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Sermon and Liturgy for The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Genesis 45:3-11,15; Psalm 37; I Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50; Luke 6:27-38
"Love Is A Choice"

READING:  Genesis 45:3-11,15; Psalm 37; I Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50; Luke 6:27-38
SERMON : "Love Is A Choice" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild c-or07sesu.y-c 410918 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: citations from Glen E. Ludgwig, "The Easy Way Out" in "Sermons For Lent and Easter: Walking To... Walking With... Walking Through (Gospel C)" and Paul Harms, "Temptation = Doing What Comes Naturally" in "Augsburg Sermons 3, Gospels Series C". GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand) * 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 Jesus said "Love one another". He also said "bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you." P We come to worship God who is love, that we may learn to love one another. L Jesus said, "No longer do I call you servants; now I call you friends." P We come to worship God who is love, whose friends we are in Christ Jesus. L Let us sing praise to God and live in love and friendship. P Let us draw water from the spring of everlasting life. * INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require Of You" - VU 701 * PRAYER OF APPROACH Gracious and loving God - bless each one of us here today. Cleanse us from all unrighteousness and help us to rejoice in your presence. Strengthen us by the power of your Holy Spirit that we may hear your word aright and with joy and confidence obey your commandment that we should love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves. Indeed, make us a people who shine with the light of Christ, ones who forgive as he forgave us, and trust in him as he trusted in you. Fill our cups Lord - fill them up - and we shall want no more. Amen * HYMN "Come, Let Us Sing To The Lord" - VU 222 CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Sad and Happy Story of Joseph and His Brothers" Object A Story Book Bible if Available Theme Forgiving and Loving Your Enemies Source Self Good morning - A couple of weeks ago now while you were in Sunday School you talked about Joseph and his eleven brothers and what they did to him when he was a young man Today upstairs the people are going to hear the very end of that story. Can anyone tell me what Joseph is really well known for???? (beautiful robe - of many colours - long robe - which meant it was not meant for working in - it meant that Joseph was different from his brothers - who all had to work hard.) What else made Joseph different from his brothers??? (loved more by his father -- had dreams where he dreamed that his brothers bowed down to him - another where he dreamed that even the sun and moon bowed down). Do you know anyone who thinks they are better than other people??? How does that make you feel?? Joseph was a favourite child - and that is very hard to take when you are not the favourite child. Joseph also did something that bothered his brothers - he told his father that they weren't doing very good things. He squealed on them. Have you ever had anyone tell on you to your mom and dad??? How did it make you feel? How do feel about the person who squealed on you??? What did you want to do to them? That is what Joseph's brothers wanted to do too. And they did it. They were very angry with him because their father loved him more than he loved them - and they couldn't take nicely to him or treat him well at all. They hated him even more because of his dreams - and finally - one day - when they got him alone in the fields - they decided to kill him. Only his brother Reuben thought this was wrong - and he convinced his brothers to throw him in a pit without water or food instead - he planned on rescuing him later - but afterwards the other brothers sold Joseph to a slave trader that was passing by. They took his robe - covered it with blood and told their father that wild animals had killed and eaten Joseph. Jacob cried and cried and cried - and his life was never the same afterward. All the brothers could do nothing to help their father. There life was worse than it was before. Joseph, many years after being sold as a slave into Egypt by his brothers has risen to power in that land and has been placed in charge of all the food that has been saved for a time of famine. Joseph's brothers have come to Egypt to obtain food for their families. Joseph recognizes them and confronts them. And what do you think he does?? What would you do?? Joseph does play a trick on them at first - but then he forgives them - and tells them that although they meant him harm, God had turned the situation into good - bringing Joseph to the place where he could end up saving his whole family. That only happened because Joseph kept his eyes upon God - and worried more about what God wanted him to do than about what his brothers had done to him. It is important that when others are mean to us and hate us that we keep our eyes upon God too and remember to do what God wants - then the situation will work well for us and for our world. One of the things God wants us to do is to forgive each other and to not hate those who hate us.... PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Lord God - forgive our anger -- for how we want to be first instead of last -- for how we resent others -- and how we desire what they have. -- Make us more like Joseph -- who forgave his brothers. -- Make us more like Jesus -- who though he was a king --lived as the servant of all. -- Dear God - Help us to love our enemies -- and to bless those who curse us. - 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 AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS - Announcements - Birthdays and Anniversaries - Sharing Joys and Concerns ST ANDREW'S THIS WEEK ANTHEM A READING FROM GENESIS 45:3-11,15 (NIV) Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still living?" But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. {4} Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! {5} And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. {6} For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. {7} But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. {8} "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. {9} Now hurry back to my father and say to him, 'This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. {10} You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me--you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. {11} I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.' And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him. L This is the Word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 37 (Voices United 763 and Sung Refrain) A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 15:35-38, 42-50 (NIV) But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" {36} How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. {37} When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. {38} But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; {43} it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; {44} it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. {45} So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being" ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. {46} The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. {47} The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. {48} As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. {49} And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. {50} I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. L This is the Word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. * HYMN: "Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive" - VU 364 A READING FROM LUKE 6:27-38 (NIV) "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. {29} If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. {30} Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. {31} Do to others as you would have them do to you. {32} "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. {33} And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. {34} And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. {35} But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. {36} Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. {37} "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." L This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. SERMON: "Love Is A Choice" 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. Martin Luther King Jr.'s home was burned down one night by a group of white men who did not like his message about the equality of the races. The situation after the fire was extremely dangerous. Blacks, under the leadership of Dr. King were becoming more confident of themselves, less willing to be oppressed and neglected by society - and they were angry - angry about how they had been treated for years by white society, - and angry in particular that night that their leader's home had been destroyed. A crowd of Dr. King's friends and supporters gathered and some talked about getting guns and others talked about getting gasoline and going and setting fire to the homes of all the white people in the area so that they could suffer as the black people had suffered. The crowd wanted to hurt those who had hurt them, - they wanted to hurt those who had burned Dr. King's home, - they wanted to hurt their enemies - indeed they wanted to destroy them. A pretty natural feeling I would say - We all feel like hitting back when we are hit, We all feel like returning insult for insult, and curse for curse. That night however did not end up that way - the way that feels so natural - instead the crowd left their enemies in peace and they went home determined to win the victory with votes instead of with guns, with politics instead of with fire, with love instead of hate.. One of the things that Martin Luther King Jr told the crowd that night as calmed them down was this: "When you live by the rule "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you end up with a nation of blind and toothless people". Martin Luther King Jr. was a person who tried to live by the gospel of Jesus Christ - the gospel that says: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those that curse you and pray for those who mistreat you. Dr. King believed with all his heart that a new society could not be built by violent means: a society in which white and black, protestant and catholic, and Jew and Muslim live together in peace. He believed that one could only defeat one's enemy with love - and that the way of violence only begets more violence, - and that hate only fosters more hate. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. These are tremendous words - but how do we do it?? - How can we love people who have hurt us, - How can we do good to people who have gossiped about us, or cheated us, or otherwise oppressed us? How do we love the parent who has abused us Or the teacher who has called us a fool, Or the ex-wife or ex-husband who has tried to destroy the relationship we have with our children? How can we love our enemies when everything we feel inside us about them makes us want to hurt them back as they have hurt us? That is the most common questions that I, and I believe most other ministers are asked. How can I love someone I feel no love for... How can I bless those who curse me? The answer that is indicated by scripture and by the life of Jesus, is that you can love those who you feel no love for only when you decide to do so. Love you see - is not a feeling - it is a choice Love is the decision to do right even when wronged, - to do good even when bad is done, - to bless even when you are cursed, - to forgive even when you are condemned, - to care even when you are not cared for. Love is not what we feel. Rather it is the good that we decide to do and then do. We so accustomed to thinking of love as a feeling, rather than as a decision or a choice we make, that a few words of explanation seem necessary. Think about your experience of being loved for a moment.... How do you know when someone loves you?? Do you tell by somehow experiencing their emotions? Do you get inside their heads and feel their feelings and think their thoughts? Or do you tell by how you are treated? by what is said to you by the other person, and by what they do for you and to you? How do you know someone really cares for you? How in fact do you know if you really care for someone else? I remember vividly a story that a woman told me a few years ago about her first love affair. She had gone out on a date with an attractive young man, it was one of the first dates she had ever had, and she felt sure, by the time dinner was over that she was in love with him. After the meal, as she sat listening to him and gazing into his eyes, she felt more and more lightheaded. She told me that when she looked around her the whole world looked different, that it kind of faded out, that nothing seemed to her to be as vivid as the young man's smiling face and nothing quite so clear as his calm strong voice "He filled my eyes", she said. "He was the only thing I could think about - the only reality that I could connect with." I asked her what happened after that - She replied "I was taken to the hospital and I had my stomach pumped - the doctor told me I had a case of food poisoning." You can not tell if you love someone simply by checking out your feelings towards them, Nor, I want to add, can you show love to them only when you feel warmth and affection for them. Think about your relationship with closest family members for a moment or two. Can you honestly say that you always like your husband - that you always feel good about him and want him near to you? Can you say that you always feel a tremendous fondness for your wife - that sometimes she doesn't make you feel angry and annoyed? And yet - don't you love them at all times? Aren't you committed to them? And don't you want to see them do well, and be all that they can be - even when you are angry? The words of the traditional wedding vows are helpful in understanding that love is a choice. They go something like this: I, take you, to be my wife, to be my husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, to love and to cherish and to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live. Notice how this is the language of promise, how it is the language of choice, and of decision. It is not the language of feeling, or of romance or even of affection. In the wedding ceremony both partners make a commitment to each other - they share a decision that they have made in front of witnesses - proclaiming that they have chosen each other and that they will love each, not just today, when they feel like it, but tomorrow and the next day and the day after that... How do we love our enemies when we do not feel like loving them? - How do we get up in the morning to go to work when we feel tired? - How do we shovel out the barn when we feel like sitting down and spending the day reading? - How do we diet when we feel like having a gigantic bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce and nuts and a cherry on top? We simply decide - we make a choice and then we follow through. Jesus tells us a bit of what it means to love your enemy, of what we must decide to do if we are to love him or her, or in fact anyone - whether they are our enemy, or our friend. He tells us to bless rather than to curse, to wish the best for others rather than the worst. He tells us to be merciful as God is merciful, to forgive and to give as God gives forgives, without any expectation or hope of reward from that person, but simply for the sake of the other person simply because that is God's will for us. And of course - as we also heard in today's gospel reading - he tells us "Do to others as you would have them do to you." That really is the greatest piece of advice about how to love others that there is. It is truly a golden rule - and every faith, every great religious belief, has a version of it for people to follow. Judaism says it this way: "What is hateful to you, do not to others" The Hindu faith says it this way: "Do naught to others which would cause you pain if done to you" Confucianism tells us "Do not to others what you would not have them do unto you." and Islam says: "No one is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself" "Do to others as you would have them do to you" This is the great rule of love - the great rule by which you can tell if you are loving someone even when you do not feel very loving towards them. The marvellous thing about this rule of love, this test of whether or not you are acting with love, is that it is not only a rule or guideline, it is also intimately linked to a great spiritual law that cannot be broken - for that law is descriptive rather than prescriptive. That other law is this: "the judgement you give, is the judgement you will receive; or what you sow is what you will reap." Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Give and it will be given to you - a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. Indeed it is that spiritual principal, that law, which I most cling to when dealing with folk I would much rather not deal with - with people I feel like harming rather than healing. Count to ten Richard - and at every count remember... What you do here and now will come back to you in abundance. Forgive - because you need lots of forgiveness, Bless, because you need lots of blessing. My friends - love your enemies - and love will come back to you, judge them - and that judgement will return. And remember this - Love is not a matter of feeling, it is a matter of choice and of decision. And that choice, that decision, is one that affects us as deeply, perhaps even more deeply, as it affects the person we decide to love or to not love. What measure do you want to receive from God? What judgement do you want to live with - both here, and in the world to come? May all your choices about who to love be good choices - that your measure may return to you not only full but full of goodness. And praise be to God for his abundance of grace, the grace that loves and forgives us even as we struggle to love and forgive others. AMEN PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE Let us Pray - - Lord God - you call us to embody the love of Christ in our actions and in our words - to live as a generous and forgiving people - to return good for evil and blessings for curses. You ask us not to judge others - but rather to care for them. You have told us that what we give we will receive, that what we sow we shall reap. Confirm in our hearts the message of Christ Jesus that we have heard this day - and help us to live as he has taught us to live.... God of mercy and compassion, give us the strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. Make us more like Jesus our Saviour each day.... Lord, hear our prayer... God of justice and of forgiveness, help us to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who persecute us. Make us more like Jesus our Saviour each day. .... Lord, hear our prayer... God of strength and of tenderness, you gave your Son to us, though you knew he would be despitefully used, betrayed and abandoned - and finally killed. As he died he called out to you - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". We thank you Lord for this great mercy - and for how you raised him up in glory and have appointed him as our judge, our saviour. As he prayed for his disciples - and for the world - so we now pray to you. We pray to for the good of our brothers and sisters and the whole human family.... For all who are persecuted and despised by their neighbours this day, and for those who curse and insult and hurt them.... Lord, hear our prayer For those who work to build up the bodies, minds, and souls of others - especially this day for members of the Scouting and Guiding movement around the world.... Lord, hear our prayer... For those who victims of war and hatred this day - and for those who practice those things that lead to war and hatred.... Lord, hear our prayer... For those who suffer through no fault of their own - and for those who do... Lord hear our prayer... And finally Lord, for those situations and people who are especially upon our mind and hearts this day. - those whom we hold before you in our hearts and raise up before you and your congregation with the prayer of our lips: (BIDDING PRAYER) Lord, hear our prayer... We praise you and worship you and ask you all these things in the name of Christ Jesus, - our Lord and our brother, our judge and our friend. Amen MINUTE FOR MISSION * 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 Dedication Bless, O God, these gifts - which we offer in obedience to your most holy law and in thankfulness for your most gracious love. May their use bring praise unto your glorious name. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. * DEPARTING HYMN: "For The Healing of The Nations" - VU 678 * 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 - love and care for one another in Christ's name; - and the blessing of Christ Jesus, he who traded good for evil and love for hate, be upon you. - May his mercy uphold you, his compassion guide you, and his strength sustain you 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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