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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 18 - Proper 13 - Year C
Malachi 3:7-12; Psalm 107; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
"Your Money Or Your Life"


READING:  Malachi 3:7-12; Psalm 107; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21 
SERMON :  "Your Money Or Your Life"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
C-or18sn 792000

   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 story, "The Four Corners of Love" is adapted
   from one by Ken Forbes, Annan Congregational Church at (Talks to Children, 1998)

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

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  Give thanks to the Lord - the maker of heaven and earth.
P  We gather to give God thanks and praise.
L  Make an offering in God's holy temple that is acceptable to him.
P  We come to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
L  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all of your mind,
   and all of your strength and all of your soul.  
P  We are here because our desire is to know and to serve God,
   in the way he desires, freely and completely, both now and forevermore.

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


Creator God, Father and Mother of us all, Hope of the hopeful and Saviour
of all those who call on you: in our singing be the note of joy; in our
praying be the heartfelt word; in our searching be the will to endure; in
our need be the font of live giving water.  Bless us as we lift up your
name, we aske it through Christ Jesus your only begotten Son, he who is our
Lord and  our brother.  Amen.

* HYMN:    "Praise To The Lord"                                    - VU 835

CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Four Corners of Love"
Theme:    God's love multiplies as it is given away
Object    Large sheet of page with "God's Love" written on it and scissors
Source    Ken Forbes, Annan Congregational Church at
 (Talks to Children)

Start (before showing the paper) with a little mental arithmetic.  Ask a
few questions like: 'If I have five Smarties and I give two to you and one
to you, how many do I have left?'  (I found our kids to be a lot better at
this that I'd thought they'd be, and ended up giving them some quite
complicated sums.  There's hope for our education system yet!) 

Then show the paper with GOD'S LOVE on it. 

"Here's something we've ALL got to give away - God's love.  And you can see
that God's Love has four corners - doesn't it.  Well now, here's a strange
thing.  Suppose I give you one of my corners of God's Love. (Take a pair of
scissors from your pocket, cut of one of the corners, and give it to a
child.)  How many corners do I have left - Three?  Are you SURE?  Let's
count them.  One, two, three, four, FIVE!  How about that! I started with
four corners of God's Love, I gave one away, and now I've got FIVE!  Let's
see what happens if I give away another one.  (Cut and give)  NOW how many
have I got?  One, two, three, four, five, six.  It seems as if I end up
with MORE corners of God's Love every time I give one away.  I started with
FOUR, and I gave one to you...  I did give you ONE, didn't I?  Are you
sure?  Just hold up the corner of God's Love that I gave you and let's have
a look at it.  (Child holds up her triangle.)  LOOK!  Count the corners.
One, two, THREE.  And have YOU got three as well?  Yes!  We started off
with FOUR corners of God's Love, and now we've got... how many?  TWELVE! 
How did that happen?  It must be that the more of God's Love you give away,
the bigger it gets..." 

PS: - keep on going and you get a circle - God's love encircling us! 

   Lord, you are wonderful - and we thank you and praise you.  - We
   thank you for your love - and for how it multiplies - when we give
   it away - and we praise you for Jesus - who shows us the way of love
   - each and every day. - 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 Loves Me"                                          - VU 365

   (NIV)  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts
   on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. {2}
   Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. {3} For you
   died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ,
   who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
   {5} Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
   sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is
   idolatry. {6} Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. {7} You
   used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. {8} But now you
   must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice,
   slander, and filthy language from your lips. {9} Do not lie to each
   other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices {10}
   and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in
   the image of its Creator. {11} Here there is no Greek or Jew,
   circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but
   Christ is all, and is in all.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 107 parts 1 & 2 (VU, page 831 with refrain)

   Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide
   the inheritance with me." {14} Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a
   judge or an arbiter between you?" {15} Then he said to them, "Watch
   out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not
   consist in the abundance of his possessions." {16} And he told them
   this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.
   {17} He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store
   my crops.' {18} "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down
   my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and
   my goods. {19} And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things
   laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' {20}
   "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be
   demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for
   yourself?' {21} "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up
   things for himself but is not rich toward God."

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

* HYMN:  "Blessed Assurance"                                       - VU 337

SERMON:  "Your Money Or Your Life..." 

   Loving God, breath your Spirit upon us that we may receive Your Word
   afresh and anew.  Take my lips and speak through them; take our
   minds and think through them;  take our hearts and set them on fire.
   We ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

The sermon title today - Your Money or Your Life..." sounds like something
that comes out of the days of highwaymen in England   where bandits would
roam the roads and accost travellers with the words "Stand and Deliver -
Your Money or Your Life".

And that is deliberate.  

A deliberate attempt to put the issue raised by one of our hymn and sermon
survey respondents in a plain way.  The question that was asked on one of
those forms that are at the entranceway of the church was "why is there is
so much emphasis on money" in so many churches?

Well there are two possible answers to that question.

The first is that so munch emphasis on money in so many churches because
those churches require want and need  more of it:

   Bills must be paid.
   Projects funded.
   Outreach done.
   Salaries met.
   Buildings maintained
   And so forth.

So lots of churches talk about money - so they can get more of it.  And all
too often they talk about it in terms that seem similar to that of the
British Highwaymen of old.  All too many churches seem to indicate by their
preaching, their Television appeals, and their literature, that if you give
them more money, you will live a blessed and long life, that God will love
you more; but if you do not   well you will not be blessed - that God will
not love you.

Quite frankly that kind of talk turns me off -  perhaps even more quickly
than it turns you off.

It turns me off because it equates entry into the kingdom of heaven with
giving money to this or that ministry or to this or that church -- it turns
me off because it equates the amount of love that you receive from God with
the amount of money you give to God's work - and that, quite frankly, is a
perversion of the gospel - that gospel that says in no uncertain terms that
God loves us unconditionally, that God's saving love towards us has nothing
at all to do with how much we give or how much we do, that God's offer of a
healing touch has nothing to do with our virtue or our sin.

But bills do have to be paid.  The work of God does need the gifts that God
has given us for that work.  Quite frankly the work of God needs our
wallets.  And it always has.  And that truth needs to be plainly spoken. 
The truth concerning tithing - the truth about giving God our first fruits
- our best fruits.

Listen to these words from the third chapter of the Book of the prophet
Malachi.  Words written some three hundred years before Christ, time when
the Land of Israel was suffering from drought and disaster, from poverty
and parsimony: (3:7-12)

   Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my
   decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to
   you," says the LORD Almighty. 

   "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'

   "Will a man rob God?  Yet you rob me." 

   But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'  

   "In your tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse--the whole
   nation of you--because you are robbing me.   Bring the whole tithe
   into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in
   this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the
   floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not
   have room enough for it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your
   crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says
   the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for
   yours will be a delightful land,".

The problem with money in this church, or any church, could simply be
solved  if we all did what the bible says we should do   which is to offer
to God the full tithe, the first fruits, the unblemished portions, the
cream of the crop - and did so routinely and without muttering or murmuring
- about it.   And that should be easy because the TV evangelists are right
in one point as they plead and beg and make fancy offers of free gifts to
get more of your dollars.  God does bless those who give him his due.  

That's the truth about money and the church, plainly spoken.

And once spoken I don't believe one should make a big fuss about it.  It is
enough surely to remind folk of what it is God has done for them and will
do for them 
   - and to ask that they pray to God about what their commitment is for
   both their regular tithes 
   - and should there be a need - their special offerings. 

In the church we should practice what we preach - we should ask for "our
daily bread" and then let go of the asking for the rest of the day, and
trust that God will answer our prayer - that God will meet our needs..

Giving is, after all, between God and the giver.  
And so is receiving. Between God and the receiver.

It should be enough to tell the faithful what the need is 
and to let it go at that, 
   It should be enough to occasionally remind folk of what the biblical
   teaching on giving is
and then go on to examine the other teachings of the bible 
without begging and pleading.

Unfortunately some churches spend a lot of time berating those who are
faithful givers to give more and turning off those who are new believers in
the Lord by focussing their efforts on getting more out of them - rather
than encouraging them to a closer walk with Christ   a walk which, in the
end  produce the fruit of a life that is totally committed to God

So the first answer to the question - why is there so much emphasis on
money is that in many churches and in many ministries - there is a real
need for more money, or a real greed for more money.

In either case - need or greed - this kind of emphasis on money reflects a
poverty of Spirit that  is not of the kind indicated by the beatitudes.  It
is not the poverty of humility and obedience, but the poverty of
indifference and rebellion towards the Will of God..

The second answer is that there is a lot of emphasis or talk about money in
the church because there is a lot of talk about money in the bible,
especially in the gospels, where Jesus it seems is constantly speaking to
people both plainly and in parables about the dangers of wealth, or about
how wealth - whether it be little - or much - needs to be used:
   - The poor widow who gave her all to the temple treasury
   - the vineyard owner who paid all his workers, even those hired last,
   the same wage,
   - the rich young ruler who was told to sell all he had and follow
   - the steward who was forgiven a great debt, but refused to forgive a
   fellow servant a small debt,
   - the sheep who share their food, clothing, homes, and time - versus
   the goats who do not,
the list goes on and on - - and includes today's gospel reading 
   - where we heard the story which is normally titled "the parable of the
   rich fool", the story of one who saved and saved and saved for his
   future - only to die before that future could come.

You know how it goes   it was just read a few minutes ago.

The beginning, or the set up, of the parable is however quite instructive
to today's topic.  A Man asks Jesus to tell his brother to divide the
family inheritance with him.

Jesus responds to him with the words "who set me to be a judge or
abritrator over you."  And then he says to the crowd, to us, these words:  

   "Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's
   life doesn't consist in the abundance of possessions."

Indeed this is the key to the talk about money in the bible....  
The role it plays in our lives...
And the role that it cannot play in our lives, 
   no matter how much we might want it to, 
   or how much the world tells us it can.

   "Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's
   life doesn't consist in the abundance of possessions."

Indeed it doesn't.  But there are all kinds of greed.

Some is simple avarice - the kind of wanting more that will people to drive
   hundreds of miles and stand in line for hours to buy a Superball
   Lottery ticket.  Or to work 14 hours a day so that you can get ahead -
   where enough is never enough.

Some is fear - the fear that leads people to stow away their wealth "for a
   rainy day" and never use it even when it does rain.

And some is just plain old idolatry - as Paul calls greed in today's
   reading from The Letter to The Colossians.  The idolatry that regards
   money and what it can do for oneself and ones family as more  important
   than what it can do to help bring about Shalom - the time of peace. 

You know what I am talking about don't you? 
   - The idolatry that we see in those who will not hesitate to spend 40 or
   50 or 60 dollars for a dinner out with the family each week, but who
   chock on the idea of giving a tenth of that sum each week to the work
   of God.   
   - The idolatry that sees people who will cheerfully buy their children
   designer clothing and running shoes at well over a $100 a pop, but who
   refuse to share with the hungry and starving  in the world because they
   think or know that the agency who conveys the gift, the government who
   administers it, or the people who receive it in the end, will spend the
   money on everything but the essentials.
   - The idolatry that sees people who will keep the best portion for
   themselves and give the leftovers  to those who beg at the door.  Those
   whose idea of making a sacrifice for the sake of the gospel  is to
   attend church on Sunday morning rather than to go shopping.  Those who
   idea of making an important offering to the Lord is to buy five new
   shirts and give the old discarded one to the bargain basement or the
   Salvation Army rather than putting them in the trash.

Why is there an emphasis on money in so many churches?  
Well there are at least two possible answers.  
One is not so good - and the other - well it is the gospel truth.

There is, in all churches worthy of the name of Christ, the same emphasis
on money as there is in his teachings. 

Money and our attitude concerning who deserves it and who doesn't is a
barometer of our spiritual health and insight.  Money and how we use it and
how we feel about it is symbolic of where we are at.

That is one of the purposes of the teaching concerning offering our  first
fruits to God and giving to God a  tithe, be it 5% or 10% or even 20% of
all that we earn.  It reveals who we are and what we believe   though I
must hasten to point out that there is many a good tither, many a good
giver, who give out of a sense of duty - rather than out of a love and
trust in God.

Still, all in all, whether or not we freely offer the cream of our crops,
the best of what we have, to God is a test of our faith - of where we are
at.   It does not win us salvation.  It does not bring to us the love of
God.  But it does show us where our hearts are... what we really believe or
what we really desire.

Hear once again our Lord.  
Ponder the message that he is speaking to you this day when he says:

   Take care!    Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's
   life doesn't consist in the abundance of possessions.

And consider where you would be in relationship to the Lord - and to all
the world - should this very night your soul be required of you.

And do from that mediation - what it is God is calling you to do,
and do it faith and trust and in joy, 
knowing that whatever it is   it is of God - and God is good.

Blessed be the name of God, day by day.  Amen

* HYMN:  "Take My Life and Let It Be"                              - VU 506

Father  of everlasting goodness, our Creator and Guide, be close to us and
hear the prayers of all who praise You.  Forgive us when we forget to trust
You to provide us with every blessing in this life.  Help us not to seek
things for ourselves, but with Your help to provide for all in need. 
Restore us to life, Lord, and keep us safe in Your Love . . .  Lord hear
our prayer....

Giver of all good gifts:  Teach us to treasure Christ and His grace above
all earthly possessions.  Help us to continually cast our lot with life and
not with death; with grace and not with judgement, with love and not with
hate, with giving and not with receiving, with praising and not being
praised., with trusting and with fear.....   Lord hear our prayer....

Loving Father - we prayed as we sang - take my and life and let it be,
consecrated wholly to thee.  That indeed was a prayer for ourselves.  At
this time we pray for blessing to be upon others.  For those named in our
sharing time and who are named again now, you would reach out through your
spirit - using us or others - or simply using your invisible hand - bring
to pass that which they most need in their lives right now:

  BIDDING PRAYER   ... Lord, hear our prayer...

Hear Oh God as well this day our personal thanksgivings for your answers to
our prayers and for all the good things you have blessed us with even when
we have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  Hear our
hymns of praise, our heart felt whispers of gratitude....... We pray to you 
through Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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

   Father - Our Shield and Defender, You have taught us how to trust
   Your goodness and lay up treasure in heaven.  We offer You gifts in
   response  to Your world.   We bring You a portion what our labour
   has gained in thankful praise for the abundance we have.  We give
   You our souls in humble obedience, for in Christ we inherit eternal
   life.  Be pleased with our offerings, for they are signs of your
   mercy and grace that we have received through Christ our Lord.  AMEN

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Will Your Anchor Hold"                         - VU 675

* 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, 
- may God bless you with every blessing that you may be a blessing
- may he fill your hearts with love 
    and direct your footsteps with compassion
- may he open your arms to others 
    and cause you to speak with kindness and wisdom
    and so make you more like Christ this day, 
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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