Get A Life?

What a Coffee and Life We’ve been Given!

Get a life, right side up

Get a life. That’s what people had told the farmer-woman, when she discovered her ex-husband had molested their children. Get a life. She’d already left him behind after the cops only took him for coffee when they came and found him playing Russian Roulette with her life. Get a life?

She told her story when a new acquaintance, an older man, mentioned to her how the cops tried to arrest him after is ex, with whom he can have no contact, chased him down country roads trying to force contact. He was afraid for his life and called 911 when other vehicles were caught as she blocked the roads in front of him. As the cops left, threatening to arrest him if this ever happened again, they told him to get a life.

Look and Find the Light, Find a Life?

Get a Life! What is Life? Who are we to get it? We think we know and then the Good News of Jesus Christ (also in today’s lessons) turns our understanding of life right-side-up.

OT: we expect God to demand; not.

As we read the OT Lesson we may expect Moses to demand that the people obey God’s commandments, which are hard to understand, require research to discover, and great effort to obey. But maybe if the people persevere and obey the commandments then they will get to enter into the Promised Land. Not at all so.

Twain: Do Good, gratify, astound

Mark Twain once wrote “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Twain’s humour catches us because we too often think that always doing the right thing is an option too far from reality to be considered.

Gospel: Parable of surprises

Today’s Gospel is delightful, full of corrections that keep surprising us, even though we are so familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus Answers Different Questions

The lawyer’s questions are often our own. They seem right and most important for life. Yet they are all wrong. In fact, Jesus answers as if the lawyer had asked different questions.

The lawyer asks: what must I do to inherit eternal life.

Jesus answers: how can we have life now.

The lawyer asks: who is my neighbour whom I shall love.

Jesus answers: who is a real neighbour, to those in need regardless of who they are.

It would be so much easier if Jesus just answered the question of who our neighbour is. We could limit who we must love to just those people! That would be a little more possible to do, and we could always fudge who was our neighbour so that we did not need to help the billions who are in great need.

Good Samaritans Loose teeth

When we see people in need, it’s too easy to come up with all sorts of reasons to walk by on the other side of the road. The robbers could be lying in wait for anyone who comes to the aide of the half dead man.

An old Winthrop cartoon (1982) shows two small boys staring off into the distance. One of the boys, Winthrop, starts to recognize what he is seeing. “What’s going on over there? Looks like a fight! … It’s Nasty McNarf … He’s beating up on some kid! … Come on… Let’s go and make Nasty leave that kid alone!”

The second boy speaks up, “Wait a minute…I don’t think we’d better do that.”

“What do you mean?” asks Winthrop, “Don’t you want to be a Good Samaritan?”

“Frankly, no.” replies the second boy. “Good Samaritans always wind up with loose baby teeth.”

But remember: we are going to lose baby teeth and our lives eventually. Adult teeth and life eternal will replace them.

We try to get eternal life on our own terms

Exactly, so we are right there with the lawyer asking what can we do to inherit eternal life. Instead of answering that question, Jesus asks back what the lawyer knows well: what does the law say he should do. The lawyer answers: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replies: You know it! Now do it!

What does love look like? (in the Gospel)

What does it look like to love God, our neighbour, and ourselves, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind?

It looks like crossing the road in order that we can help, aide, assist, and care for those who are left half dead by the roadways through the world, and thereby allow ourselves to be marked as foolish, unclean, not-blessed by God, and not welcome at work or in worship.

It looks like giving a full day of our life to an unexpected need of another person, again and again.

It looks like giving a great portion of our purse or wealth so that another less fortunate person’s wounds will be bound up and given a chance to heal, so that person will regain life.

It looks like promising carte blanche that we will cover the costs of providing life to another person in need.

All this to our enemy

It looks like doing all this for our mortal, religious, economic, and/or personal enemy who is left half dead on the side of life’s road, left there by all those things and people and circumstances that can so easily beat us up, rob us of everything we have, and leave us half dead. It is knowing always that but for the Grace of God, we would never survive even a day of the Devil’s guile and destruction.

The Homeless Guy who gives

Tony Campolo, a minister and sociologist from Philadelphia tells this story:

“… walking down the street in Philadelphia …  a [dirty looking homeless man] came towards me. I mean a … filthy guy  .. from head to toe. …He had this huge beard

[with]

rotted food stuck in [it]. As he approached me, he held out a cup of McDonald’s coffee and said, ‘Hey mister, want some of my coffee?’

“[I thought to myself, not on your life, but] I said, ‘Thanks, but that’s okay,’ and I walked by him. The minute I passed him, I knew I was doing the wrong thing, so I turned around and said, ‘Excuse me. I would like some of your coffee.’

“I … sipped … and gave it back to him. … ‘You’re being generous. How come…?’

“… this [guy] looked at me and replied, ‘… the coffee was especially delicious today and I think that when God gives you something good, you ought to share it with people.’

“I didn’t know how to handle that, so I said, ‘Can I give you anything?’ I thought that he would hit me [up] for five dollars.

…‘No.’ [he turned to go, and then turned back], ‘Yeah, yeah. … there is something you can give me. You can give me a hug’

“[I held my breath, wishing he’d asked for] five dollars! He put his arms around me and I put my arms around him…. as I, in my establishment dress, and he, in his filthy garb, hugged each other on the street, I had the strange awareness that I wasn’t hugging a bum, [no. Jesus was hugging me.]”

In Baptism: Enter the Promised Land, then Obey for Goodlife’s Sake

Returning to the OT lesson: God does not reward obedience with entrance to the Promised Land. All get to enter. The commandments are not far away, difficult to find or to understand: God has put them in our mouths and in our hearts! The commandments are not burdensome; they are life-giving. They are God’s guide for abundant life. Obedience brings us to live well, so that God delights in our renewed prosperity as we move out of slavery into the Promised Land!

In our baptisms we have already receive eternal life. Now what are we going to do with this life in the Promised Land?

Farmer’s Parting Words

As the farmer-woman drove away, she shouted out her truck window to the man harassed by his ex and the cops: They are jealous. Don’t let them tell you to get a life; you have one. They’re just trying to take it from you.

Do not be afraid, Do not be shamed.

Jesus says do not be afraid, we cannot be shamed for we already have a life, a good life.

What now?

So what are we going to do with God’s gift of our good, abundant lives in the Promised Land?

Giving what God Has Given Us

Jesus’ Parable compels us to ask: What kind of life do we live if we do not stand ready to risk losing everything that God has given us, in order that others may live, and live abundantly?

After all, without Jesus’ redemption we would remain strangers to God, and no matter what we would do, we would be lost, our lives worthless and meaningless. But with Jesus’ redemption we inherit the Kingdom of God.

Answers not far, nor impossible, for God is with us

The answers to life’s questions and mysteries are not too far away in the chaos of pre-creation between the galaxies that we must send someone to bring the answers to us. The answers are on our lips, and in our hearts: We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and our neighbours as our selves.

This love is all very possible for us:

for our strength is from God’s all-mighty power,

for our freedom and faith are given to us as free gifts by Jesus,

for our days are guided, inspired, and completed by the spectacular truth and light of the Holy Spirit.

Walking Toward Us: the Blessings God Shares with So Many People.

We’ve got a life, given to us … and there’s really good coffee coming down the street toward us. …

Are we ready for Jesus to give each of us a huge, warm hug?

What a thing of beauty this life is!

Amen

Late Notes to 26 May Sermon

apologies that there is not a finished sermon for this week, not yet.

The computer that I usually use has decided to run so slowly as to make it nearly unusable, and an OS upgrade was needed. That brought everything else to a stand still, at least as far as writing goes.

Setting up and taking down my home on crown land had to happen on schedule. There is no forgiveness, just eviction, if I am even one day late getting out, and huge costs if I am not back in as soon as possible.

But that computer is barely running, with no real connection to the internet, yet.

The sermon is about including women as disciples.

The sermon is about healing illnesses, even those that have gone on forever, but not waiting even one day (until the Sabath is done) to heal the illness … enough suffering is enough!

The sermon is about healing the nations: the vision of the New Jerusalem gives John a view that the leaves of the 12 trees, which produce fruit (ie. that’s the 12 tribes of Israel, or all of Israel, or all of God’s people) … the fruit is good, but the leaves are even more important.

The leaves heal the nations.

Which is really the connection point that I wanted to use to ask:

What is it to heal?

To heal an illness?

To get to that then to ask first: what is it to fix something?

A broken bicycle, a broken window, a broken whatever (so say now, what is it to fix a broken computer!)

Then by comparison and for clarity: what is it to heal?

Take a hip replacement for example. The surgeon does not heal anything. She cuts open the leg, saws out the bone of the hip, replaces it with specialize pieces of special metal, and sews up the muscle and tissue. (maybe I could research it, or ask this special retired nurse I know, my mother, who at 80 some has recently had a hip replaced, and I would know more of the details, but his will suffice : it’s cutting, taking out, putting together, and sewing up.

Then comes the rehabilitation and the healing and the pain and the stiffness and heartache, and hip ache … which is still better than it was before.

Except sometimes it does not feel any better, and is actually worse, like one man I visited in the hospital after hip surgery. His never got better, until they opened up his hip again with cutting and slicing … to take out the forceps and sponge gauge that somehow was left in the wound.

His healing took years, first for the ability to walk, but it took longer for his ability to walk without feeling the ghost pain of that forceps digging into his muscles and that gauze, infected eating at his flesh.

Healing is a deeper, more profound event or process, that the organism itself accomplishes. Outside interference is just that, interference.

The next question moves on to the healing of the nations. That’s not just a quick fix, like sewing a broken shoulder strap with camping think waxed cord. It is a very complex event, one that usually bucks all rules, regulations and expectations.

There is another story that will taken much longer to write out to be shared. That story is a kind of “If Beale Street Could Talk?” kind of event

But I am sure that the reader could probably add there own stories of healing.

Mine is of being in a foreign country, biking everywhere, and coming down with a cold. I could hardly shake. Then the sponsors of my full scholarship to study abroad gave me good tickets to a concert downtown, a string quintet.

Mozart and other composers gave witness to the rightness of the universe.

I biked back up the hill to the Studenentheim, free of the cold.

Healing is a spiritual event. It is finding the spirit to allow the body to heal.

What would the man, ill for more than 38 years smell like, dream like hope like… be like, after he was free of the illness?

That’s us: ill for so long, needing help to heal. And we receive it, What do we do with it?

if it is healing of the nations, then we help others heal, until the whole creation sings in praise of what God has done for us.

At least that what collected for me around the desire thwarted to have a sermon ready before today. Somehow that just seems a bit

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