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Sermon and Liturgy (2) For Ordinary 23 - Proper 18 - Year B
James 2:1-17; Psalm 125; Mark 7:24-37
"Christian Community - Christ Like Love"

READING:  James 2:1-17; Psalm 125; Mark 7:24-37
SERMON :  "Christian Community - Christ Like Love"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or22su.y-b 893

   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.

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  Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, 
P  Blessed are those whose hope is in the Lord our God.
L  He who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them 
   keeps faith forever.
P  He  executes justice for the oppressed 
   and gives food to the hungry. 
L  The Lord sets the prisoners free and opens the eyes of the blind. 
P  Our God lifts up those who are bowed down.
L  He watches over the strangers 
   and upholds the orphan and the widow.
P  The Lord loves the righteous, 
   but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
L  The Lord will reign forever, Praise be to the Lord!

* INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require Of You"                     - VU 701

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 the Spirit that
you have poured out richly upon us, 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 of worship 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 Christ Jesus.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Worship The Lord"                                        - VU 401

CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Love Has No Favourites"
Object:   Pair of Glasses                                                  
Theme:    Faith Has No Favourites
Source:   Adapted from "Children's Sermon Service Plus" v.24 no.4

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.  I wear glasses
for reading.  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 grey, sort of, I am male, and I have two dogs and two 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 that will be 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.

   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 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:  "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks"                     - VU 179

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

  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

   (NIV)  My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,
   don't show favouritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting
   wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby
   clothes also comes in.  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,"
   have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with
   evil thoughts? 

   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?  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?  Are they not the ones who are
   slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 

   If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your
   neighbour as yourself," you are doing right.  But if you show
   favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
   For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point
   is guilty of breaking all of it.  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. 

   Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that
   gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to
   anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment! 

   What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has
   no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is
   without clothes and daily food.  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?  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 (Voices United 849) 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

   Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered
   a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep
   his presence secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a
   woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and
   fell at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.
   She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. 

   "First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is
   not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." 

   "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the
   children's crumbs." 

   Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left
   your daughter."  She went home and found her child lying on the bed,
   and the demon gone. 

   Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to
   the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.  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.  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.  He looked up to
   heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means,
   "Be opened!").  At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was
   loosened and he began to speak plainly. 

   Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so,
   the more they kept talking about it.  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 be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

HYMN:  "In Christ There Is No East or West"                        - VU 606

SERMON: "Christian Community - Christ Like Love"

   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
I want to tell you a story today.  

I have two reasons for the story.

The first is that we want to briefer than usual today to permit time for
people to meet with the Sunday School teachers and see their children
before class is out.

The second reason is that the story is really quite good and really gets at
the point of the texts today - especially that which Gil read from the
Letter of James.

It will not, I am sure, be a big surprise to hear that the story comes off
the Internet.  When I first received it no author was listed.  

As you hear the story, ask God to show you how you show God's love 
in the world around you.  

The story goes like this.

   Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.  It was a cowboy's
   life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.  What I didn't realize
   was that it was also a ministry.  

   Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving
   confessional.  Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total
   anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose
   lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep.  But none
   touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.  

   I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet
   part of town.  I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers,
   or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker
   heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of

   When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a
   single light in a ground floor window.  Under these circumstances,
   many drivers would just honk once or twice, then drive away.  

   But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as
   their only means of transportation.  Unless a situation smelled of
   danger, I always went to the door.  This passenger might be someone
   who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.  So I walked to the
   door and knocked.  

   "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice.  I could hear
   something being dragged across the floor.  After a long pause, the
   door opened.  

   A small woman in her 80s stood before me.  She was wearing a print
   dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out
   of a 1940s movie.  

   By her side was a small nylon suitcase.  The apartment looked as if
   no one had lived in it for years.  All the furniture was covered
   with sheets.

   There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the
   counters.  In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and

   "Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said.  I took the
   suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.  She took my
   arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.  She kept thanking me for
   my kindness.  

   "It's nothing", I told her.  "I just try to treat my passengers the
   way I would want my mother treated".

   "Oh, you're such a good boy", she said.

   When we got in the cab, she gave me and address, then asked, "Could
   you drive through downtown?"  

   "It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

   "Oh, I don't mind," she said.  "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a

   I looked in the rearview mirror.  Her eyes were glistening.

   "I don't have any family left," she continued.  "The doctor says I
   don't have very long."

   I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.  "What route would
   you like me to take?"  I asked.

   For the next two hours, we drove through the city.  She showed me
   the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

   We drove through the neighbourhood where she and her husband had
   lived when they were newlyweds.

   She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once
   been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.  Sometimes
   she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and
   would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

   As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly
   said, "I'm tired.  Let's go now."

   We drove in silence to the address she had given me.  It was a low
   building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that
   passed under a portico.  Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon
   as we pulled up.  They were solicitous and intent, watching her
   every move.  They must have been expecting her.  

   I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door.  The
   woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

   "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

   "Nothing," I said.

   "You have to make a living," she answered.

   "There are other passengers," I responded.

   Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.  She held onto
   me tightly.  

   "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said." Thank

   I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light.

   Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

   I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift.  I drove aimlessly,
   lost in thought.  For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. 
   What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was
   impatient to end his shift?  

   What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then
   driven away?  

   On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more
   important in my life.  We're conditioned to think that our lives
   revolve around great moments.  But great moments often catch us
   unaware -beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small

You have heard it said before - but hear it again....  

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they
will always remember how you made them feel.  

What kind of love do we show one another?  How do you make people feel?

Do we make distinctions between family and friends - and others?

And if we do, why?  
Is it a reason that will hold up in the light of eternity?     

We do have a calling to tend our family  But we also have a calling to see
one another as brothers and sisters and to form a community where we can
sit at table together.

You all recall most surely do you not why King Arthur and his knights had a
round table??   So that no one might be seen as at the head or foot of the

So it is to be in our lives.  The only head we have is Jesus - his is the
honour - and as he is in all - so we honour one another.

The test of our faith - the test of our community - lies in how we treat
one another.  And in how we regard those outside our community as well.

The story of the Gospel today - where Jesus heals the Gentile man in the
region of the Decapolis and the daughter of the Syrian Phoenician woman in
Tyre is a reminder to us that those "outside" the covenant are to be
included in our caring - in our loving - in our ministry in the name of

Let us pray to God that our ears may be opened and our hearts mended so our
faith may lead to deeds of love and compassion each and every day.  Let us
pray that our faith and our deeds be as one.


   The opening part of our prayer today is based on one by Mother
   Teresa, who died six 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.

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.


* 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

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 and the sinner and the
- 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 2003
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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