Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28 - October 4

C A L E N D A R

Monday, September 28th
Tim’s day off
Office Closed

Tuesday, September 29th
7:30 pm Christian Basics #1

Thursday, October 1st
7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible study at Bogani
2:00 pm Women’s Bible Study at Marg Rys’s house

Friday, October 2nd
7:30pm Bryan Moyer Suderman Concert

Saturday, October 3rd
Tim at Lay Reader training in Fort Saskatchewan

Sunday, October 4 - Pentecost 18
9:00 am Eucharist
9:45 am Combined Coffee
10:30 am Eucharist
12:00 pm Social Calendar Brainstorming
7:00 pm Ordination Service at the Cathedral

Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s
Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.
Church Families: Dominga, Casey, Kobe and Caiden Norman
Gord, Heather, Noah and Makynna Nutall
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Altar Guild

Children’s Birthday Wishes
David Banks, Veronica Davis, Matthew Doyle, Shayden Horn, Lecia McDougall, Kaiden Norman, Noah Nuttall, Anjali Oujla, Olivia Sager, Nicholas Spaulding

I TE M S T O N O T E

Christian Basics Course: Four Tuesday Evenings 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. (Sept. 29th, October 6th, October 20th, October 27th).
Our popular Christian Basics course is back again this Fall. This is an introduction to basic Christianity designed for inquirers into the Christian faith, for new Christians wanting to learn more about their faith, for long-time believers wanting a refresher course in the basics, and for baptismal candidates and those bringing children for baptism. This course is required for all baptismal candidates. For more information, contact Tim at stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231.

Sunday October 11 our Thanksgiving Sunday special offering will go to the Water School, our Goal is $5000. To date we have raised $975.00, and the 11th is the deadline.
We will also collect non-perishable food items for Edmonton’s Food Bank

Greeting Cards within our Church Family If, at any time, you are aware of a parishioner who is ill, shut in, grieving or experiencing difficult or troubling times, please let St. Margaret’s know. The parish would like to send them a card to let them know that we are thinking of them and keeping them in our prayers. We would also like to send cards at the time of births, weddings, milestones etc. Please assist us in carrying out this important ministry by making us aware of those who need our love and support. Please call Marci Chesterton at the church office.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sermon for September 25th: Hannah: There is No Rock Like Our God

Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at the stories of some Bible people who aren’t so well known. We’ve thought about Mary Magdalene and how Jesus transformed her life, and John Mark and how God gave him a second chance even when the apostle Paul didn’t. We’ve thought about Cornelius, an outsider who was seeking God, and how God reached out to include him, and about Naaman’s servant girl who spoke the crucial words of witness that led Naaman to ask the God of Israel for healing for his skin disease.

Today I want to talk with you about the story of Hannah, a woman who was in a desperate situation and who cried out to the Lord for help. There are some aspects of Hannah’s story that we don’t find it so easy to relate to; she was in a polygamous marriage, and the tensions and rivalries of that sort of marriage are hard for us to imagine today. But the main factor in her story is all too familiar to many people; she longed for a child, and her longing had not been fulfilled. There are many people today who know all about that sort of grief, and even if we aren’t familiar with it, we’ve all had times when we longed for things and our longing was not fulfilled. So let’s see what happens in the story of Hannah.

The story of Hannah takes place about a thousand years before the time of Jesus, and we can find it in the first Book of Samuel, chapters one and two. There we read that there was a man of the tribe of Ephraim named Elkanah and he had two wives; one named Hannah, the other named Penninah. Penninah had children, but Hannah had none. Childlessness is bad enough in a monogamous marriage, but in a polygamous situation, in a culture that saw producing sons as one of the most important duties of a good wife, we can well imagine how difficult it would have been. And Penninah didn’t make things easy for Hannah; the story tells us that she ‘used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb’ (1 Samuel 1:6).

In those days it was the custom for people to go on pilgrimage to Shiloh, a town in the centre of Israel. This was where the Lord’s tabernacle was located – the tent that Moses had made in the desert many years ago, with the box in which the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them were kept, and the altar of incense and all the other holy furniture that Moses and the Israelites had made. This was before the stone temple in Jerusalem was built, so this simple tabernacle was the place above all other where the Israelites felt they could meet with their God. At that time the old man Eli was the priest at Shiloh.

So we’re told that Elkanah and his family used to go up to Shiloh year by year to worship the Lord, to offer sacrifices and offerings. When animals were offered in sacrifice to the Lord, it was the custom to burn a portion of the offering and then for the worshippers to eat the rest. There’s a bit of a translation problem in the text here, because the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. Our NRSV says that when Elkanah gave out the food from the sacrifice to his family, he gave Hannah a double portion, because he loved her. However, the Revised English Bible has an alternative translation: ‘When Elkanah sacrificed, he gave several shares of the meat to his wife Penninah with all her sons and daughters, but to Hannah he gave only one share; the LORD had not granted her children, yet it was Hannah whom Elkanah loved’ (1:4-5 REB).

So one possible translation is that Hannah did better out of the situation than Penninah, the other is that she did worse! Whichever is right, it’s plain that there was a lot of tension in the family, and it went on year after year; as often as they went up to Shiloh, Penninah used to provoke Hannah, and so Hannah would not eat and was reduced to tears. And it has to be said that Elkanah wasn’t the most sensitive of guys in this situation; the story tells us that he said, “Hannah, why are you crying? Why don’t you eat? Why are you so sad? Aren’t I more to you than ten sons?”

So on one of these occasions, after they had eaten and drunk their fill, Hannah got up and slipped away from the family group; she went back to the tabernacle, to the presence of the Lord. Eli, the old priest, was sitting on a seat beside the door, and he saw her going into the tabernacle. She was deeply distressed and wept bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. In her prayer, she made a vow to God; she said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will only look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head” (1:11). A Nazirite was a person who had been specifically dedicated to the LORD, and abstaining from alcohol and from haircuts was an external sign of their vow.

Now the old priest Eli was watching Hannah, and she was doing something unusual in those days; she was praying silently. Most people in those days prayed out loud; in Hannah’s case, though, her lips were moving but she was not sounding out the words. Eli totally misinterpreted the situation; he thought that Hannah was drunk, and so he rebuked her. “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself?” he said; “Put away your wine”. But she replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time”. Then Eli answered her, “Go in peace: the God of Israel grant the petition you have made”. And so Hannah went back to her husband and ate and drank with him.

Hannah’s prayer was indeed answered. They went home, and in due course she conceived and she had a son, and she called him Samuel, which apparently sounds like a Hebrew word meaning, “asked of God”. In those days, of course, it was common for mothers to breast feed their children for much longer than today; as long as two or three years in fact. So for the next two or three years Hannah skipped the annual trip to Shiloh; she told Elkanah, “As soon as he’s weaned I’ll bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the LORD, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time” (1:22). Elkanah agreed to this, and so Hannah waited until her son was weaned. She then took him up to Shiloh, where she offered sacrifices to the LORD and then presented herself to old Eli and said, ‘“I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed: and the LORD has granted me the petition I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD”. And she left him there for the LORD’ (1:26-28). We’re told that every year when she and the family came up to Shiloh she’d bring a new robe for the boy; and Eli would bless her and pray that the LORD would give her more sons and daughters. And the LORD heard that prayer; Hannah had three more sons and two daughters.

1 Samuel 2:1-10 gives us a song of thanksgiving that Hannah sang to the LORD when she brought Samuel up to Shiloh to present him to God as a nazirite. I don’t have time to read it this morning, but it’s well worth looking at if you have a bit of time later today. In this song, Hannah rejoices in God who has turned away the proud and mighty and blessed the weak and helpless; obviously she’s thinking of her own situation here! ‘The barren has borne seven’, she says, ‘but she who has many children is forlorn’ (2:5). I particularly want to focus on what Hannah says in verse 2: ‘There is no holy one like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God’.

The term ‘rock’ is actually one of the most common biblical metaphors for God; it appears over and over again in the psalms, such as in Psalm 95 where we read, ‘O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation’ (v.1). It’s a dangerous thing to try to analyse a metaphor; metaphors appeal to the right hand side of our brain, the artistic side, and analysis is a left-brain procedure. So I’m not going to try to define exactly what the ‘Rock’ metaphor means when it’s applied to God. But if I think about my own impressions of a rock, I find that a number of things come to mind. I think of Jesus’ story of the wise man who built his house on the rock; the rock foundation was firm, and when the storms came the house was able to stand, whereas the house built on sand fell with a great crash. So the rock is a place of safety and security in a storm. And the person who trusts in God also finds that God is a place of safety and security when times get tough.

A rock is also difficult to move. There’s a well-known story about an American warship traveling at sea on a dark night. A light was seen in the distance, and thinking it was a ship, the captain of the warship noted that he had the right of way and signaled asking the other ship to give way to him. There was no response. The captain signaled three times, identifying himself, and asking the other ship to change course; “I am the battleship U.S.S. Kentucky”, said his signal; “We are on a collision course and I have the right of way. Please change your course”. Finally an answering signal came through: “I am a lighthouse; you will have to be the one to change your course!” A battleship may be strong, but if it ran into a lighthouse built on a rock, the lighthouse would probably survive the encounter a little better!

God is a safe place in a storm; God is not easily moved by those who try to oppose him. God’s love is steadfast and sure, absolutely dependable, not here today and gone tomorrow like sand that the rain washes away.

Hannah found by her own experience that God was her rock. She had nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to; only the Lord could help her, and so she prayed and cried and poured out her heart to God. God heard her and gave her what she asked for. But I suspect there are some of you listening today who are feeling uneasy at this point. “Well, that’s okay for Hannah; she got what she asked for. But I asked for something, too, and I didn’t get it. Why not? Am I a bigger sinner than she was? What does it mean to say that God is a rock, that God is strong and reliable, when you ask for something over and over again and you don’t get it?”

This is a huge issue in many people’s minds and we must not hide from it or pretend it’s not there. Certainly the Bible doesn’t hide from it. Many of the psalms are written as prayers of people who don’t seem to be getting what they ask from God, and they aren’t afraid to pose the difficult questions. But one of the most remarkable passages on this subject is the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.

A lot of people like the first part of Hebrews 11; it’s a long list of people of faith and talks about all the wonderful things they were able to do because they had faith in God. It talks about how Abraham and Sarah were able to have a child even though Sarah was long past the age of child-bearing; it talks about how Moses was preserved from death by faith in God and grew up to be a great leader of God’s people. It goes on to list other Old Testament heroes and what they did through God’s strength.

But then it goes on to say this: ‘Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground’ (Hebrews 11:35-38).

This is a different story! It seems that some people had faith enough to trust God to rescue them from their circumstances – but other people had a different sort of faith, a faith that continued to trust God when he didn’t rescue them from their circumstances, a faith that trusted that somehow in the midst of their suffering God knew best, and God was able to give them the strength they needed to carry on.

Many of you here know about this sort of faith. This is the faith of the person who prays desperately that God will heal their dying spouse, but still clings to God after the spouse dies, and somehow finds that God is able to lift them up in the midst of their grief. This is the faith of the person who cries out to God in the midst of chronic pain, and asks to be delivered from it, but finds that instead of being delivered from it they are finding the daily strength to bear it and still be true to the God they believe in. They are not finding deliverance, but they are still finding that the Lord is their rock.

God is our Rock. God is inviting us to call out to him, to come close to him, to take refuge in him in time of trouble. Perhaps we can make these words of Psalm 61 our own: ‘Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy’ (vv.1-3).

But I can’t leave this ‘rock’ metaphor without going back to the words of Jesus. The psalmists cry out to God to be their rock in time of trouble; in God they find safety and protection and the strength to go through the tough times. But Jesus adds one more dimension. He talks about the wise man who builds his house on the rock, and the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. But who is this wise man, and what does he do to build his house on the rock? Well, Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Matthew 7:24).

God is our rock of refuge, and the way we rest on that rock is to follow Jesus and put his words into practice. In context, the ‘words’ that Jesus is referring to are his words in the Sermon on the Mount – the commands to love our enemies, to pray for those who hate us, to stop laying up for ourselves treasure on earth, to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and so on. The one who learns this way of life, Jesus is saying, will be secure in God forever.

Hannah says, ‘there is no Rock like our God’. So let’s not be afraid to pour out our hearts to God in trouble, as Hannah did, and ask for his help. And let’s also learn to live by the teaching of Jesus so that we can be like the wise man who built his house on the rock: “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock” (Matthew 7:25).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sermon for September 20th: Naaman's Servant - a Faithful Witness

This morning I want to tell you a Bible story that may be familiar to you, but I want to tell it from the point of view of a character we don’t normally think about very much. In fact, we don’t even know her name. So let’s give her a name; let’s call her ‘Rachel’, which was a common enough name in Old Testament times. The Bible doesn’t tell us very much about her, so let’s fill in the gaps a little bit and try to imagine what life might have been like for Rachel.

Rachel was born about eight hundred years before the time of Jesus, in the northern kingdom of Israel. In those days God’s people were actually divided into two kingdoms, the southern kingdom of Judah with its capital at Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria. We can imagine Rachel growing up in a family in a small village in the northern part of Israel, doing the things that young girls did in those days, playing with her friends and helping out around the house and learning to cook and mend clothes and so on. And she would have heard the stories of Abraham and Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, and she would have joined in the family prayers and other rituals handed down to Israel from the time of Moses.

In those days Elisha the prophet was speaking his messages in the name of God all over the land of Israel, and there were many stories of the wonderful miracles that God had done through him. People told of how he had lodged in the house of a poor widow with only a flask of olive oil to her name, and how he had told her to borrow as many containers as she could from her friends and fill them up from that one flask. She had done so, and the flask hadn’t run out until she had enough oil to pay off all her debts. Another couple had helped Elisha by providing a home for him to stay in when he passed their way, and people told of how, when their son had died suddenly, Elisha’s prayers had raised him from the dead. We don’t know whether or not our Rachel had ever seen Elisha for herself, but she had certainly heard the stories about him, and she knew God could do wonderful things through him.

We don’t know how long Rachel lived in peace with her family, but we do know that one day her life was changed. In those days Israel’s traditional enemy was the kingdom of Aram to the north, with its capital in Damascus. Under its mighty general, Naaman, Aram had won great victories over Israel. But it was not only the big battles between armies that gave Israel trouble; it was the border raids as well. Parties of Aramean raiders would cross the border into Israel, attack villages and plunder them, killing the men and taking the women and children away into slavery. And that’s what happened to Rachel. We can assume that her father was killed, and that Rachel and the rest of the family were taken away as slaves. Rachel was taken into a large house in Damascus where she became a lady’s maid; her mistress was none other than the wife of the great Aramean general Naaman.

We have no idea how long it was that Rachel worked in that house before she began to notice that her master had a skin disease of some kind. In those days people used the word ‘leprosy’ for all sorts of skin diseases, some of them more deadly than others. The Bible describes Naaman’s disease as leprosy, but he doesn’t seem to have been kept in isolation from other people, so we can assume that this was not as serious as some of the skin diseases around at the time. Still, it bothered Naaman and he probably spent a lot of time consulting doctors and healers and trying to find a way to get rid of what he later referred to as ‘the spot’.

Rachel observed all this, and she began to remember the stories she had heard of the wonderful healings and miracles that God had done through the prophet Elisha. One day she said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his skin disease”.

That’s all she said, but a mighty chain of events was set in motion because of her words. Naaman’s wife told Naaman, and Naaman immediately went to his master, the King of Aram, and told him about it. We can catch a glimpse here of his desperation; Israel was the traditional enemy of Aram, but now Naaman was willing to go to the enemy and ask for help, and his king thought him a valuable enough soldier that he agreed to let him do it. But the King of Aram couldn’t conceive of a prophet not being under the control of a king, so he wrote a letter to the King of Israel, saying, ‘With this letter I present to you my servant Naaman; I want you to cure him of his skin disease’. And Naaman set off for Samaria, carrying costly gifts with which to buy his healing – 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing.

Well, they arrived in Samaria, and of course the King of Israel was dumbfounded at this letter. “Who does this man think I am?” he exclaimed; “Does he think I’m God, that I could heal his general for him? He’s just trying to pick a fight with me!”

But the prophet Elisha heard about it, and sent a message to the King of Israel. “Send him down to me”, he said; “I’ll look after him”. So Naaman went with his horses and chariots, down to the little house where Elisha lived. No doubt he thought Elisha would be impressed with the splendour of his train. But Elisha was not impressed; in fact, he wouldn’t even come out to meet Naaman. He just sent his servant out to tell him, “Go down to the river Jordan and wash in it seven times, and your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your skin disease”.

Naaman flew into a rage at this treatment. “I thought at least he’d come out and meet me!” he cried. “I thought he’d wave his hand over the spot and call on the name of Yahweh his God and heal me! What’s so special about that muddy Jordan? There are two perfectly good rivers in Damascus, Abana and Pharpar – if all I needed was a river, why did I come all this way?” And he turned and went away in anger.

But fortunately one of his officers calmed him down. “Sir”, he said, “if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it without question? Well then, what’s the harm in trying when all he does is ask you to wash in the Jordan and be cured?” Naaman finally agreed; he went down to the river Jordan and dipped himself in it seven times as Elisha had instructed him. and when he came up the seventh time, his skin disease was gone, and his skin was as healthy as that of a young child.

Of course Naaman now took a completely different attitude toward Elisha. He went back to his house in joy, and said to him, “Now I know that there is no god in all the world except here in Israel. Here, please accept a gift from me”. But Elisha refused; “As surely as Yahweh lives, I’ll take no gift”. Naaman urged him, but Elisha was adamant; the Lord’s healing power was not for sale. Eventually Naaman gave up, but he then said to Elisha, “I want to worship only your god Yahweh now, so could you please give me a couple of mule loads of Israelite earth so that I can take it home to me and offer sacrifices and prayers to Yahweh on his own soil”. In those days, you see, everyone accepted the idea that gods were territorial, so Naaman would need to take home a bit of Israel on which to worship the God of Israel! Elisha told him, ‘Go in peace’, and he went home, no doubt in a much happier frame of mind than when he had arrived.

The story of Naaman is a well-known Old Testament tale and I know I’ve preached about it several times over the years. But the story of Naaman’s servant girl is not often so well known. We don’t really know very much about her; her name was probably not Rachel, and we have no idea what the circumstances were in which she was taken from her home and taken into Naaman’s house. All we know about her is told in two verses from 2 Kings chapter 5:

Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my Lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:2-3).

I want to suggest to you that this young girl was a great example of a witness – someone who points other people in God’s direction. Think about her with me for a moment.

First, even though her circumstances were not the best, she had not abandoned her faith in Israel’s God. She had not forgotten the stories she had heard about Elisha and the things God had done through him. Even far away from her home, isolated from her family and from the worship of Israel’s God, she still kept the flame of her faith burning, and she was not afraid to speak about it to the people around her.

If anyone had an excuse to abandon the God of Israel, she did! After all, he hadn’t protected her from the Aramean raiders, and he hadn’t kept her out of a life of slavery! If she had been looking for complaints against him, no doubt she could have found them, but she wasn’t looking; instead, she was looking for opportunities to spread his light and love in the place where she had been taken.

I don’t know about you, but I know of many people who use their situation as an excuse for not being able to be faithful to God and not being able to be a witness for him. “I’m the only Christian in my family”, they say, “and everyone else mocks my faith. They all complain about the fact that I want to go to church every Sunday and how that spoils all their plans. I just feel like keeping quiet”. Or again, some might say, “God hasn’t exactly come through for me, has he? He hasn’t kept me from illness or family troubles or financial difficulties or…” – well, name your particular crisis, whatever it is. “So why should I keep faith with him when he’s not been all that helpful to me?” Or again, “Everyone where I work is so anti-God; I just feel like the safest thing to do is to keep quiet about my faith and just come to church on Sundays and leave it at that”.

But this young girl didn’t do that. She had been snatched from her homeland, had probably seen relatives killed, and had been taken to a faraway place to be a servant for the rest of her life. And yet in all of this, she remained faithful to God. I find that amazing.

Not only that, eight hundred years before the time of Jesus she had already learned the gospel message of loving your enemies and praying for those who hate you! Her master may even have been part of the raiding party that took her from Israel, but she was still concerned about his welfare and wanted him to be healed of his illness. I don’t know about you, but when people attack me and criticize me and do all they can to undermine my ministry, I don’t usually find that their welfare is the first thing on my mind! Sad to say, but that’s the truth! But this young girl had no doubt that God would want to heal her master, even though he was an enemy of Israel, and so she reached across the lines of race and religion and tried to help him.

Finally, notice that the girl didn’t have to heal Naaman herself, or even pray for him to be healed; all she had to do was point him in the right direction; she knew that God and Elisha would look after the situation between them. Her role was really a very small role, but it was a vital one nonetheless. Without Elisha, Naaman could not have been healed, but without the young girl, Naaman would never have gone to Elisha to ask for healing.

Now you may feel that the task of explaining the Christian gospel to your friends is completely beyond you. You might be afraid of their hostile questions; you might be terrified of saying the wrong thing and turning them off forever. You might be unable to imagine yourself ever praying with your friends and asking God to help them or heal them.

Personally, I think those fears are a bit over the top, but let’s just take them as given for a minute. Maybe you can’t be Elisha, but can you be the servant girl? In other words, can you say to someone else, “If only you would talk to my minister, I know he’d be able to answer some of your questions?” Or, “If only you would come along with me to the bring-a-friend service we’re having at our church; I know you’d enjoy it and learn something about God there”. Or again, “If only you’d come along with me to a Christian Basics course; I know you’d find it helpful”.

Of course you can do that; we all can. We can’t all be Elisha, but we can all be the servant girl. We can be faithful to God even though our circumstances are less than ideal. We can reach across the barriers, caring not only for our friends but also for those we find it difficult to get along with and even for those who we might think of as our enemies. And we can point them in the right direction, putting them in touch with someone who can talk with them, or inviting them to a service or an outreach event of some kind. And when we do that, God can work through us, just as he worked through that servant girl, and the result might just be that someone who God loves is brought into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 21-27, 2009

Monday, September 21st
Tim’s day off
Office Closed

Tuesday, September 22nd
Tim out of the office at a Clergy Day

Thursday, September 24th
7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible study at Bogani

Friday, September 25th
2:00 pm Congregational Care Committee at Bogani

Saturday, September 26th
Saturday morning coffee “Sharing Faith Stories” 10-noon

Sunday, September 27th - Pentecost 17
9:00 am Eucharist
10:30 am Worship Service and Infant Dedication
7:00 pm Youth Group

Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s
Church Families: Donna Molloy
Earl and Chris Nelson, Keegan and Garrett Madu
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Sunday School Teachers

I TE M S T O N O T E

Christian Basics Course: Four Tuesday Evenings 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. (Sept. 29th, October 6th, October 20th, October 27th).
Our popular Christian Basics course is back again this Fall. This is an introduction to basic Christianity designed for inquirers into the Christian faith, for new Christians wanting to learn more about their faith, for long-time believers wanting a refresher course in the basics, and for baptismal candidates and those bringing children for baptism. This course is required for all baptismal candidates.

Sunday October 11 our Thanksgiving Sunday special offering will go to the Water School, our Goal is $5000. To date we have raised $805.00, and the 11th is the deadline.
We will also collect non-perishable food items for Edmonton’s Food Bank

Greeting Cards within our Church Family If, at any time, you are aware of a parishioner who is ill, shut in, grieving or experiencing difficult or troubling times, please let St. Margaret’s know. The parish would like to send them a card to let them know that we are thinking of them and keeping them in our prayers. We would also like to send cards at the time of births, weddings, milestones etc. Please assist us in carrying out this important ministry by making us aware of those who need our love and support. Please call the church office.

November 13 - 15 Edmonton Anglican Marriage Encounter
Early bird Registration: $45 -before September 30, 2009
Registration Deadline: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sermon for September 13th: Cornelius: A Sincere Seeker of God

Today I want to tell you the story of a Roman soldier named Cornelius. We can read about him in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts.

The Book of Acts tells the story of the work of the church after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. Peter and the other apostles have preached the Good News of Jesus in Jerusalem, throughout the country of Judaea and to the borders of Israel. Everywhere they have gone, people have heard them with joy and turned their lives over to Jesus. Little communities of ‘Followers of the Way’, as they were called, are springing up all over Israel - people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah come to set Israel free.

Up until now, however, the message has only gone to Jewish people, and the early Christians probably see that as a natural thing. After all, in their mind Jesus was the Messiah of Israel - the one God was going to use to restore Israel to God’s plan for her. The idea that Gentiles - people who were not Israelites - would be included in that plan might never have occurred to them.

However, even though Israel as a whole was not interested in the Gentiles, the fact is that some Gentiles had become very interested in Israel. Throughout the ancient world at this time there were many people who had become disenchanted with the traditional religions and gods of Greece and Rome. These people were attracted by Israel’s belief in one creator God, and also by the high ethical standards set out in the Ten Commandments. A number of these folks had begun to attend synagogues and practice the three duties of godly Jews - prayer, fasting and giving to the poor. They had not taken the step of becoming Jewish - probably the idea of circumcision was a bit of a problem for them! - but they had moved a long way toward Judaism, believing in one God and trying to obey his commandments. Cornelius, the Roman centurion who lived in the town of Caesarea, was probably one of these ‘God-fearers’, as they were called.

What can we know about Cornelius? Well, we’re told that he was a ‘centurion in the Italian Cohort’. A centurion was a non-commissioned officer in the Roman army, roughly equivalent to a sergeant-major; he would have had command of one hundred men, and would probably have been a Roman citizen. A cohort was about six hundred men, or one-tenth of a legion, and we can assume that the Italian Cohort was stationed in Judea as a part of the Roman army of occupation. In other words, to Jewish people, Cornelius was one of the enemy.

But the story in Acts doesn’t stress these details; instead, it describes Cornelius’ religious practices. Apparently he was ‘a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God’. In other words, he was one of the ‘God-fearers’ who had begun to worship the God of Israel and follow his commandments, although he had not taken the step of becoming a Jew himself.

Acts tells us that one day Cornelius was praying at three o’clock in the afternoon, which was one of the traditional hours of prayer. Suddenly an angel appeared to him and told him to send a message to Joppa to a man called Simon Peter who was staying there at the home of another Simon, a tanner. So Cornelius immediately obeyed; he sent two of his servants and one of his soldiers who was also a God-fearer, told them the whole story and sent them to Joppa, which was about a day’s journey from Caesarea.

The next day, in Joppa, the apostle Peter went up on the roof of his friend Simon’s house to pray, and in his prayer time he had a vision from God. He saw a sheet let down from heaven, filled with all sorts of so-called ‘unclean’ animals – that is, the animals that Jews are not allowed to eat, like pigs and reptiles and so on. A voice from heaven said to him, “Peter, get up and kill and eat!” He replied, “Lord, I’ve never eaten an unclean animal in my life”. The voice replied, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”. This happened three times, and then the vision ended.

While Peter was trying to figure out what it meant he heard voices from down below; Cornelius’ messengers had arrived. They told him the whole story, and at once Peter figured out what was going on. As a first-century Jew he would have seen these Gentiles as ‘unclean’, and he wouldn’t even have gone to their house – especially since they were part of the army of occupation. But Peter knew that God had given him his marching orders, and so he obeyed and went back with them to Caesarea.

When they got to Cornelius’ house the next day they found that Cornelius had gathered his whole household, his relatives and friends together. Peter told them about the vision and how it had led him to cross the racial and religious divide and come into their house, and he asked Cornelius what this was all about. In return, Cornelius told him about his own vision of an angel and the instructions he had received. “Now we’re all here”, he concluded, “waiting to hear what the Lord has commanded you to say”.

So Peter began to explain the gospel to them. Here’s how one Bible version, the New Living Translation, describes his speech:

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favouritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel – that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all – the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name (Acts 10:34-43 NLT).

It was a wonderful sermon, but Peter didn’t get to finish it; God stepped in, in a dramatic way. The Bible describes it by saying that the Holy Spirit ‘fell’ on all who heard the message, and they began to speak in languages that they had never learned, praising and worshipping God. The Jewish believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because these people were Gentiles – they were the enemy, the idol worshippers, the oppressors of Israel, but God had poured out the Holy Spirit on them, just as if they were part of the chosen people! Peter took one look at what was happening and said, “Well, I guess we’d better baptize them, since God obviously wants them!” And so Cornelius and his whole household were baptized, and Peter stayed with them for several days, presumably telling them more about Jesus and instructing them in their new faith in Christ.

What does this story of Cornelius have to say to us today as we seek for God?

First, it tells us that it’s not just us who are seeking for GodGod is seeking for us as well. In fact, God had been guiding Cornelius for a long time. What was it that caused Cornelius to lose faith in the ancient gods of Rome like Mars, Diana, Neptune and so on? It must have been a shattering experience for him to realise that he no longer believed in these gods whose stories he had been told from childhood. But somehow he came to realise that these false gods were unable to meet his deepest needs, and he began to look elsewhere for help. Somehow - wouldn’t we love to know how? - he found out about the God of Israel, and was attracted to this belief in one God, the Maker of heaven and earth, and also to the high moral standards which this God required of his followers. So Cornelius began to put his faith in this God and to try to practice his commandments. And now God was leading him even further along, to faith in Jesus who the Bible calls Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’ – the one who Peter had told him is ‘Lord of all’.

And this same kind of thing is happening today; God is leading people home to himself. All around us there are people who are discovering that the false gods we worship in our modern society - financial security, worldly success, youth, beauty, power and popularity - are not delivering the lasting happiness and fulfilment that they promise. Maybe we have even begun to realise this for ourselves. This failure of our false gods can be a frightening and disorienting experience for us, but it is also a definite sign that God is leading us closer to himself. And when we find ourselves asking questions like, “Why isn’t my success making me happy?” or “Why can’t I be the kind of parent I want to be?” or “What’s going to happen to me when I die?” – then we can know for sure that God is at work in our lives.

So God is seeking for people and pointing them to Jesus, and this leads us to the second thing the story tells us: Jesus is the issue. It’s quite clear in this passage that the issue is not just to ‘get people to believe in God’. Cornelius already believed very strongly in God. He had already turned away from the idols of Rome and believed in the Creator of heaven and earth. Not only that, but he had done his best to live a godly life; Acts tells us that he was a devout man who gave generously to the poor, and prayed constantly to God. But from God’s point of view, something was still missing.

Peter believed this very strongly, and so in his sermon to Cornelius and his family he emphasises the central place of Jesus in God’s plan to heal the world. Jesus is the one whose death and resurrection have reconciled us to God and made forgiveness possible. Jesus, he says, is Lord of all, the one through whom God’s healing and liberation come to people, and the one who will one day judge the living and the dead. Peter is not saying that Cornelius’ faith in one God is wrong; far from it! He’s saying that it is incomplete; if Cornelius wants to experience the full salvation that is God’s will for him, he needs to put his faith in the one God has sent as Messiah and Lord - Jesus.

A friend of mine was teaching a ‘Christian Basics’ course once when a woman made this comment to him: “I don’t like it when you talk about ‘Jesus’. ‘God’ is safe; I can make that word mean anything I want, but ‘Jesus’ is far too close and specific”. And that’s exactly the point. In Jesus, God has come close and become specific! At a certain point in history God came to live among us in Jesus, and at the end of his life he sent out his followers to all people - many of whom already believed in God - to tell them to trust in him and follow him, because Jesus, the Son of God, is the key to knowing God.

The third thing the story tells us is that the Holy Spirit seals the deal. When Cornelius and his family hear the message of Jesus, God does something supernatural in them; the Holy Spirit comes to live in them and fills them with new joy, so that they begin to praise God and worship him in a new and living way. Jesus is no longer past history; the Holy Spirit has come to live in them and makes Jesus real to them.

This is what the Christian faith is all about. It isn’t just about getting people to believe in God, and neither is it just giving them historical information about Jesus. Rather, the Holy Spirit wants to make Jesus a living reality to people today. He wants to help people connect with God in a personal and experiential way.

In the story of Cornelius this personal connection was entirely at God’s initiative. Sometimes you hear stories about that today, too; people will say, “Jesus has always been real and close to me; I never remember a time when I didn’t know him”. But there are also many people who have not yet found that kind of a relationship with Jesus.

And maybe you are one of them. Maybe you are like Cornelius. Perhaps you’ve been listening to his story this morning and thinking, “Yes! That’s me! I believe in God and I’m trying to be a good person, but I’ve never seen before that Jesus is the key to knowing God, and I’ve never experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit! That’s what I want!” If that’s you, then you can take a very simple step of faith this morning. Jesus is present with you right now, even though you can’t see or feel him. Simply turn to him in your heart, put your trust in him, ask him to help you know him and follow him and to send his Holy Spirit to bring you closer to him. That is the sort of prayer that he loves to answer!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 14 - 20, 2009

C A L E N D A R

Monday, September 14th
Tim’s day off
Office Closed

Tuesday, September 15th
Tim Off

Wednesday, September 16th
7:15 pm Vestry Meeting

Thursday, September 17th
7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies @ Bogani

Friday, September 18th
6:30 pm Pot Luck at church

Sunday, September 20th - Pentecost 16
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: Mary and Brian Mirtle
Darlenne and Earl Mitty
Weekly Prayer Cycle: Music Organizers

I TE M S T O N O T E
Sharing the Gospel . Going for Growth!

Friday Sept. 18th Pot Luck Supper at the Church (6.30 p.m.)
The first ‘social event’ of the year. After supper Tim will show his Arctic slides and there will be information shared about the work of the Council of the North. If you know how to make stew and bannock, this might be an appropriate event to share it!

Saturday Sept. 26th Saturday Morning Coffee: ‘Sharing Our Faith Stories’ (10 a.m. – 12 noon)

Christian Basics Course: Four Tuesday Evenings 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. (Sept. 29th, October 6th, October 20th, October 27th).
This is an introduction to basic Christianity designed for inquirers into the Christian faith, for new Christians wanting to learn more about their faith, for long-time believers wanting a refresher course in the basics, and for baptismal candidates and those bringing children for baptism. This course is required for all baptismal candidates.

Sunday September 27th: Infant Dedication at the 10.30 service
We will be celebrating a service of child dedication (not baptism)

Friday October 2nd: Bryan Moyer Suderman in concert
Bryan Moyer Suderman is a musician in the Mennonite tradition; his music company is called ‘Small Tall Music’, because, as he says, he writes ‘worship songs for small and tall’ – for children and for adults (see his website at http://www.smalltallmusic.com/). This concert is jointly sponsored between St. Margaret’s Anglican Church and Edmonton First Mennonite Church, and it will be an all-age event. Admission will be by donation at the door, with a suggested donation of $10 per person or $25 per family.


ONGOING GROUPS AND STUDY OPPORTUNITIES

Sunday School meets during the 10.30 service; the children participate in the first part of the service leading up to the readings and the Children’s Time, and then go downstairs for 20-25 minutes with their teacher for Sunday School, returning at the offertory hymn in time for communion. We have a one-classroom Sunday School as our class is very small, and four or five teachers take turns in teaching the children. More students and teachers are always welcome!

Tuesday afternoon Women’s Bible Study meets at 1.30 p.m. in the homes of its members. Contact the church office for more information.

Men’s Bible Study meets at 7.00 a.m. Thursday mornings at the Bogani Café (beside the Sobey’s on the corner of 111 St and 23rd Ave). This group of about eight men meets for an hour to study the Bible together, always ending promptly at 8.00; more members are always welcome.

Thursday morning Women’s Bible Study meets at 7.00 a.m. Thursday mornings at the Bogani Café (beside the Sobey’s on the corner of 111 St. and 23rd Avenue; about five women are currently involved, and more are always welcome.

Youth Group: This group meets with Tim once a month, usually on the last Sunday of the month, at 7.00 p.m. for an hour of discussion about our Christian faith. Topics are usually chosen together by Tim and the members of the group; past meetings have included discussions on the DaVinci Code, Life after Death, and a movie discussion night.

Invitation

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sermon for September 6th: John Mark and the God of Second Chances

Have you ever in your life been grateful that someone gave you a second chance? I know I have.

I was a failure in my first full time ministry assignment. I had been trained for two years at the Church Army Training College in Toronto and then posted to a rural parish in the Diocese of Toronto with the job of planting a new congregation in a small town beside a military base. In my own defence, I have to say that church planting theory was only in its infancy in those days, and even the little that was known about how to do it had not been covered in the curriculum of my training course. So I was trying to act as if I knew what I was doing, when in fact I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do. It took my employers about ten months to figure out that this wasn’t going anywhere, and pretty soon after that I was out of a job.

Luckily for me, the Church Army didn’t give up on me; instead, they posted me to a little parish in rural Saskatchewan, where I worked in a tiny rural community and two First Nations reserves. I had a wise and patient mentor who gave me the gentle guidance I needed, and the people of the community where Marci and I lived gathered around and supported us, so that in the end they became like family to us. After a few years there, on the strength of my work in the First Nations communities, I was invited to go to the Diocese of the Arctic to work in the community of Aklavik.

Looking back now, after thirty years of full-time ministry, that first rocky year seems like a fairly minor piece of my past, but I know of many other people who have that sort of an experience and never get a second chance; that’s the end of their ministry. I’m grateful that I was given a second chance, and I try to remind myself to give other people second chances as well. And that’s the big story of our Bible character for today, John Mark.

Last week we began a series of sermons on ‘More Bible People You May Not Remember’, and I certainly won’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of John Mark. However, if you read the New Testament you’ve likely read his work from time to time, because he was probably the author of the Second Gospel, which we know as the Gospel according to Mark. Let me tell you his story as we can find it in the pages of the New Testament.

We first meet John Mark in Acts chapter 12 where he is said to be the son of a woman named Mary – one of the many ‘Marys’ in the New Testament! We meet him next at the end of Acts chapter 12 where he is mentioned in connection with Saul and Barnabas. The NRSV translates verses 24-25 as follows:

But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents. Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.

However, in the context the words ‘returned to Jerusalem’ don’t make sense; the correct translation is almost certainly ‘returned from Jerusalem’, because in the very next verse we find Saul and Barnabas in Antioch in Syria, not in Jerusalem. This is, in fact, the way most other versions of the Bible translate this passage.

Acts 13 and 14 go on to describe a missionary journey made by Saul and Barnabas, from Antioch in Syria across to the island of Cyprus and then on to the mainland of what is now southern Turkey. Barnabas was one of the early Jerusalem Christians; his name was actually Joseph, but the early Christians gave him the nickname ‘Barnabas’; which means ‘son of encouragement’, and when we read about how he mentored and encouraged younger Christians, we can understand why. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:10 where Paul says that John Mark was his cousin. Saul had been a persecutor of the early Church, but had later become a Christian himself, and Barnabas had been his mentor. He is better known to us by his Roman name of Paul.

So we read at the beginning of Acts 13 of how the Holy Spirit guided the Antioch Christians to set aside Saul and Barnabas for a special missionary work. The believers prayed and laid hands on these two and then sent them off. Verses 4-5 take up the story:

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.

What exactly does it mean that he was their ‘assistant’? The Greek word is used in a couple of other places in the New Testament; in Luke 4:20 it means the instructor in the synagogue school, and in Luke 1:2 it is used to refer to the ‘servants of the Word’ who handed down the gospel traditions from earliest Christian times. In other writings of the time it is used of people who handle documents and transmit them to others. So perhaps John Mark was acting as a sort of combination teacher and travel secretary for Saul and Barnabas. Perhaps, indeed, he was a sort of an apprentice missionary, travelling along with them to learn the trade, as it were. This would be very much in keeping with the sort of person Barnabas was; he loved to mentor younger Christians.

But in this case the arrangement didn’t go well. This is what verse 13 has to say:

Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem.

Why did he leave? Some have suggested that John Mark may have been uncomfortable with the fact that Paul, who had been mentored by Barnabas, was gradually taking over the leadership from the older man. Others have suggested that he might have been afraid of the hardships ahead as the mission team crossed the Taurus Mountains into central Turkey.

The truth is, of course, that we don’t know the answer. However, we do know one thing: Paul saw John Mark’s departure as a desertion, and he was not willing to forgive the young man. A couple of chapters later Barnabas and Paul are contemplating another journey; here’s how the end of Acts 15 describes what happened:

After some time Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing’. Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord (vv. 36-41).

We can only begin to guess how traumatic this split was for both Paul and Barnabas. Obviously, this sort of a breakup wasn’t caused by something insignificant, and in fact in Paul’s letter to the Galatians we get hints that Luke, the author of Acts, isn’t telling us the whole story; that there might have been some theological disagreements between the two friends as well. Still, they both obviously felt very strongly about the issue of John Mark, with Paul determined not to take someone who might end up deserting them again, and Barnabas, the son of encouragement, determined to give his young cousin a second chance.

That’s the last we hear of John Mark in Acts, and it’s a sad parting indeed. But in the New Testament letters we get some hints that this was not the end of the story. The letter to the Colossians was written toward the end of Paul’s life, when he was in prison, probably in Rome. In Colossians 4:10 Paul gives these instructions to the Christians in Colossae: ‘Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions – if he comes to you, welcome him’. At the same time Paul wrote a letter to his friend Philemon who lived in Colossae, and in verses 23-24 he says, ‘Epahpras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow-workers’. So here is a hint that there’s been a reconciliation between Paul and Mark; the younger man is no longer a deserter but a ‘fellow-worker’ for the gospel. And in his second letter to Timothy, which is probably even later, Paul instructs Timothy to go and find Mark and bring him to him, ‘for he is useful in my ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:11).

But Mark is also referred to in one of the letters of Peter; in 1 Peter 5:13 the old apostle refers to Mark as his ‘son’, and Mark joins Peter in sending greetings to the readers of the letter. There was obviously a close attachment between Peter and Mark, and this is borne out by later Christian tradition. A Christian writer called Papias, who lived in the early second century, has this to say about John Mark:

Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.

This is Papias’ account of the origins of our Gospel of Mark; according to him, it consists mainly of Mark’s recollections of the preaching of the apostle Peter. We might suspect that the actual story of the writing of Mark’s gospel is a bit more complicated than that, but there’s no reason to doubt the basic thrust of what Papias is saying.

The story of Mark is a powerful one for us, and in conclusion I want to take you back for a moment to that time when his life and ministry hung in the balance, when Paul and Barnabas were preparing to set out on another missionary journey. Paul had given up on John Mark, but Barnabas had not; Barnabas wanted to give him a second chance.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if Barnabas had not been there? I suspect John Mark would have gone home to Jerusalem and spent the rest of his life in the circle of family and friends where he had been raised. It’s unlikely that his close association with the apostle Peter would have formed, and it’s even less likely that he would have taken on the task of writing down Peter’s story of Jesus. In other words, if it weren’t for Barnabas, we might not have the Gospel of Mark in our New Testament today.

I once heard a story about when Thomas Edison was working to invent the light bulb. When he had finished the design work, the story is that it took a whole team of people working for twenty-four hours just to put one light bulb together. Apparently when it was finished Edison gave the light bulb to a young boy to carry upstairs, and the young fellow dropped it. That was the end of that light bulb! So Edison’s team got to work again, worked for another twenty four hours and produced a second light bulb. You might think that Edison would have chosen someone different to carry the finished product upstairs, but he didn’t; he gave it to that same boy. He gave him a second chance.

Perhaps you are conscious of failure in your life, and perhaps you’re asking yourself if you’re all out of chances. Apparently not; apparently God is the God of second chances. God is a God of grace, a Bible word that means love you don’t have to earn by perfect performance; love that’s poured out on you as a free gift, not because you’ve earned it but because it’s the nature of God to love extravagantly. Our baptismal covenant asks us, “Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” Because God is the God of second chances, we can reply, “I will, with God’s help”.

But there’s more to it than that. Because God is the God of second chances, we also are called to be people who offer others second chances – and third, and fourth, and on and on. God has poured out his grace and love on us; we’re called to pour out that same grace and love on others. We’re called to be like Barnabas, the son of encouragement, and like Thomas Edison who was determined not to let that boy go through the rest of his life thinking he was a failure because he’d dropped the first electric light bulb. And remember – a lot could be riding on how we treat other people when they fail. Barnabas was not to know that his young cousin was a future author of a New Testament gospel; he just gave him a second chance because that was the sort of guy he was, but today, two thousand years later, you and I are still being blessed because of what Barnabas did. So, as we have been forgiven and given another chance by God, let’s pray for God’s grace to help us forgive and give others that same second chance. And who knows what might happen as a result?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bryan Moyer Suderman in concert at St. Margaret's, October 2nd 2009.

Bryan Moyer Suderman rides the rails over 9,000 km to share songs from new CD

What better way to celebrate the release of a new CD than to ride the rails for a month, covering over 9,000 km from Toronto to Vancouver and back, with plenty of singing stops in between?

That’s what Bryan Moyer Suderman is doing from September 15 to October 15, eager to share the songs from his new CD “A New Heart: songs of faith for small and tall.”

Moyer Suderman describes his newest CD, the 4th released on his SmallTall Music label, as the most “playful” and “ambitious” of any recording he’s done so far. With original songs that are evocative, engaging, and simple without being simplistic, Bryan sings from Genesis to the Gospels, Esther to Ephesians with a top-flight crew of backing musicians in styles ranging from folk and bluegrass to zydeco, bossa nova, and New Orleans jazz.

It’s easy to see why Moyer Suderman has become known for his unique gift of crafting songs and performances that draw from the deep wells of biblical vision and wisdom while being accessible and fun for young and old alike. Since the release of his first CD in 2002, Bryan’s “songs of faith for small and tall” have become favourites with families and churches across North America and beyond, and have been published in various hymnal, songbook, curriculum and other resources.

Moyer Suderman will be performing an all-ages concert at St. Margaret's Anglican Church in Edmonton on Friday October 2nd at 7.30 p.m. This concert is co-sponsored by St. Margaret's and Edmonton First Mennonite Church.

But why travel by train?

While travel and performing is an important part of Moyer Suderman’s work (he recently returned from Paraguay, where he was part of the song leading team at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly), he also struggles with how to carry out this vocation in a way that is sustainable economically and ecologically as well as sustainable in terms of healthy relationships with his family and local community (he attends Community Mennonite Church of Stouffville Ontario).

As a result, Moyer Suderman works to keep his long-distance travel schedule confined to a limited number of weeks per year, and then to “make hay while the sun shines” and perform as much as possible while he is on the road. The CanRail Pass offers a way to do that at a low cost and in a way that reduces the carbon emissions that would result from more “one-off” flights to long-distance engagements. Moyer Suderman completed a coast-to-coast USA railroad tour last spring, and has begun planning for the next one as well. “Besides,” Moyer Suderman says, “I love to travel by train!”

Another key component of Moyer Suderman’s long-term strategy is what he calls his “Community Supported Music” system. This is an innovative online delivery system for music that is patterned after the “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) approach, making regular “deliveries” of new songs that are “fresh, home-grown, and always in season.” Since pioneering this alternative business model for the arts which is entering its fourth year, Moyer Suderman has made 12 “deliveries” of new songs - complete with music notation, chords, thoughts and reflections, and activity ideas and tips for using the songs in home, school, and congregational settings. Various other artists have picked up on the idea as well, have been applying this model to their own work.

For more about Bryan Moyer Suderman recordings, downloads, and performances, visit www.smalltallmusic.com, follow his touring adventures on his blog www.smalltallmusings.blogspot.com, and discover more about his “Community Supported Music” system at www.bryanmoyersuderman.com.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September 2009 Roster

Sept 6 - Pentecost 14 - Eucharist - Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & L. Schindel
Counter: Schindel/T. Laffin
Reader: T. Cromarty
Readings: Prov. 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Psalm125, James 2:1-13
Lay Administrants: R. Goss/D. Schindel
Intercessor: P. Leney
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill Mark 7:24-37
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M.Woytkiw/10:30 L. Schindel
Prayer Team : M. Chesterton/M. Rys
Nursery Supervisor: T. Laffin
Kitchen: - 9:45 am A. & D. Wilson

Sept 13 - Pentecost 15 - Song Service
Greeter/Sidespeople: C. & M. Aasen
Counter: C. Aasen/B. Rice
Reader: ?????
Readings: Prov. 1:20-33, James 3:1-12
Intercessor: M. Rys
Lay Reader: E. Gerber Mark 8:27-38
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 J. Mill/
Nursery Supervisor: K. Hughes
Sunday School: P. Rayment

Sept 20 - Pentecost 16 - Eucharist
Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & L. Schindel
Counter: D .Schindel/T. Laffin
Reader: C. Ripley
Readings: Prov. 31:10-31, Psalm 1, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Lay Administrants: V. Haase/M. Rys
Intercessor: T. Chesterton
Lay Reader: D. MacNeil Mark 9:30-37
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M.Lobreau/10:30 K. Hughes
Prayer Team: E. Gerber/L. Sanderson
Nursery: G. Hughes
Sunday School: B. Rice
Kitchen: R. Betty

Sept 27 - Pentecost 17 - Morning Worship
Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & E. Mitty
Counter: D. Mitty/B. Rice
Reader: D. Schindel
Readings: James 5:13-20
Intercessor: C. Aasen
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill Mark 9:38-50
Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M. Woytkiw/10:30 Morning Worship
Nursery Supervisor: M. Aasen
Sunday School: C. Ripley
Kitchen: M. Rys