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  • Expect the Unexpected
    to control our own destiny We prefer the comfortable yet small view of God Nancy spoke of last week because surely OUR time is OUR time And if that is so then we need to keep God out of OUR time What is the Almighty Creator and Controller of all time accomplishing by invading and intervening in our time and space in this flesh and blood Jesus God hasn t hijacked our days and our existence just taken our time back done the unexpected Today s Gospel is disconcerting images of reality we prefer God would change predictions of a world turned upside down People enjoying themselves until tragedy strikes Going about normal daily activities together until one soul is taken and another is left behind All is quiet and secure until a burglar a thief breaks in a home invasion And the purpose of it all according to Matthew Therefore you also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour Matthew 24 44 Expect the unexpected With God there is an up side in all matters under heaven God works in mysterious ways in the accomplishment of his will Shift your thinking from end of world stuff God s spirit moves through creation and stirs the hearts of people unexpectedly The Lord s gracious purpose is not to take from us the life we have and have become accustomed to but to give us more than the life we have dreamed of In a helpful re focusing of the Gospel s end times rhetoric Herbert O Driscoll challenges us Suppose Jesus is not talking about the end of the world whenever and however that will be Suppose he is saying that at an unexpected hour there comes into all our lives something that tests us deeply that demands we come to terms with it that forces us to be accountable about what we have and what we are that will turn us back to what we really believe that will require a grace beyond ourselves if we are adequately to respond Suppose this is true Then maybe our Lord is saying to us Keep spiritually awake be spiritually ready The Word Among Us Year A Volume 1 H O Driscoll And what could be a finer preparation for God s people this Advent Christmas 2010 A pastor tells the story of a man who had open heart surgery He was told by the doctor he had no more than a 50 50 chance of survival during the surgery But he did survive The pastor visited him post op and said You did survive after all Isn t that wonderful The man said No preacher I didn t just survive I did more than survive I was born again I am not the same person I have been for the past 50 years It s like God reached into my life and through this illness made me somebody better than I ever was before

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2010-archive/66-expect-the-unexpected?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Curmudgeon's Commitment
    t think he d measure up to a slave in the presence of God s chosen one He had no holier than thou attitude though he must have seemed a very holy man to the crowds Nor would Neal ever call himself a paragon of virtue though he probably is Both these men could see the urgency of their moment so they called others to recognize with that same urgency the great opportunity we have to participate in God s new creation by putting our faith into action Still there s no doubt about it These committed curmudgeons make us uncomfortable Their integrity seems almost intimidating So John the Baptist gets sent to jail out of sight out of mind And Neal becomes a newspaper hero someone too good to be true But to write these characters off because they set high standards is to turn away from God s intentions for us all Why do they make us uncomfortable Not because they are too demanding No I think it s because at a very deep level we know they are right Their uncompromising righteousness puts us to shame They remind us that we all make compromises with integrity from time to time a nudge here a wink there We do little things and big things that we know are less than honourable not quite true to our best intentions things we might not want to justify to God And so meeting an honourable person gives us a twinge of conscience We defend ourselves against Neal and his arguments against John the Baptist s intense commitment because we are reluctant to pay the cost of living out our faith with such consistency The curmudgeon s commitment reminds us that we could do better And that s why the second Sunday of Advent is hard to face The texts are uncompromising The demand is high It s not the tender light from manger shining from this candle We are caught in the harsh light of gospel scrutiny and we all fall short Likely we all have someone like John the Baptist or Neal in our lives Maybe it s David Suzuki or Al Gore with their constant pleas to make changes for the long term good of the environment Maybe it s Dr Phil or Oprah who remind us each day of things we could do to improve our relationships Or maybe it s a friend or neighbour who embodies some essential goodness with such consistency that we feel judged by their commitment The person doesn t have to say a word We judge ourselves in their light And judgment whether proclaimed aloud by a Neal or a David Suzuki or felt instinctively when we compare ourselves to a truly good friend judgment is uncomfortable But especially at this time of year as we prepare to cradle God s commitment to us in the Christ child it is instructive to dwell in that discomfort for awhile so that we can identify

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2010-archive/67-the-curmudgeons-commitment?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Impossible Joy
    with me according to your word On with the show this is it But then some of us aren t cast in starring roles We stand in the wings or sit in the audience Parents and grandparents know what joy they feel when the children they love get a part in the play But it s a different kind of joy than playing the lead role yourself This joy reflects the hope that someone dear will get their big break for the future It s like the quiet joy we know when we complete something an important project a lifetime career and we look back to see the difference we made As we get older our joy is not so much in taking up creative opportunities ourselves and imagining a new future we can create No we sense the joy in satisfying memories of what has been accomplished Our joy is tested by experience and trusts that possibilities have been fulfilled through perseverance and patience Still there is a risk for us as we mature Our joy is sometimes overshadowed by the possibilities that did not materialize We understand Zechariah s response to his angel How will I know a child will be delivered this time Sad experience can leave us discouraged about the future We want to say to Mary in her joyful enthusiasm Don t get too excited about that baby There will be sleepless nights diapers to change And those dreams for your son s future Remember dreams don t always come true The risk for maturing joy is that doubt and discouragement drown it out Doubt and discouragement drive a wedge between our memories of the past and our hope for the future This is what happened to Zechariah Based on past experience he didn t believe the angel Having witnessed too much disappointment he couldn t believe that God would call him back on stage and ask an old man to perform a lead role once more When we re young we are glad to get a chance to perform We re excited by an opportunity We can imagine a future filled with possibilities we have yet to experience There is joy in the possibility As we age we get used to sitting in the audience We know that not everyone gets chosen for a part We may enjoy the performance but we know we won t have a career on the stage We temper our enthusiasm Some joy seems impossible to us And yet the candles of Advent intend to reawaken our joy to energize us once more with the conviction that new life is possible even for us I got thinking about this after I saw Natalie McMaster perform her Christmas show at the Esplanade I said to some folk from the congregation who also attended that concert that we d be introducing step dancing into St John s Because Natalie McMaster makes me believe I can step dance too Her energy her

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2010-archive/68-impossible-joy?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Making the best of it
    both Mary and Joseph showed incredible courage to take up their parts in the drama God was unfolding We can only imagine what gossip they faced how they were shunned by family and friends when their unusual situation and their daring choices became plain to those around them They had to make the best of it Joseph as much as Mary all on the word of angels I wonder if they ever had a moment s pause to question their decisions to commit to God s dramatic plan They must have believed very deeply that God was truly with them in the midst of unimaginable circumstances But when we look back with centuries of interpretation to guide us and placid faces of figurines in our nativity scenes beaming at us we can underestimate the challenge in that moment Matthew could only make sense of Joseph s kindness by recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah to king Ahaz You see Isaiah wasn t predicting the circumstances that our man Joseph faced 700 years later No Isaiah was challenging King Ahaz to maintain his faithfulness to God s covenant in the face of ferocious enemies who were trying to terrorize his kingdom and capitalize on political panic Isaiah tried to reassure Ahaz that God was with him and his people in the midst of turmoil The sign to reassure Ahaz of God s favour was the birth of a child Isaiah pointed to a young woman of that day who was already with child whose moment of birth was obviously near Isaiah promised Ahaz that just as surely as that baby would be born so God would also see the people through their time of terror and bring those threatening kings to their knees By the time that child Immanuel had become a toddler knowing how to refuse evil and choose the good Israel s enemies would be defeated Isaiah invited Ahaz to make the best of the time through faithfulness to God by refusing evil and choosing good not giving in to the terror or panic his enemies unleashed Seven hundred years later Matthew draws on this famous promise to help make sense of the courage and compassion we see in Joseph At the invitation of his prophetic angel Joseph refuses the evil possibility of pushing Mary and her child out of his life He chooses the good by foregoing the birth of his own son and heir to foster God s possibilities of hope and healing born in the one to be named Jesus That name Jesus Yeshua Joshua rings with the promise that God will heal save God s people once again And so Joseph makes the best of a confusing situation an unanticipated moment He trusts that God is with him in the midst of the mystery and muddle to bring the best of all possibilities to birth As another Christmas season takes shape around us we find ourselves surrounded by familiar carols and annual customs sparkling

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2010-archive/69-making-the-best-of-it?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Six Simple Words
    quotations about Caesar Augustus in my research for a Bible study session that we did last June in our current study on the Gospel of Luke When I read the citations aloud to our group I would say a few jaws dropped just as mine had How could the beautiful poetry of the angel s message drifting over the hills outside Bethlehem echo the self serving praise of an emperor who decided to call himself divine How could that be Well it s a good reminder for us all that Jesus was born into a moment similar to ours with posturing politicians precarious loyalties tensions among God s people about how the future will unfold The angel s message wasn t written on a greeting card It rang into a world where God s people had to make a choice Would they take their peace as Caesar served it up keeping within the structures he had established mostly to ensure his own power and prominence Or would God s people embrace this newborn and receive a Saviour who would call them to respond to create great joy with and for all people in ways they hadn t yet imagined To you is born this day These six simple words contain a profound challenge for us as they ring out amid the structures of a world in which ruling powers too often serve the interest of far too few These six simple words ask us to receive God s promise of hope as it comes to us in the newborn Christ and then do something about it The Christ child is born to us so that we can raise up the hope he brings in our own generation while we raise up our own children So I think we need to hear the challenge in the angel s message this year not just the joy When I look around at Canadian society these days I sense that too many people in Canada have surrendered our responsibility as citizens good neighbours to act in hope in and for our communities People don t vote People don t volunteer the way they used to We expect good things to be delivered to us by those in power though we grumble about the taxes paying for those good things will require We also seem unable to recognize the self serving interests in those leaders who say one thing and do another Which is not unlike Caesar Augustus I must say Raising up hope in our generation means we have to pay attention to what s happening around us just like parents do raising up their own children If we don t pay attention to what s happening as parents and as citizens things start to go off the rails before we ve noticed The shepherds angel challenges us to pay attention to the child born to us the Christ child we must raise alongside our own children What choices must we make so that

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2010-archive/71-six-simple-words?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Big Move
    yard Did you sell them too Lucy thought for a minute I guess you could bring your bones with you if you dig them up and pack them in a box I ll have to find them first Sherman gave a big sigh And there s one more thing Lucy made a face What We re moving to an apartment for the summer so Dad can start his new job in Calgary She paused Great Does it have a pool I can dog paddle you know Sherman wagged his tail It does have a pool But there are no dogs allowed Hmph I guess I don t have to swim I can sun tan while I watch you swim Sherman said Sherman there are no dogs allowed in the apartment building at all Any place Ever Lucy stared at him No dogs allowed ever Where will I stay At the Calgary zoo Lucy shook her head You get to spend the summer at the farm With Uncle Paul Aunt Cheryl You ll have the run of the place Play with their dog Lady Chase the chickens It ll be fun Are you coming to the farm too Sherman stared back at Lucy We ll come on the long weekend in August But Mark I have swimming lessons in Calgary And computer camp And zoo camp We re going to be kind of busy And I m going to be stuck on the farm all by myself with those chickens and all those turkeys Lucy I chase cats I don t chase chickens And Uncle Paul s turkeys always chase me Sherman shuddered I don t want to move I ll stay here with my bones In the back yard Sherman it s not our back yard any more We have to move We have to let this place go Lucy stroked him But I m going to miss Fifi next door I might even miss Claude the cat Who will I play with now Sherman pouted You can play with Lady this summer She s a great dog We ll find some new friends when we get to our new house You ll see I promise Lucy tried to cheer him up You won t forget me while you re at swimming lessons and zoo camp and computer camp Of course not said Lucy You won t forget me while you re chasing the chickens and the barn cats will you Sherman brightened up There are barn cats on the farm Lucy nodded Then maybe I won t miss Claude the cat after all But I ll miss you Lucy Sherman licked her face I ll miss you too But it s only until August We re still a family even when we re on vacation from each other Sherman was still quite sad I guess I better go find my bones Maybe I ll take a little bit of the dirt with me too A real taste home OK

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/the-big-move (2016-02-13)
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  • Home on the Range Part One
    Out back Sherman smelled something good Oh boy This garden smells wonderful He dropped his bone on the grass and started to dig Er er er er er A voice startled Sherman Don t dig there dog You ll be up to your ears in rrrotten tomatoes Sherman stopped digging There were some potato peels on his nose Who says so I say so I m Er er earl the Rooster and I er erule this roost Do what I say you won t get in trrr ouble Sherman frowned I don t want to do what you say I ll look after myself RRRight Mr Bonehead Dig up the dead cabbage See if I care Earl strutted off But Sherman decided not to bury his bone in the compost after all He picked it up and carried it into the barn He poked his nose into a pile of straw in one of the stalls Smells good I could leave my bone here Not so much work to dig it up Er er er er er Don t drop it there dog Cow won t be cool with a beef bone in her bed You ll get quite a kick out of her er er Earl is the cow as bossy as you I don t think I m going to like it on the farm I want to go back home where I can do anything I like Cluck cluck cluck A farm is a grrreat place to live Just follow the rrules But I don t know the rules How will I know what to do and what not to do Er er er I ll teach you three rrules don t dig the compost keep clear of cows and don t chase chickens Sherman thought I

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/home-on-the-range-part-one (2016-02-13)
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  • Home on the Range - Part Two
    dug into his dish and in a minute or so his supper was gone I could use a little exercise he thought Run off my supper Maybe I ll go find that rooster Chase him around the chicken coop a few times So Sherman trotted down the steps But on his way to the chicken coop he smelled Lady s supper sitting in her dish One little bite won t matter he said to himself As he was munching Lady herself appeared That s my supper she said Eat your own Sherman Leave mine alone Sherman swallowed hard Lady he explained I just ate one little bite to help you keep trim So you won t put on weight Lady pushed Sherman out of the way Look who s talking You re as porky as the pigs Sherman You should get more exercise instead of lying in the shade all day Lady began to eat her dinner So Sherman waddled over to the chicken coop He was feeling pretty full Earl the Rooster strutted up to him Rready to rrace dog Sherman sighed I know I could use a little exercise Earl But I m feeling pretty full Maybe I ll just lie here in the shade and let my supper settle The rooster cocked its head Seems to me a few too many suppers have settled on your rrear Earl pecked at Sherman s paw Up and at em lazy bones Sherman perked up his ears Did someone say bones I wonder where my bone is I think I buried it near the barn I d better go see Sherman walked over to the barn He wasn t feeling too frisky Lady was standing by the water trough wagging her tail Lovely evening isn t it Sherman Smells wonderful at this time of day Sherman started sniffing He sniffed and he sniffed and he sniffed I m trying to find my bone Lady It may smell wonderful to you but I can t smell my bone anywhere I m sure I buried it here somewhere Lady wagged her tail You can t remember where you buried your bone eh Just like you can t remember which supper dish is yours Lady stared at Sherman Sherman stared back Lady did you steal my bone Lady smiled a happy dog smile Let s just say I borrowed it for awhile And when you can remember to eat your own supper I might remember where I put that bone I found today It was just lying there begging me to dig it up Just like your supper was just lying there begging me to eat it Lady wagged her tail Race to the porch And off she went Sherman groaned I d better learn what s good for me if I m going to survive life on the farm He waddled after Lady Thinking about the story Did you ever help yourself to an extra treat after your Mom said You can

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/home-on-the-range-part-two (2016-02-13)
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