Second Wednesday in Lent

The Light, The Light!

In Response to

a reflection on God’s Promise given to Sarai and Abraham: descendants, and their new God-given names:

3 questions

1. What does this encounter-renaming-promise-of-blessing have to do with us today, in a pandemic wherein so many people are Querdenkers (reality deniers – eg ‘I’m done with this Covid!’) in order to get by, or are sinking, sinking into despair, addiction, abuse, cruelty, or being overwhelmed as the demands to be creative cannot be even begun with.

2. It is said in various and many ways ‘old age is a dry or fruitless time of life.’ Can those in this time of life at all agree: yes physically and mentally ‘little deaths’ rear their ugly heads and steal bits of us from us*DOCH Is this not the most fruitful time of life when the wisdom that one has discovered as a teen and onward start to be proven as wisdom indeed? Is this not the time of life when the penultimate things (and the even less important things) of life recede into the background and the ultimate takes not only front and centre stage, but inspires one to see how God is present (as sacramental as ever) in the mundane and simple … the ordinarily super-beautiful small things**

* – Let’s not talk about the GERDS or sciatica that disturb my rest! or the looming cancer – So I can no longer sit to read and write, doch now I can stand at a new (creatively crafted from coffee cans and plywood) makeshift desk to type and read.

** Quickly given examples: pine cones shredded by a squirrel scattered beneath a tree – evidence that in the -35⁰ temperatures God provides also for these little creatures, or the sunsets and sunrises that shower specular light everywhere transforming the dull into the means of Grace (on par with God sanctifying sinners with God’s most marvellous glory), or the northern lights of greens and purples dancing across the cold sky of infinite stars sending light from millions of years ago?

OR

3. Is the so ordinary, familiar Lenten reflection provided on Abram and Sarai’s encounter with God, the advanced years of both, the promise of children numerous, the laughter … is this a reflection that while this time may seem so unique and demanding for us, for God it is ordinary, already many times having occurred, and it can be taken by us simply ‘in the flow’ of God’s promises and presence.

Which reminds me of the story of the rabbi who refused to join the council of the synagogue. Pressed he relented (seasonally appropriate) and agreed he would join, but he would attend only when there was something new to deal with. Something ‘new’ arises, they seek his attendance, he points out that this ‘new’ thing is addressed in the writings of this or that revered rabbi. Another ‘new’ thing arises … and it repeats many times. Each time the rabbi shows that the ‘new’ thing is rather ‘old’. The rabbi is not required ever to attend council.

Doch, God does do new things with us, as Abram and Sarai are given new names (new essence, new identity by God) as Abraham and Sarah.

God does wonderfully new things in order that we will recognize who we are, who God is, and God’s enduring attitude of Grace toward us and all creation. It is the same old, old story of Jesus and his love.

Which is always new when it is shared as Grace and hope in love.

Equality Is Not Possible Through Revenge

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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God Created All Equally Favoured.

We can be courageous to live so, today!

Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’

John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Words of Grace For Today

There is something very wrong with this creation account in Genesis. How it has been used makes this very clear to anyone who wishes to pay attention.

While humans are both female and male, the story places one as the first consideration for God, and the other as an after-thought, a help mate for the first.

This story came out of a male biased culture and has been used to place females as a second class kind of human. Abuses have abounded through history based solely on this false preference of God’s for males. These biases and their subsequent abuses used to seem so acceptable to some people, especially those that benefited from them. In truth they always have been an abomination for the whole species.

Today, as it this helps at all, many have turned these biases and abuses on their heads. Females are given free license to devalue, abuse, lie about, gaslight, and even kill males as if it were their birthright as females. This can never set right the abuses of a bias for males. In fact in is worse than the male favoured bias. For many the bias favouring males was unintentional, and it has been supported also by females for their benefit.

The new (to our culture) bias favouring abuse by and benefit for females at the expense of males cannot be claimed by any to be participated unawares. It is the flip of a terrible bias in history. For that matter continuing male-favouring biases is no longer excuseable if it ever was because one was unawares.

A bias participated in aware of it is worse than an accidental bias in that it is on top of everything else consciously chosen.

Female favouring biases are also most often pursued with revenge in mind, i.e. it is as if the abuse is pursued against this good male to take revenge for the abuse of other males, even though they are related on in that they are males.

That kind of blind revenge bias is many measures worse. It claims to set things right, yet it adds layer upon layer of lies and deception and damage to every situation.

Only Grace brings us to live past bias of any kind.

Jesus, on the cross, does not change that woman have next to no possibility to ‘take care of their own business.’ They require a man to own the property and from that provide for the woman. Instead Jesus acknowledges the disadvantage this places upon Mary, his mother, and he ensures that one of the disciples is now recognized by Mary as her son, and she is recognized by him as her mother.

Jesus does not remove the bias. Instead he ensures despite the bias, his followers and his mother are cared for as all people should be.

We can make changes, if all too slowly, to cultural biases. We need to do this with great courage and persistence. We need to do this to remove the bias, not to merely replace it with an equally if not worse bias!

And as we recognize our own sin, and the sin of our culture’s biases, we need to work swiftly and effectively to mitigate the suffering our cultural biases cause people. We need to provide the care every human deserves for everyone we can.

This is the meaning of life, and the purpose of each day. For this we can live grateful lives.

Can We Sinners Live Wisely and Gently?

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

In the Darkness of Sin,

We May Not Know How to Live Well!

Sanctified, We Can Learn to Live

Wisely and Gently

As the Holy Spirit Guides Us.

Psalm 119:66

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

James 3:13

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

Words of Grace For Today

After we recognize our own hopeless sinfulness, which God redeems at great cost, forgiving us and renewing life in us, and that we need God’s forgiveness constantly, for we simply cannot stop sinning, then the question is how are we going to live?

The measure we humans have held up returns us right back into works righteousness, as if God suddenly has made us able not to sin, so that we must preform or lose God’s favour and blessings. These two passages certainly could be interpreted that way … making it easy for us to dismiss them.

There is more to it than that.

Once sanctified (made saints by God), though we continue to sin, God pulls out of us great works that further God’s will and work on earth among humans and for creation. Most simply put, God’s willa and work is that God’s Grace is demonstrated to more and more people, and more and more people embrace the cross as God’s demonstration of God’s love for all people; forgiveness, redemption and new life is for everyone. We can live to cooperate with God’s will, or we can constantly choose to defy God’s will and live as if God does not exist, has not created us, does not forgive, redeem and renew us, and as if we can go it alone.

We can go it alone … right to our own damnation, choosing to separate ourselves from God. God still comes to us, forgives us, redeems us, renews us … except at some point God allows us to have our way … and the hell we have created for ourselves is the hell we live forever. At what point this happens is not anything we can know. But that it happens we can know: we can choose to deny God’s good work in us.

How else can we live? There are options that God makes possible for us. Wisdom is one of them.

We can pray: Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

We can live each day so that our God-given wisdom and understanding is evident in our works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

These passages then speak to how we can pursue wisdom in our daily lives, not to our own benefit, but to the benefit of everyone around us. They speak of our penultimate striving that God make possible for us.

God’s Story for Us is Never Complete

Monday, March 1, 2021

The End of Our Story or

God’s Beginning

Of the Rest of Our Lives?

Genesis 37:14

So Israel said to Joseph, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

Philippians 2:4

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Words of Grace For Today

Israel sends Joseph.

That begins Joseph’s story of betrayal, slavery, advancement, a woman’s false charges, jail, interpreting dreams, and rising to Pharaoh’s most senior man … able then to rescue his family (including the brothers who betrayed him) from famine, which then results in Joseph’s descendants being enslaved by the Egyptians and God’s delivering the people, bringing them into the Promised Land. This story of deliverance will be retold generation after generation as the basis of God’s relationship with God’s chosen people.

When we think that our enemies have done us in, God uses all circumstances (especially our great disaster) to bring about witness and long-lived stories of God’s Graceful Deliverance of so many people.

God’s guide for us comes in many various words and ways. Paul relates a few of them to the Philippians: Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Let us live wondrously filled with trust in God’s deliverance, for God walks with us through all circumstances. We need not look after our own interests. We receive life and breath that we may look after others’ interests.

God’s Wonders Keep Us In Life, No Matter What Comes Our Way

Sunday, February 28, 2021

God is with Us

Always

Though we Despair,

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Blessings and Joy.

Isaiah 43:5

Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Words of Grace For Today

God promises us no easy or comfortable life. God promises us, though, when life is horrendously challenging, we need not fear what may come our way: We need not fear.

Some people somehow learn not to panic in the most stressful situations, though we all have our limits. There are things that drive everyone of us over the bend, and into such distress that we cannot see our way forward.

Life with Christ as our guide, though, need never leave us in doubt; God accompanies us, and when we stray, God gathers us and our offspring in from all the corners where we have strayed and been scattered like dandelion seeds in the winds of summer thunderstorms. Life can be rough, so rough that it will easily appear to do us in.

God promises us we need not fear that such misadventure will do us in. Paul puts it well: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

God calls us to be saints, the people who reflect Christ’s light to all the world. As we work to bring to light the wonders of God’s miracles among us, there will be no end of challenges that we will face, that will tempt us, and that will do us in, except God finds us, delivers us, and sets us right again, to breathe for yet another day of service.

Light and easy our lives may not be, though accompanied by God we can trust we will endure everything that comes our way. Knowing God’s promises are sure, we need not panic. Not because we are so great or practised or immune. We need not panic because God guards our hearts and minds and strength with God’s own strength. Life for us never ceases to amaze or challenge or inspire.

Breathe. God’s spirit enters us, cleanses us, and inspires us.

Breathe. All will be well. All will be well. All manners of things will be well.

Challenges, Darkness, Light

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Light

Let Us Be Light

For Those In Dark.

Deuteronomy 32:11

As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, so the Lord alone guided him.

Philippians 4:7

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Words of Grace For Today

The challenges we face everyday are not inconsequential.

On our own the Devil always gets us and has his way with us.

God does not abandon us.

Like an eagle providing care for it’s young, God looks after us. Like a loving parent God guides us all our days.

We need not panic, or lose heart, for the peace of God surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and guides us to be saints, the people of Christ’s light, Christ’s Grace, God’s love for all we encounter.

God’s peace is everything we need for this day, for each day … one day at a time.

Between Infinite and Finite

Friday, February 26, 2021

We Find Our Way Home

to the Light of God

Following the Trail Left by

the Saints Who Have Gone Before Us.

Amos 4:13

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

John 17:6-7

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.

Words of Grace For Today

While Covid 19 restrictions force us to deal with shortcomings in ourselves, in our congregations, in our faith …

All this can have huge upsides for us. Not that we are likely to overcome our shortcomings. Recognizing our shortcomings is the first step to confession, which is our first step back to renewed life in Christ. Our confession is not the first step back to renewed life, for God has taken many much larger steps to bring us to the point where we can confess by assuring us that God will respond graciously, forgiving us, and renewing us as we confess. In truth, our confession happens AFTER God renews life in us. Our confession is our first step to realizing (again and again) that God has already renewed life in us (again and again.)

The greater challenge in all of our-realizing-God-has-renewed-life-in-us is wrapping our finite, tiny minds (imagine so very small square holes) around God’s infinitely large being, or even God’s attitude towards us (imagine one multi-universe times infinity sized round peg!)

We just do not have the horse-power in our so limited minds, in our so limited existence as a whole species, to be able to start to comprehend God.

If you are pressed and stressed to the point of giving up by Covid 19 – a shortterm pandemic- , then we all must surrender to the reality that the project of starting to understand God is so far beyond us, there is no place to start.

Yes, humans have seemingly ‘understood God’ completely, which gives rise to all sorts of human-made-up religions, almost always tools for controlling other humans. What better way to control others than to have them believe it is not just another human ordering them about, but it is the divine, the infinitely powerful (to be feared), their Creator who orders them about. Even throw in love powered by fear and … well obedience is complete … or the just punishment has often been ruin, exile or even death administered by those in power over this made-up faith.

What about our faith that we hold to today? Is that made up as well? If you treat faith as a smorgasbord from which you can take anything as much as you want to form your faith, then I would guess that is not only the case, but you have lost yourself to a morass of ‘leaders’ who are yanking you around by the nose, though you may remain completely unaware of it.

If you adhere to a tradition … you may still be living out someone else’s control over you. OR maybe, just maybe …

Throughout scripture there is a thread woven of our God (the God of Abraham and Sarah and all the others down to Martin Luther, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Hordern, and many others of all generations) as a God who goes the complete ‘distance’ to bridge the infinite (imagine a multi-universe times infinity round peg) to finite (imagine a teeny, tiny square hole) problem.

We refer to it as revelation. We read it in the passages above:

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.

We are not left to try to bridge the gap, to somehow wrap our heads around the infinite, the divine. We need not worry about ‘understanding’ God. God comes to us and does that for us.

That we cannot do anything to earn God’s favour or renewed life, that we can do nothing to understand God, must leave us as the beginning of each moment humble.

Humbled we can confess. Humbled we can proceed through our days assured that God walks with us, that we can be bold (not arrogant or self-righteous) and courageous to speak of God’s Word to us, and to be the doers of God’s Word at all occasions.

God’s Will for us, for this marvellous creation is most clearly seen in … our failures, our sins. In God’s Forgiveness in response to our sins we limited humans experience most clearly God’s Will for us and all people; that we live lives of gratitude for life, forgiveness and renewed life.

Confession and humility and gratitude are not easy nor are they comfortable. There are plenty of leaders who encourage us to start, continue and carry on our days without confessing our sins. In Covid 19 times, with recorded worship, my congregation has not had confession once as part of the services (that I have seen, at least. I would hope I am wrong. Yet it should be a part of everyday, a part of every service. It is the beginning of experiencing God, otherwise we risk avoiding God all together as we ‘make up our faith’ for the coming days.

What a miracle it is that God has given us; a way to begin to understand God’s Will and Word for us and all creation!

It is said in many ways. It is the shadows that point us to the Light! Leonard Cohen expressed it, ‘It is in the cracks that the Light gets in.’

Breathe, Relax, Choose, Do the Saints’ Work

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Relax, Breathe,

No Matter the Path We Choose,

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love.

2 Samuel 22:3

My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my saviour; you save me from violence.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Words of Grace For Today

Covid 19 has brought many of the challenges to abundant living to the fore, making it impossible to ignore them. Poor care in (only some) senior care facilities, the real costs of homelessness (which we used to minimize by large social housing projects which were stopped decades ago, resulted in large homeless populations nearly everywhere, which we are only recently addressing and saving money doing so!), the huge percentage of our populations who have absorbed as the basis of their ‘rational’ thinking ‘Querdenken’, false-news, science-deniers, and wild conspiracy theories, which has fed racist and minority focused hate – this is possible since the powers that be have long since used propaganda, and all the above to rationalize their corrupt agendas and to remain in power. Fear mongering by politicians and power brokers and even courts has long term costs for a society and we are paying for it now, again, and will be for decades.

While the stress of isolation taxes each person’s resilience, the first step in responding to each new wave of stress is to relax. It is in fact the only healthy thing we can choose to do in the face of overwhelming stress.

Breathe.

Breathe deeply and slowly.

Breathe in the Holy Spirit’s presence to be in us. Allow it to cleanse and renew each fibre of our being.

Breathe out the effects of all evil and stress.

Breathe in deeply and slowly. Breathe out every source of stress.

Then we can remember who our rock and salvation is. Then we can remember the words of Paul which have sustained generations of God’s people:

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So assured, again, that God is with and for us, loving us, now we can return to providing that same unconditional love to those in need around us. We can start addressing, one by one, the ills of our society that Covid 19 has made more obvious. We can in fact bring an end to chronic homelessness. We can in fact provide better value (pay) for essential workers, and less for overpaid un-essential leeches on our society, like money brokers and stock market manipulators. We can ensure all people receive respect and care. We can deal with violence (physical and psychological) against all people by anyone, not just against women by men. We can begin to deal with the many who use religion to accumulate power for themselves, to hide their abuse of others, and to perpetrate violence against anyone who stands up to them. We have more than enough ‘wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing’ in our congregations. We can begin to deal with Querdenken and raw hatred based on religion, ethnicity, gender or any other measure by speaking truth, and protecting those who speak truth for us.

And we can begin and end each day thanking God: My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my saviour; you save me from violence.

Our Little to God is More Than Enough

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A reed, a little bark.

What we have may not look like much,

Doch whatever we have

God will use to give all people life,

life abundant!

Leviticus 26:5

Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land.

Matthew 14:20

And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.

Words of Grace For Today

God provides a great bounty for all to live from.

All in good order from sowing, to ripening, to harvest, to eating; God provides security for all. Not merely food security, but also food security.

We muck it up terribly so that through history billions go hungry and die of starvation.

Jesus comes to teach us, to heal us, and we gather. It is late. It is meal time. We are not stupid no matter how poor we are. We all have brought a bit to eat with us. We are not stupid no matter how poor we are. We do not bring out the food hidden for safety sake, lest the greed of a few fools and truly poor (who have brought no food with them) brings them to attack us, maim or kill us, and take our little food from us. We, too, are greedy this way. We call it caution or wisdom. Jesus calls it sin.

Jesus does not chastise or demand or expose us. Instead Jesus gathers the little his disciples have, places it in a few baskets, and passes it around for all to take from it what they need. Those with plenty add to the baskets, those with nothing take a meal from the baskets. Jesus does not dictate love, Jesus only lives an example of sharing God’s bounty with all people.

The people follow Jesus’ example, assured by his presence that they need not fear.

In the end many, many baskets of the leftovers remain uneaten. We are not stupid, we have brought more than enough. Jesus is not stupid, he shows us how to share God’s blessings of food and God’s blessings of everything else, so that all have enough, and there is plenty left over.

Now, today, amid the challenges of Covid 19, take the new opportunities we have before us, to relax (which negates fear), to bring out God’s bounty, and to share God’s great bounty with all, so that all have enough to live, and to live abundantly.

God’s Creative Responses of Love, Us

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fire

Beauty

God Needs All We Can Be

To Bring Wayward Creatures Like Us

To Be Reconciled With God

Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

2 Corinthians 5:20

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Words of Grace For Today

God’s Kingdom is never a static, accomplished, passive, settled thing. God’s Kingdom is God’s rule over God’s creation and all the creatures in it, including us very sinful and loving and stubbornly arrogant and gracious and cruel and kind and ….

God’s rule over us responds to our vagaries, pulling, twisting, diving, climbing, enveloping, releasing, disciplining, celebrating [and fill in everything God does in response to us] us.

God does not do this at a disinterested distance. God walks with us. Significantly God works in creation through us. God needs ambassadors of God’s will, as well as engineers, healers, teachers, gandy-dancers, architects, poets, and [fill in all we humans can be and do] of God’s will.

Always God is looking for volunteers. While God can easily voluntell us to go, God more often waits, patiently, for us to respond to God’s pleas ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’

The temptation for us is to ignore God, for history teaches us well that those who respond most often are disparaged, persecuted, and even killed for their trouble.

When we listen to God’s history told as a complete history of life, Creator and creation and creatures all together, then we begin to understand that there is no life with as much value and reward and joy and hope and love as a life lived in response to God’s call, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’

When we respond, ‘Here am I; send me!’, then we become ambassadors for Christ who entreat all people on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. In response … well the responses are all over the map of possibilities given our sinfulness and love and stubbornly arrogance and graciousness and cruelty and kindness, our success will appear to be minimal at best, and the demands Covid 19 places on us are nothing compared to those creatures and Creator will place on us.

And our all our hope will be fulfilled, our joy complete, and our love will be made whole … even as we sin yet again and require God to step in to graciously forgive us, redeem us, and send more ambassadors to us to teach us how to be reconciled to God.

God’s rule requires everything from us, especially creativity in being God’s gracious, unconditional, and unending love and joy for others.