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.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Upcoming Events

Events This Week

Tim is away on vacation from August 27th to September 18th inclusive. Susan Ormsbee will be providing emergency pastoral care from Aug 27th to Sept 16th and can be reached at (780) 919-3060. David Thiessen will cover on Sept 17th and 18th and can be reached at (587) 983-9575.

Aug 27th and 28th 2018
Office is closed
Aug 29th and 30th 2018
10am – 1pm Melanie in the office
Aug 31st, 2018
Office is closed
Sept 2nd, 2018 (Pentecost 15) (Rev. Joanne Webster)
9:00am Holy Communion
10:30am Holy Communion

Please join us on Sunday September 9th for Welcome Back Sunday; this is an opportunity for us to get back into the swing of churchgoing after the summer break. For school age children we will have the blessing of backpacks at both services (so please remember to bring your kids backpacks!). At 10:30 we welcome the children back to Sunday School with registration taking place prior to the 10:30am service. We will also have a BBQ following this service. Everyone is welcome!


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

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 will be a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer in the next week or two. For more information, please visit www.faithpictures.org .


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!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fully Alive (a sermon for Pentecost 13 on John 6:51-58)


It’s a funny phrase, ‘Get a life’, but we all understand instinctively what it means. We understand that it’s possible to be alive in a biologicalsense, but still not to be experiencing reallife – what Jesus once referred to as ‘life in all its fulness’ or ‘abundant life’ – what we might paraphrase as being ‘fully alive’. We understand that people can be in good health, can be working hard and enjoying success in their chosen profession, and yet still find themselves thinking, “There’s got to be more to life than this! My heart’s pumping the blood around my body, the brain appears to be functioning, but I still feel like there’s something fundamental missing”.

In John chapter 6 Jesus talks about this issue of real life, or, as he calls it, ‘eternal life’. We’ve been going through the chapter in stages over the summer, starting with the feeding of the five thousand in verses 1-21 and then going on as Jesus and the Jewish leaders dialogue about the meaning of that miracle. But before we dive into this week’s passage, let me remind you again of the Old Testament story that serves as background to this whole chapter. It’s the story of how God fed his people when Moses was leading them through the desert on their long journey to their promised land. There were thousands and thousands of Israelites, and of course the desert is not a good place to find food for even a few people, let alone a huge multitude. So the Book of Exodus tells us that the people complained about this to God, and he responded by sending them bread from heaven. They called this bread ‘manna’, and they ate it every day for the forty years that they wandered in the desert.

John tells us that when Jesus fed the five thousand people, they immediately thought of Moses giving their ancestors this supernatural bread in the desert, and they reminded Jesus of this. No, Jesus replied, this is not like that. Those who ate that bread all died eventually, but if you eat of the true bread of heaven, you will not die. He goes on to explain that heis the bread of life; all who come to him will never be hungry, and all who believe in him will never be thirsty.

So far so good, but in our gospel for today things get a little more confusing. Jesus says in verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”. This causes a furious argument amongst Jesus’ hearers: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v.52). But Jesus’ reply doesn’t do anything to alleviate their concerns: “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v.53).

We Christians have two thousand years of Eucharists in our collective memory, so when we hear these words, we immediately think of the bread and wine of Holy Communion. The people who first heard these words read aloud from John’s Gospel would have thought the same thing. But I’m going to suggest this morning that we not go there right away. We need to ask ourselves, what would these words have sounded like to those whofirstheard them, from Jesus himself? Imagine the revulsion they must have felt at what must have sounded to them very much like cannibalism. Not only does Jesus talk about eating his flesh, butdrinking his blood– and in the Old Testament, people were forbidden from consuming blood, because of the ancient belief that ‘the life is in the blood’. It’s not surprising that a few verses later on we read that ‘when many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ (v.60) – and some of them left Jesus altogether.

So what does it mean to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood? And why would we want to do it anyway? What are the benefits that we receive from it? I want to consider the second question first, and then come back to the first question.

Why would we want to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood? What are the benefits we’re promised from this? Well, in verse 54 Jesus says ‘those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life’. And we need to remind ourselves that the phrase ‘eternal life’ doesn’t just mean ‘life that goes on forever’. In a prayer to his Father in John 17:3 Jesus tells us what eternal life is: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. So to receive eternal life is to be brought into a relationship with the living God and with his Son Jesus Christ. To put it bluntly: to know God is the only way to be fully alive.

This is the sort of language that lovers use, isn’t it? The lover says to the beloved, “Before I knew you I wasn’t really alive. I began to live the day I first met you”. That’s what Jesus is saying here: to be physically alive, but not to know the God who made you and loves you, is not real life – it’s a pale shadow of the real thing. But to meet the God who made you and his Son who died for you, and to grow into a real relationship with that living God – that’s real life! If you’re looking for the meaning of life, look no further - this is it.

Jesus describes this relationship in very intimate terms; he says in verse 56 “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them”. To ‘abide’ somewhere means to make your home there, and so in this lovely symbolic language Jesus says to us, ‘If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you’ll be making your home in me, and I’ll be making my home in you’. Can you imagine such a thing – to make our home in Jesus, and for Jesus to make his home in us?

I’m sure some of you canimagine it, because you’ve begun to experience it for yourselves. It’s not a constant thing; maybe you even go for long stretches of time when you find it difficult to perceive the presence of God. But there are days when you know he’s very real and close to you, and what you experience on those days is enough to spoil you for anything less than this. You know that nothing else in the world can compare with the joy of knowing the living God and his Son Jesus Christ; once having tasted of this, you’re determined to do what it takes to taste it again and again – in other words, to know God better and better. You sing those words from your heart: ‘As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you; you alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship you’.

But maybe not all of us feel that way. Maybe some of us can only think to ourselves, “I must be missing something here”. Maybe some of us have just started out on this Christian life and we haven’t yet really experienced the touch of God in any direct sort of way. Maybe, in fact, some of us have been attending church all our lives and have never really made any personal contact with God. How do we get that?

Jesus is quite direct about how we get it: he says we have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. But what does that mean? As I said, lifelong churchgoers are tempted to jump right away to the bread and wine of Holy Communion, but let’s not go there too fast. Instead, let’s go back to the first mention of the bread of life in John 6, in verse 35. Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comesto me will never be hungry, and whoever believesin me will never be thirsty”.

In the time of Jesus many Jewish people saw the Torah, the Old Testament law of God, as the true manna from heaven; it was said that God fed the people with the words of his mouth. So to listen to the Law or Instruction of God, to think about it and chew on it and put it into practice in your life, was seen as a way of receiving the true spiritual bread of life.

Jesus is clearly following in this spiritual interpretation of the bread of life here. It’s actually a very bold claim he’s making: he’s claiming to be the embodiment of the ‘Torah’. To ‘come to him’, and to ‘believe in him’ is to believe that he is who he says he is, to give ourselves to him in faith, and to put his words into practice in our daily lives.

This ‘coming to him’ and ‘believing in him’; is it a moment of crisis, or a gradual process? Well, for many of us there is probably a gradual process of growing into faith, but it often has moments of decision attached to it as well. After all, when two people fall in love it may be a gradual process, but their wedding day is a moment of decision, a moment of commitment. On that day they’re consciously entrusting their lives and futures to each other; they aren’t just saying, “I’ve fallen in love with you”, but “I promiseto love you, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, for the rest of our days”.

Many people experience these moments of decision in their life of faith as well; I know I certainly have. These are the moments when we sense the challenge of the gospel: will you put your life in the hands of the one who loved you and gave himself for you? Will you follow him and be faithful to him for the rest of your days?

How do we respond to that challenge to ‘come to Jesus’ and to ‘believe in him’? My friend Harold Percy used to say that if you understand the invitation that Jesus is giving you, the most eloquent prayer in the world could be the one simple word, ‘Yes’. Jesus is with us this morning and is giving us this invitation: ‘Will you come to me and believe in me? Will you put your life in my hands and let me lead you from this day forward?’ And if your heart is responding to that call, then there’s no need to worry about getting the words right; if all you can manage is the word ‘yes’, that will do just fine.

That’s a moment of commitment to Christ. But we also renew that commitment each week, every time we come forward to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Some of you are familiar with the old revival preachers and their practice of giving ‘altar calls’. Billy Graham made this famous; at each of his evangelistic services he would say, “Now I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seats!” and he would invite people who wanted to give their lives to Jesus to come forward to the front of his services as a public act of commitment to Christ.

To many lifelong Anglicans the very thought of an altar call is a shock to the system, but in fact, if we understand what we’re doing in Holy Communion, we have an altar call every week! Jesus tells us that if we come to him and believe in him our spiritual hunger and thirst will be satisfied. We respond to that invitation; we get up out of our seats and come to the front, and we hold out our empty hands and ask him to fill them. The emptiness of our hands is a symbol of the emptiness of our lives; without him we have no life, but when we come to him in faith, he gives us that life. And so we receive the bread and wine in faith, and, as the old prayer book says, we ‘feed on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving’.

So, as Billy Graham used to say, in a few minutes ‘I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seats’. Come to the front of this church and put your lives once again in the hands of the one who loved you and gave himself for you. Hold out your empty hands, and your empty hearts, so that he can fill them.

But realize also that this isn’t just something we do at Holy Communion; it’s something we do every day of the week as followers of Jesus. To go back to verse 35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. To receive Holy Communion together here on a Sunday is one way of ‘coming’ to Jesus and ‘believing in him’ – a vital way, but not the only way. All week long, he is inviting us to continue to come to him and put our faith in him. In Matthew’s gospel he says to us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

So let’s come to him – not just today at Holy Communion, but tomorrow as well, and all through the week. Let’s put our trust in him, ask him to make himself known to us and give us the strength to put his teaching and example into practice. The writer of the psalms says, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him’ (Psalm 34:8). That’s not just about Holy Communion; it’s about a daily walk with Christ. In the end, that daily walk is the best way I know to be fully alive.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Upcoming events

Events This Week

Melanie is away on vacation this week, so Annette Jayakaran will be in the office on Friday morning.

Aug 20th, 2018
Office is closed
Aug 21st, 2018
11:00am Holy Communion @ Rutherford Heights Retirement Residence
Aug 24th, 2018
9am – noon Annette in the office
Aug 26th, 2018
9:00am Holy Communion
10:30am Holy Communion

Please plan to join us for a Welcome Back BBQ on Sunday September 9th following the 10:30am service. We will also be holding Sunday School registration on this day.

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 at  stmargaretsedmonton@gmail.com.

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 will be a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer in the next week or two.

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

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!