Friday, October 31, 2014


REMINDER: DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME
CHANGE YOUR CLOCKS BACK ONE HOUR

Events This Week

November 3rd, 2014
  Office is closed
November 4th, 2014
   12 – 2:30pm  Deanery Clericus Mtg.
November 6th, 2014
   7:00 am  Men’s and Women’s Bible Study @ the Bogani Café
November 8th, 2014
  10 – 4 pm  “How to Relax & Enjoy Evangelism”
   7:30 pm  “Songs of War & Peace” Concert
November 9th, 2014  
    9:00 am  Holy Communion
   10:30 am  Holy Communion and Sunday School


Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction Due to low ticket sales, we have decided to postpone this event. Our new date is Friday April 10th, 2015. If you purchased tickets for Nov. 7th, someone will be in contact with you. We are going to continue collecting items for the silent auction and tickets are still on sale! You can purchase tickets at Church, or at this link: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/st-margarets-fundraising-dinner-silent-auction-tickets-13205288373

Saturday Nov. 8th 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: ‘How to Relax and Enjoy Evangelism’. Does your heart start to pound when you hear the words ‘witness’ or ‘evangelism’? Although we have experienced God’s presence, and Jesus has told us to share his good news with the world, we’re often shy or scared to talk about faith with people outside the church. Come join us, and learn why evangelism doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s time to stop living in fear.
To register, please email assistant@edmonton.anglican.ca or call the synod office at 780-439-7344, 

Computer Skills Training – Stan Gerber is running some computer training at St. Margaret’s (for MacIntosh or Windows).Would you like to learn more about your computer? Would you like some guidance as to what to buy if you have not purchased a computer? Are you “scared stiff” about technology? Next meeting date: WEDNESDAY Nov. 5th from 11am to 1pm. These are drop in sessions and everyone is welcome.

The next Lunch Bunch will be November 13th, 11:30 a.m. at St. Margaret's Church.  Everyone is welcome. Come and join us for a time of fellowship and "Guess Who"?  Bring a picture of your past, (baby, wedding, school) and we will see how many of us can "Guess Who". If you would like to attend, please call the office at 780-437-7231


Friday, October 24, 2014

October 27 - Nov. 2nd, 2014



Events This Week

October 27th, 2014
  Office is closed
October 28th, 2014
   7:00 pm  Planning & Building Meeting
October 30th, 2014
   7:00 am  Men’s and Women’s Bible Study @ the Bogani Café
   7:30 pm  The Red Letters Study #6
November 1st, 2014
  7:00 pm  Malankara Rental
November 2nd, 2014  
    9:00 am  Holy Communion
    9:45 am  Coffee between services
   10:30 am  Holy Communion and Sunday School
   12 noon – Fall Congregational Meeting


Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction Due to low ticket sales, we have decided to postpone this event. Our new date is Friday April 10th, 2015. If you purchased tickets for Nov. 7th, someone will be in contact with you. We are going to continue collecting items for the silent auction and tickets are still on sale! You can purchase tickets at Church, or at this link: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/st-margarets-fundraising-dinner-silent-auction-tickets-13205288373

Saturday Nov. 8th 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: ‘How to Relax and Enjoy Evangelism’. Does your heart start to pound when you hear the words ‘witness’ or ‘evangelism’? Although we have experienced God’s presence, and Jesus has told us to share his good news with the world, we’re often shy or scared to talk about faith with people outside the church. Come join us, and learn why evangelism doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s time to stop living in fear.
To register, please email assistant@edmonton.anglican.ca or call the synod office at 780-439-7344, or sign up on the sheet in the foyer at the church.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Primate's Call to Prayer

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, yesterday sent out this call to prayer in response to the events on parliament hill.

With all Canadians my heart is very heavy with the news of the killing of a Canadian soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, while on honour guard duty at the National War Memorial in Ottawa today. 

This follows all too soon on the killing of another member of the Canadian Armed Forces in Quebec, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, just days ago. 

I ask your prayers for these men, for their loved ones stricken with grief, and for the Canadian Armed Forces chaplains who are ministering to them. 

Pray also for the perpetrators of these awful attacks and for their families as well.

With the whole world our country is on high security alert. Pray for all men and women in uniform whose vocation is to defend Canada and work for peace among all nations. Pray also for all who hold public office. Let us pray especially for the safety of our Prime Minister, all members of Parliament, and all in the public service. And pray for peace and reconciliation among all peoples. 

Now is a moment when the refrain of our national anthem, “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee” must echo in every heart. Let our guarding be in the diligence of our prayer:

Lord, keep this nation under your care,

and guide us in the way of justice and truth.

Let your way be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations. Amen.

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz

Archbishop and Primate

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Conversion and Growth (a sermon for October 19th on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)

Today we start a series of New Testament readings from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, which was written to a group of people who had only been Christians for a very short time – perhaps only months. Paul and Silas arrived in the city of Thessalonica in about 50 A.D.; they came there from Philippi, where they’d been thrown in jail because of their missionary activity. But they were stubborn, so they set right about spreading the gospel again. They found a Jewish synagogue, and for three successive Sabbath days they went there and shared the good news of Jesus with both Jews and Gentiles; they pointed to the Old Testament texts that suggested that the Messiah had to die and rise again, and they said, “It’s talking about Jesus of Nazareth; he’s the Messiah”.

Some people believed them – a few Jews, and many, many more Greeks – and so a little church was formed. But the Jewish leaders got jealous and formed a mob; they tried to find Paul and Silas, and when they couldn’t, they found Jason, who had been hosting them, and they took him and a few other Christians before the city council. ‘These guys are breaking the emperor’s laws!’ they said; ‘They’re saying there’s another king, called Jesus!’ So the other Christians quickly sent Paul and Silas away for safety, and the young church had to face a time of persecution without the help of their founding missionaries.

We know that Paul was worried about his new converts and he tried to get news about how they were doing. Eventually he took the risk of sending his young assistant Timothy back to see how they were doing. When Timothy returned, Paul was overjoyed to find that all was well, although the new church did have a few questions they wanted to ask him. So right away, Paul sat down to write them a letter, one of the first letters he ever wrote, and that’s the letter we read from this morning.

It can be hard for us to connect with this letter, for two reasons. First, the people Paul was writing to had a definite ‘darkness to light’ conversion experience. Most of them had been worshipers of idols, but when they heard the message Paul preached, they left their false gods behind and turned to the one true God who had been revealed to them in Jesus. They would have agreed with John Newton’s words: ‘I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see’. But many of us haven’t had this sort of experience. We’re followers of Jesus, but we came to it much more gradually; perhaps we’d even say we’ve been following him our whole life long.

Secondly, their church was very different from ours. Paul uses the Greek word ‘ekklesia’, which we translate ‘church’, but which actually meant a gathering, or even a town hall meeting. Their church had only been in existence for a very short time – probably less than a month – when Paul had to leave it behind. There were probably only a few of them, and I expect they met in the round in someone’s living room. They had no organization, no priests, no access to any written scriptures, no liturgies or anything like that. All they had was faith in the one true God, commitment to his Son Jesus Christ, a real experience of the Holy Spirit, and a shared memory of the things Paul had taught them by word and example. And you know what? That was enough; the whole world, Paul said – slight exaggeration, perhaps - was telling the story of their conversion.

What can we learn from them today? I suggest two things. First, we can learn what a Christian conversion might look like, and second, we can learn what Christian growth looks like.

First, what does a Christian conversion look like? The classic description of Christian conversion is the one I already quoted: ‘I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see’. John Newton, who wrote these words, had been a godless sailor and slave trader, but he had a gradual conversion experience which started when he went through a horrendous storm at sea, and eventually he came to faith in Christ and commitment to him. He would have identified strongly with the metaphor Jesus used of a ‘new birth’; that would have been a good way of describing what he had experienced.

For many of us in our church today, perhaps, our experience was not so clear cut. Some of us have had moments of epiphany when it seems like our eyes have been opened to new truth about Jesus. Some of us can identify decisive moments in our Christian journey, others perhaps can’t. So does the story of the Thessalonians have anything to say to us? Yes, it does.

Try to imagine what their conversion was like. Their city was full of temples to the Greek and Roman gods – Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Ares and the rest. Every civic event would begin with a sacrifice to the gods. Almost all the meat sold in the marketplaces would have come from animals that had been offered in sacrifice in the temples. The trade guilds held their meetings in the temples and started with worship of the gods. Even farmers planting fields went to the temples to pray that the gods would grant them fertility; not to have done that would have been as nonsensical to them as refusing to buy crop insurance would be to farmers today.

To them all this worship of idols seemed good and right and true. To be asked leave all this behind would be as if a preacher today told us we had to give up our cars, computers, and cell phones. Most of us would have a hard time imagining how we were going to live our lives without those things.

So what happened to these Thessalonians? Look with me at verses 9-10:
For the people of those regions report about us the kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
This was their conversion story: they turned away from false gods, and put their faith in a true and living God who had been revealed to them in Jesus.

Now you may not think it, but today we are surrounded by false gods. All of them are calling to us, demanding that we trust them, give them our loyalty, and make sacrifices to them. There’s the false god of money and possessions, which often demands that we sacrifice our time and our relationships so that we can have all that it offers. Closely related to it is another false god called ‘success’. A third false god is called ‘nationalism’, and sometimes it asks us to sacrifice our lives and the lives of our enemies to its thirst for blood.

For some of us, the desire to be liked and respected by others is a kind of false god. Maybe we feel insecure inside; maybe we’re not sure who we really are. But if we can just get others to like us and approve of us, we think that ache inside will go away. So we bend ourselves into pretzel shapes, sacrificing our true selves as we try to be what others want us to be. But it never works. False gods never can deliver on their promises, because they aren’t real.

We Christians believe that there is one true God, who one who created the universe and everything in it. But we also believe that he came to live among us as one of us in Jesus. We believe that Jesus is our most accurate picture of what the one true God is like. So conversion is a process of turning from false gods to the one true God, and giving our allegiance to his anointed king, Jesus the Messiah.

The Thessalonians made that decision at their conversion, but they probably had to keep on making it. Every day when they walked through the marketplace the voices of the false gods would be calling them back. And it’s the same for us today. Think of the false god of materialism. It has its priests – the advertisers who spend their lives trying to make us discontented so we’ll buy more stuff. “If you just buy this”, they say, “You’ll be happy; you’ll finally find what you’re looking for”. And so you and I need a daily process of conversion – turning away from the lies the false gods tell us, and turning back to Jesus and the Father he has revealed to us.

What are my favourite false gods? What are yours? John Newton’s friend William Cowper wrote a hymn about them once; one of the verses goes like this:
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne
And worship only thee.

So this passage shows us first of all what conversion looks like: a continual process of turning away from the lies of false gods, and putting our trust in God our Creator, the God Jesus has revealed to us. Secondly, it shows us what Christian growth looks like. Look at verses 2-3 with me:
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s first hearers were probably largely illiterate, and Paul knew that he’d probably be moving on pretty quickly to start new churches in different cities. We can see in some places in his letters that he was pretty good at developing little summaries to help new Christians remember the important things about their Christian faith, and one of those summaries was this little triad of ‘faith, hope, and love’. We’re probably most familiar with it from 1 Corinthians 13:13: ‘And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love’. We find it here in a different order: ‘your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’. These new Christians were like newly-planted trees; they needed to grow, but grow in what? In these three cardinal virtues: faith, love, and hope.

First comes faith. To Paul, this means believing the promises of God and trusting the God who made the promises. Paul liked to tell the story of old Abraham in the book of Genesis; he was a wrinkled old man and his wife was long past child bearing age, but God promised him descendents, and Abraham believed him, and God credited it to him as righteousness. But this faith wasn’t just a feeling ; God commanded Abraham to leave his home in Haran and go to the land of Canaan, and Abraham obeyed and went.

Likewise in the New Testament, we can think of Jesus walking on the water, holding out his hand to Peter and saying ‘Come’. The feeling of faith wasn’t enough; Peter had to take the step out of the boat, risking a soaking! Or we think of the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus; it says ‘Jesus saw their faith’, but what he actually saw was the action that their faith prompted.

True faith always leads to action; it leads to a changed life. A few months ago my cardiologist said to me, “Mr. Chesterton, you can get off these blood pressure and cholesterol pills in a couple of years if you want; it’s all to do with getting serious about diet and exercise”. I believed her, too, but belief wasn’t enough; I had to put into practice the things that she said. Those changes were the evidence of my faith in her. And I guess that when it came to the Thessalonians, the evidence of their faith was that they didn’t go to idol temples to offer sacrifices any more.

What is the evidence of my faith in Jesus? What’s the evidence of your faith in Jesus? If we were on trial for our faith, would there be enough evidence to convict us? And how can we grow in our ‘work of faith’? What’s the cutting edge, for you and for me?

Faith comes first, but the next thing Paul mentions is love. Faith is directed toward God and Christ, but love is directed toward others. The Greek word for love that Paul uses is ‘agapé’, so he’s not talking about feeling love for someone; he’s talking about a way of life in which we do what’s best for others, whether we like them or not, whether we feel like it or not. It’s what Jesus is doing when he washes his disciples’ feet, or when he gives his life on the cross for us.

It’s an active virtue; Paul talks about our ‘labour of love’. In the early church, it sometimes meant sharing their possessions with each other, rich members helping poor members so that all were equal. This is the love that brings neighbours together to build barns for each other; it takes people into hospitals and jails to visit the sick and the prisoners. It took Mother Teresa to the streets of Calcutta to care for lepers; it takes other people to work in AIDS clinics or to cook meals for church members who are sick. All of this is serving others in the name of Christ.

In his first letter John says, ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’ (1 John 3:18). People today are tired of empty words; they want to see actions. What is our labour of love? What’s mine, and what’s yours? What are we doing to actively love others? How can we grow in this?

Faith is directed toward God and Christ; love is directed toward other people. Hope is the third thing, and it’s directed toward the future. In the Creed we say, ‘Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead’, and in the Lord’s Prayer we pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven’. In other words, we know that there’s still something lacking in our experience of God’s plan in our lives; even though we know and follow Jesus, there is still a lot of evil in the world, and in us as well. Those early Thessalonian Christians experienced that; they’d only been followers of Jesus for a few weeks, and they were being persecuted already! What kept them going through that? Paul pointed to their ‘steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’.

Studies of concentration camp inmates have shown that those who can hang onto their hope have a better chance of survival. We Christians are called to be people of stubborn hope, because we believe that if it’s true that God raised Jesus from the dead, then nothing is too hard for him. We believe his promise of a better future, so when the present looks dark, we can still have joy in him. And so we don’t give up on people, because we know that God hasn’t finished with them yet.

Is this you? Is this me? Are we people of stubborn hope? And how can we grow more steadfast in our hope?

Let’s go around this one last time. First, the false gods are all around us, and they are tempting us all the time. Some of their lies are frankly incredible; I think of the cult of celebrity, which is nonsense when you think of how many celebrities are in rehab, or are jumping from relationship to relationship; why on earth do we want to be like them? And so our Christian life is a constant process of naming their lies for what they are, and then turning once again to the one true God who Jesus has revealed to us. What is your favourite idol? What is mine? How can we be steadfast in turning away from them and turning to Christ? How can we help one another to do this?


Second, our Christian life is about growing in faith, love, and hope: the faith that changes our lives, the love that shows itself in hard work to help others, and the stubborn hope that keeps us serving God and loving people, because we believe in God’s future. Which of these three characteristics are we strongest in? Which do we need to work on? How can our brothers and sisters in Christ pray for us and help us grow in faith, hope, and love? Let’s take a moment of silence to think about those questions, and then we’ll pray.

Friday, October 17, 2014



Events This Week

October 20th, 2014
  Office is closed
October 22nd, 2014
  11:15 am  St. Joseph’s Hospital with Holy Communion
   9:00 am – 4:00 pm  Jen at Conference
October 23rd, 2014
   7:00 am  Men’s and Women’s Bible Study @ the Bogani Café
   1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Computer training with Stan Gerber
   7:30 pm  The Red Letters Study #5
October 25th, 2014
   4:00 pm  Spaghetti Church
   7:00 pm  Malankara Rental
October 26th, 2014  
    9:00 am  Holy Communion
   10:30 am  Morning Worship and Sunday School

Saturday Oct. 18th 10 a.m. – noon: ‘Faith in the Workplace: A Conversation’. You are invited to come for coffee and muffins and a discussion built around questions such as ‘What do I do for a living?’ ‘How easy is it for me to see my work as part of God’s vision for his world?’ ‘What challenges do I face in following Jesus at my place of work?’ ‘How conscious am I of doing my work in such a way as to honour God and build God’s kingdom?’ ‘How would I like my fellow-Christians to pray for me as I go to work?’ Location: St. Margaret’s
  
Sunday Oct. 19th Chaplaincy Sunday – This Sunday we are celebrating the ministry of the U of A Chaplaincy. A big welcome to Luke and Amelia Fitzsimmons who are joining us at the 10:30 service from the Chaplaincy.

Sunday Oct. 26th: Good Works Fair at both services. Our annual opportunity to hear from agencies in Edmonton that do good deeds for those in need, and to find out how we can help them.

Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction (to be held at St. Matthias Anglican Church). Due to low ticket sales, we have decided to postpone this event. Our new date is Friday April 10th, 2015. If you purchased tickets for Nov. 7th, someone will be in contact with you. We are going to continue collecting items for the silent auction and tickets are still on sale! You can purchase tickets at Church, or at this link: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/st-margarets-fundraising-dinner-silent-auction-tickets-13205288373. Please contact Church office at 780-437-7231 if you have any questions.!


St. Margaret’s Anglican Church Fall Congregational Meeting
NOTICE is hereby given that the Fall meeting of Parishioners will be held on the 2nd day of November A.D. 2014 at 12 o'clock pm, at St. Margaret's at which time all baptized persons regularly attending Services of worship in this Parish or otherwise regularly receiving the administrations of the clergy of this Parish are entitled to attend.
Dated this 7th day of October, A.D. 2014


Retrouvaille: A Lifeline for Marriage
Retrouvaille helps couples through difficult times in their marriages. Has your marriage passed through the Romance stage? Retrouvaille is designed to provide the tools to help get your marriage back on track. It will give you the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine your lives together in a new and positive way. This program has helped 10’s of 1000’s of couples experiencing marital difficulty at any stage. For confidential information or to register for the program beginning with a weekend on Nov 14-16, 2014.  e-mail  info@helpourmarriage.ca, Phone  780-577-1474, or  Website  www.HelpOurMarriage.ca

Saturday Nov. 8th 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: ‘How to Relax and Enjoy Evangelism’.Does your heart start to pound when you hear the words ‘witness’ or ‘evangelism’? Although we have experienced God’s presence, and Jesus has told us to share his good news with the world, we’re often shy or scared to talk about faith with people outside the church. Come join us, and learn why evangelism doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s time to stop living in fear.
Note: this is a diocesan workshop hosted by St. Margaret’s as part of the evangelism training program for all interested people in the Diocese of Edmonton. To register, please email assistant@edmonton.anglican.ca or call the synod office at 780-439-7344.

World Vision Sponsor Children We would like to create an area on our bulletin board to display pictures of children currently sponsored by members of the congregation. If you have a World Vision sponsor child, could you please lend us your picture for a couple of weeks?

Computer Skills Training – Stan Gerber is willing to set up some computer training at St. Margaret’s (for MacIntosh or Windows).
Would you like to learn more about your computer? Would you like some guidance as to what to buy if you have not purchased a computer? Are you “scared stiff” about technology?
Initial Meeting date: Oct. 23 from 1pm to 3pm. We will be discussing the basics and developing an agenda for future sessions.
Course will be customized to meet your needs. Please sign up on form in the foyer if you are interested.
Feel free to bring in your computers to this session

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Avoiding the Dangers of Prosperity (a sermon for Thanksgiving on Deuteronomy 8:7-18)

I don’t very often announce titles for my sermons, but today I want to do so. My title for today is ‘On avoiding the dangers of prosperity’.

It might come as a big surprise to you that prosperity can be dangerous. It certainly isn’t a message that our politicians want us to hear, because they are committed to the position that prosperity is a pure and unadulterated ‘good thing’, and must be cultivated at all costs. Our economic masters don’t want us to hear it either, because their entire strategy is to encourage in us an attitude of discontentment with our current level of prosperity, so that they can sell us more things.

Nonetheless, when I read what Jesus has to say in the Gospels about money and possessions, it sometimes sounds to me almost as if he’s talking about radioactive materials; they can do a great deal of good if they’re used properly, but you have to be extremely careful how you handle them if you want to avoid being poisoned. And the authors of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy have the same viewpoint. To them the prosperity of the nation of Israel is a blessing from God  for which they give thanks, but it also has potential dangers. How do you handle prosperity without being poisoned by it? That’s the theme of our Old Testament reading for today.

First, let’s get the context. The Hebrew slaves have been set free from their bondage in Egypt, they’ve received God’s commandments at Mount Sinai, and they’ve then spent forty years wandering in the Sinai desert. They are now standing on the borders of Canaan, their promised land. Their great leader Moses is an old man and is about to die, and he has gathered the people together to give them what you might call his ‘Last Will and Testament’. Deuteronomy is presented to us as a sermon preached by Moses, in which he restates God’s laws to the people and encourages them to remain faithful to their God. Listen to what he says in verses 7-9:

“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper”.

No doubt this sounds pretty mouth-watering to the Israelites as they stand on the borders of Canaan. But there’s a potential danger, which Moses outlines for them in the following verses. They might go into the Promised Land, settle into their new homes, enjoy the prosperity of the land and then get so used to it that they forget it’s a gift from God to them. As verse 17 puts it, they might start to think ‘my power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth’.

Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we may need to guard against a similar danger. Despite our recent economic woes, we still live in one of the most prosperous societies that has ever existed on the face of the earth. I’m not very old, but even in my lifetime our expectations around ‘standard of living’ have increased exponentially.

When I was a little boy, going out to a movie was a big thing. We were not very well off financially and it wasn’t something we did very often; I remember going to see ‘Bambi’ and ‘The Sound of Music’, but that’s about it. We also didn’t have a TV in my home, but my grandparents did, so part of the fun of going across the road to visit them was being able to watch Fireball XL5 or Thunderbirds on my grandparents’ TV (in black and white, of course)! But nowadays, being able to watch TV shows or movies on demand on the Internet is taken for granted, and people feel deprived if they can’t do it. Also, when I was a little boy one bathroom per house was the rule, and in hotels you assumed you’d have to share a bathroom with others. Not so nowadays! And so it goes on – microwaves, personal computers, smart phones - all these very new things have become part of the standard expectations of most people.

I enjoy these things, I give thanks for them, and I don’t relish the thought of living without them. Nonetheless, from a spiritual point of view, not all is well with this picture. First of all, in this prosperous society the danger of what Moses calls ‘Forgetting the Lord your God’ is very real; we can get so self-satisfied with our prosperous lifestyle that we lose all sense of need for God at all. And second, of course, not everyone shares in the prosperity. Twenty-five years ago the average CEO of a large American corporation earned about 44 times as much as their lowest paid workers. Today the average CEO earns more than three hundred times what their lowest paid workers earn. That’s a dramatic example of the way the gap between rich and poor in society is increasing.

Our Old Testament reading for today points out this danger to us, and gives us three strategies for dealing with it.

Strategy number one is to ‘Remember’. When I first came to St. Margaret’s nearly fifteen years ago, we did a number of ‘Meet the Rector’ evenings at which we used an exercise called the ‘Four Quaker Questions’. Two of the questions were “Where did you grow up and what were the winters like?” and “Describe the house you lived in? How was it heated?” So we spent time sharing stories about our roots with one another. A couple of things were very interesting to me. Firstly, many of us grew up in circumstances much more humble than those we now enjoy. Second, many of us have very fond memories of those simpler times.

Moses’ first strategy for the Israelites to protect themselves against the potential dangers of wealth is to remember where you’ve come from. Before our reading starts, in verse 2, he says “Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness”, and in verse 14 he goes on “…do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness…and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know”.

Moses reminds them that they were slaves in Egypt, in conditions of backbreaking labour and unimaginable suffering. He reminds them of the long forty-year trek through the desert. But he also reminds them of the good things: how God set them free from their Egyptian taskmasters, how God provided them with food every day on their desert journey. “Remember how you depended on God day by day”, he’s saying, “and how God came through for you”.

The interesting thing is that the people for whom the Book of Deuteronomy was written had no personal memory of the slavery in Egypt or the desert years of Israel. In writing these stories down and passing them on, the authors of Deuteronomy were encouraging the cultivation of a kind of ‘ancestral memory’. The same thing happened when Israel celebrated the Passover every year; they re-enacted the night before they left Egypt, so that the younger generations could, in a sense, enter into the experience for themselves.

Those of you who have visited Fort Edmonton Park will probably have seen the house Premier Alexander Rutherford lived in during the early part of this century. The interesting thing to me was that many of us in this congregation now live in larger houses than the Premier of Alberta lived in less than a hundred years ago! I think that Moses would encourage us as a society to remember where we have come from. Our present standard of living is not something we enjoy as a human right; most people on the face of the earth do not, in fact, enjoy it. It is a privilege, and it should lead us to thankfulness to God.

And that brings us to Moses’ second strategy for dealing with prosperity. Verse 10 says, ‘Bless the LORD your God’. In other words, we are to continually thank God for all the blessings we have received.

Thankfulness is a habit that needs to be cultivated. Some people never learn to cultivate it; I believe we live in a culture that has largely forgotten how to cultivate the habit of thankfulness. Instead we’ve developed complaint into an art form, and we usually aim our complaints at different levels of government. Our modern governments of course provide us with incredible services and benefits that most of the people of the world can only dream about, but so often our response is complaint: we’re not being given enough, or we’re being charged too much for it.

Thankfulness is an antidote to this. The way Moses tells it here, thankfulness is not a feeling but a habit. He doesn’t say, “Feel thankful”; he says, “You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you” (v.10). Thankfulness, in other words, isn’t a matter of waiting until we feel gratitude; it’s a matter of saying thank you, and saying it every time we eat. Our words, you see, have the power to transform us. The more we repeat something, the more it sinks into us and becomes true for us.

This isn’t just about saying grace at our daily meals – although that’s important. It also includes making a habit of including a good dose of thanksgiving in our daily prayers, and pausing often during the day to say “Thank you” to God. It includes experiencing the truth behind the words of the old chorus: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”. I challenge you to do that: count your blessings, name them one by one. Then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Do it until it becomes a habit. It’s a habit with the power to change our hearts.

So Moses has given us two strategies to guard against the dangers of prosperity: we’re to remember where we’ve come from, and we’re to cultivate the habit of thankfulness. The third strategy is to keep God’s commandments. Look in verse 11: “Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today”. Obedience, in this passage, is not a way of buying blessing from God; rather, it’s a way of saying thank you to God for the blessing we’ve already received.

But I have a question: which commandments are we talking about here? When we hear the phrase ‘God’s commandments’, we tend to think in terms of the Ten Commandments and other laws about personal morality, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the Law Moses was commanding the Israelites to obey was much bigger than the Ten Commandments. It is embodied in the first five books of the Bible, and it includes not just laws about personal morality but also laws about building a just society.

For example, when you were harvesting your field you had to leave some grain standing at the edges so that the poor could glean a living from it. You had to let the land lie fallow every seventh year and rely on God sending you a bumper harvest in the sixth year. When you sold land, you had to offer it first within your own family so that equality of wealth between families was preserved. And every fifty years the Year of Jubilee was celebrated. In this year all land was to revert to its original owners, all debts were to be forgiven and all slaves set free. The ideal was equality; that society as a whole should prosper, and not just individuals in it.

My point in bringing this to your attention is not to suggest that we should revive the entire Jewish civil law. Rather, it is to remind you that God’s law has never been solely about personal morality; it also requires that we work toward the creation of a just society, where the rights of the poor and vulnerable are protected.

Today at St. Margaret’s we gather to give thanks for all the blessings we have received from God. Moses encourages us to cultivate this habit. We ought to verbalise this as often as possible – both to God and to others. So let me encourage you to be intentional about growing the habit of thankfulness. My observation, over thirty-six years in pastoral ministry, is that people who make thankfulness a habit are happier people who enjoy their lives more.

But the other side of thankfulness is to show our gratitude by making sure others also enjoy the fruits of prosperity. Today at St. Margaret’s we’re doing this by our offering of non-perishable food items for the Food Bank. We’re also doing it by our special offering today for our World Vision child sponsorship fund.

But of course it can’t end there. We’re encouraged in the Scriptures to move through our lives with our eyes wide open, ready to see the needs of others and look for ways to help them – not just in our community, but in the world at large as well. This is another way we show our thankfulness to God for all the blessings we have received.

Prosperity can be a blessing, but we have to handle it carefully. We have to remember where we have come from; we have to cultivate the habit of thankfulness; we have to live in obedience to God’s commandments, especially the ones that require us to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. In other words, we have to learn to see our prosperity as a trust from God, to be used to advance God’s purposes in the world. If we can do that, we might just be able to handle it without being poisoned by it! May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen us to use what has been entrusted to us according to the will of God.