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.

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.

Change

Change

 

Yesterday
Was
All
Saints’
Sunday

The afternoon came late with snow
Enough to cover the browns of fall
And cover most everything with the white of winter.

Change.
It is not enough that it’s change.
This one, many of us would have wished, would have waited a month or more.
Makes for a long winter, or so we say.

We don’t mind change, we just want to be in control. We want to choose what change comes our way and forms our futures becoming our past.

So what change would we choose?
The lists are endlessly wishful, and just about totally impossible.

So what to do with this change, this snow change.
It’s a little thing, really, snow in November.
It’s the cold, the cost for fuel which may become impossible.
And that is not just a little thing.

Which does not melt the snow or reduce the cost for fuel.

What can one do with such a change?
It’s simple.
By morning more snow floated loose from the clouds
Onto the brow-beaten ground that is as much home as anywhere;
It’s enough to ski on.
And it’s enough to make a great time preparing for the winter to come.

Snow.
For Saints all, it is an opportunity,
an opportunity to turn what many will complain about,
into a graceful chance to enjoy the wonders of creation.

Wonders are many, and the thankfulness one holds
For the little things,
Or the big things,
That make cold into a gift and wonder.

The canoe is stored for the winter; it’s too dangerous to canoe with water so close to freezing as one glides on the ripples, waves and fish spinning galore.

And the skis are ready.
Tomorrow will be the day to first cross country ski on the ground that God created and called good.

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

All Saint’s Sunday

All Saints Sunday

Jesus is deeply upset, even angry, when he learns that Lazarus has died.

Mary and Martha, and  many with them blame Jesus, if only he had been there to keep Lazarus from dying.

Jesus is upset again, he weeps.

Then Jesus makes it happen.

He has the people remove the stone in front of the grave.

Calling him to come to him Jesus brings Lazarus back to life.

Then Jesus tells the people to take the bindings off the hands and feet of Lazarus.

 

It takes people, doing as Jesus tells them.

It takes people to blame Jesus for the only end there is to life, death.

It takes people like Martha to protest the stench, before the miracle.

It takes people to free Lazarus from the bindings of death.

 

It takes Jesus, calling on the Father, to bring Lazarus back to life.

 

What is it that needs new life in your life, or is it your life itself that has died, even though you still breathe and your heart beats?

 

There is a long history of the church selecting people who have lived special lives and canonizing them, making them saints.

I grew up, studied and am ordained as a Lutheran, with the essence of my being to bring the visible grace of God into the experience of as many people as I encounter.

So I inherited and embrace a tradition that says all this special saints stuff is okay but misleading.

We don’t make ourselves special. Only God can.

We don’t usually see how it is that we or others are special, only the Holy Spirit can show us that.

And most importantly, God makes each and everyone of us into saints, even though we remain sinners, both at the same time.

Simultaneously saints and sinners,

is the phrase,

is the reality.

No perception is reality, or the other’s lies are made into reality.

We are all saints and sinners simultaneously.

So this is All Saints Sunday, it is our day, our day as we are by grace who we are not otherwise, children of God, and the people who reflect the light of Christ in the world.

 

Where did you shine to this day?

 

The snow hit this afternoon, as we made the last canoe ride across the lake against the wind that would become strong and filled with wet snow.

So we packed the canoe up, tucked it away, safe until Spring, and should have brought out the skis, because the snow is deep enough now for the first ski of the year.

 

Later we will walk on water again.

As the lake freezes and snow covers it we will ski on water frozen.

By grace, until the propane runs out. Then, who knows.

 

I suppose there will be those who will blame someone, maybe Jesus, that he was not here. But he is, by grace also suffering and celebrating life.

 

By grace, those who wish me dead and gone, will be disappointed for yet another year or twenty.

 

That’s life. That’s new life. That’s the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus has done it more than a few times.

 

Be alert. Jesus will do it in your lives, too.

Catch your breath now, for later, in the aftermath of new life, you may have little time to catch it. It’ll be filled by the Holy Spirit blowing fire and spirit through every fibre of your being.

 

All Saint’s Sunday.

Here’s to you, Spirit made saints, all.

Breathe.

We are all still sinners.  And one can expect sinners’ effects to roil into our lives.

Breathe.

Jesus is still raising us back to life, giving us new breath in spite of our expectations that we will no longer breathe.

Breathe.

It’s all gift.

Start of a Sweet Month

1 November,  All Saints Day
Start of a Sweet Month

It is a sweet month, November is, a month when winter is not set, though the sun sets early and rises late. The hard cold is not yet, and the water is still clear for canoeing.
A month to prepare, a month that is the end of the church year, a month when travelers are few and far between and solitude and peace are more easily found in old haunts and newly explored places.

Then on the first day of this sweet month, with temperatures already below zero often in October, the cold arrived over night at -7 with a low forecast of -4. In town it’s -3.
Halloween was a cold one again.
And November came in with just a skiff of snow.

 

Snow on the canoe.

 

 

 

 

A closer look at the obvious presence

 

Of a beaver, obvious because of the telltale tooth marks on the trees, as the beaver prepares for winter, setting the food of trees in storage next to the beaver house, not 50 meters distant downstream.

 

This, just a stone’s throw from the wake up view, is the outflow creek of the lake. The beaver have taken this creek, dammed and controlled it to keep the lake at high water marks and made a quiet pond, a home for them, and for us to canoe on just down the creek a bit, over a couch some fools left on the ice one winter past.

This the stillness of wonderful weather, quiet from the throngs, and distance from the noise of the city, but not out of reach of the military jet sonic booms as they reach out to distant sorties.

Here the soul, on All Souls Day, can live well.
Here the saint, on All Saints Day, can live well.
Here creation is good.
Money is scarce, fuel for transportation and electricity (generator made) is short, and propane for heat is dwindling.
Ah, a wood stove in a shelter on a trailer, which would provide dry heat, a system for heat that costs labour and chainsaw gas and oil, and truck gas to haul in the wood. But that’s a pipe dream.

Even so, here, whatever may come,

all is well, all is well, all manner of things are well.