Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30 - December 6

C A L E N D A R

Monday, November 30th

Tim’s day off

Office Closed

Tuesday, December 1st

12:00 pm Deanery Clergy Meeting at St. Margaret’s

Wednesday, December 2nd

3:30 pm Corporation Meeting

Thursday, December 3rd

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

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

Sunday, December 6th – Advent 2

9:00 am Eucharist

9:45 pm Combined Coffee

10:30 am Eucharist

7:00 pm Advent Celebration at St. Margaret’s

Outreach Totals

Our total for World Vision is $940

I TE M S T O N O T E

Sharing the Gospel . Going for Growth!

Christmas Flowers: If you would like to make a donation toward the Christmas floral arrangement to be placed in front of the altar, please place your donation in your offering envelope and mark it accordingly. Thank you.

Advent Celebration December 6th at 7 pm. Join us for an evening of music and drama. Additionally, We are seeking members who play brass, string or woodwind instruments to help us in the Advent celebration. For information please contact Eva Thompson at lloeva@shaw.ca. There will be an offering, and all proceeds go to St. Margaret’s World Vision outreach project.

Seniors Lunch: The next Senior’s Lunch will be December 10th, 11:30 a.m. at the Schindel residence. A sheet with the address and directions is available on the table in the foyer.
We will be celebrating the Christmas Season with a Carol Sing-Song.
Please contact Julie Holmes or Lesley Schindel to confirm your attendance. Everyone is welcome.

Rental Advisors: We are looking for 4-5 people to be St. Margaret’s Rental supervisors. Supervisors would receive financial compensation for their time, and the job would require someone to open and close the church for the building rentals, as well as ensuring the rental policy is followed. If you are interested in this job, please contact the church office by calling (780) 437-7231 or by e-mail at stmag@telus.net

Ever thought you had room for one more?
Hundreds of children and youth across every community in Alberta are in need of foster and adoptive homes and you can help today! Think about opening your heart and home to a child or youth in need by becoming part of A Child’s Hope. Information packages are available in the foyer or you can visit www.achildshope.alberta.ca or call A Child’s Hope today at 780-422-3333.

December Calendar 2009

St. Margaret’s Anglican Church

Calendar – December 2009


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


Tuesday, December 1

12:00 pm Dearny Clergy Meeting at St. Margaret's


Wednesday, December 2

3:30 Corporation Meeting


Thursday December 3

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

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


Sunday, December 6 - Advent 2

9:00 am - Eucharist

9:45 am - Combined Coffee

10:30 am - Eucharist and Sunday SChool


Monday, December 7

Tim’s day off

Office Closed


Tuesday, December 8

11:15 am St. Joseph's Eucharist


Thursday, December 10

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


Sunday, December 13 - Advent 3

9:00 am - Eucharist

10:30 am - Eucharist and Sunday School


Monday, December 14

Tim’s day off

Office Closed


Wednesday, December 16

7:15 pm Vestry


Saturday, December 19

10:30 am - 12:30 pm Cookie Exchange at the Church


Sunday, December 20 - Advent 4

9:00 am - Eucharist

10:30 am - 9 Lessons & Carols


Monday, December 21

Tim's day off

Office closed


Thursday, December 24 - Christmas Eve

Office Closed

7:00 pm Family Eucharist

11:00 pm Candlelight Eucharist


Friday, December 25 - Christmas Day

Office Closed

10:00 am Eucharist


Sunday, December 27 - Christmas 1

9:00 am - Eucharist

10:30 am - Eucharist and Baptism



Monday, December 28

Tim’s day off

Office closed


Tuesday, December 29

Tim’s day off

Office closed








Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon for Advent Sunday

What’s Advent All About?

Most of you probably know that traditional Christmas song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. In the calendar of the church year, the twelve days refer to the days of feasting for the Christmas celebration, starting on Christmas Day, December 25th, and running until January 5th, the last day of the Christmas season. January 6th is the feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the coming of the wise men to visit Jesus, and the night before January 6th, the eve of the Epiphany, is traditionally known as ‘Twelfth Night’. In days gone by most people would not put up a Christmas tree or decorate their house for Christmas until Christmas Eve, and the decorations would then stay up for the twelve days of Christmas and come down on Twelfth Night. Some people had a ‘burning of the greens’ on Twelfth Night, when the Christmas tree and the holly and other Christmas greenery would be burned.

I’m a bit na├»ve, so it took me a few years to realise that the retail industry has completely revised this calendar – and they’ve done a very successful job of it. Many people in Canada now think that the twelve days of Christmas are the twelve shopping days before Christmas. Most people now put up their Christmas trees long before Christmas, and take them down a couple of days afterwards. A few years ago I was at a new year’s eve party organised by a friend. A lot of musicians were there and we were all playing songs together. I played ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and some people were quite surprised that I would do so, since, to them, Christmas was over. But I was only on the eighth night, you see!

This illustrates the fact that at this time of year we in the church are on a calendar that’s significantly different from the world around us. The world around us has been getting ready for Christmas for almost a month now – ever since the Halloween stuff disappeared from the stores, in fact. My copy of the Edmonton Journal has been getting thicker and thicker each day as the sale flyers are multiplying; the Christmas carols are playing in the stores, and the retail industry is ramping up for its busiest time of the year. All of it to do with sales, of course, and very little of it to do with the actual story of the birth of Jesus. The Christmas carols in the stores aren’t meant to get people thinking about the birth of Jesus; they’re meant to get us in the mood for spending lots of cash.

But in the church – at least, in the parts of the church that follow the traditional calendar of the church year – we’re beginning the season of Advent. Advent is all about the coming of the kingdom of God, and the coming of his Messiah who will bring in his kingdom. So in Advent we spend a lot of time in the Old Testament prophets. They looked around at all the sufferings of God’s people, and then they looked ahead to a time to come when God would rescue his people from evil and restore them to his original dream for them.

Some of those prophecies were fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, and so yes, it’s true, Advent includes the note of preparation for Christmas – although the preparation is less about our need for the perfect gift idea and more about our need for a Saviour. But some of the prophecies have yet to be fulfilled, and so in Advent we also look ahead, to the day when Jesus will be revealed as Lord of heaven and earth, the day when the kingdom of God will be established on earth in all its fulness and, as one of the prophets says, the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

So we get out the Advent wreath, which has the four candles, one for each of the Sundays of Advent, either blue (which is the colour of hope) or purple (which is the colour of repentance). I hope you all make an Advent wreath for yourselves at home and light it each day, perhaps at supper time, and perhaps adding a brief Bible reading or prayer on the themes of Advent. There are all sorts of resources on the Internet to help us celebrate Advent using the wreath. And whereas in the secular world the Christmas carols have been rolling for a month, in the church we have a special collection of traditional hymns about Advent and the coming of the kingdom of God. Some of you perhaps want to start singing the Christmas hymns right away, but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the vital themes of the Advent season.

What are some of those themes? Let me suggest three of them, and point you toward some scriptures that explain them.

The first theme is hope. When we’re going through dark times, either as a community or a nation, or as individuals, we all know how important it is for us to have hope. I expect that those of you who are old enough to remember the Second World War will remember Vera Lynn singing these words:

There'll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover,

Someday, just you wait and see

There'll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover,

Someday, when the world is free.

For people who remember the dark days of war, these are very emotional words, recalling a time when there seemed to be very little hope at all. They express the longing of a whole generation caught up in suffering it could never have imagined, desperately wanting to believe that it was not going to last forever.

The shepherd will tend his sheep

And the meadow will bloom again,

And Jimmy will go to sleep

In his own little room again.

Of course, when that song was written Spitfires were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the shepherd’s pasture might well have been made into a minefield, and Jimmy’s ‘own little room’ could easily have been destroyed by a bomb. Still, when people heard that song, it gave them a sense of hope that things didn’t always have to be like that, and that hope helped them to keep going.

We also live in a world today where hope is often in short supply. We’ve just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and those of you who remember that event in 1989 may remember how we all looked out optimistically on a world from which the threat of war seemed to have receded significantly, and hoped for better days to come. Little did we know what was ahead for us, with 9/11 and the war on terror and all that followed it! And when we add the food crisis and the threat of climate change and the economic recession and so on, the world can seem like a place in desperate need of some hope.

We find that hope in the Old Testament promises of the coming of the kingdom of God. Listen to these words from the prophet Micah:

In the days to come

the mountain of the LORD’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised up above the hills.

Peoples shall stream to it,

and many nations shall come and say:

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths”.

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between many peoples,

and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;

they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more;

but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,

and no one shall make them afraid;

for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4:1-4).

Micah points us toward a time when humanity’s obsession with war will come to an end, and when the people of the world will live in safety with no one to make them afraid. But this isn’t just a romantic peacenik sort of vision; it comes as a result of a general desire to turn to God’s ways and to accept God’s law as our path of life.

The early church saw this scripture as having been partially fulfilled with the coming of Jesus and his sending out of his church to spread the gospel to the whole earth: the word of the Lord had indeed gone out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Of course, the fulfilment was not yet complete; today we still look to the future for its completion. But because it is a promise of God and not just a pious wish, we can look ahead into God’s future with certainty, and we can work for peace and justice now, knowing that our labours are not in vain, because God will confirm them and establish them when the Day of the Lord comes.

So during the Advent season we meditate on this hope and we draw encouragement from it. We can find those Old Testament prophecies and read them again; a good way to find them is by listening to a recording of the first half of Handel’s ‘Messiah’, because many of them are included in it. As we read them or hear them, we’ll experience what Paul talks about in Romans 15, where he says, ‘For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4).

So hope is one of the main themes of Advent. But there’s a second theme, closely related to it: the theme of judgement. Many people don’t like this word; it’s associated in their minds with hellfire and brimstone preachers trying to literally ‘scare the hell’ out of people. Many Christians today will repeat the old saw that ‘the Old Testament God is a God of judgement and the New Testament God is a God of love’.

But in fact there can be no hope for the world without judgement. If God is not going to judge evil and remove it from his world, how can things ever be different here? If God is going to allow people like Hitler and Pol Pot and Stalin to continue to murder millions of people; if he’s going to allow greedy countries to continue to gobble up ten times their fair share of the natural resources of the world; if he’s going to allow rapists and child molesters to continue to inflict suffering on the weak and helpless – if all of that is going to continue because ‘God is a God of love’, then how can there be hope? Hope is meaningless without change, and the sort of change that’s necessary includes judgement.

The New Testament writers are in full agreement with this idea, and so the old saw about the note of judgement being absent from the New Testament turns out to be completely false. In fact, some of the strongest language about judgement in the New Testament comes from Jesus himself! Jesus is the one who tells the parable of the sheep and the goats, in which those who have refused to care for the needy are excluded from God’s future kingdom. Jesus is the one who talks about the servant who knew his master’s will and didn’t do it, and so received a greater beating. And Jesus is the one who tells us that if we want to enter God’s kingdom it isn’t enough just to call him ‘Lord, Lord’; we have to put his teaching into practice and do the will of his Father in heaven.

So in Advent, as we meditate on the theme of judgement, it’s a good idea to turn our eye onto ourselves, to examine ourselves, to see how we fall short of the way of life that Jesus has taught us, and to make the necessary changes in our lifestyle. The traditional word for this is ‘repentance’, which means a change of mind leading to a change of life: turning away from what is evil and turning toward what is good. In Isaiah 40 the prophet talks about ‘preparing the way of the Lord’; ‘Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain’ (Isaiah 40:4). I don’t know about you, but I know that in my life there are plenty of ‘rough places’ that need to be made plain, and plenty of ‘uneven ground’ that needs to be leveled. Advent is a good time to work on these things.

So we’ve talked about two Advent themes, hope and judgement. A third theme, related to them both, is readiness. The New Testament makes it perfectly clear that we don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that ‘about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (v.36), and he tells us that his coming will be as unexpected as a thief breaking into a house during the night. ‘Therefore you also must be ready’, he says, ‘for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour’ (v.44). This illustration of a thief breaking unexpectedly into a house during the night obviously captured the imagination of the early church; Paul repeats it in 1 Thessalonians 5 where he says, ‘for you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night’ (v.2), and Peter also uses it in his second letter, chapter 3, where he says, ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief’ (v.10).

Of course, it’s not the damage that the thief does that these writers are stressing; it’s the unexpected nature of his coming. Everyone was asleep, no one was prepared, and so the thief got away with it. And Jesus warns us in the gospels not to be asleep – in other words, not to get lulled into thinking that the day is never going to come. Instead, we’re to be ready, and we’re to show our readiness by our eagerness to live the way that Jesus taught us to live.

One of my favourite stories on this theme is told of a state legislature in Colonial New England. The members were being thrown into a panic by a solar eclipse, because they didn’t know what it was. People were running around here and there, and several members of the legislature moved to adjourn the session because they thought the end of the world was at hand. But one of the speakers stood up and said this: “Mr. Speaker, if it is not the end of the world and we adjourn, we shall appear to be fools. If it is the end of the world, I should choose to be found doing my duty. I move, sir, that candles be brought in”. This, I believe, is the true Christian way. Whatever it is that Jesus is asking you to do, make sure you’re busy doing it when he comes back.

So I would encourage you to hold off on the ‘ho ho ho’ for a while yet! Rather, in these next few weeks, take time to ponder the themes of Advent and let them do their work in your life. Remember the Advent message of hope and let it bring light into the world when you find yourself getting overwhelmed by all the bad news in the world. Remember also the message of judgement: examine yourself, and make the changes that are necessary to prepare the way of the Lord in your life. And don’t put it off until tomorrow; remember the message of readiness, and make sure to live each day knowing that it could be the day you see the Lord face to face.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

December Roster 2009

Dec 6 – Advent 2 - Eucharist - Coffee between services

Greeter/Sidespeople: B&L Popp

Counter: Popp/B. Rice

Reader: S. Watson

Readings: Mal. 3:1-4, Canticle 19, Phil. 1:3-11

Lay Administrants: C. Aasen/D. MacNeill

Intercessor: M. Rys

Lay Reader: D. MacNeill Luke 3:1-6

Altar Guild (Blue): 9:00 J. Mill/10:30 L. Schindel

Prayer Team: M. Chesterton/M. Rys

Nursery Supervisor: M. Aasen

Sunday School: M. Cromarty

Kitchen: - 9:45 am A&D Wilson


Dec 13 – Advent 3 - Eucharist

Greeter/Sidespeople: G. & K. Hughes

Counter: G. Hughes/T. Laffin

Reader: B. Popp

Readings: Zeph. 3:14-20, Canticle 3, Phil. 4:4-7

Intercessor: D. MacNeill

Lay Reader: L. Thompson Luke 3:7-18

Altar Guild (Blue): 9:00 M. Lobreau/10:30 P. Major

Prayer Team: E. Gerber/L. Sanderson

Nursery Supervisor: T. Laffin

Sunday School: C. Ripley

Kitchen: M. Chesterton


Dec 20 – Advent 4 – 9 Lessons & Carols

Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & E. Mitty

Counter: Mitty/T. Willacy

Reader: C. Aasen

Intercessor: L. Thompson

Nursery: K. Hughes

Sunday School: P. Rayment

Kitchen: M. Rys

9 Lessons Readers: C. Aasen Gen 3:1-13

V. Haase Isa 9:2-7

G. Hughes Isa 11:1-9

T. Wittkopf Micah 5:2-5a

R. Goss Luke 1:26-38

T. Cromarty Mt 1:18-25

D. Schindel Luke 2:1-20

S. Doyle Mt 2:1-12

B. Popp John 1:1-18


Dec 27 – Christmas 1 - Eucharist

Greeter/Sidespeople: D. & L. Schindel

Counter: Schindel/B. Rice

Reader: R. Betty

Readings: 1 Sam. 2:18-20, Psalm 148, Col. 3:12-17

Lay Administrants: G. Hughes/D. MacNeill

Intercessor: C. Aasen Baptism Intercessions p. 155

Lay Reader: L. Thompson Luke 2:41-52

Altar Guild (White): 9:00 J. Mill/10:30 D. Mitty

Prayer Team: M. Rys/L. Sanderson

Nursery Supervisor: E. McDougall

Sunday School: B. Rice

Kitchen: B. & L. Popp


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sermon for November 22nd: John 18:36

‘My Kingdom is not from This World’

Today in the church year is the festival of the reign of Christ: the Sunday on which we reflect on the biblical teaching that God has made Jesus the Lord of all, and that one day his reign will be acknowledged by every living creature on earth. Today’s gospel reading could hardly present a stronger contrast to this idea. It comes from the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, and in this reading Jesus doesn’t look very king-like. He stands before the representative of the Roman emperor, accused of being a criminal, a rebel against the Roman state. And yet, right in the middle of this passage, there’s a strange discussion about the nature of Jesus’ kingship. In John 18:36 Jesus says to Pontus Pilate, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here’.

Some older translations of the Bible phrased this verse slightly differently: they translated it as ‘my kingdom is not of this world’. It was a fairly small step from there to the understanding that what Jesus actually meant was ‘my kingdom is not in this world’. I would argue that this misunderstanding has had a very bad influence on our beliefs about how we Christians should live our lives in this world.

Let me explain. Should our Christian belief only be about our own private conduct, or should it lead us to try to influence society as well? Does it only have to do with us not smoking or drinking or dancing or swearing, or does it also have to do with how we vote and the sorts of political causes we get involved in? Is being a Christian only about having a good marriage and a strong family life, or is it also about trying to make a difference in the lives of the poor and needy, both close at hand and far away? Should Christians restrict themselves to the alleviation of human suffering, or should we also be working to change political and economic structures that cause human suffering?

Or, to put the question another way, is the Christian movement meant to be in any way a danger to the way of life of society around it? After all, Jesus was obviously perceived to be a danger to the society of his day; the Jewish authorities were so disturbed about him that they wanted to get rid of him by execution, and they didn’t normally get that disturbed about travelling preachers who roamed the countryside exhorting people to be nice to one another! So if Jesus’ message was only to do with us becoming better people individually – if ‘love your neighbour’ only applied to our private relationships and not to our public and political and economic life as well – why was Jesus seen to be such a threat by the authorities of his day? And why is it that totalitarian governments throughout history have almost always tried to either get rid of religion altogether, or to turn it into a state church under the strict control of the governing authorities?

You see, people who think that Jesus meant that his kingdom is not in this world at all will then often go on to say that his kingship is not here and now, but in some other place or some other time. And this means that right here, in this world we live in right now, we don’t actually have to take much notice of what he says as our king. This world is the kingdom of darkness and evil, and we have to play by the rules of darkness and evil in order to survive here. But one day we’ll die and go to heaven, and that’s when we’ll live in Jesus’ kingdom, where his rules operate. Or, perhaps, one day Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will then be in force and will last forever. But it’s not here yet; we still wait for it and are looking forward to it, but we can’t have it right now and we can’t live right now as if it had actually already arrived.

As I said, this has had a drastic effect on the way people understand what we’re supposed to do with the commands of Jesus. We all know that Jesus gives us some pretty demanding instructions. He tells us that not only are we not to murder people, but we aren’t even to hate them or get angry with them. Not only are we not to commit adultery, we’re not even to lust after someone else. We’re to be absolutely truthful at all times, to love not just our friends and neighbours but even our enemies, to turn the other cheek rather than retaliate when we’re attacked, and to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. He told his disciples not to accumulate large bank accounts but to give their possessions to the poor and needy. He said that if we have two of something and we see that our brother or sister has none, we’re to take our extra and give to the one who needs it.

That’s demanding enough, but there’s more. At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel Jesus gives us a kingdom manifesto. He stands up in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth and reads these words from the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19).

Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 61, which was commonly understood in his day to be an allusion to the Old Testament law of Jubilee. We’ve become familiar with that term in recent years because of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which was an attempt by church groups to influence the G8 countries to forgive large amounts of Third World debt in preparation for the coming of the year 2000.

The Old Testament law of Jubilee stated that every fifty years all debts were to be forgiven, all slaves were to be set free, and all property was to revert to its original owners so that no one would accumulate vast amounts of wealth at the expense of others. Human nature being what it is, there is no evidence that the people of Israel ever actually obeyed this commandment; it was too much of a threat to the power of those who profited from keeping people in debt, or in slavery, or in poverty. But after Jesus read those words from Isaiah, Luke tells us that he said to the people in the synagogue, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v.21). In other words, ‘Now is the time to put the year of Jubilee into practice. Now is the time to set the captives free, to forgive debts, to live in equality and justice as God commanded us in the Law of Moses’.

So it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus could not possibly have been saying, “My kingdom is not in this world”. What he said was ‘My kingdom is not of this world’, or, as our NRSV has it, ‘My kingdom is not from this world’. And he goes on to explain what he means: ‘If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews’. In other words, Jesus’ kingdom comes from another place and it has a different character than the kingdoms we know in this world. In the kingdoms of the world, citizens of one country fight to protect their king, but Jesus’ followers were forbidden from fighting to protect him, because violence is a characteristic of earthly kingdoms and not of Jesus’ kingdom.

So we might ask ourselves, how is Jesus’ kingdom different from the kingdoms of this world? And fortunately for us, there is plenty of New Testament teaching to help us answer that question.

In Mark chapter 10 we read that two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, came with a request for him; they said, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory’ (Mark 10:37). In other words, they thought Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to be crowned as an earthly ruler and they wanted him to give them the top jobs in his cabinet! But Jesus rebuked them for their misunderstanding: he wasn’t about to be seated on a throne but nailed to a cross, and the ones who would be on his right and his left weren’t his cabinet ministers, but the two thieves who were crucified with him. And then Jesus called all the disciples together and said this to them:

“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognise as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Earthly kingdoms are based on hierarchy and power structures; it’s the same whether we’re talking about monarchies and tyrannies or democratically elected governments. The higher your position of authority, the more power you have and the more people are working for you and serving you. But this is not the way Jesus worked when he came as our king. He was the servant of all, healing the sick and caring for the needy, washing the feet of his disciples and willingly giving his life to save us. And this is what his kingdom is like: it’s been called an ‘upside down kingdom’, in which there are no distinctions based on race or gender or power or wealth, but all freely serve one another in love. And as followers of Jesus whose kingdom is not from this world, you and I are called to live on this basis now, even though the world around us does not.

Secondly, we go to the words of Jesus in our gospel for today, where he explains the difference between his kingdom and the kingdoms of the godless world. He says, “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews” (John 18:36). Worldly kingdoms are protected by military power, and their soldiers fight and give their lives to protect their monarchs. We know that, in fact, one of Jesus’ followers did attempt to do this; in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested, Peter drew a sword and slashed at one of the high priest’s servants, cutting off his ear. But Jesus rebuked him: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). The early Church Father Tertullian, writing in about 200 A.D., commented on this story and said, ‘The Lord, in disarming Peter, also disarmed every soldier’.

So earthly kingdoms are kept in place by power and violence, but Jesus’ kingdom is not; it’s not based on the love of power but on the power of love. His followers are not called to fight their enemies but to love them, to do good to them and to bless them, just as God pours out his love and blessings on good and bad alike.

Thirdly, we think of one of Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. Here he tells us that when the Son of Man comes in his glory he will gather the nations before him and separate them into two groups as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He’ll turn to the one group, the sheep, and say to them, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me”. Then the righteous will ask him, “Lord, we don’t remember that! When did we do all these things for you?” And the King will reply, “Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of those who are members of my family, you did it to me” (see Matthew 25:31-46).

When the Olympic Games came to Atlanta, Georgia a few years ago, the homeless were forcibly removed from the city before the games began. This tells you how the poor and needy are so often seen in the world today: they are an embarrassment, or a nuisance. But in the Kingdom of Jesus, the poor and needy are not an embarrassment but an opportunity to serve the king. When you care for someone who is in need, you are really caring for the King himself. When you clothe a needy person you are putting royal robes on the King; when you feed a hungry person you are contributing to the King’s banquet. You see, you don’t serve this King by lavishing wealth and pageantry on him; you serve him by loving the people he loves.

My brothers and sisters, today we proclaim our faith that Jesus is Lord – that he is the Messiah, God’s anointed King, and one day his Kingdom will be acknowledged by every living creature. But we don’t have to wait until that day to live as his subjects, because he came into Galilee at the beginning of his ministry saying, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). To ‘repent’ means to turn away from our sins and from our previous allegiances and to give ourselves in joyful obedience to God’s anointed king. It means that instead of living according to the pattern we’ve received from earthly kingdoms in the past, we look forward to the future when God’s Kingdom will be seen in all its fulness, and we live like that now, as a sign to the people around us of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not from this world, but it is definitely in this world, right now, today. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21). So let us live as faithful followers of Jesus our King, by putting his teaching into practice and working for the spread of his Kingdom in the midst of the world he came to save.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16 - 22

C A L E N D A R

Monday, November 16th

Tim’s day off

Office Closed

Wednesday, November 18th

Clergy Day

7:15 pm Vestry Meeting

Thursday, November 19th

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

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

Friday, November 20th

5:00 pm Wedding rehearsal (Rental)

6:30 pm Potluck

Saturday, November 21st

10:00 am Moms’ group

12:00 pm Wedding (Rental)

Sunday, November 22nd – Reign of Christ

Stewardship Focus #3

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: Winnifred Rees, Beryl and Lorne Rice

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Kitchen Volunteers

Outreach Totals

As of November 8, 2009 our total for World Vision is $560

I TE M S T O N O T E

2 St. Margaret’s 2009 2

Sharing the Gospel . Going for Growth!

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

Friday November 20th: Pot Luck with an international food theme and music night at the Church (6.30 p.m.) Please sign up in the Foyer to bring food. You are also invited to bring music if you feel so inclined. Volunteers are needed for set up and take down, please let the church office or Marg Rys know if you are willing to help out with this social evening.

Advent Quiet Day November 28, 2009 9:30 – 3:30, the theme will be “Keep Awake” (Matthew 25). See the Sign up sheet in the Foyer. Lunch will be provided, and a $5 donation is suggested.

Christmas Flowers: If you would like to make a donation toward the Christmas floral arrangement to be placed in front of the altar, please place your donation in your offering envelope and mark it accordingly. Thank you.

Advent Celebration December 6th at 7 pm. Join us for an evening of music and drama. Additionally, We are seeking members who play a brass, string or woodwind instrument to help us in the advent celebration. For information please contact Eva Thompson. There will be an offering, and all proceeds go to St. Margaret’s World Vision outreach project.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Welcoming Newcomers and Sharing the Gospel

We've had a couple of encouraging events back to back at our church this weekend.

Welcoming Newcomers
Friday night we had a 'New Member Orientation' evening. This is something we used to do a few years ago but have recently revived. Everyone who has been added to our parish list over the past year is invited. Of course, not everyone comes,, but we still had ten newcomers out last night which was very gratifying. Also about eight 'resource people' were there from the parish family to build community with the newcomers and help them feel welcome.

We were seated around three tables in the basement (where our little 'parish hall' is located). We began by introducing ourselves to the other people at our tables, answering questions like 'What's my name? Where do I live? With who? For how long? What brought me to St. Margaret's and how long have I been coming?' Following this, I gave a short history of our parish (we are a young congregation, dating back only to September 1980, and our building was built in 1996), with a powerpoint presentation showing photographs from our history.

We then had a break for coffee and delicious desserts prepared by a couple of our 'resource people' - who had themselves been newcomers at our previous New Member Orientation back in May.

In the second half of the evening we explained the structure and ministries of our church. We introduced people to our vestry and churchwardens and the committees that help make our life possible. We talked about the many opportunities for people to use their gifts in the life of our congregation and in our outreach to the wider community. Some of our resource people talked about Bible study groups and other ministries they were involved in, and invited our new members to consider participating in them.

It was a very relaxed evening with an emphasis on building relationships. A couple of people brought small children with them so there was a certain amount of background noise as the children played. This just served to underline the relaxed and informal character of the evening, and our congregation's desire to be a child-friendly church.

The evaluation forms were quite positive and a lot of our newcomers expressed interest in attending our next 'Christian Basics' course.

Sharing the Gospel
Today (Saturday) we held a workshop from 9.30 - 4.30 called 'Sharing Your Faith Without Losing Your Friends'. This title, and much of the content, was shamelessly stolen from the Rev. Harold Percy, rector of Trinity Church, Streetsville, in the Diocese of Toronto. Harold's book 'Good News People' was a great resource for this workshop. The idea of the workshop was to raise people's level of confidence in their ability to talk be effective witnesses for the Christian faith with their friends, famly, and work colleagues. Ten people attended, and I was the presenter.

The first two sessions were mainly in lecture format. The first, 'Pros and Cons', looked at two signs of the coin: why would we want to share the gospel with others, and what are some of the things that nake it difficult to do so in our culture? The second, 'Good News to Share', looked at the content of the Gospel under three headings - 'Resurrection', 'Reign', and 'Reconciliation', and also at our 'Response' of Faith, Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The third session, 'Where Do I begin?' was more interactive; we thought about our 'circles of influence' under the three headings of family, friends, and work (or school) colleagues. We listed as many people as we could think of in those three categories. We then underlined the names of any who, as far as we know, are not followers of Jesus, and we put an asterisk beside the names of any with whom we had regular significant conversation. These are the people we are most likely to be able to influence for the Gospel. We then split into twos, shared the names on our lists and prayed for those people.

After lunch we thought about 'Sharing Our Stories'. We were each invited to think about our faith story in three chapters. Depending on our background, it might take the form of (1) Early Christian influences on my life, (2) How I owned the Faith for myself, and (3) The difference Jesus is making to my life today. Alternatively, it might take the form of (1) My life before I became a Christian, (2) How I became a Christian, and (3) The difference Jesus is making to my life today. Participants spent some time thinking about their faith story and then separated into twos, shared their stories with each other, and responded by identifying what good news they heard in their partners' stories. This was one of the best received and most enjoyable sessions of the workshop.

The next session, 'Five Elements of the Conversation', talked about the ongoing evangelising conversation and its different elements of (1) bridging, (2) diagnosis, (3) asking permission, (4) making your case, and (5) closure. Then we looked at 'ten helpful hints' on various aspects of witness, including a few minutes discussing what to do when people raised difficult questions. The final session, 'How to lead a friend to Christ', helped us know what to do if a friend responds to our invitation positively and wants to commit their life to Christ.

Again, the evaluation forms were very positive and it was a really enjoyable day overall. We were blessed to have participants of all ages including a teenager, a young couple with a little baby, and several seniors. The diverse membership of the group made the sharing times very rich, as did people's willingness to take risks and share their stories, not only in their 'twosomes' but also with the group as a whole.

At St. Margaret's we are trying to be more effective in mission and outreach in our personal lives and in our life as a congregation. These two events were encouraging signs that our efforts are not in vain. God is at work leading us out in mission!

(Cross-posted at To See and to Follow)