For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; I will make an end of all the nations among which I scattered you, but of you I will not make an end. I will chastise you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.
2 Timothy 4:16-17
At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
Words of Grace For Today
Facing one’s sure end, due to enemies’ work against us though we are innocent, is about as dire life gets.
To know God was with us,
To know God is with us,
To know God will always be with us,
To know that even if our enemies succeed in taking our life, we will live!
This is to know Grace.
And even under such threat, we live abundantly, blessed, breathing in the Spirit, and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, even for our enemies.
Just another day.
Tomorrow is another,
which will be filled
wonder and miracles and God’s presence revealing the marvels of the universe.
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
Words of Grace For Today
Love God’s Law and you will have peace, for nothing will make you stumble, and let Christ’s words dwell in you, teach and admonish each other all wisdom, and with grateful hearts sing to God!
All this is providing care for ourselves, though none of it earns us God’s favour or Grace. God promises us God’s favour, righteousness in God’s eyes, even though we certainly do not deserve it. What God gives us we do not and cannot earn. It is all free gift!
Then we get to respond. That’s our time for loving God’s Law, and letting Christ’s word dwell in our daily lives, as we teach and admonish one another (note that it’s mutual, not an authoritarian telling others what is right or wrong – that kind of judgment is God’s and God’s alone.) The great thing we get to do (actually one of so many great things we get to do) is to sing.
Covid 19 is transmitted by micro-droplets of breath, and singing produces lots of them and spreads them great distances, much greater than 2 metres! So we do not get to sing in large groups. Not until the pandemic is finished.
Just because stupid people say they are not worried about Covid 19, or they are going to live, or they are done with it, does not mean Covid 19 is done with us. Singing in groups for now is just stupid. As is coming close to strangers when it is not at all necessary. Or shaking hands with strangers. Or not wearing masks and face shields (oh, that’s right, hardly anyone wears a face shield!) Or not leaving in ‘isolation’ purchases for 3 days before handling them, and refrigerated or especially frozen items should be washed with a strong bleach solution. (Cold and frozen temperatures preserve the virus, and waiting three days for something in the freezer does no good for letting the virus die of its own accord. Warm up that frozen or refrigerated item and bingo bango splat – any virus on it comes back to life to infect you.
All the precautions that we can take are good. Learn a few more each week and add them to your fall repertoire, before the 2nd wave hits us harder than the 1st!
It’s a long haul discipline, not a short sprint. So take care of you and yours. Make new connections (physically distant.) And sing. Go into the bathroom, turn on the ventilation fan and sing your heart out! Go outside on a windy day or a great distance (at least 10 metres) from others and sing your heart out. Who cares what people think! We all know we need to sing with grateful hearts every day.
Teach, learn and admonish one another to take new precautions and keep the old ones. Practice them more diligently. Voluntarily shrink the size of you ‘cohort’, which means start keeping 2 metres apart from people who used to be in your cohort, wear masks and wear them correctly! (how many people do I see wearing them not over their nose, not even over their mouth! or handling them as if they could never be full of the virus!) even at home except with the smallest number of people possible (your children and spouse, for example,) and buy a face shield and start using it, use hand sanitizer right away after every time you touch anything that could be contaminated, and frequently all through the day, at every transition. You know the drill. Practice it without one leak in the guard between you and Covid 19.
Be smart. Be wise. Be patient. Be kind. And this thanksgiving and every one from now on you will still be able to celebrate with the ones you love, knowing you did not kill someone else with your reckless or just sloppy Covid 19 prevention practices. Covid 19 prevention practices are part of God’s Law: Do not Kill.
Rather be at peace, knowing you have done everything possible and wise to keep you and others safe.
For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace.
Each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
Words of Grace For Today
The good person … produces good and the evil person … produces evil.
Forest Gump quotes his mother: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
We like to paint the world in black and white, good and bad, yes or no. Binary absolute polarized categories are simpler to describe, identify, and judge. Polarized thinking is dangerous, and destructive to others and ourselves.
Christ calls us to a different view: He ate with sinners and tax collectors, welcoming in the women of ill-repute, the lame, the outcast, and even lepers.
Martin Luther clarified for us the view of humanity that Jesus calls us to embrace: that before God (in the ultimate judgment of us) we are all sinners, always, forever.
Only through Grace does Jesus step in and give us his impeccable record, not only before God, but also as the record we can live with as our past as we move into the future! Thus we are God-made saints.
Sinners we remain, God makes us saints, and it’s not sometimes one and then other times the other. We are simultaneously both saints and sinners. That goes for every last one of us! No exceptions for good or bad behaviour.
Pen-ultimately (of a 2nd order of significance) we know that how we live our lives effect others who live now on this earth and those who follow us. In other people’s eyes we can be seen to do good things, and be judged as a good person, OR to be seen to do bad things, and be judge as a bad person.
These orders of significance, the ultimate judgment of God, and the penultimate judgment of history about our lives, are not ours to make. There are other lower orders of significance where we may be able to judge ourselves as going good and being good, or as doing bad and being bad. They are the level at which we can understand Luke wrote about people being like trees: we produce the fruit that is of the kind we are. This image breaks when we realize that God made us all ready, able, and eager to only do good; yet we broke from the kind of people (‘trees’) that God made us to be, we sinned, and we have done evil things.
Jeremiah writes how everyone (but not Jeremiah or God’s faithful few) is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.
Sometimes it seems that everyone else has become evil. In a world economy that is based on greed it is difficult to see anyone conduct business not based on greed. Laws are written to ensure that CEO’s conduct business as greedily as possible for the shareholders.
In this messed up world, it is easy to see and to say that everyone has become greedy, taking from others what is not ours to take.
Stupid is as stupid does and everyone does stupid. There is no evil that is not stupid, yet not all evil is stupid. (Some stupid is not evil, it’s just stupid.) So perhaps better said: stupid evil is as stupid evil does, and everyone does stupid evil.
Saints are a miracle. Only by God’s Grace is anyone able to be seen as a saint, in spite of their stupid doings.
Only the paradox that Luther provides covers it: we are all simultaneously saints and sinners. God creates us Good. We all choose to be stupid by our (fallen) nature, and only by Grace are we ever made wise.
Thanks be to God for saints, like us. And Grace be to those terrible sinners, like us.
He will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
2 Corinthians 5:4
For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Words of Grace For Today
In a word it’s done: God swallows up death, wipes our tears away, takes away our disgrace from earth!
While under this tent (the firmament, the sky) we groan burdened down. We wish not to be disgraced further by being stripped of everything of life. Rather we wish to be robed in Christ’s glorious robes, so that what is mortal, frail, and failing (sinful) in us will be swallowed by God’s Word, which gives us and all creatures and plants life, and indeed brought the universe to exist in its good order from nothing.
There is disgrace before other people, sometimes deserved, more often fabricated by others to destroy innocent people. This is difficult to bear, until one realizes that the fabricating of disgrace 1) has been going on since the first generation, 2) it does not constitute actual disgrace for us, but 3) it does constitute real disgrace for those who fabricate disgrace for us. Still this disgrace is a terrible burden to bear.
In the scheme of the universe created in good order disgrace before others (real or fabricated) is nothing compared to disgrace before God. Fabricating disgrace for others is only one way in which so many disgrace themselves before God. The Devil has his wiles in endless variety.
While disgraced before others we groan with the burdens of trying to survive each day. We seek relief in so many ways. So many require that we throw off life, what little we have left, and throw away all that is of value and joy in this mundane world. As if disconnecting ourselves from our bodies, from the grass, trees, and lakes and oceans, from other people whom we love and whom love us, and from other people who suffer like us and so much worse. Tossing away life given to us by our Creator cannot give us life. This is another wile of the Devil. It merely furthers our disgrace.
Disgrace seems to swallow up all of life, before others, and before God. Death pales in comparison and merely gives relief from disgrace.
God does not leave it to be so. God speaks a Word. With a Word (of might beyond our imagining) God removes our disgrace from all creation. God robes us in Christ’s glorious robes of unconditional love. Death is swallowed up by God’s giving us re-newed life, life in Christ’s name.
With a Word. God speaks and it is so.
Human masters can speak words and order others to make it so. God speaks and all of creation is so.
More power cannot be.
And this power clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, covering our sins, our disgrace, freeing us from disgrace fabricated by others, and we are able to engage fully in life, for ourselves and more. We are able to follow Christ, sacrificing all we are and have and can do in order that others will hear this Word of life.
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’
Words of Grace For Today
It is good to know that Jesus has won the war, because our enemies certainly seem to be winning a lot of battles, even when I refuse to fight any battles.
Now the Psalmist knows exactly what it is like, not just for me, but for so many people through the generations: our enemies seek the destruction of whatever and whomever gets in their way in order that they can pretend to be powerful, powerful enough to make their way without God. Once they start to ‘win’ by destroying others, they seem not to be able to stop.
This is the persecution that followers of Christ have faced in every generation.
Our hope is sure. Christ has conquered the world, and more so, Christ has conquered death!
What is a series of battles lost, when life eternal awaits us? Certainly we can survive …
though today in the middle of these huge losses, it feels more like the world comes to an end, at least for us already today.
Thank God, we are not on our own.
Through all our pain and sorrow, through all our persecution, we know we are not alone.
God is with us.
With God we can hope to survive these trials and persecutions.
With God we can hope with a sure hope that ALL God’s promises will come to pass, including that our enemies will be defeated, not by their defeat. Rather by the Holy Spirit transforming them into followers of Christ.
In the end, since Christ has conquered death and the world, everyone wins. Finally we will win, in God’s way of giving life abundant for all. We win life now and eternally.
For today we pray, and struggle to remain filled with gratitude.
My eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise you? Selah
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
Water. It is the basis of life, the cleanser, the thirst quencher ….
What can we do when our eyes water with tears of sorrow?
What can we do when we call on God, with upraised hands … and yet there is no answer.
What will come of us when there is no more life in us?
We will no longer be able to call on God, nor will God be able to answer us.
So while we live … yes, while we live we call upon God for all good things, with hearts filled with gratitude, and hopes of high expectations for all that God has promised.
The real challenge of life is not mere logistic chaos to organize, or engineering problems to designed to a resolution, or stories of lives that have gone amok, and not even the real lives that the stories represent. The real challenge in life is to face, with almost no expectation of relief, the deepest depths of the Devil’s work. For we knowing we could only be lost if we are left on our own.
Yet, there is no danger, for Christ is with us, not to take us out of the world to another place. No, Christ has stood with us each hour as the Devil works his terrible wiles, and protected us, and given us the best that life has to offer: Living Water. This is the water that quenches all thirst in life, and gives us life so abundant it carries us beyond all imagination.
Each day, drinking in the living water, we call upon God, knowing that Jesus hears our every word and the Holy Spirit guides us to be all that we can be, as God’s children.
Nor does anyone smell like roses through and through.
Where is your place in the universe,
Where Roses die and rose-hips take their place?
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Words of Grace For Today
One hopes always, not just for oneself, but for each child, that the parents are honourable, and worthy of being honoured. Of course no one is really worthy. Being a parent is not a skill set one is born with. It is acquired through trial and error, lots of trials and lots of errors.
As in almost everything, if one is kind as a parent, that goes a long way to making everything else possible to work out or work with.
Yet no matter one’s parents, there is value in honouring your parents. This only starts with treating them with respect, though not always obedience as one becomes an adult oneself. The real gist of honouring one’s parents is to recognize one’s own place in the universe, right down to the family.
As child to parents, even more so as one becomes an adult child, one receives great blessings in learning to value your parents, just as they are. No good comes of painting them either better than they are, nor from painting them worse then they are. The blessing is in taking them just as they are, and honouring them for their trials and errors raising you, or not if they did none of that (which means you were probably better off than with them.)
This is an essential step in maturing as a person. One recognizes one’s parents are fully human. An accompanying step is to recognize that you, too, are fully human, trials and errors included.
Learning how invaluable kindness is, and how it helps one make up for so many other terrible things is also an essential step in maturing.
God gave us this commandment that we might become healthy, mature people, always children of God.
Honouring one’s parents, knowing one’s place in the universe right down to the family, accepting others and oneself as flawed and wonderful humans, and being kind: these are the stepping stones that enable us to welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed us.
Of course so many people say they do this just fine thank you. It’s just ‘those’ people, the strangers, the homeless, the different orientated, the people of a different faith, the people of a different race or face or tongue, ‘those’ people (you know who we mean, they say), those people are not welcome.
When Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, Jesus will welcome the inhospitable people just as they welcomed ‘those’ people.
Gracious God gives us time now for the amendment of life, to mature enough to recognize Jesus in the face of ‘those people’ before it’s too late and we now longer have the opportunity to share God’s Grace as God has so freely given it to us.
who has lost theirs and become another homeless person
struggling to survive the winter?
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength – who has resisted him, and succeeded?
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Words of Grace For Today
The original sin is to claim to be what one is not. The story of Adam and Eve, the first of original sin, recounts how they sought to be wiser than they were, accepting the serpent’s ‘wise words’ as better than God’s Word of Promise and Guidance.
In the face of a tiny virus, the world has shutdown or suffered a fast and deadly spread of illness and death. The rapid spread sometimes still came despite measures to shutdown, since not everyone complied or there were too many loopholes. Bodies piled up … and still do.
We ought to be quite humbled by the last six months.
Instead people are defiant, claiming openly that they are done with the pandemic, that it were a hoax, or that there were easy remedies to stop it … and … and … and on go the complaints about other people’s good work to slow it. Stopping it would have required such drastic measures that no one would anticipate enough people would comply as to make them even as effective as the half measures we do have. And on go the shear stupidity in words and actions that people engage in.
Of course stupid people throw caution to the wind and behave as if there were nothing that one ought to do different to protect oneself and others. These stupid people are rarely the people who get deadly sick. It’s always the innocent bystander (to whom the stupid ones have come too close to, touched, or breathed on) who gets rip roaring sick, is permanently maimed, or dies.
Which are you, the overly cautious (no caution is too much really) or are you one who helps keep the virus spreading and killing, maybe not you, but others?
Who are we?
We are very small specks in the scope of God’s universe, and yet God knows us intimately and walks with us always.
Now, from prison people have run and escaped; not all but some. Across closed borders some people have run and escaped to freedom of a sorts; not all but some. Like the Berlin Wall, those who made it alive were few and far between. Most were shot or electrocuted in dem Grenzgebiet. Or the Mediterranean Sea, where boatloads of people have drowned in the crossing to ‘freedom’ and others upon arrival are detained within camps of squalor no person should ever know of, yet alone have to live in, or they are returned home to a certain death. But a few have made it into Europe and it’s ‘freedom’ and ‘life’.
Doch, no one can escape from God, who walks with us. No one. Not one. Resistance is futile! There is no way to escape from God’s creation and God’s walking with us. It is not death that comes with our failing to escape. It is the promise of life, and life abundant.
What are we to do, instead of trying to cut out on our own? As if we could be more than we are by escaping or denying God! The Holy Spirit calls and guides us to imitate Jesus and obey his commands to love one another as ourselves, especially our enemies.
The company we keep is important. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, the low life of his time. Can you hear the words of Jesus? Can you see the people Jesus calls us to love? They are the invisible ones, the lowly ones, the homeless and forgotten.
With this Covid 19 shutdown, relaxed as it is, and almost certainly coming back in a second wave, there are going to be a lot more people out on the streets, homeless. Good people, poor people, sick people, healthy people, people of integrity, people of hope; all people who could not manage to keep a roof over their heads with the challenges of Covid 19’s shutdown.
For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
But when [Peter] noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’
Words of Grace For Today
There are great challenges, enough to scare any sensible person out of their skin. God walks with us, holding our right hand, reassuring us that we are not alone. We need not fear anything, not nature, nor humans, nor monsters, nor evil itself … and not even a teensie weensie virus that can kill us.
In the course of many ordinary days, Jesus calls us to be courageous, faithful, and trusting, as we venture where others fear to go … in order that we can give life abundant to others, even our enemies. Walking on water is rather simple as the miracles go that Jesus calls us to trust the Holy Spirit enacts for us. Come visit in the winter and I can show you how easy walking on water can be.
Forgiving, especially one’s enemies, is no small thing. At times it is so difficult it is beyond us. There are real monsters in human form that walk among us. It is hard to forgive the evil that incarnates itself in people, bent on destroying that person and all people around them.
Today a visitor came up to the window, and stopped just a few feet away as I pounded on the window to scare her off. It’s not that I do not like visitors. I just prefer not to be a juicy meal for a visitor, or a punching bag, or a bloody pile of bones to be batted about.
I should have grabbed the camera sitting right there near the window instead of pounding, but I was afraid. It bears considering the power in the paws, instead of the possibility of recording one’s last moments. Thankfully she ran. The question is who taught this yearling to explore near human habitat for food or fun? Dangerous.
Fear not, for God walks with us, even when big dangerous show up, or when small dangerous float about. This is God’s creation, and we are God’s people, the people God walks with through life.
So the little bear finally ran off, or rather lopped off and then carefully stepped over a few logs in it’s path.
One day, that bear will end up on someone’s table.