ago a friend lost his credit card so he phoned to get a new one.
After putting him on hold the man on the phone came back in his
Aussie accent, “No worries mate. We have you covered.” Which made
my friend start to worry. Did he miss something? What did they
have covered? If the card was maxed out it’d take years to pay it
something threatens our treasure, pulses quicken, blood pressure
rises and worries multiply.
Do Not Be
Afraid: powerful words
to Abram and starts with, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus speaks to his
disciples and often starts with, “Do not be afraid….” These are
not like the Aussie, ‘no worries mate’. These are powerful,
Real, Abuse of Fears
full of imaginary worries: a man reacts with that ancient instinct
from back when threats to our lives were around every tree. He
worries about his next meal even though his fridge, freezer and bank
account are quite full. Or the middle-aged woman who as a child
witnessed her mom being repeatedly abused by soldiers, and now
suffers a form of PTSD. She fears everyone who tries to care for her,
projecting her terror on to them and blaming them for anything bad
that happens, even if she is the one at fault.
besides Fear of God, which begins every journey with God for us
sinners, too often fear is real. Everywhere people die from the lack
of life’s basics: clean air and water, nourishing food, adequate
clothing, or sufficient shelter. War threatens lives. Refugees flea
only to be at the mercy of other countries. A few weeks ago, the
earth came close to being hit by an asteroid big enough to have the
effect of many nuclear bombs, landing us in a dark age, literally,
with the sun blocked by the fallout. If that’s not enough the
effects of climate change could make coastal cities uninhabitable by
2075 or earlier. Think Vancouver, Montreal, NYC, Miami, most of Micro
Indonesia and more!
corrupt would-be-leaders drum up fear in order to manipulate more and
more power from us until we have none left. Too often we fall for it
all and do senseless things to make ourselves feel safe, as if we
could get out of life alive.
bomb shelter needed
remembers fondly when their next door neighbours built a bomb shelter
… in 1959. She asked her Dad if they were getting one. He was a
military man and he said, “Believe me, you don’t need one.”
Back then that assurance meant to her that nothing bad would happen.
Years later she realized it meant that if the bombs fell, a shelter
was so inadequate it wouldn’t do her any good. (Ann
Brezendine Sermonshop 08)
Do Not be
Afraid, Pleasure to give KoG
comes with a fuller response: Do not be afraid! For it is God’s
good pleasure to give you the Kingdom! Here on earth we do not need a
bomb shelter. But in this world’s kingdoms our expectations of our
leaders often net us what we deserve, both good and bad. From that
there is no shelter, either.
3 am Fears
Harris, running her 3am Agenda, hopes to be the next US President. In
the face of fear politics gone amok, she tells people she will work
on those things that they worry about at 3 am.
about 3 am fears is that they can be real or imagined, but they
almost always are exaggerated and amplified so that they demand we
deal with them; or else they eat away at what’s left of our souls.
to Abram in a vision. And it may as well have been 3 am in his tent,
for Abram is consumed by worry that he has no son to be his heir.
Fear: shield and reward
comes with a promise: Do not be afraid. [Even at 3 am.] For God is
your shield and your reward will be great.
Sara’s Story: God’s work, timeline, not ours
Sara have cause for real fear. They left their home in Ur, traveled
great distances not knowing where to go, lived in tents, and
struggled to survive. Despite God’s Promises they still have no son
or land! Both are way too old to have a child. Is God against Abram
God says again, “Do not be afraid.”
think we know where our life is going. We only notice our error when
our plans tumble into the dust. Then, lost in the chaos, we can
listen, for God speaks right to us: “Do not be afraid.”
And there is MORE!
is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not
seen. Yet for Abram and Sara to trust God’s Word, given and so many
times not fulfilled, now requires more than any human can muster on
Do Not be
Afraid and More
and says, “Do not be afraid.” And then God creates faith in their
hearts, so they do not need to be afraid. As we listen we will
know these words and faith are also for us. And there is still
one more remarkable thing in this passage. God reckons this gift of
faith as righteousness for Abram. This is the same reckoning that
God does for us in our baptisms.
this reckoning? It is as though God has a spreadsheet.
each person’s name there is a bookkeeping of the events in that
person’s life with their positive and negative values and in
another column the value of that person’s relationship with God.
Because math can represent the entirety of creation, God totals it
all up into one number.
number is anything less than infinity, that person is not acceptable
to God. After a useless life on earth, God strokes the Smote Key on
the keyboard of eternity and they no longer exist (or something like
that. You get the idea.)
God deals with Abram differently. Even though God has placed
faith in Abram, God decides to ‘cheat’ with Abram’s
values and call it more than good enough. God places God’s own
infinite value, the infinity symbol (the lazy 8 laying on its
), as Abram’s total.
most remarkable is there is then NO event that can possibly subtract
enough from his value to God to change the end result: it will
remain, no matter what Abram does, as an infinite value. ∞
this mean for us?
this mean for us?
means is that for each of us at our baptisms God provides Jesus’
infinite value ∞ on our
reckoning sheet as our value to God.
not mean that God gives us everything we think we would want. God
does not give us an easy and comfortable life. Rather the opposite.
God keeps placing new challenges in front of us all through our
not mean that God gives us success, respect, or admiration. Rather
God lets us live rejected, as were the early Christians, and
dishonoured as was Jesus. The world sees us as fools working to bring
life abundant toothers.
There is a fools’ project, for instance, in Zinga north of Dar Es Salaam. A few people started with a bare piece of ground, with bare bank accounts. In a few years they want to turn that place into the first Children’s Hospital in Tanzania. They trust that a 91 year old doctor and his nurse wife, on fund raising tours in North America 6 months of every year, will raiseenough interest and personal commitment from enough people willing to provideenough money, materials and skills and expertise of all kinds to make it a reality. All with no promise of success.
Not as we imagine, not on our deadline
not promise us that God will provide what we think God’s will for
us is. Just because we once thrived, or because others still thrive,
does it mean that God promises we will thrive again, as we imagine.
God promises to be with us through our successes and our
failures. God promises to send us new visions of what God intends for
us. But God may not fulfill God’s promises to us on our timeline,
maybe not even for generations.
Treasure, Hearts, Delight, City or Woods
challenge for us, our whole lives, is not to make ourselves
good for God. Jesus steps in for us, gives us infinite value ∞
to God and says, “Do not be afraid.” And there is MORE.
delights that we live now and for eternity in God’s kingdom. We can
live well. All things can be well. All manner of things are well. And
there is still MORE.
prepares a city for us, or maybe a retreat beside pristine water.
City or retreat, God prepares a perfect home for us in the future,
listen and hear these words and know that they are for us: God
plans for our futures, and for eternity. We do not need to be afraid!
Delight, Reckoning, & Service
respond, by practicing being who we aspire to be, who God wants us to
be, putting our treasure in God, the only place where it is safe.
These are not the treasures of wealth, earthly security, power,
position, skills or abilities. Instead our treasure is to practice
reckoning to others infinite value ∞
and sharing God’s delight that others live in God’s kingdom. Our
treasure is to practice serving others, giving them the same grace
and love God first gives us.
We do not
need to be afraid, for our treasure from God cannot be taken from us,
nor subtracted from, not even at 3 am. Our treasure goes on to
infinity ∞, like the
stars in the sky.
When skiing in the mountains on a slope with
trees on it
I’ve taught more than a few people how to ski. Invariably we arrive on top of a slope where there are trees at least dotting the slope. The student looks with apprehension. I say respect the trees, but do not fear them. Do not look at them or you will head straight into one of them. Look at the snowy hillside between the trees where you want to ski.
Three Lessons full of Trees
OT: The self deluded Teacher Fool
We heard the Teacher in today’s first Lesson say:
Vanity of vanities! … All is vanity.
Our labour produces great results but our results are left to others, who may be wise or foolish.
It is tempting to think he may be right: that God has created, humans have worked, and nothing is worth anything. But the Teacher’s wisdom is a big forest of trees of hopelessness. Here God’s truth disappears like the misty fog evaporating with the rising sun. Then any lie can be presented as if true. Despair takes on all sorts of guises. Instead of being thankful, one demands more and more of things that cannot fill the empty void that should be one’s heart. This kind of life is at war with itself and the ensuing conflict and chaos allow one to hide from accountability, hope, love and even Jesus.
NT: The Different Life of Lists
In contrast the writer of Colossians reminds us that Christ raises us differently, into life free from what destroys us. The writer then presents us with lists of things to leave behind: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry), anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. Do not lie to one another. These are more trees to avoid.
exception would be passion, though as all God’s gifts, passion can
be abused and used as a destructive force in one’s own life and in
the early Christians, including the Colossians, expected Jesus to
return in their own lifetimes, their sense of urgency valued the
freedom of celibacy and devalued the ties of passion. But God created
passion as an important and healthy motivation for much of life
including marriage, parenting, care of the earth and the building of
a just society.
Gospel: Using Jesus for Greed
Today’s Gospel is a great parable within a parable: A man comes to use Jesus to get an inheritance from his brother, against the tradition of the time. Through the ages we human beings have more than perfected the use of Jesus or Religion to pound others down and try to feed our own greed. Greed is related to gluttony.
“A glutton is (a person) who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.”
(Wishful Thinking, F Buechner)
Gluttony and Greed kill us as we try to eat or possess more than we can stand. To teach us this, Jesus tells a parable of the pathetic wealthy man who after a great harvest, builds new barns to hold it and anticipates the remainder of his life as an easy retirement. But his possessions are the end of him. It’s all for naught!
Lots of Trees to Avoid
That gives us lots of trees to avoid. There is precious little of what we should aim for. It’s like skiing down a mountain and all we see are trees.
Where is Grace
So where is the Good News?
NT: Look above
The writer of Colossians points us to set our minds on things that are above. So looking up ever since we lived in caves we see the stars, the moon and the sun. Aided by the passionate drive of George Ellery Hale, and so many others, to see and learn more by building bigger and better telescopes in the last 100 years, what we see is astoundingly mind boggling. (E.g. see the documentary Journey to Palomar) Before, we knew the earth, one of nine planets, revolved around the sun. Now, we’ve seen numerous planetoids, one being Pluto, so there are only eight planets. We know our sun has a magnetic field, with flares that cause the northern lights and disrupt satellite communications. We know about galaxies, that most of the matter in the universe is invisible, that the universe is expanding and the universe is so, so much larger than we ever imagined! We have not found alien life, but in the immense expanse of the universe it is probable, if not guaranteed. We have seen God’s handiwork in the awesome expanse and workings of the universe and begun to understand their impact on our daily lives. Are these ‘the things above’ that we are to aim for? Maybe not, one would quickly say. But then perhaps we ought not be too quick to decide.
Rest of Scripture
With so many trees in our lessons, we look to the rest of Scripture and the Christian Church’s history, to guide us to the joy of life ‘skiing’, as it were, without hitting the trees.
We believe that God is Trinitarian. God is three in one. In part that means that the basic reality of God is that God is in relationship. We are created in God’s image, so we know we are created to be in relationship.
God Loves, We love
Luther taught that the core of the Gospel could be summed up in one short passage “ God so loved the world that God sent his only Son so that everyone believes in Jesus may have eternal life.” God loves – us … and the whole universe God created! In relationships we are to love one another and all of creation. The Teacher’s wisdom is folly because he ignores other people as God’s good creatures. Work is not to be hated, rather it is to be joyful and rewarding precisely because it provides for others, just as God has provided for us! The pathetic farmer in Jesus’ parable is consumed by his possessions because he has no sense that his bounty is a gift from God entrusted to him to be shared with others.
God’s Grace and Work
We know God’s Grace for us. We know that God comes to us, forgives us, makes us righteous before God, by Grace (in other words, as a gift that we do not earn!) We know that God does this first, then we can get down to living and working as God’s own children in this marvelous creation.
Riches with God
In today’s Gospel Lesson, Jesus points us ‘to build up riches with God’. It is easy to understand that our ‘riches with God’ are what God gives us, namely God’s Grace and all that flows from it.
Our work: Response, because … therefore
We know then our work is NOT to make ourselves good enough for God. Everything we do is to be a response to God’s Grace for us. Because God makes us Good, perfect before God, therefore we can fully engage in creation. We can be passionate about life and the goodness of creation, so that we can share the necessities of life and the wonders of the universe with ALL other people, in the present and for all generations to come. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes had no room for any passion for sharing the beauty of life with others. He had no passion to know that God’s love moved God to speak a word “Let there be Light,” and after 7 days to say, “it is good!” In the resulting blessed creation of order and beauty, we can be passionately engaged in the wonders of the universe. We can share this life with another person with the passion of a marriage. We can invest in friendships that carry us, our friends, and people around the world through the trials of life. Sharing God’s riches brings us to be so passionate about life that we can expend all of our lives striving to see and share our place in God’s awesome universe. For some of us that may mean building bigger and better telescopes. For all of us it means respecting but leaving behind the ‘trees’ of judgment, condemnation and lists, sharing instead God’s Grace with all people. We can choose to make justice a reality for each person.
Sharing God’s riches is possible for everyone. We could choose not to share God’s riches. But why would we?
Story: We Ain’t Poor by Florence Ferrier
In the story We Ain’t Poor! the Sheldons, a large family in the Appalachians, live in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. They receive inadequate assistance, yet they manage their meager income with ingenuity — and without complaint. One fall day the social worker “visits the Sheldons in the ramshackle rented house they lived in at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear, which strayed into their yard once too often. They canned it so that there would be meat even during the worst of the winter when their fuel costs were high. The social worker reported: “Mr. Sheldon offered me a jar of bear meat. I hesitated to accept it, but he said kindly and firmly. ‘Now you just have to take this. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!’“[In astonished disbelief, the social work asked, ‘How can you say that?’] His answer proved unforgettable. “’When you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then you ain’t poor. When you don’t feel easy giving something away even if you got more’n you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.’”
(Gospel Notes 2001, Brian Stoffregen, reworked TL)
Look at the World all around you! … God has made us Rich and given us the ability to see more and more of the universe as God’s amazing creation … Can we say ‘We ain’t poor!’? Amen
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23 Psalm 49:1-12 Colossians 3:1-11 Luke 12:13-21
These are a number of thoughts collected about the lessons for this Sunday. Not really the sermon at all yet. But the challenges faced in finding a sermon when the lessons reflect heresies rejected by the Church, false wisdom, and admonitions of what not to be, but very little Gospel, Grace or … even Faith, Hope or Love.
When skiing in the mountains on a slope with trees on it Fear focuses one on the trees. But that is most likely going to get one right into a tree. One needs to focus on the good spaces between the trees where one wants to ski.
The Word for today: all of what we ought not to do? OT: the Wisdom, of a Fool, Disconnected from relationships NT: the Lists, hardly the freedom of Christ, and then Passion excluded, Passion which is God’s gift of fully engaging in life! Gospel: Greed, the thing that destroys life. Possessions, the things that overtake life.
The hints of Grace:
OT: nothing NT: seek things above clothed yourself with the new self, being renewed in the image of its creator in the renewal distinctions are gone, all are the same, Greek and Jew Gospel: Be rich (not in possessions) but towards God
What is Left?
Talk about the folly of each: the what we are not to be Bring to it our own assurance of God’s Grace: and how it applies to these foolishness, bad advice, and condemnation of being possessed by possessions. Bring to it our own sense of relationships as essential to human life, to the nature of God, i.e. Trinity, of accountability and responsibility to future generations
Seek Things above:
The Movie: The Journey to Palamor
The story of astronomical exploration through telescopes and our understanding of the universe: rate of expansion, quasars, galaxies, black matter, black holes, and on it goes. At one time Hale said the Wilson telescope would allow us to see the nature of the creator of the universe. Criticized: not to see the face of God Applauded: God’s handiwork is more marvelous than ever imagined. From the Earth being circled by lights (stars) and the sun and (planets) to the universe expanding out from one great explosion and the end of the universe coming when that explosion collapses on itself in b/trillions of years.
Thoughts about Each Lesson
OT: The self deluded fool
Vanities all that is is vanities
This supposedly wise man thinks he has it all well and good.
He says: Our toils produce and others enjoy it, who may be wise or foolish. He has no family, no friends, no community. This is a man who is a rock unto himself, He has laboured, and known great results, great wealth, great power, King of the people, enough that he identifies his being with the results of his labours and in his misguided wisdom he declares that God has created, man has worked, and nothing is worth anything more than the vapour of self-importance based on absolutely nothing at all.
The life with this fool’s perspective
What does this kind of life look like? It is a life where one makes oneself important. It is a life where God’s truth disappears into the vapours like the mists of the fog disappearing with the rising sun. And then anything that one wants can become the truth, or rather the lies that one believes are true. People are sacrificed. People do not count as people. They become stepping stones to make one succeed at whatever one counts that decade, that year, that month, that day as worth achieving. It is a life where despair takes on all sorts of guises, where one does not sacrifice to give other’s life. It is a life where instead of being thankful for what one has, one demands more and more of things that cannot fill the empty void that should be one’s heart and soul and full mind. It is a life that is at war with life itself. Where conflict and chaos allow one to hide from accountability or hope or love or … Jesus. It is a life that accepts that violence and vengeance are acceptable.
Story We Ain’t Poor
Florence Ferrier In the story We Ain’t Poor! a social worker in poverty-stricken Appalachia tells of her work with the Sheldons, a large family in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. The help they received was not adequate, yet they managed their meager income with ingenuity — and without complaint. One fall day the social worker “visited the Sheldons in the ramshackle rented house they lived in at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear, which strayed into their yard once too often. The meat had been processed into all the big canning jars they could find or swap for. There would be meat even during the worst of winter when their fuel costs were high. “Mr. Sheldon offered me a jar of bear meat. I hesitated to accept it, but the giver met my unspoken resistance firmly. ‘Now you just have to take this. We want you to have it. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!’“[The social work asked, ‘How can you say that?’] His answer proved unforgettable. “’When you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then you ain’t poor. When you don’t feel easy giving something away even if you got more’n you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.’” [Can we say] ‘We ain’t poor!’?
(Gospel Notes 2001, Brian Stoffregen, reworked TL)
NT: The Different Life: In Christ
In contrast to the wise king’s hopeless lack of vision in God’s creation, because he only knows himself, and does not let anyone into his own life, the writer of Colossians reminds us that Christ raises us differently into life free from what destroys us.
We can wonder that passion is somehow among the writer’s list of things that are to be left behind. Though if we remember that their expectations were that Jesus would return and the world would end, so leaving passion behind seemed a wise thing.
Living Now with Passion, Beauty
We know centuries later that the end may come at any time but we none the less must live so that the world is also filled with hope for our children and grandchildren, and generations after them. At creation God’s gifts includes passion. God’s gifts always include passion as a gift that binds us to one another. This is what the king had no room for. He had no passion to share the beauty of life with another person. He had no passion to know that God’s love and passion for creatures moved God to speak a word “Let there be Light.” From God’s simple words the whole of what is came into being. But chaos of the life that the king has found where everything is futile and vapours and vanity, that is what God took and with a word created non-chaos, creation. We live in that blessed creation of order and beauty.
It is not perfect, for God loved us enough to give us freewill. We choose, too often, not to love all creation with the passion that God put into those words: “Let there be Light!”. Each of us requires God’s great sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son, to redeem us, to make us good in God’s eyes. But then … then the whole of creation in all it’s order and beauty and passions and hope and loves transforms all that we see and know. Not just for ourselves, but for the next generation, and all the generations to come.
Story The Next Generations Ain’t Heavy
A family, in a country of a repressive government, were placed under house arrest. Under pressure from other nations, the parents were told they could leave the country, but that they could only take two hundred pounds with them. So the family began to argue about and sort through what to take: computers, cooking utensils, books, toys, clothing; what was most important? Finally they had decided. An official came to the door. “Are you ready?” “Yes, we’re ready. We’ve packed two hundred pounds.” The official asked, “Did you weigh the children?” Suddenly, computers, pots & pans, books, toys, clothing seemed absolutely worthless.
(Sharla Hulsey, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Sac City, Iowa reworked TL2001 reworked kas 2016)
Greed, It is a false passion that takes all the joys and hopes and dreams and real visions of the goodness of creation, denies them all, and tries to replace them with a thing, a quantity, a power, a gathering of wealth.
Greed is related to gluttony; it kills us as we try to possess too much. “A glutton is (a person) who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.”
(Wishful Thinking, F Buechner)
But the world is not good because one has money, or power, or anything else.
Ante-Greed, Sacrificial Labour and Love
The world God created is made of sacrificial love. Life sharing love. Labours for others, for the next generations. Time so precious for we only have so many days on this wonder-filled world. We have only so many minutes to share God’s own beauty with others. The world God created us to live in brings us a life of challenges, hopes, and dreams, some too often dashed, promises realized, or not. Always God calls us to see so far beyond all our possessions. We all get caught by them and they possess us. But Jesus lived, died and rose back to life, just so that we can see beyond what would capture and suffocate our hearts. We can see those things above. And seeing the things above we can know how precious God names all those things that are this earth, this world, this wonder.
What life? Choose!
What life do you want to live? A life of vanities, all is vapours, all is for nothing, for generations of fools will follow us. Or A life of dreams, passionate beauty, simple joys, shared so that they multiply and bring us all to hope, to hope that our labours will give the goodness of life to others, for generations to come.
Scratch Notes on Each Lesson
Scratch OT Thoughts
Vanity, also vapour. All is vanity: this is a BAD take on God’s good creation
Not Wisdom, Folly
This is not wisdom, this is stupidity, faithlessness, depression, self-based delusion of world-denying-God thoughts. This is in the Canon: one can only point out how wrong it is! The Teacher, when King, (probably NOT a king then a teacher!)
I saw all the deeds: This guy is pretentious. No human can see all the deeds done. From such a skewed take on his own reality and place in creation, he comes to the conclusion that ‘all is chasing after the wind.’ Tapes our fears This has a ring to it that seems true. We’ve all had the feeling that life is useless and labour the most useless part of it. It is tempting to think that it is right. It is tempting, but it is not right or healthy or wise or blessed, or anything worth much except to create fear in people instead of calm that feeds good labours that bring the fullness of life to oneself, one’s family, community, and to others, i.e. strangers, guests, sojourners, enemies.
Choice of Hate:
hated: well that is a choice of how to respond to the world, a bad choice, an against-God, faith, life choice. No wonder the ‘Teacher’ ends up thinking as he does!
To hate work
hated his toils: That is a choice, a choice of privilege and luxury. Hatred of the essential work to stay alive is a sure way to come to an abrupt and early end. Even despicable labour, if required for life, has a redeeming value. Tedious work today has the reward of a pay-cheque, which enables one to eat, have shelter, provide for one’s family. To love (boring) work Making work that is tedious nonetheless interesting is valuable skill of living well. It is a choice to learn it, it is a choice to refuse to learn it. Nearly everyone gets lots of opportunity to learn it. Only the decadent wealthy can skip that one!
Devolved Despair, ante-faith
The texts devolves into foolishness: despair and complaint that one’s labours can be such to provide for the next generation(s), though one cannot control whether they be wise or foolish who inherit the benefit of one’s labours. Where is this guy’s sense of community, of continuity, or existing through the results of his labours in a small way contributing to the future generations. All of this is not only missing, it is flat out bemoaned as possible! That is the essence of EVIL. To take what is blessing and make it cursed! He turns his heart to despair: this is the antithesis of faith! A choice.
Benefits of Labour
What do mortals get from their labours: they get meaning and life well lived and a legacy … and joy and hope, and the pleasure of seeing things accomplished that would not otherwise be if one did not labour! YES: our days are full of pain and vexation. Our nights full of minds that do not rest. For we worry when and how we do not need to, which produces no good results … BECAUSE we do not trust that God is at work in our labours as well! BECAUSE we turn from the blessing of God’s presence, and try to live on our own. And that kind of living, trying to live separate from God our creator, redeemer and inspirer/guide, is what leads to all sorts of EVIL starting with abandoning one’s heart to despair/Evil/hatred/vengeance/blindness: conflict, sexual misconduct, abuse, lies, wars, and destruction of creation and people. So the Teacher is right: abandon God (as if one could) and then all is just vanity, vapour, ethereal, false, empty, futile, meaningless … and all that is the basis of stupidity, not wisdom. So the guy is all screwed up, like us all.
Know our place: we are creatures and all of us will die, wise or foolish. Our riches can never make life good. Only God can do that for us. God has done that for us.
Scratch NT Thoughts
This psuedo pauline thought is treacherously deceptive: but there is a core that is healthy and helpful: Christ moves us beyond our Past There are things in our past, which Christ moves us beyond. Look above, to the heavens. See God’s truth, There are things that make for life, and redeemed by Christ, raised up with Christ we can live better (not good enough for God, for that we require Christ’s redemption first, foremost and throughout to the last).
Hidden to be revealed
The anticipation of Christ’s return: of us being hidden with Christ and revealed in Glory with Christ is wonderful and deceptive. Life as faithful that is secret is not full life. But at times that has been the only option forward for the faithful as forces would destroy them if they revealed themselves as Christ’s – see the Missionaries to Japan, the movie where they denounce Christ, even write tracts against Christianity, but in secret they continue to witness to their faith and those who in secret know what to look for, see their witness and their sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice: giving up one’s faith to be faithful witnesses They sacrifice the ability to practice, profess and teach the faith. They spit on God, and on Jesus, they tread on the Bible. But they remain faithful! For outward practices are NOT faith.
Lists of ‘faith practices’
Christ is the ALL in ALL. All our whimpy attempts to reduce faith to a certain set of practices is vanity, all vanity, and a temptation to deny true faith in our hearts, minds, souls, families, churches, communities, nations, world, and in all of God’s creation. So the writer’s lists of what is left behind is … deceptive. There are things in the list that are destructive, and we can leave them behind if we wish a better, fuller life. Lists denounce Passion, But Passion is a gift from God Passion though! That is all wrong. Though passion can be embraced outside of faithful living and run amok. See Sodom and Gomorrah and, and and …. But passion as the full-hearted embracing of being a body in God’s creation, is truly one of the most precious gifts God made as part of creation. We like Luther, can embrace the mundane as sacred: beer is God’s gift, sexuality is dangerous to deny and a great joy to embrace in a marriage. The problem with making lists of acceptable behaviours and unacceptable behaviours is it is wrong headed: the destruction is in these, but the foolishness of thinking one can entirely free oneself from sin, or that telling others to is at all helpful, really … the foolishness is profoundly wrong headed and endangers not only oneself, but those to whom one would teach/demand these lists.
Be … Blessed
Be passionate, about God’s beautiful creation and all that is in it, that God has blessed us with short days to enjoy! Be free in Christ to move beyond selfishness, greed and … that is a list … so that one can live more fully. But always remember that one lives fully only because of Christ’s redemption, not because of one’s efforts to be good. Be free, be bold, be beautiful, and let God forgive your sin, and all the sin around you. Breathe the Spirit in. The vapours/vanity/supposed wisdom is actually blessed God present calling us forward out of our despair into the Light of creation.
Scratch Gospel Thoughts:
Using Christ to get ahead, get more, ahh we have more than perfected the use of God/Christ/Spirit/Religion to pound others down and try to get ahead.
More than abundance
Clear from Christ: life is much more/other than the abundance of possessions. For possessions are not a blessing; they possess one. They are as much an impediment to the fullness of life as any misappropriation of God’s good creation. The foolish man, like the ‘wise Teacher who despairs’, thinks only of himself. Good crops, bigger barns, security for the future of the community … all that is good! The cursed thought: Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.
One’s own treasure, or God’s Gifts
That is the error of death: to think that one’s treasures are ‘for [one’s self]’ Fools who are already walking dead think their treasure is for themselves! Rather be rich towards God, well that takes no possessions, and even with many possessions it is possible, though the more one is possessed by possessions (the more one possesses one is possessed by them!) the greater the temptation is to find security in one’s own wealth, instead of in God’s mercy and grace!
Our hoarding gives others inability to live, at all.
Then one hoards and is greedy and one denies the ample production of creation which others need! Just to survive, yet alone live abundantly!
Dorothea Sölle gave the usual list of the 5 basic requirements for life:
appropriate clothing (not fashion, but function: safe from the environment.)
shelter to these she added two more:
love – being loved and being able to love others. And to that I will add that one needs
culture: art like music and photography. Tonight, after a day of church and work continuing to set up a campsite for the remainder of the allowed 14 days before breaking it all down and moving off for 72 hours, we decided to go for a walk. It was after supper, so with a few tools, we headed out on a trail rarely used, and apparently not at all for the last year or so. As we went we cleared it so that coming back would be easier, and others could use it. There is a great deal of good fire wood to collect, that will otherwise rot. The temperatures out are a comfortable 20⁰C dropping to 17⁰ before we got back just as the sun set orange out over the lake.
So I have much to give thanks for:
Air the air is clean
Water there is plenty of clean water to drink and to clean with.
Food there is for this day nourishing food.
Clothing I have good clothing for living in the woods and for this walk enough deet spray to cover my shoes, socks, jeans, and a special hat that has flaps down over the ears and the back of one’s neck. Sprayed with deet that hat keeps the bugs off the entire head. And gloves, oh so crucial, leather gloves to protect the hands from all the brush and mosquitoes!
There is a very cozy camper to return to, in which no bugs survive for long, it is temperature controlled, with a place to write, sleep and wash up.
Meaningful Labour This work of clearing off the path took just the right amount of work, soaked my shirt with sweat completely, and did not over tax any of my aging muscles. And the benefit of our labours will be enjoyed by countless people.
Love, given and received! This I all got to enjoy with the love of my life, who loves me unconditionally, who I can safely love unconditionally. No, we are not perfect nor are our lives, but we are both kind, and kind to each other. And we dance delightfully together, with our own kind of stepping marvellously in tune to the other, with the ability to start and stop and change the step to a great variety, so as to allow the aging bones and muscles a variety of movements to not freeze up from repetition, yet alone to leave one’s mind frozen in one count or hitch.
Culture That is always a bit of culture, that remains a joy for both of us, and most all who witness us at graceful play. So on return I got to enjoy: a great option to clean up with hot water! A great hot cup of spice tea, with just the right amount of milk added, which somehow reminds me of growing up with 5 brothers and 5 sisters, and taking an afternoon break with my dad, who always had a cup of tea, and easily allowed us one as well if we added milk. Along with the tea just right I had some lemon yogurt, just the right mix of sour and sweet, the pucker power reminds me of my youngest son who loved lemons, just so. As we puckered up and said it was great vitamin C!
Music The greatest part of the evening is to return with enough solar power collected to allow an hour of so of music, from my playlist. Notably (which means these pieces evoke some of the deepest most thorough joy I have known): Good Lovelies, especially and starting off with Lie Down Beside Me, to be reminded of the goodness of love and of it’s loss. Rufus Wainwright singing Cohen’s Alleluia, a haunting reminder of God’s presence in the darkest times of my life. Over the Rainbow by Israel k. Just goodness of life! The Proclaimers’ I’m On My Way [to Happiness] which always gets the base turned up, the volume up too high and smiles, reminders of many a dance step of grace, enjoyed by us and the band that noticed us. A great number from ABBA Take a Chance on Me, Fernando, of course Mama-Mia, and Cohen, not least of Take this Waltz, Anthem, and Closing Time. I toss in a bit of Mozart French Horn, the beauty of brass, even though I played the Euphonium, I always envied the French Horn players. And to top off the end of the music before too many volts are consumed: The Proclaimers’ 500 miles, a simple and thorough statement of being a man who will live ‘in love’, which we know is a choice of health!
But the photography that is always there is the desktop I’ve chosen recently of a photo I took this year on 19th July at 21:34.
It haunts me every time I see it, even though I am the photographer whose taught for years. This photo keeps me from getting right down to work each time, but the time is not wasted.
Right there the essence of culture meets my mind no matter the colour or gray of the day: There is light at play from all sides collecting on the birch logs and waves, but pulling attention to the clouds on the horizon spanning from tree to tree with the blue of the water countered with the orange of the setting sun!
The photo haunts even me the photographer.
Why is it so haunting? Clue a panorama so that the light and wave patterns are just normal enough and yet out of place to be intriguing, if you do not discount it as a panorama.
There is nothing quite like it: spice with milk, lemon with sweet, the fresh air, clean hot water, the mosquitoes kept at bay, the cozy camper a home not quite a home, a path nearly cleared, all this shared with a kind person who loves me without guile or selfish demands, and spiced milk, sweet lemon, and the best music selection short but good enough to change one’s heart from set and hard to lively and inspired. Life is great!
It is a miracle to be somebody, somebody who knows how to enjoy life fully, with so little, but with everything that makes for a full life.
How’s your days measuring up? Are the daisy’s still down? Can you still dance with grace through all the challenges that come your way each day? Do you know God’s love is so assured that it need not even be mentioned as part of the essentials of life? Do you have music that inspires you to love all of life completely, to a 4/4 two step, or a 3/4 waltz? What are you missing? Ask and you shall receive, for God gives us all that we need, just not everything we ask for!
Be Somebody: share the essentials of good life everyday with someone new. Everyone needs them! And smile, God created you, and us all, to be able to enjoy the deep based line of nature’s best music.
The owl may hoot every night, but I am not the one tagged for death, I am the one tagged for extraordinarily important things to happen around and because of: It is enough to see one’s love dancing to the Proclaimers’ “I am going to be the man who will grow old with you. I will walk 500 miles and I would walk another 500 miles just to be the man who walked one thousand miles to fall down at your door.”
was an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, the veracity of which God
could not establish without going there, yet men go to investigate,
while God remains to allow Abraham to speak with him,
bartering/negotiating/futilely bantering with God about the count of
righteous people needed to have God spare the cities.
conversation is presumptuous on Ab’s part. He acknowledges it. It’s
like talking to an angry King when bad news has just been delivered,
the King wants vengeance, and anyone interfering may likely get
caught in the unstoppable destruction that the King is in the middle
it’s not a King, its the all-knowing God, putting on a play of not
knowing? And an all-powerful God who can not only destroy in this
world and the next but condemn one to a torturous eternity.
got chutzpah, maybe foolishness, to spare.
argument is that the good should not perish with the evil.
responds to that, sort of, allowing that 10 good people in all of
Sodom and Gomorrah will cause God to relent.
GRACE, it takes goodness to get God to relent!
knows there is only one man, Lot, his wife (maybe) and his 2
daughters, so 3 maybe 4 good people in the cities, though the son in
laws are invited to leave as well and think that Lot is jesting. So
maybe 6, but really only 3.
did Abraham not negotiate down to 2?
God would have had to relent and allow the cities’ destruction of
so many people in their consuming depravity to continue.
evil is powerfully destructive, like a cancer, and God will stop it,
giving the few healthy an option to walk away alive.
the cities God saves generations who would have been sucked into the
cities’ evil vortex.
But it is not ‘Sin City’ where this kind of living continues through the generations until it is acceptable everywhere, as bush parties out of control, and in control continue to give witness to locally here. And parties, raves, and you name it in the cities continue worse than Sodom. Bonnyville and CL (put in your own cities) not excepted either! Depravity required people to participate for it to exist, and then evil flourishes. Evil is only tempered by the distinct efforts of a few good people to have life otherwise.
2nd Lesson Thoughts
Note: as today in Paul’s day and for generations afterwards, ‘philosophy’ did not indicate the thoughtful, logical, deep and profound thinking about life’s most pressing issues. Like today’s ‘spin’, ‘news’, self-help gurus gone amok, ‘walking back’ what actually was said into something else, and justice based on blatant lies, ‘philosophy’ meant rhetoric and sophistry completely disconnected from any ethic or moral restraint to uphold the truth, i.e. anything from a destructive cult to a full-out scam to way of approaching life which helped only the privileged few and ruined everyone else.
the urge to resist tempting heresies: philosophies, self-abasement,
worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a
human thought, ANYTHING that does not hold fast to Christ Jesus as
the head! From whom we all (the church) grow and are held together.
to depravity can come in all guises, some that look remarkably
respectable, acceptable, thoughtful.
teach us to pray like John’s disciples.
gives b/c of persistence if not for friendship.
is to be bartered and negotiated, and badgered until one receives
what one’s friends need.
need countless hoards, or at least one person, to pray relentlessly
to God for what I need: True Justice. Lies exposed. Shelter, food,
smiting of the corrupt people (or at least the corruption of the
people) that causes this for me and so many others.
pray ceaselessly, relentlessly that the Holy Spirit will invoke the
grime reaper (if not of people than of the corruption at the root of
this disaster for so many men, children and even women?!)
Or do I
only get the Holy Spirit to inspire me to forgive the unforgivable!?
This could be a Sunday of law and revenge. (Let’s make sure it is not.)
useless mercy, of relentless prayers, of making justice happen.
helping one, two or three people survive the destruction the
Christ Alone is our Rock and Salvation
Life turns out to be nothing like the image that I developed from my
experience. In my experience we were all somebodies, to each other,
and especially to God.
people in this world so often treat each other and themselves as if
they were nobodies.
experience: Mom and Dad who loved us all, children who lived and grew
reasonably, a home, at least rented, jobs and a good or at least
reasonable salary, or at least a paycheck every once in a while.
Inside the homes, sometimes, a bit of craziness, but nothing that
threatens life, health or happiness. And always one knew God’s
first lesson is all about that the world is full of things that are
quite different than my experience. It is not that people are held
captive to poverty and can barely survive. It is that they have
enough, and do not know the gift life is, nor what to do with it.
and Gomorrah are not healthy, and the hedonism the people pursue does
not provide happiness, just short term satisfaction bought at the
price of real happiness and health. And all their messing about
threatens any guest who enters their gates.
knows no way to heal the sickness of these two so depraved cities.
Abraham tries to barter with God. God allows Abraham’s foolish
petulance, even as God endures every foolish petition from us, even
our angry fist shaking if that’s what we need to do. God knows
everything. God knows that Sodom and Gomorrah need to be erased from
the face of the earth in order to stop their destruction, not of only
the people caught in them now, but into the future the generations
that would be caught in them, and all the sojourners and those who
think they might want to give the cities a try. God wants to save all
can bring everything and anything to God. So he barters, also because
Lot and his family live in those cities. For that they are offered a
chance to leave and be saved. Lot and his daughters make it out
alive, but the cost of the cities’ depravity has cost them dearly,
it sticks to them, and their future generations are only the result
of incest brought on by the daughters.
world is full of things that are quite different: these are very ugly
cities leaving very ugly scars on the three people who survive them.
surviving such terrible things is rarely to live well. One does not
live by bread, or mere survival.
in the Jewish Ghetto, with food severely rationed, lights a candle
every evening for prayers. When he has used up all their supply of
candles he takes a string, molds a bit of their meager ration of
butter around it, and lights it for prayers. His son challenges him,
why should their food be so consumed for a mere light. The father
responds, “Without food we can live a week. Without our faith we
could not live for even an hour.”
If you live a faithful life, you know you are a somebody, to others and to God. It’s when you live faithless that you treat yourself and others as nobodies, or as in Sodom and Gomorrah, as only bodies.
lived in many different places, in a variety of manners. I lived in a
missionary family in Africa. My father was a doctor, my mother a
nurse raising 5 children when we arrived and 7 when we left, my
father so sick they thought he had months to live if that.
plenty to survive on, but our toys were sticks. There were no extras,
and the flour always came with flies in it. Our faith brought us
there, and the faith of the people who were born there carried us
through many a challenging dark night.
in a city as a child, one of 9, with enough to live on, but no
extras, and we scraped for enough food and enough hand me down
clothes. I lived on a farm, where we had enough, including music
though the garden was an essential contribution to all 13 of us.
I lived as a student, with enough to survive on, though I ‘wasted’ precious money on a good stereo for music, because I’d seen how music could cure what could not otherwise be cured. I’ve lived out of a tent on route to a university where I could not understand the language. I’ve lived with a multimillionaire without knowing how great was his wealth.
happily in each place. But it was most difficult with the
millionaire, because he cheated and lied about everything, derided
and slandered others at each step, and hated the people poorer than
he was, especially the aboriginal peoples. They reminded him that he
came from a place where he was considered a nobody. So now he doesn’t
know how to treat other people other than as if they were nobodies.
disciples come to him and ask him to teach them to pray as John has
his disciples. They want to pray as if they are somebodies. Jesus
gives them what we’ve come to call the Lord’s Prayer. Then he
goes on to assure us that if we seek, we will find. If we ask, we
God is the one to yell at, be angry at, blame, and thrash. People are the ones who we need to treat with respect and care. There is a well grounded reason that the ten commandments include the prohibition to bear false witness against our neighbour. Our words can hurt people. Our lies are as effective as murder. God, on the other hand, can take anything we may want to throw his or her way.
does not say that if we ask for something, we will receive that
thing. Or if we seek some thing, God will give us that thing.
will always provide. God will always answer. God will always listen,
and respond. To most of our foolish prayers God answers with a simple
no. Sometimes we get a more spectacular NO. Every once in a while God
gives us a real kick in the pants, or a knock so hard we wonder where
it came from as we pick ourselves up off the ground. And a few times
God actually says yes to our good petitions.
without a home and I could tell you my sad story, pitifully played
out by so many people bearing false witness against me. But
astounding is the story of another person living without a home, who
I met weeks ago.
She lives with plenty of equipment to protect her from the environment, and to provide for her well-being beyond her safety. Neither drugs, alcohol, addictions, nor prayer brought her to live in the woods without a home.
took advantage, did not care if she was close to death. She got out,
barely and still has not healed. He still pursues her and bears false
witness against her and gets support from the justice system. She
functions, but has little faith left, though she knows that the
wilderness heals her most. He behaves as a nobody, treats her as a
nobody, and invites others to treat both of them as nobodies. One day
the light of Christ will shine the truth so clearly everyone will be
compelled to know it, to their shame for not admitting it sooner.
They will be somebodies, but some bodies, souls, and minds who God
deals with justly.
a lot of bull in the world; comes from the sinners, in us each and
world is full of things that are quite different than I have ever
imagined could be called living, some of it so ugly one wonders that
it can exist at all, that anyone can survive it. Yet out of the worst
ghettos God brings leaders and people who inspire others to waste
nothing that life offers, and to bring everything possible to as many
people as possible, so that all people can live well.
seem easy, or obvious, that we live out our faith. At least we go
through the motions. But there are challenges in every life, even the
ones that look so safe and healthy, so provided for in a solid home.
Even people who appear in the world’s terms to be SOMEBODIES, can
behave behind closed doors as if they and those close to them are
We come to realize that the words to the Colossians are not to be taken for granted:
to live your lives in [Christ], rooted and built up in him and
established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in
thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through
philosophy and empty deceit”
Philosophy mentioned then is quite different than most philosophy named today. Back then philosophy was more rhetoric and sophistry. Today’s equivalents abound as self-help gurus, or spinning events for the news, news that is no longer required to present a fair view of all sides of an issue, and the spin applied to events like seen in the US. No truth survives. That’s the warning given in Colossians.
too easy to give up on life in disgust for what stands as truth for
some people, for some causes (usually their own wealth or hedonistic
pleasures), or for some churches. Works Righteousness is always a
favourite, though it can be coloured with heavy condemnation of other
people making it drip with destruction. A friend joked in parody of
this attitude: “I have learned to accept my imperfections. It’s
other people’s imperfections that I find intolerable.”
View of God With Us
What Paul proclaimed, Jesus taught by example, and generations have managed to remind us of is that Grace alone saves us. We are somebodies only because God chooses to make us so.
We can work like mad to make the world better, but we cannot work to make ourselves better in God’s eyes. We are already made righteous by Christ. Thereafter we do the work of the righteous, often with no reward or even notice. Sometimes, as if we were nobodies, we get punished and are left to die as thanks for doing the right and good thing.
pray that God will turn this world around. We work like it depends on
us, and we relax knowing God intends for us to enjoy this creation
with God at our side. For with God at our side we are all somebodies.
it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your
dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, and of
your church. What would fulfill all that God intended you to be?
The Gift of the Magi, O Henry
radio adaptation of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi a young couple
has two precious belongings in their otherwise poverty captured
lives: his heirloom golden pocket watch, and her flowing hair that
would put the jewels of the Queen of Sheba to shame. In a shop window
they see an exquisite pair of bejeweled shell combs that match her
hair perfectly. But they are unimaginably expensive.
to the other as Christmas Eve arrives, he buys the combs for her, and
she buys for him a silver chain perfect for his watch. But the price
for each of the gifts is so high.
the ‘one thing’ of all your dreams?
Martha’s, Mary’s and Our ‘One Things’
Martha invites Jesus into her home one thing fully occupies her:
respecting an ancient tradition as hostess she must provide for her
one thing on her mind, and it has nothing to do with Martha’s busy
concerns. Mary sits attentively listening to Jesus.
it true how as listeners we do not worry about the preoccupied doers’
tasks and obligations. And as doers we are offended by the lazy,
unrealistic listeners or talkers who do not help with the obligations
that must be met!
you are a doer or a listener, what is the one thing that you dream of
that would make life good and fulfill all that God intended you to
Sitting by the Oaks of Mamre
OT lesson for today Abraham sits under one of Mamre’s oaks in the
midday heat, recovering from his recent circumcision.
one of Abraham’s three allies. Abraham and Sarah have no land. They
squat in tents by Mamre’s oaks. Eventually Abraham will buy a piece
of land near the oaks. There in a hewn cave Abraham buries Sarah.
Isaac and Ishmael, the son of Hagar, bury
Abraham there. Jacob and Esau, the estranged twins
together, bury Isaac there. Jacob buries Leah there. Joseph
returns from Egypt to bury Jacob there.
God Comes Strolling Up
and Sarah do not go to God to find him. God comes as three strangers,
yet one, strolling up to their camp at the oaks of Mamre, where they
have built an altar to worship God.
Observant, Inviting, Busy, and Attentively
beseeches the Strangers to pause to receive his hospitality as
required by ancient custom. They accept, which sets Abraham, Sarah
and their servants all into a flurry of action preparing a feast!
stands listening attentively under the oaks as the Strangers eat.
Stranger asks after Sarah by name and includes her in God’s
restated Promise. She shall bear Abraham a son when the Stranger
and Abraham listened to God. They risked everything to leave home.
They have established themselves in the new land with reputation,
herds and flocks, servants, and a place they borrow to call home.
Though God has promised many times God has still not blessed them
with a son. For an heir is the one thing they lack to fulfill God’s
purpose for them: to inhabit this new land.
What is our ‘one thing’ we dream of?
the one thing that we wish and dream for that will make life good?
What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill our lives by
completing for us all that God intends us to be as children of God?
A Canoe, a Boat (the Church)
has one purpose, to traverse the waters without sinking. It may
require at least one person handy with a paddle, and the ability to
launch the canoe, and to secure it from theft and storms between
uses. But the canoe is not purposed to sit on land, or in a garage,
or to be hidden under a tree or set out in the sun to rot. A canoe is
made to traverse the water as early as the misty dawn of light that
pushes back the fog, and as late as the last drop of sun light
recedes below the horizon after sunset.
of us have one purpose? Is there one thing that in the doing we would
fulfill our purpose, the purpose for which God created each of us?
God Comes to Us: We do the Works of the Righteous
clear in today’s OT and Gospel lessons: We do not need to go to God
to fulfill our purpose. God comes to us, names us, and calls us. God
comes many times to us, as God does to Abraham and Sarah, as Jesus
does to Martha and Mary. God builds a relationship with us. We
do not build a relationship with God, we are not the builders; we are
the clay and God is the Potter. As Abraham and Martha, so we too can
only be attentive and welcome God, in whatever guise God arrives in
God do to give you a fulfilled life?
Maudie, the movie: How Can She Be Happy!
One would hardly think that Maud Lewis would be happy.
As the movie Maudie portrays her, she was born an invalid, able to walk but not well. She bore a child, the result of incest, who she was told was so invalid the baby died. But the baby was healthy and sold by her brother, never to know Maud as her mother. Maud’s parents die, her aunt takes her in, and treats her as if she cannot care for herself. They treat Maud as a nobody.
So Maud strikes out on her own to work as a live-in housemaid for a simple man. But Everett hits her, is at best grouchy and at worst impossible. She prevails and starts to paint flowers on the walls in the dingy one room house in rural Nova Scotia. Eventually the two fall in love and are married.
Maud goes on to sell numerous small paintings, most for pennies and some for only a few dollars.
people travel to buy her paintings. She is even commissioned by
Richard Nixon among others. But she lives in poverty her whole life.
In a TV
documentary on her, which makes her more famous, she smiles, and
paints within the small reach of her arthritic hands, arms and body.
Her aunt on her death bed astounds Maud by asking her about her appearance on TV: How come, of all of us in the family, you, Maud, are the only one who turns out to be happy?
Curmudgeon and insecure Everett gets fed up with Maud’s success. Fearing Maud will leave him, he forces her out. When he finally visits her at her friend’s he asks clearly if she will leave him for someone better.
To her aunt’s question about how she turns out to be the one who is happy Maud responds: “I am happy with whatever, as long as I have a paintbrush in my hands.”
Everett when he asks if she will go off with someone better than him,
she responds simply and completely:
have everything with you that I have ever wanted.”
The Gift of the Magi: the cost so high, yet Rich
beyond their dreams!
Christmas Eve James and Della discover that she has sold her hair to
buy him the chain for his watch and he has sold his watch to buy her
the precious combs. So they set their gifts aside and sit down to
their coffee and supper of meat … with each other.
is more precious than her hair or his watch, more precious than his
silver chain or her precious hair combs? Most precious in all the
world is their love for each other, and their loving sacrifices made
for the other. They are poor, but their love makes them the richest
people on earth.
Jesus: One Thing
Martha’s Jesus says only one thing is needed. He is not clear what
that one thing is. It is left up to us to discover.
it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill our lives? Have we
discovered it, for this time and place?
Happy are they who know God’s ‘One Thing’
earth moves through space and time we are not unnamed nobodies. God
comes to each and all of us wherever we are and relates to us.
our ‘One Thing’ be anything other than our Knowing that
God knows our names, claims us, redeems us, loves us, inspires us,
gives us work that has great meaning, and gives us people who we love
and who love us, even if they are curmudgeons or our enemies.
The Church, the Boat
ancient symbol of the Church is a boat, a boat to traverse the waters
of life. It carries us as we give God thanks for all the challenges
of travelling to a new land where we have no home, a borrowed place
where we must wait for God to give us heirs to carry on into God’s
future for the Church.
Our ‘One Thing’
matter our circumstances we can say to our God, “I have everything
with you that I have ever wanted.”
This is 7 pages, needs to be 4, fact checked, refined. Always hesitate to post this rough. But it’s the process.
So a very rough draft. How one may refine it differently than we would, well that’s your opportunity … and work.
It’ll take me a few hours of rewriting, focusing, and cutting.
But for now: the rough:
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?
What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life?
Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, your
church, and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?
The Gift of the Magi, O Henry:
In the radio adaptation of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi a
young couple has two precious belongings in their otherwise poverty captured
lives: his heirloom golden pocket watch, and her flowing hair that would put
the jewels of the Queen of Sheba to shame. In a shop window they see an
exquisite pair of tortoise shell and gem combs that match her hair perfectly.
They are unimaginably expensive.
Unbeknownst to the other as Christmas Eve arrives, he buys the
combs for her, and she buys for him a silver chain perfect for his watch. But
the price for the each of the gifts is so high.
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?
What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life?
Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, your
church, and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?
Martha’s and Mary’s One Thing
Martha invites Jesus into her home to stay as he preaches,
teaches and heals people who’ve come to see and hear him.
Martha has one thing on her mind, fully occupying her:
respecting an ancient tradition as hostess she must provide for her guest.
Mary has one thing on her mind, and it has nothing to do with
Martha’s busy concerns. Mary sits attentively listening to Jesus.
Isn’t it true how as listeners (or Mary-s) we do not worry
about the preoccupied doers’ tasks, the Martha-s’ obligations. And as doers or
Martha-s we are offended by the lazy, unrealistic listeners or talkers (the
Mary-s) who do not chip in to help with the many tasks and obligations that
must be met!
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will
make life good and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?
OT: Abraham, Sarah, and the guests. God comes strolling up
In the OT lesson for today Abraham sits by the tree in the
midday heat, recovering from his and the males in his household’s recent
Three strangers come walking down the road toward the tree, one
of the terebinth (oaks to us) that belong to Mamre, one of three allies Ab has
in this new land. Abraham and Sarah have amassed great wealth, many servants, herds
of cattle, flocks of sheep, great respect from their allies, and a little fear
from their enemies. Yet Abraham himself has no land. He is welcome to squat in
his tents here by Mamre’s oaks. Eventually Abraham will buy a piece of land
near the oaks from Ephron the Hittite. On it he hews out a cave, and he buries
Sarah there. Isaac and Ishmael bury Ab there. Jacob and Esau bury Isaac there.
Jacob buries Leah there. Joseph buries Jacob there.
To the tents by the Oaks of Mamre God comes to Abraham and
Sarah. They do not go to God to find him. God comes as three men, yet one.
Observant and Inviting
Abraham beseeches them to take a pause, to receive his
hospitality as he is required by ancient custom to provide guests. They accept,
which puts Abraham, his servants, Sarah and her servants all into a busy flurry
of action getting things ready. They prepare an overabundance of food: three
bushels of flour, a full fated calf, with curds and milk. A full feast!
Sitting attentive to
Abraham serves the strangers and stands listening attentively
under the tree with them as they eat and drink.
Having enjoyed their hospitality, the stranger, the Lord,
restates God’s promise of a child, an heir, to Abraham. The Stranger, knowing
Sarah’s name, asks after her and includes her in the Promise. She shall bear
Abraham a son when the Stranger returns again.
The one thing that Abraham and Sarah lack: an heir
They have so much and more of what they needed to establish
themselves in this new land: wealth, reputation, herds and flocks, servants, a
place they borrow to call home. But Abraham has no son with his wife, though he
has many other children by concubines. What a shame to not take care of his
wife first! What a great lack of blessing from the God he trusted to follow,
leaving home for the challenges and risks of a new land. For an heir is the one
thing that they lack to have fulfilled the purpose God has for them, to inhabit
this new land.
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will
make life good? What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life by
fulfilling all that God intended you to be?
A canoe has one purpose, to traverse the waters without
sinking. It may require a person handy with a paddle, and the ability to launch
the canoe on to the water, and take it off to safely secure it on land between
uses. But the canoe is not purposed to sit on land, or in a garage, or be
hidden under a tree, or set out in the sun to rot. A canoe is made to traverse
the water as early as the misty dawn of light that pushes back the fog, and as
late as the last drop of sun light recedes below the horizon after sunset.
Do each of us have one purpose? Is there one thing that in the
doing we would fulfill our purpose, the purpose for which God created each of
It is clear in today’s OT and Gospel lessons: We do not need to
go to God to fulfill our purpose. God comes to us. As Abraham and Sarah, so we
too can be attentive and welcome God, in whatever guise God arrives in our
God knows our names
In both the OT and the Gospel God knows the people’s names to
who God comes: God names Sarah without being told her name, and asks after her
and assures Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son.
In the Gospel. When Jesus comes to Martha’s house he knows
Martha’s name, he knows Mary’s name. Did someone tell him, likely so, but he
remembers their names.
God knows each of our names as well!
God comes to build a relationship with us
In both the OT and the Gospel God comes to build or continue to
build a relationship. God renews the promise of an heir to Abraham and Sarah.
Jesus begins a relationship with Martha and Mary. Martha grows palpably, and as
their brother Lazarus dies, her faith is made stronger. Jesus raises Lazarus
from the dead.
God comes to us and builds a relationship with us.
It is important to be significant enough on the face of the
earth as it moves through time to be seen, recognized, and related to by
others, to be more than just unnamed nobodies. We are each someone to God,
What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?
What can God do to give you a fulfilled life?
Maud Lewis, Painter, the one in the family who is happy?
You would hardly think that Maud Lewis would be happy.
As the movie Maudie portrays her, she was born an invalid, able to walk but not well. She bore a child, the result of incest, who she was told was so invalid the baby died. But the baby was sold by her brother, never to know Maud as her mother. Her parents gone, her aunt takes her in and treats her as if she cannot care for herself, in any way. Her brother sells their parents’ home without consulting Maud. They treat Maud as a nobody, burden.
Maud strikes out on her own, and gets work as a live-in housemaid for a single man. But Everett hits her, is at best grouchy and at worst impossible. She prevails and starts to paint flowers in the dingy one room house in rural Nova Scotia. Eventually the two are married, though Everett always dominates Maud.
Maud goes on to sell numerous small paintings, most for pennies or at most a few dollars.
In a TV documentary on her, which makes her more famous, she
smiles, and paints within the small reach of her arthritic hands, arms and
Eventually people travel to buy her paintings. She is even
commissioned by Richard Nixon among others. But she lives in poverty her whole
On her death bed her aunt astounds Maud by asking her about her appearance on TV: How come, of all of us in the family, you alone are the one who turns out to be happy?
When curmudgeon and insecure Everett gets fed up with Maud’s success and the traffic around his very humble house, he fears Maud will leave him for someone better. He forces her out. And then finally he comes to visit her, and asks her if she will go with someone better than himself.
God comes: We Respond
To her aunt’s question about how she turns out to be the one who is happy Maud responds: I am happy with whatever, as long as I have a paintbrush in my hands.
To Everett when he asks if she will go off with someone better
than him, she responds simply and completely:
I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.
Gift of the Magi Resolution: What is the one thing
So on Christmas, in the Gift of the Magi, when James and Della
open their gifts and the cost of each is revealed, they set their gifts aside
and sit down to their coffee and supper of meat … with each other.
For what is more precious than her hair or his watch, more
precious than his silver chain or her precious hair combs? Most precious in all
the world is their love for each other, and their loving sacrifice made for the
other. They are poor, but their love makes them the richest people on earth.
Jesus: No Orders: but there is only one thing (not what)
Staying at Martha’s Jesus could have many things on his mind,
and yet only two things are clear: 1) for Martha he will not tell Mary to help
with the work. And 2), at least for Martha to hear Jesus says Mary has chosen
the better portion.
What is not clear is: what is the one thing that is required
that Jesus speaks about?
In Life: Happy are they who know the One Thing
What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life?
How can it be anything other than knowing that God knows our
names, claims us, redeems us, loves us, inspires us, gives us work that has
great meaning, and gives us people who need our love and who love us.
The Church; the boat
The ancient symbol of the Church is a boat. A boat to traverse
the waters of life. It carries us as we give God thanks for knowing our names,
giving us challenging and meaningful labours, and giving us people (even or
especially curmudgeons and other difficult people) who love us, and whom we can
And neighbours, even enemies, who we can love.
No matter our circumstances we can say, “I have everything with
you, Lord, that I have ever wanted.”
Get a life. That’s what people had told the farmer-woman, when she
discovered her ex-husband had molested their children. Get a life. She’d
already left him behind after the cops only took him for coffee when they came
and found him playing Russian Roulette with her life. Get a life?
She told her story when a new acquaintance, an older
man, mentioned to her how the cops tried to arrest him after is ex, with whom
he can have no contact, chased him down country roads trying to force contact.
He was afraid for his life and called 911 when other vehicles were caught as
she blocked the roads in front of him. As the cops left, threatening to arrest
him if this ever happened again, they told him to get a life.
Get a Life! What is Life? Who are we to get it? We think we know and
then the Good News of Jesus Christ (also in today’s lessons) turns our
understanding of life right-side-up.
expect God to demand; not.
As we read the OT Lesson we may expect Moses to demand that the people
obey God’s commandments, which are hard to understand, require research to
discover, and great effort to obey. But maybe if the people persevere
and obey the commandments then they will get to enter into the Promised
Land. Not at all so.
Twain: Do Good, gratify,
Mark Twain once wrote “Always do right. This will gratify some people
and astonish the rest.”
Twain’s humour catches us because we too often think that always
doing the right thing is an option too far from reality to be
Parable of surprises
Today’s Gospel is delightful, full of corrections that keep surprising
us, even though we are so familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus Answers Different
The lawyer’s questions are
often our own. They seem right and most important for life. Yet they are all
wrong. In fact, Jesus answers as if the lawyer had asked different questions.
The lawyer asks: what must I
do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus answers: how can we have life now.
The lawyer asks: who is my neighbour whom I shall love.
Jesus answers: who is a real neighbour, to those in need regardless of
who they are.
It would be so much easier if Jesus just answered the question of who
our neighbour is. We could limit who we must love to just those people! That
would be a little more possible to do, and we could always fudge who was our
neighbour so that we did not need to help the billions who are in great need.
Samaritans Loose teeth
When we see people in need, it’s too easy to come up with all sorts of
reasons to walk by on the other side of the road. The robbers could be lying in
wait for anyone who comes to the aide of the half dead man.
An old Winthrop cartoon (1982) shows two small boys staring off into the
distance. One of the boys, Winthrop, starts to recognize what he is seeing.
“What’s going on over there? Looks like a fight! … It’s Nasty McNarf … He’s
beating up on some kid! … Come on… Let’s go and make Nasty leave that kid
The second boy speaks up, “Wait a minute…I don’t think we’d better do
“What do you mean?” asks Winthrop, “Don’t you want to be a Good
“Frankly, no.” replies the second boy. “Good Samaritans always wind up
with loose baby teeth.”
But remember: we are going to lose baby teeth and our lives eventually.
Adult teeth and life eternal will replace them.
We try to get eternal life
on our own terms
Exactly, so we are right there with the lawyer asking what can we do to
inherit eternal life. Instead of answering that question, Jesus asks back what
the lawyer knows well: what does the law say he should do. The lawyer answers: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as
Jesus replies: You know it! Now do it!
love look like? (in the Gospel)
What does it look like to love God, our neighbour, and ourselves, with
all our heart, soul, strength and mind?
It looks like crossing the road in order that we can
help, aide, assist, and care for those who are left half dead by the roadways through
the world, and thereby allow ourselves to be marked as foolish, unclean,
not-blessed by God, and not welcome at work or in worship.
It looks like giving a full day of our life to an unexpected need of
another person, again and again.
It looks like giving a great portion of our purse or wealth so that
another less fortunate person’s wounds will be bound up and given a chance to
heal, so that person will regain life.
It looks like promising carte blanche that we will cover the costs of
providing life to another person in need.
All this to our enemy
It looks like doing all this for our mortal, religious, economic, and/or
personal enemy who is left half dead on the side of life’s road, left there by
all those things and people and circumstances that can so easily beat us up,
rob us of everything we have, and leave us half dead. It is knowing always that
but for the Grace of God, we would never survive even a day of the Devil’s
guile and destruction.
Guy who gives
Tony Campolo, a minister and sociologist from Philadelphia tells this
“… walking down the street in Philadelphia … a [dirty looking homeless man] came towards
me. I mean a … filthy guy .. from head to toe. …He had this huge beard
rotted food stuck in [it]. As he approached me, he held out a cup of
McDonald’s coffee and said, ‘Hey mister, want some of my coffee?’
“[I thought to myself, not on your life, but] I said, ‘Thanks, but
that’s okay,’ and I walked by him. The minute I passed him, I knew I was doing
the wrong thing, so I turned around and said, ‘Excuse me. I would like
some of your coffee.’
“I … sipped … and gave it back to him. … ‘You’re being generous.
“… this [guy] looked at me and replied, ‘… the coffee was especially
delicious today and I think that when God gives you something good, you ought
to share it with people.’
“I didn’t know how to handle that, so I said, ‘Can I give you anything?’
I thought that he would hit me [up] for five dollars.
…‘No.’ [he turned to go, and then turned back], ‘Yeah, yeah. … there
is something you can give me. You can give me a hug’
“[I held my breath, wishing he’d asked for] five dollars! He put his
arms around me and I put my arms around him…. as I, in my establishment
dress, and he, in his filthy garb, hugged each other on the street, I had the
strange awareness that I wasn’t hugging a bum, [no. Jesus was hugging me.]”
In Baptism: Enter the
Promised Land, then Obey for Goodlife’s Sake
Returning to the OT lesson: God does not reward obedience with entrance
to the Promised Land. All get to enter. The commandments are not far away,
difficult to find or to understand: God has put them in our mouths and in our
hearts! The commandments are not burdensome; they are life-giving. They are
God’s guide for abundant life. Obedience brings us to live well, so that God
delights in our renewed prosperity as we move out of slavery into the Promised
In our baptisms we have already receive eternal life. Now what are we
going to do with this life in the Promised Land?
As the farmer-woman drove away, she shouted out her truck window to the
man harassed by his ex and the cops: They are jealous. Don’t let them tell you
to get a life; you have one. They’re just trying to take it from you.
not be afraid, Do not be shamed.
Jesus says do not be afraid, we cannot be
shamed for we already have a life, a good life.
So what are we going to do with God’s
gift of our good, abundant lives in the Promised Land?
Giving what God Has Given
Jesus’ Parable compels us to ask: What kind of life do we live if we do
not stand ready to risk losing everything that God has given us, in order that
others may live, and live abundantly?
After all, without Jesus’ redemption we would remain strangers to God,
and no matter what we would do, we would be lost, our lives worthless and
meaningless. But with Jesus’ redemption we inherit the Kingdom of God.
Answers not far, nor
impossible, for God is with us
The answers to life’s questions and mysteries
are not too far away in the chaos of pre-creation between the galaxies that we
must send someone to bring the answers to us. The answers are on our lips, and
in our hearts: We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind,
strength and soul, and our neighbours as our selves.
This love is all very possible for us:
for our strength is from God’s all-mighty
for our freedom and faith are given to us as
free gifts by Jesus,
for our days are guided, inspired, and
completed by the spectacular truth and light of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve got a life, given to us … and there’s
really good coffee coming down the street toward us. …
Are we ready for Jesus to give each of us a
huge, warm hug?