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St Margaret of Scotland: Modelling Christian Life

What is your idea of the best mum in the world. What would she be like? I am sure that all your mums are or were amazing. Today, we remember a special mum who had eight children; six boys and two girls. She was born in Hungary and married a Scottish king. Can guess her name? Margaret or St Margaret of Scotland as she is known. She is the patron saint of this church. St Margaret of Scotland’s day is on 16th November which was last Friday and so we are using this weekend to celebrate our ninetieth birthday.
Margaret was an amazing woman and it is good that this church takes its name from her. Her father was Edward of Atheling the son of the King of Wessex who had fled Hungary to seek refuge from the Danes who were invading England at the time. Margaret was born in 1045 and is thought to have received a good education in Hungary gaining an appreciation of beautiful books and clothes.
In 1057, Edward the Confessor, King of England called her father back to England hoping to make him his heir, but he unfortunately died before the King. The ensuing dispute over the succession was settled by the arrival of the Normans, 1066 and all that. Margaret was not safe in England and went with her brother to Scotland where the King, Malcolm III took them in. He took a shine to Margaret and married her.
Margaret used her inherited wealth and influence well. She did much to encourage Scottish Christians and build up the life of the church there. She endowed numerous churches and places of worship including the monastery on the island of Iona, still an influential place in the life of today’s church. Margaret herself was known as person of great prayer and devotion. She was also deeply concerned for the needs of the poor and again used resources at he disposal to provide care and support. She was devoted to her family and her children continued in the faith which Margaret both lived out and proclaimed. Her husband, Malcolm was killed in the battle of Alnwick against William II of England in 1093. Margaret who was ill by this time, died only a few days later on November 16th at the age of just 48.
Our first reading this morning from the final chapter of the book of Proverbs (31.10-31) could almost be a description of St Margaret. It is an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with a different letter of the Greek alphabet. It describes a capable wife and mother. We tend to assume that women in old testament times and in the time when St Margaret lived were under men’s control, unable to make much impression or contribute much to society. The story of St Margaret and the capable wife give a different view. Records tell us that Margaret was able to influence the Scottish nobility for good, reminding them of Christian story and encouraging them to keep the observances of the church. The works of the capable wife earnt her praise in the city gate, the equivalent of todays council chamber. Both these women show how by God’s grace and support they can make a difference in a man’s world.
In their lives, three qualities shine out which we can take to heart today if we want to see this church flourish and grow as it moves towards it’s centenary.
Firstly, both these women walk closely with God. ‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ (Proverbs 31.30) I guess those are not easy words to hear in an age which values wit, beauty and eternal youth. Yet they true. Our fear of the Lord, our relationship with God, made possible for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus is the most valuable thing we have. Each of us as individual members of this church should seek to develop and grow our faith, so out church will be blessed by God just as Margaret’s life was.
Secondly, we read that the capable wife ‘opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.’ (Proverbs 31.20) Margaret used the rich resources she inherited as Queen of Scotland to support those living in poverty in her own age. If our church is to be true to the calling that we have in Christ, the poor must always be upper most in our hearts. Jesus is uncompromising about this. The parable of the sheep and the goats, our gospel reading today make clear that what we do for the poor we do for Jesus himself. When we fail to act for the poor, we turn our back our Lord himself. (Matthew 25.31-46) May we consider this carefully as a church when we are encouraged to support the food bank, Feeding the Roofless and the Night Shelter.
Thirdly, there is much in both Margaret’s story and in the capable wife about growth and nurture. Both show great industry in growing their own families. Margaret also has an eye to growing the church and her endowments in Iona and Dunfermline remain today. A church is far more like a plant than a building. It is either going to be growing or decaying. It does not just stand still. You know what happens to house plants that you forget to water and pot on. It’s the same with a church. St Margaret’s is blest with a good congregation at a time when many churches struggle. There is a temptation to say that we don’t need to grow. That’s rubbish. If we don’t grow, we will die. That’s why we need to invite people along to events, support and pray for Christianity Explored, continually look at how we interact with the community around us and do all that we can to welcome encourage nurture and lead to faith in Jesus those come our way. Like the capable wife, may we not eat the bread of idleness. Let each of us consider well the part we have to play in the body of Christ.
This weekend is a celebration of ninety years of St Margaret’s Church. However, we are few years out! Our church actually started some time before 1928 if the book on Garden Village (Garden Village: a pictorial record of a Wrexham community. Andy Williams & Terry Sutton Bridge Books 2013) is to be believed. The church began in the front bedroom of 46 Ffordd Estyn. By the mid nineteen twenties, it was meeting in the Institute on Kenyon Avenue with G R Davies as vicar. The choir was formed at this time and Fred Keeler, remembered by some of you joined up.
As we celebrate the consecration of this building ninety years ago, we need to remember that a church is first and foremost as community of people who share a common faith in Jesus as Lord which gives them a shared purpose and deep bond as the body of Christ which is far more significant than the building in which they gather. The church is often referred a kind of mother. May we be the best we can be under God and in the mould of our patron saint, a people of deep prayer, love for the poor and looking to grow, not for our own ends or even to reach 100 years, but for the eternal kingdom of God.
18.11.2018 Feast of Margaret of Scotland

Rev'd Jonathan Smith

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