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  • A Giant Problem
    took his shepherd s staff and put five smooth stones in his leather pouch With his sling in his hand he strode toward the Philistines Goliath started to jeer when he saw David Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick Come closer and I will feed you to the birds David spoke up You come at me with sword and spear But I come in the name of the Lord of hosts God will deliver you into our hands today As Goliath took a step closer David ran quickly toward him He pulled a stone from his pouch launched it from his sling It struck Goliath in the middle of his forehead sinking deep into his flesh Goliath fell down dead Then David finished him off with Goliath s own sword The Philistine army turned and fled pursued by Saul s army Victory was sweet Then King Saul asked Who is that young man It seems the storyteller or King Saul had forgotten David already served in Saul s court from time to time So Saul took David into his household and did not let him return to Jesse and the sheep But now things start to shift King Saul s son Jonathan was much taken with young David Loved him as his own soul says the storyteller Jonathan made a covenant with David so smitten was he and gave David the royal robe from his back his armour Jonathan s heart has shifted For his part Saul made David leader of the army But after each successful battle the women of the towns began to sing Saul has killed thousands David has killed ten thousands Their hearts have shifted too Thus Saul became very angry and extremely jealous His heart is shifting And so Saul began to keep his eye on David from that day on The plot thickens And we ll pick up that plot next week For now let s consider what we can take away from this old story Goliath represented a giant problem for Saul his troops even though he really wasn t a giant of Hollywood proportions But he was fierce full of intimidating bravado Do you think we ever allow problems to assume giant proportions when they re not really as big as we make them out Has your faith ever helped you face what seemed at first to be an enormous obstacle How do we cut a problem down to size And what about those five smooth stones David rejected traditional weapons for his fight They were clumsy and would have held him back Do you think we ever stick to traditional weapons traditional approaches which actually make us ineffective in our struggles Can you imagine ways in which you or the church could change things up like David did to become more effective facing today s challenges Just what do we take away from this old story We spent a few minutes talking about our responses

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/398-a-giant-problem (2016-02-13)
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  • The Heart's Tug of War
    But during his stay a servant of Saul s spotted David and soon Saul was back on David s trail So David moved on hiding out not far from his father s home gathering together about 400 men those who were in debt or felt neglected by the King As Saul tracked David s movements he went to Ahimelech Because the priest had sheltered David Saul ordered all the priests there to be killed But one escaped and warned David the King was coming so David got away again Then Jonathan sought out David once last time promising him Saul shall not find you You shall be king over Israel and I shall be second to you Truly my father knows this even if he won t admit it The two beloved friends made a covenant together to honour each other forever Now the story reads like a game of cat and mouse Saul following up rumours hot on David s trail always just missing his prey There s always someone snitching on David and someone else snitching on Saul One day David and his men were hiding deep in a cave when Saul entered that cave to relieve himself as Scripture says rather primly In the cave s darkness David s men urged him to kill Saul while he had the chance So David snuck up behind Saul and cut off a piece of his robe But he could not bring himself to kill God s anointed When Saul left the cave David followed and called out My lord why do you listen to those who say I am out to harm you This very day the Lord gave you into my hands but I did not raise my hand against you See here is the corner of your cloak proof I could have killed you but did not Yet you hunt my life May the Lord judge between you and me and vindicate me I pray Saul was shocked and started weeping You are more righteous than I You have repaid me good despite the evil I have done you Now I know you shall be king of Israel in my place Swear before the Lord that you will not wipe out my name and my descendants And David swore this to Saul But they did not make peace for David did not trust the King Convinced Saul would come after him again he fled to the land of the Philistines seeking protection from their king David even promised to fight with him against Israel King Achish said Very well I will make you my bodyguard But the Philistine commanders were not happy to have David and his Hebrew fighters among them They will turn on us in the midst of battle they argued So David was left behind when the Philistines marched out to meet Saul s army This time the Philistines were fierce against the men of Israel They killed Saul s three sons including Jonathan

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/399-the-hearts-tug-of-war (2016-02-13)
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  • A Checkered Career
    well looked after His servants found Jonathan s son Mephibosheth who had been lame since childhood So Mephibosheth was invited to court to eat at the king s table David restored Saul s lands to his grandson honouring his long standing covenant with Jonathan An honourable gesture by this king Yet there remained other enemies to defeat not only Philistines but Moabites Arameans Edomites and Ammonites David was very successful in battle and took the spoils making him a very rich man though the story goes he dedicated much of his loot to the Lord By now however David often remained in Jerusalem while Joab led the troops in battle One day while those troops were at the front David was walking on his roof garden and spied a lovely woman bathing down below David sent for the woman named Bathsheba and slept with her She soon sent word to the king that she was pregnant yet her husband Uriah was away in battle What to do now So the King had Joab send Uriah back from the front David inquired from Uriah how the war was going and sent him home to enjoy some time with his wife But that night Uriah slept outside David s palace What That wasn t the plot David asked Uriah why was avoiding his wife My Lord the other troops are living in tents in open fields Am I to go home eat drink and enjoy my wife while these others wait on the Lord No sir Wouldn t you know Uriah was an honourable man So David ordered Joab to send Uriah to the fiercest battle front so that he may be struck down and die Joab did as instructed and Uriah was killed Then Joab David covered up their plan with a press release justifying this regrettable defeat Spin doctors the two of them Bathsheba mourned Uriah for a time Then David took her as his wife she bore their child honorably Happily ever after Well not quite God was not pleased and sent the prophet Nathan with a word for the king Your majesty there were two men in a certain city one very rich and the other poor The rich man had huge flocks and herds but the poor man had only one pet lamb It grew up in his house and ate from the family table One day the rich man received unexpected company He did not want to share one of his own lambs with this guest so he took the poor man s lamb and prepared it for dinner David was furious As the Lord lives Nathan the man who did this deserves to die He shall replace that lamb with four of his own because he has no compassion Nathan looked at David and said You are the man Confronted David repented of this sin but that newborn became very ill and died Now the storyteller puts this illness on God But personally I do

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/400-a-checkered-career (2016-02-13)
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  • The Saddest Things
    boys and a beautiful girl whom he named Tamar And there s the clue that the trouble isn t over yet Tamar is still on Absalom s mind Eventually David summoned Absalom His son knelt before him and David kissed him But things were not resolved Absalom started getting up early to stand in the gate where people came to get a case settled by the King David had stopped showing up for duty so Absalom heard people out and then said If only I had the authority I would give you justice But the King is not making justice happen And so the story goes he stole the people s hearts many thinking Absalom should now become king Then Absalom asked David for permission to go north to Hebron to keep a vow he d made to the Lord Unsuspecting David let him go But once Absalom was in Hebron he began gathering support among the northern tribes His conspirators included David s chief advisor in the north Ahithophel Several chapters of Second Samuel detail this growing rivalry Some people from the south went north to join Absalom Some people from the north came south to support David You see David s united kingdom wasn t really united When David realized that Absalom now had more strength he led his wives and children out of Jerusalem They wept as they left unsure whose side God was on and took refuge beyond the Jordan At this point you need a family tree and a detailed map to keep track of all the comings and goings who is fighting for whom To make a long story short Absalom and his forces claimed Jerusalem There Absalom even took up residence with some of his father s concubines who d been left behind To all appearances Absalom was now King of Israel But amid all these conspirators whom can you trust Absalom already had the wise counsel of Ahithophel but then a man still loyal to David Hushai showed up in Jerusalem pretended to swear allegiance to Absalom Absalom was torn Both these men had often guided his father to victory so he heard them both out But he made the mistake of taking Hushai s advice which allowed David time to muster his forces By the time Absalom rallied his own men David had the upper hand When David met with Joab and his other commanders he knew victory was theirs His final order to his men For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom When Absalom realized all was lost he escaped into the forest But thick branches caught his mass of thick hair and pulled him right off his mount He was left hanging between heaven and earth the Bible says Who shows up in the woods discovers him but that old fox Joab Deal gently with Absalom Never Joab stuck darts into Absalom s heart and then ordered his servants to finish him off The northern forces

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/401-the-saddest-things (2016-02-13)
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  • Tales of Two Cities
    I nor your son Solomon were invited to the feast Is this your doing O King So David gathered Nathan and Bathsheba together with his priest Zadok Take my loyal servants with you and have Solomon ride my mule down to the spring at Gihon There anoint him King over Israel Blow the trumpet and declare Long live King Solomon Let him enter and sit on my throne for I have appointed Solomon to rule over Israel Judah So Solomon was anointed king and the people began to cheer Long live King Solomon Meanwhile Adonijah and his guests had finished their feast Joab heard the trumpet demanded Why is the city in such an uproar Soon Abiathar s son arrived to say King David has made Solomon king anointing him in the presence of the priest Zadok the prophet Nathan This noise proclaims Solomon s place on the royal throne David himself has bowed before him Then all those with Adonijah dispersed trembling in fear What was Adonijah to do He was pretty frightened He hurried to claim sanctuary grabbing the horns of the altar crying out Let King Solomon swear to me he will not kill me by the sword To which Solomon responded If Adonijah proves to be a worthy man not one hair on his head shall fall to the ground But if he proves wicked he shall die Then Solomon ordered Adonijah to leave the altar and go home Now David s time to die drew near and he gave this charge to Solomon Be strong be courageous walking in the Lord s ways and keeping his commandments Then the Lord God will honour you and all your successors on the throne of Israel And then David told Solomon about all Joab s deceit how he had killed both Abner and Amasa retaliating in a time of peace for blood shed in war Act according to your own wisdom said David but do not let Joab s gray head go down to Sheol in peace Then David died having reigned for forty years Meanwhile Adonijah sought out Bathsheba and pleaded with her to ask Solomon to give him Abishag the Shunammite for his wife Pretty cheeky to ask for the late King s concubine as your wife A good way to make yourself appear closer to King David than you really were Now Bathsheba did not see through him and asked her son to grant his brother this favour But Solomon was outraged He figured Adonijah was just plotting to claim the throne himself and so true to his word Solomon had Adonijah killed Then Solomon stripped the priest Abiathar of his post for supporting Adonijah And finally we come to Joab schemer par excellence Fearing the new King Joab also fled to the altar and grabbed its horns claiming sanctuary Solomon sent for Joab but he refused to come I will die here And so indeed he did Solomon ordered him buried in the wilderness

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/403-tales-of-two-cities (2016-02-13)
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  • A Word for Dog People
    mercy suddenly has to put him in his place Sir She s still polite even if he wasn t Even the dogs under the table eat the children s crumbs She doesn t correct his insult Instead she turns it around on him and asks for his mercy to be widened to include her little girl remembering how any child likes to feed a dog from the table Scholars marvel at this story because Jesus changes his mind He tells her she s scored her point For saying that you may go Your daughter is healed Did Jesus cave in Or in that instant did his very human nature suddenly grasp his God given purpose to push back the walls of God s kingdom of love and mercy so everyone could have a place at the table Today s second miracle is a rather ironic reinforcement of Jesus change of heart He s confronted again this time in his own home territory by a man who s deaf and unable to speak Ephphatha says Jesus Be opened Astonished witnesses declare He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak But truly Jesus ears have been opened to the needs of someone he d considered a dog His tongue is now set free to proclaim God s good news to everyone including those he d considered no better than mutts messing up the neighbourhood In essence Jesus becomes a dog person through these two challenging encounters In a day when dogs were despised he becomes their champion And so in the Gospels of Mark and Luke in particular and throughout the Book of Acts the ministry of Jesus and his followers goes radical He and his friends welcome those whom others called dogs offering them dignity and respect in their company Outcasts those at whom society turns up its nose all you who have felt ignored or despised or unworthy you are welcome here You belong to God God has love and mercy for you Here is the first word for dog people in this story for people who have been viewed as dogs and treated as mutts by those around them You are part of the family But what s the word for those of us who love dogs in our homes who lavish attention and affection on them and love their charms and loyalty and playfulness And what s the word for those of us who love the dog people we know even if we don t make room for our own pet Well I think there is a bite in this story for us a nip to our attitudes towards those people we d like to regard as undeserving as society s mutts If Jesus had to change his mind about social dogs surely he asks us to reflect on our imbedded assumptions The news story which first came to mind was the triumph of a beautiful First Nations woman from N Alberta who became Mrs

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/404-a-word-for-dog-people (2016-02-13)
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  • Making Space for a New Generation
    far down the corner stairs on my journey to the children s story I found myself in the basement quite lost in the dark I had the presence of mind to go back up the stairs but by the time I found the sanctuary the story was over and the last child was disappearing out the chancel door for Sunday School Wailing I hurtled down the aisle trying to catch up I ll never forget the smiling face who heard my cry kept the door open got me down the right stairs to Mrs Tufford s class Welcoming children isn t just a question of having enough rooms It also means having a program just for you and people who know your name listen for your cry and help you find your way Of course in those days the church didn t have a TV Film strips were high technology No smart boards drawing with coloured chalk was our treat But there were special child sized hymnbooks and a Sunday School curriculum edited by a Canadian Presbyterian who was a professor at Union Seminary in New York All cutting edge for 1960 There were two children s choirs junior and intermediate a Christmas pageant on the stage every year and Vacation Bible school every summer with chocolate milk Making space for children means not just having rooms equipment and chocolate milk but also time and priority in adult schedules to welcome children as those who belong to the kingdom of God and whose faith needs shaping in creative ways If a child stopped to think about it as I did St John s was a place with a mind and a heart for children And that s why we ve refurbished our Sunday School rooms once more Times have changed to be sure The baby boom of the 50s and 60s was not the norm for North American churches though many of us remember it fondly If you read articles from the 30s and the 40s in The Presbyterian Record concerns then were similar to ours now Where is the next generation How do we reach people discouraged by economic realities puzzled by world wars questioning God s agenda Each new generation has its own questions its own realities and challenges Together we have to put our faith and commitment on the line to face those challenges creatively with the resources God has seeded among us at the time There is never just one way to be Church The Baby Boom was not a golden age we can expect to return After all if we d done everything right back then more boomers might still be part of the Church But together we keep on keeping on in faithfulness in each generation Just stop and think about the newest generation among us I was surprised to learn from a friend whose girls are in high school that neither of them can read handwriting The girls don t write cursive script

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/413-making-space-for-a-new-generation (2016-02-13)
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  • The Fairest of them All
    morning James would have been more than a little mortified to be singled out as greatest of them all Now we don t read the letter of James too often perhaps because James is so blunt about what Christians should and shouldn t do His overall theme is simple actions speak louder than words so put your faith into action every day James is pretty hard on people who say one thing and do another He s critical of anyone shows favour to a rich person but treats a poor person with disdain He also chastises those who say kind words to the poor but do nothing concrete to help them James makes us squirm Today his concern is about bitter envy and selfish ambition Ironically enough the philosopher Aristotle used these same words to describe politicians But James has a wider focus He sees that God s wisdom cuts against the envy and ambition which stir us to want to be the fairest the greatest of them all Ambition and envy will drive us to wickedness of every kind James argues making us boastful or deceitful I suppose his words offer some wise caution for us as we navigate this election campaign Again however his goal is larger He invites Jesus followers to cultivate God s wisdom which leads to works of gentleness God s wisdom will make us peaceable co operative full of mercy and good fruits When we are rooted in God s wisdom our lives will show no trace of favoritism And no one will be able to call us hypocrites because we will be practicing the compassion mercy we preach So let s turn our eyes back to Jesus In the face of the envious jostling among his disciples and their desire to be the greatest Jesus turns greatness on its head The greatest one is willing to be the servant of the last the least The greatest put their lives on the line to serve the needs of those the world overlooks Jesus and James are on the same page Jesus finds his symbol of greatness in a child Of course he s not a stage mother trying to draw attention to the unique star power in her offspring He s chosen a child because children had little social standing in his day Children weren t treasured The Greek word for child also meant slave So Jesus has chosen someone for greatness whom no one else could be bothered with And he dares his followers to remember that in those who seem to hold no particular value for the world in those who aren t the greatest or the fairest the smartest or the richest of them all in the people of no particular account we meet God And when we serve their needs we welcome God into our lives For Jesus didn t die to improve our chances of winning an election or of becoming Canada s smartest person The message from his

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/421-the-fairest-of-them-all (2016-02-13)
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