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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 14 - Proper 9 - Year A
Romans 7:15-25a; Psalm 45; Matthew 11:25-30
"Who Will Rescue Me"

READING: Romans 7:15-25a; Psalm 45; Matthew 11:25-30 SERMON : "Who Will Rescue Me" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild a-or14se 328000 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) * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 145) 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 I will exalt you, I will praise your name for ever and ever, my God and my King. P Every day I will praise you, I will extol your name for ever and ever. L Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. P All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. * INTROIT: "Holy, Holy, Holy" (VU-315) * PRAYER OF INVOCATION: We thank you God for being with us each and every day - and especially being present with us in a special way on the Sabbath Day - as we gather to worship you and hear your word. We ask your blessing upon our assembly. Be swift to answer the prayers of our hearts and our lips and receive from our hands all that is due to you on this Holy and blessed day and in this holy and blessed place. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. * HYMN: "Holy Spirit, Hear Us" - VU 377 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS Gathering in of prayer joys and concerns. PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated): 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, thy will to see. Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine! (VU 371 v.2 & refrain) A READING FROM ROMANS 7:15-25a (NRSV) I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. {16} Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. {17} But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. {18} For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. {19} For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. {20} Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. {21} So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. {22} For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, {23} but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. {24} Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? {25} Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! L This is the Word of the Lord P Thanks be to God. CHILDREN'S TIME HYMN: "Praise Our Maker" - VU 316 RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 45 (Voices United 769) and Sung Refrain A READING FROM MATTHEW 11:25-30 (NRSV) At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; {26} yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. {27} All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. {28} "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. * HYMN: "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" - VU 664 SERMON: "Who Will Rescue Me" "Gracious God - bless now the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. Breath your Spirit into us and grant that we may hear and in hearing be led in the way you want us to go. Amen. Many of us here today have had, or still have, many problems in our lives. We are under constant stress from one thing or another: - there is an interview coming up - some one we know and love is sick - our finances are shaky - we feel understandably depressed and find it difficult to watch the news on TV or to think about anyone else's troubles. Something is eating at us. Stress is a common, all too common fact in our lives. It could be any of a thousand and one things that afflict us, but the result is we feel tired; or we find ourselves being angry at other people for almost no reason at all or, even more commonly, we feel unable to think good thoughts or do what we believe are good things. We are not at peace. So what do we do about it? A lot of people do nothing... they feel that somehow this is meant to be their lot in life - or they feel powerless to change things. Others - those blessed with the conviction that they should be more at ease with themselves and with the world around them - are more active. And many of these - and in this age it seems the majority - turn to the solutions offered at the local library and at the supermarket stands or on TV, and they buy self-help manuals or they watch shows featuring pop psychologists hoping against hope that by following the instructions of the books or enacting the principles outlined in 30 minutes by some expert on the tube - that they will be able to get a grip on their problems, and find a happier and more fulfilling life. Yet, despite all their efforts - all too often they are just as tired and unhappy as those who have done nothing, perhaps even more so - since the rules and regulations and principles they try to follow to help themselves require a lot of effort. Who will rescue me is a cry heard not only on the top 40 charts, but in the depths of our hearts. Who will rescue me... who will rescue me from the aimlessness of my life? who will rescue me from my pain and loneliness? who will rescue me from the negativity of the world? who will rescue me from myself? Again, hoping against hope, some of us turn to religion, we turn to the values and principles taught to us on our mothers knees and we try to live our lives by the ten commandments and by the laws taught to us by Moses, Jesus and Paul. But like Paul - we end up finding that this does not work either, we find that the good that we would like to do we do not do and the bad that we would not do, we end up doing anyway. Like Paul we find that there is a kind of war going on inside us, And deep down we end up saying with him - What a wretched person I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Brothers and sisters there is a better way, - a better way than the quick fixes offered by the wise psychologists on the supermarket stands, - a better way than that which is offered to us by a religion based on do's and don'ts, laws and regulations. The way I am referring to will strike many of you as being very silly, very simplistic, very naive, but I assure you that it is not - even when applied to problems that are larger than our own personal ones. I do not know how many of you remember Samantha Smith - when she was 10 years old she woke up one morning in her home in Maine and "wondered if this was going to be the last day of the earth". She had just read about the arms race and thought that it made no sense. So she did something that only an unsophisticated child would do - she wrote a letter to Mr. Andropov, the Soviet Leader at the time. She said "I am worried about Russia and America getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote for war? Please tell me how we can stop having a war?" To many peoples' surprise, Mr. Andropov answered her letter and invited her to Russia to see things for herself. She went and met Mr. Andropov and many children of her own age. She got along very well. When she returned to the States she said "If we can be friends be getting to know each other better, then what are our two countries arguing about? Nothing could be more important than stopping a nuclear war". Adults cannot say such things lest they seem silly... Yet is there not a profound wisdom here? Something greater than the wisdom of our political scientists and international experts? We have so many problems - both personal, and as a nation and a world. And we have so little peace, so little rest. Who will rescue us? You know that it is all enough to drive a person to pray, we get to the point after we have tried this and that formula and consulted this and that expert in our problems that we do not know what else to do. We've tried to make it under our own steam - and we are tired, and in desperation, finally, we try God. But wouldn't we be better off to try God first Wouldn't we be better off to live by God's wisdom rather than the wisdom of the learned of this world? But we don't do this do we? It is just too silly to expect that something simple can solve a complex problem. But listen to Jesus once again. He said: "I praise you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children." An ancient story is told about a Rabbi who had the prophet Elijah appear to him one day while he was in the market place. There the teachers of the Law were holding forth, others were buying and selling goods, and still others were listening to the disputes that were brought before the elders of the people in one corner of the market. The Rabbi asked Elijah if there was anyone in the market place who was destined to share in the blessedness of the life to come. At first Elijah said no - but then he pointed to two men and said that they would. The Rabbi went over to them and asked what they did. "We are merry makers", they replied, "When we see a person who is downcast we cheer him up. When we see two people quarrelling with each other, we try to make peace between them." Brothers and sisters in Christ, The answers we need to our problems are often hidden from us, because so many of us, particularly those of us who are well educated can't comprehend the simplicity of the truth - for us there always has to be a catch, we cannot accept that things might be easier than they appear. I tell you this: God wants us to understand and find solutions to our problems. And so God has arranged things so that it is not our knowledge that is important, but rather our heart and our will. God wants us all to have peace and fulfilment, and so there is nothing complicated here, instead there is only a call, a call to yield yourself to God, a call to follow Jesus and enter into a relationship with him. As a theologian once put it: "the heart, not the head is the home of the gospel" The smallest child is given the faculty of knowing Christ, of knowing what is important and what is not, - but for us adults it seems we need something more, we need a model which we can consciously follow. Jesus said: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light. Come to me, take my yoke upon you, my yoke is easy and my burden light. The word yoke in the scripture often refers to the TORAH - to the way of God, to the teachings of God through the prophets, and as such it is it is not so much about servitude but rather about the direction of things - the focus of our labours, which is for us the focus of Jesus and not the rules and laws of religion. And the word easy - my yoke is easy - in the Greek means well fitted. In the days of Jesus yokes were made of wood. The ox was brought to the carpenter's shop and carefully measured and then the yoke was roughed out. Then the ox was brought back and it was tried on him - the yoke was then marked - and carefully adjusted by shaving the wood. Each yoke was tailor made to fit each ox. When Jesus says that "my yoke is easy and my burden light" what he means is this: The life I give you is not a burden to gall you, your task is made to measure to fit you. What Jesus is saying is: My burden is light, it is not meant to weigh you down with demands, it is not rules and regulations about what you can and can not do, nor is it a task that you will hate doing. No, the burden of Jesus is like the one in the old story about a man who comes upon a little boy carrying a still smaller boy, who was lame, upon his back. "That's a heavy burden for you to carry", said the man. "That's no'a burden", came the answer, "that's my wee brother". What ever Jesus sends us, and whatever he asks of us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly, it is made to give not only us, but our whole world rest. We need to give up our old way of looking at life and assume the way of seeing and living that Christ wants us to have, - the one that concerns our heart, - the one that is suited to us. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, Come to me you who are tired of doing it all under your own steam and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, take what I have designed especially for you, and learn from me, learn from me for I am gentle and humble in spirit, for I am one who is at peace, one who knows the right way, Do this, come to me, and take what I have designed for you, learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls. You will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light. Who will rescue me? An old hymn by the name of "Come Unto Me" says in its second verse: Are you disappointed, wandering here and there, dragging chains of doubt and loaded down with care? Do unholy feelings struggle in your breast? Bring your case to Jesus, He will give you rest. Come unto me, come unto me, I will give you rest Take my yoke upon you, Hear me and be blest I am meek and lowly, come and trust my might My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Who will rescue me? Jesus invites us - come to me, learn from, take my yoke upon you - and I will give you rest... It is a promise, a promise that requires a very simple answer on our part to take effect. Come to Jesus like a child - listen to him, talk to him, do what he asks of you, and you will find your rest. AMEN ---- Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Ordinary 14 - Year A for a different prayer or meditation with which to conclude the sermon and/or lead into the prayer time below. PRAYER OF THE DAY Lord - we come unto you - and we lift up our burdens to you - our worry - our anxiety - our fear - our tiredness - our pain - and we ask that would remove them from us put in their place your burden and your yoke. Help us to learn from you and to rejoice in you and to serve you that we may find the rest that you have promised. Make us your captives so that we might be truly free. Lord, hear our prayer... Father - we come to you to this day not only for ourselves - but for others - for those who do not know your peace - for those who have not yet found any rest - for those who struggle with those things we have brought to you. We ask your healing to be upon those who are sick --- your strength to be with those who are tired -- your wisdom and your love to be with those who live with despair and fear. Minister to them as we minister to them - help us to bring them unto you.... Lord, hear our prayer... We pray too today O God for your blessing to be upon this congregation and upon this church, and for your presence to be seen vividly in what we and our brothers and sisters in Christ do each day. We pray that your joy and your love will flow freely in us and thru us as we take up your yoke and follow where you lead us..... We ask all these things and we thank you and we adore you, in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour - he who taught us to pray to you as one family, saying.... OUR FATHER * HYMN: "O Jesus Christ, Grow Thou In Me" - SFGP 27 * MINUTE FOR MISSION: Our Life Together and In The World * 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 Dedication O God - unto you we offer these gifts - bless them and use them and us in your service that this church might be a light leading the way to you and the salvation you offer freely to all. We ask it in Jesus' name. * DEPARTING HYMN: "Be Thou My Vision" - VU 642 * 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. * BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ - and may the love of God fill you, - the wisdom of God guide you, - and the strength of God support you both now and forevermore. Amen * THREEFOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964 copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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