can share news with others???  What devices or
machines or objects help us do that?  Radio, TV, Magazines, Newspapers,
Internet and so forth...  But all these are run by people.  In the days of
the Bible there weren't things like magazines and television or the
Internet, but there were people like you and me -- and God says that we, as
people are like this lamp.   That we can shine or not shine.  We can tell
others about Jesus and his love - we cannot.  Kind of like these two lamps
- one is shining and one is not....  

What does a lamp like this need to shine?  Oil!  Just as oil must go into
the lamp so it can shine, so God's love needs to be in our hearts before we
can shine.

God gives us the oil of his love.  The oil of his word.  The oil of his
breath.  (Add Oil To The Lamp) He wants us to shine   but to get us shining
one more thing is needed - a flame.  That flame is our faith in him and our
obedience to him.  When we believe - really believe - and do what he asks
of us - then the fuel that he has given us - can light up - and draw people
to him.  (Light second lamp).

   Loving God -- help us to believe in you -- more and more each day --
   and to do all you ask of us -- so that we may shine -- with the
   light you give us.  Fill us Lord   and set us glowing   we ask it in
   Jesus' name. 

   And in the word's Jesus taught us:

   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: "Give Me Oil In My Lamp"                                 - SFGP 130

     (NRSV)  Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you
     peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born,
     while I was in my mother's womb he named me. {2} He made my
     mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid
     me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me
     away. {3} And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in
     whom I will be glorified." {4} But I said, "I have labored
     in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
     yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my
     God." {5} And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb
     to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that
     Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the
     sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-- {6}
     he says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my
     servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the
     survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the
     nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the
     earth." {7} Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and
     his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the
     nations, the slave of rulers, "Kings shall see and stand up,
     princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the
     LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has
     chosen you."
L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 40 (Voices United 764) 

CHOIR ANTHEM: "The Lord's My Shepherd"

     (NRSV)  The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming
     toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes
     away the sin of the world! {30} This is he of whom I said,
     'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was
     before me.' {31} I myself did not know him; but I came
     baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be
     revealed to Israel." {32} And John testified, "I saw the
     Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained
     on him. {33} I myself did not know him, but the one who sent
     me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the
     Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the
     Holy Spirit.' {34} And I myself have seen and have testified
     that this is the Son of God." {35} The next day John again
     was standing with two of his disciples, {36} and as he
     watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb
     of God!" {37} The two disciples heard him say this, and they
     followed Jesus. {38} When Jesus turned and saw them
     following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They
     said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher),
     "where are you staying?" {39} He said to them, "Come and
     see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they
     remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the
     afternoon. {40} One of the two who heard John speak and
     followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. {41} He
     first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have
     found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). {42} He
     brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are
     Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is
     translated Peter).
L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN: "Great is Thy Faithfulness"                                - VU 288

SERMON: "God Believes In You"

   O Lord your faithfulness to us and to the world you made causes our
   hearts to tremble.  Come now O God, speak your word to us and help
   us to hear it.  Grace my lips and anoint our ears with your Spirit
   and touch our hearts and our minds with your redeeming power.  We
   ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

How God spoke through the prophet Isaiah is truly awesome.
It is not for nothing Isaiah is considered one of the major prophets.

God used Isaiah to deliver some of the most encouraging and challenging
messages - and none of those messages are more incredible than his messages
to his Servant Israel, his suffering servant - the one whom by his stripes
we are healed.

Listen to the message that God delivers about him through Isaiah in today's

   "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up
   the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will
   give you as a light to the nations."

What a call that is!  What a promise 
   that the servant of God should not only reach out to God's own
   people, but to the whole world.
   - that the servant of God should not only bring light to the children
   of Israel: the light of hope and vindication and wholeness; but that
   the servant of God should bring it all nations.

A call to the whole people of Israel,
and a promise about one person, one child of Jacob.

And this one person, this servant, this one we call Jesus Emmanuel
   this one whose name means God Saves, God is With Us,
   this light to the nations,
tells us in the same way he is so we are - and so we should be:
   - salt of the earth - to give savour to life and to preserve life
   - and light of the world - to show all people the presence of God's all
present kingdom.

We have a task to do.  One that many of us feel uneasy about, thinking - as
most people do - that we are not up to it,
   - that somehow we are not well shaped or well designed enough to give
   off the right kind of light,
   - that for one reason or another we are not the ones for this
   particular calling,
   - that it is really meant for someone else - for specialists like the
   pastor or the priest or that woman who reads her bible all the time or
   that fellow who sings in the choir;
   - that we have a tough enough time praying and doing those good things
   we ought to do: 
        - without having to be someone like John, who calls out to all:
       "behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"
       - without having to be someone like Andrew who bothers his brother
       Peter with the words: "I have found the Messiah"
        - without having to be like that person who knocks on our doors on
       Saturday mornings or like that fellow at work who always says a
       quiet grace before eating his lunch...

You know something, I think most people, and that probably includes some of
you here today, feel inadequate most of the time -- inadequate and afraid.

That is why folks go about trying to prove to themselves that they are OK
- to prove it by striving to be the world's best parent,
- or at the very least, Golden's best wife or best husband, or best lover.

So many try to prove to themselves that they are OK
by trying to be the one who can ski or curl or play golf the best,
or by being the one who provides for their families the best
or by being the one who can drink the best...

So many people are trying to prove to themselves that they are OK.  And so
many are afraid they are not despite all that trying, all that striving.  

It's truly sad.  So much energy for such little return.

And yet, to our inadequacies and to our fears,
   no matter how well hidden, or how up front they may,
the prophet says, Jesus says, God says, but one thing,
   and he says it over and over again
"I believe in you."

I believe in you.  
Believe in you too,
Believe in you too by believing in me and in my love for you.

God says that to us - he says it in the prophet's declaration 

   "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up
   the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will
   give you as a light to the nations."

And he says it cross of the one who died for us.... He says:

   My child, I believe in you, I give you everything, 
   for you I sacrifice myself, and for you I am raised.  
   My son, my daughter, for you I am the Lamb of God, 
   for you I am the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, 
   giving you gift upon gift 
   so that you may be all that I have made you to be.

God believes in you.
   This is the gospel that we are to announce to others.
God believes in you
   This is the faith provides the light for the oil, the flame that lights
   the lamp.
God believes in you
   this is the oil of blessing that provides the power for our living, 
   the oil to keep the lamp burning.

God believes in you.
God believes in me.
God believes in us.....

That is incredible.  Perhaps too incredible for you to accept all at once:
this idea that God believes in you and that your belief in his belief in
you makes all the difference.

But consider this -- consider the ones whom Jesus chose to be his disciples
the ones who were to teach his ways when he was gone - the ones into whose
hands were entrusted the life saving message that he came to deliver.

There was nothing extraordinary about them. 
In fact, they were not even ordinary as some might understand ordinary.

Some were outcasts, of questionable character to many of the religious
folks of the day - like Matthew the tax collector; 
   - others were poor, uneducated, roughing living, 
   - a few were fishermen,
   - there was even a zealot who wanted to overthrow Rome, mighty Rome,
who could squeeze the life out of Israel as quick as it could put up a
cross to kill those who threatened the public peace.

And the women who followed him all his days.
   - some were innocents like Mary, others anxious like Martha,
   - and some were prostitutes, and some had been caught in adultery, 
   - and some had had many husbands, others had been considered not fit
for decent company for many years.

And yet Jesus entrusted to them
as he entrusts to us - his gospel concerning salvation.

And he was not disappointed.

Consider these disciples, these followers, these ones no different than us,
these ones that the scriptures portray with startling honesty
   as being ones who misunderstood Jesus,
   as being ones who twisted his words to suit themselves,
   as being ones who sought their own glory and honour,
   as being ones who betrayed and deserted him in his last hours.

Consider these ones that to whom Jesus gave the keys of heaven and earth,
   saying to them - whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
   and whatsoever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
Consider them and what they managed to do,
   all the while saying that it was not they that did it, but the power of
   God that raised Jesus from the dead doing it through them.

I believe in you.
   You are the light of the world.  
       You are the salt of the earth.
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant 
   to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel;
       I will give you as a light to the nations." 

My friends,
God believes in us who are sitting here in St. Andrew's today.

It is too light a thing that we should be a people who only help our own, 
a people who only take care of our own family - be it of blood or of the

There is a whole world out there where we could be shining,
where we could show that not only is the lamp of our life full
but it has the fire of faith shining from it.

God believes in you.

God believes in you and there ain't nothing you can't do,.
You can shine in your homes, you can shine in this church,
and you can shine where you work and where you eat.
You can shine because God believes in you, 
you can shine because God makes you that way...

It is a question I think of catching the vision.  Of understanding that the
very gospel we are called to carry to others is the same gospel that
applies to us and makes it possible for us to shine.

A story that made its way around the Net some time back:

   It is about a man, a prospector who is mining for gold, and suddenly
   discovers the mother lode - a thick, rich vein of almost pure gold. 
   He digs our a big chunk and cashes it in for thousands and thousands
   of dollars.

   So he begins to live well, truly enjoying and appreciating his new-
   found wealth.  But after a while, the money runs out.  He's becomes
   hungry, destitute.  He pawns his possessions to try to make ends
   meet.  He lives on the street, hand to mouth.

But wait a minute... 
   there's something wrong with this picture, isn't there?!   
If he owns a gold  mine of unlimited wealth, why doesn't he use it?  
   Why doesn't he go back to the source where all his needs would be met!  
Why does he live as a beggar?

Why indeed?

We have it all.
God gives it us.
He is the only one who can.
And he does.

He believes in us.
He gives himself to us and for us.
He pours out the spirit upon us.

He gives us the oil for our lamp,
He equips us with the wick we need,
He fashions every part of us and he holds in hands,
or he puts us upon the stand so that we might shine..

The only question is - are we going to light up with the fire of our faith?
   Are we, by our trust and joyful acceptance of the message of God's love
for us, going to allow the spark to set the flame a going?

Andrew did.  Peter did. 
   So did James and John, and Mary and Martha,
       and that woman by the well
          and that late comer, that uptight pharisee called Paul,
And so did little Mark - who ran away more than once only to return
brighter than before
   and Phoebe and Justina,
          and so many more - ordinary and less than ordinary..

God believed in them - even when they didn't believe in themselves.
And despite their weaknesses, their failings, their sins, their fears, 
they lifted up their own people and gave light to the nations.

And you know something, someone spoke to you about God.
   Someone touched you.  Someone quite ordinary, perhaps less than
ordinary, was a light to your feet;
   showing you were the bread you needed was to be found,
   showing you how to go back to the mine and get the gold,
   showing you that God believes in you.

God believed in them.  And God believes in you.

You Sarah, who are old and barren.  
   You will mother a nation.
You David, the youngest and smallest of your family, 
   you will father an everlasting dynasty.
You Simon, son of John, you who are changeable and spontaneous.  
   You will be a rock for the faith of my people, the church!
You Saul, you who persecute me, 
   will be my greatest apostle.
You Mary, whose shame was known to many in one town in one time,
   your love for me will be remembered throughout the world for all time.
I believe in you.  I give you myself.

I believe in you        CAROL         CATHY
I believe in you        GORDON
I believe in you        MAY           SALENA
I believe in you        JEANNINE      JULIET,   BETTY
I believe in you        GIL           JOHN     BRIAN
I believe in you        BRIAN         BOB

Say it to one another on behalf of God.   
Turn to your neighbour.   Look over you pew,
tell them, ANNIE, OR GEORGE, OR WHOEVER, I believe in you.
and listen to it being said to you.

I believe in you.  And because I believe in you, you can do anything I ask
you to do. You can do it.  We can do it.
We can be what God calls us to be.  And have the joy and the peace that God
wills to give to all through the gospel we proclaim.

Praise be to God, who believes in us.  May we believe in him and in his
belief about us, and spread abroad his message to all who come near - day
by blessed day.  Amen

* HYMN:  "Spirit of The Living God"                                - VU 376

All knowledge is yours, O God, and you know us better than we know
ourselves - yet you have chosen us and called us to follow of the path of
Christ.  If we lose faith in ourselves as your children forgive and
restores us.  If we lose faith in your pervasive goodness and mercy, bring
us to a right mind and give us a deep trust in your love and power.  Indeed
fill us and use us; fill us and use us to be bringers of light, a people
who shine in the darkness and who are not afraid....  Lord, hear our

We thank you God for all those people who have shared the hope that is
within them.  We thank you for those who first told us about you and about
Jesus and the healing that comes through him.  We thank you for those who
shared your love with us and who showed us the way to the fuller and richer
life you offer to all people through Christ.  We thank you for those who
told us that he is the Lamb of God - the one who takes away the sin of the
world.  We thank you for the ones who told us that he was a great teacher -
and those who suggested to us that he is your Chosen One - our Lord as well
as our brother.  We ask your blessing to be upon those who witnessed to us
and for you to encourage and bring peace and joy to all those who this day
share their faith with others.   Lord hear our prayer...

Father, we pray for those who were lifted up today in this temple of your
presence; for those who came to our minds as we listened to your word being
read or whose names arose unbidden as we sang a hymn. We lift these and
those who were named in our sharing time  up to you now O God and pray that
the blessings of your  healing, your peace, your joy, may be upon those who
are sick, or in grief, or struggling with unhappiness or fear about the
morrow.   We pray too the blessings of the earth and the justice of your
kingdom upon those who hunger or thirst for the things of daily living: 
food, water, shelter, hope, and love; and  ask that your watchful eye and
gentle hand be upon those  who we love with a very special love....  We
remember before you....  BIDDING PRAYER.... Lord, hear our prayer.....   

Praise be unto you, O God, for believing in us - for loving us.  Help us to
love with your own most dear love -- and to do all that we do as Jesus
would do it.  We ask it in his most blessed name, saying together the
prayer he taught us.... Our Father..


* 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

   Father, we thank You for the new life, given to us in Jesus, the
   Lamb of God, Jesus the Light of the World.  Accept these gifts, O
   God, and all that we offer to you in Christ's Name.  Help us
   recommit our lives to you.  Let Your Holy Spirit empower us for the
   Kingdom's work in this world through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN: "To Show By Touch and Word"                      - VU 427

* 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
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name, 
- and may God, the God who believes in you 
- the Christ who laid down his life for you
- and the Spirit who gives you breath day by day,
bless you with a gentle heart, 
a discerning mind, 
and a spirit eager to share his love 
- this both now and forevermore.  Amen

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

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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