Creator, Creation, Chaos, New-Creation

Transfiguration

Outline

Creator Reality creates blessed reality

Former vice-President Biden praises current Vice-President Pence as a decent guy.

Biden is reminded that Pence is the most anti-GLBTQ elected leader in the US.

So Biden walks back his praise for Pence.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of a reality we have known about since our first conscious thoughts, which we often think we have forgotten about, but which we cannot escape.

While Biden is reminded about the sin of another human, and how it has terrible consequences in our world, today’s Gospel reminds of God’s fantastic goodness and glory, which also has consequences in our daily lives. Those consequences are awe-fully frightening and wonderful. And we are sent to bring those consequences to bear on those who need them the most, the poor, the disenfranchised, the reviled and rejected, and the hungry; and most of all today the Gospel reminds us that Jesus sends us to bring the consequence of whole health to those caught by the demons of our time, not only but also people captive to even the worst mental illnesses.

The Luke account:

8 days,

Mountain,

Three speak,

God from Cloud

Healing

Followed by exorcism, or demonic healing

The natural, or willful, consequences of transfiguration are Healing, whole life healing

Consequences

      We are different

      Sinners also saints

      Assured children of God, we enter challenges differently, confidently as bring God’s blessings, even to the worse experiences, the worst human behavior.

We behave so as to bring blessings, healing, health to all whom we encounter, even the most unfigured, chaotic, chaos creating people.

The extraordinary Transfiguration

Figuration- Three are present, Jesus, Moses, Elijah

      One from the present, two from the past,

God’s will is known by two who come from being in God’s presence, God’s will is given a figure or concrete vision for disciples to see.

Disfiguration

Jesus, the one of this world, our daily reality, encountering E and M is disfigured, changed to dazzling white. Bedazzling might be the better description.

Unfiguration – Peter coming to full alertness/consciousness from dozing, tries to give meaning to what he sees, simple booths, temples, shelters, from the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles, housing of God’s presence in this world.

Peter misses, so simple it is not, and the figures with Jesus dissolve into the cloud.

Transfiguration

Jesus shines bedazzlingly so and God’s voice speaks directly, to whom this is: this is God’s son in whom God is pleased.

And the transfiguration changes all present:

They are different.

2016 Working Preacher: Cláudio Carvalhaes, Associate Profesor of Worship, Union Theological Seminary NY, NY

Consequences in mundane world

Invictus

Mandela, against abuse of white guards, of white racism in apartheid, of degradation in prison for 25 years: not revenge, not anti-apartheid;

Mutual respect, reconciliation processes

Chaos, Creation, Corruption-Chaos, Recreation as Blessed

Consequences for Jesus

Heals the boy, drives out the demons

Consequences for Peter

Still denies Jesus,

But eventually comes to be leader of the church of Jesus’ Way.

For us

We go out to encounter all we can, to bring blessing and healing and order/creation – and awareness of God,

Imagination of literature

Speaks reality, makes part of reality available to us not previously available before

Like Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Augustine, Luther, Star Wars, Star Trek, Invictus, West Wing,

we bring the gift of imagination of reality which reflects God as creator, Jesus as his son, the Holy Spirit as our guide, comforter and empowerer;

Our imaginations recognize God’s real blessings in us, in our lives, in our being,

Imagination of literature (fiction) helps us know reality

Star Wars:

force be with you: HS, dark side: evil

Like Girard

We learn to see mimetic truths

That message of Jesus was more so: no more scapegoating, sacrificing others, Only forgiveness

Mysteries of faith

We proclaim that Christ is present in the Bread and Wine, n our hearts, in our lives,

Curing illnesses

Healing People

Creating blessed life

Creating saints out of sinners who remain always sinners.

West Wing,

for example, one of the most awarded TV programs ever, presented a reality that ought to have been, a caring, vulnerable, brilliant and wise president, not without limits, so real

But really capable of leading and being the leader of the free world, addressing illnesses, and making possible the rising to succeed him, a Latino president. Not presented in any widely consumed media, the brilliant wisdom and the example of a Latino president, paved the path for the first actual non-white president to be elected: Barak Obama.

What does this mean for us?

Us sinners made Saints only by God’s grace?

Everyday God present,

Whether we feel it, know it, recognize it

We can trust it

We can dare to bring healing to most chaotic situations and people

Even love our enemies

Yet, We are not in control

Not Jedi controlling the Force

Not wizards with wands controlling the elements of magical world

Not writers of reality, like a screen writer, controlling other people

Not God, nor gods, not controllers of god’s will

We are reflectors, conduits, instruments of Christ’s light, Christ’s healing presence, the Holy Spirit’s empowering sinners to be saints.

We are not in control; we surrender control to God’s will

We are not people who impose our wills on others, or each other

We are listeners, we are earthen vessels of wisdom, a wisdom that we cannot control or fully contain, restrain, or realize.

We are beggars, waiting, praying, hoping, acting out blessings, sharing what is entrusted to us.

We are those who watch for, notice and point others to see the power of God transfiguring us, all of us,

We are transfigured to be what God intended us to be, that sin has stolen from us, bound us away from, blinded us to seeing and being,

This process is unending; we never arrive or are done.

We always learn more, anew, how God intends us to be blessings for each other, for the poor, hungry, enslaved, the ridiculed … especially our enemies.

To see the figure of God, to watch it be disfigured, and then un-figured, and then transfigured is a frightening experience,

A daily experience if we do not shut ourselves out of Gods’ creation.

And Christ comes and calls us, do not be frightened.

Instead surrender to the new creation that Christ brings, be bold, even bold enough to sin in our incomplete efforts to be blessings to others.

Here is Christ’s body. Here is Christ’s blood.

Eat and Drink, for we are the body of Christ, we bring his life force, his blood, to the world, to heal it of all its ills and ailments.

John 4: some notes

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well

The miracle: changing hearts.

After a few days listening to excellent presentations on “Preaching in a #MeToo and #ChurchToo world” there are some comments that beg to be made:

  1. The topic is a false take on the world we live in. It is what the spin, media storm and frenzy that inundates us everywhere would have us believe: that all women are at risk from all men, or some such variation;
  2. The real take on our world, God’s creation, would include, as most Lutherans who can recognize simul justus et peccator as a helpful anthropology that informs our faith, would have to include all people as simultaneously sinners and saints.
  3. That means we cannot effectively talk about #metoo without #alltoo; i.e. abuse is not gender specific, no matter how serious men abusing women is nor how passionate we may be about correcting that horrendous, pervasive, and systemic abuse.
  4. #alltoo would be some attempt to have stories of many kinds told, irregardless the sex/gender of the perpetrator and victim. Some abuse is physical: which if not stopped ends in the perpetrator killing the victim (and children). Other abuse is psychological: which if not stopped ends in the victim dying at their own hand, and the children are at risk of dying at their own hands as well.
  5. Perhaps it is worth passing a quick hand over the stereotype (for what it is worth) that physical abuse is more a masculine type of abuse; and psychological abuse is more a feminine type of abuse. That may help us when we have not yet moved beyond stereotyping the problems and naturally then also the solutions.
  6. Which points to a common malady today: we stereotype a problem, say sexism, as caused only by men, as a result of misogyny. The solution then is to engage in misandry, the hatred of men. We trade out one perpetrator set, males, for another, female.
  7. Nelson Mandela’s example could have taught us that there is a much better way. Removing white racist rule in S. Africa, would not be made any better if replaced with black racist rule. Same sin, different perpetrators is a [terrible] solution for a [completely misunderstood] problem, which only moves us backwards, deeper into a cycle of injustice and revenge.
  8. So what has this all to do with the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus? Quite a bit, really.
  9. For many decades it was ‘acceptable’ to describe the woman with 5 husbands, but now living with a man not her husband as a ‘loose’ woman. This is not acceptable; not because we ‘want’ to honour the woman, but because the text and the social realities of the time do not allow this as an honest interpretation of the text. If a woman had been ‘loose’ enough to have five husbands and now live with a man who was not her husband, for her adultery she would have long before been stoned to death. The men would have been treated less harshly. That’s sexism; bad unjust sexism.
  10. Now, to counter decades, even centuries of this interpretation which is wrong (it contradicts the text and context) comments are made to lay the blame on her husbands, who could divorce her for any small slight: read the underlying message ‘the men treat her terribly.’ After five husbands though that becomes highly unlikely to be the case in all those divorces.
  11. So the explanation expands: perhaps a few were not divorces but deaths. But she would be a widow then, a category readily named then and now as identifying a woman whose husband has died.
  12. Further to that this is used to explain that she is with, but not married to, her last late husband’s brother, a levitic law requirement of him if his brother’s widow has no one else to marry or heirs to provide care for her. No widow is supposed to be left behind, in theory. Thus her not-husband situation is not her fault.
  13. Still the problem with this effort to cleanse this woman’s reputation is that she would most certainly be named as a widow.
  14. Now cleansing of her reputation, unjustly smeared for eons, [note the time-frame keeps getting greater?] is a necessary correction. But a correction is a step backwards if it puts us in the same situation, with just different character-sets. Before this woman was to blame for her situation; with these solutions her husbands are to blame for her situation.
  15. What possibilities are there to explain this woman’s being shunned, shamed, (she does not come with the other women to the well in the cool of the early and late day) and yet that she is so bold as to engage this male Jew in conversation? He demands a drink. ‘Proper’ response for her is to silently give him water to drink.
  16. But she engages Jesus in conversation. Yes, Jesus is out of line for speaking to her, a Samaritan woman, alone. But so is she for speaking back. That took ‘chutzpah’.
  17. Before going after explanations that fit the text well, it may helpful to note first: Jesus responds to her with grace after revealing he knows her well enough to know at least part of the source of her situation, coming to the well alone in the heat of the day. Jesus engages her in a conversation that gives her life, Jesus saves her that day.
  18. So what cause of her five previous husbands, and her current situation of living with a man who is not her husband fits the text and context?
  19. She could be a widow; but that Jesus names her five husbands without naming her as a widow is … odd.
  20. She could be barren, unable to give birth to children or specifically male children. But then five husbands and a not-husband? It is a bit awkward as a fit to say the least. Why would the 2nd, and especially the 3rd, 4th and 5th husbands consider her? Why the not-husband?
  21. There is one scenario that fits, no matter that some feminists will not like that it does not cleanse her reputation, it does not make her a pure saint: she could be a high functioning borderline disordered person: She could easily attract and absorb men into her life, attracting them to herself as if she had no boundaries, and then after the falling in love chemicals wear off, she could abuse them so badly with Gaslighting and wild and erratic psychotic breaks, that they either escape before it’s too late with a divorce, or end up killing themselves to be free of the profound chaos that has been drilled into them that they are responsible for, and then the cycle repeats with another man, until this last man, whatever his situation is, does not marry her, though she is with him.
  22. Realize that BPs (see Stop Walking on Eggshells for the seminal description of a borderline personality’s effect on intimate relationships) disorder is not, repeat NOT self-made. It is a result of childhood trauma, abuse and/or abandonment.
  23. Then the real marvelous miracle that Jesus works is that this woman comes to faith, to at least some healing, and the potential for new life. She has a track record of a chaotic life. But Jesus becomes her saviour! She becomes a witness to her savior, and she shares her encounter with Jesus with others, as a question, so that others may believe adn be saved as well. [Saved: they enter a relationship base on Jesus’ grace, offered and made and chosen for them by Jesus.]
  24. The real miracle of Jesus is again that Jesus changes hearts, which changes lives, which changes communities, which gives people life abundant.
  25. Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? Because it had become known he was baptizing more converts than even John the Baptist. We know what happened to John. Jesus needs some ‘fresh’ air, a little distance from the danger he faces from his own people.
  26. And then there is this community, and the example to be made that Jesus comes to all people, poor, broken, strangers, foreigners and outsiders. The disciples will need to know that Jesus is not just the Savior of the Jews. Jesus saves everyone, women and men, Jew and Gentile, citizen, peasant, foreigner, and even in some rare cases, the wealthy.

Post 3Feb Sermon Epiphany4

Too busy writing to a deadline to be able to post this earlier, but in retrospect it’s worth reading, maybe?

In the movie About Time, on his 21st birthday Tim is introduced by his Dad to a secret: the men in the family can return in time to ‘re do’ parts of their lives.

Tim chooses to redo his wedding reception several times because his choice for best man keep botching the toast:

His best friend Rory, another lawyer, has read a book on toasts, and following its advice, tells a story from work, one buried in the intricacies of tort law, which is boring and drier than desert salt.

His Dad’s crude writer friend starts off with a string of profanity declaring that as a professional writer he asked first what he would be paid to make this speech.

Another friend stoops to crude sexual stories about Tim’s earlier girlfriends.

Finally, Tim asks his last choice to step into the breach.

His father at least makes a simple toast:  “to the man with the worst haircut and the best bride in the room.”

But his father is not happy with it. He forgot to say he loved Tim. So Tim’s father does a redo.

The second time Tim’s father makes it simple, and profound, as if he was born to this, as if it was his calling. He says: The one big thing is I’ve loved three men in my life: well my father was a frostly old guy. So that leaves Uncle Desmond, B.B. King, of course, and this young man, Tim.

And then comes the inspired wisdom from the writers: ‘In the end we are all quite similar. We all grow old and tell the same stories too many times.’ The father’s only wedding advice is to ‘find someone to marry who is … kind.’ ‘And this man is a kind man’, he says referring to Tim.

Marriages all have their challenges, and none are easy. But you can work through most all of that … if you are kind.

Congregations are the same. We can work through most anything … if we are kind. Or to be more honest, the bar is much higher. We can work through anything … if we love one another, even our enemies, and God with all our hearts, minds and strength.

In the readings for today a theme of vocation for various people connects everything together. Martin Luther talked about vocation as what God calls us to do with our lives.

Vocation’s not like a vacation: it is what one does for work that works … for others.

Vocation is to vocate, (ok that really is not a word)

But vocation as a verb is like vocalizing with one’s doing, or to vocalize with one’s being, one’s being in motion and action, vocation is to be someone alive intentionally in God’s creation.

Vocation is one’s calling. While one’s profession is what one does because one has trained for it and gained the necessary skills and qualifications; a vocation is the innate ability in an individual towards a particular occupation, activity or responsibility.

That’s vocation.

So what is your vocation? Likely you have more than one, either at the same time or your vocation has migrated or maybe completely changed over time.

Jeremiah finds out in today’s lesson that his vocation is not to be envied: he is, as he was to be since before he was born, a prophet. One of those people charged with telling the awful truth to God’s people, truth that they in no way want to hear. A person who is less listened to than abused for the news they bring.

Sensibly, Jeremiah is not too eager for this beginning. He knows he is not qualified. And he tries his best to side-step this terrible vocation, this awesome vocation, this frightening vocation. He says he is too young and will not know what to say.

Of course, we know that being any age is not right for becoming a prophet, and no one of any age would know what to say, not without God’s guidance … after all what kind of prophet would speak on his own?

God is prepared. God reaches out, touches Jeremiah’s mouth and gives him the words that Jeremiah will say for God.

The abuse, the shooting the messenger, still comes in spades, but Jeremiah knows for sure he is God’s prophet.

Jesus also has a vocation. His vocation is profoundly significant for everyone. Jesus is the perfect redeemer for all sinners, for the whole world. He has started his ministry, healing people of all kinds. Then he comes home to Nazareth but he is still regarded as nothing more than he was as a child, son of Joseph, the carpenter.

Jesus tries to explain to his hometown people in the synagogue that evening why he will not perform any miracles. He recounts how God repeatedly sends prophets and healers and miracle makers to people other than Israel, to its enemy neighbours, to the people they despise.

Those are prophetic words, and the people do not see clearly, do not even catch a glimpse of, do not even see dimly, who Jesus is. They become very afraid, and angry!

They are ready to throw Jesus off the cliff, but Jesus walks through their midst and away.

It does not change his vocation, in fact it makes an awful, great beginning, just not at home. It foreshadows that many people will not accept Jesus, because they are too familiar with him.

What vocations do we have? What great variety of vocations are there in the body of Christ? And right here in our congregation?

Surely we have many. We have Care givers, listeners, organizers, leaders, teachers, musicians who brings music to inspire and heal us, maybe a poet, an artist or two, perhaps some who are truly great at encouraging others. And I’m sure you can name a few more.

Some may seem more important, but none are.

All vocations depend not on skills we develop or training we succeed at. Vocations depend entirely upon gifts from God, made possible by Jesus Christ and imbued in us by the Holy Spirit.

And no matter the gifts, if we do not exercise our vocations with love,

Then we are useless, just banging cymbals, or noisy gongs.

Noise but no great melody, no rhythm. Just noise.

What is love?

What does love look like?

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If one is loving, and no one is perfect, so our love is imperfect, … but as we are able to be loving in what we do, in our vocations…

God is there blessing what we do … All that we do …

What is it that we – you have as vocations, musicians, office staff, leaders, readers, fixers, teachers, builders, quilters, bakers or whatever?

No matter what happens or what we do,

may we know that in doing what we do:

It is God’s love that makes it all worthwhile. No matter what vocation we have.

We will not see things clearly on this earth,

but we can now already see dimly … enough to work with … so that we can be loving with our family, friends, acquaintances and family, and even with our enemies.

Then what we do, whatever that is, will be blessed to be a blessing.

We will give life to others, in simple words, if we are kind and loving.

Amen

Sermon Outline/Sketch

3 Feb 2019 – Epiphany 4

(Find someone to marry who is kind)

movie About Time, men can return in time to ‘re do’ parts of their lives

Tim redoes his wedding reception because the best men keep botching the toasts,

We’ve all seen terrible toasts at weddings

So Tim asks his father who does a decent job

Father chooses to redo his, to say

Three men he’s loved, uncle, famous? And son, Tim, who he is proud to be the father of.

‘All the same, grow old and tell the same stories too many times,

But find someone to marry who is kind.

This is a kind man.’

Martin Luther talked about vocation.

That’s not like a vacation: it is what one does for work that works … for others.

To vocate, to vocalize with one’s doing, to be someone

That’s vocation.

Jeremiah

His Vocation: prophet, Jeremiah fears what will come… realistic fear … of people abuse, revenge

He says he is Too young,

God fixes that:

 is and promises to be with him,

touches his mouth, cleanses it

and gives him the words

Jesus has a vocation: perfect redeemer for all sinners, for the whole world

Able to heal people, comes home to Nazareth,

Does no healing,

Tells how God repeatedly sends prophets and healers and miracle makers to people other than Israel, to its enemy neighbours, to the people they despise.

The people do not see clearly, do not even catch a glimpse of, do not even see dimly,

who Jesus is, and they are afraid,

Ready to throw him off the cliff,

but Jesus walks through their midst and away.

What vocations do we have? What great variety is there in the body of Christ?

In our congregation?

Care giver, listener, organizer, leader, musician who brings music to inspire and heal us.

Some may seem more important, but none are.

All depend on gifts from God, made possible by JC and imbued in us by the HS.

And no matter the gifts, if we do not exercise our vocations with love,

Then we are useless, just banging cymbals, or noisy gongs

Noise but no great melody, no rhythm. Just noise.

What is love:

What does love look like?

Love is patient, kind, not rude, not arrogant or insisting on it’s own way …

If one is loving, and no one is perfect, so our love is imperfect, but as we are able to be loving in all we do in our vocations, God is there blessing what we do.

All that we do …

What is it that we-you have as vocations, pastor, musicians, office staff, leaders, readers, fixer, teacher, builder,

It is God’s love

That makes it worthwhile

We will not see things clearly, but we can now already see dimly … enough to work on

To be loving with our family, friends, acquaintances and family, even enemies

Then what we do will be blessed to be a blessing.

We will give life to others.

falls the snow

2019.01Jan25

Gently Falls the Snow

.

going out to cut

the electricity off

for the night

to save

on gas

.

I stoke the fire the last time before bed,

Hoping to remain warm the night through

And wake to embers glowing in the firebox

Enough to rebuild the fire for another day

As

I step

Beyond the door

Into the dark of the night

The soft gentle snowflakes float silently

To the ground, providing cover over yesterday’s mess

And a new carpet for tomorrow’s work beyond that marvellous door

.

Today

Yesterday’s carpet

Was well worn by the bright afternoon

Light that bounded out in the clear for all of 15 minutes

Before hiding until

Perhaps tomorrow.

Blessed New Year

Miracles are welcome!
May the cards you and yours are dealt bring peace and joy. May your responses to especially the ‘off suit’ cards bring others peace and joy beyond all expectations.
365 days to let God wow us with what God can pull out of us, and what the Spirit can pull off in spite of us.
Breathe,
Smile,
Play,
And ‘dance with Grace.’

And occasionally laugh out loud

Just to let them wonder

What you’re up to.

God certainly knows how to weep, grieve, and suffer with us;
But I think God enjoys the breathing, smiling, playing, dancing, and laughing
A bit more.

Make ithe New Year as awesome as each past and yet coming at us; 
Unconditional love is the key,
So open the gates.
We are not alone.

God …
All ways, always.

All will be well.

All will be well.

All manner of things will be well.

Advent 4 – Luke

Luke 1.39-45- (46-55)

A visit

It is just a visit with a relative, Mary, pregnant before she is married, heads to the hills to see Elizabeth, wife of the one of the priests. Elizabeth is pregnant as well and at the sound of the guest’s greeting, her fetus leaps in her.

Elizabeth cries out, and exclaims (ok, how did she know already that Mary was go give birth to God’s own son, the saviour of the universe, but it’s a story, so not all of it is going to make all the logical and logistical sense of an historical account. This is an account of the purpose of God. So of course Elizabeth knows Mary’s son will be their saviour!)

Surprise at Jesus’ visit

Elizabeth cries out and exclaims that Mary is blessed among women and her son is blessed as well. Elizabeth is more than a bit astounded, that Mary, the mother of her Lord, has come to visit her!

We ought to be so surprised that Jesus comes to us, every day, every minute. For what do we deserve but God’s condemnation!

Or we are so used to Jesus’ presence with us that we behave like we are bored with it, as if nothing significant were to come of God standing with us, face to face, shoulder to shoulder. Gracing us with God’s presence, promising us that all will be well … even when there is nothing that is well at all to be seen or known. For when God is with us, already all things are well, all manner of things are well.

For Elizabeth understands that Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew, meaning saviour) is indeed God’s son, our saviour; this infant is the boy that will grow to be the man who will save us all … 

No More Scapegoating

And make it obvious that we do not need to sacrifice anyone else anymore; no more scapegoating.

All this is astounding

Is unusual

Is unique.

But

Then

Mary

Sings a song.

But as all songs of faith well composed and well sung

This is

Revolutionary

Not just that God inspires us to revolve, to repent, to turn about and follow Jesus, instead of walking our own way and demanding that God follow us.

This is revolutionary, as in

More than a few oppressive rulers have prohibited the use of this song.

Joy

The start is fitting.

Mary’s spirit rejoices. What better way to start singing of God’s presence in our lives.

The Lowly … Good News

Mary realizes that God has taken a turn from power to the powerless.

God looks to the lowly servant, Mary, caught pregnant before being married.

And she expects to be called great, not for what she has done, but for what God has done to her.

This God is not the God of judgment that so many people fear without love. This is the God of mercy from generation to generation.

God has great strength, and chooses to show it … 

The mighty, the other kind of Good News

But not to build up or sustain those with power and wealth, and pride,

But to scatter them with their thoughts of how great they are, thoughts so mistaken that they are just plain foolish, even if they carry their own day, or seeming carry the day until God scatters their thoughts and meager accomplishments as if they were seeds of weeds that are despised by all who see them grow.

The rulers are replaced.

And this causes many unjust rulers to prohibit, under severe punishment, the singing or use of this song.

But to whom does God go?

Or from our perspective, to whom does God come?

God lifts up the lowly.

God feeds the hungry, not just cheap food, but the good stuff, the nourishing food that makes for health and good life.

But

The

Rich

God sends away empty handed.

This revolution changes the power and privilege.

And those of us caught in the bottom of injustice

Can sing loudly, for all to hear,

That God has come,

In Mary’s and Elizabeth’s day to Israel, today to us, whoever and where ever we are.

God comes to us keeping the promises he made to Abraham, for we also are 

By grace alone

Counted

Among Abrahams’ descendants

Forever.

God claims us, and makes us worthy of good food, good life, fair treatment, and great hope.

Be careful

Using the Magnificant can make life changed, can change life, can bring us down if we are powerful, proud, and wealthy.

But it brings up those of us who are humble out of necessity and position, wise but poor,

Who must count on God’s grace to survive each day.

For our good honest labour has not netted us luxury and privilege, so that we can rest instead of working to survive the

Challenges

Whatever they are:

Cold

Bitter cold

Injustices

Enemies that want vengeance for things we never did.

Enemies that know nothing of who we are, except that they hate us and want us dead.

Coworkers who are corrupt, or abusive, or mean, or haughty and proud, self-righteous and judgmental, and entitled.

Flood

Famine

War

Addictions

Storms

Earthquakes

Global Warming

Disappearing fish, species, glaciers, clean water, honest people, friends … children

Cancer and other life taking diseases

Bad Genes and simply dirty jeans

Parents who need more than we can give, children who are almost on their own.

Grandchildren who cannot seem to live a life that is not confused and desperately chaotic.

Spouses who abuse and take everything we have to give and more.

Institutions that are corrupt and decaying, destroying people caught in their downward spiral.

Or plain Evil, in so many guises, tempting us to be God, and to try (futilely) to make our own lives good enough for God.

Save us we cry, Save us we sing.

From all this we need to be saved, for we cannot save ourselves, so we cry

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved.

2 Advent Sermon Draft

As always I recommend reading the notes first, in the order they were posted for a Sunday.

The Answer is: God created us, Christ freed us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us … all so that we will be saints. On our own though we can do nothing good; we are always slaves to sin. Yet by the Holy Spirit working in us, we can be Christ’s hands, heart and presence in this world. Generally God does not disrupt the order of creation with obvious miracles; instead God uses the order of creation to bring us to be God’s miracles when and where and to whom God chooses.

That answer is to the real life exam question of this time of Advent: What must, can, and will we do? Like all the questions placed before us by the Gospel, God always gives us the answers first, then puts the questions to us. So I thought I best preach it that way, too.

The second answer that is needed even before the first is to the question ‘Who are we?’ We are God’s people, the people of the Covenant that God unilaterally made with us.

The citizens of the medieval-turned-modern city Coventry England can be truly proud of the 12th century Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

14 November 1940, Germany targeted Coventry’s factories, largely producing armaments and munitions, with a massive aerial bombardment. It was a clear and moonlit evening when the first of 400 bombers dropped its load. That night for 11 hours, 500 tons of bombs landed on Coventry. Collateral damage was extensive since the factories were close to the city center: Dead 554 people, Wounded 865, Four fifths of the city burned or destroyed. Of the gothic cathedral only a shell remained.

The next morning people gathered in the smoldering ruins of the Cathedral. Provost Howard, of the Cathedral, said: “It will be rebuilt to the glory of God.”

Jock Forbes, a stonemason, tied together two of the partially burned oak beams from the roof into the form of a cross, turning the smoking ruble into a Calvary. The Reverend A. P. Wale, a local priest, took three of the many medieval nails, which lay among the ruins, and bound them together into the form of another cross. These crosses are two of the most famous in modern Christendom.

They carried the clear message of forgiveness as the people chose not to hate and despise their enemy for the terrible destruction. Hatred and bitterness destroy life. They eat away at one’s soul. Instead the people ensured that their choice to forgive was understood by all.

Two months later Jock Forbes built a stone altar in the Sanctuary. His charred cross stood behind it, and the Cross of Nails sat on the altar. The words “Father Forgive” are inscribed on the wall behind the Altar.

The Allied forces similarly bombed Dresden in Germany. Coventry and Dresden chose each other to become sister cities after the war. (SERMONSHOP, Elizabeth Kugel Pastor, FUMC, reworked TL) They were Covenant people, together.

If ever there is a time for which the question is ‘What can and must we do?’ it is Advent. Of course the pressure to get ready for Christmas gifts, meals, travel, visits, parties, and holidays in general is great. But all that only displaces the real pressures of Advent. The lessons for today call us to prepare the way of the Lord and to behave so that we are pure and blameless on the Day of Christ’s return!

This is the ultimate to-do list. There are many tasks in life that are purely optional, like watching sports or playing cards or knitting sweaters. Yes, I am winking at all us die hard sports fans or card players. I just threw in the knitting, because it may not be optional at all.

Other tasks may seem optional but they really may not be so optional after all; like spending time with family and friends, or knitting.

Yet other tasks top out the important and urgent categories of life, like breathing, eating and exercising, and loving; maybe knitting if you need to stay warm through the winter. And praying, not just when our lives are threatened by the over-bold bus driver’s driving.

How then do we categorize Living as a Christian? Who gets to decide what it is anyway? Is it optional? After all we do get to choose, right! But is it even something we can do?

We are simultaneously saints and sinners. We can do nothing good or righteous on our own; we are always slaves to sin. But by Holy Spirit we can be Christ’s hands, heart, and presence. We can be Christ’s presence because God alone made a covenant with us. Our God is a God who gives the answers to the exams, then gives the exam, though it may not be as easy as it sounds.

When the Gospel cries out to us: Repent! Prepare! It requires a response from us. Then we can do the hard work of changing our hearts, minds and souls, again and again, from sinner behaviour to saint actions.

Being Christ’s hands, heart and presence requires of us everything we are, have, can muster, and more. It requires from us Courage, Kindness, Compassion, Forgiveness, Grace, and more just like Christ. We can only meet the challenges if we allow ourselves to be God’s miracles.

There once was a man who was wicked but he wanted to be good. So he went to a costume maker. The costume maker said, “Here, wear this.” It was a halo costume. The man thought it was foolish but put it on. The man saw a beggar and was about to turn away, but remembered he had a halo on, so he gave the beggar some money. Next he ran into his wife whom he usually abused, but he caught sight of himself in a mirror, and so he treated her well. So the man’s day continued. After he returned the costume that night, as he walked home the man glanced in window and saw that he still reflected a halo.

This may seem like Fake it until you make it. It’s also called Cognitive Counseling. For God it’s the other way around. God makes us saints. Then God calls us to be and do what we already are and can do, We ARE God’s miracles and blessings for others.

What kind of miracles can we be, besides being the people who choose to forgive instead of hate? We can hold a lonely, dying person. We can provide a meal that saves a life. We can provide shelter and homes to those who cannot afford or find or manage a home on their own. We can welcome the strangers, the sinners we find abhorrent, and give them a place to be heard, to worship, to be honoured as real people, sinners though they are, just like us. We can reach out across the city and across the world to share the necessities of life, which we have in abundance, with those who need desperately. We can work to bring governments to provide as we cannot: even in Canada we have not provided clean water to people in many communities, not just for years, but for decades!

We can be like Paul for each other; reaching out with holy words to guide, support and inspire each other to be the saints that God makes us to be.

As I read this list of examples, I know this is not only what we can do, it is what we, collectively, are doing; Because God makes us Covenant people the miracles that God’s people need.

The Real Life Exam Question for today, from the Gospel, is What are we to do this Advent?

The answer is God alone is righteous, gracious and forgiving. We are God’s children, and Covenant People. We are God’s miracles, God’s saints who are Christ’s hands, heart and presence of forgiveness, acceptance, and inspiration for all who need Christ this Advent season.

What are we to do? We do what God makes us to be.

Exam time is over, now comes the real test: Advent, week 2.

 

Comments are welcome at shm at prwebs ddot com

Advent 1 – Outline

Advent 1 Outline

Love is great,

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

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

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

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

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

More to Advent 1

Advent 1
More Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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