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  • Moving with the Spirit
    get organized trying to figure out what to do next making some adjustments in their community No doubt they were still hunkered down in discouragement that Jesus was gone from them a bit confused about what the task was now and trying to come to terms with the fact that things aren t going to be like they were before They re in a holding pattern pre Pentecost Do you recognize them Followers of Jesus hanging out together and hanging in together wondering what the next step of discipleship might be Many congregations are in a holding pattern hanging in trying to survive discouraged by the loss of members hanging out with each other because the support and care is necessary and cherished but unclear of what s ahead a bit tentative about the next step I think we do recognize the pre Pentecost disciples Then The Breath comes and blows them beyond their comfort zones The Spirit blows them out of where they were blows them into the public sphere The disciples had been keeping a low profile waiting for God to move And God came mightily in the Spirit and sent them into the street where they began to communicate in ways they didn t think they knew how to speak They spoke many languages languages they did not know how to speak They spoke all kinds of languages and they were understood by the people who heard them Moved by the Holy Spirit they did what they could never imagine Before Jesus left them he said to the disciples You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth With the coming of the Spirit they were empowered to communicate with people in ways they didn t know or expect They were proclaiming Christ in new ways different ways and it drew a crowd The followers of Jesus began speaking languages they had never spoken before So St John s Presbyterian Church what languages are you using to witness to Jesus Christ As disciples of Jesus as the Church born of the Spirit what is your public witness to this community I know you are in a time of discernment You are trying to be intentional and open to where the Spirit is moving you And I m here this weekend to talk with you about Ministry with Seniors Do you speak a language that attracts and connects with seniors of this city Is the Spirit of God moving you to speak in word and deed to an ageing Canadian culture Many of the Churches that I visit speak a language that dismisses seniors People seem to long for days gone by when churches had big Sunday schools and they were young The reality in Canada is that within 5 years it is likely there will be more people over the age of 65 than

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/188-moving-with-the-spirit (2016-02-13)
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  • Are you feet wet yet?
    the education of ministers in fresh directions At Assembly I learned over 50 of our ministers are now over the age of 50 We really need a fresh effort to call new candidates to take the plunge into ministry Any one out there ready to take that step Another person on the edge is Mary Fontaine Mary is a member of the Cree nation in Saskatchewan and a former student of mine She has started something called Hummingbird Ministries on the BC coast drawing aboriginal people from urban areas around Vancouver into small group ministries focused on healing counselling She is beading a network of resource people who respond to young people caught up in the courts or addictions and those still troubled by experience in residential schools Mary stands on the cutting edge of ministry seeking support building relationships establishing trust with people who might otherwise be overlooked I also met young people on the edge of what faith in Christ means Assembly always includes Young Adult Representatives from across Canada This year they voted ahead of us delegates on key issues like our stance on the environment certain human rights situations Young people dared us older more cautious believers to take that plunge to move from the edge of interest into the swirling currents of social debate The next scene in the story sharpens that edge for us all 9 Then Joshua said to the Israelites Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God 10 By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites Hittites Hivites Perizzites Girgashites Amorites and Jebusites 11 the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan 13 When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord rest in the waters of the Jordan the waters flowing from above shall be cut off they shall stand in a single heap It s a puzzling image all that water piling up in a heap It s puzzling too to interpret a story of conquest in our generations The Israelites displaced other peoples when they occupied the land where Israel s future was to unfold But those peoples had called that land home Now we know the painful consequences of conquest in current conflicts in the unintended tragedy conquered peoples often endure Take current relations between the state of Israel and the Palestinians How shall contemporary Christians step into the waters of this conflict when we recognize the plight for both parties The Assembly has wrestled with this question for many years affirming the right of Israel to exist in peace security but also pleading for the rights of Palestinians to have a homeland in which they can live and work with dignity One of our speakers this year was a Palestinian Christian who told us about the brutality Palestinians

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/190-are-you-feet-wet-yet (2016-02-13)
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  • "Building Capacity"
    ourselves just over 300 000 from our endowment to complete the updating of the heating system re roof the office classroom wing replace the kitchen stove install new venting in the kitchen and repair one of the stained glass windows As the pledges to repay this loan came in we received more than these first four projects required and so we also refurbished the Heritage room replaced doors downstairs and will soon repair and repaint the walls in the sanctuary We also received and installed the Risen Christ mural as part of this campaign From my perspective the greatest thing about Maintaining the Legacy Building for Tomorrow is that our common generosity commitment enabled us to complete all this work with no weeping gnashing of teeth There were no white knuckles as we waited to see if we d meet our target no earnest sermons needed to urge us on We had all the money pledged in four months and we ll raise nearly 343 000 as the final few pledges come in Thanks be to God and thanks be to all of you for this generosity We have learned the lesson St Paul urged the Corinthians to take to heart that God gives us the capacity for generosity As Paul declared The One who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness 11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity which will produce thanksgiving to God Paul was urging a fairly prosperous community to take a risk on sharing its resources with the poor and struggling sister church in Jerusalem It s the first example of what churches in every age face the invitation to give of our own substance to do good things for God that really cost us something for the benefit of others St Paul encouraged Christians in Corinth to build their capacity to be generous For generosity is both an act of faith in God and an act of thanksgiving to God Generosity expresses faith in God because we give away something we ourselves need trusting that God will replenish us Generosity also expresses our thanks to God for we are grateful we do have something to give We have been blessed to meet needs beyond our own So it is that generosity defies the values of our culture which emphasize acquiring as much as we can to indulge our own desires Generosity declares the fearless hope that God s goodness will replenish us not according to the laws of economics but according to the principles of love But in every generation we have to build our capacity to be generous just like we have to teach our children to budget for themselves We have to learn to trust that a good generous heart will receive a return on its investment despite what the stock market says or what our fears for the future conjure

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/191-qbuilding-capacityq (2016-02-13)
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  • Hardships and the Heart
    Syria or Egypt we see the same hardships St Paul encountered hardships unleashed by the powerful against minority voices hardships fed by human cruelty against people not so very different from us Historians speculate that St Paul himself was killed in a persecution ordered by Emperor Nero another leader who never balked at killing his own people But in the face of such hardship and cruelty what is St Paul s message to the church then and now He doesn t blame God for what is happening around him He doesn t see his suffering as part of God s plan Instead he lifts up the values by which Christians stand in the face of every hardship and heartache purity knowledge patience kindness holiness of spirit genuine love truthful speech and the power of God Christ s followers bear the blows of the world through this goodness God has revealed in Christ Jesus As Paul says in verses 8 10 of our reading If we re treated as impostors ridiculed by critics we remain firm in God s truth In the face of poverty we find the ability to share Even in sorrow we do not lose our capacity to rejoice And when we face death we cling to God s resurrecting hope After all that Paul had faced and was still facing when he wrote to Corinth he declared his heart open to that church which indulged its petty differences revelled in its own prosperous status compared to other churches Paul pleads with Christ s followers then and now Open wide your hearts Look at what others are facing and claim the heart of our faith in Christ a heart open to respond generously kindly bravely to those caught up in any hardship Paul s plea is that we should not turn inward in the face of hardship but remain true to our faith reaching out to those facing tragedy or threat risking ourselves as Paul and as Jesus risked themselves On this Canada Day St Paul s stirring plea reminds me of the best in Canadian tradition We have opened wide our glowing hearts over the years in many different ways We rally around those facing tragedy or disaster Crews from one province quickly move to support another when fire or flood threaten homes Communities rally when a family is caught up in heartbreak or a mall collapses and lives and livelihoods are lost This is the Canadian way a way rooted in the values of our faithful heritage that we love our neighbours for God s sake and will risk our own well being to help those neighbours so that hardship is borne by many shoulders not just a few This has been the Canadian way not just at home but also abroad committing our tax dollars to help the poorest countries feed and educate their children standing up to global powers that abuse their own citizens Canada has had a proud tradition of protecting human rights

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/192-hardships-and-the-heart (2016-02-13)
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  • The Eyes of the Heart
    do no deeds of power among sceptical neighbours The eyes of their hearts were firmly shut and they missed God s grace standing in their very midst Perhaps this story speaks for our generation too People around us look at the Church and they do not recognize the presence of God here Christians are profiled in the media as narrow minded somewhat archaic maybe a little gullible or naïve People look at us the followers of Jesus and the eyes of their hearts are not enlightened They see nothing but local people in local organizations who could probably use our time resources in better ways They miss the presence of God in our lives It has happened to Jesus followers time again Still the second scene in Mark s story shows Jesus determination that the power of God will move into the world no matter how people respond Jesus sends out his disciples two by two with the reminder that they must rely on God s providing not the contents of suitcases nor the arrangements of travel agents He warns them that they will be welcomed by some people but not by all Nevertheless as God s gracious messengers they must persevere For no matter what the eyes of sceptical hearts see God s power cannot be defeated So the disciples must keep the eyes of their hearts open for need and opportunity Wherever they are welcomed the healing goodness of God will move through them to change lives Here is a message for us too If we feel discouraged in our generation disappointed by the lack of interest or response to God s good news we should not lose heart God s power is at work and when we know what to look for we will see that power in our midst in our lives in God s world So then how do we look through the eyes of our hearts How can we recognize the power of God at work in our lives As I reflected on this question this week another saying from St Paul came to mind In the Book of Romans Paul declares that all things work together for good for those who love God Romans 8 28 It is in the working out of goodness throughout our lives that we witness God s power and purpose unfolding For God is not the author of evil or heartbreak God offers the redeeming power of goodness in the triumph of Christ Jesus through his suffering and death The challenge for us is that in the midst of trouble we often give up on God s goodness before it has a chance to make a breakthrough for us And then like Jesus neighbours we scoff at God because we have not recognized God s power in our midst The eyes of our hearts need illumination in order to see God s goodness unfolding around us over time A few years ago I taught a storytelling course using

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  • Defining Peace
    It rose to great prominence in the Greek Empire boasting one of the greatest temples in the ancient world But the city s history was anything but peaceful Ephesus was constantly defending itself against attackers fighting off troops from rival cities falling to various kings and emperors over the centuries But by the time Paul was writing to Ephesian Christians Ephesus had been under Roman control for over a hundred years The city was prospering again It had grown to nearly half a million inhabitants It had won Roman favour and was chosen capital of its region over its rivals Yes Ephesus had found peace peace established by political manoeuvring and maintained by the Roman sword Ephesus enjoyed what s called the pax Romana Roman peace the peace of empire peace established and maintained by power Our generation understands this definition of peace too We watch global politics and see a kind of enforced peace among former Soviet states for example in which the power of the Russian army offers protection to those who side with its regime Sometimes we wish for this kind of peace to take hold in places like Syria or Somalia If only peace keeping forces from the United Nations could stop the bloodshed between rival groups and protect innocent civilians We hope for the peace of a truce between warring factions in many places around the world including Canadian neighbourhoods If you ve been watching news from Scarborough this week you ve seen beleaguered neighbours crying out for protection against gang violence and for the kind of resources which make gangs less attractive to poor young men these days We do understand peace established and maintained by power We only hope that the power is democratic asserted by those who respect human rights and are accountable for any use of force But into a world used to the pax Romana where citizens were glad for the protection offered by Roman swords came St Paul with these stunning words Christ is our peace This phrase hardly makes an impression on us now But among the first followers of Jesus it was a daring claim Christ not the Roman emperor is your peace St Paul declared And then he went on to describe how the peace of Christ would reshape the world Christ becomes our peace by redefining human differences St Paul begins this work of redefining differences starting with religion No more Jews and Gentiles he says No more circumcised and uncircumcised No more defining who is good enough for God according to human opinion Christ creates one new humanity Paul says reconciling differences and ending the hostility which divided long time enemies No more strangers no more aliens he argues Now we are all citizens and members of God s household built together into a dwelling place for God Paul s vision had profound religious and political repercussions in a city that had relied on favoritism and force to maintain itself Christ himself is our

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/197-defining-peace (2016-02-13)
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  • Jesus & the Big Bang Theory
    a nerd he thinks rolling his eyes A scene right out of The Big Bang Theory Andrew is a little more helpful though he too is uncertain and confused by Jesus question We ve got a kid here with five barley buns a couple of fish Not much to work with though The disciples just don t get it Jesus may as well be from some other planet His expectations are outrageous as far as they re concerned Who does he think he is Who does he think we are Amid such doubt a miracle unfolds a miracle of abundance against all odds a miracle to conquer doubt and show us the truth about Jesus But miracles are hard for the generation of the big bang theory to interpret For miracles defy scientific explanation Miracle stories often stir up in us the very doubts they were intended to overcome In our world where science meets religion and speaks an entirely different language we need to distinguish Jesus from Dr Sheldon Cooper and think about what Jesus miracles are trying to tell us about God in this generation of the God particle You will likely have heard the news earlier this month announcing the discovery of the so called God particle If you re interested in science as I am you probably found all the hoopla among physicists intriguing even if the explanations about this particle seem a little complex I turned to CBC s science show Quirks Quarks to improve my own understanding and found the words of Bob McDonald quite helpful Scientists are not proposing to replace God with an explanation of how matter came to exist at the sub atomic level But as Bob McDonald explains in his blog Somewhere along the line the energy generated in the big bang turned into matter into quarks protons electrons atoms molecules particles planets and eventually into human beings trying to figure the whole thing out If the universe hadn t developed these interesting little lumps we wouldn t be here McDonald goes on to say that the newly hyped Higgs Boson particle helps solve the mystery of how a universe can make the transition from rather boring energy to interesting matter by giving mass to elementary particles Then he concludes Science is only interested in how we got here When the question becomes Why are we here then that s a question for theology Whether or not we can follow the scientific explanation in detail McDonald s conclusion connects our miracle story with current scientific investigation The big bang theory the scientific one not the comedy show explores how the tremendous abundance in the universe all that diversity all those unique beautiful and curious forms of life matter how all this could emerge from nothing Our miracle on the other hand proposes the who and the why of all this abundance John wants us to recognize in Jesus the human face of God giver of life in all its fullness

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  • Faces of Faithfulness
    right music for the right occasion learning new scores keeping her ability and accuracy primed with hours of attention This is the face of faithfulness a choir director wears planning each season of anthems recruiting and rehearsing volunteer singers trying to blend the quiet voices with the enthusiastic ones Just like Martha had to cope on the spot if the biscuits got singed Mabel the choir director has had to cope when the soloist got the flu or there just weren t enough tenors Mabel has also worn this face of faithfulness as an athlete who took time to learn her favorite sports and keep her swing in practice It s the face of the faithful gardener who planned her garden year by year planting weeding watering harvesting This face of faithfulness gets things going plans every meal or every performance from appetizer to encore This face of faithfulness gets others involved co ordinating the production of something that will be wonderful once everything comes together and everybody plays their parts Families choirs theatre productions and churches depend on this face of faithfulness And everyone of us here who has worked with Mabel Pedersen in one of her creative endeavours has seen this face worn with both an expression of earnest attention occasionally with a smile a glint in her eye The musical life in St John s in Medicine Hat wouldn t be what it is today without this face of faithfulness gracing Mabel s countenance So why then does Jesus give Mary the thumbs up This story of two sisters always gets under the skin of good organizers those endearing enduring people who struggle to co ordinate a thousand loose ends in order to get the show on the road We must look at Mary s face of faithfulness to see what Jesus is getting at Now Mary is the faithful hostess who actually takes time to be with her guest not just calling out a friendly word from the kitchen now and then Mary is there to appreciate the moment they ve been planning for to enter that moment fully so the art of conversation between friends can unfold like a symphony in performance when the instrumentalists are not just learning notes but when the musicians set the music free to work its magic Without Mary Jesus would just sit there by himself listening to the sisters bicker in the kitchen Without Mary the choir would have no one to receive its gift no one to hear the blend of voices savour the truth that singing is more than hitting the right notes Without Mary athletes would have no one to cheer them on no one to share the joy of victory or agony of defeat Without Mary there s no one to appreciate the beauty of the whole garden to savour the extravaganza of scent and colour and flavour Without Mary God has no one to pause in the wonder at creation s grandeur Jesus has

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