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  • The Look of Love
    we receive from others The other hopeful truth in all the studies about children I ve read is that even if our own parents were far from perfect if we meet just one reliable adult during our growing years whose love support for us are consistent we will grow up trusting the power of love For God s love reaches us not just through our parents but through every loving steadfast figure in our young lives Responsive Psalm 136 1 4 9 23 26 Leader O give thanks to the Lord for the Lord is good People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader Who alone does great wonders People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader Who by understanding made the heavens People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader Who spread out the earth on the waters People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader Who made the great lights People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader The sun to rule over the day People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader The moon and stars to rule over the night People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader It is the Lord who remembered us in our low estate People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader And rescued us from our foes People for God s steadfast love endures forever Leader Who gives food to all flesh People for God s steadfast love endures forever ALL O GIVE THANKS TO THE GOD OF HEAVEN FOR GOD S STEADFAST LOVE ENDURES FOREVER Reflection God is steadfast love God s steadfast love endures forever Psalm 136 repeats that phrase 26 times I guess we do need reminding that love is God s enduring gift to us For sometimes we confuse God with other dynamics in the world We witness the natural forces in an earthquake we doubt God s goodness We scan the political horizons in the world and wonder how could God let violence occur When things aren t going our way we imagine God as some uncaring clockmaker who simply wound up the clock of creation and now is just letting things wind down so we lose hope To all these experiences the Psalmist declares The steadfast love of the Lord endures for ever In those moments we doubt this truth we should reread John s love letter and be reminded that God is love Wherever we meet love we meet God Second Reading 1 John 4 12 a 20 21 No one has seen God So those who say I love God and hate their brothers or sisters are liars for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen The commandment we have from him is this those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also Reflection Seeing the impossible Now I m a little sister The family angst which colours

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/389-the-look-of-love (2016-02-13)
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  • Chosen to Choose
    South Korea reminds us that God s love has reached out from a manger in Bethlehem and a cross in Jerusalem to gather us here with family roots in Holland and Hungary China India Poland Ireland Scotland England and so many other places we can hardly keep track We have been welcomed into God s chosen race holy nation which circles the globe And though we have many different family histories customs we are one in Christ Jesus built together like living stones to welcome others into God s ever growing family My reflections on God s ever growing family made me wonder how we will help Jamie the child baptized today and every other child of God in this place cherish her identity in God who shows no partiality no particular favorites For these days it seems like we all consider ourselves special entitled to benefits and blessing just because Jamie is growing up in a generation when everyone can star in their own YouTube channel All around her will be those who have little regard for anyone other than themselves The CBC commentator Rex Murphy got me thinking about this a couple of weeks ago Rex gave his weekly TV editorial after some revelations during the trial of Senator Mike Duffy Evidence was presented about expensive trips Duffy charged to the Senate though the events had nothing obvious to do with Senate business It seems Mr Duffy also charged the government for expensive meals and a questionable trip or two for his wife Rex Murphy shook his head sadly Two things would have spared us all the agonies expenses of this trial he argued character and conscience People of good character would know how to distinguish a legitimate expense from self indulgence And conscience would tell them when they d crossed that line What caught my attention was the word conscience These days not much good is said about our conscience Conscience just makes us feel guilty right And special people don t have to feel guilty Yet John Calvin declared that conscience is a gift of the Holy Spirit In his view conscience is God s caution or warning not to take a step no matter how tempting or easy to get away with Conscience is God s hand on our shoulder asking us to stop think to recognize where justice and prudence and moderation those ancient civic virtues are pointing us and then to choose in accordance with our conscience So how do we shape children like Jamie with good character and an alert conscience And how do we encourage each other to maintain good character which responds to the nudges and cautions of conscience These are important questions for people of faith Scripture often urges God s people to avoid the pitfalls of weak character As our reading from Peter s letter says rid yourselves of malice guile insincerity envy and slander The letters of Scripture plead with us to honour God by being honorable

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/390-chosen-to-choose (2016-02-13)
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  • A Deep Breath of God
    But St Paul doesn t limit his comparison to sighs of wistful longing or satisfaction for a task accomplished He begins his description echoing the labour pains of childbirth The mothers here can relate to those deep breaths of birthing channeling the pain of each contraction gathering your strength and energy for all that pushing To take a deep breath of God in the moment of giving birth is to know God as the power that gives life panting gasping pushing with us Yes there is immense pain but by God there is life St Paul must have admired the women around him who delivered their children in the face of incredible odds in that generation He saw in every mother s suffering and determination a powerful image of the hope we can claim from God s presence with us All creation shares this hope born in the sharp pains of labour claimed in the first deep breaths of the Spirit which connect us to God Singing Breathe on me breath of God fill me with life anew That I may love what thou dost love and do what thou wouldst do Not being a mother myself I began to think about other moments when we take a deep sharp breath and how we might also understand those moments as a deep breath of God For example athletes of all sorts learn to breathe deeply runners swimmers cyclists tennis players all athletes use breath for endurance to focus their attention to draw strength just before they release their best shot So when the rest of us need strength and endurance to complete a project at work or attack a mess at home our deep breath can be a prayer to God to see us through to give us the energy we need to finish our tasks God is with us Then there are those sharp gasps we give when we re surprised It might be a deep breath of joy at the sight of an old friend It could be a sudden gasp of alarm at bad news In either case think of your quick deep breaths as God s presence right there with you in joy or in danger Singing Breathe on me breath of God till I am wholly thine Until this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine I learned another use of a deep breath when I was studying piano I d get so nervous before any performance I could hardly play My teacher suggested sitting still on the piano bench and taking 3 deep breaths before ever putting my fingers on the keys Focus she said As you let that breath go let your nervous energy go too I ve used that advice with nervous student preachers and nervous brides and grooms I practice it myself whenever I m waiting anxiously for news or to meet someone important A deep breath when we re anxious draws God s Spirit in It s our

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/391-a-deep-breath-of-god (2016-02-13)
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  • God in Motion
    God s stage play of Love In Act II God s overflowing love gives birth to Jesus the Christ who puts a human face on this love Jesus walks on stage in God s unfolding drama of love in action to embrace us in times when we need healing just as John s story portrayed this morning Jesus acts out God s love inviting strangers in from the sidelines challenging us when our attitudes present obstacles to love On the cross God s love overflows again in Christ s agony death to cleanse our sin and ease our sorrow with love s healing balm In Act II God s love moves through Christ Jesus bringing new birth to creation making it whole again Then at Pentecost God s love overflows once more in the power of the Spirit bringing gifts to God s people just like the prophet Joel promised The Spirit moves like the wind refreshing God s people pushing us with energy into the world to proclaim Good News in word and action As Spirit God opens our minds and hearts to read the world with new eyes seeing how to put our unique gifts and our common abilities in service of God s love Each one of us is moved by the Spirit somehow to let God s love overflow through us so we become God s supporting cast through our own creative acts of praise and inspiration and also through our attentiveness to the small tasks of caring and every day outreach which can change the world one life at a time Act III of the epic adventure of salvation is under the Spirit s direction By the Spirit s power God s love moves through us gathering the world into God s loving embrace God Father Son and Holy Spirit Is the Conceiver Actor and Director in each scene of salvation from the beginning of time through our days to the edge of eternity The Trinity is God s love in motion creating life redeeming our lives and inspiring new life This view of the Trinity follows the narrative of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation It also follows the plot of how each of us meets God in the wonder of the world around us in our relationships with Christ and his people and as we explore our own talent when the Spirit calls us on stage But the Trinity is also a lens to help us appreciate the mystery of God s own nature Sometimes Christian art has been very unhelpful painting God the Father as an old man on a throne Jesus his right hand man usually looks young inexperienced and the Spirit if it s visible at all is a tiny dove hovering somewhere almost off stage Such art has encouraged the mistaken view that God is a distant uncaring monarch pushing Jesus around and the Spirit well who cares Truer to the ancient understanding of the Trinity are the more fanciful

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/392-god-in-motion (2016-02-13)
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  • Bread in the wilderness
    him There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish But what is so little food among so many people Jesus said Make the people sit down So the crowd sat down on the grass about five thousand people in all Then Jesus took the loaves and when he had given thanks to God he handed the loaves around to all those who were seated along with the fish And people ate us as much as they wanted When they were satisfied Jesus told his disciples Gather up the pieces left over so that nothing may be lost 13 So they gathered up the leftovers from the five barley loaves and they filled twelve baskets Chorus There is bread in the wilderness and plenty to spare Bread in the wilderness and plenty to spare Bread in the wilderness and plenty to spare Blessed be the name of the Lord this little song was written by EJ Bash back in 1964 for the Lutheran Church Youth Department Reader s Theatre What if you had shared your lunch this monologue was written by Dr Nancy Cocks in 2010 is copyright material Can you imagine what it would have been like that day if you had been there and shared your lunch with Jesus Listen to Trevor as he plays the role of the boy who shared his lunch and what might have happened next I can hardly wait to ask her What s for dinner tonight mum It s a little too soon She s pretty mad at me right now She can t figure out why I gave my lunch away today mimicking his mother s voice I spent my hard earned money on those sardines I got up at 5 AM to bake that bread with my own hands And you gave it to a perfect stranger You ungrateful wretch shakes his head She wasn t there with me He did seem like a perfect stranger that man named Jesus I could see him roll his eyes when his friends couldn t think of a thing to do He d been telling us some great stories but he could see we all needed some lunch and a bit of a break He asked his friends to get things organized but those guys had no clue They were panicking The guy named Philip was the worst mimicking an adult male voice Six months wages wouldn t buy enough bread for everyone here to get a little That was his idea Send somebody back to town to pick up sandwiches For five thousand people Yeah right The rabbi just shook his head Now I had my lunch with me five barley buns and two sardines Mum won t let me go for a day without taking lunch along So I took it out of my sack and showed it to a guy named Andrew I thought if I shared mine others might join in After all no mother takes her kids for a day in the mountains without taking along some lunch So the rabbi got us organized sat us down started passing my lunch around Sure enough bread and fish came out of nowhere There might have been some cheese and olives too and a few oranges Everybody got something to eat for sure But then a really strange thing happened The rabbi said Gather up the leftovers You should have seen the look on Philip s face He thought the rabbi was crazy But they passed around some baskets and the baskets came back full Then Jesus gave me a bunch of leftovers to take home I know when I ask mum what s for dinner she s going to give me a hard time Mimicking again I gave you the last two fish in the pantry you wasteful boy And once she s done I m going to bring out my basket of leftovers It will be a feast Sardines for sure but some cheese and olives too Amazing what happens when people share their lunch Calling Hey mum What s for dinner tonight A chat about sharing bread Sharing is an important part of family meals Did you ever watch somebody take the last hot dog or cookie when you were hoping to eat it How do you feel when somebody else gets the last bite Did you ever take the last sandwich or the last piece of cake without asking My mom would have scolded me if I did that When there s not much left on the table it s important to check to see if somebody else wants it maybe somebody who didn t have any yet Maybe we can share the last piece with someone else not just eat it all ourselves Sometimes hard to imagine what it s like when there s not really enough food to go around Not everybody has enough money to buy all the food they need So St John s shares food with people in Medicine Hat who don t have enough to eat See the Red Wagon It s at the back of the church every week And people bring food to share with the hungry week by week We make up hampers with enough food so someone won t go hungry over the weekend Let s look inside the hampers we give out We looked at the boxes and cans and bags and jars of good food which go into every hamper food shared from our cupboards with those without enough When we share what God has given us then there is enough to go around And no one has to go hungry Chorus There is bread in the wilderness and plenty to spare Bread in the wilderness and plenty to spare Bread in the wilderness and plenty to spare Blessed be the name of the Lord sing twice We offer God our gifts to say thanks The Offering Listen You are

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/393-bread-in-the-wilderness (2016-02-13)
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  • The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
    on political alliances than on God s guidance The parable of the cedar challenges Israel to put its future in God s hands If Israel is faithful it will flourish like the cedar twig which God replants in the parable The twig will sprout up and become noble welcoming every kind of bird to live in its shade protecting their nests in its spreading branches But says the prophet God can make low the high tree cut it off from its grandeur and prominence God can cause a green tree to wither or a dry tree to flourish Consider this Israel the prophet challenges You are withering right now You are captive to your enemies your leaders in exile Flourishing requires faithfulness to God s covenant Between the lines the prophet is whispering Israel you love those extraordinary cedars You fancy yourself an extraordinary world power But don t count on powerful political friends to establish your power and influence Be faithful to your calling and God will make you flourish bringing other birds other nations to seek your welcome God judges those who regard themselves as extraordinary and will put them in their place often a much lower place than someone extraordinary expects So what does Jesus do with this old parable about the much admired cedar His hearers would have been surprised he chose the mustard plant to envision God s kingdom Mustard plants were common annuals grown from tiny seeds not into lofty trees but mere bushes hearty shrubs familiar across the landscape A shrub hardly seems grand enough to be a symbol of God s kingdom Surely the lofty cedar would be more suitable choice But Jesus has a different vision Identifying ourselves with symbols of extraordinary grandeur always gets God s people in trouble We somehow think we re extraordinary people deserving of lofty status noble just because So instead Jesus chooses a common plant one quite ordinary and yet robust to picture God at work among us I think of Jesus parable as more welcoming We don t have to be lofty noble cedars of society to find our place in God s purposes No common garden variety people like us are part of God s strategy for reaching out to call the whole world to meet God s generous out stretched love For Ezekiel s vision of the birds of air nesting in the cedar s branches remains at the heart of Jesus story But with Jesus this vision takes on a challenging edge God s work is not to impress the world with cedar pillars and carved wooden panels No God s work is to invite all sorts of peoples birds of every nation to find shelter and nourishment in God s arms among God s mustard seed people Jesus reached out to ordinary folk fishermen tax collectors homemakers children those with an illness or with a social burden Then he surprised even his own followers by reaching out even further to

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/394-the-extraordinary-in-the-ordinary (2016-02-13)
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  • A Flaw in the Ointment
    guess what happens From this point on Saul s fortunes began to change But no one can say he wasn t warned First thing that happened concerned the Philistines who were very troublesome neighbours Saul s little army hadn t had much success against them but Saul decided now was the time for attack Samuel sent word he would come offer sacrifices first so God would bless the battle Saul waited with his troops but for seven days Samuel did not come The troops were getting restless some soldiers wandering off So Saul decided to offer the sacrifice himself though he was not a priest Just as his offering was burning on the altar Samuel arrived What have you done he cried Saul tried to defend himself You didn t come My men were restless We were afraid of an attack So I made the sacrifice myself Samuel shook his head You have disobeyed God Kings are kings but kings are not priests Now wait and see Your kingdom will not continue God will find a new king one after God s own heart This may seem to us like a small failure but then Saul disobeyed God two more times During the next battle against the Philistines Saul s son Jonathan had great success by stealth He and his armor bearer sneaked into the enemy compound and killed many fighters But Saul was so worried about keeping the rest of his men in line he ordered them not to eat anything after their battle The soldiers felt weak hardly able to stand Still Saul warned them they would be killed if they disobeyed him But Jonathan didn t hear Saul s command to eat nothing So as he and his armor bearer were returning from the fight they found honey in the forest Jonathan took a good mouthful for energy and returned to camp much revived Other fighters warned him his father would kill him Jonathan just shook his head at his father s foolish orders Still when Saul heard that Jonathan had eaten something he was prepared to put his own son to death But the people defended Jonathan Jonathan brought us victory against the Philistines You can t kill him Not one hair on his head So Saul backed down But he had shown what kind of a man he was he would enforce his own misguided whim even against his brave and sensible son God was not pleased The third act of unfaithfulness will make us flinch Samuel went to Saul and delivered this word from the Lord Kill all the Amalekites because of how they treated Israel when my people came up out of Egypt Leave not one person standing not even a single cow or sheep It was a different time with a different understanding of how God acts in the world It reminds us what a difference Jesus makes to our thinking about God So Saul went into battle but he ordered his

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  • The Burden in Being Blessed
    or his family After all there was still a king in Israel But let s remember how important it was to be anointed The name Messiah means the anointed in Hebrew The name Christ means the anointed in Greek So Samuel has signalled God has a very important purpose in mind for young David the son who had been stuck out there with the sheep mostly overlooked as the youngest of eight brothers a young man who hasn t yet said one word in our story But along with the storyteller we now know more than the characters do about what lies ahead Meanwhile back at court King Saul was in a bad way He was deeply troubled The storyteller says an evil spirit from God was tormenting him whatever we take that to mean Saul s servants tried to be helpful to the King Your lordship music seems to soothe you in your troubled times Let us go find someone who plays the harp The music will help you feel better In his agony Saul agreed Find me someone who can play well A young courtier spoke up I have heard that one of Jesse s sons in Bethlehem plays very well He s courageous well spoken pleasant to be with And it is said the Lord is with him Shall we send for him So Saul sent messengers to Jesse saying Send me your son David the musician who is with the sheep Now Jesse didn t know what to think King Saul already had a reputation for being unpredictable Would you send your youngest child alone into the presence of such a man But what would happen if you didn t comply So Jesse decided to send gifts with David to please the king and keep on his good side Jesse loaded up a donkey with loaves of bread a skin of wine and a young goat for dinner and sent them along with David And David brought God s healing Spirit with him Whenever Saul was greatly troubled David took up his harp and played it Saul s pain would be relieved and he felt much better So it was that David first entered the service of the king And Scripture tells us King Saul began to love David greatly He made the young man his armor bearer sending word to Jesse that he wished David to serve him as often as possible for he has found favour in my sight said the King Chapter 16 ends here All seems well and good King Saul is happy and David has royal employment So now let s stop and think about the story What do we take away from this familiar tale It seems David finds favour wherever he goes with God with Samuel with King Saul And we ll learn later on he found favour with Saul s son Jonathon and Saul s daughter Michal too Perhaps it s no surprise everyone loves David Do you

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