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  • Larks still bravely singing
    lay down your life For friend or family For freedom For God and your faith It s worth pondering These days many of us are puzzled by religious extremists who lay down their own lives not for friend or family or even freedom but in brutal acts they claim will honour God Their brutality troubles me They have no compassion for anyone And given that at least 90 of these extremists were raised in Canada many converting to this brutal mindset I wonder if we have raised a generation on too many computer games simulated battles where death is painless cheap Push a button and a cartoon character explodes no thought given to hearts broken children orphaned futures destroyed In WW1 soldiers like McCrae were shocked by the human cost in lives lost bodies maimed and futures shattered Many who survived the fighting really didn t always to carry the trauma of the trenches with them in body mind and spirit McCrae s poem always makes me mourn in remembrance thinking not of eventual triumph but of the deep deep cost the deep deep loss perhaps best described not by historians but by novelists Listen to this passage from Birdsong a novel about intergenerational soul searching after WW1 A young British woman travels to battlefields in France decades after the war trying to make sense of her family s history looking for her grandfather s story A reading from Birdsong the 1994 novel by Sebastian Faulks pages 210 11 That monument described in the book is real It holds over 72 000 names of British soldiers who went missing in the battles of the Somme who loved and were loved and now lie in fields beyond Flanders If McCrae s words invite us to reflect on what we fight for and on what we re willing to die for they also raise the question of what we will live for given the costliness of battles in foreign lands and now suddenly on our own streets Take up our quarrel with the foe To you with failing hands we throw the torch Be yours to hold it high If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep Though poppies grow in Flanders Fields As much as I love this poem at this point I am challenged by Scripture to consider how I will engage an enemy faithfully Listen Bless those who persecute you bless and do not curse them Live in harmony with one another do not claim to be wiser than you are Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all If it is possible so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all Beloved never avenge yourselves but leave room for the wrath of God for it is written Vengeance is mine I will repay says the Lord No if your enemies are hungry feed them if they are thirsty give them something

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/353-larks-still-bravely-singing (2016-02-13)
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  • Jesus Rules!
    seek the lost and bring back the strayed and I will bind up the injured and I will strengthen the weak but the fat and the strong I will destroy I will feed them with justice As for you my flock thus says the Lord God I shall judge between sheep and sheep between rams and goats 34 15 17 What makes me squirm even more than Ezekiel is this big picture scene in our Gospel this Last Judgement business where we can t comfortably or faithfully stand uncommitted on the side lines because there s no choice but to be involved This is the last and most crucial test of all This is the Final When Christ returns it will be to judge those he has called and expected to serve himself and others those who will earn the Chief Shepherd s commendation Come you that are blessed by my Father inherit the Kingdom prepared for you They will have lived lives of service that are Christ like And what we have great difficulty accepting is that the least ones the needy ones will enter the Kingdom of heaven will be Jesus new found friends will know and be sure of Jesus presence with them while the goats are left shaking their silly heads unable to comprehend that it was the Lord himself they failed to serve Lord when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you Matt 25 44 The Canadian Anglican Herbert O Driscoll in commenting on this passage says the difference is not between those who believe and those who do not believe The difference is between those who care and those who do not care The Reign of Christ is the triumph of caring That is the sign that the Kingdom has come God cared so much that he gave his Son to rule You remember Jesus trial before Pilate It s a simple question Jesus are you King Give me a straight answer and we can get this charade this farce of a trial and of justice over and done with neatly and cleanly But Jesus can only answer Yes and No Yes I am a King But no I am not a King in the sense that Caesar is My Kingdom is not of this world and I cannot be explained in the world s terms My reality is above and beyond the world How do we live in the society in which we find ourselves as believers and yet also live under the rule of Jesus as Lord Christians someone has said are obligated by God to obey the political authorities but not to treat them as ultimate authority Our faith in Jesus as Lord simply does not allow us to find deliverance or meaning salvation through any merely human endeavour We are in the words of the title of a book Resident Aliens

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/359-jesus-rules (2016-02-13)
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  • What are we waiting for?
    hidden your face from us and they express this longing that we have for God when he feels far away If only you would tear open the heavens and come down Waiting to see God through our own pain is difficult Today we might word those same questions like this God where the heck have you been or God why don t you just come back to earth now and fix everything so we can be happy and peaceful Waiting can be intensely difficult but in any situation there is something that can suspend us through it Today we lit the candle of hope From as simple a hope that the next three people in front of you at the grocery store don t have many items to as great a hope that God will act in your life in the same way you ve seen God act in your life before Advent symbolizes our own spiritual journey of hope as individuals as a congregation as a whole people of God In the video played for the children this morning we saw all those stories and events that led us to the birth of Jesus Those are stories that collectively we remember Stories where God was active in the lives of God s people They re stories we hear and re tell over and over again The video included symbols of the stories of Creation Adam and Eve Noah s Ark Joseph s coat of many colours Moses David and Goliath Daniel and the Lion s Den Jonah and the whale among others And then if we think about it on an individual level we all have stories from our own life stories that maybe just as we look back on them realize that they affirmed in some way or another God s presence in our lives At Advent we celebrate the fact that God breaks into the world and our lives and continues to do so It is the spirit of advent that we wait not in frustration for what hasn t happened yet but in hopeful expectation On one hand we re celebrating what s happened but on another we re yearning for what hasn t happened In our own lives we yearn for certain things and in the world we see people yearning for what hasn t happened yet Just look at what the outcry has been as a result of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson that has been everywhere in the news this week because of the recent result of the investigation In that outcry there is a yearning not just for justice in that specific event but for justice for a people everywhere There is a yearning in this situation accompanied with a hope that in the midst of all this sadness things could possibly change for the better But as impossible as a situation in our lives might feel and as small as our hope may feel God does amazing work with

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/360-what-are-we-waiting-for (2016-02-13)
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  • The Surprise
    head then buried it in his arms No no no Still too spooky And besides the poor girl would have to sweep her house all over again Meanwhile Mary had put her broom away and Gabriel climbed out of the corner and stretched He followed her to the table Bread She was making bread As she began to knead the dough another idea started to rise in Gabriel s head He could write the message in flour on the table It would have to be brief It was a small table Short and to the point Gabriel thought when suddenly there was a knock at the door Gabriel jumped as Mary walked to the door wiping her hands as she went It was another girl a friend of Mary s no doubt They hugged exchanged greetings and a message was delivered I could do that Gabriel thought Knock at the door like an unexpected visitor and just give her the message But what if she got scared and slammed the door in my face What if someone saw us talking She ll have enough explaining to do when the baby comes She doesn t need to make excuses for some strange visitor Then Gabriel sighed a long deep sigh He was running out of time Perhaps it was the sigh Perhaps it was something else Mary heard For whatever reason she spun around and stopped suddenly Her eyes looked right into Gabriel s He hadn t noticed her eyes before Brown and shining young and alive They should have looked right through him but they didn t They touched him Somehow Mary could see him Somehow she knew he was there Hello Mary he said finally because there was nothing else to say God is with you and wants to do something very special for you Mary didn t say anything But she didn t faint either And that was a great relief to the angel She just stood there shaking ever so slightly and stared at her guest There s no need to be afraid Gabriel assured her although it was hard to know exactly what she was feeling Was she trembling with fear Or was it more like excitement Gabriel couldn t tell And he didn t like that one bit This girl was nothing like what he d expected This girl was a bit of a surprise Look he went on God is very pleased with you So pleased that God wants you to be the mother of a very special child Jesus the Messiah God s rescuer whom everyone has been waiting for all these years Surely this would shock her Gabriel thought And he was ready to catch her if she should fall But all she did was sit herself down to think She played with the hem of her dress then she twisted her hair Say something thought Gabriel Say anything And finally she did I don t understand said Mary How can this

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/361-the-surprise (2016-02-13)
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  • Making Space for Christmas
    with family in Bethlehem So the one who sent him and Mary out back to sleep with the animals was a distant cousin not an innkeeper with no vacancies With all the shirt tail relations arriving to register for the census even family couldn t squeeze in two more country cousins looking for a bed It s sad but true Even with the most generous hearts and best intentions at some point we all run out of space at Christmas no more guest rooms no more beds no more time no more space for anything or anyone else But if there s no more space in our lives at Christmas then when and where will we meet God We have to make space for Christmas not just space for company and cooking and the tree but space for God to arrive Joseph had to make space in his expectations of what a family looks like to include a pregnant wife sure to raise eyebrows in the town and a baby he never conceived of Only then could God create a new dream for him Mary had to make space for that baby not just in her womb but in her soul and in her future We see her at the manger pondering this new life opening space in her heart a heart that will eventually be broken Making space for Christmas doesn t guarantee good cheer but it does allow God to find a cradle in our hearts for whatever lies ahead If we don t make space for Christmas to claim our hearts then when and where will we meet God especially when our road turns rocky This year I got thinking about space opening up in our lives as I contemplated Maren our intern heading back to Toronto She will leave space in my life I ll miss our weekly conversations on ministry She s opened up space we ve enjoyed together as a congregation too in activities like Mission Possible St Francis Day and in her thoughtful insights and creative spark we ve enjoyed on so many Sundays Yet as much as we d like her to stay and keep sharing space in our community we know God has other things in mind for her other spaces she ll be called to create or fill as the Spirit leads But what will we do with the space we ve shared with Maren which will feel so empty after Christmas That space we ve made for each other the space that echoes with our loss when someone moves on is actually a space where we can meet God As much as we may ache when a space opens up through a leaving or a loss that ache can draw us into God s deeper presence Joseph had to trust God s presence when his dreams of a perfect family crumbled Mary had to trust God s presence when she realized she couldn t control the future for her

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/362-making-space-for-christmas (2016-02-13)
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  • Home by another way
    Samir Are the Romans on the rampage he laughed Don t laugh too soon Rumours are flying Herod s guards have torn up Bethlehem They say children are dying By the King s own sword Iman s face was pale Come now said Samir There are always rumours about how crazy Herod is Town gossip that s all Are we to risk the desert by night for gossip asked Achmed Herod s servants were kind to us when stopped at court to seek directions Why do we flee by night It is not gossip There are soldiers on the road to Samaria and to Jericho They are looking for the magi We must go home by another way across the mountains and the desert Iman explained His voice was tight with tension Looking for the magi Achmed was astonished They are royal priests Soliders cannot stop the magi Samir shook his head What do we know about these magi Perhaps they have stolen jewels from Herod Perhaps the soldiers will hunt us too Suddenly out of the darkness a woman appeared clasping a bundle to her shoulder Please Help me she cried The soldiers tried to take my son The bundle on her shoulder began to cry as the woman sank to the sand in fear and exhaustion Iman said to Achmed Fetch Caspar Samir turned to the woman What you say is a terrible thing Why would soldiers take your child Have you stolen this baby in the market No No Haven t you heard she protested Soldiers took all the small boys in Bethlehem away two days ago Yesterday they were hunting babies in Jerusalem I ran with my son but I can run no further Her hands trembled as she tried to rock her whimpering child Iman s eyes widened Bethlehem We visited the infant king only days ago in Bethlehem Surely the soldiers would not harm the infant Jesus He raised his eyes to the night sky where the evening stars had begun to twinkle Just then Caspar appeared from his tent Achmed at his heels He addressed the woman What help can we give you We leave this night over the mountains It is not safe here for you or for us Please take my son with you Or else the soldiers will kill him Take him north to Damascus My brother is there He will keep him Or take the child to your home wherever you go Only let him live for the sake of the Holy One You ask a great deal of us magi of the night skies royal priests of God s wisdom What do we know of a child Caspar looked stern But what is wisdom if it will not save an innocent life she pleaded I have other children my daughters who need me But please let this little one live He is my only son Tears streamed down her face Caspar looked gravely at the mother What is

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/363-home-by-another-way (2016-02-13)
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  • God gets through to us
    are one of the little clans of Judah from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel whose origin is from of old from ancient days Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God And they shall live secure for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth and he shall be the one of peace They followed the star of Scripture and came to the place of encountering and knowing the God of the Scriptures They came under the influence of Christ as Light of the world the One whom even those not Jewish not of the House of David were called to place faith in Much later Paul reminds us the mystery of Christ was made known by revelation the Gentiles have become fellow heirs members of the same body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel Ephesians 3 6 And the rest is history The Wise Ones headed down to the little town of Bethlehem home of King David the little town that the prophet Micah had said would one day have a significance far beyond its size And after they had laid their gifts before the manger they were warned by an angel not to go back to Jerusalem and King Herod For Herod with all his smiles and welcoming hospitality was really terribly threatened and frightened by all this fuss and talk of another King The Wise Ones had the good sense to go home by another way having established their reputation forever as representative universal followers of Jesus In the early 1800 s John Howard Payne wrote Be it ever so humble there s no place like home Bethlehem Mary and Joseph s place of residence filled the bill for being humble The magi nearly missed meeting God by about nine miles for that s about the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem It s doubtful if Herod ever made it out to Bethlehem he was too busy in the centre of his universe Jerusalem Compared to Rome the real centre in that day even Jerusalem wasn t that much to send postcards home about When it comes to calculating and understanding the promises and the presence of God most of us are out by at least nine miles for many it s even further Following the star and finding Christ was like a home coming for the Wise Ones even though they stood out like the misfits they were in Bethlehem Pretty hard to make a sow s ear out of a silk purse Bethlehem was pretty basic and humble alright For Mary and Joseph there was probably no place like it A very

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/219-god-gets-through-to-us?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Our "Confirmation Hearing"
    live out God s expectations And then we witness Jesus confirmation hearing But there s no fiery judgment to burn off any lingering doubt No question about his friends or his politics The heavens open and the Spirit descends like a dove an emblem of gentleness faithfulness and sacrifice The confirmation of Jesus purpose in God s vision is given in love not judgment You are my Son my Beloved With you I am delighted Gone is the stern urgency in John the Baptist s words Instead we hear God s voice filled with hopeful love desire The change in tone between these two scenes opens up the question for us to consider Which voice compels us to confirm our commitment to God s purposes the demanding urgency in John s preaching or the welcoming delight in God s blessing of Jesus If we are to put on Christ will we walk carefully trying to toe the line on righteousness or will we walk confidently trusting God s blessing on our lives Now there is a sense in which we must face both callings the demand to share ourselves with our neighbours for the sake of justice and generosity and the delight to serve God and please God with whatever we can do day each day as gracious instruments of God s Spirit But which voice motivates you to offer yourself to God the demand or the delight Which one inspires you to confirm God s purposes for your life I ask myself this question quite often Should we demand more of each other in our commitment to Christ expecting a depth of devotion that is exemplary and speaks of our passion to follow Jesus Or should we be gentler with each other inviting response and participation by igniting a sense of the delight we share in Christian friendship Probably each one of us responds a bit differently to high expectations and warm invitations Sometimes we resent demanding expectations when we feel they re set arbitrarily and push us beyond our current opinions or convenience Yet we know from other areas of life that having high expectations of ourselves can inspire growth and achievement When we push ourselves beyond familiar territory we often surprise ourselves achieve things we never dreamed possible A warm invitation on the other hand is meant to encourage us to trust our value to the whole community and not second guess our ability to contribute something to God s vision The sense that God takes delight in us ought to inspire us to offer what we can Yet it ought not to make us feel self satisfied that we have already done our bit and that God should be thanking us by now Demand and delight each offer a different energy for living out our commitment to Christ Demand brings a challenge delight offers encouragement The community of the Church must develop the wisdom to issue the challenge and the encouragement to every member as our

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/220-our-qconfirmation-hearingq?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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