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Sermon and Liturgy For The First Sunay in Lent - Year B
Genesis 9:8-17; I Peter 3:18-22; and Mark 1:9-15
"The Rainbow and The Cross"


READING:  Genesis 9:8-17; I Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
SERMON :  "The Rainbow and The Cross"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-le01su 873000

    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 Children's Time is taken and based on John Maynard
    (maynard@sympac.com.au) "Prayers and Litanies For The First
    Sunday In Lent", for March 12 2000, as are aspects of the
    Prayers of the People - as sent to the PRCL-List in March, 2000.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 91)
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  The Lord speaks and says: "because you cling to me in love, I will
   deliver you.  I will protect you because you know my name."
P  Our God says: "When you call to me, I will answer you;
   I will be with you in trouble.  
   I will rescue you and honour you.  
   With long life I will satisfy you 
   and show you my salvation."
L  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will say to the Lord,
   "My Refugee and My Fortress"
P  They who abide in the shadow of the Almighty will say to the Lord, 
   "My God in whom I trust"


* INTROIT:  "Spirit of The Living God"                   - VU 376 (verse 1)


* PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND APPROACH (based on Psalm 51)
L  Have mercy upon us, O God, according to your loving kindness.  In
   your great compassion blot out our offenses.
P  Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from
   my sins, for I know my transgressions, and my sins are ever before
   me.
L  Against you only have we sinned and done what is evil in your sight. 
   So you are justified when you speak and upright in all your
   judgements.
P  Purge me from my sins, and I shall be pure.  Wash me, and I shall be
   clean indeed.
L  Hide your face from our sins and blot out all our iniquities. 
   Create in us a clean heart and renew in us a right spirit, O Lord.
              ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L  Give to us the joy of your saving help again, and sustain us with
   your bountiful spirit.
P  Open my lips, O God, and my mouth shall declare your praise.
L  Lord God - you are the one who forgives us and teaches us what is right
   and shows us the way we should go.  You are the one who provides us
   with all that we need and protects all those who call upon your name. 
   Help us O God to remember your unfailing love, to give thanks for your
   forgiveness and your mercy, and to rely upon your saving and healing
   power.  For these and all our blessings, help us now to praise you with
   thankful and contrite hearts, we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns           


* HYMN:  "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"                      - VU 264


CHILDREN'S TIME: God's Promise Of Life
Object:   Picture of Noah's Ark.  Picture of a Rainbow and A Cross
Theme:    God's promise to Us through Noah and through Christ
Source:   John Maynard "Prayers and Litanies For Lent 1B", March 2000

During Lent we Jesus' journey to the cross.  We remember, too, that as
disciples of Jesus, we are friends on the journey with Him.  When Jesus
went to the cross, a promise that God made long, long ago came true.  (How
long ago was that?) *very* long ago.  It was an everlasting promise that
God made with a man and a family that sailed in this boat:  /show boat/
Who knows his name? /Noah!/  And why did they have to sail in this boat?
Who can tell me? /......./ Well, our Bible reading today is about an
everlasting promise that God made with Noah and his family:  Let's listen
carefully ... try to guess what the promise was that God made and the
*sign* of that promise:

Tell the story of Noah - Gen. 9:8-17/

   Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: {9} "I now establish
   my covenant with you and with your descendants after you {10} and
   with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the
   livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the
   ark with you--every living creature on earth. {11} I establish my
   covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the
   waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the
   earth." {12} And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am
   making between me and you and every living creature with you, a
   covenant for all generations to come: {13} I have set my rainbow in
   the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and
   the earth. {14} Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the
   rainbow appears in the clouds, {15} I will remember my covenant
   between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never
   again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. {16}
   Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and
   remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living
   creatures of every kind on the earth." {17} So God said to Noah,
   "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and
   all life on the earth."

What was the promise?  /Never again will I let a flood destroy the things I
made /   And what was the sign?  /the rainbow/   There's a special word in
the Bible for an everlasting promise; it was in the reading.  Do you know
what that word is?  /covenant/   

A Covenant is a Promise made by God to his people - or by one person to
another - and most every Covenant is accompanied by a Sign -- the sign of
the marriage covenant for example is a / ring /, just as the Covenant made
by God to Noah has the sign of the / rainbow /

Many, many years later God's everlasting covenant promise came true when
Jesus went to the cross.  How's this so?  Well, in the rainbow God said "I
WILL NOT DESTROY" In the cross God says:  "I WANT YOU TO LIVE" The Cross is
the sign of the Covenant that God makes with us all through Christ Jesus.

Two different signs (the rainbow & the cross) Two different stories (Noah &
Jesus) But all are a part of God's *special promise* that He's made for you
& me.    God says:  I want you to have life abundantly.  I don't want you
to die; I want you to live forever!

Sometimes Christians are called *God's Covenant People" because Jesus wants
us to tell others about the special promise that God has made.  God wants
you and me to be part of that same promise.  And we can!  - when we make
friends with Jesus, and try to follow Him in our lives *all* the way.

   Let us Pray:  Our loving God    we thank You for the signs you have
   given us  - as promises of your love.    We thank you for the
   rainbow -- that tells us of your beauty -- and your promise to love
   us forever   and we thank you for the cross   that tells us of your
   forgiveness   and the promise of life in heaven.  Amen.


* HYMN: "For The Beauty of The Earth"                              - VU 226


A READING FROM I PETER 3:18-22
   (NIV)  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the
   unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but
   made alive by the Spirit, {19} through whom also he went and preached
   to the spirits in prison {20} who disobeyed long ago when God waited
   patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only
   a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, {21} and this
   water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of
   dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It
   saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, {22} who has gone into
   heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers
   in submission to him.

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


ANTHEM


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 25  (Voices United 752 and Refrain)


A READING FROM MARK 1:9-15
   (NIV)  At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was
   baptized by John in the Jordan. {10} As Jesus was coming up out of the
   water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him
   like a dove. {11} And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I
   love; with you I am well pleased." {12} At once the Spirit sent him out
   into the desert, {13} and he was in the desert forty days, being
   tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended
   him. {14} After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee,
   proclaiming the good news of God. {15} "The time has come," he said.
   "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

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


* HYMN: "Forty Days and Forty Nights"                              - VU 114


SERMON:  "The Rainbow and The Cross"

   Bless, O Lord, the words of my lips and the meditations of our
   hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to you, our Rock
   and our Redeemer.  Amen

A  old children's story goes like this:  One child asks another:

   Would you forget me in an hour?    No.
   Would you forget me in a day?      No.
   Would you forget me in a month?    No.
   Knock knock.                       Who's there?
   I thought you said you wouldn't forget me.

Today we heard the story of the covenant God made with Noah.
   It is a covenant where God promises that He will
       never forget us, nor any of the creatures that he made.
   
It is a covenant that promises that God will never again
   destroy the earth because of the sinfulness of man,
       and as a sign of this covenant - this promise -
           God creates the rainbow
              so that whenever it raining God and all of us
                 here who see it will remember that promise.

The beautiful thing about this covenant, this agreement that God made is
that is has no conditions upon it.

It is a covenant without any "if" clauses,
   such as "if you love me" or "if you obey me"
       or "if you worship me" or if you brush your teeth
          or help old ladies across the street - 
              then I will be good to you!

No - the covenant God made Noah is an unconditional covenant.
   It is a covenant of love wherein God promises to remember us
       even if we forget him.
       
That is what God's love is like.
He remembers us even when we forget him.

No matter what we have done -
   when we stand at the door and knock, 
       God won't ask "who's there"
          he will instead open the door and welcome us in.

God can be grieved by us.
We can make God sad and we can make God angry,
   but God swore to Noah that he would never be so angry
       that he would destroy the people and the world that he made.

Despite our sinfulness,
despite all that we do to hurt each other and to hurt ourselves,
God has promised not to abandon us,
to not to forget us and seek our destruction,
but rather to remember us and his love for us.

Indeed - God does remember us - and God seeks us out.
He calls us to love him as he loves us.

No matter what we have done,
   God calls to us like a parent calls to his child,
       God calls us to turn around and try once more to be the
          person that we were born to be,
              and God reaches out his hand
                 and tries to deliver us from the judgements that we set
ourselves up for with our foolishness and our pride.

God wants to help us,
not destroy us.

This is the meaning of the covenant sealed with a rainbow, and this is the
meaning of all God's covenants with us.

Abraham was chosen by God to raise up a great nation,
   so that the world would be blessed by a Holy People.
David's children were chosen by God to be Kings over Israel,
   so that one day the world might be saved by a Messiah.
And Jeremiah was chosen to announce a new covenant,
      where God would place the Law in each person's heart and where each
   person might personally come to know God and his salvation.

That last covenant,
the once announcement by Jeremiah,
has been fulfilled,
and each of us here is now privileged,
if we so choose,
to be a part of that covenant,
a covenant that is signed by the cross of Jesus
and sealed by our baptism into his death and resurrection.

God remembered the promise he made to Noah,
   and even though we have provoked God in a manner worse
   even than that of the people who lived before the flood,
God has kept his promise.

God sent his Son instead of a flood to deal with our sin,
And he died for our sin - the righteous for the unrighteous,
to bring us to God and to allow us to live well both now 
and forever.

Through Jesus - God remembers us.  In fact through Jesus, God stands at our
door and knocks, and he tells us

   "Here I am.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will
   come in and eat with him, and he with me."

What then shall we say to this love of God,
what shall we say about the signs of his love?  
   The cross and the rainbow?  The Bread and the Wine?
what shall we about his knocking at our door
what shall we say about his invitation to come and dine?

God wants us to say "Yes" to his love;
He wants us to see the signs and wonders he has left for us;
He wants us to open the door to our lives and let him come in 
and do his work 
   - a work in which he makes us more and more like his son Jesus,
   - a work in which he makes us holy, and saves us from our own sin, our
own foolishness.

Recall today, as we begin Lent, my friends,
   the story of Jesus, and how after he was baptized he spent 40 days in
   the wilderness being tempted,
       and how, he then went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God
       saying:

          "The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe in the
          good news."

God wants us to try our best to be like Jesus,
He wants us to believe in his love,
He wants us to know that he is near to us and ready to help us,
He wants us to turn to him in faith,
   and strive to lead a new life with Christ.

The word of the gospel, the good news,
   is that God forgives us our sin,
   that he remembers his love for us,
   and extends his saving hand towards us.
                 
God's love for us is a marvel and a grace.
But, as we begin Lent, let us remember that our forgiveness comes at a
cost, that a price is paid for our sin,
   a price in pain and suffering,
   and that, as long as we yield to sin,
   as long as we yield to temptation,
not only do we hurt ourselves and others -- we hurt God.

What we can do as people who have heard Christ and accepted his invitation
to believe in Him, in the saving love of God the Father,
is to repent of our sinful ways and to struggle as best as we can 
- as did Jesus in the wilderness - to live a sin free life.

If the truth be told I think that everyone here has not struggled quite
hard enough with sin,
   that we have sometimes given in too easily to temptation,
       especially in the simple things,
          - the things like the temptation to gossip,
          - or the desire to get just a little bit of revenge,
          - or the desire to kid ourselves about our lifestyle and tell
          ourselves that it is really OK.
 
There is a story told about a man called Sam.

   Sam wasn't make much headway with his diet.  He was one of those
   folks who could resist everything but temptation.  One day he came
   into the office with a whole box of freshly baked Danish.

   When his friends questioned him about his diet he explained that
   really wouldn't have gotten the Danish if it hadn't been for God.  

   "What do you mean"? one of his friends asked.  

   "Well", he said, "as I was about to pass the bakery I prayed that if
   it were God's will for me to have these Danish today I would be able
   to find a parking place in front of the building.  Sure enough I
   found a space right in front on the eighth time around the block"

Most of us have a tougher time with temptation than we like to think.

We try to tell ourselves that the things that we do,
- the little things that hurt others or ourselves,
aren't really all that important or all that harmful,
- or that someone else is really to blame for them.

When we get angry, or feel terribly anxious or upset,
   and then yell at our husbands or our wives,
   or rebuke our children and slight our friends,
          we often tell ourselves that it is because of something that
they did - that it is justified by the circumstances.

We do not like to think that maybe, just maybe, even when we have been
provoked, that while our reaction is justifiable, maybe our behaviour is
not.

We forget the lesson of the rainbow and of the cross,
   the lesson that tells us that even though we anger God,
       even though we do things that God cannot approve of,
   God still loves us,
       and while he calls us to live a better life,
   he does not push us away,
       he does not reject us,
       he does not condemn us.

It is a good thing I think, to cultivate the sense that we do not resist
sin enough.  I believe that this kind of humility, this kind of realism
about ourselves, can only be pleasing to God.

Acknowledging our weakness in the face of temptation gives us a foundation
upon which we can build a new life, for it is only as when we recognize our
need, that we can be open enough to have our needs met.

Our sins arise primarily because we do not readily recognize the need we
have to struggle with ourselves.

Most of the things we do that are harmful do not come out of some great
issue which we must decide about,
   rather they arise out of the habits we have, habits that are
   comfortable and whose correction requires some effort.

A lot of what we do is like what we do with our old sweaters.

Old sweaters, even though they may be natty,
   even though they may be losing their shape and have the odd tear or run,
are very comfortable, and we often wear them,
even though there is new one is in our cupboard.

We say bad things about some people because it makes us feel good,
   - because it makes us feel just a bit better than they are,
      - and because it is easier to say what we say than to look for the good
   that may be in the person, 
   - and because it is easier to condemn them than to forgive.

We throw junk out our car window and add to the pollution of our world
because it easier to do so than to have to pack around garbage bags.

We use more of the world's resources than we have to because recycling
requires just a bit more effort than we like to make.

We give into temptation, we hang onto our sinful ways,
because no matter what we might say, we are comfortable with them.

The good news that Jesus announced is that God does not forget us,
   that His kingdom is at hand
   and we can enter if we desire to do so.

God loves us, 
God forgives us,
and God calls us to his side
   and offers to us a new beginning in Jesus,
   a new life in Christ.

God calls us to be like Jesus,
   to struggle with temptation,
       and to hold firmly onto his word,
this so that we might experience the blessings of a good life,
      and so that our world will not suffer so much needless pain and
   suffering.

This Lent I call you to examine your life,
   to look at all that you do,
       how you treat your family,
          and how you act at work or at school
              and ask yourself if you are taking the easy way, 
or if there is something you can do 
to be a more loving and caring person.

I call you to examine how you live.
   Do you do your best to be aware of the environment?
   Do you really struggle with what you use and what you waste?

And I call you to examine how you treat yourself.
   Do anger and fear constantly sweep over you?
   Does your daily walk take you constantly to extremes?
   Do you love yourself as well as God loves you?

God, my friends, has something better in mind for us all than that which we
now do and experience.

God created this world to be good,
   and he placed us in a magnificent garden and gave us company
       and asked us to take care of that garden and each other.

God made us to keep company with Him,
   and despite all that we do to reject Him,
       and all that we do to harm each other and ourselves,
          
God reaches out to us and calls to us to come to his side
and to love and enjoy the world that he has made.

No matter what we have done - when we stand at the door and knock, 
       God won't ask "who's there"
          he will instead open the door and welcome us in.

Trust God to help you struggle with temptation and with yourself,
   and ask God for His continual forgiveness and eternal blessings
       to be upon you and the world that His son Jesus Christ died
          for.

The promises that God have made,
the promises we see in signs like the rainbow and the cross,
are forever; they have not been and will not be broken.
          
Accept those promises for yourself,
Struggle with sin,
and thank God for all his mercies.  Amen


LET US PRAY 
Lord God, through Noah you gave us the rainbow as a sign that you would
never separate Yourself from us again - and through Christ you gave us the
cross as a sign of your everlasting mercy and grace - a mercy and grace
that opens to us the gates of your Kingdom.  In these signs - and in the
bread and wine we share today - we recognize and acknowledge your love and
how that love is present to us to sustain us and guide us each day.  Truly
in you we live, and move, and have our being.  By you alone do we receive
the strength and hope we need for each day.  We thank you Lord, and we
promise as your covenant people, to follow in your ways.  Help us, we pray,
to do so...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Loving God - you promise to your people a full and abundant life in Christ.
Sometimes in that life you call us into the wilderness - into those places
where we must rely totally upon you for our survival - at other times your
Spirit drives us into those places, and each time we have entered those
places we have been tempted and tested - tempted to turn back before the
time is right for turning back, tempted to give up before the time you have
appointed for our testing and for our growing is over.   Help us, Lord,
should this be a time in our lives when we feel alone - a time in which we
feel oppressed by the evil one - help us to claim the blessings that you
have prepared for us in the middle of the wilderness - lead us on our
journey - and bring us safe to the other side.... Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord God, you are our strength.  When the battle of good and evil rages
within and around us, and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and 
empty promises, keep your Church steadfast in your Word and, when we fall,
raise us again and restore us through your Son, Christ Jesus... Lord, hear
our prayer....

As we have prayed, O God, for ourselves and for your people, so too we pray
for those you have placed upon our hearts and minds this day.  Bless, heal,
and strengthen all whom we hold before you now......

- after a pause, prayers for those named in the sharing time.

We pray to you, O God, through Jesus, our brother, our Saviour, and our
Lord, he who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, both
now and forevermore.  Amen 


* HYMN: "I The Lord of Sea and Sky"                                - VU 509


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

   We make this offering to you Lord as one small part of our promise
   to love you and to obey your laws and commandments. Bless what we
   give that others may benefit from it and that all praise and honour
   and glory may be yours, both now and forevermore.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN: "O Jesus, I Have Promised"                       - VU 120


* 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
Go in peace - love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may the Spirit of the Lord show you the path to walk minute by minute
- may the Word of the Lord grant you his saving knowledge and wisdom hour
by hour
- and may the Love of the Lord fill you and shine forth from you,
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964

 
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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