Connected & Chillin’

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Finding Our Way in the Cold, Is Less Life-Threatening, Than in Extreme Heat.

Hosea 14:6

His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.

John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

Words of Grace For Today

Around here lots of things grow, in the spring and summer anyway. That is wonderful if you are not allergic to the things that fly around as grass, bugs, trees, bugs, flowers, did I say bugs, and molds and mosquitoes, flies, and wasps … and ants.

Ants have taken on the woods pretty much wholesale and trees are toppling over from the base, the roots weakened by ants eating at them, and then beneath the stresses of wind on tall, heavy trunks, the just give up standing. Trees are also toppling over from any point between the base and the top where ants have attacked the wood, making their homes and eating the sap, or so they say.

We’ve reached the season where the grass does not need to be mowed every week. The evening light becomes darkness at an hour reasonable to sleep deep. The bugs have stopped multiplying exponentially and the pollen count is down.

One hopes that as the winter season closes in the trees have grown strong enough to withstand the storms and thereby provide protection from the winds that howl as snow swirls and the night is fast on the land before supper and holds tight until well after breakfast.

Many times and in many ways we’ve recognized that as trees are rooted in the ground and grow solid trunks that support many branches and branches support many twigs and twigs support many leaves. The comparison to our lives rooted in God abound, and well that they do.

We do not do well without a solid trunk (Christ) anchored with solid roots in the ground (Creation). Nor do we do well without exposure (like leaves) to the light of Christ so that we can grow each day and not succumb to the forces (like ants, like the devil’s minions) that would eat away at our existence, leaving us vulnerable to the winter winds (of evil.)

Therefore we celebrate the gift God gives us of anchoring us creation, growing us from Christ and making us reach the light (by the power of the Holy Spirit.)

It is no wonder that study after study shows that the noises of highways and industry limit growth in animals and people alike, and that we and most animals do better in the presence of naturally growing things (like trees and grasses) and flowing or collected waters (like streams, rivers, and lakes).

The sweet smell of Lebanon’s famous oak trees abounds for those rooted in Creation and grown in Christ, and in that fragrance we are able to produce much fruit, the fruit of sharing God’s abundant blessings with so many people.

On these hot summer days, it is helpful to remember that trees help relieve the heat. If it gets too bad you can always take a branch and hit yourself over the head. When you wake up it likely be cooler. OR you can prepare and spend your days in the shade, near cool waters, and in ground surrounded depths, for there God arranged for it to be 10⁰ C, everything else being equal. Ah, basements have a great purpose in the summer, the deeper the better!

Looking into the depths of our hearts this day to encounter again the Holy Spirit, chillin’.

and chillin’ us.

Hang On!

Friday, August 19, 2022

We Trust

That No Matter What Storms Blow In,

God’s Light Shines

Golden for Us!

Psalm 63:8

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

2 Timothy 1:12

… and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

Words of Grace For Today

Hold on, the turmoil of the ages will descend on us this day,

again, as it does each day and night.

The question is to what are we going to hold on to in order to ensure the storms do not wash us overboard into the uncreation that the ancients knew the waters to be?

Let us hold on to the only thing that is reliable,

not rope or railing,

not life jackets or security nets,

not investments or assets,

not power and status,

not even relationships and reputation.

We hold on to God’s Word which promises that God will not abandon us no matter what comes our way, neither storm nor good fortune.

We hold on to God, but that is not the grip upon which we rely day and night, for we too easily grow weary, so much sooner as old age weakens our bodies and minds.

We rely on God’s grip on us.

That grip is more powerful than any storm the universe can throw at us, or the grief other sinful beings can conjure up, or even the Devil can weasel into our lives unnoticed.

This is our rock, our refuge, and our hope, come what may.

For This … !

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Day Almost Done,

Long Since Gratitude Flows Freely,

And Then There Is Refreshing Sleep,

One Hopes!

Psalm 37:28

For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones. The righteous shall be kept safe for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

Luke 20:25

He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’

Words of Grace For Today

Some end the day with giving thanks. Not that I don’t, it’s just by then I’m ready to pack it in.

Morning on the other hand is a time of wonder and gratitude flowing in so many directions as I notice the little things that are wonders. When people have tried and succeeded somewhat to ruin you, kill you, and exile you, the little things are miracles: starting with that I survived and am still surviving.

So this morning as many mornings I saw these wonders and gave thanks:

the comfort of a camper (instead of living under a tarp, in a tent, or ….)

the wonders of bright morning sunshine in the window, fresh air, relative quiet, birds calling (almost always loons very early on), sometimes the distant white noise of the power generators at the oil installation north of here.

the great time of year: now when the grass does not grow so fast that it needs be cut every week, the gone-ness of wasps, flies, mosquitoes (well some remain until freeze up),

the energy at my disposal (propane, gas, solar, batteries and wood.

the supplies I have (kleenex, paper towels, or toilet paper, I have enough clothes, though I get them dirty too fast it seems, I always have enough cleaning liquids of many kinds since they’re cheap at $tree, and…)

the tools that I can borrow making maintenance and repairs possible,

the machines that I can borrow: a truck that sometimes runs, a mower, …

the building supplies I can afford.

the good food and drink I have available, thanks also to the food bank for so much that are staples and ‘treats’ that are so healthy like yams and strawberries, and then coffee and medications that keep me functioning and living longer, maybe.

technology that keeps me able to write, read, and talk; and take and process and share photos (though it’s getting old and I wonder how long it’ll keep going – isn’t that stupid that such stuff ‘wears out’ so fast! a miracle that the computer and phone have lasted seven and six years!)

and More: the lake and a canoe to traverse it in summer, skis for winter outings, Pallets to walk on to keep my shoes clean around the camp, little things I’ve crafted to make life easier, like paper towel dispensers, shelves of all kinds, a writing desk, a ‘vertical’ mouse pads, freeze-protected water lines….

And always, breakfasts that are a delight: filling cereal, topped by sweet and sour (cold/frozen) berries, drenched in creamy Silk, with bitter hot coffee mellowed by Silk.

And plenty of toothpaste and soap and water to keep me clean – or so, with bum wipes, cloths, and towels.

Everything is covered.

The place only needs the drunk and partying druggies to stay away, the thieves and drug dealers to find elsewhere to ply their trades, and the ornery ones to settle down and notice how good they have it, or not.

And I only need a few dollars to get my own place in which I can retire and from which I can travel and camp around the wonderful places and get a set of camera-lenses-etc for photography and maybe….

So there’s that gratitude and dream to start the day.

How can one start one’s day and not notice the little things and give thanks?

A Refresher Course …

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Just a Few Drops,

and The Promise



Relief From the Heat!

1 Samuel 12:24

Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you.

Romans 12:11

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Words of Grace For Today

There is great cause to fear God. God, with a whim and a sigh, can send the universe spinning back into nothingness, or any small part. A single mosquito, though I’d prefer a whole bunch around here, or one of us, with no more than a word, God can smite us back out of existence and remove us from the timeline.

Why serve the Lord then? Why not try to make it on out own?

Out of fear? Are we to serve God because we fear him?

That will not get us far, or rather it will send us far away from God (even as God is with as nonetheless).

We are to fear and love God because first God has done such great things for us. Like creating us in the universe. Like saving our sorry butts again and again, freeing us from our sins, even when we keep going right back to them! Like bringing us out of slavery into the Promised Land. Like adopting us as God’s own children in our baptisms. Like walking with us even when we run away, and especially on the darkest stretches of life.

Thus we come to serve God with zeal. For in God we know we are saved, nestled in care and love, and protected from all Evil … oh, and given every hope even when we despair.

In the heat of the day, God sometimes reminds us how great God is. It rains. While it’s been 32⁰ out and much hotter in the sun, and humid, and sticky, and it’s so close inside even if it is a few degrees not so hot, we breath heavily and sweat a lot.

Then it rains hard and heavy for a few minutes, dropping large drops everywhere, freshening the ground and the air is heavenly … and cooled down to a comfortable 19⁰. Great for sleeping a good night’s sleep. So there’s that, too! And all our enemies are stymied by God knows what, and we live safely. So much for which to give God thanks. So with what is left in life we serve God, and God alone.

For we breathe.

Princes and the Poor Outcasts (Us)

Sunday, August 14, 2022

God’s Light

Reaches Down,

Down into All Our Darkness,

Down into All Our Decay,

with Love

Psalm 113:5-9

Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high,
who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

Philippians 2:6-7a

Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Words of Grace For Today

God on high, filling the earth and the heavens and the whole universe, stoops low to raise up the poor from the dust, the needy from the ashes, and seats them among the princes! God gives the barren woman children and joy.

Jesus, God’s Son, one person of the one Godhead, the Trinity, though God in great power and glory, empties himself of all that and takes the form of a slave, and is born as one of us, a poor human.

What kind of a God is this, if not one to be feared and loved. For God does not abandon humans at all. He helps the most needy find a place in the world. He gives barren women children and joy, and a home!

So we fear and love God each day.

And give God praise from down low, lower than we think we really are, humble but not humble enough. Blessed but needing greater blessings. Surviving and living well, but always on the edge, threatened by many and protected by many more, and above all protected by God’s great might and love,

Come what may.

Scapegoats: No More!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

There is a Glimmer of Hope

That Jesus’ Light

Will Expose Their Wickedness and Provide Justice,

Meanwhile We Live Well!

Isaiah 50:6

I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

John 1:29

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Words of Grace For Today

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah and other sources in the Old Testament willingly submits to abuse and torture. Is this an appeasement of the wickedness of those with power to do such things? No, this is, in Isaiah 50, a declaration of the servant’s righteousness, of God’s eventual vindication of the Servant, and the condemnation of the abusers.

Jesus life, death, and resurrection is interpreted in many ways. One is that Jesus had to die and undeserved death in order to take on the punishment for all of us who deserve death, all in order that we would not have to suffer our deserved punishment. A hope-giving interpretation, one that is at the foundation of Christian faith. (A foundation that is in so many ways undermined as people try to assert control over their destinies, making it themselves who choose to save or be saved by Jesus. On goes the hubris and sin. But that’s a digression on decay of faith.)

A vital and more life inspiring interpretation is one offered by Rene Girard: that Jesus suffered as a scapegoat as God’s clear message that scapegoats are not needed or wanted anymore. This is not unlike Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac: it is stopped because God wants to make clear that God does not want any child sacrifices, not at all.

God does not want any more scapegoats. Yet scapegoats are offered up every day.

Girard points out that we desire what others close to us desire or have. That is our desires mimic other’s desires. That results in more people wanting what others have, though there is not enough of the things desired to go around. This sets up conflict between us and those close to us. We cannot live well in conflict with people close to us, so we resolve it by taking out our conflict on an innocent third party. This is our scapegoat. The punishment meted out make no sense, except that in the cruelly punishing someone for our guilt, we experience a temporary relief in the conflict between ourselves and those close to us.

On and on it goes as the tension of conflict builds inevitably again, and since it worked so well before we get well practised in scapegoating innocent, vulnerable, and defenceless people. Thus minorities and immigrants and neurodiverse people and, and, and end up disproportionately in our jails, being abused and tortured, and killed – and no one ‘gets caught’ for the cruel injustice, least of all the judges that let it all happen before their eyes, day in and day out.

Jesus preaches and heals the needy people. Rich, poor, mobile, invalid, blind, deaf, short, tall, Jesus heals them all. The established religious leaders are jealous. They want the adoration and the power that goes with it that Jesus is given by the people. The act to have what Jesus has, and instead of a third party scapegoat, they go right for Jesus. And they get him, dead on a torturous cross. They think they’ve won.

On the third day Jesus rises back to life, out of the grave, living beyond death, crushing their win with life.

No more scapegoats needed. Jesus is the last one.

Yet on and on and on it goes every day, more and more scapegoats fall victim to things they had nothing to do with, defamed throughout the community, lied about in courts, jailed though entirely innocent. Ruined.

Or so they think.

That is the rest of the message from God, Jesus as the medium. God does not let injustice win, nor bullying, nor scapegoating. God raises those victimized back to the fullness of life.

And we live well.

Grateful for God’s Word in Jesus, and for new life, by Grace. Some of us fortunate to have life still on this side of the grave. After, well, then it’s into Paradise. Some say that’s a city with a room for everyone. I rather hope it’s a pristine wilderness, where one can find solitude finally, away from bullies.

I’m sure God has that figured out and I, and all innocent scapegoats, can get on with another glorious day where, after all the effort cruelly expended to try to make it not so, it is a miracle to still be alive. Solitude is a great blessing. Peace is extraordinary. Grace abounds.

Miracles Cure Wickedness?

Friday, August 12, 2022

There’s Always Enough To Go Around,

Both Thorns and Berries,

If We Overcome Our Fears.

Psalm 146:7b-9

The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Mark 8:6

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.

Words of Grace For Today

The prisoners, the blind, those bowed down, the righteous, the strangers (you know the ones who are different than us, by colour, posture, or due to neurodiversity), the orphan, the widow… all these get special mention as those that God favours and blesses, exactly because the world generally denigrates, casts out, and ignores them as real people.

The more complete view is Jesus. It always is. This here today is Jesus teaching and healing the huge crowd gathered out away from any village or city. It’s been a long day. The disciples are hungry. And they, like many are afraid. They have enough for themselves, but they do not have enough to feed this huge crowd. Jesus is not afraid. He sits the crowd down, takes what the disciples have to eat and shares it with the crowd. And…

Yesterday, a regular summer ‘visitor’ showed up again, this time riding on a noisy quad, accompanied by an even noisier side by side with two older people in it. The man, slender and unpredictable, has arrived each summer to claim ownership of a camper left by a man who has disappeared. He and his buddies, one and sometimes two, rifled through the camp, took out a great metal tripod to hang a cook pot over an open fire, and who knows what all else. It was set up in a camp nearby for a month or so and then it all disappeared. Each summer he’s said he’d move ‘his’ motor van camper out in a few weeks.

The camper still sits there.

This time he arrived and claimed to own this piece of land that I am renting. His way of denying that I am renting the land. Well it’s an agreement between the actual owner and myself. He and others can deny it to be true, but that does not change the truth. His claiming to be the owner, for two weeks, sounded ridiculous. And it turned out to be just that. More lies claiming ownership of what is not his.

He also claimed ownership of the 45 foot camper bus that showed up months ago, parked behind the abandoned camper van.

He also told me to take down a barrier that keeps quads, side by sides, snowmobiles and vehicles of all kinds from running into the edge of the meadow. He had arrived on a road that has a barb wire gate across it. They had taken it down to get through and left it in the woods when they left. They also took a piece of firewood used to hold up the bottom wire.

Unpredictable. Liar. Thief.

People like this are as they appear, and as dangerous as they can be, they are not as dangerous and destructive as people who behave civilized and appear somewhat intelligent. They do not make claims to own what is not theirs. They work greater evil to take what they want so that it is legally theirs. They do not lie about what can easily be proven to be false. They lie with unprovable lies that destroy lives. They exercise power with wealth, political sway, and smooth talk, and they exercise it for their own benefit, damned be who it hurts, takes life from, or destroys.

These are the people and their ways that the Psalmist gives quick shrift: the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Except, the way of the wicked seems to continue, to prevail, and to destroy generation after generation. It is the hope that this would end, but (naive me for thinking I would be exempt from suffering at the wrong end of this wickedness!) it goes on and on, so commonly that most people hardly blink when they hear it is their own backyard. It’s as if they say, ah dahh! Why do you think we bow to the evil ones, and keep our heads down so as not to attract attention, and why do you think we do not listen to those the evil ones destroy?

Jesus says no such thing. In the crowd are certainly evil ones, like the unpredictable summer visitor liar thief, like the civilized destroyers, like the selfish power people, and like the ones who duck (which is it’s own kind of evil.) Jesus then takes what is his and the disciples for their meal, breaks it and blesses it and shares it with all. It’s a few baskets filled with bread and fish.

This miracle is it is enough to feed a crowd of over 5000. Some say that Jesus had the bread multiply in the baskets against all the laws of physics. Not impossible. That would indeed be a miracle. The greater miracle is what likely happened: as the crowd saw that food was shared for all, they pulled out their meagre portions, took what they needed from them and from the baskets passed along, and added back into the baskets what they did not need. Thus all the people ate. The good prisoners, the blind, those bowed down, the righteous, the strangers (you know the ones who are different than us, by colour, posture, or due to neurodiversity), the orphan, the widow as well as all the evil and wicked ones in the crowd receive their fill of nourishment.

The greatest miracle is that Jesus overcomes the people’s fears, and inspires them to generosity with each other.

Now that would be one way to put the wicked ways to rest.

What does God have in store for us this fine summer day, when the temperatures are forecast to rise beyond comfortable levels, but not into the dangerous levels? How can we be the ones to continue Jesus’ miracle of helping people overcome their fears and inspire them to generosity, especially with those the ‘civilized’ people would rather forget because the outcasts suffer because of their ‘civilized’ wicked ways?

Maybe today in a small way we can, by Grace, help even one such doer of wickedness to convert to Jesus’ generosity.

$104,000,000,000,000,000 or so?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

How Many Mosquitoes Are There in This Photo,

In All The Air Shown?

104,000,000,000,000,000 or so?

?Maybe or Does My ‘Spidey Sense’ Have It Wrong?

It Doesn’t Really Matter, Does It?

What Matters Is How Many Have

and Are Going to

Bite You!

Psalm 31:24

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

1 Corinthians 13:13

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Words of Grace For Today

We can do all the spiritual exercises we want to, building up all the strength we can imagine possible, and we will have little effect on the outcome of the battle evil wages against us.

It’s like an individual school teacher, nurse, pilot, or dentist trying to earn enough to set right the imbalance of power and wealth in the world (say that individual is extremely good at earning and has $1 million a year to dedicate to the project), where the global economies are valued at $104 trillion, and the problem will require wealth a million times that each year to actually effect the solutions needed over 3 decades. So let’s see $1 million needs to be multiplied by 1000 (bringing it to $1 billion) and by another 1000 (bringing it to $1 trillion) and another 1000 (bringing it to $1 quadrillion), and another 1000 (bringing it to $1 quintillion) and another 100 or so (bringing it to $100 quintillion) and then add another mere $4 quintillion. That’ll give us enough for the first year. Each year it has to be the same, adjusted for inflation and growth of the global economies. But that should illustrate how hopeless that project would be for one person, and for all the people who joined in the project if they were just over half the people on earth, or even all the people on earth. Getting more and more people to embrace the project would lower the needed amount significantly, but the likelihood of even getting a second person to commit to the project is so astronomically unlikely that raising the money oneself would probably be easier, or rather, just as impossible.

So go for all the spiritual strength you want and can find and … you’re still doomed! Deader’na doornail!

What can match the strength that we need to overcome evil. Well nothing we are capable of is that powerful, not even as a small start.

The only things that can possibly overwhelm and subdue evil are those things God gives us, like faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love. But if we try to acquire or control these for our project to overcome evil, they no longer remain as God’s, they become ours, and they become hopelessly inadequate even for everyday life, yet alone the battle against evil.

Thank God, literally, that God provides all we need for daily living (if not daily survival on this planet) and that God has long since overcome evil, with the death (submitting to evil) and the resurrection (negating the power of all evil for all people of all time) of Jesus, God’s own son, God himself.

It’s a small thing, but it’s what we can do: give God thanks, each morning, noon, and night.

As for the people who are out there on their own trying to overcome evil, and probably contributing more to evil than anyone cares to know about, well, we can pray that they do not waste too much life (their own and others’), and that some day they will wake up to the wonders that God provides each day.

As for those suffering evil, well we give our everything to counter the effects on them, to help them recover and find joy in faith, hope and love again, and we work like the dickens to counter specific agents of evil, like Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but also so many other injustices even in our own back yards. That’s more than enough for a full lifetime, and for that we need all the faith, hope, and love and strength that God will give us.

Another day in the trenches … joyfully proceeding onward.

God’s Fire and Hammer

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Fire and Brimstone Preaching!

Does It Lead to This?

Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Matthew 8:26

And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.

Words of Grace For Today

The verse for today from Matthew may have Jesus calming the storm, but in the first verse of this upcoming Sunday’s Gospel lesson from Luke 12:49ff Jesus says, I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

In the Old Testament Lesson for this coming Sunday from Jeremiah 23:29, Jeremiah speaks God’s Word: Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

God’s hammer and Jesus’ fire. These are not the usually expected comforting, inspiring, prodding, and demanding Words that speak of our God’s relationship to us. Often we ignore the Fire and Hammer of God’s Word, well, unless we are firebrand preachers that rain down ‘fire and brimestone’ on our people. But that’s not us. That’s not our faith. That’s a faith of long ago and of backwards people and of mad preachers, right? Yet the Word rises up again and again, as Fire and Hammer.

There are many ways to dismiss them or ignore them outright. But they do say something important. These aspects of God’s Word remind us that we always remain sinners, and God’s response to Evil applies to our sins and to us as well. God burns down Sodom and Gomorrah. God judges each person, dividing the kernels from the chaff and burns up the chaff. God smashes our efforts to be gods. God smashes our hard hearts. God smashes our altars to other gods, especially our gods of money and power. God purifies creation with these (and other) destructive forces.

If we resist and manage to avoid the Fire and the Hammer, they will eventually catch up with us and then their destructiveness is even greater. Fire in forests is a great example. We’ve suppressed them for nearly a century now, and the fuel for wildfires has accumulated so great that when the lightning of the storms torches a tree the fire spreads and grows without bounds, until we put great energy and resources into stopping it. Even then our efforts are a drop in a hot skillet. We hope for rain, or cool temperatures, or a turn of some kind that is beyond our control in order to limit the damage from the wildfire. So many homes, communities, resources are burned. If we’d allowed smaller fires to consume and cleanse the countryside the fires would have less fuel. They’d be destructive on a smaller scale. And with climate change we can anticipate that wildfires will only get larger and larger in the coming decades. What will we do then?!!

Wildfires are only one kind of the many storms that get more extreme, more damaging each year, because of climate change caused by our unrelenting use of energy to build our own security.

There are even more kinds of storms, worse storms, that assail us as people, and as the church, the boat we are in. So many churches have closed in recent decades. More close every year. There are so many on the verge, even now. People are not interested in belonging to a church. Why not?

There really are so many reasons. Today we have a sense that so much is secure or secure enough in our lives. Or more importantly so many people determine that the way to gain more security in life is not by joining people each week singing, praying, and being berated by a preacher. Sadly it’s often been a preacher of little education or sensibilities. As seminaries struggle to recruit and train pastors the bar keeps dropping and the education is less and less rigorous and the results are palpable as one sits and listens. But then even some of the ‘doctors of ministry’ preaching out there are pretty good examples of just plain bad preaching. As for the rest of the worship: old rituals are not needed. Life passages go just fine without the church’s involvement. Birth, baptisms of a kind (our own kind thank you), puberty passages into adulthood (well barely for most, but we let the kids drink and drive and toke up as a rite of passage), marriage (but who gets married anyway, it’s hook ups, live ins, and making house and home together for a while), and death (well that bites. That just bites, but when the church was not there through the rest of it, it’s pretty hard to receive anything from the church.) What we need in the way of spirituality we pick up and make up on our own, some of it ‘old’ and some of it ‘new’, although in reality none of it is ever new. It’s all been done by so many people over so many millennia. The only thing new about it is that those that adopt such beliefs and practices are unaware of how it was used by so many before them, so they’re on their own. The bend and colour of these belief gatherings and rituals are not life-giving, but self-serving.

So they are pretty much what so many congregations have allowed their faith and practices to decay into. No wonder people are not interested in the church. It’s just the same self-centredness mixed into a weak faith (weak in that it really cannot address very well the evils of our everyday lives), only at church they try to control you with their mix of weak made up faiths.

This kind of turning congregations into life-draining communities, and this kind of self-centred ‘made up’ faith systems are exactly why God’s Word is a Fire and is a Hammer. We need to be cleansed of this chaff and these hard structures that rob life from us and the planet.

So the Fire burns. Churches close. The Hammer smashes. Lives are left in ruins. Countries go to war. Energy is disrupted. Oil spills into waters. Nuclear plants meltdown for all sorts of different reasons. Storms pound us with water, wind, and hail, or tsunamis and earthquakes rip the earth right out from under us.

At these points of destruction it is all good and well to trust God. But turning away from using everything at our disposal and doing everything we can to help as many people survive as possible, or refusing help that is offered is simply not faith. It is only self-centred wishes for death to claim others, and perhaps us as well.

How to survive even the thought of that day when we and those around us need rescuing from the angry ‘climate changed’ planet?

Faith. Trusting Jesus words that the Fire will not burn us, and the Hammer will not destroy us. Any other stance is to succumb already to the destructive forces unleashed. We may die from the fires and get crushed by the hammers, but we live on with Jesus.

That hope can inspire us to live, and live well. And to give everything we have to helping others survive the fires and the hammer blows that are inevitably coming our way.

So what will we do this day? We will not make up our own faith. We will continue to rely on the great cloud of witnesses and saints that have gone before us. We will continue to begin each day confessing our sins and giving God thanks for all the blessings showered down on us. We will continue to pray for all people, even our enemies. We will keep the rituals that give life so that they become burned into our hearts and minds so well nothing can remove them, not even the worse disasters. We will sing God’ praise, and our desperate cries for deliverance from our enemies. And we will continue to give thanks. Thus anchored in God’s Word, today is just another day. Evil abounds. God’s Grace abounds even more. We stay alert, humble, and holy.

It’s just another day. There’s work to be done. There always is.

Valuable Companions?

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Can we see God’s people there?

Psalm 119:63

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

Acts 8:30-31

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

Words of Grace For Today

It is pretty well established that we mimic those we live with and among. So losing weight in a city where the BMI is sky high and obesity a huge matter for the health care system is going to be much tougher than say in Vancouver where it seems everyone takes a 5 km hike before work and on the way home, as well as a 25 km hike on the weekend, or a ski, or a swim (though the strait is not really clean water for that!)

So when we want to lose the weight of sin, degradation of life, and worldly concerns (like material security, status, and domination over others) we would do well to live among those who strive for the same, or better, among those whom God has gifted freedom from sin, degradation of life, and worldly concerns. Those who strive for this on their own, though, strive in vain. And God frees us all, and yet we all remain captive to sin. So where can we live to thrive, and live well, as God created us to live?

Among God’s people. Who are God’s people? God created us all.

The best we can do is keep companions who fear and love God. (Keeping God’s precepts is impossible so those who make such a claim are full of it.)

The best we can do is read and listen to God’s Word, asking for guidance from those who can actually help us comprehend and appropriate what we read. That is not an easy thing to do, nor is it simple to tell who can help us, and who is just full of it, wanting to control others with their whims, BS, and lies.

Ah, what are we to make of it anyway.

Take the visualization above. What can we make of it? The larger the piece of the pie, the more power in this world that country exercises. What of the projection that China will overtake the USA by 2030? That’s just 8 years ahead. What of Tuvalu and so many others like it who have so little in the Global Trade Game? Which does God value more? Which do we value more? Which must we be aware of most?

Tevia’s Rabbi’s prayer comes to mind. God bless the Czar and from us keep him very far. Trouble is with globalization distance is not always a measure of safety.

We can pray that such values as world power, do not play in our lives a great part. So that we can still bend low, serving the outcasts and poor, eating with the least valued, sharing with the most needy.