Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
3 John 1:2
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.
Words of Grace For Today
Whether we speak of ourselves made up of body and soul, or we see ourselves as one unified whole of various characteristics interconnected and interdependent, we know …
that historically people have spoken of humans as made up of bodies (flesh, blood, muscles, bones, organs) and souls (spirit, Geist, reason and emotion, sentience) … and …
that historically people have spoken of humans one interconnected, interdependent whole, connected not only to ourselves, but to all other humans and creatures and all of creation, not only in this time, but throughout all time.
In the creation story from Genesis 2 God animates the dust that forms a human with God’s breath (Spirit!) so that the dust lives.
We ought remain humble; we are but dust. We can be so wrongly arrogant; we are God’s Spirit. We ought be so humble; all that we are dust and Spirit are gifts from God, and we exist only because of God, continue only according to God’s Grace, and are promised eternal life only because God so chooses to love us. We can do nothing to earn any of this.
We are not little gods because God breathes Spirit into us. We are mere creatures capable of bearing God’s Spirit to others, capable of bearing God’s Spirit to all creation – not that we do, more often than not we choose to turn against God, God’s creatures and creation, playing as if we were little gods.
It is known that when our spirits, our souls, are in good health, the health of our bodies improves, we recover from illness quicker. When we connect with nature we reduce our stress and our physical and mental health improves. We, body and soul, are connected to God’s creation, interacting at least, though God teaches us we are interconnected.
In the face of Covid 19, and all the challenges to our physical health, even age itself, we pray for ourselves and all people, that as God heals our souls, God may heal our bodies as well. We pray that we may recognize that not only are we in this pandemic together and so dependent on others to observe restrictions to stem the transmission of Covid 19, we are guests on this earth and so dependent on each other to treat all humans as the precious gifts they are and all of creation as the wondrous gift it is, for us all.
You have made me stride freely, and my feet do not slip.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Words of Grace For Today
Faced with the impossible challenge of facing war against Hitler, Churchill famously said: We have nothing to fear other than fear itself.
Taking office in 1933 FDR faced the great depression and famously said: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
This phrase as best researched seems to have originated with Montaigne in the sixteenth century, was probably picked up from Montaigne by Francis Bacon in the seventeenth, and then became a common proverb or axiom in later writers.
Over and over again in scripture as angels, leaders of God’s people, and Jesus himself greet people in great distress they say Fear not! For the Lord is with you! Or words similar.
Fear overwhelms our normal ability to deal reasonably with dangerous or challenging situations. We know that fear triggers a response generated in the brain below the cerebral cortex, which controls language and reason. Of course if we really are under attack in an mminent life and death situation, sitting and contemplating what is happening could be the end of us, so quicker responses, choosing between freeze, fight, or flight, are made by a faster area of our brain closer to the rest of our body.
Most of life is not helped by these responses, and in fact as a whole society, when we reduce our choices to these we end up with mass panic, if not in outright rioting mobs, then in masses of people unable to function and contribute to a societal solution, instead getting in the way of a solution and multiplying the problems faced.
God provides us, in the Good News that Jesus has redeemed us with Grace, not according to our works, a way of living that assures us: no matter what we face, God is with us. That reassurance, renewed in us by God’s Word each day gives us freedom from fear and all it’s causes, which are more than enough in this world to sink any reasonable person.
We, by Grace, are able to stride freely into each day, assured that this is the day of our Lord, God’s time, God’s creation, and God’s Spirit that accompanies us … giving us choices to respond to all sorts of evil with the same Grace that God gives to us.
We offer to others, by our very presence, the same Grace God exercises in and for us.
Calm reassurance of God’s Love for all creation in the face of Evil is God’s way of defeating Evil at every turn.
What a life, an abundant life, we get to live. God gives this life to us as pure gift! And we get to multiply it by giving it as gift to others!
It’s simple math: miracles of Grace beget miracles by God’s infinite factor of Love.
We have nothing to fear, but fear (Evil’s greatest presence) itself, and God has defeated fear and all Evil’s ways, even death!
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Words of Grace For Today
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me …
This is the best of all possibilities for us, that the Spirit of the Lord God be upon us.
This is not something for us, ourselves. This is for …
… the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the captives, the prisoners, and those who mourn.
Actually that is a partial list that stands in for those who need us, those who desperately need someone to give them aide, freedom, and/or hope. God sends us to bring God’s blessings to those whom God loves and wishes that, despite all that would rob life from them, they would have life and have it abundantly.
God sends us.
God sends us and blesses us to be able to comfort those who mourn, to proclaim good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners. That this is the day of the Lord.
Wonders and wonders.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon us … the Lord has anointed us
Nothing can be more marvellous for us.
The sun rises, the sun sets.
We can see creation falling apart all around us: the effects of sin and evil, corruption and deceit, and angst and despair.
We can see the wonders of God acting all around us, bringing hope, comfort, liberty, release, and God’s time in all we encounter.
And Ezra said: ‘You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.’
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
Words of Grace For Today
There is much that we can create:
Paintings, sculptures, pottery, photography.
Dance, theatre, film.
Novels, short stories, poetry.
Our spirit flows from us as we create, and as others take in our creation they certainly can be inspired. The spirit flows.
As parents we are privileged and responsible and accountable for nurturing, guiding and inspiring our children to become healthy adults. Teachers, coaches, and pastors/rabbi/priests are privileged to assist and participate in nurturing children. Yet we do not inspire life into children, we merely help God’s given spirit grow.
We cannot, no matter how hard we try, inspire, on our own, our creations to breathe. God alone can bring what is not alive, to breathe and come to life, to dream and envision the possibilities of joy and hope.
God, on the other hand, creates in such great quantity and quality that we can only be awestruck. So much in the universe does not breathe, does not carry and share spirit. God also creates things that live, that breathe, that smile and dream.
God gives that to each of us!
We can only respond by being awestruck. We can only appropriately respond by worshipping God, our creator. All the goodness we enjoy comes from God. As we remember that we are God’s creatures owing God everything, life is as God created us to live it: life is life abundant.
As we share with others what God has given us, so that everyone enjoys life abundantly, we enjoy more and more what God intended for us to experience: grace and love.
Another great thing about creation is that that God’s creation is held together by grace and love.
Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’
2 Corinthians 6:4-10
As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Words of Grace For Today
This day is holy to our Lord, as is each day, even the most challenging day.
God gives us strength in knowing joy.
We could understand this to be paltry foolishness, trying to make joy out of the most terrible things of life.
Reading Paul’s account gives us clearer insight and understanding. Paul suffered as much as anyone, pursued, persecuted, arrested and jailed. In the midst of all that Paul meets his great difficulties that put his life in jeopardy with nothing short of a wondrous string of God-given goodness.
We expect everything terrible to be the part and parcel of Paul’s life. Yet from all this Paul asserts he is much alive, rejoicing, rich and having all that he could expect from life.
There it is again and always: God’s blessings flow so that in spite of all our difficulties, Covid 19’s included … so that despite the most egregious difficulties we know a more fundamental, poignant joy. That is part of our our abundant life; that we know God-given joy, gratitude, and hope, no matter what.
Covid 19 has all sorts of effects on our bodies and minds, many that make sense if we stop and think about it, and many are profoundly disabling. Covid 19 does not stop God, even if it kills or maims us.
Goodness comes in many ways to us all, always as a gift from God.
Joy finds us, if we humbly get out of our own way and but notice all God’s blessings flowing over us.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
Words of Grace For Today
If God made a mistake, creating us to live on this earth, all of us so capable of evil that is so horrific we can barely imagine it’s destructive power, then the solution and our salvation would be for us to be able to leave all this behind. Many stories have been written and and genocidal attempts made, instead of removing us, to remove the evil from earth. It cannot go well for anyone, because sin and the agents of evil are each of us. It is not some identifiable or vague ‘them’. It is all of us who are the agents of sin and evil.
Many stories have been written and ill-fated attempts made to remove us from the bounds of sin on earth, from these flesh encased lives we have to live. None are good or successful. All need a huge dose of delusion.
Delusion runs rampant today, from Trump, Trump supporters, to similar flavours of government that ignore science, and instead implement restrictions for their own political ends instead of as protection for the people. Under the cover of Covid 19 great evil is perpetrated against millions of people the world over.
Did God make a mistake creating these people who use a pandemic as cover for evil, or for that matter for creating all of us, the perpetrators and victims alike?
Doch, God made no mistake creating us to live in these flesh encased lives here on this earth with all these other creatures. All humans, capable of evil, are also capable of great good. For this good God created us.
What we cannot do on our own is take on Evil and win. In fact the easiest route for the Devil to own us is when we try to concoct our lives as good on our own. That opens a freeway into our hearts, minds and strength for the Devil to work his/her wiles, wiles of deception and delusion, and even covering the tracks of evil in our core existence, so that we can fool ourselves about how the Devil possesses us!
In this marvellous life we are each given, God alone is our keeper, our safeguard against evil. God does not remove us from the wonders of creation and our awesome yet limited manner by which we participate in creation: See. Hear. Smell. Taste. Touch. Organize. Assemble what can seem as chaos into good order, good understanding. Marvel. Sing for Joy. Give God Thanks!
Still we will be overrun by evil. It is powerful, so much more powerful than we, ourselves.
Do you think you are so good that you are beyond the reach of evil tapping you at your core to perpetrate evil? Ha, for fools are exactly in this way played out by the Devil to commit the worst evil of all, passive aggressive, smiling to our faces and stabbing us in the back, pretending and parading around as if they were so good, yet at the same time plotting and scheming people’s destruction … completely owned (unawares) by the Devil.
Our only defence is God’s mercy, the story of Jesus’ sacrifice to rescue us and redeem us, the gifts of the Holy Spirit to renew us and guide us to …
… to humble admiration of God’s love for us
… to humble gratitude for God’s mercy
… to humble kindness toward all people, especially our ‘enemies’
… to humble dedication to work for justice for all people, justice based on truth and God’s mercy
… to humble joy no matter what we face, because we know God alone is our keeper and this world is where God intends us to live, and to live abundantly, helping others live abundantly as well.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”
Words of Grace For Today
Who do we follow?
Can we follow others …
into the ways of the Devil?
on the way of Jesus?
So much is made, to great detriment, of ‘the woman’ seeing the forbidden tree was good for food, eating first, then offering her husband the same.
Truth is, as every honest person knows, men and women alike are as easily and as likely to see forbidden fruit as something they desire, must have, and for which they do great evil things to acquire.
Every day, each of us, needs a Word, whether from our memories or renewed, currently spoken to us, … a Word that creates faith in us such that we can resist temptation to pursue life for ourselves (to the great detriment of many others).
That Word does not come from anyone, anywhere, at any time, other than from God. And God’s Word must be spoken, written or communicated (through events, dance, music or something similar) by other humans. It is a paradox: only God’s Word can save us; only another human can provide that Word for us.
Thank God, God’s Kingdom is at hand, and God’s Word is given freely for anyone who is inspired by the Spirit to provide it to others.
In this time of pandemic, now in it’s tenth month of restrictions for us, we need this Word … to inspire us not to listen to the words of discouragement, of resignation, and especially of lies … as if ignoring the danger with reckless behaviour can save any of us.
Yet covidiots spring up everywhere, sometimes even in us.
Only the Word that gives us breath and life, joy and meaning, love and hope can save us from the Devil’s temptations if not to participate in covidiot behaviours, then to ridicule and complain about those who do.
Thankfully we are not led by blind men or blind women. We are led by Jesus, who has vision to see God as we are unable.
We can approach each day with confidence that God feeds us all we require for abundant life … there is no need to go searching for fruit from the forbidden tree, or even the forbidden tree. Thankfully God provides those who can provide God’s Word to us, and even use us to provide God’s Word to others. Covid 19 has given us even greater opportunities to shared God’s Word.
Be of good courage. There’s much good to be done each day.
Are we like that, weighed down, instead of enjoying life!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
1 Timothy 6:14-16
He will bring about the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.
Words of Grace For Today
Sometimes there is little time.
Give God thanks.
A foot and half plus of heavy snow fell. I had a full day, with little time to write.
Still there were many things to be thankful for, many more to laugh at, and some I just had to shake my head at. One over-arching thing keeps getting proven over and over: God has a sense of humour and keeps hoping for us … why else would we humans be left to do such ridiculously, humorously, crazy things that both fill the news and are apparent right in front of one’s eyes … too often done by the one who the eyes belong to!
Patch Adams had it right: the unexpected joyful thing gets people to notice a bit more of life, and life is wonderful. There is every reason to be “excessively happy.” So why not be that for as many people as you can?
God is everywhere watching, a Light that powers the universe, a Light so great we cannot behold it, so we need not wait. Here and now (in each moment of each day) is the right time and place to make a joyful noise to God!
Which do we see as we progress through life today?
A son honours his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honour due to me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due to me? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised your name?’
‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’
Words of Grace For Today
Everyday there are so many things and people that demand our attention and demand our subservience. The governmental orders that restrict our freedoms in order to protect us all from the deadly and maiming Covid 19 are high on the list of those we are constantly aware of.
Where does God fit on our list? How would we know? How would others know? Does it really matter where or if God is on our list of those we give our attention to and whom we give subservience to?
Malachi thought it does, as did Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, all the prophets and prophetesses, the woman who provided for Jesus and his disciples, and surely Jesus does!
Matthew points out how we humans too often recognize that we must give attention and obedience to God, but we can’t really be bothered when the rubber hits the road; we’ve got other things that keep us busy.
Wayne said he would honour God. But then in his honourable profession the temptations of greed and avarice, the pressures to perform the impossible, and the corruption of absolute power overwhelmed him. He had promised to honour God, but he honoured no one but his own reputation. Sitting in a position of power he destroyed people, and dealt with honest honourable people as cruelly as he could. He identified their greatest vulnerabilities and exploited them until they had no resistance or hope left. He loved watching people crumble behind him as he moved on to the next victim.
God cried, for his son, Wayne, who had started life with such great brilliance and promise, such extraordinary gifts and opportunities, such hope and kindness, had given up on himself, on the goodness of life, and on God.
Tina grew up with church all around, and saw the hypocrisy of her parent’s faith, the pastors’ greed and blatant sinfulness, and the church leaders corruption and dishonesty. She stood at her confirmation, as she thought she must for appearances and to avoid the guaranteed battles with her parents if she did not. She stood and professed her faith, but under her breath she cursed the whole process and her hypocrisy. Afterwords she stood by herself in the woods behind the church and cursed the church, it’s people and it’s God. She vowed she would never, ever do more than the absolute minimum to make people accept her and leave her alone. Later as an adult she would avoid the church at all costs! This she promised herself, and God if there was one.
With a budding career after scholarships and fellowships and the best education available in the world, Tina had it all. She was even considering getting married. She’d found a kind man, an honest man, a man of integrity who stood up for what was right and worked to bring justice to those to whom it was denied.
Then in a blink of an eye, he was dead, killed by an addict in a frenzied high on meth looking for money for more drugs. The addict had been a normal mother of two who needed knee surgery. Prescribed opiates for her pain even before the surgery, which was postponed twice, she became hooked. Her doctor did nothing except cut her off. She turned to prescription drugs on the street, and when she ran through all her family’s money losing them along the way, she turned to cheaper street opiates.
Tina tried to make sense of it all. It was impossible. Nothing made sense. Not her own life. Not the sad story of the addict’s life and her children without a mother. Not her fiance’s death. One day she found herself walking in a wood, praying that God would help her. She remembered that promise she’d made herself in the woods after her confirmation. Still she prayed. When she walked out of the woods, she went looking how she could make a good difference in the world. She found, trained, and volunteered at a safe injection site for addicts. She listened to the addicts who wanted to talk. Many came to trust her. She wasn’t fooled by their lies, or taken in. She listened. She learned what resources were available. If they asked for help, she was ready to guide them, sometimes even walking with them to the place where help was offered, where they could be given a safe apartment, where people would help them get stability, and help dealing with their addiction. She attended lots of AA and NA meetings, sitting in the back with an addict who’d asked her to come to support them.
Who are you today? Like Wayne or Tina? Full of words and short on action? Or full of action humbling submitting to God’s Word to love God, neighbour and self with all our heart, mind and strength, even our enemies?
Whoever each of us are this day, pray that none of us are like the priests who are so far lost we can say: ‘How have we despised God’s name?’
Let us honour God with our prayers, praise, and humble work to bring justice to all people, grace to all people, and hope to all people … starting with ourselves.
We and the Wilderness and all Creation need healing!
Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
Words of Grace For Today
This past Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus, and our own baptisms. For what purpose are we baptized into God’s flock, into God’s family together as children?
What was God planning, when God gathered the remnant back into the fold and let them be fruitful and multiply?
Back then of course land was abundant, people scarce. Survival as a people required increasing the population enough to fend off enemies.
Now the earth is overrun by humans, multiplying out of control. Wild lands are difficult to find, precious when they are, and seldom well protected from being overrun by mining, oil extraction, clear cutting, paving over, filling in the swamps (nature’s water filtration system), and generally developing them so that they serve human short term interests at the cost of our long term survival.
Covid 19 is only nature’s latest reaction to us way-too-many humans putting un-survivable stress on the ecosystems of creation.
Very few of us have ever been close to having 100 sheep. The image still is clear. Even the most cantankerous, stubborn one among many is precious to God. So precious that God goes away from the flock grazing together in the wilderness in order to pursue that hard headed one … ok to be honest that ‘one’ is each one of us at some time or another – sometimes quite often.
Baptized, we are God’s people. It is too easy to write off people who stray from reality, God’s reality of Grace. It is very sensible to write off those who attack us to destroy us … better that than to go on the offensive to destroy all our enemies. (That policy relentlessly pursued always ends with only one survivor.) God does not let us abandon even our worst enemies. Instead God sends us, away from the flock, the safety we find in our lives, and God gives us the task of rescuing, with God’s Grace, the one stubborn, cantankerous one, even if that is our worst enemy.
God does not kill our enemies. God transforms them into one of God’s children … through our kindness and grace.
We can understand that Covid 19 is not God’s plan to reduce the human population by killing off so many of us.
It is surely a wake up call. Creation needs us to be responsible and work to reduce the human population and right now, to preserve what wilderness and swamps and forest lands and arctic tundra and rain-forest and savannas that are left … before none are left, and to save the many species who are threatened today with extinction.
Hard choices. Wake up. Help us all make them starting today, before there is no more today for us all. That certainly is not God’s choice for us, but God does not limit our choices; we are free to destroy ourselves and the earth’s ecosystems … and we are well on our way.
Or we can behave together as the baptized saints that God makes us to be.