archive-ca.com » CA » S » STJOHNSMEDICINEHAT.CA

Total: 543

Choose link from "Titles, links and description words view":

Or switch to "Titles and links view".
  • When the yoke's on you
    and good for the world It s so easy to fall back into old habits and excuse ourselves from meeting a challenge we know we ought to meet St Paul knows our struggle It s a struggle within ourselves a struggle where our mind will say one thing and our body its desires say something else We might say Oh the devil made me do it when we help ourselves to some forbidden treat but we know it s not the devil It s the struggle between our conscience our appetites And St Paul knows very well what happens I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want is what I do And you know we really can t pass judgment on each other in these struggles But still we do right People whose financial lives are seamless well organized can t understand folks who fall behind on payments People who don t struggle with food issues can t understand those of us who do But let me tell the skinny Minnies in the room as much weight as I have lost with Weight Watchers I still can t keep to the diet long term Mind you I don t take cream in my coffee any more But would St Paul call that a victory I do not do the good I want Because so many of us know the truth in his words we ought to have compassion for whatever version of this struggle we meet in any friend or neighbour These struggles go deep The self divided within itself can churn with frustration when we give in to what we know is not good for us St Paul shares the frustration Wretched man that I am he declares Who will rescue me from this body of death Our cry might not be quite so dramatic when we skip the brisk walk we intended to take but we know that condemning voice Why can t I keep my commitments to myself Why do I give in to what I don t want to do I suppose if I had a simple answer I d be as rich as the publishers of the latest diet guaranteed to be easier to follow than the last one But what more honest wisdom is there for us dieters procrastinators couch potatoes alike Well St Paul s struggle is paired today with an old saying from Jesus a saying Jesus borrowed from ancient Jewish wisdom Jesus also knows the reality of our struggles from centuries of spiritual teaching Come to me all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls Here is a life coach a personal trainer a mentor who isn t going to nag us Here is a companion who is yoked to us paired

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/117-when-the-yokes-on-you (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive


  • Too much of a good thing?
    was this too much of a good thing Was God too merciful in that promise Never again We look around almost any given day and we see violence rampant in the world once again corruption stealing well being out of hands just clinging to life Amidst all this violence and corruption sadly we must confess that too much of it is rooted in hatred between the three religious families who claim Noah as ancestor in the faith Jews Christians and Muslims We all tell this great saga of God s mercy and yet we have a heart breaking record of violence with each group at some point turning against the others But whether it is such inter religious conflict or more individual expressions of man s inhumanity to man which catch our attention when we hear about violence corruption we wonder Why does God let us get away with it Has God been too merciful Has God shown us too much of a good thing You will hear some religious teachers from the great traditions of Noah say yes They urge us to meet violence with violence to seek revenge on our opponents and never show mercy Yet the story of Noah positioned right there in Genesis in the beginning tells us otherwise God s mercy will always outshine God s judgement And that dove sailing off into a world reborn through God s mercy will eventually return to speak of God s hope for us in Jesus baptism when God pours out the Holy Spirit to call the world back to its senses one more time to advocate compassion and hope in our hearts Blessed by that dove Jesus sets out like the sower in his parable casting his seeds of love wisdom and mercy randomly into every nook and cranny where these gifts might take root The sower doesn t care where the seeds land The sower trusts that growth will come by God s mercy New life will grow to abundance despite the obstacles those seeds meet in obstinate lives Like the story of Noah Jesus parable is also a tale of God s mercy though some people will read it and point fingers You your life is rocky soil where God s goodness can t root And you your life is so full of thorns there s no chance for you But we can read it another way and recognize that each of our lives has had some rocky soil some times when faith blossomed but then faded away We ve all felt a bit scorched by life had doubts that withered our confidence in God We ve known thorns of both pleasure and concern which diverted our commitment to Christ In every life there are chapters when the seeds of God s love didn t grow much at all Yet we just have to turn a page and a new chapter begins a chapter when God s love mercy can break through to make a

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/120-too-much-of-a-good-thing (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive

  • Against our (not so) better judgment
    weeds are the children of the evil one 3940 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire so will it be at the end of the age 41 The Son of Man will send his angels and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth The allegory turns the agricultural example into a story of the final judgment But think about the difference between the parable and these later verses The parable cautions us about rushing to judgment because we can t tell the wheat from the weeds just by looking However the interpretation identifies those evil weeds and savours the thought they ll weep and gnash their teeth when they meet their shocking end The Biblical scholars I consulted this week all question verses 36 to 42 These verses might not spring from the lips of Jesus they argue They might just spring from Matthew s church caught up in a time of tension persecution when people wanted to believe the unrighteous unreliable would get their come uppance Zap Take that The allegory also reminded me of a Scottish novel published in 1824 by a writer named James Hogg a devotee of Robbie Burns Hogg s book is entitled The Confessions of a Justified Sinner features a young man who believes he s one of God s elect So he takes God s judgment into his own hands But he isn t just administering small electric shocks to actors No he sets out to shame and humiliate people he thinks are violating God s law As he warms to his task he ends up murdering his targets and feeling completely justified because after all he is one of God s elect It s as if the interpretation of Jesus parable came to life and the slaves ripped out the wicked weeds roots and all well before harvest time But what makes Hogg s book so chilling is its righteous religious characters Presbyterians to boot His book is seen as a scathing condemnation of the Calvinist culture in 18 th C Scotland and its hypocritical self righteousness the target of so much of Robbie Burns caustic humour Jesus parable ought to call us away from such self righteous judgement to resist putting ourselves in God s role Yet the interpretation savours judgment in no uncertain terms So we face a choice Will we leave judgement to God because we recognize our judgment can be fooled Or will we take some pleasure when we see others get what we think they deserve It is a choice that has plagued religious communities for centuries And if that British scientist I heard is correct the human desire to see the unrighteous suffer runs pretty deep So then what about us I don t suppose any one of us would take up the role of

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/122-against-our-not-so-better-judgment (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive



  • Together for good
    specifically designed to trip us up Happily this is not what predestination means in the Bible The idea of predestination comes to us mainly in St Paul s letters And St Paul did not picture hapless Calvinists falling down the stairs For St Paul predestination is not about God planning out every little detail in every single life Not at all For St Paul predestination is the big picture of God s grace being worked out for us through Christ s life death resurrection Predestination is the big picture of God s purpose for us in Christ We are predestined in Christ to become icons he says images of Christ s love and faithfulness windows the world can look through to catch a glimpse of God s glory and grace God has set this out as the direction the destination the ultimate purpose of our lives And the more fully we live in Christ the more fully we discover we are on life s path with God St Paul holds up the implications of this understanding of predestination in today s reading from the letter to the Romans It was written at a time of great suffering for many Christians Jews When St Paul talks about suffering he s not just thinking about someone stumbling down the stairs No in his day there were Roman gladiators making sport of vulnerable believers before leering crowds When Paul lists hardship distress and persecution famine nakedness peril and sword as things which trouble and torment believers he s not exaggerating And he s not saying that God had put these things on a schedule No what St Paul proclaims to us is this Even in the midst of such trauma and tribulation all things work together for good for those who love God and are committed to God s purpose But he s not just saying Grin bear it God will take you to a better place eventually No he s saying that because we bear the image of God in Christ God in Christ goes into the midst of every moment of trauma and trouble with us He s saying that the power of God s love will bring good out of every situation of sorrow and suffering because God will never let us go Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus So when we look at the Cross of Christ we do not see a symbol of God s arbitrary will creating pain and havoc for him and for us No we see the promise that God will go through anything with us to the point of death itself in order to accompany us to our destination in Christ that is to be held in the unfathomable love of God eternally The two parables we read today hold out that same promise These are not detailed parables like the ones we ve looked at over the last two Sundays They do not describe

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/125-together-for-good (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive

  • No excuses
    sets in front of us Do we believe that God will make surprising things happen when we trust ourselves to God s project We didn t see it coming this drought in the Horn of Africa How could we have been prepared for famine so far away Such huge crowds of hungry refugees struggling down roads crossing borders with no passports Is it our fault the government of Somalia is so hostile to international aid groups and lets its people starve Is it our fault the people didn t plan ahead and save some grain for a not so rainy day Do they expect us to spend our hard earned money for them And by the way wasn t it just yesterday we fed them in Ethiopia How can they be hungry again Facing a different hungry multitude this summer who cross our borders uninvited in scenes on the nightly news we understand Jesus disciples and the response they gave to the daunting challenge he put to them It is perhaps human instinct to defend ourselves against the daunting challenge of so many hungry people So this week I began by gathering a few loaves of fact and a couple of fish of explanation to help us understand the famine in the world this year First it s worth remembering it was way back in 1984 85 when devastating famine struck Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa and Bryan Adams reminded us Tears are not enough What s happened in those twenty five years Dr Patrick Webb the world s leading researcher on nutrition and food security in Africa spoke this week about the progress that has been made in the Horn of Africa since the mid 1980s There have been other times of drought But things have been getting better through local development projects which have improved water supplies agricultural practices family nutrition The situation was improving until drought struck two years ago That drought hit hard fast and was made even more serious in Somalia by some key factors The area hardest hit in Somalia is the country s bread basket the crop growing area akin to our prairies But not only have crops failed there two years running Many of those crops had been produced for export cash crops not intended to feed local families but items headed for world markets Poor countries like Somalia are caught between a rock a hard place They need money from cash crops to participate in international markets where food prices are going up and up dramatically But by producing cash crops farmers have nothing to put in reserve to face a sudden and severe drought Two seasons without water and all their animals have died So there is nothing in the barn or in the field to feed anyone Stir in the hostile suspicions about Western aid groups prevalent in Somalia s ruling party and you have a disaster of enormous proportions only a few people were anticipating last summer

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/127-no-excuses (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive

  • The "I" of the Storm
    Is there a lesson here for us Do we ever get so caught up in the whirlwind of our own troubles so resentful that God is neglecting our faithfulness that we miss God s embracing presence meant to restore us for God s purposes We can become the I of our own storm stirring up our turmoil if we will not allow ourselves to be drawn into the sheer holiness of God God spoke into the midst of Elijah s personal storm to point out he d been ignoring 7000 faithful companions who d been there all along Do we ever miss a faithful companion who s within reach in moments when storms are overwhelming us I wonder Now we read a second storm story today a story which reflects how much the people of Jesus day disliked the sea The waves in this second storm are called possessed stirred up as if by demons threatening the safety of the disciples Into the midst of this wicked storm walks Jesus A lot of ink has been spilled over the last 200 years trying to explain this story Oh it was so early in the morning it just seemed as if Jesus walked on water A trick of the light He was just close to the shore wading But just like in last week s story of the loaves fishes explanations miss the real point The I in this storm is Jesus In response to the terror and confusion of his friends Jesus says Take heart it is I Now the Greek words used here are much stronger than our mild mannered English phrase it is I More like Me myself and I I am with you So do not be afraid And there s the point of the story It s really a dramatic metaphor Jesus can walk into the stormiest most perilous moments of our lives and bring the calming presence the centring salvation the I of God But like Peter we have to know how to reach out to him we have to trust he can reach us when we re not too sure of our own ability to cope Our two storm stories end quite differently Elijah somehow missed God s embrace and ends up dismissed from service He was so wrapped up in his own troubles he couldn t reach out to God even when God caught his attention Peter on the other hand ends up back in the boat safe and restored to his community of friends despite his panic and doubt He took the hand Jesus offered him These old stories stirred up for me the question of how we reach out to God in our stormy times Would we recognize God in the sound of sheer silence if we were embraced by such a holy moment Would we take the hand Jesus offers us or sink into a sea of sorrow I was reflecting on this while I prepared to visit my former

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/130-the-qiq-of-the-storm (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive

  • "That lovin' feeling"
    in our hearts when we get up in the morning It s pretty easy to move worship to the bottom of Sunday s agenda if our love for God is equated with an emotion we want to feel before we go to church However the Biblical scholar I was reading this week said the notion that love is simply how we feel about God or one of our neighbours would have astonished St Paul From St Paul s point of view love is a verb Love is action God s love for us is not the way God feels about us God s love for us is God s action for us in Christ and in creation In return our love is primarily something we do for God not something we feel about God Faith in God cannot be reduced to some elusive lovin feeling just like a marriage cannot be reduced to romantic impulses however powerful they are at certain times How we feel about God can change with our circumstance as new questions or new life challenges emerge just like feelings about our spouse can shift when an argument flares up or a hard decision turns up the pressure on us But the ebb and flow of feelings within a marriage doesn t mean that marriage comes to an end when tender feelings disappear for awhile Similarly leaving worship without a burst of passion or excitement doesn t mean God isn t a real presence in our lives There are times when our love for God means working at projects struggling with questions keeping commitments honouring relationships even when we don t feel like it You see from St Paul s point of view love works That is love is what we do how we live from day to day committed to God s purposes in all our purposes Love works in the world with such purpose even when it doesn t feel all that rewarding in the moment St Matthew gives us an example of one of those moments when love for our neighbour becomes hard work He pictures the situation where one member of a church has offended another done something which needs to be called to account so that unity among Christ s people can be restored We ve all had those moments when something somebody said or did gets under our skin and our feelings begin to simmer even boil What do we do when we re upset with someone Sit and stew Complain to someone else Rip off an angry e mail to set that person straight I ve probably done all those things over the years But Jesus proposal to us is much harder He asks us to deal face to face with our upset to approach the one who has offended us quietly privately not to settle the score but to work things through Only when someone proves stubborn in their offense can we call in others to help resolve the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/132-qthat-lovin-feelingq (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive

  • He can't mean that??
    that absolute The first slave called on the carpet must have been a governor in some part of the empire because his debt to the king is enormous Ten thousand talents were worth about ten billion denarii That s ten billion days wages for an ordinary person It s no ordinary debt We could compare it to the debt of a Wall Street banker whose ten billion dollar corporation goes bankrupt The banker is left standing before his king with no options left Never in his life time can he repay ten billion dollars So in the story in a stunning act of mercy the king forgives the governor s crippling debt gives up the idea of punishing the official and his family It s as if Congress let the Wall Street banker go writing off that impossible sum But then that governor walks out of court meets a fellow slave who owed him the equivalent of six months wages another large debt to be sure but one which could be repaid given a bit of time understanding But the governor will have none of that He throws his debtor into prison in the blink of an eye It s as if that Wall Street Banker walked out of Congress and foreclosed on the mortgage of a homeowner who d fallen 6 months behind on his payments putting him and his family out on the street In the story the king was furious with his official Having received such astonishing mercy for his own predicament could the governor not show a bit of the same mercy in his own dealings Off you go to the torturers declares the king a fate not unknown in the ancient world Then according to Matthew Jesus looks Peter in the eye and says Get the message Don t count on God s forgiveness and mercy for yourself if you cannot share those gifts with your neighbours He can t really mean that can he Does our eternal future with God depend on us forgiving every last so and so we meet We are tempted to argue with Jesus to get him to recognize every case where forgiveness is impossible where forgiveness is undeserved where we are unwilling to forgive However the parable actually offers us a different lens on the meaning of forgiveness In the parable forgiveness has nothing to do with how a victim feels about a wrong doer Forgiveness is not about excusing bad behaviour The parable takes us back to the root meaning of forgiveness which is to forgo what you are rightfully due You see the world of Scripture was a world of honour and shame When someone offended another person the victim s honour required retaliation to inflict an injury at least as great on the offending party To even the honour score Eye for an eye tooth for a tooth Debts had to be repaid to re establish the honour of the lender or else the debtor had

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2011archive/133-he-cant-mean-that (2016-02-13)
    Open archived version from archive