Friday, February 24, 2017

Famine in South Sudan

Dear Friends at St. Margaret's:

You may have heard on the news that a famine has now been declared in South Sudan, and millions of people may well starve to death in the not too distant future.

You may be wondering 'What can we do?'

Answer: we're already doing something.

This year, our church once again has a year-long fundraising project for World Vision's 'Raw Hope' initiative. Simply put, 'Raw Hope' is World Vision's way of providing essential emergency care in areas of the world so dangerous that a basic WV infrastructure (eg: child sponsorship) can't be set up.

Raw Hope is currently funding emergency work in eight countries: Afghanistan, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and... SOUTH SUDAN.

You can find out what Raw Hope is funding in South Sudan on the World Vision Canada website here.

How are we supporting Raw Hope at St. Margaret's? In three ways:

  1. Three times a year we have special offering envelopes included in our envelope boxes: Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Sunday, and Christmas. Those special offerings will be sent to 'Raw Hope'. If you are on pre-authorized giving (PAG), you can put in a special cheque for that day, made out to St. Margaret's but clearly marked for World Vision. It will be forwarded to World Vision in its entirety to support 'Raw Hope'.
  2. Special events. In late November or early December we hold our annual Christmas concert and all the ticket sales go to World Vision. Other events are sometimes held as well; for instance, a couple of friends and I are in the beginning stages of planning a folk music event to support World Vision in the spring.
  3. Offerings at other times. At any time of year you are welcome to add a little extra to your weekly offering and mark it clearly to be sent on to World Vision. Again, if you are on PAG and don't have offering envelopes, you can write us a cheque and mark it clearly for World Vision.

Many churches are getting involved in refugee sponsorship and this is a vital work. However, our vestry has chosen to focus on supporting relief and development efforts in the countries where so many refugees come from. 'Raw Hope' is a vital part of that. To support the suffering people of South Sudan (and the other countries 'Raw Hope' works in), we'll keep right on with our current World Vision support. Your help is of course the essential component of that. Thank you for your generosity in the service of Christ!

Yours in Christ,

Tim

P.S. Please note that Charity Intelligence Canada recently rated World Vision as one of the top charities to support (see their report here). You can give to World Vision with confidence.

Upcoming events at St. Margaret's

Upcoming events - week of Feb 27th to Mar 5th

February 27th, 2017
Office is closed
February 28th, 2017
5:00pm  Shrove Tuesday pancake supper @ church
7:30pm  Pilgrim course on The Lord’s Prayer @ church
March 1st, 2017
7:30pm  Ash Wednesday Holy Communion
March 2nd, 2017
7:00am  Men’s and Women’s Bible study @ Bogani Café
March 5th, 2017 (Lent 1)
9:00am  Holy Communion 
9:45am  Combined coffee hour
10:30am  Holy Communion & Sunday School

Last chance to sign up for St. Margaret’s Shrove Tuesday pancake supper which is this Tuesday February 28th. Please use the sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer to let us know if you will be attending the 5pm or 6pm sitting.

There is a roster volunteer sign up sheet for Ash Wednesday Holy Communion on the table in the foyer. Please sign your name if you will be attending and are able to help with any of the roster duties.

Please check out our monthly announcement sheet for more upcoming events. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Melanie. Extra copies are available on the table at the back of the church.

The Commandments, a ‘Pilgrim’ course for Lent will be starting on Thursday March 9th, not March 2nd as previously advertised. It will run for six Thursday evenings from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. To register please use the sign up sheet in the front foyer or contact Tim at stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231.

We are having a family pizza and games night on Friday March 10th at the church. It will start at 5:30pm, with pizza at 6:30pm. Everyone is welcome. If you have a favorite game, please bring it along. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the foyer to let us know if you can come, and another if you’d like to help with some food/snacks. Any questions, please talk to Melanie or email her at stmargaretsedmonton@gmail.com.

Please join us for Lunch Bunch on Thursday March 16th at the church beginning at 11:30am with lunch starting at 12:00 noon. Please come and join us for a time of fellowship.  Everyone is welcome.  There is a sign up sheet in the front foyer or contact the church at 780-437-7231 or stmargaretsedmonton@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

March 2017 roster

March 5, 2017 (Lent 1)
Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople:  M. Cromarty / T. Cromarty            
Counter:  M. Eriksen / M. Cromarty                                   
Reader: D. Sanderson                                    
(Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19)
Lay Administrants: C. Aasen / T. Wittkopf            
Intercessor: C. Aasen                                    
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill  (Matthew 4:1-11)                                   
Altar Guild: M. Lobreau / L. Schindel
Prayer Team: L. Sanderson / M. Rys                                   
Sunday School (School Age): M. Aasen
Sunday School (Preschool): M. Eriksen
Kitchen: - 9:45 am: B. & M. Woytkiw                        
Music: M. Chesterton
Altar Server: G. Durance

March 12th, 2017 (Lent 2)
Greeter/Sidespeople: B. Cavey / T. Wittkopf            
Counter: B. Cavey / F. Chester                                   
Reader: N. Gutteridge                                   
(Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17)
Lay Administrants: M. Rys / D. MacNeill                                                
Intercessor: T. Chesterton                        
Lay Reader: B. Popp  (John 3:1-17)                                   
Altar Guild: P. Major / T. Wittkopf 
Prayer Team: M. Chesterton / L. Sanderson                       
Sunday School (School Age): M. Rys           
Sunday School (Preschool): T. Laffin 
Kitchen: B. Cavey
Music:  E. Thompson           
Altar Server: No one available

March 19th, 2017 (Lent 3)
Greeter/Sidespeople: J. Durance / D. Legere              
Counter: J. Durance / B. Popp                                     
Reader: T. Cromarty                        
(Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11)
Lay Administrants: D. MacNeill / B. Popp                       
Intercessor: D. MacNeill                                   
Lay Reader: D. Schindel  (John 4:5-42)                       
Altar Guild: M. Woytkiw / L. Pyra  
Prayer Team:  M. Chesterton / L. Sanderson                                      
Sunday School (School Age): K. Durance
Sunday School (Preschool): T. Laffin           
Kitchen: V. & J. Goodwin                                   
Altar Server: G. Durance

March 26th, 2017 (Lent 4)
Greeter/Sidespeople:  The Schindels            
Counter: L. Schindel / D. Legere                                   
Reader: D. Schindel                        
(1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14)
Lay Administrants: B. Popp / T. Wittkopf            
Intercessor: B. Popp                                   
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill  (John 9:1-41)                       
Altar Guild: M. Lobreau / A. Shutt  
Prayer Team: M. Rys / L. Sanderson                          
Sunday School (School Age): E. McDougall           
Sunday School (Preschool): D. Legere            
Kitchen: M. Rys                        
Music: M. Chesterton

Altar Server: No one available

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Be Like Your Father - Love Your Enemies (a sermon on Matthew 5:38-48)

In 1569 a young man named Dirk Willems was burnt at the stake for heresy in the town of Asperen in the Netherlands. Some of you have heard me tell his story before; for others, it will be new. Today many Christians around the world look on him as a hero. Let me tell you why.
When Dirk was a teenager he met some Anabaptists. In 16th century Europe, these were the Christians who opposed the idea of having a state church. They didn’t believe that people could be Christians just because they were citizens of a so-called ‘Christian country’; they believed that you had to choose for yourself to become a follower of Jesus. They thought you should be baptized as an adult as a sign of this commitment, and you then would become part of a fellowship of people who were learning to put Jesus’ teaching into practice. In particular, most Anabaptists believed followers of Jesus should not participate in war, and should literally love their enemies as Jesus taught. The state churches considered the Anabaptists a threat to their power, and so hundreds of them were horribly tortured and executed.
Dirk was attracted to Anabaptist ideas, and he was baptized as an adult in Rotterdam. Then he returned to his home town of Asperen and quietly began to host illegal Anabaptist meetings in his house. At those meetings, he and others taught a way of being Christian that was very different from the way the established church taught it. Eventually he was arrested and imprisoned, but he managed to escape from the prison by climbing out of the window and clambering down a rope made of knotted cloths, and he ran for safety. However, he was seen from the prison, and a guard ran after him. It was early spring; Dirk approached a pond that was still frozen, but he had been eating prison food and didn’t weigh very much, so he made it across the thin ice. But the guard had been eating rather better, and he broke through the ice and sank into the frigid water. In terror of drowning, he cried out for help.
If you had been Dirk, what would you have done?
Dirk turned back. At great risk, he reached across the ice to rescue his pursuer. When the guard was safely on dry ground, he promptly re-arrested Dirk and incarcerated him in a more secure prison – the tower of the Asperen parish church. This time there was no escape. Dirk was tried for heresy and condemned to be burned to death at the stake. The execution was exceptionally painful; the wind blew the fire away from his upper body and he died very slowly. Witnesses are recorded as having heard him cry out many times, “Oh Lord, my God!” as he was being burned.
Was he right to do what he did?
For centuries, Christians have disagreed over the issue of war. Is it right for Christians to participate in wars and kill the enemies of their country? Those who say it is right have argued that Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemies was intended to guide personal behaviour, not state policy. Personally I think there’s a lot more too it than that, but be that as it may, what we have here is precisely a story about personal behaviour. So at least in theory, all Christians should be agreed that we can’t wiggle out of this one! Dirk did as Jesus commanded in our Gospel for today, and he was not miraculously delivered; he suffered horribly for his decision. Why did he do it? And why did Jesus command us to do it?
The reason Jesus commanded us to love our enemies is because this is the way God treats us. At the heart of the Christian Gospel is the story of a God who loves his enemies. And that’s what Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel reading.
But before we look again at the words of Jesus for today, let’s remind ourselves of what he’s doing in this section of the Sermon on the Mount. Earlier in the chapter he told us that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter God’s kingdom. The scribes and Pharisees were the most religious people in Jesus’ day, so this would have seemed like a tall order – rather like me telling you today that unless your righteousness exceeded that of Mother Teresa, you’d never measure up.  But Jesus had a different view. To him, Pharisaic religion was often only skin deep; too often, the Pharisees were satisfied with outward conformity to the letter of the law, while ignoring the spirit. So Jesus challenges us, his disciples, to go beyond the letter of the Old Testament law and to focus on the inner transformation that is God’s dream for us.
So as we saw last week, we aren’t to be satisfied with just avoiding murder while all the time nursing anger and resentment against others; rather, we’re to do all we can to be reconciled with one another. And it’s not enough only to tell the truth when we’re under oath in court; we’re to be such honest people that no-one would even think of asking us to take an oath, because they know we always tell the truth.
In all the examples Jesus gives in this chapter, he calls his followers to move beyond the Law of Moses and to learn to live by the more perfect law of love. He’s quite clear about what he’s asking his followers to do with regard to the Old Testament; over and over again he says, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times… but I say to you…”. Obviously, though he respects the Law of Moses, he doesn’t see it as completely adequate as a basis for living a godly life. So he ‘fulfils’ it, in the sense of exploring its deeper meaning and even, in some cases, apparently overturning it in favour of a more perfect way.
This is particularly relevant to today’s passage. In the Old Testament, as you know, there are many stories of wars and violence apparently being sanctioned by God, but Jesus offers his followers a completely different way of dealing with evil. Let’s listen again to his words, this time from the New Living Translation:
     “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’. But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
     “You have heard the law that says, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”.
I wonder what your instinctive reaction is when you hear these words of Jesus? Perhaps you think he’s being outrageous: how can he possibly demand such a thing? Doesn’t he understand that if we act in this way we’re just going to encourage people to continue their evil behaviour? Isn’t he being impossibly idealistic? I’m reminded of the story of a pastor who was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. An old lady objected to his sermon about loving enemies, and when he replied that he was simply quoting the words of Jesus, she replied, “Yes, but he was a very young man when he preached that sermon!”
But here’s the catch: don’t we assume, every one of us, that God will treat us like this? Don’t we almost see it as our right?
The God Jesus describes to us in the Gospels is constantly loving his enemies. As Jesus says, God doesn’t check to see if you believe in him before he lets you benefit from the sunshine. He doesn’t check to see if you’ve obeyed the Ten Commandments before he decides whether or not it will rain on you. No, ‘he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (v.45).
The God we read about in the New Testament is constantly loving people who don’t deserve to be loved. It’s almost forty-five years since I first gave my life to Jesus. I have to say that I’m still confessing some of the same sins, on an almost daily basis, that I was confessing forty-five years ago. I’ve made progress in some areas, but in others I’ve gotten nowhere at all. Sometimes I put in an honest effort; at other times I just like an easy life too much. Sometimes, to be honest, I find a particular sin just too enjoyable to give up! And yet, day by day, I go to God and ask him to forgive me. I never say, “I don’t think you should forgive me for this, Lord – if you do, you’ll just reinforce my bad behaviour”. Do you? Of course not! I ask for forgiveness, and I know I’ve received it because he continues to bless me with a sense of his presence and an awareness of his mercy and grace. That’s what the Christian gospel is all about: a God who loves people whether they deserve it or not, because it’s his nature to love.
The God we read about in the New Testament is constantly turning the other cheek. And in this case, it’s like Father, like Son: Jesus was the ultimate practitioner of his own sermon. He loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him. When the soldiers were nailing him to the Cross he prayed for everyone involved in his execution: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing”. His death was the ultimate example of how God treats human sinfulness. God chose not to send the entire human race to hell for our rebellion. Instead, he came among us in Jesus and took the sins of the world on his own shoulders. Rather than making us suffer for our sins, he chose to bear the suffering himself, so that we could be forgiven.
So you see that this passage is rooted in the Gospel, the good news of God’s grace. Grace is a Bible word that means ‘love that you don’t deserve’. You don’t have to earn it, you don’t have to do something to purchase it; it just comes to you for free, because God is that kind of God. God doesn’t love us because we’re loveable; he loves us because he is love, whether we’re loveable or not.
That’s the wonderful good news Jesus has commissioned us to announce to everyone, everywhere: God has declared an amnesty to all who take advantage of it by coming to Jesus and putting their trust in him. You can be the older brother who never left home or the younger brother who squandered his father’s property with prostitutes. You can be a self-righteous Pharisee or a tax collector who’s broken every rule in the book. God’s not choosy – if you turn back to him and put your life in Jesus’ hands, you can be forgiven.
But here’s the catch: if you want to take advantage of God’s grace, you have to commit yourself to living by the same principle of grace in your own life. Jesus spelled it out for us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”. He goes on to say, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Yes, we were God’s enemies, but fortunately for us God is in the habit of loving his enemies, and so instead of being cast into the outer darkness we were welcomed home to the Father’s house. Very good, Jesus says – now: go and do likewise.
The way Jesus sees it, children who have good parents should want to be like them; if they don’t, there’s something wrong. So often when we’re confronted with our own sinfulness, we say, “I’m only human, you know!” And of course God understands that, which is why he’s such a patient and merciful God. But he longs for us to aim higher than that! He longs for us to look up to him and say, like a little child who is so proud of his father, “When I get older, I want to be like my Dad!” And so Jesus ends today’s reading by saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v.48). This sounds like an impossible ideal, and no doubt it is very difficult, but let’s remember that the word ‘perfect’ in this context means ‘complete, with nothing left out’. What Jesus is saying is ‘Our heavenly Father leaves no one outside the circle of his love, and you must do the same’.
No one ever said this would be easy. No one promised it would never get us into trouble; Jesus certainly never promised that. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). People who were carrying crosses were on their way out to be executed; they weren’t on their way to an uplifting discussion about the meaning of life at their local Starbucks!

Dirk Willems was well aware that turning back to help his enemy would probably mean his death. But he did it anyway, because he wanted to be like his heavenly Father, and like his Master Jesus. Followers of Jesus are content to do as Jesus says, and trust that the same God who vindicated him will one day vindicate us as well. And so, like Jesus, we modern Christians are also called to walk the costly path of love. Let us pray that the God who strengthened Jesus will strengthen us also, so that we too, like our Father in heaven, are able to leave no one out of the circle of our love.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Upcoming events - Feb 20th to Feb 26th, 2017

Upcoming events - week of Feb 20th to Feb 26th

February 20th, 2017
Office is closed
February 21st, 2017
11:00am Holy Communion @ Rutherford Heights Retirement Residence
7:30pm Pilgrim course on The Lord’s Prayer @ church
February 23rd, 2017
7:00am Men’s and Women’s Bible study @ Bogani Café
February 26th, 2017 (Last Sunday after Epiphany)
9:00am  Holy Communion
10:30am  Holy Communion & Sunday School

Please bring your palm crosses back to church so that we can prepare the ashes for our Ash Wednesday service on Mar 1.

Here's a link to a post by Rachel Jones, Associate Editor at Forward Movement, an organization in the Episcopal Church in the USA that produces daily Bible reading and adult education resources for lay people. It's about her experience of daily Bible reading and how it has changed her life. It's a hugely encouraging post and I think you'll enjoy it!

St. Margaret’s is always looking for volunteers to help with our many roster duties. Some of these include:
- Altar Guild (setting up altar for Communion and clean up after service)
- Scripture readers, Intercessors, lay administrants and greeters/sidespeople
- Prayer leaders during Communion
- Sunday school teachers
- Volunteers to provide light refreshments / coffee after the service
If you are interested in helping in any way, or would like further information, please talk to Tim, or email stmrector@gmail.com.

The Commandments, a ‘Pilgrim’ course for Lent will be starting on Thursday March 9th, not March 2nd as previously advertised. It will run for six Thursday evenings from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. To register please use the sign up sheet in the front foyer or contact Tim at stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231.

St. Margaret’s Shrove Tuesday pancake supper is on February 28th. We require some volunteers to help with the meal, so there is a volunteer sign up sheet on the table in the foyer. There is also a sign up sheet so that you can let us know if you will be attending the 5pm or 6pm seating.

We are having a family pizza and games night on Friday March 10th at the church. It will start at 5:30pm, with pizza at 6:30pm. Everyone is welcome. If you have a favourite game, please bring it along. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the foyer to let us know if you can come, and another if you’d like to help with some food/snacks.

Winnifred Stewart: Empties to Winn Project
Please feel free to bring some or all of your empty bottles (juice, milk, cans, and other beverage containers) and drop them in our bags. Please support Winnifred Stewart by making provision for this project! Next pick up should be Feb 24th 2017.  Thank you.

Please check out our monthly announcement sheet for more upcoming events. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Melanie. Extra copies are available on the table at the back of the church.