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  • With apologies to Frank Sinatra
    practicing Jewish customs insisted all Christians including those of Greek or Roman background should keep the laws of Moses have their sons circumcised follow Jewish dietary laws honour Jewish festivals all as part of following Jesus Make them do it our way Our reading from 1 Corinthians today is Paul s heartfelt appeal to such my way or the highway groups To Jews those under the law I became as a Jew To Gentiles those not under the law I became as a Gentile To the weak those who would not eat meat sacrificed in Greek temples I became weak Now we might think Paul was just trying to keep everyone happy being all things to all people But that s not his point He wanted to meet each group on their own terms in order to win them for Christ He didn t want to offend them by his behaviour so that they d keep listening to his primary message that Christ sets us free from all human demands about what we must do or not do to set ourselves right with God For Paul always argues it s Christ s love and sacrifice that set us right with God not our own acts of righteousness God looks at us through the lens of Christ s love mercy whether we keep one set of customs or another whether we eat food from Greek temples or abstain St Paul would abide by someone else s customs when he was spending time with them because he thought all rituals customs and laws were secondary to God s embrace of us in Christ Yet we have such trouble believing this We impose on each other tests of faithfulness about how we think Christians must behave tests which really say more about the way we like things done than they say about Christ s love Today s stories in Mark s gospel show us how welcoming Jesus was to all who reached out to him without imposing any tests of faithfulness whatsoever First he reached out to Simon Peter s mother in law to release her from fever s grip It may make us smile to imagine her getting right up from her bed to lay out a meal for Jesus and his lads How unfair But that s not the point A woman was restored for ministry that day The verb which describes her service is the verb which describes every disciple s act of commitment She s a follower now but we can miss that detail if we assume Jesus only called men to serve with him Then the story continues with Jesus surrounded by the sick those possessed by demons Most of us remember being rattled when we came across someone on the street who was disturbed behaving oddly obviously unwell But Jesus doesn t stiffen up and walk by He welcomes folk with a healing touch over and over again So rooted is Jesus in God s enduring presence

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/374-with-apologies-to-frank-sinatra (2016-02-13)
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  • Time Travellers with Jesus
    stress Our Gospel story for today is such a moment of time travel when Peter James and John suddenly see Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah those two key prophets of ancient Israel Moses had lived and died nearly 1300 years before Jesus Elijah about 900 years earlier Our OT story tells the legend of Elijah s fate carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire spared from death for his faithfulness and courage And though it s not found in the Bible there s a similar legend about Moses going straight to heaven God honouring Moses in the same way as Elijah So whether we interpret Mark s mountain top scene as a vision or as a moment of time travel when the past enters the present the scene with Moses Elijah and Jesus is promising something about the future at a time when the future was risky For Jesus was about to begin his final trip to Jerusalem He had stirred up controversy His enemies were already plotting against him Into this anxious dangerous moment Jesus followers hear God speak a word of hope This is my beloved Son Listen to him Trust Jesus the way you trust Moses and Elijah God is saying Know that whatever happens he belongs to me This was a message Jesus first followers needed for themselves at a time of high stress and uncertainty God is also saying Know that whatever happens you belong to me because you follow Jesus Time travelling with Jesus gives us hope to rely on when our way seems uncertain Communion is another moment of time travel for Jesus followers Here we recall Jesus final meal with his disciples as the threats against him mounted on the brink of his arrest When we gather around this table in a sense we are back there with him receiving the broken bread sipping from the cup We remember God s promise poured out in Christ for us in the midst of whatever challenges we are facing But communion also moves us forward into the future Our remembering holds out hope that God will complete the promise of new life for us in Christ s coming again to renew all creation However we interpret that promise it is meant to assure us that we are never lost to God Know that whatever happens God says you belong to me because you remember Jesus In communion we move backwards forwards in the same moment time travellers with Jesus whose love never lets us go For me this promise which we will taste in real time today brings comfort because it unites our memories with a hope which takes us beyond time This act of time travel gives me the sense that those who once shared this table with us or even before we arrived here still gather around it as part of that great cloud of witnesses Last fall two dear friends of mine died in Vancouver a

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/375-time-travellers-with-jesus (2016-02-13)
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  • A rainbow around your finger
    all created things The rainbow hangs there as God s reminder to resist any urge to destruction to let its sparkle defeat any anger or disappointment even when we creatures deserve it Just like the rainbow God sets in the sky Mark s story of Jesus in the wilderness carries a reminder that God hopes all living things will be transformed and co exist peaceably Mark s version of Jesus temptation in the wilderness is so much simpler than the stories Luke Matthew tell No dramatic confrontations or conversations with Satan No what s unique in Mark s story is the little phrase we almost miss and Jesus was with the wild beasts A curious phrase if you think about it It doesn t suggest any struggle or danger It s almost as if Jesus has found a petting zoo in the wilderness with the wild beasts Biblical scholars who know ancient texts better than you or I find here a hint of the vision we read in Genesis a vision repeated by the prophets Isaiah and Hosea It s a vision of transformed relationships between humankind and beasts of prey of dangerous destructive relationships healed and renewed under God s covenant of peace In Mark s view Jesus is initiating God s long standing promise that all creation will be transformed and the beauty in each creature respected by every other living thing The Spirit of creation in Genesis is now the Spirit of the new creation at work in Jesus So Jesus issues us an invitation to repent and believe that the goodness God intends for us will be restored Yet so much in life eats away at our trust in this promise So much of what happens to us discourages us A broken promise here a forgotten resolution there and we feel like there s no point An accident a tragedy an illness and we feel like God has turned against us We forget God s covenant never to turn against creation again We forget the good news that in Christ we all share in the new creation the promise that beauty and goodness will win out in the end because this is God s intention for us this is God s covenant with us and all living things But because we are prone to forget God s good will toward creation we need a rainbow around our finger so we remember that God s heart toward us all living things has been transformed This year the season of Lent begins with the invitation to turn away from discouragement and the destructive impulses which drive too much human behaviour in our communal life and in our personal lives If God s heart can be transformed so that God remembers the beauty potential in creation then so can our hearts be transformed We can begin to trust the beauty promise God has planted within us like the ugly duckling or the wizened tulip bulb And we can begin

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/376-a-rainbow-around-your-finger (2016-02-13)
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  • A Pause that Refreshes
    in the midst of building repairs and a hiring process the business of the church and the busyness of the church can be distracting Our prayerful focus on Jesus can be lost when we re worried about the utility bills or whether the pantry is fully stocked Of course all these concerns are important We want our church to run well It s just that such concerns are not most important for us when we follow Jesus That day in the temple those who observed Jesus didn t get his point The authorities asked him for a sign of his own authority to upset business as usual Jesus answer puzzled them Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days They thought he was talking nonsense It took 46 years to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem What s this about 3 days But Jesus words foreshadow his death resurrection He has become the sign of God s power to raise us up to rebuild human lives for God s purposes from the ground up So he calls us away from business as usual and busyness as usual to centre our lives in God s renewing love and mercy Jesus himself is now the temple and when we place ourselves in his presence prayerfully focused there is a pause that refreshes and cleanses us in the way no visit to a spa or glass of cola can ever accomplish Jesus is our Sabbath rest our sign of God s new covenant with us if only we will pause and trust ourselves to him in a regular rhythm of refreshing worship and reflection So then I began to ponder what kind of sign do we provide for others when they observe us following Jesus What do our friends and neighbours see in us when they know that we belong to this church and bear the name Christian in this community This question called to mind a challenge a guest put to me after I d been working on the Isle of Iona for about a month managing a guest centre But we d had a terrible accident just as one set of guests was preparing to leave the island A woman tripped on the stairs fell through a safety glass fire door She was badly hurt The helicopter had to come from the mainland fly her to Glasgow She very nearly died Of course other guests were in a state of shock as were my staff But we had to send that group on their way and clean up the centre to receive the next set of guests the very next morning As centre leader I had accident reports to fill out staff members to calm down plus a guest with traumatic injuries 200 miles away on my mind I was an anxious mess But then along came a new group of guests unaware of what staff were still going through We had to make them welcome settle them

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/379-a-pause-that-refreshes (2016-02-13)
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  • When you can't fix it yourself
    tries which failed those things with results we never intended and yet things for which we feel some responsibility Sometimes these are small things that nag our memories like a comment someone took the wrong hurtful way or a project we planned that just didn t work out But some unintentional things have had serious repercussions things we dearly wish we could fix but can t I ll never forget a pastoral call I made many years ago to a new family in my church As Sarah was making tea Henry got out a scrap book to show family pictures I thought But as I paged through it I realized it was the story of the end to his career He d been a long distance truck driver and one dark rainy slick night he d lost control of his transport That truck slid into oncoming traffic hit a car and a family was killed Though the news clippings recounted a trial that did not find him guilty of anything there he was responsible for a tragedy he couldn t fix All those years later he still carried a burden of regret and guilt which weighed heavily on his heart He was a kind and generous man but there was nothing he could do to make things better When we cause things we never intended to happen by our actions we need Jesus to lift the burden so we can go on Singing Come bring your burdens to God 3X For Jesus will never say no Then again there are things we do intentionally and yet later come to regret perhaps with maturity a change of heart or 20 20 hindsight I remember when my father owned a service station he was plagued with customers who never paid their bills He d write off hundreds of dollars in bad debts every year But every once in a while a cheque would arrive in the mail with a letter attempting to make amends settling up after years of delinquency But of course putting a cheque in the mail can t fix everything like a relationship we cut off then lost the chance ever to be reconciled perhaps because death or distance have intervened We may have uttered a harsh word meant to set someone straight punished disobedience fairly we thought but instead crushed someone s heart or provoked lasting resentment How do you fix that Then I thought of a few students expelled from college because they cheated on assignments A single serious misjudgment like that can ruin your whole career before it even gets started So what do you do when your own choices backfire and the future turns bleak Or when relationships are damaged far beyond what we anticipated When the consequences of our actions linger in our conscience or close doors we wanted to keep open and we just can t fix the future on our own we need Jesus to lift the burden so we can go

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/380-when-you-cant-fix-it-yourself (2016-02-13)
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  • What is written on your heart?
    upheaval which led to the bombing of castles by rival factions and the massacre of hundreds of peasants caught in the crossfire In the midst of this angry passionate conflict over what God willed for the Church Calvin participated in the burning of a heretic a man named Servetus who rejected the Trinity When I learned that I had to ask myself what on earth was written on Calvin s burning heart Even cool rational Presbyterians have had hearts stirred to violence in defense of our faith So perhaps we should pause to think through the tensions around us between competing heartfelt convictions about what God wills The prophet Jeremiah proposed that God writes the truth of God s covenant on the hearts of God s people Now this could be a rather risky proposition if only the heart is involved deciding what God wants But actually Jeremiah was urging the faithful of his own generation not be half hearted in their loyalty to God s laws He envisioned a time when God would restore God s people from the inside out making hearts burn with renewed love for God And so in Jesus Christ we witness such love and loyalty burning with the commitment which took Jesus to the Cross The words of Jesus in John s Gospel are anything but half hearted He pictures a seed dying giving itself away completely in order to bear fruit Jesus knows this is his destiny to die in order that the fruit of his faithfulness can flourish in the hearts of others Then he offers some passionate words Those who love their life will lose it And those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life But in our day we have to ask if Jesus wants us to hate this world Did he encourage his followers to take up arms in his name and offer ourselves as martyrs for the Christian cause We know from our own painful history some Christians have read such words this way Hatred between Christians has led to the same kind of violence we witness now in the deserts towns of Syria and Iraq But is this what was written on Jesus heart Is martyrdom what he expects from his followers My research into his words this week suggests a different meaning for the image of a single grain of wheat dying The seed that dies to produce its fruit gives itself away entirely to share its goodness with the world The seed dies for the sake of others not for the sake of its own vision of what others must do or believe Jesus calls his followers to serve not to be self serving Our call is not to insist on others purity of belief or action Our call is to nourish the world with the kind of self giving love we see poured out in Jesus We don t martyr ourselves to ensure our own claim to a

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/383-what-is-writting-on-your-heart (2016-02-13)
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  • The Day the World Tilts
    us Save us from this government we resent But the day begins to tilt Jesus is not the king who comes to meet triumphant expectations Jesus will not play the world s power games Jesus is a different kind of king As the world tilts Jesus begins to slide toward the Cross a tragedy in the making We ve all been there Something happens and our world becomes unstable Suddenly we are being propelled toward an undesired or unexpected result and there s nothing we can do to stop ourselves We may not even get the chance The passengers in the plane crash in France this week couldn t do a thing when their world tilted toward disaster There was nothing the people in Vanuatu could do when the cyclone hammered their islands reducing their lives to rubble So often when the world tilts we find ourselves sliding towards trouble or tragedy and there is no way to put on the brakes Palm Sunday is such a day when the time shifts from all being well to everything we expected beginning to fall apart we fail the exam our job ends the diagnosis is bad someone walks out The world tilts and everything we were counting on crumbles Hosanna Lord Save us This is the Palm Sunday cry This is our cry every time something happens we didn t plan or expect or want Whenever the world tilts and we lose our footing we are propelled towards Good Friday toward the Cross and toward our God who has gone before us when his world tilted and turned against him Yet few of us want to meet him at the Cross We prefer to smile at children waving their palms We anticipate the bright cheer on Easter morning But between now and then we cover our ears and shut our eyes We don t want to show up on Good Friday It s too sad We want to live in the world where nothing can go wrong Yet people who avoid Good Friday often don t know how to survive when their ground shifts But consider this When our world tilts toward trouble we are sliding into the arms of the one who saves us the one who has walked that slippery slope of disappointment rejection betrayal pain before us We are sliding into the arms of Jesus who knows better than we do that God will never let us go Jesus has put on the mantle Isaiah lifted up for God s suffering servant He is the one who will bear the lash the slaps on the face the spit and insult When he dismounts the donkey and walks toward his accusers he declares to us step by step The Lord God helps me therefore I will not be disgraced When we follow Jesus if we begin to lose our footing when the ground shifts we know he will be waiting to meet us Wherever we fall whatever unexpected pitfall

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/384-the-day-the-world-tilts (2016-02-13)
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  • Experiencing Easter
    turned upside down too and become glad smiles of surprise That flashy angel turns to Jesus friends says Do not be afraid Easter is amazing so don t be afraid of its flash of lightning Easter lightning is the power of God s love bursting into the world to light up any dark corner show us with God s power nothing can make us afraid We pray together God of Easter wonder Jesus friends saw amazing things that day the angel the dazzling light the empty tomb Where will we see Easter this year In an angel who brings us unexpected good news In the smile that lights up the eyes of an old friend Show us Easter O God in signs of new life all around us surprising us in Jesus name The Easter Story continues Matthew 28 5 10 The angel said to the women I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified 6 He is not here for he has been raised as he said Come see the place where he lay 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples He has been raised from the dead A nd indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee there you will see him This is my message for you 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said Greetings And they came to him took hold of his feet and worshipped him Then Jesus said to them Do not be afraid go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee there they will see me Hearing Easter The Rooster s Story an original story for Easter by Dr Nancy Cocks Rooster Cock a doodle doo What a grrrreat day Narrator The old rooster scratched the dirt looking for a grub to eat Rooster Errrrrly bird gets the worm But Mary was up earlier than I was today Left the courtyard before dawn I could smell the spices she carried Cluck Cluck Going to tend to Jesus body Narrator The rooster nodded sadly as he studied the ground Rooster Too bad about Jesus Died on Friday I ll miss him around the yard Such a friendly sort Narrator The rooster scratched around the yard as dawn spread its light Suddenly Mary appeared running breathing hard Rooster Brawk Mary Mary Peter I must find Peter Rooster have you seen Peter this morning Rooster Stay away from Peter Mary He threw a stone at me when I crowed on Frrriday Just doing my job and he hurled a rock right at my beak Narrator The rooster cocked its head Rooster It was the morning Jesus died Guess Peter was pretty upset Mary sighing Rooster we were all upset when Jesus died Peter most of all He let Jesus down you know So he ll be amazed this morning I must find him Narrator Mary started to knock on all the doors

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/385-experiencing-easter (2016-02-13)
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