Monday, September 28, 2020

SUNDAY SERVICES AT ST. MARGARET'S

9:00 a.m. Holy Communion (approximately 45 minutes)

10:30 a.m. Holy Communion with Sunday School (approximately 75 minutes)

The Book of Alternative Services is used at all services at St. Margaret's.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Upcoming events Sept 17th to Sept 23rd

Events This Week

Tim is away on vacation, returning on Sept 19th.  David Thiessen will be available for emergency pastoral care on Sept. 17th and 18th and can be reached at (587) 983-9575.

Sept 17th, 2018
Office is closed
Sept 19th, 2018
2:00pm Lectionary Bible Study @ Church   
7:15pm Vestry meeting
Sept 20th, 2018
8:00am Men’s and Women’s bible study @ Bogani Café
11:15am Holy Communion @ St. Joseph’s Hospital
Sept 23rd, 2018 (Pentecost 18)
9:00am  Holy Communion
10:30am  Holy Communion and Sunday School



Wednesday afternoon lectionary Bible Study. This group meets at the church from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays. We read the four scripture passages set for the coming Sunday and then choose one of them to explore together. If you are free at that time in the afternoon, why not come and join us and grow in your understanding of the scriptures? We will be starting up again on September 19th. Please bring your favourite Bible.

Thursday morning Bible Studies. For many years our parish has been holding early morning Bible Studies at the Bogani Café (beside Sobey’s on the corner of 23rd Avenue and 111 Street). There are currently two small groups meeting there at 8 a.m., a men’s and a women’s group. The men’s group runs 8 – 9 a.m., the women’s a little longer. Both use Bible study booklets to go through a book at a time. Anyone is welcome to attend. We will be starting up again on September 20th. Please bring your favourite Bible.

Mark your Calendars for 'Faith Pictures' (6 Tuesday evenings starting Sept. 25th)
Faith Pictures is a short course designed to help Christians talk naturally to friends, neighbours and colleagues about what they believe. The heart of the course is about helping people to identify a single picture or image that embodies something of their faith. Each session contains a short video and encourages discussion in pairs and as a whole group. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer.

$5 – 5 Ways coffee fundraiser, Sept 30th

Helping Seniors in Buyé one $5 at a time

Did you know that for $5 we can provide a full year, 365 days, worth of medical coverage (at 80%) for a senior living in Buyé who would otherwise not be able to afford medical care?

The Edmonton diocese has invited us to do a ONE-after service coffee/hospitality hour on any Sunday in September, and we have chosen Sunday Sept 30th. Please donate $5, if able, to this amazing medical initiative for our partners in Buyé diocese.
Let’s break down the numbers… If we have 53 parishes and in each parish 20 people donate $5 that’s $5,300 raised and that means 1,060 seniors would receive a FULL YEAR of health coverage!

Friday Night Church
On the last Friday of each month, from 6pm to 8pm, you are invited to ‘Friday Night Church’.
The evening will begin with a supper, followed by a child-friendly time of singing, Bible teaching and prayer. Some activity (crafts, games etc.) will follow, and the evening will close with hot chocolate and a candle prayer time. We encourage everyone, not just families with children, to join us for a time of fellowship.

Mark your calendar for the following dates:
Friday September 28th – ‘I am the light of the world’
Friday October 26th – ‘Saints’ Halloween party
Friday November 30th – Make an advent wreath!

For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Melanie at 780-437-7231 or email stmargarestedmonton@gmail.com. We are also in need of volunteers to help with activities at each event, so please let Melanie know if you can help out.
We encourage you to invite your friends and spread the word in our community. There are some invitations on the table in the foyer – please take some!

Anglican Marriage Encounter Weekend 
November 2-4. 2018 – Providence Renewal Centre
“Take your Marriage to a whole new level”.
For more information please contact the church office at 780-437-7231 or stmargaretsedmonton@gmail.com



Sunday, September 9, 2018

A sermon on James 2:1-17 by Sylvia Jayakaran

Measuring the non-verbal cues of Intent & Actions

Sermon by Sylvia Jayakaran, based on: James 2: 1-17

Opening prayer:
Dear Holy Spirit, Keep our minds and heart in a place where we can quietly listen to what you want us to know today. We give you the highest glory, honor and praise for all that you have done for us all these days. In the matchless name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we pray. – Amen
Introduction:
Today’s reading from the book of James helps us understand how God perceives our prejudice and behavior while we go about our daily deeds. If we are being honest with ourselves, we all have encountered (or) have been part of such situations in our life at some point. As part of today’s sermon, we are going to dig deeper and explore the heart and mind of Christ as expressed by James.
Passage annotation:
We live in a world where there is intense pressure to conform to a set standard of behavior or expectations. Fitting the agenda of Christ in it can be daunting and sometimes challenging – the only time we can easily do so is when we operate in the mind of Christ where we evaluate our intent and actions based on what God thinks instead of what we really think.
So, what do we measure then? – We measure the non-verbal cues that our intent and actions portray to external people that observe us. We may intend something and the inference of the person receiving the result of our action may have a different interpretation/impact of that action. The non-verbal cue is that we help them assess their value or worth because of what we intend or do. That’s the reason I chose the title of the sermon as “Measuring the non-verbal cues of Intent & Actions”
Let’s decode the examples from the reading in James 2: 1-17 for non-verbal cues. For ease of understanding and application of the word of God in our lives, I have also provided “The reality” section which provides insight on how God perceives that intent or action.
·      When we do not allow a poorly clad person from taking a proper seat in the church, we allow them to infer that the church is filled with discrimination and that only rich or properly clothed people are welcome to worship God. We make them think that based on worldly riches they either qualify to either sit in the church pews or on the church floor. It makes them evaluate their worth and value in the sight of God in a place of worship where they expect equality and equity at the very least.

o   The Reality: God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith. So worldly riches has no relevance in the walk of faith in Jesus Christ. We forget that the disciples of Jesus were of diverse backgrounds and academic standing – but the common denominator was that they willingly chose to follow Him.

·      When we do not love our neighbour as ourselves, we have not followed the laws or commandments of God. Yet we somehow think high of ourselves and think we can exalt ourselves in the sight of others while we discriminate them based on our perception of who they are.

o   The Reality: We are guilty of breaking God’s laws or commandments even if we break just one of them. The laws of God are not classified by priority and they are not optional to follow; - we often forget that important truth. We forget that we all live by the love, grace and mercy that Christ exhibited in our lives.

·      When we judge others with our preconceived notions or favoritism, we think that we are following what the world expects of us. We even think we are not rule breakers in any way because we maintained standards that we made up to suit our own ego and/or prestige.

o   The Reality: The reading from James notes that “Judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement”. This clearly indicates that favoritism is abhorrent in God’s eyes.

·      When we have faith without proper action, it is a futile exercise. In other words, we are telling the expectant recipient of our actions that we are too busy and that God will help them in their time of need. We make assumption that we have no part to play in alleviating their trouble even if we have the means or ability to contribute towards a better outcome.

o   The Reality: The blessings of God are expected to be used by Christians in a time of need. We are ambassadors of Christ in this world. When Christ was here on earth, He executed the will of God with utter compassion and great excellence. We often seem to forget that fact altogether when it becomes inconvenient for us to take action.

So how should our intents and actions be according to what Christ expects of us?
The Bible says that the “tongue has the power of life and death” – meaning that our words are containers of power. When we speak the word of God into someone’s life it should be done carefully and followed with a relevant action that is governed by God.
There are numerous instances in the Bible where God has chosen the most unworthy people to be exalted. One such example is in Matthew 26 about the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus despite the disciples having a controversial opinion of her action. Jesus responded to his disciples in Matthew 26:13 saying “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” This passage of scripture should give us all a reverential fear of how Christ sees and evaluates our intents and actions.
Truth be told, when our minds and hearts are filled in oneness with Christ, our actions will automatically measure up to His divine will and pleasure. It takes a lifetime to learn that skill and we refine it every single day. What is important is that we start to do it and not postpone it due to its complexity and/or inconvenience.

Conclusion:
As Christians we have spiritual impact and power. This is known and watched by the world around us. So, it becomes important to free our minds of prejudice, favoritism, self-loathing & self–righteousness which make us follow our inner spirit instead of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Since it is easier said than done, I would like to offer insight and help on how I address this issue on a personal level. When I am faced with situations that would lend itself to any of the above behaviors that I mentioned, I remind myself of Matthew 26:13 and simply ask myself the following two questions.
·      Who am I trying to impress with my actions – myself or God or another human being?
·      Is what I am thinking or attempting to do aligned with what God would want me to do?
By default, your heart will answer these questions honestly. Listen carefully and allow the Holy Spirit to govern your intent and actions. That is a faith with deeds worth exhibiting to a watching world.
Remember always that we are stewards of what God has given us – we do not own anything nor take anything from this world when we die. A life fully governed by Christ is the only thing that gets us a heavenly reward while we are ambassadors of Christ to others in this earth.

Consecrate your life to Christ this day and allow the Holy Spirit to chart your course of action. Blessings to you all in Jesus Name!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Upcoming events

Events This Week

Sept 10th, 2018
Office is closed
Sept 16th, 2018 (Pentecost 17) (Rev. Joanne Webster)
9:00am  Holy Communion
10:30am  Holy Communion and Sunday School

Wednesday afternoon lectionary Bible Study. This group meets at the church from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays. We read the four scripture passages set for the coming Sunday and then choose one of them to explore together. If you are free at that time in the afternoon, why not come and join us and grow in your understanding of the scriptures? We will be starting up again on September 19th. Please bring your favourite Bible.

Thursday morning Bible Studies. For many years our parish has been holding early morning Bible Studies at the Bogani Café (beside Sobey’s on the corner of 23rd Avenue and 111 Street). There are currently two small groups meeting there at 8 a.m., a men’s and a women’s group. The men’s group runs 8 – 9 a.m., the women’s a little longer. Both use Bible study booklets to go through a book at a time. Anyone is welcome to join them. We will be starting up again on September 20th. Please bring your favourite Bible.

Mark your Calendars for 'Faith Pictures' (6 Tuesday evenings starting Sept. 25th)
Faith Pictures is a short course designed to help Christians talk naturally to friends, neighbours and colleagues about what they believe. The heart of the course is about helping people to identify a single picture or image that embodies something of their faith. Each session contains a short video and encourages discussion in pairs and as a whole group. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer.

Friday Night Church
On the last Friday of each month, from 6pm to 8pm, you are invited to ‘Friday Night Church’.
The evening will begin with a supper, followed by a child-friendly time of singing, Bible teaching and prayer. Some activity (crafts, games etc.) will follow, and the evening will close with hot chocolate and a candle prayer time. We encourage everyone, not just families with children, to join us for a time of fellowship.

Mark your calendar for the following dates:
Friday September 28th – ‘I am the light of the world’
Friday October 26th – ‘Saints’ Halloween party
Friday November 30th – Make an advent wreath!

A signup sheet for the September FNC event will be out a little later in the month. For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Melanie at 780-437-7231 or email stmargarestedmonton@gmail.com. We are also in need of volunteers to help with activities at each event, so please let Melanie know if you can help out.
We encourage you to invite your friends and spread the word in our community. There are some invitations on the table in the foyer – please take some!

We will be placing another order for large print bibles like the ones at the back of the church. Please let Melanie know if you are interested in purchasing one. Cost is approx $75.

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 September 13th. Thank you!

Anglican Marriage Encounter Weekend 
November 2-4. 2018 – Providence Renewal Centre
“Take your Marriage to a whole new level”.
For more information please contact the church office at 780-437-7231 or email stmargaretsedmonton@gmail.com.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Upcoming events

Events This Week

Melanie will be back in the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9am to noon, and Thursdays from 8:30am to 11:30am.

Sept 3rd, 2018
Office is closed
Sept 9th, 2018 (Pentecost 16) (Sylvia Jayakaran)
9:00am   Morning Prayer with Blessing of Backpacks
10:30am Morning Prayer with Blessing of Backpacks & Sunday School
11:45am Welcome Back BBQ

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 September 13th. Thank you!

Anglican Marriage Encounter Weekend 
November 2-4. 2018 – Providence Renewal Centre
“Take your Marriage to a whole new level”.
For more information please contact the church office at 780-437-7231 or by email to stmargaretsedmonton@gmail.com.

September 9th: 'Welcome Back' Sunday

On Sunday September 9th we will have special events to celebrate Sunday School registration, the return of our members from summer holidays, and the beginning of the school year.

Sunday School registration will take place prior to the 10:30 service. For more information about this, please contact our Sunday School Coordinator, Tricia Laffin (call or email the office to get her contact information).

At both services we will have a blessing of backpacks for children beginning a new school year. Children are asked to bring their backpacks (with any contents that seem appropriate to their parents!) and we will ask the kids to bring them to the front and have a special prayer of blessing for them. We will also pray for those returning to college or university.

After the 10:30 service we will have a barbeque. Everyone is invited to stay behind and join in; hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks will be provided.

Mark your Calendars for 'Faith Pictures' (6 Tuesday evenings starting Sept. 25th)
Faith Pictures is a short course designed to help Christians talk naturally to friends, neighbours and colleagues about what they believe. The heart of the course is about helping people to identify a single picture or image that embodies something of their faith. This is because the kinds of communication which best stick to the mind are concrete and rooted in story. The course aims to be accessible and light-hearted, without jargon or inflexible methods. It has a number of emphases not always found in faith-sharing courses. These include the avoidance of one-size-fits-all models and the importance of honest and listening. Each session contains a short video and encourages discussion in pairs and as a whole group. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

September 2018 Roster

Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople: M. Cromarty / T. Cromarty
Counter: M. Cromarty / T. Wittkopf
Reader: D. Sanderson
(Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10, James 1:17-27)
Lay Administrants: T. Wittkopf / D. MacNeill
Intercessor: D. MacNeill
Lay Reader: D. Schindel (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)
Altar Guild (Green): P. Major / L. Pyra
Kitchen: Woytkiws
Music: E. Thompson

September 9th, 2018 (Pentecost 16) (Morning Prayer, Sylvia Jayakaran)
Greeter/Sidespeople: Aasens
Counter: C. Aasen / B. Popp
Reader: G. Hughes
(Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Psalm 125, James 2:1-17)
Intercessor: B. Popp
Gospel: (Mark 7:24-37)
Altar Guild (Green): Morning Prayer
Sunday School (School Age): M. Rys           
Sunday School (Preschool): M. Eriksen
Kitchen: BBQ M. Eriksen / T. Laffin
Music: E. Thompson

September 16th, 2018 (Pentecost 17) (Rev. Joanne Webster)
Greeter/Sidespeople: T. Wittkopf / D. Legere
Counter: D. Legere / R. Horn
Reader: T. Cromarty (Proverbs 1:20-33, Psalm 19, James 3:1-12)
Lay Administrants: G. Hughes / C. Aasen
Intercessor: C. Aasen
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill (Mark 8:27-38)
Altar Guild (Green): M. Woytkiw / L. Schindel
Sunday School (School Age): M. Aasen           
Sunday School (Preschool): T. Laffin
Kitchen: L. Schindel / K. Kilgour
Music: W. Pyra

September 23rd, 2018 (Pentecost 18)
Greeter/Sidespeople: B. Cavey / J. Durance
Counter: J. Durance / S. Doyle
Reader: S. Doyle
(Proverbs 31:10-31, Psalm 1, James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a)
Lay Administrants: T. Wittkopf / D. MacNeill
Intercessor: S. Jayakaran
Lay Reader: B. Popp (Mark 9:30-37)
Altar Guild (Green): M. Lobreau / J. Johnston
Prayer Team: M. Chesterton / L. Sanderson
Sunday School (School Age): K. Durance           
Sunday School (Preschool): A. Jayakaran
Kitchen: F. Chester
Music: M. Eriksen
Altar Server: G. Durance

September 30th, 2018 (Pentecost 19, youth/child led service)
Greeter/Sidespeople: Children
Counter: S. Doyle / H. Seggumba
Reader: Children
(Esther 7:1-6, 9-10 & 9:20-22, Psalm 124, James 5:13-20)
Lay Administrants: G. Hughes / M. Rys
Intercessor: A. Jayakaran
Lay Reader: E. Jayakaran (Mark 9:38-50)
Altar Guild (Green): M. Woytkiw / A. Shutt
Sunday School (School Age): M. Rys           
Sunday School (Preschool): K. Ewchuk
Kitchen: Goodwins 

Music: M. Chesterton

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Sermon for August 26th on John 6.60-71

One of the sayings I hear on a regular basis is ‘Jesus preached a simple message about love and brotherhood, and then the Church came along and made it complicated’. And I can understand why people would like to think this is true. A simple Galilean carpenter who went around preaching peace and joy and flower power sounds so much less demanding than the Son of God who comes to earth from heaven, says things that don’t make sense to us, and makes impossible demands that we feel guilty about not living up to!

But the problem is that Jesus is not simple. He says things that cause people to scratch their heads in confusion. He rarely gives a straight answer to a straight question. And when he does speak directly, his words are so challenging that people have been trying for two thousand years to find sophisticated ways of avoiding their obvious meaning. The fact is that Jesus is a challenge – a challenge to understand, and a challenge to follow. If people are looking for a simple faith that makes few demands on them, they probably aren’t going to find Jesus very satisfying.

We can see this in our gospel for today, which comes right at the end of John chapter 6. In verse 60, some of Jesus’ disciples comment on what they’ve heard earlier in the chapter: ‘This teaching is difficult’, they say; ‘who can accept it?’ And a few verses later we read that ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him’ (v.66). The reason is clear: they found his teaching hard to understand, and when they did understand it, they found it so offensive that they didn’t want anything more to do with him.

Let’s take a quick look back at John chapter six, which we’ve been slowly making our way through these past few weeks. The chapter begins with two miracle stories: Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand and his walking on the water. The way John tells both these stories gives us a clue about Jesus’ identity. In the Old Testament God fed his people in the wilderness by giving them manna from heaven every day; now Jesus was out in the wilderness with his people, and he fed them in a supernatural way, multiplying the loaves and fishes so that everyone had enough. Later on that night, when he was walking on the water to meet his disciples, he said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid’. ‘It is I’ is literally in Greek ‘I am’, which is the name of God in Hebrew – ‘Yahweh’. So by these two miraculous signs John is pointing to Jesus’ identity: in him the God of Israel has come in a unique way to visit his people. The two miracles are meant to be signs pointing to this truth.

But the crowd don’t get it; they follow Jesus around the lake because they want a repeat performance of the feeding of the five thousand. They want to take Jesus and make him their king so that he can give them free bread every day. Instead of coming to Jesus and asking him to show them God’s will, they want Jesus to do their will. But Jesus refuses, and he spends the rest of the chapter trying to explain to them the real meaning of the miracle of the loaves: that he is the bread of life, and that everyone who comes to him and believes in him will have their spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied.

He actually makes it quite complicated, and even offensive. He says he is the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread he will give for the life of the world is his flesh. When the crowd demands to know how he can possibly give them his flesh to eat, Jesus responds that unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood they can’t have eternal life, but if they do eat and drink as he suggests, they’ll live forever, and he’ll make his home in them, and they in him.

It’s not hard for us to see all the ways in which the words of Jesus in this chapter would have been offensive to a first century Jewish crowd. Let me list them for you.  First, we have the audacity of his using the name of God for himself, which would have been blasphemous to them. Second, we have the fact that he would not fit in with their agenda and do something really useful, like giving them bread every day. Third, we have his claim that the bread he would give them was better than the bread that Moses had given to their ancestors; they might well ask him, ‘Who do you think you are? You think you’re greater than Moses?’ Fourth, we have his claim that if people believe in him they’ll receive eternal life – which sounds fairly innocuous until you think how it would sound if I said it – ‘Hey, all you people of St. Margaret’s, if you believe in me I’ll give you eternal life’! Fifth and finally, we have the revolting sayings about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, which sound far more like cannibalism than the sober godliness of the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

So this is the real Jesus of the Gospels. His teaching is not simple; it’s complicated and challenging. It’s not just about how God is our Father and so we’re all brothers and sisters and let’s love one another right now! It’s true that he does say those things, but they’re consequences of the central truths he’s trying to get across. In the first three gospels those truths are about the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus believed the Kingdom had arrived because he had arrived; in other words, he was God’s anointed king who was bringing in the Kingdom. In John’s Gospel this central place of Jesus in his own message is even clearer, as John has structured his whole gospel around the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus – I am the bread of life, I am the resurrection and the life, and so on.

So becoming a Christian isn’t just about ‘loving thy neighbour as thyself’. That’s a vital part of our response to the Christian message, but it doesn’t come first. Becoming a Christian is first of all about how we see Jesus: is he just a human being, a wise religious teacher, or is he something more than that? Is he the one in whom God has come to live with us? In the first chapter of his gospel John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God, and that in the beginning ‘the word was with God, and the word was God’. He goes on to tell us that ‘the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us’. Now in this chapter the Word speaks of giving his flesh for the life of the world. If we don’t eat his flesh and drink his blood we won’t have eternal life – we won’t be able to do the things God wants us to do because we’ll be spiritually dead – but if we come to him and believe in him, if we eat his flesh and drink his blood, he will make his home in us and we will have eternal life.

To me it’s totally understandable that this is more than some people can stomach. Some pretty well-known people have indicated that they couldn’t accept it. Gandhi, for instance, said he could accept Jesus as a wise religious leader but not as the Son of God. A friend of mine here in Edmonton says that Jesus makes much more sense to him as a man than as the Son of God.

I have to say that if Jesus is just a man, he makes no sense to me at all – or, at least, it makes no sense to me that we’re following him today. A man who was just a man, and who said the things Jesus said, would not be looked on as a wise religious teacher and followed by millions of people. He’d be shut up in a mental hospital and given treatment to try to cure him of his delusions of grandeur. C.S. Lewis said this in a radio talk he gave on the BBC during the Second World War:

I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God’. This is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come away with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

How do we respond to this? Some perhaps are confused and want to hear more by way of explanation. Some grumble that God had to make it so complicated. Some stand up in church on Sunday and say the Apostles’ Creed with their fingers crossed behind their backs. Some just can’t believe it and so turn away from following Jesus. Some say, “Well, it doesn’t make sense to me yet but I’m going to keep on following Jesus anyway and pray that God will help me to understand it as I follow”. Some say, “It’s confusing, but the alternative is no better!” And some, like Jesus’ disciple Thomas, fall at Jesus’ feet and say, “My Lord and my God”.

We see the same range of reactions in today’s gospel. Verse 61 says ‘Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you?”’. In Greek the word translated as ‘complaining’ is one of my favourite Greek words, ‘gonguzo’, which means ‘to grumble’. So we have grumbling, and a few verses later, in verse 64, we have disbelief: Jesus says, “But among you there are some who do not believe”.  Then in verse 66 we have rejection: ‘Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him’. At the end of the chapter, we even have betrayal, as John mentions Judas Iscariot, who ‘though one of the twelve, was going to betray him’.

But I want to end by directing your attention to the words of Peter. Look at verse 67:
So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God”.

I think this is a remarkable response. We know from the gospels that Peter had as much difficulty understanding Jesus as any of the disciples. So he’s not saying, “No, Lord, of course we’re not going to leave you, because we understand exactly what you’re talking about!” What he actually seems to be saying is something like this: “Lord, it’s true that what you’re saying is very hard for us to understand and accept. But what’s the alternative? There’s nowhere else we can go to get the sort of thing you give us. Your words may be hard to understand, but we know they’re words of life, and we know you’ve come from God. So the only thing we can do is stick with you and hope things become clearer as we go along”.

I find this to be an amazing statement of faith. I think about people I know who have a lot of difficulty getting their head around what Jesus is talking about, but who still show up week by week in church and are the first to volunteer when work needs to be done. I think about Christian gay and lesbian people who have been told for years that their sexuality is offensive to God, but who still pray and read the scriptures and come to church because they’ve discovered something in Jesus that they can’t find anywhere else. I think about people who are very wealthy and who come to church week by week and hear the gospels read, with Jesus saying things like “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” – and yet they keep coming, because they know that even though Jesus’ words are challenging, they’re true and life-giving as well.

Can you make this statement of faith with Peter? Can you say with him, “Lord, I haven’t got it all figured out yet; I sometimes find your words hard to understand, and when I do understand them I often find them deeply challenging. But I don’t want to leave, because I know I’ve grasped something wonderful here – something that’s giving me life. In your words I think I’ve glimpsed a vision of the glory of God and the beauty of life the way God planned it. So I think I’ll hang around, if you don’t mind, and keep listening and trying to understand, because there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about: there’s nowhere else I’m going to find what I’ve found in you and your message”.

I think Jesus will honour a prayer like that. The only thing I would add to it is this: when you do come to understand the meaning of some aspect of the teaching of Jesus, pray for God’s help and then begin to put it into practice right away. My observation over the years as a pastor is that those who put Jesus’ words into practice usually grow in their understanding of what he’s all about, but those who don’t practice what they hear tend to understand less and less as the years go by. After all, as Jesus said in the parable of the wise and foolish builders, it isn’t the ones who just hear his words whose houses will stand in the flood – but those who hear his words and put them into practice. May God help us to do just that. Amen.