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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 17 - Proper 12 - Year A
Romans 8:22-39 and Matthew 13:31-33,44-52
"Seed, Yeast, and Treasures Old and New"

READING: Romans 8:22-39 and Matthew 13:31-33,44-52 SERMON : "Seed, Yeast, and Treasures Old and New" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild a-or17sn 683000 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. The Call To Worship, Prayer of Approach, Benediction and the concept for the Post Communion Prayer is taken and/or modified from Jeff Shrowder ( "July 25 - Call to Worship Etc", as sent to the PRCL-List, July 99. GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand) * ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING * INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require of You" (VU-701) * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 105:1-5) 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 thanks to the Lord and call on His name. P We will tell the world what God has done. L Sing to the Lord, sing praises; and tell all of God's wonderful works. Glory in God's holy name. P We seek the Lord and his strength. L Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered. P All who do so rejoice to the core of their being. * PRAYER OF INVOCATION: Holy is your name, O LORD. Grant us now the help of the Holy Spirit, that we may receive your word with joy and thanksgiving, praise you for your goodness, and give ourselves to you in love and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen * HYMN: "Let Us With A Gladsome Mind" - VU 234 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS Gathering in of prayer joys and concerns. 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 MATTHEW 13:31-33 (Mat 13:31-33 NRSV) He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; {32} it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." {33} He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. CHILDREN'S TIME Theme: God Grows Great Things From Little Beginnings Object: Yeast, Bannock, Bread Source: Self Core Concept: Bring Bread - (on communion table), and some flour and water = pan bread or bannock. But with yeast.... you get bread that rises. Much tastier. It spreads through all the flour. HYMN: "For The Beauty of The Earth" - VU 226 A READING FROM MATTHEW 13:44-52 (NRSV) "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. {45} "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; {46} on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. {47} "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; {48} when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. {49} So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous {50} and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. {51} "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." {52} And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old." L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. * HYMN: "Rejoice, The Lord is King" - VU 213 SERMON: "Seed, Yeast, and Treasures Old and New" Let us Pray: Breathe on us, O God, that we may be filled with your Spirit - and led by your living word - Jesus Christ our Lord. Bless the word of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. We ask it in his name. Amen. Over the last three weeks we have heard Matthew retell a series of the parables of Jesus. This Sunday we end this series - with five of those parables The first two parables use the images of mustard seed and yeast. Both describe how, from small, almost invisible beginnings, great things will come. In the second group of parables we see God's realm is described as a treasure hidden in a field, something that brings about life-changing joy when it is discovered - and when we are prepared to sell everything we own to obtain it. We see the kingdom of God described as being like a pearl of great price - a thing of great beauty, for which the merchant will give up all other pearls -so he or she may purchase it. The final parable in this set describes the kingdom of God as being like a great net that catches all kinds of fish - which are then sorted out according to their quality - with the good ones being kept safe for the use of the Master and the bad ones being tossed away. Finally Jesus tells his disciples how to respond to the Good News that he has just proclaimed. He tells them that those who are students of the scriptures - those who study them diligently AND become disciples of the kingdom of God - will bring out treasures both old and new from the storeroom of heaven. What to make of all this? For me these parables speaks strongly about the nature of faith and what it does - and about the nature of God and what he does, and, as usual, God does far more than we normally give God credit for. Jesus says in the first two parables that the smallest faith, the smallest seed of God, the tiny bit of the yeast of righteousness can transform itself and those things in contact with it - and so change the world. As Jesus said at another time "If we have faith as small as mustard seed we can say to the mountains be removed - and it will remove itself." Think of it --- just a little seed - from which can come a mighty bush. --- just a little leaven - and we can change the entire loaf. When I was pastoring in Ontario a few years back I met a man in the local coffee shop one day. Then, like now I spent about an hour each day indulging in a great Canadian tradition - holding up my end as it were. Did you know that Canadians consume more coffee and have more coffee shops per capita than any other nation on the face of the earth.... Anyway I was enjoying a rounded sugar, double cream - and I met this man who lived in my community, but I, and many others in the church, really didn't know him - though he knew us - you know how it goes. As we talked he asked me - "You're the Minister at the United Church aren't you" I fessed up. And then I invited him to come out and give the church a try. "Well", he said, "I don't really know. I haven't been to church for a while. But I'll think about it for sure." "What the heck", I said, "Just come and enjoy it - there's always room for one more sinner. That's what it is all about. We have all kinds of sinners at our church" The next Sunday the man showed up at the church with his wife and children. As he said, he hadn't been to church regularly for a long time. He hadn't felt right about himself. He didn't think God was too pleased with him. He was uncomfortable in the places where he used to feel at ease. --- That's how it is for a person when things aren't right - and to be frank - they aren't right quite a bit of the time for a whole lot of people. But God calls us back - and he works with the tiniest seeds - the small bit of faith we have - and the littlest bit of His Word - whatever he can sneak right by all a person's guilt and anxiety and remorse and worldly busyness and plant. For that man - the word that the church was full of sinners was all he needed to hear - for the seed of faith he had told him that churches that welcomed sinners would welcome him. Nothing can stop the growing of the seed because the Power of God is in the seed Nothing can prevent the leaven from spreading because The Power of God is in the leaven. In God's kingdom the smallest and the least significant things have incredible power; the incredible power to affect the largest and most significant things and transform them. From the small amount of yeast that represented that man's faith - the man I met in the coffee shop; and from the small seed of welcoming truth - the small seed of God that God let me plant that day, has come a mighty bush - or to switch parables - a mighty tasty loaf. Today my coffee drinking friend is an elder of my old church. And he is helping lead a revival there - a time of awakening - within the congregation - and - as is always the case when God's spirit is involved - without it. Revival it is said "always begins with me" Something awakens in us - something gets us on fire - and suddenly marvellous things are happening - not only to us - but to those we come into contact with. God takes a seed - he plants it - and slowly, but surely growth comes - until suddenly everyone notices it - we notice it and other people notice it in us. The mustard seed is the word of the kingdom of God - the word of truth - the word that points the way to the living reality of God in Christ among us. And the yeast is the word that grows within us - the faith that rises up because that is the nature that God gave it - that rises up and makes new - that brings to life - that revives. And praise God - I have seen a planting - and I have seen a sprouting - and now others, like the birds of the air - are suddenly frequent visitors because of that which God has wrought - people build their spiritual homes on the branches of faith that my coffee drinking friend has produced because he listened to and held onto the word which came his way. Which brings me to the next two parables. In the next two parables Jesus calls us to treasure the message we have discovered in the field of life, to do everything to hold onto the wonder working seed and the miraculous yeast that we find, - or which finds us - for who can predict just how and why we would ever stumble upon treasure buried in the middle of a field? or just how and why a pearl of tremendous beauty might come our way, even if we are merchants who deal in such things? There has been many a pastor and many a faithful Christian in the pew - who have let go of the treasure - and whose joy and delight in God - and whose trust and confidence in God - has been not as tremendously beautiful as it once was. We all know the facts of life. When a person finds something of great value he or she has a decision to make - -- to obtain that treasure - no matter what the cost -- or to be content with the treasure that he or she already has. Often what we do - is obtain the treasure - and then let it go. We exchange it for lesser things - things that seem important at the time or maybe we just allow events to overwhelm us - so that the great treasure is once again buried in the field of our life. And then, to mix up the parables of Jesus, we suddenly come to our senses and return home to our Father; we decide to repurchase the pearl; to once again lay claim to the treasure. Hopefully we are not too late. There is a word from God for us - a touch of the Spirit for us - an event for us - a person who comes to us for us - that is worth everything we have - So says Jesus! Don't let it go by. Pick up - hold on to it - don't let go. It is a saving thing that makes all of one's life worthwhile. The value of what God has given to us freely through his law and his prophets, the value of what God has buried in our hearts and our minds for us to find, what God has brought to us in the person of Christ and pours out upon us through his Spirit, is beyond everything. When we grasp it. The challenge for us is to grasp it - to not only recognize what we see and hear as being important; but to take action - to hold on to it - to give everything we have for it -- to stand - and then walk - and then run if need be - to that place where we can claim full ownership of it. Hold on to the seeds cast your way - let them germinate - nurture them. Take the yeast out of its container and risk losing it all by putting all of it into the dough of your life. Sell everything and buy the whole field - get the pearl - and watch what happens. What will happen is great. You'll be attacked and assaulted by doubters and naysayers. But you will see better things than you have seen before - and you'll know a love and show a love that the people who live in the world can only dream about it. Which flows into the last parable - the parable of the net - and of the judgement that comes once the net is drawn and landed on the shore of heaven. God casts his net to catch us all - he gives us all a chance to be his - he reaches out to us - he seeks us - and as the parables we have looked at over the last three weeks - and the stories I have told indicate - he goes to great lengths to make us into the kind of catch he wants. He is patient with us. He allows the weeds to grow so that the wheat is not uprooted - he changes what appears to be beyond hope into something that is worthy of praise. But still there is a time when the catch is landed and sorted for market, when the field is harvested and the wheat and the weeds are separated. And God calls to heed the approaching of that time - to number our days - to have a holy fear - so that we might acquire a heart of wisdom. What God has made good lasts forever. It is valued by the maker. What turns out bad - and refuses to be reworked - revived - refashioned - by the Maker, perishes. And so it should be. "Do you understand all these things", Jesus asked his disciples when he finished speaking. "Do you understand what I have been telling you" "Yes", they said, "We do." So he told them "Every student of the scriptures who becomes a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom." There is a difference here drawn between being a student and being a disciple between learning about something or knowing something and then actually doing it, between taking a stand and actually standing, and it is an important difference. The one who becomes a disciple, the one not only learns about Christ, but who actually follows Christ, is one who discovers an abundance of treasure - treasure that is both old and new - and who displays it all for others to see, who values it all - and wants all the world to see it all. In changing times it is good to know that the followers of Christ embrace what has gone by and recognize that which has just come has value as well. There are so many treasures that God has sent our way - so many to value and embrace and hold up - - the old law and the prophets with their guidance and their grace and the new law written in the heart by the Spirit of God, - the old rituals with their ability to calm and quieten the heart so that we may meet God, and the new ones which can energize and make fresh a tired soul, - the great grandmother with the wisdom of her age worn like a mantle upon her shoulders and the smallest child with his or her tremendous ability - born of innocence - to see God where no one else can. God's treasure, it is said in scripture, is contained in earthen vessels, in perishable - very mortal containers - and so the disciples of Christ value one another - and what they have to offer - whether it be old or new or in between. There is a great mercy spoken of in all the parables we have heard. A great love, a great power, a great God, are pointed to in them. It is worth everything and when embraced - leads to everything of importance in this world and in the next. Blessed be God - day by day. Amen PRAYER OF THE DAY Let us pray: Lord, we give you thanks for the word that you hide like a treasure in our heart, for the leaven which is able to penetrate to every area of our life - for the seed that is able to grow into a mighty plant... Help us we pray to value that which you have given us - to make following Christ the most important thing in our daily lives - to concentrate above all upon the doing your will and sharing your love and the good news you have proclaimed through Jesus with one another and with the entire whole world.... Lord hear our prayer... Lord, we give We give you thanks today for the wonders of our heritage and for the new things that you continue to do in our midst. We praise you for the teachings of the prophets, for the law you revealed unto Moses, for the grace and the love that you poured out and continue to pour out through Christ - and for the guidance, the strength, the wisdom, the peace, the joy, the patience, and the gentleness that you bestow upon us through your Spirit. Help us to value both the old and the new and to become worthy teachers of the lessons of your eternal kingdom.... Lord, hear our prayer.... -- Father, we pray for the people around us this day - for those who are upon our hearts and minds because of a need that they have - for those who have or will visit with us this day -- for those we have worked with this past week - for those we have dreamed of recently. Bless each one according to the need that they have and bring all to a closer walk with thee. Lord hear our prayer.. We ask you to hear all our prayers, O God, in the name of the one who taught us to pray to you in the word's we now sing -- 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 Dedication We pray thee, O God, to receive the offerings of your people and to bless them in the work you have set before us. May all that we say and do be said and done in the manner that Christ taught us and in the power of his Spirit. 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. * COMMUNION HYMN: "Seek Ye First The Kingdom" - VU 356 COMMUNION LITANY: 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 THE INSTITUTION & THE ACT OF CONSECRATION We remember how on the night before his passion Jesus took bread and gave you thanks - as even now we give thanks to you O God for this bread, 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, the cup of blessing, and gave it to his disciples, saying: "Take and drink: This is my blood, the blood of a new covenant for the forgiveness of sin.... When you do this, do it in memory of me." Father, send thy Holy Spirit upon us and what we do here that we, and these gifts, may be signs of hope to us and to all the world. Make them for us the body and blood of Christ Jesus, and make us through them the body of Christ in the world. We ask it in his name, praying together as he taught us, singing: Our Father... THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS: The congregation is invited to come forward up the centre aisle, then return to their seats by the side aisles DEPARTING PRAYER: (based on Romans 8:26-39) L Let us pray..... We thank you O God that you did not keep your own Son to yourself, but gave him up for all of us. P By this we are sure that you will give us everything else. L It is you, O God, who makes all things right; who is there to condemn us? P Indeed, it is Christ Jesus, who died, and whom you raised, who is at your right hand and who pleads our case. L Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; P We thank you that even though we do not know how to pray as we ought, that the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. L We thank you God for how the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to your will and for the love of Christ from which we cannot be separated. P We thank you for the Holy Table that you spread before us, for the life that you grant which is strong than death. L We thank you for the bread and wine that you have given us, and for the love which makes us more than conquerors through him who loved us. P Amen and Amen. Halleluiah. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "The Day of Resurrection" - VU 164 * 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, knowing that nothing can separate you from the love of God. - And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ rest upon you, - the love of God embrace you, - and the presence of the Holy Spirit surprise and encourage 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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