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  • St. John's Presbyterian Church, Medicine Hat Alberta
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    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/component/mailto/?tmpl=component&link=1f98d892140d9528740f614fc8b868e8f0e5f03e (2016-02-13)
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  • Just what I wanted
    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 ll just have to play with your new one Where did you hide it Sherman hung his head I buried it A brand new slipper Why did you bury your new slipper So it would taste as good as the old one New slippers need a bit of

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/365-just-what-i-wanted?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Living as if
    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 attitude and attention toward them When I reflected on this possibility I remembered a couple I met on the Isle of Iona who asked me to help them prepare a service to renew their wedding vows As we worked on what they wanted to say I learned they

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/367-living-as-if?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Are your ears tingling yet?
    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 him and stand open to have their minds their hearts their lives changed Yet not every disciple of John changed their minds In our current bible study on the Book of Acts we keep coming across stories where St Paul meets people baptized by John and still loyal

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/370-are-your-ears-tingling-yet?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Psalms for the Soul
    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 were usually sung and singing releases powerful emotions whatever they are As St Augustine said whoever sings prays twice So we re going to sing the same psalm in 2 different settings The first setting is filled with longing sadness set to a Scottish or Irish folk tune

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/371-psalms-for-the-soul?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • With apologies to Frank Sinatra
    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 that he can find the strength and compassion to reach out to immensely different people in all kinds of circumstances He doesn t wait for them to meet some kind of test about believing his way He simply offers them God s healing grace to set them free

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/374-with-apologies-to-frank-sinatra?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Time Travellers with Jesus
    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 wife and husband who were wise and welcoming mentors throughout my years of teaching Each died suddenly only 3 weeks apart I went to my friend Jim s memorial service in November because I just had to be there I m so glad I went I sat in

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/375-time-travellers-with-jesus?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A rainbow around your finger
    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 to protect the beauty and promise around us acting for hope rather than cynicism acting to cherish each living thing as something precious to God I suppose it was all my reflections on rainbows this week which brought a story from my days in Scotland to mind One

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/376-a-rainbow-around-your-finger?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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