Monday, January 28, 2008

January 28th - 1st February 2008

CALENDAR

Monday, January 28th
Office Closed & Tim’s Day Off.
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study. For more information please contact Gladys Marshall

Thursday, January 31st
7-8 am - Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Catherine Ripley for more information
7-8 am - Men’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Tim Chesterton for more information,

Saturday, February 2nd
Tim’s Day Off.

Sunday, February 3rd - Epiphany 4
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Classes


GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Andrea Deakin
• Lloyd & Char Dennis

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Some of our Altar Guild - Kathy Hughes, Michelle Lobreau, Peggy Major, Gladys Marshall & Leslie Pyra.

St. Margaret’s News

Annual General Meeting
NOTICE is hereby given that the Annual Meeting of Parishioners will be held on the 10th day of February, A.D. 2008, at 12.00 noon, in the church, at which time all baptized persons regularly attending Services of worship in this Parish or otherwise regularly receiving the administrations of the Clergy of this Parish are entitled to attend.

PANCAKE SUPPER - YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN US AT ST. MARGARET’S ON TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5th at 6.30pm FOR OUR ANNUAL PANCAKE SUPPER. PLEASE SIGN UP ON THE SHEET IN THE FOYER.

New Hymn Books - Curious?
St. Margaret’s have purchased new hymn books, with hymns both old and new. Please take a look at some copies on the table in the foyer before they are introduced on February 3rd.

If you have anything you wish to add to the bulletin insert please contact Nicky at the church office before she prints the bulletins on Fridays.

All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral - Refuge in the City
Mid-day communion 12:10, Monday to Friday at 10035 - 103 Street.

Other Upcoming Events

New Courses at St. Margaret’s

'Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense' is a ten week book and video study with Bishop Tom Wright (Tuesday evenings, February 12th - April 15th). Participants will need to purchase a copy of Tom Wright's book Simply Christian, cost $20.00, which will be provided on the first week of the course. In order to give us time to order the books, the registration deadline is January 22nd. Note: for any adults who are interested in confirmation, this course will also double as an adult confirmation course. Please talk to Tim if you would like to use it as such.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Calendar - February 2008

St. Margaret’s Anglican Church
Calendar – February 2008

Regular Office Hours: Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - Noon


Saturday, February 2nd
Tim’s Day Off

Sunday, February 3rd - Epiphany 4
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Class

Monday, February 4th
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Monday Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, February 5th
6.30pm - Pancake Supper @ St. Margaret’s

Wednesday, February 6th
7.00 pm - Ash Wednesday Eucharist

Thursday, February 7th
7-8am - Women’s & Men’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café

Saturday, February 9th
10-3 pm - “Following in the Footsteps of Christ” #2 @ St. Margaret’s

Sunday, February 10th - Lent 1
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
12pm - Annual General Meeting
7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Class

Monday, February 11th
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, February 12th
11.15am - St Joseph’s Eucharist
7.30 pm - ‘Simply Christian’ #1

Wednesday, February 13th
12-2.30 pm - Tim at Deanery Clericus Meeting

Thursday, February 14th
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café

Friday, February 15th
6.30pm - Couples Night @ Church

Saturday, February 16th
Tim’s Day Off

Sunday, February 17th - Lent 2
9am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School

Monday, February 18th - Family Day
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Off.

Tuesday, February 19th
7.30 pm - ‘Simply Christian’ #2

Wednesday, February 20th
7.15 pm - Vestry

Thursday, February 21st
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café

Friday, February 22nd
7.30pm - 9.30pm - Christian Basics

Saturday, February 23rd
9.30am - 5pm - Christian Basics

Sunday, February 24th - Lent 3
9.00 am - Eucharist
9.45 am - JOINT COFFEE
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Class

Monday, February 25th
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Of
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, February 26th
7.30 pm ‘Simply Christian’ #3

Thursday, February 28th
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café

Thursday, January 24, 2008

February 2008 Roster

February 3rd - Epiphany 4

Greeter/Sidespeople - Aasens
Counter - C. Aasen/G. Hughes
Reader & Psalm - T. Wittkopf
Readings: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Lay Administrant - G. Hughes
2nd Administrant - M. Rys
Intercessor - P. Leney
Lay Reader - E. Gerber (Matthew 5:1-12)
Altar Guild - 9am M. Woytkiw/10:30 T. Wittkopf
Prayer during - P. Major
Communion - M. Chesterton
Nursery Supervisor - K. Hughes
Sunday School - C. Ripley
Kitchen - M. Chesterton

February 10th - Lent 1

Greeter/Sidespeople - Gerbers
Counter - G. Leney/T. Wittkopf
Reader & Psalm - M. Rys
Readings: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19
Lay Administrant - D. Schindel
2nd Administrant - A. Zinck
Intercessor - D. MacNeill
Lay Reader - D. MacNeill (Matthew 4:1-11)
Altar Guild - 9am P. Major /10:30 L. Pyra
Prayer during - K. Hughes
Communion - M. Chesterton
Nursery Supervisor - P. Leney
Sunday School - M. Aasen
Kitchen - B & M Mirtle

February 17th - Lent 2

Greeter/Sidespeople - Schindels
Counter - D. Schindel/C. Aasen
Reader & Psalm - R. Betty
Readings:Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Lay Administrant - E. Gerber
2nd Administrant - L. Thompson
Intercessor - M. Rys
Lay Reader - D. MacNeill (John 3:1-17)
Altar Guild - 9am M. Woytkiw /10:30 M. Lobreau
Prayer during - M. Chesterton
Communion - P. Major
Nursery Supervisor - M. Aasen
Sunday School - S. Chesterton
Kitchen - S. Gerber

February 24th - Lent 3 - JOINT COFFEE SUNDAY

Greeter/Sidespeople - Hughes’
Counter - G. Hughes/G. Leney
Reader & Psalm - B. Mirtle
Readings:Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11
Lay Administrant - C. Aasen
2nd Administrant - A. Zinck
Intercessor - L. Thompson
Lay Reader - L. Thompson (John 4:5-42)
Altar Guild - 9am P. Major /10:30 K. Hughes
Prayer during - E. Gerber
Communion - M. Rys
Nursery Supervisor - G. Hughes
Sunday School- V. Spaulding
Kitchen - B & M Woytkiw

Monday, January 21, 2008

This Week January 21st - 27th

Monday, January 21st
Office Closed.
Tim at a Clergy retreat until Wednesday 23rd.

Thursday, January 24th
7-8 am - Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Catherine Ripley for more information.
7-8 am - Men’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Tim Chesterton for more information.
11.30 am - Seniors Lunch @ St. Margaret’s.

Saturday, January 26th
9.30 - 4.30pm - Workshop - ‘The Story the Bible Tells’ @ Church

Sunday, January 27th - Epiphany 3
9.00 am Eucharist
10.30 am Eucharist & Sunday School
12.00 pm Sunday School Teachers’ Meeting
7.30 pm Youth Confirmation Classes


GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Peter, Janis, Veronica & Charlotte Davis
• Lydia De Jong

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Youth Confirmation Classes

St. Margaret’s News

Senior’s Lunch - that was postponed last week because of bad weather will now be taking place this Thursday, January 24th. Please contact Pat Leney for more informati0n.

Annual General Meeting
NOTICE is hereby given that the Annual Meeting of Parishioners will be held on the 10th day of February, A.D. 2008, at 12.00 noon, in the church, at which time all baptized persons regularly attending Services of worship in this Parish or otherwise regularly receiving the administrations of the Clergy of this Parish are entitled to attend.

New Hymn Books - Curious?
St. Margaret’s have purchased new hymn books, with hymns both old and new. Please take a look at some copies on the table in the foyer before they are introduced on February 3rd.

Bissell Center Lunch
St. Margaret’s congregation along with McClure United Church have agreed to serve at the lunch offered by Inner City Ministry on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008. They routinely serve 250 to 300 people. We are responsible for providing half of the food.

We are looking for the following foods:
Desserts (squares, cookies)
Fruits - apples, oranges, bananas, grapes and cantelope (uncut)
Raw vegetables.
Pickles (jars of either dill or sweet pickles)

We will be purchasing the ingredients for the sandwiches. If you would prefer to make a donation to cover food cost for the sandwiches please enclose your donation in the Sunday Offertory Envelope. State on the front of the envelope that the offering is for the Bissell Lunch.

The church will be open Friday 25th from 7.30 - 9.30pm for people to drop food items off in the church foyer and Saturday January 26th from 9.30am - 5pm. For more information please contact Maggie Woytkiw. Thank you.

If you have anything you wish to add to the bulletin insert please contact Nicky at the church office before she prints the bulletins on Fridays.

All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral - Refuge in the City
Mid-day communion 12:10, Monday to Friday at 10035 - 103 Street.

Other Upcoming Events

New Courses at St. Margaret’s

‘The Story the Bible Tells' is a study of the 'big picture' of the Bible; participants will gain a clear sense of the time line of the Bible and where the main events fit in. No cost: bring your favourite Bible and a bag lunch for Saturday. Please note that his workshop has been reduced in length. It will now be restricted to Saturday January 26th, 9.30 - 4.30pm.

'Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense' is a ten week book and video study with Bishop Tom Wright (Tuesday evenings, February 12th - April 15th). Participants will need to purchase a copy of Tom Wright's book Simply Christian, cost $20.00, which will be provided on the first week of the course. In order to give us time to order the books, the registration deadline is January 22nd. Note: for any adults who are interested in confirmation, this course will also double as an adult confirmation course. Please talk to Tim if you would like to use it as such.

More information about both these courses can be found in a leaflet on the table in the foyer, 'Opportunities for Growing and Learning Together'. Signup sheets are also on the table in the foyer.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sermon for Epiphany 2: John 1:35-42

Contagious Christianity

I had an interesting experience a few years ago on a trip from Calgary to London. It was quite a long flight - eight and a half hours - and for the first six hours or so my neighbour and I didn’t talk very much. But about two hours before the end of the flight I got out my Bible and did my morning Bible readings. My neighbour noticed this and he asked me if I was a Christian. When I said that I was, he began to talk about himself. He had been brought up in a home with little if any contact with the church, and had lived that way himself for most of his life. But in the last couple of years things had changed and he had now become a regular Sunday churchgoer. A number of things had led to this change. He talked about his growing awareness that financial prosperity wasn’t enough for him; he was hungry for something deeper. He also mentioned the fact that his daughter had narrowly missed being killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. As we spoke it was obvious to me that his understanding of Christianity was still in its early stages, but nonetheless his churchgoing was really helping him find the answers he was looking for. He said “When our minister speaks, what he says makes sense to me”.

I tell this story because there’s a mythology around in churches that outsiders are universally resistant to the Gospel. Sometimes that’s true, but my experience has been that the Holy Spirit is quietly working in the lives of many people, creating a hunger for genuine spiritual experience and a desire to know more. All you and I have to do is to show up when we’re needed: to listen to the Spirit’s leading so that when it’s necessary for a human being to speak a word, we’re there to speak it.

For a case in point in the New Testament, let’s take Simon Peter. In the early years of the Christian church Simon Peter was a giant figure. With James, John and Paul, he was one of the four greatest leaders of the early church. He preached the first great evangelistic sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the sermon that resulted in the conversion of three thousand people. In the early chapters of Acts he is the undisputed leader of the Jerusalem church.

But none of this would have happened if it had not been for the events in our gospel reading for today. At a certain point in his life, Simon Peter was receptive to hearing the message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. And at that point, a quiet, unassuming person, who never grabbed the limelight or created headlines, put in a simple word of witness. That person was Simon’s brother Andrew. Think of the consequences for early Christianity if Andrew hadn’t spoken when he did! Undoubtedly the greatest service Andrew ever did for Jesus was this simple word of witness to his brother on the very first day of his own Christian journey!

But Andrew didn’t stop there. He is mentioned three times in John’s Gospel, and every time he appears, he’s bringing someone to Jesus. The first time is today’s story where he brings his brother Simon Peter. The second time is the feeding of the five thousand, and it’s John who tells us that the one who brought the boy with the five loaves of bread and two fishes to Jesus was Andrew. The third story is in the twelfth chapter of John, where some Greeks in Jerusalem want to meet with Jesus. Once again, Andrew is the one who brings them to meet the Master.

I don’t get the sense from the Gospels that Andrew was a great preacher or an outstanding leader in the early church. However, he excelled in this ministry of introductions. You and I will probably not be Peters - we probably won’t preach sermons at which three thousand people will be converted. However, we can all be Andrews - ordinary Christians who are faithful in speaking a word of witness where a word is called for. And there are two things we can learn from Andrew.

First, Andrew had a real faith to share, something that was making a difference in his life, something that he wanted to pass on to other people.

Some years ago I was talking with some members of a little country church about our call to be witnesses to our friends and families. One older lady in the group said “But none of my family want to hear about religion, and they all say they’re too busy to come to church”. When I heard how she had been approaching her family and friends, I could well understand her resistance to the idea of giving it another try! What she had been sharing with them was not good news – it was all about duty, and going to church, and getting involved with institutional religion. Understandably, she was having a difficult time making this sound attractive!

Andrew’s approach was very different. Look at what he says to his brother in verse 41: “We have found the Messiah!” ‘The Messiah’ - the long expected king who would set Israel free and inaugurate the reign of God on earth! This was a story that was immediately relevant; it meant God was at work to change the world, and Jesus was the key to his work. Andrew’s language is the language of personal discovery; you can hear the sense of excitement in his voice.

How did Andrew discover this? Well, we read in today’s gospel how John the Baptist encouraged him to become a follower of Jesus, and how he and another friend went and stayed for an afternoon and an evening with Jesus. No doubt during that time they asked questions and listened to Jesus’ answers; no doubt his personality had a big impact on them, which was why the first thing Andrew did was to go and tell his brother about it. His experience of Jesus motivated him to want to introduce other people to him.

A few years ago, on a Sunday afternoon before Christmas, our family went to see The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring. I well remember that when we came out of the movie Nicholas said, “That’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!” I was excited about it too, and I was certainly enthusiastic about telling my friends and family about it. I wasn’t talking about duty – “You are required to go to see this movie!” Rather, I was talking about something that had added enjoyment and value to my own life, something I was glad to recommend to other people.

So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: what value and meaning is our Christian faith adding to our daily lives? What difference does it make to us to be followers of Jesus? Is there a strength and joy we’re getting out of our Christian life? Is there something about our relationship with God that makes us say, “I wouldn’t want to be without this”? My friend Harold Percy likes to put it this way: “What good news about Jesus have you experienced, that you can share with others?” In other words we’re not just passing on hearsay: we’re passing on something that has impacted our own lives in an experiential way.

I will tell you two pieces of good news that I have experienced, two things that I’m happy to share with other people. The first is that prayer really does make a difference in my life. I don’t mean to suggest that I always get everything I ask for in my prayers. What I mean is that the discipline of taking time each day to be quiet with God, to read the scriptures and listen for what God is saying to me in them, and to respond by thanking and confessing and praising and bringing my needs and the needs of others to God – this daily experience is like a spiritual sheet anchor for me. The storms can be raging around – in other words, I can be going through all sorts of stress and trouble – but as long as my prayer anchor is in place, I know that in the end I’m going to be okay. It’s like a daily lifeline to God.

The other piece of good news that I have experienced is that Jesus is actually a very smart person. I’ve discovered that one of the things that ‘believing in Jesus’ means is actually ‘believing Jesus’ – believing what he says about the kingdom of God, and believing that the way of life he describes for us is a good way. I’ve discovered that taking the initiative to be reconciled with people, and forgiving those who hurt you, and living more with less, is a good way of living. It really does lead to more peace and more joy. This is something I’ve discovered from my own experience.

So the first thing I learn from Andrew is that I need to have a real faith to share, something that’s adding meaning and value to my own life. And the second thing I notice about Andrew is that he seems to have been a very relational person. He was the sort of person who enjoyed talking with other people and spending time with them. When he found a faith that made a difference to him, he thought of his brother Simon and what it could mean to him too. Later on in the gospel, Andrew was the one who knew that there was a boy in the crowd with five loaves of bread and two fishes who could share them with Jesus. He was the sort of guy who knew these things, because he made time to make contact with people. I get the sense from reading about him that Andrew was an approachable sort of guy, someone who people felt comfortable talking to and bringing their questions to.

If we are going to have opportunities to share our Christian faith with other people, it won’t happen if we never spend time with other people! Neither will it happen if we spend our lives in a little Christian bubble, with all our friends being Christians and not an agnostic among them!

But of course, none of us actually lives in a Christian bubble. We all have friends and family members and work colleagues who as far as we know are not actually followers of Jesus. Hopefully we like those people, we care about them, and we want the best for them. So there are all sorts of opportunities for us to be a witness, by the way we live our lives and by the things we say.

The subject of building positive relationships, relationships which in time can become bridges for the good news into people’s lives, is a huge subject, and in the last four minutes of this sermon there isn’t a lot I can say about it. But here’s perhaps the most important thing I’ve discovered about it over the years, the one rule that I’d like to impress on people most of all: generally speaking, if people think you are interested in their lives, then they will be interested in your life too.

In other words, if I wake up one morning and suddenly decide that my friend Jack is a good potential target for a bit of witnessing, it’s probably not a good idea for me to go up to him out of the blue and say, “Jack, are you saved?” Not that I think many of you would do that – Anglicans are usually pretty shy about that sort of thing! We’d have to get a hundred times more pushy before we got pushy!

No – it’s probably a better idea for me to take time to get to know my friend Jack a bit better – to find out about his work and his family and his interests and all that. Perhaps I discover that he’s really interested in stamp collecting – a rather obscure subject, and not one I’m very interested in, myself! But nonetheless, I can decide to be interested in it, and to ask questions and find out about it, because I like Jack and that’s what friends do, isn’t it? And all the time I’ll be praying for Jack, and asking the Holy Spirit to give me an opportunity to share the good news with him in a caring and positive way. Sooner or later, that opportunity will come.


My friend Harold Percy tells a story about a businessman in his church who had recently decided to become a follower of Jesus. He was sharing his story with a small group in the church. He talked about a colleague at work, someone who he liked and had become quite good friends with. Over the years they spent a lot of time together, both at work and socially, and gradually this businessman found out that his friend was a Christian. Occasionally he asked questions about this, and his friend always replied in a gentle and respectful way. You’ve guessed where this is leading: eventually the businessman decided that he wanted to become a follower of Jesus himself, and his friend helped him take the first steps on that journey.

When he was telling this story, the businessman said, “I found out later that my friend had my name on his daily prayer list. Every day he was praying that the Lord would lead me to faith in Christ, and that he would have opportunities to share the good news with me”. Harold asked him, “Were you offended when you found out about that?” “Not at all”, the businessman replied; “I thank God for my friend every day”.

You and I can be like that businessman’s friend, who sounds to me as if he was quite a bit like Andrew in our gospel! Remember, Andrew wasn’t a forceful leader or a spectacular preacher, and we have no record of outstanding miracles from him like we do for Peter or Paul. He was just a man who loved Christ and loved people and wanted to bring them together. He had a faith worth sharing, and he had friends worth sharing it with. If we have those two things, then God can use us to spread the gospel.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sermon for the Baptism of the Lord: Matthew 3:13-17

A New Beginning

I well remember the first time I tried to read The Lord of the Rings. I was about fifteen, I think; a lot of people were talking about the book at the time, and I decided to try it out. I went to the local library to look for it, but the first volume, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, was out, so I just borrowed the second volume, ‘The Two Towers’. Now, there was a very short summary of the plot of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ at the beginning of this second volume, but even with that help, it was very difficult to get into the flow of the story, and in fact I think I gave up after about fifty pages. It wasn’t until a few years later that I read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ all the way through, and then the story made sense to me, because I started at the beginning.

I want to suggest to you that a lot of people who are interested in the Christian faith get into trouble for this very same reason – they don’t start at the beginning. Where do they start? Well, the most obvious thing that Christians do these days seems to be going to church, so people who are interested in learning about Christianity start coming to church. After a while people notice them, and they get added to a parish list and get a set of envelopes. Someone finds out that they’re good at a particular job that needs doing around the church, and before you know it they’re on a list of volunteers. They get involved in all the activities, but deep down inside there’s this nagging doubt, “Where’s God? I wasn’t really looking for more social activities or more work to do – I was looking for God? How can I find him?”

The problem is that they haven’t started at the beginning, and so their Christian story isn’t making any sense. Not that there’s anything wrong with going to church, but churchgoing is meant to take us right back to the heart of the Gospel and to the foundation truths that give us a good start in the Christian life. And we find these truths in our gospel reading for today which tells the story of Jesus’ baptism. What does Jesus’ baptism have to say to us about our own baptism and how we start out in the Christian life?

Let’s think about baptism for a minute and what John the Baptist was doing here by baptizing people. In the ancient world a number of religions baptized people. Jews did it to Gentiles who wanted to become Jews; they baptized them all as a sign of the washing away of uncleanness before God, and then the men were circumcised, which was the covenant sign God had given to Abraham. But before John the Baptist, no one had suggested that Jews needed to be baptized; they were seen as being clean enough already! But now John came preaching that the Kingdom of God was near – in other words the time was coming when God would send his King to set the world to rights and bring peace and justice for Israel. People of course were excited about that, and thousands of people flocked to hear John. If they wanted to sign up for the new kingdom, he told them to repent – to turn away from their old way of life – and to be baptized as a sign of this. Baptism was an obvious sign for repentance; sin has often been seen as making us dirty in some way, and repentance and forgiveness are a sort of cleansing.

But now Jesus comes to the river to be baptized, and if you look in our gospel reading, you’ll see that John is a bit confused about this. “I need to be baptized by you”, he says to Jesus, “and do you come to me?” (v.14). Baptism is about repenting from sin, but Jesus has nothing he needs to repent of, so why does he need to be baptized? Makes perfect sense to me! But in fact Jesus disagrees: “Let it be so now”, he says to John, “for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness”(v.15).

We might have a similar question as we bring Makynna for baptism this morning. She’s a tiny baby, only a few weeks old; what does she need to be baptized for? She’s not old enough to know what sin is; what sort of washing does she need, apart from the obvious one that occurs regularly, several times a day!

But in fact baptism is about more than washing from sin. There are whole layers of meaning in the act of baptism in the New Testament, and the baptism of Jesus has a lot to teach us about this. Let’s take a closer look.

One thing we see in the baptism of Jesus is a declaration that he is God’s Son. We read in verse 17 that when Jesus was baptized ‘a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”’.

What a wonderful thing for a son to hear from his father! In our culture men don’t always feel comfortable about saying that sort of thing, but I suspect that there are many children who are walking around with a big empty space inside because they just aren’t sure whether or not their parents are pleased with them. But here we have God the Father, right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, before he had healed anyone or told any parables or done anything out of the ordinary at all, saying, “This is my beloved son and I’m very pleased with him”.

Baptism speaks to us about becoming God’s children. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he says this: ‘For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ’ (3:26-27). And just as Jesus received the affirmation of his sonship before he had done anything spectacular to earn it, so too God declares that we are his children as a free gift - what Christians call an act of pure grace - which we don’t have to earn.

Here’s the way it works. In that act of grace, Jesus gave his life for you and me and everyone else, so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be brought back into God’s family. That’s God’s great rescue operation for the world. That great rescue operation is applied to your life in the act of baptism. Through your baptism God’s forgiveness and adoption are offered to you, like a hand of rescue reaching out to a drowning person. You respond to that free gift by faith, which means trust. “Ah!” you say; “There is something I can do!” Yes, there is - but let’s be clear about what it is. If you’re drowning and a person reaches out their hand to save you, you don’t save yourself by clasping their hand; you simply take advantage of their strength and skill. Faith is our hand reaching up to take the hand of God and receive the salvation he gives us in our baptism. Or if you like, in your baptism God says to you “You are my son or daughter” and in faith you reply “Yes: I am God’s son or daughter”.

So ‘starting at the very beginning’ is all about grace, which means God’s love for us that we don’t have to deserve. Some of us here were baptized as children when we’d done absolutely nothing to deserve it. Some of us were baptized as adults after we’d done lots of things not to deserve it! Whenever we were baptized, in our baptism we were made the children of God, and when we came to Jesus in faith and welcomed him into our hearts we accepted that; we began to enjoy the special relationship with the Father that he’s given us.

The second thing we notice about the baptism of Jesus is that it was the beginning of a new life for him. Up until that time, he’d lived quietly in Nazareth with his family. But now, at the age of thirty, he came to the Jordan and was baptised by John. From that point on he left his old way of life and plunged into three years of public ministry, in which he announced that God’s kingdom was coming, and showed by his actions what God’s kingdom was all about.

When we look at the pictures that are used for baptism in the New Testament, they all include this idea of a new beginning. We’re told that being baptised is like being born again; it’s like dying and rising again with Jesus; it’s like being adopted into a family. And at the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). To be baptized, Jesus tells us here, is to begin a new life as his disciple.

So you’re not only a child of God, adopted into his family by a gift of his grace; you’re also a disciple of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus have taken a long hard look at the world around them and concluded that, even though it’s full of voices wanting to give us advice, no other voice seems to get it exactly right. Disciples of Jesus realize that in the life and teaching of Jesus they can see God more clearly than they can see him anywhere else in all of creation. And so they’ve come to Jesus with this attitude: “Lord, will you help me to see life as you see it and live life as you taught it?”

Baptism is the beginning of this life of discipleship. The true Christian idea of infant baptism is that Christian parents who are themselves following Jesus want their children to follow him too, so they have them baptized because they believe it’s never too early to start learning to follow Jesus. Adults who are baptized are putting their faith in Jesus, leaving the old way of life behind and starting a new life as followers of Jesus.

So when we were baptized we were set down at the beginning of a new way of life. And as we try to learn this new way of life we aren’t left to our own resources either. Let’s look at the third thing Jesus’ baptism teaches us about ‘starting at the very beginning’. In his baptism Jesus had a special experience of God’s power as the Holy Spirit came down on him. In today’s gospel we read, ‘And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him’ (v.16).

In my life I’ve been in a rowboat and a sailboat, and I’ve got no hesitation in telling you that I like the sailboat better. In a rowboat, the rower has to do all the work. Every inch of movement is a result of the rower’s work. Now the crew of a sailboat also work, but their work doesn’t move the boat; what they do is to raise the sails and steer the boat in such a way as to allow the wind to drive it.

There are lots of Christians who are rowing their Christian lives instead of taking advantage of the power of the Spirit, which in Greek is the same word as ‘wind’. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, he was also a human being and in himself he wasn’t strong enough to ‘row his own life’. So in his baptism the Holy Spirit came down on him, and from then on he was able to do his work in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The same is true for us. Some people say the Christian way of life is difficult. I disagree with that. The Christian way of life isn’t difficult - it’s impossible. All this stuff about loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbours as ourselves and forgiving those who hurt us and denying ourselves and so on - it’s impossible for any normal sinner like me. That’s why Jesus told his first disciples not to try to do it by themselves. After his resurrection he told them “stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

When God adopts us into his family by baptism, and when we accept our adoption by faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us. But we’re also told in the scriptures to go on and on being filled with the Holy Spirit. It seems that, if we want to, we can just be satisfied with a little pilot light of the Spirit, glowing somewhere deep down inside. But we don’t have to be satisfied with that; indeed, God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with that. He wants to turn up the thermostat so that all the burners fire up! In other words, he wants us to live each day totally filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that we are able to do things that would be impossible for us without him.

Some Christians are scared of all this talk about being filled with the Holy Spirit. It sounds weird and supernatural to them; they’re afraid of surrendering control over their lives to God. If that’s the way you feel, let me ask you something: How happy are you with where you’ve gotten to in your life under your own control? Most people I know are willing to admit that they’ve not done too well on their own. Jesus is inviting us to take advantage of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the God who loves us, who gave his life for us and wants only what is best for us. There’s nothing to be afraid of in trusting God. He loves us more than we love ourselves.

In the world today there are many voices wanting to tell you who you are, and what you should be doing. But the most important truth about you is what God says about you, and in your baptism God says to you, “You are my beloved child; I am pleased with you”. In your baptism God tells you that the most important thing you have to do in your life is to learn to follow Jesus. And God puts the Holy Spirit into you to give you the power to live as a follower of Jesus. This is where we have to start if we are to understand the Christian life. These are the things we need to be sure about before we go on to the next stage in our Christian journey.

You and I are God’s children. We are disciples of Jesus. God the Holy Spirit lives in us. We don’t have to earn any of that; God has given it to us as a gift. All we have to do is believe it. Like a little child learning to walk, we just have to hold up our hand in faith, grab onto the hand of our heavenly Father and let him show us the way. This is not about fear and superstition; it’s about love and freedom. And it all belongs to you, because you belong to God.

Monday, January 14, 2008

This Week January 14th - 20th 2008

Monday, January 14th
Office Closed.
Tim’s Day Off.

Please note there will not be a Eucharist at St. Joseph’s this Tuesday as advertised in the calendar. The Eucharist took place last Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 16th
7.15 pm - Vestry

Thursday, January 17th
7-8 am - Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Catherine Ripley for more information.
7-8 am - Men’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Tim Chesterton for more information.
11.30 am - Seniors Lunch @ Church. See Pat Leney.

Friday, January 18th
6.30pm - POT LUCK SUPPER @ church.

Saturday, January 19th
Tim’s Day Off.

Sunday, January 20th - Epiphany 2
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School

7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Classes at the Aasen’s house.


GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Mavis Darbasie
• Audrey Davis

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Music Leader & Musicians - Marci Chesterton, Elisabeth Bai, Eva Thompson, Wayne Pyra & Jacqui Chesterton.

St. Margaret’s News

POT LUCK SUPPER - THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 18TH
Please come along this Friday and get to know some of your fellow parishioners more over supper and good conversation. All welcome and encouraged to attend. Please see sign up sheet in the foyer.


Annual General Meeting
NOTICE is hereby given that the Annual Meeting of Parishioners will be held on the 10th day of February, A.D. 2008, at 12.00 noon, in the church, at which time all baptized persons regularly attending Services of worship in this Parish or otherwise regularly receiving the administrations of the Clergy of this Parish are entitled to attend.

Please Help - Billets are needed for persons attending the lay leadership training course in St. Albert January 17th - 20th. On the 17th, 18th and 19th, they will live at the conference center, but some from out of town may need accommodation on January 16th and/or January 20th. If your guest room is available, please email Virginia Haase at virginia@scenites.com.

New Hymn Books - Curious?
St. Margaret’s have purchased new hymn books, with hymns both old and new. Please take a look at some copies on the table in the foyer before they are introduced on February 3rd.

Bissell Center Lunch
St. Margaret’s congregation along with McClure United Church have agreed to serve at the lunch offered by Inner City Ministry on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008. They routinely serve 250 to 300 people. We are responsible for providing half of the food.

We are looking for the following foods:
Desserts (squares, cookies)
Fruits - apples, oranges, bananas, grapes and cantelope (uncut)
Raw vegetables.
Pickles (jars of either dill or sweet pickles)

We will be purchasing the ingredients for the sandwiches. If you would prefer to make a donation to cover food cost for the sandwiches please enclose your donation in the Sunday Offertory Envelope. State on the front of the envelope that the offering is for the Bissell Lunch.

The church will be open Friday 25th from 7.30 - 9.30pm for people to drop food items off in the church foyer and Saturday January 26th from 9.30am - 5pm. For more information please contact Maggie Woytkiw. Thank you.

If you have anything you wish to add to the bulletin insert please contact Nicky at the church office before she prints the bulletins on Fridays.

All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral - Refuge in the City
Mid-day communion 12:10, Monday to Friday at 10035 - 103 Street.

Other Upcoming Events

New Courses at St. Margaret’s

‘The Story the Bible Tells' (Friday evening Jan. 25th and Saturday Jan. 26th) is a study of the 'big picture' of the Bible; participants will gain a clear sense of the time line of the Bible and where the main events fit in. No cost: bring your favourite Bible and a bag lunch for Saturday.

'Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense' is a ten week book and video study with Bishop Tom Wright (Tuesday evenings, February 12th - April 15th). Participants will need to purchase a copy of Tom Wright's book Simply Christian, cost $20.00, which will be provided on the first week of the course. In order to give us time to order the books, the registration deadline is January 22nd. Note: for any adults who are interested in confirmation, this course will also double as an adult confirmation course. Please talk to Tim if you would like to use it as such.

More information about both these courses can be found in a leaflet on the table in the foyer, 'Opportunities for Growing and Learning Together'. Signup sheets are also on the table in the foyer.

Monday, January 7, 2008

January 7th - 13th 2008

Monday, January 7th
Office Closed.
Tim’s Day Off.

Tuesday, January 8th
11.15am - St. Joseph’s Eucharist.

Wednesday, January 9th
12-2pm - Tim at Deanery Clericus Meeting.

Thursday, January 10th
7-8am - Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café. See Catherine Ripley for more information
7.30pm - Corporation Meeting @ Bogani Café.

Saturday, January 12th
Tim’s Day Off.

Sunday, January13th - Baptism of the Lord
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School (Baptisms)

GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Tim, Marci, Jacqui & Nicholas Chesterton.
• Garth, Monica, Thomas & Meredith Comba.

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Prayer Chain members.


St. Margaret’s News

Final Water Well Project Total as of December 31st is $36,214.00!
Please note no more donations being accepted for this as this project is now finished.

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton requires more volunteers for January. We will be focusing on drywall; all skill levels are welcome – including beginners. To set up a schedule contact Louise Henein at 479-3566 ext 222 or lhenein@edmonton.hfh.org or send in a completed application form.

Please Help - Billets are needed for persons attending the lay leadership training course in St. Albert January 17th - 20th. On the 17th, 18th and 19th, they will live at the conference center, but some from out of town may need accommodation on January 16th and/or January 20th. If your guest room is available, please email Virginia Haase at virginia@scenites.com.

New Hymn Books - Curious?
St. Margaret’s have purchased new hymn books, with hymns both old and new. Please take a look at some copies on the table in the foyer before they are introduced on February 3rd.

Bissell Center Lunch
St. Margaret’s congregation along with McClure United Church have agreed to serve at the lunch offered by Inner City Ministry on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008. They routinely serve 250 to 300 people. We are responsible for providing half of the food.

We are looking for the following foods:
Desserts (squares, cookies)
Fruits - apples, oranges, bananas, grapes and cantelope (uncut)
Raw vegetables to feed 250 people.
Pickles (jars of either dill or sweet pickles)

We will be purchasing the ingredients for the sandwiches. A work bee will be set up (location to be arranged) on the afternoon of Sat. Jan 26th to make the sandwiches. Please see sign up sheet on the back table for those wishing to help out by providing food. If you would prefer to make a donation to cover food cost for the sandwiches please enclose your donation in the Sunday Offertory Envelope. State on the front of the envelope that the offering is for the Bissell Lunch. We also need volunteers to serve lunch and/or to make sandwiches. A volunteer list will be posted in mid January. For more information please contact Maggie Woytkiw. Thank you.


If you have anything you wish to add to the bulletin insert please contact Nicky at the church office before she prints the bulletins on Fridays.

All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral - Refuge in the City
Mid-day communion 12:10, Monday to Friday at 10035 - 103 Street.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sermon for Epiphany: Matthew 2:1-12

Jesus the King

In the strange language of Anglican Church politics, ‘Archdeacon’ sounds like a weird sort of title. In most dioceses, an archdeacon is an administrator, the one who’s in charge of keeping the diocesan organisation running smoothly. When my friend David Ashdown was Archdeacon of the Diocese of Athabasca, he applied for a Telus calling card – those were the days before cell phones were so common – and he filled in his application as ‘Archdeacon David Ashdown’. When the card arrived, the name on it was not ‘David Ashdown’ but ‘Arch Deacon’! A title had been mistaken for a name.

In the Christian world we’ve got a long history of mistaking a title for a name. We call our Lord, ‘Jesus Christ’, and a lot of people seem to be under the impression that ‘Christ’ is Jesus’ surname – as if he could be addressed formally as ‘Mr. Christ’. But that’s not the case; ‘Christ’ is in fact a title. It’s the Greek form of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, which means ‘anointed one’ – in other words, ‘King’. To call Jesus ‘Christ’ is to call him ‘King’.

In today’s gospel reading Matthew is teaching us that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised King, and that his arrival means that God’s kingdom is now very near. But as I said, the word ‘Messiah’ is Hebrew, and these ideas are very Jewish. How can you and I relate to them today?

Actually, I don’t think it’s all that hard for us to relate. We all dream of a better world, a world where there would be no terrorist attacks and no inequalities between rich and poor. We’d all like to see a world where hatred between different races is unknown, where there is no crime, where people don’t die from strange killer diseases. And we also have dreams for our own lives. No doubt some of those dreams are in the order of the Barenaked Ladies’ song ‘If I had a million dollars’! But in our better moments we also dream about reaching our goals for personal growth, about finally getting free of our negative habits and becoming the kind of person we wish we could be.

The Christian good news tells us that these dreams are not just wishful thinking. The reason we have them is that God put them into our hearts. They point to a deeper longing yet, a longing for the restoration of God’s original plan for his creation. This restoration is going to take place. The day is going to come when evil is eradicated from God’s creation, and when all people experience the peace and justice which is God’s original dream for us.

The Jewish people called this hope ‘the reign of God’ or ‘kingdom of God’. Many of them believed that God would send them a human king to establish it. He would be a good king, like their ancient king David. They called this king ‘the Messiah’, and many of them saw him as a political or military leader. That’s why they were surprised by Jesus, because he came as a servant king, and instead of ‘taking out’ his enemies, he allowed himself to be ‘taken out’ on the cross for all people. The reason he took this route was that he knew that before the world could be changed, human hearts needed to be changed. Our human rebellion against God’s plan has broken our relationship with God, and we need to be reconciled to God. And so Jesus died to heal our broken relationship with God, and he now invites all people to turn from their sins and to follow him in seeking first God’s kingdom, so that the whole world can be healed.

Some of the details in today’s passage serve to convince Matthew’s first readers that Jesus is in fact the Messiah their scriptures had foretold. The scribes quote the prophecy from Micah, which identifies Bethlehem as the place where the coming king would be born. The gifts that the wise men brought were gifts fit for a king, and the fact that they knelt down and did homage to Jesus as a king would reinforce the point.

Matthew is announcing good news to us. God’s kingdom is close at hand! The time will not be long! And in his Gospel he gives us an invitation to come and be a part of God’s kingdom. We’re invited to become part of an underground resistance movement, working together in the last days of the old kingdom of evil to subvert its values and to prepare for the loving rule of God over the whole of creation. And we do this work, not out of desperation, but in the sure and certain hope that God’s promises will be fulfilled.

So you and I are invited to participate in the coming kingdom of God. What is our response to this invitation? This story shows us three different responses to Jesus. My concern in pointing them out to you is not to ask “Am I Herod?” or “Am I a wise man?” The truth is that at times we’ve all acted like Herod, and at other times we’ve all acted like a wise man. The point is to acknowledge this, and to do all we can to turn away from the Herod in us and to strengthen the wise man - or wise woman - in us. Let’s look at these three responses in this light.

Let’s start with Herod. Historians actually know quite a lot about Herod, and the picture Matthew gives us certainly rings true. He was a fanatically jealous and insecure ruler; he had his wife, his mother and some of his children murdered because he suspected them of plotting against him. So it is not at all out of character that he should react to the news of the birth of the Messiah, first by attempting to trick the wise men into leading him to the baby, and then, when that didn’t work, by killing every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two just to make sure he wiped out any threat to his throne. After all, he knew that the Messiah was God’s coming king, and that he was to usher in a realm of peace and justice. Do you think that would sound like good news to a despotic tyrant? Herod was addicted to his own power and autonomy, and he had no intention of submitting to another king.

What part of me does Herod represent? Probably the part that will accept no one’s rule but my own. Jesus the Messiah asks for my allegiance. To accept Jesus Christ is to give up my own autonomy and to accept his rule as my King on a daily basis. Until I do that, Jesus can’t really set me free from my inner enemies – the sins and fears that trap me and hold me back from God’s best for me. Jesus is like a doctor who wants to help his patients, but can’t do so if they won’t trust him enough to put their lives in his hands and do what he tells them to do.

So here’s my first challenge. I have to turn away from the ‘Herod’ in me, give up my own autonomy, and trust and obey Jesus as my King. What’s my second challenge? It’s to obey in practice, not just in theory.

I once knew a man who was very well informed about the content of the Bible. He loved studying it and discussing it, and would even open it up and teach others about it. All this was very admirable, but my admiration was somewhat limited by the fact that I knew he was committing adultery against his wife at least once a week, and had no intention of stopping. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, but God would forgive him, he said, because he was a Christian.

His story reminds me of the Jerusalem scribes we read about in today’s passage. When Herod wanted to know where the Messiah would be born he turned to these men, and they were very quick with an answer: Bethlehem. They knew their Bibles very well and had no difficulty answering the King’s question. But did they go themselves and worship the newborn king? Not at all. Their faith was all theory and theology in their heads and didn’t lead them to any action whatsoever.

This is a real danger for those of us who were brought up in the Christian faith. We go to church regularly, we hear the scriptures read, we read the Bible and pray. But what difference does this all make to the things we actually do day by day? Do we act any differently? Or is our faith just a theory, a fascinating Bible study that touches our thoughts but not our concrete actions?

This is an error that it’s very easy to fall into. When Christians catch themselves acting like Herod they recognise immediately that there’s a problem, but you can go for years acting like the scribes without realising it. That’s why we need to make doubly sure that we are putting our faith into practice, and not just talking about it.

Many years ago I was driving out to an Indian reserve to take an afternoon service. On my way into the reserve I saw a car in the ditch beside the road, with a couple of people standing around it. I knew that if I stopped I would be late for service. I was about to go by when I remembered Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan and how the priest and Levite ‘went by on the other side’ and didn’t help the man who had been beaten by the robbers. Was I about to be like them? I decided I’d better stop and help!

So my second challenge is to turn away from the ‘scribe’ in me; to go on from just studying the scriptures to actually doing what they say!

My third challenge is the challenge of wholehearted commitment to Jesus, exemplified for us in the ‘wise men’ or ‘Magi’. Bible scholars have speculated for years about who the Magi actually were. We sing about them in the hymn ‘We Three Kings’, but the text doesn’t say that they were kings and it doesn’t say that there were three of them, either; only that they brought three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. The most likely explanation of them seems to be that they were astrologers; belief in astrology was almost universal in biblical times when almost all peoples except the Jews took it for granted that the movements of the stars influenced human affairs. So these Magi were Gentiles, and God spoke to them in a way that would have made sense to them, by the appearance of a star.

What actually did they see? Again, there has been a lot of speculation about that. Some scholars point out that Halley’s comet would have been visible about 11 B.C., but that seems a little too early. In 7 B.C. there was a brilliant conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Saturn was held to represent Israel, and Jupiter was the royal planet, so they may have deduced from this that a great king was about to be born in Israel. We don’t know for sure, but one thing is certain: unlike the scribes, they took their studies so seriously that they were willing to do something about them.

Notice their willingness to give their search priority in their lives. Their journey may have lasted for as long as two years, during which they were away from their homes and their other commitments. I love it when I see people taking their walk with God this seriously. As some of you know, I quite often go down to Regent College in Vancouver for summer school. Many of the people who attend are ordinary Christians who are taking some time out of their summer holidays to study the Bible or to think in a Christian way about the concerns of our times. Nobody is paying them to be there, and every week they spend there is one week less holiday time for them. But they do it because they are committed to their walk with God, and time at Regent helps them in that journey. The Magi show me that accepting God’s invitation involves this kind of wholeheartedness: as Jesus said, to ‘seek first the kingdom of God’, before all my other concerns.

When they found the infant Jesus, the Magi knelt before him in homage. This was how you pledged your allegiance to a King in those days. The Magi knew that this allegiance took priority over all other allegiances in their lives. For instance, it took priority over their duty to Herod. They had told Herod they would go back and tell him where they found the child, but instead, having pledged their allegiance to Jesus, they ‘returned to their country by another route’ (v.12). This was perhaps the first act of Christian civil disobedience! Like the Magi, I’m called to give my first allegiance to Jesus, ahead of all earthly rulers, governments, nations, families, and even ahead of my own selfish will.

All this sounds tough and gloomy, but it’s not. Notice what verse 10 says about the Magi: ‘they were overjoyed’. To follow Jesus as our King is a joyful thing, because to serve him is to really be free for the first time in our lives. When I was a young Christian we used to have a phrase we used about people who had discovered a new experience of the power of the Holy Spirit; we said that they had ‘joined the silly grin club’. After all, the first Christians on the day of Pentecost were so overwhelmed with joy that they were accused of being drunk. That should tell us that to know God and to discover God’s will for us is the deepest joy we can imagine – deeper, in fact, than we can ask or imagine.

So we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God. This invitation goes out to you and me, today and every day, and we are expected to make a response. Sometimes, like Herod, our response is “No thanks, God – I like my plan better”. And sometimes, like the scribes, we say “Yes” in theory, but don’t actually do anything about it.

God’s dream is that we would respond as the Magi did, with wholehearted commitment to Jesus as our King. And I suggest to you that you and I make that commitment in a fresh way today. Let’s resolve to put our trust in Jesus and do our best to follow him as our King, and let’s pray for the help of the Holy Spirit so that we can keep that resolution.