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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 21 - Proper 16 - Year B
Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 84; John 6:56-69

"The Turning Point"

READING:  Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 84; John 6:56-69
SERMON : "The Turning Point" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild b-or21sn.y-b 740 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 Joshua 24:14-18) 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 Give thanks to God at all times. Recall with joy all that He has done and serve Him and Him alone. P The Lord our God brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. L He did great signs in our midst. He protected us along all the way we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. P He provided us food when we hungered and drink when we thirsted. He listened to our cries and saved us and brought us into a good land, a land of milk and honey and riches beyond measure. L Serve the Lord God in sincerity and faithfulness. Believe in him and the one whom he has sent, for our God is faithful and just and shows mercy to those who trust in his name. * INTROIT: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (verse 1) - VU 232 * PRAYER OF APPROACH Let us Pray -- Most gracious and loving God - we have tasted your goodness in days gone by and it has satisfied us - but now with this new day we turn to you again for the bread of life that you have prepared for us and for the wine of the Spirit that you pour out for your people. Help us Lord, to empty ourselves of those things that hinder us from knowing the fulness of your love and fill us with those things that tend to make us all that you want us to be. We need your presence Lord. We need your anointing. Touch us, we pray, and make us whole. We ask it through Christ Jesus your Son. Amen * HYMN: "I Need Thee Every Hour" - VU 671 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS: - Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Sharing Joys and Concerns A READING FROM EPHESIANS 6:10-20 (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. {11} Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. {12} For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. {13} Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. {14} Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, {15} and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. {16} In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. {17} Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. {18} And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. {19} Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, {20} for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. FAVOURITE HYMN REQUEST (stay seated) CHILDREN'S TIME: "Symbols of Faithfulness" Object Wedding Rings, Rainbow, Cross Theme God Hangs in Through Thick and Thin Source Self Good morning....Last weekend I performed a wedding for a young woman who used to live here in Golden. Her name is Christine and she married a man called Bill. How many of you have been to a wedding in a church???? In this Church??? Can you remember who it was for??? During the service Christine and Bill did what most couples do when they get married - can you guess what it was??? (Kissed, said vows, walked down aisles) They gave each other rings after they made their marriage vows to one another. Does anyone know why people exchange rings when they get married???? It is to remind them of the commitment that they have made to one another. Rings - like mine - and like your parents - are made of metal - most often Gold, and they last and last and last. They also have a very special shape -- the shape of a circle --- can anyone tell me what the circle stands for???? (God, eternity). Whenever Bill and Christine, or Charlene or I, or your mothers and fathers look at our rings we are reminded of the promises that we have made - the promises that say - I will love you for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health - and that I will faithful to you alone - as long as we both shall live. That is what a commitment is - it is a promise to never abandon or leave a person - a promise to see a job through to the end - no matter how hard it gets or no matter what else comes along that seems to be more fun or to be easier. It is a promise to stay with a person - even when you get angry at them - and to love them forever - no matter what. God is committed to us like that - and he gives us a signs of his commitment much like married people give each other signs of their commitment - that sign is the cross upon which Jesus died. God wants us to commit ourselves to him as well - to believe in him and in Jesus - and to stay with him all our lives - doing the things he asks us to do and enjoying all the gifts that he gives us for our good and for the good of the world. PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Let us pray -- dear Lord God --- we thank you for your love - and for you always stay with us -- and protect and look after us -- we thank you for your commitment to us - and for the sign of the cross which reminds us of it -- help us love you always - and to be yours forever -- we ask it in Jesus' name saying as one his prayer... OUR FATHER.... * HYMN: "O Jesus, I Have Promised" - VU 120 RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 84 (VU page 800 with Sung Response) A READING FROM: John 6:56-69 (NIV) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. {57} Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. {58} This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." {59} He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. {60} On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" {61} Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? {62} What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! {63} The Spirit gives l ife; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. {64} Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. {65} He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." {66} From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. {67} "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. {68} Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. {69} We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. HYMN: "God of Grace And God of Glory" - VU 686 SERMON: "The Turning Point" Let us Pray - O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the souls that love you, and strength of the thoughts that seek you - bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. Breath into us. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen Today's gospel reading concludes our series of readings from the sixth chapter of the gospel according to John. It marks a turning point in the response of the people to Jesus, it marks the point where most of the people who come out to see Him turn away from him, the point where even most of those who have followed him from the beginning, those who had considered themselves his disciples, abandon him. Up to this point Jesus has been a popular man. He has been the hero of Galilee - the star from Bethlehem the miracle worker who saved a wedding by turning water into wine the healer who gave health the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years the wise man who is able to see into a woman's heart and bring her new hope, the man so close to God that he is able to feed over 5000 men, women and children with only five loaves of bread and two fish. But now - now after telling the people that all he has done is but a sign from God that they should believe in him, - now, after telling them that the bread and fish that he gave them to eat only will only satisfy them for a day, but that his flesh and blood will satisfy them forever, that he is the bread of heaven God has prepared for them, they leave him. And as they go from him as they abandon the one who gave them bread to eat the one who healed their sick and showed them the power of God - they say to one another and to themselves: "This teaching is too difficult - who can accept it? Indeed it is a difficult teaching to accept, this teaching that Jesus is the bread of heaven and that through him comes eternal life for all who believe in him, all who follow him. But is this the reason that crowds leave him? Is this the reason that most of his disciples depart from his side? Or is as Jesus said, in verse 26, after they had all followed him across the lake to Capernaum? "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." -------- Two weeks ago I asked the question - what do you seek? Today I ask the question - what are you prepared to pay for it? ------- God is extraordinarily gracious and kind. He created us in his own image and bestowed this world upon us to care for and to cherish to enjoy. God has bestowed upon us as well a perfect freedom to do as we will - to love as we want to love, to live as we want to live, without interference - without restriction. How God works is absolutely marvellous. God makes his sun rise on both evil and the good, God sends rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous, God cares for all that has made and gives everyone every chance that they need to get things right. And in return? In return all God hopes is that we in fact do come to love Him with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength and all our minds -- and to love our brothers and our sisters as we love ourselves. God loves us - God is committed to us - and in that commitment, in that love, God doesn't give up on us, not even when we give up on him, not even when we go our own way. God has never abandoned his world or his people. - not even during the time of Noah when the whole world was corrupt; - nor even later when his chosen ones strayed from the path of truth and justice and righteousness, and oppressed their own people and worshipped other gods. God has always made it possible for us to approach him -- to be with him -- to enjoy him. Indeed God gives - freely - liberally - and without asking much at all of us; only that we accept his gifts and try to follow in the path that he will show us -the way he has revealed to us in the law and the prophets and in his chosen one - the one we worship today - and that we be committed in that - that we not be double minded - that we not be the hypocrites that the world accuses so many of us of being. It is not much to ask is it? Especially it is not much to ask, is it, when you consider what the stakes are? when you consider what it is that God freely offers us? and what it is that the other side, the dark side, offers us -- when you consider the question of Peter in today's gospel reading, "to whom else can we go?". I think we understand that there is earthly food - which never completely satisfies and that their is heavenly food that endures forever. And I think we want this heavenly food... but, sadly, all too often our want lacks something, all too often it lacks passion, and conviction, and will power The reason for this - on the one hand - is that we are all too often not hungry enough, we haven't been really tested and tried and discovered that there is no answer within us or within our human wisdom and our human institutions; and on the other hand -- all too often it turns out that all we really want is a free lunch - a material lunch - bread and wine for today - good times without cost -and yes- if we can get it for the asking - we'll take that thing called eternal life as well. And this is a problem - a problem for those in the world - for those who think in worldly terms, and for many who are "believers" - the kind of believers who believe with their minds, but not with their hearts - those kind of people for whom faith is "three impossible things before breakfast" instead of a life of trust - a life lived in relationship with a real and personal God. Too often we find people who have the words of faith well planted in the brains - but no conviction, no passion, no commitment in their hearts. They have the outward form of faith, but none of the substance - none of the power. An unknown author wrote these words: You call me Master and obey me not, You call me Light and see me not, You call me the Way and walk not, You call me Life and desire me not, You call me Wise and follow me not, You call me Fair and love me not, You call me Rich and ask me not, You call me Gracious and trust me not, You call me Noble and serve me not, You call me Mighty and honour me not, You call me Just and fear me not, If I condemn you, Blame Me Not. (pause) Christ had an All or Nothing Message - A message about receiving life - or not receiving life through him A message about commitment - the kind of commitment that does not compromise, but holds true for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health... Some might say at this point - this is not fair; this is not good news. But think on it for a minute. There are absolutes in life - electrons have either a positive spin or a negative spin circuits are either open or closed there is either light or no light statements are either true or false. As Jesus says in another context in the gospel of Mark - those who are not for me - are against me. We are not called to be a people who follow Jesus only when it is suits their taste, their understanding, or their desires. We are called to be with the Lord and to serve him - and to be blessed by him - in good times and hard times - in the times that are easy - and the times when it is not easy. There is no respect ever shown in the scriptures for people who - when things aren't going in a way that suits them pack their marbles and go home - as did those in today's gospel reading.. Let me tell you a story: At the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924 the sport of canoe racing was added to the list of international competitions. The favourite team in the four-man canoe race was the United States team. One member of that team was a young man by the name of Bill Havens. As the time for the Olympics neared, it became clear that Bill's wife would give birth to her first child about the time that Bill would be competing in the Paris Games. In 1924 there were no jet airliners from Paris to the United States, only slow-moving ocean-going ships. And so Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and risk not being at his wife's side when their first child was born? Or should he withdraw from the team and remain behind. Bill's wife insisted that he go to Paris. After all, he had been working towards this for all these years. It was the culmination of a life-long dream. Clearly the decision was not easy for Bill to make. Finally, after much soul searching, Bill decided to withdraw from the competition and remain behind with his wife so that he could be with her when their first child arrived. Bill considered being at her side a higher priority than going to Paris to fulfil a life-long dream. To make a long story short, the United States four-man canoe team won the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. And Bill's wife was late in giving birth to her first child. She was so late that Bill could have competed in the event and returned home in time to be with her when she gave birth. People said, "What a shame." But Bill said he had no regrets. After all, his commitment to his wife was more important then, and it still was now. The story of Bill Havens is a story of how one man paid a high price to fulfil a commitment to someone he loved. In a sense it is a story that illustrates the kind of commitment that God in Christ has to us - and it is certainly a story that illustrates how we should be committed to him in return. In the sixth chapter of the gospel of John we see people who leave Jesus because they wanted free food - a free lunch - and not some vague sounding spiritual food that would do nothing for their hungry guts. Others leave Jesus - because they can not believe that God would send spiritual food through a person as plain as Jesus - through someone they knew and had grown up with. To them - the spiritual could not be contained in the profane - in the common - in the familiar - but must always be accompanied by smoke and fire and lightening and thunder and other grand displays. Still others left Jesus because they understood exactly what he was saying and they did not want God to get that close to them. They wanted to run their own lives -- rather than let God live and work through them. Like so many today - they did not want to give control of their lives over to God because they think that God, for some reason, might ask them to do something they don't want to do.... Have you left Christ? Are you present only in body to him - but not in Spirit. Are you committed to him - our do other concerns take up most of your time and energy? Does your TV schedule preclude time for prayer? Does your love of baseball take priority over taking some time for listening to God's word. Does your ambition prevent you from taking time to care for the family that God has given you to love? Do your prejudices and your judgements about others get in the way of your doing God's will? That is - until you want something from Him? Until you are in a danger of your own making and hope to be rescued? Until you hope to get some favour or other and figure you better butter him up first? Does your spending on your lotteries and your luxuries prevent you from returning to God the full tithe? the first fruits he asks from all his people that it might be put to use in his service? Jesus asks us for a commitment; He asks us to be faithful to him as he is faithful to us - in the good times of our lives - as well as in the bad. In his asking Jesus does not compromise. He does not water down his message so that it will be easier for us. He does not go chasing after the people who walk away from him as did the crowd at Capernaum. He does not change the truth so that his disciples will not leave him. No - what Jesus does is proclaim what he came to proclaim, He comes to offer to us, as God has always offered us - a choice * the choice to live with him - in his care and under his love * or to live without him and without the peace, the joy, and the strength that a relationship with him offers. There is a sequel to the story of Bill Havens. The child eventually born to Bill and his wife was a boy, whom they named Frank. Twenty-eight years later, in 1952, Bill received a cablegram from Frank. It was sent from Helsinki, Finland, where the 1952 Olympics were being held. The cablegram read, and I quote it exactly: "Dad, I won. I'm bringing home the gold medal you lost while waiting for me to be born." Frank Havens had just won the gold medal for the United States in the canoe-racing event, a medal his father had dreamed of winning but never did. There is a sequel to our acts of commitment as well, our commitments to one another, and our commitment to God. When we stand firm, when we refuse to compromise, when we sacrifice for the sake of the promises we have made, for the sake of those to whom we have pledged our love, for the sake of our relationship to God, we reap the abundant harvest of righteousness - . we reap a harvest of joy and peace that endures forever. Those who confess that Jesus is the Holy One of God, those who realize, as Peter realized, that there is no one else to whom we can go, and who listen to the words of eternal life that Jesus speaks and walk in his way, will see his glory. They will witness Christ returning in the way he went -- on the clouds - and in triumph, and they will rejoice! Blessed be God - day by day. Amen THE NEW CREED: (VU 918) Let Stand to confess our Faith: - as it is found in the front cover of Voices United or on Page 918 L We are not alone, we live in God's world. P We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church, to celebrate God's presence, to live with respect in creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our Judge and our Hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God. PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION Gracious and forgiving God - in your love you have not withheld anything from us - giving up even your own Son for our sakes. Help us O God to have a similar love - a love that does not count the cost, but rather seeks the good of others. Bless us in our commitment to you and in our commitment to those we have made covenant with - our husbands and our wives, our children and our friends, our brothers and our sisters, our church, and our world. Show to us the rewards of faithfulness and make our actions and our attitude more like that of Christ Jesus ---- Lord, hear our prayer... God of strength and power, you who raise up those who are humble and bring down those who are proud, help us prepare ourselves for the struggles we face in the world. Help us fasten the belt of truth around our waist and to put on the breastplate of righteousness.... So guide us that we may clad our feet with that which will help us to proclaim the gospel of peace, and assist us to take up the shield of faith by which the assaults of evil are turned aside.... Lord hear our Prayer.... God of wisdom and of counsel, you who speak and bring forth worlds, who breath and bring new life into being, help us to take your word into our lives, the word that is Spirit and life, the word that creates and sustains - and by that word help us to remain true to you and to bring your salvation unto others..... Lord hear our prayer... O Lord - as we have prayed for ourselves - so we pray for others who claim your name - bless those who believe in you that they may continue in your presence and work your work of love in this world. Give boldness to those who preach and teach in your name that they may proclaim the time of your judgement and your grace and extend your mercy towards all who seek your face -- grant, too, gentleness and compassion like that of Jesus to all who seek to bring your healing to the world; and sustain all who in confessing your name face the assaults of the evil one.... Lord hear our prayer.... We specially give you thanks this day, O God, and lift up before you those people and those situations which have been named aloud before us. We pray all these things, O God, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord and our Saviour, our brother and our friend. Amen. * SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: The Offering Is Received and as it is presented all stand for The Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU #541) and the Prayer of Dedication For the life that you word has brought into being, for the love that your heart has given, and for the food that your hand has provided - we give you thanks O God. We ask that you receive our gifts as a sign of our commitment to you and we pray that they, and we may honour you and serve you in, both in this world and in the next. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "Just As I Am" - VU 508 * 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 & THREEFOLD AMEN Go in peace and care for one another in Christ's name - and may the love and the grace of God surround you, - may the wisdom and the mercy and the power of Christ Jesus fill you - and may the comfort, the challenge, the wisdom and the power of the Spirit be with you, both now and forevermore. Amen * SUNG BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964 copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2000, 2003 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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