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  • Making Space for Christmas
    more country cousins looking for a bed It s sad but true Even with the most generous hearts and best intentions at some point we all run out of space at Christmas no more guest rooms no more beds no more time no more space for anything or anyone else But if there s no more space in our lives at Christmas then when and where will we meet God We have to make space for Christmas not just space for company and cooking and the tree but space for God to arrive Joseph had to make space in his expectations of what a family looks like to include a pregnant wife sure to raise eyebrows in the town and a baby he never conceived of Only then could God create a new dream for him Mary had to make space for that baby not just in her womb but in her soul and in her future We see her at the manger pondering this new life opening space in her heart a heart that will eventually be broken Making space for Christmas doesn t guarantee good cheer but it does allow God to find a cradle in our hearts for whatever lies ahead If we don t make space for Christmas to claim our hearts then when and where will we meet God especially when our road turns rocky This year I got thinking about space opening up in our lives as I contemplated Maren our intern heading back to Toronto She will leave space in my life I ll miss our weekly conversations on ministry She s opened up space we ve enjoyed together as a congregation too in activities like Mission Possible St Francis Day and in her thoughtful insights and creative spark we ve enjoyed on so many Sundays Yet as much as we d like her to stay and keep sharing space in our community we know God has other things in mind for her other spaces she ll be called to create or fill as the Spirit leads But what will we do with the space we ve shared with Maren which will feel so empty after Christmas That space we ve made for each other the space that echoes with our loss when someone moves on is actually a space where we can meet God As much as we may ache when a space opens up through a leaving or a loss that ache can draw us into God s deeper presence Joseph had to trust God s presence when his dreams of a perfect family crumbled Mary had to trust God s presence when she realized she couldn t control the future for her tiny perfect little son In a space that aches because children grow up move on In a space that aches because someone we love is gone In a space that aches because dreams haven t come true In that space God is waiting to embrace us with the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/362-making-space-for-christmas?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Home by another way
    about how crazy Herod is Town gossip that s all Are we to risk the desert by night for gossip asked Achmed Herod s servants were kind to us when stopped at court to seek directions Why do we flee by night It is not gossip There are soldiers on the road to Samaria and to Jericho They are looking for the magi We must go home by another way across the mountains and the desert Iman explained His voice was tight with tension Looking for the magi Achmed was astonished They are royal priests Soliders cannot stop the magi Samir shook his head What do we know about these magi Perhaps they have stolen jewels from Herod Perhaps the soldiers will hunt us too Suddenly out of the darkness a woman appeared clasping a bundle to her shoulder Please Help me she cried The soldiers tried to take my son The bundle on her shoulder began to cry as the woman sank to the sand in fear and exhaustion Iman said to Achmed Fetch Caspar Samir turned to the woman What you say is a terrible thing Why would soldiers take your child Have you stolen this baby in the market No No Haven t you heard she protested Soldiers took all the small boys in Bethlehem away two days ago Yesterday they were hunting babies in Jerusalem I ran with my son but I can run no further Her hands trembled as she tried to rock her whimpering child Iman s eyes widened Bethlehem We visited the infant king only days ago in Bethlehem Surely the soldiers would not harm the infant Jesus He raised his eyes to the night sky where the evening stars had begun to twinkle Just then Caspar appeared from his tent Achmed at his heels He addressed the woman What help can we give you We leave this night over the mountains It is not safe here for you or for us Please take my son with you Or else the soldiers will kill him Take him north to Damascus My brother is there He will keep him Or take the child to your home wherever you go Only let him live for the sake of the Holy One You ask a great deal of us magi of the night skies royal priests of God s wisdom What do we know of a child Caspar looked stern But what is wisdom if it will not save an innocent life she pleaded I have other children my daughters who need me But please let this little one live He is my only son Tears streamed down her face Caspar looked gravely at the mother What is this child s name Stephanus she replied Caspar lifted the tiny boy in his arms Stephanus the light of God s truth will guide you It is not yet your time to die You will yet serve the Holy One with wisdom and courage When he turned the

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2014-archive/363-home-by-another-way?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Do you want to be healed?
    has left into God s hands Jesus ignores his discouraged complaint Instead Jesus challenges him Rise Take up your mat Walk It s a string of commands And it begins with the command to rise from the dead For that word rise doesn t just mean stand up That verb points to the power of Easter which raised Jesus Jesus is not just healing this man s weak unstable legs Jesus is offering him new life But to claim it he has to get past his own discouragement He has to believe in that new possibility for himself And there s where this odd old story connects with us When we ve lived through a time of discouragement if we ve faced a lifetime or a long time of pain and loss our lives can be captured by our suffering Like the man in the story we don t see any hope for ourselves We begin to tell the story of what s gone wrong over and over again and we begin to believe nothing will ever go right again But when discouragement holds us captive we often surrender the spiritual energy to keep going keep trying keep believing That s when Jesus asks us Do you want to be healed That s why Jesus breaks into the stories we tell about ourselves with commands Rise Take up your mat Walk Get busy believing Engage your future with the power of God if you want to be healed These are words we sometimes need to hear as individuals when we ve faced any long disappointing struggle not just illness but unemployment or a business downturn or difficulties in our relationships Jesus words mean to motivate us These are also words we need to hear as a Church For in this very moment as a congregation it would be possible for the sadness we share over the many good friends who ve died recently the loss we anticipate as other good friends move on to capture our spirits We could tell a story of loss about fewer young people in our midst and events we can t manage because we re feeling weary We could excuse ourselves from the future because of what we ve lost So Jesus puts it to us Do you want to be healed Do we want a future Are we willing to participate in new life If so rise Get up off the past and move into that future Like the man in our story we have to trust the power of God to hold us up and give us strength while we learn to walk all over again Now we ve seen people do this If you think about someone you know in the12 Step movement someone who s overcome an addiction and committed themselves to better health you ve witnessed someone rise to the challenge of new life Likewise those who go back to school to learn new skills or who start new businesses

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/244-do-you-want-to-be-healed?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • A Commanding Presence
    in our preaching to silence critics of the Church I d give a piece of my mind and my faith to silence Richard Dawkins and his crew of atheist skeptics who so skew the message Christians proclaim But these days preachers don t have the commanding presence we once did You might not appreciate me commanding you from the pulpit either Preachers have to be a little more entertaining a little more educational to keep our audience engaged in this day and age The story shifts gears in the third scene Now it s the slave s owners who can command obedience Two commentaries I read this week called them The Philippi Chamber of Commerce Not quite a fair comparison I think but we do know that in every town there are a few powerful interests who can throw their weight around These guys have the muscle and the influence to haul Paul Silas into court manipulate the outcome A little exaggerated rhetoric and the crowd attacks the preachers A quiet word with the jailer and Paul Silas find themselves shackled in the darkest cell deep inside the jail Some people do have such a commanding presence in society even the justice system can be bent to their will at least temporarily Happily Christians in Canada don t face such threats but elsewhere in the world this story still rings true especially when the faithful challenge economic interests in their homelands Three kinds of commanding presence fill in our story the head of the household the municipal movers and shakers and the passionate preacher Which kind of commanding presence has influence in your life In the times in which we live Which kind of commanding presence ought to influence us Or do we find ourselves in a moment when commanding presence is no longer effective for achieving results It s a question worth considering on a Sunday when we welcome new elders to the Session of our congregation Time was in years past when elders had a commanding presence in the daily life of every church member When the elder came to call he for we are talking about decades even centuries past he called individuals and families to account for lagging church attendance for public indiscretions and for private matters which somehow reached his ear If you didn t shape up you d be cut off from Church and your neighbours would notice because you d be missing on a Sunday when everyone else was at worship Seems hard to imagine those days in this generation doesn t it But please don t think I m eager to return to those days People began to resent elders sitting in judgment on them And elders were sometimes caught passing judgment on backsliders but doing something equally questionable themselves This old story from Acts is not encouraging us to exercise moral judgment against each other But it does invite us to consider how we respond to God s presence in our

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/246-a-commanding-presence?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • People of the Wind
    And that s when people of the wind link up with the wind of the Spirit in John s Gospel Remember Jesus words The wind blows where it chooses You hear the sound of it but you do not know where it is coming from or where it goes So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit People who follow Jesus are people of the wind But people of the wind of the Spirit have to listen to each other if we re going to understand each other if we want to experience the miracle of Pentecost all over again Just remember what happened in our story Nicodemus thought he heard Jesus say If you want to see God s kingdom you must be born again And Nicodemus couldn t figure out how any one could crawl back inside their mother s womb and be born a second time Nicodemus was thinking about birth in terms of family trees and home towns the way we usually talk about where we come from But Jesus used a word that has two meanings in Greek It can mean born again a second time or born from above the translation we read this morning The same word has both meanings Nicodemus heard the first meaning but we must also hear the other meaning if we want to feel the wind of Pentecost If you want to see God s kingdom you must be born from above What does that mean Well John wants us to think about Jesus play on words and explore the meaning Nicodemus missed So imagine that you could stand somewhere very high up and look over God s shoulder Imagine you could look at the world and see what God can see To be born from above is to see with newborn eyes to see from a Gospel perspective and understand things in a new way The Holy Spirit shows people of the wind where God is coming from When we are born of the Spirit God will show us a new perspective on the world We are not just coming from Medicine Hat or Duck End or Dunmore People of the Spirit see with new eyes and hear with fresh ears like they did on Pentecost Two stories come to mind when I remember how God s Spirit gave me a new perspective on Canada Once I was driving with a friend from Toronto to Halifax We planned to stop in Quebec City and stay with another friend over night My friend was sure she could find the place and drove right up to a house she recognized No problem until we rang the doorbell An old man opened the door Puzzled we asked for Leslie but he shook his head She doesn t live here any more he said in French He saw our confusion so he repeated himself in English We explained we had planned to stay with Leslie that night Entrez Entrez

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/247-people-of-the-wind?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • 'Tis A Mystery!
    you cannot bear them now When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth John 16 12 13a Understand this Jesus assures his disciples as he tries to prepare them for what lies ahead You cannot deal with all I have to say to you not yet That s why my Spirit of truth will guide you reveal uncover explain unpack my life story my teachings my hopes my love for you Imagine the wonder and glory of God s self disclosure before us in Jesus and the Spirit i e the Trinity the three faces personalities of God a community of equals The Trinity Father Son and Holy Spirit each has its own mission yet each is united in love We are in the habit of regretting that we are not able to see Jesus face to face to walk with him to talk with him to eat with him imagine what a super church supper that would be Yet because of Pentecost we do have the one whom Jesus sent the one with the same power the same witness the same knowledge of the truth This one is God s Spirit who speaks in Jesus place who takes up the work that Jesus left off who tells us the rest of the unfolding story of how God did once and continues still to engage God s people and lead them in truth George Buttrick was a popular American preacher in the mid twentieth century He tells of sitting beside a man on a plane trip As Buttrick was writing intently on a yellow note pad the man seated next to him interrupted him and said Excuse me I hate to bother you but you seem to be working diligently on something there May I ask what it is Certainly I am a Presbyterian minister and I am working on my Sunday sermon Oh religion the man observed I don t like to get all caught up in the ins and outs of religion Do unto others as you would have them do unto you The Golden Rule that s my religion And what said Buttrick do you do sir I work at the university he said I m an astronomer Oh said Buttrick astronomy I don t like to get caught up in the ins and outs of astronomy Twinkle twinkle little star that s my astronomy a Ph D scientific mind with a pre school faith not all that interested in truth There is so much more to be revealed if we re ready to believe it Do we want to know Maybe not Especially as we get a little longer in the tooth we re not so much into surprises are we Living in the Spirit is more about living with mystery than it is knowing and being in control The truth of Jesus is too large and grand to be mastered in a moment or even many moments Faith life

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/248-tis-a-mystery?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Open Hands
    with the characters with Moses staring at a flaming bush with David watching Goliath crumple to the ground with Mary and Martha anxiously waiting for Jesus to arrive with Peter when Jesus asked him to step out of the boat and onto the face of the water In our mind s eye we can be there We can feel the excitement or fear the disappointment or joy Any good story gets us involved But like King David we don t really expect the story to trap us We don t like to be caught even by the punch line of a joke So the question is how do we listen to Bible stories Are we really prepared to hear a word from God What would it mean for us if a Bible story was aimed right at us challenging the very thing we did last week or said yesterday Today I invite you to enter the scene in Simon s dining room and listen for the word that exposed Simon For we too may very well be exposed by the same story Simon was a Pharisee a good and religious man undoubtedly respected for his acts of faithfulness But at his dinner party he was mortified by a woman who created a scene over Jesus tears kisses emotion openly poured out in front of all his guests The woman had a questionable reputation Simon could not imagine why Jesus let her touch him Can you picture Simon standing there arms folded in distaste watching Jesus and the woman Perhaps Jesus caught a look of disgust on Simon s face for he turned to Simon and told the story about the two debtors It ends with the question with only one answer Simon which one will love the creditor more Sigh The one who was forgiven more I suppose But Simon was the kind of man who thought he needed no forgiveness So the story trapped him Jesus was saying to him Simon if you cannot see your own need of God s forgiveness you will not know how to love God The one who is forgiven little loves little Compared with the woman at Jesus feet Simon could see no need in his own life And so he was not open to receive forgiveness or love So the question for us is When we hear this story which character do we identify with Simon or the woman Are we people who come reaching out gratefully for God s forgiveness like the woman Or do we stand back with our arms folded like Simon and compare our lives with others Do we find others more in need of God s grace than we are Our culture struggles with the need for forgiveness I think You don t have to be a Senator with an expense account problem to want to avoid asking for mercy I remember watching two 8 year old girls from my first congregation play the game Mercy in

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/249-open-hands?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • More than we can ask or imagine
    we encounter sheer silence Even when everything in our lives that hums or talks or rings or tweets is turned off are we engaged by sheer silence Or does anxiety stir us up and fill quiet moments with worries about what might happen and how we ll never cope If silence descends do we start planning the next day or the next vacation or our next corporate takeover in order to hold silence at bay Perhaps our fears and doubts push silence away because we fear or doubt there will be anything anyone to engage us in the sound of sheer silence Such inner busyness even in the wee hours of morning disturbs the possibility of sheer silence But the story of Elijah reminds us that God is known in silence silence which honours wisdom deeper than our own silence which values not how much we can do on our own but who we are as a small vital piece of God s vision God is known in silence that trusts in a purpose and a power greater than our own scheming Elijah had to learn it wasn t all about him it wasn t all up to him to carry out God s purposes For God is able to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine as the Letter to the Ephesians declares You see Elijah had made two crucial errors in judgment First he figured he was all alone the only faithful one left standing in God s name And secondly he d run away given up surrendered to his fears So God asked him twice What are you doing here Elijah And then God sent him back into the thick of things knowing he was needed for God s purposes and that he wasn t the only faithful servant on whom God relied Elijah met this truth in sheer holy silence when his frenzied inner argument stopped and he could sense God s presence and power at work within him The importance of this story for us on our 130 th Anniversary struck me when I read these words from a card from Margaret Campbell a member of St John s throughout the 1970s 80s On June 17 even before the flooding began Margaret wrote the congregation of St John s has managed to maintain a vigorous Christian witness through 130 years of upheavals and difficulties There have been the ups and downs of CPR passenger freight services two World Wars the Great Depression the crazy sixties the 9 11 attacks the electronic revolution and now globalization Throughout all these changes St John s has been a stabilizing force for individuals and the community of Medicine Hat And so Gordon and Perna Borroughs could also write Gordon I were among the many you have reached St John s provided a church home for us at a time when we were in need Those of us who never knew Margaret or the Borroughs know the truth of

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/250-more-than-we-can-ask-or-imagine?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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