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Sermon and Liturgy (2) For Ordinary 21 - Proper 16 - Year B
Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 84; John 6:56-69
"To Whom Shall We Go?"

READING:  Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 84; John 6:56-69
SERMON : "To Whom Shall We Go?" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild b-or21su.y-b 892 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. Sources: Portions of the Prayers of the People from Nathan Nettleton (, "Eucharistic Preface -Proper 16" as sent to the PRCL List, August 2000. * 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 gave 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: "This Is The Day" - VU 412 * 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 CHILDREN'S TIME: "Ready To Play" Object Any item of sports equipment for wearing Theme Being prepared to play/work/live Source Self Good morning.... How many of you like to play football - or baseball - or go skiing??? When you do those things are there any special things that you wear or carry??? (Runners, padding, ski-boots, warm jackets, masks, helmets, - also bats). Most every sport that we engage in requires special equipment. If you don't wear the equipment designed for the sport or use the equipment that helps you to do it - then what might happen??? (Get injured, be unable to actually play, get thrown off the team, etc). The first scripture reading which we will hear in just a few minutes tells us that just as we need special clothing and equipment for playing different sports, so we need special clothing and equipment for living our life as followers of Jesus. The Apostle Paul calls it the whole Armour of God some of the equipment is this: - the belt of truth (the truth helps keep everything in order - so your faith doesn't fall down) - the breastplate of righteousness (those are the good things you do in God's name) - the helmet of salvation (which protects you from those who would say you are not special to God) - the shield of faith (which helps you turn aside all the doubts that people will try to plant in you) - the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (allows you to turn aside falsehood and speak truth) - and the shoes of the gospel - which help you to tell others about the love and forgiveness of God. All these things you learn about in Sunday School which starts in just about three weeks from now. To be the wonderful person God wants you to be - and to show how wonderful God is to others - you need to know and take upon yourself all the equipment that God has prepared for you through knowing his word, believing firmly in him, and trusting in him and turning to him each day in prayer and hope. And of course it helps most especially, if you join the team that God has prepared for you which is the church. Just as in baseball and football and many other sports you need a team if you are going to play - so it is with following Jesus. Jesus calls us to be part of the team - so they can help us and we can help them go on to win the game of life. PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Let us pray -- you give us, O God - all that we need - to live wonderful lives - and to share your love with the whole world. -- Help us believe in you - and the one you have sent us. -- Help us to study and know your word - and to turn to you each day - with our brothers and sisters that we may do - what you want us to do - and so bring life to those around us -- we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. And now - let us say the Lord's Prayer as one family..... 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: "O Jesus, I Have Promised" - VU 120 TIME FOR SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: ANNOUNCEMENTS - Welcome and Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Special Matters - Sharing Joys and Concerns TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD (verse 2 - VU 371) 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! A READING FROM EPHESIANS 6:10-20 (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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. 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, 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. RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 84 (Voices United 800) and 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 FAVOURITE HYMN REQUEST (stay seated) A READING FROM: JOHN 6:56-69 "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 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. 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." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 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. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 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: "Take My Life And Let It Be" - VU 506 SERMON: "To Whom Shall We Go" 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 It is good to be home. It is good to be with you here today to hear the words of life read from the scriptures and to meditate upon the statements made by Jesus and by Peter in today's Gospel Reading. Today, as we gather here to worship as a Christian community, as a congregation of the church of Christ Jesus, it is laid upon me to speak to you about Christ and the gospel that we have received in and through him, and not about what happened at General Council. Some reference to the situation that the United Church is in will be made - but the United Church will not be the focus of what I proclaim. Rather I will strive to proclaim what I believe are the core issues revealed in today's Gospel Reading, issues which apply not just to the United Church of Canada, but to all who would follow Christ. Indeed part of the power of the scriptures that we have received is that they are of significance not just to those who first heard them some 2000 years ago - but to all who would follow Christ in every place and every generation. Hear again the first part of today's gospel reading. Jesus says this: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 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. 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." On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." And then John records for us that from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. The really difficult part of our faith as followers of Christ lies in our coming to grips with the claims that Jesus makes about himself - his claims about how he not only points to God and God's love for us but that in him and through him the life that God wants to give us is conveyed to us. There are many seekers after truth who recognize Jesus as a great teacher, even as a great miracle worker - but who cannot accept his claim - and the claim that the Apostles have ever made about him - that he is the way, the truth, and the life. As with many of those who had followed Jesus around the land of Israel and Palestine 2000 years ago, the statement made by Jesus in today's reading , in which he claims to give life to us through his body and his blood - that body and that blood which we hold up to all every time we gather before this table - is too hard for them. Too hard for them to accept. Too hard for them to believe. Too hard for them to commit themselves too. We must remember that the world 2000 years ago was very much like the world is today. Most certainly some of us have comforts and conveniences unheard of in times gone by - our technology and our knowledge of the physical world is far beyond even what the most educated could have grasped as being possible back them - but in social and spiritual terms we of the 21st Century are far closer to what the world was like back then than in virtually any other time in the intervening centuries. We live today, as we are constantly told, in a pluralistic world. So did they. The Roman world, and within it the Jewish culture, was awash in diversity. Many religions existed and claimed to be the way to the truth. Many cults flourished and claimed to give the secrets of life to their followers. Jesus was but one claimant among many in that world. As it is today. And like today, many of those who respected and followed Jesus about the countryside as he taught and performed miracles were reluctant to ascribe to him the power and the glory that he claimed for himself as "the" way to God. For some this was based in the fact that they had a firm commitment to a different understanding of how God works in the world. For others it was based in the idea that all religions point to the same God - and all therefore are equally valid - and that therefore any claims they have to exclusivity are simply wrong. To those who have another faith commitment I can only say - may God be with you and may you find that which you seek. To those who claim that there are other ways to God, I can only say what the gathering at the San Antonio Conference on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches in 1989 said - and I quote: "We cannot point to any other way to salvation than Jesus Christ; at the same time we cannot set limits to the saving power of God." This statement is quite in line with the other thing that is said in today's gospel reading, when after many of those who had followed Jesus left him, Jesus says to the disciples who have remained with him: "You do not want to leave too, do you?" And Simon Peter answers him, saying: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." To whom shall we go? We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. You have the words of eternal life. The Christian Church is defined within this question and this assertion. We are a gathering of people who, while acknowledging that the saving power of God cannot be limited, have found in Christ that saving power and have committed ourselves to exploring and living within that power as Christ has both revealed it and embodied it in his own person. We proclaim in our Baptism that God loves us and embraces us as part of his family - and that we wish to be a part of that family. In our weekly worship - and particularly as we celebrate the Lord's Supper - we proclaim that we wish to remain part of God's family - that we need the strength, the forgiveness, the love; and the life of God in our lives - and that in the broken body and the poured out blood of Christ Jesus - God grants us those things in a unique and special way. Our baptism - our profession of faith - and our coming together as a worshipping community to receive and share the gifts of God as mediated to us in and through Christ Jesus are the things that define who we are - the things that define our relationship with God and one another. We are followers of the Christ - we are brothers and sisters in his name. Out of our embracing Christ Jesus and his embrace of us come the various things that make us, as a people, ones who show forth the love and grace God for the whole world. Our commitment and our desire to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with our God find their source in Christ Jesus and are empowered by him. It is Christ Jesus whom we proclaim - and it is his love and his care and his justice that we embrace because it is in Christ Jesus that we have found life, and it is through him and in him that we know the saving love and the righteous power of God. We need not make any apologies to those of other faiths about this - and in fact folk of other traditions tell the church that they wish we would not. In interfaith dialogues held at every level of the church those of other faiths tell us that we should value and prize what makes us different - rather than seeking to say - as so many seek to say - that we are really all alike. "Yes", our interfaith partners tell us, "there are many things that we share in common - but there are many differences too. Let us work together on those things we are agreed about - and respect those things in which we differ." It is kind like a gathering at a great reunion. Each person there shares things in common - but is the differences between us that make us who we are - that make us distinct persons. If all people and all ways to God are really all the same, then what point would there be to our conversations? Why would we bother - as we are about to here in Golden - in having reunions if, in fact, none of us can distinguish ourselves from the other? Why eat at a table together and share the gifts of God with one another if each of us already has the all the gifts that the other offers? If each of us thinks the same thoughts and lives the same experiences? 'We cannot point to any other way to salvation than Jesus Christ; at the same time we cannot set limits to the saving power of God.' We gathered here today are not simply the family of God, we are the church of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who defines us. It is Christ who makes us who we are. As Peter says to Jesus when many of those who had followed Jesus fall away from him because they find his claims to be too hard. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." To whom shall we go? The United Church of Canada has some identity problems as we know from the reports concerning our 38th General Council. Not all of us are sure just who the Christ is. Not all of us can claim with the same certainty what it is that He would say about various issues within his church and in the greater world - issues around things like sexuality, our economic systems, our social and political structures, our debates about the quality of life and who has a right to what. But this is the situation everywhere in the church - and not just in our midst here in Canada. What we can agree upon - and what we need to agree upon if we are to take the name of Christ as our own - is that in some manner all that is necessary to life comes to us through Christ Jesus and in Christ Jesus; - that it comes to us in our profession of faith in his name and in our consuming him - our embracing of him - our committing ourselves to him - as we gather together each week as a community of believers to worship and to remember him at his table. All people are welcome in our midst. We are not called to judge them before God. God, we believe is more than able to make his own judgements. But the church is, in the end composed of those who with Peter say to Jesus: You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." and who then gather in his name that they might receive that life and be strengthened to show forth that life to the world. Those of us in this peculiar part of the church of Christ Jesus called the United Church of Canada who recognize this, and who take part in the gathering of the faithful week by week, are one with those in other parts of his body who do the same thing. It is not the wisdom of human beings or even the knowledge of scripture that we might have that makes us one, nor is it the power of human organizations - even if they be called churches, that gives to us life, rather it is Christ Jesus - crucified and risen - the Holy One of God who gives us life. Keep that ever before you - in your hearts and in your minds, in your words, and in your deeds and you will not soon go wrong. Praise be to God - in and through Christ Jesus - who makes us who we are and who grants to us the life that we, and the whole world needs. Amen THE NEW CREED: (VU 918) Before standing to confess our faith I would like you all to note and remember that the creed we will now say has been embraced by the Church around the world - that we of the United Church of Canada have given a gift of expression to our brothers and sisters in the Christ in places as far off as Australia and New Zealand and as different as India and the United States. It is not embraced in formal declarations of the Councils and Governments of various denominations - but in the worship that sustains us and makes us one. It says, in our time and place, like the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed did for their time and place, something needful about what it is the church throughout time and in every place, believes. It is not a test of whether or not God loves and cares for us who say it and does not care or love those who do not - but rather an assertion about who we are and what God, as we know God in and through Christ Jesus, is about. Let Stand to confess our Faith - as it is found in the front cover of Voices United or on Page 918 We are not alone, we live in God's world. 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.. This is our Faith. Amen PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Singing #400 at the start of the prayer time. Our 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! We give you our thanks and praise, O God, for you are the giver of honour and grace, and we are eager for your presence among us and within us. The heavens and the earth cannot contain you, for you have created them and hold them in your hand. And yet you dwell among your people and allow even the birds of the air to nest in your courts and honour you with their song. You have sent your Holy One, Christ Jesus, to speak to us your word of Spirit and eternal life. Though the forces of evil and death consumed him, he rose from the grave proclaiming a gospel of peace, and inviting all who would live to consume him and thus become one with him. With all who trust in him, we are nourished by his body and blood and armed with truth, righteousness and salvation that we might stand firm against the corrupt spiritual powers that would tear down all who seek you with integrity. We thank you O God for being with us and for us - in and through Jesus - and we ask that you would continue to bless us with your power and your love... Lord, hear our prayer... All knowing God, strengthen we pray the body of Christ in the world this day. Help those who profess his name to stand firm in the faith he taught. Make your church one it its witness to his love and to his life giving power. Indeed, O Lord, help us to focus more on deeds of kindness towards all people than upon judgments concerning who is worthy and who is not. Grant too that your people may humbly profess what it is they believe both in word and deed so that is your wisdom and mercy, your truth and your love that are seen in us - and not the wisdom and power of this world... Lord, hear our prayer... All seeing God - ever your church has existed to embody your healing and saving power and to proclaim your love and care for the world in both word and deed. Today we pray for those who are in need of your healing and saving power in their lives - we pray for those who have no spiritual home or roots in this world - for those who are suffering from infirmities of the body - for those who are preparing to pass from this life - for those who grieve for those in need of daily food and drink - for those who suffer injustice.... Lord hear our prayer.... Compassionate God, we name before you now those people and those situations most upon our hearts this day. Hear the prayers of thanksgiving and the prayers of intercessions that now arise from our lips and our hearts..... BIDDING PRAYER 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: "The Church's One Foundation" - VU 331 * 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 2003 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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