Friday, June 29, 2012

July 2nd - July 8th, 2012

Weekly Calendar

(Jen is on holidays until July 19th, 2012)
July 2nd, 2012  Office is closed.
July 8th, 2012   6th Sunday after Pentecost
9:00 am Holy Communion
10:30 am Holy Communion

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sermon for June 24th: Luke 1:67-80

Into the Way of Peace

One of my favourite things to do is to get people to sit down together in groups and tell each other the story of how God has worked in their lives. Most of us aren’t dynamic, extroverted evangelists and we get a bit nervous at the idea of trying to explain Christian beliefs to others, but telling our own story isn’t so very threatening. You might remember that a couple of months ago we actually did that here on a Sunday morning, when I asked Alex Blasius, Doug Schindel, and Catherine Ripley to let me interview them at sermon time about their Christian journeys; we’re going to do that sort of thing again before too long.

Often our biggest fear is that others might find our story boring, but in fact that very rarely happens. I’ve got people together to share their stories with each other many times, and I’ve never heard the listeners complain about being bored. And why should that surprise us? After all, who is the author of our stories? Do you think that God writes boring stories?

I wonder how you would tell someone else about your journey into Christian faith? As I look back on my own story, three words come to mind: ‘preparation’, ‘encounter’, and ‘change’. I thought about these words this week as I was reading the Song of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79, which is our gospel reading for today, the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist. This is the song that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, sang over his baby son when he was given the name ‘John’. I want to start out by reminding you of a verse near the end of the song, verse 76:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways”.

John the Baptist was the Lord’s forerunner - he went ahead of Jesus to prepare for his coming. The Gospels tell us that he did that by telling people that the kingdom of God was coming, by calling them to turn from their sins, and by pointing to Jesus when he finally arrived. Once Jesus was on the scene, John couldn’t wait to get out of his way; “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John’s role was to prepare the way for Jesus, to point people to him, and to rejoice when they made the decision to become followers of Jesus.

This was the first stage in my Christian journey, the stage of preparation. No-one just decides to become a follower of Jesus without something happening to prepare the way. It might be special people that God puts into our lives - parents, friends, ministers. It might be circumstances we go through that make it clear to us that without God we can’t make sense of our lives. It might be books we read or meetings we go to. It might be a combination of all those things and more besides.

When I ask myself ‘What people and events did God use to set me on the road to Christ?’ I can think of several. Undoubtedly the first would be the influence of parents who knew and loved Jesus, and made it their business to teach me the Bible stories from my earliest years. Like many of you, I can’t remember the first time I heard the story of Jesus - I feel as if I’ve always known it. Nor can I remember my first prayer, although I’m sure I prayed it with my parents.

The Christian Church played a ‘John the Baptist, role in my life too. I was carried to St. Barnabas’ Church, Leicester long before I could walk, I was baptised there before I was two months old, and from then on I was taken to church every Sunday of my life. Undoubtedly this participation in worship from my earliest years helped lead me to Jesus.

A third ‘John the Baptist’ figure in my life was a little paperback book, Nine O’Clock in the Morning, by Dennis Bennett, that my Dad gave me to read when I was thirteen. In this book I read about personal experiences of the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. I read about miracles, gifts of healing, dynamic and immediate experiences of God and so on. This book really whetted my appetite for God and got me on the fast track in my journey toward Christ.

What about you? When you look back on your own life and ask yourself the question ‘How did God prepare the way for Jesus in my life?’ I wonder what story you can tell? Are there people who modeled the Christian faith for you and taught you about Jesus? Are there particular circumstances you went through - perhaps a difficult time or maybe even a happy time - circumstances that pointed you to God? Who or what did the job of ‘John the Baptist’ for you - pointing you toward Jesus? Who or what did God use to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ in your life?

If the first stage in my Christian journey was preparation; the second was encounter. Let’s look again at Luke 1:76-77:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins”.

In the Old Testament – which would have been Zechariah’s Bible – the word ‘knowledge’ doesn’t very often refer to just knowing the facts in your head; rather, it’s about experience. ‘The knowledge of salvation’ means the experience of salvation; in other words, the experience of God coming into your life and rescuing you from things you could never save yourself from, and restoring you to a living relationship with him. ‘Sins’ are mentioned here because they are one of the major barriers in the way of a living relationship with God. Contrary to popular opinion, Christians don’t ‘go on and on about sin’ because we’re morbid; we talk about it because we want to know God, and we find that sin gets in the way of that knowledge. So before our relationship with God can be restored, our sins have to be forgiven, and this is what we experience through Jesus.

At the age of thirteen I had a quiet encounter with God, when I prayed a prayer giving my life to Jesus and asking him to come into my heart. I’m one of those who can remember the time and place when this happened for me: March 5th 1972, in my bedroom. Of course, there are many people who have made a living connection with God through Jesus who can’t remember when or how they did it. But there are also churchgoing people who have never made that connection, and so are desperately trying to get through their lives with only the institution of the church to help them, and not a living relationship with God. To people like that Jesus says ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28).
I have no recollection myself of the words I prayed that night, but I’m sure they weren’t very sophisticated. I was hungry for God, and I’d been told that giving my life to Jesus was the next step on the journey. I’m sure that’s how I would have worded my prayer: a giving over of my life to Jesus as Lord. Very simple, but I can say now without a doubt that it was the most decisive moment of my life.

In the long history of Christian spirituality, some of our greatest teachers have often talked about this experience of conversion as an experience of surrender – the surrender of control over our own lives, and a submitting of ourselves to the loving will of God. It’s a happy accident that in the English language the word ‘sin’ has an ‘I’ at the centre of it, and when I am at the centre of my own life – when I am on the throne, or when I see myself as the lead character in my own play, with everyone else, including God, just there for my benefit – then that is really the essence of sin. But conversion involves intentionally getting off the throne of my own life and letting God’s anointed King, Jesus Christ, take his rightful place there. In that moment - or process - of surrender, human beings often have profound experiences of encounter with the living God.
I’ve said that the first stage of my story was preparation, and the second stage was encounter; I would call the third stage simply change, ongoing change. Look at verses 78-79:
“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace”.

One of the earliest names for Christians was ‘Followers of the Way’. There was a way of life that went along with being a Christian, and Christians had to learn it. Zechariah calls this way of life ‘the way of peace’, and he tells us that Jesus will guide our feet into it.

As baptized followers of Jesus we commit ourselves to following his example and obeying his teaching – indeed, that will be a central part of the baptismal promises the parents and godparents will make in a few moments - and this certainly involves change for us all. It means that we are continually rebuilding our lives according to the blueprint Jesus gives us in the Gospels. Instead of living by the values of the materialistic world around us, we’re learning to live by the values of the Kingdom of God - love for God and love for our neighbours.

I think it’s telling that Zechariah uses the word ‘peace’ to describe the Christian way. The word he would have used in his own language was ‘shalom’, which means far more than just ‘the absence of war’. It means wholeness, life on this planet as God originally intended it, an end to greed and violence, and a world characterized by justice and peace. That’s the way of life Jesus is teaching us, and he is with us to help us as we grow and learn.

If I were to ask myself the question, “What difference is following Jesus making in my life today?” I would think immediately of two main things . First, I pray every day, and in my times of prayer I often sense God’s quiet presence with me. I’d be totally lost without those prayer times. I’d feel completely rootless and abandoned in a scary world. But when I pray, day by day, either by myself or with Marci, I get a deep sense of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in my heart, and the peace that comes from him. That’s what helps me make it through the rest of the day.
The other thing is that Jesus is teaching me how to live. I struggle with the same sins as most other people. The temptations of a materialistic world are all around me, and I get sucked into believing that buying and owning more stuff will make me happy, just like everyone else does. But then I come back to the Gospels, and I read what Jesus has to say there, and then I look at my life and I say, “Yes, it looks like you’re right again, Lord!” And so, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I’m trying to bring my life into line with what I read there.

I wonder what difference being a follower of Jesus is making in your life at this point? It doesn’t have to be something dramatic. Perhaps you find yourself thinking sometimes ‘Well, God must have helped me through that difficult time, because I sure couldn’t have got through it by myself’. Or, perhaps there’s an issue in your life, some habit or behaviour pattern that Jesus is helping you to change right now, in order to bring it into line with his teaching. Maybe there’s a particular command of Jesus you’re working on, trying to learn to obey it. What difference is it making to you right now to be a follower of Jesus? And if the honest answer to that question is “not really very much”, then is it time to pray about that, and to ask God what he wants to do in your life, in a practical, concrete way?

So these are three stages I have gone through on my Christian journey - preparation, encounter, and change. I suspect I’m not alone in that; I suspect that many of us go through these kinds of experiences as we journey on the way of Christ.

Let’s close this morning by asking ourselves what the next step on that journey might be for us. Perhaps we haven’t yet had a moment of genuine encounter with the living God; maybe we need to ask someone to help us with that. Maybe there are some questions that are still troubling us that we need to talk to someone about. Maybe we’re aware of a change that God wants us to make in our lives, and we’ve been resisting it for one reason or another. Or maybe we realise that we’re at the point where a simple prayer giving our lives to Jesus would make all the difference in our journey with God.

Let’s close by taking a moment of silence. In that silence, let’s each of us talk to God in our hearts about what the next step in our journey might be, and let’s make the response to which we feel God is calling us. Don’t worry about getting the words right; God knows what’s on your heart. Let’s pray.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 25th - July 2nd, 2012

June 25th, 2012  Office is closed.
(Jen starts two days a week, Thurs. & Friday)
June 26th, 2012  Office is closed. Clergy Conference
June 27th, 2012  Office is closed. Clergy Conference
June 28th, 2012
7:00 am  Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies @ the Bogani Café
7:00 pm  Planning & Building Meeting
7:00 pm  Ordination @ the Cathedral
July 1st, 2012   5th Sunday after Pentecost
9:00 am Holy Communion
9:45 am Coffee between Services
10:30 am Holy Communion

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 3rd, 2012 by B. Popp

Trinity Sunday
June 3, 2012
One + One + One = ONE

Today is Trinity Sunday - a time to pause and reflect on the Christian understanding of God. Once a year it is good for us to contemplate the threefold nature of God. It is the first Sunday after Pentecost and honors the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three portions of one reality we call God! The post- Pentecost date acknowledges  the Trinity as the final celebration of the church year - after Christ's resurrection and ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Trinity Sunday has been especially popular in the Church of England since the consecration of Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury on Trinity Sunday in AD 1162.

The Christian Church ponders with joy and thanksgiving what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have done to accomplish the salvation of sinful humanity. It reminds us as Christians how we should respond to the love God has shown us, praising Him and giving Him glory! Celebrating the Trinity is celebrating a loving and dynamic God!

Trinity Sunday is one of the few feasts of the Christian year that celebrates a reality and a doctrine rather than an event or person. The concept of the Trinity is clearly taught in the scriptures although the word Trinity is not in the Bible. The scriptures play an important role in the debates over how best to express Christian belief in God. The idea of the Trinity is implicit throughout scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Matthew 28: 18-20 states " And Jesus came and said to them All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore  and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age."

The Trinity is one of the most fascinating - and controversial - dogmas. The concept of Trinity can never be completely understood or rationalized. The Trinity is a mystery - a reality above our human comprehension. How can 1+1+1=1 ? In Christianity's "new math" 1 equals one GOD!

The Trinity is best described in the words of the Nicene Creed. The Creed states:
"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of Heaven and earthWe believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of GodWe believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,Who proceeds from the Father.With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified."

Trinity is the belief that God is one in essence but three distinct persons. God the Father created the world through the Son and the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters at creation and has been doing so ever since! The Holy Spirit is the quiet member of the Trinity. The Spirit diverts attention from itself to Jesus - the Son! Without the Trinity we end up worshipping  a one-dimensional God, not the Triune God that has been revealed to us!

In his book "Mere Christianity" C. S. Lewis writes about "The Three-Personal God."
He states:
"People already knew about God in a vague way. Then came a man who claimed to be God: and yet He was not the sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic. He made them believe Him. They met Him again after they had seen Him killed. And then after they had been formed into a little society or community, they found God somehow inside them as well: directing them, making them able to do things they could not do before (perhaps the Holy Spirit?). And when they worked it all out they found they had arrived at the Christian definition of the three-personal God."

Not everyone celebrates the Holy Trinity. Since the advent of the internet many traditional Christians are coming into contact with groups that deny the concept of Trinity or a Triune God! Time does not permit an explanation of who these groups are. I can provide a website reference if you wish to pursue this further!

The Trinity is about a God for us who lived as a blessing for the poor and mourners, confronted the power of evil, intoned with compassion into the world of human suffering, broke down the barriers between human sin and divine holiness and reconciled enemies. The patterns of Jesus' life manifest the Triune God who is with us until the end of the age!

How do we explain the Holy Trinity in our everyday lives? What examples can we
use to illustrate 1+1+1=1? I recall from my early management and leadership training at university the analogy of a three-legged stool (sometimes used as a milking stool) as the strongest support available to a leadership team in any successful business. The seat of the stool holds  you and me, Christian brothers and sisters. The three legs are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit supporting us on a daily basis through the trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows of our journey here on earth and beyond.  To me the stool has always been a  visual symbol of God in three persons, blessed Trinity- the words from Hymn 286 in our orange hymn book! I also see the Trinity in a three leaf clover growing wild or in a field. It too is a reminder of the blessed Trinity we Christians know and love!

A little boy came home from Vacation Bible School one day and told his mom that the pastor had said that God was everywhere. "That's true" his mother said. "Is he in the oven when it is hot?" "Yes" replied the mother. "How about the cupboard?" "Yes" said the mother."How about in the fridge when the door is closed and the light is turned off?" "Yes" said the mother. "How about in the sugar bowl?" asked the boy as he took the lid off the bowl. "Well I suppose he is", answered the mother. The boy slammed the bowl shut and announced triumphantly: "Got him!" Of course, the mother had a lot more explaining to do!

This story illustrates that too often people view God just as the little boy did. They think that God can be put in a neat little package that they can understand and that they can control! We don't understand God completely and we certainly don't control Him! So 1+1+1=1 is still pretty much a mystery!

So next time someone asks you to explain the Trinity remember the following story as related by Desmond Tutu, in his book, Hope and Suffering. "Anthony Bloom, the Orthodox master of the spiritual life told the story of a simple Russian country priest who was confronted by an eminent scientist. This chap trotted out apparently devastating arguments against the existence of God and declared, "I don't believe in God." The unlettered priest retorted quickly, " Oh, it doesn't matter - God believes in you."

And that's what it all boils down to: God believes in us all. Whether we understand the Trinity or not, because God believes in us all, we are able to worship and serve God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel reading this morning we read about a conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews and Jesus. Jesus informed him that "no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (or born anew)".

Jesus also said that " no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit, meaning the Holy Spirit". Let us never forget that as baptized Christians we have the opportunity to enter the kingdom of God. Let us always follow the blessed Holy Trinity!

Let me close with the words from 2 Corinthians 13: 13

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the
 Holy Spirit be with all of you."


June 18 - 24, 2012

June 18th, 2012  Office is closed.
June 19th, 2012  Tim returns to work.
June 20th, 2012
7:15 Vestry Meeting
June 21st, 2012
7:00 am  Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies @ the Bogani Café
12:30 pm  NCWG Meeting
6:00 pm  DEC Meeting
June 22nd, 2012 
11:15 am Holy Communion @ St. Joseph’s Hospital
June 24th, 2012   Birth of St. John the Baptist
9:00 am Holy Communion
10:30 am Holy Communion, Sunday School and Baptisms

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 11 - 17, 2012

June 11th, 2012  Office is closed.
June 14th, 2012
Office will be open between 11:00am – 2:00 pm
7:00 am  Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies @ the Bogani Café
June 17th, 2012   3rd Sunday after Pentecost
9:00 am Morning Worship
10:30 am Morning Worship & Sunday School

Friday, June 1, 2012

Spaghetti Church

Spaghetti Church will break from June until the end of September 2012. Keep watch for start up dates in September.

Senior's Luncheon's

Seniors Luncheons will break from June 2012 until start up in September 2012. Keep posted for the date in September to join this fun filled group for lunch and fellowship!!!!

June 4th - 10th, 2012

June 4th, 2012  Office is closed.
June 7th, 2012
7:00 am  Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies @ the Bogani Café
June 10th, 2012   2nd Sunday after Pentecost
9:00 am Holy Communion With Rev. K. Kraglund
10:30 am Holy Communion With Rev. K. Kraglund & Sunday School