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  • "The Hair of the Dog"
    Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life Our gospel storyteller is playing with those words lifted up John wants us to remember that Jesus has been lifted up on a different pole on the Cross to renew God s healing mercy for those who wander in the wilderness of sin That commentator I read this week even extended the hair of the dog argument to this text explaining the paradox in Jesus words God will use the death of the Son of Man to defeat the power of death for us all One death defeats Death for all time But then we hear those more famous words in John 3 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life Now this is a powerful image more powerful than a bronze snake curving down a pole God gives a beloved life to save the life of the beloved world And perhaps that s why we see those signs waving in the stands at many televised sports events in football stadiums and hockey arenas Believers hold up their hand crafted posters declaring John 3 16 Usually however that s the whole message John 3 16 as if that phrase alone will bring healing belief It s a little like holding up the bronze snake on a pole If people don t know what happened in the wilderness they won t realize that healing comes from God not the snake So for sports fans who can t make the connection between John 3 16 and Jesus life poured out for the sake of the world what s the point of waving those signs There s no power in a sign just like there s no healing in a snake We have to read all the way to verse 21 to claim the whole truth in this passage To believe in the wonder of God s love is to do what is true We come into the light of God when our lives proclaim the love of God that we have witnessed in Jesus Christ Waving a sign in a stadium just won t do Our belief has to become love in action to express our identity as God s covenant people shining the light of God s love into the darkened corners of the world You see Jesus life giving death isn t really a hair of the dog remedy His willingness to die is God s promise rooted in the depths of human sin and suffering that God will give us everything everything we need to enjoy the abundance of life Still hair of the dog remedies persist Ev Kleis pointed me towards one currently on the best sellers list No it s not a new cure for hangovers It s a book called Religion for

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/174-qthe-hair-of-the-dogq?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A Rock and a Hard Place
    don t do it your friend might say you re a chicken I m between a rock and a hard place Whatever I do won t work out very well for me The stories we read about Jesus this morning remind us that God s people sometimes find ourselves between a rock and a hard place Those disciples out in that boat had a hard choice Go out on the lake when it was too windy to be safe or stay on shore and haven t nothing to eat That blind man had to beg for help something we don t like to do When we beg someone for something we wonder what other think of us we feel embarrassed having to ask for help This fellow had to beg or stay blind unable to get around on his own And then the father of that sick little girl He had leave his daughter and force his way through a huge crowd to get the attention of Jesus the famous rabbi He had to act fast to get a few minutes of the rabbi s time or else his daughter might die And we know from the story she did die when her father wasn t there with her Imagine how he felt He was still trying to drag the famous rabbi through a crowd that kept getting in his way when he got the bad news As God s people as Jesus friends we will sometimes find ourselves in a hard place facing difficult situations making choices that aren t easy feeling sad or scared or disappointed when things go wrong in our lives When things do go wrong we often think we re all alone against the world like that poem called Footprints says I noticed during the hardest times of my life t here has only been one set of footprints in the sand Why when I needed you most have you not been there for me We may get angry at God when things go wrong wondering why life isn t always smooth sailing We want to cry out Where are you God How can this happen to me Whenever we find ourselves in trouble whenever we feel alone sad scared or disappointed when we re caught between a rock and a hard place it s important to remember that Jesus Spirit will come to us if we just ask him In all those stories we read today Jesus came to people in trouble to help them make it through their trouble Like that poem promises The times when you have seen only one set of footprints are the times I carried you When we find ourselves in a hard place Jesus love Jesus courage Jesus spirit will never leave us When we need some of that love or courage to get through a hard time we can just take a deep breath and feel Jesus spirit draw close to us to help us through Today

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/175-a-rock-and-a-hard-place?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • As if it were yesterday
    a war horse It was just a new young colt You know I haven t heard what happened to him since that grand arrival I wonder if I ll see him again wearing a crown A step closer to the Cross While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper as he sat at the table a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment nard and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger Why was the ointment wasted in this way 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor And they scolded her 6 But Jesus said Let her alone why do you trouble her She has performed a good service for me 7 For you always have the poor with you and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish but you will not always have me 8 She has done what she could she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial 9 Truly I tell you wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in remembrance of her A disciple speaks I remember that evening as if it were yesterday After the parade into Jerusalem and the fracas at the temple we d all gone back to Bethany to visit Simon a leper Jesus had healed The food covered the table in front of us Simon was SO grateful to Jesus It was wonderful to see how that man had come back to life once his skin was clear But we could never eat in peace in those days Someone always wanted Jesus attention That woman I forget her name she just walked in as if she owned the place carrying this beautiful jar a stunning piece really I didn t know what she was going to do Suddenly she cracked that jar on the table broke it open and started to pour ointment on Jesus head What next I thought As the perfume spread through the air someone realized it was nard the most expensive oil in the market What a waste It broke my heart How many hungry mouths could we feed with what that cost Jesus What a guy Always telling us to care for others Yet he let that woman pour all that rich perfume down the drain Well down his neck When we objected he had the cheek to tell us You ll always have the poor with you You can always be kind to them But haven t we already given enough How can you expect any more from us Jesus Later I realized why he expected so much It s as if he knew how the story would end The woman comments I remember that evening as if it were yesterday I was so

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/176-as-if-it-were-yesterday?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Easter "at the improv"
    they arrive He is not here He is risen Go tell the disciples that Jesus is going ahead of you into Galilee There you will see him It sounds so straightforward on the angel s lips as if it has been rehearsed But the women hesitate to enter the scene Instead they flee and say nothing to anyone for they are afraid So how will the story end Yet Mark is not really worried about those women Throughout his gospel Mark portrays Jesus disciples as missing the point failing to grasp Jesus vision of God s kingdom On Easter morning the faithful women fail too They say nothing just when they should shout the good news at full voice He is risen He is risen indeed Hallelujah But think of Mark as our screen writer He has heard the story of Jesus risen from the tomb Someone did say something for Mark knows Mark believes And now Mark wants us to enter the scene Mark wants us to respond to this moment of hope He wants us to play our part and improvise the next chapter of the Easter story For unless Jesus followers respond to this moment take the Good News into our part of the world the angel s message will just stay shimmering in the early morning light Now the Church Mark first addressed had reason to be afraid just like those women They lived during the reign of Emperor Nero a cruel and unpredictable man Nero blamed Christians and Jews for burning down Rome and provoked terrible persecution and immense suffering for believers throughout his Empire St Paul whose resurrection proclamation we read today died in this persecution Yes Mark s people knew fear and still he wanted them to enter the scene to play their part to proclaim the good news that Jesus was risen from the dead even though this was politically dangerous news Mark continues to present this challenge to every generation of believers Mark wants us to decide how we will respond when the curtain opens on Easter morning and we are invited to step on stage Of course our generation is not Mark s generation People in Canada are not dying for their Christian loyalty We didn t sneak into Church this morning relieved to get here safely and be greeted by friends in Christ who took a similar risk These days risk has been replaced by indifference when it comes to greeting our Risen Lord Sometimes we speak of this indifference with concern but we tend to point the finger out there at cultural factors contributing to the decline of the Church in this generation Sunday shopping people working weekends and all those Sunday sports tournaments not like when I was young we grumble No more prayer in school What s the world coming to But friends let s not fool ourselves For if praying in school every day kept people in Church every week churches would be full of

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/179-easter-qat-the-improvq?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Get a move on!
    draws us into the picture A rounded off completed story of Jesus might be something we could admire and hold at a distance but this open ended Gospel stretches out to this year of grace It suggests a meeting with Jesus that can take place now It is an invitation to you and me to write our own endings that is exactly what happens when one makes the discovery that Jesus is ALIVE Christ in his resurrection glory draws us forward into the future Easter must become for us more than an exercise in religious nostalgia to the accompaniment of grand music and the beauty of Spring flowers The Resurrection confirms for us that Jesus is let loose in the world and his love is always present and real for us By his Spirit he will be at our next crisis before we get there In the Easter story the angel gives the report Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead and behold he is going before you to Galilee there you will see him Going before That implies that we d better get a move on that Easter like Christmas is not only a gift of God but also an assignment Go and tell the women who came to the tomb early were told In today s Gospel the disciples are told not only Peace but If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them if you retain the sins of any they are retained Instructions in what is to be done and how to perpetuate the work and ministry and influence of Jesus At the conclusion of today s Gospel Jesus attempts to prove himself to Thomas a week after the other disciples first encountered him as risen Thomas you remember needed a little more convincing The Lord recognized that in Thomas as he does in some of us Some are more cautious or doubting or thicker than others Have you believed because you have seen me Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe Jn 20 29 That you may come to believe and that through believing you may have life in his name 20 31 God recognized that for Thomas and for all Thomases since following our resurrected Lord in a concrete real flesh and blood world in our human ness we require a flesh and blood Saviour One who has walked the valley before us The proper question today is NOT Do you believe that Jesus is raised from the dead but rather Will you dare to follow Jesus now that he is risen and does rule Are we prepared to walk the walk A walk not in darkness but in light In today s first lesson the letter writer John gives his testimony to the reality of what he has heard seen and touched This revelation and confirmation of God s power at work is in the context of the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/181-get-a-move-on?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A Space that Grows
    God has made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and secure Will God not cause to prosper all my help and my desire Comment This is the King s Speech the last words of King David who wanted to remind leaders of God s people always to be just fair something Presbyterians care about a lot We have the mayor of Medicine Hat with us today We want to welcome him Now the first mayor elected after Medicine Hat became a city back in 1906 was a member of St John s His name was William Cousins he became mayor in 1907 One of our stained glass windows remembers him His daughter Isabella was the first girl baptized in St John s in 1886 Many members of this church have served God by becoming leaders in our city in our province and in our country Our members have worked for the city as staff people making sure it s a good safe interesting place to live For example Phyllis Becker whose name is remembered in another window always made sure there were programs for kids at playgrounds every summer She started the Kiddies parade at Stampede time When you think about this church your church I hope you remember that people who follow Jesus in every generation become leaders in our communities working to make them good places for everybody to live making sure everything is done with fairness and justice A reading from Mark 12 Serving God s People in our Daily Work One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another and seeing that Jesus answered them well he asked him Which commandment is the first of all 29 Jesus answered The first is this 30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength 31 The second is this You shall love your neighbour as yourself There is no other commandment greater than these Comment We have heard God s law of love something else very important to Presbyterians God engages us in heart mind body spirit and so Presbyterians have always cared about learning and how we help each other live well Our missionaries like Isobel Taylor went to places like Taiwan India Africa to help build schools and hospitals caring for body and soul Our mission is always to keep God s law of love As long as St John s has been here we ve raised money every year to help support our neighbours all over the world And we still do Right here in Medicine Hat hundreds of people in this congregation have served God s law of love as part of education health care in our city as teachers superintendents principals school staff and as nurses doctors dentists psychologists in public health administration posts in our clinics hospitals Today we remember them for their faithfulness Presbyterian heritage proclaims

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/182-a-space-that-grows (2016-02-13)
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  • Seizing the Moment
    in Samaria another occasion when his instincts might have resisted reaching out Are Samaritans really worthy really welcome given their suspicious reputation among God s people Philip seems so committed to the Good News of God s love that he conquers any inner debate about who is good enough for God and seizes the moments he s given to offer God s blessing to any who ll receive it That s the spirit of outreach It s the same message St John writes in his letter Beloved since God loved us so much we also ought to love one another For if we cannot love the brothers sisters whom we do see how can we love God whom we do not see Here is St John s encouragement for us to seize any moment God gives us to put the love of God into action into our actions Yet it s almost as if John can read our minds anticipating the inner debate about whether we re up to this task He reminds us that God s love is perfected in us to give us boldness to seize our moments to cast out the fear that may hold us back because as he says there is no fear in love So it is without fear that St John s takes on the opportunity to enter into this time of discernment to plan how to use the Riverside legacy for local outreach projects trusting God to create a new and lively future for us together in Christ Now is the time to overcome our inner debates about whether we re good enough to reach out to strangers friends with the fruits of the Gospel We have to seize the moment God gives us and trust the outcomes to God There are four themes for outreach that our Discernment Team will be considering in detail But all of us will have occasions to catch a broad vision of these themes and what possibilities for ministry they offer us Those occasions begin next week when Rev Erin Phillips joins us to talk about college chaplaincy and how local churches can offer pastoral support on campus to students faculty and staff If you wonder why we might do this think about the tough questions college students face as they work through new deeper learning which sometimes challenges what they always thought they should believe and do based on their childhood faith Or imagine what a campus goes through after a tragedy like the one that struck in Lethbridge just before Christmas when 4 students were shot by another student who then took his own life Erin Phillips was deeply involved in the pastoral response on Lethbridge College campus this winter so she has much to share with us Another theme we ll look at is ministry with Seniors Now you may think we know by experience what this looks like given there are many seniors in St John s But our speaker at the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/183-seizing-the-moment (2016-02-13)
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  • Shaped by Choice
    oldest boy in the family over the youngest Wyatt and Grady do not have to duke it out to prove God loves me the most St Peter had to discover that God did not choose the children of Israel as God s people to the exclusion of every other person of every other race Peter was stunned by this realization when he asked Can we withhold the water for baptizing these people these Gentiles when we witness the gifts of the Holy Spirit among them Presbyterians would take this point one step further and ask Can we withhold the water for baptism from someone in whose life the Holy Spirit will be at work in ways we cannot yet envisage because like Grady they stand at the threshold of life In baptism we declare to Grady and to Wyatt and to every other life that comes to the font young or old God has chosen you And then it s our job parents grandparents godparents church folk near far to teach each baptized child of God how to appreciate the joy of being chosen by God and live out that joy day by day by day Every morning when we wake up and throw a little water on our faces we can feel the water of baptism trickling over our cheeks once more And then we can remember I have been baptized I have been chosen in Christ Every day we should remember that as much as the choices of others may affect us our future for good or ill in the end the choice that truly shapes our lives is God s choice For we have put on Christ In Christ we have been baptized Hallelujah Hallelujah However over the last thirty or forty years we have been shaped by a culture that keeps telling us our choice matters most So for decades now many parents have not sought baptism for their children arguing that the child should choose for themselves eventually But if those parents are not committed to teaching their child what it means to be chosen by God and why that choice matters every day of our lives if choosing baptism is just one more choice that comes somewhere down there after choosing a college a career and the kind of laptop you get then few children are likely to choose baptism on their own Each child needs to grow up appreciating how good it is to be baptized in God s love and be able to claim that love any day you need it Just think about the days when we really need to feel the love of God washing over us If you have ever felt the keen edge of rejection in your life in friendship or romance or education or work you know the deep wounds that the choices of others can cause If you ve ever been bullied targeted for ridicule by someone powerful or if you ve ever made the kind

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/187-shaped-by-choice (2016-02-13)
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