Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 11

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Dance Holy Fire, Sing Holy Fire

Sing Praise

to the One who rides upon the Clouds

Who is the Light in the Clouds

Who is the Light of the World.

Psalm 68:4

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds— his name is the Lord— be exultant before him.

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Words of Grace For Today

Our human survival instincts keep us much more alert for trouble, mindful of the troubles of the past, than basking in the good things of life.

It would have done our for-bearers little good (and we might not be here) to sit around the campfire regaling their escape from the mountain lion (who hunts humans for sport) earlier that day, letting the mountain lion pick them off in their relaxed stupor. Better to notice their success with a slight sigh of relief and continue building their defences, keeping a very alert watch for the silent hunter.

So also today we need to keep sharp, guarding ourselves against dangers of this life, much less from four legged animals, and much more from the Evil One working through two legged animals (ourselves included.)

Yet that war is already won, and the battles we are left to fight may even destroy us, but they cannot determine the outcome of the war: Jesus conquered death and all evil with his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection to life.

While yet alert for danger, we also need to not turn everything into danger. We do need to celebrate all that God has done for us, meeting our daily needs for survival in this abundant life God provides for us. Celebrating God’s work for us, God’s protection, reminds us we cannot survive on our own, that the Evil One can snatch us away if we try to survive on our own.

Songs since the beginning of time have carried profound meaning, combining the rhythms of life, the melody of the spheres, and the words of God-given visions. Not all songs do this. Many cheapen the possibility reducing life to a crude and corrupt perversion of life as God gives it to us. Perhaps the worst version of those crude songs are ones that mention God’s name and carry little of God’s real blessing.

There are plenty of good and profound songs, the songs that carry God’s love and purpose for us give life. These we can sing to express our joy each day for all God has done for us. Some of these songs are simple chants, mantras really, like Dona nobis pacem. Others are complicated working through the darkness of life to a purpose of health and resilience, like Cohen’s Anthem. Some even bring hope and thanks to our hearts in spite of the composer’s intent, like Tikaram’s Cathedral Song. Many have no words, like Anthony’s Song of Hope.

There is no shortage of songs already composed and many more will be composed. They provide us a full song book from which we can sing God’s praise, rejoicing each day for all that was, all that is and all that will be – only by God’s Grace.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 2

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Light

Love

Hope

Even in the dark woods of life.

Deuteronomy 32:7

Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you.

2 Timothy 1:13

Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Words of Grace For Today

We do not face these days on our own.

We have not come all on our own to believe the old, old story of Jesus and his love for all creation and trust the work of the Holy Spirit. We have received for many generations the Word that gives life, the living water that quenches all thirst, and the bread of life that sustains us no matter what comes our way.

Remember.

It is a powerful ability that humans have, to remember the things of yesterday, of yesteryear, or yester-eon. We have words of language, spoken and written, heard and read, conceived and understood. The words we share carry meaning and portent beyond just themselves, for as poetry, the words of everyday communicate far more than just their meanings strung together. Our words communicate spirit, yearnings, hopes, visions … and love.

When all other necessities are provided for life, or even before, we need two things uncommonly considered the basic needs of life (Sölle): meaningful labour and love (the ability to love others unconditionally and to be loved unconditionally.)

It is part of our human drive to grasp beyond what is obvious, to create standards and rules and guides and codifications of things of meaning from our past. These cannot carry the meaning of spirit and love, but they can hint at what people of yesteryear encountered as the Holy Spirit guided them.

The worship of the standard, the piety, the rule, the guide, the codification is a natural decay of living faith. It moves us into a realm of false comfort wherein we chase control of faith.

Faith with integrity, before it decays and is still living faith, is beyond our control. Living faith, carried by living Word, is a wild ride through the pitfalls of life.

We are left …

We are left to remember what we have been taught and …

… and to encounter the Spirit anew for ourselves and …

… and we trust, hope, yearn, envision and love for ourselves all that God has given us.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 15

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

All Hail God’s Will, not our plans.

July 3

Mid-summer Night’s

Surprise

Proverbs 19:21

The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

1 Peter 4:7-8

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Words of Grace For Today

We make all sorts of plans, but God’s will will be done.

We plan a vacation sailing. God gives us life, but a storm puts us in a life raft, lost at sea, surrounded by water, with tools to save ourselves long enough that a rescue is possible. (foreshadow of tomorrow’s words.)

We plan all that we may, like a young unqualified pastor to lead us to rebuild the glory of yesteryear. But Christ’s Church is not tied to yesteryear’s model of the church, nor of our models we may contrive and build today.

In the movie, About Time, Tim’s wedding is a joyous bust, rain and wind driving the reception from under the rented tent canopies to crowd inside his parent’s home. The best man’s toast is repeatedly a disaster going from bad to worse, each time Tim uses his special gift (of all the men in his family) to go back and replay/change portions of his life. He chooses various friends to be best man and each new best man stoops to new lows in the speech.

Finally Tim asks his father to be his best man.

The first time through his father’s speech is great. But his father has second thoughts, wants to include a comment about how he loves his son. Tim says it was a great speech the way it was, but the father replays it and proclaims his love for three men in his life, not his own father, but including his son, Tim. He is proud of him.

Still, the most profound words were not those written about the father’s love for his son. They were the advice Tim’s father provides to all who would consider getting married: find someone to marry who is kind! Everything else can be worked through or around, if one’s spouse is kind.

1 Peter said it as well: maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

When we confess how much we require God’s love each day just to breathe, and live, and hope, then we can practice for others that same Gracious Love which save us and gives us life.

Love is not as complicated as we seem to make it. It is simply humbly recognizing God’s gifts, and out of endless thanks to extend that same attitude towards others.

Sin and Evil may seem powerful and omnipresent, destructive and unavoidable. It may seem we need to join in and get out of life what we can by taking from others what is for the taking.

Love is a far better way to live.

Love is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

It is indeed good, right, and blessed that we do join in and get out of life all that God freely gives to us, so that we can share it generously with others.

Covid 19 challenges us and reveals whether we trust God’s love for us and all other people, and whether we comprehend that Jesus calls us, especially now, to be the people who are generous with all people.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 14

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Trees and Challenges OR Light and Hope

The Light

Is to Celebrate by

Jeremiah 33:10-11

Thus says the Lord: In the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without inhabitants, human or animal, there shall once more be heard the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank-offerings to the house of the Lord: ‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

Mark 2:19

Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

Words of Grace For Today

A paraphrase of Michelle Obama is going around about Covid 19. She said at the DNC 2012, “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”

The paraphrase goes variously like this:

The stress and challenge of a pandemic, like Covid 19, does not change you, it reveals who you are.

When we live (though in cities and country-sides with houses everywhere and people once again scurrying about, the people nevertheless are or seem devoid of soul, heart and hope) in desolate uninhabitable places, sure that our lives have become a wasteland, devoid of mirth, gladness, singing, and thanks ….

When we live so afraid of the future that we dare not live in this moment as the people God created us to be: (only by Grace) good, generous with all God has entrusted to us, blessed to be a blessing to all others, bearing our crosses in order that others may know God’s Grace is for them ….

When we live so sure that there is nothing to celebrate, and we must ‘fast’, putting on the ‘sackcloth’ of our days, and grind ourselves into the work routine to make barely enough to pay the bills, smile (or really grimace) at the destruction of the vulnerable around us incapable of stopping the evil of power and privilege ….

When we live, caught by our own sins, and oppressed by others’ sins without any reason to expect it will ever change, not in our lifetimes, and not in all the generations to come ….

Then God comes,

sets the table in our midst for a feast and marvellous celebration,

invites all the downtrodden, the poor, those without hope,

and

pours out his steadfast love that endures for ever on to and into the guests, so that it spills over and out of the feast and envelops the whole earth (connecting with God’s love that holds the whole universe together).

Then we will celebrate like never before, as love which gives life overfills our hearts, minds, souls and strength.

This is not the return to a shadow of glory days long past. This is moving towards God’s will for all life. This is everything good that life can be, as God made creation to be, as God created us to be.

Though we may not experience this feast today, or yesterday, or tomorrow, our hope is renewed that this feast is ours. So we celebrate in small ways the in-breaking of the infinite into our finite vision; the table is set with bread and wine which God makes into Jesus body and blood given for us.

With our hope renewed we face the challenges of Covid 19.

The challenges do not change us, having seen and tasted God’s feast for all people, the challenges reveal who we are:

We are followers of Jesus, who celebrate his presence in and with us all. We bear our crosses, sacrificing what is entrusted to us as God’s stewards, so that others can experience God’s feast of Grace, forgiveness, and enduring, steadfast love.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 4

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Mirroring God’s Goodness with our lives in the weeds.

God’s Yes

Our amen in the weeds.

Leviticus 26:9

Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

2 Corinthians 1:20

For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.

Words of Grace For Today

Understanding to learn God’s commandments is a child’s first step in following Jesus. Next the difficult part comes in following the commandments. The ten commandments are a beginning to what following Jesus’ commandments (to love God, self, others and even ones’ enemies) are all about.

Love is a life long challenge that is worth every bit of energy and time we put into it.

We are only able to follow through because God promises to love us, accept us, forgive us, and set us on a path to follow the Holy Spirit guiding us to do God’s will.

God’s promises are always Yes to life according to God’s will.

Trusting God we can put an amen ready on our lips for every occasion.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 2

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Pastor

A Spouse

You get the idea,

If you have a spouse

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

Luke 1:49

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Words of Grace For Today

All through life we learn how to respond to challenges. We learn to tie shoes. Maybe not, since more and more shoes are just Velcro. We learn to make allowances for others while we play, then as we study (if we learn to study), then as we raise a family (if we have children), as we mature with a spouse (you get the idea: if we mature -:), as we work, and as we age, retire and kick the bucket (stubbing our toe as we most always do).

All this supposedly gives us common sense, which seems less and less common. All this supposedly gives us knowledge, which seems less and less based on reality for many. All this supposedly gives us opportunity to fill our lives with goods, which we throw away for newer, maybe better goods as if our own worth were dependent on our goods.

God, in many and various ways, keeps trying to communicate to us, hard headed and stiff-necked that we are, to show us all of this is inside-out, up-side-down, or of no consequence when it comes to being part of God’s good creation, and the goodness we are to be (in thought, word, and deed) for others and our own souls.

How great it is that God keeps communicating with us, generation after generation, day after day. Only God who is holy could bear us rascal sinners with such loving patience and grace.

It is not complicated. It is so simple that this way of being (sacrificially loving, forgiving and renewing others) can easily come from infants and young children.

We get to unlearn the world’s lessons, and practice the foolish truths that a child’s perspective on the Goodness of Creation can teach us.

Thanks be to God.

Covid 19 places huge challenges before us. The blessing in these challenges is that we have to re-orient our lives and have therein opportunity to practice again that foolishness of Christ, which brings life to all people.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 11

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Free, Free at Last!

In Chains, In Jail, In Guilt

We cannot see the open horizon on the Lake

and swim free

Psalm 124:7

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Acts 12:7

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists.

Words of Grace For Today

When Jesus forgives us it is amazing.

Perhaps, for us Christians who have lived in the promise of forgiveness it is not so spectacular, since it is an every day kind of thing.

For people, though, who have never realized this promise is for them, well how can we describe it?

If you have ever been in chains. If you’ve ever had your freedom taken from you. If you have, through no fault of your own, been thrown into jail … and someone came to release you, without notice … then perhaps you could understand this.

Or if you had a debt so great, there was no way you could pay it off in this lifetime, and you struggled to just meet the interest payments …

and someone unexpectedly paid off your debt, and put that much again in your account.

Or if you realized that your guilt load was so great that you simply could not make right with the many many people you’d left hurt and struggling in your wake …

and someone came and took that guilt, and gave you the ability to make things right for all the people you had hurt along the way…

Perhaps we can imagine what

freedom, being set free, actually means.

It is astounding, confusing, fear-making, exhilarating, anxiety ridden, and weightlessness in full gravity.

It is what Jesus does when he forgive us. He comes and says ‘do not be afraid,’ and we need not be afraid, such authority and calming compassion as he carries in his voice.

Then he sends us out into the harvest, to forgive others

so that they may live free.

Free to choose to allow God’s love to pour over their heart and mind, and transform their actions into moves of Grace, like an elegant swan, a confident dancer, a child filled with expectation and still calmly waiting …

for

the day

when freedom

will be here for all people

and no one will need to fear injustice

again!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 7

Sunday, June 7, 2020

In the snow, in the wind, in the rain, under these skies …

Is God Coming

Down this Road

For me,

For us,

For all the young men

who die senseless deaths

at the hands of police?

Psalm 98:9

The Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Matthew 24:14

And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.

Words of Grace For Today

Protests and Police using tear gas killed one of my son’s long time friends.

It helps to read that the Lord is coming …

to judge the earth, to judge with righteousness (finally)

and equity.

George Floyd

did nothing to deserve to have a policeman kneel on his neck for 9 minutes while he struggled to breathe and stay alive, a struggle he lost.

.

This explodes into protest at this time because Covid 19 restrictions are not fair, not equitable. The poor are hit the hardest, many struggling anyway to find enough food each day, and now, if they go out for food, they face curfews, police harassment and arrest, incarceration and almost sure infection. Rich people are often not even inconvenienced, or bother to change the pattern of their lives.

This is not equitable.

Being poor is rarely the person’s fault. Being rich is rarely due to honest hard work.

Being black … being a young man …

none of this is a fault. Yet this brings fear that minority mothers teach their sons to be aware of, and to fear this irrational hatred, lest hatred of them would cost them their lives. Even then, too often, just breathing and being (themselves) alive, unjustly costs them their lives because someone with a police uniform and a heart full of hate takes it from them.

Where is equity in all this?

This is racism, misandry, and out of control hatred.

.

Protesting is the least one can do, to support those who live in fear everyday, for the hope that one day they might not have reason to live in daily fear for their lives.

I have a dream!

Do you!?!

What are we to say when protesting peacefully is responded to with police tear gassing the protesters, even when they claim they have not used tear gas. They use pepper bomblets, which even they designate as tear gas!

Tear gas.

And it kills, sometimes.

Yet the police still use it!

Then they refuse to allow those affected by their tear gas to retrieve a handbag to get their asthma puffer …

And another innocent protester dies at the hands of the police ….

.

Thank God, that God will come!

God will come to judge with equity!

Helps us.

Help us be as God created us to be, bearers and witnesses to the Peace that surpasses all understanding

even as we mourn the loss

of another good young person,

this time a young woman.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 4

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Dead Grass OR ?

We are but Grass, Blown in the Wind

While our Enemies Stand like Trees

Doch, God Ensures We are Victors

Eternally

1 Samuel 17:45

But David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

Ephesians 6:14-15

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

Words of Grace For Today

It’s war:

The Philistines with Israel.

Goliath versus David.

The Devil and all his powers to destroy versus the Disciples of Jesus proclaiming peace.

Covid 19 versus us, the whole population of earth.

The whole human population of earth versus all life for the survival of planet earth.

The Devil and all his deceiving followers versus the people of God who rely on truth, forgiveness and love, which is a battle with ourselves sinner-saints that we are.

… and all the other battles and wars we are caught up in.

The battles we enter in the wars we are a part of, whether we choose to be or not, are never among equal parties.

It appears that our enemies, like Israel’s and David’s (the Philistine giant Goliath), are much more powerful than we are. It seems futile to engage in what seems to be a battle to them with assured victory, when we insist it will be peace.

Like David (we hope) we are equipped with nothing great, perhaps just a slingshot and a few pebbles, or more likely just a heart filled with gratitude, joy, and hope.

Our enemies have great arsenals:

The Devil has hoards of followers and a long track record of winning and destroying those he conquers. He has the record of setting the world standards in such a way as to make life impossible unless one cheats, lies and destroys others by taking from them what one wants.

Goliath has already scared the entire Israeli army into retreating from fighting with him.

Covid 19 works in stealth mode, catching us when we are unaware, and recruiting us to spread it to others even before we know we are ill. It attacks in many and various ways, depending on the health and genes of the person invaded. We cannot see the enemy until it may be too late.

Maybe we have water and soap, sometimes hand sanitizer, and orders to stay away from others, and to stay the blazes home, but we have no idea if all that actually works, or if we can do that long enough before the virus destroys our economies so far that there is not much left of us.

Doch.

We stand in God’s presence everyday. God stands with us. We need not fight at all. We humbly submit to God’s will, confess our sins and receive forgiveness, new and abundant life, and a calling to spread the news of God’s love in Jesus, which saves us all.

Whether we prevail as David did with just a pebble, God ensures that our efforts as part of God’s Kingdom bring peace to earth, in God’s time and in God’s manner.

God ensures, despite our efforts, our successes, or our failures, that there is peace for us and for all others who call on God’s name.

That outcome is why it is possible for us to engage, against all odds, to bring truth and Christ’s light to bear on all evil.

Covid 19 may not be easy to battle, yet we are on the winning side, even if it ends our lives or the lives of our loved ones here and now.

God has overcome death with Jesus’ resurrection. This we can trust.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 17

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rutted Ways Ahead

Lost in the Ice

Canoe Ready

or Set in the Comfortable and Familiar

The Challenge to be

Who we are is Constant

1 Kings 8:58

Incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors.

Colossians 2:6-7

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Words of Grace For Today

There are so many things to do to discipline oneself to live well.

The challenges are never ending, sometimes overwhelming, other times simple. Life without challenges is not life. The questions constantly before us are:

A. Who are we?

B. Whose are we?

Every other question is subsumed into these, and the answers we give to every other question with our living (thinking, dreaming, planning, organizing, talking, writing, and doing – or not) are also the answer to these two questions.

Once we realize and confess that we are

A. wretched sinners saved by Grace alone (not by anything we do/not do/are/aren’t), transformed continually to be Saints, and

B. God’s people by baptism into Christ,

Then we have our work cut out for us to live out the promise God creates us to be for other people: That we will bear God’s Grace and the Good News of Jesus’ saving us all, also them.

So we continue to live our lives rooted and built up in Christ, as we are established in faith.

We incline our hearts to God walking in Christ’s Way, keeping his commandments to love our neighbour and ourselves and our enemies as he has loved us.

And, as the saints in light who have gone before us have taught us, we live with overflowing gratitude.

Covid 19 has put somethings in perspective, slowed us down, kept us home, given us time to see ourselves and our families up close for hours on end, or to submerse ourselves in solitude (for those of us who live alone.)

The challenges are still great, and they tax us in new ways, and they give us new opportunities to discover who we are, and whose we are.

For this we give thanks!

The Fog of Life

Makes the Light of Christ

Visible

We Reflect God’s Perfection Imperfectly