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  • When it was yet dark
    time of day having just experienced what Mary had the day before when Jesus was crucified you can sense just how eerie and mysterious and sacredthat morning would have felt It was morning but it was still dark out Light would have seemed very far away It would only just be bringing a dawning realization that everything which took place yesterday had in fact happened Think about that time of morning and picture Mary coming to the tomb the night is almost over the morning almost there but the pain from the previous day still lingers As Mary comes to the tomb she inhales but there is no scent of death and dying she sees that the great stone is rolled away The soldiers are gone As she focuses on the empty tomb she cannot believe what has happened Who could do this She weeps as she asks questions her questions wondering what possibly could have happened Mary came to the tomb that morning still remembering those ways that Jesus touched her life holding close what he did When she comes and sees that the tomb is empty she asks Where was the teacher who taught that even women like me were fit to save This is what Jesus had meant to Mary when he was alive what he said what he did how she encountered him these were the things that had changed her As she focuses on her questions and on the empty tomb in front of her she hears the voice of whom she assumes is the Gardener He speaks Woman tell me why your weeping Why on a morn so fresh and fair Mary says I came to pray for my Lord but look the grave has been robbed and his tomb lies bare Can t you tell me where he s been taken I ll do anything you say Where was the man who had called me Mary when all of the others had turned away Then he spoke to Magdelena Mary and she heard her name so soft and low Then she knew he had died to teach her what there was no other way to know Right after Mary asks where was the man who had called me Mary she hears a gentle voice It isn t until that moment she knows what has happened The questions of the morning are gone the mystery that made her weep is now the mystery that gives her hope All this is that moment when Jesus calls her by name She didn t recognize his voice before when he asked her why she was weeping but when she hears her name she knows Now put yourself back into that early time of morning Imagine as Mary hears her name maybe the light is getting a little brighter the darkness when she arrived at the tomb is starting to fade the mystery that made her weep is becoming a mystery that makes her joyful She is encountering

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/312-when-it-was-yet-dark?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Grasping Resurrection
    his sad state And so I think we can all sympathize with Thomas The mystery of resurrection is not an idea we can grasp using the logic of daily life or examples from previous experience The mystery of resurrection is not something we grasp with scientific theory or the latest DNA technology Grasping resurrection is an act of faith an act of trust in God s precious gift of love For love is what binds us to God and to one another and that precious gift continues to have power in our lives even when someone we love is gone I would say that it is love s power which can defeat the sorrow and tragedy that break our hearts It is love which allows us to grasp resurrection even in the face of tragedy And in his own hesitating way Thomas offers us a little symbol to help us grasp the power of Jesus resurrection for ourselves As the story unfolds Jesus reappears and reaches out to Thomas so Thomas can take his hand Grasping resurrection takes the same kind of trust with which we grasp a hand held out to help us to our feet If someone offers you a hand you don t do a quick calculation of the physics involved to figure out if your neighbour s strength is equal to your body mass No You simply take the trusted hand and claim the help you need We can grasp resurrection in a gesture almost that simple Here s what I mean A friend who s a minister in the Church of Scotland told me about a parishioner who was greatly grieved by the sudden death of his wife It was one of those situations where the man wished for at least one more conversation one more chance to clear up something say what he felt he should have said at a key moment in their lives So my friend asked the man if he believed in resurrection The man nodded tentatively as many of us might do not sure what was coming next Then my friend suggested that if he believed God had offered his wife the power of resurrection then he should simply act on his faith and tell his wife now everything he d meant to say back then He should trust that she could hear him that she would hear him and know what was on his heart through the mysterious power of God s resurrecting love This story told by a friend I respect a lot left a deep impression on me His advice seemed so simple and yet so challenging because of its invitation to trust in a power we cannot see or measure the power of resurrection As the Holy Spirit would have it not too many weeks later I was leading a program on Iona The program invited people to reflect on different chapters of their lives to notice how sometimes something unresolved at one point for us

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/313-grasping-resurrection (2016-02-13)
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  • Share and share alike
    for each other willing to share pretty well everything in common That wailing child in her mother s arms reminds us it s not an easy vision to hold The key to this vision can be found in the story Matthew tells when Jesus mother and brothers hear he s in town and come to speak to him It s not a very sympathetic story to read on Mother s Day mind you It sounds like it has been a while since Jesus saw his family Perhaps Mary is there to remind him of his duty We might expect him to excuse himself from the crowd for a few minutes run out and give Mary a hug then catch up on family news with his brothers Instead he offers these thought provoking words to the messenger Who is my mother and who are my brothers Pointing to his disciples Jesus says Here are my mother and my brothers For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother These words are not intended as an insult to Jesus family but they do have a profound implication for Jesus followers We are all kin We are all family No biological bond takes preference among us no inherited privilege gives relatives pride of place no social distinction tells us who is good to know who isn t In Christ we are kin to each other and therefore we bear mutual responsibility for each other to offer each other the sharing and caring that every loving family provides You know the old saying Blood is thicker than water But for Christians the water of baptism is thicker than the blood coursing in our veins It creates new relations for all who bear Jesus name And among this extended family we are called to share and share alike as my mother might have put it Truly the roots of Mother s Day are planted in a version of this vision Mother s Day got its start back in the 19 th Century in the aftermath of the Civil War in the United States Julia Ward Howe and Ann Reeves Jarvis the two women most closely identified with its earliest beginnings each had a deep concern for sons who were being lost in tragic conflicts at home and abroad In 1868 Jarvis organized a Mothers Friendship Day to bring together mothers whose sons had fought on both sides in the Civil war Her goal was to have mothers pray for peace and begin healing the deep divisions which had fueled the Civil war and caused so much bloodshed The friendship day had positive effect and continued for a few years Later Jarvis daughter Anna urged the recognition of an official Mother s Day to honour her mother and every other mother for their essential contributions to human well being So 100 years ago in 1914 American President Woodrow Wilson established Mother s Day Canada followed one

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/315-share-and-share-alike (2016-02-13)
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  • There is a place
    God overwhelmed by grandeur in humility Perhaps not Well turn to number 788 Come know my joy for a more intimate encounter Here are images of the heavenly banquet a table laden with a feast already begun God as our host beckons us to the table The feast we join is long begun God bids us welcome here The Servant multiples a fest of loaves fish of bread and wine This vision of heaven is even more common in Scripture than the throne room with its saints angelic choir Here is comfort for us calorie counters Heaven A banquet where we can eat without worry At funerals I sometimes draw on this image to picture a beloved holding a place at God s table for us so we can be reunited at God s wedding banquet Now look at 783 The desert shall rejoice blossom as a rose unto Zion we come with joy for our God has come to save us Here the camera angle widens across the whole creation In this view of heaven we see nature s beauty restored parched deserts watered by fresh springs burst into life the injured disabled are healed set free to rejoice It s a big vision expressed first by Isaiah then claimed by Jesus appealing I think to those of us who feel pain when we see scars on the landscape as well as on human lives and long for nature s fragile relationships to be put right Our psalm 84 this morning imagines a wee bird safely nesting in her version of heaven God s holy temple Shall we gather at the river picks up another vision from the Book of Revelation as saints gather on the riverbanks in the Holy City at what could be the biggest Sunday School picnic ever Each of these places offers us a feel for heaven rather than a snapshot Each place evokes its own sense of peace and security in God s presence each reminds us that God longs to restore everything to its true purpose and proportion and yet no one place pictures God s redeeming love fully So we are left to wonder what heaven could be like But if these poetic portraits of heavenly places tweak our wonder about what God holds in store Thomas calls us out of our reveries with his question Lord we do not know where you are going How can we know the way Thomas demands what all of us would like to know How can we know where we re going when we re still this side of heaven Then Jesus offers his famous words I am the way and the truth and the life No one comes to the Father except through me It s not really the explanation Thomas sought Jesus doesn t confirm any of our heavenly portraits And though these phrases are simple they are also easily misinterpreted because they are not so easily translated into English Let me offer

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/316-there-is-a-place (2016-02-13)
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  • The Man on Mars
    God raised from the dead this Jesus in whose name I preach he proclaimed Paul was building his case for Christ using all the skill of ancient Greek philosophers appealing to his crowd s curiosity but challenging their blasé assumption that one temple was just like the next In a not so subtle way Paul suggested they were ignorant not exactly what those in the city of Athena goddess of wisdom expected to hear And so the crowd in Athens drew back This man is from Mars The story ends with many scoffing at Paul others shrugging their shoulders saying maybe we ll consider what you re saying another time St Paul s message was not eagerly embraced in that sophisticated city Most people could not grasp the promise of resurrection They did not want to change their minds not even to consider the possibility that their breath was a gift from a power greater than their own a power that holds all life in being When I read this story I thought about my Saturday mornings in Kitsilano an ever so sophisticated neighbourhood yet one where the beggars on the street were friendlier to me than the people behind me at the cashier I m sure you ve met people like my Kitsilano neighbours people so sure the Church has nothing to offer them nothing new to say since they were 12 people so sure they know better people so glad to be free of religious commitment that they don t commit to anything much at all We are like Martians to them odd beings breathing rarefied religious air committed to someone we can t see a vision hard to explain And so many of us who do feel a sense of commitment to Christ and his purposes in the world are frustrated these days in the marketplace of ideas Much like ancient citizens of Athens critics of the church today latch on to a skeptic s viewpoint without actually knowing much of what the Church does let alone how we make sense of our faith Yet perhaps the Church with its many divisions diversities is guilty of failing to engage our worldly critics and opponents because it s simpler to criticize other Christians We re glad to say we re not like those Catholics evangelicals Pentecostals United Church folk pick your opposite We spend lots of energy differentiating ourselves from other Christians when the world around us does not care about such distinctions In a sense we re all from Mars But I clearly remember the year Vancouver School of Theology invited Stephen Lewis to be our guest lecturer Lewis had completed his term as Canada s UN ambassador and came to us from Africa his passions ignited by the AIDS epidemic poverty there He took the trouble to read the websites of VST s sponsoring denominations the PCC the UCC and the Anglican Church of Canada I ll never forget the serious respect he paid us when

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/317-the-man-on-mars (2016-02-13)
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  • You just had to be there
    Spirit unleashed like fire igniting Jesus followers with conviction like wind pushing them out of hesitation and hiding to take a daring step in Jesus name From Luke s point of view you didn t have to be there to have your eyebrows singed For Luke Pentecost becomes the on going miracle of the Church as people of every background language are empowered with the Spirit to serve in Christ s name wherever we find ourselves This is the message Luke learned from St Paul it beats at the heart of Paul s letter to the Corinthians The Church in Corinth found itself in turmoil because believers began to rank gifts of the Spirit according to their perceived importance The gift of speaking in tongues the ecstatic gift of prophecy were particularly impressive especially sought after to give those with such gifts authority to lead the community But St Paul would have none of that No he says there are many different gifts the Spirit gives all of which can be used to serve Christ and his church A gift of the Spirit has to be used for the common good not for self importance Wisdom knowledge and faith itself are all gifts the community needs each just as significant as prophetic powers or performing miracles There is only one Spirit of God and the most important gift of the Spirit is to be able to say Jesus is Lord With the Spirit s power we can all say that That s the vision guiding Luke s story of Pentecost The miracle he portrays isn t people speaking in mysterious tongues The miracle he portrays is understanding as believers speaking every language in the known world hear and understand each other as if they all had the same mother tongue Luke is showing us a vision of the Church where every believer from any background is touched by the Spirit and called to share their gifts for Christ s sake Peter goes on to proclaim that sons and daughters men and women old and young slave and free all have a gift to share We didn t have to be there that day to find our place in the community of Jesus Christ No led by the Spirit we keep building a vision together and living that vision together so that Christ s forgiving love reaches the ends of the earth The question for us on Pentecost is how well we do honouring the gifts of the Spirit that each one of us carries Like the congregation in Corinth over the centuries every Church has been tempted to honour some gifts with far more respect than others In charismatic churches those who can speak in tongues have often been seen as more spiritual than others In Presbyterian circles we are more likely to honour education and achievement as signs of the Spirit s work The media often promote authors who prophesy and healers who lay on hands to draw huge

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/326-you-just-had-to-be-there (2016-02-13)
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  • Running Side by Side
    of truth and reconciliation in our country And as we do it s so important to honour these individual deeply personal stories No survivor should feel as though they should be caught up to everyone else and caught up to those who have already come to a place of forgiveness and peace and no survivor should feel alone on the journey Reconciliation is about joining our aboriginal neighbours brothers sisters where they are on the journey 20 years ago the Presbyterian Church of Canada made its official confession and apology to Canada s First Nations peoples for our role in the residential school system But that does not mean that for 20 years we have been idle as we wait for everyone else to catch up to us When the church acknowledged it s role in the residential school system confessed it spoke the truth and apologized we then could move to being in a place to join others on the path Just because we make a confession does not mean we need to hang our heads in silenced shame or guilt but we should have a desire to meet survivors and those who were hurt by the residential school system where they are A desire to help them down their path to accompany them as God says he accompanies the blind in the passage we read from Isaiah to make rough paths straight to try turn darkness into light to lead the blind in ways that we do not know I remember at one point in the race my brother and I ran together we were starting to go up a fairly steep hill I didn t have much experience running up hills and my brother just said Ok Murn a nickname what you have to do here is push it all the way up and then just take it easy on the way down and as I huffed and puffed and groaned up the hill he said just keep going just keep going you can rest on the way down If we hadn t been running side by side I wouldn t have known how to tackle that hill on my own In reconciliation we should be building relationships based on a desire to run the some pace as others no matter where they are at on their journey to accompany them up those steep hills to celebrate when something needs to be celebrated and to walk through the tough times when life feels like it has stopped completely This is what Paul s words from Romans the one s we heard today are calling us to do as God s hands and feet in the world And in the spirit of truth and reconciliation in our church and in our country it is what we re called to do There is trauma still being suffered as a result of the residential school system everyone who is suffering has a different story and is at a different place

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/327-running-side-by-side (2016-02-13)
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  • Keep it Simple
    and host He depended on the hospitality of others and was open and limitless in his welcoming to outsiders sinners and the marginalized Jesus hospitality was as limitless and boundless as God s own love Hospitality and welcome are how we understand a lot of the gospel and like the words said to the disciples in Matthew say hospitality is a practice by which we can welcome Jesus himself Whoever welcomes you is welcoming me also While the understanding of Christian hospitality emerged from listening to these and many other words of Jesus and taking the gospel seriously its practice really came to be shaped in the very beginnings of the church The leaders of our early faith communities taught that Christian hospitality ought to focus on welcoming the vulnerable or the least of these into one s home and community of faith For early Christians hospitality and welcoming was a way of life and way of living out their faith Hospitality to needy strangers distinguished the early church from its surrounding environment It was these concerns about the needs of strangers that gave rise to things like hospitals and institutionalized care But this meant that soon those in need of hospitality were cared for at a distance from a local church or community and instead cared for by paid workers We began to lose sense of what hospitality was to the Early Christian Church Our earliest Christian communities taught us that Hospitality is a way of living not a task or job It s not a means to an end but is just a way to be in this world its a tangible expression of love Hospitality is a way of living that must be given deliberate attention It is something you cultivate over a lifetime You don t become good at it in one moment but in small and steady increments of daily faithfulness You develop it in acts of welcoming that aren t grand gestures fancy dinners or large banquets but in acts that are little and local But as simple as the words little and local sound Christian hospitality can be difficult Hospitality and welcoming aren t always joyful or easy occasions Christian hospitality can be difficult because we tend to place high value on control planning we set limits for what is possible You see that reflected in the Martha Stewart type of hosting I described before planned meals and decorations Hospitality is much easier when its something we can plan and prepare for but the even a cold cup of water type of hospitality Jesus talks about in Matthew is unpredictable and often inefficient It s not something we can plan for and opportunities for it come up at any moment This means that Christian hospitality is something impossible to quantify and it is an ongoing job The work Jesus calls us to is never finished it s not like the dinner ends and the guests go home it has to be always on

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/328-keep-it-simple (2016-02-13)
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