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  • On a Road Trip with Jesus
    and we are left breathless keeping up to Jesus and his many public appearances teaching healing prophesying calling out those who would follow him The Greek word for immediately is used 42 times in Mark No sooner does Jesus finish a task than immediately he hits the road to some other place And some of his best and wisest teaching was done on the road and on the run Seems that to be a follower of Jesus is to be on the way with him No wonder the first designation for the Church was The Way Just to re cap the encounter with Jesus and the blind beggar Bartimaeus in Mark There s a subtle irony in the story Jesus disciples had their sight were on the road with him but really didn t get the point of it all Bartimaeus was blind told Jesus he had faith that the Great Physician could restore his sight and seemed to have more insight into discipleship than the disciples They were insiders all the way and privy to Jesus wrestling with his approaching passion and death They heard all yet heard nothing saw all yet remained blind The blind see the sighted are blind Go figure In our house we ve been dealing from a distance this week with a life long friend who has been instrumental in deeply hurting and unjustly treating other just as dear friends The relationship experts would have other diagnoses I m sure but I see a classic case of someone who cannot see himself as others see him so deeply stuck in ruts and relationships of his own digging and forming over 40 years The Jesus of today s reading sets an example and urges his followers not to settle in and become too comfortable not to rest easy tuning others out because the action is on the road Jesus as portrayed in Mark came to people where they were but rarely left them as they were In the Christian life there is as much in the journey as in the destination But what s that about There s more than one way of being and doing the Way the Church today in case you hadn t noticed Some choose to emphasize the end result the destination as if becoming a Christian were a one shot deal Once that choice is made that decision then life is almost guaranteed so we are led to believe to be a bed of roses a winding road that only and always takes us just where we want to go and be The Bible is your GPS and everyone lives happily ever after For other well meaning believers life in God s Kingdom is all about the day to day journey responding to life as the world dishes it out to us and eternity will look after itself The worst case scenario in this kind of faithfulness is that Jesus followers uncritically blow in the wind with every fad and

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/210-on-a-road-trip-with-jesus (2016-02-13)
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  • Salt of the Earth
    not deplete the salts in their system when they drink lots of water So when Jesus calls his disciples salt of the earth he is not giving them a compliment really He s telling them what a disciple of the kingdom of God is like First Jesus disciples are to flavour the world with the values of God s reign justice love peace compassion Second they are to preserve human life and prevent decay in society Third they are to work quietly even invisibly to bring out the best in humanity Fourth they are to practice the companionship and hospitality that salt represents And finally disciples are not to live in isolation from the world For salt is never complete in itself It is an ingredient in a greater whole Its job is to be mingled with other things so it can have its effect In calling his disciples salt Jesus is saying what the prophets said time and again to Israel that faith in God is real only when it is lived out in society Our covenant with God includes our connectedness with all our neighbours As we hear in Isaiah 58 we cannot worship God and at the same time pursue our own interests oppress workers quarrel and fight Sharing food with the hungry removing the chains of oppression these are as important as prayer in the worship of God It is the quality of saltiness that gives salt its identity and purpose So being salt for the earth gives Jesus disciples identity and purpose Jesus knew that following him would not be easy and might well bring suffering and persecution to his followers It would be tempting to slacken in one s discipleship go along with the ways of the world for safety s sake But Jesus likens this to salt losing its saltiness an impossibility really So it s impossible for disciples to lose commitment to the way of love justice and still be disciples If society s pressure causes the salt of the earth to lose saltiness they are of no more use as disciples On the other hand through the disciples good works God s love and goodness are revealed Those who have scorned God may change their ways when they witness our good works and begin to reconsider God s good purposes In a little book written in 1963 called Salty Christians Hans Ruedi Weber minister of the Swiss Reformed Church wrote It has been said that every Christian needs a double conversion conversion from the world to Christ and conversion to service with Christ in the world to holy worldliness This understanding of the Christian life can lead us to become the salt of the earth salty Christians who share in Christ s ministry to the world with all the people of God Weber goes on True Christians are contagiously human To be contagiously human is to share the truly human life that Christ exemplifies it means leaving behind pride exclusiveness jealousy

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/211-salt-of-the-earth (2016-02-13)
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  • Can life go on?
    all swallowed up by the weapons of want Death had come calling as surely as Harry Lennox came with his sad duty Hear the cry from Naomi s widowed heart Can life go on without love without a breadwinner some bread How does God turn the tables on such sorrow How does God create a future for us when the world has turned against us and war or want or tragedy has broken our hearts and our spirits These are the questions the story of the widows seeks to answer for us It is a story about loyalty and how loyalty in the midst of cruel circumstances nurtures the seed of new life Think about it Ruth makes the first generous gesture of loyalty toward Naomi Ruth is only her daughter in law a foreigner to boot As a widow Ruth could simply return to her own family But when Naomi decides life has to be more secure back home back in Israel Ruth commits herself to move back with her A bit like a WW2 war bride but this time a widow Ruth embraces a strange land out of loyalty and love She s willing to glean in foreign fields to gather up the scraps of harvest the scraps of a future so that life can go on Those first gleaned seeds of new life meet hunger pangs and help keep body and soul together for two widowed lives But then it s Naomi who realizes that Ruth needs more than food for life to go on far away from Ruth s kin and culture So Naomi boldly proposes a new match for Ruth with Boaz her late husband s distant cousin Naomi stretches family loyalty to include her son s foreign widow pushing the cultural definition of family responsibility well beyond propriety And Ruth out of her love and loyalty for Naomi takes up the daring proposal to seek out and seduce Boaz to secure their future Then Boaz who has already been attracted to Ruth meets her bold beauty with loyalty of his own breaking all kinds of expectations and traditions in order to claim Ruth for himself and give Naomi a future too Life goes on because all three of these characters act out of love and loyalty to meet each other s needs in daring ways And when Ruth and Boaz produce their first born son it s as if Naomi s heart will break again but this time for joy Her friends declare Blessed be the Lord who has not left you without next of kin He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age for your daughter in law who loves you who is more to you than seven sons has borne this son for you The outlandish loyalty of three people who actually didn t owe anything to each other by law or custom created a new life and a new future for all God

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/212-can-life-go-on (2016-02-13)
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  • Fear, awe and a cheese biscuit
    truly awe inspiring do resonate with our fears Awesome sights remind us of our own insignificance The awe that we feel amid of the rubble of the Frank Slide or gazing into the depths of the Grand Canyon rises from an inner recognition of our tiny proportions facing immense powers beyond our control What is truly awesome deserves our respect our fear even because awesome things put us in our properly humble place Unlike a cheese biscuit Perhaps God s people in ancient times felt this humbling sense of awe more readily than we do Without benefit of scientific explanations for natural phenomena like earthquakes or flooding they felt their vulnerability even more keenly than we feel ours Whatever could knock down that magnificent temple whether earthquake or enemy invader was truly awesome in its power In those days whatever struck you with dread or wonder had to be of God s doing And so the psalmist could say The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom What you do not understand and do not control was properly feared back then The Book of Daniel and the Gospel of Mark invoke that fear in today s readings These texts are awesome They cut us down to size by highlighting the things we fear most the unpredictable forces of nature in earthquake or famine and the undesirable forces of our enemies rising up in war and rumours of war But these fearful forces are always with us now just as in those ancient times So these awesome readings remind us of our vulnerability in a way that puts us on edge And truly that s what they mean to do to remind us we live in a world beyond our control in which God s purposes exceed our own in which threats seen and unseen make life a fragile gift a gift to honour in faithfulness not squander recklessly Yet these ancient warnings often fall on our ears as if they are predictions When we hear of an earthquake rattling Haida Gwaii and then hear rumblings of another war in the Middle East people begin to worry Is this the end Is God bringing about the judgment of which Daniel wrote Yet people have been worrying about these same questions in every generation Earthquakes regularly rattle human composure year after year after decade after century Wars have been breaking out especially in the Middle East since well before Daniel was a twinkle in his parents eyes The threats that bring fear and awe to our hearts are always with us The writings of Daniel and Mark are not predictions they are descriptions of awesome realities which regularly shake us to our roots and put us in our properly humble position in the world They do not ask us to panic about the latest news cast nor do they give us a chart to the timing of the end As Jesus words toward the end of Mark 13 declare About

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  • The High King of Heaven
    of life as God s gift sung into being by a God whose creative power reached the very heights and depths of all creation That creative power was woven into every aspect of creation so that every creature great or small owed its own song of praise to its Creator The Celts held this poetic vision of life as God s gift in a way that rubs against our preference for scientific explanations technical tinkering with physical reality Yet many children share a more Celtic sense of the world When I worked on the Isle of Iona I remember walking to the beach with a group of children Four year old Natalie joined me as we trudged up the dirt road alongside the crofts where sheep were grazing She suddenly stopped looked at me gesturing at the sky God isn t just up there you know He s down here with us She pointed at herself He s in my heart He s in your heart Then she paused and looked into the field He s in the sheep s heart As she looked at the ground she nodded And God s in the stone s heart too Natalie was convinced that God was in relationship with every blessed thing a very Celtic notion to be sure Flowing from this reading of God s creative connection with every blessed thing comes the Celtic sense that we depend on God for life not merely on our own energy or ingenuity If you look at the ancient creed of Armagh in the bulletin see end of this script you see this vision of God unfold in the language of Celtic faith And from this vision the Celts developed their profound sense of loyalty to God For in that time you owed your loyalty to all those you depended upon That was the code of the High Kings in Celtic life The High Kings were the most powerful leaders the most reliable protectors of the weak in an uncertain world They gained the allegiance and support of lesser kings the chieftains of smaller clans whose regions were more vulnerable to attack needing protection To a High King you owed your life and loyalty and a goodly portion of what you harvested from land sea For Celtic Christians it made perfect sense to see God as the highest of the High Kings Therefore every believer owed utmost loyalty deepest commitment to the High King of Heaven This Sunday is known as Christ the King Sunday marking the reign of Christ We celebrate Communion on this Sunday as a reminder of the gift of sustaining life we receive from God our Creator in Christ and through Christ The bread and wine we share around the table remind us of the lengths God goes to for us to heal and sustain us in our vulnerability For as in the Celtic tradition the High King of heaven is also the King alongside us who joins us at

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/215-the-high-king-of-heaven (2016-02-13)
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  • People of the Dawn
    looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people A Word to Elizabeth Elizabeth figure of disgrace and fruitfulness you remind us today of the sting of barrenness when the fruitfulness we long for somehow withered on the vine Whether we lack the child we anticipated the marriage the family expected the happiness fairy tales promised whether the success which could have been ours which should have been ours has eluded us whether we have waited for some opportunity to knock only to be frustrated by empty silence many of us here surely know the agony of waiting for dreams to come true and ships to come in for desire to become flesh in creativity or productivity or a meaningful relationship We long to have something to bring home to show we ve left our mark somewhere done what we d set out to do In a way we want to prove to someone even to ourselves that we are worthy of the life we ve been given While we might not name ourselves disgraced we know your frustration Elizabeth We know empty times So through the sting of your barrenness removed by God s inscrutable grace give us hope for our own fruitfulness May our creativity burst forth in unexpected ways to surprise even ourselves Elizabeth child of disgrace turned to fruitfulness teach us to trust in the surprising fulfillment which God brings to birth in us against all odds Gabriel In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David The virgin s name was Mary And he came to her and said Greetings favoured one The Lord is with you Mary But Mary was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be Gabriel Do not be afraid Mary for you have found favour with God And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you will name him Jesus He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever and of his kingdom there will be no end Mary How can this be since I am a virgin Gabriel The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you therefore the child to be born will be holy he will be called Son of God And now your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren For nothing will be impossible with God Mary Here am I the servant of the Lord let it be with me according to your word Responsive Reading Luke 1

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  • What would you do for a baby?
    of grandparents here today You welcome a baby in special ways You often help create a future for a new grandchild You may buy a bond or set up an education fund to provide that child a future Or you ll remember the baby in your will And you ll start to teach that baby with songs and stories and toys that stack or squawk or rehearse the ABCs We start our baby on the path to the future as soon as we can And so that new baby rearranges our future too We ve got to make room for that baby There is not much that parents grandparents won t do for a baby Perhaps that s why it was important to Luke to introduce Jesus to us as a baby Luke is asking us What will you do for this baby We ve got to make room for him too The baby Jesus was born into a world with many of the same pressures and tensions we face There was Emperor Augustus the politician telling people he was the most important leader in the world Everyone should honour him with loyalty and trust him for their peace and prosperity His promises sound like the promises of any world leader trying to win hearts and minds in any generation And Quirinius that governor of Syria he was setting up a census so Augustus could tax all those loyal citizens a decision as un popular then as it would be now Yes baby Jesus was born into a world of political economic pressure So what will we do for this baby in our world facing those same pressures and more besides Will we make room in our busy schedules and daily priorities for the demands he makes from the manger and beyond For the little Lord Jesus does make a fuss no matter what Away in the manger tells us Jesus asks us for time and attention to reach out to embrace him in our lives just as Mary and Joseph did He asks us to open up our hearts just like Joseph s relatives in Bethlehem opened up their stable The family guest room was already full of other relatives who d come to town for the census So that weary young couple had to be tucked into the stable because you just couldn t turn away family especially when the baby was about to drop You had to make room for that baby Do we have that same sense of urgency about making room for Jesus and his needs in our schedules and celebrations and priorities When we turn down a request to offer some time or attention in Jesus name it s like shutting the stable door It s like telling that baby to change his own diaper To welcome this baby into our lives is to find room in our affection and attention for the mercy and kindness he brings for the last and the least

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  • Ask me anything
    of Jesus claiming for himself the identity and destiny laid out for him in the prophets When I look at this story however I also see the typical marks of an adolescent Youth always ask passionate impertinent questions about the values and expectations of their teachers and parents Teens always push the envelope on what their community confesses about God 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 the script of well intentioned adults The question this story puts to the rest of us is how we react to the natural but frustrating questioning of young people Will we throw up our hands like Mary worried because our children are exploring the world without us Or can we encourage their growth and join them in their wrestling I have come to believe that every challenging question about our faith can lead us to a deeper discovery of God s presence purpose when pursued in good company For I trust that no question asked from a struggling heart will ever destroy God or God s love for us The challenge for the Church is to encourage integrity in the way people search for answers That s why we ve started the little occasions I ve called Ask me anything I want our young people to know that their questions are welcome here and that I ll do what I can to join the search for answers with them So I thought you might be interested in some of the questions which have come my way so far in our little adventures just in case you ve been wondering about the same things We started out with the question about how to fit dinosaurs into the Biblical story of Adam and Eve This question pushes us to understand what kind of book the Bible is and what it isn t It s not a science textbook Its poetry and stories and sermons and letters were written long after dinosaurs roamed the earth 200 000 000 years ago but long before their petrified remains were unearthed by archeologists 200 years ago So no we won t find dinosaurs in the Bible although Psalm 148 does imagine sea monsters praising God Scripture isn t about scientific explanations It offers us a more poetic vision of God s truth about our origins to show us what matters most in living our lives with God Still young people have to puzzle out the relations between the Bible and science as another question from Ask me anything shows Was the world created by a Big Bang Now scientists have been speculating about this theory over the last few decades as they calculate how planets and galaxies move in relationship to each other An enormous explosion is one way to explain how the motion which is still unfolding in the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2012-archive/218-ask-me-anything (2016-02-13)
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