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  • Who needs a saviour?
    with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger Reflection Who needs a saviour You ve seen the wood cut printed in the bulletin before on line readers you can see the wood cut on the home page of our website until January 4 2016 This nativity scene was carved in 1511 by an artist named Albrecht Durer Study it for a minute What do you notice in this wood cut In some ways the scene is just another picture fitting Mary Joseph into the clothes of that day The shepherds look like European peasants not middle eastern herders By 1511 European art had achieved some fine moments The prints of Albrecht Durer s wood cuts were regarded as quite sophisticated This is one of his simpler carvings But it shares one feature with all his other nativity scenes The world it pictures is falling apart Did you notice Did you spot the gaping holes in the barn roof See the grass sprouting from the crumbling walls In each nativity scene Durer carved Christ is born into a world that is falling apart Those who stoop to welcome the newborn king don t seem to notice But somehow I think it is very important for us to see Christ is born into our midst when it feels like the roof might just fall in And for many people in 1511 the roof was falling in The plague was stalking its victims social unrest was brewing in Europe The high Renaissance culture which surrounded Albrecht Durer had started to come apart at the seams And so this artist confesses his faith Christ is born again and again Into a world that is falling apart Surely it seems some days that our world is coming apart at the seams too Terror stalks the earth wearing unpredictable faces People are running scared Glaciers are melting in a way we ve never seen before Jobs once thought secure have evaporated Storms of one variety or another wreak havoc on homes around the world Everywhere we look there is a roof caving in one someone s head Is there any doubt our world needs a Saviour Still some of us are not too keen on needing a saviour We prefer our independence We don t like to reveal our helplessness We often want to manage things ourselves privately But our Saviour is not someone who will make us feel worse about needing help someone with a big strategy to fix everything and opinions to make us feel even more helpless The Saviour we proclaim is a baby And a baby always calls out of us the best we have to offer the deep concern the tender smile hands willing to clean up a mess over and over again A baby needs wisdom and patience to help it grow and love that won t give up even when it wears thin on yet another late night Such are the gifts Mary

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/445-who-needs-a-saviour (2016-02-13)
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  • After all this, then what?
    At 12 Jesus begins to see what God s purposes will mean for him This story shows us Jesus was not the puppet of some distant God no character in a cosmic battle scripted by a hidden hand No Jesus we confess was truly human his life his needs his choices no different than ours This story marks the beginning of Jesus claiming for himself the identity and destiny laid out for him in the prophets Now I have to admit I love this story I can identify with the adolescent asserting himself challenging his teachers and parents I was a pretty outspoken teen myself This story shows the typical marks of every adolescent Teens always ask passionate impertinent questions about the values and expectations of authorities in their lives As we watch Jesus listening to then challenging his teachers we are watching the spiritual task of every adolescent to take on their teachers in order that what they learn can truly be theirs not just a script borrowed from well intentioned adults So this story asks the rest of us how we will react to the natural but frustrating questioning of young people Will we throw up our hands like Mary worried because our children venture into the world without us Or can we engage them in their growth encouraging them to think critically about opinions they find attractive and all that information out there on the internet Things happening in the world around us these days remind us why it s so important to engage children adolescents as they grow and not just let them sort things out unnoticed We hear about youth being radicalized and we wonder why How Radical preachers and prophets of all sorts appeal to a teen s natural desire to challenge traditional authorities Such leaders provide black and white answers to the typical judgments teens try out critical of parents teachers other cultural rule makers Studies show that teens prefer black and white choices because they are not yet able to appreciate the ambiguities and complexities every choice in life presents That s why adolescents are prone to radicalization not just from ISIS but in gangs militias many other extreme groups left or right religious or non religious Radical solutions appeal to teens because they present a clear choice And making that choice gives a teen a strong sense of identity often deliberately different from the mainstream of home or school church or mosque Adolescence is all about trying on identities to see what fits But while wearing an unusual hair colour or getting a tattoo may alarm parents and grandparents such marks of identity don t have the dreadful consequences that firing a gun in a convenience store or school will So adults have to figure out how to engage adolescents in their quest for identity before the consequences of their choices become dangerous That thought makes me wonder if the Church has failed to get the point of today s story

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/447-after-all-this-then-what (2016-02-13)
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  • The Dreamer
    a son who shares my clear eye and my steady hand He can become the most famous carpenter in the whole world That s my dream to be carpenter for kings and princes And raise up a son who can be more famous than I Yes I am a dreamer Monologue Two Joseph speaks from experience What a dream Or rather What a nightmare Mary is pregnant And I can promise you I am not the father I don t know what to do People will scoff and scold if they think it s my child The same people will laugh behind my back if they know it s not my child And you know what will happen to Mary if this news gets out She ll be humiliated shunned for sure maybe even punished But we can t go on with our wedding Well I can t go on with the wedding knowing what s happened At least I thought I couldn t go on I thought perhaps Mary could just go away quietly visit her cousin in the hill country but then never come back It would be so much simpler for me But then I saw that angel It had to be a dream right My mother always said I was a dreamer Still the angel s message cut me right to the heart Joseph son of David The angel called on our most famous ancestor David so I had to pay attention Joseph son of David do not be afraid Was I afraid Afraid of the gossip Maybe a little Afraid for Mary more like it Her life would never be the same to have a child on her own But that angel didn t stop Joseph son of David do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit Whoever heard of such a thing A child conceived of God In the womb of the one I love How can such a thing be Yet the angel has promised Mary a son You are to name him Jesus said the angel Jesus Yeshua The one who will save people from their sins What a dream Could this son save my family from disgrace If he can save Mary from our neighbours spite I would love him just for that Could this son become the most famous carpenter in the world I would love him for that too Maybe if love has its way with us this dream can come true And something beautiful will be born for us all in Jesus Now there s a dream Monologue 3 An older Joseph looks back It all seems like a dream now looking back Mary bearing a child by the Holy Spirit And little Jesus born just when King Herod was plotting against all our little ones Those wise men from the East coming into my humble home Sure I was a good carpenter in those

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/277-the-dreamer?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • It depends how you look at it
    her eye ES Perhaps it was a tear of joy To have her baby safe and sound after so much company It just depends how you look at that tear MS True But mothers weep when they think of the hard times babies will face growing up on that sorry planet earth ES That sorry planet earth My dear Morning Star Earth is one of the most beautiful gems in that galaxy Green and growing Seas of crystal blue Wisps of white cloud It all depends how you see that planet MS Oh elegant Evening Star you always see the beauty You remember Earth the way God spun it from the vapours of love and the dust of desire Billions of years ago But today we morning stars hear the earth groaning And even yesterday when that wee baby was born King Herod was angry and those wise travellers had to find a different way home A sad place this Earth ES My dear despairing Morning Star you have forgotten the days between yesterday and today the days when that wee baby Jesus touched the earth with love Remember how he loved the earth walking the hills by himself How he loved the sea even when the wind and the waves were wild Remember how he loved a good time with his friends and how he smiled at those little children who used to get under his feet MS Yes Evening Star I remember Stars are always watching Whether people can see us or not That wee baby his eyes twinkled like stars He was watching everything Maybe his mother knew he would have a hard life because so many people watched him just like we did ES And they still do watch him like we did It all depends

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/278-it-depends-how-you-look-at-it?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Going with the Flow
    Dr Robert Taylor Dr Taylor was minister here from 1943 until 1967 He baptized me along with some of you or your children And when I visited his church that Sunday he introduced me as the only person he had baptized to that point who had followed a call into ministry He was very pleased that at least one among the 586 children of the baby boom he d baptized had a vocation to ministry His comment made me stop and think Until then I d understood my journey into ministry as a reversal as my decision to swim against the current in my life towards law But Bob Taylor could see I was going with the flow of my baptism fulfilling a purpose God intended for me before I ever saw that purpose for myself Today as we celebrate the variety of opportunities for service which flow from baptism it s important to realize that in those moments when we make an important decision about our faith and how we re going to live it out such decisions can seem like a reversal like a decision to go upstream against the tide of life around us But there is also an important sense in which God is always calling each one of us to go with the flow of our baptism and fulfill the righteousness of our covenant with God Now fulfilling righteousness may not sound like your cup of tea The word righteousness makes lots of people nervous It calls to mind self righteousness people judging others by their own criteria based on their assumption that they ve already achieved what righteousness requires But Scripture challenges us to understand righteousness from its roots and those roots grow in the soil called justice as the prophet Isaiah reminds us Isaiah s servant song frames the ministry of Jesus who brought light to the nations Jew and Gentile alike opening eyes that are blind to need of neighbours beside them and to the gifts of God hidden in the last and least The Gospel of Matthew uses Isaiah over and over againto put Jesus in proper perspective for us highlighting what he means to accomplish for us and with us And righteousness beats at the heart of Jesus call righteousness read as that open handed open hearted outreach to anyone and everyone who draws near To be baptized is to go with that flow wherever the streams of God s justice mercy carry us with water for the thirsty and cleansing for the tired and troubled I chose that phrase going with the flow as my title because we often use it in that relaxed sense of going along with whatever is happening not getting too worried or stressed about anything just flowing along with whatever strikes our fancy I would say that going with the flow of baptism is actually the opposite of our common sense meaning of that phrase Just like my decision to leave law school try

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/280-going-with-the-flow?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Losing Weight
    the weights across the scale until we each carry just enough but not too much The instinct about God I see in our story today is different Whenever our lives are filled with a ton of tragedy whenever one thing or many things are weighing us down Jesus lifts the weight up takes it away Jesus takes the burden off our shoulders to carry it for us and give us relief so we can find our way forward For a moment just think about the kinds of things that weigh us down from time to time There is the weight of responsibility figuring out what to do about something where to start Did we make the right judgment call Did we cause things to go wrong Responsibilities can become so heavy so onerous that we lose the energy to act Singing Behold the Lamb of God behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin the sin of the world It s not that we shirk responsibility by handing a crisis over to God but taking the moment to ask God to lift up the weight allows us to take a deep breath and then re engage our responsibilities What else weighs us down Well worry and fear can surely become burdens even though they will not move the needle on our bathroom scale We may worry about our health about a diagnosis or the lack of diagnosis We may worry about our children and what they might get into We may worry about finances if our pensions will stretch We often believe Murphy s Law which tells us If anything can go wrong it will go wrong And then we worry about everything So worry paralyzes us by freezing our trust in God suggesting there is nothing we can do to make a difference Singing Behold the Lamb of God behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin the sin of the world Perhaps we don t think about worry as sin but it is if it separates us from the loving presence of God and turns us away from the gifts God is offering in every worrisome situation If we can only remember to put our worries into Jesus hands prayerfully day by day even moment by moment that loving Lamb of God will set us free and give us peace Sorrow is another burden which can weigh us down When someone beloved has died when accident or tragedy has struck there is often no way to change what has happened And so sorrow can seem like an immovable object sitting on our hearts pressing the life out of us We have to keep handing our sorrow over to God so we don t have to carry it all ourselves As much as many of us don t like to be seen crying we should never be ashamed of tears Tears release our sorrow to God free up our souls Praying often alone or together

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/281-losing-weight?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Gone Fishin'
    people to come to him but going to be among people Through this he did amazing things that we still talk about And that s why its so important to take the initiative to be a fisher of people as Jesus said to be with people because you never know how one simple thing can do something extraordinary you never know what you may mean to someone or how you being present for someone can be the presence of Jesus in the world This past fall my Grandfather died and I grew up on a farm with he and my Grandmother next door to my house so throughout my life he was always there helping me explaining things or doing things for me even if it meant doing them the slow way or the more methodical way that honestly as much as I loved him sometimes drove me a bit crazy Like the numerous times I had a extremely detailed genealogy lesson with pictures and maps Or the times I d be out in the barn doing something to help my dad and all of a sudden my grandfather would be behind me telling me how whatever I was doing could or should be done differently Or the one that I think taught me the most patience But also should how much he cared was when I might be sitting at the table sharpening a pencil and he would quietly get his famous jack knife out and sharpen the pencil for me that way That jack knife was used for a lot of things opening letters opening a lot of things actually pointing something out to us it was always in his pocket and Grampy was always there to help us with it Anyway before my Grandfather died both my Sister and Brother had these lovely dreams about him where they got to say goodbye or something along those lines and not going to lie I was a little jealous So a few weeks after being home for my grandfathers funeral I had had a couple nights of bad dreams Nothing crazy just your typical bad dream and I was also still missing my Grandfather so one night when I was going to sleep I was praying please God just let me have good dream about my Grampy like my siblings got too you know just one But I never had the dream A week later or so I was at the advent family party we were having at church and I was running this advent star craft table and we were making these big stars with this really thick cardboard that we were covering in tinfoil I had had time earlier in the day to draw the stars out on the cardboard but not enough time to cut them out so as kids were coming to make their star I was there with these sheets of drawn stars desperately trying to cut them out quickly enough with scissors and

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/282-gone-fishin?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Seriously?
    when we ought to be making a difference in the world Isaiah s argument with God s people is that they were praying for their own needs fasting so God paid attention to their requests for themselves But they were disregarding those around them who were hungry homeless and afflicted Notice that Isaiah was no shrinking violet He d have shrugged off any accusation he was making religion too political For indeed in our day all his examples have political implications about where God s people should stand and how we ll act when the needs of the vulnerable are in the news The question Isaiah puts to us is whether we take the word of God seriously seriously enough to make God s priorities our priorities He argues that only when we pour ourselves out to care for those who are truly vulnerable will we discover that God is making us stronger supporting our growth and well being Here is the paradox of faith Spend your resources for the sake of those in need and you will find yourself replenished by God s mysterious grace Now such readings from the prophets often make us uncomfortable because they touch themes which divide us politically in our society how the poor and the homeless are cared for whether workers are paid a living wage if the oppressed can find refuge in a safe place But rather than wrestle with contemporary examples drawn from Isaiah s preaching we may prefer to jump quickly to the stories of Jesus After all the prophets were just speaking to Israel right Their words don t matter to us do they But listen to what Jesus said Do not think that I have come to abolish the law the prophets I have come to fulfill them From the very beginning of his Gospel Matthew takes pains to frame Jesus in images from Isaiah And so if we enjoy his words about the child called Emmanuel God with us read every Christmas Eve then we have to take the connection between Isaiah Jesus here seriously too When Jesus proclaims that we are to be salt for the earth and light for the world his teachings include a sharp prophetic edge warning that if salt has lost its taste it s no good any more If light is hidden under a bushel basket it fails to shine into the world and draw attention to the good work of God that needs doing Still if we stay focused on Jesus words as our entry point to Isaiah s passionate vision perhaps salt and light can help us think how we show God that we take God s compassionate priorities seriously Think about salt for a moment Salt gives flavour to things but it also preserves things maintains their goodness And in this season of the year in our climate salt reduces the dangers we face on icy sidewalks roads Perhaps if we can hear our calling to reduce danger

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/283-seriously?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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