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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 22 - Proper 17 - Year B
Deuteronomy 4:1-8; Psalm 45; and Mark 7:1-8,14-23
"Back To The Basics"

READING:  Deuteronomy 4:1-8; Psalm 45; and Mark 7:1-8,14-23
SERMON : "Back to The Basics" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild b-or22sesn.y-b 379741 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: 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. PRAYER OF CONFESSION L Wonderful God - your will and desire for us is gracious and good and we thank you for it. We praise you for your guidance and the care it shows. .................... (silent prayer) .................... L Lord God - you know our desire is to do that which is right, yet often we do that which is wrong. P We ignore your laws and break your commandments. We hurt ourselves and others. Forgive us and help us in our broken-ness. .................... (silent prayer) .................... L Loving God - you know our desire is to do that which is right, yet often we do that which is wrong. P Often our rules and our creeds make us judgmental instead of helping us care for others. Forgive us and help us in our broken-ness. .................... (silent prayer) .................... L Forgiving God - help us to see with your eyes and to act by your Spirit. P Touch us and make us whole. Amen. Sung Response (VU 948): O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer; when I call answer me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer; come and listen to me. Assurance of God's Love & Mercy Brothers and Sisters in Christ --- God does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to iniquities - rather the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who love him. Be comforted and glad therefore, for God's forgiving love is with you. If you would have the joy God intends for you, be you likewise forgiving. And come and praise the Lord. * HYMN: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" - VU 232 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS: - Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Sharing Joys and Concerns A READING FROM DEUTERONOMY 4:1-8 (NIV) Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. {2} Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. {3} You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, {4} but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today. {5} See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. {6} Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." {7} What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? {8} And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. FAVOURITE HYMN REQUEST (stay seated) CHILDREN'S TIME: "Rules of The Game" Object Pack of Cards Theme Rules Make The Game Source Self Good morning....last week we talked about the different kind of equipment one needs to play various sports - how we need to put it on if we are to play the game or sport well. I said then that there are various things we need to put on or wear if we are to live the Christian life well. This morning I want to say something similar, but in a different way. Who here today likes to play card games??? What games do you most like??? What makes the games fun??? How can you tell one game from another???? (Objectives, definitions, rules) What makes them difficult??? (Different rules, confusing rules, changing rules, cheats!) Today's reading from Deuteronomy speaks of the rules that God has made for the game of life. As in the games we play just for the fun of it, the commandments that God gives to his people are there to make everything work for the best. If we do certain things - bad things happen - and if we do other things - good things happen. The rules that God has for us are very simple -- when you remember that all of them are based on love -- and they give much joy to those who follow them. God tells us that we should be very careful with his rules for life that we not add to them or take away from them because then things will not work right in our lives and the lives of those around us. Rules are very special things. Following them can make life very good - especially when they are the rules of God - the rules based on his love for us and his desire that we love each other. They make life good. PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER We thank You God for your rules -- they show us what to do -- and help make life good. -- Fill us God with your love -- and pour out your wisdom on us -- so that we may do as you do -- and be as you be. -- we ask it in Jesus Name -- SAYING -- Our Father... * HYMN: "Praise To The Lord, All of you, God's Servants" - VU 835 RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 45 (VU page 769 with Sung Response) A READING FROM: MARK 7:1-8,14-23 (NIV) The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and {2} saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. {3} (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. {4} When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) {5} So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?" {6} He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. {7} They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' {8} You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. {15} Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" {16} {17} After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. {18} "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? {19} For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") {20} He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' {21} For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, {22} greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. {23} All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. HYMN: "Holy Spirit, Truth Divine" - VU 368 SERMON: "Back To The Basics" 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 Some years back a new self help organization was formed in the United States -- a kind of religious group really. It was called Fundamentalists Anonymous. The goals of Fundamentalists Anonymous are to help people who have withdrawn from Fundamentalist churches deal with the guilt, depression, sexual problems, fear, and loneliness that has been created in their lives due to their exposure to what can only be described as a sick religion. It is amazing really that such an organization not only exists, but thrives in our midst. It goes to show that the problems described in today's gospel reading are still with us. People, Christian people, continue to confuse the traditions of men with the faith of Jesus Christ. Men and women, with the best intentions, continue to confuse the laws and regulations and understandings of organized religion with what God actually requires of them. Let us look at the gospel reading for a minute - it is found on page 57 of the Pew Bibles - Mark chapter 7. Some Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their food with hands that were ritually unclean, that is they had not washed them in the way the Pharisees said people should. The scripture goes on to say that the Pharisees had many rules about such things, about what was the proper way to prepare food, to wash cups and pots and bowls, - and that they had received these traditions from their ancestors. The important thing to understand about the rules and traditions of the elders that are mentioned here is that each rule, each tradition, was devised to help people be in close relationship to God. Ritual cleanliness and traditions about what one could or could not do on the Sabbath, or when one could or could not make love, or who one could or could not talk to or associate with, all these things were devised for the good of the people, for the good of their relationship with God. And each such rule - each such tradition was based upon Biblical passages, just as today, in some churches, regulations about divorce, advice about how you should raise your children, and information about how women should be subject to their husbands, are based on Biblical passages. The difference between the rules and traditions of today's elders and the elders of Jesus' time is only this - the traditions of our modern day elders are based on New Testament passages instead of old. The traditions of Christianity do not require us, as the traditions of the Pharisees required the Jews, to worry about how we wash before eat, - nor do they require us to keep special dishes in the kitchen to deal with particular kinds of food, - nor do they prohibit us from walking over a mile on the Sabbath, but they can be just as restrictive, and just as soul destroying as those kinds of rules were in Jesus' time. Some of today's traditions claim that a person is not a true Christian, that they are in fact unacceptable to God, if they do not believe in the literal wording of the Bible, or if they have not had a "born again" experience, in which, with much noise and excitement, they have a vision of Christ entering their lives. Other traditions state that a person is unclean, that they are not holy enough, good enough in other words, if they associate with unbelievers, or if they take a drink, or if they fail to pray each morning and night, or if they believe that God did not create the world and all that is in it in six days and nights. I have had in this church, and in others, young men and women come to me to get married because their churches, the ones they grew up with and attended reasonably regularly did not think that the man or the woman were holy enough to be married in their sanctuary. And I have done funerals for people, people rejected by other so called "faith" traditions even as they died in hospital, because they were not considered to be really Christian for one reason or another. What is it that makes a person acceptable to God anyway? Is it what they believe or do not believe? Is it whether we believe that God created the universe in seven days and that Jonah was really swallowed by a whale? Is what whether we believe that all the people in China who live well but who have never heard of Christ will burn in hell, while all those who have been baptized in North America, but live not quite as well will go to heaven? What makes a person acceptable to God? Does the kind and loving person who has an occasional drink surely die while the person who goes to every prayer meeting and church study and ignores their non-Christian neighbours surely live? Will the divorced person who, after much pain and suffering, finally rebuilds his or her life end up perishing? while the unhappily married person, the person who stays even though the children are being abused, live forever? Will the good family person who works on Sunday, because his job says he has to - prove to be unacceptable to God, while others who have more conventional hours prosper in God's eyes simply because of the job they do? Fundamentalists Anonymous is a great idea for a group. It is great because its whole purpose is to remind people of what the basics of the Christian faith are and of what is simply man made tradition and law. It is great because it strives to take away the guilt and the pain so many experience because they have been told that they are not good enough for God. Jesus's response to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, which begins in verse 6, could have come from a meeting of Fundamentalist Anonymous. "These people, says God, honour me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me. It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach man made rules as though they were my laws. You put aside God's command and obey the teachings of men." Jesus goes on, in the following verses to explain to his disciples the basics of what makes a person acceptable to God, and he does it in terms of the traditions that were important in his day - the traditions having to do with cleanliness. "There is nothing", Jesus says in verse 15, "that goes into a person from the outside that can make him ritually unclean. Rather it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean" And in verses 20-23 he adds "For from the inside, from a person's heart, come the evil ideas which lead him to do immoral things: to rob, kill, commit adultery, be greedy, and do all sorts of evil things: deceit, indecency, jealousy, slander, pride, and folly -- all these things come from inside a person and make them unclean." What makes a person good enough for God? What makes them clean in our Lord's eyes? Our faith says it is not what we say, do, or believe, as these things are understood by our traditions and our laws. Rather what makes us good enough for God, is the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. It is the cross that stands before us that makes us acceptable to God. It is the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus, that bread and that cup which we share today, that brings us closer to God. And while the laws of God are to be obeyed, and the heart is meant to be pure, the traditions of men, even of men of good intention, insofar as they become the basis of judging others - these are of no account. Do not judge others, says Jesus, for the judgement you give will be the judgement you receive. Love the Lord you God with all your heart, your mind and strength, says Jesus, and love your neighbour as yourself - for this is the law and the prophets. These are the rules we are meant to live by, the rules which will help shape what comes forth from our hearts: whether it be envy, slander, and judgmentalism, or care, compassion, and love. We have in this church an open communion table, a table that anyone who believes in and loves God can receive from without question. Lots of people do not understand our tradition of an open table, they are more used to traditions in which the elders, like the pharisees of Jesus' day, decide who is worthy enough to receive. But we believe that only God should be the judge, and that God can take anyone - and will take anyone, because of his love for us - and make them worthy of himself. God can change people who desire to be changed. This we believe! We believe in the basics, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that he lived and died, and rose again for them, that he lived and died and rose again for us. The traditions of men about what it is that God requires and how it is we should act out our faith are of some value of course. As are our creeds and doctrines. People should wash before they eat, people should strive to build their marriages in love, rather than end them in hate, people are well served to take the Bible seriously, even literally at many points, and it is a very good thing to believe in God's creative power and Jesus' miraculous healings, But these things can not serve us well, nor do they serve us well, when we make them the basis of judging who it is that God loves and who it is that is acceptable to Him. The outward forms of holiness mean little if we do have not the basics in our hearts, the basics that call us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our Lord. My friends - God loves you, God forgives you, God stands ready to help you be even more worthy of himself. Remember the law of God to love him and serve him and to love and serve your neighbours as yourself, and God, in his mercy, in his compassion, will give to you the life you both need and want to have. Praise be God and to Jesus Christ our Lord and our redeemer. AMEN PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE Lord God, Jesus said that he came to that we might life and have it abundantly. We praise you and we thank you for his purpose in coming and we pray to you that we might indeed experience the fullness of the life that he has promised. Take from us, O Lord, all those things that get in the way of our relationship with you --- our pride and self-certainty, our doubt and our fear, and all those things that come from our human nature that blind us to the wonders of your presence and the glory of what you are doing in our midst..... Lord, hear our prayer.... Lord, you know very well how our traditions and our understandings can become instruments of judgement rather than tools of your grace. We pray today O God for all those who have been hurt by our unthought insistence that our particular way is the only right way. Touch the hearts of those who have turned away from you because we have caused your light within us to grow dim and brighten, we pray, our souls..... Lord, hear our prayer.... Lord, we thank you for the refreshing wind of your Spirit - for how you breath into us new life and new hope and lead us to new understandings. In you we find wholeness for both body and soul. We pray now, O God, that this wholeness may not only not only grow within us - but that it might enter into and transform the lives of those whom we name before you at this time. We lift them up, O Lord, and also we lift up those situations and those persons, in thanksgiving, and with prayers of intercession, that you have placed upon our hearts this day... 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 Loving and giving God -- accept these offerings from our hands and the offerings we make to you now from our hearts. Sanctify them and us in your service so that all that we say and do may be more than words and rituals. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "As A Chalice Cast of God" - VU 505 * 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 grace of Christ attend you, the love of God surround you and the Holy Spirit keep 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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