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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 23 - Year B
James 2:1-17; Psalm 125; Mark 7:31-37
"Spiritual Sense"

READING:  James 2:1-17; Psalm 125; Mark 7:31-37
SERMON : "Spiritual Sense" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild b-or23smsn.y-b 565742 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: Some of the wording of the Prayers of the People based on a prayer by Mother Theresa. Also some of that prayer is taken from John Maynard ( "Prayers and Litanies For Ordinary 23", 2000; as sent to the PRCL-List. CSS Publishing is the original source of the Children's Story below. GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand) * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP: 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 Incline your hearts to the wisdom of God; seek integrity and understanding. P The testimonies of God are wonderful; God's law gives light to all who hear it. L If you accept God's words and store up his commands within you, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, P If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, L Then you will find the knowledge of God, for the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth comes truth and understanding. P God holds victory in store for the upright and is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. * INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require Of You" - VU 701 PRAYER OF APPROACH Let us Pray -- Loving God - on this new day we give you thanks for being able to gather in this place to worship you and to call on your name. We praise you for the fellowship you have made us part of - for our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gathered here with us, for the Spirit that you have poured out that keeps us company through all our days, for the living Christ who walks with us on our path and for the hope that you have given us through his life, hid death, and his resurrection. Bless, we pray, this time that it may put a mark upon our hearts and result in greater glory and praise being given to you and greater love, joy, and peace in our world. We ask it in the name of Jesus - the one chosen by you to be our friend, our brother, and our saviour - Amen. * HYMN: "Worship The Lord" - VU 401 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS: - Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Joys and Concerns (remind of bidding prayer) CHILDREN'S TIME: "Love Has No Favourites" - Children's Offering Time Children's Story Object: Pair of Glasses Theme: Faith Has No Favourites Source: Adapted from Children's Sermon Service Plus v24 no4 Good morning.... Today I brought along a pair of glasses -- my wife wears glasses all the time, but I notice that most of you don't. How many of you wish you did wear glasses???? How many of you never want to wear glasses??? This morning we are going to find out how different we are from one another. We are going to discover that even while we are different, we have one thing in common. I am going to ask you some questions about yourself. If I say something that describes you - and if it describes you I want you to raise your hand. Here goes. How many of you are boys?? How many are girls?? How many of you have brown eyes?? Blue eyes?? How many of you are blond?? How many have dark hear?? How many of you are going to school this year??? How many are in grade 1 2 3 4 5 etc How many of you have a dog as pet?? A cat??? Something else??? Now I am blond, sort of, I am male, and I have a dog and three cats - who is like me? Now you are dark haired, go to school, and have ....... who is like you??? WE are very different from one another. WE are different ages, sexes, we look different, we have different parents, different pets, different schools, different in many ways. All this being different reminds me of today's reading where we are told that people like us who are followers of Jesus are different from each other. Some of are rich, some are poor. But God treats them all the same - with great love - and James who wrote the passage I read out tells us that we should treat each other the same as well - like God - with great love for each one no matter how different from us the person may be. God has no favourites among his followers - and he doesn't want us to either. When you go to school this week, or even if you are just going home - try very hard to be nice to everyone and to love everyone. PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Dear Lord God - we believe in you - and in your goodness and your love - help us to be fair and loving - to everyone we meet - to treat everyone - in the way we are treated by you - we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen and together let us say the Lord's Prayer -- OUR FATHER * HYMN: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks To The Risen Christ" - VU 179 A READING FROM JAMES 2:1-17 (NIV) My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favouritism. {2} Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. {3} If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," {4} have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? {5} Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? {6} But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? {7} Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? {8} If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbour as yourself," you are doing right. {9} But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. {10} For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. {11} For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. {12} Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, {13} because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! {14} What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? {15} Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. {16} If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? {17} In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 125 (VU page 736 with Sung Response) A READING FROM: MARK 7:31-37 (NIV) Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. {32} There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. {33} After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. {34} He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means, "Be opened!"). {35} At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. {36} Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. {37} People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. HYMN: "In Christ There Is No East or West" - VU 606 SERMON: "Spiritual Sense" 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 Last fall you will remember we sponsored the appearance of the musical play, "For Ninevah's Sake". You remember the story -- -- Jonah went in the opposite direction of that which God wanted him to go. Jonah was jealous of God's unbounded desire to include even the evil city of Ninevah in his kingdom. Like the older brother in Jesus's parable of the prodigal son, Jonah wouldn't hear or speak of God's gracious redemptive sweep, which included even prodigals and foreigners. So, through a great whale, God opened up Jonah's ears and touched his tongue so that he would be able to speak God's word of repentance and redemption to those he had at first avoided. Likewise, Saul, on his way to Damascus to single out Christians for persecution, met God face to face. Blind and deaf to God's gracious and redemptive power, the Lord came crashing into his life on that road. Saul's entire life was flipped upside down. Then, Jesus opened Paul's eyes and touched his tongue so that he could tell, without any trouble, the entire world about God's amazing grace. Two miracles - like that of the one in today's Gospel reading - miracles involving the senses. Miracles in which, as in the story of the man born deaf, touched the Spirits of those involved and gave to them sensing ability, and with that sensing ability - a speaking ability, a doing ability. Jonah's ears are opened and he repents and preaches as God wants - and a city is saved. Saul's eyes are opened, he becomes sensitive to the living reality of Jesus - and he ends his life as an apostle, bringing God's healing touch and saving word to others. How are your senses of sight and hearing? How able are you to speak and to do? A story -- Telemachus was a monk who lived in Asia Minor about the year 400 AD. During his life the gladiatorial games were very popular. The gladiators were usually slaves or political prisoners who were condemned to fight each other unto death for the amusement of the spectators. People were fascinated by the sight of blood and gore upon the arena floor. Telemachus was very much disturbed that the Emperor Honorius, who was a Christian, sponsored the games and that so many people who called themselves Christian went to see them. What, he wondered, could be further from the Spirit of Christ than the horrible cruelty of the gladiatorial games? The bishops and priests spoke against them, but most people were deaf to their message. Telemachus realized that talking about this evil was not enough. It was time to do something. But what could he actually accomplish - one lone monk against the whole Roman Empire? He had no power. And the games had been part of Roman life for centuries. Nothing that he could possibly do would ever make a difference. For a long time Telemachus agonized about the problem. Finally he could not live with himself any longer. For the sake of his own soul he decided he had to obey the voice of Christ within him - regardless of the consequences. He set out for Rome. When Telemachus entered the city, the people he met had gone mad with excitement. "To the Coliseum!", they cried out. "The games are about to start.!" Telemachus followed the crowd. Soon he was seated among all the other people. Far away in a special place he saw the emperor. The gladiators came out into the centre of the arena. Everybody was tense. Everybody was silent as the two men faced each other. The men drew their swords. The fight was about to be on! One of them would probably die within a few minutes. Who would it be? At that moment Telemachus rose from his seat and ran down onto the arena floor. He held high the cross of Christ that he carried and threw himself into a position between the two gladiators. "In the name of our Master,", he cried, "Stop fighting!" The two men hesitated. Nothing like this had ever happened before. They did not know what to do. They put up their swords for a moment. The spectators were furious. Telemachus had robbed them of their entertainment. They yelled wildly and stampeded toward the centre of the arena. They became a mob. With sticks and stones they beat Telemachus to death. Far down in the arena lay the battered body of the monk. Suddenly the mob and the spectators who had remained in their seats grew quiet. A feeling of revulsion at what had been done swept over them. Emperor Honorius rose and left the Coliseum. The people followed him. Abruptly the games were over. Emperor Honorius sensed the mood of the crowd that day. His ears were opened by the death of Telemachus. His tongue was loosened as well. He issued an edict forbidding all future gladiatorial games. And so it was, that in about the year 404 AD, because one individual, filled with the love of Christ, dared to say, "No!", all gladiatorial games ceased. To hear we require a functioning organ of corti inside the ear. A defective corti will not produce sound that is audible A similar thing might be said about the sense of sight. To see properly we require not only a well formed and clear lens, we require an optic nerve that is undamaged, one that is able to translate the complete signal from the eye to the brain. Jesus is able to heal all these things when they are damaged - indeed he spent much of his time doing so, not just in the area of the Decapolis where today's gospel reading is set, but in the region of Tyre and Sidon, in Galilee and the area beyond the Jordan, and in Samaria and Jerusalem. As it is for the physical senses of sight and hearing, so it is for the spiritual senses of sight and hearing. We all require spiritual corti, spiritual sensors, if we are hear the word of God and see that his kingdom is hand. Otherwise we have but words and images that mean nothing to us. Words and images that are incapable of being translated by us into the works and deeds of faith. During the spring of 1993 about 600 would be lawyers sat for the California Bar Exam. In the middle of test a 51 year old man suffered a seizure. Only 2 of the 600 people stopped working on their exams and offered the man help. For a half an hour they administered CPR until paramedics arrived. The other five hundred and ninety-eight continued with their tests without so much as a glance in their direction. Ironically - one of the parts of the exam dealt with the subject of ethics. How many of us who believe in Christ are like those hopeful lawyers? How many of us have the words of God's love fall upon our ears but have not heard them? How many of us have had the images of God's presence fall upon our eyes but have not seen them? How many of us have all the words of faith in our brains and have become familiar with heavenly mysteries and spiritual visions, yet do not live by faith or work the works of God? "Jesus does everything well, he even makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. He gives sight to the inwardly blind, and makes the lame to walk." My friends - even as Jesus opened the ears of the man born deaf, he can give us the ability to hear. Even as he touched Jonah and Paul and the Emperor Honorius and all the Roman people - he can touch us. He can open our ears and our eyes and make the sensory signals that come to us from every direction get through to our spiritual centre, to that place where they can be translated from meaningless words and visions to the words and deeds of a living faith. Jesus can touch us so that we really can see how we discriminate against some and show favour to others and enable us to love all people as he loves all people - equally as brothers and sisters, without judgement or bias or reserve. Jesus can touch us so that we really hear the cries of the needy around us, and are able to bring them the word that they need. Jesus can touch us so that we are able to be those who bear his healing touch to others. Jesus can touch us so that we can hear his voice when we feel lost and alone and enable us to have a hope within us and a peace around us that not only carries us up in his arms, but which also carries others up with us. Jesus does all things well - And he wants us to do so as well. He wants to heal us - both inwardly and outwardly, He wants us to be whole, to be able to hear, and see, and speak, and do - both in the body, and in the spirit. Reach out to Jesus, as he reaches out to you. Call on him, ask him to open your eyes and your ears, to loosen your tongues and give power to your hands - for he has promised that those who come to him he will not cast out. Praise be to the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen. The opening part of our prayer today is based on one by Mother Teresa, who died three years ago, but whose love for all people - and dedication to helping the poor and the dying - is an example to us all of the nature of Christ's love. PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE Let us pray Dear Lord Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us, and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus. Stay with us - and then we shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None if it will be ours. It will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best - by shining on those around us... Lord hear our prayer... Lord our God, in you mercy and justice meet. With unparalleled love You have saved us from death and drawn us into the circle of Your life. Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us, that we may serve You, free from fear, and love one another as you love us - without regard to riches or poverty, class or place in life.... Lord hear our prayer... Lord, we pray know for those who are known to us - and for those who are not - we pray for the dying and for those who mourn the dead, for the sick and for those who faithfully care for them, for the oppressed and for those who despair, for those who have hunger and thirst in body and in soul. Lord hear our prayer..... O Lord, we also lift up to you those situations and those persons, that you have placed upon our hearts this day... BIDDING PRAYER.... Lord, hear our 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. MINUTE FOR MISSION * 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 Gracious God -- we praise and adore you. We ask of you as we give ourselves to you - as we make now our spiritual sacrifice -- only that you would help us make all our actions as holy and as healing as yours -- that you would help us live our faith more perfectly - and so bring to you honour and glory. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "Thou Ancient Walls May Still Stand Proud" - VU 691 * 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 God, whose embrace encompasses the universe and all that is in it, and Christ Jesus, who touched and healed the rich and the poor, sinners and saints, and the Holy Spirit, who comforts those who mourn and inspires those who are poor of Spirit, be with you all, both now and forevermore. * 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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