Thursday, February 26, 2009

Roster Duties for March 2009

March 1 - First Sunday of Lent
Greeter/Sidespeople Schindels
Counter: B. Rice
Reader: R. Betty
Readings: Genesis 9:8-17;Ps. 25:1-9; 1 Pet.3:18-22;
Lay Administrants: A. Zinck, C. Aasen
Intercessor C. Aasen
Lay Reader L. Thompson Mark 1:9-15
Altar Guild (Purple) 9am J. Mill /10:30 L. Pyra
Prayer during Communion: J. Penner, L. Sanderson
Nursery Supervisor: M. Aasen
Sunday School: P. Rayment
Kitchen: S. Gerber

March 8- Lent 2
Greeter/Sidespeople: G. & K. Hughes
Counter: T. Wittkopf
Reader: B. Mirtle
Readings:Gen.17:1-7,15-16; Ps. 22:22-30; Rom. 4:13-25;
Lay Administrants: M Rys, M. Penner
Intercessor M. Penner
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill Mark 8:31-38
Altar Guild (Purple) 9am Michelle Lobreau /10:30 Terry Wittkopf
Prayer during Communion E. Gerber, M. Chesterton
Nursery Supervisor: K. Hughes
Sunday School: C. Ripley
Kitchen P. Leney

March 15- Lent 3
Greeter/Sidespeople Mitty’s
Counter T. Willacy
Reader: G. Hughes
Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1Cor. 1:18-25
Lay Administrants D. Schindel, D. MacNeill
Deacon: Myron Penner John 2:13-22
Altar Guild (Violet) 9am M. Woytkiw /10:30 am Leslie Schindel
Prayer during Communion: M. Rys, K. Hughes
Intercessor T. Chesterton
Nursery: G. or K. Hughes
Sunday School: M. Cromarty
Kitchen B.& M. Mirtle

March 22- Lent 4 JOINT COFFEE
Greeter/Sidespeople T. Willacy
Counter C. Aasen
Reader: T. Cromarty
Readings: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3; Ephesians 2:1-10
Lay Administrants: C. Aasen, M. Rys
Intercessor P. Leney
Lay Reader L. Thompson John 3:14-21
Altar Guild (Purple) 9 am Jean Mill /10:30 am Kathy Hughes
Prayer during Communion E. Gerber, L. Sanderson
Nursery Supervisor M. Aasen
Sunday School: S. Chesterton
Kitchen: B. & M. Woytkiw

March 29- Lent 5 Informal Song Service
Greeter/Sidespeople S. & E. Gerber
Counter B. Rice
Reader D. Schindel
Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ps. 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10 Intercessor L. Thompson
Lay Reader D. MacNeill John 12:20--33
Altar Guild (Purple)9 am Michelle Lobreau /10:30 No Communion
Nursery Supervisor: K. Hughes
Sunday School P. Ripley
Kitchen: R. Betty

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sermon for Ash Wednesday: Isaiah 58:1-12

Giving Up the Right Things

When I was a little boy, the day before Lent started was popularly known as ‘Pancake Day’ (‘Shrove Tuesday’ was a title the grown-ups used, but we kids cut right to the important stuff!). In England the pancakes we ate were what I believe are sometimes called over here ‘crepes’ – thin pancakes that we flavoured with brown sugar and squeezed orange juice. They were a dessert, rather than a main course, and my Mum made the best ones I’d ever tasted. My brother and I would happily have eaten until we were sick, we liked them so much!

But why have pancakes on the day before Lent? Well, in medieval times Lent disciplines were very strict. In some times and places only one meal a day was allowed, and there were certain foods that were strictly prohibited throughout the Lenten season – all the ones that taste good to eat, in fact! Pancakes were a way of using up all those forbidden foods – all the sweets, all the rich creams and so on – on the understanding that the condemned man may as well enjoy a hearty breakfast before he goes to his fate! So Shrove Tuesday was your last chance to eat all the good stuff before the long Lenten fast began. Incidentally, the reason it’s called ‘Shrove’ Tuesday is because it was also a time for people to go to confession. In old English, to be ‘shriven’ meant to be absolved of your sins by a priest after he had heard your confession – hence ‘Shrove Tuesday’.

Ash Wednesday is so-called because of the ancient custom of using ashes as a mark of repentance. In the Old Testament we regularly read of people ‘tearing their clothes and putting ashes on their heads’. They did this for two reasons: any sort of great sorrow in their lives, and repentance for their sins. Lent is a season of repentance – a time for us to examine our lives and intentionally work on putting the teaching of Jesus into practice. So it is appropriate to begin Lent with a day of repentance, and the Old Testament sign of ashes is a way of symbolising this.

Lent has traditionally been associated with fasting, and those of us who have gone to church all our lives probably have old memories of ways this was done. It was traditional to ‘give up something for Lent’ – chocolate was one of the old standbys, of course – and it was also customary to put a little bit of extra money aside to give to the needy. Some of you will remember the old Lenten coin folders we used to have, where you put aside a quarter a day, and then at the end of Lent the money was given to some worthy project like the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund. Nowadays, of course, a quarter a day isn’t a particularly heroic level of self-denial!

But I want to come back to this issue of fasting, and of ‘giving up something for Lent’, because our Old Testament reading for tonight suggests that we might well have been giving up the wrong things! In Isaiah 58:3-4 the prophet says:
‘Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high’.
Then the prophet goes on to make fun of the trappings of ritual fasting as the people of Israel were practising it in his day:
‘Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?’ (v.5)

So what sort of fast does the Lord want to see among his people? Well, Isaiah’s not shy about telling us what he thinks! He goes on to say:
‘Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?’ (vv.6-7)
A few verses later he adds a few more details:
‘If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday’. (vv.9b-10).

Isaiah’s point is very clear – religious rituals aren’t what God is really interested in. If your fasting simply consists in going through all the right religious motions – saying the prayers, putting on the sackcloth and ashes, bowing down, offering the sacrifices and so on – but it doesn’t actually affect the way you treat your workers and the way you help the poor man at your gate, then your fasting isn’t real and God’s not interested in it. God wants to see a different kind of fasting – a fasting from injustice, from selfishness, from neglect of the poor and needy. If our fasting leads to that sort of stuff, all well and good. If it doesn’t – well, perhaps we’d be better off not to do it at all.

I don’t know about you, but I know that for myself I’m pretty good at compartmentalising my life: there’s the ‘religious bit’, and then there are the ‘other bits’. The religious bit is mainly to do with coming to church on Sunday, reading my Bible, saying my prayers, giving to the church and all that. Then there’s the personal and family bit – the matter of loving my wife and family, of trying my best to live by the Ten Commandments and so on. I can see that my faith ought to have an impact on those things – being a good Christian should make me a better husband and father and lead me to tell the truth and avoid revenge and anger and not speak evil of my neighbour and so on.

But there are other bits of my life that aren’t so easily connected to my faith. There’s the whole political bit, for instance. Should I be praying about how I vote on election day? Should I be measuring my favourite party platform by the yardstick of the teachings of Jesus? When parliament is voting on stuff like foreign aid or military spending or abortion or tax cuts, does my faith have something to say about those things, and should I be bringing my faith to bear on my political opinions? Or is that nothing to do with my religion at all? In other words, should I be keeping religion and politics completely separate, as some would argue?

And what about economics? Should my faith have an impact on that as well? If I’m in business and I have employees who work for me, should my faith have some bearing on the sort of business culture I try to create? And even as an individual, when I’m choosing which products to buy and which not to buy, is this purely an economic decision – get the best deal you can for the lowest price – or should other factors come into play as well? For instance, in the purchase of coffee, should I be buying the lowest price product, or the best tasting product, or should I also be asking questions about what sort of compensation is paid to the farmers who produce the coffee beans? Should I be thinking about fair trade coffee, or what is sometimes know these days as ‘relationship coffee’? And should I be asking questions about the clothes and shoes I wear – were they produced in sweatshops where kids work for starvation wages?

Isaiah would seem to indicate in our Old Testament reading that there are huge sections of our lives, sections we aren’t perhaps in the habit of including in the category we mark ‘religious’, which in fact are very important to God. Some of those sections are to do with our own personal response to suffering.
‘Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?’ (v.7)
This is to do with walking through our lives with our eyes wide open to the needs of others, and, if we’re able to do something to help, to do so willingly. Please note that this doesn’t automatically mean that we respond with money to every panhandler who approaches us on the street – although it does mean that if we refuse to give, our refusal needs to be based on something more substantial than irritation or selfishness. But God tells us in this verse that true fasting means putting ourselves out to help those in need. This might include giving generously to organisations that help them – such as World Vision or the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, or local organisations like Hope Mission or the Bissell Centre or the Inner City Pastoral Ministry. It might mean volunteering our time to help with one of the many organisations in our city that are strapped for volunteer hours to do the good things that are so desperately needed by those less fortunate than ourselves.

But there’s a political response called for here too. When Isaiah talks in verse 6 about loosing the bonds of injustice, undoing the thongs of the yoke, and letting the oppressed go free, he’s talking about decisions a society needs to make as a society. I alone, in isolation, can’t loose the bonds of injustice; I need to work together with my fellow citizens to make that happen. Let me give you an example. My brother, who works for a world relief and development organisation, says that all the debt relief and all the aid money that pours into developing countries will fall far short of achieving its goals unless the countries of the world also work together to change trade regulations so that they benefit the countries that need help most, rather than benefiting only the rich countries that hold the most power in world trade negotiations.

And what about environmental issues? A friend of mine recently took an ecological footprint audit and discovered that, if everyone on the planet lived at the same level he does, it would take 4.5 ‘Planet Earth’s’ to support the human race. Isn’t that something we ought to be asking ourselves about as we go into Lent? The Book of Genesis tells us that when God first created human beings he put them in the garden ‘to till it and keep it’ (Genesis 2:15). In other words, God’s first purpose in creating human beings was that they would protect and care for his creation. If the way I live my personal life is working in the exact opposite direction to this original purpose of God, isn’t that something I should be thinking about in Lent?

Isaiah is telling us that the God of the Bible isn’t only fascinated with our daily prayers and our personal religious disciplines; he’s not only interested in elaborate liturgies and grand cathedral services and all that. He’s also passionately committed to justice and peace and caring for the last and the least and the lost, and he calls his people to be passionate about the same things.

So does that mean that I’m not going to give up chocolate for Lent? Not at all. Personal disciplines are important. A little bit of self-control is always a good thing for us, and if there’s something that we know has a special hold on us, something we’d be hard-pressed to live without, it does us no harm to practice living without it for a while. In my case, that means giving up blogging for Lent. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m somewhat compulsive in reading blogs and writing for my own blog. Giving it up for Lent is a way of getting a better perspective; I know I need to do that, for my own spiritual health.

But I shouldn’t stop there, because God isn’t only interested in my personal spiritual health; he’s also interested in changing the world. That’s not going to happen just by thousands of individual Christians turning away from individual sins. There’s corporate sinfulness as well; there’s sin in the way the structures of our society work, and so we Christians are also called to fast from injustice and oppression and corporate greed, and to work at spreading God’s kingdom of justice and peace. This is a Lenten discipline too, every bit as much as giving up coffee or chocolate or blogging.

So by all means let’s work on our personal spiritual disciplines this Lent – those three disciplines Jesus mentioned in our gospel reading, of giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. But let’s remember also these other issues that Isaiah mentions. Is my life part of the problem of injustice and oppression on planet Earth, or part of the solution? Let’s spend some time thinking about that question this Lent as well. and if we come to the uncomfortable realisation that we’re falling short here, then let’s ask ourselves what practical steps we can take toward changing that situation, so that the bonds of injustice are loosed, the thongs of the yoke are untied, the oppressed go free, and the poor and homeless and naked get the help they need. This, Isaiah says, is the fast that God would choose for us.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Some more pictures from our celebration on Sunday

We celebrated six babies in our church family Sunday. Here they are:








Those of you who are members of our church Facebook group can see lots more photos from the celebration here.

Weekly Calendar for February 23-March 1, 2009

Tuesday, February 24th
8:30 am Morning Prayer @ St. Margaret’s
1:30 pm Bible Study- Contact Marg Rys 780-435-3488
6:00pm Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper

Wednesday, February 25th
7:00 pm Ash Wednesday Service

Thursday, February 26th
7:00am Men’s & Women’s Bible studies @ Bogani Café
7:30 pm Christian Basics #4

Saturday, February 28th
10:00am-12:00noon Saturday Morning Coffee- Sharing Faith Stories
@ St. Margaret’s
Pancake Breakfast Volunteers at St. Faith’s

Sunday, March 1st
9.00 am Holy Eucharist,
10.30 am Holy Eucharist and Sunday School

Growing Prayer @ St.Margaret’s: Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation. Church Families: The Chesterton Family Garth, Monica, Thomas and Meredith Comba Weekly Prayer Cycle: Intercessors

St. Margaret’s Fundraiser for the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre: Our goal is to raise $2200 by the end of March to help with the program expenses of the chaplaincy. (Alpha Courses, Bible Studies, snacks, course materials, videos/DVD’s) If you would like to give to the chaplaincy please indicate so on your offering envelope.


We had a lovely time on Sunday celebrating the new babies born last year as well as the February birthdays of the children here in the church! Below are a few pictures taken from the event!!


Celebrate Children!
Sarah Doyle has a hamper in the foyer for outgrown infant/baby clothes to be donated to teen parents who attend Braemar School in Edmonton. The staff at Braemar School work in close partnership with the Terra Centre for Pregnant and Parenting Teens. Terra provides an on-site daycare for children of the students. Terra counselors and the Braemar staff counselors work in partnership to provide a comprehensive support system for student success.Please bring any items by March 1st. THANKS!

SHROVE TUESDAY Pancake Supper! 6:00pm here @ St. M’s.

Sat. Feb. 28 @ St. M’s: 10am-12pm Saturday Morning Coffee!! Share your own Faith stories! A time of encouragement and fellowship to celebrate God’s work.

Sat. Feb. 28th, 7:30pm The Edmonton Christian Male Choir, together with the gospel trio Renewed, is presenting a concert in support of orphans in Haiti who are cared for by God's Littlest Angels orphanage. Ellerslie Road Baptist Church (10603 Ellerslie Rd. SW) Admission is free, but voluntary offerings in support of the orphanage will be gladly accepted. Come and enjoy good music, see photos of children in Haiti and meet adoptive parents.

Lent Course: First 4 Tuesdays in March! “Seeking the Face of God” 7pm Communion, 7:30pm Course Begins

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday: Mark 9:2-9

Listen to Him

There’s a well-known story about a man who fell off a cliff. On the way down he managed to grab a branch, and there he was, suspended a thousand feet above a gorge, with only the branch preserving him from certain death. He cried out, “Help! Help! Is there anyone there?”

A deep voice replied, “Yes”. The man looked around, couldn’t see anyone, and said, “Who is this?” The voice replied, “This is God”. After a moment, the man asked, “Can you help me?” “Yes”, God replied; “Let go of the branch”. The man was silent for a minute, and then he called out, “Is there anyone else there?”

When God asks us to do difficult things it’s natural for us to call out, “Is there anyone else there?” We can second-guess ourselves, wondering if it’s really the voice of God we’ve heard, or wondering if we’re interpreting the Scriptures in the right way. Sometimes we’re right to wonder; we’re not always very good at discerning exactly what it is that God is asking of us, and it’s good to check and be sure. But there are other times when, deep down inside, we know what’s right; we just don’t want to face it, because it’s too costly.

I don’t know whether the three disciples mentioned in today’s reading, Peter, James, and John, were genuinely confused about whether Jesus was truly speaking the word of God to them, or whether they just didn’t want to accept what he said because it was too costly. But there’s no doubt that they had recently heard a very hard message from Jesus, and in the first sentence of today’s gospel, Mark directs us back to that hard message. We read, ‘Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves’ (Mark 9:2). Mark very rarely gives us time references in his gospel, and so when he does, we can be sure they’re significant. So the first question we should ask ourselves is ‘six days after what?’ To find the answer, why don’t you turn with me to the end of Mark chapter 8?

In Mark 8:27 – 9:1, we have a body of teaching that Jesus gives his disciples near the town of Caesarea Philippi. It begins with him asking the question, “Who do people say that I am?” They reply, “John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the other prophets”. “What about you?” he asks them; “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “You’re the Messiah” – in other words, “You’re the King God has sent to set us free, the one like David, the one who will make our nation great again”.

Now in the tradition of the day, the coming Messiah was seen as a glorious figure, a conquering hero like David. But what Jesus says next completely rewrites that script. He says that the Son of Man – a title he liked to use for himself – must suffer and be rejected by the religious establishment, and be killed, and then after three days rise again. Peter, the very one who has just had had a moment of revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him. But Jesus in his turn rebukes Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” he says, “for your mind is on human things, not the things of God”. He then calls the crowd and his disciples together and says, “If any want to be my followers, they need to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. If anyone tries to hang onto their life, they’ll lose it, but if they give it up for me and the gospel, they’ll save it”.

Nowadays we sometimes misunderstand this passage. We think of it as a general call to suffering; ‘the cross’ we’re called to carry becomes our irascible friend or our incurable illness or even our domineering mother-in-law! But that’s not what it meant in the time of Jesus. The cross had a clear meaning then: it was a punishment that the Romans used for rebels against the empire. Jesus was saying to his disciples, “I know you think I’m going to conquer the Romans, but I’m not. Quite the opposite, in fact; the Romans are going to conquer me! And if you want to follow me, you’ve got to be prepared be seen as a dangerous rebel, and to carry the cross as I’m going to carry it, and let the Romans conquer you, as well!” In other words, instead of ‘taking out’ his enemies, Jesus was going to love his enemies to the point of death, and he was calling his disciples to walk the same road with him.

So this is the background to today’s passage. Can you imagine the confusion in the minds of the disciples? They’ve gradually come to understand that Jesus is more than just a wise human teacher or a prophet; he’s the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But now he seems to them to be taking a disastrous course. How could he be the Messiah if he was going to be killed by his enemies? It couldn’t possibly be true. But if he was the Messiah, could he be wrong about this? Maybe he wasn’t the Messiah after all?

So now Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain – probably Mount Hermon, which is close to Caesarea Philippi. Going up a mountain was full of Old Testament resonances; Moses had gone up Mount Sinai to receive the law from God, and when he came down again his face was shining so brightly that the people were terrified and asked him to put on a veil so that they wouldn’t have to look at him. Elijah, too, had made a long journey into the Sinai desert to the same mountain to meet there with God. Now, as Jesus and his three disciples were standing on the mountain, we read that Jesus’ appearance was transformed, or transfigured, before them: his clothes, like Moses’ face, became dazzling bright – Mark adds the little detail that it was ‘brighter than any laundry you can imagine could ever bleach them!’ And suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared there, talking with Jesus.

The disciples, of course, were terrified, as you would be if you saw a friend of yours suddenly transformed into a figure of dazzling light and talking with two people you knew to be dead! Peter blurted out the first thing that came into his mind: “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here; let’s make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!” Mark comments that ‘he didn’t know what he was saying’.

And then comes another Old Testament resonance. In the story of Moses going up the mountain to meet God, God himself came down on the mountain in a cloud; later, when God led his people through the desert to the promised land, we read that he travelled with them as ‘a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night’. Now the cloud comes down over the three figures, including the one that looks like a pillar of fire, and they hear a voice from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And then the cloud fades away, and the disciples see that Moses and Elijah are gone, and only Jesus is there with them.

So what did these three disciples get out of this amazing experience? And what is Mark trying to tell his readers?

Let me give you a little sidebar here. The evidence seems to indicate that Mark wrote his gospel in Rome, in the mid-sixties of the first century A.D. During that time Nero was the Roman emperor, and he was the one who launched the first great persecution of Christians. It happened after the great fire of Rome; the rumour went around that Nero had started the fire for his own amusement, and he needed a convenient scapegoat, so he blamed the Christians. “You know those Christians”, he said; “They’re always telling us that the world is going to end in fire! They’re the ones who did it!” And so began a horrendous experience for the church in Rome. Christians were hung on poles, covered in pitch and set on fire as torches to light Nero’s processions. They were crucified, as Jesus had been crucified. They were thrown into the arena to be torn apart by lions. It seems likely that Peter and Paul both died in this persecution.

Mark wrote his gospel in the context of this first great tribulation that the church went through. Part of his job in writing the story of Jesus must have been to make sense of what the Christians were going through. We can be sure that many of them were tempted to lose their faith. If they really had been adopted into God’s family, as Paul had taught them, then why was God letting the Romans do this to them? Was Jesus really Lord, or was he powerless to help them? And shouldn’t they take up the sword and defend themselves?

You can be sure that when Mark reminded his first readers of the words of Jesus about denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus, he had their suffering in mind. When he reminded them that Jesus said that if you hang onto your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for Jesus you’ll save it, he knew that many of them had lost their lives for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. He was reminding them that Jesus walked the way of the Cross, the way of loving your enemies and allowing them to kill you rather than retaliate, and that he had called his followers to do the same thing, because we believe in a God who loves his enemies and causes the sun and rain to fall on the good and bad alike.

But more about this in a couple of weeks when we look at the Mark 8 passage in the lectionary! For today, I want to concentrate on what the Transfiguration adds to our understanding of who Jesus is and what he is asking of us.

Moses and Elijah were revered figures in the history of God’s people. Moses was the one through whom God had given the Ten Commandments and the Torah, the Law; he was literally the founding father, the George Washington of the people of Israel. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets, the men and women through whom God had spoken to his people down through their history. Together then, Moses and Elijah represented ‘the Law and the Prophets’, which was a phrase sometimes used in the gospels to mean ‘The Scriptures’ – the Old Testament scriptures, that is.

So here we have the two revered figures, who together represent Israel’s scriptures, standing there with Jesus. Now, these disciples loved their Master, but I’m pretty sure that until now it had never entered their mind that he could possibly be greater than Moses and Elijah and the scriptures they represented. To put it another way, they would not have expected the voice from heaven to say, ‘This is my Beloved Son; listen to him’, but rather, ‘Here are the Law and the Prophets; listen to them!’

Nonetheless, the voice from heaven points not to Moses and Elijah, but to Jesus. Mark wants us to understand that he is the one the Law and the Prophets have been pointing to. In his life and teaching he fulfils the Law, and the Prophets foretold his coming. The Old Testament scriptures told the story of God’s people, and he is the climax the story has been leading to. So honour Moses and Elijah, yes, and the scriptures they represent, but ‘listen to him’ – listen to Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

I got my original ‘Christian Basics’ course from my colleague Harold Percy, who is the pastor of an Anglican church in the Toronto area. Once when Harold was teaching a Christian Basics class a woman made the following remark: “I don’t like it when Harold talks about Jesus. I don’t mind him talking about God, because the word ‘god’ can mean anything I want it to mean. But ‘Jesus’ is too close and too specific for my liking”.

In the light of this comment it’s interesting that in our epistle for today Paul puts Jesus front and centre in his message. In 2 Corinthians 4:5 he says, ‘For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’. ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ – that is, in Greek, ‘Kyrie’, one of the official titles of the Roman emperor. Christians were proclaiming that Jesus, and not Caesar, was the true ruler of the world, and in the eyes of the Romans that made them rebels against the empire. And so they were persecuted, as their Master had been persecuted, and they responded to that persecution with love and not hate, just as their Master had taught them.

‘Listen to him’. The one who speaks to us is not just another human religious teacher on the same level as Moses or Elijah. He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Paul says in our first reading that he is ‘the image of God’. And this Son of God speaks to us and calls us to the way of the Cross. “No”, he says, “I’m not calling you to be conquering heroes. In fact, many of you are going to lose your lives. I overcame hatred with love, and I’m calling you to do the same thing. But don’t imagine that you’ll be the loser in this; you won’t. Whoever loses their life for my sake and the gospel will save it forever”.

Now when you hear this, you might feel a bit like the man hanging on for dear life, hearing the voice of God saying, “Let go of the branch!” We may think that Jesus is out of his mind, calling us to take up our cross and follow him. But God tells us that Jesus is not out of his mind. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to truly listen, and to put into practice what we hear.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Weekly Calendar for February 16-22

Monday,February 16th
Tim Off

Tuesday, February 17th
11:30 am Eucharist @ St. Joseph’s Hospital
1:30 pm Bible Study- Contact Marg Rys 780-435-3488

Wednesday, February 18th
7:15 pm Vestry

Thursday, February 19th
7:00am Men’s & Women’s Bible studies @ Bogani Café
11:30am Seniors’ Lunch
7:30 pm Christian Basics #3

Friday, February 20th
6:30 Potluck and Couples’ Night!

Sunday, February 22th
9.00 am Holy Eucharist,
10.30 am Holy Eucharist and Sunday School
12noon Annual General Meeting
7:00 pm Youth Group

Growing Prayer @ St.Margaret’s: Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.

Church Families: David & Gladys Buzzeo
Don & Barbara Cavey
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Intercessors

St. Margaret’s Fundraiser for the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre: Our goal is to raise $2200 by the end of March to help with the program expenses of the chaplaincy. (Alpha Courses, Bible Studies, snacks, course materials, videos/DVD’s) If you would like to give to the chaplaincy please indicate so on your offering envelope.

NOTICE is hereby given that the ANNUAL MEETING of Parishioners will be held on the 22nd day of February A.D. 2009 at 12 o’clock pm, in the basement of St. Margaret’s 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. Dated this 25th day of January, A.D. 2009

Attention All Seniors! This month the Seniors’ Luncheon will be held on Thurs., Feb. 19th.. Please consider joining us for some casual fellowship and hot soup on a cold day followed by a short photo presentation of interest. We meet in the church basement at 11:30 a.m. If you plan to attend please contact Julia Holmes at 780-435-4208 so she can set a place for you.

February 20th Friday Potluck and Couples’ Night! With Terry Bachynski author of “Ordinary Guy, Extraordinary Marriage”. Great food, good conversation and quality time with your loved one! If you are interested in coming and require a babysitter, please contact Jodi at the church office. A $5 donation per couple is asked for Terry Bachynski as an honorarium. Thank you!

St. Margaret’s is celebrating our new babies February 22nd!! Alyssa Ingersoll 1 yr. old, Lecia McDougall 18mos., Matthew Doyle 5mos. Sophia Pouliot 8mos., and Chelsea Laffin 4mos.! If you would like to contribute to the gifts, please mark it on your offering envelope. Let’s celebrate our children!


SHROVE TUESDAY Pancake Supper! 6:00pm here @ St. M’s. Please sign sheet in foyer if you plan to attend!

Sat. Feb. 28 @ St. M’s: 10am-12pm Saturday Morning Coffee!! Share your own Faith stories! A time of encouragement and fellowship to celebrate God’s work.

Sat. Feb. 28th, 7:30pm The Edmonton Christian Male Choir, together with the gospel trio Renewed, is presenting a concert in support of orphans in Haiti who are cared for by God's Littlest Angels orphanage. Ellerslie Road Baptist Church (10603 Ellerslie Rd. SW) Admission is free, but voluntary offerings in support of the orphanage will be gladly accepted. Come and enjoy good music, see photos of children in Haiti and meet adoptive parents.

Lent Course: First 4 Tuesdays in March! “Seeking the Face of God” 7pm Communion, 7:30pm Course Begins

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Weekly Calendar for February 9-15, 2009

Monday,February 9th
Tim away @ Clergy Retreat

Tuesday, February 10th
Tim away @ Clergy Retreat
1:30 pm Bible Study- Contact Marg Rys

Wednesday, February 11th
Tim away @ Clergy Retreat

Thursday, February 12th
7:00am Men’s & Women’s Bible studies @ Bogani Café
7:30 pm Christian Basics #2

Sunday, February 15th
9.00 am Holy Eucharist,
10.30 am Holy Eucharist and Sunday School

Growing Prayer @ St.Margaret’s:
Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.
Church Families: Harvey Bird; Alex Blasius
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Scripture Readers

NOTICE is hereby given that the Annual meeting of Parishioners will be held on the 22nd day of February A.D. 2009 at 12 o’clock pm, in the basement of St. Margaret’s 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. Dated this 25th day of January, A.D. 2009

St. Margaret’s Fundraiser for the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre: Our goal is to raise $2200 by the end of March to help with the program expenses of the chaplaincy. (Alpha Courses, Bible Studies, snacks, course materials, videos/DVD’s) If you would like to give to the chaplaincy please indicate so on your offering envelope.

Winter Youth Camp: Feb. 13-15 Elk Island Retreat Centre Meet old & new friends; Come enjoy lots of games, team building, and tons of activities outside! Ages 15-21, $25 Contact: Sarah Alexander: sarah_emily_alexander@hotmail.com

Attention All Seniors! This month the Seniors’ Luncheon will be held on Thurs., Feb. 19th.. Please consider joining us for some casual fellowship and hot soup on a cold day followed by a short photo presentation of interest. We meet in the church basement at 11:30 a.m. If you plan to attend please contact Julia Holmes at 780-435-4208 so she can set a place for you.

http://www.senior-dating-site-review.com/images/christian-singles-dating-services.jpg

February 20th Friday Potluck and Couples’ Night! With Terry Bachynski author of “Ordinary Guy, Extraordinary Marriage”. Great food, good conversation and quality time with your loved one! If you are interested in coming and require a babysitter, please contact Jodi at the church office. A $5 donation per couple is asked for Terry Bachynski as an honorarium. Thank you!

St. Margaret’s is celebrating our new babies February 22nd!! Alyssa Ingersoll 1 yr. old, Lecia McDougall 18mos., Matthew Doyle 5mos. Sophia Pouliot 8mos., and Chelsea Laffin 4mos.! If you would like to contribute to the gifts, please mark it on your offering envelope. Let’s celebrate our children!

Sat. Feb. 28 @ St. M’s: 10am-12pm Saturday Morning Coffee!! Share your own Faith stories! A time of encouragement and fellowship to celebrate God’s work.

Lent Course: Every Tuesday in March! “Seeking the Face of God”
7pm Communion, 7:30pm Course Begins

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Weekly Calendar for February 2-8, 2009

Monday,February 2nd
Tim Off
7:00 pm World Vision Volunteer Training Seminar @ St. Margaret’s

Tuesday, February 3rd
8:30 am Morning Prayer @ Holy Trinity Riverbend
1:30 pm Bible Study- Contact Marg Rys 780-435-3488

Thursday, February 5th
7:00am Men’s & Women’s Bible studies @ Bogani Café
7:30 pm Christian Basics #1

Friday, February 6th
5:30 pm Wedding Rental/Rehearsal @ St. Margaret’s

Saturday, February 7st
Tim’s Day off
11::00am-1:30pm Wedding Rental @ St. Margaret’s

Sunday, February 8th
9.00 am Holy Eucharist,
10.30 am Holy Eucharist and Sunday School

Growing Prayer @ St.Margaret’s:
Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.

Church Families: George and Judy Bennett
Rob Betty and Arlette Zinck,
Arielle and Colin Betty

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Christian Basics Attendees

Winter Youth Camp!
Feb. 13-15 Elk Island Retreat Centre Meet old & new friends; Come enjoy lots of games, team building, and tons of activities outside! Ages 15-21, $25
Contact: Sarah Alexander sarah_emily_alexander@hotmail.com

** 2008 tax receipts will be mailed out this week **

Christian Basics-STARTS THIS WEEK!! A course to help you! Are you inquiring into the Christian Faith? Are you a new Christian who seeks a secure grounding in the basics of Christian belief and life? Have you been a believer for a long time, but would enjoy a refresher course in the basics? Are you interested in coming for baptism or bringing your children for baptism? Thursday evenings: February 5th–26th. FREE! Please register with Tim Chesterton at 780-437-7231 OR email: stmrector@gmail.com

http://www.senior-dating-site-review.com/images/christian-singles-dating-services.jpg
February 20th Friday Potluck and Couples’ Night! With Terry Bachynski author of “Ordinary Guy, Extraordinary Marriage”. Come and be blessed with good food, good conversation and quality time with your loved one! If you are interested in coming and require a babysitter, please contact Jodi at the church office.

St. Margaret’s is celebrating our new babies February 22nd!! Alyssa Ingersoll 1 year old, Lecia McDougall 18mos., Matthew Doyle 5mos. and Sophia Pouliot 8mos. and Chelsea Laffin 4mos.! If you would like to contribute to a gift, please see Elaine Gerber. Let’s celebrate our children!
The Perfect Gift

NOTICE is hereby given that the Annual meeting of Parishioners will be held on the 22nd day of February A.D. 2009 at 12 o’clock pm, in the basement of St. Margaret’s 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. Dated this 25th day of January, A.D. 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: Mark 1:21-28

Who Is This?

Tom Wright begins his commentary on today’s gospel with this story:
Not long ago there was a great disaster at sea. A tourist boat, loaded with cars and holidaymakers, had failed to shut its doors properly; the water began to pour in; the boat began to sink, and panic set in. People were screaming as the happy, relaxed atmosphere of the ship turned in minutes into something worse than a horror movie.

All at once one man – not a member of the crew – took charge. In a clear voice he gave orders, telling people what to do. Relief mixed with the panic as people realised someone at least was in charge, and many managed to reach lifeboats they would otherwise have missed in the dark and the rush. The man himself made his way down to the people trapped in the hold. There he formed a human bridge; holding on with one hand to a ladder and with the other to part of the ship that was nearly submerged, he enabled still more to cross to safety. When the nightmare was over, the man himself was found to have drowned. He had literally given his life in using the authority he had assumed – the authority by which many had been saved.

Our gospel reading for today is all about the authority of Jesus. Like the man in Tom Wright’s story, he wasn’t ‘a member of the crew’ – that is to say, he hadn’t been properly educated by the rabbis and he had no formal position of authority in the recognised religious structures of the day. Today we might say that Jesus was a layman and was never ordained as a priest. And yet, as Mark tells his story, we get the picture of Jesus as a man whose words have unusual authority, not just in teaching, but also in confronting the forces of evil.

We all instinctively yearn for this, because sooner or later all of us begin to get the sinking feeling that our lives are out of control. We’ve been going along quite nicely, thank you very much, proceeding with our plans for our career and our family and our retirement, but then life throws something completely unexpected in our direction. Suddenly the global economy goes into free fall, and the investments we were relying on for a comfortable retirement lose a huge amount of their value. Or, just as it looks as if our plans are shaping up, a visit to a doctor reveals the unpleasant truth that we’ve got a serious illness, perhaps a life-threatening illness. Months of unpleasant treatments lie ahead, and even after that the outcome is not guaranteed.

‘Forces beyond our control’ – that’s the phrase that so often is used. Reporters ask the chairman of the board of the corporation why they’ve had to lay off so many workers. “It’s the global markets”, he replies; “We’re subject to forces beyond our control”. Governments pass stimulus packages, hoping that something can turn the ship around, but even then there’s no guarantee that it will work. This is bigger than one human being, even if that human being happens to be the president of the most powerful country on earth.

That’s what Mark’s story is about today. People are used to human impotence in the face of the forces of evil, but suddenly, to everyone’s astonishment, a man strides onto the stage and begins to say and do things that they thought no mere human being could say or do, and the forces of evil have to sit up and take notice of him. Who is this man? That’s the question Mark wants us to consider.

Let’s remind ourselves of the context. Jesus has come back from his first struggle with the devil when he was tempted in the wilderness. He’s begun to announce the message that the kingdom of God has come near – in other words, God is taking authority again in his world and confronting the dark powers that have enslaved his creation. Jesus has called his first disciples to follow him, promising that he will make them fish for people. Now it’s the Sabbath day, so it’s natural for Jesus and his followers to go to the synagogue; they are all loyal Jews, worshippers of the God of Israel.

In the synagogue Jesus begins to teach. We’re not told how that came about. The synagogue was governed by elders, and it was their responsibility to make sure someone was there to interpret the scriptures for the congregation. On a similar occasion Luke tells us that Jesus was invited to come forward and read a passage from the scriptures and explain it to the people; we can perhaps assume that something like that happened here.

But when Jesus begins to speak, the crowd notices right away something very different about his teaching, ‘for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ (v.22). We can perhaps guess what that means. It was the custom for the scribes to appeal to other authorities when they were explaining the scriptures to the people. “Rabbi so-and-so says this about the text; Rabbi such-and-such disagrees with him and takes this line…” and so on. I believe this is still true today in orthodox Judaism; when rabbis are teaching from the Talmud they will often appeal to the writings of great scholars from years gone by.

But we remember from the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus didn’t teach like that. The formula he sometimes used was, ‘You have heard that it was said… but I say to you’. In other words, if he thought that the interpretations of previous generations were wrong, he wasn’t shy about saying so, and he felt no need to back up his opinions by appealing to a higher authority. He simply stated the truth as he saw it: ‘This is the way it is; end of the story’.

We can imagine that some people were offended by this, and were thinking to themselves, “Who does this man think he is?” But just as they were starting to ask themselves this question, something dramatic happened:
‘Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him”. And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him’ (vv.23-26).

What are we to make of this story? All of Jesus’ contemporaries would have accepted without question the existence of the Devil and of lesser evil spirits, sometimes referred to as demons; Mark here refers to an ‘unclean spirit’. Indeed, all of the writers of the New Testament assume this belief – that, behind all of the evil in the world, there is a powerful and malevolent force which is in rebellion against God and is determined to impose its will on human beings and use them for its evil purposes. Jesus simply takes this for granted and acts accordingly, and so do the other New Testament authors.

Modern people are more sceptical about this; they tend to see it as a superstitious holdover from a pre-scientific age. According to this way of thinking, ancient people believed that mental illnesses and diseases were caused by demons, but nowadays we know that they are caused by germs and by childhood traumas. So a modern interpreter of this story is more likely to see this man as suffering from some sort of mental illness, and Jesus as being somehow able to reach into his tortured psyche and bring him some healing.

I want to say quite clearly that this is not my view. I think that if the Lord and his apostles accepted the existence of unclean spirits and acted accordingly, then I have no reason to disbelieve. Furthermore, without going into details, I’ll simply say that I’ve seen enough in my thirty years of pastoral experience to know that, as Shakespeare says in Hamlet, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, then are dreamt in your philosophy’. Interestingly enough, at least one modern psychiatrist, Dr. Scott Peck, also believes this; in his book The People of the Lie he fully accepts the traditional belief in evil forces and even in exorcism, and he defends this belief from the point of view of a practising psychiatrist.

However, even if we follow the path of modern interpretation and see this as a confrontation with a mental illness, what is happening in this passage is truly amazing. Most doctors, when confronting some mental illness such as Multiple Personality Disorder, have to spend long hours in counselling sessions over periods of months and years to even begin to bring some healing to these troubled souls. But Jesus simply speaks a word of power, the man goes into convulsions, and then he’s at peace. So even if we take the modern line of interpretation that this is mental illness of some kind, the question still remains: ‘Who is this? Who is this who has the power to bring healing to these suffering people with just a word?’

And this is exactly the question Mark wants us to ask. Modern readers of this passage tend to fixate on the question of whether or not evil spirits exist, but ancient readers wouldn’t have done so – to them, there was no question about it. To them, the emphasis would have been on the authority of Jesus, and Mark emphasises this by using the word ‘authority’ twice in the text: Jesus’ teaching is authoritative, and so is his confrontation with the forces of evil.

What exactly is that authority? Today we live in a pluralistic age and a lot of people would much prefer us to reduce Jesus to the level of just an ordinary human teacher. Many human beings have founded great world religions – Muhammad did it, and Moses did it, and Jesus is just another one like them – very wise and good, no doubt, but still just a human being.

But the point that Mark is trying to make for us in the first half of his gospel is precisely the opposite: Jesus is doing things that no other man could do. Whether or not he has the right to do so – and of course, that’s a controversial issue for his first hearers, just as it is for us today – he’s teaching people directly with the authority of God rather than appealing to human authorities to back up his opinion. But just as people are asking themselves who he thinks he is, he shows by his easy victory over the unclean spirit that this is not just empty chatter: he has real power, a power of the sort his hearers have never seen before.

Mark is painting us a picture of the strong Son of God, God’s anointed king, who is boldly walking into a world full of lies and evil, speaking the truth and setting people free. He can do things no one else can do, because he isn’t just like anyone else. The unclean spirit is actually telling us the truth for once: this is the Holy One of God, God’s anointed servant, the Son of God himself. This isn’t just another religious philosopher giving us timeless religious wisdom on the same level as the others who came before him and after him. What is happening in Jesus is unique, and the further Mark gets on with his story, the more we’re going to realise that we are called on to give some sort of response to this man. Who do we think he is? And what are we going to do about it?

Which of course is where it gets personal for you and me. Apparently the unclean spirit had no choice in the matter: Jesus wanted to set a suffering human being free, and his authority was so strong that when he spoke a word of command, it had to come out of the man. But God in his infinite grace and mercy has given you and me a choice. God has no desire for us to obey him out of compulsion; he wants us to freely surrender our will to him, because we love him and trust him for ourselves. And so the strong Son of God gives us a genuine choice in the matter. Earlier in the gospel of Mark he comes into Galilee, announcing the good news of the kingdom and inviting people to turn away from their sins, to believe in him, and to follow him. Whether or not people respond is up to them.

So this is the question – the challenge, if you like – that Mark is bringing to us: who do we think Jesus is? We’ve already seen him casting out an evil spirit with a word; as we go on in Mark’s story we’re going to watch as he heals people of all kinds of diseases - as he claims to be able to forgive a man’s sins and then backs up the claim by raising him from a bed of paralysis – as he calms a huge storm on a lake simply by speaking a word – as he raises a little girl from the dead. In each instance the hearers ask the question, ‘Who is this man?’

Mark is asking us, ‘Do you think an ordinary man can do things like this? And if not, who is this man? I’ll tell you who he is – he’s the Son of God, the Messiah, the one whom God has sent to be the true King, and he’s calling people everywhere to turn away from their previous allegiances and follow him as their Saviour and Lord’. That summons still comes to each of us today; what are we going to do about it?