Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sermon for July 26th: John 6:1-21

The Bread of Life (1)

The British newspaper columnist Bernard Levin once wrote a column called ‘Life’s Great Riddle, and No Time to Find Its Meaning’. In it Levin – who by the way has stated emphatically that he is not a Christian - wrote these words:
Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well-balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it… it aches.
Levin is talking about the spiritual hunger and thirst that are alive and well in the world today. Advertisers want us to satisfy that hunger by buying their products. Entertainers want us to satisfy it by going to their concerts or buying their CDs. We try to satisfy it ourselves, by meeting our personal goals or living a balanced life or by having strong relationships and happy families and so on. But at the end of the day, if we’re honest, deep down inside we have to admit that we don’t really know how to satisfy this spiritual hunger. Someone – someone who really knows what they are talking about – will have to give us some guidance about this.

This spiritual hunger and thirst are the theme of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, which we will be reading in our lectionary over the next five weeks. The chapter starts, in today’s reading, with two miracle stories – the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus’ walking on the water to meet his disciples in the middle of a storm on the lake. But John follows on with an extended theological dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees, in which he brings out the meaning of what Jesus has just done – what it says to us about who Jesus is and how he can satisfy our spiritual hunger. Today we’ll look at the two miracle stories – though not without a glance at their theological meaning! Starting next week we’ll be gradually going through the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees in the rest of the chapter.

But I have to start by giving you some background. As John told these stories about Jesus, he knew that his first hearers would remember some much older stories, stories that had been told in the Jewish community for over a thousand years. The people would remember the stories of how God had miraculously led his people through the waters of the Red Sea, and how he had fed them miraculously with bread from heaven – which they called ‘manna’ – when they were wandering in the desert. They would remember how the people of Israel had grumbled against God and put him to the test in the desert. And they would also remember how Moses had made a promise to the people. There was no need for them to consult mediums and wizards to find out what to do, he said; ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet’ (Deuteronomy 18:15). The people would remember these Old Testament stories, and John alludes to them as he tells the story of the miraculous feeding and the miraculous walk on the water.

But above all, the people would remember how, in the Exodus story, God had given himself an unusual name. Moses was talking with God on the mountain of the burning bush, before he went back to Egypt to lead the people out of slavery. There he asked God, “If I tell them that God has sent me to set his people free, and they ask me, ‘Which god? What is his name?’, what shall I say?” God replied, “I AM WHO I AM”. He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). The words ‘I am’, or ‘I am who I am’ translate a Hebrew word which may sound something like ‘Yahweh’. Later generations of Jewish people considered that name too sacred to pronounce, and so they combined its consonants with the vowels of their word for ‘Lord’, which produced a word something like ‘Jehovah’, but ‘Jehovah’ was not the way the name was originally pronounced; ‘Yahweh’ is more accurate. John will allude to this name too, in a rather shocking way, toward the end of our story.

So here we have two very simple and amazing miracle stories. They take place in the vicinity of the lake of Galilee. A large crowd has been following Jesus, but they’ve got an ulterior motive; they want to be healed, or to see some more amazing healings. On the whole, John’s Gospel takes a dim view of this motivation: the writer seems to think that the people were looking for something sensational rather than genuinely seeking God. But still, Jesus has compassion on them and decides to satisfy their physical hunger. In the Old Testament we read that the people put God to the test by grumbling about the fact that they had nothing to eat in the desert, but in this story it is Jesus who puts his disciples to the test; he knows what he’s going to do, but first he wants to find out how much they’ve learned about him from the signs that they’ve already seen. So he asks Philip, “Where are we going to get enough bread to feed all these people?” and Philip replies, “I dunno – six months’ wages wouldn’t do it!” Andrew does a bit better; he points out a boy who has five loaves of bread and two fish, “But what good are they among all these people?”

So Jesus gets everyone to sit down, takes the five loaves and two fish, gives thanks to God and starts giving them out. Miraculously, they multiply, and everyone has enough to eat, just as in the Exodus story the people ate the manna and the quails and had enough to eat and more besides. When they had all eaten enough and were full, Jesus sent his disciples around with baskets to pick up the leftovers, and there was so much left that they filled twelve baskets - one for each disciple. It would be funny if Jesus had made each of them sit down and eat what was in their basket as a lesson in faith!

But now the crowd got really excited. ‘This must be the prophet that Moses promised us!’ they said; no doubt they were making connections between the way their ancestors had been fed in the desert through Moses and the way Jesus had just fed them. The next verse is even more dramatic; Jesus realises that they are about to take him by force and make them their king. What a great thing it would be for them, instead of having a king who gouged them with taxes, if they had a king who gave them free food every day instead! But Jesus would have none of it; he immediately withdrew to a mountain by himself.

That crowd is going to meet Jesus again on the next day, but before they do, John adds a little ‘P.S.’ to the story. For some reason – we aren’t told why – the disciples leave Jesus on that side of the lake and cross over toward Capernaum without him. A storm blows up during the night as they are crossing. During the night they see a shadowy shape on the water, following them; it looks human, but it is walking on the water, which they know is impossible. No doubt the first word in their mind was the word you would think of in that situation: ‘ghost’. But as it gets closer, they see that it is Jesus. However, they are still terrified, and we can understand why; this is completely outside their experience! Who on earth can this be? But Jesus answers that question. The NRSV translates his answer like this: ‘It is I; do not be afraid’, but the Greek says this: ‘I am; do not be afraid’. John has taken advantage of a little idiom in the original language, where the Greek words ‘ego eimi’, which literally mean, ‘I am’, can also mean colloquially ‘it’s me!’ But remember what we said about the name God gave to himself in Exodus: ‘Yahweh’, which means ‘I am’. It’s not an accident that John has Jesus using this name for himself. Many things in John’s gospel have a double meaning, and that double meaning is almost always intentional.

Right – so what does this all mean for us today, in 2009, living in our homes and working our jobs and, deep down inside, trying to find a way of satisfying our spiritual hunger and thirst?

The crowd in this story made two mistakes: they thought they knew what their most important needs were, and so they used categories to think about Jesus that would lead to him meeting those needs for them. They thought their most important need was bread, and so Jesus must be the prophet like Moses, the one who had given their ancestors bread from heaven in the wilderness. Or again, they thought they needed a leader to deliver them from the Roman oppressors and their puppet king, Herod, and so they thought Jesus must be a political and military leader who would set them free.

We do the same thing today. We think we know what our most important needs are, so we choose categories for Jesus to make him fit those needs. Perhaps we feel we want counselling for our problems, so we see Jesus as a pop psychologist handing out warm fuzzies to all and sundry. Or we need a nice comfortable religion that won’t offend anyone, so we make him a great religious teacher, on a level with others like Muhammad or Confucius or Moses.

But Jesus will not accept our categories. He has his own agenda, based on the categories he claims for himself. There are two of them in this passage, and they are both very shocking, both to his original hearers and to us. Let’s take them in reserve order.

‘I AM’, says Jesus; ‘don’t be afraid’. Jesus uses this name of God for himself many times in John’s Gospel, and each time he will make it a little more explicit. A couple of chapters later, he is having a controversy with the Pharisees, and they accuse him of making himself out to be greater even than Abraham. Jesus willingly accepts the charge: “Very truly I tell you”, he says, “before Abraham was, I am”.

So this is who we’re dealing with here: not just a great religious teacher or a king like David, but the living God who has come among us in Jesus. And if that’s the case, it’s no use us trying to enlist him in our own personal agendas and our own little wars. Jesus won’t go along with that. I’m reminded of the words of one of the characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Treebeard the Ent; the hobbits Merry and Pippin ask him whose side he’s on, and he replies, “I am not altogether on anyone’s side, because no one is altogether on my side!” I suspect that’s the sort of thing God in Christ might say to us as well!

But because God has come among us in Jesus, he can claim another category for himself later on in this chapter: in 6:35 he says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. He will use shocking language to illustrate this, talking about people ‘chewing’ his flesh and drinking his blood. Two thousand years of Christian worship lead us to immediately conclude that Jesus is talking about the Eucharist here, but John does not explicitly refer it to the Eucharist, although he must have known that his hearers would make the connection. In fact, John doesn’t even mention the Eucharist in his story of the Last Supper. But he tells us what he means by ‘eating the flesh’ and ‘drinking the blood’ of Jesus: he has Jesus saying, ‘Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’. To come to him, and to believe in him, is to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Jesus, who is ‘I am’, is essential to eternal life, just as food and drink are essential to this present life – and the way to satisfy our spiritual hunger is to come to him and believe in him.

Of course, the Eucharist is one way that we do this. When we step out of our seats, come forward and hold out our hands, we are indeed ‘coming to him’ and ‘believing in him’ – at least, if we’re doing it truly, and not just by rote. But the Eucharist doesn’t exhaust the meaning of these words of Jesus. There are many other ways of coming to him and believing in him, too – by committing our lives to him, by turning to him in prayer, by chewing on his words and putting them into practice in our lives, and so on.

Toward the end of his gospel, John says this:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name (20:30-31).
In other words, John is writing as an evangelist. He doesn’t just want to give us information this morning; he wants to give us life. We may be alive biologically, but we may not yet have found that truer and deeper life that God wants to give us. How are we going to find that life? The feeding of the five thousand and the walking on the water show us the way, because they tell us who Jesus is. ‘I am; do not be afraid’. In Jesus God has come among us, and just as he satisfied the hunger of the five thousand, so he can satisfy our spiritual hunger too. He is the bread of life; if we are hungry and thirsty, we’re told to come to him and put our trust in him. He will lead us to the Father, and knowing God for ourselves though him, we will find that our spiritual hunger is satisfied at last.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Roster Duties for August 2009

Aug 2 - Pentecost 9 - Eucharist - Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople: C. & M. Aasen
Counter: C. Aasen/B. Rice
Reader: T. Cromarty
Readings: Ephesians 4:1-16
Lay Administrants: D. MacNeill/D. Schindel
Intercessor: M. Rys
Lay Reader: E. Gerber John 6:24-35
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M.Woytkiw/10:30 P. Major
Prayer Team : M. Chesterton/L.Sanderson
Nursery Supervisor: T. Laffin
Sunday School None
Kitchen: - 9:45 am J. Mill

Aug 9 - Pentecost 10 - Eucharist-Led by Myron Penner
Greeter/Sidespeople: C. & M. Aasen
Counter: C. Aasen/T. Willacy
Reader: W. Pyra
Readings: Ephesians 4:25, 5:2
Lay Administrants: V. Haase/E. Gerber
Intercessor: D. MacNeill
Lay Reader: E. Gerber John 6:25, 41-51
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 J. Mill/10:30 L. Pyra
Prayer Team: M. Rys/L. Sanderson
Nursery Supervisor: T. Laffin
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: D. Molloy

Aug 16 - Pentecost 11 - Eucharist
Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & L. Schindel
Counter: D .Schindel/T. Laffin
Reader: G. Hughes
Readings: Ephesians 5:15-20
Lay Administrants: M. Rys/G. Hughes
Intercessor: C. Aasen
Lay Reader: D. MacNeil John 6:51-58
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M.Woytkiw/10:30 K. Hughes
Prayer Team: M. Chesterton/K. Hughes
Nursery: M. Aasen
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: V. Haase

Aug 23 - Pentecost 12 - Eucharist
Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & E. Mitty
Counter: D. Mitty/T. Willacy
Reader: R. Goss
Readings: Ephesians 6:10-20
Lay Administrants: C. Aasen/M. Rys
Intercessor: T. Chesterton
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill John 6:56-69
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 J. Mill/10:30 P. Major
Prayer Team: M. Rys/M. Chesterton
Nursery Supervisor: T. Laffin
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: M. Rys

Aug 30 - Pentecost 13 - 9:00 am Eucharist; 10:30 am Morning Prayer
Greeter/Sidespeople: G. & K. Hughes
Counter: G. Hughes/B. Rice
Reader: T. Wittkopf
Readings: James 1:17-27
Intercessor: M. Rys
Lay Reader: E. Gerber Mark 7:1-23
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M. Lobreau /10:30 Morning Worship
Nursery Supervisor: M. Aasen
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: D. Molloy

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Calendar - August 2009

St. Margaret’s Anglican Church
Calendar – August 2009

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

Sunday, August 2nd - Pentecost 9
9:00 am - Eucharist
9:45 am - COMBINED COFFEE
10:30 am - Eucharist

Monday, August 3rd
Tim on holiday
Office Closed

Tuesday, August 4th
Tim on holiday

Wednesday, August 5th
Tim on holiday

Thursday, August 6th
Tim on holiday

Friday, August 7th
Tim on holiday

Saturday, August 8th
Tim on holiday

Sunday, August 9th - Pentecost 10
9:00 am - Eucharist led by Myron Penner
10:30 am - Eucharist led by Myron Penner

Monday, August 10th
Tim on holiday
Office Closed

Tuesday, August 11th
11:15 am - St. Joseph’s Eucharist

Saturday, August 15th
Tim’s day off

Sunday, August 16th - Pentecost 11
9:00 am - Eucharist
10:30 am - Eucharist

Monday, August 17th
Tim’s day off
Office closed

Sunday, August 23rd - Pentecost 12
9:00 am - Eucharist
10:30 am - Eucharist

Sunday, August 30th - Pentecost 13
9:00 am - Eucharist
10:30 am - Morning Prayer

Monday, August 31st
Tim’s day off
Office closed

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sermon for July 19th: Mark 6:34

Following the Good Shepherd

Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a musician, I was introduced by a friend to the music of Simon and Garfunkel, and I quickly became a big fan. For those of you who are too young to remember them, they were a folk music duo who became superstars in the 1960s before breaking up in 1970 and going on to solo careers that are still continuing today. Paul Simon was the songwriting part of the duo, and one of my favourite Paul Simon songs has always been ‘America’. The song describes a bus trip across the continent in search of ‘America’, and toward the end we hear these poignant lines:
‘Kathy, I’m lost’, I said, though I knew she was sleeping;
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.

At the time he wrote these words Paul Simon was an enormously successful songwriter, and that success has continued to the present day. And yet, in the midst of his success, he confessed that he was empty inside, that he was lost and couldn’t find his way. I suspect that there are many more people like him in our contemporary world: outwardly rich, competent, successful, but inwardly empty and desperately trying to find a way to fill that emptiness.

I think that’s the sort of thing Mark had in mind in our gospel reading for today when he wrote these words in Mark 6:34:
As (Jesus) went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
So Jesus saw the people he met as being ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ – they had no leader, no guide to show them the way. I suspect things are not very different today. But what happens to sheep without a shepherd? Let’s think about this for a minute.

First, sheep without a shepherd can’t find their way. When I grew up in England shepherds were part of the popular culture – even if I didn’t see too many of them in inner-city Leicester when I was a boy – and we all knew about how shepherds used sheepdogs to drive their sheep in the right direction. But in the time of Jesus shepherds didn’t drive their sheep, they went out in front of them and led them. But without the shepherd, the sheep would start going off in all sorts of different directions and get lost. And today in our world people go off in all sorts of directions and get lost, and we desperately need a wise shepherd to show us the way.

Life today is like a gigantic multiple-choice question, isn’t it? There are so many choices open to us and it’s so difficult to choose the ones that seem right for us. We can make choices about our values: what’s really important in my life? Is my life about getting as wealthy as possible? Is it about success in business? Is it about experiencing the greatest possible degree of happiness or pleasure? In other words, what’s the goal of my life, and how do I know I’ve chosen the right one?

Is there a way to live my life in such a way as to be in harmony with what I was designed for? In other words, are there ethical standards, moral laws, rules or guidelines to follow as I go through life? Are there right things to do and wrong things to avoid? And how do I know which is which? Where can I find a reliable guide to choosing one from the other?

And what about God? Church may be on the wane in our modern Canadian society, but spirituality certainly isn’t; many people are fascinated with it and are intensely interested in finding a way to connect with the spiritual world and with God. But how can I find God? There are so many paths on offer; are they all right in some sense? That can’t be true: after all, some of them tell me that I serve God by flying planes into tall buildings and bombing abortion clinics, and I know that can’t be right. So how can I find a true path through this maze, a path that will help me to connect with the true and living God and find his will for me?

We all need shepherds to guide us in finding answers to these questions. But who are our modern shepherds? Who are the voices we turn to for guidance? I’m afraid the field is not very encouraging. Anybody here remember Jo-Jo the Psychic? She was a media personality a few years ago with a hot line you could call for advice; I’m told that in her heyday she got over 200,000 calls a month. Other people turn to actors and rock stars; the tabloid press publishes endless interviews with them giving details of how they’ve finally found the secret to lasting love. Over in the self-help section in Chapters the shelves are groaning under the weight of the books, each one claiming to have found the secret of life.

One of my friends is a former Alliance Church pastor. I say ‘former’, because a couple of years ago he left pastoral ministry and began to travel across the country as a motivational speaker. He did this as a Christian ministry, and a few months ago when we met for breakfast he told me that a lot of his ministry was to other motivational speakers. “It’s pretty sad, really”, he told me; “They stand up before large audiences and share their five steps to a successful life, but when you get to know them as individuals you discover that a lot of them are as messed up as everyone else!”

So where do we go for help? We got to Jesus. In all of this confusion, the clear voice of Jesus speaks to us from the pages of scripture: “Follow me”. God has not left us shepherdless; he has come among us in the person of Jesus to show us the way. Jesus said, “I am the Way”. God’s revelation to us in the pages of the Bible comes to its clearest focus in Jesus as we read about him in the gospels. Jesus promises to lead us to the Father and to guide us about the sort of life we should be living in God’s world. I find it interesting that in today’s gospel, Jesus’ response to the people’s shepherdless state was instruction: ‘he began to teach them many things’. And even today, if we follow his teaching, we will find our way.

For many years now I’ve been suggesting a pattern prayer that I think gets right to the heart of what being a disciple is all about. It goes like this: ‘Jesus our Master, teach us today to see life as you see it, and to live life as you taught it’. I think if we live our daily lives in the spirit of that prayer, God will honour our request, and Jesus will indeed show us the way.

So sheep without a shepherd get lost and can’t find their way, but Jesus says “I am the way” and promises to guide us to the Father and to the way of life that is the Father’s will for us. Secondly, sheep without a shepherd can’t find pasture and food. A big part of the shepherd’s job is to make sure that the flock gets adequate nourishment. Nowadays most sheep live their lives behind fences, in fields belonging to their owners, but that was not the case in the time of Jesus; in those days sheep were pastured on the open range. It was the shepherd’s job to lead them to fresh pasture where they could find the food and water they needed. This of course is what David was talking about in the familiar words of Psalm 23:
‘The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul’ (1-3a).

I have seen statistics that Canadians go out to restaurants for meals more than any other nation in the world. Today in Canada we are experts at feeding our bodies with the most varied and delicious foods – some of them nutritious, some of them perhaps less so! But have we lost the skill of nourishing our souls?

Physical food gives us the strength to continue our bodily existence, but we are not only physical people – we are also souls, people with minds and hearts and emotions. ‘Soul food’ is food that feeds our inner life, food that gives us the strength to be the people we want to be and know we should be, but find ourselves inadequate to be. Where do we find this food?

In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. In some mysterious sense, Jesus himself is our soul food; Jesus lives in us, by his Holy Spirit, and nourishes our inner life. Our conscious faith and dependence on him every minute of the day is what keeps us going as Christians. Coming to him and believing in him is what satisfies our souls.

Do you find this idea difficult to grasp? You’re not alone; many people find it hard to get their head around this. It’s a bit too abstract for us, so God in his compassion gives us a concrete sign of it: the Eucharist or Holy Communion. The old Anglican prayer book uses the phrase, ‘feed on him in your heart, by faith, with thanksgiving’. That’s hard for me to do in an abstract way, but I hear those words, in the prayer book, when I’m actually holding out my hand to receive the bread of the Eucharist. Scripture teaches us that as we receive the bread and wine with faith in our hearts, so we are fed spiritually by the life and power of Jesus. We are coming to his table today to receive our spiritual food. This isn’t the only way that he comes to us, of course, but he has promised to meet us here. Are you spiritually hungry, thirsty, tired, burdened? Come to the Lord’s Table and be refreshed!

So Jesus our shepherd is leading us into God’s will for us, and nourishing us so that we can have the strength to do it. But there’s one more thing about sheep without a shepherd: sheep without a shepherd have no defence against danger.

Sheep grazing out on the free range are exposed to many different dangers. There are steep cliffs and ravines; there are wild animals out to kill and eat their prey; there are thieves and robbers out to steal the sheep for themselves. And we as human beings and Christians are also exposed to spiritual dangers. In the first letter of Peter we read these words:
‘Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).

I know it isn’t fashionable to talk about the devil today, but the New Testament assures us that there is an enemy of our souls whose will is to separate us from God forever. He does this by tempting us to leave the path Jesus is leading us along and to take a path we’ve designed ourselves. In the third chapter of Genesis, right at the beginning of the biblical story, he tempted the first humans to ‘be like God’ – in other words, to choose their own path rather than sticking with the one God had chosen for them. We know where that temptation has led the human race ever since!

In this situation, where is the safest place for me to be as a sheep? The answer is, in the flock, behind Jesus my shepherd, doing exactly as he tells me to do. When I do that, I put myself in the position where he can defend me; otherwise, I’m all alone. That doesn’t mean our shepherd never comes to look for the ones who stray – scripture assures us that he does. But it would be far better if we would not stray in the first place!

So we need to stay in the flock with the shepherd. In other words, we need to be part of the Christian community, and fully a part of it, not just half-heartedly, when it’s convenient, when it doesn’t clash with our busy schedule. It’s here that we listen to the word of the Good Shepherd, here that we experience his presence together and are fed with his body and blood. We are a community of people following Jesus together, and in that community is the safest place for us to be.

Let’s go around this one last time.

Jesus looks out on the world and has compassion for everyone he sees, because so many are like sheep without a shepherd. He wants to be our shepherd. How do we take advantage of this?

First, Jesus leads his flock to the Father and teaches us how to live, so we need to learn to listen to his voice and practice doing what he says. So our prayer is, ‘Lord Jesus, help us to know the Father as you do. Help us to listen to your words. Teach us to see life as you see it and to live life as you taught it’.

Second, just as the shepherd leads his sheep to pasture, so Jesus is the nourishment we need for our souls. So we learn to depend on him day by day and to rely on his presence to sustain us on the way. Most especially, we come to his Table regularly to receive the spiritual food he offers us here.

Third, just as the shepherd protects his sheep from danger, so Jesus protects us from the attacks of the evil one. And we make it easier for him to do that by staying close to him and to his flock – his Church. The closer you are to Jesus and his community, the safer you are from the attacks of the enemy.

Let me close with some more words of Peter. In his first letter he writes:
‘For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:25)
May this be a living reality, for all of us, as we follow our Good Shepherd.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 20 - 26, 2009

C A L E N D A R
St. Margaret’s 2009
Sharing the Gospel ~ Going for Growth!

Monday, July 20th
Tim’s day off

Tuesday, July 21st
7:00 pm Building & Maintenance Committee Meeting

Sunday, July 26th - Pentecost 8
9.00 am Eucharist
10.30 am Morning Worship

Growing Prayer at St. Margaret’s
Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.
Church Families: Kathi Kilgour
Tricia, Rich and Chelsea Laffin
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Counters

Can You Help?
From time to time members of our congregation would really benefit from a ride to church. Sometimes this is because of age, illness or giving up of a driver’s license or car. In order for us to be able to respond in a caring and effective way when the need arises, and if you are willing and able to provide such a service, please leave your name with the church office or e-mail us. Some of you are already offering these rides to fellow members of our church, and this is very much appreciated.
Thank you very much !

Gardening Volunteers
As we all know, the flower beds have been beautifully taken care of over the years. However, we are down to two talented gardeners - Julie Holmes and Doug Harris. One more volunteer who can handle the heavier work of turning hardened soil is needed. If you can spare your time and talents, please contact Tony Willacy.

Summer Schedule Notes
Bible Studies are over for the summer.

Administrative Assistant Position
Beryl has been filling in during Jodi’s absence; however, due to Jodi’s conflicting study schedule at the University of Alberta this fall, she is unable to resume these duties. Therefore, we need to fill this position as soon as possible. If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Beryl at the church or at home. Copies of the job description and responsibilities have been posted on the bulletin board downstairs. Please feel free to take one!

‘Just how would you demonstrate to others that you are true disciples and followers of Christ except by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the poor, comforting the sick and imprisoned, washing feet and showing love for one another?’ Leonhard Schiemer, AD 1527.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sermon for July 12th 2009: Mark 6:14-29

Three Ways to Live

It will be ten years next month since I was interviewed by the search committee for the position of rector of this parish of St. Margaret. It was a memorable interview in many ways, but one thing I especially remember was a question I was asked by Murray Tait, who was the People’s Warden at the time; some of you here will remember Murray and his wife Diane, who were very active members of this congregation and now live in Calgary. As near as I can remember it, Murray’s question went something like this: ‘Do you consider it to be part of your job as a preacher, not just to comfort us, but also to challenge us?’

Preachers - who are, after all, paid by their congregations - often have difficulty with that question! And yet we know that this is indeed an important part of our calling. The message of Jesus will not always come across as good news, especially when it calls us to leave sinful ways behind and put God’s word into practice in our daily lives. How do we react to that challenge? Today’s gospel tells us about two people who were challenged by God’s message, and how they reacted to it.

Let’s recap the story for a minute. First, who are these main characters? Herod in this story is not Herod the Great, who tried to get the wise men to lead him to the baby Jesus in the Christmas story. Our Herod is his son, Herod Antipas; Herod the Great had divided his kingdom between his sons, and Antipas got Galilee, where Jesus was brought up.

There are two things you need to know about Herod Antipas. First, he was a puppet king who kept his throne because it suited the Romans to have him there. Because of this, keeping the peace with Rome was always a priority for him. But secondly, like his father, he really wanted the people he ruled to recognise him as their legitimate king. You see, the Herod family weren’t really full-blooded Jews at all – they were Idumeans, and for this reason they were very unpopular. How could God’s true anointed king not be one of God’s chosen people?

The choices Herod Antipas made in his personal life didn’t help the situation, either. Herodias had been the wife of his half-brother Philip; Herod had met her at his brother’s house, and the two had become infatuated with each other. Herod had divorced his own wife in order to marry her, and Herodias had left her husband for him. It isn’t entirely clear whether or not a formal divorce ever took place between Herodias and Philip; in Jewish law a woman had no right to divorce her husband, and the question of what constituted proper legal grounds for a husband to divorce his wife was a hotly contested issue at the time of Jesus. A large segment of the population saw Herod and Herodias as living in violation of God’s law – and, to them, this was further evidence that Herod Antipas simply could not be God’s true anointed King.

This was why Herod Antipas had to arrest John the Baptist, you see. Our text says that ‘John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife”’ (v.18). We shouldn’t understand from this that John and Herod had enjoyed a quiet fireside chat over a glass of wine, discussing Herod’s matrimonial woes! No – when it says ‘John had been telling Herod’, it means, ‘telling in public, in his sermons’. And for John to say this about Herod’s so-called ‘marriage’ to Herodias was to add his voice to the voices of those who were saying ‘Herod cannot be God’s true anointed king; if he was, he would not act in this way’. At this point, as a ruler interested in keeping his throne, Herod had to arrest John.

But now comes the curious twist: Herod had a soft spot for John, too! In fact, he was more than a little afraid of him, knowing that ‘he was a righteous and holy man’ (v.20). Even more curiously, we read that Herod ‘liked to listen to (John)’ (v.20). It sounds as if there was an internal struggle going on in Herod; he was angry at what John was saying, and yet deep down he knew there was truth in the Baptist’s words.

But Herod and John were no match for Herodias; she was a scheming woman, determined to get what she wanted, and she wanted the Baptist dead. A dance on Herod’s birthday gave her the opportunity to get what she wanted. Our NRSV translation opts for a minority reading of the text and identifies the dancer as ‘Herod’s daughter Herodias’. However, this makes no sense; there is no evidence that Herod and Herodias had a daughter also called Herodias. The majority of the manuscripts identify the dancer as ‘the daughter of Herodias’ – presumably by her marriage to Philip; the Jewish historian Josephus gives her name as ‘Salome’. Herod, an impetuous man, was so infatuated with her dancing that he made a rash vow promising to reward her with anything she wanted, up to half his kingdom. This was Herodias’ opportunity; the girl asked for advice from her mother, and her mother had no hesitation about using her daughter as a pawn: she was to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a plate. ‘The king was deeply grieved’, but felt bound by his oath, and so that was the end of the matter.

What can we learn about Christian discipleship from the three main characters in this story?
Let’s start with Herodias. Here is a woman who sets out to get what she wants and doesn’t mind who gets hurt along the way. She is not afraid to use power to better her own position, and if people try to stop her, she crushes them mercilessly.

No doubt, in Herodias’ life, her insecurities fuelled her determination to have her own way. She knew that her marriage to Herod was of doubtful legitimacy. She knew that Herod hungered for the approval of his people. She knew that Herod had a soft spot for John the Baptist. And she knew that if Herod should choose to act on any of those impulses, she stood to lose her marriage and her position as the wife of the Tetrarch of Galilee. You can imagine how she must have felt.

Of course, that’s often the way it is with bullies. They often have a deep-seated insecurity inside, an insecurity that they are determined not to reveal to anyone. And so they overcompensate for this; they come across as forceful personalities, strong leaders, people who will brook no opposition. If you dare to stand in their path, they trample you down without mercy. To them, the world is a ‘dog eat dog’ sort of place, divided into winners and losers, and they are determined to be the winners every time.

The lengths to which Herodias was prepared to go in order to get what she wanted are quite shocking when you think about it. Granted, 1st century Jewish society was used to violence, but do you think it was a pleasant experience for a young girl to be presented with the head of John the Baptist on a plate? But Herodias was prepared to put her daughter through this in order to get what she wanted. She saw people, even people she loved, as pawns to push around so that she could get her own way.

Sad to say, this sort of thing is not unknown in the Christian church. We Christians can be just as determined as anyone else to get our own way, and I sometimes think that Christian congregations are particularly vulnerable to the activity of bullies. This is because we try very hard to be loving toward everyone, and so bullies can throw their weight around in a church for a long time before someone confronts them with their behaviour and challenges them to stop it.

And of course, if we are ever going to grow as Christians, we do have to stop it. Herodias had only one real god: herself. She saw herself as the lead actor in the play; everyone else existed for her benefit alone. But if we are ever going to grow in the Christian life, we have to learn to take ourselves out of the centre of our own universe and give that place back to the one to whom it rightfully belongs.

So Herodias exemplifies the person who uses power to get what they want. But now let’s turn to her husband, Herod Antipas. He’s a fascinating character! If ever there was a man with conflicted emotions, it was Herod! Deep down inside, he knew what was right, but over and over again he showed himself unable to do it.

It started with John’s arrest. As I’ve said, as a shrewd politician he knew that if he was going to keep his throne he had to arrest John, but he seems to have felt guilty about the fact. He liked to listen to John! No doubt John talked about the things he’d always talked about – the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the need for people to repent – to turn their lives around – so that they could get ready for that Kingdom. John had never shied away from spelling out specifics, and no doubt he continued to do so when he talked with Herod; no doubt he told Herod that it was wrong for him to have his brother’s wife. We read that Herod was ‘perplexed’ about this, but I don’t think we should understand this to mean that he was ‘perplexed’ about what John meant. No one could miss John’s meaning! No, he was perplexed about his own response to the message he was hearing: would he obey it, or not? He knew what he should do, but he couldn’t summon up the moral courage to do it.

And of course the same thing happened when Herodias’ daughter asked for the head of John the Baptist. No doubt Herod saw immediately that he had been in the wrong in making such a rash oath, but he cared too much for the good opinion of those around him to retreat from it. Once again, he knew what he ought to do, but he did not do it.

Most of us Christians will recognise ourselves in Herod. We all ‘like to listen’ to Jesus and his message, but we’re all ‘perplexed’ about putting it into practice. It seems so costly! It’s so hard to actually do the things Jesus says. Nonetheless, if we’re going to grow in our Christian lives, we have to face the fact that it isn’t enough just to ‘enjoy listening to’ the Christian message. Jesus told us that if we do that we’re like a person who builds their house on the sand; the rains come and the floods rise and beat upon the house, and down it comes. Obedience in theory won’t help us build a life that can stand up when the storm comes; only obedience in practice will do the job.

So we have to be willing to take ourselves out of the centre of our own lives and commit ourselves to following God’s anointed king, Jesus. We have to be willing to put his teaching into practice, rather than just listening to it and agreeing with it in theory. And finally, we have to realise that doing this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a happy ending for us.

John the Baptist was a faithful and honest man of God. He had given his entire life to the proclamation of God’s message. He had spoken the truth fearlessly and seen huge crowds of people responding to his words, accepting baptism as a sign of repentance and commitment to God’s kingdom. He had pointed to Jesus, the true lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. And then he had followed God’s call to speak the truth to people in worldly power, and he had come to a sticky end.

Mark, and the early Christians who read his gospel, did not see this as something strange. Mark wrote for Christians in Rome who were being savagely persecuted by the Emperor Nero. They understood that this was part of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. Two chapters later, Mark records Jesus as saying, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). In all likelihood Jesus meant this saying literally; many of those who followed him would take up their crosses and go to the place of execution, just as he had. To be a Christian meant being unafraid to nail your colours to the mast, identify yourself publicly as a follower of Christ, and accept the consequences, whatever they might be.

Of course, we know that the final outcome is very different. In the short term, Herodias is victorious and John is dead. A decade later, though, Herod was deposed from his throne by the Romans and ended his life in exile in Gaul, while John was already looked on as a hero of the growing Christian movement. Even more than that, as Jesus said, “those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (8:35). John lives in glory today, and one day will be raised to live with Jesus forever, and I’m sure he has no doubt that he made the right decision. But when he was looking at the executioner’s axe, it can’t have been that easy.

So in this passage Mark is teaching us about the life of discipleship. To follow Jesus means laying aside our determination to have our own way and turning instead toward the way of obedience to Jesus, God’s anointed King. It means not just finding pleasure in listening to his message, but actually putting it into practice - making the hard decisions about our way of life as followers of Jesus. And we are not promised that this will be easy – in fact, we ought to expect that it will involve suffering for us in some way, as it did for Jesus and all his earliest followers. But we are assured, despite the suffering, that this is the right path for us to choose, and that if we do choose it, in the long run we will not regret it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 2009 Roster

July 5 - Pentecost 5 - Eucharist - coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople: T. Willacy
Counter: C. Aasen & T. Willacy
Reader: T. Wittkopf
Readings: 2 Cor.12:2-10
Lay Administrants: G. Hughes/D. MacNeill
Intercessor: D. MacNeil
Lay Reader: E. Gerber Mark 6:1-13
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 ??/10:30 L. Pyra
Prayer Team during Communion: M. Chesterton/E. Gerber
Nursery Supervisor: M. Aasen
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: B & M Woytkiw

July 12 - Pentecost 6 - Eucharist
Greeter/Sidespeople: G. & K. Hughes
Counter: T. Laffin/G. Hughes
Reader: D. Schindel
Readings: Ephesians 1:3-14
Lay Administrants: C. Aasen/L. Thompson
Intercessor: L. Thompson
Lay Reader: D. MacNeil Mark 6:14-29
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M. Woytkiw/10:30 L Schindel
Prayer Team during Communion: M. Chesterton, E. Gerber
Nursery Supervisor: Tricia Laffin
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: S. Gerber

July 19 - Pentecost 7 - Eucharist
Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & E. Mitty
Counter: D .Mitty/D. Schindel
Reader: T. Rayment
Readings: Ephesians 2:11-22
Lay Administrants: D. Schindel/D, MacNeill
Intercessor: P. Leney
Lay Reader: D. MacNeil Mark 6:30-34; 53-56
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 J. Mill/ 10:30 D. Mitty
Prayer Team during Communion: L. Sanderson, K. Hughes
Nursery: G. Hughes
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: J. Holmes

July 26 - 9:00 am Eucharist; 10:30 am Morning Prayer Pentecost 8
Greeter/Sidespeople: C. & M. Aasen
Counter: C. Aasen/B. Rice
Reader: W. Pyra
Readings: Ephesians 3:14-21
Lay Administrants: E. Gerber/G. Hughes
Intercessor: T. Chesterton
Lay Reader: L. Thompson John 6:1-21
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M. Lobreau/10:30 Morn.Prayer
Prayer Team during Communion: M. Chesterton/M. Rys
Nursery Supervisor: K. Hughes
Sunday School: None
Kitchen: V. Haase

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 13 - 19, 2009

C A L E N D A R

St. Margaret’s 2009
Sharing the Gospel - Going for Growth!

Monday, July 13th
Tim’s day off

Tuesday, July 14th
11:15 am St. Joseph’s Eucharist

Wednesday, July 15th
3:30 pm Corporation Meeting at Bogani Cafe

Sunday, July 19th - Pentecost 7
9.00 am Eucharist
10.30 am Eucharist

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

Church Families: Helen Karvonen
Kimberly & Ben Kelly
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Greeters & Sidespeople

Can You Help?
From time to time members of our congregation would really benefit from a ride to church. Sometimes this is because of age, illness or giving up of a driver’s license or car. In order for us to be able to respond in a caring and effective way when the need arises, and if you are willing and able to provide such a service, please leave your name with the church office or e-mail us.
Some of you are already offering these rides to fellow members of our church, and this is very much appreciated.
Thank you very much !

Gardening Volunteers
As we all know, the flower beds have been beautifully taken care of over the years. However, we are down to two talented gardeners - Julie Holmes and Doug Harris. One more volunteer who can handle the heavier work of turning hardened soil is needed. If you can spare your time and talents, please contact Tony Willacy.

Summer Schedule Notes
Bible Studies are over for the summer.

Administrative Assistant Position
Beryl has been filling in during Jodi’s absence; however, due to Jodi’s conflicting study schedule at the University of Alberta this fall, she is unable to resume these duties. Therefore, we need to fill this position as soon as possible. If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Beryl at the church or at home. Copies of the job description and responsibilities have been posted on the bulletin board downstairs. Please feel free to take one!


‘Just how would you demonstrate to others that you are true disciples and followers of Christ except by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the poor, comforting the sick and imprisoned, washing feet and showing love for one another?’ Leonhard Schiemer, AD 1527.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sermon for July 5th: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

God’s Strength in Our Weakness

In 1958 the great British preacher John Stott led an eight day evangelistic mission at the University of Sydney, Australia. On each evening of the mission John preached the gospel in the great hall of the university and gave an invitation for people to come forward to commit their lives to Christ. The first seven days went very well, and a good number of people responded to John’s invitation. However, on the last day of the mission John caught a bug that almost deprived him of the use of his voice. Shortly before the final meeting some student leaders gathered around him, and one of them read the words from our epistle for today, where God says to Paul ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). The students prayed that those words might be fulfilled in John that night. This is how he goes on to describe what happened:

The hall was packed. But I could only croak my address into the microphone in a monotone, unable to assert my personality or modulate my voice in any way. When the time came for the invitation, however, there was an immediate and eager response. I have been back in Australia ten times since then, and every time someone has accosted me somewhere, asking “Do you remember that meeting in the great hall of Sydney University when you had lost your voice? I came to Christ that night”.

John Stott is an outstanding preacher, but on that night people didn’t notice his incredible talent. What they heard was a man with a croaky voice with no compelling power in his presentation at all. And yet, God was able to use that croaky voice in a powerful way.

Nowadays, in the church and in the world, we put great emphasis on competence. We look for qualifications, for training, for expertise, and no doubt this is a good thing. But we need to guard against the tendency to think that God can’t use you unless you have the proper qualifications. So, for instance, you might think that your visit to a sick person isn’t as good as the rector’s, because his prayers are somehow more powerful than yours (at least, that’s what some people believe!). Or you might decide to skip church on a Sunday that you know one of the lay readers is preaching – perhaps because you don’t think God can speak to you through someone who hasn’t had a seminary education.

In today’s epistle Paul offers us a different vision, a vision of a God who works through weak and struggling people to bless a weak and struggling world. In these verses Paul offers his own life as an object lesson of how God works. Look at the conclusion he draws in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Let’s look a bit more closely at what Paul is saying here. The relationship between him and the church in Corinth was a complex one, and sometimes hard for us to follow. But reading between the lines in the book of Acts and the two letters to the Corinthians, we can figure out that it went something like this.

Paul went to the city of Corinth in Greece to preach the Gospel in about A.D. 50, and a Christian church was soon planted there (we can read about this in Acts 18). In Corinth Paul found a tentmaking couple, Aquila and Priscilla, and since he was a tentmaker himself he lived with them and shared their business, while at the same time preaching in the synagogues and sharing the Gospel with the local Jewish population. Eventually he got thrown out of the synagogue, so he started holding meetings next door at the home of a man called Titius Justus. The ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, became a Christian, and many Gentiles were converted to Christ as well. Paul stayed in Corinth for a considerable length of time and a strong church was planted. But eventually he went on to do further missionary work in other places.

This is where we have to start reading between the lines. It seems that after Paul’s departure other preachers either came to Corinth or arose in Corinth itself. They denigrated Paul for a number of reasons. He hadn’t been one of the original Twelve apostles, so his message was suspect. He wasn’t a good orator in the Greek tradition and he wasn’t much to look at either. These new preachers emphasised spectacular charismatic gifts such as speaking in tongues and miracles. These things had been present in Paul’s ministry too, but not front and centre: he had given pride of place to the message of the Cross of Christ. But these new preachers seem to have emphasised visions and boasted of their powerful miraculous experiences.

As a result, the church in Corinth began to split into little camps of people, each claiming to follow their favourite leader and putting down the others. Some claimed to be followers of Peter, some of Apollos, some of Paul. Most of what Paul wrote in his two letters to the Corinthians deals with this tragedy and attempts to correct the wrong emphasis of the new movements in Corinth.

Paul had no doubt about what had caused this situation: a sinful pride that takes the marvellous spiritual gifts that God gives and uses them as an opportunity to compete for the highest positions and to build personal empires. These people had forgotten a fundamental truth about Christian life and ministry: it’s not about me, it’s about God. Of course, what you often find underneath this pride and desire for recognition is a deep insecurity, a low sense of self-worth, and a desperate hunger for affirmation. But if this is not dealt with it can have a devastating effect in a church.

This can happen with a person who is in music ministry. Perhaps an organist, a keyboard player or a guitarist is very competent, and a congregation begins to take great pride in his skill, listening to his playing rather than worshipping God. Perhaps the musician himself loses sight of his call to assist others to worship God, sensing that here is an opportunity to get recognition for his talent. All of us who play music in churches are tempted in that way; I know I’ve done it sometimes. I forget that it’s not about me – it’s about God.

Or perhaps a vestry member is very competent in the area of her expertise. People defer to her views, and gradually, subtly, she begins to fall in love with her own power. She gets a charge out of getting things done the way she wants. Soon every vestry meeting is a war. She has this need to control the agenda of the church, and if her authority is challenged she becomes furious. She’s forgotten that it’s not about her – it’s about God.

Do you see the bind that God is in? He has these wonderful spiritual gifts and talents that he wants to give to us, but when he dares to give them he runs the constant danger that we will use them to glorify ourselves rather than to do his work. How is he going to deal with this danger?

The answer often seems to be that he gives us these gifts and talents in combination with weaknesses and struggles. Paul’s experience is a case in point.

In today’s epistle Paul describes an incredible spiritual experience he had, in which he was caught up to the third heaven and saw things so wonderful that human language just could not express them. But God was well aware of Paul’s sinfulness and his weakness for boasting, and so he balanced this vision with an experience of suffering; ‘a thorn’, Paul says, ‘was given me in the flesh’ (v.7). God did not originate this ‘thorn’ – Paul calls it ‘a messenger of Satan’ (v.7) – but God did allow it, for Paul’s ultimate good.

What exactly was this suffering? I have read dozens of theories about it. One of the most well known theories was that it was a disease of the eyes; in a couple of places in his letter to the Galatians Paul refers to difficulties he had with his eyesight. Another theory is that Paul was subject to frequent attacks of malaria, which apparently are often accompanied by a splitting headache that feels exactly like a stake driven into one’s head. But the most honest answer is that we don’t know for sure exactly what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was. However, it’s quite plain that his Corinthian friends did know what it was. His opponents may even have seized on this ‘thorn’ as another opportunity to ridicule him, but Paul’s response shows his appreciation for it as a vital part of his spiritual growth.

There’s a very important truth here. In our day we’ve seen a recovery of the ministry of Christian healing and the fact that God can and does intervene in a miraculous way to remove suffering. But we need to balance that fact with the truth we see in this passage: that God sometimes gives, not miraculous healing, but miraculous grace to live with the suffering and not be overwhelmed by it.

When this happens, it is very obvious that the power is not ours but God’s. I think of our old friend Lloyd Robinson who died a couple of years ago. When he first came to St. Margaret’s he had recently lost his dear wife Maisie, and it was obvious to everyone that he was really struggling with this. But as if this wasn’t enough, a few years later he lost his only daughter Dahlia. I can only imagine what that must have done to Lloyd, and yet he remained faithful to God, he continued to worship and rely on God, and he was able to go through the suffering with the help of God. Everyone could see it was not that he was strong but that God was strong.

Sometimes it’s easier for God to use human weakness than human strength. A few years ago, in the space of a couple of days, I heard two very different preachers. One was on a video at a clergy conference; a sermon by a very famous American priest who has written several books on preaching. She was a real poet with words and she spoke with great eloquence. Afterwards as we were discussing the sermon it was obvious that we all admired her artistry. “What a great preacher she is!” was our thought.

But then a couple of days later I heard Gordon Light preach at an ordination service at our cathedral. Gordon’s presentation was simple, quiet, even modest. He was not a great orator and I remember hearing no memorable phrases. But I left that service thinking, not “What a great preacher!” but “What a great message from God!” In many ways Gordon’s presentation was weaker than that of the American priest, but there’s no doubt in my mind that his sermon had the greater impact for Christ on me.

So I come back to where I started. You don’t have to be strong in order to be useful to God. In fact, sometimes strength can be a liability. A person who is strong, or a person who has a lot of natural talent, can start to think that they don’t have to rely on God any more. But weakness forces us to rely on God. We have to cry out to him for help and depend on him consciously every moment.

Speaking personally, I’m very aware of this when I’m counselling with people. I don’t consider myself to be a gifted counsellor, and so when I’m doing this ministry I’m always conscious of a sense of desperation. “I’m weak, Lord – I need your help!” On the other hand, I know that God has gifted me as a preacher and a teacher; the temptation for me in those ministries is to rely on my own ability and competence instead of the guidance and power of God.

Some years ago I heard my Dad preach one of the best sermons I’d heard in a long time. He preached it here at St. Margaret’s, on a Sunday evening on which we held a special service of prayer for healing. Dad spoke very strongly about the power of God to heal the sick, but in a moment of irony he alluded to the fact that he had made his way to the pulpit with the help of a walking stick. This, he said, was testimony to the fact that he himself was still a needy person.

The one who prays for others doesn’t need to be perfectly healed herself before she can be useful to God. Every one of us is a work in progress. None of us has complete health, holiness or giftedness. And so we all cry out to God for help and depend on the grace of God to carry us through. This is good, because what people see as a result is not human expertise, but the power of God. This was true of Paul too; it was why he said ‘So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 6 - 12, 2009

C A L E N D A R
St. Margaret’s 2009
Sharing the Gospel ~ Going for Growth!

Monday, July 6th
Tim’s day off

Thursday, July 9th
7:00 am Women’s Bible Studies @ Bogani

Saturday, July 11th
1:00 pm Wedding of Michael Greenwood & Kristin Kawecki at Fort Saskatchewan United Church

Sunday, July 12th - Pentecost 6
9.00 am Eucharist
10.30 am Eucharist

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

Church Families: Mike, Lori-Lynn, Alyssa & Brendan Kalis
Genevieve Kalnins
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Our Kitchen Volunteers


Can You Help?
From time to time members of our congregation would really benefit from a ride to church. Sometimes this is because of age, illness or giving up of a driver’s license or car. In order for us to be able to respond in a caring and effective way when the need arises, and if you are willing and able to provide such a service, please leave your name with the church office or e-mail us.
Some of you are already offering these rides to fellow members of our church, and this is very much appreciated.
Thank you very much!

ICPM (Inner City Pastoral Ministry)
Our March 2009 ministry fundraiser ended on June 30th and we have surpassed our goal of $5,000. To date we have received $6,110.00. Thanks for your generosity . . . for giving over and above our goal.

Gardening Volunteers
As we all know, the flower beds have been beautifully taken care of over the years. However, we are down to two talented gardeners - Julie Holmes and Doug Harris. One more volunteer who can handle the heavier work of turning hardened soil is needed. If you can spare your time and talents, please contact Tony Willacy.

Summer Schedule Notes
• Tuesday evening Bible Study is over for the summer.
• Women’s Thursday morning Bible Study will complete their study on July 9th and then resume in the fall.

Administrative Assistant Position
Beryl has been filling in during Jodi’s absence; however, due to Jodi’s conflicting study schedule at the University of Alberta this fall, she is unable to resume these duties. Therefore, we need to fill this position as soon as possible. If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Beryl at the church or at home. Copies of the job description and responsibilities have been posted on the bulletin board downstairs. Please feel free to take one!


Just how would you demonstrate to others that you are true disciples and followers of Christ except by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the poor, comforting the sick and imprisoned, washing feet and showing love for one another?’ Leonhard Schiemer, AD 1527.