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  • God of the Living
    no son the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man This law helped the Israelites protect and preserve the nation and their identity The Sadducees continued to ask Jesus There were seven brothers and the first took a wife and died childless And the second and the third took her and in the same way all seven died no children And finally the woman died too In the resurrection therefore which one s wife will she be because all seven had her as wife In response to the Sadducees Jesus points out their misunderstanding about resurrection Resurrection is not a mere extension of life in this world Life in this age is totally different from the age to come In this age people all die so marriage is important to perpetuate lineage but in the age to come there is no death so there is no need to marry and people are like angels becoming children of God Jesus also points out that God is not of the dead but of the living In fact God said to Moses in the burning bush I am the God of the God of Abraham the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob God did not say I was the God of them Indeed God is living and present in our lives and our world Everyone is alive from God s perspective When we humble ourselves admitting our sin and death we soon realize an infinite God exists outside of our time space and thoughts and then see God s utmost love and promise for us sending us Jesus for salvation Resurrection from the dead eternal life with God Victor Frankl a Jewish Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist also found that love from God is the hope in our lives Frankl studied hard but before he made himself known the World War II began He was arrested by the Nazi and thrown into a Nazi concentration camp for four years After the war was over Frankl was released from the concentration camp and resumed his career He reflected on his time as a prisoner He noticed something quite strange The people who survived were not always the ones you would expect Many who were physically strong wasted away and died while others who were much weaker physically grew strong and survived He asked himself Why What was it that made them to hang on through a living hell Finally Victor Frankl came up with his own theory The difference between those who survived and those who perished was hope Those who survived never gave up their belief that their lives had meaning Meaning to live Drive for life And the meaning to live comes from the love in our heart which originally comes from God In his book Frankl writes how he came to realize it looking back a time in the camp We stumbled on in the darkness over big stones and through large

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/437-god-of-the-living?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Here or Hereafter?
    face similar threats and hard choices In John s day about 60 years after Jesus death and resurrection the threats weren t Greek in origin Now they were Roman There was a different emperor on the throne but one just as convinced about his own divinity his right to be worshipped by all his subjects as that Greek conqueror in Daniel s day John knew his scriptures He was inspired by Daniel s courageous conviction But now with a passion for Jesus in his heart John can identify Daniel s anonymous Son of Man Jesus now sits on the throne and reigns in spite of all the threatening powers which challenge him For Jesus has defied death and encourages his followers to keep the faith to reject the demands and enticements of the emperor no matter what the cost remain loyal to the one true God You see the Book of Revelation is not a road map to heaven in some distant place and time The Book of Revelation is testimony to encourage God s saints here and now Its awe inspiring vision is a reminder that Christ is King Jesus is Lord And if we dare say these words in our time then our loyalty is on the line today here and now Whatever eternal destination God has in mind for us what matters is our decision to stay true to Christ each and every day We might consider these two visions of God s throne room as visual creeds ancient affirmations that God is still in charge despite evidence to the contrary or flickering doubts in the hearts of believers facing immense challenges These are visions for here and now not hereafter They intend to motivate Jesus followers day by day to remember the teaching and example of Jesus and find hope and courage in his name to face whatever each day holds In a sense these visions are like modern mission statements which sum up an organization s core commitment and energize actions to carry out its purpose Now you may not know St John s has a mission statement meant to state our core convictions energize our action in Jesus name It was worked out in 1995 But it s not exactly a visual wonder like Daniel s or John s It is a bit wordy It doesn t exactly leap off the page or get you up and at em every morning So the Session has been reconsidering our mission statement Should we rephrase it to reflect who we are now as part of Christ s body Do we have new priorities for our mission ministry given all the changes around us since 1995 But we re a bit stymied about what a vision or mission statement helps us accomplish Does it really matter Well last month in Bible study we looked at the oldest mission statement found in Scripture St Paul names it in 1 Corinthians 12 It simply says Jesus is Lord It

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/438-here-or-hereafter?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • What are you waiting for?
    sanctuary He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak When his time of service was ended he went home After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she remained in seclusion She said 25 This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth and she bore a son 58 Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her and they rejoiced with her 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father No he is to be called John 61 They said to her None of your relatives has this name 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give the child 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote His name is John And all of them were amazed Reflection What are you waiting for Elizabeth Elizabeth what are you waiting for going into seclusion for five months Do you think by disappearing that your neighbours won t talk Do you think they ll quit gossiping about you and Zechariah because you re staying inside Are you waiting to prove them wrong To show them once and for all it wasn t your fault there hadn t been a child before now Elizabeth my dear we all feel for you In one way or another we all know what it s like when everyone else has an opinion about what s happened to us We can sympathize if every member of your family had a little piece of advice for you and Zechariah advice on how to conceive how to get results advice that seemed like pressure advice that seemed like none of their business But then you go into hiding What are you waiting for Elizabeth For human nature to change and busy bodies to hold their tongues Elizabeth people will always want a say in what they don t understand So don t give those who judged you to be a failure the last word Don t give into your embarrassment Or your desire to avoid your critics Hiding is a kind of surrender Hiding surrenders our dignity our importance to God and confirms what the world thinks of us But Elizabeth your name means God is my abundance You are too important to God to hide yourself away because your neighbours made life uncomfortable Now you are bearing a child of promise God is your abundance So choose your moment and show all those nosy relatives those detractors and armchair critics what you and God have accomplished Show them all that God is gracious even after years of family scrutiny and personal discouragement God is gracious That s the name you chose for your son John means

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/441-what-are-you-waiting-for?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Who needs a saviour?
    4 2016 This nativity scene was carved in 1511 by an artist named Albrecht Durer Study it for a minute What do you notice in this wood cut In some ways the scene is just another picture fitting Mary Joseph into the clothes of that day The shepherds look like European peasants not middle eastern herders By 1511 European art had achieved some fine moments The prints of Albrecht Durer s wood cuts were regarded as quite sophisticated This is one of his simpler carvings But it shares one feature with all his other nativity scenes The world it pictures is falling apart Did you notice Did you spot the gaping holes in the barn roof See the grass sprouting from the crumbling walls In each nativity scene Durer carved Christ is born into a world that is falling apart Those who stoop to welcome the newborn king don t seem to notice But somehow I think it is very important for us to see Christ is born into our midst when it feels like the roof might just fall in And for many people in 1511 the roof was falling in The plague was stalking its victims social unrest was brewing in Europe The high Renaissance culture which surrounded Albrecht Durer had started to come apart at the seams And so this artist confesses his faith Christ is born again and again Into a world that is falling apart Surely it seems some days that our world is coming apart at the seams too Terror stalks the earth wearing unpredictable faces People are running scared Glaciers are melting in a way we ve never seen before Jobs once thought secure have evaporated Storms of one variety or another wreak havoc on homes around the world Everywhere we look there is a roof caving in one someone s head Is there any doubt our world needs a Saviour Still some of us are not too keen on needing a saviour We prefer our independence We don t like to reveal our helplessness We often want to manage things ourselves privately But our Saviour is not someone who will make us feel worse about needing help someone with a big strategy to fix everything and opinions to make us feel even more helpless The Saviour we proclaim is a baby And a baby always calls out of us the best we have to offer the deep concern the tender smile hands willing to clean up a mess over and over again A baby needs wisdom and patience to help it grow and love that won t give up even when it wears thin on yet another late night Such are the gifts Mary and Joseph offered their child in another threatening time in world history And such are the gifts we all have to offer to our children to our neighbours to earth itself when the global roof is threatening to fall in Such are the gifts our Saviour needs to

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/445-who-needs-a-saviour?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • After all this, then what?
    needs his choices no different than ours This story marks the beginning of Jesus claiming for himself the identity and destiny laid out for him in the prophets Now I have to admit I love this story I can identify with the adolescent asserting himself challenging his teachers and parents I was a pretty outspoken teen myself This story shows the typical marks of every adolescent Teens always ask passionate impertinent questions about the values and expectations of authorities in their lives 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 a script borrowed from well intentioned adults So this story asks the rest of us how we will react to the natural but frustrating questioning of young people Will we throw up our hands like Mary worried because our children venture into the world without us Or can we engage them in their growth encouraging them to think critically about opinions they find attractive and all that information out there on the internet Things happening in the world around us these days remind us why it s so important to engage children adolescents as they grow and not just let them sort things out unnoticed We hear about youth being radicalized and we wonder why How Radical preachers and prophets of all sorts appeal to a teen s natural desire to challenge traditional authorities Such leaders provide black and white answers to the typical judgments teens try out critical of parents teachers other cultural rule makers Studies show that teens prefer black and white choices because they are not yet able to appreciate the ambiguities and complexities every choice in life presents That s why adolescents are prone to radicalization not just from ISIS but in gangs militias many other extreme groups left or right religious or non religious Radical solutions appeal to teens because they present a clear choice And making that choice gives a teen a strong sense of identity often deliberately different from the mainstream of home or school church or mosque Adolescence is all about trying on identities to see what fits But while wearing an unusual hair colour or getting a tattoo may alarm parents and grandparents such marks of identity don t have the dreadful consequences that firing a gun in a convenience store or school will So adults have to figure out how to engage adolescents in their quest for identity before the consequences of their choices become dangerous That thought makes me wonder if the Church has failed to get the point of today s story The challenge in this story is to consider just how radical it is to take on an identity rooted in God s purposes I don t mean radical in any violent sense But as Luke tells the story of Jesus life Jesus became identified with a new radical

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2015-archive/447-after-all-this-then-what?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Grasping Resurrection
    the latest DNA technology Grasping resurrection is an act of faith an act of trust in God s precious gift of love For love is what binds us to God and to one another and that precious gift continues to have power in our lives even when someone we love is gone I would say that it is love s power which can defeat the sorrow and tragedy that break our hearts It is love which allows us to grasp resurrection even in the face of tragedy And in his own hesitating way Thomas offers us a little symbol to help us grasp the power of Jesus resurrection for ourselves As the story unfolds Jesus reappears and reaches out to Thomas so Thomas can take his hand Grasping resurrection takes the same kind of trust with which we grasp a hand held out to help us to our feet If someone offers you a hand you don t do a quick calculation of the physics involved to figure out if your neighbour s strength is equal to your body mass No You simply take the trusted hand and claim the help you need We can grasp resurrection in a gesture almost that simple Here s what I mean A friend who s a minister in the Church of Scotland told me about a parishioner who was greatly grieved by the sudden death of his wife It was one of those situations where the man wished for at least one more conversation one more chance to clear up something say what he felt he should have said at a key moment in their lives So my friend asked the man if he believed in resurrection The man nodded tentatively as many of us might do not sure what was coming next Then my friend suggested that if he believed God had offered his wife the power of resurrection then he should simply act on his faith and tell his wife now everything he d meant to say back then He should trust that she could hear him that she would hear him and know what was on his heart through the mysterious power of God s resurrecting love This story told by a friend I respect a lot left a deep impression on me His advice seemed so simple and yet so challenging because of its invitation to trust in a power we cannot see or measure the power of resurrection As the Holy Spirit would have it not too many weeks later I was leading a program on Iona The program invited people to reflect on different chapters of their lives to notice how sometimes something unresolved at one point for us can be settled or healed much later when something apparently unrelated speaks to our unresolved situation with fresh wisdom and grace After the first morning of the program a woman came to my office to speak privately Her reflections led her to focus on her son a young

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/313-grasping-resurrection?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Share and share alike
    he s in town and come to speak to him It s not a very sympathetic story to read on Mother s Day mind you It sounds like it has been a while since Jesus saw his family Perhaps Mary is there to remind him of his duty We might expect him to excuse himself from the crowd for a few minutes run out and give Mary a hug then catch up on family news with his brothers Instead he offers these thought provoking words to the messenger Who is my mother and who are my brothers Pointing to his disciples Jesus says Here are my mother and my brothers For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother These words are not intended as an insult to Jesus family but they do have a profound implication for Jesus followers We are all kin We are all family No biological bond takes preference among us no inherited privilege gives relatives pride of place no social distinction tells us who is good to know who isn t In Christ we are kin to each other and therefore we bear mutual responsibility for each other to offer each other the sharing and caring that every loving family provides You know the old saying Blood is thicker than water But for Christians the water of baptism is thicker than the blood coursing in our veins It creates new relations for all who bear Jesus name And among this extended family we are called to share and share alike as my mother might have put it Truly the roots of Mother s Day are planted in a version of this vision Mother s Day got its start back in the 19 th Century in the aftermath of the Civil War in the United States Julia Ward Howe and Ann Reeves Jarvis the two women most closely identified with its earliest beginnings each had a deep concern for sons who were being lost in tragic conflicts at home and abroad In 1868 Jarvis organized a Mothers Friendship Day to bring together mothers whose sons had fought on both sides in the Civil war Her goal was to have mothers pray for peace and begin healing the deep divisions which had fueled the Civil war and caused so much bloodshed The friendship day had positive effect and continued for a few years Later Jarvis daughter Anna urged the recognition of an official Mother s Day to honour her mother and every other mother for their essential contributions to human well being So 100 years ago in 1914 American President Woodrow Wilson established Mother s Day Canada followed one year later It s worth remembering that the need for this day came from the need to bring enemies together to seek a deeper kinship for the healing of a nation As I reflected on the origins of Mother s Day I began to think about all the

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  • There is a place
    we join is long begun God bids us welcome here The Servant multiples a fest of loaves fish of bread and wine This vision of heaven is even more common in Scripture than the throne room with its saints angelic choir Here is comfort for us calorie counters Heaven A banquet where we can eat without worry At funerals I sometimes draw on this image to picture a beloved holding a place at God s table for us so we can be reunited at God s wedding banquet Now look at 783 The desert shall rejoice blossom as a rose unto Zion we come with joy for our God has come to save us Here the camera angle widens across the whole creation In this view of heaven we see nature s beauty restored parched deserts watered by fresh springs burst into life the injured disabled are healed set free to rejoice It s a big vision expressed first by Isaiah then claimed by Jesus appealing I think to those of us who feel pain when we see scars on the landscape as well as on human lives and long for nature s fragile relationships to be put right Our psalm 84 this morning imagines a wee bird safely nesting in her version of heaven God s holy temple Shall we gather at the river picks up another vision from the Book of Revelation as saints gather on the riverbanks in the Holy City at what could be the biggest Sunday School picnic ever Each of these places offers us a feel for heaven rather than a snapshot Each place evokes its own sense of peace and security in God s presence each reminds us that God longs to restore everything to its true purpose and proportion and yet no one place pictures God s redeeming love fully So we are left to wonder what heaven could be like But if these poetic portraits of heavenly places tweak our wonder about what God holds in store Thomas calls us out of our reveries with his question Lord we do not know where you are going How can we know the way Thomas demands what all of us would like to know How can we know where we re going when we re still this side of heaven Then Jesus offers his famous words I am the way and the truth and the life No one comes to the Father except through me It s not really the explanation Thomas sought Jesus doesn t confirm any of our heavenly portraits And though these phrases are simple they are also easily misinterpreted because they are not so easily translated into English Let me offer you a reputable re interpretation based on three contemporary translators We have to think of these three phrases as if they are telescoped one held inside the other The first phrase offers the key to the second and the second the key to third So beginning with the

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