Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sermon for May 30th (Trinity Sunday)

God the Trinity

C.S. Lewis tells the following story:

I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard- bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

There are many people like this officer and, as Lewis goes on to say, we can certainly sympathise with them. They have probably had a very real experience of God, and when they turn from that experience to the Christian creeds and the Doctrine of the Trinity they are turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, when someone has taken a hike in the Rockies and then turns from that to a map of the Rockies, they are turning from something real to something less real. But there are two things to remember about this. Firstly, the map of the Rockies may only be a piece of coloured paper, but it has been constructed out of the experiences of hundreds and thousands of people who have experienced the real thing, and it shows how all those experiences fit together. Secondly, if you actually want to cross the Rockies, rather than just getting lost in them, the map will be very helpful!

Christian theology, and especially the Doctrine of the Trinity, is like that map. Yes, in a sense it is less real than our personal experiences of God, but we need to remember that it is a record of the experiences of millions of believers over the past several thousand years. If we want to know God for ourselves, we’d be wise to heed the experiences of these people. The doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t cooked up by some academic theologians in Rome as a mischievous plot to give Christians headaches for the next two thousand years! Rather, it was an attempt to make sense of what the Scriptures say about God and how believers had been experiencing God from the time of Abraham right down to their own times. It’s an attempt to take seriously the message of the whole Bible. And so today I don’t have a specific biblical text to preach from; in a sense, today I’m trying to sum up what the whole Bible tells us about God.

Let’s start with the message of the Old Testament. Eighteen centuries before the birth of Jesus, God spoke to Abram and told him to leave his home and the gods of his ancestors and to travel to a new land where he was to learn to put his faith in God Almighty, the one true God. We have no idea how God spoke to Abram; perhaps it was a similar experience to the RAF officer in C.S. Lewis’ story. But we need to get through our heads what a revolutionary thing was happening in the experience of Abram and his descendants.

The nations around these early Hebrews worshipped many gods, and when we read the stories and legends about them today - whether they’re Canaanite, Greek, Roman, or any other - there are a couple of things which strike us. First of all, these gods are more like superheroes than gods. They sound like extra-powerful human beings. Secondly, they have all the weaknesses and failings of human beings. They get angry and fight each other; they desire human women and design ways to gratify their desires. These gods aren’t especially moral, and we can’t imagine any of them putting together anything remotely resembling the Ten Commandments. They are also unpredictable, and since you’re never quite sure how they’re going to feel in any given situation you have to be extremely careful to stay on the right side of them.

You could say that the whole Old Testament is a record of how the one True God, the Creator of heaven and earth, revealed himself to his people and tried to correct these false ideas that they had about him. They were starting out with the idea of there being many different gods, each of them with their own patch of land. So when they moved from Egypt to Canaan, they thought it would be wise to learn about the gods of Canaan so they could stay on the right side of them. It took centuries for them to get it through their heads that there was only one God, and that he was not just a part of creation, but the Creator of all of it. It also took them centuries to understand how vitally important it was to this one true God that they not just offer him expensive sacrifices and dazzling worship services, but actually obey his commandments and live a different kind of life. After all, the gods of the nations around them didn’t come with these demands about absolute justice and loving your neighbour as yourself and not going in to cult prostitutes and all that! It was hard for the Israelites to grasp the idea that their god - who was actually the one true God - was different – the word the Bible uses is holy - and he was calling them to be holy as well.

But eventually they did get it through their heads. By the time of Jesus they firmly believed there are not many gods, but only one God. He is not a part of creation, but is himself the Creator of everything. And the way to serve this One True God is to obey his commandments.

Now we move on to the Gospels. Keep in mind what we’ve just said about the Jewish people in the time of Jesus - they believed firmly in the idea of One True God, the maker of everything. In other words, the Jews were the last people on earth to expect that God - or a god - would actually walk around the earth in human form. To Greeks or Romans it wasn’t an unusual idea - they had lots of stories of their gods doing just that. But for Jews, the idea of one true invisible God was so strong that it was unthinkable that he could actually appear in human form. To them, this idea was blasphemy.

Enter Jesus of Nazareth. This Galilean rabbi begins his ministry and gathers a group of disciples around him, and these disciples gradually begin to notice two things about their Master. The first is his simple goodness – his personal holiness and his love for people. When the sick come to him, he heals them. He reaches out to people on the margins of the society of his day and draws them in. He teaches the truth about God in such a memorable way that two thousand years later we still see his teaching as the highest revelation of what God is like. And he not only teaches the truth; he practices it as well. So he doesn’t just tell his disciples to love their enemies; when he is arrested and crucified, he himself loves his enemies and prays for those who are busy killing him.

But on the other hand there were so many disturbing things about Jesus. Like the time when people brought a sick man to him and he said to the man “Your sins are forgiven”. Who did he think he was, forgiving the man’s sins as if he was God? Only God can forgive sins, and the way it worked was for people to go to the Temple and offer him an animal sacrifice. Now here was Jesus, acting as if the Temple was unnecessary; all you had to do was believe in him - a mere human being - and your sins would be forgiven. But it got even more confusing. He said things like “I and the Father are one”, and “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”, and “No one can come to the Father except through me”.

It’s not that Jesus ever actually got up and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am God!” What he did was to walk around casually acting and speaking in ways that the people of his time considered to be only appropriate for God. Not surprisingly, some people got offended. Even his family thought he was out of his mind.

But the thing that really forced his followers to take him seriously was the Resurrection. To the writers of the New Testament, the Resurrection was a vindication of all that Jesus had said and done. It was God’s endorsement of his ministry, God’s acceptance of his sacrifice on the Cross, God’s victory over the power of evil, God’s declaration that Jesus was indeed his Son and that we’d better listen. And before too long followers of Jesus were following the example of their Master and talking about him in ways that the Old Testament uses to talk about God alone. Paul, for instance, about thirty years after the death of Jesus, says “At the name of Jesus every knee should bend...and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil.2:10-11). But in the Old Testament the name ‘Lord’ is applied only to God, and in Isaiah 45:23 God says ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear’.

So this is where we stand at the end of the Gospels. We have a group of Hebrew Christians who believed everything that the Jews believed about God - that there is only one God, that he is invisible and not an idol, that he is the Creator of everything and that he wants people to obey his commandments. And yet at the same time, what they had experienced in Jesus left them convinced that through him they had met God in a unique way. And they had to find some way of thinking and speaking about Jesus that made sense of that experience.

Now we turn to the rest of the New Testament - the Acts of the Apostles and their letters. Jesus had ascended into heaven and they no longer saw him, and of course God the Creator had always been high and lifted up beyond human imagination. Nevertheless, in these books we don’t get the sense that God or Jesus are far away. Rather, the early Christians continue to experience them as a living reality.

How is this continuing experience of God to be explained? The writers of the New Testament link it to a promise that Jesus made to them. He had told them that he was going to send them another helper just like him, who would be with them forever. “You already know him”, Jesus said, “because he is with you already, but the new thing is that he will be in you”. And before he ascended into heaven he told them to wait in Jerusalem to be filled with the Holy Spirit, who would continue to connect them with him and would give them the strength to do the things he had told them to do.

This living experience of the Holy Spirit shines through the pages of Acts and of the letters of the apostles. To the early Christians it is an astonishing thing: God is in heaven, and Jesus has returned to heaven to be with the Father, and yet God is also living in their hearts and in their little Christian communities! And they had to find a way of thinking and speaking about God that made sense of what they were experiencing.

So the early Christians experienced God as their Creator and lawgiver, they experienced God in Jesus, and now they were continuing to experience God’s presence in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. And so even though the word ‘Trinity’ doesn’t appear in the Bible, we very quickly begin to see hints of it. Jesus himself brackets the three together when he tells his followers to baptize people “ the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), and Paul also links them in the famous words at the end of 2 Corinthians: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you’ (13:13).

St. Augustine once said, ‘If you think you understand it, it isn’t God!’ So let’s not be surprised that God is above our understanding! Pinning down exactly what we mean by the Trinity is really tricky. There are two extremes that we know are wrong. One extreme is worshipping three gods - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No, they aren’t three, because God is One. And yet even when we say ‘God is one’ we know there’s more to it than that, so that extreme is wrong as well. After all, we say ‘God is love’ - not just ‘God loves’ but ‘God is love’. But if God is simply one, how can he be love? You can’t have love without relationship!

And I want to end this morning by talking about relationship. The Trinity is not just an amazing idea for us to try to understand - it’s a way of experiencing God. Even when we pray we are experiencing God in this way. We are praying to God, and yet we also know that most of what we know about God we learned from Jesus, and that Jesus is with us in the room, standing beside us and helping us. And we also know that the Holy Spirit is living in us and giving us the words to pray. So even the simple act of prayer is an experience of the Trinity. So is obedience: we try to do the will of God, which Jesus has revealed to us, with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

We started out with the illustration of a map of the Rocky Mountains. I want to close with another map story. When I was in the Arctic I discovered that the older Inuit in the community used maps quite differently from the way I use them. I use a map when I’m planning a trip, to find out how to get to the place I want to reach. The older Inuit used the map after the trip, to show other people where they’d been! Well, as I try to understand God right now I’m using the map - the doctrine of the Trinity - in my way, trying to plan the trip. But as I get to know God better and better, the day will come when I’m able to use the map as those older Inuit do, to describe to people what I’ve experienced. ‘Now’, says Paul, ‘we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). That’s the kind of experience of God I want!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sermon for May 23rd: Ephesians 5:18-21

Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

Today is the day of Pentecost, sometimes called the birthday of the Christian Church – the day we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first followers of Jesus in Jerusalem in fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that his disciples would be baptized in the Holy Spirit and would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. We’ve heard the story in our first reading for today: the believers were all together in one place when they heard the sound of a mighty wind that filled the room, and they saw little tongues of flame that rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them that ability. This was evidently a noisy event; a crowd began to gather, and some of the languages were recognised. People began to ask questions – some even asked if the disciples were drunk – not, I suspect, a question that’s asked very often about people coming out of church at St. Margaret’s on a Sunday morning!

But I’m not going to preach on this passage this morning. Instead, I want to follow up on a scripture verse that Lloyd mentioned in his sermon last week. Lloyd gave me a bit of a challenge last week; he sort of ignored the Ascension Day theme and gave a bit of a preview of the coming of the Holy Spirit instead, and then he said that he was sure I’d be able to come up with more to say about the Holy Spirit this week. Well, I never could resist a challenge like that, and as it happened, he mentioned in passing a scripture verse that is kind of connected to our Acts reading for today. Funnily enough, the connection is the theme of drunkenness! Listen to these words from the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

‘Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ’ (Ephesians 5:18-21).

In the original language of the New Testament this whole paragraph is one long sentence; apparently Paul’s fourth-grade language arts teacher hadn’t told him that you shouldn’t do that! If you’ll forgive me for using grammatical speak for a minute, it’s a double imperative, followed by four participles! The double imperative is ‘Don’t get drunk, but be filled with the Holy Spirit’, and then the sentence proceeds without a break into the participles, which the NRSV translates as ‘singing, singing, thanking, submitting’.

What’s the relationship between the imperatives and the participles? Many commentators think it’s a cause and effect thing: if we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, the consequences are that we will worship God joyfully, live thankfully and submit to one another. But I think it’s more of a circular scenario: we are filled with the Holy Spirit, which leads us to worship joyfully, be thankful, and submit to one another, which helps us to continue walking in the Spirit, which helps us to continue to worship and thank and submit, and so on.

So let’s look a bit more closely at this; let’s think for a minute about this comparison between drunkenness and being filled with the Holy Spirit. There is of course a certain superficial similarity between the two conditions. We sometimes say that a person who is drunk is ‘under the influence of alcohol’, and the same is true when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit: they are definitely ‘under the influence’ of the Spirit. Furthermore, a person who is drunk often seems to be happy – at least until the hangover sets in – and the Holy Spirit also brings us joy, but without the hangover!

But of course there are also differences. We sometimes think about people being stimulated by alcohol, but any pharmacist can tell you that alcohol is not a stimulant – it is a depressant. It depresses first and foremost the control centres of the brain – everything that gives us self-control, wisdom, understanding, the ability to make the right choices and act appropriately in a given situation. This is why people are so often embarrassed on the morning after a binge, when they find out what they’ve done ‘under the influence’. And of course alcohol also depresses our reactions and responses, so that a person under the influence is a danger to other drivers on the road and a danger in social circles when they respond inappropriately to what others say and do.

Alcohol is a depressant, but the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is a true stimulant! A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit is truly stimulated in the best sense of the word! Every part of their personality is effected: their thinking is clearer, their imagination is broader, their joy is deeper, their self-control is stronger, their love is more far-reaching, and so on. Paul says that drunkenness leads to ‘debauchery’ – wild, dissolute, out-of-control behaviour – but the Holy Spirit makes us truly human, because he makes us like our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, Paul says, don’t get drunk with wine! I’ve got a better idea: be filled with the Holy Spirit! And the reality of being filled with the Holy Spirit is right at the centre of our practical Christian living. You can’t answer the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ and then put your answer into practice without being filled with the Holy Spirit, because it’s the Spirit who transforms us into the image of Christ, and it’s the Spirit who grows in us his fruit of love and joy and peace and patience and self control and so on.

Furthermore, this experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit isn’t just a one off thing. We all know we have to gas up our cars on a regular basis; none of us is foolish enough to think that when the dealer fills it up for you before you drive it off the lot, that’s the last fill up you’re ever going to need! And the grammatical tense that Paul uses in the original language here underlines for us the fact that we need a repeated filling with the Holy Spirit; it literally means ‘Go on and on being filled with the Holy Spirit’. The gift of the Spirit was given to every one of us when we put our faith in Jesus, but apparently there’s still a daily replenishment of his love and power that’s necessary for all of us if we’re to live as Jesus taught us.

So much for the imperatives; now let’s look at the participles, the things that go along with being filled with the Spirit. As we’ve said, there’s a circular relationship here; being filled with the Holy Spirit helps us worship and give thanks and submit to one another, and then worshipping and thanking and submitting to one another keep us in the place where the Holy Spirit can continue to fill us. I’ve said that there are four participles, but two of them are pretty much the same, so let’s call it three. The first is joyful worship. Verses 18-19 say:

‘Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Holy Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts…’

What Paul has in mind here may include the singing and worshipping that we do when we gather together on Sundays, but it certainly isn’t restricted to that. I’m reminded of the story Luke tells us in Acts of how Paul and Silas were arrested in the city of Philippi; they were whipped until their backs bled, and then taken to the town jail and fastened in the stocks. We can imagine how easy it would be in that situation to indulge yourself in a pity-party, but Paul and Silas would have none of it. Acts tells us that ‘About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them’ (Acts 16:25).

And this is not something that only happens in Bible times. Many of you know that I spent my sabbatical leave three years ago reading about the spirituality of the Anabaptist movement – the ancestors of the modern Mennonite and Hutterite traditions. Many of those people were viciously persecuted by Catholics and Protestants alike in the sixteenth century; they were drowned in rivers and burned at the stake for their faith. But over and over again, in the stories of their martyrdoms, we notice the same detail: as the flames were licking up around them, they were singing to God and speaking to each other in the words of scripture to encourage each other to be faithful. This is not something that I can imagine myself being capable of doing. I know that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Note also how this is connected to singing: ‘as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts…’. Singing songs engages our hearts and our minds. The repetition and memorization of spiritual songs fixes the truth of God in our hearts, and so singing songs of worship is a wonderful way of centering ourselves day by day on God and paying attention to the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

And this is such an incredibly practical thing for us in our daily living. So many of us live in situations of tremendous stress, whether because of our work, or the demands of caring for small children or elderly parents, or the loss of a job or struggles with addictions and so on. It’s so easy for us to become the victims of our circumstances – to allow our mood to be dictated by the stress that we’re going through, rather than being able to rise above it. But here Paul is offering us a better way: pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and then sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. And so in the midst of our struggles we can discover a fresh joy that comes from God’s Holy Spirit.

And of course this is directly connected to the second thing: gratitude. Listen to what Paul says in verse 20:

‘giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

This one is so important in our part of the world; I really think that we live in a culture obsessed with grumbling, complaining, criticizing and finding fault. I know this struggle myself: Marci says that when it comes to the Winnie the Pooh stories, I’m definitely Eeyore! It’s so easy for us to be ‘glass half empty’ rather than ‘glass half full’ people – but when we meet true ‘glass half full’ people, we know it’s the better way.

This spirit of gratitude really demonstrates the circular relationship between being filled with the Holy Spirit and the things that follow. Yes, the Holy Spirit makes us thankful – but thankfulness is also a decision that we make, opening us up to further fillings with the Holy Spirit. The old song tells us ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done’. This gratitude is a discipline, too – a discipline of intentionally focussing on the gifts that God has given to us and thanking him for them every day.

So we’ve thought about joyful worship and a thankful heart. The third thing Paul mentions here is mutual submission; verse 21 says, ‘Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ’. This verse leads to one of the most controversial passages in all of Paul’s letters: his instructions to wives to submit to their husbands. Unfortunately, people often get so angry about this that they fail to notice that the passage begins with this command for all Christians - not just wives, but all Christians – to submit to one another.

Remember, as I’ve said before, the happy co-incidence that in the English language the word ‘sin’ has an ‘I’ in the middle of it – and when I am in the centre of my own life, wanting everything my own way, thinking that it’s all about me, then that is the very epitome of a state of sin. Submission is the discipline of letting go of the need to have everything the way I want it. We submit first of all to Christ, because he is our Lord, and then to his people, because they are our sisters and brothers in him, and we are called to love them as he does.

There’s a wonderful example of this in the Old Testament story of Abraham. God had promised Abraham that the whole land of Canaan would belong to his descendants, but Abraham and his nephew Lot had prospered so much, and their flocks and herds were so big, that the area where they were living could no longer support them both. So Abraham suggested to Lot that they part company, and he said to him, ‘You can have first choice of the land’. Lot of course chose the best land, near the city of Sodom, but in the end his choice led to grief for him: Genesis tells us that the people of Sodom were great sinners against the Lord, and when God judged them for their sin, Lot got caught up in it. Abraham on the other hand was blessed by the Lord, and God reassured him that the whole land - including the bit he’d just given to Lot – would belong to his descendants.

This matter of submitting to one another is so important; it’s impossible for us to continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit if we will insist on having things our own way all the time. The way forward is to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and this will lead us to new growth in the Holy Spirit.

So we’re told to go on and on being filled with the Holy Spirit, singing and worshipping the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks to God continually, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Let me close by going back to the beginning and saying that this all depends on the Holy Spirit. And we can’t control the Holy Spirit: there’s no infallible formula, no magic prayer that we insert like a coin into a vending machine in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that the Spirit is like the wind: he blows where he will, and no one can control him. All we can do is ask the Spirit to fill us, and then pay attention to his presence with us and keep in step with his leadings.

So on this Pentecost Sunday, let’s pray that the same Holy Spirit who filled the apostles will also fill us - not just once, but every day. Let’s start each day with the prayer that the Spirit would fill us, and then let’s let him lead us through the day in worship, singing to God in our hearts, living in gratitude and in humble submission to one another. In this way we can continue to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and receive the strength we need to live as Jesus taught us.

May 24 - 30


Monday, May 24th

Tim’s Day Off

Office Closed

Tuesday, May 25th

Tim’s Day Off

Office Closed in Lieu of Victoria Day

Thursday, May 27th

7:00 am Men’s and Women’s Bible Study at Bogani CafĂ©

2:00 pm Women’s Bible study at Marg Rys’s house

2:00 pm Tim at BARDS meeting

Saturday, May 29th

9:30 – 12:00 General Synod Information event at St. Pauls in Leduc

Sunday, May 30th - Trinity

9:00 am Holy Communion

10:30 am Morning Worship

Growing Prayer at St.Margaret’s

Each week we offer special prayers for two families in our congregation.

Church Families:

Lloyd and Char Dennis

Martin, Sarah and Matthew Doyle

Weekly Prayer Cycle: Prayer Team

St. Margaret’s Summer Bulletin Campaign

This summer we would like to see what churches were visited over the summer months. When you are on holidays we ask that you bring the bulletins from the churches attended back to St. Margaret’s and post them on the board in the foyer.

CAMTA Outreach Totals: $1770


Volunteers Needed for Spring Clean-up: Now that the weather has turned and I hope we can safely say there won't be any more snow for a while (I hope I didn't jinx it!), we need help with picking up garbage and debris that has accumulated on the property over the winter. We would like to do it after the 10:30 service on Sunday May 30th. Garbage bags and latex gloves will be provided; however, people can bring their own work gloves if they desire.

Annual Fellowship Barbeque - June 26th: Held at the Rice’s acreage. You are invited at arrive anytime after 3pm. This is a potluck supper. If anyone has a set of horse shoes (the game) or a volley ball net, or any other appropriate BBQ games would you please let the church office know or Beryl Rice.

The Anglican Journal Circulation has asked that we update the mailing list. Please let the church office know if your address has changed, you are not currently receiving a copy of the Anglican Journal and would like to, or if you would like to be removed from the mailing list. Please let me know of any necessary changes on or before June 11, 2010.

Friday, May 21, 2010

June Roster

June 6 – Pentecost 2 - Eucharist – Combined Coffee

Greeter/Sidespeople: C.&M. Aasen and K.&A. Shutt

Counter: C. Aasen/ T. Cromarty

Reader: C. Aasen

Readings: 1 Kings 17:8-24, Psalm 146, Galatians 1:11-24

Lay Reader: E. Gerber Luke 7:11-17

Lay Administrants: G. Hughes/E. Gerber

Intercessor: M. Rys

Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M. Lobreau/10:30 L. Schindel

Prayer Team: M. Chesterton/M. Rys

Nursery Supervisor: K. Hughes

Sunday School: M. Cromarty

Kitchen: - 9:45 am J. Mill and A. Martens

June 13 10:00 am– Pentecost 3 - Confirmation

Greeter/Sidespeople: G.&K. Hughes and

S.& A. Martens

Counter: G. Hughes/B. Popp

Reader: V. Haase

Readings: 1 Kings 21:1-21a, Psalm 5:1-8, Galatians 2:15-21 *Note Readings may be changed

Lay Reader: L. Thompson Luke 7:36-8:3

Lay Administrants: C. Aasen/L. Thompson

Intercessor: C. Aasen (use Confirmation litany BAS p. 627)

Altar Guild (White): 10:00 L. Pyra

Prayer Team: L. Sanderson/E. Gerber

Nursery Supervisor: M. Aasen

Sunday School: C. Ripley

Kitchen: L. Popp and V. Haase

June 20 – Pentecost – Eucharist

Greeter/Sidespeople: D.&E. Mitty and B. Cavey

Counter: E. Mitty/B. Rice

Reader: T. Cromarty

Readings: 1 Kings19:1-15a, Psalm 42&43, Galatians 3:23-29

Lay Reader: D. MacNeill Luke 8:26-39

Lay Administrants: D. MacNeill/E. Gerber

Intercessor: L. Thompson

Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 M. Woytkiw/10:30 K. Hughes

Prayer Team: M. Chesterton/S. Jayakaran

Nursery Supervisor: T. Laffin

Sunday School: B. Rice

Kitchen: M. Rys and G. Enns

June 27 – Pentecost 5 – Morning Worship

Greeter/Sidespeople: B. & L. Popps

Counter: B. Popp/B. Rice

Reader: T. Wittkopf

Readings: 2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14, Psalm 77:1-2,11-20, Galatians 5:1,13-25

Lay Reader: E. Gerber Luke 9:51-62

Intercessor: T. Chesterton

Altar Guild (Green): 9:00 J. Mill/10:30 Worship

Nursery Supervisor: G. Hughes

Sunday School: P. Rayment

Kitchen: M. Chesterton and K. Goddard

Sermon for Sunday May 16th

Sermon May 16, 2010 St. Margaret’s Anglican Church

May the words of my mouth, and the thoughts of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.

I remember hearing Rev. Harold Percy give a sermon at St. Timothy’s many years ago.

It was on the Sunday morning of a week-end Synod, and the thing he said that I remember most clearly, was that after the first two minutes of most sermons, the listeners tuned out and started indulging in fantasies of various kinds, including sexual fantasies!

Honest, that’s what I remember he said!

I do also remember staying the course and listening to the whole sermon, which lasted some fifteen minutes.

His point, I think, was to make the sermon short and sweet - and then he proceeded to make it long….and interesting!

Rev. Percy may have been laying a guilt trip on his listeners so that they’d pay attention to the whole sermon.

You can be assured that this is NOT my intention in mentioning that incident!

In this sermon, I’ll try to come in under the Anglican time limit, which is about 12 minutes, I think. Right, Tim? (If you’re timing me subtract the time for my intro. And remember, I speak more deliberately than Tim.

Today is celebrated as Ascension Sunday, so, not surprisingly, the Gospel reading and the reading from Acts refer directly to the ascension of Jesus.

They both also refer to waiting for the Spirit’s coming - in Acts 1:8, and Luke 24:47-48.

{(It was only after I began to prepare this message that it occurred to me that next week is Pentecost, and that Tim might also be basing his message on the coming of the Holy Spirit. My immediate response to that thought was - “Sorry, Tim, I got here first!” The next thought which came hard on the heels of the first one, was that Tim was a far more experienced preacher than I was, so that would be no problem.

Following quickly after that thought - and sent by the Holy Spirit, I’m sure, was the revelation that the Word of God can be mined extensively by different people on the same subject, without exhausting what it has to say.

So….I press on.

The Acts of the Apostles, which was written by Luke, might more properly be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit thro’ the apostles - specifically Paul and his companions, and Peter and John.

Mention is also made of Philip and James, but Acts is largely an account of the work of the Spirit through Peter and Paul especially, in spreading the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples just before he leaves them to ascend into Heaven “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

In Luke 24;49, he tells them “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The juxta-position of receiving power, and witnessing in Jerusalem and “all the ends of the earth, ”is no co-incidence.

It is clear that what Jesus is saying, is that they could only be reliable, confident witnesses after the power of the Holy Spirit had come upon them.

As the Book of Acts tells the story, they certainly were!

The evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit in the witness of the apostles immediately brought a question to my mind - Why isn’t the power of the Holy Spirit compelling in our western world?

Could it be that the Spirit has lost his ability to galvanize us into action? He certainly seems to be visibly active in the so-called developing world where tales of miracles and mass conversions are frequently told.

No, more likely, I thought, is that we are ‘quenching the Spirit’s fire’, in the words of 1 Th.5:19.

Maybe we have embraced a mechanical attitude towards worship that inhibits the type of enthusiasm and commitment that would impel us to be witnesses to Jesus Christ in our lives and in our words.

This reflection led me to remember a story I heard about a man who attended church at Easter. On his way out after the service, as he was shaking the pastor’s hand, the pastor pulled him aside and said “You need to join the Lord’s army!” In no way perturbed, he replied, “I am in the army of the Lord!” “So how come I only see you at Christmas and Easter?” Lowering his voice, he replied “I’m in the Secret Service!”

We need to be in the Public Service not the Secret Service as we witness for Jesus Christ.

The apostles were spurred into action after they received the Spirit at Pentecost. They were eager and excited to be witnesses for Christ as the Spirit filled them to overflowing.

Now, whereas they had to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to wait - the Holy Spirit became our permanent possession the moment we believed in Christ and put our trust in Him.

Salvation, says Acts 4:12, comes to the world thro’ Christ alone. Romans 10:13,14 says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?………..”

We have all been sent. The injunction to the Apostles to be Jesus’ witnesses ‘to all the ends of the earth applies equally to us.

Is it then, because we’re not filled with the Spirit why we’re not fired up to witness to the power and love of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Being filled with the Spirit, according to the N.I.V. Study Bible, is to be under God’s control. When St. Paul says in Eph. 5:18 “Do not get drunk, instead be filled with the Spirit” he is contrasting the destructive influence of the intoxicating effect of wine, with the enabling, life-giving and fruit-bearing power of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit-bearing Spirit that produces in us love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, is the same Spirit that empowers us as we witness to Jesus Christ’s saving grace. (If you’re like me, you probably prefer to be filled with love, joy, peace etc. than to be galvanized into action by the Spirit who descends like a mighty rushing wind. But this is the same Spirit, and if we’re filled with Him, ALL these aspects will be evident in our behaviour.)

We have the same power that filled the apostles at Pentecost - we may not feel like it , but we do!

Oswald Chambers, the respected English Bible expositor says “The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our total dependence on Him will be the very moment when the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.

As Eph.1:13 reminds us - “…when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation, having believed him, you were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit..” And 2 Tim.1:7 says “…..the Spirit that God gave us is no craven Spirit, but one to inspire strength, love and self-discipline..” This is the Spirit that dwells in all of us believers. As Paul tells us in Eph.4:4 “there is one Body and one Spirit.”

Furthermore, Jesus told his disciples in Mark 13:9-11 “…..on account of me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the Gospel must first be preached to all nations… Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry before-hand of what to say. Just say whatever is given to you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit….”.

Those wonderful words of assurance by God in Is.55:10-11 tell us …‘as the rain and the snow come down from Heaven,

and do not return to it without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish……….

so is my word …….it will accomplish what I desire……..’

What all these quotations (and many others) are telling us is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, empower us, and inspire us in our witness, so we can witness to ‘all the world’ without fear or reluctance.

Let us pray, that as we study the Word of God, as we pray to Him, assemble with fellow-believers, and dedicate our lives to God’s service i.e as we die to self and live for Jesus; the Spirit, which God gave to us as a seal of salvation, -( Eph.1:13)- the Spirit, which is not a Spirit of fear but a Spirit of power and love,-( 2Tim.1:7) - this same Spirit who fell on the disciples at Pentecost, will fill us to overflowing, so that, like those apostles, we will be witnesses to the sustaining love and the enabling power of our Lord Jesus Christ.