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  • Three Wise Men
    exceedingly insecure about power becoming a murderous old man killing many people even his wife and his sons So it is obvious he becomes agitated when the Magi asks him where is the newborn king of the Jews He just can t imagine that anyone else is becoming higher than him Making himself loyal to the Roman emperor for a long time to hold on to power he isn t simply able to see anyone other than the ones loyal to him So he starts plotting to kill the baby Christ and orders his soldiers to kill all baby boys two years and under in Israel so Jesus family had to flee to Egypt So we can see clearly the different reactions to the newborn King here between the wise men and Herod There is an acceptance by the Magi the Gentiles They are Gentiles coming from another country but they are indeed true seekers who finally find the light It seems like it doesn t matter for them to obey and worship the Jewish King despite their own religion On the other hand there is a rejection by Herod born as half Jew and half Edomite who lived his whole life pursuing all the power that he could get by being loyal to the Romans Even though he physically was in the land of the Jewish people he is spiritually and truthfully not for them failing to find the light Physical identity doesn t always guarantee that we are spiritually and truthfully in unless we try hard to make ourselves humble before God Herod s blindness was caused by his hunger for power and high pride which ultimately led him to reject the Messiah He reminds us of a theologian s saying that indulgence in human pride is the primary reason for us to be far from God The Magi however are true seekers and worshippers bringing precious gifts to worship Jesus coming from thousands of miles away We don t know how long it took for them to arrive But think about their journey with strong aspiration to seek the baby Jesus They once lost the star in the sky They even had their own religion Their gifts don t necessary mean tangible ones rather those gifts represent their pure and sincere worshipping hearts I think they show us the essence of true worship honoring Christ being willing to give him what is really valuable to you Then it is about devotion Devoting yourself to the most Holy by kneeling The Magi sought followed found and worshipped They were humbly seeking the Messiah letting God work in their lives So what did they get They got joy They were overjoyed Joy being with the King of the kings Joy in knowing the love of God revealed through the baby Jesus It must have been an epiphany to the Magi a moment of great insight and penetration experiencing the God A woman pastor tells a story that such a

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/three-wise-men (2016-02-13)
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  • Has God been fired?
    Sunday called you a nest of rattlesnakes How long would you put up with that Well John s fiery images of God s axe chopping down every trunk of unworthy wood Has encouraged many generations of preachers to do just that to threaten those seeking something from God that if you re fruits aren t worthy you ll burn How close will people in need of comfort or hope or forgiveness get to such judgment Even John s prophecy of God s Messiah is caught up in this threatening tone I am not worthy of the one who comes after me He will baptize you with fire The chaff of your life will go up in smoke I ask you is this an invitation to encounter the God made flesh in the Christ Child whom we just welcomed to the manger Each year the reading set for the Sunday we mark Jesus baptism never fails to strike me with this contrast between John s strident demands for faithfulness and the tender scene in which Jesus is embraced by the Holy Spirit According to Luke Jesus rises from the water and begins to pray Heaven opens and the Spirit enfolds him God speaks You are my child my Beloved In you I take delight No lightning bolt no fire What John expects does not come to pass Though Jesus life will be filled with fiery passion it is the passion of love for those who have been made to feel unworthy It is the passion of love for those who think they have no fruit to offer If we can picture ourselves standing in the river beside Jesus we should not fear being overwhelmed by the river s destructive power This river is not the Mississippi The Jordan floods us with the mercy and grace of God as we hear God saying You are my child my Beloved In you I take delight God is love overflowing flowing over Jesus and through Jesus into our lives And yet somehow God has been fired from many lives around us Our secular neighbours look at religious people like us and think that fiery judgment is what we like to throw around that we feel compelled to judge and fire bomb each other and those who lack our faith Sadly of course history bears evidence that Christians and other believers have done this to each other over many centuries including this one We have to ask where is God s overflowing love in world history Has God stopped up the fountain of grace and its flood of mercy Or have religious people been distracted or misdirected in our sense of who God is Have we missed God s true intention for us Have we ever heard God say to us You are my child my Beloved In you I take delight Have we ever said to someone else You are God s Beloved God takes delight in you I think people who have fired

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/has-god-been-fired (2016-02-13)
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  • Going through the motions
    to new use That water becomes the wine of new life with Jesus blessing Now sometimes this story is taken to be a contrast between the prayerful rituals of faithful Jews and the joyful celebrations of Jesus followers Jews this interpretation argues were just going through the motions of faith But followers of Jesus had tasted the good wine Yet I think this old interpretation misses the point Any religious ritual can lose its connection to God when people feel like they are just going through familiar motions like we do to start our mornings If we asked people who used to come to church why they don t come any more many of them would say in one way or another that they don t get anything out of worship Sunday morning ritual doesn t lead them into an encounter with God that they find fulfilling They ve begun to feel they re just going through meaningless motions and so they stop coming So this story of a crisis at a wedding is for anyone who has ever felt even for a little while that we were just going through the motions of faithfulness If we ve ever nodded off in a sermon stayed in bed on a chilly Sunday or lost heart or hope in God Jesus comes to the wedding in Cana to wake us up by tossing his wine in our face 180 gallons of it Jesus has arrived in the nick of time to drench us in God s promise that the good life is still waiting for us There is better wine in store than what we ve tasted so far The cup of salvation is filled with abundant life if we will just allow ourselves to drink deeply of God s love John s story is a challenging reminder that all our prayerful reflections our dignified liturgies our familiar and steadying services all these are only preparations for the fullness of life in God And the fullness of life comes as a gift from Jesus Christ to refresh our souls and make our hearts glad so that we can live with commitment and purpose in God s world But how are we going claim the gift Jesus brings In this story Mary gives us a clue She looks for Jesus and tells him what s gone wrong Then she challenges him to do something and she expects him to make a difference If we are to follow Mary s lead first we have to consider what s going right and what s going wrong in us and around us When we come to worship it s important to name before God the situation we re facing right now Yet the situation will be a little different for each of us here as well as for anyone we know who stayed home today For example some of us here may be bothered by something we ve done or something that s been done to

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/going-through-the-motions (2016-02-13)
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  • The Spirit of the Lord is upon us
    into exile Isaiah delivered this promise from God so God s people trusted they would still be embraced cared for and set free from their captors Yet Jesus took on this vision and expanded its interpretation As Luke tells the story of Jesus ministry Jesus kept challenging his own people to offer healing care and relief to all who were suffering or put down by the powerful not just to their own tribe or nation And Jesus ruffled more than a few feathers expanding the vision For it is a big vision And it has moved many of Jesus followers over the centuries to sense that faithfulness is not only a matter of what we believe about God Faith is also a matter of how we live out our belief in the world Paul s letter to the Corinthians tells us more about why this big vision can still call Christians of very different theological viewpoints together to roll up our sleeves and get to work In order to impress upon his readers that the Church was to be one unified entity Paul imagines different parts of the human body speaking to each other He begins 21 The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you nor again the head to the feet I have no need of you In Paul s day eyes were considered windows to the soul The eyes connected the world to the mind that most important human faculty To see something was to understand it But feet what were they Dusty dirty walking through all kinds of unmentionable things feet were not that important on the ancient scale of body parts But Paul argues with this notion 22 the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable 23 and those body parts we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour treat with greater respect When we transfer this analogy to the body politic and to human communities like the Church Paul reminds us that no weak or insignificant person can be ignored Someone without social honour should receive more respect honour within Christ s community As Paul says 24 God has so arranged the body giving the greater honour to the inferior member so 25 that members may have the same care for one another Then here is his clincher 26 If one part of the body suffers all suffer together with it We know this truth from the soles of our feet to the top of our heads A foot that can t bear your weight can be as troublesome as a bad headache When one part suffers all suffer together This is the truth which brings Christians from differing denominations together when some part of the human community is suffering We all empathize We all feel the pain not only for our own tribe or denomination but for any children of God facing oppression or in deep need The question we ultimately face is Who

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/the-spirit-of-the-lord-is-upon-us (2016-02-13)
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  • Just what I wanted
    A brand new leather slipper So you don t have to eat Mark s old slippers anymore Lucy announced Gee thanks Lucy It s just what I wanted I ve never had my own slipper before But how come there s only one slipper My friend Marsha took the other slipper home for her dog Princess One week we each spent half our allowance on that pair So you and Princess each get half a pair of slippers this Christmas Sherman gave the slipper a good hard shake Better snap than Mark s old slipper He shook his head once more and let the slipper sail across the living room Flies better too Then Sherman sniffed the new slipper But it doesn t smell like that old slipper Of course not said Lucy It s brand new Mark hasn t put his stinky old feet in it Too bad Dogs love stinky old feet The family continued to open their presents Lucy got a cool Elsa doll from Frozen Wow Just what I wanted I don t suppose her castle is in another box Lucy started to dig Mark got a tablet Thanks Mom and Dad Just what I wanted Right away he started to figure out how it worked and forgot about his other presents Later that morning once all the presents were opened Mark was busy downloading games for his tablet and Lucy was busy creating an ice palace for Elsa Sherman decided to bury his new slipper in the garden After a few days in the dirt it will smell like a real slipper So he went outside and dug a hole beside a rosebush in the back yard next to where he d buried his favorite bone the week before Good thing the ground isn t frozen like Lucy s new doll He scratched some dirt over top By next week this slipper will taste like my bone Yum Then Sherman went to find Mark s old slipper the one he d been chewing on before Christmas He looked in his doghouse No slipper He looked under the couch No slipper Maybe Mark is wearing it again So Sherman went to check Mark s bedroom As Sherman pawed through the shoes in the closet he felt a hand on his collar What are you after You ve got your own slipper now Leave mine alone Mark said frowning But I m looking for your old slipper You know the one I was chewing last week You remember I made a hole in the toe so you could get a new pair Sure I remember I think Mom threw that slipper out She knew you were getting a new one She figured the old one was no good anymore No good anymore How could she throw out my old slipper It tasted so good It smelled so good Not like the WalMart shoe department I loved that old slipper So did I before you ate it You

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/365-just-what-i-wanted (2016-02-13)
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  • Living as if
    onto the stage with John and lets this unworthy man plunge him into the river Jordan Jesus is baptized in solidarity with the rest of us in order to discover his God given identity and show us ours As his head breaks the surface of the water Jesus sees the heavens ripped open and hears God s voice declare You are my beloved child In you I take delight Now there s parental affirmation to shape a promising future In you I take delight This translation comes from a recent scholar who finds the traditional versions just a bit too tame If you look in our pew Bibles you ll see the more common English phrasing With you I am well pleased But stop and think about those words What s the difference to think someone is pleased with you compared with hearing you have delighted that person To feel someone s delight over us is to receive a gift of encouragement and affirmation which can lift our hearts In the face of delight gone are our worries about unworthiness Instead a spirit of hope awakens us with the energy of new possibilities Mark echoes words from the prophet Isaiah when he announces God s delight in Jesus In Isaiah 42 God expresses delight in a servant who will inspire justice throughout God s creation and bring healing and hope to all God s people This is Jesus mandate to inspire justice and bring healing and hope wherever they re needed From the moment of his baptism Jesus must live as if God s delight shapes his every moment every action every relationship And Jesus bears God s delight toward us so that we will taste healing and hope and be inspired to live in right relationship with all God s creation So here is the invitation in our baptism We are to live as if God s delight shapes our every moment our every action every encounter Rather than worry about our own worthiness before God we are baptized into God s delight to hand on to others the healing and hope Jesus offers us If this is the invitation in our baptism then it is also our challenge for the unfolding new year to live as if God s delight shapes our every moment Consider what it would mean for you to live as if all the old criticisms and all the failures of a life time large or small were washed away no embarrassing stain for someone to notice no accusing finger to stir up the past What would it mean to live as if you really can start fresh and make choices to delight God every day What would it mean to live this year as if every encounter every relationship was coloured by God s delight What would it look like if you considered that you could change someone else s life for the better because your sense of God s delight shaped your words

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/367-living-as-if (2016-02-13)
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  • Are your ears tingling yet?
    s call to little Samuel is a story of God s clean sweep Eli and his household are done for and Eli knows it They have failed to respect God s holiness and justice And God will not put up with leaders like that Samuel is God s fresh start But our story this morning reminds us that he had to learn to listen Samuel had to learn to discern God s voice from what he was expecting to hear Old Eli coaches Samuel from his own painful experience Boy he says if you hear that voice calling you say Speak Lord for your servant is listening Once Samuel sets aside his own eagerness to be important he can hear what God has to say But what God has to say is not easy to hear No one likes their ears to tingle Yet when we are truly listening open to hear God s word for our time our lives we may hear something unexpected In this story with its rebuke of any sense of entitlement God is overturning tradition and privilege God rejects the way things have been done in the temple God is making a clean sweep Now you may have heard the old quip about the seven last words of the church They parody the tradition of the seven last words from the Cross But the parody is meant to make our ears tingle What are the seven last words of the church We ve never done it this way before Those words cut close to the bone for all of us I think All of us have some traditions we want to cling to established comfortable practices we ve known for decades which have become for us the way things should be As a woman in ministry I remember the days when real ministers were supposed to be male Even in my first congregation where I felt very well loved when it came time to prepare for my replacement and we were working on desirable qualities in the next minister someone spoke up It would be good to have a minister whose wife could A few folk looked at me and flinched their ears tingling But most ears didn t tingle because the way things have been are so often the way we think they should still be The stories about Jesus and John the Baptist in John s Gospel make a related point which is easy for us to overlook John the Baptist came first on the scene Not only in Scripture but in other historical documents of the time his ministry calling people to repent and be baptized is recounted John gathered many of his own disciples and some of those disciples remained faithful to John long after Jesus began his ministry Today s Gospel reading shows some followers of John the Baptist shifting their allegiance to Jesus But it wasn t a simple thing for them They had to meet Jesus listen to

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/370-are-your-ears-tingling-yet (2016-02-13)
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  • Psalms for the Soul
    Think on that Only God s power and the riches of God s love are worth trusting Our next psalm has been set to folk tunes There are two in our hymnbook Boney M remember them way back when had a great hit from Psalm 137 By the rivers of Babylon when we sat down I used to belt out that song in my little folk group back the 1970s But these folk arrangements always left out the uncomfortable bits of this psalm As you listen pay attention to the ending A Psalm of Anger Psalm 137 By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion 2 On the willows there we hung up our harps 3 For there our captors asked us for songs and our tormentors asked for mirth saying Sing us one of the songs of Zion 4 How could we sing the Lord s song in a foreign land 5 If I forget you O Jerusalem let my right hand wither 6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy 7 Remember O Lord against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem s fall how they said Tear it down Tear it down Down to its foundations 8 O daughter Babylon you devastator Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us 9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock Now this is not a psalm of David It s a psalm written more than 500 years after King David s reign when his kingdom had been captured the beautiful city of Jerusalem destroyed and many citizens carted off to exile in Babylon to serve at their captors whim It is a sorrowful angry psalm Everything Israel hoped for has disappeared in a breath But the folk versions all stop with the sorrow and leave out the angry bits But a renowned scholar of the Psalms Walter Brueggeman reminds us we shouldn t stop with the verses which are easy to hear For many news stories of our own time can draw the same anger from us that we hear at the end of the psalm Revenge stalks the geo political world And tiny children do become victims of vengeful anger Brueggeman says at least psalm 137 is honest It declares to God what we often feel passionately that our enemies deserve the very worst This is not the teaching of Jesus to be sure And these are not feelings the Bible endorses But Brueggemann argues we should say our angriest thoughts to God and then listen for what God has to say Notice God doesn t reply to the anger in Psalm 137 God is silent And the silence of God is something which ought to make us think long and deep in humility Selah Now psalms

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/371-psalms-for-the-soul (2016-02-13)
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