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Sermon and Liturgy For The Fifth Sunday After Epiphany - Year B
1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Psalm 147:1-11; Mark 1:29-39
"For The Sake of The Gospel"

READING:  1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Psalm 147:1-11; Mark 1:29-39
SERMON :  "For The Sake of The Gospel"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or05su.y-b 868

   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 Isaiah 40:28-31)
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 is the everlasting God.
P  Our God is the Creator of the ends of the earth.  
L  He gives power to the faint.
P  He strengthens those who are weak.
L  Even youths will faint and be weary, 
   and the young will fall exhausted.
P  But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.
L  They shall mount up with wings like eagles, 
P  They shall run and not be weary
L  They shall walk and not faint.
P  Blessed be the name of God, day by day.

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

L  Lord God, through Jesus you opened the eyes of the blind; 
   you healed the sick and you fed the hungry.
P  We give you thanks and praise for your mercy and your love.
L  Loving Father, by the Spirit you restore strength to the weary 
   and give hope to those who are in despair.
P  We give you thanks and praise for your mercy and your love.
L  You call us Lord to proclaim your deeds and your wonders to all people, 
   You call us to worship and serve you that all may be made whole.  
   You offer us a new life of righteousness.
P  We give you thanks and praise for your mercy and your love.
L  Make us worthy, O Lord, to receive all your gifts.  
   Descend on us like the light of a new day 
   give light to our souls 
   and put your praise upon our lips.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Morning Has Broken"                                      - Vu 409

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Telling The Story"
Object:   Newspaper
Theme:    Sharing Good News is Easy When the News is Ours
Source:   Self

Who here has had something exciting happen to them in the last few weeks? 
Anyone win the lottery, or go on a trip, or win a hockey game..... anything
neat going on???  

We all get excited and have a hard time not sharing good news when it is
happening to us.  That is what happens in today's gospel reading when Jesus
heals Simon Peter's mother - everyone tells their friends because it is so

Paul, many years later, talks about how he must share the good news about
Jesus because it is able to save people from their sins and troubles.  And
that is why we are here today - because Jesus still heals people, still
saves people - and we want to thank God and to let everyone around us know
that he is special.

   Loving and Tender God - we open our hearts to you - We thank you for
   how you heal people - and give them what they need. - Help us tell
   others the good news - of your love and care   and to celebrate your
   goodness everywhere   - Amen.

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

* HYMN:  "It Only Takes A Spark"                                   - VU 289

- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries      
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

  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!

   (NRSV)  If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting,
   for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the
   gospel!  For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not
   of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 

   What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make
   the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in
   the gospel.  For though I am free with respect to all, I have made
   myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I
   became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became
   as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I
   might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as
   one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under
   Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I
   became weak, so that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to
   all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the
   sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 147:1-11 (VU 869, Part I) & 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

   (NRSV)  As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of
   Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon's mother-in-law was
   in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and
   took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and
   she began to serve them. 

   That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or
   possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the
   door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast
   out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because
   they knew him.  

   In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to
   a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions
   hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is
   searching for you."

   He answered, "Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may
   proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do."

   And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their
   synagogues and casting out demons.

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

* HYMN:  "Tell Me The Stories of Jesus"                            - VU 357

SERMON:  "For The Sake of The Gospel"

   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

Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear 
- things I would ask him to tell me if he were here.

Today I want to speak to you about telling the stories of Jesus -
those stories we need to hear.
I want to speak to you about evangelism, 
about telling the good news of Jesus Christ.

As I begin, I want to tell you a story about something which happened in
New Mexico a few years back.

   A small town in that state decided to have an auction to raise money
   for a community centre.  The townsfolk looked through closets and
   drawers, investigated their attics and garages and finally managed
   to gather a impressive collection of trinkets, white elephants, and
   bits and pieces of furniture and other slightly more valuable items. 

   On the day of the auction things proceeded quite well, several
   thousand dollars had been raised by the time the last item was
   brought forward - an old violin covered with spatterings of paint
   and coated with dust and grime.  It had obviously been in the back
   of someone's garage for years.

   "What am I bid for it", asked the auctioneer, holding it out at arms
   length.  There was only silence.  "Come on," he persisted, "say
   something".  Finally someone yelled out, "fifty cents", and everyone

   Then, from the back, an old man, whom no one knew, came to the front
   and asked to see the violin.  He took it into his arms and began to
   play it.  Its beautiful sound filled the room and touched everyone's
   heart.  When he finished, he handed the violin back to the
   auctioneer and walked away.

   "What am I bid", the auctioneer called out again.  "$200! $300!
   $400!" and so the bids went on.

As I speak today I want you to remember this story and ask yourselves
- what does it have to do with our calling to go forth and tell others
about Jesus?

At a time when all travel was difficult, dangerous, and incredibly time
consuming, the apostle Paul travelled the world: Greece, Turkey, Italy,
Spain, Samaria, Syria - he went to almost every place known to the
"western" world of the time.

In his travels Paul endured beatings, imprisonment, stoning, hunger,
shipwreck, heat, snakebite, misunderstanding, and abuse.

Everywhere Paul went he shared the good news of Jesus Christ,
- he shared it with his jailers while in prison,
- with the Roman governor while on trial for his life,
- with crowds at the market place and in the synagogues in numerous towns
and cities,
- and with countless individuals in their homes.

And as he presented the gospel in each place and to each person or group he
strove to be understood, and he altered his behaviour and his manners so
that he would fit in, and so that the message he had would be more easily

Listen again to Paul as in his First Letter to the Corinthians he describes
what he was about:

   Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to
   everyone, to win as many to Christ as possible.  To the Jews I
   became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became
   like one under the law so as to win those under the law.  To those
   not having the law I became like one not having the law, so as to
   win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the
   weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all
   possible means I might save some.

Paul had a special calling to go forth and proclaim Jesus to the world.
He was called to be what we call these days "a travelling evangelist".
But while Paul's calling was a special one  
the essence of his calling is not special at all,
each of us is called to be an evangelist.

We, like Paul, are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ -
   to actually tell others about our the Saviour who has come to us,
          the Saviour who has affected our lives, 
              the God who has made us whole and who is even now changing us
from one degree of glory to another.

Unfortunately many Christians have no zeal what-so-ever for this task.

Some think that it is rude or inappropriate to tell others about Christ.
while others avoid their calling by saying that faith is a private matter,
one that should not be imposed upon others in any way.

Many years ago now I attended a meeting in Moncton, New Brunswick 
where people had gathered to talk about evangelism and church growth.  

Of the twenty people present, only about half of them were interested in
the topic - this though the entire group of people represented some of the
most important leaders in the church in that region.

More alarming yet, the concern for evangelism expressed by this half of the
group did not translate into action.

Of the 10 who were concerned about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ,
only five had engaged in one of the simplest, but most effective forms of
evangelism known: only five of them had invited a friend to church in the
previous three months.

Further, only one person in the entire group had shared her faith in Jesus
with someone else - - only one out twenty church leaders at a meeting
concerned with how to tell others about Jesus had actually told someone
else with the previous few years that Jesus was her personal source of
forgiveness and hope and strength.

I found, and I still find, that incredible!

What is wrong with us that we are so reluctant to tell the stories of
Jesus?  To witness to others about the good news which we believe in?

Around the same time I attended the Evangelism and Church Growth Meeting in
Moncton, I was called upon to give a two day workshop on Journalism and
Newsletter Publication to a group of prisoners in the Dorchester

At the end of the first day I gave out homework 
- or should I say prison work?

I asked the thirty or so men present at the workshop to write an article or
editorial of approximately 300 words on some issue of their own choosing. 
They were to say what their position was and why.

The next day we reviewed the articles together for clarity of expression,
grammar, and over-all presentation.
Most were about issues related to the justice system:  things like capital
punishment, the prison system, legal aid, and so forth.

One man however used all possible means to save some.

One man, whom I will call Chuck, wrote about how he had met Jesus in prison 
and how Jesus had changed his life.

To say the least, Chuck's paper was not on the kind of issue that I had
expected in the setting that I was in.  I was wondering how I was going to
handle it until I saw the reaction of the other prisoners.

They attempted to do the task that was assigned them,
   - they asked Chuck whether paragraph one would really have been better
   if it had come after paragraph three and so on,
but more and more, as they read and reread the story, they asked him to
tell them more about his conversion, more about Jesus and the hope he had
in him.

As Chuck told his story, you could tell from the hunger in the eyes of the
other prisoners,  and from their comments and their questions after his
narration was done, that they were moved by his words about Jesus.

They were not the only ones impressed by Chuck's testimony.

Chuck's classification officer agreed with the story Chuck had told, and
the inmate population administrator nodded as he said to me that for that
one prisoner at least, Jesus had made a difference.

What is evangelism?
It is one beggar telling another where bread is to be found.
It is one person having discovered that God is good,
wanting to tell the whole world where goodness is to be found.

We often ask ourselves in the church why are there so few people coming to
Christ?  We ask why the pews are not as full as they once were -  Why is
there no enthusiasm for choir or bible study like there was in the past? 
Why is there so much apathy about God in the world.

Some of the answers are found in the world out there -
   people are attracted to the gods of money and success,
       others are caught up by the demons of ignorance and fear,
          still others worship the gods of leisure and sport
but some of the answers to the questions we ask about the church lie within
us - within the church itself.

So little is happening in so many of our churches because we are doing and
saying so little about our Saviour.

There is so little interest in our message because we are so little
interested ourselves.

Our faith is like a frozen dinner - it looks right - its nourishing - but
something is lacking - something like that which Paul had - and Chuck had -
call it passion if you will, call it heat, or perhaps - call it the ability
really connect ones own life to the faith we profess hear today.

A while back Charlene and I went to coffee with a friend of ours who lives
in a neighbouring town.  She was exited by our visit.  She had something
she wanted to tell us.

Christine told us that 10 years ago that faith was not part of her life -
that, although she had been raised in a church, her whole attention from
the time she had left home as a young adult was on her family, her work,
her recreation, and that talk about things like prayer, Jesus, God, faith,
and so forth never passed her lips.

But then, as she put it, she discovered her nature as a spiritual being -
   - coming first to think about God through her work in the field of
   personal development and growth, where one of her instructors used to
   speak about Jesus in such intimate terms that she fully expected to his
   friend Jesus  walk through the door one day and say - "hi, how you
   doing today bud?  And who is this with you?"

And then, after that time, she came closer to God through an exploration of
Native North American Spirituality, and then finally, remembering her
upbringing and her instructor, she began to attend church - and to claim
Jesus as her Lord and Saviour - as her helper and her friend.

She told us that "was is so amazing to me now - is that in every area of
her life - faith dominates.  That I can hardly go for an hour out in public
- or visit with my grown children - or have a private chat with someone -
where I don't end up talking about how prayer has changed my life or how
God has intervened in some incident in my life - giving me the money she
needs for her rent - the peace I need when things are going crazy around
me, the wisdom I need when counselling a friend, the hope I need when my
circumstances look bleak.

I have heard Christine speak before about God - and about Jesus - she does
all of it so naturally   none of it is forced   none of it seems out of
place - just as it doesn't seem out of place when I hear some of you say
things like "God gives me the strength I need each day" or "I thank God
every morning for being able to live here in this place"

Christine speaks out of her being - out of whom God has made her -
much as Chuck, back in Dorchester Prison, spoke,
much as her instructor in the human growth movement spoke 10 years ago,
much, I believe as Paul spoke - when he told the Corinthians:

   I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might
   save some.

Have you ever told anyone the good news of Jesus Christ?
Have you ever told someone the difference that your faith in the Lord has
made to you?

Directly.  Naturally.  Almost as if you are compelled too - because if you
don't you simply will not be true to who you are and whose you are?

Remember the violin?

Dusty, dirty, old, it was worth only fifty cents until it was played.
Then it was worth hundreds of dollars.

Would you have the church grow?  
Would you have society become a better place?
Would you have others discover healing and wholeness for their lives?

Then allow yourself to be played by the master.
Allow Christ to penetrate ever deeper into your lives,
   to go deeper than once a week observances and once a day prayers in the
   quiet of your bedroom,
       to go deeper into the work you do in the church and the community -
       because it is the right thing to do
Wait upon God - search for God - listen for God - walk with him and talk
with him - and he will walk and talk with you - God will make "the
difference" in your lives - and you will want to pass that difference, and
the reason for it, onward - indeed, you will hardly be able to do anything
else but pass it on.

As my prison friend Chuck taught me - and as others have taught me by their
reactions to people like Chuck - people are hungry to hear the good news. 
They want something in their lives that is better than what they have, they
want God to touch them as they see God has touched others.

This is what evangelism is about - telling others what they need to hear - 
telling others how God - in Christ - has touched you and given you what you

Evangelism is one beggar telling another where bread is to found;
One person concerned about another, and sharing that which has made the
difference to them.

Praise be to Christ Jesus our Lord 
He who has touched my life and makes it ever more whole.  Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE    (Singing #400 at the start the prayer time.
Our prayer response to "Lord, hear our Prayer" is "And in Your Love Answer")
       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!

Lord God, we thank you we are not alone - that you are with us.  Help us to
proclaim your presence in our lives and in the world to all around us, help
us all to know and recall the difference walking with you makes - and to
share that with others out of the depths of our own being -  so that they
may know too where hope and help is to be found - so that they may know
where to find the food that we have found....  Lord hear our prayer....

Bless those O God who have a special calling to share your word in and out
of season, those who are called to the ends of the earth to proclaim the
gospel.  Protect them from harm, as you protected Paul, and when they
suffer for the faith - unite them with Christ's suffering - so that with
him they may also be glorified...  Lord hear our prayer.

Bless, O God, your Church - and bless this congregation of your people -
that we might be light to enlighten the darkness, salt to savour and
preserve the world , yeast to raise the loaf, and seed for the fertile
ground.  Make us all ministers of your grace - in both word and deed... 
Lord, hear our prayer...

Give grace, O Father - to all who like Simon Peter's mother, suffer the
infirmities of the body this day - be especially present we pray with those
whom we hold before you now by name... (BIDDING PRAYER)....  Hear, O God,
the others things that are on our hearts today...  (Bidding or Silent
.... Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord God, we ask all these things - and we give you our praise and
thanksgiving through Christ Jesus our Lord, our friend, and our brother. 


* 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

   O God, your people long for the blessing of your healing touch, for
   relief from pain and restoration of health of mind, heart, soul, and
   body.  Use this offering for your healing work and teach us how to
   better pray and care for one another that we may be instruments of
   your grace in the world.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN: "I'm Gonna Live, So God Can Use Me"              - VU 575

* 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

Go in peace - love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may the gentle touch, the soothing word, and the comforting embrace
of God's Spirit be with you,
- indeed may the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine
upon you 
both now and forevermore.  Amen

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2003 - 2006
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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