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  • A Pause that Refreshes
    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 in to enjoy their visit to that holy island That evening as I was dashing into a staff meeting to follow up on the accident a new guest stopped me My anxiety must have shown through when I said rather brusquely I d come find her after the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/379-a-pause-that-refreshes?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • When you can't fix it yourself
    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 on Singing Yet just as surely as we all carry at least a few regrets based on our own actions and decisions intentional or unintentional there are also burdens we bear which others handed to us There are the unkind words the snubs the judgments about our suitability

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/380-when-you-cant-fix-it-yourself?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • What is written on your heart?
    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 heavenly future Jesus is the only martyr we need Instead like that grain of wheat we give ourselves away to bring life to others pointing to Jesus who died that others might live For us cool reflective discerning Presbyterians followers of Jesus that we are the question in

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/383-what-is-writting-on-your-heart?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Day the World Tilts
    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 catches us up he is there to go through anything we face with us because he has already hit rock bottom When the bottom fell out of my world and I faced another whole year to rewrite my thesis I thought I would die of embarrassment My congregation

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/384-the-day-the-world-tilts?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Experiencing Easter
    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 in the village square Rooster Brawk Mary that s my job to wake up people still in bed What news can t keep until everyone s up and about Narrator The rooster flapped its way to the top of the courtyard wall to watch what was happening Soon

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/385-experiencing-easter?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Are we afraid of Jesus?
    reflecting on people who ve intimidated me a bit over the years I also recognized a collection of dear friends and colleagues who have been such shining examples of goodness and generosity of wisdom and kindness that they ve sometimes left me feeling utterly inadequate fearful I could never measure up to their example I think of a colleague in Vancouver who kept her pocket full of change to give to anyone on the street who begged her for help She regularly volunteered in the Downtown Eastside the poorest neighbourhood in Canada and she d seen such poverty there she decided she d give whatever she could to whomever asked Who am I to judge she d say I could always hear Jesus words echoing in hers even as I averted my gaze from outstretched hands in my own trendy Vancouver neighbourhood My dear old friend Elizabeth simply intimidated me with her goodness I also recall my mentor in education a man so wise he could size up students or professors in a single conversation and ask you the very question you needed to answer but you d been avoiding A little like Jesus asking the lame man Do you want to be healed Now Jim would be the last person to think himself intimidating yet the depth of his wisdom made me recognize how much I still had to learn about the human heart Perhaps Jesus can be intimidating too when we contemplate his goodness his mercy his unfailing kindness to people who made others frown in disgust the sick the desperate those judged unclean And if we find ourselves judged by Jesus goodness we may be a little afraid he ll find us lacking when we can t muster some generosity for the needy or spare a moment for an anxious friend If we ve ever avoided thinking through our resistance to the Gospel call to show mercy and loving kindness we may fear we lack the faith required to keep following Jesus And then this close to the events of Easter surely we find ourselves still contemplating Jesus cross all the betrayal the humiliation the pain he faced The example of Jesus suffering and his bravery to remain steadfast may also make us fearful Is this what will be required of us Surely not Yet I remember the brave examples of Christian friends like my student from Vancouver who went to Hebron in Israel with a Christian Peacemaker team to accompany Palestinians in their everyday lives and confront the daily threats they face from Israeli soldiers She stared down the barrel of more than one gun in the six months she lived there I am much too afraid of guns to bear that kind of witness to Jesus Or I think of Ken Kim the former director of PWS D who worked with indigenous Presbyterians in Guatemala in the 1990s Ken was held up more than once at knife point in criminal confrontations and in acts of

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/386-are-we-afraid-of-jesus?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Psalm 23: Act II
    so caught up in whatever attracts us that before we know it we re stuck unable to free ourselves from commitments unless someone steps in Sheep don t join committees and take on responsibilities here there and everywhere but we do and then the restorative goodness of those still waters is lost We need the Shepherd to pull us out of our busy lives to get us back on track And it s those tracks of righteousness which complete Act I of this Psalm courtesy of the Good Shepherd In John s Gospel we hear about the wolf stalking the flock and the hired hand who runs away in the face of danger Only the Good Shepherd keeps us safe Thus the psalm pictures the shepherd leading us through dark threatening valleys along what one commentator translates as righteous ruts tracks of faithfulness we can follow to get us through any danger On Iona when we led the weekly pilgrimage over the island we followed well worn sheep tracks through the heather and bracken paths which kept us from falling in the bogs and got us from pasture to pasture without losing our way As I recalled that experience I realized how important it is for people of the Good Shepherd to learn from generation to generation how to identify the righteous ruts those practiced paths of faithfulness others made before us so we aren t attracted off course by every new amusement that pops up in the landscape of our generation Green pastures still waters practiced paths the Good shepherd s flock still needs these today as much as we did three thousand years ago And so the 23 rd psalm maintains its deep appeal We still want the protection of the Shepherd s rod and staff when we navigate untried paths We still rely on the wisdom of the Shepherd to bring us through the dark valleys of life We still want to declare I fear no evil for Thou art with me and mean it But now the psalm moves on to Act II A few years ago a colleague pointed out to me that in the final verses of Psalm 23 the characters change The Shepherd is gone In Act II God is now our host or hostess as the case may be Hospitality was more fully the responsibility of women in the ancient culture of shepherds and kings In Act II God our host ess prepares a table for us inviting us in from those rugged righteous paths we ve been following across the desert or the heather or the prairie Come in Sit down Let me soothe your brow with oil A servant anoints the guest s head rubbing away dust and fatigue and anxiety Ah Feel that comforting head massage And here says our host ess is a full cup to soothe whatever ails you We drink deeply of such generosity relieved refreshed My cup runneth over Who could ask for more We

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/387-psalm-23-act-ii?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Camping Out in God's World
    day had arrived Fergie joined Roger and Hoppy and Diver at the pond Roger Fergie shouting Let s go team Narrator Hoppy swam first He kept up with the other teams all the way across the pond He was a nose ahead of the next frog when he finished Then Diver made a beautiful dive and came up kicking Fergie shouting Look at him go Narrator But another frog had very strong legs He beat Diver to the shore Fergie yelling You can catch up Roger You re the best Narrator Roger took a big breath and jumped over Diver He swam under water as fast as he could Roger was a nose ahead when he up for air on the far side of the pond Fergie He s winning He s winning Narrator Roger was so fast that he came up at Fergie s feet before Fergie was ready to dive Fergie hopped in and started to paddle By the time he was across the pond his legs were tired He puffed and swallowed some water Fergie coughing Ugh Narrator But the moment Fergie coughed the frogs on the other teams caught up with him Roger yelling Paddle Fergie Paddle Narrator Fergie paddled as hard as he could but he couldn t keep up He tried hard but he came third Fergie sighing We lost Oh dear And it was my fault Narrator Fergie felt very bad He knew he had let his team down Roger wouldn t look at him Later Scoutmaster Leatherlips passed out all the badges each frog earned at camp All the frogs on Fergie s team got badges for team swimming Even Fergie Fergie was surprised Fergie But we didn t win the race Leatherlips Being a team isn t about winning It s about working together You learned something about working together didn t you Narrator Fergie nodded and looked at his toes Then he looked at Roger Fergie Next time I ll practice my frog paddle every morning and every night I promise Roger I guess there will always be a next time Camp helps us learn how to be good friends Being good friends can take some practice And camp is a great place to practice friendship because we re all together for a whole week We learn how to get along and make up when something goes wrong A prayer for becoming better friends together Jesus you call us all your friends You invite us to make friends with each other to work together and share your love with each other But we remember times we weren t the best of friends We ve argued We ve let each other down We haven t always kept our promises We re sorry Forgive us with your deep love And help us live by that love every day wherever we are whoever we re with We want to be friends who make you proud Amen A Song for God s friends Pass it on It only takes a spark to get a fire going And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing That s how it is with God s love once you ve experienced it You spread His love to ev ryone you want to pass it on Singing at camp is great We don t just sing songs about God We sing funny songs like Alice is a camel Though Cindy Anna Rae and I never went to the same camp we all learned this song at camp in different parts of Canada And it always gives us a laugh We sang Alice and then we sang If you re happy and you know it to get in the camp spirit Then the Women sang These Hands a song they learned at the retreat on Saturday Reminded us all we can use our hands to serve God at camp and at home Offering A Camp thank you The Johnny Appleseed Grace Oh the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord For giving me the things I need the sun and the rain and the apple seed The Lord is good to me Camping in tents and cabins We pitched a little tent in the chancel for this service A word about God s tent from John 1 When Moses lived God s people stayed in tents And they had a special tent for God to live in where they kept the Ten Commandments They d pack it up and take it with them whenever they moved along A tent gives us a different way to think about Jesus too In John s Gospel the grownups will remember that it says God s word became flesh and dwelt among us Now John was talking about Jesus when he wrote that In Jesus God s Word became a human being Became flesh But when John says God s word dwelt among us the actual Greek words in the Bible say God s word pitched its tent among us So whenever we see a tent we can remember Jesus came to live right beside us In Jesus God camps out in the middle of our lives That was true 2000 years when Jesus lived a life like yours mine And that s still true for us every day wherever we are So when we re sitting outside our tent at camp we ll know God is close by At night we might tell stories around the campfire which is how the Bible got started God s friends telling stories about God s mysteries as they sat around the fire together At camp sometimes we tell funny stories and sometimes tell ghost stories to see if we can scare each other Now we have a story that might be just a little bit scary although with Fergie we know things always work out all right The Monster of Lonesome Lagoon an original story by Dr Nancy Cocks

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/388-camping-out-in-gods-world?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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