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Sermon and Liturgy on The Epistle for Ordinary 21 - Proper 16 - Year A
Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8
"As Living Sacrifices"

READING: Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8 SERMON : "As Living Sacrifices" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild a-or21sx 992000 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 138) 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 Let us give God thanks with all our hearts. P We praise you, O God, for your steadfast love and faithfulness. L Let us exalt the name of the Lord above all others. P We glorify you, O Lord, for you answer us, you have increased the strength of our souls. L Though the Lord is high, he cares for the lowly, but the proud he humbles from afar. P Your love, O God, is eternal. We praise you for your truth and grace. * PRAYER OF INVOCATION Gracious God, come among us today and restore the strength of those who call upon you. Help us be mindful of all that you do and to trust you to uphold your humble and penitent people and to bring to nothing all those who worship the gods of this world. Shine upon us like the sun and illuminate our path so that we do not stumble or fall. Bless us so we may be a living testimony to your care and your compassion, and your justice and your mercy. We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, he who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. * HYMN: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" - VU 264 CHILDREN'S TIME "Broken is Still Valuable" Object Crumpled and torn Five Dollar Bill Theme: God Values Us No Matter What Shape We Are In" Source: Self Good morning.... I want you to take a look at this five dollar bill. It has really been badly treated hasn't it. It is all worn and wrinkled - and it has been torn in half. Suppose you went to the store and tried to use this to buy something. What do you think the cashier would say???? Some people might look at and say - that's no good now. It is in too bad a shape. But most wouldn't - because our Government has made a promise about this five dollar bill. Do you know what that promise is??? Their promise is that it keeps it's value no matter what condition it is in. If it is not fit to be used anymore the Government will replace with a brand new one. No matter what has happened to it - as long as you can offer all the pieces to a bank the government promises that it will still be worth five dollars. That is good news to folk who don't always keep good care of their money - it is always worth what it says it's worth - even if it is torn and broken. Today I want you to think about yourselves and about God. Sometimes we are like this five dollar bill. Our lives are a mess. We feel that we are aren't worth anything because of some of things we are done - or because of some of the things that have happened to us. Sometimes old people feel worthless because they can't work anymore and young people feel that they have no value because they don't have the education or experience that others have. And those who have to live in wheel chairs or who are sick and confined to their beds often think they are no good because they can't walk or get up out of their bed and do those things that other people do. But it isn't so. We are always valuable, no matter what we look like, or what we have done, or what has happened to us. No matter what condition we are in - God promises that if give ourselves back to him that he will treat us right - that he will treat us the way that he treats those who look perfect - those who not broken and crumbled. Our prayers will count just as much as the prayers of those who look better than we do. And God will use us in his work in this world just as he wants to - and one day, much as the government does with crumbled and torn money - he will give as a shiny new body and remake our souls so that with Jesus, our brother, we shine like the sun. PRAYER Let us pray... Dear Lord God - we thank you for your love. - We thank you that how we look - and how we feel - and what we have done or not done - doesn't change your love for us. - We thank you that you care for all who come to you - and that you listen to all who call on you - and who trust in you - and do their best to obey you - day by day. Amen. * HYMN: "To Abraham and Sarah" - VU 634 SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SPECIAL MATTERS - Welcome and Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Special Matters - Sharing Joys and Concerns TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD (verse 2 - VU 371) 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! A READING FROM ISAIAH 51:1-6 (NIV) "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many. The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. SONG: "He Spoke" RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 124 (VU 848) & the 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 ever shall be. World without end. Amen A READING FROM ROMANS 12:1-8 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a person's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. * HYMN: "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" - VU 658 SERMON: "As Living Sacrifices" O Lord, we pray, speak in the calming of our minds and in the longings of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts that we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen. I remember vividly the first time I had accidentally washed a twenty dollar bill. I found it's remains balled up inside my freshly washed pants pockets - it was balled up and in a lot worse condition than the fiver that I showed you all earlier. In fact in unwrapping the soggy mess from itself I tore it into about four or five pieces. Twenty dollars then was a lot more money then than it is now and I was about in tears wondering if I could still use it - if it was worth anything. Some bits of the bill were simply missing - turned to mush I suppose - but as the paper dried out I got out some tape, smoothed out the pieces as best as I could and put the whole thing back together again and took it off to my bank - where the clerk examined, shook her head with a smile, put it in her cash drawer and handed back to me a nice fresh bill. What a relief it was. And what a lesson. In the his letter to the Romans Paul writes to the church about how God, through Christ Jesus, acted to bring salvation to the whole world - starting with the people of Israel and extending out to all who name him aloud as their Lord and believe in their hearts that he is risen from the dead. In the chapters prior to the reading we heard today Paul speaks of the judgement that we all deserve from God and of God's love for us and God's desire that we turn to him in faith so that we might live. And then he writes as what we heard read a few minutes ago: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. That is a most interesting exhortation, especially in a world where so many of us look at our own bodies and find them - well, how should I say this - somewhat imperfect. What does it mean to offer to God as a living sacrifice this somewhat pudgy body? This body that has been through some events have left it somewhat wrinkled and torn, or perhaps filled with pain or disfigured in some manner? perhaps unable to do what those with bodies in better shape are able to do? And especially what does it mean when we consider that in the worship at the temple in Jerusalem animals that were brought to be sacrificed to God for thank offerings or sin offering had to be unblemished - perfect in every way? Do we need to go on a diet to please God? Do we need to enroll in the gymnasium across the street to be an acceptable living sacrifice? Do we need to have all our limbs attached and have everything in perfect working order to be "holy"? What about those of us - who through no fault of our own - are a bit less than the super models that grace the pages of our fashion magazine? What about those of us who have been a bit careless during our life - and have been as a result - soaked, agitated, rinsed, and spun? Are we without hope? Are we unacceptable at the table of God's presence? At his holy altar?? Or among the angels and the saints that are gathered around him?? Clearly it is not some form of bodily perfection that matters to God.... Clearly this talk of responding to God's mercy by offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, must mean something much more than being able to meet some standard of good looks, health, and vitality that only a very few of us ever obtain. Something less physical - something more spiritual - must be in Paul's mind; and indeed that is indicated in the text when Paul says our offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, is our "spiritual act of worship". So think for a minute about your spiritual bodies. What kind of shape are they in? Are they pure and unblemished? Are they up to tasks that they are meant to perform? Or are they limping along - full of aches and pains, full of doubts and confusions and worries and hatreds even as they also contain faith and truth and trust and love? I suspect the latter is true of many of us - not the former. I suspect that when we look at ourselves we don't see ourselves as perfect in every way, or even in many ways. We may regard ourselves as having a good heart, as being loving and kind - but we, especially as we grow in faith, are also aware of the arrhythmia the little irregularities that occasionally come along, Sometimes it seems - even among the healthiest spirits there is a little shortness of breath, a little reluctance to go out and climb the highest mountains or even to go for a walk around the block. Indeed, as we push at this metaphor, I think you will all agree that not all the parts of our spiritual body are fully presentable, at least not now - not yet. And if we are really honest about it all it is really rather hard to see how they ever will be. There are so many others who have so much more to offer God than we do so many others who are in much better shape - much more acceptable than we, both physically and spiritually. My friends - the message today is that God doesn't want the best of us, God wants all of us. Just as the Government of Canada will take a crumpled and torn bill and value it as highly as one in perfect condition, so God will take us - when we offer to him whatever condition our condition is in - and value us as highly as the greatest saint in our midst indeed God values each one of us as highly as he values his own Son! That is what the Gospel is all about. Through Christ's offering of his own body to God upon the cross for us, through his offering up his whole life in obedience and in love - even when it meant his own suffering and death, God was pleased. And God honoured him and honoured his word the word that said that all who were his would be the Father's and all that was the Father's was his. And so, says the gospel, when we join ourselves to him, when we offer ourselves to him completely - body, heart, soul and mind - God will accept us - and God will take that which is now imperfect - and make it perfect, - that which is perishable and make it imperishable, - and that which is mortal and make it immortal. That is what spiritual worship is all about: The offering of all we are - of everything - good and bad - perfect and imperfect - to God so that God can take it and do what he wills with it. So that God can accept it and transform it into what it was meant to be when Adam and Eve where first created. Christ is the new Adam. He is The first born from among the dead.. He takes our offering, our bodies, and perfects them - hallows them - in the offering of his own body his body which was blessed, and broken, and given, for us so that we might be made whole. Look at this bill once again. If the government will take that which is bent, spindled, folded and mutilated and return it whole, how much will God take you and make you over in the image in which you were first created... the image of the one in whose name we gather today..... Oh Gracious God - we thank you for your mercy and your love. We thank you that you ask for all that we are and promise that when we give you ourselves that you will make us all that we were created to be - and all that you desire us to be - through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Let us gather ourselves together for prayer - first by our silence - then by our singing our prayer song and then by our offering of our amen to the petitions of our brothers and sisters and the lifting up of our own requests so that others may say amen for us. PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Rx - And In Your Love Answer) Singing #400 at the start and the end of the prayer time - OR TWICE AT BEGINNING) Lord, listen to your children praying. Lord, send your Spirit in this place; Lord, listen to your children praying, send us love, send us power, send us grace! Loving God, you who can bring forth water from rocks in the wilderness and give flesh and sinew to dry bones and make them live, we thank you for watching over us and for calling us to you. We thank you that in Jesus, your word made flesh, and then broken for us, you redeem all who give themselves to you. Lord, take us and transform us we pray. May our suffering, like Christ's, bring healing to others. May our weakness be filled with your strength as a testimony to your power. May the virtue you give us bring praise to your name. Take our thoughts and our feelings - and remake them so that they are like your Son's - and fill us with your wisdom so that we may be able to know and approve your good, pleasing, and perfect will.... Lord, hear our prayer... Father and Mother of us all - help us to offer all of ourselves to you. According to the grace you have granted us - help us to lift up and support your people - to take our place among them - and to care for them and to love them as they have been called to care for and to love us. We, though we are many, form one body in the world, and as every body needs each of it members, so we need and are needed by the body of Christ so that your work of redemption may be made complete. Bless we pray each one who has been called here today to this church - and hear O Lord, their prayers as well as our own. For the one who sits beside us at this moment - and the one who across the aisle, for the those to the front of us - and those who may be behind, we ask the outpouring of your Spirit. Touch, heal, encourage, maintain, beautify, feed, strengthen, enlighten, and support them as they have need..... Lord, hear our prayer.... Lord, hear the prayers for those who are especially upon our hearts today - those whose burden was upon our minds before we came here to sing your praises and to render you the worship that you ask of us. We think of the hungry and the homeless, the enslaved and the oppressed, those who grieve and those who live in fear; Bring light and love, healing and freedom, encouragement and confrontation to each person and situation that we now raise before, each according to their particular need.... (Bidding Prayer)... Lord, hear our prayer... Oh God - bless those who travel through these next few days. Keep them safe upon the roads that lead to and from this place and remind them all of those things that are truly important. Indeed, O Lord, as we travel the path of Christ this coming week, keep us safe and make us mindful of your mercy, and joyful on account of how you are able to bring good out of evil and life out of death. Touch us and lead us day by day, we ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen. Lord, listen to your children praying. Lord, send your Spirit in this place; Lord, listen to your children praying, send us love, send us power, send us grace! MINUTE FOR MISSION * 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, we confess our faith in You and Your love in our midst as we bring our offerings to You. Take all that we offer and transform it in your service so that glory may be given to you on account of us. Bless not only our tithes and offerings - the fruit of our labour that is upon these plates - but our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. Do this through Christ Jesus who made the perfect offering and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)" - VU 595 * 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 Jesus, - 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 transform you and strengthen you for every good work, both now and forevermore. Amen. * CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964 copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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