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  • A Word for Dog People
    to be widened to include her little girl remembering how any child likes to feed a dog from the table Scholars marvel at this story because Jesus changes his mind He tells her she s scored her point For saying that you may go Your daughter is healed Did Jesus cave in Or in that instant did his very human nature suddenly grasp his God given purpose to push back the walls of God s kingdom of love and mercy so everyone could have a place at the table Today s second miracle is a rather ironic reinforcement of Jesus change of heart He s confronted again this time in his own home territory by a man who s deaf and unable to speak Ephphatha says Jesus Be opened Astonished witnesses declare He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak But truly Jesus ears have been opened to the needs of someone he d considered a dog His tongue is now set free to proclaim God s good news to everyone including those he d considered no better than mutts messing up the neighbourhood In essence Jesus becomes a dog person through these two challenging encounters In a day when dogs were despised he becomes their champion And so in the Gospels of Mark and Luke in particular and throughout the Book of Acts the ministry of Jesus and his followers goes radical He and his friends welcome those whom others called dogs offering them dignity and respect in their company Outcasts those at whom society turns up its nose all you who have felt ignored or despised or unworthy you are welcome here You belong to God God has love and mercy for you Here is the first word for dog people in this story for people who have been viewed as dogs and treated as mutts by those around them You are part of the family But what s the word for those of us who love dogs in our homes who lavish attention and affection on them and love their charms and loyalty and playfulness And what s the word for those of us who love the dog people we know even if we don t make room for our own pet Well I think there is a bite in this story for us a nip to our attitudes towards those people we d like to regard as undeserving as society s mutts If Jesus had to change his mind about social dogs surely he asks us to reflect on our imbedded assumptions The news story which first came to mind was the triumph of a beautiful First Nations woman from N Alberta who became Mrs Universe last weekend Mrs Universe is a contest for beautiful married women who are willing to take a stand against domestic violence They are judged not only on beauty but on their work for human rights and charity in this area And Ashley Callingbull from the Enoch Cree

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/404-a-word-for-dog-people?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Making Space for a New Generation
    and the last child was disappearing out the chancel door for Sunday School Wailing I hurtled down the aisle trying to catch up I ll never forget the smiling face who heard my cry kept the door open got me down the right stairs to Mrs Tufford s class Welcoming children isn t just a question of having enough rooms It also means having a program just for you and people who know your name listen for your cry and help you find your way Of course in those days the church didn t have a TV Film strips were high technology No smart boards drawing with coloured chalk was our treat But there were special child sized hymnbooks and a Sunday School curriculum edited by a Canadian Presbyterian who was a professor at Union Seminary in New York All cutting edge for 1960 There were two children s choirs junior and intermediate a Christmas pageant on the stage every year and Vacation Bible school every summer with chocolate milk Making space for children means not just having rooms equipment and chocolate milk but also time and priority in adult schedules to welcome children as those who belong to the kingdom of God and whose faith needs shaping in creative ways If a child stopped to think about it as I did St John s was a place with a mind and a heart for children And that s why we ve refurbished our Sunday School rooms once more Times have changed to be sure The baby boom of the 50s and 60s was not the norm for North American churches though many of us remember it fondly If you read articles from the 30s and the 40s in The Presbyterian Record concerns then were similar to ours now Where is the next generation How do we reach people discouraged by economic realities puzzled by world wars questioning God s agenda Each new generation has its own questions its own realities and challenges Together we have to put our faith and commitment on the line to face those challenges creatively with the resources God has seeded among us at the time There is never just one way to be Church The Baby Boom was not a golden age we can expect to return After all if we d done everything right back then more boomers might still be part of the Church But together we keep on keeping on in faithfulness in each generation Just stop and think about the newest generation among us I was surprised to learn from a friend whose girls are in high school that neither of them can read handwriting The girls don t write cursive script themselves so their mom has to read them notes from their grandmother But those girls text hundreds of times a day trusting wireless technology which still makes me nervous If they re going to look something up they ll go on line It s not better or worse

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/413-making-space-for-a-new-generation?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Fairest of them All
    simple actions speak louder than words so put your faith into action every day James is pretty hard on people who say one thing and do another He s critical of anyone shows favour to a rich person but treats a poor person with disdain He also chastises those who say kind words to the poor but do nothing concrete to help them James makes us squirm Today his concern is about bitter envy and selfish ambition Ironically enough the philosopher Aristotle used these same words to describe politicians But James has a wider focus He sees that God s wisdom cuts against the envy and ambition which stir us to want to be the fairest the greatest of them all Ambition and envy will drive us to wickedness of every kind James argues making us boastful or deceitful I suppose his words offer some wise caution for us as we navigate this election campaign Again however his goal is larger He invites Jesus followers to cultivate God s wisdom which leads to works of gentleness God s wisdom will make us peaceable co operative full of mercy and good fruits When we are rooted in God s wisdom our lives will show no trace of favoritism And no one will be able to call us hypocrites because we will be practicing the compassion mercy we preach So let s turn our eyes back to Jesus In the face of the envious jostling among his disciples and their desire to be the greatest Jesus turns greatness on its head The greatest one is willing to be the servant of the last the least The greatest put their lives on the line to serve the needs of those the world overlooks Jesus and James are on the same page Jesus finds his symbol of greatness in a child Of course he s not a stage mother trying to draw attention to the unique star power in her offspring He s chosen a child because children had little social standing in his day Children weren t treasured The Greek word for child also meant slave So Jesus has chosen someone for greatness whom no one else could be bothered with And he dares his followers to remember that in those who seem to hold no particular value for the world in those who aren t the greatest or the fairest the smartest or the richest of them all in the people of no particular account we meet God And when we serve their needs we welcome God into our lives For Jesus didn t die to improve our chances of winning an election or of becoming Canada s smartest person The message from his Cross is that we don t have to conquer the world to win God s approval We are loved as we are in our ordinary lives always a mixture of success and failure of good ideas and poor choices of achievements and what we still have to learn

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/421-the-fairest-of-them-all?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • That Wonderful World
    underway and that year Canadian forces inhaled chemical weapons at the second battle of Ypres In 1915 Presbyterian John McCrae wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields In worrisome times how important it is to say with the psalmist even the darkness is not dark to you O Lord We cannot flee from God s presence no matter what our century holds I chose Jesus parable of the baker woman for today partly because Hilda has been an amazing baker in her time strudel kugel cinnamon buns among her favorite treats But the parable imagines the power of God s kingdom rising like dough from the baker woman s kitchen so much dough from one pinch of yeast that the dough expands pushing out the windows maybe lifting off the roof by its quiet determined power That s how the power of God s love works in this wonderful world growing in one little life like Hilda s to nourish many others Just think how her family has grown first as a sister alongside 9 brothers sisters Hilda being the second eldest Then she welcomed her own children and grandchildren now great grandchildren God s love gently expanding her heart with the yeast of the kingdom to embrace each one as uniquely precious Hilda s world grew to include other important Canadians like Mackenzie King and Tommy Douglas his children But Hilda reminded me they re just people too no more important guests in her family s kitchen than anyone else Hilda s heart was also stretched to include God s creatures great and small Many times I visited her home on Braemar Street and watched deer munching on apples she set out for them She told me her father shared this tender heart for animals She remembers going to the circus with him when she was a little girl on the third day it was in town The grownups went by themselves on days one and two Yet she remembers the year her dad stopped going to the circus because he didn t like the way the animals were treated an important life lesson for her about putting our values into action in God s world No wonder Hilda always had a bag of apples for those deer They ll be wondering where she is this fall now it s apple season again What a wonderful world for deer when someone like Hilda makes sure their diet is interesting What a wonderful world for all God s creatures when we think not just about the pleasure we find in them but also about what s good for their wellbeing And that s the force of Jesus parable of the baker woman Our hearts are stretched by the yeast of God s kingdom working in us over the years to include each new child grandchild great grandchild in our circle of love but also pushing us out beyond our family with generosity not just for the deer in our backyard

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/422-that-wonderful-world?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • What would Jesus see?
    hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God Undoubtedly they d been raised with Jewish teaching that God rewards obedience with prosperity Riches were supposed to be a sign of righteousness according to some parts of Deuteronomy Proverbs We know this view Ever heard the saying God helps those who help themselves We like to think this is something God says but it certainly does not come from Scripture For let s remember many of the prophets were critical of the rich who flashed their wealth around while neglecting their social responsibilities Like the prophets Jesus had seen how riches turned people inward made them more intent on preserving and increasing wealth for themselves rather than sharing it with others So Jesus surprised his followers with his cartoon image of a camel trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle Now this ridiculous impossibility means to make us stop and think The hapless camel reminds us that to enter God s kingdom we must stop worrying about our place in the economy and put our trust fully in God For when we trust in God rather than our own cleverness or prosperity God can surprise us in ways we never dreamed possible But what does Jesus see when he looks at us Often in our generation I think he will see the attitude of that young pharmaceutical executive He will see more and more people who trust only in what they accumulate for themselves and feel quite justified in keeping all their profits to themselves Like that rich young man who confronted Jesus too many people these day lack any sense of responsibility to help our neighbours who are not so fortunate or successful But what does Thanksgiving mean if we are mostly grateful for our own investment decisions and our ability to ride out the current recession I do worry that more and more we are thankful for what we accumulate for what fills our tables closets savings accounts rather than for the strength God gives us to be faithful to each other and generous with each other when times are tough What does Jesus see when he looks at us these days So think about that question for a moment What does Jesus see when he looks at your life your priorities your anxieties your plans and longings Jesus will look to see what defines your life what or whom you depend upon to give your life meaning I m sure we expect Jesus to notice the importance of our family our friends neighbours how much they mean to us and our best efforts to support them But he might also notice our bank accounts and what our financial transactions say about our priorities I m not sure we ever stop to consider that Jesus is at least as interested in our economic choices as the Canadian Revenue Agency But that s the point of this story Jesus asks that

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/429-what-would-jesus-see?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Remembering and Celebration
    because I would be too tired from the preparation And if I were in a bad relationship with someone in my family like Jacob in today s passage I definitely would afraid meeting the person Here in Genesis Chapter 33 Jacob meets his twin brother Esau 20 years later since he fled from his hometown At the beginning of the chapter Jacob is greatly afraid that his brother is going to kill him and his family At the end of the chapter however Jacob finds peace and makes an altar for God This Jacob is not the one that we knew 20 years ago Jacob seems to have changed a lot As far as we remember Jacob was ever clever enough to take his brother s birthright and blessings from his father Isaac He took Esau s birthright in return for some bread and lentil stew and he even boldly lied to his father to get blessings from him Let s read verses 18 to 24 in Chapter 27 to remember what was happening twenty years before Verse 18 starts like this So Jacob went in to his father and said My father and Isaac said Here I am who are you my son Jacob said to him I am Esau your firstborn I have done as you told me now sit up and eat of my game so that you may bless me But Isaac said to Jacob How is it that you have found it so quickly my son Jacob answered Because the Lord your God granted me success Then Isaac said to Jacob Come near that I may feel you my son to know whether you are really my son Esau or not So Jacob went up to his father Isaac who felt him and said The voice is Jacob s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau He did not recognize him because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau s hands so he blessed Jacob Isaac asked Are you really my son Esau Jacob answered I am So certainly Jacob s story is a story of conflict conflict recurring from human desire jealousy and greed So his personality makes us wonder We think his deceitfulness deserves to be punished What can we learn from Jacob s story then What is underlying in this story To answer this question I want to talk about Jacob s internal changes over those 20 years He suffered and struggled while he thought about Esau s upcoming revenge to kill him He suffered because he knew he had wronged his brother But in fact there was no need for reconciliation for him despite the guilty feeling No one was forcing him to meet his brother or return to his hometown Nobody was searching for him It s been 20 years Who cared He could have continued staying where he was enjoying the wealthy life with his big family and descendants However despite all the wealth and comforts

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/430-remembering-and-celebration?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Be Brave!
    And our views of sexual orientation are still being shaped by judgments which flow from ancient views of what is perfect making heterosexuality the measure judging anything else perverse Even though we likely grew up not knowing his name Timaeus has influenced how we see the world and decide who is closest to perfection and who falls short Still in our story Bartimaeus this son of philosophy wants to meet Jesus He cries out and some try to hush him up After all he s blind He s not worth their time or attention But Jesus invites him closer Jesus friends call out Be brave Get up He s calling you So Bartimaeus summons his courage throws off his cloak and moves toward the sound of Jesus voice Again the story is rich with symbolism The blind man throws off his beggar s cloak his old life stands virtually naked before Jesus Jesus asks What do you want me to do for you Rabbouni let me see again The philosopher s son wants to throw off the ways of the world and see with new eyes When Jesus hears his desire he opens the blind man s eyes so he can see the face of God He becomes a disciple following Jesus on the way But he must still be brave for it does take bravery to see the world in a fresh way without old familiar categories judgments Mark provoked his listeners by using the name Bartimaeus for his character He was daring those cloaked in the assumptions of their generation and their culture to throw off old ways of looking at the world and see the world as Jesus does Mark now asks us Are we as brave as Bartimaeus Can we throw off the way the world looks at things and go a new way Jesus way Or will we remain blind Today is Reformation Sunday a time to remember our roots in the Protestant tradition At some points in our history Presbyterians did catch a new vision when we were brave enough to look at the world through Jesus eyes Nearly 500 years ago John Calvin bravely declared that women were not misbegotten males but created in the image of God together with men Calvin understood that men and women are called together to play our parts serving God in the world That s why as a church we have a history of educating girls all over the world wanting everyone to develop their God given gifts and do their part in loving and serving our neighbours Of course it did take us another 450 years to decide women could also be leaders in our churches We weren t always very brave in following Jesus or Calvin It took us even longer to recognize that Canada s First Nations and peoples of races other than Caucasian are also created in the image of God Only now are we on the path to healing and reconciliation with

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/431-be-brave?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Way to Peace
    degrees It must have been a bitterly cold day in a fierce battle ground A bullet from the North Korea army went through my dad s right arm just below the wrist Immediately blood sprang and spread out all over It must have been one of a shower of bullets Showers of bullets How strong you should be mentally and physically I wondered what he was thinking at that critical moment Was he thinking about his hometown and his mom and dad Was he thinking about his close friends Or he might have been thinking about God and praying to God He was taken to a field hospital and they took the bullet from his arm He was fortunate that his life was saved But he must have been bitter when he saw his comrades were collapsing beside him It was indeed a blessing for our family that he was alive If not he wouldn t have married and had 4 children If not there s no way that I d be here As soon as a cease fire agreement was made in 1953 he got married through a match maker At the wedding my mom was able to peek at my father s face for the first time Then she saw the strange mark the dark bullet wound in my father s lower arm It obviously was not well hidden under the wide sleeves of the Korean traditional costume that he was wearing at the wedding ceremony So you see wars not only affect men but also women For while my father had been spared on the battle field my mom also had a shocking moment in her hometown which she never forgot There were times when the North Korean Army got stronger and stronger In those times North Korean soldiers would come down to the villages searching for men young women and food They were often hungry so they would demand for food If they found men they made them prisoners of war My mom was a teenager in her small village When the village people heard that North Korean soldiers had attacked the village my mom s family hid her the youngest daughter in the family inside a big empty Kimchi jar in the back yard They brought a lot of linens and filled the jar with layers and layers of linen towels Hidden inside the jar my mom was scared to death whenever someone approached the jar But when a North Korean soldier actually opened the jar he did not dig inside it Maybe he simply could not imagine that there was a girl underneath If she d been caught that day she would have been taken to a people s court It is pretty scary for me to imagine what could have happened to her Unmarried young girls were most vulnerable often abused and sometimes raped My mom and dad were two of the lucky ones but there are so many heart breaking stories for

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/432-the-way-to-peace?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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