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Sermon and Liturgy for The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; Luke 6:17-26
"Blessed Are The Cheese Makers"

READING:  Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; Luke 6:17-26
SERMON :  "Blessed Are The Cheesemakers"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or06sm.y-c 595000

   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: Sermon elements from William H. Wilimon, "Today's Tears
   Turned To Laughter Later", in Pulpit Resource, Year C, Vol 23, No
   1. and TELOS participant Margaret Trapnell (Feb 1995).  Children's
   Story based on a concept from "The Whole People of God" Curriculum,
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Psalm 84:10-12)
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  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God 
   than live in the tents of wickedness.
P  A day spent near to God 
   is better than a thousand days spent elsewhere.
L  The Lord God gives light to those who draw near to him .
P  The Lord is our sun and our shield.  
   God bestows favour and honour upon those who dwell in his presence.
L  The Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk in his way.
   God blesses all those who trust in his word 
   and turn to him day by day.

INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                             - VU 315

Most Loving God - your people are gathered. Come we pray and fill us with
your Spirit.  Speak your words of healing and life.  Strengthen us for
service in our world.  Grant us your peace.  In the name of Christ Jesus
we pray and we worship -- Amen.

* HYMN  "God Is Here"                                              - VU 389

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Planted By The Stream"
Object  Picture of Two Trees - or two plants - one dried up - one healthy
Theme   Blessings Come From Being Close To God.
Source  Based on a story for this Lectionary Date in "The Whole People of
        God" (1994-95)

Good morning --  Today I want to tell you a story.  It is about two trees
that lived close to a stream.  One tree was so happy to be alive and it
sent its roots out to the stream so it could survive and grow.  This tree
could heard saying, "Thank God I am alive and thank God for this little
stream whose waters bring me blessings every day."

The other tree was very proud and could be heard saying, "I don't need any
old stream.  It's too much work sending my roots out to drink it's waters. 
Besides there is plenty of water from the rain and I can survive just fine
without the stream."  And for a while it seemed to be true.  The rains
came regularly and both trees grew and prospered.  But then one day a hot
dry wind came and it blew and blew.  It did not rain for many months.  The
one tree dried and shrivelled up.  Almost all its leaves fell off.  It's
fruit dried up and fell to the ground.  The tree looked like it was going
to die.

The other tree continued to grow - even as the dry hot wind blew over it. 
It's leaves got greener and greener and it continued to bear fruit - and
its fruit was big and juicy.  Everyone who saw the tree said, "God has
truly blessed this tree.  But look - God has not blessed that tree beside
it.  See - it has no leaves and it's fruit is all dried up.  It is almost
Although it had no leaves and it's fruit was all dried up - the proud tree
was still barely alive.  It heard what people said.  It was very sorry and
realized that it needed the stream after all.  Although it was very weak,
it gathered up all its energy and concentrated its efforts into slowly
sending out some weak little roots towards the stream.  But it was not
very strong.  Just when it was ready to give up and die, the tree heard a
little whisper.  'Keep trying proud tree.  I'm very close."  It was the
voice of the stream."

The tree kept trying as the voice had said - and soon - sure enough - it
felt the tips of its roots touch water.  It had reached the underground
spring from which the waters of the stream flowed.  "Thank God," the tree
cried, "Now I am blessed and I know I cannot live without the waters of
the stream."

Years later when hot dry winds came again and there was no rain, people
who saw the two trees were amazed and said, "Look how God has blessed
those two trees.  Even when it is a desert, they have green leaves and
luscious fruit."  Both trees smiled.  They knew that what the people said
was true.

   Dear Lord God - we thank you for being near - and for blessing us
   with your love - help us to send down our roots - into your life
   giving word - to turn to you each day - to pray to you - and to
   learn from you - so that we may survive and prosper - even when
   times are hard - we ask it in the name of Jesus - 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

* SONG OF PRAISE: "God is So Good"
   God is so good, God is so good,
   God is so good, He's so good to me!
   He cares for me, He cares for me,
   He cares for me, He's so good to me!
   I love Him so, I love Him so,
   I love Him so, He's so good to me!

   I praise His name, I praise His name,
   I praise His name, He's so good to me!

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


   (NIV)  This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in
   man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away
   from the LORD. {6} He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will
   not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places
   of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. {7} "But blessed is
   the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. {8} He
   will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by
   the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always
   green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear
   fruit." {9} The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
   Who can understand it? {10} "I the LORD search the heart and examine
   the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what
   his deeds deserve."

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 1 (Voices United 724 and Sung Refrain)

   (NIV) But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead,
   how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
   {13} If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has
   been raised. {14} And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is
   useless and so is your faith. {15} More than that, we are then found
   to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that
   he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact
   the dead are not raised. {16} For if the dead are not raised, then
   Christ has not been raised either. {17} And if Christ has not been
   raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. {18} Then
   those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. {19} If only for
   this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all
   men. {20} But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first
   fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

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

* HYMN:  "Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God"                        - VU 356

   (NIV)  He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large
   crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all
   over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, {18}
   who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those
   troubled by evil spirits were cured, {19} and the people all tried to
   touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
   {20} Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God. {21} Blessed are you who hunger now,
   for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will
   laugh. {22} Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you
   and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of
   Man. {23} "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your
   reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
   {24} "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your
   comfort. {25} Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
   Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. {26} Woe to you
   when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated
   the false prophets.

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

SERMON: "Blessed Are The Cheese Makers"

   O Lord, 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 in the
   thoughts we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.  Amen.

In the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" Jesus goes up on the mountain
side to teach the people.  There is a huge crowd gathered around him - so
huge that some of the people who are on the outer edge of the crowd can
not hear his words and must ask others what the master has said.

As Jesus pronounces what have become known as the beatitudes - one of the
characters in the movie - desperate to know what Jesus is saying asks a
man who is ahead of him the crowd -- "what is he saying - what is he

The man checks with a person in front of him, who in turn checks with
someone else and then the message is relayed back -- the Master says -
"Blessed Are The Cheese Makers."

I have titled my sermon today "blessed are the cheese makers"  
   as a way of reminding us how often we get wrong what Jesus has said.
   and as a way of making us think about who is blessed and who is not.

Who are the blessed ones anyway?
Who is it that God favours?
And who is that God looks askance at?
Who is it that God warns - that God threatens - with troubles and woes?

If you listen to the average preacher on Sunday morning television the
answer seems clear.

Those who succeed in life are the ones that God favours:
   - Those who gather in their three piece suits and their fancy dresses
   in churches made of glass and steel and who have a smile on their face
   - dollars in the pockets - two well behaved children beside them - and
   a nice car in the parking lot - these are the blessed -
while those who struggle with depression and despair,
   - those who live and work - when they can - in the ghettoes  and the
   cabbage towns of North America, and those who perform menial tasks
   each day - those who serve others rather than living as their equals -
   and whose children get less than perfect marks at school - 
these are the cursed and the afflicted.

But is it true?
Is this what Jesus taught?

The author of the third gospel - the Physician we know as Luke - clearly
thought a fair bit about how we get mixed up about whom God blesses and
whom God does not.

I say that because Luke's account of what we call the Sermon on The Mount 
is different than Matthew's version.  Luke doesn't contradict what Matthew
had to say, rather he gives us a different view of Jesus' sermon, a
different view - and in some ways a clearer view - a more helpful view..

First - in Luke - the sermon is not set on a hillside - where Jesus can
look over the top of the crowd and hand down the word from on high to
those who are beneath him as it were  - rather it is set on a plain - on a
level place - where a large crowd has gathered and pressed in upon him -
and where Jesus has been walking among them - healing their diseases and
curing their afflictions.

And second - Jesus not only is portrayed by Luke as announcing who is
blessed by God - a list that is somewhat more graphic - and more tangible
- than Matthew's list -  Jesus also is portrayed as announcing a series of
matching curses or woes:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God 
   - woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled
   - woe to you are full now, for you will be hungry.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh 
   - woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile
you, and defame you on the account of the Son of Man,
   - woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their
   ancestors did to the false prophets."

Think about it.  What does this list say about our aspirations?  About our
dreams?  About our rushing out to buy lottery tickets so that we might win
the big one?  About our parties and our attempts to fill our days with
mindless diversions and endless entertainments?

And what does it say about the value of our sorrow, our pain, and our

What does this list of blessings and woes say about what God is about?  
About where God is?  About who God is for?

William H Willimon writes:

   For Jesus, there was something more dangerous than tears.  It was the
   dangerous deception that our world is secure, stable, the best of all
   possible worlds -- don't worry, be happy.  Jesus warn of that
   deception.  "Woe to you that laugh now.  Woe if you feel too good,
   settled too comfortably with the way things are...  To hope too soon,
   to laugh too easily, is self deception - the reduction of the
   Christian hope to election campaign fluff."

God reverses all our expectations - the expectations that we learn from
the world - and I am glad of it.

I need to know that God understands my pain - my poverty - my despair 
   - my sin - my fear;
I need to know that God is with me the way that I really am -
   and that the image of joy and success, and happiness and prosperity
   that is portrayed 24 hours a day on television, that image that I
   can't make real for myself no matter how hard I work, is a false
   image, a false image of blessedness.

I need to know that God is beside me - where I live - on the plain - on
the level - where I am sick - and in need - where I struggle to do what is
right - and where I fight to retain my faith.

I need to know that I can touch Jesus  - and be touched by him - right
here and right now;  that I don't have to have all the answers - or
understand all the mysteries - or be joyfully confident -for him to care
for me.

A woman was talking to me on the phone three or four days ago about her
experiences in caring for her ailing mother.

She told me how precious her time with her mother is.  How she feels so
privileged to be able to be there with her, to see her mother smile what
might be one of her last smiles, and to hear her mother say in her quiet,
fading, trembling voice - I love you.

She used the word blessed as she talked about the opportunity she had to
be with her mother, and she described herself as being blessed by the work
she is doing for her mother:
- blessed in the changing of her mother's diapers
- blessed in the wiping of spit from her mother's chin,
- blessed in the chance to puree her mother's food and feed it to her one
spoonful at a time,
- blessed in praying for her and holding her as she finally falls asleep
at night.

I have a chance she said to love my mother,
- a chance to give a little bit back to her that she gave to me.
I feel so lucky to be able to do this,
- so lucky to be able to cry over what Mom has lost,
- so lucky to be able to reach out and touch her and make her days a bit

The promise of Christ in both the sermon on the mount in the Gospel
According to Matthew, and in the sermon on the plain in the Gospel
according to Luke, is that there is joy on the other side of grief,
laughter on the other side of tears, fulfilment on the other side of
hunger, and joyful reward on the other side of the abuse and the ridicule
we receive because we cling to him and live in a way that is strange to
the world - a way that is opposed to the world's way.

I love a good time.  I like a good joke.  I am pleased when I can forget
my problems and the problems of the world around me.  There is nothing
quite like a fine meal and a bit of fun when the day is done.  I feel good
when I can shut out the troubles of the world around me and just relax.

But I feel God's presence most - I feel God's power most - not in the good
   times - the easy times - the times when I am blind to the pain within
   me and the pain around me -
I feel God's power most - his presence most - when I am helping someone
   who is in need
I feel it most when someone touches me and looks me in the eye - and says
   to me - God understands - Jesus was where you are - he had doubts -
   uncertainties - fears - he had no home to call his own - no friends
   that he could really count on when times got tough - he wept and he
   cried - and got angry too - and God was with him in all those times -
   and God strengthened him and gave him the victory.

My friends, God can work with us.  God can accomplish something for us -
and in us - and through us - when we are open to him in our need.

What God can't deal with - because we don't let God deal with it -
is our plastic smiles, our blithe ignorance, our self-righteousness,
and our couldn't-care-less attitudes toward those who are in need around

Happiness - blessedness - is not found in wealth, in three square meals a
day, in mindless laughter, or in the good opinions that others may have of

Blessedness is found surrendering - in letting go -
   in knowing our need and the need of the world around us
       and in knowing that God really cares about those needs,
          that God is really present with us to meet those needs
and that God will vindicate all those who cling to him in the midst of
those needs - to him, and not to the god of material success, or the god
of self-reliance or the god of blind happiness.

Blessedness is found in trusting in God and in doing the works of God,
the works of loving and caring and healing and sharing and forgiving.

Blessed are the cheese makers - for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Perhaps there is more wisdom in this mishearing of Jesus's words
than in the distortions that we see in the world around us today.

Blessed are the cheese makers who do their best for one one-hundredth of
what baseball player receives and the factory workers who share their jobs
rather than taking overtime.

Blessed are the single moms who struggle to feed and clothe their children
and to teach them self-respect, and the lonely widowers who weep and who
visit those who have suffered the same kind of loss as they.

Blessed are the daughters who nurse their dying mothers rather than
leaving them to strangers and the fathers who spend time with their
children instead of spending extra time at the office getting ahead.

Blessed are those who are rooted in faith and who share what they have, 
materially and spiritually, with others.

Blessed are those who know their need, and who trust in God, and follow in
his way, for they are like trees planted by streams of water.
Their leaves do not wither - in all that they do they prosper.  Amen.

We thank you God that you do not will affliction or grief for us, but are
with us in all the circumstances of our lives, in joy and in sorrow, in
laughter and in tears, in abundance and in the time of need.  We thank you
that even as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives - so also
through Christ our comfort overflows.  Help us to be a people who embrace
the life you give - a people who root themselves in your life-giving word
and who are open to the refreshing water of your Spirit...  Lord hear our

Lord we pray today for those who are poor and for those who are rich. 
Fill the poor with the riches of your love and with all things necessary
to life.  Lead the hearts of the rich to the knowledge of their poverty
and help them to learn how to trust and share in the way of Christ - who
though he was rich became poor for our sakes...  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord we pray today for those who hunger and for those who are full.  Give
the hungry the bread of your love and the bread made by human hands. 
Teach the filled to share the abundance that you have entrusted into their
hands...  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, we pray today for those who cry and for those who laugh.  Console
with your peace those who grieve and sorrow this day.  Teach those who
laugh to dry the tears of those who are in need...  Lord hear our

Grant us all, O Lord, a new awareness of calling.  Strengthen us to
respond faithfully and to serve you loyally, whatever our present state. 
Revive, O Lord, not only us - but those whom we hold before you at this
time - those whom we hold before in our hearts and raise up before you
with the prayer of our lips: (BIDDING PRAYER)

We ask these things in the name of Christ Jesus - our Lord and our
brother.  Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) & Prayer of

   Loving Father, through our Lord. Christ Jesus, you bestow soundness
   of mind, clarity of vision, wholeness of bodies, and wisdom for
   each day.  You bless us richly and call us to be a blessing.  
   Receive now the work of our hands and the fruits of Christ's labour
   in us.  May what we give be used to make known your healing and
   saving presence.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me"               - VU 635

* 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 - love and care for one another in Christ's name;  
- and may God pour the riches of his grace out upon you,
- may your roots reach down to the everlasting water of life
- and your branches touch the heavenly wellspring of faith and love
this both now and forevermore.  Amen

THREE FOLD AMEN & SUNG BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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