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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 26 - Proper 21 - Year A
Philippians 2:1-13; Psalm 78; Matthew 21:23-32
"It's Never Too Late - Today"

READING: Philippians 2:1-13; Psalm 78; Matthew 21:23-32 SERMON : "It's Never Too Late - Today" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild a-or26snsu 690000 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) * ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP 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. * INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require of You" (VU-701) * PRAYER OF INVOCATION: Holy God, we are among those who have been taught about your love and your power. We have received Jesus Christ, your son, as our Saviour and confessed in our hearts that he died and rose from death on the third day to save us from our sin. By faith we have become part of your great family, your sons and your daughters. Help us this day to worship you with true devotion and to proclaim the wonders of your name as we obey and serve you. We ask through Christ Jesus. Amen * HYMN: "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart" - VU 378 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS Announcements 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 PHILIPPIANS 2:1-13 (NRSV) If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, {2} make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. {3} Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. {4} Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. {5} Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, {6} who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, {7} but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, {8} he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. {9} Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. {12} Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; {13} for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. CHILDREN'S TIME: "Having An Attitude" Object: None Theme: Humility is Preferred Source: Self Who hear is a winner or knows somebody who is a winner? Ball tournament - skating - swimming - whatever.... What did you/they do??? When you win - when you are on top - what kinds of things happen to you??? In hockey the top team all get special rings - they all wear things that show they are number one. Gold medals. Etc. Banquets. You get served, get parades, get a lot of special consideration. There is nothing wrong with all that - unless it goes to your head. Do you know any winners, any people who are really good at something who are unbearable - a real pain to be around??? What makes them that way???? Jesus - who was a real winner - shows us the attitude we ought to have -- listen to this passage again: Christ Jesus was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. He gave up everything and became a slave when he became one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others so at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. To be a real winner - to be a person who is well loved by God and by others we should not be jealous or proud - but humble - and consider others more important than ourselves. LET US PRAY: Dear God, help us to think as Christ thought - and do as Christ did -- help us to think of ourselves -- as no better than -- and no worse than -- anyone else -- and to love and serve you -- and all people -- in his name -- Amen * HYMN: "Jesus, Friend of Little Children" - VU 340 RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 78 (VU 792) and sung Refrain CHOIR ANTHEM: A READING FROM MATTHEW 21:23-32 (NRSV) When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" {24} Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. {25} Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' {26} But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." {27} So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. {28} "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' {29} He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. {30} The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. {31} Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. {32} For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. * HYMN: "There's A Wideness In God's Mercy" - VU 271 SERMON: "It's Never Too Late - Today" Let us Pray: Father - We would hear your word at this time - and indeed at all times, and we would do it. Bless my speaking at this time - that it may be used by you - and bless our hearing at this time - that in our hearts and our minds we discover the message you have for us at this time - and that in discovering it - we may both delight in it and do what it asks of us. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen Today we heard the story of two sons: one younger and one older; one who said yes when his father asked him to go work in his vineyard - and then did not do it and one who said no to his father - but later changed his mind and went and worked in the vineyard. Let me ask you who are parents here today - is this a familiar story to you? Did one of your children ever tell you that they would do something - and then not do it? How bout the other way around? He or she said they would not do what you wanted - but later - changed their mind? Let's see a show of hands.... A common experience isn't it!! And therefore a perfect experience for Jesus to use as an example of what obedience is - and isn't. A certain man had two sons. He went to the older son and said, "Go work in the vineyard today!" And the boy answers - and you can imagine some of the things he might have said can't you? You can imagine the tone of his response can't you? "No Dad! I won't go. I've got other plans. I can't make it. No way. It's not my turn. Get my brother to do it. You are always after me. It's not fair. Forget it!" For the boy - no respect - no admiration - no honour! And for the father - well for him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach -a feeling that his son is going wrong - that he doesn't care - that the situation is out of control - his family out of control and that nothing good will come of it - indeed most likely - great harm will result. Most of us have been there as parents. But I want you to imagine it from the point of view of God - the God who invites us to work with him in building a better world - the God who invites us to work in the vineyard that yields the best fruit in the world - in the vineyard that produces the love and joy and peace and hope and strength that is so much needed... "My son over whom I have laboured so diligently - my son, whom I have given everything to: a fine land - a fine home - and blessings too numerous to count; thinks only of himself." Isn't that the way it is with so many people today my friends? The way not only with so many children - but with so many adults as well? They live in a fine land - they have fine homes - and blessings to numerous to count - and they say to God - the source of good things "Who are you? I owe you nothing. I've got better things to do with my time than attend church - better things to do with my money than share it with the lazy folk who go down to the food bank instead of working. "There's no way that I am going to sit still for more than an hour at a time and listen to a lot of talk about faith and sing a bunch of hymns I can't stand when there is a ball game I could attend or a bingo I could win some money at --- and there's certainly no way that I will actually work to make the experience of Christian community any better for myself or my neighbours by joining the choir, leading a Sunday School classes the way it should be led, or being friendly and encouraging towards others as they enter and leave the building. It's not my thing. "And as for actually going out and telling others about the wonderful things that God has done - as for actually working for justice and visiting strangers in prison or giving a pan handler a couple of bucks or helping a single mother -- as for actually doing anything for anyone who is not either a friend or a family member -- forget it! I don't even believe in that stuff. Evangelism is for mindless insensitive and crooked bible thumpers! And those people who are in trouble - if they stopped doing what they are doing - if they stopped spending their money on booze and their resources on killing each other off - they would have everything they need. No, I will not help you. No I will not work for you. No, I have better things to do with my time and my money. No, what you want isn't important. No - I don't care! Think of how our Father feels! How wonderful then it must have been for the Father when he went to his other son - in this story it was the youngest son - and told him to go out into the vineyard and do the work that needed to be done. "Yes, Father, I will go." Imagine it for a minute. Imagine how the heart break turned around. My child cares for me and what I want! My child has respect! My child is willing! Willing to do the work that the world needs to have done if the fine fruit of my vineyard is going to grace the world as I want it to; if the my healing word is to be spoken, and my healing touch to be experienced by those who need it. But we know what happens don't we??? We know from the story that Jesus told - the story I read this morning not only what happened, we know from our own experience with our children - and our families - and our friends just how the Father felt -- just how God feels - when the willing son did not what he said he would do - and the unwilling son changed his mind and did what he was first told to do.... Some say that Jesus told this parable - this story - to the chief priests and leaders of the people to shame then - to force them to recognize that they were like the younger son - outwardly willing to worship and obey God - but inwardly rebellious - self-righteous - hypocritical - and disobedient. They say that one should understand the words of this story in the context of verses 23 through 28 of our reading today - where the chief priests and leaders questioned Jesus about his authority to teach and do miracles; - that we should understand this story to be Jesus' way of getting back at them as it were, by suggesting to them that they are really like the younger son - disobedient children of God - and that the sinners who came to Jesus for mercy - those who changed their mind about how they were living and asked for healing - those whom the chief priests and scribes couldn't abide because they were tax collectors and prostitutes - were in the end - just like the older son And this may be - how Jesus ends the story seems to indicate it is - when he says to the chief priests and leaders in verse 31 & 32 "You can be sure that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you ever will! When John the Baptist showed you how to do right, you would not believe him. But these evil people did believe. And even when you saw what they did, you still would not change your minds and believe." But to leave this story at this level of understanding is to miss it's importance for us here today. It reduces the gospel to simple history - and the gospel is not and never was meant to be seen as history. We here today know that the Chief Priests and Leaders of the people blew it. We know that their religion was a matter of outward appearance rather than inner passion. So what???. What illumination does that give us? What value does making this judgement have? - aside from making us feel good? Of greater value for us today is to ask ourselves: "which child are we?" Are we ones who can recite the creed - ones who can have our children baptized - even ones who work in the church and do much that seems holy - and yet not really see and believe that God is working in and around us - much as the chief priests had refused to believe that God was working in John the Baptist or in Jesus the Son of Joseph and Mary? Are we familiar with religion - practised even at religion? But unacquainted with faith and with what it requires of us in in our hearts and our heads and in our attitudes and our actions. What it requires of us and what it does for us? Or are we the ones who said at first - no way God - forget it; you don't even exist - and if you do - you aren't what I want in a God - I've better things to do than pray and read that silly old book with all its rules and regulations, its wars and woes, its contradictions and craziness. Are we the ones who led a life that was clearly wrong - ones who cheated on our mates, who stole from our employers, who drank and did drugs and lived on the street anyway we could? And then changed our minds! Then, when listening to the pain that is within every human being; and to the voice promising forgiveness and wholeness that comes from without, through people like John and Jesus and you and me turned and received a new life?? Or - are we somewhere in between? Children of God who try hard some days to be faithful - and on other days - let our hardness of heart, our selfishness, our unwillingness to see God and listen to God in our daily routines get the better of us? That is the profit of this passage for us today - in asking who we are - and what it means. And in asking who we are and what it means considering the good news that Jesus proclaims both in this story and elsewhere: - the good news that is possible to change one's mind - that is never too late - today at least - to become a child that is destined to see and to enter the Kingdom of God. It's all a matter of saving faith, a matter of seeing that God is and that God is willing and able and of accepting that and going forth and labouring at the work he has asked us to do for him. A matter of seeing that God is forgiving and gracious of seeing that God is more interested in saving his children than in letting them perish of accepting that God will give to us a new life - no matter how bad our old life is and that he is able to accomplish this in us - no matter how defiled we think we have become when we turn to him and allow him to have his way with us.. It's a matter of seeing - for those of us whose lives are not so inwardly desperate a matter of seeing that God is present in the most unlikely persons that work each day around us, that as he spoke through the wild man of the wilderness - the one who wore the worst clothing and said the weirdest things that as he spoke through a carpenter's son and worked wonders in the world around him, so God is present today in the most unlikely persons, in the least of our brothers and sisters - and that while present there in them he wants us to minister to him - to minister a cup of cold water - to minister some clothing to cover his nakedness - to minister hope and encouragement when he is placed in prison, and to bring comfort when he is sick in bed. My friends, the gospel I preach here today is not a gospel of what work we must do or not do. It is not a matter of whether we give a tenth of income to God each year and successfully avoid committing one or other of the seven deadly sins... The gospel I preach today is the gospel concerning faith. It is the gospel of believing - and in believing - in hoping, and in praying, and opening oneself to the power of God and to the will of God. Today it is not too late to get right with God - it is not too late to say to God - I believe - help me in my unbelief. It is not too late to say to God - yes - I will go out in the vineyard after all -I will go with you as you go with me - and work to bring the good news of your love to my family and my friends and to the whole world in all that I say and do. I will worship you and work with you and obey your will. PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Prayer of the day and prayers of intercession and thanksgiving as gathered at start of service. * 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 Grant O God that we might never rob or cheat you by withholding what is yours - what is meant for your work in this world. Hallow what we give here of the time, talent, and treasure you have bestowed upon us - and hallow what we give when we leave this place to go into the world as your special people. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen * HYMN: "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" - VU 333 * 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 blessings of God, - the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit be with you, both now and forevermore. Amen * THREEFOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964 copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1999 - 2005 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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