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  • The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
    welcoming every kind of bird to live in its shade protecting their nests in its spreading branches But says the prophet God can make low the high tree cut it off from its grandeur and prominence God can cause a green tree to wither or a dry tree to flourish Consider this Israel the prophet challenges You are withering right now You are captive to your enemies your leaders in exile Flourishing requires faithfulness to God s covenant Between the lines the prophet is whispering Israel you love those extraordinary cedars You fancy yourself an extraordinary world power But don t count on powerful political friends to establish your power and influence Be faithful to your calling and God will make you flourish bringing other birds other nations to seek your welcome God judges those who regard themselves as extraordinary and will put them in their place often a much lower place than someone extraordinary expects So what does Jesus do with this old parable about the much admired cedar His hearers would have been surprised he chose the mustard plant to envision God s kingdom Mustard plants were common annuals grown from tiny seeds not into lofty trees but mere bushes hearty shrubs familiar across the landscape A shrub hardly seems grand enough to be a symbol of God s kingdom Surely the lofty cedar would be more suitable choice But Jesus has a different vision Identifying ourselves with symbols of extraordinary grandeur always gets God s people in trouble We somehow think we re extraordinary people deserving of lofty status noble just because So instead Jesus chooses a common plant one quite ordinary and yet robust to picture God at work among us I think of Jesus parable as more welcoming We don t have to be lofty noble cedars of society to find our place in God s purposes No common garden variety people like us are part of God s strategy for reaching out to call the whole world to meet God s generous out stretched love For Ezekiel s vision of the birds of air nesting in the cedar s branches remains at the heart of Jesus story But with Jesus this vision takes on a challenging edge God s work is not to impress the world with cedar pillars and carved wooden panels No God s work is to invite all sorts of peoples birds of every nation to find shelter and nourishment in God s arms among God s mustard seed people Jesus reached out to ordinary folk fishermen tax collectors homemakers children those with an illness or with a social burden Then he surprised even his own followers by reaching out even further to welcome Samaritans Gentiles and others traditionally defined as beyond God s concern They re welcome too The purpose of this mustard seed mission is for God s people to extend God s reach wide to welcome others who may not be of our flock and ensure them God

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/394-the-extraordinary-in-the-ordinary?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A Flaw in the Ointment
    now was the time for attack Samuel sent word he would come offer sacrifices first so God would bless the battle Saul waited with his troops but for seven days Samuel did not come The troops were getting restless some soldiers wandering off So Saul decided to offer the sacrifice himself though he was not a priest Just as his offering was burning on the altar Samuel arrived What have you done he cried Saul tried to defend himself You didn t come My men were restless We were afraid of an attack So I made the sacrifice myself Samuel shook his head You have disobeyed God Kings are kings but kings are not priests Now wait and see Your kingdom will not continue God will find a new king one after God s own heart This may seem to us like a small failure but then Saul disobeyed God two more times During the next battle against the Philistines Saul s son Jonathan had great success by stealth He and his armor bearer sneaked into the enemy compound and killed many fighters But Saul was so worried about keeping the rest of his men in line he ordered them not to eat anything after their battle The soldiers felt weak hardly able to stand Still Saul warned them they would be killed if they disobeyed him But Jonathan didn t hear Saul s command to eat nothing So as he and his armor bearer were returning from the fight they found honey in the forest Jonathan took a good mouthful for energy and returned to camp much revived Other fighters warned him his father would kill him Jonathan just shook his head at his father s foolish orders Still when Saul heard that Jonathan had eaten something he was prepared to put his own son to death But the people defended Jonathan Jonathan brought us victory against the Philistines You can t kill him Not one hair on his head So Saul backed down But he had shown what kind of a man he was he would enforce his own misguided whim even against his brave and sensible son God was not pleased The third act of unfaithfulness will make us flinch Samuel went to Saul and delivered this word from the Lord Kill all the Amalekites because of how they treated Israel when my people came up out of Egypt Leave not one person standing not even a single cow or sheep It was a different time with a different understanding of how God acts in the world It reminds us what a difference Jesus makes to our thinking about God So Saul went into battle but he ordered his troops to keep the best of the sheep cattle and the valuables as plunder Then God nudged Samuel again and said I regret I ever made Saul king because he will not follow my commands So Samuel paid a visit to Saul and asked What s all this

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/396-a-flaw-in-the-ointment?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Burden in Being Blessed
    purpose in mind for young David the son who had been stuck out there with the sheep mostly overlooked as the youngest of eight brothers a young man who hasn t yet said one word in our story But along with the storyteller we now know more than the characters do about what lies ahead Meanwhile back at court King Saul was in a bad way He was deeply troubled The storyteller says an evil spirit from God was tormenting him whatever we take that to mean Saul s servants tried to be helpful to the King Your lordship music seems to soothe you in your troubled times Let us go find someone who plays the harp The music will help you feel better In his agony Saul agreed Find me someone who can play well A young courtier spoke up I have heard that one of Jesse s sons in Bethlehem plays very well He s courageous well spoken pleasant to be with And it is said the Lord is with him Shall we send for him So Saul sent messengers to Jesse saying Send me your son David the musician who is with the sheep Now Jesse didn t know what to think King Saul already had a reputation for being unpredictable Would you send your youngest child alone into the presence of such a man But what would happen if you didn t comply So Jesse decided to send gifts with David to please the king and keep on his good side Jesse loaded up a donkey with loaves of bread a skin of wine and a young goat for dinner and sent them along with David And David brought God s healing Spirit with him Whenever Saul was greatly troubled David took up his harp and played it Saul s pain would be relieved and he felt much better So it was that David first entered the service of the king And Scripture tells us King Saul began to love David greatly He made the young man his armor bearer sending word to Jesse that he wished David to serve him as often as possible for he has found favour in my sight said the King Chapter 16 ends here All seems well and good King Saul is happy and David has royal employment So now let s stop and think about the story What do we take away from this familiar tale It seems David finds favour wherever he goes with God with Samuel with King Saul And we ll learn later on he found favour with Saul s son Jonathon and Saul s daughter Michal too Perhaps it s no surprise everyone loves David Do you know what the name David means It means My Darling Can you imagine calling one of your children my darling As I reflected on this story I asked myself if there could be a burden for David in being everyone s darling Is there a burden in being

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/397-the-burden-in-being-blessed?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A Giant Problem
    I will feed you to the birds David spoke up You come at me with sword and spear But I come in the name of the Lord of hosts God will deliver you into our hands today As Goliath took a step closer David ran quickly toward him He pulled a stone from his pouch launched it from his sling It struck Goliath in the middle of his forehead sinking deep into his flesh Goliath fell down dead Then David finished him off with Goliath s own sword The Philistine army turned and fled pursued by Saul s army Victory was sweet Then King Saul asked Who is that young man It seems the storyteller or King Saul had forgotten David already served in Saul s court from time to time So Saul took David into his household and did not let him return to Jesse and the sheep But now things start to shift King Saul s son Jonathan was much taken with young David Loved him as his own soul says the storyteller Jonathan made a covenant with David so smitten was he and gave David the royal robe from his back his armour Jonathan s heart has shifted For his part Saul made David leader of the army But after each successful battle the women of the towns began to sing Saul has killed thousands David has killed ten thousands Their hearts have shifted too Thus Saul became very angry and extremely jealous His heart is shifting And so Saul began to keep his eye on David from that day on The plot thickens And we ll pick up that plot next week For now let s consider what we can take away from this old story Goliath represented a giant problem for Saul his troops even though he really wasn t a giant of Hollywood proportions But he was fierce full of intimidating bravado Do you think we ever allow problems to assume giant proportions when they re not really as big as we make them out Has your faith ever helped you face what seemed at first to be an enormous obstacle How do we cut a problem down to size And what about those five smooth stones David rejected traditional weapons for his fight They were clumsy and would have held him back Do you think we ever stick to traditional weapons traditional approaches which actually make us ineffective in our struggles Can you imagine ways in which you or the church could change things up like David did to become more effective facing today s challenges Just what do we take away from this old story We spent a few minutes talking about our responses to the story Reflection Sizing up the Enemy I have to admit that in my imagination every giant is as tall as the Jolly Green Giant ho ho ho towering over the valley trees coming barely to his ankles So I was surprised to think that Goliath was

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/398-a-giant-problem?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Heart's Tug of War
    King As Saul tracked David s movements he went to Ahimelech Because the priest had sheltered David Saul ordered all the priests there to be killed But one escaped and warned David the King was coming so David got away again Then Jonathan sought out David once last time promising him Saul shall not find you You shall be king over Israel and I shall be second to you Truly my father knows this even if he won t admit it The two beloved friends made a covenant together to honour each other forever Now the story reads like a game of cat and mouse Saul following up rumours hot on David s trail always just missing his prey There s always someone snitching on David and someone else snitching on Saul One day David and his men were hiding deep in a cave when Saul entered that cave to relieve himself as Scripture says rather primly In the cave s darkness David s men urged him to kill Saul while he had the chance So David snuck up behind Saul and cut off a piece of his robe But he could not bring himself to kill God s anointed When Saul left the cave David followed and called out My lord why do you listen to those who say I am out to harm you This very day the Lord gave you into my hands but I did not raise my hand against you See here is the corner of your cloak proof I could have killed you but did not Yet you hunt my life May the Lord judge between you and me and vindicate me I pray Saul was shocked and started weeping You are more righteous than I You have repaid me good despite the evil I have done you Now I know you shall be king of Israel in my place Swear before the Lord that you will not wipe out my name and my descendants And David swore this to Saul But they did not make peace for David did not trust the King Convinced Saul would come after him again he fled to the land of the Philistines seeking protection from their king David even promised to fight with him against Israel King Achish said Very well I will make you my bodyguard But the Philistine commanders were not happy to have David and his Hebrew fighters among them They will turn on us in the midst of battle they argued So David was left behind when the Philistines marched out to meet Saul s army This time the Philistines were fierce against the men of Israel They killed Saul s three sons including Jonathan and left Saul mortally wounded When his own archers found him Saul begged them to kill him But they could not kill their king Instead Saul fell on his own sword His remaining army fled knowing Saul and his sons were gone It took three days for word

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/399-the-hearts-tug-of-war?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A Checkered Career
    this king Yet there remained other enemies to defeat not only Philistines but Moabites Arameans Edomites and Ammonites David was very successful in battle and took the spoils making him a very rich man though the story goes he dedicated much of his loot to the Lord By now however David often remained in Jerusalem while Joab led the troops in battle One day while those troops were at the front David was walking on his roof garden and spied a lovely woman bathing down below David sent for the woman named Bathsheba and slept with her She soon sent word to the king that she was pregnant yet her husband Uriah was away in battle What to do now So the King had Joab send Uriah back from the front David inquired from Uriah how the war was going and sent him home to enjoy some time with his wife But that night Uriah slept outside David s palace What That wasn t the plot David asked Uriah why was avoiding his wife My Lord the other troops are living in tents in open fields Am I to go home eat drink and enjoy my wife while these others wait on the Lord No sir Wouldn t you know Uriah was an honourable man So David ordered Joab to send Uriah to the fiercest battle front so that he may be struck down and die Joab did as instructed and Uriah was killed Then Joab David covered up their plan with a press release justifying this regrettable defeat Spin doctors the two of them Bathsheba mourned Uriah for a time Then David took her as his wife she bore their child honorably Happily ever after Well not quite God was not pleased and sent the prophet Nathan with a word for the king Your majesty there were two men in a certain city one very rich and the other poor The rich man had huge flocks and herds but the poor man had only one pet lamb It grew up in his house and ate from the family table One day the rich man received unexpected company He did not want to share one of his own lambs with this guest so he took the poor man s lamb and prepared it for dinner David was furious As the Lord lives Nathan the man who did this deserves to die He shall replace that lamb with four of his own because he has no compassion Nathan looked at David and said You are the man Confronted David repented of this sin but that newborn became very ill and died Now the storyteller puts this illness on God But personally I do not believe God ever punishes an innocent life to settle a score with some other sinner That s the kind of thing ISIS does not the God whom we know in Jesus Christ But what do you make of David as King Sometimes he looks faithful and honourable

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/400-a-checkered-career?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Saddest Things
    getting up early to stand in the gate where people came to get a case settled by the King David had stopped showing up for duty so Absalom heard people out and then said If only I had the authority I would give you justice But the King is not making justice happen And so the story goes he stole the people s hearts many thinking Absalom should now become king Then Absalom asked David for permission to go north to Hebron to keep a vow he d made to the Lord Unsuspecting David let him go But once Absalom was in Hebron he began gathering support among the northern tribes His conspirators included David s chief advisor in the north Ahithophel Several chapters of Second Samuel detail this growing rivalry Some people from the south went north to join Absalom Some people from the north came south to support David You see David s united kingdom wasn t really united When David realized that Absalom now had more strength he led his wives and children out of Jerusalem They wept as they left unsure whose side God was on and took refuge beyond the Jordan At this point you need a family tree and a detailed map to keep track of all the comings and goings who is fighting for whom To make a long story short Absalom and his forces claimed Jerusalem There Absalom even took up residence with some of his father s concubines who d been left behind To all appearances Absalom was now King of Israel But amid all these conspirators whom can you trust Absalom already had the wise counsel of Ahithophel but then a man still loyal to David Hushai showed up in Jerusalem pretended to swear allegiance to Absalom Absalom was torn Both these men had often guided his father to victory so he heard them both out But he made the mistake of taking Hushai s advice which allowed David time to muster his forces By the time Absalom rallied his own men David had the upper hand When David met with Joab and his other commanders he knew victory was theirs His final order to his men For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom When Absalom realized all was lost he escaped into the forest But thick branches caught his mass of thick hair and pulled him right off his mount He was left hanging between heaven and earth the Bible says Who shows up in the woods discovers him but that old fox Joab Deal gently with Absalom Never Joab stuck darts into Absalom s heart and then ordered his servants to finish him off The northern forces who had followed Absalom retreated and Joab sent word to David of the victory The messenger who carried news of Absalom s death did not realize how the king would receive it The king was heartbroken and began to weep O my son Absalom my son my son

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/401-the-saddest-things?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Tales of Two Cities
    King over Israel Blow the trumpet and declare Long live King Solomon Let him enter and sit on my throne for I have appointed Solomon to rule over Israel Judah So Solomon was anointed king and the people began to cheer Long live King Solomon Meanwhile Adonijah and his guests had finished their feast Joab heard the trumpet demanded Why is the city in such an uproar Soon Abiathar s son arrived to say King David has made Solomon king anointing him in the presence of the priest Zadok the prophet Nathan This noise proclaims Solomon s place on the royal throne David himself has bowed before him Then all those with Adonijah dispersed trembling in fear What was Adonijah to do He was pretty frightened He hurried to claim sanctuary grabbing the horns of the altar crying out Let King Solomon swear to me he will not kill me by the sword To which Solomon responded If Adonijah proves to be a worthy man not one hair on his head shall fall to the ground But if he proves wicked he shall die Then Solomon ordered Adonijah to leave the altar and go home Now David s time to die drew near and he gave this charge to Solomon Be strong be courageous walking in the Lord s ways and keeping his commandments Then the Lord God will honour you and all your successors on the throne of Israel And then David told Solomon about all Joab s deceit how he had killed both Abner and Amasa retaliating in a time of peace for blood shed in war Act according to your own wisdom said David but do not let Joab s gray head go down to Sheol in peace Then David died having reigned for forty years Meanwhile Adonijah sought out Bathsheba and pleaded with her to ask Solomon to give him Abishag the Shunammite for his wife Pretty cheeky to ask for the late King s concubine as your wife A good way to make yourself appear closer to King David than you really were Now Bathsheba did not see through him and asked her son to grant his brother this favour But Solomon was outraged He figured Adonijah was just plotting to claim the throne himself and so true to his word Solomon had Adonijah killed Then Solomon stripped the priest Abiathar of his post for supporting Adonijah And finally we come to Joab schemer par excellence Fearing the new King Joab also fled to the altar and grabbed its horns claiming sanctuary Solomon sent for Joab but he refused to come I will die here And so indeed he did Solomon ordered him buried in the wilderness because Joab had shed blood without just cause and brought shame on David s house Then Solomon appointed a new commander for the army and made Zadok the new high priest Solomon was not a king to be trifled with tying up all his father s loose ends

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/403-tales-of-two-cities?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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