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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 03 - Year A
Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27; I Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
"Belonging, Following, Sharing"

READING:  Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27; I Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
SERMON :  "Belonging, Following, Sharing"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or03sm 649000
     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)

* CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Isaiah 9:1-4)
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  God has made glorious the way of the sea, 
   the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
P  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
L  God has brought great joy to the nation.
P  People rejoice before him because of what he has done.
L  God has broken the yoke that burdened them 
   and the rod that beat their shoulders.
P  He has shone the light of his love upon them and set them free.

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

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


Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with
authority.  Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too, may
bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the broken-hearted, and proclaim
liberty to the captive.  Help us to rejoice in your presence and to offer
the sacrifice of prayer and service, of praise and of caring, that you
desire to receive from all your children, that you desire to bestow on all
who will open their hands and hearts to you and to your presence in our
brothers and sisters.  Lord, we worship you and thank you for your saving
love and your guiding light.  Amen

* HYMN:  "The Race That Long In Darkness Pined"                    - VU 879

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Rolling Along Together With Christ"
Object    Bicycle Wheel
Source    Self
Theme     Connected to hub and to wheel

Good morning...  What is your favourite sport or hobby???  Do any of you
know what the favourite sport of Jesus was????   It was fishing.  Many,
many times in the bible we are told that Jesus went the  seaside with his
disciples, that he got into their boats, that he told them where to lay
their nets, and  when to haul them in.  Jesus fishes with them and Jesus
eats fish with them - not the kind of fishing  we do, with rod and line and
lure - but fishing for people. One of my favourite sports is bicycle

To me, the church is like a bicycle wheel. The heart of that wheel, the
part that holds it together is the hub.  All the spokes go through the hub,
are held together by it.  That is kind of like Christ and his love. 
Without Christ at the centre of the church   and at the centre of our lives
- we would fly off in all directions at once   and have no strength or
purpose, why we couldn't even turn!  The hub is the most important part of
the wheel.  But the spokes, that's us   each one is pretty important too.

Ever notice that the closer those spokes get to the hub, the closer they
become to one another.  I can't help but think that when we keep Christ,
his will, his love, his presence at the centre of our own lives and our
life together, we will stay closer to one another.  It's when we get away
from him, when we begin thinking only about ourselves, that we're the only
spoke, the strongest one, the one who bears most of the load and does most
of the work, then we grow apart.  Each spoke is needed and each spoke is as
important as every other spoke.

And finally we have the rim or wheel.  I like to think of this as the part
of the church that relates to what we do together for the world.  Our
mission.  The thing that prevents us from ending up being totally without
purpose -- the thing that co-ordinates us and makes us effective (imagine a
bicycle wheel without the rim!)  As the wheel of a bicycle is designed so
when it turns it can get you there smoothly and easily, so the church is
designed to do certain special things on the highways and byways of life. 
When we are connected to Christ, and when we are connected to what our
mission in the world is   then we are able to do what Jesus did really we  
to bring people to meet God and discover his wonderful love.

   Loving God - Lord Jesus - we thank you for the church - for how it
   brings us closer to you - and closer to each other. - Help us dear
   God - to be strong in you - and connected to our mission. - Help us
   show your love - to everyone we know. - Amen.

   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: "I Am The Church"  

   (NIV)  I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
   that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no
   divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and
   thought.  My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me
   that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you
   says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow
   Cephas "; still another, "I follow Christ." 

   Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into
   the name of Paul?  

   I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and
   Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I
   also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember
   if I baptized anyone else.) 

   For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel - not
   with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its
   power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are
   perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 27 (Voices United 754) 

   (NIV)  When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned
   to Galilee.  Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which
   was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali - to fulfill what
   was said through the prophet Isaiah: "Land of Zebulun and land of
   Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
   - the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those
   living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."

   From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of
   heaven is near." 

   As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
   Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net
   into the lake, for they were fishermen.  "Come, follow me," Jesus said,
   "and I will make you fishers of men."  

   At once they left their nets and followed him. 

   Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee
   and his brother John.  They were in a boat with their father Zebedee,
   preparing their nets.  Jesus called them, and immediately they left the
   boat and their father and followed him. 

   Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching
   the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness
   among the people.

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

* HYMN:  "I, The Lord of Sea and Sky"                              - VU 509

SERMON:  "Belonging, Following, Sharing" 

   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. 

When Christ called the first disciples he set himself a task - the task of
making them into fishermen.

   "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who
   is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea
   - for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, "follow me, I will
   make you fish for people."

That is what God wants us all to do.
   - It's what Jesus did - in Galilee and in Samaria and in Jordan and
   Judea and Jerusalem,
   - And it's what we are supposed to do - in Golden and in Donald, in
   Nicolson and in Parson.

We are supposed to fish for people,
   to seek to bring them into that great net known as the Kingdom of God -
   into that creel known as salvation, as redemption, as everlasting

But are we?   Are we fishing that is?
And if we are fishing - who are we fishing for?
   For God and God's glory?
   For the sake of those we talk to each day?
Or for ourselves and for the sake of those people to whom we are loyal -
albeit in a worldly way?

There is so much power that flows when you witness to the love of God
   - when you share with others what it does for you and what it can do
   for them
       - when you have an chance to engage someone who is troubled, or
       curious, or hungry, and bring them before the one who can sooth
       their pain, satisfy their yearnings, and feed their soul.

I was talking to someone the other day whose father is an alcoholic.  She
was sharing with me how  her family coped with the problem - and naturally
Alcoholics Anonymous came up in the conversation.  From that it was but a
short step to the concept of the Higher Power which is at the heart of that
program - and then to the concept of believing that the Higher Power can
help you with your problem and that one should surrender to that Power - to
"Let go and let God."

What a prescription for life that is - and how wonderful it was to be able
to share it - - as any believing person is able to share it - whether or
not they have read through the AA program.

It was wonderful to be able to share with someone that God ready and able
to help them.

There is power in witnessing 
   - in sharing one's faith 
   - in being a person who fishes for people,
because there is power in the message
and power in the God the message is about.

But sometimes we don't experience that -
most often - perhaps - we don't experience that.

We don't experience the power
   and we don't succeed at the task of fishing for people -
       indeed most often we don't even begin that task,
because we are involved with and committed to the wrong stuff.

Although every one of us believes in God 
- our energy - our focus - is all too often fixed elsewhere.

It is as if we belonged to another - and indeed we often do.  We often
belong to other things - to other people - to other teams - and God gets
the short end.

But my friends, when God gets the short end from us, 
   so do the people around us, so do our families,
       so does our church,
          and so do we ourselves.

When Paul wrote his First Letter to the Corinthians there were a lot of
problems in the congregation.

There was arrogance, there was pride, there was indifference.  There was
gluttony and laziness and intolerance, and there was depression, and anger,
and despair.  And it all tracked itself down to one simple fact - the
people in the congregation at Corinth had fixed their focus on themselves
and on one another instead of fixing it on Christ and on the power of his

That's not to suggest that the Corinthians never paid attention to God -
or that they totally ignored Jesus.  Far from it.  It's simply to say that
most of their attention went elsewhere.

Instead of using the gospel as a filter by which to see the world around
them and of asking God at each moment of decision to direct their words and
their actions - they fell into their old routines,
   routines that are programmed into us by our genes 
   and by the expectations that others have of us
   and by our own reluctance to really trust God for everything.

They relied upon the teachings of others 
   for their own understanding of the gospel.
They formed loyalties with those who first showed them the love of God
   and quite naturally they defended those teachers when questioned about
And because their was a contrary spirit in Corinth, 
   they soon began to quarrel about who was better and who was worse -
   some saying Paul, others Apollos, and still others Cephas, and even
   some entered the fray saying that they belong to the party Christ and
   that he was, and therefore they were, better.

In short the Corinthians missed the point of what the gospel is all about
and instead of knowing the joy and the peace that comes with the fellowship
of the faithful - instead of being powerful in their witness and being able
to catch people for God - their congregational life collapsed and their
sense of well being evaporated.

People complained about each other and about their leadership,
they became confused about what was right and wrong,
and they bickered about issues that made no sense then and even less now.

The King James Version of the Bible says that problems at Corinth could be
traced to the believers there having a party spirit.

When I was younger I used to joke around a bit and say that this meant that
the Corinthians stayed up too late and drank and danced a bit too much -
that they played even more than they worked -- but really it is no joking

The Corinthians placed their loyalty in things other than the things of God 
   - in persons other than the person of Jesus Christ,
and they suffered because of it 
   - they suffered a loss of power 
   - they suffered a loss of love 
   - they suffered a loss of joy in believing and in sharing.

The Corinthians did this 
   - they misplaced their loyalty 
   - they missed the point of the gospel 
   - they formed up into party, cliques, and factions,  
not because they were wicked or mean or stupid, 
but because they looked elsewhere and forgot what they were to be about, 
because, most of all, they forgot who they believed in and what who they
believed in was, and is, about.

The effective Christian life is based on three simple facts -
   - the fact that God loves us unconditionally, 
   - the fact that apart from God we can do nothing that is worthwhile,
   - and the fact that God is pleased to work through us if we allow him
   to, and around us if we will not.

Sometimes we look out upon our families,
   our upon our congregation,
      or upon our club or lodge,
         or upon our place of employment 
and we say to ourselves 
-- "things would be better if only Joe would cut x and y out", or
-- "if only Nancy would do this or that everything would be fine".

Who hasn't heard the old song that is sung by close to everyone -
   if only my father hadn't been so stern,
   if only my parents hadn't gotten divorced
   if only my mother had been more affectionate,
   if only my high school had a better program
   if only my boss wasn't such a boob.
Who do we belong to?
What holds onto us because we hold on to it?

Do you look out and assign blame for what problems exist upon some people 
- and apportion credit for what good is happening to still others
instead of alternately 
- either asking God to work through you to make things better 
or thanking God for making things as fine as they are.

Too many judge things, too many judge people just as they always used to
instead of judging them by the standard show them by Christ when he went to
the cross for them

We prefer our friends to our enemies
   quite naturally,
We prefer our comfort to our discomfort
   quite naturally
We would rather fit in than stand out 
We would rather be praised than be criticized,
and we would rather be served than serve -
   all quite naturally.

But we are not meant to be natural people any longer -
we are meant to be the children of God -
to be a spiritual people who live by spiritual principles 
to be a people who live by the power of the cross of Christ
   rather than a people who live by the ways of the world.

Do you recall what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night in an
unfamiliar place?

   Sometimes a night light glows down the hall, providing a small amount of
   light, of security, against the darkness of the night.  Sometimes a
   light has been left on in the den down the hall and its steady glow
   allows you to navigate safely when you have rise to raid  the fridge or
   do what is necessary.  And that's great.

But what foolishness it would be if you got up, as you do when you are at
home, and, ignoring the fact of whether there is any light on or not, you
try to navigate your way to the kitchen or the bathroom by making all the
usual twist and turns.  It's a sure fire way to experience some form of
pain --- I mean think of what happens if someone simply moves something in
your home without telling you about it, if for some reason they leave the
seat up instead of down, or some other unexpected thing...

But we do this all the time - in a metaphorical sense at least.  

We forget that we have been called to a new way of living, and that we are
meant to navigate our way through our new life by the light that God
provides rather than by our old channel markers.

Do you have a problem - don't worry about fixing blame 
   - check out the possible solutions in the word of God
Do we have something that is hampering our life together 
   - let not accuse one another 
   - lets pray together and then let's work the works that God calls us
   to, both individually and collectively.

The church at Corinth was a weak church.

It was weak 
   because the people there forgot that they were called to a new way of
It was weak 
   because they forgot that the true and only real source of transforming
   and healing power comes from the cross of Jesus Christ.
And it was weak 
   because they forgot that their sole and only task as his followers was
   to show his love to others - that they were to live in such a manner
   and to speak in such a manner that others might be touched by God -
   that others might know the lure - the attraction - the wonder of God
   through us -and so be moved to claim Christ as their own.

I started this message today by saying we are supposed to fish for people,
to seek to bring them into that great net known as the Kingdom of God
into that creel known as salvation, as redemption - as everlasting peace.

That is, my friends, the central calling of every disciple and every
apostle, and every teacher, and every evangelist, and indeed of everyone 
who bears the name of Christ.

And it is a wonderful calling 
- a calling in which we have the privilege of witnessing God at work,
- a calling in which we are shown a portion of the love and the joy that
exists in heaven.

Turn to Christ and place your allegiance in his person
your focus on his cross,
your energy on his work,
and all that God has in mind for you will be yours 
in this life as well as in the next.

Blessed Be God, Day by Day, Amen

* HYMN: "Jesus Calls Us"                                           - VU 562

Let us pray to God concerning those things which hold onto us and those
things we hold onto - the  habits of our life  - the loyalties which guide
our actions  - the standards which we do not question...  Let us pray that
we might love God more than we love these things...  Lord hear our
Thank you, Father, for this time we have spent here contemplating the good
news of Jesus Christ and the love that he has for us - the love that he
displayed upon the cross....  We pray that it may be rich and real in our
hearts as we live this week together.  Let it do its great work of cutting
down and eliminating from our lives those things over which we take pride
and which separate us from others; these distinctions that make us dislike
our brother or sister, and turn our backs on them.  Help us, dear God, to
judge these things in the light of the cross and, by its light, and the
light of your living word - to walk before you all our days.... Lord, hear
our prayer...  

Father - make us what Jesus calls us to be -  make us ones who care deeply
about other people - who care so much that we are not afraid to show them
your love - so much that we are eager to bring them to you so that they may
know the blessing of a closer walk with you.... Lord, hear our prayer...

Father, hear our prayers for those we know who need your special care this
day.  We especially remember:
-- the children who are victims of war and oppression
  the people of the Central Africa
  the homeless and the poor of our nation
Lord, hear our prayer....

We pray too for those individual named during our sharing time and those
who are upon our hearts now .... BIDDING PRAYER... Lord, hear our prayer...

These things we ask in the name of our crucified and risen Saviour - Christ
Jesus our Lord.  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

   Lord God - take these tithes and these offerings - and all that we
   hold before you in our hearts at this time - hallow them - use them
   - and make us fitting servants of your most gracious will.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Lord, Speak To Me"                             - VU 589

* 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 the power of Christ's cross work it's way in your lives
- may your eyes be open to see the light of his gospel
- may your ears be open to hear his speaking
- may your hearts be open to his love, 
- and may your hands and your heart be open to give his strength, his
tenderness, and his wisdom to those around you
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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