The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.
Words of Grace For Today
The challenges in life are real, and real dangerous, and very destructive. Some would take us out of life in one fell swoop. Others chip away at us, trying to incapacitate us until we fall like a tree felled by stroke after stroke of an axe. Often it feels like that axe aimed at us is huge and dull, or hitting us broadside.
Covid, the restrictions and the fools who rebel against the restrictions and the foolish politicians who lift the restrictions leaving us all at such great risk from each other … all this is certainly another sharp axe swung at us with a freshly sharpened and mutated edge first, though most of us just get the broadside, or the 2nd sharp edge on the back swing.
God walks with us.
Promises of God’s care abound.
Rainbows, Music, fresh bread: all signs of God with us that provide sacramental hope.
Rabbits and robins play and feed in the meadow in the early morning sun, warming away the frost with a 10⁰C warmth.
Deer have fed, played and meandered on.
The geese and ducks will fly over, some honking, some silent, some with a loud whoosshh from their passage through the air.
The owl, after a night of hooting regularly, from various directions, is quiet, resting, waiting for the dark of night again to emerge to hunt for food. Go get the mice!
Human visitors come and get their vehicles stranded in the water ditches the road passes through, unfamiliar with the dangerous deep and the way to get through in the shallowest part. Others with big trucks come and pull them out. Others, very familiar with the area, drive in with a full case of beer cans and litres of rye or rum or vodka to pass an evening into oblivion.
The dangers still await us.
God’s promise provides us the courage: God knows us by name, and favours us, and protects us, … and even when death finally wins it’s grip right tightly on our breath and pulls us away, God will welcome us first home.
No danger is more powerful than God’s favour. We live in safety, the best and only safety this life has to offer.
A quiet word of thanks begins each day, as we celebrate Christ’ work for us and all people.
Now let our dance of this day begin, in tune, stepping to the rhythm of God’s blessings pouring over us, turning gracefully, pausing to rest even these arthritic old bones, for the next beat, and then onward into the day.
Do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Words of Grace For Today
There are great ways to be in this world that provides us so little goodness.
God makes a start with us, and returns over and over again to restore us using everything possible to cure us of our our every ill that would drag us down to the pit.
Sometimes we are surprised like Saul on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus.
Saul sets out to bring in the rogue Christians, (Errant Lutherans we’d say.) Without warning The Light Strikes and The Voice Declares! And Everything is changed!
Sometimes lightning strikes (well near-strikes will do since a direct strike leaves little but a burned corpse), like Martin Luther, and we end up on a journey we had not anticipated.
Most often the journey starts rather routinely, like when a baptismal service starts or at the start of familiar songs at a concert. Hearing only the introductory chords the crowd breaks out into a roar of delight. After the applause rolls to silence the song fills the air, our minds, and our hearts, God at work:
… If it be your will, that a voice be true From this broken hill, I will sing to you From this broken hill All your praises they shall ring If it be your will … (Leonard Cohen’s If It Be Your Will)
The journey after that can be anything. God walks with us, and always calls us to be Grace for others, to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven us.
The journey is full of challenges. Today the Covid Blues have set in most everywhere and intolerance, rage and violence erupt without warning around us, sometimes from within us.
What are we to do?
Martin Luther knew the blues all too well. His answer was to sit with his friend Philip Melanchthon, drink bear, and sing hymns.
Sounds, Sites, Smells, Memories, Hopes, Dreams. God uses it all to reach us and to restore us.
Whatever God guides us to do, there are so many people needing someone to reach out to them, with kindness, tender heartedness, and forgiveness.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.
Words of Grace For Today
In the quiet of the hermitage, holy by years of holy celebrations, the rain fell mixed with snow, and chilled the air, still above freezing.
This is peace.
This is peace,
For there is no war,
This is peace,
For there is no one seeking to kill me,
not right now, right here … that I know of.
This is peace,
For in the cool of the evening just begun the warmth from the woodstove promises safety and comfort against any chilling cold.
This is peace,
For there is plenty of clean water, plenty of healthy food and drink, and plenty of work to do so that boredom and lack of purpose have no purchase here … for now.
This is peace,
For the wind that has beat the tarps about is calmed, and the music of the meadow is natural other than the fans to cool the solar power systems, and they are reminders of what can be done with next to no carbon footprint.
This is peace,
For this is what God has provided, for this day, hear and now.
This is peace, for come what may, God walks with me in this meadow and beyond, as God walks with you where you are and beyond.
For all this we give God endless praise and thanks.
There are so many places and times that are not peace.
We remember the people who suffer
causing the lack of peace, and
those suffering the lack of peace.
For them we pray this day, that God will provide them peace, and a peace that ends violence and suffering.
But hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.
2 Corinthians 3:5
Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.
Words of Grace For Today
How does one remain focused, determined, clear headed, and adamantly sure of one’s identity when …
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by hunger (can faith feed one’s body?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by the struggle to survive in an environment that would do one in were one not vigilant, determined, and persistently at work preparing for the next challenge to life itself (can faith protect one from minus 40⁰ cold, plus 40⁰ heat, wasps, mosquitoes, bear, and coyotes?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by dependence on the good will of those who would strip one of any identity they cannot bear to acknowledge (can faith please the demands to be other than faithful, when those demands are made by those who provide the necessities of life?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by the overwhelming apparent ‘successes’ of those who have surrendered their identity to become other than God’s people and the overwhelming apparent ‘failure’ of one’s own life while maintaining one’s identity as God’s chosen, forgiven, restored, and sent messenger of Grace embodied in thought, word and deed? (Can faith provide success when there is none in the past, present, or future to be seen?)
Old Joshua, after years of leading the people to conquer and claim their place in the Promised Land, reminds the people to remember Moses’ Law and not to deviate to the beliefs of the foreigners taken into their midst and the ways of their new neighbours.
Paul reminds the cantankerous Corinthians to trust that their competence in all matters depends not on themselves, but on God’s work in and through them.
Does that help us maintain our faith and identity, when it is under siege? Will God send us a competent new ‘Joshua’ to lead us to claim a place in our ‘Promised Land?’ Is there a ‘Promised Land’ for us here on earth?
Will God provide clarity in Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) for us so that we will receive justice when we stand before the courts that continually work from the lies presented to them, and the lies they add on to the pile of lies, to further rob the security of life that even the government would provide to seniors caught in poverty, a poverty created by the courts injustice?
Does Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) or God’s competence build us sufficient shelter each season to protect us from the increasingly dangerous climate and the animals of the wilderness?
Does Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) or God’s competence preserve our identity and continue to provide us the basics of life in the face of our generous providers who demand we become someone else, more like them as hypocrites who profess faith in God and yet live by lies and destruction of others to cover their sins, instead of accepting forgiveness and restoration and being that restored truth-justice-grace for all other people?
These all seem to be impossibilities that leave us vulnerable to the demands and challenges placed on us by the injustice based on lies worked against us.
This is not the end of the story! Not by any means!
God sends messengers to revive faith in us amidst the greatest challenges.
A scriptural passage, a devotion, a commentary, an insightful sermon, a soul probing song and melody, a book, a news report, a quote: all of these God uses to restore faith in us, to remind us of who (and whose) we are, and to rejuvenate hope in us, a hope that carries us forward through all challenges, blessed to be a blessing to all people.
Malala Yousafzai Malik is one such person. Her book, I Am Malala, is full of inspiration as she spoke out for education for girls (and boys). Wikipedia provides the following among many words about her that inspire one to persevere as God’s chosen:
She left Jon Stewart speechless when she described her thoughts after learning the Pakistani Taliban wanted her dead, saying:
“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
Stewart visibly moved by her words ended the conversation saying: “I am humbled to speak with you.“
Stewart would again have her as a guest on the show after the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting, in which he started the show citing no jokes saying, “our guest is a incredible person who suffered unspeakable violence by extremists and her perseverance and determination through that to continue on is an incredible inspiration and to be quite honestly with you, I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world I would rather talk to tonight than Malala so that’s what we’ll do and sorry about no jokes.”
In the face of violence that threatens her life, she would eschew violence of any kind and speak, offering education and then say ‘now do what you want.’
May we all acknowledge that we have the Peace of God, the competence of God, the guidance in the Law of Moses which we need in order to remain faithful, always, even in the face of those who would kill us, undo us, try to corrupt us, and name us as failures.
So we pray: Help us Lord, to remember the successes you have brought in our lives to many others, the faith you have shared with many through us, and the hope that you have poured through us to so many people. In gratitude we acknowledge all your people whose thoughts, words and deeds inspire us (and many others) to trust in your promises to walk with us, and, in the end, to bring us home with all the saints in light.
Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Words of Grace For Today
Sunday afternoon two men show up in a big 2500 pickup truck having plowed their way through huge gullies of water, ice, slush and mud to park in the snow just off the lake. They say as explanation that they have been away working up north (one presumes Fort McMurray, though it could be lots of different places up north) and they have come for some peace away from their women. [Their own description and words, not mine at all.]
This is a common explanation of men (and women) who come out here to the sacred ground (that is also so desecrated by abuse of the land and of the people themselves who show up here to ‘party’), namely that they come here to get away from [fill in the people supposedly closest to them] so that they can have some peace.
Jesus shows up where the disciples are gathered behind locked doors out of fear for their lives and offers first, “Peace be with you!”
Jesus knows what the disciples need first and foremost. Jesus knows what we need first and foremost. Jesus knows we need first and foremost an overriding sense of peace, a peace that cannot be shaken by whatever comes our way.
It is an honest observation about humans that we thirst for peace, well most of us. There are some who only thirst for violence and blood and destruction and power. Most of us, though, thirst for peace. Soldiers write that their enduring dream and motivation in fighting battles in horrid conditions, experiencing abominations no one should ever have to witness, is that they want to live, at home, with their loved ones, quietly and peacefully.
It is an honest and depressingly sad commentary on us humans that given the opportunity to live at home with our loved ones, we are unable to find peace with each other. We need to be apart, away from the strife, in order to find any peace at all.
What is it with us, the vast majority of us, that we thirst for peace, and yet given every opportunity to live it with our loved ones, we end up in conflict with them, they with us, and we flee?
The Psalmist wrote on a larger scale, bemoaning the loss of a kingdom ruled by David, and Israel’s being ruled by foreign powers. We can cry these same words to God with reference to how we live with each other at home, in our faith communities, in our neighbourhoods and villages, and in our provinces, states, and countries: Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
Where indeed is God’s promise that we can live in peace with each other?
I would guess that God actually never promised us this, and Jesus certainly does not promise us this. Jesus provides for us 1) freedom from our sin and guilt so that 2) we can live with gratitude for all that God has done, is doing, and promises to do for us and so that 3) we can serve others with gentle grace, forgiveness and love, starting with those closest to us and not ending at all. It is our Christ-bought-and-freely-given way of being towards all people.
The wages of sin are death, and we see that in our inability to live at peace with those closest to us: the greatest impediment to living at peace with others is (not that they are such imperfect, terrible people but) that they reflect back to us our own imperfections and terrible sinfulness (especially that we do such terrible things to the people we love – and what kind of horrendous people are we to do such terrible things to our beloved!) It is living with others that our true selves are unavoidably presented to us.
So we run away.
So we blame our beloved (as if they were the cause of us being such terrible people!)
So we begin to descend into a life of lies about ourselves and others, and here we see the wages of sin: it is a slow, miserable death, bit by bit of our souls are lost until though we walk and talk, we are dead through and through inside.
How can we live given we are such miserable sinners (actually we are excellent sinners, and miserable people!)??
Only by Grace can we live at all.
Only by Grace can we find peace with ourselves and with our beloved.
Only by Grace.
For the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And that is the promise given to David and all others through all generations.
We can live in Peace! Even with those closest to us.
So what are we waiting for?!
Today, be Christ’s Peace for those closest to you. It’s free, so why not!
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!’
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
Words of Grace For Today
In our lives there are all sorts of challenges to finding one’s way forward to a life of purpose, meaning, and maybe even success.
There are plenty of songs about those challenges and the Covid pandemic has certainly made clear for us how these challenges play out for us. Take all those challenges and add isolation and separation and the risk of breathing one’s last in great pain, or recovering and suffering long-Covid for years and … well it’s just overwhelming.
We want to speak out, and have for years, about the lies made up about us, the lack of truth in so many times and places, lies told to help others accumulate money and power. Yet our voices are taken from us. Our words squashed into oblivion.
Our words echo in the wells of silence … as if the best we can do is get them whispered in the sound of silence.
In this place with no voices, a deserted place, this wilderness of a ‘twilight zone’ where nothing is real and everything stands against us no matter what we do … and so little makes any sense, we are just about to give up hope until …
Just when every ray of hope was gone, I should have known that you’d come along, I can’t believe I ever doubted you, my old friend the blues.
We think there is nothing and then we realize that this is as good as it gets and we still have one friend left.
Another lonely night, a nameless town, if sleep don’t take me first you’ll come around, ‘cause I know I can always count on you, my old friend the blues.
All the other people in our lives drift away, if they ever were really an actual part of our lives.
Lovers leave and friends’ll let you down, but you’re the only sure thing that I’ve found. No matter what I do, I’ll never lose my old friend the blues.
Yes, at least we have our old friend the blues.
Except, God knows this about us as well, and the blues are not the only one who sits through the lonely, sleepless nights, with us. In this place with no voices, a deserted place, this wilderness of a ‘twilight zone’ where nothing is real and everything stands against us, God sits with us as well, keeping watch, looking for ways to inspire us to live fully, no matter what our past is like, no matter what will come in our futures.
While we may end up down in the dumps, all around us the heavens are glad, and the earth rejoices, they say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king! And the hills, mountains, lakes, rivers, trees and meadows resound with the chorus ‘The Lord is King!’
If only we had ears to hear!
For now, we pray, Lord Jesus, take my hand and lead me, whither I do not know, but teach me to trust your guiding hand, to share your Grace and love with all peoples.
Maybe there’ll be a bit of chicken for lunch, and juice for supper with popcorn. These are the blessings of God, walking with me.
For this is as good as it gets.
So we learn to speak truth into the silence, welcome the blues, and watch for the dawn to break in on another day where God’s glory is everywhere, and, even if we are alone, we see God everywhere, as the deer graze the meadow and the rabbit nibbles an early meal, and geese fly from nest to food and back, here in God’s own country.
Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Words of Grace For Today
There are a great many natural disasters that occur. Now with climate change there are even more. Each previous year’s extremes have become the next year’s normals. How the wind howls! How the polar ice caps melt! How the flood waters rise and swamp so much. How the wildfires roar. How the earthquakes shake the foundations of all we’ve built. How the volcanoes spew forth their venom and ashen poisons for thousands of miles.
We no longer survive because of the production from our own land, our own backyards, our own flocks and herds. Instead we allow the produce from far and wide to arrive, mostly by truck and airplane, to arrive onto our grocery shelves and therefrom fill our baskets and stomachs.
Except, as Covid has demonstrated quite clearly, that supply chain is very vulnerable, easily disrupted and a real concern for our futures (and billions of humans current every day) is food security … or simply put, the reliability that we will have enough food today and tomorrow and next year.
Can we understand God’s Grace for us so fully as to say with Habakkuk though the fields yield no food [and the grocery shelves are bare] yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.
Most of us will complain mightily to God should this come to pass!
Some of us are privileged and burdened to live in the spirits of each day, and to know how they affect us and others around us, and to be caught in the wonders of God providing for our spirits each day in so many ways.
The disciples of Jesus encounter this when they go out preaching, healing and baptizing … and return amazed that the spirits submitted to them!
Yet Jesus says this wonder is of no lasting worth. They (we) should not relish that kind of power. Instead they (we) should celebrate the power of Jesus’ sacrificial love, which nets them (us) a place in God’s Graces. Their (our) names are written in heaven and God promises to walk with them (us) and welcome them (us) home when they (we) die.
There is nothing reliable about anything we humans construct to provide for our own futures. The only security available to anyone is that of God’s promises, God’s Grace, and God’s breathing hope into us, no matter what may come our way.
When we wake each day and remember our place, beggars at best for God’s Grace, then we can say with Habakkuk: God, the Lord, is my (our) strength; God makes my (our) feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me (us) tread upon the heights.
That is a sure place to start the day, any day, every day.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
Words of Grace For Today
God made us so that we could live, and live well, healthy and abundant lives. This God intends for us.
The Devil intends that life not be for us, but against us. All the devil’s works, done so well by so many humans, and by all humans, look to cheat us of life.
It is done slowly, tempting and pulling us into a way of living that consumes us, our hearts, minds and souls. And then the trap is sprung and whether we notice or not, we are trapped in a life that is horrendous.
Dietrich Bonhöffer wrote:
Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen, noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last. Ach Herr, gib unsern aufgeschreckten Seelen das Heil, für das du uns geschaffen hast.
Siegfried Feitz translated it to sing:
The worst of the old year still torment us we’re troubled still by long and wicked days Lord give our frightened souls the healing for which you have chastened us in many ways.
Much of the meaning is changed to keep the meter I would presume.
A not at all meter-keeping translation might go like this:
[after the first verse ends wishing to enter a new year with you the second verse continues]
Yet the old [year or times] are wont to torment our hearts, Yet the heavy burdens of evil days weigh us [down] Oh Lord, give our startled and fearful souls that healing, for which you had created us.
The bolded word ‘Heil’ carries with it a great connotation that one can hardly avoid noticing, as Bonhöffer wrote this while imprisoned by the Nazis, shortly before he was shot on suspicion of being part of the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.
No matter one’s language, one must recognize the phrase ‘Heil Hitler’, which was required of the German people by the Nazis many times a day. It’s translation is hardly ‘Health Hitler’. The literal meaning would be something like ‘Long health for Hitler’, but the actual meaning is closer to Hail Ceaser, or Long Live the King, and it certainly indicated one’s submission to Hitler’s rule.
So when Bonhöffer writes: Oh Lord, give us the Heil, for which you had created us, the connotation is unmistakable:
God give us back the word Heil, so that it once again is the health for which you created us, instead of being used as crowd rendered submission to Hilter’s dictatorship and all it’s cruelties to so many people.
As every temptation presented to us by the Devil, at first the invitation is given so that it sounds just so right. This is, the crowds say unawares, just what we’ve always wished for, dreamt of, thirsted for.
The Taliban did it, winning the hearts of the people by raising critiques of their imperfect world, government, and even their faith. They then, with small perversions at first and blatantly bombastic perversions by the end, turned the good faith of Islam against the people, against the women, against their critics, and finally they brought in brutal force to ensure compliance with measures no sane person would every wish for or support, except the perverted minds who wish to control the masses in barbaric ways.
Dictators in all times in all places have used similar methods, from the Thirty Tyrants in Athens (who killed Socrates among so many), to the cruel Caesars of Rome, to Russian dictators from Lenin to Putin, to the ‘Populist’ rulers like Trump. The first sacrifice is truth.
They cannot have truth hang around, for it will expose the lies that are told the people, the lies that cover for their collecting and exercising cruel powers against so many people. Inevitably what follows is the extermination of whole ‘kinds’ of people.
Martin Niemöller’s words are powerful reminders:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.
Niemöller admitted in 1963 he harboured antisemitism yet he was one of the first to speak out (in his book Über die deutsche Schuld, Not und Hoffnung – published in English Of Guilt and Hope)“Dear Friend, I stand in front of you, but we can not get together, for there is guilt between us. I have sinned and my people has sinned against your people and against yourself.”
Life is not simple for any of us, with our biases, prejudices, and bigotries. And once the Devil has got us down that road of self-righteous condemnation of ‘them people over there’ it leaves so many perversions of truth in it’s wake it is humanly impossible to bring things back to some semblance of life as God created us to live it.
Thus we pray: Guide us, Lord, continually, and satisfy our needs in parched places, and make our bones strong; make us like watered gardens, like springs of water, whose waters never fail. Bring us to be the springs of your water gushing up to eternal life from which many may drink and never again thirst for truth, or for life as you have created us to live it.
Save us and all people from cruel dictators, unjust judges, corrupt police, and evil bishops and pastors. Save us from the temptations to pervert truth for our own interests, and from scapegoating innocents to hide from and cover up our own dreadful sins.
Instead, give us the water of eternal life that we might not ever again thirst for justice or for truth.
Instead, give all people the water of eternal life that no one will ever again thirst for justice or for truth.
Instead, forgive us our sins. Forgive our enemies their sins. Forgive the tyrants and bullies their sins, that they may know, as we do, the wonders of your love.
Oh Lord, give our startled and fearful souls that healing, for which you had created us all.
You have an abundance of workers: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of artisans without number, skilled in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.
With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
Words of Grace For Today
It is one of the necessities of life, well … not just any old labour, but meaningful labour.
When one builds a house or church or temple or mosque, even today, there are many different specialized crews that show up (hopefully on time and necessarily in the right order): surface prep earth movers, utilities installers (usually underground, leaving stubs above ground ‘at the curb’), a track hoe and maybe a dump truck to haul away the extra dirt, foundation builders, concrete crews (today with fewer wheelbarrows to move the concrete into place and one big cement pump truck that can deliver concrete anywhere in a 50’-75’ radius,) basement framers, concrete crews again, framers or insulate block assemblers (depending on the style of house, wood framed or insulated blocks filled with concrete), and on it goes with roofers for everything from rafters to shingles, eavestroughers, siding installers and/or parge and stucco appliers, carpenters to build the inside walls electricians, plumbers, drywallers, painters, cabinet makers, floor installers, and interior designers. Maybe one needs specialized trades to install a heat pump, in-floor heating, ventilation, and computer power and internet connections.
When Solomon starts to build the temple the list is shorter, the work much more muscle intensive and the materials considerably heavier, starting with stones for the foundations and walls.
That was labour intensive.
It was not labour that Solomon likely engaged in other than to give the orders for the work to commence and be done, if even that.
There is other labour that many people engage in, labours less of one’s hands and more of one’s mind, like writing, teaching, researching, inventing, designing, exploring, serving, healing, protecting, leading, buying and selling, and the list goes on. (There are also many bogus labours that try to cheat people of their some or all of their lives.)
One additional one is mentioned in the second verse for today: preaching (or giving testimony about Jesus.)
What is odd is the description given for how the apostles preached, ‘with great power.’ This is odd because everything about Jesus was that he called for us to take note that the ‘power’ we used in this world is not the kind of ‘power’ that God intends for us to use. God’s power (made so clear by Jesus’ life, ministry to forgive and heal, death, and resurrection) is the power of serving others with unconditional love and forgiveness that offers renewed life to all people over and over and over again.
With Great Power, the power of sacrificial love, to give witness in thoughts, words and deeds, to God’s intended manner of us living in this good creation.
That is the labour of all faithful people.
This kind of labour may net one nothing, or even cost one greatly, even costing one one’s own life! This is the basis of love, the unconditional love of God that God intends for us to BE for one another.
And that is hard labour!
That is a very special kind of labour.
That is a labour that we carry on as we work at our meaningful labours of contributing to a good society around us.
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.
Words of Grace For Today
When the ‘chips are down’ is when one’s true character is revealed.
Or as Michelle Obama said at the Democratic convention that nominated Barack to return for another four years in the White House about her initial misgivings of what the presidency would do her husband, “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
So the Hebrew people are dismembered into fragments by their enemies. Yet Amos urges the people to conduct themselves against evil, for good, and to establish justice in the gate. Perhaps God will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph and they may become a great people again. When they do, they will need to be able to govern themselves with honour and truth, and justice.
It is said many times, we, the children of light, should bear the fruit of living in the light. We should be the people of all that is good and right and true.
My guest’s reaction was unexpected. A blow to my minimal comfort, to my dignity, and my face is hardly what one expects from such a humble guest. I should have known better.
Like so many who fight wars, who live lives of constant deceptions to ‘get ahead’ at all costs (as long as others pay the costs), and the many who work in, feed and feed on, and who benefit from the corruption in our province, our nation, all nations, and around the world, I had gone at the lives of my guest’s relatives without regard. But then no one could expect me not to, could they (as all tyrants and liars are wont to say!?)
So what if I cut them off from the rest of their ‘family’ and even from their own identity as standing tall and strong against the winds of change. Their life’s work as carbon negative beings had come to an end. So why not take them for my own purposes? So what if I cut them to bits and burned them to provide for myself. They were nothing any more, right? Besides it’s not like there are not plenty more like them where they came from!
So what if I had knocked them down to size for my purposes. So what if I split them up? Then this one guest, so odd a guest it was heading off apparently in it’s life from all expectations to take twists and turns that seemed unnatural in a world that is all about being natural!
I had not taken time to reduce this one to the simplest forms, so I was stuck using force to cut it down to size. That’s right I used the crudest and sharpest tools available to me, and added my own brute force, minimal as that may be.
Then that errant guest decided to fight back, and landed me a punch right to the lip, breaking skin, pouring blood about, and dazing me to stagger back and away. At first I wondered what had happened. Then it came back to me. That twisted guest had decided to fly at my face with unexpected speed. Could I have anticipated such a counter move? Maybe, but no guest had ever done anything remotely like this.
So what am I to do?
I will have to get out the chainsaw and go at the remains of that guest, cut it to small pieces, and feed it to the fire.
That is what one does, right?
This guest is after all, a very spirited, very twisted
piece of a tree.
Am I not right in pleading that this is how we deal with trees as guests? We cut them up, split them to size, and feed them to the fire to provide warmth so that we can survive.
It’s one thing to do this to trees fallen in the woods, something quite acceptable, right!?
But what can we say
about all those who do this to their guests, their neighbours, their family members, all who are real people?
Don’t think for a minute that this same treatment is not dealt out to millions of people each day. We can look at the Ukraine, but our view around the world would hardly have begun. We should not be hesitant to look at how this same behaviour flourishes right in our own backyards, our own acreages, our own houses and apartments, our own cities and towns, and similarly around the world.
We just treat guests terribly, and family, and neighbours, and strangers, and our enemies.
Oh how much better my own life would be if this guest were the only one taking potshots at me, unexpected punches to my ‘face’, and delivering knock out blows to my efforts to continue to live in God’s good creation.
How much better life would be for billions of people if all people hated evil and loved good, and established justice in the gate!
“Being [alive and under stresses unimagined] doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
So Covid reveals much about us as a species, as a people, and as individuals.
When and how will God be able to call us back to all that is good and right and true as people who live in the light of Christ?
When and how will our character be revealed as the people God created, redeemed, and renewed us to have?
What will it take?
Christ already died for us, to show us God’s steadfast love for us all!
What will it take?
Another punch to the face!?
Another dismembering of the people?
Pray that today God’s Spirit of the people of light will shine in and through you, and in and through each of us, and in and through all of us,
and that justice will be established in the gate, and everywhere including in our homes and churches,