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  • The Wonder of it All
    air mask you know because there s no air in space A child sometimes struggles with the human terms we often use to describe God taking them literally rather than as hints from human experience to help us appreciate how God is connected to us For God is not limited by the physical forces that shape our lives the gravity that keeps our feet on the ground or the mix of gases we breathe for the oxygen our bodies need Yet literal minded children can sense God s mystery too in ways that make smile and give us pause for thought Listen to Natalie who was only 4 years old as we walked up the road toward the beach Suddenly she stopped and gestured at the sky God isn t just up there you know He s down here with us He s in my heart And your heart She paused and looked into the field beside us He s in the sheep s heart As she looked at the ground she nodded And he s in the stone s heart too I suppose Natalie might have heard Psalm 139 at church but whether or not she knew it her words convey in a delightful way its sense of God s vast presence and also the intimacy we enjoy with God when we trust God loves each precious piece of this wondrous creation The third stanza of the psalm invites us to marvel this intimacy Let s read it together Leader O God it was you who formed my inward parts you knit me together in my mother s womb People I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made Leader Wonderful are your works that I know very well People My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret intricately woven in the depths of the earth Leader Your eyes beheld my unformed substance People In your book were written all the days that were formed for me when none of them as yet existed Leader How weighty to me are your thoughts O God How vast is the sum of them People I try to count them they are more than the sand I come to the end I am still with you Here is Natalie s confidence that she knows God from the inside out because God has been with her from the womb That phrase you knit me together uses a Hebrew verb which pictures embroidery So imagine God with needle and fine thread stitching the details of our character talent into our bones Fearfully and wonderfully made Here is the kind of attentiveness to detail we marvel at in the perfection of a baby s tiny fingers toes It doesn t matter whether we were born for high achievement skilled craftsmanship or just plain hard work or whether our potential is for good company devoted friendship still God is concerned with the details of every life Whatever challenges each

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/262-the-wonder-of-it-all?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Point of View
    though Some people imagine the young man being quite cagey thinking Dad s place is better than this I ll go see if he ll put me on staff These people don t see anything genuine in his decision to go back home But others focus on that line He came to himself Even though he d run as far away as he could from everything he d known growing up he still was himself deep inside And so he goes home hat in hand not sure how he ll be received willing to sleep in the barn in return for a square meal What s your point of view on this young man as he heads home Is he full of remorse or playing his old man one more time Scene two But while the younger son was still far off his father saw him and was filled with compassion he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him Then the son said to him Father I have sinned against heaven and before you I am no longer worthy to be called your son But the father said to his slaves Quickly bring out a robe the best one and put it on him put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet And get the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again he was lost and is found And they began to celebrate Now the father takes centre stage His actions would have surprised his neighbours He runs out for a public reunion with the son who shamed him made him the talk even the pity of his neighbours Those neighbours are thinking Have a little self respect Moshe Let the boy apologize But no the father is filled with compassion a word used of God over and over again in the psalms He produces all the symbols of belonging robe ring feast to declare to his neighbours that his wayward son is still part of the family The welcome home party would be remembered for years in the village Everyone would come A fatted calf was food for a crowd So do you share the father s point of view Can you share his joy at his boy s return Could you offer such generous compassion for a lad who learned his lesson the hard way Jesus is beginning to test us here Do we appreciate this father s spontaneous generous welcome Or do we want to talk a little sense to him Don t go too far too fast He ll just take advantage of you all over again Wait a week or two before you throw the party What if he breaks your heart again I think Jesus is testing usto see if we trust the mercy and loving kindness of God This generous father is wearing God s face So where do you find yourself

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/264-point-of-view?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Shrewd Saints?
    s embrace while the obedient proper brother stood outside scowling Luke delights in Jesus unusual characters the woman who wears God s face as she searched for the lost coin Zaccheus the tax collector turned charitable benefactor Mary Martha those hospitable sisters who couldn t get along Almost every character Jesus celebrates is upsetting somebody s apple cart And this week I guess it was mine But it is when Scripture makes us feel uncomfortable when we sense we are resisting the point of a story that we have to look more carefully at that story and why we re resisting it Our point of resistance is exactly the point where God is speaking directly to us So let s think a little more about Jesus conclusion When he speaks about the children of this world he uses a word that could be translated secular In essence he s saying Okay people of faith my children you have something to learn from the secular people around you who know how to speak to this generation The scholars I read this week argued that Jesus isn t recommending we cook the books or cheat our bosses out of something It s not dishonesty Jesus commends What Jesus and the boss in the story admire is the manager s daring to secure his future at the tables in the homes of people he normally wouldn t bother with This shrewd calculating manager seeks friends in unlikely places It s as if a cunning loan officer rewrote mortgages during the 2008 crisis so people hanging on by a thread could actually keep their homes no matter what bank policy said Imagine how popular such a loan officer would have been back then The people whose houses he d saved would ve consider him a saint a shrewd saint They d welcome him for dinner for sure So Jesus is really asking us as people of faith children of light how daring we can be to secure the future of God s kingdom With whom could we make common cause in order to promote the future God is creating At least a couple of books I read this week propose that we followers of Jesus need to be a little more shrewd a little un orthodox in our allegiances and collaborations in order to open up a new future for God s people While I was mulling over this suggestion the government of Quebec was all over the news with its proposed charter of Quebec values appealing blatantly I think to those who fear the visible minorities they see on the streets and in the news So does the parable suggest we d join Pauline Marois cause to defend our place in society or are there even more unlikely friendships we might consider if we are both prudent and daring on God s behalf Percolating in my mind at the same time as the Quebec debate was a recent report on the 2011 census

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/265-shrewd-saints?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • God's Family First
    Scout Master Leatherlips blew his starting whistle Fergie took a good leap hopping down hill But the mud slowed him down And in the pond Roger swam right past him Fergie nearly caught up to Roger on the hill but Roger crossed the finish line a nose ahead Webster came third puffing hard as he finished I came second this time complained Fergie with a big sigh I ll never win Did you try your best asked his father Fergie nodded Well that s what counts Winning isn t everything you know But winning feels so much better Fergie said Thinking about the story When we try our best to do something we often try hard and get tired And even when we try our best things may not work out just the way we wanted Still it s good to know we tried our best We know we ve done all we can Do you ever think about trying hard trying your very best to do something for God When God asks us to do important things in the world like loving our neighbours or helping someone in trouble it s important to try our best to see how we can make a difference But even if it doesn t work out quite the way we planned I think God is glad to know that we tried our best and put heart mind strength and soul into what we do for God s sake Chant Love the Lord your God with all your heart Love the Lord your God with all your soul Love the Lord your God with all your mind Love the Lord your God with all that you are Scene Three The next contest was for arts and crafts The frogs could make whatever they liked Paint or draw or write a story Make something or sing a song Whatever comes from your soul said Scout Master Leatherlips Where s my soul Fergie asked his Mum Mother Frog thought for a minute Your soul is what makes you special It is what makes you different from every other frog in the world It s where your dreams live And where your tears and your laughter come from Fergie tried making different things that week He made a mud sculpture of a dragonfly but then he jumped on it when Freddie asked him what it was If you can t tell what it is I won t win Fergie didn t feel good about any of the things he made The night of the judging he left the house with a piece of paper in his pocket No one knew what he d done Roger was called on first He proudly showed his mud sculpture What is it asked Mr Leatherlips It s a lily pad said Roger Oh I see I think it looks like a pancake Freddie whispered to Fergie Webster had learned a song But he was very nervous and he forgot a few

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/266-gods-family-first?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • The Best Gift Ever
    kind of questions the journalist asked what she saw how she escaped how she was feeling But then she was asked how surviving this terrifying ordeal would affect her going forward I was rather annoyed at the interviewer thinking How can someone answer that question just two days after such an overwhelming experience But the young woman rose to occasion She said I used to think life was my right that I was entitled to everything I enjoyed Now I know that every moment is a gift Her clarity caught me by surprise She recognized on camera she had just received the best gift ever her life and the opportunity never to take it for granted again Her words came back to me this week when I read the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus on his way to Jerusalem on his way toward the cross Though leprosy was not a fatal condition it was the kind of visible disability which made lepers outcasts They had to warn anyone approaching to keep away So we re told those lepers kept their distance from Jesus even while they cried out for his mercy They needed a gift not just to cure their skin disease but also to heal their place in society They needed the gift of an opportunity to rejoin their families and belong once again And that s the gift Jesus gave them when he sent them to the priests to have their healing confirmed their new social status blessed Undoubtedly this was the best gift anyone could have given them the best gift ever But only one of them recognized the gift and returned to Jesus to say thanks Now it seems Jesus was either puzzled or annoyed that just one leper took the time to show his thanks And that one leper turned out to be a Samaritan someone despised in those days for belonging to the wrong religion Jesus couldn t fathom that this foreigner was the only one to recognize his healing as God s gift Of course we don t know anything about those other lepers but I wonder if they simply viewed healing as their right restoring them to their rightful place in society and settling the injustice of being outcasts Were they just determined to go back to business as usual at long last But the woman who survived the mall attack and the Samaritan leper remind us that life is God s gift vulnerable and precious And when that gift has been put at risk through violence or disease or social discrimination we come to value it even more deeply when life is restored to us No more business as usual Rather than seeing life as a right we expect we are moved to thankfulness each day as we appreciate just how precious the gift of life is At coffee hour last weeka couple of us were chatting about the ongoing challenges for families whose lives and homes were

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/268-the-best-gift-ever?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • How do you spell 'Presbyterian'?
    told to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt That word contempt gives us our clue It s a very strong word Luke uses it in only one other story When Jesus stands accused facing his cross Herod and the soldiers treat him with contempt Luke 23 11 For Luke to hold someone in contempt is to stand in judgment on God s own Son It is to put oneself in the place of God And that is what the Pharisee does in his prayer God I thank you I am not like other people What a line The Pharisee doesn t thank God for what God has done The Pharisee brags about his own righteousness He judges other people to be rogues and thieves like the tax collector in the temple unclean and despicable He s telling God he is best in prayer by reminding God of all the righteous things he accomplishes in a week It never dawns on him that his sense of his own rightness is actually an act of contempt towards God And that s why the tax collector is found best in prayer that day He stands far off recognizing he s already distanced himself from God by his way of living He won t even raise his eyes toward heaven He can only seek God s mercy with a simple cry from the heart And Jesus surprised his listeners when he concluded it was this one the one who had done great wrong to others who was set right with God that day The one who held others in contempt the one who was so sure of his own rightness and righteousness was judged lacking To be best in prayer is to reject any notion we are better than others To be best in prayer is to stand humbly before God recognizing our own faults and frailties never judging the faults and frailties of others Recently two occasions reminded me of the power of contempt in people s lives First came my day at the Truth Reconciliation hearing in Lethbridge To hear the stories of what happened to many native children taken from their homes and families to residential school is to recall the contempt written into Canadian law in those days Aboriginal people were not considered human persons and their values and communities judged as uncivilized Not for all but for many of those children their teachers contempt has left scars on their souls as they remember harsh words the numbers which replaced their names in roll call the beatings beyond any reasonable discipline and the shame they felt day after month after year That shame created its own legacy of alcoholism and abuse which in turn has earned these people more contempt from many of us Yet in Lethbridge the 3 of us from St John s who attended were so warmly embraced by the members of the Blood Tribe whom we met this

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/269-how-do-you-spell-presbyterian?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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  • Try to Remember
    The reality is that whether in the realm of international affairs or in conflict between individuals we are not always proud of what we remember The best minds of our church prepared a document The Theology of Peace Making It encourages believers to work for a just and peaceful society God does not glorify our wars nor allow us to take joy and satisfaction freely from defeating our enemy How much joy and satisfaction have you ever noted as today our armed forces personnel return home from active duty Very little I d say Author Rita Snowden tells a story of W W 2 In France some soldiers with their sergeant brought the body of a dead comrade to a French cemetery to have him buried The priest told them gently that he was bound to ask if their comrade had been a baptized adherent of the Roman Catholic Church They said that they did not know The priest said that he was very sorry but in that case he could not permit burial in his churchyard So sadly the soldiers took their comrade and buried him just outside the fence The next day they came back to see that the grave was all right and to their astonishment could not find it Search as they might they could find no trace of the freshly dug soil As they were about to leave in bewilderment the priest came up He told them that his heart had been troubled because of his refusal to allow their dead comrade to be buried in the churchyard so early in the morning he had risen from his bed and with his own hands had moved the fence to include the body of the soldier who had died for France This story illustrates what Paul is trying to help us remember in today s reading from Ephesians 2 13 14 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ For he is our peace in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall that is the hostility between us So many barriers so many fences so many dividing walls so many petty differences blind prejudices stuff of no consequence for the long term Isaiah 57 19 had heard God say Peace peace to the far and to the near Christ is our Peace He is that Third Party who reconciles us to God and to each other That s what the Cross of Christ means for us the bridge by which we may come back to God our sure access to him When two parties disagree they can be brought back together through another who loves them both Christ has brought us in from the cold from the other side of the fence he has drawn us near to him and ushered us back into his good graces Once far off we have been brought near

    Original URL path: http://stjohnsmedicinehat.ca/worship-and-the-arts/sermons/2013-archive/270-try-to-remember?tmpl=component&print=1&page= (2016-02-13)
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