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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 29 - Proper 24 - Year B
Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 104; Mark 10:35-45
"At The Right Hand of God"

READING:  Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 104; Mark 10:35-45  
SERMON :  "At The Right Hand of God"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or28smsu.y-b 574000

   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 AND CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Psalm 104:2-4,33-35)
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    The Lord our God is very good.  
     He is clothed with honour and majesty.
P    Our God is wrapped in light as with a garment.
L    God has stretched out the heavens like a tent 
     and made the clouds his chariot.
P    God had made the winds his messengers, 
     he uses fire and flame as his ministers.
L    In wisdom God has made all things. The earth is his creation.
P    I will sing to the Lord as long as I live, 
     I will rejoice in my God as long as I have being.
L    Bless the name of the Lord 
     and call upon him in praise and thanksgiving.

Let us Pray -- Gracious and all powerful God, we open our hearts and our
minds to you that you may enter in.  Bless us in this time of worship with
your holy presence.  Help us let go of all anxiety and worry.  Support us
with your loving arms and help us to lift up our voices in praise and
thanksgiving.  Pour out your spirit upon us that we might love you more
purely and be able to bring your grace and your compassion, your power and
your truth, and your joy and your peace to our suffering world.  We ask it
in and through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen

* HYMN:  "Praise Our Maker"                                        - VU 316

CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Chief and The Baby"
Theme:    True Greatness
Object:   None
Source:   Traditional Tale - sourced in "The Whole People of God" Sunday
          School Curriculum, 1994

There once was a great chief who was very proud.  One day he was walking
through his village boasting, "I am truly great.  There is no one greater
than me!"  A wise old woman came up to the chief and said, "I know one who
is truly great."

The great chief was surprised and then very angry. "What?  Who is this
great one?  There is no one greater than me.!"

The wise old woman said, "Come to my house tomorrow when the sun is at the
highest point in the sky and I will introduce you to this great."  The
great chief said, "Very well.  I will be there and we shall see who is the

The chief  went home and slept very soundly to gain strength.  In the
morning he prepared himself carefully and put on his finest clothing.  As
he did he reminded himself of all the great things he could do.  "There is
no one greater than me!" he repeated to himself as he walked over to the
old woman's house.

When he reached the house he called out, "Old woman, I am here.  It is
time.  Where is this other chief?"

"Come in, come in." the old woman called.

When the chief entered the old woman's house he saw the old woman sitting
against the wall with a baby crawling on the floor beside her.  The chief
looked around.  There was no one else there.  "Where is the great chieftain
you told me about yesterday?" he asked.

The old woman motioned towards the baby and said, "This is the great one I
told you about."

The great chief was not amused.  He yelled angrily at the old woman and
shook his finger at her.  "What do you mean?  Don't try to trick me.  This
is just a baby!"

The baby frightened by the sudden loud, angry. voice began to cry.  The
chief became flustered.  He didn't mean to make the baby cry.  He forgot
about his anger and got down on his hands and knees.  He pulled his eagle
and hawk feathers from his hair and brushed the baby's cheeks with them. 
He pulled off his medicine bags and held them under the baby's nose.  He
pulled off his necklaces and jingled them in the baby's ears.  Gradually
the baby stopped crying and began to listen and watch.

The old woman smiled and said, "You see, even you, the great chief, had to
stop talking to take care of the baby.  In any home, in any village, the
baby is truly great because even the greatest and most powerful chief, like
you, must become the baby's servant.  This is how the creator planned it. 
The creator did not make you great so that you could boast about your
greatness.  The Creator made you great so that you could help others who
are not as strong as you."

And from that day no one ever heard the chief boast again.

     Let us pray -- Dear Lord God -- we thank you for babies -- and
     for everyone who needs our help.  --  make us strong -- so that
     we are able -- to love and serve you -- and so that we may be
     able -- to love and serve our neighbours.  -- we ask it in Jesus'
     name.  Amen

    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:  "Jesus Came A Child Like Me"                            - VU 583

- 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)  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet
     we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 
     But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our
     iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by
     his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
     each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the
     iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not
     open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a
     sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 
     By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his
     descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the
     transgression of my people he was stricken.  He was assigned a
     grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had
     done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the
     Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD
     makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong
     his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 
     After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be
     satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
     and he will bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will give him a
     portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the
     strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered
     with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made
     intercession for the transgressors.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 104 (VU 826) and the 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

     (NIV) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.
     "Teacher", they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
     "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. 
	 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at 
	 your left in your glory."
	 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink
     the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
	 "We can," they answered. 
	 Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized 
	 with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left 
	 is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they 
	 have been prepared." 
	 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and 
	 John.  Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who 
	 are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high
     officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead,
     whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and
     whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son
     of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life
     as a ransom for many."

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

* HYMN:  "You Servants of God"                                     - VU 342

SERMON:  "At The Right Hand of God" 

     Let us pray -- in the silence of the stars, in the quiet of the
     hills and in the heaving of the sea, you speak O Lord.  In the
     words of the prophets and the message of the apostles, you speak
     O Lord.  Now we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our
     minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and
     the meditations of our hearts.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
     listen.  Amen.

How should we think about James and John, the sons of Zebedee?  How should
we think about the day they went to Jesus and said to him: 

     "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."

And when Jesus answered, "What is it you want me to do for you?"  They

     "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in
     your glory."

How should we think about these two who were so forward that they not only
wanted to stand out from the crowd, they also wanted to stand ahead of the
other disciples and have the highest positions of power and privilege that
they believed Jesus could grant.

We know how Peter and Matthew and Levi and the others reacted to James and
John when they heard what James and John had asked Jesus to do for them. 
We know that they were angry with the sons of Zebedee, that they resented
the two brothers' attempt to claim a position of privilege in the Kingdom
of God.

And we know too how Jesus dealt with James and John, and what he said to
all the disciples when he noticed their anger and resentment.

But that still doesn't answer the question - how should WE think about
James and John?

Should we regard them as being overly ambitious?  Should we think less of
them because they quite clearly seem to think too much of themselves?

Or should we just kind of ignore them and their obvious lack of
sensitivity?  Their lack of tact?  Should we just kind of gloss over the
affair and the reaction of the other disciples and of Jesus himself to
their request?

My feeling is that we need to regard James and John and their audacious
request with far more seriousness than we may want at first to give them.

My belief is that we should regard James and John as if they were us.  And
that then we should really listen to what Jesus had to say to them and to
the other disciples.

Now let me qualify this.

I have never dreamed, and I doubt that any of you have ever dreamed,
of actually sitting at the right hand of God and receiving all the glory
and honour and respect and power that position has.

Most of us - even when we get into a really good political discussion with
our friends and try to solve all the problems of our country - don't even
really want to be in the government, let along to be prime minister   no
matter how much we may dream about what we do if we were in that position.

So for me to say that we should regard James and John as if they were us
may seem to you to be a bit much, it may seem to you to be something that
you can't relate to:
     - something that only applies to those few people who are crazy with
     - those few people who really do want, as Jesus states about the
     gentiles, to Lord it over others,
     - those few arrogant ones who think that they are better, or that they
     know more, than everyone else.

But, my friends, that is too easy,
it lets us off the hook that Jesus wants us on,
the hook, which, when we embrace it, 
leads to wholeness for us and for our world.

We should regard James and John as if they were us.  And we should listen
to what Jesus had to say to them and to other disciples.

HOW MANY OF YOU, in your younger years, worked at odd jobs like mowing and
raking lawns, waiting tables, pumping gas, filing documents, cleaning
homes, or being someone's "go-fer". 

Most of us have...

I think that its safe to say that we've usually had these jobs because they
were expedient.  We needed the money so we could go to school, or because
we needed to survive for a while until something else came along.  

But we probably didn't aspire to these jobs as a life long profession - nor
would we be delighted if one of our children said that she wanted to be a
waitress when she grew up, or that he wanted to pick up garbage in public
parks all his life.

We know that these jobs are important in that we think that they need to be
done - but we probably don't think people should do them as a career - we
probably think that they are best reserved for the very young, or for those
who have no education and little hope of advancing their station in life.  

We want better things that babysitting and picking up garbage and waiting
on tables for ourselves and for our children.  We want to be paid well and
we want our kids to earn a "decent" living.  We want them to do something
worthwhile.  We want others to respect them and what they do.  Like, maybe
they could become doctors or lawyers or accountants or run the family farm
or own their own repair business or nurse or teach or be computer
programmers or x-ray technicians or heavy duty mechanics or owner-operators
of their trucking business.

And that is good stuff - that's stuff that I want for my kids
and I, like most parents, push my kids towards that stuff,
I push them to get ahead.  

As my father and mother did before me - so I do.
I ask them when they seem to be slacking off at school or when they are
grumbling about the chores they have to perform,

     "Do you want to work at MacDonalds for the rest of your life?  Do
     you want to dig ditches for a living?"

But you know - when I go to a restaurant - I want polite and attentive
And in the days I needed a babysitter for my kids - I wanted someone who
really cared for my kids and knew how to keep an eye on them and how to
react when they were getting into trouble.

If I hire to get someone to mow my lawn - I want it done right.
And I expect my garbage to be picked up promptly,
the ditches along the highways to be properly dug,
and all the debris in the parks and on the beaches I go to be cleaned up
and stowed away in an environmentally friendly manner.

I want to be served, and to be served well.
And so I believe so do we all.

I want to be respected, and listened to, and to have my opinions valued,
and so I believe so do we all.

And I know and I believe that these wants are not wrong.
And I know and I believe that these wants can easily go very wrong,
     and lead one first to insensitivity, and then to rudeness, 
     and then to arrogance, and finally to tyranny.

And so my friends, when I really think about things,
I have to struggle with myself.
And I have to have help in that struggle,
I have to have guidance:
     the guidance to realize that while I really don't want to be Prime
     Minister or to Lord it over anyone else as the Gentiles do, I still,
     in one part of me at least, want more than I want to give or to have
     my children give.
I need the guidance to realize that in me is a seed, that if watered, if
indulged, can grow into an evil plant.

All of us have inside us somewhere James and John,
all of us, in some part of our hearts and minds 
would rather be served than serve.

Indeed I think that even the most righteous among us occasionally dreams of
the luxury of winning the lottery and of living in ease the rest of our
days rather than of the satisfaction of serving others and serving them

And so today, in the name of God, I deliver you a reminder.

A reminder about what Jesus had to say, and about what Jesus did.

Jesus said

     "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.  And
     whoever wishes to first among you must be slave of all.  For the
     Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his
     life as a ransom for many."

Jesus could not tell James or John who would end up sitting at his left or
his right hand.  As he said to them, it was not even something that he
could grant.  But I can tell you that Jesus himself sits at the right hand
of God.

He sits there because he gave himself to us wholly and completely,
because he served God and served us all 
with all of his heart and soul and body.

I can tell that you when he entered Jerusalem in triumph just a few days
before his death, He rode an ass, not a stallion; and that he stayed in the
humble home of a friend, not in some pretentious palace.

I can tell you that he gave food to the hungry and that he visited the
sick, and that when he performed miracles he fled from the crowds that
wanted to make him a king because of the power that they knew lay behind
those acts.

I can tell you that Jesus didn't just wash people's souls clean of sin, he
kneeled beside them and washed their feet clean of dust and dirt.

And not once did he complain that no one appreciated him, nor did he open
his mouth when he was reviled and persecuted because he was a friend of

I offer you today a reminder of who is at the right hand of God
and of some of the reasons for why he is there.

I offer you this reminder in the name of God,
so that when you speak to your children,
and when you consider what is worth while and what is worthy of respect
and what jobs are beneath your dignity, and what insults you cannot bear,
you will know what is right,
and which seeds you should water,
and which ones you should not.

I call you this day to remember James and John,
and how you yourselves are like them.

And finally I call you to remember that James and John,
were among the chosen ones and remained among the chosen ones,
and that Jesus served them and gave his life for them.

As he has given his life for you.

Our reward is indeed in heaven - whether to the right or to the left or to
the front or to the rear of our Servant King I cannot say - but I can say
that God will embrace us and wipe every tear from our eyes and that all we
will find there will make the glory we sometimes seek here seem like so
much trash.

Praise be to God for the salvation he grants us through Christ Jesus our
Lord, our brother, our friend, and our servant.  Amen.

THE 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!

Gracious and giving God, we thank you for your Son Jesus - who humbled
himself and came to us a servant - as one of the least among us.  O loving
God, when I dream of power, let me dream of the power to help others as he
helped others, and Lord, when I wake, help me to care as he cared.  Pour
forth your strength and your joy and your peace and your glory upon us -
not that we might be exulted - but that we may be able to bear what would
otherwise be a bitter burden and that we may be able to drink the cup that
would otherwise overwhelm us.   Make us instruments of your peace.....
Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord - at this time as we sit with our eyes closed to the distractions of
this world and our hands and our hearts open to you - we ask you to hear
our deepest prayers - our care for others that we so often bury because to
think about their needs is to feel their pain and perhaps even their
despair - our fear for ourselves that we may not be adequate to the
challenge of living as a loving person -- our silent hope that you might
indeed dwell richly within us and do some sign that we may cling to it..... 
Lord you know and your care and you walked our walk.  Help us to walk
yours..... Lord hear our prayer....

WE offer up to you today, O God, the names that have come before this
morning - the names and the people to whom those names point.....  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

     Lord Jesus - as you gave yourself for us - so we would give
     ourselves for you and for your work in this world.  Receive these
     offerings from our hands and bless them in your service, and take
     too O Lord all the intentions of our hearts and our minds and
     bring them to flower in our church, our community, and our
     world...  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN: "We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)"             - VU 595

* 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                                     - VU 971
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name,
- and may God prosper all the works of your hands, 
- may the Spirit sustain you in all your labour,
- and may the love of Christ Jesus abide in you and flow forth from 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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