Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sermon for Easter 6: 1 Peter 3:14-16

Faithful Witness

In October 2006, as most of you will remember, a man called Charles Roberts entered a single schoolhouse in the Amish community of Nickel Mines in Pennsylvania. By the time he was finished that morning, five young Amish girls lay dead. It was a scenario that has been repeated with frightening regularity in the past few years; a gunman enters a public place and starts shooting, innocent people are killed, everyone bewails the increasing violence of our society, etc. etc.

Except that this time, something different was going to happen. Within hours of the shooting, members of the Amish community were reaching out to the killer’s family, giving food and raising money for his wife and children. “We have to forgive,” an Amish woman told the Reuters news service. “We have to forgive him in order for God to forgive us”. Another Amish man said of the family, “I hope they stay around here and they'll have a lot of friends and a lot of support”. This attitude remained consistent in the days ahead. The media were fascinated with the attitude of the Amish and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not it was a good thing. The Amish themselves were clear about it; they believed their children were in heaven, they believed that the perpetrator also had family members who needed care, and they believed that faithfulness to Jesus meant the hard work of forgiveness and love in action.

Evangelism often gets a bad name in our society today, but when I watched the Amish sharing their faith and living it out with such integrity before the watching world, I saw evangelism in the true sense of the word. And it made me think of three verses from our epistle for today. Please turn with me to 1 Peter 3:14-16:
‘Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame’.

In the middle of the most awful grief people could ever face - the senseless murder of the children they loved – the Amish of Nickel Mines were able to hold onto their Christian hope. And when they were called on to give an account of the hope that is in them, they were able to do it with gentleness and respect. That’s a positive Christian witness. And as a result, light came out of darkness and hope replaced despair.

So this morning I want to think about this passage from 1 Peter in the light of what we learned from the Amish of Nickel Mines. Let me point out four things to you from these three verses: a primary loyalty, a distinctive lifestyle, a consistent witness and a clear conscience.

First, a primary loyalty. Look at verse 14: ‘Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord’.

‘Jesus is Lord’ was the basic Christian confession of faith in New Testament times. Today, it rattles off our tongue so easily, but what happens when we actually have to put it into practice? The Amish are Anabaptist Christians, and as I’ve learned over the last few years as I’ve been studying that tradition, Anabaptists put a great deal of emphasis on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. At the end of that Sermon Jesus says: ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven’ (Matt.7:21). To reverence Christ as Lord in your heart means much more than just mouthing words with your lips; it means obedience. It means believing that Jesus truly has taught us the best way to live, and then setting yourself to learn to practice that way day by day.

This is the first issue for Christians: who is the Lord of our lives? There’s a kind of watered-down Christianity that presents a Jesus who’s a lot less than the Jesus of the New Testament. The Jesus of the New Testament was called ‘Lord’ and people were challenged to submit to his authority, but this watered-down version of Christianity preaches Jesus as ‘my personal Saviour’ - rather like my personal stereo, Jesus has now become one of my accessories, a convenient aspirin to take my pain away so that I can get on with enjoying myself.

That kind of religion would never have given the Amish the strength to reach out in love to the family of the man who had murdered their children. If they had believed in this new religion they would have said something like “How can we even think about reaching out to others? Right now our own pain is just too much!” But because they believed in the Jesus of the New Testament they were able to be there for other people as well, and as they followed Jesus faithfully they discovered his help with them along the way.

So this is the first issue: our primary loyalty as Christians is to our Lord Jesus Christ, and this means putting his teaching into practice. And this leads directly to the second thing: a distinctive lifestyle. Look again at verse 15: ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you’. This verse assumes that Christians are going to be living lives that are different from the people around them, lives that provoke questions. ‘Why do you have the hope you do?’ ‘How are you able to live the way you do?’ ‘Where do you get the resources to be able to do those things?’

I wonder how many parents read about the Amish families, as I did, and thought, “How can they do that? Where do they get the strength to do that?” The only thing that the secular world can say is “The Amish are a very special people”. The secular world has to say that, because the secular world has to find a natural explanation for this amazing phenomenon. But my guess is that the Amish themselves would dispute that explanation. They wouldn’t claim to be special people at all. They would claim to be followers of a special God who is able to give his people strength in the midst of the most appalling tragedy.

So the issue for all of us is, “Does the way I’m living my life as a Christian provoke questions in the minds of the people around me?” Because, if the people around us can explain our lives simply on the basis of natural presuppositions, then we aren’t going to get anywhere with our Christian witness. If people can look at us and say “Ah yes, people naturally want to get rich and so does he. Ah yes, people naturally want to work as little as possible and so does he” and so on - if they can explain our lives on a purely natural basis like that, then they aren’t going to be mystified and they aren’t going to ask questions about our faith. People couldn’t explain the way the Amish were able to maintain their care and love for others when their children were killed, and so people were asking questions about their faith.

If we live our lives faithfully according to Jesus’ teaching, it will provoke questions from the people around us. If we put God at the centre of our lives, not just the edge - if we dethrone the false gods the world follows - if we love others with the same unconditional love God has given to us - if we reach out to the poor, the unloved, the ones no-one else has time for - people will notice. Questions will come. And that can lead to opportunities to speak a word of witness.

So we have a primary loyalty to following Jesus as our Lord, and because of that we do our best to live a distinctive lifestyle as he taught us. The third thing we see in these verses is a consistent witness.

Look again at verse 15a: ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you’. Another translation talks about giving ‘the reason for the hope that is in you’. For most of us, that reason will involve some kind of story. We are Christians today because of a certain series of events. Perhaps it involved parents sharing the Christian faith with us, or the witness of friends, or an experience of God’s help when we were going through a difficult time in our lives.

After the Nickel Mines tragedy, one of the leaders of the Amish Community mentioned the formative effect the Lord’s Prayer had on their life together. He said, ‘We pray it seven times a day!’ He was specifically referring, of course, to the words, ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’. But his explanation of the distinctive lifestyle the Amish were demonstrating involved telling a story about their life together and about God’s work among them.

We all have a story of faith – a story about God’s work in our lives. For myself, I know that I’m a Christian today because of the witness of my parents. They took me to church every Sunday from before the time that I could walk; they had me baptized, prayed with me and taught me the Bible stories. But they didn’t only do that. When I was thirteen my Dad challenged me to make a personal commitment of my life to Jesus Christ. I did that on March 5th 1972, and it was the beginning of my life as a conscious follower of Jesus. That life grew and was nurtured in a lively Anglican church in southeast Essex in which I learned to pray, to read scripture, to worship with others and to live as a Christian. That’s my story, and I’m excited about it. I love telling it to others.

What difference does it make to you to be a follower of Jesus? How are you aware of God at work in your life? What makes it worthwhile for you to continue to practice your Christian faith? Our answers to these questions are the story that God wants us to share with others. But we aren’t to tell our stories in an offensive or pushy way. Peter says in verse 16 ‘yet do it with gentleness and reverence’. My brother used to have a humorous poster on his wall that said, “Those of you who think you know everything are annoying those of us who do!” It was a joke, but there are people who act like that! That’s not the attitude in which we ought to share our Christian stories.

So we’ve talked about our primary loyalty to Christ as Lord, about our faithfulness in living a distinctive Christian lifestyle, and about our consistent witness for Christ. One more thing: Peter talks about the importance of a clear conscience. Look at verse 16b: ‘Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame’.

You’ve probably heard the proverb “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying”. If our lives don’t agree with our words then people won’t take any notice of what we say. I’m sure that as people saw the Amish of Nickel Mines living out their faith in such a genuine way, it had a tremendous effect in terms of strengthening the credibility of their message. Obviously their lives agreed with their words.

And yet we can’t say, as some say, “Some people talk about their faith - I just live it”. It sounds so pious and good and holy, but think about it for a minute. It’s as if I’d been cured of a supposedly incurable disease by a miracle doctor, and I was walking up and down in front of all the other people who were still dying of the disease, showing them by my life that I was cured, but refusing to give them the name of the doctor so that they also could go to him and be healed. That’s not an act of love! That’s not ‘living our faith’! If Jesus is bringing his hope and healing into our lives, we have no choice but to name him to others as well. Our life and our words must go hand in hand if we want to have an effective witness.

My faith in Christ was strengthened as I read about those Amish families in Nickel Mines. I knew they were just ordinary human beings like me, and yet our extraordinary God was able to use them in a wonderful way to help bring light out of darkness. I want to be like that, too, and I’m sure you do. So let’s pray that God will help us to follow Peter’s teaching here – following Christ as Lord, living the distinctive lifestyle he taught, giving a consistent witness, and keeping our conscience clear so that our lives agree with our words. In this way God will be able to use our witness to bring others closer to the light of Christ.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April 28th - May 2nd 2008

Monday, April 28th
Office Closed/ Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm -- Afternoon Bible Study

Thursday, May 1st - Ascension Day
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.
10.30 am -- Eucharist
12.00 pm -- Seniors Lunch

Saturday, May 3rd
Tim’s Day Off

Sunday, May 4th - Easter 7
9.00 am -- Eucharist
10.30 am -- Eucharist & Sunday School
7.00 pm -- “Voices for Habitat” @ St. Timothy’s Church


GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Rob Joseph
• Ed & Diane Kalis

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Some more of our Lay Administrants Marg Rys, Doug Schindel, Lloyd Thompson & Arlette Zinck.

St. Margaret’s News

Win House Total as of 20th April - $2583.00
Mobile Clinic Total as of 20th April - $5613.00

SPRING CONGREGATIONAL MEETING - MAY 25TH AT NOON.

Hymns Old & New - If anyone would like to order a music copy of the new orange hymn book for themselves, the cost is around $35-$40. Please let Tim or the office know a.s.a.p. Thanks.


LLOYD ROBINSON’S ESTATE - Daphne and Rupert Robinson are settling Lloyd’s estate. There are some items that they would like to be acquired rather than thrown away. Included are furniture (which would cost something), and items such as crockery, cutlery, curios, artwork etc. (at little or no cost). Any interested persons - either for themselves or others - could speak to either Rupert or Daphne who will be around until approximately the end of April. Thank you.

Habitat for Humanity is currently booking volunteers from now until the end of June with a real need for April! We are at the finishing stage of our Norwood build and the tasks coming up are things like laminate flooring, building decks, installing shelves. We are booking both groups and individuals. We are also currently recruiting for lunch providers from now until September. For more info or to be placed on Habitat’s e-mail distribution list for volunteers, please contact Angela at Habitat at 479-3566 ext 223.

Annual University chaplaincy Dinner & Silent Auction - will take place on Thursday, May 1st, at 6pm at the Faculty club at the University of Alberta. Guest speaker will be Professor Mark Peppler, D. Phil from the Faculty of Medicine “Faith in the Time of Cholera”. Please send all Silent Auction Donations to the Rev. Emma Vickery at St. George’s, Edmonton (11733-87 Ave). Tickets are $45 and available from the Educational Chaplaincy Board (130 Mission Ave, St. Albert, AB; T8N 2C6).

10th Bishop of Edmonton
Service of Consecration and Installation
The service will take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 11th, 2008 at 4:00pm at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral. All are warmly welcomed to attend and are asked to RSVP through their church office no later than Friday, May 2nd, 2008 as the service will be followed by a stand up reception at the Cathedral and numbers need to be provided to the caterer.

In response to requests, the Diocese has established a fund for Episcopal vestments, ring and travelling crozier. If you wish to contribute to the fund, please make your cheque payable to The Diocese of Edmonton and mark on it “Episcopal Emblems Fund”.

Free Desk available - If anyone in the congregation is interested in the desk downstairs in the basement it is yours for free. Please let the office know (437-7231) and make your own arrangements to come and pick it up. Thanks.


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.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

May Roster - 2008

May 4th - Easter 7

Greeter/Sidespeople -- Marshalls
Counter -- E. Marshall/C. Aasen
Reader & Psalm -- R. Betty
Readings: Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36, 1 Peter 4:12 - 5:11
Lay Administrant -- A. Zinck
2nd Administrant -- C. Aasen
Intercessor -- E. Marshall
Lay Reader -- D. MacNeill (John 17:1-11)
Altar Guild -- 9am P. Major /10:30 L. Pyra
Prayer during -- E. Gerber
Communion -- M. Chesterton
Nursery Supervisor -- M. Aasen
Sunday School -- M. Cromarty
Kitchen -- M. Lobreau

May 11th - Pentecost

Greeter/Sidespeople -- Mittys
Counter -- B. Rice/G. Hughes
Reader & Psalm -- T. Rayment
Readings: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:25-35, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13
Lay Administrant -- G. Hughes
2nd Administrant -- M. Rys
Intercessor -- P. Leney
Lay Reader -- L. Thompson (John 7:37-39)
Altar Guild -- 9am M. Woytkiw /10:30 M. Lobreau
Prayer during -- E. Gerber
Communion -- P. Major
Nursery Supervisor -- K. Hughes
Sunday School -- M. Aasen
Kitchen -- P. Leney

May 18th - Trinity - Morning Prayer

Greeter/Sidespeople -- T. Willacy
Counter -- T. Willacy/T. Wittkopf
Reader & Psalm -- T. Wittkopf
Readings: Genesis 1:1 - 2:4, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Intercessor -- D. MacNeill
Reading (Matthew 28:16-20)
Nursery Supervisor -- G. Hughes
Sunday School -- P. Rayment
Kitchen -- M. Chesterton


May 25th - Pentecost 2 - JOINT COFFEE SUNDAY

Greeter/Sidespeople -- Schindels
Counter -- D. Schindel/M. Lobreau
Reader & Psalm -- D. Schindel
Readings: Isaiah 49:8-16a, Psalm 131, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Lay Administrant -- L. Thompson
2nd Administrant -- A. Zinck
Intercessor -- L. Thompson
Lay Reader -- D. MacNeill (Matthew 6:24-34)
Altar Guild -- 9am P. Major /10:30 K. Hughes
Prayer during -- M. Rys
Communion -- E. Gerber
Nursery Supervisor -- K. Hughes
Sunday School -- S. Chesterton
Kitchen -- J. Mill

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

May Calendar, 2008

Thursday, May 1st - Ascension Day
7-8am - Women’s & Men’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café
10.30 am - Eucharist
12.00 pm - Senior’s Lunch

Saturday, May 3rd
Tim’s Day Off.

Sunday, May 4th - Easter 7
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
7.00 pm - “Voices for Habitat” @ St. Timothy’s Church

Monday, May 5th
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Thursday, May 8th
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café
Tim’s Sermon preparation day.
7.00pm - Corporation Meeting @ Bogani Cafe

Sunday, May 11th - Pentecost
9am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
4.00 pm - Consecration of the New Bishop

Monday, May 12th
Office Closed
TIM AWAY ON STUDY LEAVE FROM 12TH MAY - 19TH MAY.
1.30 pm - Monday Afternoon Bible Study

Thursday, May 15th
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café

Sunday, May 18th - Trinity
9.00 am - Morning Prayer
10.30 am -Morning Prayer & Sunday School

Monday, May 19th
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Of
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, May 20th
11.15 am - St. Joseph’s Eucharist

Wednesday, May 21st
7.15 pm - Vestry

Thursday, May 22nd
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café
Tim’s Sermon preparation Day

Sunday, May 25th - Pentecost 2
9.00 am - Eucharist
9.45 am - JOINT COFFEE
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
12pm - SPRING CONGREGATIONAL MEETING

Monday, May 26th
Office Closed
Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Monday Afternoon Bible Study

Thursday, May 29th
7.00am - Men’s & Women’s Bible Study @ Bogani Café
Tim’s Sermon preparation Day

Saturday, May 31st
Tim’s Day Off.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sermon for Easter 5: 1 Peter 2:11-25

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

A few years ago the IGA store in Valleyview made the decision to open on Sunday mornings. I was the pastor of the Anglican church in Valleyview at the time, and I and my colleagues in the Ministerial Association were concerned that our members who worked there would be free to attend church if they so desired. So we wrote a letter of concern to the IGA manager asking that the rights of our members to attend church be respected. In his letter of response the manager expressed some annoyance with us, but he made the statement “No one will be forced to work on Sunday mornings if he or she doesn’t wish to do so”. Of course that turned out to be completely false; we had one member who worked there, and it soon became clear that he had no choice about working Sundays; the only choice he had was whether he kept his job or not!

Christian employees at this store were in a vulnerable position; if they wanted to keep their jobs, they couldn’t refuse Sunday morning shifts. The readers of Peter’s first letter were in an even more vulnerable position. Laws were on the books requiring citizens of the Roman Empire to worship Caesar as a god on pain of death. Pressure was strong for Christian businessmen to participate in the idol worship that went with being a member of a trade guild. Christians were vulnerable to slander and gossip, punishment and even execution. And one group was especially vulnerable: the slaves of non-Christian masters.

How are Christians in these vulnerable positions to respond? In our reading today Peter encourages them to follow the example of Jesus, to ‘follow in his steps’ (v.21). So we are to see ourselves as followers of Jesus, and to respond to the slander, gossip and persecution that come to us in the way Jesus responded to similar situations in his earthly life. Let’s think about how we might work this out.

Let’s think first of all about how Jesus shows the way. Philip Yancey has told the story of how he happened to be watching a collection of film clips of the Beatitudes on the same day that General Norman Schwartzkopf was doing a briefing about the 1991 Gulf War. He says:
It took a few seconds for the irony to sink in: I had just been watching the Beatitudes in reverse! Blessed are the strong, was the general’s message. Blessed are the triumphant. Blessed are the armies wealthy enough to possess smart bombs and Patriot missiles. Blessed are the liberators, the conquering soldiers’.

There’s an obvious contrast between the way the world tends to deal with violence on the one hand, and the way Jesus responded to it on the other. Peter tells us in our reading that Jesus ‘also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps’ (v.21). What is that example? Peter says:
‘“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:21-25).

When Peter tells us that Jesus has left ‘an example’ for us to follow, he uses an unusual word in the original language, the word hupogrammos. Children who were learning to write in Peter’s day were often given a sample of perfect handwriting at the top of a page. They then had to practice the letters, copying them underneath the original over and over again until they got it exactly right. That sample of handwriting was called a hupogrammos. In other words, Jesus’ life is like that perfect sample of handwriting; our job is to practice imitating him over and over again until we get it right. And this is particularly so, Peter is telling us, in the way we respond to insult and injury that comes our way because we are Christians.

One prime example of this from the New Testament is Stephen. Stephen was one of the early Christians in the book of Acts, and we read that he became a powerful evangelist who was influencing many Greek-speaking Jews to become Christians. The religious establishment eventually arrested him, putting him on trial and whipping up a mob to stone him to death. Acts tells us that when Stephen died he used very similar words to those Jesus had used at his crucifixion; Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) and Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

So the example of Jesus shows us that faithfulness to God does sometimes mean that we are slandered and persecuted because of our Christian discipleship. Jesus’ response to this slander and persecution was not to strike back in anger and revenge, but rather to respond with faith in God and love toward his persecutors. That’s the example Peter is calling us to follow.

So Jesus has shown us the way; let’s think now about how we follow in his footsteps. And before we get into detail here, I need to address two important issues.

First, there isn’t time this morning for me to address the background of slavery in the Roman Empire. Slaves of course were in an especially vulnerable position if their masters weren’t Christians. It was not within the power of Peter and the other New Testament authors to abolish slavery in the Roman Empire. That would be like trying to abolish technology in Canada today: possible, but it couldn’t be done in a week! What the early Christians could do was to treat slaves in the church as equal human beings, and we know that they did that: Catallus, one of the early bishops of Rome, was a slave.

Second, this teaching has sometimes been misapplied to say that people who are in abusive relationships should just suck it up and shouldn’t remove themselves from those relationships. The situations are completely different. Peter doesn’t tell those who suffer not to remove themselves from the situation if they can. He tells them to follow the example of Jesus by not responding to violence and threats with violence and threats. There is a difference.

The slaves to whom Peter was talking did not have the power to remove themselves from their situation. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses that possibility; he says, ‘Where you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so’ (1 Corinthians 7:21 TNIV). In later years Christians took this philosophy as a charter for providing freedom to slaves, and so William Wilberforce and his colleagues worked for the abolition of slavery. And in the same way today we need to do all we can to make sure that people who are in abusive relationships are protected from their abusers. No New Testament teaching should be misapplied to tell them that instead of removing themselves to a place of safety, they should just put up with it.

Of course, this discussion begs the question: how should we apply this teaching to our lives? Peter gives us three guidelines here.

First, remember who it is you’re representing. You may remember a few years ago when a Russian diplomat in Ottawa killed a woman through drunk driving. This man was not only a lawbreaker; he was also a bad advertisement for Russia, and his superiors knew it. If you’re a diplomat you always need to remember that people are going to judge your country by what they see of your conduct.

In verse 11 Peter says ‘Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul’. When he calls us ‘aliens and exiles’ he’s reminding us that although we live in the world we have another citizenship, which is more important; we are citizens of the kingdom of God. That being the case, our first responsibility is to be good advertisements for that kingdom. So he goes on to say in verse 12 ‘Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge’.

During the Second World War there was a saying in Britain to discourage people from giving clues to spies: ‘Careless talk costs lives’. C.S. Lewis, writing at the same time, made the point that ‘It’s equally true that careless lives cost talk’. If I live a careless life, not remembering that I bear the name of Jesus before the world, people are going to slander the name of Christ because of me. To live for the glory of God means that I live in such a way that God’s reputation in the world is enhanced, and not diminished, because of me.

So we’re to remember who it is we’re representing. Secondly, we’re to make sure we’re suffering for the right reasons. I once knew a Christian woman who was always complaining about her non-Christian husband and how he persecuted her for her faith and made it difficult for her to practice it. I also knew him, and I knew that this wasn’t the whole story. About 25% of her persecution was because she was a Christian, and about 75% of it was because she was a pain in the neck! She seemed to think that God had appointed her as judge and jury for her husband, and every time he stepped out of line she let him have it. Not surprisingly, this caused a great deal of resentment on his part!

In verse 20 Peter says to Christian slaves: ‘If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval’. In other words, if you’re going to suffer, make sure it’s for being a good Christian and not for being a bad slave! Or, we might say today, if you’re going to be slandered or excluded or criticized, make sure it’s for being a follower of Jesus and not for being thoughtless or judgemental or greedy or hypocritical.

So we’re to remember who it is we’re representing, and we’re to make sure we’re suffering for the right reasons. Finally, we’re not to return evil for evil. Peter says, ‘When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly’ (vv.22-23). Peter is thinking obviously of Jesus’ conduct when he was arrested, unjustly tried, flogged and crucified. In this, Jesus simply lived out his own teaching of loving his enemies and praying for those who persecuted him.

Some of you have heard me tell the story of a friend of mine, Tom, who once served as the rector of four rural congregations, two of them on a First Nations reserve. One night he had a call from a woman on the reserve. “My husband is drinking in the bar in town”, she said. “Could you go over and bring him home?”

Tom was young and a bit rash in those days, and so he agreed to her request. He went over to the bar, found the man and began to talk with him. But while he was there he was accosted by another man, Delbert, who had been drinking quite heavily. Delbert began to punch Tom and make fun of him; “Hey, preacher, is God going to help you now?” Tom did his best to ignore Delbert; he managed to get the other man out of the bar and over to the rectory, where he pumped in a gallon of coffee to try to sober him up.

After several hours, Tom put the man in his car and headed out for the reserve. It was the dead of winter and very cold, and the gravel roads were extremely icy. As they drove onto the reserve, Tom noticed a car in the ditch, up to its windows in snow, and he began to slow down to see if the passengers needed some help. Wouldn’t you know it, the driver was Delbert! When Tom told me this story, he said to me “So I prayed ‘Lord, you delivered him into my hands’”. He stopped, and when Delbert rolled down his window Tom said, “Do you want some help?” Delbert, totally inebriated, could only splutter, “Are you for real?” So Tom dug him out and gave him a ride home.

For months afterwards, whenever Delbert was drinking with friends and saw Tom he would say loudly “Thish man’sh a man of God!” Eventually he sobered up, gave his life to Christ and began to learn to live as a Christian. It all began the night an Anglican priest paid him back good for evil and loved him instead of taking revenge on him.

Scripture tells us that the power of God’s love has transformed us from his enemies into his friends. Now, as we walk in the steps of Jesus, we’re to live that love toward those who slander and persecute us, trusting that in God’s good time he will change their hearts too, changing them from persecutors into followers of Jesus. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the strength we need to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 21st - 27th 2008

Monday, April 21st
Office Closed/ Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, April 22nd
1.30 pm - Congregational Care Committee Meeting @ Church.

7.30 pm - Simply Christian @ St. Margaret’s

Thursday, April 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.
Tim’s sermon preparation day.

Friday, April 25th
6.00 pm - Wedding Rental Rehearsal

Saturday, April 26th
1.00 pm - Wedding Rental
Tim’s Day Off

Sunday, April 27th - Easter 6
9.00 am - Eucharist
9.45 am - JOINT COFFEE
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School

GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Nick & Christine Ingersoll
• Bill & Eileen Irons
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Some of our Lay Administrants Chris Aasen, Elaine Gerber, Gary Hughes & Doug MacNeill.

St. Margaret’s News

Win House Total as of 13th April - $2553.00
Mobile Clinic Total as of 13th April -$5133.00

SPRING CONGREGATIONAL MEETING - MAY 25TH AT NOON.

LLOYD ROBINSON’S ESTATE - Daphne and Rupert Robinson are settling Lloyd’s estate. There are some items that they would like to be acquired rather than thrown away. Included are furniture (which would cost something), and items such as crockery, cutlery, curios, artwork etc. (at little or no cost). Any interested persons - either for themselves or others - could speak to either Rupert or Daphne who will be around until approximately the end of April. Thank you.

Habitat for Humanity is currently booking volunteers from now until the end of June with a real need for April! We are at the finishing stage of our Norwood build and the tasks coming up are things like laminate flooring, building decks, installing shelves. We are booking both groups and individuals. We are also currently recruiting for lunch providers from now until September. For more info or to be placed on Habitat’s e-mail distribution list for volunteers, please contact Angela at Habitat at 479-3566 ext 223.

Annual University chaplaincy Dinner & Silent Auction - will take place on Thursday, May 1st, at 6pm at the Faculty club at the University of Alberta. Guest speaker will be Professor Mark Peppler, D. Phil from the Faculty of Medicine “Faith in the Time of Cholera”. Please send all Silent Auction Donations to the Rev. Emma Vickery at St. George’s, Edmonton (11733-87 Ave). Tickets are $45 and available from the Educational Chaplaincy Board (130 Mission Ave, St. Albert, AB; T8N 2C6).

10th Bishop of Edmonton
Service of Consecration and Installation
The service will take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 11th, 2008 at 4:00pm at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral. All are warmly welcomed to attend and are asked to RSVP through their church office no later than Friday, May 2nd, 2008 as the service will be followed by a stand up reception at the Cathedral and numbers need to be provided to the caterer.

In response to requests, the Diocese has established a fund for Episcopal vestments, ring and travelling crozier. If you wish to contribute to the fund, please make your cheque payable to The Diocese of Edmonton and mark on it “Episcopal Emblems Fund”.

Free Desk available - If anyone in the congregation is interested in the desk downstairs in the basement it is yours for free. Please let the office know (437-7231) and make your own arrangements to come and pick it up. Thanks.


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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sermon for Easter 4: 1 Peter 2:1-10

Lectionary afficionados will notice that I traded the readings for this week and next week in order to preach through 1 Peter in order (the lectionary has 2:11-25 before 2:1-10).

Why Does God Need Churches Like Ours?


About fifteen years ago the town of Peace River was flooded, and a lot of damage was done to buildings in the low-lying areas of the community, including the Anglican cathedral and synod office. Eventually some government money was made available to businesses and organisations faced with expensive repair work, and in due course the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca put in an application for some of that money. Their application was rejected, with the rationale that they were a ‘non-essential’ service in the community. Just to put things in perspective, the Legion’s application was approved!

It’s quite a blow for Christian churches, who are used to thinking of their role as an important one, to be told that society regards them as ‘non-essential’ - or at least, as less essential than the Royal Canadian Legion! Does it matter to anyone that we are here? Is our role in society a valuable one? Or are we just a rather eccentric special interest group, an anachronistic throwback to the days of the British Empire? This is a vital question to consider. After all, you and I are members together of a Christian congregation that was intentionally planted twenty-seven years ago as a missionary venture to the south side of Edmonton. Why is this important? Why was St. Margaret’s necessary? Society may not think we are important, but does God value us? Why does God need congregations like ours?

To answer this question I want to take you back to our text for these Sundays of the Easter season, the First Letter of Peter. Remember, this letter was written to Christians who lived in provinces right on the edge of the Roman Empire. The Roman government had not yet begun official, state-sponsored persecution of the Christian Church, but nonetheless Christians were beginning to find life very difficult. They were accused of being an antisocial sect who hated the rest of the human race and would not participate in the life of the community. All good Roman citizens were expected to offer incense to the emperor as a god, but Christians refused to do that. Most trade guilds began their meetings with prayers and sacrifices to the gods of Greece and Rome, and once again Christians would not participate - a fact that was making it increasingly difficult for them to do business. And all kinds of vicious rumours were circulating about them. It was said that they practised murder, incest and cannibalism at their secret church meetings - after all, did they not hold ‘love feasts’, call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’, and talk about ‘eating the body’ and ‘drinking the blood’?

These Christians were just like us! They were finding it increasingly complicated to participate in society and yet not compromise their Christian convictions at the same time; society was marginalising them, and even in some cases rejecting them. But Peter points out to them that even though society was rejecting them, God had not done so. In fact, they were just like their Lord Jesus Christ. He says in 2:4 ‘Come to (Jesus), a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight’. Jesus was rejected and crucified by the world, but he turned out to be the most important figure in God’s plan to save the world. And, Peter says, the same is true of you Christians; you may be rejected by the world, but you have a vital part in God’s plan to save it. Look at chapter 2:9-10:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

In these two verses Peter is intentionally taking language that was used in the Old Testament to describe the nation of Israel, and re-applying it to the Christian Church. He obviously sees the Christian Church as standing in continuity with Israel as God’s chosen people, charged with the mission of carrying out God’s purposes for the world. This plan goes all the way back to the twelfth chapter of Genesis, when God chose Abram, the ancestor of the nation of Israel, and said to him “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). In other words, Abram wasn’t called because God thought he was somehow better than anyone else in the ancient world at the time. He wasn’t called so that he and his family could get together and worship God and ignore the unbelievers around them. He certainly wasn’t called because God wanted him to go to heaven and everyone else to go to hell. No, he was called as a missionary, someone who would found a community that would live out God’s ways in their life together, and spread the knowledge and love of God in the world around them.

Of course, Abram’s descendants often forgot that mission. Instead of acting as God’s missionaries to the nations around them, they turned in on themselves, isolated themselves from other people and responded to them with the sword. In the same way, Christian people today are often content to ignore the non-Christian society around them. Too often we seem to think that as long as we can meet each week to worship as we always have, we’ve done all that’s expected of us and we can relax. You would never guess that Jesus had sent us out as his missionaries to people who do not believe in him, calling them to turn from false gods and commit themselves to living as his disciples. You would never guess that this was at the top of his agenda for us.

So who are we, as members of St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, striving to be faithful to the mission Jesus has given us in our part of the greater Edmonton area? Well, firstly, we are a people who have been called into the light of Jesus. Peter says that we are to ‘proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1:9b). We are a people who have discovered that when Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 9:5) he was telling the truth. We have discovered that life without Jesus is life in the dark, but that when we follow Jesus he is like a light, giving us a sense of hope, a clear view of what life is all about, and a sense of direction.

Some of you here today have lived in that light all your lives. You were brought up to know and love Jesus, and he has been real and close to you since your early days. Others of you can remember a time when you lived in the darkness. You know what it’s like to feel lost and hopeless, and you have experienced the difference Jesus makes when he brings his light into a person’s life.

An American journalist from the early years of the twentieth century was assigned to write a number of articles designed to expose the evangelist Billy Sunday as a fraud. Three towns were chosen. “I talked to the merchants”, the journalist wrote, “and they told me that during the meetings and afterwards people walked up to the counter and paid bills which were so old that they had long since been written off the books”. He went to visit the president of the Chamber of Commerce of a town that Billy Sunday had visited three years before. “I am not a member of any church”, he said. “I never attend, but I’ll tell you one thing. If it was proposed now to bring Billy Sunday back to this town… and if the churches would not raise the necessary funds to bring him, I could raise the money in half a day from men who never go to church. He took eleven thousand dollars out of here, but a circus comes here and takes that amount in one day and leaves nothing behind. He left a different moral atmosphere”. The exposure that the journalist had intended to write became a tribute to the power of the Gospel to bring light into a dark world.

That’s who we are; we are people who have been called out of the darkness of a world without Jesus, and brought into his marvellous light. And now we are given the responsibility to spread that light, because the same Jesus who said “I am the light of the world” also said to us “You are the light of the world...Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

The second thing we can say about ourselves from these verses is that we are a people who have been set aside for God’s use. Peter tells us that we are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people’ (1 Peter 2:9).

Let’s suppose I walk into a guitar store tomorrow looking to buy a new guitar (this is a scenario that strikes fear into Marci’s heart, since she manages the family finances!). Anyway, in I go to the store, and there I see a beautiful guitar, solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, ebony fingerboard, L.R. Baggs saddle pickup – the whole nine yards. The price is going to have a serious impact on our budget for the next year or so, but I pluck up my courage and go up to the sales clerk. “I’d like to buy that guitar over there”, I say. He turns around, glances over at the guitar and says to me “I’m sorry, sir; didn’t you see the sign on the side of it? It’s already been sold. The new owner hasn’t picked it up yet, so it’s still sitting in the store, but it doesn’t belong to us any more”.

Marci breathes a sigh of relief, of course, but her sigh isn’t the main point of this imaginary scenario. The point is that you and I are like that guitar. We still live in this non-Christian society, but we do not belong to it any more. We have been purchased at a very high price - far higher than the cost of the imaginary guitar in my story - the cost of the blood that Jesus shed for us on the Cross. And that means that we now belong to him. Our lives, our talents, our possessions are not ours to do with as we wish any more. And they certainly ought not to be available for the world or the evil one to use to spread the reign of evil.

In the early 1960s a new cathedral was completed in the city of Coventry in England. The old cathedral had been destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, but on May 25th 1962, after many years of labour, a new cathedral was consecrated as a house of worship. In the New Testament, the word ‘consecrate’ comes from the same Greek root as the words ‘holy’ and ‘sanctify’. It means ‘to set apart for God’. At that service the cathedral was set apart from ordinary and common use for the special purpose of being a place of worship for God’s people.

At that service of consecration the Bishop of Coventry said, “A consecrated cathedral demands a consecrated people”. In fact, the words ‘consecrate’ and ‘holy’ are very rarely used for buildings in the New Testament; they are almost always used for people. We, as members of this congregation, are a consecrated people. We don’t belong to ourselves or to the world any more; we belong to God, and have been set aside for his purposes.

And what are those purposes? That’s the third thing we can say about ourselves from these verses. Peter tells us the reason why God has set us aside; it is ‘in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (2:9b). In other words, we are a people with a message for the world.

According to Peter, the reason we exist as a church is because God needs evangelists. An evangelist is someone who announces good news, and as Christians we announce not just any good news but ‘the Mother of all Good News’ - the mighty acts of God for us in Jesus. He has died to bring God and human beings back together again; he has been raised from the dead and is alive and active in the lives of people today. As Peter said in another context, “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).

So what does success look like for a church? It’s not about financial prosperity or impressive looking buildings; it’s not even necessarily about huge overflowing congregations, because there are all sorts of reasons why people might choose to come to a church, not all of them good ones. No – God wants a people who will go out in mission for him, spreading the light of Jesus to the world around them. Part of that process, of course, involves being willing to serve the world by acts of compassion. But the part that Peter stresses in this reading is that God wants people who have not yet found a personal connection with Jesus to be able to find it through the ministry of his church. He wants people to come ‘out of darkness into his marvellous light’, and he wants to use us to make that happen.

No group in the modern world is doing that job, except the Christian Church. Lots of other groups are renting out their buildings to community organisations. Lots of other groups are working on ways to make their communities nicer places to live. Lots of other groups are hosting Scout meetings and A.A. gatherings. These are all excellent causes, and I don’t have a word to say against them; they are wonderful ways of engaging with the community around us. But there’s only one group in society that is working to spread the message that Jesus died and rose again and wants to change the world one life at a time. That group is the Christian Church.

And that’s why God needs congregations like St. Margaret’s. He needs a group of people who will show the world by their life together what his plan is all about, and then go out and spread the message and call other people to faith in Jesus. The world may think that we are non-essential, but to Jesus we are absolutely essential. The world may not cheer when we are faithful to our mission, but God will rejoice over us.

For twenty-seven years this congregation has met for worship on the south side of this city. Today, in this beautiful building, we are in the middle of a rapidly expanding neighbourhood, with new housing going up all around us. In this context, our commission is clear. In a similar situation Jesus told his disciples “Look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting” (John 4:35). Our congregation has been amazingly successful in reaching out to the poor in inner-city Edmonton, and to families who benefit from Habitat houses, and to villagers in Africa who need fresh water in their communities. Our challenge now is to reach out to the people in our own neighbourhoods, people who look successful and wealthy on the outside but who have not yet discovered the light of Christ. God wants those people to hear the gospel and become followers of Jesus. And the commission to make this happen is not just given to me as a minister; it’s given to every member of the people of God. When Peter says ‘you’ in verse 9, he’s not just referring to religious professionals but to all Christian people; God has chosen you, all of you, ‘in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (v.9). That’s not an optional activity for people who like that sort of thing; on the contrary, it’s the very reason we exist as a church at all. May the Holy Spirit lead us out of our religious comfort zones, so that we may go about our daily lives as people who have been transformed by the good news, and have been given the privilege and responsibility to share it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April 14th - 20th 2008

Monday, April 14th
Office Closed/ Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, April 15th
7.30 pm - Simply Christian @ St. Margaret’s

Wednesday, April 16th
7.15 pm - Vestry meeting @ Church

Thursday, April 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.

Friday, April 18th
6.30 pm - Hymn Sing Social @ Adrian & Marg Rys’.

Saturday, April 19th
10 - 3pm - “Following in the Footsteps of Christ” #2

Sunday, April 20th - Easter 5
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Class

GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Len & JoAnne Holmstrom
• Gary, Kathy, Matthew & Laurel Hughes
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Some more of our Intercessors Catherine Ripley, Marg Rys & Lloyd Thompson.

St. Margaret’s News

Win House Total as of 6th April - $2553.00
Mobile Clinic Total as of 6th April - $5063.00

SMILE PLEASE ☺
"There will be some paparazzi at coffee times this month. Tricia Laffin will be looking to take your picture if you and your family are not yet on the photo board. So come and say hi to her after the service, she'll be the one with the camera."

Next Social Event - ‘Hymn Sing’ - Please see sign-up sheet in the foyer to put your favourite Hymn down and for more information on the next social event taking place on Friday, April 18th.

More Roster Volunteers Needed - We are urgently in need of some more roster volunteers at the 10.30 Service, especially Greeters/Sidespeople, Readers & Lay Administrants. If you think you can volunteer for either of these on a regular basis or want more information, please contact Nicky at the office on 437-7231 or stmag@telusplanet.net. Thank you.

Following in the Footsteps of Christ: Learning from the Anabaptist Tradition Part 2, Saturday April 19th, 10am - 3pm. Please sign up on the sheet in the foyer for this course. For more information please speak to Tim Chesterton. Note: Registration deadline is Tuesday at 9am!

Habitat for Humanity is currently booking volunteers from now until the end of June with a real need for April! We are at the finishing stage of our Norwood build and the tasks coming up are things like laminate flooring, building decks, installing shelves. We are booking both groups and individuals. We are also currently recruiting for lunch providers from now until September. For more info or to be placed on Habitat’s e-mail distribution list for volunteers, please contact Angela at Habitat at 479-3566 ext 223.

Free Desk available - If anyone in the congregation is interested in the desk downstairs in the basement it is yours for free. Please let the office know (437-7231) and make your own arrangements to come and pick it up. Thanks.


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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sermon for Easter 3: 1 Peter 1:13-25

God’s People

On Easter Sunday I said that when the early Christians went out to spread the Christian message, they always began by announcing good news, not by giving good advice. It’s not that they never gave good advice; it’s just that they were very clear about the proper order of things. Speaking grammatically, we might say that they always put the indicatives before the imperatives – the announcements before the commands. Before telling people what God wanted them to do, they first announced the wonderful news of what God has done for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Our passage from 1 Peter today contains a lot of imperatives: we have commands like ‘be holy’ and ‘fear God’ and ‘love one another’. Peter makes no apology for this, and I don’t want to apologise for it either. But what we often miss is that this text is also full of indicatives: joyful announcements of what God has done for us. I want to emphasize this today by asking, ‘What sort of a people are we - we Christians, that is? What does Peter tell us about ourselves in this passage?’ Three main ideas dominate this reading: we are a newborn people, a liberated people, and a people living in exile.

I’ve put ‘a newborn people’ first, although it comes last in this reading. I’ve done this because this refers back to something in last week’s reading. In 1 Peter 1:3 we read: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’. And then in today’s reading, in verses 23 and 25, Peter goes on to say, ‘You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God… That word is the good news that was announced to you’.

After Jesus’ death on Good Friday, his story was over, and his disciples were cowering behind locked doors for fear that the authorities would soon arrest them as well. It looked to them as if the power of love had confronted the power of evil and been decisively defeated by it. Rome had hung Jesus up on a cross, and as in all crucifixions the message came through loud and clear: ‘We’re in charge here, so do as you’re told, scum!’

But that wasn’t the end of the story. On Easter morning, God demonstrated once and for all that the power of love is stronger than the love of power; he demonstrated that good, and not evil, has the last word. The one who loved his enemies also triumphed over his enemies without a shot being fired. Where there was death, there was now life; where there was despair, there was now hope; where there was sadness, there was now joy. In short, God worked a miracle.

Peter wants us to know that just as God has worked a miracle in raising Jesus from the dead, so God has also worked a miracle in bringing us to a new birth. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead has now given us new life as well. ‘New birth’ is of course an image that comes directly from Jesus himself; in John chapter three, he tells Nicodemus that anyone who wants to see the kingdom of God needs to be ‘born from above’ or ‘born again’.

What the scriptures are telling us here is that the process by which you and I become Christians isn’t just about human activities and decisions. We’re not just ‘going through a religious phase’; rather, the Holy Spirit is doing something miraculous in us. Something in us that was dead has now come alive; the Holy Spirit has breathed life into us and we have been born from above.

How did this come about? Peter says we’ve been born again ‘through the living and enduring word of God’, which he says ‘is the good news that was announced to you’. (vv.23, 25). This makes sense to me when I think of my own spiritual journey. As a child I heard the word of God – that is, I heard the gospel stories as I was taken to church week by week and as my Mum and Dad read Bible story books to me. Later on, in my early teens, I read books like The Cross and the Switchblade and Nine O’Clock in the Morning in which I heard a lot of ‘good news stories’ – stories about the power of God at work changing people’s lives. This message of good news led directly to my own response of faith on the night when I first gave my life to Jesus.

My friend Christobel Lines, who used to be the chaplain at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre, was brought up as a churchgoer but hadn’t discovered a personal connection with God through Jesus. Then someone gave her a copy of William Barclay’s little commentary on the Gospel of Luke. She read it all the way through, and the word of God, the good news she read in that book, brought her to a personal faith in Jesus.

There are many ways in which this word of God, this good news, might come to us. It might be through a conversation with a friend. It might be through reading the scriptures or hearing a sermon. It might even happen through an experience of the liturgy! However it happens, the God who worked a miracle in raising Jesus from the dead works a miracle in us too, as the Holy Spirit breathes new life into us and brings us to new birth into the family of God.

We are a newborn people, a people who have heard the wonderful news of Jesus’ resurrection and who are being transformed by it. The second idea we see in this passage is that we are a liberated people, or perhaps we might want to say a ransomed people.

Let’s imagine a slave about to be sold in the slave market in one of the cities where Peter’s hearers were living. Perhaps this young man’s family had gotten into serious debt and was unable to satisfy their creditors. In this kind of situation, the law allowed for the debtors to be sold into slavery in order to help pay back the money they owed. So here’s this young man who may well have had glorious dreams for his future, but now he’s a slave. He’s standing naked on the auction block and the auctioneer starts the bidding off. But suddenly the young man hears a voice that sounds vaguely familiar. He looks up and sees a distant relative standing in the crowd. The relative claims the right to redeem him, a right recognised by law. The relative comes forward, pays the price of buying a slave, and then sets the young man free to go back to his own family. He has been ransomed, or redeemed.

In verses 18-19 Peter says: ‘you know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish’. The Cross, in other words, is the ransom price that has been paid to set us free.

But free from what? Free from ‘the futile ways inherited from your ancestors’. Now I don’t know about you but I’m not used to hearing the ways of my ancestors described as ‘futile’! Today in Canada we’re conscious of living in a multicultural society, and we want to show respect for the ancestral traditions of others. But Peter is reminding us that customs and traditions centred on false gods are futile – because those gods are false and so are not able to give us the help they promise.

A few years ago in the Edmonton Journal I read an interview with Jody Foster. She is surely one of the most respected actors in the world today, but in that interview she said that she couldn’t find one good thing to say about fame. If she’s right, then a lot of ambitious young actors are embarking on a futile quest, because even if they do succeed in finding fame they’re going to discover that it doesn’t deliver the satisfaction they think it will. So the quest for the false god of fame turns out to be one of those ‘futile ways’ Peter is referring to.

Someone once asked “If money can make you happy, why are so many rich people snorting cocaine up their noses?” The answer of course is that they’ve discovered that their false god can’t deliver what it promised them, so they’re now looking somewhere else. And millions make the same kind of discovery about other false gods such as sex, youth, or alcohol. When we look to them as gods, all they leave us with is emptiness. This is what Jesus has ‘redeemed’ us from. He has set us free from this futility by connecting us to the true and living God.

Well, this is pretty good so far, isn’t it? We’re a people who have been born again through the power of the resurrection of Jesus; we’ve heard the joyful news of what God has done for us through Jesus, and it’s transformed our lives. And we’re a people who have been set free from a life based on misplaced hopes; instead we’ve learned to put our hope and trust in God who raised Jesus from the dead.

The third image isn’t quite so cheerful: we’re not only a newborn people and a liberated people, but we’re also an exiled people. In verse 17 Peter tells us to ‘live in reverent fear during the time of your exile’. What’s that all about?

In 597 B.C. many of God’s Old Testament people were taken away into exile in Babylon. They lived there for seventy years, and some of them did very well for themselves. People like Daniel rose in the service of the Babylonian Empire and exercised great influence on the land where they were now living. But nonetheless, they never forgot that Babylon was not their real home. They collected the writings of the prophets and historians of Israel into something resembling the Old Testament that we have today. They created the institution of the synagogue, where they gathered week by week to hear those scriptures read and to pray. They preserved their language and their faith in the one true God over against the many gods of Babylon. In short, they lived as resident aliens in a foreign land.

You and I are also called to live as resident aliens in a foreign land. God loves the world, so we love it too, but we also realize that it’s not yet the sort of place God wants it to be. We’re citizens of the kingdom of heaven; one day that kingdom will transform the whole earth, but that day has not yet arrived. So we’re like those old Jewish believers, called to be a distinct society, with our own values and customs which we learn, not from the world around us, but from the gospel of Jesus.

What are some of those values and customs? They include longing for the right things. Peter tells us in verse 13 to ‘set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed’. In other words, don’t set your sights on getting rich or being successful or being forever young or anything like that; rather, recognise those things for what they are, ‘the futile ways inherited from your ancestors’ that we’ve already talked about. Rather, as Jesus would say, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’; long for the day when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, and don’t settle for anything less than that.

Another one of the values and customs we learn from the gospel of Jesus is to fear the right person. Peter tells us in verse 17 to ‘live in reverent fear’, and in the context this of course refers to the fear of the Lord.

I expect you’re surprised to hear Peter encouraging us to fear God. We’ve often heard that this is an Old Testament concept, which Jesus and his apostles have thrown out. But I would like to suggest to you that an enormous number of people today do live in fear – not the fear of God, but the fear of the opinions of others. We crave the acceptance and approval of others, and we dread their rejection and disapproval. When Peter encourages us to fear God, what he’s saying is ‘Decide now whose good opinion matters more to you – the world’s, or God’s’. There’s an old Anglican hymn with this line in it: ‘Fear him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear’. In other words, Peter is encouraging us to play our lives for an audience of one – God. We want to grow to the point where his applause is the only applause that ultimately matters to us.

Finally, in verse 22 Peter tells us to love one another: ‘Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart’. Peter is actually using two different Greek words for love here. When he says ‘you have genuine mutual love’ he’s using a word meaning ‘friendship’ or even ‘brotherly or sisterly love’. He’s saying “You Christians are already friendly toward each other and treat each other like family. That’s good, but I want you to go further yet. I want you to ‘love one another deeply from the heart’. The word he uses is ‘agapé’ which means the sacrificial love that Jesus showed by giving himself for us on the Cross. It’s not about feelings, but actions. To us ‘the heart’ means feelings, but it didn’t to the ancient people: it meant ‘the will’, the place we make choices about our actions.

I believe God wants to speak to us, here at St. Margaret’s in the year 2008, through these ancient words of scripture. How would we describe ourselves as a parish? What would be the most important things we would think of? Peter suggests these three images for us. God wants us to rejoice that we are a newborn people: the same God who raised Jesus from the dead has breathed new life into us as well. We are a liberated people, set free from the old ways of futility. And we are an exiled people, citizens of another place, living a distinct lifestyle in this world that God loves so much.

But we do that, not to withdraw from the world, but to transform it. God wants to colonize this world with citizens of his kingdom, so that this world will be changed by the gospel of Jesus. And when, in the here and now, we live by the values and customs of the kingdom to come, that transformation can go forward. May it be so, through you and me, as we learn to live as God’s people.

Monday, April 7, 2008

April 7th - 13th 2008

Monday, April 7th
Office Closed/ Tim’s Day Off
1.30 pm - Afternoon Bible Study

Tuesday, April 8th
11.15 am - St. Joseph’s Eucharist
7.30 pm - Simply Christian @ St. Margaret’s

Wednesday, April 9th
7.00 pm - Corporation Meeting @ Bogani Cafe

Thursday, April 10th
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, April 12th
Tim’s Day Off

Sunday, April 13th - Easter 4
9.00 am - Eucharist
10.30 am - Eucharist & Sunday School
7.30 pm - Youth Confirmation Class


GROWING PRAYER @ ST. MARGARET’S

Church Families:
• Bill & Joan Hill
• Julie Holmes
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Some of our Intercessors Chris Aasen, Pat Leney, Ernie Marshall & Doug MacNeill.

St. Margaret’s News

SMILE PLEASE ☺
"There will be some paparazzi at coffee times this month. Tricia Laffin will be looking to take your picture if you and your family are not yet on the photo board. So come and say hi to her after the service, she'll be the one with the camera."

Next Social Event - ‘Hymn Sing’ - Please see sign-up sheet in the foyer to put your favourite Hymn down and for more information on the next social event taking place on Friday, April 18th.

More Roster Volunteers Needed - We are urgently in need of some more roster volunteers especially Greeters/Sidespeople, Readers & Lay Administrants. If you think you can volunteer for either of these on a regular basis or want more information, please contact Nicky at the office on 437-7231 or stmag@telusplanet.net. Thank you.

Christian Male Choir Festival ˆ Saturday, April 12, 7 p.m. ˆ Six male choirs from across Alberta will gather together in choral song, and crescendo with a mass chorus of 150 voices. Edmonton Christian Male Choir (ECMC) is the host choir. Where: Ellerslie Road Baptist Church, 10603 Ellerslie Road SW. Tickets: $12, $9 Seniors and Students, $25 Family ˆ available at the door or from ECMC members. More information: Speak to Ernie Marshall or Doug MacNeill or www.members.shaw.ca/ecmchoir/

Following in the Footsteps of Christ: Learning from the Anabaptist Tradition Part 2, Saturday April 19th, 10am - 3pm. Please sign up on the sheet in the foyer for this course. For more information please speak to Tim Chesterton.

Habitat for Humanity is currently booking volunteers from now until the end of June with a real need for April! We are at the finishing stage of our Norwood build and the tasks coming up are things like laminate flooring, building decks, installing shelves. We are booking both groups and individuals. We are also currently recruiting for lunch providers from now until September. For more info or to be placed on Habitat’s e-mail distribution list for volunteers, please contact Angela at Habitat at 479-3566 ext 223.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Voices for Habitat 2008

‘Voices for Habitat’ is an annual variety concert to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity Edmonton. ‘Voices 2008’ will be its third year; previous performers have included Chris Wynters, the Edmonton Christian Male Choir, Rob Heath, and Samantha Schultz. For its first two years the concert was held at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church on the south end of the city, but has now outgrown that venue and is moving this year to St. Timothy’s Anglican Church (8420-145 St.).

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton is a charity building simple, decent, affordable homes for families. HFH sells homes to families at no profit, and finances a zero-interest mortgage. They offer the opportunity to purchase a new home and begin to build equity through a mortgage. The vast majority of the work of HFH is carried out by volunteers. HFH is a faith-based charity but is supported by people from all faith backgrounds and none. You can find out more information about them from their website here.

Voices for Habitat 2008 will be held on Sunday May 4th at 7.00 p.m. The following performers will be participating:

Alex Boudreau and Tim Chesterton, two solo performers who are often seen together in the folk/roots music scene in Edmonton. Alex is a talented lead guitarist and singer-songwriter who plays with Carrie Hryniw, the Bloomin’ Thistles and other local musicians. Tim is an arranger and performer of traditional folk songs, supplemented with a growing body of his own compositions.





Michael Chase is a local Christian singer-songwriter who has recently released his first CD. You can hear some of his music on his MySpace page here.




The Piatta Forma Choir is a Leduc Community Choir consisting of singers of all ages. In keeping with Leduc’s historic heritage, the group chose the name Piatta Forma which is an Italian phrase for “Oil Platform”. Under the direction of Arlene Klonteig, the choir has been promoting music and an appreciation of the arts in Leduc since 1998. The choir began with a small enthusiastic group of singers, and over the past 10 years, has grown to a number of 35 singers. The choir has competed in numerous competitions both at the local and provincial levels, including the Alberta Music Festival, with great success. The group also performs several concerts each year.







The Sheril Hart Trio is made up of Sheril Hart on vocals and keyboards, Jamie Philp on guitar, and Lindsay Woolgar on bass. Together they perform a very accessible jazz-based style of music which has delighted audiences in local venues such as Hulbert’s. Sheril is a strong vocalist, and both Jamie and Lindsay are much in demand as backing musicians for other local acts.





The Bloomin’ Thistles are Marty and Lil Siltanen, Alex Boudreau and Lindsay Woolgar. They first came together a year ago to play at Marty’s CD release party, and had such a good time that they’ve continued to perform together occasionally since then; recent venues have included Homefest 2007 and the Blue Chair Café. Marty’s original songs, written in an accessible storytelling style, are the backbone of the group’s repertoire, but other members also get to showcase their talents.




The House Kats: Take some vintage blues and ragtime, add in some contemporary R&B, a little folk, a lot of swing, some country, some originals, and the odd top forty song...then put it in the hands of 3 veteran musicians, and you have the House Kats. They are quickly making a name for themselves as one of Edmonton’s most engaging concert acts. It's a love of live performance and a feel for roots music that has made their recent concerts so memorable. The band is made up of three of the most sought after side-men in town: Marc Ladouceur on guitar and mandolin, Don Marcotte on stand-up bass, and Terry Nadasdi on guitar. One reviewer calls their live show ‘part symphony, part carnival, and all fun’.





Please note that Martin Kerr was originally scheduled to play at VFH, but had to drop out at the last minute. The Bloomin’ Thistles have graciously agreed to take his place.


Tickets for Voices for Habitat are $10 plus agency fees and are available from the Acoustic Music Shop, Blessings Christian Marketplace, Myhre’s Music, and Tix on the Square.



Sermon for Easter 2: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Hope for the Future and Strength for the Present

Up until a couple of years ago, I went once a month to the Edmonton Young Offender Centre to lead Sunday afternoon services. One time I was planning to do a bit of teaching about prayer, and I asked the chaplain if she had any advice. She said, ‘Remember that kids here have no privacy. The doors to the rooms on the units are all glass, and if a kid decides to pray or read the Bible, everyone else on the unit knows about it, and the kid will never hear the end of it’. Nonetheless, there were kids on those units who prayed and read the Bible every day. Furthermore, I even had times when kids were brave enough to ask for baptism, standing up in front of their peers and making a public profession of faith in Christ. Obviously what they had gained in Christ was more important to them than the persecution they were experiencing as a result of their faith.

In mainstream society in twenty-first century Canada, we don’t tend to go through a lot of suffering because of our faith. Opposition to Christianity is more subtle, like water erosion, carrying away a bit here and a bit there, until one day we wake up and discover whole chunks of the riverbank are missing. It manifests itself in things like the choice Christians have to make between churchgoing and participation in Sunday sports, or the way in which the institutional church is so often an object of scorn in the media. People are hungry for spirituality but very skeptical about the claims of organized religion. Over time, that scorn can be hard for those of us who have given our lives to following Christ as part of his church.

The First Letter of Peter was written to a group of Christian congregations in what is now northern Turkey. Let me tell you about some of the suffering they were experiencing.

In those days all citizens of the empire could be required at any time to offer worship to the emperor as a god; this was their ‘pledge of allegiance’ to Rome. But this was something Christians could never do. They believed that there was only one God, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. The penalty for refusing to worship the emperor was death.

In order to do business in those days it was almost essential to be a member of a trade guild. These guilds had their meetings in the temples of pagan gods and they usually included worship of those gods. Often, this worship included ritual prostitution. Christian businessmen wouldn’t participate in this, and so they lost business opportunities and some of them were expelled from the guilds.

Many of these cities and towns also had regular community sacrifices to the gods which all good citizens were expected to attend. Those who refused to attend were accused of not doing their part to keep the gods happy, and if bad things happened to the town, they might well be blamed for them.

And so these little Christian communities in Asia Minor were the victims of slander and ostracism. Businessmen were getting poorer. Sometimes there was mob violence, and there was always the risk of execution if the authorities decide to enforce the law about worship of the emperor. These Christians were living in increasing fear and difficulty, and in today’s passage Peter writes to give them both hope for the future and strength for the present.

Let’s start with hope for the future. Look with me at Peter’s words in verses 3-5:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter says that they have been given a new birth into a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection of the dead had a definite meaning in the Jewish world in the time of Jesus. At the end of this present evil age God’s kingdom was going to come in power, and a new age of justice and peace would begin. When this happened, the righteous dead would be raised to participate in it. Christianity modified this view slightly; instead of a clean break between the old age and the new age, there is now an overlap. With the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the kingdom of God has begun, but God’s reign is not yet complete. The Lordship of Jesus is partly hidden at the moment, but one day it will be fully revealed.

We can be sure that some of Peter’s hearers had given up their inheritances for Christ; others had lost their popularity or the respect of their communities and circles of friends. Peter consoles them by giving them a sense of hope: yes, there have been losses, but what lies ahead for them is a better inheritance. Why is it better? Because all human wealth, all youth and beauty and popularity, all power and influence, will fade away one day. But the inheritance we Christians have been promised is ‘imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you’ (v.4). Even from a purely pragmatic point of view, this is the wiser investment!

Some of us are putting vast amounts of time and energy into building an inheritance that will only be good for this present age. When the kingdom comes, it will all be gone. Faithfulness to Jesus is a better investment – one that lasts forever. It’s kept safe for us in a bank that never fails, that is never touched by stock market crashes, theft, inflation or rumours of war. The day is coming soon when we will be able to enjoy that investment, that inheritance, forever. This is the hope that keeps us strong when we have to suffer for our allegiance to Jesus.

So Peter is giving us hope for the future, but he’s also giving us strength for the present. What’s the nature of our present Christian experience? Well, like gourmet coffee, it’s a blend; the two ingredients are suffering and joy. We read a good example of this blend in the 16th chapter of Acts where Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel in Philippi. They were stripped of their clothes, beaten with rods, thrown into prison and fastened in the stocks for the night. But then comes the surprise: ‘About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them’ (Acts 16:25). Luke doesn’t record the thoughts of the prisoners as they listened! But in this passage we see this blend of suffering and joy.

First let’s think about suffering. The enemies of the gospel inflict suffering on the Church in an attempt to wipe it out. God doesn’t send this suffering, but he does subvert the plan of the enemy by using it for a good purpose in the lives of Christians. Look with me at verses 6-7:
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I read a story once about a little girl in England who was taken by her parents to attend sheepdog trials. She enjoyed watching the dogs running around and herding the sheep, but she was quite surprised to discover that there was no judge sitting with a black robe and a wig. To her mind, the word ‘trial’ always included a judge and a jail sentence! She learned that afternoon that ‘trials’ don’t always include the threat of punishment; sometimes they are about exercising our abilities and discovering what we can do when we’re put to the test. Muscles that are exercised grow stronger. Christians who face opposition for their faith, and experience the help of Jesus through it, grow stronger too; their trials have made them strong.

The other image that Peter uses is ‘refining’ – which in his time meant not the refining of oil, but the process by which precious metals were heated until all the impurities were burnt out. Peter says that persecution can have that effect on our faith if we let it; it will drive us closer to Jesus and purify us from sin. I remember reading once of the test that silver refiners used to determine whether the process was complete. When the refiner could look into the pot of molten silver and see his own face reflected back at him, then he knew that all the impurities had been burned out and that the silver was completely pure. And that, of course, is what Jesus wants to see happen in my life and yours. He wants the world to be able to see his face in us. When that happens, we won’t need any more refining, because the process of purification will be complete.

So the one ingredient of our present Christian experience is suffering for our faith, and God uses this to strengthen our faith and refine us. The other ingredient, of course, is joy. Let’s go back to Peter again; look at verse 6, and verses 8-9:
‘In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials… Although you have not seen (Jesus), you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’.

Peter isn’t telling us to rejoice because of our trials, but in spite of them. Why? Because there is no trial that can sever us from our Lord Jesus Christ. True, we can’t see him with our eyes, but nonetheless he is real to us; we love him and are experiencing his salvation. This experience includes the forgiveness of our sins, healing from the hurts of the past, and the power to change and become new people through his Holy Spirit.

Let me close today with a warning, an encouragement, and a challenge.

First, the warning. If you stand up and let yourself be counted as a follower of Jesus, not everyone is going to be happy. That’s just the way it is.

Second, the encouragement. If we are faithful to Jesus as we suffer for him, this experience can make us better Christians. It can strengthen our faith, refine our lives, deepen our sense of connection with Jesus, and increase our joy.

Third, the challenge. Perhaps, like me, you’ve been feeling a bit uncomfortable listening to Peter today, with his assumption that Christians will suffer for their faith. After all, we in the Western church suffer so little! For so many centuries Christianity was an integral part of the world view of our societies. This has lulled us into thinking that it will always be respected, and so will its followers. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Back in the 1950’s C.S. Lewis lost his chance to become a professor at an Oxford college because of his outspoken Christian witness at the university. And earlier, in the 1940’s, Bishop George Bell, Bishop of Chichester in England, was probably blocked from becoming Archbishop of Canterbury because of his criticism of the killing of German civilians in carpet bombing. Bell was not a pacifist; he merely pointed out that the doctrine of a just war forbad the killing of non-combatants. This was not a popular message in wartime England, and Winston Churchill never forgave Bell.

There’s an old saying: “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” So here’s my challenge: make sure there is enough evidence! Stand up and be counted for Jesus. Don’t be intentionally obnoxious about it, but be faithful, and don’t be ashamed to live and speak for Jesus. You may suffer for it in the present, but when God’s kingdom comes in all its fulness, it’ll be obvious to all that you’ve made the right choice!