Monday, August 31, 2020

NOTICE

NOTICE

All public on-site services have been cancelled until further notice as part of the Diocese of Edmonton’s COVID-19 Response

We will meet virtually each week for worship here and on Facebook

Please continue to visit our website for updates or visit our Facebook Page at:

@stmargaretsedmonton


Thank you.

****

Thanks also to all who have asked about continuing their financial support of our parish in this difficult time. If you are not already on pre-authorized giving, the easiest way is to use our page at Canada Helps (click here)

Sunday, July 5, 2020

St. Margaret's Sunday service for July 5th (Pentecost 5) (live video version)

'The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases' (a sermon for July 5th on Genesis 24)

I’ve heard Doug Sanderson say several times that the book of Acts is his favourite book of the Bible. I can certainly understand that feeling!

 

The book of Acts tells the story of the early days of the Christian Church, when things were a lot simpler, smaller, and less institutional. There was very little structure and planning and organisation and tradition, but Holy Spirit was powerfully at work. The gospel spread around the ancient world like wildfire, and thousands of people turned to Christ.

 

But of course, it wasn’t all rosy in the garden! When we actually read Acts, we find stories of Christian missionaries quarreling with each other and parting company. Jewish and Gentile Christians couldn’t agree on whether or not you needed to be Jewish in order to be Christian. People pretended they’d given all their possessions to God when secretly they’d kept something back. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Christians were always getting arrested and punished because of their loyalty to Jesus!

 

That’s the way it is with idealism. Idealism is important—it can inspire us not to be satisfied with the status quo—but the down side is that sometimes it can present us with an overly simplistic view of reality. Genuine reality is always more messy.

 

It struck me a few years ago that the Book of Genesis is the Old Testament equivalent of the Book of Acts. Later on in the Old Testament we get the story of the nation of Israel, which eventually becomes a mighty empire with kings, armies, and bureaucrats—not to mention a huge expensive temple with a priesthood and sacrifices and laws about who’s in and who’s out. But in Genesis, that’s all still in the future. In Genesis, God chooses a single family—the family of Abraham—and guides its development over three or four generations. There’s a promise of much larger things to come—God tells Abraham his descendants will be more numerous than the grains of sand on the seashore—but none of that has happened yet. There’s no priesthood, no written law, no traditions. There’s just God speaking, God calling, and people listening and responding.

 

Or ‘not’. Actually, often ‘not’! The people described in Genesis are every bit as stubborn and cantankerous as we are. They refuse to listen to God, they have feuds, they take moral short-cuts, and their family arrangements are very colourful by our standards. And I’m glad about that. I’m all for a life of simple faith in God, but let’s be clear that no-one’s ever practiced it perfectly. No one’s even come near. Not even in the Bible. And especially not in Genesis or Acts!

 

Today in our Old Testament reading we have a rather confusing set of excerpts from the story of Abraham’s son, Isaac. Let me quickly put them in context for you.

 

If you’ve been following our readings for the past few Sundays, you’ll know that Isaac’s parents, Abraham and Sarah, were childless. This was a problem—not just because it was such a sadness to them, but also because God had promised Abraham to make of him a great nation; ‘in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3). Later on, God told him his descendants would be more than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore.

 

But Abraham had to wait twenty-five years, until he was nearly a hundred years old, for that promise to be fulfilled. By the time Isaac was born, Sarah was well past the years of natural child-bearing; this birth was nothing short of a biological miracle. Those twenty-five years had been hard for Abraham and Sarah. At one point, in a moment of desperation, Sarah had given her slave girl to Abraham so he could have a child by her; in Sarah’s view, God obviously needed a bit of help!

 

But eventually, against all the odds, Isaac was born. It didn’t take long for things to turn ugly. The slave-girl’s son Ishmael was now a problem to Sarah, and she made sure he was driven out of the family home; no one was going to take precedence over her boy. Sarah conveniently forgot that the whole ‘sleeping with the slave girl’ idea had been hers in the first place!

 

And so we come to today’s story. It’s a long chapter,  Isaac has grown up and he needs a wife. Abraham’s family aren’t originally from Canaan; they’re from Ur of the Chaldees, near modern Iraq. They came to Canaan by way of Haran, where Abraham’s brother and other members of his extended family still live. Abraham wants his son to marry someone in the family, not one of the local girls. And so he sends his servant back to Haran; he’s confident God will guide him to the girl he has in mind for Isaac.

 

It’s a long journey in the ancient world; four hundred miles by camel. On the way we can imagine Abraham’s servant doing a lot of praying. He prayed when he got to Haran, too:

“O Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please offer your jar that I may drink’, and who will say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master” (Genesis 24:12-14).

 

And that’s exactly how it worked out. The girl who came down to the spring was actually Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel. Just as the servant had prayed, she offered to water his camels, and when he asked her about her family he discovered she was his master’s grandniece. She took him to meet the family, he explained his mission, and they agreed that she should go back with him and marry Isaac—marriage to a first cousin once removed being quite acceptable in those days. Of course, there was no nonsense about falling in love first; in the ancient world, that expectation was frowned upon!

 

If we carry the story on a bit, we discover that the basic family weirdness continues into the next generation. Like her mother-in-law Sarah, Rebekah has difficulty conceiving a child. Eventually Isaac prays for her, and she gives birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau is a few minutes older, and when he grows up he becomes his dad’s favourite, because he’s a great hunter and Isaac enjoys the wild meat he brings home. But Rebekah has a soft spot for the younger one, Jacob, and eventually she manipulates her husband and deceives him into mistakenly giving his parental blessing to the younger son, not the older. This leads to anger and the threat of violence, and Jacob has to run away from home and go back to Haran for twenty years, where he can be safe from his brother. But more about that in the next few weeks.

 

What’s this got to do with us today?

 

Let’s go back to what I said a few minutes ago: Genesis is the Book of Acts of the Old Testament. Those were the days before Israel became a nation or an empire, just like Acts describes the days when the church was a movement and a community rather than an organization. In those days the fire of personal faith burned hot and pure. Or so it seems to us, anyway.

 

We actually have no idea how Abraham heard the voice of the one true God, Yahweh, speaking to him. We don’t even know whether Abraham believed that there was only one true god; it seems unlikely, given that most people in his day believed in many gods. But we do know that Abraham and his family would have been in a minority in worshipping Yahweh, and especially in not using idols in their worship. In the same way, the Christians in Acts would have been a minority; this message about Jesus was new, and most people didn’t believe it. The church consisted of small house fellowships scattered around the cities of the Mediterranean world. It wasn’t the majority world religion, like it is today. It was an incredibly fragile movement. And perhaps that fragility is where we can connect.

 

In the stories I’ve told you this morning we’ve seen two instances where the community almost died. It was necessary for both Sarah and Rebekah to have children, so that the community of faith could continue. But it proved impossible, humanly speaking, for them to give birth. They needed a miracle to help them do it. The entire continuing existence of this tiny community of faith was a miracle from God. Without God, it could not have happened.

 

When he arrived in Haran, Abraham’s servant prayed “O Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham” (24:12). That phrase ‘steadfast love’ translates the Hebrew word ‘chesed’; the King James Version has ‘loving kindness’, but ‘loyalty’ would also be a good translation. It’s not just that God loves Abraham and his family; it’s that he has committed himself to loving them, through thick and thin, whether they’re lovable or not. That’s what this little community of faith is based on: not human fertility or wisdom or achievement or organization or skill, but God’s steadfast love.

 

And that’s true of us as well. There are times when our community of faith feels very fragile. Lots of churches seem to be closing down these days, especially in small rural communities. And even in our church, which is younger than most, when we looked around on a Sunday morning (in the days when we could look around on Sunday mornings!), we oldsters seemed to be rather better represented that the youngsters!

 

Covid-19 also has churches worried. Not all churches are doing as well at staying together as we are at St. Margaret’s. And many are in real financial trouble. Even here, the pandemic has been a blow to our community life, and it’s hit us right as we were on the brink of starting our building project. Our ministry staff and volunteers are having to work really hard to keep the community together, and the technological learning curve has been steep. I can tell you, as the rector, that it often feels fragile to me.

 

That worries us. And we certainly need to think about it, and make good and wise plans to deal with it. But let’s remind ourselves of this one fact: the continuing existence of the church is ultimately based on God’s steadfast love, not any human plan or wisdom or strength. God had to make it possible for wrinkled old Sarah to have a baby. God had to give supernatural guidance to Abraham’s servant so he would meet the right girl at the right time. Yes, God’s people have to be faithful, but we also have to be full of faith—faith in the steadfast love of God! And that love is steadfast, even when we’re not!

 

Let’s be honest: the church is not made up of super-spiritual types. It never has been! Genesis tells us that when Abraham was afraid the folks around him would kill him to steal his wife, he asked her to pretend she was his sister. Later on, Sarah suggested her husband sleep with her slave girl to raise up children for her—and then when her own son was born, she drove out the slave girl’s son. Rebekah favoured her son Jacob, but Isaac favoured Esau. And Jacob didn’t learn; when he grew up and had kids, he had a favourite too, Joseph—with the result that his family was split apart by the resentment of Joseph’s siblings.

 

These are the kind of people God works with: flawed, imperfect people. God has no choice about this; there are no other kinds of people. God doesn’t only work with traditional families with two opposite-sex parents and 2.1 kids. He works with families like Abraham’s and Isaac’s and Jacob’s. He works with blended families, single parent families, single people, gay couples, and those whose marriages are in trouble and don’t dare admit it to their church friends. It’s perfectly possible to be full of faith and struggling with weaknesses and sins and failings at the same time. We all do it. But God is patient and steadfast, and he never abandons us.

 

Brendan Manning calls this ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’—the idea that we’re all ragamuffins, but God loves us anyway. But Genesis goes further: God loves ragamuffins, and uses them to build his church. The community of faith is made up of ragamuffins. I’m one of them. So are you. And that’s why we need to be gentle with one another. As Paul says, ‘Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you’ (Ephesians 4:31-32).

 

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). One translation says, ‘Blessed are those who know their need of God’. That’s what Abraham and Isaac can teach us. They did all kinds of things wrong—they made plenty of mistakes—but they knew without a shadow of doubt that they needed God. They could not exist without God. Without God, the people of Israel would have died out after one generation. And without God, the Church of Jesus Christ will die from the inside out, even if for a while it still looks like a prosperous institution.

Fortunately for us, we never need to be without God, because God has promised never to abandon us. Let me close with this wonderful promise from the book of Lamentations, written at a time when the city of Jerusalem had just been destroyed by its enemies, and many of its people taken away into exile. It certainly wasn’t a time of great hope, and yet the author of Lamentations isn’t ready to give up on God just yet. Here’s what he says:

 

‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22-23).

 

In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Upcoming Events from July 5th to July 12th, 2020


Sunday July 5th, 2020 (Pentecost 5)
10:30am- Morning Prayer (via Facebook Live)

Thursday July 9th, 2020
11:00am-11:30am- Lori will be at the church for envelope drop offs
7:00pm- Corporation Meeting (via Zoom)

Friday July 10th, 2020
8:00am- Women’s Bible Study (via Zoom)

Sunday July 12th, 2020 (Pentecost 6)
10:30am- Morning Prayer (via Facebook Live)

St. Margaret’s is in search of a volunteer Technology Consultant: 
Responsibilities would include:
* Manage technology related areas and improve existing systems and equipment
* Ensure weekly Worship Services run smoothly on Facebook Platform
* Would be willing to be the go to person for any technology related questions or concerns
* Maintain St. Margaret’s website

If you are interested or have any questions regarding this volunteer position please contact Tim at stmrector@gmail.com 

Please watch out for our Summer Announcement Sheet email for more upcoming events and information. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Lori.

As we move into the next phase of restarting activities from COVID-19, it is now possible for Tim to have one on one visits and appointments with people. This can be done at the church, either outside (if the weather is nice), or inside in the sanctuary. Social distancing must be observed, strict hygiene protocols must be followed, and it's 'bring your own coffee' and (if outside) 'bring your own lawn chair'!

If you would like to have a visit with Tim, or have an issue you need to talk through, please email him at stmrector@gmail.com or send him a text or a voice mail at 780-991-1216 (his cell). He would be happy to set something up with you.

Lori will be going to the church once a week for anyone that wishes to drop off their giving envelopes.  Next week she will be there on Thursday July 9th, 2020 from 11:00am to 11:30am.

Daily Morning Prayer and Night Prayer through the week
During this time of pandemic we are holding Morning Prayer every morning at 8:30 am and Night Prayer at 9:15 pm, using our ‘Simple Daily Office for July/August’ leaflet. These services are held on Facebook Live, on the St. Margaret’s Facebook Page. See instructions in the box below about how to access this. We have been gathering 10-20 people every morning and evening, which is very encouraging.

The short services are led by Susan on Mondays, Thursday mornings, and Saturdays, and by Tim the rest of the time. They are not held on Sundays.

Readings for Sunday July 5th, 2020
* Genesis 24. 34-38, 42-49, 58-67
* Psalm 45. 11-18
* Romans 7. 15-25a
* Matthew 11. 16-19, 25-30

Readings for Sunday July 12th, 2020
* Genesis 25. 19-34
* Psalm 119. 105-112
* Romans 8. 1-11
* Matthew 13. 1-9, 18-23


Sunday Morning Prayer via Facebook:
Tim will turn the video on about five minutes before the service starts; if you go to Facebook before then, you will not see anything.

Instructions: At about 10:25am, go to: www.facebook.com/stmargaretsedmonton/

In the left hand column, click on 'Video'. If you are doing this at 10:25am or after you will see that one of the videos is “live” - simply click on the arrow to start it playing. 

Sunday Morning Prayer Resources:
If you do not wish to watch a live service on Facebook but prefer to use the materials on our website for your own worship, you can find them at: http://stmargaretsedmonton.blogspot.com

Feel free to have a look ahead of time if you like; the materials will be up by Saturday night.


Pre-authorized Giving: The Diocese of Edmonton has a Pre-Authorized Giving Program using automatic account debit to assist you in supporting your own parish ministry.
 Advantages for the donor:
• Convenience. Your offering is received automatically every month.
• Continual support of your church when you are away.
• Continual support of ministries and programs.
• Changes may be made any time with written notification.
 Advantages for the parish:
• Regular, dependable flow of contributions to the parish. 
• Reduction of paperwork and book- keeping. Donation to be made on the 1st or 15th of the month.
There are forms on the table in the front foyer if you are interested in signing up.

Two Ways to Worship With Us on July 5th

WORSHIP FOR SUNDAY JULY 5TH (PENTECOST 5)

Hi Everyone:

This Sunday July 5th is the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. There are two ways that you can worship with us on this coming Sunday.

Live Streaming on Facebook Live
Marci, Jacqui and I will be leading you in worship from our home on Facebook Live at 10.30 a.m. The service sheet is available at Google Drive here, so you can download it, print it up and use it to follow along with the liturgy, hymns etc.

I will turn the video on at about 10.25. Here are the instructions for connecting:
  • At about 10.25, go to www.facebook.com/stmargaretsedmonton/
  • In the left hand column, click on 'video'.
  • If you are doing this at 10.25 or after you will see that one of the videos is 'live' - simply click on the arrow to start it playing. 
  • It will also work to just go to the Facebook page and scroll down until you find a live video!
Written Materials and Videos on our Church Website:
Here on our church website you will find written prayers, and links to the Bible readings for the day. You will also find YouTube videos of the hymns that you can sing along with if you like. Also my sermon is available in prerecorded format, as well as my children's talk. This order of service is similar but not identical to what we will be doing on Facebook Live. You can find these materials here.

If you do join us on Sunday, either on Facebook Live or using the materials on our website, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment. It's really rewarding to me as leader to see your comments and little conversations with each other on my phone as the service progresses! And I know people enjoy connecting with each other as well.

God bless you all, and I'm looking forward to worshipping with you on Sunday.

Yours in Christ,

Tim

St. Margaret's Sunday Service July 5th, 2020 (Pentecost 5)


Hymn: Love Divine



The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: You Shall Go Out with Joy



Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

One: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us that what we do for the least of your children we do also for him. Give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave up his life and died for us, but lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Proclamation of the Word

First Reading: Genesis 24. 34-38, 42-49, 58-67


Psalm 45. 11-18
“Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;
forget your people and your father’s house.
The king will have pleasure in your beauty;
he is your master; therefore do him honour.
The people of Tyre are here with a gift;
the rich among the people seek your favour.”
All glorious is the princess as she enters;
her gown is cloth-of-gold.
In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;
after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.
With joy and gladness they are brought,
and enter into the palace of the king.
“In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons;
you shall make them princes over all the earth.
I will make your name to be remembered from one generation to another;
therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

Gracious God, your love unites heaven and earth in a new festival of gladness. Lift our spirits to learn the way of joy that leads us to your banquet hall, where all is golden with praise. We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

Second reading: Romans 7. 15-25a


Hymn: The Power of Your Love


Lord I come to you
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I’ve found in you
And Lord, I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of your love

Hold me close, let your love surround me
Bring me near, draw me to your side
And as I wait, I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with you,
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of your love

Lord unveil my eyes
Let me see you face to face
The knowledge of your love
As you live in me
Lord, renew my mind
As your will unfolds in my life
In living every day
In the power of your love
Hold me close…

Geoff Bullock. © 1992 Maranatha! Music.

Gospel reading: Matthew 11. 16-19, 25-30


Children’s Talk


Sermon

Let us confess our faith, as we say,
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Hymn: There is a Redeemer



Prayers of the People


Heavenly Father, thank you for your care and concern for the family of Abraham and Isaac. Thank you for our blood families, for our circles of friends, and for our family of faith. We pray today for all who are estranged from their families and friends, and for those who feel they have no one to care for them. Keep them in your steadfast love, and help them find welcoming communities in which they can love and be loved. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

God our Creator, thank you for this summer season and for the beauty of the earth all around us. Thank you for the earth that provides for our needs and for the living creatures we share it with. Help us to see your hand in all you have made, and help us learn to become better stewards of your creation. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

Holy Spirit, you join us together in a fellowship of faith. We ask your blessing today on all followers of Jesus around the world. In our various prayer cycles we pray especially for the people of the United Church of Pakistan and their Moderator Humphrey – the people of the Diocese of Niagara and their bishop Susan – the people of St. George’s church Devon and their rector Christian. We also pray for our partner diocese of Buy√© in /Burundi and especially this week for all who work in their Synod Office, especially Bishop Sixbert, Audace, Leonidas, Damascene, and Nehemie. We lift them all up to you and ask for your blessing and guidance. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray to you for all the people of our parish, especially those who find it more difficult to stay in touch as they do not have internet access or don’t feel confident using the internet. We also ask your blessing on our Bishop Jane, our metropolitan Greg, our Primate Linda, and all other bishops and ministers of the gospel, that you would give them your peace in these days of anxiety and stress. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

Merciful God, we know that as people of faith we have not always loved you with our whole heart, and we have not always love our neighbour as ourselves. We take a moment of silence to call to mind the things we particularly need to be forgiven for… Have mercy on us and forgive us, and teach us to delight in your will and walk in your ways. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

God our healer and protector, in this time of continuing pandemic we ask your help and strength for all medical personnel, government leaders, and everyone who is working to care for the sick and find a way to deal with the COVID-19 virus. We pray particularly for the mayors and councils of our capital region, for our premier and the members of the Alberta Legislature, and for our prime minister and the members of the parliament of Canada, that you would give them wisdom and guidance for the challenges they face. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

God, you are our Rock in times of trouble. Today we pray for those who are sick or suffering in any way, particularly those known to us and those who have asked for our prayers. We especially ask your help and healing for Mavis, Kathy, Ian, Barb, Stephen, Jesse, Ron, Len & JoAnne, Katy, Sheba, Brian, Kori & Rachael & Daniel, Fran, the Plitt and Barker families (especially Brian, Heidi and Darren), Marie, Deej, Carole Anne, Mary Ellen, Dorothy, Florence & Dexter, Glyness, Tara, and Wendy, Lorne,  Betty, Ivan, the Johnson family, Tim & Sue, Malcolm, Arnold, Claire...

…and any others who we may wish to name either silently or aloud…

We also pray for those who have died and their families and friends, especially Charlie, Terry, Calvin, June, Bob, and any others who may be on our hearts at this time… And we pray also for those who mourn for them, that they may know the comfort of your love. God of compassion, hear our prayer.

Finally in a moment of quiet, let each of us bring our own cares and needs before our loving God… Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Grant these our prayers, faithful God, for the love of your only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Announcements

Hymn: Lord of the Dance



Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.


All songs reprinted permission of CCLI License #1284692.