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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 29 - Proper 24 - Year A
I Thessalonians 1:1-10 and Matthew 22:15-22
"A Godly Imitation and Reputation"

READING:  I Thessalonians 1:1-10 and Matthew 22:15-22
SERMON :  "A Godly Imitation and Reputation"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or29sm 510000
   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.
   Strands of this sermon come from the text by Herman S. Winberry
   as found in "The Abingdon Preacher's Manual, 1993".  The
   Children's Story is extensively adapted from material from this
   Sunday from the Whole People of God curriculum 1996 and Duncan
   King, "What Belongs To God - Matthew 22:15-21" in "Dynamic
   Preaching", October 1996.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


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  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth.
P  Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim the glad news of 
   salvation day after day.
L  Declare God's glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds
   among all peoples.
P  Great is our God and most worthy of praise.  
   It is he who made the heavens.  
   It is he who reigns 
   and who judges the peoples in equity.

* INTROIT:  "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (VU-232 verse 1)

Holy and merciful God - we thank you for being able to come here
and stand before you in this holy place.  We thank you for your
love and for your forgiveness.  We praise you for how you reach
out your hand to help all who call upon your name.  You know, O
God, the weights that we carry - the concerns that we have - you
know our waking and our sleeping - our every thought and every
deed - you know everything about us.  We pray thee - minister to
us in this time as we worship you - lift our burdens from us as
we lift up our hands and our voices in prayer and praise.  Grant
us your peace and by the power of your Holy Spirit make us more
perfectly thine.  We ask it through Christ Jesus our Lord -- Amen

* HYMN:  "I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say"                - VU 626



   Gathering in of Prayer Joys and Concerns

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Trick Questions"
Object:   None   
Theme:    What Belongs To God
Source:   Adapted from "Whole People of God" and Duncan King,
          "What Belongs To God - Matthew 22:15-21" in "Dynamic
          Preaching", October 1996.

Good morning.....   I've got a puzzle question for you this
morning: "A Farmer had 20 sick sheep.  If one of those sheep
wandered off and got lost, how many sheep would be left (most
will answer 25 having heard 26 sheep... repeat the question
slowly until someone gets it right = 19)  I played a bit of a
trick on you there didn't I.  I hope you didn't mind - it was a
bit of a fun trick.

Do you ever play tricks on people?  Do they play them on you. 
Tricks are not always good -- like pulling the chair out from
someone when they are about to sit down.  Has anyone ever played
a mean trick on you??  How does a mean trick feel??  Did you know
that some people tried to trick Jesus in very mean ways??  They
asked him questions so that he would get into trouble with one
group or another no matter how he answered.  

One day they came to him and asked him a question that may seem a
bit strange to us - they asked Jesus if they should pay taxes to
Caesar - who was the king of land.  Jesus knew that they where
tyring to get him into to trouble - so he asked them to show him
the kind of coins that they would use to pay the taxes with.

Have you ever taken a good look at the pictures on a coin?  Our
coins have the pictures of our queen on them.  They also have
other pictures and words on them.  Do you know how do they get
those pictures on the coins?  Well, coins are just chunks of soft
metal.  They are put in a machine and then smashed very hard with
a thing called a die.  The die has pictures and words on it. 
When the die smashes into the coin, the picture on the die goes
over to the coin.  So now the coins have the same picture, the
same image, as the die.  Ever since coins first started being
made, there were pictures of different people on them.  In Jesus'
day, many of the coins had the picture of the Roman king, Caesar
Augustus, on them.  Now Caesar was king in those days, but the
Jewish people really hated Caesar.  He did not treat the Jewish
people well.  He made them pay all kinds of taxes to him.  The
Jewish people didn't want to pay taxes to Caesar, so they asked
Jesus about it - knowing that if he said they shouldn't pay taxes
- that he would get into trouble with the government, and that if
he said they should pay taxes - nobody would like him.

Jesus answered them - Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give
to God what is God's.  What did He mean?  Well, the money had
Caesar's picture or image on it, so the money belonged to Caesar. 
But you know what?  The Bible says we are made in the image of
God.  Just like money was made with the image of Caesar, we are
made in the image of God.  That means that we belong to God.  And
if we belong to God, then everything we have, everything we do,
belongs to God.  Jesus was reminding the Jewish people that what
they did with their money wasn't as important as what they did
with their lives.

   Dear Lord God -- help us to give to you -- all that is
   yours -- help us to spend our time -- in acts of kindness
   and obedience -- help us to sow seeds of love -- and to
   spread the good news -- about the Kingdom of God -- we ask
   it in Jesus name.  Amen

* HYMN: "Jesus, Teacher, Brave and Bold"                 - VU 605

   (NRSV)  Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the
   Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
   Grace to you and peace. {2} We always give thanks to God for
   all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly {3}
   remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and
   labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus
   Christ. {4} For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God,
   that he has chosen you, {5} because our message of the gospel
   came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the
   Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what
   kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. {6}
   And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite
   of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the
   Holy Spirit, {7} so that you became an example to all the
   believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. {8} For the word of the
   Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and
   Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become
   known, so that we have no need to speak about it. {9} For the
   people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome
   we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to
   serve a living and true God, {10} and to wait for his Son
   from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues
   us from the wrath that is coming.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 99 (VU 819) and sung Refrain


   (NRSV)  Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in
   what he said. {16} So they sent their disciples to him, along
   with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are
   sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth,
   and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people
   with partiality. {17} Tell us, then, what you think. Is it
   lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" {18} But Jesus,
   aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the
   test, you hypocrites? {19} Show me the coin used for the
   tax." And they brought him a denarius. {20} Then he said to
   them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" {21} They
   answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give
   therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's,
   and to God the things that are God's." {22} When they heard
   this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

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

* HYMN: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                      - VU 288

SERMON:  "A Godly Imitation and Reputation "

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the
   words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts - grow
   thou in us and show us your ways and inspire us to live by
   your truth.  Amen

I want to begin this sermon with a question.  This is a time-
honoured method for preachers -but it has its risks.

   I heard the story of a nine year old girl who returned
   from Sunday School and as her father was sitting down with
   his newspaper after a delicious Sunday lunch, she asked
   him some questions.

   "Father, why did God make all the leaves green?"  He
   thought a moment and replied, "I don't know."  Then she
   asked, "What did God do before he made the world?"  Again
   he said, "I don't know."  She asked him another one:
   "Father, how did Noah catch the two snakes and put them in
   the ark?"

   He put down the newspaper and said, "I don't know."  The
   little girl sensed that her father was a bit restless, so
   she asked, "Do you mind if I ask you questions?"  He
   replied, "Not at all.  How are you going to learn anything
   if you don't ask questions?"

I wish to ask a question and I trust we can do a bit better than
our nine year old.  The question is:

   What is our church's reputation?

   What image pops into people's minds when they hear the
   name of our church?  What reports sound forth about us?

As you think about this question - I want you to think about it
in two ways -
   - I want you to think about as it refers to this church which
   you worship and work within;
   - and I want to thin about it as it refers to you as an
   individual member of the body of Christ - to you as a person
   who believes in God.

What report sounds forth about us?  
What report sounds forth about you?

I briefly attended a church in Vancouver that was known for its
huge pipe organ and for the quality of the fur coats and cars
that could be seen there on a Sunday morning.

In New Brunswick the church down the shore from where I lived was
known for the excellent meals it put on and for the lobster and
crab sandwiches that could be found at all its gatherings.

I have heard about a church that is known to be composed of
people who are generally good neighbours and help anyone in need
in the community.

There is a church in one place that I know that is praised far
and wide for its youth work -
another for its music program -
still another I am familiar with is known for how the people in
it squabble with each other,
and yet another is known for the height of its steeple and the
fine masonry work on its grounds.

What is our church's reputation?
What is yours?
What are we known for?

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica -

   "We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention
   you in our prayers.  In spite of persecution, you received
   the Word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit... so that
   you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia
   and in Achaia...  In every place your faith in God has
   become known."

What a great reputation! 

And with that great reputation there came a great influence - an
ability to move the hearts and minds of many to give praise to
God and to live a more Godly life.

Are we a people who make a difference? 
A people known for our faith in the living God?

I ask this because this our calling.

In First Peter, chapter two it says

   "We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
   God's own people, in order that we may proclaim the mighty
   acts of him who called us out of darkness into his
   marvellous light."

It is nice to be known for our pumpkin pies or lobster
sandwiches.  It is pleasant to be known for our hospitality and
warmth.  It is not even so bad to be known for our beautiful
sanctuary or our cosy community.
   But it is far better to be known for our faith, and for what
   we do in faith to show our love for God and for one another.

You are the salt of the earth, said Jesus
You are the light of the world,
You are a city built on a hill - which cannot be hid.

Are we known for being salty?
   Do our friends look at us and see in us a greater light than
   they see in the world?
       Are our lives like strong buildings - or are they just
       slapped together out of any old thing that comes along?

   I read of a thirty story building in a large city that was
   built some years back.  It was written up because the
   thirty stories were built and completed in a matter of a
   few weeks.  It was quite a feat.  But when the building
   project manager was asked about this building marvel he
   told of the many weeks it took to build the foundation. 
   He said the taller the building, the deeper the

So it is with the church.  The foundation is Jesus Christ.

When we build our lives on Christ,
   when we anchor ourselves by faith to the power of his word
   and the inspiration of his spirit
then we can't help but become strong 
- even in the face of persecution,
we can't help but shine 
- even when it is dark,
we can't help but be the salt that preserves the world
- a people who proclaim the mighty acts of God and lead others to
life in him.

I had a friend at university who was called a red neck by an
acquaintance of his.  For some reason he felt insulted by this
and he asked that person why she said that.

"You know me", he said, "you know that I am not a red neck!"

She replied by saying - Well - a person can only go by what they
see and hear and you talk like a red neck, you dress like a red
neck, and you act like a red neck, so far as I am concerned you
are a red neck.

What is our reputation?

Do we make a positive difference to the people outside these
walls?  Do we have a godly reputation or do we have a profane
one?  An ordinary one?  One no different in the end than anyone

I'm not trying to take shots at all of you who are here today
when I ask these questions.  But I do want us all to remember
what our faith is all about - and the last thing our faith is
about is about being ordinary.
Quite frankly if ordinary is what it is what we desire 
we can be ordinary far better by going shopping every Sunday 
or by staying home to watch the hockey game or the ball game

A godly reputation is not an ordinary thing 
- it is a wonderful thing -
because it means that we are leading lives of joy and of love,
lives of compassion and of service
lives noted for their radiance and their peace,
lives that are good for us and good for others.

Paul's letter to the Thessalonians suggests to us what such lives
are based on - it suggests to us that we can have a godly
reputation like those in Thessalonica if like them we practice a
Godly imitation.

   "We know brothers and sisters, beloved by God, that he has
   chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you
   not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit
   and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of
   persons we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you
   became imitators of us and of the Lord..."

Imitation my friends is indeed the most sincere form of flattery.
the question is - do we flatter God and the people of faith that
have touched our lives by imitating their example or - with our
children - do we flatter people like Michael Jordan and Wayne

So many people wonder why their lives are so empty, so hollow, so

They never consider that it might have something to do with the
people that they choose to imitate and the kind of goals that
they have set for themselves.

God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us - but that plan
and purpose is revealed to us in its fullness only when are
willing to heed his word and follow the example of Jesus and of
his faithful disciples and apostles.

You may have heard the old story about a man who was fired from
the Highway Department.

   He was hired to paint the lines down the middle of the
   highway, and the first day , when he painted 15
   kilometres, his supervisor was ecstatic.  Then the next
   day he painted only 6 kilometres., the following day only
   2, and the fourth day only a half of a kilometre - and so
   the so supervisor had to fire him.

   "How come you only painted a half a kilometre the last
   day?" his supervisor asked.  "Well, to tell you the
   truth", the man replied, "I just kept getting farther and
   farther away from the paint can."

If we are not making a difference to others; if our reputation is
nothing special; if our lives feel empty and hollow; maybe it is
because we are getting too far away from the word of God 
   - to far away from those examples of faith and love and hope
   that are around us,
   - to far away from the source and the inspiration of our

Our Lord Jesus came to give us life and that abundantly -
he came to seek the lost and save sinners
to bring good news to the poor
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the
Lord's favour.

And he shone.  People wanted to be near him, to be like him.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be near him,
and we can be like him and know the victory that he knew -

       "Truly, truly, I tell you", said Jesus, "the one
       who believes in me will also do the works that I do
       and, in fact , will do greater works than these,
       because I am going to the Father"

I want no one to feel judged today.
No one to feel inadequate.
This is not what the gospel is about 
- nor is it what I want for you.

But I do want you to ask 
- what reputation does St. Andrew's have in this community?
- what reputation do I have?  At home?  At work?  Wherever I go?

And if you are like me, I want you to ask 
- "What can I do to improve my reputation"
- "What can I do to make my church and myself more Godly, more
like the living Christ I believe in - the living Christ who
believes in me."

Lord God - loving creator - tender redeemer and compassionate
judge - we pray you that you would guide us and lead us in
holiness all our days - help us we pray to be mindful of the
example we are to follow and make us all that we should be
through your son Jesus -- Lord hear our prayer.......

Fill us Lord with your light that we might be a light to others. 
Grace your church so that all in it might be an example of
goodness and mercy to those who are seeking righteousness.  Bless
your church so that its deeds might nourish the hungry, encourage
the despairing, and bring hope to those who live in fear.... Lord
hear our prayer....

Father - as we consider the need this day for a just sharing of
the food that this earth affords, we pray for those who are
forced to grow cocoa instead of grain, for those who must destroy
surplus crops instead of sharing them, and for all who are
oppressed by the economics of large corporations and governments. 
Empower your church around the world to speak out against waste
and greed, and grace all those who care and share despite the
cost....  Lord hear our prayer......

Lord Jesus - we pray thee too to touch those in our midst who
suffer from the infirmity of their bodies and minds this day.  We
remember particularly today...

- (various intercessions as gathered)

Lord hear our prayer....

Father and Mother of us all, we give thanks to you to this day
for those joys you have granted to us   we especially thank you
today for:

- (various thanksgivings as gathered)

Lord hear our prayer....

Holy God - we acknowledge our divine calling, our calling to live
as children of light and love, and of joy and peace all the days
of lives.  We thank you for this calling and for the power you
grant us through the Holy Spirit to be what you call us to be. 
We thank you and we pray to you in the name of Jesus - he who
taught us to pray to you as one family, saying...  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

   Most gracious and giving God, you are our maker and our
   redeemer, our only hope in life and in death.  Through
   your love - all that we call good comes to us.  By your
   mercy - we live and breath and have our being.  We thank
   you, O God, with these tithes and offerings, and with our
   vow to live as your faithful people.  By the power of your
   Holy Spirit help us to always acknowledge your goodness
   and to serve you willingly and joyfully through your Son,
   Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen   

* HYMN:  "Teach Me, God, To Wonder"                      - VU 299

* 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.

Go in peace - love and care for one another in the name of Christ 
- and may God's love surround you and fill you; 
- may the Spirits power support and guide you, 
- and may the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord shine in all that
you say and do
both now and forevermore.  Amen


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1999 - 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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