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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 24- Proper 19 - Year C
Exodus 32:7-14, I Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
"A Change of Mind"

READING:  Exodus 32:7-14, I Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
SERMON :  "A Change of Mind"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or24se 440000

   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.

Musical Prelude 

Words of Welcome and Introduction

Call To Worship 
L:   The Lord be with you.
P:   And also with you.
L:   God is merciful to us because of his constant love.
P:   His great mercy washes away all our evil and makes us clean
     from all our sin.
L:   Sincerity and truth are what the Lord requires.  God does
     not reject a humble and contrite heart.
P:   Create in us a pure heart, O God,  put a new and loyal
     spirit in us.

Introit: Spirit of The Living God

Prayer of Invocation

HYMN: Praise To The Lord, The Almighty 

The First Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:7-14

L    Listen O God, listen and look into our hearts.
P    You know, Lord, all our sin.
L    Listen, O God, listen and look into our hearts.
P    See and hear, O God, we lift up our sin to you.  We name it
     in silence, and we repent of the evil we have done by word
     and deed, by omission and commission.
L    Listen O God, listen and look into our hearts
     ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L    Although we are not worthy, O Lord, we ask you to hear our
P    Touch us Lord and make us whole -  we ask it by the grace
     shown to us by Jesus - Amen

Assurance of God's Forgiveness

     - Words of Introduction
     - Gathering of Teachers and Leaders

     Minister: Will you the teachers and leaders in our Church
               School seek and serve Christ in all those who are
               entrusted to your care.
     Teachers: We will, God being our helper.
     Minister: Will you encourage them not only to learn about
               the faith, but by your example encourage them to
               live it?
     Teachers: We will, God being our helper.

     TO THE STUDENTS (standing up)
     Minister: Will you accept your teachers as Christ has
               accepted you and will you seek to learn from them
               and in turn share the good things you have with
     Students: We will, God being our helper.

     TO THE CONGREGATION (standing up)
     Minister: Will you support these teachers and leaders in
               their ministry to the children of our church and
               will you encourage the young by speaking to them
               of our God, by heeding the commandments of our
               Lord, and by showing them your love?
     People:   We will, God being our helper.

     We praise you, God, for the openness that our teachers and
     leaders have demonstrated by responding to your call to
     serve the children of our community.  We ask you to nurture
     them and lead them by the gift of your Spirit.  Help us too
     to support them in all their endeavours.  We thank you too O
     Lord, for the enthusiasm, the spontaneity, and the natural
     curiosity of the young people of our church.  Help us to
     welcome them and encourage them in their growth by what we
     do and say.   Hear O God our prayers for our Church School
     and for all who are involved in it.... (silent prayer).... 
     We ask these things in the name of Jesus - AMEN.

     On behalf of this congregation, I install you as teachers
     and leaders in this church school in the name of the Father,
     and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  May you find joy in
     your service.  And may you the children of our community be
     graced with love and wisdom along with your teachers, may
     you, with them, discover joy and knowledge and the fullness
     of faith.  And may you all here today be empowered by the
     Holy Spirit to show both these teachers and these children
     the wholeness of God's love - so that together we may all do
     his will with peace and joy and demonstrations of his power. 

HYMN: Come, Let Us To the Lord Our God

The Second Scripture Reading: I Timothy 1:12-17

Responsive Psalm Reading Psalm 77:11-20,(with sung antiphon)and
the Gloria Patri Sung

The Third Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-10


The old testament lesson I read today is set at the time of
the Exodus.  

It is a story that reveals to us how God is called out of anger
at his people, an anger that is fully justified;
     and is called to remember his purpose - his saving purpose,
     when he selected Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to  father a
     great nation a nation created to bear his word and his love
     to the entire world.

God's nature is to save -
but God is also a holy God - a God of justice and truth
and God - like us - is angered 
by unfaithfulness,
by dishonesty, 
by people who abandon their values and act out of fear and greed.

So it was that God was mightily ticked off at his people Israel
when after having delivered them from  slavery in Egypt
and from the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea
they grumbled and complained in the wilderness and then created
their own god - a golden calf - an idol at the very moment that
Moses was receiving the law on Mount Sinai.
God was angry, very angry - and he  told Moses 

     "Go down at once - get off the mountain - for your
     people have been quick to turn aside - they are
     perverse and corrupt - and I am going to destroy

Anger - anger like ours - right down to the fact that God did
what we do, what a parent does when he or she is talking to their
partner about a disobedient child - they disown their connection
to the child... it is your child - not mine - your child that has
fouled up, your child that is wrong.

     "Go down at once Moses  - for your people have been
     quick to turn aside."

Moses replies to God as a father might to a mother or a mother to
father - he reminds God of his connection, of his relationship -
of the fact that he created the people Israel -- saying to him:

     "O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your
     people... whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
     with great power and with a mighty hand?"

And Moses then goes on to remind God of his purpose in calling
Israel out of slavery and of his promises to Abraham and Isaac
and Jacob; promises that included the fact that he would make
them a great nation, and that he would work his saving grace to
all the world through them.

Moses calls God to change his mind
and to not destroy his people -
And as we read - God does change his mind:
- God does remember what he was about,
- God does recall his relationship with his people,
and he does not bring the disaster upon Israel that he had
planned in his anger.

The purpose of God is a saving purpose my friends,
and so ought our purpose be a saving purpose
and that purpose we should have with everyone - 
not just with our children and those who are close to us.

Many of us I know get angry as God got angry at his people.

In our rage we vow destruction to those who have offended against
us and those we love;  and after a while we calm down 
     - we remember on our own, or we are reminded by others, what
     is important in our relationship with the person we are
     angry at and of what is important to us in how we deal with
     them and with all those around us,
and we, like God at Sinai, do relent and continue on - in a wiser
way - a better way.

At least we often do this.  
But we do not always  do so -  do we?

Especially we do not relent, such is our sin, when we feel
particularly justified in our anger - when we regard the other
person or persons involved as somehow different than us, as not
only not being related to us - but as being more evil or mean
spirited than we are.

Consider the gospel lesson today.-
a lesson in which Jesus tells two parables -
     - the parable of the lost sheep - the one in a hundred that
     strays in the wilderness
     - and the parable of the lost coin - the one of ten that is
     misplaced somehow.

Jesus tells us in this lesson about the rejoicing that is done on
earth and in heaven when the sheep is found - the coin located -
the sinner saved; 
     and Jesus tells us that - indeed he tells three parables -
     for he also goes on to tell the parable of the prodigal son,
he tells us these parables not because we are stupid and can't
understand that God rejoices when people are saved -
     but rather he tells the parables to remind his listeners
what God's purpose is - and what our purpose is.

And we often need reminding don't we?
- perhaps not every day - but often enough.

Recall the setting in which the parables of the lost sheep and
the lost coin,
and indeed the parable of the prodigal son, are told.

It says in chapter 15, verse 1 and two of today's reading from
Luke -

     Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near
     to Jesus to listen to him -- those folks are bad folks
     my friends -- and the pharisees and the scribes (the
     good folks - the folks who obeyed God's law) were
     grumbling and saying "This fellow Jesus welcomes
     sinners and eats with them."

The scribes and Pharisees - not all of them - but many of them - 
could not understand Jesus - they could not understand how he
could associate with bad people and yet claim to be able to teach
the word of God's purity - they could not understand how he could
urge others to follow God's law - a law which demands that each
and every person be holy as God is holy - and yet sit down to eat
with sinners

The scribes and pharisees were mystified by Jesus,
     - for he did not express the anger at the tax collectors and
     sinners that they had,
     - he did not show the fear of being contaminated by evil
     that they felt.
     - nor he did not demonstrate the holy rage that they felt
     and believed that he ought to have over the sinfulness of
     certain members of his audience.

And so Jesus reminds them - and them in particular of what is
important, of what God is about - by telling them the parables we
heard this morning.

I would like to tell you a parable as well - it is told by Henri
Nouwen and it concerns an old man who used to meditate each day
be the Ganges River in India.

     One morning he saw a scorpion floating on the water. 
     When the scorpion drifted near the old man he reached
     to rescue it but was stung by the scorpion.  A bit
     later he tried again and was stung again, the bite
     swelling his hand painfully and giving him much pain. 
     Another man passing by saw what was happening and
     yelled at the meditater, "Hey, stupid old man, what's
     wrong with you?  Only a fool would risk his life for
     sake of an ugly, evil creature.  Don't you know you
     could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful

     The old man calmly replied, "My friend, just it is in
     the scorpion's nature to sting, that does not change my
     nature to save."

It is in God's nature to save - because it is in God's nature to

God seeks the lost, heals the wounded, forgives the offender, and
gives hope to those who are in despair.

It is what God does.

It matters not that we might be scorpions - that we might hurt
him - God has made promises to us - and he keeps them.

That is what the story of the cross is all about,

Paul speaks of this in today's reading from First Timothy when he
     The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that
     Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinner

Our purpose - the purpose God calls us to - is to save as well:
- to change our minds about the destruction we want to bring
about when we feel hurt,
- to relent of the anger we have,and to work to save others as
God has saved us, us who are sinners no less than those whom we
are angry at.

H.H. Staton in his book, "A Guide To the Parables of Jesus" tells
the story of having been on an ocean liner headed to the Middle

     Nine hundred miles out to sea a sail was sighted on the
     horizon.  As the liner drew closer, the passengers saw
     that the boat - a small sloop flying a Turkish flag -
     had run up a distress signal and other flags asking for
     its position at sea.  Through a faulty chronometer or
     immature navigation the small vessel had become lost. 
     For nearly an hour the liner circled the little boat,
     giving its crew correct latitude and longitude. 
     Naturally there was a great deal of interest in all the
     proceeding among the passengers of the liner.  A boy of
     about 12 standing on the deck and watching all that was
     taking place remarked aloud to himself - "It's a big
     ocean to be lost in."

It is a big universe to be lost in too.

And we do get lost - we get mixed up and turned around
We despair, we make mistakes, we do evil to each other
And at times we incur the wrath of God and of man.
And most deservedly so..

But while it is a big universe out there
it is not a hostile one - at least not on God's part.

God's wrath does not last forever 
- indeed it barely lasts but a moment 
for God remembers who we are, what we are made of, and whose we
are, and it is in his nature - even when dealing with scorpions -
to seek the lost, to save the sinner and have compassion on those
seek his shelter.

God offers to each one of us the opportunity to start over again,
fresh each day.   The question for us - who are made in his image
is quite simply this - Should we do any less?   If God can have a
change of mind and relent of his anger - cannot we?

Praise be to God for his love and his faithfulness.  AMEN

HYMN: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Sharing God's Blessings: The Offering: The Doxology (Singing Red
290) and the Prayer of Dedication.

Anthem: Shepherd of Love

Sharing Joys and Concerns: Announcements and Sharing Time, The
Pastoral Prayer and The Lord's Prayer.

HYMN: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

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 and Three-Fold Amen 

Choral Blessing: "Go Now In Peace" 

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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