Friday, November 30, 2018

Upcoming events Dec 3 - Dec 9, 2018

Events This Week

Dec 3rd, 2018
Office is closed
Dec 5th, 2018
2:00pm Lectionary Bible Study @ church 
Dec 6th, 2018
8:00am Men’s and Women’s bible study @ Bogani Café
12:00 noon Corporation Meeting
Dec 9th, 2018 (Advent 1)
9:00am Holy Communion
10:30am Holy Communion and Sunday School


Annual Christmas Variety Concert and Pageant is this Sunday, Dec 2nd at 7pm and there are still tickets available! They are $10 each to a maximum of $30 per family. This concert will be a fundraiser for the World Vision Raw Hope project.

Poinsettias / Salisbury Greenhouse gift cards. Sunday is the last day to order these items. Poinsettias will be available for pick up at the church on Saturday Dec 8th between 9am and 11am. Please let Melanie or Barb know if you cannot make it during this time.

Lunch Bunch will be on Thursday December 13th @ the church beginning at 11:30, with lunch starting at 12:00 noon. Everyone is welcome; Tim will lead us in a Christmas Carol Sing-a-Long followed by a gift exchange. If you would like to participate in the gift exchange, please bring a wrapped, unmarked gift (around $5 to $10). There is a sign up sheet in the front foyer or you can contact the church office if you have any questions.

Thursday December 20th 7.00 p.m. ‘When Christmas Hurts’. Christmas is not a happy time for everyone. The ‘When Christmas Hurts’ service is designed to provide comfort and healing; it will be held in cooperation with St. Patrick’s, Millwoods @ St. Patrick’s (334 Knottwood Road North NW, Edmonton). Please note, this is the correct date and time so disregard the date/time listed on the 2nd page of the monthly announcement sheet.

Sunday December 23rd 10.30 a.m.  Lessons and Carols and ‘Bring-a-Friend’ service.
The Scripture readings tell the story of Christmas, starting with the Old Testament prophecies; in between these readings we sing carols – plenty of them! – so, if you like the carols of Christmas, this is the service for you. This is a ‘bring-a-friend’ service, so please invite friends or family members who do not normally go to church; the service will be structured with them in mind.

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 December 6th. Thank you!

Please check out our monthly announcement sheet for more upcoming events. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Melanie. Extra copies are available on the table in the foyer.



Friday, November 23, 2018

This Week at St. Margaret's


Events This Week
Nov 26th, 2018
Office is closed
Nov 27th, 2018
11:00am Holy Communion @ Rutherford Retirement Residence
Nov 28th, 2018
2:00pm Lectionary Bible Study @ Church
Nov 29th, 2018
8:00am Men’s and Women’s bible study @ Bogani Café
Nov 30th, 2018
6:00pm Friday Night Church
Dec 1st, 2018
6:30pm Youth Choir Rental
Dec 2nd, 2018 (Advent 1)
9:00am   Holy Communion
9:45am   Coffee between services
10:30am Holy Communion and Sunday School
7:00pm   Christmas Variety Concert

Please check out our monthly announcement sheet for more upcoming events. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Melanie. Extra copies are available on the table in the foyer.

Upcoming Fundraisers for the building project :
We will be taking orders for poinsettias / Salisbury Greenhouse gift cards. Order forms are available on the table out in the foyer. Please think about who you know that may be interested in purchasing these items… friends, family, perhaps co-workers. The more we sell, the more we make!

Annual Christmas Variety Concert and Pageant: Sunday December 2nd at 7:00 p.m. As usual, this concert will be a fundraiser for the World Vision Raw Hope project. Tickets are on sale and are $10 each to a maximum of $30 per family. We are in need of a baby to play the role of Jesus for the pageant! If you know of anyone who may have a young baby, and be willing to participate, please let Eva know.

Goodies for Christmas concert. If you are able to help by providing goodies for the Dec 2nd Christmas concert, please sign up on the sheet which is on the table in the foyer.

Family Advent Wreath Celebration
On Friday November 30th 6 – 8 p.m. we will have a family supper at the church followed by a time for families to build Advent wreaths and learn how to use them through the Advent season. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer; please sign up early so that we know how many supplies to purchase.

Fall Stewardship Initiative
St. Margaret’s Fall Stewardship Initiatives began on November 11th and will conclude on December 2nd; you should have received information this week by email, and there are also some printed copies on the table in the foyer. Please have your completed Response Forms back by Dec 2nd. And thank you to all who have given generously of their time, talent and treasure to make this a great year for our church!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

December Roster


Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople: M. Cromarty / T. Cromarty
Counter: M. Cromarty / H. Seggumba
Reader: S. Doyle
(Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
Lay Administrants: B. Popp / C. Aasen
Intercessor: B. Popp
Lay Reader: S. Jayakaran (Luke 21:25-36)
Altar Guild (Purple): P. Major / L. Schindel
Prayer Team: L. Sanderson / M. Chesterton
Sunday School (Combined): M. Aasen / M. Eriksen
Kitchen (9:45am): C. Lamont / P. Badger
Music: E. Thompson
Altar Server: G. Triska

December 9th, 2018 (Advent 2)
Greeter/Sidespeople: Schindels
Counter: D. Schindel / R. Horn
Reader: C. Aasen
(Malachi 3:1-4, Canticle 19a (BAS p.88), Philippians 1:3-11)
Lay Administrants: T. Wittkopf / G. Hughes
Intercessor: D. Sanderson
Lay Reader: D. MacNeill (Luke 3:1-6)
Altar Guild (Purple): M. Woytkiw / J. Johnston
Prayer Team: M. Rys / M. Chesterton
Sunday School (Combined): K. Durance / T. Laffin
Kitchen: F. Chester
Music: M. Eriksen
Altar Server: G. Durance

December 16th, 2018 (Advent 3)
Greeter/Sidespeople: T. Wittkopf / S. Doyle
Counter: S. Doyle / B. Popp
Reader: N. Gutteridge
(Zephaniah 3:14-20, Canticle 3 (BAS p.76), Philippians 4:4-7)
Lay Administrants: B. Popp / M. Rys
Intercessor: M. Rys
Lay Reader: D. Schindel (Luke 3:7-18)
Altar Guild (Purple): P. Major / A. Shutt
Prayer Team: S. Jayakaran / L. Sanderson
Sunday School (Combined): D. Legere / M. Eriksen
Kitchen: K. Kilgour / L. Schindel
Music: M. Chesterton
Altar Server: G. Triska

December 23rd, 2018 (Advent 4) (Lessons & Carol Service)
Greeter/Sidespeople: Aasens
Counter: C. Aasen / D. Legere
Intercessor: T. Chesterton
Altar Guild (Purple): M. Lobreau / Lessons & Carols
Sunday School (Combined): K. Ewchuk / T. Laffin
Kitchen: E. McFall
Music: M. Eriksen

December 30th, 2018 (Christmas 1) (Youth service)
Greeter/Sidespeople: Children / youth
Counter: M. Eriksen / H. Seggumba
Reader: D. Sanderson
(1 Samuel 2:18-20,26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17)
Lay Administrants: T. Wittkopf / M. Rys
Intercessor: Children / youth
Lay Reader: B. Popp (Luke 2:41-52)
Altar Guild (White): M. Woytkiw / B. Cavey
Sunday School (Combined): K. Durance / M. Eriksen
Kitchen: M. Rys
Music: M. Chesterton
Altar Server: G. Durance

Sunday, November 18, 2018

St. Margaret of Scotland (a sermon for the Feast of St. Margaret, Nov. 18th 2018)

When I first became the rector of this parish nearly nineteen years ago, I didn’t know anything about St. Margaret of Scotland. I had no idea when she lived, or what she had done, or why people thought of her as a saint. So I made it my business to find out, and the more I read about her, the more I was inspired by her story, and the more I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as a parish, could live up to the example of the woman we are named for?”

Many of you will have heard me tell the story of Queen Margaret of Scotland in years past. Some of you, however, have joined us since the last time we did this, and many of you will have been away on this Sunday in previous years, for one reason or another. So I’m going to tell the story again today, and then draw some lessons for us as we join Margaret in following our Lord Jesus Christ.

Margaret died on November 16th 1093, nine hundred and twenty-five years ago. She was a member of the aristocracy, and she came into a position of great influence as Queen of Scotland, but she didn’t think she’d been given that position in order to lord it over others. Instead, she’s remembered as a person who spent her life serving others.

She was the granddaughter of the English king Edmund Ironside, but because of dynastic disputes she was born in Hungary, in the year 1047. She had one brother, Edgar, and a sister, Christian, and many people in England saw her brother Edgar as the rightful heir to the throne of England. In 1054 the parliament of Anglo-Saxon England decided to bring the family back from Hungary so that they could inherit the throne when King Edward the Confessor died, as Edward had no children. So Edgar, Christian and Margaret were brought up at the Anglo-Saxon court under the supervision of Benedictine monks and nuns, who trained the young people according to the Benedictine ideal of a life of work and prayer.

It’s hard to overstate the influence of those Benedictines in Margaret’s life. From them she learned the importance of balancing times of prayer and times of working for the good of others; this would be a good description of her later life as Queen of Scotland. We know that she learned to read the scriptures in Latin, and she also knew the teachings of the church fathers from the early Christian centuries. Her sister Christian went on to become a Benedictine nun herself.

Eventually King Edward the Confessor died, and soon afterwards William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 and claimed the throne for himself, so Margaret’s brother Edgar didn’t get to become king after all. Edgar and his sisters were advised to go back to Hungary for their own safety, but on the way their ship was blown far off course by a fierce gale. They spent some time in northern England and then sailed up the coast to the Firth of Forth in Scotland, where King Malcolm gave them a warm welcome to his kingdom. His court at Dunfermline was undoubtedly rather primitive compared to the English court that the family had known, but I’m sure they were glad of his welcome and the hospitality and safety he offered them.

Margaret was now about twenty years old; King Malcolm was forty, and unmarried, and he soon became attracted to young Margaret. However, she took a lot of persuading; she was more inclined to become a nun, and Malcolm had a stormy temperament, despite his other virtues. It was only after long consideration that Margaret agreed to marry him, and their wedding took place in the year 1070, when she was twenty-three. In the end, although she was so much younger than him, shewas the one who changedhim; under her influence, he became a much wiser and godlier king.

Although Margaret was now in a high position in society, and very wealthy according to the standard of the day, she lived in the spirit of inward poverty: nothing she possessed really belonged to her, but everything was to be used for the purposes of God. As Queen, she continued to live the ordered life of prayer and work that she had learned from the Benedictine monks. She was only the wife of the king, but she came to have the leading voice in making changes that affected both the social and the spiritual life of Scotland. She had this influence because of the depth of her husband’s love for her. Malcolm didn’t share his wife’s contemplative temperament, but he was strongly influenced by her godly character, so he tended to follow her advice a lot – not only for his own life, but also for the life of the church and people in Scotland.

It’s actually quite remarkable that the Scots accepted the church reforms that this foreign queen proposed, but she herself lived such a simple and Christ-like life that they seemed to feel instinctively that her way must be a good way. Let’s think about the sort of life she lived as Queen of Scotland.

Margaret would begin each day with a prolonged time of prayer, especially praying the psalms. We’re told that after this, orphan children would be brought to her, and she would prepare their food herself and serve it to them. It also became the custom that any destitute poor people would come every morning to the royal hall; when they were seated around it, then the King and Queen entered and ‘served Christ in the person of his poor’. Before they did this, they sent out of the room all other spectators except for the chaplains and a few attendants; they didn’t want to turn it into what modern politicians would refer to as ‘a photo opportunity’.

The church in Scotland at that time looked more to the old Celtic way of Christianity than to the way of Rome. Margaret had been raised in the way of Rome, and was keen to bring Scotland into unity with the rest of the world, but she didn’t do it in an overbearing and proselytizing way. She often visited the Celtic hermits in their lonely cells, offering them gifts, and caring for their churches. But she also held many conferences with the leaders of the Church, putting forward the Roman point of view about things like the date of Lent and the proper customs for celebrating the liturgy and so on. She convinced them, not because of the strength of her argument so much as by the power of her holy life. 

In those days many people in Scotland used to go on pilgrimages to see the relics of St. Andrew at the place now called ‘St. Andrew’s’. Margaret wanted to help the pilgrims, so she had little houses built on either shore of the sea that divided Lothian from Scotland, so that poor people and pilgrims could shelter there and rest after their journeys. She also provided ships to transport them across the water.

I think it’s fair to say that most people recognized as saints by the Catholic Church were monks and nuns who lived lives of celibacy, far removed from the demands of the world and the pressures of family life. Margaret, however, is remembered as having a happy family life. She had eight children, six sons and two daughters. Her oldest son Edward was killed in battle, Ethelred died young, and we’re told that Edmund didn’t turn out too well. But the three youngest, Edgar, Alexander, and David, are remembered among the best kings Scotland ever had. David I, the youngest son, had a peaceful reign of twenty-nine years in which he developed and extended the work his mother had begun. The two daughters, Matilda and Mary, were both brought up under the guidance of Margaret’s sister Christian in the Abbey of Romsey, and both went on to marry into the English royal family. All of them we’re told, were also taught to follow Christ first – although I find it a little reassuring that even a saintly parent like Margaret didn’t have a 100% success rate with her kids!

Margaret was not yet fifty when she died. As she lay dying, her son Edgar brought her the sad news that her husband and her oldest son had been killed in battle. Despite this grief, we’re told that her last words were of praise and thanksgiving to God, and her death was calm and tranquil.

So what does Margaret have to say to us today?

I know that in this parish we have varying degrees of wealth; even though we live in one of the richest parts of the city, we’re not all rich by any means. But nonetheless, when judged by the standards of the whole world, we’re pretty well off, and even when we think of some of the less fortunate people in our city, we don’t have a lot to complain about. So how do we wealthier Christians see ourselves as disciples of Jesus? What are our responsibilities to those who are poorer than we are? What’s the best way to live a life of discipleship in the sort of situation we find ourselves in?

It’s here I think that Margaret can still inspire us. When she married the King of Scotland she found herself in a position of great power and wealth, but she didn’t consider it as having been given to her for her own selfish pleasures. She was a true Benedictine, living in the spirit of inward poverty. She saw her wealth and power as having been entrustedto her to do good works for others, and so she gave her life to serving others in the spirit of Christ.

One thing we can learn from her is to balance work and prayer.The Benedictine ideal was an ordered life, with certain times of day set apart for prayer, and others spent in active work for the good of others. We see this balance in the life of Jesus, too. In Mark chapter one we read that he was healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and teaching the people all day long, but then Mark goes on to tell us that ‘In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed’ (Mark 1:35). Luke tells us that this was Jesus’ habit: ‘But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray’ (Luke 5:16).

Is that our habit? Do we make time to pray regularly, by ourselves or with someone else? For some people, the ‘deserted place’ might be a room in their house; for other people it might a quiet office early in the morning; for others, it might be a quiet walk at some point during the day. For some it will be alone, for others it will be together with a spouse, or with the family as a whole. Those of us who care for young children will find some challenges here, and will need to support each other and think carefully about the best way to build prayer into our daily lives. Yes, it will take a bit of effort, but the lives of praying people down through the centuries have shown us that it’s well worth it.

So we can learn from Margaret’s balance of work and prayer. The second thing we can learn from Margaret is the way she lived out what is sometimes called ‘the ministry of the basin and the towel’. This phrase refers to the story of the last supper, where Jesus ‘got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and wipe them with the towel that was tied around him’ (John 13:4-5). After he finished this job, he pointed out to his disciples that he, their teacher and master, saw no contradiction between being their lord and being their servant. ‘If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet’ (John 13:14).

This is the sort of life Margaret lived. Although she was the Queen of Scotland, she saw no contradiction between being the Queen and serving at tables for the poorest of the poor. She understood herself first of all as a servant of Christ; everything else followed from that.

So these are the two things I think we need to learn from Margaret: firstly, keeping a proper balance of work and prayer in our lives, and perhaps especially praying together with others on a regular basis. Secondly, having a servant attitude toward everyone we meet, just as Jesus was not ashamed to fulfil the role of a servant toward his disciples.

So let us remember with thanksgiving today our patron saint, Margaret, a woman of prayer, a woman who lived a holy life, a woman who served the poor, a woman who used her influence in a Christlike way to do good for all people. As a congregation, let us pray that God will give us the strength by his Holy Spirit to live up to the name we bear. Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2018

This Week at St. Margaret's


Events This Week
Melanie and Tim will be away on vacation, Morgan Cromarty will be in the office Thursday morning.
Nov 19th, 2018
Office is closed
Nov 20th, 2018
Office is closed
Nov 21st, 2018
Office is closed
2:00pm Lectionary Bible Study @ Church
Nov 22nd, 2018
8:00am Men’s and Women’s bible study @ Bogani Café
9:00am-Noon Morgan Cromarty in the office
Nov 23rd, 2018
Office is closed
Nov 24th, 2018
6:30pm Youth Choir Rental
Nov 25th, 2018 (Reign of Christ) (Ven. Alan Perry)
9:00am   Holy Communion
10:30am Holy Communion and Sunday School

Tim will be away on vacation from November 19th-26th inclusive. Services on November 25th, 2018 will be led by The Ven. Alan Perry. If you need the help of a priest because of pastoral emergency, please contact the Rev. Susan Ormsbee at 780-919-3060 (cell).

Fall Stewardship Initiative
St. Margaret’s Fall Stewardship Initiatives began on November 11th and will conclude on December 2nd; you should have received information this week by email, and there are also some printed copies on the table in the foyer. Please have your completed Response Forms back by Dec 2nd. And thank you to all who have given generously of their time, talent and treasure to make this a great year for our church!

Upcoming Fundraisers for the building project :
We will be taking orders for poinsettias / Salisbury Greenhouse gift cards. Order forms are available on the table out in the foyer. Please think about who you know that may be interested in purchasing these items… friends, family, perhaps co-workers. The more we sell, the more we make!

Annual Christmas Variety Concert and Pageant: Sunday December 2nd at 7:00 p.m. As usual, this concert will be a fundraiser for the World Vision Raw Hope project. Tickets are on sale and are $10 each to a maximum of $30 per family. We are in need of a baby to play the role of Jesus for the pageant! If you know of anyone who may have a young baby, and be willing to participate, please let Eva know.

Goodies for Christmas concert. If you are able to help by providing goodies for the Dec 2nd Christmas concert, please sign up on the sheet which is on the table in the foyer.

Family Advent Wreath Celebration
On Friday November 30th 6 – 8 p.m. we will have a family supper at the church followed by a time for families to build Advent wreaths and learn how to use them through the Advent season. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the front foyer; please sign up early so that we know how many supplies to purchase.



Sunday, November 11, 2018

Welcoming the Stranger (a sermon for November 11th on the Book of Ruth)

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of feeling like an outsider or a stranger. I’m a white Anglo-Saxon male and my first language is English, so in western Canada I don’t often have that experience! However, when I was in my early thirties I lived in a small aboriginal community in the central Arctic where my kids were the only non-aboriginal kids in the local school. The community was made up of large extended families and everyone was connected by those networks. Also, for everyone over the age of forty Inuktitut was definitely their first language. So even though many people made us welcome, at times we couldn’t help feeling like outsiders and strangers.

Of course, you can have a similar experience just by walking into the local café in any small town on the prairies. Have you ever tried that? Trust me – you’ll stand out like a sore thumb! Once again, most people in those communities are connected by extended family networks, everyone knows everyone else, and when they look at you as you walk I the door you just know they’re wracking their brains trying to figure out who you are and who you’re related to!

This morning in our Old Testament lesson we read the second half of the story of Ruth - the foreigner, the Moabite - who became the great-grandmother of King David and so was also an ancestor of Jesus. Let’s remember that in those days Israel saw itself as a distinct society, worshipping the one true God while all its neighbours worshipped idols. And in the law of Israel there were strong statements about not marrying outsiders and keeping pure from their idolatry and sin. But in the story of Ruth we read about someone who bucked that trend, and, possibly to her surprise, she found a community that was willing to welcome her.

Historically this little story is set ‘In the days when the judges ruled’. In other words, we’re taking about the time after Moses and Joshua led the people out of Egypt and into the promised land, but before the days when there were kings like Saul and David to rule over them. The story starts in Bethlehem in Judah, with a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion. There was a famine in the land so Elimelech took his family to the neighbouring country of Moab to live. This would be unusual for an Israelite, as the Moabites were traditional enemies of Israel. Elimelech died soon after the family arrived in Moab, but the two sons both married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth – another unusual thing for an Israelite family. They stayed in Moab about ten years, and then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, leaving Naomi all alone with her foreign daughters-in-law.

Naomi heard the famine was over in Bethlehem so she decided to go home to her own country, and her daughters-in-law began to go with her. But she tried to discourage them: “There’s no point in you coming along with me,” she said. “Even if I were to marry again and have sons, would you wait ‘til they were grown and marry them?” This refers to a custom in ancient Israel: when a man died without children, his brother was to marry his widow and raise up children, who would then be counted as the dead man’s children so his family line would continue. From this we can infer that both Naomi’s sons had died without producing heirs.

So Orpah turned back and returned to her own land, but Ruth would not. “Where you go, I will go,” she said to Naomi. “I’ll live where you live, your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and I’ll be buried with you.” So Naomi accepted her company and the two returned to Bethlehem together.

Of course in those days, two women living alone without a man to support them would have been in a vulnerable position. How would they earn a living? There was a requirement in the law of Moses that at the harvest time farmers should leave the wheat standing on the edges of their fields so the poor and needy could ‘glean’ it, and workers who accidentally dropped stalks of wheat were not to pick them up again but leave them for the poor. So Naomi sent her daughter in law to glean in a nearby field; it happened to belong to a man named Boaz. He found out who Ruth was - apparently her reputation for caring for her mother-in-law had gotten around. So he instructed his workers to make it easy for her by intentionally dropping some wheat behind them, and he invited her to eat with his workers when they took their lunch break. As a result Ruth did quite well that day, and at Boaz’ invitation she stayed in his fields and gleaned behind his workers all through harvest time.

We need a little background in Jewish traditions to understand what happened next. As we’ve already seen there was a lot of concern for the continuation of family lines and family property. If a man died leaving a widow, the custom was that a near relative should marry the widow so the man’s land would not pass outside the clan or tribe. The nearest relative, the one who had the obligation to marry the widow, was called in Hebrew the ‘goel’, which we could translate ‘kinsman-redeemer’; it was his job to ‘redeem’ the land if it was to be sold to support the widow, and to marry her as well.

It turned out that Boaz was a very close relative to Naomi’s late husband, and so Naomi’s next plan was to try to set him up with Ruth. She sent Ruth to the place where Boaz and his workers were winnowing barley at their threshing floor. “He’s going to sleep there tonight,” she said; “When he’s fallen asleep, lie down at his feet, and when he wakes, he’ll know what to do.”

Sure enough, Boaz woke up during the night and saw Ruth lying there. When he asked what she wanted, she replied, “Spread your cloak over your servant, because you are the goel.” Boaz was pleased; he was an older man and she was a younger woman, and he was flattered she had gone to him rather than someone younger. “I’ll do what you ask,” he said, “but we’ve got to do this right. It’s true I’m a close relative but there is someone closer still, and he actually has the right to redeem your father-in-law’s land. If he’ll do it, fair enough; if not, I will.”

So Ruth stayed the rest of the night and in the morning Boaz gave her a sack of barley to take home for her and her mother. Then he went into town and took his seat at the gate, which was where business deals and legal matters were transacted in those days. Pretty soon the other man, the closer relative, came by, and Boaz invited him to sit down. He then asked for ten elders of the town to sit there as witnesses, and they did so.

Boaz then said to the other man: “Our relative Naomi is going to sell the land that belonged to her late husband Elimelech. You’re the goel; you’ve got the right to redeem it. I need to know if you’re going to do so, because if not, I’m the next in line.” The man replied, “I’ll redeem it.” Boaz said, “The day you buy the field you also acquire the hand of Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite, to continue the dead man’s name on his inheritance.” The other man replied, “Then I don’t want to do it, because I don’t want to damage my own inheritance.” So Boaz said to the people sitting around, “You are witnesses that I’ve acquired Elimelech’s land, and also the hand of his daughter-in-law Ruth.”  They all agreed, “We’re witnesses.”

So Boaz married Ruth and they had a son who they called Obed. What follows is remarkable: Obed became the father of Jesse, and Jesse became the father of David, the shepherd boy who became the great king of Israel. So David’s great-grandma was a foreigner, a Moabite woman, an outsider. And not only that, but Jesus was a descendant of David, so Ruth took her place in the family tree of the Messiah.

On one level this is a lovely romantic story, a strong contrast to all the savagery and killing going on in the book of Judges which is set in the same time period. But on another level there’s a lot going on theologically in this story.

If you read the Old Testament you’ll come across a discussion about what it means to be God’s faithful people. The Israelites saw idolatry as the basic sin. If you worship something that isn’t God, then you’ve taken the one true God and replaced him with a lie. And worshipping a lie, you then come to believe all sorts of other lies about the sort of life you ought to live. That’s why the Ten Commandments lay such strong emphasis on not worshipping false gods. ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ ‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image.’

Most of the Old Testament authors believed that if you want to keep yourself free from idolatry, the best thing to do is to avoid idolaters. So keep strict boundaries for the people of Israel; don’t allow foreigners in, don’t trust them, and certainly don’t intermarry with them. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah – that were probably written about the same time as Ruth – take this line. In those books Israelites who’ve married outside of ethnic boundaries of Israel have committed a grave sin; they’ve put Israel in danger of being tempted toward idolatry again. Ezra and Nehemiah and people like them could point to all sorts of evidence, too: “Don’t you remember the story of King Solomon? He started out good, but then he married a bunch of foreign women who worshipped false gods, and the next thing you know, he was worshipping their gods too!”

This disapproving stance toward outsiders is the dominant view in the Old Testament. But it’s not the only view. There’s another strand with a more positive attitude toward foreigners, and the story of Ruth is part of this strand. Here we don’t see any disapproval of Ruth’s status as a foreigner. No one accuses her of being an idol-worshipper who was trying to lead Israel astray. In fact we’re told explicitly at the beginning of the story that she says to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” In other words this foreigner, who had been raised to worship the Moabite gods, decided to become a worshipper of Yahweh the God of Israel – and no one questioned that this was a perfectly right and proper thing for her to do.

In New Testament terms we Canadian Christians are like Ruth. In the Old Testament we would have been seen as Gentile outsiders; the Jews were in, but we were not. But we have a redeemer, a goel, who has brought us into the family. In the New Testament the relationship between Jesus and his Church is often seen as a betrothal or a marriage: the Church is ‘the Bride of Christ’. He has extended the borders of the family of God’s people, and now we’re inside.

But you can get too comfortable inside, and forget what it’s like for people who are still on the outside. That’s not a good place to be for followers of Jesus, who was constantly on the lookout for outsiders he could bring in. And like ancient Israel, we have a choice about this. We live in a culture that is becoming less and less friendly to organized religion. Our society used to be thought of as Christian, but now it definitely isn’t. So what are we going to do? Are we going to circle the wagons and assume that everyone out there has no interest in God and Christ at all? Or are we going to go out confidently with the message Jesus gave us: that everyonewho is carrying a heavy load is invited to come to him and find rest, that allpeople are invited to become his disciples?

And what about the folks who are coming to our country as Ruth came to Bethlehem – to look for a better life, or to get away from disaster at home. I say this, of course, as an immigrant myself. What’s our attitude going to be? Are we going to choose fear, like so many people in Old Testament times? Or are we going to choose to welcome the stranger, as Boaz and the people of Bethlehem did?

This is a very important thing for us to keep in mind as we observe Remembrance Day. One of the insidious things about war is that it divides the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ – ‘us’, who are on the inside, the good people, and ‘them’, the outsiders, the evil people. So the foreigner, the person who is different, becomes an object of fear, and we circle the wagons to keep them out. We might even demonize them, see them as somehow less than human, to make it easier for us to kill them. The tragic story of the twentieth century should give us an object lesson about where that attitude leads. Sadly, we’re seeing more and more of it in North America today.

The story of Ruth tells us that to God there are no outsiders. There are only people made in the image of God, loved by God, people God wants to draw into the community called by his name. But we need to remember one thing – and I’m going to leave you with this thought. Would Ruth have come into the family of Israel without Naomi and Boaz to bring her in? I suspect not. No matter how interested she was in the God of Israel, the boundaries would have been just too great.

Who is the stranger God is bringing into your life? The person from somewhere else, the person who looks and sounds different? The person who needs to hear a word of welcome and kindness, and a little extra help to find their way around? Are you going to be a Boaz for them? Are you going to extend a warm welcome?

And of course we can understand this in terms of the witness of the Church as well. Outside the borders of organized Christianity there are many people like Ruth – people of good will, people who would love to know God, people who are curious about Jesus. I suspect you know some of those people; I know for sure that Iknow some of them. Are you going to be a Naomi or a Boaz for them – the one who will invite them to come in, the one who will introduce them to Jesus their redeemer?