Advent 1 – Outline

Advent 1 Outline

Love is great,

But love becomes more obviously so powerful, so wonderful, so life-giving  …

in the face of hate, lies, sin, … and raw evil and cruelty – in the face of chaos.

God promises our redemption, a new creation, out of the end of the universe, the end of all time.

  1. Advent is
    • The beginning of the New Year, the Church year
    • Time for Reflection, a sombre season
    • Blue
    • Hope
    • So much more than pre-Christmas
    • Reflection on New Beginnings
  2. The Gospel is Hardly Good News
    • Foretelling disruption of the universe
    • 21st Century equivalents
      • macro, micro, psychological
    • What is this? How can we respond? What is this?
  3. Challenges of daily life
    • Can overwhelm us as much as anticipating the end of all time
    • Its not end times, it is as if all time ends for us, even while the world continues without us.
    • How can we respond when we are overwhelmed?
  4. Jesus:
    • Signs of the end, equated to signs of new life.
    • These overwhelming events, end times, or time that ends
      • Are actually God starting something new
  1. New:
    • Live in safety
    • Ruler that executes Justice based on truth, instead of lies and excuses for facts
    • All of the universe, the glue that holds everything in order,
      • Marco, micro, internally, personally
      • This is God
        • God is right-eousness
        • God is the one who makes everything right
        • Right is order, is the opposite of Chaos, is the opposite of Creation (Chaos is the opposite of all that is Good in Creation.)
        • Right for our safety,
        • Right in relationship to God
        • God is what holds chaos at bay
  1. Exactly in the horrendous view of the end of time, nature, world, universe, our minds
    • This is where God is most obviously discernible
    • This is where we see God most clearly
    • In the face of chaos Grace abounds
    • God present always, everywhere, but most obvious to us in the chaos
    • L Cohen: it’s through the cracks that the light gets in.
      • In sinners made saints God makes God present
      • And we see God face to face
  1. This Advent
    • All challenges that we face
    • God is our rightness
    • God is the source, re-creator, and guarantee of our safety, and our everything.
    • God is with us.
    • Time to reflect on the serious things of faith, life and our times.
      • So that the end of all time
      • Or the end of our time
        • Does not catch us unawares
      • So we pray: let us not be put to shame,
        • For God is our rock and our salvation

(I highly recommend reading the blog posts on sermon preparation in the order they are posted. So read the next two first. The visceral images of this week’s Gospel, reflected in the first post, and other references barely explained in the outline above are required to make sense of the outline. Otherwise it is as mundane, spit-warm and boring as the pre-Christmas musac that now pummels every shopper’s brain. Both the destructive power of what is objectionable and the amazing work of God’s Grace healing wretched sinners will be able to be smoothed over leaving us comfortable … even with the impending collapse of the universe, beginning with our minds.)

More to Advent 1

Advent 1
More Thoughts

(I highly recommend reading the blog posts on sermon preparation in the order they are posted. So read the next one first. The visceral images of this week’s Gospel, reflected there, are a necessary backdrop to these thoughts. Without the earlier reflections these fall flat and remain mundane and less objectionable. Yes, the Gospel, properly presented, is always objectionable … to the sinner in each of us.)

The signs of what is to come are hard to bear. And what is foretold is even more horrendous.
There is no good news in that ending.

There are two ways that we minimize the impact of how horrendous this news is.
One way is to fully realize how terrible the end that is coming will be and how terrible even the signs of the end times are. And then to despair. To wring our hands. To lose our minds, sometimes literally, to the horrendous turn of events in history that convince us that we finally are getting what we deserve. Maybe we, individually do not deserve this, but we all suffer the terrible ending because enough of us more than deserve it.
Global warming is on us. Oceans will rise, Cities will sink, and Chaos will rule on earth. We deserve it because we have chosen to burn fossil fuels to build our civilization, or very high standard of living.
The second way is to recognize that every generation has seen the signs of the end times, and anticipated the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as they know it.
Therefore we do not need to get too excited, upset or even the least bit concerned.

When a little child hurts herself, the pain is physical. But even moreso it is the psychological attack: how is it that the world can treat me so that I can be so hurt?!
A parent who tries to soothe her, to convince her it really is nothing, this scrape on her knee, will be missing the greatest need of the child, which is to have recognized how terrible this attack on her person is, and to know that the world is still going to be okay.
A parent who offers with the greatest urgency, even too much urgency, to provide care for the hurt child, for example taking her to the emergency room, will start to meet all the hurt. The child is taken seriously at the most profound levels. The child can then turn back the parent’s excessive proposed care to something more reasonable, a little hydrogen peroxide, polysporin and a band aide. The child gets to choose less care, but receives ALL the attention, empathy, care and love. The child’s universe is still in good order, as recognized by the parent affirming and accepting the child’s choice to more a reasonable care response.

When the signs portend the end of all that exists, from micro to macro levels, we need someone to provide too much concern, so that we can choose to dial it back to what we really need. We get to prove to ourselves that this world, our world, God’s world, is still a reasonable place in the universe.

The problem is, do we then pretend the end times are not that serious?
Or do we pretend that this is just the course of destruction we deserve, because we are all sinners?

Neither is a very helpful or healthy manner for our responses.

This is Where the real Good News comes in:
If the end times are so horrendously destructive, it is exactly in the face of this unfathomable destruction that we get to point to the wonders of Jesus’ Birthday and promised return after these horrific ends times.

The bad news is that even with the signs of the end, all hell is breaking loose and the end of time is not far off. Just like it did for all the previous generations. Evil has got the world, our world, by the tail, so to speak, and the Devil is swinging it around, which messes tremendously with gravity and all that is grave.

The real good news is that God is loving, compassionate, and present with us, and forgiving us, setting us free from destruction, now and always.
More importantly, God’s promise that Jesus will return demonstrates most clearly God’s grace in the face of our deserving this destruction. God does not leave us to our destructive ways that separate us from God. God remains, and in the end of all ends, conquers Evil in all its realities, puts it to rest, rules and executes justice. Then God is our righteousness. God, not us, not something else, is both the measure/criteria for righteousness, and is the source/end of that righteousness for us and all creation/universe. Exactly in the face of the signs of the end soon coming, as horrendous as the end is, there buds new life as the fig sprouts new leaves.

As experienced pew sitters, the danger is to know the good news so well that we do not listen to the true horror of what is coming.

And we miss out on the true and so profoundly necessary wonder of how God makes good for us, even when we do not deserve it (at all.)
We miss how wonderful Grace is.

And our response is then spit-warm, ineffectual and disappointing.

Or our response can be of deep and deserved gratitude to God for all of creation, but most of all, for God’s forgiving us, and being the righteousness with us that we cannot be for ourselves.

 

Advent 1

2018 Dec 02
First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

As with all the Sermon Prep Notes, it’ll start off with rough notes throughout, and be refined as the week progresses. I may even make it to posting a completed sermon occasionally.

Fear and Trust
Fear and Trust are mutually exclusive
Fear begets Hate
Trust begets Love, and the relationship is even more tightly wound. Love requires trust.

Fear and Hate severely limit life, for us and all around us.
Trust and Love open the horizons of our lives, for us and all around us.

Caution, it’s another thing

5 inches of ice.

Checking what will hold us up,
before venturing out …
on the Lake …
and through the winter …
and on into the days of life.
Advent is all about staying alert!

Time

It is Time for change, whether we are ready or not, whether we like it or not.
It is the New Year, the New beginning in the church,
Which starts with the same old season, advent, the blue hope of advent.

We’ve seen this a few times before, one for each year we’ve lived. And it can be challenging to face, just like the same old blue, darks and lights of the Cloudy, snowy, foggy end of November days, which promise more of the same and deeper cold months to come.

The horizon limits the empty white.

Favorites: Blue and Advent

Blue
and
Advent
Now these are some of my longest held favorites, and since I’ve seen more than a few decades and they’ve been there all that I can remember of those few days.
Blue: The sky, the water, clean and life giving, blessed hope.
Advent: Not Xmas mess, it’s not that fake bought and sold holiday we’ve let it become all around us and deep into our bones.
Rather Advent is still about deep introspection and searching of our traditions for the ultimate of life. We must wait for the ultimate: Christ returning to earth, as we gather together with all living saints and more. These days of waiting, this attitude of shared waiting through all of time are the center of our real basis for true hope.
And Advent sees us
Waiting
for the birth of a baby.
And almost everyone understands the gift of the birth of a baby.
As a man who was one of the first to be the at home father, for all six children, and an old man with no grandchildren …
A father who misses his children,
And misses the wonders of nurturing children,
The waiting for the birth of a child is a little closer to my heart than for some, but obviously not an uncommon waiting …
Waiting …
Waiting … for children.

Good change
And Advent is about Change.
Some of it is always Good
Like getting a new car (bicycle), falling in love and getting married, birth of baby, starting a promising new job, moving into a great home, retiring with ample to live on. (that would be precious compared to being driven homeless and destitute!)
Advent is a New Year. And the seasons of the year begin their circle once again, with promises that this
‘year in Jerusalem’
God’s promises will be manifest in our lives.
All around we look and see
Signs of change.

Not Good Change
There are plenty of signs that the change will not be good,
Also not this year.
In the Gospel Jesus points to the fig tree with its
Budding leaves,
and signs of the beginning of the upheaval of the order of the universe.
Signs in the sun, moon, stars, water.
That last seems easy enough,
Unless you’ve survived the horrors of a flood.
But it is more poignant for Jesus’ listeners because water, in their worldview, was what the pre-creation universe was made up of.
Water
Is
Chaos.
Water lay below the earth and welled up in the lakes and oceans, sometimes to wash out of the banks and consume land and life.
And water was above the heaven’s firmament, a barrier between creation and the chaos above. With storms God allowed the chaos to break in on the earth from above, with chaos breaking through the barrier, in measured doses, giving life, but beyond control, again consuming everything in its wake.
For us today, with our view of the universe:
It is as if gravity were decaying, planets and stars disengaged, galaxies sent splattering across the emptiness of space between galaxies, which at the same time were invading the sub-atomic particles of our very being, and our environment: it would be macro and micro chaos.
The chaos would be as if time were coming unwound and disconnected from matter.
Our very skin would crawl with the chaos,
Our hearts unwind
Our minds go in a manner that by comparison Alzheimer’s would seem benign.

Order of everything turned upside down.
Like an unexpected death or divorce, or a borderline personality disordered spouse: what seemed to hold one’s world more or less intact, dissolves.

Love of spouse;
Evaporated, gone

BP chaos
Or a borderline personality disordered spouse who moves from loving and affectionate to cruel, Gaslighting, lying, and betraying, and back without warning. Disordered, chaos creating, projecting and blaming to avoid any hint of responsibility.

Great wisdom:
10% of life: what happens to you
90% of life is how you respond.

Grace, the ‘secret ingredient’ for a great life:
Some things: only God can help us respond to with grace.
Most all the important things, all the ultimate things:
we need God’s help to respond to with grace.

Not up to us:
We like to think: it’s up to us, or to me:
We are or I am so good, that things will go well for me.
But
No one is good enough to make the universe hold together,
Or
To respond well when the sun, moon, stars fall apart, people come apart in expectation
And nations explode,
Or
Who can respond well when:
The foundations of life evaporate, with a divorce, a death, a disordered spouse, or with the Courts falsely convicting one over and over again. (And no, no one is safe from this being done, intentionally to them. It is only a blessing that it passes over most of us, or rather you.)
We all react with All-out fear.

How not to be dragged Down!?
How to hold our heads up then?
That visceral fear grips us,
The foundations of life, goodness, hope, love, trust are not just attacked,
But wiped out of our lives.
Who can withstand that onslaught beyond imagining?
No one.
We survive, but
Only by God’s Grace
Why?
Because God promises to bring in one who will execute justice and righteousness!! Allow us all to live in safety!
Now is that not the image:
Us living in safety
While the whole universe slowly comes apart at the seams
Or is it
It all seems to come apart
And some miracle holds us together?
Within ourselves,
And with each other!

Where do the Signs bring us?
Foreboding,
Look ahead to travesty and decay
At a sub-atomic level and at the macro astrophysical level.
And we look like a person suffering Alzheimer’s, knowing what will happen to our minds, hearts and souls, as our ability to be aware, to be sentient, to be empathetic, to love
Changes
One minute there, the next not, and then again
With an awareness of what happened in between,
And that it will happen again.
We are rightfully horrified,
Or we are already insane not to be horrified to the core.

With heads raised:
Yet, the Jesus calls to us in this Gospel lesson to await these coming changes, disasters, decay of everything we know and are, not in horror,

But with our heads raised!
Jesus calls us to
Trust.
To Trust God’s promises,
For even as this is to happen,
Instead of the rulers and courts that plague us all,
With facts that are not based on truths or reality,
God will bring in a ruler, a system, a way of living through which
True justice will be executed,
Instead of innocent people.
And absolute righteousness will be the basis of our relationships
Between people, and among all of creation,
And then
Finally
As
Hoped for
From generation
To generation
We will all
Live
In
Safety.

Even in the face of micro-macro universal decay.
For God
Will rule
And this will be named
God is our righteousness!

Eyes and Mind wide open
Until that day

Be on guard,
Be alert,
Do not be weighed down with
Dissipation – that giving in to apathy, giving up on the goodness of life and becoming a being without true life, often referring to a descent into debauchery, decadence, excess, overconsumption, self-indulgence, wildness.
Drunkenness – that taking in to oneself anything that warps one’s mind,
Or
Worries of this life – that concern that drives us to take life from others,
even though we suffer plenty of concerns of this life, plenty enough to consume everything about our lives!

Pray
Pray for we cannot do it on our own
Pray for strength to survive to see the Son of Man.

Advent can be that way as we prepare for Christmas.
We pray for strength to see baby Jesus once again,
To make it past the fake sales nad hyped lights,
To survive the jangled music,
And to endure the obligatory and trite parties
That year after year after year
catch us and
nauseate us
Or worse,
We get used to, or numb to their
Unending
Blatant contradiction to the wonder of Christmas.

Even when we think everything is the same
It is changing.

Stay alert for Colours

Real change:
The real change happens not outside ourselves, but within

As the Holy Spirit
Moves our hearts, minds and souls from fear to trust.
Which brings us into love, to be loved by God, the ultimate love, and to be able to love (which is the greatest challenge in all of life.)
And in spite of ourselves
We end up
Loving our neighbours, as ourselves, and even our enemies!
And loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul,

Whether the change coming this year is the end of time.
Or just
The end of another year.

Thankful for each other, hope-filled
As we watch, alert, and pray that the Holy Spirit will change us
We pray
That we may always be able to be thankful for one another, and to grow together in faith.
That we may always be able to pray for our enemies with love, and let God judge their destruction.
That our hope may always remain that God may move them to choose not to be our enemies.
That regardless we may love them and wish them well.

The Miracle of Christmas, the preparations of Advent
As we prepare for Christmas, we know the same challenges will again this year, this month, this day force their ugliness on us. But we also know that the miracle of seeing Christ … in the manger … in one another … in the light that holds back the darkness … in the gift of life given to each other … this miracle is the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts from

Fear
To
Trust.

And then all things are possible.

Take the Long-Wide View
Even when it’s not large.

Comments or questions welcome at shm at prwebs dot com.

Beginnings

Beginnings

The snow is deep enough to ski.
I could not ski today.
The cold is mild enough to enjoy.
I could not enjoy today.
The sun was just bright enough to shine through the trees.
I could not take time to see the sun.

Its November only, already deep winter and I need to prepare …
And have little to prepare with, but much to prepare for … maybe.

What I did have is lumber scavenged from a garbage dump, solid 2×4’s 10’ and some 2×6 of various lengths.
And pallets that I pulled apart to use the light 4’ pieces as horizontal supports
For a shelter, an anteroom outside the door, for wood heat to be figured into,
For there is coming a wood stove.
A gift to compensate for the lack of money for propane.
A hope.
A back up.
A plan to use wood
For warmth when the propane gives out or the furnace takes leave again.
Or just when.
It’s a new beginning, not much of one, and it has a long road between today and the use of wood for heat.

So I did take time to see the sun rise … well to see the light of day break in.

And I noticed I am hardly alone in making a new beginning.

A seedling makes its fifth winter

I’m just in the end cycle days, instead of the start-up days.
More like the grass that is here one day and gone the next.

May the last days be many,
Filled with awe-filled wonders,
And great light,
The light of the world,
The King’s light,
Spectural light,
That shines
Through
The cracks in us to reveal the healing wonder of the Holy Spirit.

And yours,
May your new beginnings be worth the price
We all pay for choices
Away from
And towards
Somethings
The exact meaning and cost for which we can hardly know when we make the choices.

But choice we have, the basics of love.
Which is no guarantee that the force of evil will not mow us down long before our long fifth winter.

Still God stands by
Us
Engaged in helping us withstand the trials
And assaults on our being,
Consequences of choosing other than love.
But God does not end the assaults or trials, the consequences,
Nor cures the illness that is the cause.
As the seedling, we have the possibilities to grow strong,
And wave at the wind, the blowing of the Spirit.

There are no guarantees, just chocolates, of which we never know what we will get.

Thanks to the Forest.

Christ the King – Truth

What is truth?
Gospel: John 18:33-37
Selections from the texts for Christ the King Sunday, 25 November 2018, plus one verse:

Pilate: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus: “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate: “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own … have handed you over.
What have you done?”
Jesus: “My kingdom is not from this world.
If … then, my followers would be fighting.
Pilate: “So you are a king?”
Jesus: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born,
and … to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate: “What is truth?”

I went looking today:
I wanted to see things clearly, to know the truth about faith, love and hope.
I went looking as I often do across the water.
The water is hidden by ice,
Which is hidden by snow.
And today even the far shore is hidden by the fog across the lake.

 

I looked right.

 

I looked left.

 

I looked further to the left,
to the white sticks of birch.
But nothing about clarity came to me.

Pilate does not want to, but still he asks the question that must be asked: is Jesus the King of the Jews?
Jesus says he was born to have Pilate ask him this question … and
To testify to the truth.
Those that belong to the truth listen to Jesus’ voice.
So that Jesus is testifying to the truth: that’s simple enough: the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a story that we can listen to and understand.
It’s not a story about another world or another realm.
Jesus was born as a human.
And God sent Jesus to live, die and be resurrected to leave us with a story that profoundly changes everything we see in the world.
We see God more clearly: God intends and does free us from our own sins, not the consequences in this world, but the consequence that would separate us from God. Instead, as Jesus story makes clear, God sticks with us always, all ways.
That’s something … okay that is everything.
Even though we step away from God, God follows us, even picks us up and carries us forward when we can no longer walk in God’s ways or even in God’s creation.
To be loved by God, that’s everything.

That’s what Jesus’ story tells us about God most clearly,
And that we can follow in Jesus’ way …
We can (God equips us so)
Choose also
To love,
Forgive,
And be gracious
With all people
In all ways.

There is living water, flowing freely here
Beneath the ice
And it is visible
At the edge
Of the
Lake.
If
One looks in the right place for it.

Water freely flowing from under the ice.

We no longer need to sacrifice anyone or anything in order to make ourselves right with God.
First of all we cannot in any way through any means make ourselves right with God.
We just are too broken to do this.
Secondly we do not have to make ourselves right with God, because God, as Jesus did, makes Godself right with us, where ever we meander in life.
And God turns our meandering into dancing,
Our fear into deep breathing calm and assurance
And our chaos into God’s blessings for us and for others.

Abraham’s story of ‘sacrificing’ Isaac, being interrupted by God, is the story about God instructing us to stop sacrificing children to God, to appease God.
Jesus’s story of his life, death and resurrection is the story of God instructing us to stop sacrificing anything and everyone … God does not want any sacrifice, it does us no good, and God already is there by our side even when we still scapegoat someone … again … and again.

In response to the story unfolding before him, Pilate is like most of us, a bit befuddled and unaware of what’s at play before his eyes.
He thinks like a ruler of the Roman empire about to spiral into decay: there is no truth, there is no real God, there is only subjective, relativistic truth and there are only the many gods of the many religions of the many, many people conquered by Rome.
Who knows what is true about what happened before time,
Yet alone even tomorrow, given all the fake news, the lies upheld as truths, the spin that so many people put on so many things that even those that lie so freely, cannot keep track of what really happened.
But this is truth:
God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son to die for all of creation, so that those that believe in him might live, truly live, and know the truth of God’s Grace, Forgiveness, and Love.

Now that is a truth to base real hope on, hope that cannot disappoint.
That is truth.

It is the light that is always there, even if today it is obscured by the clouds so low,
The sun
Is
There

 

Visible at sunset
Yesterday after the clouds hung around all day.

And what do we do in response: Jesus calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves, even our enemies, and to love the Lord our God with all our hearth, mind and soul.

 

 

[okay, on further proof reading I see that I meant to write:

with all our heart, mind and soul.

I could have just corrected it, but I kind of like the image mixed in with the command to love God,

That we would love God with all our hearth … that spot below a fireplace or wood stove, from which heat is produced to keep us alive through the Canadian winters, or just cozy in modern Canada … well at least for most of us, or you all, cause I need a wood stove to help stay warm and alive this winter since I cannot afford the propane, nor to replace the furnace every two years. But back to the image:

That we would love God with that warm spot in the home, a place of family, parents and children, oh how I miss children. and that we would dedicate all that might entail,

sitting with children, reading near the hearth, playing on the hearth

sitting with one’s beloved, after the kids are in bed, or gone from home to their own lives and homes, near the hearth, reading or resting or enjoying a glass of Mosel, Saar, Ruhr – Riesling – Kabinett

and reviewing the gifts of God that day; those received and those given.

But perhaps you would have preferred I’d just made the correction to the typo.

But then I would have missed out on those memories, if not real, then hoped for, and the hope of soon having those memories near a wood stove, for real practical reasons:

I’ve these addictions I try to provide for:

I’m addicted to clean air, clean water, food, sufficient clothing, shelter enough to smile at the cold and snow, rain and heat; as well as meaningful labour, and to be loved, and most of all to remain capable of loving …

my neighbours,

my self,

my enemies,

my God.

with all my hearth and home,

all my heart, mind and soul,

and all my words, and photos.

 

Comments welcomed at shm at prwebs dot com.

That which makes life …

That which makes life so precious is for you yourself to know you are found to be worthy of love.

It is to be held as precious by someone who you yourself find precious.

Life cannot be made valuable by oneself. That is a futile chase that brings disasters of all kinds down on those around you, until you yourself are caught in some disaster or another.

The futile chase takes on many faces: accumulating wealth, power, influence, respect, position, family … you name it. Most often there goes with this chase the greatest effort to conceal from oneself and others that one is chasing these things as the central anchor of one’s life, and especially that one needs to conceal that one knows the chase is futile.

To be found worthy of love … is not something one does oneself, not even indirectly.

The most one can do is aspire to be the kind of person whom others will admire, be inspired by, and look to as the person who finds others worthy of being loved.

One finds others worthy of love, and one loves, without ever knowing that anyone will find one even interesting in the slightest, yet alone intriguing to the core, and redeemable enough to risk love on.

But all our efforts to love are incomplete, always a tad selfish, trying to get something for ourselves out of the deal.

Perfect love is God’s, and God’s alone.

And when God chooses to love us, then we are worthy.

And if God chooses not to love us, then we are not worthy, and that’s not the half of it.

Try … try to be loving, or at least kind.

Seek to love, and know like everyone, you also will seek to be loved.

But know that seeking is already completed: there is no love more perfect than God’s, and worth measured by God’s love for us cannot be equaled.

That love makes up for everything bad that others do to us, and we do to others, in the name of love, and in the name of hate, and in the name of indifference.

Indifference is true hell, killing the one possessed by it, and those around on whom it is focused.

 

That which makes life so precious is for you yourself to know you are found to be worthy of love, the best and only perfect love … God’s love.

 

God gave his Son

We sin.

God loves us.

God gives her Son to die, to pay for our sins.

(About the pronoun for God, see the ending.)

We ought not suffer the consequences of our sins if Jesus pays the price for them, Right?

The consequence that we do not suffer is God does not honour the reality that our sins create: namely that we are separated from God.

The rest of the consequences, we and others still suffer. And we do it sometimes too often without any Grace.

Grace, it’s that wonderful attitude of God toward us,

that is so great and large that it may be hard to comprehend well.

Just say that God is dancing with us through life, and when we sin, taking a misstep in the dance, God does not step on our toes, even when we put them right under God’s nose … or rather feet.

Grace is how God dances with us, serene, always there, smooth, never predictable, but never strained or clumsy, … just there

especially when we deserve everything but God’s presence.

Grace, that’s how God responds to our sins.

One tradition explains it all by saying that there is a price to pay for every sin. We can pay it, or, as in times of old, we can offer a sacrifice, an offering to atone, or make up for, the sin. It’s sort of like not really paying but paying something not so bad instead.

Which leads to all sorts of traditions around altars and killing and blood and …

Even Jesus death is seen this way, as a sacrifice, offered by God, taken by us all (no scapegoating – but that’s jumping ahead-).

The conundrum of this view is that Jesus pays the price for our sins, but we still suffer the consequences, except that God is not separated from us. God remains with us, which is something (well actually it’s everything) but we humans have always wanted to be free from the consequences of our sins, because we seem to understand how terrible they are.

If we were still in the business of sacrificing, killing, and offering blood to God to atone for our sins, then Jesus as the sacrificial lamb would make a lot of sense.

A side step first: Jesus living and dying did not change God; it changes what we know of God, and how we know it. Jesus life story makes us able to know many things about God that we may not have been so able to know, and to know just by knowing a story.

Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, stepping right out of the altar sacrifice, blood and making good for sins in the temple, is a powerful image, and not at all to be lost.

The story God gave us with his son is quantum levels more significant.

God gave his son to show us that God has made the last sacrifice on an altar, a blood offering, a life offering.

And that is supposed to show us, simple and easy, that that’s the end of that.

And not just the blood offering, taking of a life, but the kind of sacrificing someone else, making them pay for what we have done.

It’s about Grace making it possible for us to be fully accountable for our own sins. Enough (and then some) scapegoating.

It’s easy to know Jesus’ story as the end to blood offerings, because we don’t do that anyway.

It’s a full reality pill to swallow, one that will transform our lives if we pay attention to the story, if we understand that Jesus’ story is supposed to be the last time that anyone scapegoats anyone.

That’s harder to swallow because … well we all scapegoat people, sometimes even innocent bystanders to the mess we make of our lives.

So: God gives his son … to teach us, to give us a clear story of how God intended us to live, and scapegoating is not any part of what God intended.

If we know that God forgives us, stays right by our side when we suffer the consequences of our own or others’ sins, then it is possible to be accountable for our sins. We do not need to scapegoat someone else in order to think that God still accepts us, in spite of the terrible sins we commit.

God loves us, forgives us, stays with us: that’s the purpose of God giving Jesus … so that we can know God’s grace first hand, and then give it to others.

Even at sunset, God loves, forgives and stays with us … in the light.

Dance. For God is dancing, singing, laughing with us.

Dance. For God is carrying us, wailing in pain, and crying with us.

Dance. That’s what we do, if we choose not to scapegoat someone else for what we’ve done wrong.

God gave his Son, so that we might truly live and dance.

Even if we only dance in our dreams.

’cause if you’re not dancing … you ain’t nothing doing.

Now where did I put that music, the song of God’s creation, dancing with light and snow and cold and heat and rain and drought and … well all of us.

Breathe

There is a way through any dance, any circumstance, any challenge.
Even when the light is nearly gone, there is a way.

Breathe,

because in the next moment wen you recognize that God is leading, you just might not be able to catch your breath, the steps are so wondrously tantalizingly

grace – full.

Now about that pronoun for God:

There is so much that God has made clear for us to know, but what God has not made clear is if God is male, female or other, or how we ought to use pronouns referring to God. So they are all available, some disturbing in their historical and hysterical use, abuse and demand that others use the ‘right’ one.

The one thing we know clearly is: God is also full of Grace about all the pronoun use/abuse/demands; and we can be, too, if we so choose.

The only thing I’m pretty clear on, is demanding that others … fill in the blank … is almost always counter-productive, and doing so about the pronoun used for God is counter-grace-full.

That’s a dance, too. I wish only that it were more often a dance of grace instead of anger.

Pronouns are important, language is important, but only if they are part of a dance of grace.

Breathe.

God gave God’s son so that we could all breathe, and dance with Grace.

Love Cannot be Forced

Love Requires Free Choice

We believe that God created the world, and all of us,
in order that we can
love our neighbours as our selves, and especially our enemies,
and that we can love God with all our hearts, minds and souls.

Love
requires that the person who loves,
freely chooses to love.

Love cannot be forced from another, it must come freely from the person who loves.

And that also requires that we can choose to not love,
that we can choose to hate, to seek vengeance, that we can break ourselves and our relationships, even our relationship with God,

the consequences for which, since we all make this choice again and again,
are suffered by not only by the person who chooses not to love
but by all of us.

There is so much sinning and suffering, only God can make it right.

So he gave his son
(more on that another day)
to pay the final and complete price for our failed choices, our choices

not

to

love.

God not only pays the price, but stays with us, even as we suffer the consequences of our own and other’s sins.

God again and again re-creates in us the ability, willingness, and possibility
to choose to love.

And we choose to love, even those who make themselves our enemies.

Dance.

Dance and choose to love.

Dance and love and choose to give thanks.

Dance and love and give thanks and choose to hope.

Be hope-filled, thankful, loving and full of the dance,

so that you can know against all odds and evidence and experience to the contrary that

all will be well,
all will be well,
all manner of things will be well.

Progress ?

Progress    ?

 

What is progress?

 

I do not mean just what is the definition of progress

But what is it to actually make some progress towards what is the ultimate goal or purpose of life?

 

So the question begs first the other question: what is the ultimate goal or purpose of life, and then what can one do to move towards that goal or purpose?

 

Better stated: how does one live, so that life is good?

Or

To use Julian of Norwich’s words:

How does one live, so that

All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well,

even when there is no evidence that anything is well at all?

 

There are so many considerations for all of that, which today I am not even going to try to approach yet alone address, or, maybe not.

But I saw

Progress

Right before my eyes.

 

First,

the natural progress,

comprssd over just a few days,

 

 

 

from snow free on the first,

with water free to canoe across

 

 

 

To lightly dusted

showing only on the cleared areas and pathways

 

 

 

To fully snow covered

ready for skiing

and open water waving nicely at the wind.

 

 

 

To obscured by the condensation on the window in the early hours

 

 

 

To a clear view of ice

Hanging on the reeds

 

 

 

To the ice covering the lake

The ice formed all across the rest of the lake all at once.

Two hours before this photo taken at 12:26 noon

The lake was still waving to the wind.

I thought it was hello but it was a good bye!

 

So far, besides the sudden full lake freeze

This is just the progress of a fall in Canada.

 

 

 

 

Until sunset, when the forces of expansion,

Ever present as water gives way to ice,

Break the one piece surface.

The cracks show the lake’s breaking points

In vivid tracks.

 

 

Now comes the challenge,

a bit of photography,

A bit of philosophy

A bit of Grace

And a lot of Hope:

How to capture the scene in front of me that sings so wonderfully

Across my eyes and through my fingers to my brain?

 

Because, just trying to capture that teasingly intriguing ‘S’ of a crack

The natural tendency, especially framed by the bushes on either side of

this narrow canoe landing,

oops

this ski entrance on to the lake, –

the natural tendency is to put the ‘S’ in the middle of the frame

 

And as marvelous as it was in-person here the above photo kind of dies

A quick death as the eye stops with the ‘S’ and moves no further.

 

 

So it takes some moving and trying, and seeing:

 

S Right

So the photos above and below are an effort to move the ‘S’ off the center

to invite one’s eye to dance around the photo.

 

 

 

 

S Left

Somehow they just still sit under the wonder, somehow flat.

 

 

So the idea is to look around in a different direction to see something more.

 

 

And with that effort  still missing the wonder of the view

I tried getting more,

literally more of what was in front of me:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The panorama of the whole view out the canoe, opps, ski access point.

It’s all there and still that wondrously difficult and intriguing ‘S’ falls dead compared to the reality in front of me.

 

So …

 

 

 

 

 

I tried for a little less of everything

Which becomes intriguing

with the clear focus on the near, iced shore,

a view of the ‘S’

heading off to the sunset

leaving us at the far shore

catching a ride back to the near shore,

broken by – well it’s

still not quite right with the small branch breaking in on the left,

A ‘merge’ that distracts the eye out of the essentials to the big ooppps.

 

But it is -20° C

That’s minus 20° Celsius

I’m using voice activation to start the photos,

Which does not work for panoramas

so off come the gloves to shoot.

And my bared fingers are crying SOS

(which always gives way to them splitting more painful cracks at the tips in protest, which take days to heal),

So I did not get that even normally simple merge corrected,

a small step of progress towards good,

That I normally would not pass up on.

 

 

Still the sun rises again the next morning, gorgeously red and promising …

 

Promising of more snow

Which comes in spades

Or inches

Or millimeters.

But it fills the skies after 10:00 until dark and beyond,

The land gets a new cover, perfect for skiing.

 

The furnace has developed a hole in the combustion chamber, pumping C0 into the cabin,

And I have to turn it off through the nights, and only when I can get by without it’s heat does my head clear enough to deal with all the challenges which a furnace-less camper presents.

 

I move from flowing water, even heated water,

to ‘running’ water:

I run,

to get water,

then I have running water.

 

 

 

 

Progress.

Do

You

See

What is progress?

 

The progress that is inevitable

And the progress which is the result of

the labour of hope and photography

Which catches and communicates the wonders of creation

To demonstrate

Pure

Beauty.

 

God’s beautiful world.

 

What progress have you made lately?

Not just getting through each inevitable day,

But moving each day a step sideways and deeper

Toward those things that

Are worth living

For

And

From?

 

 

Well,

Will

all be well,

Not just in words,

But in the soul of your life?

In the soul of this creation?

In the face of challenges and temptations that open the door

To evil and sin allowing them to prevail?

 

Or are you a Saint, by grace, giving witness to God’s presence everywhere, always.

 

Do you love your neighbours as your self, and your enemies,

and the LORD your God, with all your soul and your might?

 

Only by Grace,

is real progress possible.

How is it … ?

How is it that we always think that –

the hero of a movie cannot die,
that disaster cannot overtake us to our end,
that evil will not prevail over us.
When all the signs are …
all the evidence is ….
and all our experience would tell us
that it has already overcome all the goodness that was once given us,
and left us in ruins?
This is hope.
Perhaps out of hope will come a resurrection of life that is goodness …
as all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
This is not a happy ending to every life …
This is not a happy ending to every challenge …
This is not a happy ending to every story, or movie … though Hollywood would like us to believe otherwise.
After all, who wants to pay for entertainment that does not provide what one wants to, at least temporarily, imagine that life will be: that life, if not gentle with us along the way, will at least be generous to us in the near future, without too much lost time and suffering thrown at us first.
Hollywood endings are warm and fuzzy, and give us optimism.
The real challenges of life are not met by optimism.
The really devastating challenges require hope.
And
divine
assurance
that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
How is it that we always think that –
God is gracious and generous,
That Love is the meaning of life,
That Hope is everything?
Only by Grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit,
can we, in the face of the brutal reality of evil,
say with our whole heart, mind and soul,
that
all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.