Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jesus Brings Freedom (a sermon for August 25th on Luke 13:10-17)


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. As we remind ourselves of the story, let’s keep this bigger picture in mind.

Jesus is teaching in a synagogue. He would be sitting at the front giving his sermon, and close beside him would be the ruler of the synagogue, the elder who was responsible for ensuring that the teaching given was sound and orthodox. As Jesus is teaching, a woman appears in the synagogue; she is bent over and unable to straighten up. We can assume that this is a small community and that the woman is known to the people in the synagogue that day; they would know that she has struggled with this disability for eighteen years. Luke, who was a doctor, describes her symptoms for us in some detail, but he also attributes them to a deeper cause; he says that she had ‘a spirit that had crippled her’ (Luke 13:11). Jesus stops in the middle of his sermon and calls her to the front. He speaks words of freedom to her, lays his hands on her, and immediately, for the first time in eighteen years, she’s able to straighten up and look someone in the eye.

The ruler of the synagogue immediately challenges Jesus, and he appeals to the people to back him up. “There are six days in which you can heal people”, he says; “come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath!” Jesus recognizes in the ruler’s words an allusion to Deuteronomy 5:13-14:
‘For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work – you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey…’
So in his reply to the ruler of the synagogue, Jesus points out that the text doesn’t just forbid work by humans; oxen and donkeys are also forbidden to work on the Sabbath! However, there isn’t a man in the synagogue that day who would think twice about setting his ox or his donkey free on the Sabbath so that they could go and get a drink! So why then should he, Jesus, not set this woman free from Satan’s bondage so that she can taste the life God planned for her from the beginning?

Okay, that’s the close-up view. Now, let’s step back and look at the big picture. Let’s start by looking at 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, in his view, 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 intending us to believe that this illness is specifically caused by a demon. What I think he’s doing is to invite 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. Of course there are many other ways too – war and violence, compulsive habits, fears, injustice, oppression and so on. These are not just isolated incidents of bad luck; they are also evidence of the power of evil at work in the world.

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.

And we need to hear this message. Evil does sometimes seem exciting and fascinating, and people are drawn to it like moths to a flame. I’m reminded of the conversation between Eve and the serpent in the garden of Eden, as he argues with her that, no, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for her to eat the fruit – in fact, it would do wonderful things for her. Her eyes would be opened and she’d be able to decide for herself what’s right and wrong, without asking God. She would finally be free, like a little god herself! But of course we all know that what actually happened to the human race was a far cry from this glowing picture.

Jesus is pointing to this bent up woman and saying, this is what evil does to us: it binds us up and devours us. 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. Remember our illustration of the Boston Tea Party in 1773; its true significance was not just as an isolated event, but as the opening act of a war which led to the founding of the United States of America. And in the same way, 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 an explanation at the end, after today’s reading, 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.

God’s laws were given to help us in this process of growing into freedom. One of the things that bind us as humans is our addiction to work, our unwillingness to rest and trust God, 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. 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 isn’t a businessman who is so addicted to work and materialism that he can’t even take one day in seven to turn of his Blackberry and rest, and focus on the things that really matter. Jesus is focusing on the things that really matter; he is healing people, so 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?

This woman was bound by a disease that caused her spine to curve so that she could not stand upright. This was the form of bondage the Devil used to cheat her out of the life God wanted for her. But there are other forms of bondage too, which are not so obvious. 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?

Let me give you one suggestion. As you know, Jesus has a lot to say about forgiveness, about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek and so on. And as I look at the world situation today, I have to say that I think Jesus’ point has been proved over and over again. Retaliation always seems to lead to further retaliation. Wars to end all wars never actually end all wars – they just make people angry and stoke up the flames for the next conflict.

But I want to focus this on the individual level. 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, something 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.

Well, this is a fairly common form of spiritual bondage, and for some people, it’s been with them for a lot longer than eighteen years. And if that’s you or me, then I know that Jesus is asking us today if we want to be free. Of course, part of us won’t want to let go of this bondage, but Jesus is inviting us to have faith in him, to trust that he really does love us and wants the best for us.

And of course the big picture is that this is not just about you or me as individuals. Every little victory for God’s kingdom in my life is also a victory in the great war of liberation against evil. Every step each of us can take into freedom increases our effectiveness as Christians and helps us to play our part in that struggle.

Well, of course, I don’t know what particular kind of bondage each of us may be struggling with at this point in our Christian lives. Whatever it is, Jesus wants to help us grow into freedom from it. As surely as his power was able to set this woman free, so his power can set us 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 and me - even in that dark area of our life where we’ve given up hoping that God can ever do anything.

So as we come to God in prayer today, let’s bring our own particular forms of bondage to Jesus. He is present with us here, just as he promised. As we know his presence in our hearts, 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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

September Calendar


THE MONTH AT A GLANCE:
Sun. 1st (15th Sunday after Pentecost):
·      Holy Communion at 9.00 and 10.30 a.m. with coffee hour between the services at 9.45 a.m.
·      Tim leaves Sunday evening for three weeks holiday in England.
Thurs. 5th: Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies at Bogani Café at 7.00 a.m.
Sun. 8th (16th  Sunday after Pentecost):
·      Holy Communion at 9.00 and 10.30 a.m. with coffee hour after the 10.30 service. Services will be led by the Rev. Matthew Oliver, honorary assistant at St. John’s.
·      Sunday School registration will also take place at the 10.30 service.
Thurs. 12th: Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies at Bogani Café at 7.00 a.m.
Sun. 15th (17th Sunday after Pentecost):
·      Morning Worship at 9.00 and 10.30 a.m. with coffee hour after the 10.30 service. Services will be led by Lloyd Thompson, and our guest speaker will be Mary Ann Provencal from World Vision, who will give us an update on the Darfur Education project.
Wed. 18th: 7.15 p.m. Vestry meets at the Church.
Thurs. 19th: Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies at Bogani Café at 7.00 a.m.
Sun. 22nd (18th Sunday after Pentecost):
·      Holy Communion at 9.00 and 10.30 a.m. with coffee hour after the 10.30 service. Services will be led by the Rev. Matthew Oliver, honorary assistant at St. John’s.
Tue. 24th: Tim back at work.
Thurs. 26th: Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies at Bogani Café at 7.00 a.m.
Sun. 29th (19th Sunday after Pentecost): BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY
·      9.00 Holy Communion
·      10.30 Morning Worship followed by coffee hour.

Note:
·      Tim Chesterton’s days off are every Monday, and two Saturdays per month.
·      Jennifer ffolliott-Oujla works Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. – noon (approximately!).
·      Tim Chesterton will be on holiday Sept. 2nd-23rd. Please remember Tim and Marci in your prayers as they go to the UK to spend time with Tim’s recently widowed mother.
If you need a priest because of a pastoral emergency during Tim’s holidays, please call the Rev. Susan Ormsbee or the Rev. Kevin Kraglund at St. Matthias’ (780-487-0324).

LOOKING AHEAD
Back to Church Sunday: Sunday September 29th. Theme: JOURNEYS OF FAITH
Back to Church Sunday is an opportunity to invite someone who does not normally attend church to come to church with you and experience the difference the Gospel of Jesus Christ can make to a community of people!
·      Ask yourself: ‘Why am I excited about being a Christian and being a part of the St. Margaret’s Church family?’
·      Ask God: ‘In my circle of family/friends/work colleagues etc., who would you like me to invite to church on Back to Church Sunday?’
·      Ask your friend: ‘Would you like to come to church with me on September 29th?’
Note that at both services on Back to Church Sunday, Catherine Ripley will be interviewing Tim and Marci Chesterton about their respective faith stories.

Confirmation
Bishop Jane will be coming to St. Margaret’s in mid-January to hold a service of confirmation. Confirmation classes will begin very shortly after Tim returns from holidays on Sept. 24th, and will likely last through October, November, and December.

What is Confirmation? In our Anglican tradition, we usually baptize people while they are still infants; their parents and godparents speak for them, making the baptismal promises and committing themselves to raise their children to learn to follow Jesus for themselves.

Confirmation is a mature commitment to Christ, made when a person who has been previously baptized is ready and willing to take the promises on themselves and say publicly before their church family and the Bishop “I want to follow Jesus”. At a confirmation service the candidates make their promises, and the Bishop then prays for them and lays hands on them, asking God to strengthen them with the Holy Spirit for a life of discipleship.

Confirmation does not usually happen before a person is in their teens. Teenagers and adults who have been baptized but not confirmed are welcome to present themselves for confirmation. Please note that it is not appropriate for parents to put pressure on their children about confirmation; the whole point of it is that this is a free decision made by the candidates themselves to commit themselves to following Christ as part of his Church.

If anyone in the parish would like to be confirmed in January, would they please contact Tim immediately (stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231) to indicate this.

Sunday Oct. 13th: Thanksgiving Sunday. As is our custom, we will collect non-perishable items for the Food Bank on this day. Note that the special offering envelopes on Oct. 13th will go toward our World Vision project, helping to build schools in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

Sunday Oct. 20th 12.00 noon: Fall Congregational Meeting. The Building Extension Project will be the main item on the agenda of this meeting. More information upcoming soon.

Sunday Nov. 3rd (All Saints’): Baptisms at the 10.30 service. Those wishing to be baptized or to have children baptized should talk to Tim immediately as preparation will be necessary. Note that at St. Margaret’s it is not our custom to baptize people who are not in the habit of church attendance, as this is one of the commitments made in the baptismal promises.

BEYOND OUR PARISH
Diocese of Edmonton 100th Anniversary. There are a number of exciting events coming up in October, including an Anglican homebrew competition (!), a visit from ‘The Common Cup’ (a Canadian Anglican musical group), and, in mid-October, a ten-day visit from Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. To learn more, please go to the Diocesan website and follow the links to the Centennial celebrations:

Faith Corner: Bishop Jane invites you to share why your faith and church matter to you. Contact the Synod Office anytime over the year and they will be happy to set up a conversation time. They will share some of your stories on the centennial website:
They also welcome written faith stories for The Messenger. Please email your story (max. 500 words) and a picture (high res.) to:

A WORD FROM TIM
Many thanks to all the people who sent emails, cards, or Facebook messages of support on my father’s death on August 12th. As it happened it was a difficult week for my family, as my Dad’s oldest brother John died of cancer three days later. Your love and support mean a great deal to us in this time of sadness; thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Meanwhile, back here at St. Margaret’s, we’ve unfortunately had to put ‘Sundays@4’ on hold for the foreseeable future. This is entirely because of a volunteer shortage at our church, especially in the area of musicians and Sunday School teachers. I know everyone is busy and the call to spend more of your valuable time away from home doesn’t always sound like good news! Nonetheless, it is impossible for us to function without people who offer themselves for various ministries in the service of Christ. We particularly need Sunday School teachers and musicians; we have lost several of each recently. Please talk to me immediately if you can help.

Meanwhile, let’s keep growing in Christ, experiencing his joy and love, and sharing it with others.

Your friend and pastor,   Tim Chesterton

September 2013


Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople:  The Schindels
Counter:  D. Schindel/            D. Sanderson                       
Reader:   S. Watson                                                 
(Jeremiah 2: 4-13, Psalm 81:1, 10-16, Hebrews 13: 1-8, 15-16))
Lay Administrants:  C. Aasen/T. Wittkopf                        
Intercessor:            L. Thompson                                               
Lay Reader:  D. MacNeill   (Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14)
Altar Guild (Green):  M. Woytkiw/
Prayer Team: L. Sanderson/ S. Jayakaran                                      
Kitchen: B&M Woytkiw
Music:  M. Chesterton
Altar Servers:  A. Jayakaran

September 8th, 2013  Pentecost 16
SUNDAY SCHOOL REGISTRATION
Greeter/Sidespeople:            The Majors                        
Counter:  L. Major/S. Jayakaran                                   
Reader:  T. Cromarty                                   
(Jeremiah 18: 1-11, Psalm 139: 1-5,22-23, Philemon 1-21)
Lay Administrants:D. MacNeill/M. Rys                                               
Intercessor:  B. Popp                                   
Lay Reader:            E. Gerber   (Luke 14: 25-33)
Altar Guild (Green): M. Lobreau/ T. Wittkopf 
Sunday School (School Age):   M. Cromarty
Sunday School (Preschool):  T. Laffin
Kitchen:  J. Johnston
Music:  E. Thompson
Altar Servers:  E. Jayakaran
  
September 15th, 2013  Pentecost 17 MW
Greeter/Sidespeople:  T. Willacy/T. Wittkopf           
Counter:  T. Willacy/L. Schindel                                   
Reader:  T. Cromarty
(Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28, Psalm 14, ! Timothy 1:12-17)
Intercessor:  M. Rys           
Lay Reader:  L. Thompson   (Luke 15:1-10)
Altar Guild (Green): MW/MW
Sunday School (School Age): M. Aasen
Sunday School (Preschool):  B. Rice
Kitchen:  K. Goddard
Music:  R. Mogg                                       

Greeter/Sidespeople: The Aasens           
Counter:  C. Aasen/D. Sanderson                                   
Reader:  D. Schindel                                               
(Jeremiah 8:18-9:1,Psalm 79: 1-9, ! Timothy 2: 1-7)
Lay Administrants:  E. Gerber/G. Hughes                       
Intercessor:  D. MacNeill                                   
Lay Reader:  B. Popp   (Luke 16: 1-13)
Altar Guild (Green):  J. Mill/L. Schindel
Prayer Team:  K. Hughes/L. Sanderson                                               
Sunday School (School Age):  M. Cromarty           
Sunday School (Preschool):  T. Laffin           
Kitchen:  V&J Goodwin                                    
Music:  R. Mogg
Altar Servers:  A. Jayakaran


September 29th, 2013   Back to Church Sunday  MW
Greeter/Sidespeople:  The Hughes           
Counter:  G. Hughes/ B. Popp                       
Reader:  D. Schindel                                               
(Acts 9: 1-19)           
Intercessor:  T. Chesterton                                   
Lay Reader:  D. MacNeill   (Luke 5: 1-11)
Altar Guild (Green): M. Woytkiw/MW
Sunday School (School Age):  K. Durance
Sunday School (Preschool): B. Rice
Kitchen:  B. Cavey                                    
Music:  M. Chesterton
            

August 26th - September 1, 2013


This Week at St. Margaret’s


Weekly Calendar

August 26th, 2013
Office is closed.
August 27th, 2013
Jen is away.
11:15 am  Holy Communion at St. Josephs Hospital
August 29th, 2013
3:00 pm  Corporation Meeting at the Bogani Café.
August 31st, 2013
7:00 pm  Malankara Church Rental
September 1st, 2013   Pentecost 15
9:00 am  Holy Communion
9:45 am Coffee between Services
10:30 am  Holy Communion


Back to Church Sunday!      September 29th, 2013
When we invite guests into our homes we often tidy up a bit before they come; do we make the same effort at church? How would we all help to keep the table in the foyer, the back of the church, the library shelves downstairs, and the other parts of the church looking bright, neat and welcoming for our guests?

Friday, August 16, 2013


It is with a heavy heart that I write to let you know that Tim’s father, Rev. Robert (Bob) Chesterton passed away on
 Monday, August 12th, 2013. 
His funeral will be held in the UK on September 3rd, 2013.

 Please keep the Chesterton family in your prayers as they walk through this difficult time.