What Does -36°C Look Like

Simple question, simple answer.

It looks like an old photographer with camera in hand, bathrobe bare legs exposed, stepping outside to catch the morning photo(s) for the day.

(I will spare you that selfie … and pretty much all selfies. I’ve never thought much of selfies, being even a reluctant model for myself when I was working with lighting and had no other model to practice on.)

This morning having emerged from the 45°C plus shelter for the wood stove I stepped brashly without a jacket or anything more than my bathrobe to dump the ashes from the fire.

Now that tray, usually a bit toasty, was HOT, so much so that even though I ran (I usually do not) this time it seared through my gloves before I reached the fire pit. It has to be dumped not anywhere since the hot coals that hide in the ash are very alive, passionate red, like some people I’ve known well. As I started to flip the ash tray over the heat hit a nerve and the leprechauns grabbed it out of my hands and threw everything into the snow: hot metal hitting cold snow with sizzles and pops – the tray warped!

Cold has it’s impact.

I grabbed the tray, flipped it to empty it fully, and dashed lively back into the 45°C heat. I did manage to notice the light of the sunrise poking a few holes in the coldscape.

Since I survived that I grabbed my camera, and stepped outside, again.

About the time I caught the first photo I started to feel the deep hard bite of below frostbite warning levels. By the time I made the third photo the bite had eased. Comfortable, and alarmed at how quickly it felt OK, I stretched through the five steps to through the door and thawed my nerves back to yelling painfully alive next to that HOT fire.

Words convey the cold.

But how to say it with a photo?

The best addled thought I had, given the bite I knew was coming, was to contrast the cold with the smoke of the hot fire.

So this shot: Not much there? Looks the same as -3.6°C or even +3.6C.

Yes, that red used to be a deck table leg and support: garbaged, recycled with the cutting wheel of a grinder, and re-purposed to support, minus two legs and the table support arms, a chimney.

Inside my brain started to work again, once thawed. Since the window had cleared of the thick frost present at my wake-up an hour earlier (a nice side benefit of wood heat that it is DRY) I decided the blatant visual was going to have to be the best effort for this early hour. The long end of the needle points halfway between 30 and 40 on the left side, the negative side of zero.

A Little Light, a Little ‘Warmer’ -35°C

The rest of the world that is to be seen from ‘my’ window is as beautiful as always on a clear snow covered winter day. Fresh snow. Solitude.

Things are looking up; it’s warmed up a degree, to -35°C

Smoke Dark Moon

Smoke Dark Moon

It’s been an interesting day, cutting wood in the relative warmth of -15

and being able to turn off the generator,

warm enough not to have to worry about warming it up to start it.

So I turned on the 3000W inverter to recharge the computer battery, and it started, then hiccuped and burbed and popped and smoked a bit.

I pulled the empty cords out, pulled the solar generator, cut power to the batteries for the camper, but I do not have a cut off for the battery to the inverter line.

It just fried itself.

Already done and stinky electric fire …

Under warranty, but it took a while to get the replacement.

Home, it was already dark, and cold at -28°C and getting colder faster than forecast so I expect -30° will be well met, since it’s already now -29° and forecast to drop four more degrees before morning, of course the low was expected to be -28° and it’s already -29°. So -33° maybe?

Here it just dropped to -30°. By morning here -34 or so?

As I was out to start the generator, the moon shone a sliver over the trees, and the smoke from the chimney gave a back stop to the darkness broken by the moon.

?What will come next

Slivers of delight, in small ways, the glory of the solitude, all quiet except the generator going to stay warm and circulate the warm air in here.

Smokey Moonlight

Sleep and dream of a world where truth is valued most.

How Cold?

How Cold Can It Get?

Sometimes words make a difference.

What words do you have, that you can use to inspire life abundant

in a camper warm in the cold, soaked in solitude, and connected to the beauty of life by a thin thread of grace and a camera, a chainsaw and a pile of wood, an old furnace, old metal doors, old tarps added to 1x4s and pallets, garbage wood and metal, propane and gasoline …

and hope?

Is your heart warm, your music lively and loud, your thoughts connected to the universe made by God’s grace?

At -25°C that would be helpful, if a bit elfish.

It warmed up suddenly, mostly the cool on the floor dissipated, why,

?

A wonderful feeling after being cold most of today.

Church: I arrive and within minutes need to take my boots off to rub my feet that are painfully cold still. 10 minutes and they warm up … so it goes all day.

Until now. Toasty warm.

Great music, to volume, the selection of Good Lovelies, Cohen, and Beethoven so far, more to come.

Find a corner that is kind

of friendly and cozy.

A woman at the till behind me, said I was nice, for letting her put her milk jug on the belt sooner than otherwise there would have been room.

I told her my wife doesn’t say I am nice.

She says I am kind ….

Kind of this and kind of that.

‘Cute’

Back out into the cold … it is soooo cold.

Some people heat their homes with gas,

the heat that is put into my face to burn the light out of me

is darkness in action,

the throngs that have used Gaslighting to beat me into submission, death or exile, whichever works first,

is darkness with a goal,

the lies that others live by and for and with,

is the darkness resident.

the pain that everyone suffers for their part in Gas creating,

Gaslighting me

is sadness given place where life belongs.

My little corner is cozy,

in the cold, it is always good enough, with lots of work, to be warm enough.

How cold can their hearts become, so that the weather hardly compares?

How cold can it get?

It can be as cold as it possibly can get, even with climate change,

where yesterday’s extremes are now today’s normals,

because

God’s Grace

and Love are more powerfully Light

than the darkness that people wish on me,

and the furnace

has plenty of wood,

so that

the kindness of my heart is enough,

by God’s Grace,

to hand on what was first given me

faith,

hope,

and

love.

How Cold will you let your life become, before you step into the light of Grace?

Post Sermon 10 Feb

This is what I would have preached:

In our first lesson this morning, Isaiah reports his encounter with God: I saw the Lord full of his glory.

At the Synod Study Conference the main presenter encouraged us to think about how our images of God inform our faith, our thinking, our hearts, and our actions as God’s people.

Isaiah provides an awesomely frightful, wonderful image of God, on a throne, robes filling every room of the temple. Heavenly winged creatures protect themselves from seeing God so that they can survive. No one can see God and survive; except by God’s special grace, like Moses on the mountain who returns pure white and here Isaiah.

The real question for most of us today is not if we will survive seeing God, it is rather Do we see God at all? Do we have an understanding of God that is large enough? Or do we believe in a small god who is controlled and limited by our own whims?

It is no coincident that a TV series writers named their all powerful character Q, or source (source of all sorts of trouble.)

Imagine that you are sitting here in worship one minute, and the next in the company of this all powerful being you are circling the planet Saturn able to see the colours and particles of its rings splash across your face. Before your heart completely shuts down at the awesomeness of it all, you are hurling through space faster than light, able to see everything in detail as you go, until you are beyond the known universe in the delta quadrant. Then in an instant you are back, watching earth form and evolve, seeing every detail all at once as millions of years pass in minutes, until you see yourself born. Time slows and you experience everything about your life again, but with a much fuller context, until your brain protests the overload.

The all-powerful, capricious, selfish, and terribly destructive being Q, entices you to ‘fix’ your life by wiping out all your mistakes. All you have to do is give him everything of your life so that he can experience human existence through your eyes, heart, and mind.

Suddenly he is gone. His own kind have revoked his powers. You sit here with us singing a simple song of our faith.

This terribly destructive and capriciously self-absorbed being, from Star Trek, Q, is a collective of a single being who have unlimited power and knowledge.

But even this being is too small to be our God, or anyone’s, though Q would like to be. Q does not know empathy and love for others.

Were Q your god, you would have ample justification for all sorts of selfish, small minded, sociopathic thoughts and actions. Between people there would be a constant battle to see who could get the best of the other, in order to live a fuller life. … Which horrors of horrors sounds pretty typical of human life, and thus the image of Q chosen by the writers, a mimic of an all too common image of a far too small god.

By contrast fortunately our God is gracious and all-loving. God’s steadfast love endures forever!

Encounter with our God

How have you encountered God? What images of God do you use to interpret and make sense of the world? To make sense of what was handed down to you from previous generations? To make sense of what people around you experience? To make sense of what you have learned about this wonderfully complex world which is just a speck in God’s creation?

Isaiah finds himself in God’s presence. He is terrified at the awesome presence of God that flows everywhere throughout the temple, with a host of marvellous creatures. In an instant that holds all time, Isaiah sees he has unclean lips, lives with a people of unclean lips. He is awfully unworthy to be in God’s presence.

Peter, fishing all night without any luck, encounters Jesus, who borrows his boat to teach the crowds gathered, who hunger for Jesus’ words and healing truth. When Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets again, Peter, not ready to throw wasted effort after a futile night, decides however that, just for Jesus, he will toss his nets in the deep once again.

The abundant fish start to break his nets, overfills his boat and the second boat of his partners who come to help Peter with the catch. Peter realizes three things: Jesus is God, Peter is sinful, and he ought not stick around very long: encounters with God usually do not end well for sinners.

Isaiah and Peter both try to end their encounter with God. God has other plans for them, and for us.

God sends a seraph to purify Isaiah with a burning, live coal. Jesus quells Peter’s fear, and then calls Peter to follow him, to catch people, instead, for the Kingdom of God.

No matter how we imagine God, we, too, ought to be terribly afraid of God’s awesome power.

The biblical stories again and again call us to not be afraid, though we are. They remind us that above all God, all powerful and all righteous, all knowing, is also gracious and all-loving. God chooses to save us.

[Insert your own story of grace, new life and gratitude shared.]

Breathing clean fresh air I walked with grace, a spring in my step, a new found hope in my heart. Just minutes before: The van started to fish tale on unexpected black ice. I had held it in my lane delicately adding power and counter steering the slide as cars and a semi-truck passed me on the other side of the road. At the top of the hill on the corner it had one last wag and it was done dancing. Until on the bridge above the railroad tracks far below, the van slowly rotated a full 180° into the other lane, where no traffic was at the time, by inches missed the guard rail beyond the railroad track, hit the snow bank at the road’s edge and flipped once clean in the air, then rolled twice down the long embankment to stop upright against the trees at the bottom. Glass shards were everywhere, the van was totalled, but we, with only a few bruises and cuts, undid our seat belts and walked up the snow-covered embankment and down the hill to the inn by the lake. We breathed new life. We shared new life at worship that Sunday, at the funeral the next week, and with everyone we encountered over the next few months. Life was again a free gift from God. The van so easily could have danced into the oncoming traffic to take all our breath away; or flipped over the guard rail falling 75 feet (that might as well have been miles) to a dead stop. Yet we breathed … we breathed only by the Grace of God. So we shared with everyone who crossed our paths gratitude and love of life in every grace-filled way possible.

Responses to our God’s Grace

Purified by the searing heat of a live coal, made clean by God’s work, not Isaiah’s, when God asks who God should send, Isaiah is able to respond wholeheartedly, “Here I am, Send Me.” Because of what God has done for him, free, graceful, healing and life-giving, Isaiah knows who he is. Isaiah volunteers to be God’s voice for others, in order to give the same grace to others that God has given him.

Peter knows both Jesus to be God and himself to be a sinner, unworthy of being in God’s presence. After Jesus frees Peter from his overwhelming fear, Peter leaves everything behind: nets, boat, and two boatfuls of fish. Peter answers Jesus’ call to go and fish for people; to bring others to see Jesus as God’s own son, their saviour, and hope for tomorrow.

God makes both Isaiah and Peter into saints (God’s perfect people of light and grace). Both become perfect and yet remain sinners. This is what Martin Luther spoke about, and we now speak about, when we say we are all simultaneously saints and sinners.

The question each day is will we notice God’s presence every day?

Will we recognize God as God and be awe-fully afraid of God? Will we, by the grace of God, allow God to calm our fears and purify our lips, hearts, minds, and strength? Will we volunteer to bring grace to other people, all kinds of people, especially our enemies?!

Concluding Blessing

By the grace of God may we see God each day, present in our lives. May we recognize God and be fearful of God’s awesome power, but by God’s Grace and love allow ourselves to be transformed into people of the light. May we step into each moment filled with God’s grace for us and hand on to others that grace that is given to us.

May grace abound through us God-made saints, yet always sinners, for all people. Let there be light! So that we, and many people through us, may say: I saw the Lord full of his glory.

Amen

Solution or More Problem



The sun rises to colour pieces of the air.

What do we want to be?

Right and therefore probably terribly wrong and the perpetrator of worse: or humble and humorous?

Leaving the study conference, the presenter came to the door, with packed suitcase, leaving with someone else to catch a plane at the airport an hour away. It had been bitter cold, below -30°C. As we left the temperature was still a stiff -20°C with a windchill of -27°C, which does make a difference for what happened next.

I asked if she had a parka. She said it was packed in the suitcase. I continued with my real concern saying that at these temperatures one ought have it at least right handy in the vehicle so that if something happens one is prepared.

She returned a glazed look and said that she would be in the car and into the airport. She had no plans to be outside.

I shook my head in disbelief and said that was ok, but the concern was if an emergency came up, she would not be ready.

More non-commitment, and I departed.

Later I remembered this conversation and one of her comments in her presentation:

‘Mansplaining’ are those spouting off by men without qualifications or attention to the-woman-they-speak-to’s qualifications, as if all wisdom came only from men. And her learned and practiced response was to ignore the words as much as possible and move on.

Ahh, so that was what she did to my words at the door, as I bundled into my down parka on my 40 feet to the car, travelling that same hour to the airport, also never leaving the car.

Perhaps I was just a dumb Minnesotans (she’s from St. Paul MN) from the sticks (Brainerd), who was male and therefore mansplaining her. Perhaps in a different universe.

I have winter survival training, specifically for the weather we were suffering. As a commercial pilot I flew in northern (so it’s called, though it is really central) Alberta. The training was to help us as pilots know how to prepare and then ensure we and our passengers survived after a crash in the bush at extreme temperatures for at least 72 hours. During the training it went down to below -20°C each night as we made our shelters with only natural materials with the tools we normally flew with (or should have never flown without.) The last night it went well below -40°C.

In addition I have had the misfortune of being in a vehicle accident in the winter, and the difference made by having a parka on was critical for survival. Perhaps everything would have turned out ok had I had the parka near me. But then everything was tossed far and away during the pirouette and flips. So maybe not. But getting it out of a packed suitcase? Not a chance that would have gone well.

So maybe I was just mansplaining and her best response was to ignore my words with judgmental disdain and move on; which is good enough until there is an accident, and the parka could have made the difference between life and death, for her or for others in her car or others vehicles.

Maybe she is fully qualified to make the risk assessment, did so and chose comfort over the small likelihood of being in an accident on the way to the car or to the airport.

Or maybe she was not, and as a professor in St. Paul she may never have to work to survive in the outside below -20°C.

But to dismiss my good words, kind even, wise from training and experience, well that is just proof that mansplaining is hardly the problem. The problem is that she dismisses what men say.

NOT

The sun colouring book is actually the smoke of the fire that keeps me warm, or at least alive, when it dips below ‘Youch-It-BITES-to-be-Outside!)

I have no idea if she glazed over about my comment. Or if she actually had a parka to pull out, or was sheepishly covering for the fact she’d travelled, via California, without a parka this time, or she actually made the risk assessment fully informed and the best she wanted to.

Regardless: travelling with no parka at least on the seat beside oneself in the deep freeze of winter is not wise.

Maybe my commenting, with surprise and expecting a humorous exchange, was out of place: why care about how strangers deal with the elements. It’s just the extremes of yesteryear are now the norms, because of climate change. Besides if the stranger is a woman, then it is politically incorrect to try to assist in some normal way.

The best thing to do is let all women suffer, even if there are simple words of hard won wisdom that are worth sharing.

Besides, who cares if I was a stay at home parent, and listened to all the womansplaining that was directed at me at parent-teacher meetings, or other gatherings of parents. Now of course fathers as at home dads is more common. Back then I was singular in most every woman’s experience, and obviously I was stupid at it … because helping raise 7 younger siblings does not really give any man real child rearing experience. You have to be a girl to learn to raise children, practising on your younger siblings, right?!

And all of that is utter nonesense. How do I even know the speaker responded to me as if I were mansplaining her?

I do not.

And why does she ignore men who she thinks are mansplaining her? Because she needs to survive.

But ignoring men, is exactly what women are complaining about: they are ignored.

So the real fix is to blame men and ignore them, to shut them down and silence them, right?!

Wrong.

That kind of working hard to turn the tables on people who treat me/us as if I/we do not count is much more of the same injustice and it breeds injustice, until it has built enough to cause a war, or a personal fight … and then the number of people who are silenced grows out of hand.

Empathy, kindness, reaching into the unfamiliar to understand; These are a good start toward a real solution.

Blaming, dismissing others because they are xsplaining you is not an answer, it is a dodge that perpetuates and makes worse the situation. One could have solved it, but one chose instead to become like one’s enemies and wreak havoc on them as they have you.

No solution comes from diminishing the other, nor from making them one’s enemies.

Only grace truly works.

It’s cold outside. That does not mean one’s heart needs be ice hard.

Be safe, outside, travelling, and with the hearts given into one’s care.

Sometimes the treat is to see something up close, real, beautiful … and forget the rest.

2019.02Feb10 Epiphany 5 Sermon

A Draft.

Encounters with God: Images of God: Imaginations of God

God for us

We Respond

Isaiah reports his encounter with God:

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: 
 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
 the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the Synod Study Conference we were encouraged to think about how our images of God (identified with various academic words) inform our faith, and our thinking, and our hearts, and our actions as God’s people.

Here Isaiah provides an awesomely frightful, wonderful image of God, on a throne, robes filling the whole temple – every room – and heavenly winged creatures, in God’s presence protecting themselves from seeing God, or from stepping in God’s presence, so that they can survive. The background understanding of God is that no one can see God and survive; except that God has allowed a few specially called people to survive the encounter, Moses on the mountain returns pure white and here Isaiah survives.

The real question for most of us today is: Do we have an image, an understanding of God that is large enough to encompass the divine. Do we believe in a God who is more than controlled or limited by our own whims.

Imagine that you are sitting here in worship one minute, and the next you are, in the company of an all powerful being whom you see as a human, circling the planet Saturn able to see the colours and particles of its rings splash across your face. And before your heart completely shuts down at the awesomeness of it all you project through space beyond the speed of light, able to see everything in detail as you go, until you are beyond the known universe in the delta quadrant. And then you are back on earth, watching it form and evolve, seeing every detail all at once as millions of years pass in minutes, until you see yourself born. Time slows and you experience everything about your life again, but with a much fuller context, until your brain seems to protest for lack of space to process.

The all powerful, capricious, self-ish, and terribly destructive being Q, entices you to ‘fix’ your life by wiping out all your mistakes, as long as you give him everything of your life-force so that he can experience life through your eyes, heart, and mind.

Then, without any warning, he is gone; and you know that his own kind have interrupted his destructive interjection into your life, as you sit and sing a simple song of our faith.

A terribly destructive and capriciously self absorbed being, from Star Trek, Q, is one of a collective of a single being who have seemingly unlimited power and knowledge.

But even this being is too small to be our God, or anyone’s, though Q would like to be. Q does not know limits and above all, empathy and love for other beings.

Were Q your God, you would have ample justification for all sorts of selfish, small minded, sociopathic thoughts and actions. Between people there would be a constant battle to see who could get the best of the other, in order to live a fuller life.

Sounds pretty typical of human life, and thus the image of Q chosen by the writers.

Our God is all powerful, and all everything. Fortunately God is all loving. God’s steadfast love endures forever!

One of humans’ most common degradations of God is to assume that we can appease, influence or somehow control God against our enemies and for our own benefit. But again and again in the biblical accounts, God is more than we can ever hope to control. But God is always for us, not against our enemies; actually for them as well; and ever redeeming us from our sins, in order that we can provide that same grace to others.

Encounter with our God

That’s numerous biblical accounts. How have you encountered God? What images of God do you use to interpret and make sense of the world. To make sense of what was handed down to you from previous generations. To make sense of what you encounter yourself, and what people around you experience. To make sense of what you have learned about this wonderfully complex world which is just a tiny portion of God’s creation?

Isaiah finds himself in God’s presence. He is terrified at the awesome presence of God that flows everywhere throughout the temple, with a host of creatures beyond anything he’s seen before. In a simple instant that holds all time to that moment, Isaiah sees himself as unclean, with unclean lips, from a people of unclean lips. He is unclean and awfully unworthy to be in God’s presence.

Peter, fishing all night without any luck, encounters Jesus who borrows his boat to teach the crowds gathered, who hunger for Jesus’ words and healing truth. When Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets again, Peter, not ready to throw wasted effort after a futile night, decides, just for Jesus, he will toss his nets in the deep once again.

The abundant fish start to break his nets, overfills his boat and the second boat of his partners who come to help Peter with the catch. Peter knows three things: Jesus is God, Peter is sinful, and he ought not stick around very long: encounters with God usually do not end well for sinners.

Isaiah asks God to excuse him: he has unclean lips. Peter begs Jesus to leave, because Peter is a good sinner.

God has other plans for them, and for us.

God sends a seraph to purify Isaiah’s lips with the burning heat of a live coal. Jesus calls Peter to follow him, to catch people, instead of simple fish, for the Kingdom of God.

No matter how we imagine God, we, too ought to be terribly afraid of God’s awesome presence.

The biblical stories again and again call us to not be afraid, though we are. And they remind us that above all God, all powerful and all everything good, is loving. God chooses to save us.

Insert here your own Story of encountering and fearing God, God’s grace, and responding to follow, volunteer, to serve God. To hand on to others as we have received, God’s healing and life giving grace.

Breathing clean fresh air I walked with grace, a spring in my step, a new found hope. Just minutes before: The van started to fish tale on unexpected black ice. I had held it in my lane delicately adding power and counter steering the slide as cars and a semi-truck passed me on the other side of the road. At the top of the hill on the corner over the bridge above the railroad tracks far below, the van had slowly rotated a full 180° into the other lane, where no traffic was at the time, by inches missed the guard rail beyond the railroad track, hit the snow bank at the road’s edge and flipped once clean in the air, then rolled twice down the long embankment to stop upright against the trees at the bottom. Glass shards were everywhere, the van was totalled, but we with only a few bruises and cuts, undid our seat belts and walked up the snow covered embankment and down the hill to the inn by the lake. I breathed new life. And I shared new life at worship that Sunday, at the funeral the next week, and with everyone I encountered over the next few months. Life was again a free gift, to be shared in every grace-filled way possible.

Responses to our God’s Grace

Purified by the searing heat of a live coal, his lips made clean by God’s work, not Isaiah’s, when God asks who God should send, Isaiah is able to respond wholeheartedly, “Here I am, Send Me.” Because of what God has done for him, free, graceful, healing and life-giving, Isaiah knows where he is. And he volunteers to be God’s voice for others, in order to give the same grace to others that God has given him.

Peter knows both Jesus to be God and Peter to be a sinner, unworthy of being in God’s presence. After Jesus responds, allowing Peter not to be overwhelmed with fear, Peter leaves everything behind, nets, boat, his livelihood (and two boatfuls of product, a tidy sum of fish). Peter answers Jesus’ call to go and fish for people; to bring others to see Jesus as God’s own son, their saviour, and hope for tomorrow.

Neither Isaiah nor Peter become perfect. Both remain sinners, both become blessed to be saints (God’s perfect people of light and grace). This is what Martin Luther spoke about, and we now speak about, when we say we are all simultaneously saints and sinners.

The question each day is will we notice God’s presence every day?

Will we recognize God as God and be awe-fully afraid of God? Will we, out of love, allow God to calm our fears, to purify our hearts minds and strength? Will we volunteer to let God use us, all that we are, for God’s purposes of bringing grace to other people, all kinds of people, all people especially those who are different than us?!

Concluding Blessing

May we see God each day, present in our lives. May we recognize God and be fearful of God’s awesome power, but in love allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s grace and love. May we step into each moment filled with God’s grace for us and hand on that grace that is given to us, to others.

May grace abound through us to all people, all saints, all sinners, all of us both at the same time always.

2019 Feb 10, Epiphany 5

Sermon: quick outline

Already Friday, and the sermon notes and outline are not there, so this quick outline:

A. Awesome (and some incomplete) Images of God, seraphs, God’s robe’s hem fills the temple.

  1. Foil images: images of God that are NOT good enough
  2. Q from star trek all powerful but capricious and destructive
  3. The old man in the sky, dated and now that we can fly obviously incomplete.
  4. All-everything being without substance, but incarnate as well, 2000 years ago.
  5. Isaiah’s
  6. Peter’s

B. Seeing God in person is not something one can survive; but they do

  1. They all object, reasonably so!
  2. God is prepared: God addresses every lack
  3. and makes it possible for the people to follow.

C. What are our images, stories, ideas of God

  1. Are ours ‘big’ enough for God?
  2. Are they real enough for us?
  3. What difference do they make for us?
  4. What kind of life do they ‘hand on’ to others?

Regardless of our images, ideas, limits, smallness or largeness, God is to be feared (and loved). Otherwise our image of God is not ‘big’ enough.

God is to be expected, and welcomed, and trusted … daily.

And when we have seen God, or God’s work, and after God has provided a true fix for our shortcomings, then we are ready to answer God’s call: send me, and we are ready to leave our nets, boats, and all that we think is our life, in order that we can help Jesus save people … by handing on what has been given to us – with grace.

We all need saving, again and again. Someone to stand with us and support us through the valley of the shadow of death, through the temptations to be God ourselves, to the detriment of others.

But we need God.

We need God, to make us be able to survive seeing God.

We need God to equip us to live out the life that is given to us by Grace.

John 4: some notes

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well

The miracle: changing hearts.

After a few days listening to excellent presentations on “Preaching in a #MeToo and #ChurchToo world” there are some comments that beg to be made:

  1. The topic is a false take on the world we live in. It is what the spin, media storm and frenzy that inundates us everywhere would have us believe: that all women are at risk from all men, or some such variation;
  2. The real take on our world, God’s creation, would include, as most Lutherans who can recognize simul justus et peccator as a helpful anthropology that informs our faith, would have to include all people as simultaneously sinners and saints.
  3. That means we cannot effectively talk about #metoo without #alltoo; i.e. abuse is not gender specific, no matter how serious men abusing women is nor how passionate we may be about correcting that horrendous, pervasive, and systemic abuse.
  4. #alltoo would be some attempt to have stories of many kinds told, irregardless the sex/gender of the perpetrator and victim. Some abuse is physical: which if not stopped ends in the perpetrator killing the victim (and children). Other abuse is psychological: which if not stopped ends in the victim dying at their own hand, and the children are at risk of dying at their own hands as well.
  5. Perhaps it is worth passing a quick hand over the stereotype (for what it is worth) that physical abuse is more a masculine type of abuse; and psychological abuse is more a feminine type of abuse. That may help us when we have not yet moved beyond stereotyping the problems and naturally then also the solutions.
  6. Which points to a common malady today: we stereotype a problem, say sexism, as caused only by men, as a result of misogyny. The solution then is to engage in misandry, the hatred of men. We trade out one perpetrator set, males, for another, female.
  7. Nelson Mandela’s example could have taught us that there is a much better way. Removing white racist rule in S. Africa, would not be made any better if replaced with black racist rule. Same sin, different perpetrators is a [terrible] solution for a [completely misunderstood] problem, which only moves us backwards, deeper into a cycle of injustice and revenge.
  8. So what has this all to do with the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus? Quite a bit, really.
  9. For many decades it was ‘acceptable’ to describe the woman with 5 husbands, but now living with a man not her husband as a ‘loose’ woman. This is not acceptable; not because we ‘want’ to honour the woman, but because the text and the social realities of the time do not allow this as an honest interpretation of the text. If a woman had been ‘loose’ enough to have five husbands and now live with a man who was not her husband, for her adultery she would have long before been stoned to death. The men would have been treated less harshly. That’s sexism; bad unjust sexism.
  10. Now, to counter decades, even centuries of this interpretation which is wrong (it contradicts the text and context) comments are made to lay the blame on her husbands, who could divorce her for any small slight: read the underlying message ‘the men treat her terribly.’ After five husbands though that becomes highly unlikely to be the case in all those divorces.
  11. So the explanation expands: perhaps a few were not divorces but deaths. But she would be a widow then, a category readily named then and now as identifying a woman whose husband has died.
  12. Further to that this is used to explain that she is with, but not married to, her last late husband’s brother, a levitic law requirement of him if his brother’s widow has no one else to marry or heirs to provide care for her. No widow is supposed to be left behind, in theory. Thus her not-husband situation is not her fault.
  13. Still the problem with this effort to cleanse this woman’s reputation is that she would most certainly be named as a widow.
  14. Now cleansing of her reputation, unjustly smeared for eons, [note the time-frame keeps getting greater?] is a necessary correction. But a correction is a step backwards if it puts us in the same situation, with just different character-sets. Before this woman was to blame for her situation; with these solutions her husbands are to blame for her situation.
  15. What possibilities are there to explain this woman’s being shunned, shamed, (she does not come with the other women to the well in the cool of the early and late day) and yet that she is so bold as to engage this male Jew in conversation? He demands a drink. ‘Proper’ response for her is to silently give him water to drink.
  16. But she engages Jesus in conversation. Yes, Jesus is out of line for speaking to her, a Samaritan woman, alone. But so is she for speaking back. That took ‘chutzpah’.
  17. Before going after explanations that fit the text well, it may helpful to note first: Jesus responds to her with grace after revealing he knows her well enough to know at least part of the source of her situation, coming to the well alone in the heat of the day. Jesus engages her in a conversation that gives her life, Jesus saves her that day.
  18. So what cause of her five previous husbands, and her current situation of living with a man who is not her husband fits the text and context?
  19. She could be a widow; but that Jesus names her five husbands without naming her as a widow is … odd.
  20. She could be barren, unable to give birth to children or specifically male children. But then five husbands and a not-husband? It is a bit awkward as a fit to say the least. Why would the 2nd, and especially the 3rd, 4th and 5th husbands consider her? Why the not-husband?
  21. There is one scenario that fits, no matter that some feminists will not like that it does not cleanse her reputation, it does not make her a pure saint: she could be a high functioning borderline disordered person: She could easily attract and absorb men into her life, attracting them to herself as if she had no boundaries, and then after the falling in love chemicals wear off, she could abuse them so badly with Gaslighting and wild and erratic psychotic breaks, that they either escape before it’s too late with a divorce, or end up killing themselves to be free of the profound chaos that has been drilled into them that they are responsible for, and then the cycle repeats with another man, until this last man, whatever his situation is, does not marry her, though she is with him.
  22. Realize that BPs (see Stop Walking on Eggshells for the seminal description of a borderline personality’s effect on intimate relationships) disorder is not, repeat NOT self-made. It is a result of childhood trauma, abuse and/or abandonment.
  23. Then the real marvelous miracle that Jesus works is that this woman comes to faith, to at least some healing, and the potential for new life. She has a track record of a chaotic life. But Jesus becomes her saviour! She becomes a witness to her savior, and she shares her encounter with Jesus with others, as a question, so that others may believe adn be saved as well. [Saved: they enter a relationship base on Jesus’ grace, offered and made and chosen for them by Jesus.]
  24. The real miracle of Jesus is again that Jesus changes hearts, which changes lives, which changes communities, which gives people life abundant.
  25. Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? Because it had become known he was baptizing more converts than even John the Baptist. We know what happened to John. Jesus needs some ‘fresh’ air, a little distance from the danger he faces from his own people.
  26. And then there is this community, and the example to be made that Jesus comes to all people, poor, broken, strangers, foreigners and outsiders. The disciples will need to know that Jesus is not just the Savior of the Jews. Jesus saves everyone, women and men, Jew and Gentile, citizen, peasant, foreigner, and even in some rare cases, the wealthy.

Post 3Feb Sermon Epiphany4

Too busy writing to a deadline to be able to post this earlier, but in retrospect it’s worth reading, maybe?

In the movie About Time, on his 21st birthday Tim is introduced by his Dad to a secret: the men in the family can return in time to ‘re do’ parts of their lives.

Tim chooses to redo his wedding reception several times because his choice for best man keep botching the toast:

His best friend Rory, another lawyer, has read a book on toasts, and following its advice, tells a story from work, one buried in the intricacies of tort law, which is boring and drier than desert salt.

His Dad’s crude writer friend starts off with a string of profanity declaring that as a professional writer he asked first what he would be paid to make this speech.

Another friend stoops to crude sexual stories about Tim’s earlier girlfriends.

Finally, Tim asks his last choice to step into the breach.

His father at least makes a simple toast:  “to the man with the worst haircut and the best bride in the room.”

But his father is not happy with it. He forgot to say he loved Tim. So Tim’s father does a redo.

The second time Tim’s father makes it simple, and profound, as if he was born to this, as if it was his calling. He says: The one big thing is I’ve loved three men in my life: well my father was a frostly old guy. So that leaves Uncle Desmond, B.B. King, of course, and this young man, Tim.

And then comes the inspired wisdom from the writers: ‘In the end we are all quite similar. We all grow old and tell the same stories too many times.’ The father’s only wedding advice is to ‘find someone to marry who is … kind.’ ‘And this man is a kind man’, he says referring to Tim.

Marriages all have their challenges, and none are easy. But you can work through most all of that … if you are kind.

Congregations are the same. We can work through most anything … if we are kind. Or to be more honest, the bar is much higher. We can work through anything … if we love one another, even our enemies, and God with all our hearts, minds and strength.

In the readings for today a theme of vocation for various people connects everything together. Martin Luther talked about vocation as what God calls us to do with our lives.

Vocation’s not like a vacation: it is what one does for work that works … for others.

Vocation is to vocate, (ok that really is not a word)

But vocation as a verb is like vocalizing with one’s doing, or to vocalize with one’s being, one’s being in motion and action, vocation is to be someone alive intentionally in God’s creation.

Vocation is one’s calling. While one’s profession is what one does because one has trained for it and gained the necessary skills and qualifications; a vocation is the innate ability in an individual towards a particular occupation, activity or responsibility.

That’s vocation.

So what is your vocation? Likely you have more than one, either at the same time or your vocation has migrated or maybe completely changed over time.

Jeremiah finds out in today’s lesson that his vocation is not to be envied: he is, as he was to be since before he was born, a prophet. One of those people charged with telling the awful truth to God’s people, truth that they in no way want to hear. A person who is less listened to than abused for the news they bring.

Sensibly, Jeremiah is not too eager for this beginning. He knows he is not qualified. And he tries his best to side-step this terrible vocation, this awesome vocation, this frightening vocation. He says he is too young and will not know what to say.

Of course, we know that being any age is not right for becoming a prophet, and no one of any age would know what to say, not without God’s guidance … after all what kind of prophet would speak on his own?

God is prepared. God reaches out, touches Jeremiah’s mouth and gives him the words that Jeremiah will say for God.

The abuse, the shooting the messenger, still comes in spades, but Jeremiah knows for sure he is God’s prophet.

Jesus also has a vocation. His vocation is profoundly significant for everyone. Jesus is the perfect redeemer for all sinners, for the whole world. He has started his ministry, healing people of all kinds. Then he comes home to Nazareth but he is still regarded as nothing more than he was as a child, son of Joseph, the carpenter.

Jesus tries to explain to his hometown people in the synagogue that evening why he will not perform any miracles. He recounts how God repeatedly sends prophets and healers and miracle makers to people other than Israel, to its enemy neighbours, to the people they despise.

Those are prophetic words, and the people do not see clearly, do not even catch a glimpse of, do not even see dimly, who Jesus is. They become very afraid, and angry!

They are ready to throw Jesus off the cliff, but Jesus walks through their midst and away.

It does not change his vocation, in fact it makes an awful, great beginning, just not at home. It foreshadows that many people will not accept Jesus, because they are too familiar with him.

What vocations do we have? What great variety of vocations are there in the body of Christ? And right here in our congregation?

Surely we have many. We have Care givers, listeners, organizers, leaders, teachers, musicians who brings music to inspire and heal us, maybe a poet, an artist or two, perhaps some who are truly great at encouraging others. And I’m sure you can name a few more.

Some may seem more important, but none are.

All vocations depend not on skills we develop or training we succeed at. Vocations depend entirely upon gifts from God, made possible by Jesus Christ and imbued in us by the Holy Spirit.

And no matter the gifts, if we do not exercise our vocations with love,

Then we are useless, just banging cymbals, or noisy gongs.

Noise but no great melody, no rhythm. Just noise.

What is love?

What does love look like?

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If one is loving, and no one is perfect, so our love is imperfect, … but as we are able to be loving in what we do, in our vocations…

God is there blessing what we do … All that we do …

What is it that we – you have as vocations, musicians, office staff, leaders, readers, fixers, teachers, builders, quilters, bakers or whatever?

No matter what happens or what we do,

may we know that in doing what we do:

It is God’s love that makes it all worthwhile. No matter what vocation we have.

We will not see things clearly on this earth,

but we can now already see dimly … enough to work with … so that we can be loving with our family, friends, acquaintances and family, and even with our enemies.

Then what we do, whatever that is, will be blessed to be a blessing.

We will give life to others, in simple words, if we are kind and loving.

Amen

Sermon Outline/Sketch

3 Feb 2019 – Epiphany 4

(Find someone to marry who is kind)

movie About Time, men can return in time to ‘re do’ parts of their lives

Tim redoes his wedding reception because the best men keep botching the toasts,

We’ve all seen terrible toasts at weddings

So Tim asks his father who does a decent job

Father chooses to redo his, to say

Three men he’s loved, uncle, famous? And son, Tim, who he is proud to be the father of.

‘All the same, grow old and tell the same stories too many times,

But find someone to marry who is kind.

This is a kind man.’

Martin Luther talked about vocation.

That’s not like a vacation: it is what one does for work that works … for others.

To vocate, to vocalize with one’s doing, to be someone

That’s vocation.

Jeremiah

His Vocation: prophet, Jeremiah fears what will come… realistic fear … of people abuse, revenge

He says he is Too young,

God fixes that:

 is and promises to be with him,

touches his mouth, cleanses it

and gives him the words

Jesus has a vocation: perfect redeemer for all sinners, for the whole world

Able to heal people, comes home to Nazareth,

Does no healing,

Tells how God repeatedly sends prophets and healers and miracle makers to people other than Israel, to its enemy neighbours, to the people they despise.

The people do not see clearly, do not even catch a glimpse of, do not even see dimly,

who Jesus is, and they are afraid,

Ready to throw him off the cliff,

but Jesus walks through their midst and away.

What vocations do we have? What great variety is there in the body of Christ?

In our congregation?

Care giver, listener, organizer, leader, musician who brings music to inspire and heal us.

Some may seem more important, but none are.

All depend on gifts from God, made possible by JC and imbued in us by the HS.

And no matter the gifts, if we do not exercise our vocations with love,

Then we are useless, just banging cymbals, or noisy gongs

Noise but no great melody, no rhythm. Just noise.

What is love:

What does love look like?

Love is patient, kind, not rude, not arrogant or insisting on it’s own way …

If one is loving, and no one is perfect, so our love is imperfect, but as we are able to be loving in all we do in our vocations, God is there blessing what we do.

All that we do …

What is it that we-you have as vocations, pastor, musicians, office staff, leaders, readers, fixer, teacher, builder,

It is God’s love

That makes it worthwhile

We will not see things clearly, but we can now already see dimly … enough to work on

To be loving with our family, friends, acquaintances and family, even enemies

Then what we do will be blessed to be a blessing.

We will give life to others.