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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Second Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10; Psalm 19; Luke 4:14-21
"On The Sabbath Day He Went Into The Synagogue"


READING:  Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10; Psalm 19; Luke 4:14-21
SERMON :  "On The Sabbath Day He Went Into The Synagogue"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or03su.y-c 914000
  
   Sources: The Prayer of Dedication is adapted from John Maynard,
   (maynard@sympac.com.au) "Prayers and Litanies for The Third Sunday
   after Epiphany" as sent to the PRCL List 2001. Sermon illustrations
   from the late Fr. Jerry Fuller, o.m.i. (Padre@tri-lakes.net) "There
   Is No Chaining the Word of God", as sent to the PRCL-List, 2001 and
   from John Boll (jboll@mindspring) "First Impressions: Sunday 3C",
   2001.  The children's story is based on one found in 'Children's 
   Sermon Service Plus', V.25, No. #1


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  We do not live by bread alone.  
   We live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
P  The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul
L  Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, 
   who walk according to the law of the Lord
P  The ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  
L  The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.  
   That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," 
   and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, 
   you will be saved.
P  It is with our hearts that we believe and are justified, 
   and it is with our mouth that we confess and are saved.
L  The word has become flesh and dwells among us, 
   full of grace and truth.
P  Praise be to God, forever and ever, Amen.


PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come, O God of joy and peace, to praise you and worship you and to hear
your Word afresh for our lives.  Lord, pour out your Spirit upon us that
our worship may be more than words, more than mere duty, but that it may
be alive with your power and link us to you and you to us in a deep
embrace.  Break open the Scriptures that we read so that Your Way may be
known again to us - fresh and new as when we first heard it.  We ask this
in the name of Jesus, the Light of the world.  Amen.


* HYMN  "God, Whose Almighty Word"                                 - VU 313


CHILDREN'S TIME:   "Body Parts"
Object:   Eating Utensils and Food and Drink
Theme:    God's gifts - all for one - one for all
Source:   Self and 'Children's Sermon Service Plus', V.25, No. #1

Good morning --  Today I brought with me something that all of you use
each day - a least a couple of times a day - does anyone want to guess
what it is????

I brought a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a straw.  I want to use them to
tell you a story about how we have different gifts and abilities given to
us by God - and how each is important.

Once there were a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a straw.  They were going to
have a meal.  The meal included soup, bread and butter, a piece of ham,
and some water.

The fork decided to serve the soup.  But it didn't work too well....  

Then the spoon decided to cut the ham..... but it didn't work either ---  

Then the straw decided to spread the butter on the bread...  but it didn't
work either...

Then the knife decided to serve the water -- but again it didn't work -- 

They couldn't figure out what was wrong - they tried their hardest - but
all that happened is that they got more and more hungry.  Can you tell me
what was wrong???  (each thing has a special purpose --- what is the knife
for \ spoon for \ straw for \ fork for???   What should they eat...)

So they tried again - the knife cut the ham and spread the butter on the
bread, the straw sucked up the drink, the spoon lifted up the soup, and
the fork served what was left.  They had a great meal because they at last
they each did what they were supposed to do.  They used their gifts -
their talents - in the way that God meant them to.

And so it is with us - God has given each one of us a special gift - a
special ability - and no two of you have exactly the same gift.  One of
you may be good at one thing - while another is good at another.  Some of
you may be good at singing, others good at math, still others good at
Nintendo, and others good at drawing and painting - every one is different
- yet each one of us here today - if we work together can make up a
wonderful world - in which there is singing and dancing, playing and
loving, happiness and fun - just like the knife, fork, spoon, and straw,
if they do what they are gifted to do instead of something else - can
serve up a great meal.

So when you see someone is good at something - feel happy for them -
especially if they do it better than you do - because their gift will help
everyone else to enjoy the world that God has made.   And be happy too
about your special ability - and use it to make other people's lives
better.  
                        

* PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Let us Pray.... Loving God, we thank you - for the different
   abilities - that you give us - and for the different talents - you
   bestow on us. - Help us use what you have given us - for the good
   of others - and to rejoice over what you do - through us - and our
   brothers and sisters - in this church - and in through your people
   everywhere.   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:  "Many Are The Light Beams"                                - VU 588


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries   
- Special Matters     
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD  (verse 2 - VU 371)
  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!


A READING FROM NEHEMIAH 8:1-3,5-6,8-10
   (NIV)  all the people assembled as one man in the square before the
   Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law
   of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.  So on the first
   day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the
   assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to
   understand.  He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the
   square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and
   others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively
   to the Book of the Law.

   Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was
   standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 
   Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their
   hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshipped
   the LORD with their faces to the ground.

   They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving
   the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
   Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the
   Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is
   sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep."  For all the
   people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
   Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send
   some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our
   Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

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


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 19 (Voices United 740) and Gloria Patri Sung
                
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. 
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
   World without end.  Amen


A READING FROM LUKE 4:14-21
   (NIV)  Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news
   about him spread through the whole countryside.  He taught in their
   synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he
   had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the
   synagogue, as was his custom.  And he stood up to read. 

   The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.  Unrolling it,
   he found the place where it is written:  "The Spirit of the Lord is
   on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery
   of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the
   year of the Lord's favour." 

   Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat
   down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him
   and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled
   in your hearing."

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


* HYMN:  "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                               - VU 288


SERMON: "On The Sabbath Day He Went Into The Synagogue"

   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.

There's an old story about a couple that was walking out of church one
Sunday. The wife asked the husband, 

   "Did you see the strange hat Mrs. O'Brien was wearing?" 

   "No, I didn't," replied the husband.

   "Bill Smith badly needs a hair cut, doesn't he?" commented the wife. 

   "Sorry, but I didn't notice," her husband said. 

   "You know, John," said the wife impatiently," sometimes I wonder if
   you get anything at all out of going to church."

People get different things out of going to church, depending, it would
seem, on what they expect to get when they go there. 

Today's Gospel reading begins by telling us that when Jesus returned to
Galilee in the power of the Spirit, that he went up to Nazareth - his home
town - and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his
custom.

What an interesting statement.
He went into the synagogue, on the Sabbath day, 
as was his custom.

Jesus grew up attended the synagogue in his home town 
   - it was his habit, his practice, his custom, to worship there on the
   Sabbath day
and here he is, after his baptism and anointing with the Holy Spirit,
   here he is, after already having demonstrated his power and his
   righteousness, 
       here he is, after showing through healings and teachings his
       connectedness to God 
attending weekly worship in the synagogue in his home town.

Why?

I ask this question because there are many people who claim to be
connected to God, many people who say they are aware of the movement of
the Spirit of God in their lives and in the world around them  who do not
attend public worship on a regular basis.

I ask why because there are many who claim that they can be Christians
without attending Christ's church; and yet here we see that the most holy
person this world has ever seen,
   - the person who men and women of many different faiths recognize as
   being one of the most righteous and beautiful that history has
   produced,
   - a person who had the deepest kind of prayer life and a profound
   intimacy with the creation - so much so that he could command storms
   to cease
here we see that he attended public worship
that he entered the synagogue, on a regular basis.

What did he expect to find there in that experience?   
Surely he knew it all already?

Surely the prayers of the cantor, 
   the psalms that were sung, 
       the scriptures that were read,
          and the message of the teacher for that day 
were old hat to him.

Surely he could have spent the time better on the mountainsides walking
and praying, 
   surely he could have done better simply resting his tired body after a
   hard week of being about his Father's business...
And yet he attended 
- he attended worship services very much like this one, week in and week
out, year in and year out.

What did he get out of it?
Why did he go?

I think that there are several reasons.

The first and most basic of these is that Jesus attended the worship held
each Sabbath day because it is part of what it means to keep the Sabbath
Day - because it is part of what God commands us to do in the ten
commandments 
          
   Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall
   labour and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to
   the LORD your God; you shall not do any work-  you, your son or
   your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the
   alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the LORD made heaven
   and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh
   day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

To consecrate something is to set it apart 
to set it apart and to dedicate it to God.

Now we know Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man 
- and not man for the Sabbath,
but remember in this profound reminder 
   how Jesus did not neglect the purpose of the Sabbath Day,
   how he did not neglect worship and prayer and hearing the Word,
   how it was his custom to assemble with the faithful in the synagogue
and to do there with them very much what you are doing here today with me.

Jesus most surely attended the Synagogue each week because God commands
that of us all, when God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy.

But there is something more profound than even holy obedience in what I
think are Jesus' reasons for attending the synagogue on the Sabbath. 

His obedience to God, like ours, helps to establish a foundation upon
which God can build and then inhabit the temple that is our heart and the
temple that is our community of faith.  

I believe  that Jesus went to the synagogue to hear the Word of God 
to be reminded of the Word of God 
and to be recreated by the Word of God
this even though he was the Word of God made flesh!

Do you remember how Jesus tells us that we should listen to the teachings
of the scribes and pharisees, even when their personal lives, their
holiness, their way of doing things, are less than perfect.
   
   Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  "The teachers
   of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.  So you must obey
   them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do,
   for they do not practice what they preach.

Jesus was and is the Word made flesh - but as flesh Jesus needed, as much
as you and I need, the systematic and regular reminder of what the Word
tells us.

He did not allow the imperfections of those who proclaimed the word to
   detract him from listening to the word from their lips
nor did he allow the hypocrisy of the those who taught the word detract
   him from telling his disciples and all who would hear him to listen to
   the word from their mouths.

What is the one of the big excuses that so many people who claim to be
followers of Christ use when they tell us they don't need to go to church
- or don't want to go to Church?

Isn't it that the church is full of hypocrites?

That one doesn't wash with Jesus.

He himself listened to the words of the Law and the Prophets from lips far
inferior to his own and he urged his brothers and sisters - his followers
and his disciples to do the same.

I believe that is because Jesus knew that the Word gives life no matter
what container pours it out - just as water from a chipped and dented mug
is as good as water from the finest crystal.
                                          
Which brings me to another reason for regularly hearing the Word of God
in the company of believers - in our churches - each day.

It feeds us.

   I heard a story the other day about a man who was telling a friend
   that he no longer saw any point in going to church - that he had
   heard over a 1000 sermons over the previous years and couldn't
   remember what any of them said.

   His friend replied that over the same period he had eaten thousands
   of meals that had been prepared by his wife - and that he would be
   hard pressed to remember a single one of them - but that wasn't
   about to stop him from going home for supper.

God has prepared a meal for us within the bosom of the family he has given
to us.

Jesus reminded the devil when he was being tempted in the wilderness that
we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the
mouth of God.

Those words are read each week in our assemblies.

Our old testament reading this morning describes one such occasion. 
Actually it was a special occasion - An occasion when the Word as we now
have it recorded in the scriptures was, for the first time after many
years - years of exile - years of deprivation -read aloud to the people
and explained as it was read.

We hear that the children of Israel mourned and wept aloud when they heard
it.  They mourned and wept because that Word showed them how they had
departed from God's way and because it spoke to them of what they had lost
or never had - and of what could be and should be.

The word convicted them - as I know it has convicted many of you at
different times in your lives,
   causing you to weep for yourselves - and for those whom you love.

And that is good.  We all need to be reminded and we all need to be
convicted from time to time.
We need to recall what is right and true - what leads to life - and what
leads to death.

But that is not the end of the story of how the word was read to the
people of Israel that day.

Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the scribe, and the Levites who were
instructing the people said to them: 

   "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.", 

and then Nehemiah told them

   "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those
   who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not
   grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

The sharing of the Word of God in that sacred assembly may have convicted
the people as they heard it
but it issued then in a blessing -- as does the Word today as it is read
in our midst.

The word "repent" is always accompanied by the words "the kingdom of God
is at hand".

The very Word that convicts us  - also gives us the promise of God,
   the promise of God to be with those who listen to him,
       to forgive those who call upon him,
          to grant life,  abundantly,  joyfully,  
to those who take his word into them.

The word feeds us - it feeds us with that which need to live.
Even when it doesn't always seem so to us.

   I heard of a business man who flies every week and his frequent
   flyer miles are now in the millions.  How often has he and his
   fellow passengers heard the emergency instructions by the cabin
   attendants just prior to takeoff?  How  much attention do any of us
   who have flown more than once, pay to the instructions?  

   Recently he was on a flight.  Just prior to landing the pilot
   interrupted the routine to tell the passengers that they possibly
   had landing gear trouble.  He looked out at the approaching airport
   to see the fire engines assembled alongside the runway.  They had
   to circle, dump fuel and listen  to emergency procedures again but
   this time even the most seasoned flyers paid intense attention.  As
   the man said, "As if our lives depended on our getting them right -
   because they did!"

There's a parallel to our gathering in the midst of whatever journey we
may be on each week.  

We pause to hear God's Word and hope to hear "landing instructions".  
The people of Israel in our first reading, and Jesus by his example today
in the gospel reading, 
call us today to pay attention to the God who addresses us 
- it really means the difference between a life of exile or a life of
meaning and community.   
- it means the difference between being fed and not being fed.

(By the way, the plane arrived safely.)

Jesus went up to Nazareth - and on the Sabbath day, he entered the
synagogue - as was his custom.

I think he did this for many reasons -
he did it so he might have fellowship with God
he did it to keep the commandments of God
he did it so he might be fed - so that he might be instructed and
counselled

He did it too because it made him a part of God's people,
   a people who were not only defined by the name they took and the law
they obeyed
       but by the fact that they gathered together to hear and to pray to
the one who named them -
the one who said that they would be his people and that he would be their
God,
a God who would save them from their enemies and make them a light to the
nations.

   On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
   And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was
   handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is
   written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed
   me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim
   freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to
   release the oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." 
   Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat
   down.  The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
   and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled
   in your hearing."

Today the scripture is fulfilled in our hearing as well.

Christ is here, here in our church on this our Sabbath Day
to bring to our poor good news 
to proclaim freedom to those of us who are enslaved
to bring sight to those of us who are blind
and to release those of us who are oppressed
- those of us - and those in the world around us.

You came today - as is the custom of many - if not all - of you..
Glory be to God for that.

Listen now in your hearts to what God wants to say to you....

Listen now for what God want to tell us all...

Praise God for giving us this day...  This time... this gathering of his
people...

Hear what God is saying....

And make your prayer to God.... even as I pray now - and we all pray in
the moments to come.


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Eternal God - I thank you for the Word you give to us for our guidance,
for the word you have given me.....

I thank you God for this time when I - with my brothers and sisters - can
stop and listen together...

I thank you God for the opportunity to speak to you about what you have
placed on my heart....

and for this time when I can have my brothers and sisters pray with me for
the concerns that we share..

For the people that you gave yourself for in Christ Jesus....

Lord, you know that there is a word I need to not only hear - but to
accept....
You know that there is a weight that needs to be lifted,
a vision that needs to be restored,  a person to be set free.

Perhaps today it is not me.  Perhaps it is enough that today I have one
more meal with the family that you have given me - a meal that I will not
remember the details of.  But there are those Lord - those here today 
that seek more intently the landing instructions that you give - those
here today who have concerns for themselves - or for the people in their
lives - or for those in the larger world that we are all a part of.  

Bless them.  

Father - here the prayers of joy and of concern that your people now raise
before you - those things mentioned earlier - and the new ones you have
brought to our minds in this time..... BIDDING PRAYER
...Lord Hear Our Prayer....     We ask it 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
Dedication

   Accept, Lord, we pray, this offering we make.  Cause it to be used
   to the glory of Your name in the work of Your kingdom.  Teach us to
   bring, not only gifts, but our whole lives.  For Your service, we
   pray.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "God, Who Has Caused To Be Written"             - VU 498


* 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 may God's Spirit dwell richly within you to guide and lead you and
make you wise
- may God's Living Word bring you the perfect freedom and wholeness
promised by all the prophets
- and may God's love fill your cup to overflowing -
both now and forevermore.  Amen


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


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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