Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sermon for August 29th: Luke 14:1, 7-14

What’s in it for Me?

As I began my Bible study in preparation for this sermon, I was confronted with this question in the ‘Serendipity Study Bible’: ‘If you could have the best seats in the house, what would you choose: Super Bowl? Rock concert? Philharmonic orchestra? Indy 500? Royal Wedding?’ For me, having recently attended the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, that was an easy question to answer: I’d like the Golden Tarp at the 2011 Festival!

For those of you who haven’t been initiated into the mysteries of the Folk Festival, seating at the main stage is rather rustic: we bring tarps and low chairs and set them up on Gallagher Hill. If you want a seat really close to the front at the main stage, you probably have to line up at about seven o’clock in the morning, and most of us don’t have the time to do that. However, there’s a way of jumping the lineup. Each year there is a raffle, and one of the prizes is the ‘Golden Tarp’ for the following year: the winner gets to be the first person on the hill every day and can put down his or her tarp wherever they want, before anyone else gets a chance!

I’ve never had a lot of success myself getting close to the main stage, but I’ve done quite well at some of the smaller stages – usually by going to them quite a bit ahead of time. Fortunately for me, no one has ever come up to me and said “Someone more important than you is here: give them your place!” With some of the more popular smaller stages, that would probably mean going an awful long way back!

In today’s Gospel Jesus has a lot to say to people who always want the front seats – in other words, to people who want the best deal for themselves and don’t care who they displace in order to get it. Whether they are going to a dinner party put on by others, or throwing a party themselves, these folks are not actually thinking about the other people at all. Rather, their first question is always “What’s in this situation for me?” Let’s refresh our memory of the story.

Jesus went to dinner at the house of a prominent Pharisee. Let me remind you of two things about these dinner parties. First, these were not private occasions. The doors of the houses were left open all the time, and it was not uncommon for the curious to wander in and out while the meal was going on, especially if well-known people were there and it was likely that there would be interesting discussion and debate. And this leads to the second thing about these parties: in the Gospels, they are often occasions for teaching and the discussion of issues.

Jesus tells the dinner guests two parables, one about not taking the highest place at a banquet, the other about who you ought to invite when you yourself give a dinner party. In each parable, self-interest is Jesus’ target. In the first parable, he warns against using the banquet as an opportunity for others to see how important you are. In the second parable, he warns against issuing invitations to your party out of self-interest: “If I invite Lord so-and-so, then I’ll get an invitation to his party in return – cool!” In both cases, gatherings that ought to be occasions for human companionship and fellowship are spoiled by self-interest.

So let’s think about what Jesus has to say about lining up for the last place. Apparently St. Francis of Assisi was once invited to a meal with the Pope and many other important church dignitaries. Of course in those days before photo technology people were less familiar with the faces of celebrities, and when Francis turned up at the door of the Vatican in his ragged brown robe, the doorkeepers thought he was a beggar. So they sent him round to the kitchen to take his place with the other beggars. Francis didn’t complain; he went joyfully as usual, and was soon having a good time with the folks in the kitchen.

Meantime there was consternation at the high table; where was the guest of honour? Eventually it was discovered that Francis was in the kitchen with the beggars, and a message was sent that he should come to the banqueting hall. He did as he was told, sat down with the guests at the high table, and immediately began to share with them the scraps he had gathered on his beggar’s plate!

Obviously St. Francis was a person who had no problem taking the last place in the pecking order – in contrast to the people Jesus is aiming at when he warns us in his parable: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour” (v.8a). Of course, we don’t very often see this happening in a literal way; I’ve never attended a wedding reception in which someone has marched up to the head table and sat down there, only to be told a few minutes later “Madam, I’m afraid this seat is reserved for the wedding party!” Nonetheless, the attitude behind this action is widespread. Let me point out to you two common manifestations of it today.

The first is the inability to sit back and be part of the crowd. You know what I mean: there are some folks who just have to be up front all the time. They can’t just be ordinary members of the group; they have to be visible, they have to be leaders, so that people can look up to them and they can feel important. Leadership, when it’s offered genuinely, is a real gift to a group. But the hunger for leadership, so that we can be recognised and looked up to, is poisonous and dangerous for the group and also for the person who wants to be a leader.

The second manifestation of this attitude is less obvious; it’s when we’re always wondering what others are thinking about us. Some people are so insecure that they are constantly worrying about whether others will like or approve of them. It’s as if they’re constantly checking a mental mirror, to see how they look in the eyes of others.

The root cause of all this, of course, is insecurity and a low sense of self-worth. We have an empty, aching space inside; we’re not sure if we’re loved, if we’re valued, if our life has any significance. We need others to reassure us of these things all the time. The trouble is, we can’t rely on them to do it, so we have to engineer situations that prompt them to do it for us.

The good news is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes down like rain on the dry field of our insecurity. The vital word in the vocabulary of this Gospel is the word ‘Grace’. Grace is God’s free and unconditional love for you and for everyone else he has made. You don’t have to earn it, you don’t have to deserve it; it comes as a free gift, and nothing can change that. As Philip Yancey says, grace means that there is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make God love you less; God already loves you infinitely, and nothing can ever change that.

So – Jesus is inviting us to trust in God’s love for us and to relax in it. Don’t rush to get the first place! Of course, don’t rush to get the last place either, if your motive is to get someone to invite you up to the first place in the end! No – the Christian way is not to think about precedence at all. Rather, relax, enjoy the feast, share God’s love freely with the people who happen to be around you, in the secure knowledge that you are loved by God and nothing can ever change that – especially not the trivial matter of whether or not others recognise you for the celebrity that you actually are!

Let’s now go on to think about Jesus’ second parable, in which he discusses invitation as a form of grace. In June 1990 the Boston Globe told the story of an unusual wedding reception. A woman and her fiancée had arranged to have their wedding reception at the Hyatt Hotel in Boston, and as they had expensive tastes the final bill on the contract came to over $13,000. But on the day the invitations were to go out, the groom got cold feet and asked for more time to think about things. When his angry fiancée went to the Hyatt to cancel the reception she found that she could not, unless she was willing to forfeit the vast majority of what she had paid.

It turned out that ten years before this same bride had been living in a homeless shelter. She had been fortunate enough to get a good job and get back on her feet. Now she had the idea of using her savings to treat the down and outs of Boston to a night on the town. So in June of 1990 the Hyatt Hotel hosted a party such as it had never seen before. The hostess changed the menu to boneless chicken – “in honour of the groom”, she said – and sent invitations to shelters and rescue missions throughout the city. That summer night, people who were used to eating out of garbage cans dined on chicken cordon bleu. Hyatt waiters in tuxedos served hors d’ouevres to elderly vagrants propped up by crutches and walkers. Bag ladies and drug addicts took a night off from the hard life on the sidewalks outside and sipped champagne, ate chocolate wedding cake, and danced to big band melodies late into the night.

For this jilted bride to be, this unusual dinner party was an angry response to the collapse of her wedding plans. For us, however, Jesus is inviting us to embrace it as a way of life. Look at verses 12-14:

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”.

This parable cuts me to the heart, because I have to admit that most of my social interaction is chosen on the basis of my own enjoyment. “I’ll go and visit so and so – that’s always enjoyable for me”. But Jesus is inviting me to make those decisions on the basis of unconditional love. I don’t think Jesus is literally condemning every family party or quiet dinner between friends. Rather, he’s challenging us to look for creative ways of reaching out to those who have no friends and no status in society at all. I find it interesting that the literal meaning of the word ‘hospitality’ is ‘love for the stranger’.

A friend of mine who was the rector of a church in a small Alberta town became aware that there were many lonely people in that town on Christmas Day. So he posted signs and issued invitations to any who had no family or friends in town to come and join him and his family for Christmas. They were welcome to come to Christmas Day service at the church, and then afterwards come over to the Rectory for sherry, mince pies and conversation. Over a dozen people accepted his invitation, most of whom were unknown to him before.

I wonder who you know who could benefit from a social invitation – perhaps a cup of coffee, or an invite to dinner? It might not be someone you would naturally think of inviting, or someone who could pay you back. What might be the best way for you to reach out to that person?

Fund raisers discovered a long time ago that it’s easier to raise money if people can get their name on something – a brass plaque on a pew, or a list in a book. At the River City Shakespeare Festival here in Edmonton, they have humorous Shakespearean names for different categories of donors – and of course the people who give the biggest gifts get the most recognition.

In this passage Jesus is offering us a vision of a different way – a way of freedom from our slavery to self-interest. If we live by his vision, we can go to a dinner party without quietly asking ourselves “I wonder how I can get people to notice me and admire me”. Instead we can concentrate on listening to others, loving them, and building them up. Or we can throw a dinner party and initiate social relationships, not for what we can get out of them, but for what we can give to them.

For some of us it might seem an impossible dream to think we could ever be that free. I put myself in that category; I’m well aware that my fundamental sin is self-centredness, which is why these parables hit me so hard. But I have met people who live in the way Jesus is inviting us here to live, and their lives challenge and inspire me.

So we don’t always have to be silently asking the question “What’s in this for me?” Rather, because God loves each one of us out of pure grace, we also can learn to live our lives in the same way, and discover in it the way of freedom, joy, and love.

August 29 - September 5

C A L E N D A R

Monday, August 30th

Tim Off

Sunday, September 5th – Pentecost 15

9:00 am Holy Communion

9:45 am Combined Coffee

10:30 am Holy Communion


ITEMS TO NOTE

St. Margaret’s Summer Bulletin Campaign

This summer we would like to see what churches were visited over the summer months. When you are on holidays we ask that you bring the bulletins from the churches attended back to St. Margaret’s and post them on the board in the foyer.

Letter From Partel: We have received a letter from our World Vision Sponsor child Partel. Please take a moment to read it; the letter is posted on the bulletin board in the foyer

New Daylight: If you subscribe to the New Daylight, please pick up your copy on the table in the foyer.

Back to Church Sunday The invitations have arrived, they are available at the back of the church.

Sunday School Meeting There will be a brief Sunday School teacher meeting following the 10:30 service. If you are interested in being a Sunday School teacher please see contact the church office

Salvation Army Outreach Total:

$1585.00


Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s

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

Church Families:

Rob and Courtney Joseph and Ed

Diane Kalis

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Sunday School Teachers


Fall Sermon series 2010

‘Nine Big Questions’

Sunday Sept. 26th (Pentecost 18 - Back to Church Sunday – ‘Morning Worship’)

‘In the big scheme of things, why is my life important?’

Sunday Oct. 3rd (Pentecost 19)

‘Aren’t right and wrong just a matter of opinion?’

Sunday Oct. 10th (Thanksgiving)

‘Why is there something, and not nothing?’

Sunday Oct. 17th (Pentecost 21)

‘Aren’t all religions equally true?’

Sunday Oct. 24th (Pentecost 22: Memorial for family/friends who have died)

‘What happens to us after we die?’

Sunday Oct. 31st (Pentecost 23: Morning Worship followed by ‘Trunk or Treat’)

‘How could a good God allow suffering?’

Sunday Nov. 7th (All Saints: Baptism at 10.30 service)

‘Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?’

Sunday Nov. 14th (Pentecost 25)

‘In this day and age, can you really believe the Bible?’

Sunday Nov. 21st (The Reign of Christ)

‘If Christianity is about peace and justice, why has the Church caused so much war and injustice?’


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sermon for August 22nd 10:30 service: Matthew 28:16-20

Baptism and Discipleship

Today as we gather to celebrate the baptism of Neveah and Noah, I’d like to begin by asking you a question. This is a real question, which is to say that I’d like some people to answer it out loud for all to hear! Many of you here have brought children to be baptized – some of you fairly recently, some of you a very long time ago. What were some of your reasons for doing so?

There are many different reasons why people bring children for baptism. Baptism is like a diamond with many facets; as we hold it up and turn it around, the light strikes different surfaces and we see different aspects of it. Even in the Bible there are a number of different images used for baptism. We’re told that being baptized is like dying on the cross with Jesus and rising again with him on Easter Day. We’re told that it’s like being adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters of God. We’re told that just as God made a covenant with his Old Testament people and gave them circumcision as the sign and seal of it, so baptism is a sign and seal to us of God’s new covenant with us. And we’re told that being baptised is like being born again.


Some of these images of baptism make more sense in the New Testament setting where most people coming to be baptized were adults who were consciously leaving an old way of life behind and starting a new life with Jesus. But Neveah and Noah are not in that category, and so I want to share with you this morning a way of looking at baptism that makes more sense for those of us who are bringing children to be baptized. And I want to start with a story from the end of Matthew’s gospel, from the time after the resurrection of Jesus but before he ascended into heaven. Listen to what Matthew says:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).

In this passage I want to briefly point out to you three things: a statement about Jesus, a statement about us, and a statement about baptism.

First, a statement about Jesus. One of the big questions that the gospel answers is the question, “Who’s really in charge around here?” So often in the modern world it seems as if the wrong people are in charge. So many political leaders seem to be there for the love of power and glory rather than out of a desire to serve people. So many of the faceless leaders of multinational corporations make decisions that effect the lives of millions of people, not on the basis of the greatest good for all, but on the basis of what will bring the most profit to their shareholders. So many people around the world suffer and die at the hands of terrorists and tyrants, and their murderers seem to get away with it.

But the Christian gospel tells us that evil will not have the last word. God has given us free will, yes, and this means that we have the ability to use that freedom for evil as well as for good. But there are consequences to our actions, because the God of love will not allow un-love to triumph in the end. In Acts 17 Paul is explaining the Christian message to a bunch of Greeks in Athens, and at the end of his talk he says, “(God) has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). So the good news is that evil and hate will not have the last word, because the true Lord of the universe is not Caesar or Hitler or Stalin, but the one who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus the Messiah, the Lord of all.

This is what Jesus means at the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark, where we read these words:

Now after John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:14-15).

The kingdom of God means God at work in the world to heal it and transform it, not through the love of power but through the power of love. And if the kingdom is at hand, then Jesus knew himself to be the king who was inaugurating it. We call him ‘Jesus Christ’, and the word ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for ‘Messiah’, a Hebrew word that means ‘King’. So to say ‘Jesus Christ’ is the same as saying ‘King Jesus’. And this king calls everyone to give their allegiance to him, to become his followers and to learn the new way of life of his kingdom.

And this leads us to the second statement, a statement about us. In our theme passage, Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus says,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (vv.19-20a).

This is what we Christians are – first and foremost, we are disciples of Jesus.

What is a disciple? In the ancient world, if you wanted to learn something, you didn’t usually go away to a university or college to take an academic course. You found yourself a teacher and you went and lived with that teacher. And the learning was what we would call today ‘holistic’. You didn’t just listen to what your teacher said and then write academic papers about it. No, you watched the way your teacher lived – you observed his wisdom in practice, not just in theory – and then you did your best to imitate his way of life. Because the goal of discipleship wasn’t just to learn information from the teacher – it was to become like the teacher.

And we all know how powerful this is. I remember as a teenager when I was trying to learn how to play guitar, and how difficult it was just to follow instruction books and try to do what they said. It was so much easier when I started to play with other musicians. I didn’t take formal lessons from them, I just hung around with them, watched what they did, and tried to imitate it myself. Having a living role model made it so much easier to learn the skills I needed to be a better musician.

God in his goodness has given us not just a law book, but a role model who has walked this road before us. And so we Christians are called to put the teaching and example of Jesus into practice in our daily lives. Jesus not only shows us what God is like, he also shows us what we are called to be like. As we read about him in the gospels we notice his devotion to God, his simple faith, his disregard for possessions, his care for the poor and needy, his love for his enemies and so on. His life is our blueprint; we imitate him, and as we do so, we discover the life of freedom that God created us for in the first place.

And I need to say to Jason and Michelle, and to Sarah and Lynn, and to those who are standing as godparents to Neveah and Noah today, that there’s an important role for you here too. Jesus is our primary role model, but our kids won’t be able to read about him for a long time yet. But they will be watching and imitating what they see in you. That’s why we ask you to stand up and make commitments this morning about your faith and your way of life. If your kids see you trusting God and following his ways, they will learn to do so too. If they see you living a life in which people come first and possessions aren’t important, they will learn that too. If they see you loving your enemies, they will learn that too. If they see you making church attendance a priority on Sundays, they will learn that too. Like it or not, we are role models for our kids. Bringing a child for baptism involves a commitment to model for our kids what it means to follow Jesus as part of his Church.

It’s important to say from the outset that this life of discipleship will not always be easy or pleasant. After all, Jesus warned us as his followers to be prepared to carry our crosses and follow him. In the ancient world, people who were carrying crosses were on their way out to be crucified by the Roman empire. Jesus was warning us that not everyone will be jumping for joy because we’ve decided to follow him. There will be a price to pay: as a very wise priest once said, “If you don’t love, you’re dead, but if you do, they’ll kill you!” Jesus walked this road himself, trusting that his Father would make it all right in the end, and he calls us to walk it after him. That’s part of the commitment we make in baptism.

And so we come to the third statement, a statement about baptism. Back to our theme passage, where Jesus says,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (vv.19-20a).

What’s the primary meaning of a wedding? A wedding is the beginning of a marriage, a life of commitment to each other on the part of two people who promise to love each other forever. What’s the primary meaning of a baptism? This passage tells us that the primary meaning of a baptism is that it is the beginning of a life of being a disciple, learning to follow Jesus and obey all the things he commanded us in the gospels. It’s not primarily a cultural rite of passage, or having a family celebration or giving a child a name. It’s enrolment in kindergarten in the school of Jesus, a school that we will belong to for the rest of our lives, a school that has the goal of transforming us so that we become more and more like Jesus.

And this is not something that we’re able to do all by ourselves. That’s why Jesus says at the end of the passage, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v.20b). That’s why he gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the power of God himself, coming to live in us and strengthen us so that we are able to do things we couldn’t do in our own strength. God never asks us to do something without giving us the strength to do it. And so in baptism the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to us, and as we grow in our Christian lives we’re called to pray daily that the Holy Spirit will fill us and empower us to follow Jesus.

Today is a very special day for Neveah and Noah and their families. But it’s also a special day for all of us who are baptized followers of Jesus. In the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer, after a child had been baptized the minister said to the parents and godparents, ‘Remember always that Baptism represents unto us our profession, which is to follow our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him’. And so for us who witness these baptisms today, this is a good reminder. The service reminds us of the promises that were made at our own baptism, and the commitments we have as baptized Christians. We can say those words again, hopefully saying them from the heart, and pray that the Holy Spirit will help us too as we learn to ‘follow our Saviour Christ and be made like unto him’.

So today as we celebrate with Neveah and Noah and their families and godparents, let’s pray for them, that they would know more and more of the joy of following Jesus together. And let’s pray for ourselves, too, that we would remember the gift that God gave us in our own baptism, and press on day by day to be more like our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to save us and to show us the way.

Sermon for August 22nd 9:00 service: Luke 13:10-17

Jesus Brings Freedom

On the night of December 16th 1773 a small group of men banded together, boarded three merchant ships in Boston Harbour and dumped 342 chests of tea over the side. This group of men, who called themselves the Sons of Liberty, took this action because of their anger at the tax policies of the British Government.

But it’s only as we look at this act in the context of history – in other words, it’s only as we look at it against the backdrop of the big picture – that we see its true significance. The ‘Boston Tea Party’ was not just an isolated incident; rather, it was the first act of what became known as the American War of Independence. And unless we see this act against this bigger picture, we’ll never understand its true meaning and significance.

We need to see the story in today’s Gospel in the same way. What does this story mean? If we look at the small picture, this is an act of love and grace in which Jesus healed a woman who had suffered for eighteen years from some form of curvature of the spine. In itself this is wonderful enough, but Luke is inviting us to see it in terms of the big picture too. This is not just an isolated healing; rather, it’s a significant victory in Jesus’ war of liberation against the forces of evil. Jesus invites us to see this woman’s illness against the background of a larger picture, the picture of Satan’s work of binding people up. He invites us to see his healing of this woman as a sign of how the Kingdom of God works to transform the world and set people free.

Let’s step back for a minute and look at the big picture - the big picture about the work of evil in the world. Doctor Luke uses language in this passage that might make some of us uncomfortable. He describes the woman’s symptoms in some detail: she ‘was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight’ (v.11). However, he seems to be more interested in the cause of her illness; he says that she had ‘a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years’ (v.11).

Is he then telling us that an evil spirit had caused this illness? At first sight it certainly seems as if he is. But when we look a little closer we might want to think again. This story doesn’t read like other stories in the gospels in which Jesus sets people free from the power of evil spirits. Jesus doesn’t speak a word of rebuke to the evil spirit. There is no sign that the evil spirit convulsed the woman before coming out, and, most telling of all, Jesus lays hands on this woman, which he never does in stories of deliverance from demons.

Because of these details I believe that Luke is not telling us that this illness is specifically caused by demons. Rather, I think he is inviting us to see illness in general as one of the signs of the devil’s activity in the world. God’s original plan for creation did not include diseases and illnesses. Disease is one of the ways that Satan binds us human beings.

Evil has a strange fascination for some people. C.S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, admitted that as a young man he had a fascination with the occult. However, in his twenties he had an experience with a close relative who was deeply involved with the occult and whose mind was destroyed by it; the man eventually died in an asylum. This experience opened Lewis’ eyes to the true nature of what was going on. And in the same way Jesus is opening our eyes in this passage. You see this woman? You see how she is bound up by her illness? This is what the power of evil does to human beings – it binds us, it cripples us, it wants to destroy us. It might seem exciting in a dark kind of way, but don’t let that fool you – in the end it wants only to devour you. This is the big picture of the devil’s work in the world.

But of course there’s another big picture God wants us to see: the big picture about Jesus’ work. The story of the healing of this woman is not just about her life; rather, it’s part of the story of how the kingdom of God triumphs over the power of evil. That’s why Jesus adds the explanation at the end, in verses 18-21:

‘He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches”.

‘And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened”’.

Jesus saw the kingdom of God working in a gradual way to transform the world. It starts with a small seed, which gradually grows until it is a tree big enough for birds to nest in. It starts with a handful of yeast, which works gradually in the flour until the whole lump has been leavened.

In this gradual process, every healing is a small victory for the kingdom of God. Every healing is evidence that the power of evil is being broken as it comes face to face with the power of the Son of God. This gradual growth does not mean that God is impotent. Far from it! The day of complete deliverance will certainly come, the day when the tree will be fully grown, when the lump is fully leavened. On that day the world, and the humans in it, will be completely free from all that binds us, and we will experience life as God dreamed of it in the first place.

The Law of God was given to help us in this process of growing into freedom. One of the things that binds us as humans is our addiction to work, our unwillingness to rest and trust that God will look after us, and our addiction to the good things we can buy as a result of our compulsive overworking. And so God gives us the Sabbath commandment: we’re to work for six days, then take a day when we can rest from economic activity and focus on God. This commandment is a priceless gift that helps us grow into true freedom.

But legalism abuses this commandment. Instead of focusing on freedom, it focuses on the details of what can and can’t be done on the Sabbath day. What does this man think he’s doing, healing people on the Sabbath – that’s work! But once the goal of the Sabbath is recognised – the goal of helping us to grow into the freedom God wants for us – then all problems of Jesus healing on the Sabbath disappear. Jesus is focusing on the things that really matter; he is healing people in order that they may know the freedom which is God’s dream for them.

Now, how does this story apply to our lives today? What insights can we gain from it about the way God works?

What binds you? What binds me? What prevents us from standing up straight in a spiritual sense, as free human beings able to enjoy life as God planned it for us?

Well, here’s an example. I have known people, and I’m sure you have as well, who just do not seem to be able to let go of a particular resentment. Someone has done something to them that is so bad that they just refuse to forgive. And as I watch them, it’s very clear to me that the one who refuses to forgive is the one who is suffering the most from this. It’s shriveling up their spirit, turning them into a cold and angry and resentful human being. It’s binding them up and hindering them from becoming all that God wants them to be. This is a fairly common form of spiritual ‘curvature of the spine’, and for some people, it’s been with them for a lot longer than eighteen years. And if that’s you, then I know that Jesus is asking you today if you want to be free. Of course, part of you won’t want to let go of this bondage, but Jesus is inviting you to have faith in him, to trust that he really does love you and wants the best for you.

Of course, I don’t know what particular kind of bondage each of you may be struggling with at this point in your Christian life. Whatever it is, Jesus wants to help you grow into freedom from it. As surely as his power was able to set this woman free, so his power can set you free too. It might not happen in an instant, as it did with this woman. It might be more like a seed growing into a tree, or a tiny bit of yeast gradually leavening a handful of flour. Whether it happens gradually or suddenly, it can happen for you - even in that area of your life where you’ve given up hoping that God can ever do anything.

So as we come to the Eucharist today, let’s bring our own particular forms of bondage to Jesus. He is present with us as we break the bread and pour out the wine, just as he promised us he would be. As we receive his presence into our hearts afresh in this sacrament, let’s ask him to continue the work of setting us free from all that binds us, so that, like this woman, we can stand up straight and tall and walk out into God’s world as free people, enjoying the life that God planned for us on the day when he created us in the first place.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baptisms at St. Margaret's, August 22nd 2010

Nevaeh Brielle Perry and her parents and godparents.



Noah Taliesin Chesterton and his parents and godparents.


August 23 - 29

C A L E N D A R

Monday, August 23

Tim Off

Friday, August 27

5:00 pm Wedding rehearsal (Rental)

Saturday, August 28

11:00 am Wedding rehearsal (Rental)

Sunday, August 29 – Pentecost 14

9:00 am Holy Communion

10:30 am Holy Communion

Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s

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

Church Families:

Bill and Eileen Irons

Thangaraj, Sylvia, Ellis and Annette

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Music Coordinators

Sunday September 26th is Back to Church Sunday.

Welcome Notes . . . .

If you come into church on Sunday and see a stranger sitting by themselves in a pew, why not go and sit beside them and introduce yourself to them? Then, if they have trouble with bulletins, hymn books and so on during the service, you can help them. You can also invite them to the coffee hour afterwards and introduce them to your friends.


ITEMS TO NOTE

St. Margaret’s Summer Bulletin Campaign

This summer we would like to see what churches were visited over the summer months. When you are on holidays we ask that you bring the bulletins from the churches attended back to St. Margaret’s and post them on the board in the foyer.

Letter From Partel: We have received a letter from our World Vision Sponsor child Partel. Please take a moment to read it; the letter is posted on the bulletin board in the foyer

New Daylight: If you subscribe to the New Daylight, please pick up your copy on the table in the foyer.

Back to Church Sunday The invitations have arrived, they are available at the back of the church.

Sunday School Meeting There will be a brief Sunday School teacher meeting following the 10:30 service on August 29th. If you are interested in being a Sunday School teacher please see Erin McDougall.

Do you have historical pictures of St. Margaret’s? Stan Gerber is pulling together a PowerPoint presentation for our 30th Anniversary. He would like to “borrow” any historical pictures you might have.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cell phone tower going up.

Here is the cell phone tower lying in pieces on the parking lot, August 17th 2010.



In this picture the bottom two sections of the tower are up and the top section is about to be hoisted into place.



The shell of the tower is now complete, but the equipment has yet to be installed.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 16 - 22

C A L E N D A R

Monday, August 16

Tim Off

Tuesday, August 17

11:15 am St. Joseph’s Eucharist

Sunday, August 22 – Pentecost 13

9:00 am Holy Communion

10:30 am Holy Communion

Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s

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

Church Families:

Gary and Kathy Hughes

Nick, Christine and Alyssa Ingersoll

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Prayer Team

Sunday September 26th is Back to Church Sunday.

Welcome Notes . . . .

We’ve heard many times that we need to welcome newcomers to our services by introducing ourselves to them. However, many people respond, “But I’m not here every week; what if it’s not their first time? I’ll feel really stupid if I ask them, ‘Is this your first time here?’ and they reply, ‘No, I’ve been coming for a few months now’”. Tim recommends the following question (which always works well for him!): “I have a terrible memory: have we met before?”


ITEMS TO NOTE

St. Margaret’s 30th Anniversary: On September 12, 2010 St. Margaret’s will celebrate 30 years. We will have one service at 10am and a BBQ will follow. Bishop Jane Alexander will preside at the service.

St. Margaret’s Summer Bulletin Campaign

This summer we would like to see what churches were visited over the summer months. When you are on holidays we ask that you bring the bulletins from the churches attended back to St. Margaret’s and post them on the board in the foyer.

Letter From Partel: We have received a letter from our World Vision Sponsor child Partel. Please take a moment to read it; the letter is posted on the bulletin board in the foyer

New Daylight: If you subscribe to the New Daylight, please pick up your copy on the table in the foyer.

Do you have historical pictures of St. Margaret’s? Stan Gerber is pulling together a PowerPoint presentation for our 30th Anniversary. He would like to “borrow” any historical pictures you might have. Please get them to him soon as September comes quickly.

Assistance Needed – Peter Rayment is please to have his ex-wife and Son Christopher, back in Edmonton. They are seeking affordable accommodation, for more information please talk to Peter.

Outreach

Salvation Army total to date $1260