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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 24 - Year B
Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 19; Mark 8:27-38
"Dying To Live"

READING:  Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 19; Mark 8:27-38
SERMON :  "Dying To Live"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or24sesn.y-b 382743

   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:  The children's message is based on one by Harold J. Uhl,
   "The Gospel For Children - Object Messages From Mark, Augsburg 
   Press, 1975.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Psalm 119:105-112)
L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the
     fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you.
L    God's word is a lamp to guide us.
P    God's word is a light for our path.  
L    God calls us to walk by his word. By it life is given to us.
P    God's ordinances and teachings are our heritage, 
     an eternal possession by which the wise are guided.  
L    When we are filled by God's Spirit they become the joy of our hearts.
P    God calls us to hear and to do all that he has commanded.
     Blessed be the name of our God.

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

Let us Pray --Wonderful God, Almighty Redeemer - you have declared your
love for us not only in words, but in deeds.  We thank you for the love you
have revealed through Christ Jesus, our Lord and for how you have granted
us by his death and resurrection victory over the sin that is in us and in
the world.  We praise you for inviting us to be a part of your family and
for reaching out to us when we have wandered from the path.  Be with us
this day as we worship you and listen to your word.  Grant that we may be
renewed in body and spirit that we might more worthily serve and adore you. 
We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Come In, Come In and Sit Down"                           - VU 395

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Joys and Concerns


Object    Various Hats
Theme     Who Am I?
Source    Self & Harold J. Uhl - The Gospel For Children - Object Messages
          From Mark, Augsburg, 1975.

Good morning.... Who likes to play guessing games???  I like to play them.  
I would like to do one now.  It is the game: Who am I?  I need a Volunteer 
(Get volunteer to stand in front of me - cover his/her eyes and ask "who am
I?"  They will answer.)

Has anyone of you ever played this game???   I would like to do it again -
this time lets have two kids  (Get one kid to cover the eyes of the other
kid and ask who am I)

Sometimes we meet people who do we not know and we try to figure out who
they are and what they do.  Sometimes there are clues, such as these....
BRING OUT HATS AND TRY THEM ON -  If you didn't know me what would you
guess I did???

Sometimes it isn't easy to tell from what they wear what they do.  I wear
these hats a lot and I don't do any of those things.  It isn't until you
see what they are doing that you know what their job is.  A truck driver
doesn't look different until he drives a truck.  You know someone is a
teacher when they go to school and teach a class.  Even the Prime Minster
looks the same as anyone else until he sits in his special chair in the
Parliament.   It is what they do that makes them special - not how they

In today's gospel reading Jesus asks his disciples who other people think
he is.  He didn't wear any special clothing or look different from anyone
else, but the people thought he was someone special.  Some of them thought
he was a teacher, others thought he was a prophet, and still others think
that he is John the Baptist or someone else quite famous.  

But Peter and the other disciples have seen everything that he does - how
he helped people more than anyone, how he was stronger and gentler than
anyone, and how he was able to heal people and forgive their sins, and how
he was able to teach things about God that were so true and right that he
had to be someone even more special than a prophet or a teacher from God. 

So when Jesus asks the disciples WHO DO YOU SAY I AM - Peter knows the
answer - He tells Jesus that he is the Christ, the Saviour promised by God
from long ago.  And so he is - because Jesus still does all that he did in
Israel so long ago today - he does them in our hearts and minds.

Next time you play the guessing game, Who Am I - remember who Jesus is -
Jesus was sent from God and is God's own Son.

Lord Jesus - we know you are special -- because of what you did long ago --
and because of what you  still do. -- Help us be special too  -- help us to
be like you -- in what we say and do -- we ask it in Jesus name.  Amen. 
Our Father....


     (NIV)  The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know
     the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning,
     wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. {5} The Sovereign LORD
     has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn
     back. {6} I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those
     who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and
     spitting. {7} Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be
     disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will
     not be put to shame. {8} He who vindicates me is near. Who then will
     bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser?
     Let him confront me! {9} It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is
     he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the
     moths will eat them up.

L    This is the word of the Lord.
P    Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 19 (Voices United 740-41 and Sung Refrain 2)

     (NIV)  Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea
     Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" {28}
     They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still
     others, one of the prophets." {29} "But what about you?" he asked.
     "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." {30}
     Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. {31} He then began to
     teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected
     by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must
     be killed and after three days rise again. {32} He spoke plainly about
     this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. {33} But when
     Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get
     behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of
     God, but the things of men." {34} Then he called the crowd to him
     along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he
     must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {35} For
     whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his
     life for me and for the gospel will save it. {36} What good is it for
     a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? {37} Or what can
     a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} If anyone is ashamed of me
     and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man
     will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the
     holy angels."

L    This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P    Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "One More Step Along The Road I Go"                       - VU 639

SERMON:  "Dying To Live"

     Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of our
     hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, oh
     our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

If you have a bible with you today, I would ask you to turn to Mark,
chapter Eight if you would like to follow along.  We will look particularly
at verses 31-35.

Most people react to the Cross of Jesus Christ in a negative fashion;
they recognize the face of suffering and of death in the cross and so, 
even when they know about the Resurrection,
they want to avoid all talk about the cross.

Most people, in other words, react to the cross like the Apostle Peter
reacted to Jesus when he spoke for the first time to the disciples about
what was going to happen to him.

We hear those words in verse 31 of today's reading:

     Jesus began to teach his disciples saying: "the son of man must
     suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests
     and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after
     three days rise again."

"What is this" - Peter must have thought.  "A good man -  an innocent man -
a man of faithfulness -  a man who is my friend - must suffer and then be

Peter felt that this was wrong!  
And so he argued with Jesus!
We read in verse 32 that he took Jesus aside and began to  rebuke him - 
and while we do not know what he said, we can well imagine it - can't we?

     Don't talk this way Jesus - it's wrong!  No one who is good
     should have to suffer.

     God rewards the righteous and punishes sinners,  and you - you
     Jesus - you are not a sinner!

     You are the messiah - the promised saviour of Israel.  You should
     not have to suffer, you should not be rejected and killed!

But Jesus - as we read in verse 33, looked at Peter and the other disciples 
and then he rebuked Peter, saying to him

     You are not thinking like God,
     You are in fact speaking like Satan would speak -
     trying to get me to avoid what I must do, 
     trying to corrupt me into thinking only of myself and my own survival.

and then -  then as we see in verses 34 to 35 - Jesus turns back to the
disciples and to the people assembled there with him and says:

     If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take
     up their crosses and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their
     life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for
     the gospel will save it.
How this must have been heard by the disciples is not recorded, their
reaction is unknown, but we do know that the early church took these words
of our Lord very seriously - so much so that it was believed from the very
beginning - from the time of the stoning of Stephen - that if a person was
killed because they were spreading the gospel of Jesus  that they were
blessed above all people, and that they would go straight to heaven and
live forever with Christ, that they would have seats of honour at his side
for they would have done as Christ himself did - offering their lives for
the lives of others.

A new word was coined for these saints who were not only willing to die,
but actually did die because of their faith in Jesus:
it is the word MARTYR - which literally translates as the word "witness".

So many believers, during the first 200 years of the church's history
wanted to be witnesses, martyrs for the faith, that the church passed a law
saying that no one would be considered a martyr who actively sought their
death - that seeking to die for Jesus was not the same as being killed
because of one's faith in him!

Incredible isn't it? 
The church had to pass a law to stop people from taking up a cross 
and following Jesus to his death!

But what about today?

What do Jesus' words: "If anyone would come after me, they must deny
themselves and take up their crosses and follow me", really mean for us who
want to be his followers???

I believe that it is fair to say that most of us are not called upon to
suffer and die for what we do in Christ's name today.

While in some parts of the world people are being killed because of their
faith in Christ  - because of their belief in the liberating word of God,
most of us are not called upon to make this sacrifice.

So what does denying ourselves and taking up our crosses and following
Jesus entail for us?

Well - it involves primarily how and why we make our daily choices.

It involves whether or not we choose things 
on the basis of what is convenient and easy and self-serving
or on the basis of what is right and good and loving.

I want to use a single  example to illustrate what it means to deny
oneself, to do as 'the good news version' of the bible says, and "to forget
oneself" and to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

I know of some children that are criticized a lot.  It happens everywhere
unfortunately - there is nothing unique about this situation.

     The kids are looked down upon because of how they are dressed,
     which is not very well, and for what they have to eat, which is
     very plain by even the plainest standards, and for the home they
     live in, which is far from glorious; and because they cause
     trouble by fighting... and they do fight - with both fists and

     While most people who are into this judgement game blame the
     parents for what the kids eat and what they wear and, depending
     on the age of the children, for how they behave - , they still
     tend to avoid the kids and have their children avoid them.  

     Very few people stop to think that these kids need some special
     loving, and that the major reason they fight is because other
     children tease them - and that those children who tease them get
     their critical and unloving attitude from their parents - from
     the stray comments and remarks that they overhear their parents
     make about the kids and their family.

To forget oneself here and to follow Jesus is to give up judgement 
and to ask instead: 
- what can I do to help these children
- what can I do to make things better,
- what can I do to nurture and care for these kids.

To take up one's cross here means to forget one's own opinions about things
and about people, to forget one's own righteousness and goodness, and to do
what Christ would have done, to do what he did on the way to the cross, and
take into one's arms all the lost and lonely little ones and to bless them.

It is so simple 
- yet it can be even harder to do than to actually die for Jesus.

To die for Christ you see is relatively easy -- the issues in the case of
being told you will be killed if you continue to worship Jesus and to tell
others about him are pretty clear.

But to simply be in a situation where we must choose either to follow
Christ's example or not:
- the Christ who was rejected because he was good to prostitutes and tax
collectors, and other sinners and outcasts,
well that is often much harder.

We are kind of attached to our opinions - that's why so many of us spend so
much time telling others what they are;
     and most folk would rather choose to let others know who causes
     problems in the community and who should be avoided and who is not
     quite "up to snuff" than do anything loving for them.
They would rather pass comment upon others than do even something as simple
- and as transforming - as pass time in prayer for them.

It is so easy to slip into the ways of the world, into the ways of the
those who walk in darkness.

No lights flash when you are in a situation where you must choose Christ,
our yourself.  No bells ring when you are faced with either judging someone
or loving them.

It is easy to go along with what others are saying,
- or to let it go by for the sake of their so called friendship,
it is easy to choose to save your own life 
- all you have to do is go with the flow.

The way of the cross is - by and large much harder -
for it is a way that contradicts the easy way of the world,
a way that often earns you the hatred of those who are evil,
and calls upon you the hostility of those who do not like the light to
shine upon their acts.

The way of choosing to deny oneself is difficult because our self is
reluctant to die -- reluctant to allow God to work in us and through us --
reluctant to trust that God can and will work a wonderful work in us when
we follow in his path.

This is the cross that most of us are called to carry each and every day.
This is, for most of us, what is involved in denying oneself and choosing
to follow the master: to give up our own opinions, our own selves, and, if
need be, our friends, for the sake of caring for the children - both young
and old - that others judge.

Do you see how this talk about denying oneself and picking up the cross and
following Jesus works?

It is not about being the kind of martyr who was killed by the Roman
authorities for speaking about Jesus.  It is not even about going from door
to door telling people about Jesus and asking them if they are saved - as
did the evangelists and the apostles.

No, it's about being the kind of witness to the faith who strives to forget
     his or her opinion of who is bad and who is good, and instead strives
     to treat all people with love,
its about being the kind of witness who risks the disapproval of his or her
     friends because he or she will not listen to their judgements, but
     instead seeks to bless those being criticized,
it's about giving to strangers and to welfare bums and to convicts the same
     kind of love you give to your coffee buddies and card partners and
     travelling companions,
it's about choosing to follow Jesus, knowing that you will have to change,
     that you will have to forget yourself and what is easiest for you and
     remember instead what is the good and true and loving thing to do..

But the marvel of it all is this - just as Jesus received a new and
glorious life on account of his faithfulness, just as the Martyrs who were
burned at the stake and fed to the lions in the Coliseum are seated at
Christ's right hand, so those who forget themselves in the little ways I
have described - those who pick up the cross of Christ and follow in his
path - receive a new and glorious life, one in which the Son of Man is not
ashamed of them - but rather shines brightly through them.

Thanks be to Christ - who denied himself, and picked up his cross,, and
followed in the path of God - the path that leads to resurrection and
eternal life.  Amen

Let us Pray -- your  wisdom, O God, is greater than ours.
We are nothing.  Yet you love us - and so we praise you and we thank you.
We thank you for giving that we may receive;
For dying that we may live;
and for rising that we may be born to eternal life...
- Lord hear our prayer

We confess, O God, 
that we are so often a people who want Easter without Good Friday
- the empty tomb without the cross
- the fellowship of the family without the discipline of discipleship
Help us, Lord, to overcome our fears and to walk the path that Jesus shows
us... Lord, hear our prayer...

We are on the way again Lord - the time of busyness
The time of new schooling,
Of new activities in church and in the community.
We ask you to bless our activities
our choirs - our special services - our new way of doing things
our new volunteers - and those who continue to serve as faithfully as they
have for many years....  Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord we pray also to you for ourselves and our loved ones.  We ask to bless
and heal, we ask you to have mercy and grant new hope -- We ask you to
bring joy and gladness.  Lord hear us as we lift different people and
different situations up to you now... BIDDING PRAYER....
... Lord, hear our prayer....

We ask all these things, O God, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.  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

     We thank you, O God, for giving yourself to us and for us with
     hesitation.  Bless now, we pray these gifts which we offer to
     you.  Make them and us worthy of you - we ask it in Jesus' name. 

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Nearer My God To Thee"                         - VU 497

* 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.

Go in peace 
and may God the Father - the Creator and Maker of Us All, 
God the Son - our Redeemer and our Friend, 
and God the Holy Spirit - our Strength and our Inspiration 
-- draw close to you and bless you all with joy and love, and with clarity
of vision and strength of purpose, 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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