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  • Show me!
    at Benjamin s wedding Tongues would be tsking heads shaking You d never live it down Now if you stop and think about it hospitality is still a key way in which we show our neighbours what they mean to us Often we just get one chance to make a good impression on someone and if we fail people will shake their heads maybe for years Think about a church you ve visited as a stranger If you got a friendly welcome you ll likely go back But if no one said hello if they just looked at you well you ll tell your friends just how cold those Presbyterians are So for those of us who are here most Sunday mornings the pressure is on not to let our fountain of friendliness run dry People who come new to a congregation are saying Don t print kind words or give me a glance Stretch out your hand Show me Any Sunday we can t stretch out a hand introduce ourselves to an unfamiliar face it s like the wine of friendship has run dry People go away unsure they d ever come back When we watch Mary turn to Jesus and say They have no wine imagine her turning to us and saying They have no welcome They need your smile For the Word becomes flesh in the hospitality we offer week by week over and over again Don t talk of friends sitting beside Don t talk of love Show me And then the story shows us all that wine The amount is meant to amaze us Jesus produces 180 gallons of it that s over 1000 bottles of wine That would keep the party going for a few more days But of course it was the water used for ritual hand washing to which Jesus gave new purpose Not only is John picturing amazing abundance of wine He s picturing an everyday tradition transformed into life giving celebration John is showing us that in Jesus God s presence with us produces overflowing joy But now ask yourself if that s how we live out our faith in Jesus Do people look at you as a person who follows Jesus see joy overflowing at the centre of your life Do our lives show that faith in Jesus is attractive Don t walk around rubbing your hands Toast life with joy Show me Then again not every day is a wedding day You might object We can t be happy all the time Of course not And John will show us later how it looks when Jesus enters the saddest moments of our lives But let s think of joy as an approach to life not just a feeling in any given moment Joy at the centre of our faith gives us strength to face each day whatever it holds It gives us confidence to welcome a stranger sitting beside us or energy to face an unexpected challenge Joy

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/221-show-me (2016-02-13)
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  • All in favour?
    Obama The ancient values we claim in common can challenge us to the depth of our being when we have to put them into practice Then as now people do not like to share their status and privilege with those they consider unworthy and undeserving like that widow from Sidon or the general from Syria Charity should begin at home the crowd rages and then only if it doesn t put my taxes up We are all in favour of the Good News of the Gospel until we realize there might be some change required on our part Today marks the final day in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity This year s theme comes from the prophet Micah What does the Lord require of us Do justice love kindness and walk humbly with our God All in favour Well who could vote against justice kindness and walking humbly with God While I was in Calgary this week I attended two ecumenical services for the Week of Prayer In one we prayed words from Christians in India who work to do justice for the Dalits the untouchables the most impoverished often despised people in that country It has not been easy to overcome traditional discrimination against this group even inside Churches who hear Jesus inaugural address year after year after year Sometimes we do vote against justice loving kindness when we re challenged to embrace a group we don t respect In the other event I heard Catholic Bishop Fred Henry speak on the theme of homelessness The Bishop is a passionate long time advocate for housing needs in Calgary Indeed in the years I spent working with the Canadian Council of Churches it was so much easier to get Christians of different traditions to work together on an issue like homelessness than it was to talk about policies we disagree about say the ordination of women We may acknowledge that God calls us to do justice together but when we disagree on God s teaching we do anything but walk humbly with God Like the crowd around Jesus in the synagogue that day we don t like to think that God would ask us to change our minds or change our ways So what does the Lord require of us Are we always in favour of it As we think about Jesus inaugural address today let s remember two months from now Jesus will be staring at the cross surrounded by people who cheered him on then turned on him We have to hear the challenge Luke puts to us in this story Is the Good News of the Gospel just for people we think deserve our help or those who agree with us Can we feel the edge in Jesus words cutting against us when he lifts up outsiders foreigners enemies as those upon whom God shows healing mercy Whether it s a question of social justice or a question of ecumenical and inter faith relations Jesus

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/222-all-in-favour (2016-02-13)
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  • The Jeremiah Factor
    were for God s people and what was at risk if Jeremiah did nothing Jeremiah came to see that there was a crisis at hand that God would support him if only he would rise to the occasion Young people need support and encouragement to take the plunge and shoulder responsibility for purposes that matter But this week I also wondered if Jeremiah was moved from no to yes because of the leadership he d witnessed around him King Josiah was very young when he came to the throne And he soon became known in the history of Israel for urging his people to turn back to God Josiah was a reformer who insisted that God s people live up to the values Moses taught them Something in Josiah s passionate commitment rubbed off on Jeremiah for he became an advocate of the king s vision He too urged God s people to remain faithful to the covenant and resist going an easier way Having witnessed the young king s leadership Jeremiah could hardly keep arguing I am only a boy So perhaps the young Jeremiah was inspired by his king They both wanted to get things done for God Then I began to wonder what young people in our churches notice when they consider what they ll commit to Who are the leaders who inspire them The examples they admire I thought back to my own call to ministry which I began to experience at age 18 I showed the same reluctance as Jeremiah arguing with God and myself that I wasn t religious enough not suited to a role in the church already committed to studies in law school But I discovered like Jeremiah that God doesn t take no for an answer When I look back now I see that St John s played a big part turning my no to yes When I was a child growing up here I met so many adults committed to my well being Sunday School teachers Brownie leaders organists who led the Junior Choir I watched my parents in their on going commitments to Session Board and women s groups to making sure my sister I got perfect attendance at Sunday School Church was a place where people made commitments and kept commitments to young people to each other to God When we moved to Saskatchewan church leaders there singled me out to do interesting tasks using my dramatic and musical skills They encouraged me to recognize my gifts and think about ministry as a calling Throughout my youth all kinds of leaders in the church demonstrated that the roles they played were both responsibilities honours which deserved their dedication So finally as God s spirit kept wrestling with me I came to see ministry as an opportunity to grasp not a duty to avoid The example set by so many committed adults in this church helped me overcome Jeremiah s instinct to make excuses to God Perhaps we could

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/224-the-jeremiah-factor (2016-02-13)
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  • A Question of Identity
    fees student loans and family responsibilities The stereotype of students that run out of money in February is that they must have partied too hard and wasted their funds I haven t seen anyone like that and I ve been on campus as a volunteer since Sept 2011 The reasons for student hunger are complex but in one regard the solution is simple I now stock a case of breakfast bars in the Interfaith room and keep them available for students to munch on when providing spiritual care I also serve 400 lunches per month filling the need for food and also for human contact and spiritual support no strings attached You can be part of the solution to hunger by supporting this initiative of the Ecumenical Chaplaincy Board too All donations are gratefully accepted no matter what their size 40 cents buys one meal You do the math Richard Bide is our treasurer and he is here today You can see him to make a donation and since we are a registered charity you can also request a tax receipt if that would be helpful to you Now on to the 2 nd temptation false power Devil leads Jesus to high place tells him all the Kingdoms of the world can be his if he will just worship him instead of God Jesus quotes Deuteronomy again It is written worship the Lord your God and serve only him 6 13 How does Jesus resist He knows who he is and he knows who devil is He can t be tempted to confuse his identity One of the primary difficulties that I see on campus is that many students not only don t know who Jesus is or who the devil is they also don t really know who they are Many young people come to the college without a clear sense of what they believe about the world or about themselves This leaves them vulnerable to an abundance of different ideologies and harmful life choices and for many of these students their experiences at MHC are encountered without the filter of parental guidance for the first time One of my roles on the campus is to provide friendly guidance based on a Christian worldview offering suggestions and questions for those students who are seeking a better understanding of themselves and the world they inhabit Even among atheist students you d be surprised how often the big questions of life come up The college views my perspective as a Christian chaplain as one among many a welcome guest who may provide clarity for students who wish to explore the faith This is an accurate depiction but sometimes I also view my role as slightly more disruptive than that for example when the college Student s Association recently hosted a Valentine s function called Sex Toy Bingo I viewed my role as more prophetic than pastoral speaking respectfully but clearly to whomever would listen that worshiping anything or anyone other than

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/226-a-question-of-identity (2016-02-13)
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  • The Heart of Things
    meeting week after week a stone s throw from the decision making at City Hall the law courts We are neighbours to professionals of all sorts who offer needed services day by day Businesses line the streets beside us and the things that make any city great theatres concerts libraries art galleries are just steps away St John s is planted at the heart of things And it is a great place for ministry following in Jesus footsteps But you know for quite a few years a downtown location was seen as a liability to ministry Back in the 1960s and 70s denominations closed downtown churches in order to move out to the suburbs where families lived Even though downtown housed the essentials of city life churches turned away from the complexities of the inner city in order to make programs more convenient and frankly to provide bigger parking lots for all who would come But over the last decade or two interest in ministry downtown has been rekindled with the conviction that God calls us into the heart of things A city worth its salt needs citizens at its core motivated by the lively presence of God engaging the important issues that keep bubbling up amid all those who live and work who serve or just survive at the city centre Part of what attracted me to seek the call to St John s is our location at the heart of things in Medicine Hat For I ve seen a model for ministry downtown which is truly inspiring very faithful to Jesus aching heart for the city he loves My downtown ministry model is Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver a church which like ours has no parking lot whatsoever Yet on the busy corner of Burrard Georgia this Anglican parish offers an eclectic outreach to engage the city of Vancouver with the lively presence of God If you worship there on a Sunday you ll be struck by the wide range of human souls who gather old and young rich and poor women and men a mix of cultures and languages witnessing to the diversity of God s household There ll be lay leaders who stand with the clergy musicians who inspire and friendly faces who greet visitors with confidence every Sunday After service a lay team will pray with you for God s healing grace whatever your need On weekdays Christ Church is a busy place too They offer a soup and sandwich lunch every weekday for anyone who comes office workers or street people There s a clergy team that works to provide guidance a listening ear alongside artists and administrators The church has hosted ethics debates for those in business and studies issues of the day intently Every year students for ministry are welcomed as interns and a children s choir practices in their resonant sanctuary Christ Church is just that the presence of Christ at the heart of things in Vancouver Now we re not

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  • A Gardener's Hope
    our loss is even keener That loss feels punishing and we may join the crowd around Jesus that day asking Is this God s will God s plan Is God punishing me through the death of another Was this meant to be So it is important to remember Jesus answer Jesus answers No God is not the driving force of fate inflicting on hapless human beings the things that trouble us When we wonder why things happen we have to consider the complex range of factors forces actions and intentions which combine to cause every event Sometimes a whole web of decisions actions results in something otherwise unpredictable We may only be responsible for a tiny piece in the chain of events which sweeps us up in its consequences and yet that tiny piece gives us a small role in our own misfortune Therefore it matters that we keep repairing relationships repenting of our own mistakes and misjudgements so that unexpected tragedy does not catch us with important things unresolved unresolvable Our story from Luke makes me wonder if it helps to blame God in such times Does it help us shoulder tragedy to affirm It was meant to be For me framing events this way is not helpful Such ideas suggest that God is an autocrat or tyrant more like the President of Syria than our Lord Jesus Christ When we are faced with tragic events or troubling situations whether they are random or intentional acts as people of faith we turn to Jesus to consider how God is involved in things that break our hearts Really this is our theme for the whole season of Lent Week by week as we follow Jesus toward the Cross we see him engage many troubling and troublesome aspects of human life temptation rejection misunderstanding scheming misrepresentation betrayal torture and finally death Every one of these troubling troublesome experiences is motivated by the sinfulness of human hearts whether intentionally cruel or a coward s way out But Jesus shoulders them all for us and with us to proclaim that what God means to be is resurrection not bitter endurance For consider the parable Jesus tells where the disappointed landowner is ready to cut down an unproductive fig tree The gardener pleads for mercy for time for another growing season during which he will tend the tree fertilize its roots offer a little TLC to revive its potential How do we read God into this parable We might be tempted to see God as the landowner ready to chop down a tree that s wasting space That s the kind of profile some people have of God eager to rid the world of useless sinners But I think Jesus invites us to see God in the gardener concerned to act with hope toward all of us who haven t yet achieved our potential God offers us the patient care and attention we need to be revitalized to start growing again even after we

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/229-a-gardeners-hope (2016-02-13)
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  • On Barns, Oil Wells & Coffee Urns
    hearse towing a U Haul But that s not what endowment funds are intended to be They are a means to invest wealth and keep it growing so that it can keep generating more wealth for future generations to use as needed Congregations that set up endowments far from following in the footsteps of the rich fool in Jesus parable are seeking to follow in the footsteps of Joseph in our Old Testament lesson I am more and more convinced that the notion that an endowment fund is just building bigger barns is misguided A metaphor that I find much truer to what an endowment fund is really intended to be is that of an oil well for an oil well doesn t just store wealth it keeps pumping out oil day after day year after year Did you know that the Synod of Saskatchewan has just such an oil well It was given along with the land as a planned gift to the Synod with the annual royalty cheques to be used to fund the camping program in the Synod providing vitally needed funds for improving the camp facilities purchasing new equipment and launching new camp programs The Synod is not just sitting on its resources i e storing them in bigger and bigger barns it is using its resources to provide life changing camping experiences for the children in the synod for generations to come Endowment funds are just like that oil well with one difference Oil wells will one day run dry endowment funds are intended to keep on pumping out the money in perpetuity One such perpetual oil well at the national church level is the Experimental Fund launched by George and Evelyn van Beek back in 1981 The fund was designed as a permanent endowment with the annual income earned from the invested capital to be used to provide grants to encourage congregations presbyteries and other agencies in the church to launch out in creative new ministries George and Evelyn s initial gift was 5 000 worth of stock but the couple continued to give to the fund over the years When Evelyn died the Experimental Fund received a generous bequest through her estate and after George died this in January of 2011 the fund received additional money from his estate Since its inception in 1981 the fund has provided more than 280 000 for over 120 projects Last year alone the fund provided nearly 25 000 in grants for twelve projects across the church And after having given more than 280 000 away there is still more than half a million dollars invested and growing in the fund itself money that will keep generating more money and keep generating new ministries year after year after year Now let me ask you a question Do you think the van Beeks are modern day examples of the rich fool in Jesus parable or of Joseph in the story from Genesis I know what I think I

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/231-on-barns-oil-wells-a-coffee-urns (2016-02-13)
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  • Is there enough love to go around?
    brother sister cousin or friend it seems like there isn t enough love to go around We feel that we don t matter even when we try our hardest do our best Such heartache a whole lifetime can t always erase So where s the good news in this story when we feel more like Reuben than Joseph Is there enough love to go around The answer comes only at the end of Joseph s saga after he spends years as a slave years in prison and then becomes a powerful steward with the ear of the Egyptian king We might think Joseph would use his position to get even with his jealous brothers to put them in their place when they came seeking food But at the end of the day Joseph saves his brothers from hunger rescues his whole family from famine Joseph shows us God s promise that there is enough love to go around when we don t keep our share to ourselves when the love we ve received stretches our hearts with generosity even for those we resent those who ve made our lives difficult From God s great storehouse there is always enough love to go around Judas speaks Well then let me tell you my side of the story How could Mary waste all that nard on Jesus feet She poured out perfume that cost a whole year s income her life s savings her dowry for goodness sake A foolish waste Now I m a practical man I manage the money for Jesus John your storyteller calls me a thief but then some religious people don t like getting their hands dirty handling money for expenses And we do have expenses The money people give us covers our costs food and lodging when we re on the road taxes and a few bribes to Roman soldiers to stay on the good side of the law I had to arrange for a strong box to hold our collection rent a space to keep that box safe So what if I rented space in my brother s house I know I can trust him And if I paid myself an honorarium as treasurer would you call that theft So I ask you is there enough love to go around for the poor and hungry and the poor treasurer who has to keep things sorted The more we give to the poor the more the Romans stay off our backs When the poor and hungry are satisfied so are the powers that be And that s good for us So why shouldn t we sell Mary s perfume for such a good purpose I get the bad wrap in this story but I m just trying to make ends meet keep our noses clean and keep Jesus out of trouble That s getting harder and harder because Jesus does have a way of upsetting officials making trouble for us all Jesus scolds me You always

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/234-is-there-enough-love-to-go-around (2016-02-13)
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