Monday, October 26, 2009

November Roster 2009

November 1st - All Saints’ - Baptisms

Greeter/Sidespeople T. Willacy/T. Cromarty

Counter T. Willacy/T. Laffin

Reader V. Haase

Reading Rev. 21:1-6a

Lay Administrant E. Gerber/V. Haase

Intercessor L. Thompson - (Baptismal prayers p155)

Lay Reader E. Gerber (John 11:32-44)

Altar Guild 9am M. Lobreau/10:30 K. Hughes

Prayer team M. Chesterton/M. Rys

Nursery Supervisor M. Aasen

Sunday School M. Cromarty

Kitchen 9:45A&D Wilson/10:30V. Haase

November 8th - Pentecost 23

Greeter/Sidespeople Aasens

Counter Aasen/T. Laffin

Reader & Psalm M. Rys

Readings: Ruth3:1-5, Psalm 127, Heb. 9:24-28

Lay Administrant D. MacNeill/A. Zinck

Intercessor C. Ripley

Lay Reader D. MacNeill(Mark 12:38-44)

Altar Guild 9am M. Woytkiw /10:30 D. Mitty

Prayer Team E. Gerber/L. Sanderson

Nursery Supervisor T. Laffin

Sunday School P. Rayment

Kitchen M. Rys

November 15 - Pentecost 24

Greeter/Sidespeople Hughes

Counter Hughes/D. Schindel

Reader & Psalm W. Pyra

Readings: 1 Sam. 1:4-20, 1 Sam 2:1-10 (as psalm), Heb. 10:11-25

Lay Administrant L. Thompson/D.Schindel

Intercessor D. MacNeill

Lay Reader L. Thompson (Mark 13:1-8)

Altar Guild 9am J. Mill/10:30P. Major

Prayer Team M. Chesterton/M. Rys

Nursery Supervisor E. McDougall

Sunday School B. Rice

Kitchen M. Chesterton

November 22nd - Reign of Christ

Greeter/Sidespeople Mittys

Counter Mitty/B. Rice

Reader & Psalm B. Mirtle

Readings: 2 Sam. 23:1-7, Psalm 132:1-19, Rev. 1:4b-8

Lay Administrant A. Zinck/M. Rys

Intercessor T. Chesterton

Lay Reader D. MacNeill (John 18:33-37)

Altar Guild 9am M. Lobreau/10:30 L. Pyra

Prayer Team K. Hughes/E. Gerber

Nursery Supervisor G. Hughes

Sunday School C.Ripley

Kitchen B&M Mirtle

November 29th – Advent 1 Morning Worship

Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & L. Schindel

Counter: D .Schindel/T. Laffin

Reader: T. Wittkopf

Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Thess. 3:9-13

Intercessor: C. Aasen

Lay Reader: E. Gerber (Luke 21:25-36)

Altar Guild 9am M. Woytkiw/10:30 prayer Service

Nursery: K. Hughes

Sunday School: M. Aasen

Kitchen: D. Molloy

October 26 - November 1

C A L E N D A R

Monday, October 26th

Tim’s day off

Office Closed

Tuesday, October 27th

7:30 pm Christian Basics #4

Thursday, October 29th

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible study at Bogani

2:00 pm Women’s Bible Study at Marg Rys’s house

Sunday, November 1st - Pentecost 22 All Saints Day

9:00 am Eucharist

10:30 am Eucharist and Baptisms

Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s

Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.

Church Families: Brian and Louise Popp

Chris, Heather and Sophia Pouliot

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Lay Administrants

Children’s Birthday Wishes

Stephanie Gariepy, Brendan Kalis, Kobe Norman, Jillian Pasterfield, Charoltte Davis

I TE M S T O N O T E

Fall Congregational meeting will be held on the 8th day of November A.D. 2009, at 12 o’clock pm, in St. Margaret’s Church at which time all baptized persons regularly attending Services of worship in this Parish or otherwise regularly receiving the administrations of the clergy of this parish are entitled to attend.

Sundays November 8th, 15th, and 22nd: Stewardship Emphasis: Our sermons on these three Sundays will follow a stewardship theme. David Connell, Planned Giving Officer of the Diocese of Edmonton, will be our guest preacher on November 15. Following each service he will make a short presentation about Planned Gifts and their benefits to you and the church.

Newsletter: If you have any information that you would like to contribute to the Christmas Newsletter, please submit those on or before November 22, 2009

Sharing Your Faith without Losing Your Friends: Three Tuesday Evenings 7:30 – 9:30) (November 3rd, 10th, and 17th) OR Saturday November 14th (9:30 – 4:30).
We all find the idea of talking about our faith with our friends somewhat intimidating; we don’t know who we should be talking to, we’re worried we might offend people, we’re not sure how to explain the gospel to others, we’re afraid they might ask us questions too tough to answer – these are just a few of our fears! This course will address these and other issues and help us gain confidence that yes, we can share our faith in Christ with our friends without turning them off forever!

There are two options for taking this course. You can take it over three Tuesday evenings (November 3rd, 10th and 17th, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.), OR you can take it on a Saturday, November 14th, 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.

For more information contact Tim at stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231. To register, sign up on the appropriate sheet on the table in the foyer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sermon for October 25th: What Happens To Us After We Die? (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Today in our parish we’re beginning what we hope will turn out to be an annual custom: an opportunity for us to remember with prayer and thanksgiving those of our friends and family who have died in the past year or two. In our congregation we have experienced several deaths this year, and some of us have also lost friends and relatives outside this little Christian community of ours. In fact, there can be very few of us who have not been touched, at one time or another, by the reality of death. And young or old, there can be very few of us who have not wondered what that reality means.

So what’s going to happen to me after I die? This is one of the questions human beings have pondered throughout history. We go through life, we work hard to achieve something, we find someone to love and if we’re fortunate we build a family and experience good and positive and lasting relationships. But what does it all mean if it all ends in death? What’s the point of learning, if my brain’s just going to go demented and then die out? What’s the point of love, if sooner or later you’re going to lose the one you love? Is it really possible that all these years of laughing and working, eating and sleeping, learning and loving are going to end up in nothing more than the decay of my body in the grave?

Human beings have always pondered that question, and throughout our history we’ve continuously speculated about what happens to us after we die. Some, believing that the person continues to live in some sense after death, have left tools and articles of clothing in the grave to help the dead person in the next life. Some people have tried to contact the dead, and others believe that the dead have contacted them. Some people have been afraid of what comes after death and have paid money for masses to be said for the safety of their souls. Some have believed that when we die we go to a better place. Others have been skeptical: we just die, and that’s the end of that.

The Christian faith is firmly on record as teaching that there is life after death. In the Nicene Creed, which goes back in its earliest form to the fourth century A.D., we say, ‘We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’. What does this mean? What do we actually believe about life after death?

Not surprisingly, the early Christians had these questions as well. One of the earliest books of the New Testament to be written was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians; scholars think it was written around 50 A.D., some twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Christians in Thessalonica were worried about what had happened to their fellow-Christians who had died: were they all right? Yes, says, Paul; there’s no need for you to grieve as if you had no hope. We believe that just as Jesus died and rose again, so God will raise the dead with Jesus. We who are alive when the Lord comes again, he says, won’t precede those who have died; when the last trumpet sounds, they will be raised, and we’ll all meet the Lord, and we’ll live with him forever. So encourage each other – build each other up – with these words.

Now that’s an odd answer, don’t you think? Nowadays if Christians were feeling doubtful about life after death, we’d expect their pastors to talk to them about heaven, that lovely place where those who love the Lord will live with him forever. but Paul doesn’t mention heaven at all; he talks about being raised from the dead at the sound of the last trumpet. What’s that all about?

Well, it’s helpful to speculate as to what the question was that the Thessalonian Christians were asking; when you read Paul’s answer, it doesn’t seem as if the question was, ‘Is there life after death?’ Rather, the question seems to have been something like this: ‘Paul, you taught us that even though Jesus’ rule over all things is hidden right now, one day it’s going to be plain to everyone; every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord, and his kingdom will come in all its fullness. But some of our fellow-Christians have died without seeing this. What’s going to happen to them? Are they going to miss out on seeing the Kingdom of God?’

Let’s look a little more closely at how Paul answers that question. What about these Thessalonian Christians who have died? Where are they now? And what’s going to happen to them in the future?

Where are they now? 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”. Or at least, that’s how the New Revised Standard Version puts it. But there’s a little footnote that tells us that the NRSV has made a little change in the translation, presumably to make Paul’s meaning clear. You see, Paul didn’t actually say, ‘died’, he said, ‘fallen asleep’: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep”. This is a very common New Testament metaphor for death: falling asleep in Christ.

Why do the biblical authors use this ‘sleep’ metaphor? I suspect they use it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, from the point of view of the observer, there are some similarities. The sleeper is usually lying down; their eyes are often closed; there’s no activity going on. And the same is true of the dead. But the second reason is the more important one: sleep is a temporary state. The sleepers are going to wake! And that’s what’s going to happen to those who sleep in death, too: one day they are going to wake up. They are going to be raised from the dead.

From the perspective of the observer it looks as if the dead are asleep; what does it look like from the perspective of the ‘sleeper’? Do they experience ‘dying and going to heaven?’ Do they see a great light and go through a tunnel and all that?

We have to be very careful here, because a lot of what we think is Christian teaching isn’t actually Christian at all; it comes from the teachings of the Greek philosopher Plato. Plato taught that the physical life we live in this present world is a very inferior life, full of imperfection. But in the future, after we die, we’ll get rid of this physical existence completely, and be pure spirits; that’s when we’ll find perfection. In other words, we die and go to a better place where we won’t have to bother with all this messy material stuff; we’ll be pure disembodied spirits.

Does that sound like Christian teaching to you - floating on clouds and playing harps? If it does, that just goes to show how completely Plato’s ideas took over the church. But actually, the New Testament doesn’t have a lot to say about heaven at all. In fact, you can make very strong arguments from the New Testament for two different positions. One would be a variation on the ‘heaven’ idea: we die, we go to be with Jesus in Paradise, and we wait there with him until the day of resurrection when we will resume our physical existence in a renewed heaven and earth. The other idea would be that when we die, we simply fall asleep. And you know how it is when you’ve had a really good sleep: you don’t remember a thing about it. The next thing you know, you’re waking up and it seems as if no time has passed at all, except that you feel refreshed. That will be us: we will fall asleep in Jesus, and it will seem to us that the next thing we know is resurrection day!

To tell you the truth, I don’t really know which of these views is the right one. And I really don’t care, because the one thing they both have in common is that what happens immediately after death is only temporary. The really important thing – the life after life after death – is the coming resurrection.

So let’s go back to 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul says,

For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever (4:16-17).

It’s easy to get distracted by the strange mythical language of these verses: the trumpet sound, the clouds, the air and so on. Some Christians have taken them literally, and have produced wonderful bluegrass tunes like “I’ll Fly Away’ to celebrate them. But in fact the early Christians didn’t think that; they understood that they were using the language of Jewish apocalyptic literature, which was full of symbolism. The trumpet, the clouds, the air and so on were all coronation language; the believers, dead and living, were being invited to be present at a coronation ceremony for the Lord of heaven and earth. They were being invited to be present at the final consummation of the Kingdom of God.

In other words, this passage isn’t just about individual Christians going to be with the Lord; it’s about the reign of God finally being realised all over the world, as the world is healed of evil and sin and restored to God’s original dream. That’s why the Nicene Creed ties together these two ideas: ‘We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’. Our Christian hope isn’t a selfish one: it’s not just about ‘what will happen to me after I die’. It’s about the future of God’s entire creation. And that future will not just be what we call a ‘spiritual’ thing – it will involve bodies and matter as well. All the material things we know with our senses – the taste of food, the feel of the sun on your skin on a warm day, the caress of a lover – these are good things made by a good and loving God. When the last day comes God isn’t going to abandon matter as a bad idea and opt for a purely ‘spiritual’ world, as Plato taught. No: the Bible tells us that what God is going to do is ‘make all things new’; God is going to heal the wounds of creation and restore it to his original dream. And he’s going to raise his people from the dead so that they can enjoy life as he originally conceived it, before evil entered his world.

Of course, this raises many questions that we haven’t been given answers to. In the time of Jesus, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. Jesus once had a dispute about it with them, because they assumed that if you believed in the resurrection, that meant you had to believe that everyone would go on being married and having kids and so on, but Jesus cautioned them about that; it’s going to be very different, he said. And I’ve sometimes been asked where we’re going to put everyone! After all, a lot of people – billions, presumably – have died and gone before us. If they’re all going to be raised, where are we going to find room for them all on this little earth? The answer is that we don’t know; there are a lot of things that God hasn’t told us about his future plans, and it would be foolish of me to speculate.

What we do know is that the Christian hope is about the renewal of this world. It tells us that the future of this world is in the hands of God and not of the forces of evil and destruction; that the last word will be God’s word and not the words of tyrants or mass murderers. The symbolic language of the book of Revelation tells us that the day will come when the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth, when God will make his home among us and live with us forever, when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, when death and mourning and crying and pain will be no more; the time when God will say, “See, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:2-5).

That’s our hope, and so we can face death with a different attitude. Christian teaching doesn’t pretend that death isn’t a huge blow; Paul doesn’t tell his friends in Thessalonica not to grieve for those who have died. What he says is that they do not need to grieve ‘as others do who have no hope’ (4:13). We will grieve, yes, but only as I might grieve if I was going to be separated from my loved ones for a very long trip in which I would be unable to contact them at all. People who don’t have this hope grieve because they see death as the final separation. But we Christians are encouraged to trust that beyond that separation there will be a great reunion, on that bright morning when God renews his whole creation, when Jesus is acknowledged by all as Lord of heaven and earth, and when the human family finally finds the peace and justice we’ve been longing for, for as long as we can remember.

You and I, and our loved ones who have died in the peace of Christ, will see that day. We’ve got reserved seats at the coronation. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

November Calendar 2009

St. Margaret’s Anglican Church

Calendar – November 2009


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


Sunday, November 1- Pentecost 22

9:00 am - Eucharist

9:45 am - COMBINED COFFEE

10:30 am - Eucharist and Baptisms

12:00 pm Extra Coffee Hour


Monday, November 2

Tim’s day off

Office Closed


Tuesday, November 3

7:30 pm Sharing your faith without losing your friends #1


Wednesday, November 4

Tim away at Church Army Meeting


Thursday, November 5

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible Study at Bogani’s

2:00 pm Women’s Bible study at Marg Rys house

Tim away at Church Army meeting


Friday, November 6

Tim away at Church Army Meeting


Sunday, November 8 - Pentecost 23

Stewardship Focus #1

9:00 am - Eucharist

10:30 am - Eucharist

12:00 pm Fall Congregational Meeting


Monday, November 9

Tim’s day off

Office Closed


Tuesday, November 10

Office Closed

Tim at Clergy event at Cathedral

Erin Away

7:30 pm Sharing your Faith without losing your friends #2


Wednesday, November 11

Office Closed


Thursday, November 12

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible Study at Bogani’s

11:30 am Seniors Lunch

2:00 pm Women’s Bible study at Marg Rys house


Friday, November 13

7:00-9:00 pm New Member Orientation Evening


Saturday, November 14

9:00 am-5:00 pm

“Sharing your Faith without losing your friends” Day Workshop


Sunday, November 15 - Pentecost 24

Stewardship Focus #2 WIth David Connell

9:00 am - Eucharist

10:30 am - Eucharist


Monday, November 16

Tim’s day off

Office Closed


Tuesday, November 17

7:30 pm Sharing your Faith without losing your friends #3


Wednesday, November 18

Tim at Clergy Day

7:15 pm Vestry


Thursday, November 19

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible Study at Bogani’s

2:00 pm Women’s Bible study at Marg Rys house


Friday, November 20

5:00 pm Wedding rehearsal rental

6:30 pm Pot Luck and music night at Church


Saturday, November 21

Wedding Rental


Sunday, November 22 - Reign of Christ

Stewardship Focus #3

9:00 am - Morning Worship

10:30 am - Morning Worship


Monday, November 23

Tim's day off

Office closed


Thursday, November 26

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible Study at Bogani’s

2:00 pm Women’s Bible study at Marg Rys house


Friday, November 27

2:00 pm Congregational Care Committee Meeting


Saturday, November 28

10:00 am - 3:30 pm Advent Quiet Day


Sunday, November 29 - Advent 1

9:00 am - Eucharist

10:30 am - Eucharist Morning Worship

7:00 pm Youth Group


Monday, November 30

Tim’s day off

Office closed






Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19 - 25, 2009

C A L E N D A R

Monday, October 19th

Tim’s day off

Office Closed

Tuesday, October 20th

7:30 pm Christian Basics #3

Wednesday, October 21st

7:15 pm Vestry Meeting

Thursday, October 22nd

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible study at Bogani

2:00 pm Women’s Bible Study at Marg Rys’s house

Saturday, October 24th

Tim on Holidays

Sunday, October 25th - Pentecost 21

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: Irma Perkins

Sheila, Sandy and Christine Phimester

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Readers

Edmonton Food Bank: Your food bank donations were dropped off and the staff at the Food Bank gave a big thank you. They are experiencing a food shortage at the moment and the St. Margaret’s Donation was greatly appreciated.

Newsletter: If you have any information that you would like to contribute to the Christmas Newsletter, please submit those on or before November 22, 2009


I TE M S T O N O T E

2 St. Margaret’s 2009 2

Sharing the Gospel . Going for Growth!

Sunday October 25th: Thanksgiving for our Loved Ones Who Have Died Many of us have lost loved ones in the past year or two and would like to have an opportunity to honour their memory and to give thanks for their life. On Sunday October 25th we will have an opportunity to do so. If you wish to remember a loved one on that date, you will be invited to come forward and place a carnation on the altar in their memory, along with a card with their name on it; these cards will then be offered in prayer to God during the prayers of the people. We invite you to reserve your carnation by calling the church office at 437-7231 or stmag@telus.net, giving your name and the name of your loved one. A donation of $2 per carnation is suggested and a basket for these donations will be placed at the back of the church on the 25th.

Sunday November 1st (All Saints’ Day): Baptisms at 10.30 service All Saints’ Day is a traditional day for baptism in the Christian year.

Fall Congregational meeting will be held on the 8th day of November A.D. 2009, at 12 o’clock pm, in St. Margaret’s Church at which time all baptized persons regularly attending Services of worship in this Parish or otherwise regularly receiving the administrations of the clergy of this parish are entitled to attend.

Sundays November 8th, 15th, and 22nd: Stewardship Emphasis

Our sermons on these three Sundays will follow a stewardship theme. On Sunday November 15th our guest speaker will be David Connell, planned giving officer for the Diocese of Edmonton. As well as preaching at both services, after the 10.30 service David will give a brief presentation about Planned Giving (i.e. wills and bequests).


Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12 - 18, 2009

C A L E N D A R 

Monday, October 12th

Tim’s day off

Office Closed

Tuesday, October 13th

Tim on Holidays

Wednesday, October 14th

Tim on Holidays

11:30 am Seniors Lunch at the church

Thursday, October 15th

Tim on Holidays

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 16th

Tim on Holidays

Saturday, October 17th

Tim on Holidays

Sunday, October 18th - Pentecost 20

9:00 am     Morning Worship Led by Doug MacNeill

10:30 am   Morning Worship led by Elaine Gerber and Ronald Goss

Items To Note

In case of emergency during Tim’s holiday contact The Rev. Kevin Kraglund at St. Matthias Anglican Church (780) 487-0324

Autumn Baleck from World Vision will join us and give at talk at both services October 18

Upcoming Seniors Lunch (No Age Restrictions)
Please join us at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church for the October’s Senior Lunch on Wednesday, October 14th, starting at11:30 a.m. We will be discussing dates and topics for futures lunches. 

October 16 potluck is cancelled

Sunday October 25th: Thanksgiving for our Loved Ones Who Have Died Many of us have lost loved ones in the past year or two and would like to have an opportunity to honour their memory and to give thanks for their life. On Sunday October 25th we will have an opportunity to do so. If you wish to remember a loved one on that date, you will be invited to come forward and place a carnation on the altar in their memory, along with a card with their name on it; these cards will then be offered in prayer to God during the prayers of the people.
We invite you to reserve your carnation by calling the church office at 437-7231 or stmag@telus.net, giving your name and the name of your loved one. A donation of $2 per carnation is suggested and a basket for these donations will be placed at the back of the church on the 25th.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sermon for Thanksgiving: Matthew 6:25-34

Joy, Trust, and Focus

In our Gospel for today there’s one word that gets repeated over and over again: the word ‘Worry’. Not that worry is something that Jesus is recommending! Rather, it’s something that he’s warning us against. He says in verse 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear”. And again in verses 27-28: “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothes?” And again in verse 31, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’” And finally in verse 34, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today”.

Now if you’re like me, you find this a little hard to take. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia stories, was a devout Christian, but he admitted that his whole life long he struggled against a tendency to be a worrier. Commenting on this passage, he often wrote to his correspondents, “If God wanted us to live like the birds of the air, it would have be nice for him to have given us a constitution that was more like theirs!” I’m sure that you can sympathise with Lewis; I know I can. Like him, I tend to be a worrier. “Don’t worry – be happy” sounds great in theory, but how do you actually put it into practice? Many of us have become compulsive worriers, and the habits of a lifetime are hard to break. To us, Jesus’ saying in verse 25 - “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life” - sounds like a pipe dream.

I think we need to begin by recognising that, in this as in every other instance, Jesus practised what he preached. He does not seem to have been a person who worried a great deal; he lived his life on the principle of trusting his heavenly Father, and he tried to teach his followers to do the same. And I would go so far as to say that this made him, so far as we can tell, basically a happy person.

Yes, I know, there’s an old prophecy that said the Messiah was going to be ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’. We know that when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and when he went to his death on the cross, the whole weight of the suffering of the world seemed to descend on him, so that his spirit was as dark as the sky around him. And we know that he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and that he was sad when people refused to trust God and see the wonderful things God was doing.

But these moments are exceptions. As we read a passage like today’s gospel, we should see that it flows straight out of Jesus’ own experience of life. And I would like to suggest to you this morning that there are three basic attitudes that are at the heart of Jesus’ experience of life, three attitudes that are reflected in this passage: joy, trust, and focus.

First, joy, joy in the good things that his heavenly Father had created. I’m a bird watcher myself, so I’m delighted to find Jesus recommending this as a good hobby; he says in verse 26, ‘Look at the birds of the air’! We have no reason to believe that Jesus hadn’t taken his own advice; he must have spent hours watching the birds diving and swooping on the wind currents above the Galilean hills, simply enjoying being alive. I’m reminded of something Marci and I saw a few years ago outside the rest stop at Innisfree, on the way to Lloydminster. Those of you who have stopped there will know that the restaurant and gas station are up on a hill, and the prairie winds are strong around there. We were in the restaurant having a meal and we saw a raven playing in the wind. It would flap its wings and work hard to climb, up, and up, higher and higher, and then when it reached a certain height it would just let itself go, and it would dive and swoop around until it came back to ground level. Then it would go through the whole process all over again; we watched it doing this several times while we were eating. As far as we could tell, all this activity had no useful purpose; the raven wasn’t on the lookout for field mice or other prey like a hawk would have been. It was simply enjoying itself, riding the currents of air just as God had created it to do.

I’m sure that Jesus had watched birds do this sort of thing many times, and he had figured out that they never seemed to weary themselves doing the kind of work that humans do, and yet they somehow managed to stay alive and well. And Jesus had seen all the flowers, thousands of different species - the word translated ‘lilies of the field’ here actually refers to several different plants – and had been moved by their fragile beauty. One moment they could be standing in the field, the next they could be trampled under foot by horses or cut down by a scythe. Where did all this beauty come from? The flowers didn’t spend thousands of dollars on clothes, nor did they spend several hours a week in a tanning studio getting a good tan, or in front of a mirror putting on makeup. They were just themselves – beautiful, God-given, and free.

Jesus looked around and saw all this, but he saw more than this: he didn’t only see the creation, he also saw through it to its Creator. There’s an old hymn that expresses this attitude well. Let me quote you a couple of verses from it:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought

of rocks and trees, of skies and seas, his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world: the birds their carols raise;

the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world: he shines in all that’s fair;

in the rustling grass I hear him pass, he speaks to me everywhere.

Jesus lived a life of joy because he not only enjoyed the creation around him; he also received it as a gift from its Creator, the Father of all. And none of this was about ownership. Jesus didn’t have to own the birds in order to enjoy watching them, and he didn’t have to own a field in order to enjoy the beauty of its flowers. He could simply receive it all as a free gift from his Father.

And this leads us to the second attitude that is at the heart of Jesus’ experience of life: the attitude of trust in his heavenly Father.

I was blessed – in fact I still am blessed – with a good father. When my brother Mike and I were little boys, my Dad worked hard to put food on the table for us – first as a commercial artist in the advertising business, and later as a priest. When my Dad stopped work for two years to go to seminary, my Mum took her turn in the workforce. Between them they always provided what we needed, and so my brother and I never had to worry about not having food to eat or clothes to wear. That didn’t mean that our parents let us sit around and do nothing. They required us to do our chores, help with the dishes and so on. But because we knew that our parents loved us, we could be secure; we knew that, if need be, they would sacrifice their own comfort to make sure we had the necessities of life.

Jesus had that sort of trust in his heavenly Father; he had a strong and lively sense of the goodness of God. To him, the goodness of the created world was a sign of the goodness of the one who had made it. And his teaching grew out of his own experience. When he told his followers not to worry about tomorrow, we can assume that he had learned this attitude by putting it into practice himself. He knew from his own experience that the creator of all this beauty was not a stern and stingy killjoy but a loving and utterly dependable Father. And because of his relationship with his Father Jesus was able to break free from the tyranny of worry and focus his life on the things that really mattered.

So, even though Jesus seems to have known all along that the cross was ahead for him, I don’t get the sense that he was always looking ahead anxiously, worrying about what was coming next. Rather, he seems to have been able to live entirely in the present moment and giving attention to the present task, celebrating the goodness of God here and now. And he wanted his followers to do the same.

It’s important to recognise that when Jesus tells us not to worry about food and drink and clothing, he’s not saying that these things don’t matter. He doesn’t mean that we should live an ascetic life, eating and drinking as little as possible and wearing only the most ragged and moth-eaten clothes. We’re told in the gospels that Jesus liked a party as much as anyone else, and when he was crucified the soldiers liked his tunic so much that instead of tearing it up and dividing the cloth among them, as they usually did, they threw dice for it. So Jesus enjoyed the good things of life, and he wasn’t telling us that they aren’t important. Rather, he was telling us that we are the children of a loving Father who wants to give good gifts to his children. We can trust our Father to provide for us, just as he provides for the rest of his creation.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t plant seeds and reap the harvest, or that we shouldn’t work at weaving and spinning to make clothes – or that we shouldn’t work at our own jobs and earn money to pay others for these things, as most of us probably do in this church today. Rather, we should do these things with joy, because God is not a mean tyrant who is out to get us and make life difficult for us, but our loving Father who wants to take care of us and gives us the fruits of the earth as a gift.

So Jesus would counsel us to get close to the creation and learn to take joy in all that God has made there, and he would counsel us to learn to know and trust God as our heavenly Father; the more we cultivate our relationship with this God, the easier it will be for us to live our lives on the basis of simple trust in him. And finally, Jesus would counsel us to choose our focus wisely. In the passage immediately before today’s gospel, Jesus advises us:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv.19-21).

And he goes on to warn us:

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (v.24)

And at the end of today’s gospel he says,

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (vv.31-33).

Here we are getting to the heart of the matter. The reason Jesus was able to live in joyful trust in his heavenly Father was that he had made his heavenly Father’s priorities his own. And he challenges us to do the same. Seek the Kingdom of God, make it the number one value of your life, and God will respond by providing for you what you need to live. And what is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God means God’s power and love at work through Jesus to heal the world and restore it to his original intention and plan. One day this plan will come to completion; every knee will bow to Jesus, and God’s reign of justice and peace will be established and will last forever. We’re challenged to focus on that vision, to work toward it even now, and to make it the number one value of our lives.

The nineteenth century missionary Amy Carmichael once wrote these words: ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for God will last’. Of course, ‘done for God’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘done for the Church’. God’s purposes for his world are far wider than the Church; they include building happy marriages and strong families and nurturing caring communities. They include working toward a world where everyone has enough and no one has too much, and a world in which future generations will still be able to enjoy the birds of the air and the lilies of the field as we do today. And they include the spread of the good news of Jesus with a call to everyone to become his disciples.

So these are the three attitudes that I see in this passage, attitudes that Jesus lived himself and that he tried to teach his followers too: joy in God and in all the good things that God had made, trust in the goodness of his heavenly Father and in his daily provision for our needs, and focus above all, not on accumulating wealth for ourselves, but on doing God’s will and cooperating with him in the work of healing the world.

Does that sound good to you? Does that sound attractive? Does that sound better than living by the principle of ‘the one who dies with the most toys wins’? Does it sound better than accumulating mountains of luxuries and then spending our days worrying that someone is going to steal them from us? Which would you rather do: walk through what the old Prayer Book called ‘the changes and chances of this mortal life’ with only your own skill and strength to depend on, or walk through life with your hand in your Father’s hand, focussing on the things he tells you to focus on, and trusting him to provide the necessities of life for you?

I know which alternative I’d rather go for. I’m not there yet, not by a long shot, but I’m going to pray that Jesus will teach me day by day to find joy in God’s creation, to trust in the goodness of my heavenly Father, and to focus my attention on seeking God’s kingdom and doing God’s will. Would you like to join me in that prayer?

(Note: I acknowledge the assistance of Tom Wright's 'Matthew for Everyone: Volume 1' in the preparation of this sermon).