wood stove, set up to provide heat in the severe -40°C winter worked
provided hot water for coffee in
and tea throughout
without it’s challenges as the stove pipe got so hot that it melted
the plastic tarps of
the shelter around the stove.
Week is our opportunity to remember and learn ever more from Jesus
story. Jesus’ story is a life full of communication from God to us,
in a way we can understand.
God tried to communicate to us with Word, creating a good creation. We messed it up, with trying to be smarter than we are and blaming others for the results. Kicked out of paradise we even became murderers, for a ‘good’ start.
God tried to communicate to us with the Law, we turned it into control of others.
tried to communicate to us with the prophets, and we thought they
were crazy, because they really were, trying to embody God’s Word
does that to humans.
rebuilt the damaged tarp sections, put in a heat shield and a remote
thermometer. Now gets as hot as 70°C without problems.
sent his Son, a full life story lived that we can learn. Jesus came
to live, teach, heal, and do remarkable things like calming the chaos
of the waters.
exists beyond time, matter, limits. Now Jesus has all the limits of a
human. Paul says it well: Jesus emptied himself of being other than
human, and became limited as a human.
real purpose of Jesus’ life was his death. That’s this week’s
one really listened at first, and those that did usually got it all
wrong. Listen to the parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem. They think
that Jesus is God’s way of giving them control again of Jerusalem,
maybe. That’s their hope.
harsh winter slowly gives way to cool spring temperatures, and the
2000° C inside the furnace became way too hot in the shelter. Always
the thermometer showed a max of 70°. It dawned finally on me that
the thermometer could read no hotter than 70°C but the actual
temperature could be much more!
the triumphant entry parade into Jerusalem, things go downhill fast
and hard. Jesus is betrayed, deserted, tried, denied, whipped,
condemned, mocked, tortured, abandoned, and murdered on a cross.
is no greater measure of suffering.
came to live and die exactly like this. Why?
came to make clear: God understands our suffering, even if our
measure seems to have an upper limit, God has no limits, God
understands us, our pain, our sin, our suffering, our death.
lived it to show us God’s intent for us.
Jesus dies, he forgives those that mock, torture and kill him.
is what God wants us to be to each other. Not sinners, destroyers,
scape-goaters, or mockers, torturers, murderers, or chaos makers, not
even people who cannot listen to others pain and suffering and not
know what to do.
know God knows our suffering.
our suffering we experience what others suffer. We know what we most
need when we suffer is forgiveness, love and not to be abandoned.
learn this so that we can give God’s gifts of forgiveness, love and
being present to others as they suffer.
came as Jesus to show us God’s goodness and love for us has no
limits. God’s forgiveness has no limits. We may not easily hear,
listen or understand, but we have Jesus story handed from generation
to generation. We can always learn more if we pay attention.
story is God’s new limitless thermometer by which we can measure
what really goes on in this world. There’s lots of heat. There’s
even more love, forgiveness, and compassion than we are ever capable
week, we remember, we listen as we can, we learn anew as we are able.
Jesus story we know and trust, no matter what we do, what we succeed
at or fail at, God understands our yearning, our chaos, our
always loves, forgives and is present with us …
lots of water spread across the low spots.
big, throny bushes, no green trees, and no crowds … in fact great
solitude and quiet.
settling in as a guest of the Queen,
chosen of my Lord,
shores of a small quite lake,
the oil company bought it all up,
means the Queen still has a small plot
shares, by law, with a few homeless,
quite a few wealthy land owners looking for
of nature: health and joy.
There’s also enough detritus left around that proves there are a number of irresponsible beer drinking, condom throwing, and garbage dumping foolish visitors.
So I took a bag with me on my walk around to collect some of the detritus. Lots more, like the condoms, still lay strewn on the ground, things that I needed more than just one bag to be able to pick up and haul out for other fools.
Why does the Queen receive such fools?
Why does the Creator tolerate such fools?
Perhaps because one fool is pretty much like another, and all are fools in one way or another.
My call is to be a fool for Christ, so there is that.
And I took a quiet walk around tonight before enjoying a quiet night, with only a couple parking for hours, depositing another condom and toilet paper to found on a quiet morning walk before the full light of dawn.
Solitude is precious as are a good night’s sleep and the clear light of truth.
Procession with Palms Luke 19:28-40 Readings and Psalm Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 23:1-49, The passion of the Lord
My wood furnace is setup for heat through the coldest -40° temperatures. Now with spring arriving, at more than 2000°C inside the stove and at the ceiling hotter than 70°C, the heat is too much. What works for one extreme definitely needs adjusting for other circumstances.
Today’s lessons all (except for the Processional Gospel) speak about suffering. Everyone sees more than enough suffering in a lifetime, suffering of one kind or another.
During Holy Week, starting today with the Passion stories, we hear about Jesus’ suffering. Easily enough we wonder why all this suffering. We mean for ourselves, but it’s Jesus’ suffering we read about. The question really is, why does God not come and save Jesus, and us while God is at it, from all the terrible sufferings that Jesus and we must endure. After all God is all powerful, all loving, all knowing. Certainly God could do this, could he not?
question about our suffering, and Jesus’, is really a small part of
a much larger, problematic question concerning our faith that has
plagued thinking followers of Jesus since the earliest days after
question is ‘Why did Jesus have to suffer?’
Or before that, ‘Why did Jesus have
to go to Jerusalem?” Or even before that ‘Why
all of it? Why did God need to become a human? Why
did God need to give up existing beyond time, outside of matter,
and before even words or thoughtsand becomelimited by
time, body, and human thoughts and words? Why did Jesus,
to use Paul’s words, empty himself to become a mere human?’
let’s look at the results of God becoming incarnate as Jesus
and ending his life suffering on the cross.
of Jesus’ story you know beyond any doubt that all your sins are
forgiven, that you are made right with God your Creator, that you
deserve death yet you get life and life abundant. And all that
applies to each of us. Then there’s the truly
astoundingly awesome result of Jesus’ life: All of that applies to
every human who ever lived.
upshot of all that is that we humans do not need to strive to please
God. God’s taken care of that. We can stand before God without
fear, free from all the destructive actions that stem from unhealthy
fear. We are free. We are free from all the guilt, the missteps, the
risk of future missteps … we are free from all that would bind us,
hold us back, and inhibit us.
then are we free for? We are not free for our own selfish interests
or pleasures that cost other people their lives.
free to sing out God’s praise.
free to declare Jesus is Lord with our tongues and actions. We
are free to be Christ’s voice, feet, and hands, bringing the same
news and the same abundant life to everyone on earth now and into the
Luther named this freedom as a freedom to be slaves to Christ.
Freedom from sin, and bondage to Christ’s way and will for us.
is the result of Jesus living and dying as a human.
There are lots of answers, but the most profound is this:
is God to tell us about God’s will, God’s hope, God’s desire
for us to be forgiveness for others?
between God and humans is incomprehensibly huge, by definition. We
have a problem hearing God speak. Remember God is outside of time,
matter, and any limit.
spoke words to create the world, with us in it, and God said it was
thing you know we were messing with God’s goodness, turning the
paradise into a competition to be smarter and blame the other. So we
lost paradise and spiralled out of control … as murderers, just for
cannot communicate to us clearly enough God’s intent for us.
gave us laws. We turned those into demands we placed on others to
condemn and control them, to take life away from them, and to give us
more of creation.
God sent God’s only son. We have his story. It’s quite the story.
We remember the most powerful events of it this week: Jesus’
triumphant entry on a lowly donkey into the capital Jerusalem run by
Herod, controlled by Pilate. Leaders, present, try to minimize the
stir and the inevitable collision. In response Jesus tells the
religious leaders if these were silent, the very stones would cry
permeates everyone around Jesus. The story continues with betrayal,
desertions, denials, buck passing, flogging, mocking, disgrace,
torture and death. The disciples become silent. As
Jesus hangs on the cross, they are scattered, cowering in fear. God
as a human dies.
dies Jesus the Son of God declares forgiveness even for those who
torture and kill him. His followers retreat into hiding. Yet the
faith grows and becomes codified and survives as a distinct religion,
lodged in written Word and faithful people gathering to worship as
often as possible.
Son’s story is handed on from one generation to the next.
gives us so much in one exemplary life, Jesus’ life, a life God
encourages us to imitate as we hold the acceptable fast that brings
justice, freedom, food, and homes to those without.
came that we would have and not lose this story, or the profound way
it speaks about who God is and what God wishes for all people.
was truly human. He suffered as we suffer. This was not playacting.
Jesus knew what it was to feel abandoned even by God.
our suffering, it’s like the wood furnace set to provide heat for
the severe Canadian winter, which out of time or season overwhelms us
and is as hot as hell (or so it seems.)
is precisely in our suffering that God teaches us how others suffer,
and why it is so important that we not lose sight of God’s intent
for us: that we sacrifice everything we can in order that all other
people may have life abundant. In our suffering we most clearly
encounter God’s Grace for us, and how it is meant to be shared with
in due season, and our suffering taken on in order that others may
live, give us the ability to survive even the most severe winter of
story is a story worth listening to, though so many people in the
story do not listen at all. We pray we will not be one of them. Yet
we are assured that no matter what, God forgives us, stays with us,
and lives with us as if we had never sinned at all.
week’s story is not one to celebrate with abandon. Jesus’ Passion
is a sombre story to delve into, to remember and always learn more
story in Jesus’ life story will never be done teaching us about the
abundant life God has for us, each and all.
Tonight’s Theme Our continuing theme for this Lent is from Isaiah 58, that we hold a fast acceptable to God, one that brings justice, freedom, food, and homes to those in need. That combines with the weekly theme, always having to do with change, and tonight specifically we look at Changing Plans.
Lessons Psalm 2 Isaiah 52:13-15 Mark 10:32-34
Plans of Mice and [Wo]Men
all have had plans. But God’s plans for us are larger. How many of
us have planned our next steps as children moved out for jobs,
university, trade school or full-time employment and even marriage.
Then they rebound back home to recover before leaving again to make
their way in today’s fast changing world.
Lessons: God ‘Changes’ Plans OT vs NT God
readings seem to reflect an old tradition that God approached humans
one way in Old Testament times. Then God changed his plans with
Psalm 2 God observes the nations conspiring against God and God’s
anointed. God laughs at them and speaks to them with fury terrifying
them, before warning them to serve the Lord in trembling submission
or else God’s wrath will be quickly kindled against them and they
comparison listen to the Gospel from Mark where God’s own people
condemn the only Son of God to death. Then they hand him over to
others who mock, spit on, flog and kill him.
roles are reversed: God bears the fury and wrath of the people and in
the end God perishes. It is as if instead of demanding obedience God
finally figured out that humans could never stop sinning so
God decided to bear the whole cost of forgiving their sins.
Thereafter God asks, calls, entices, and inspires the people to do
what is right and needs to be done.
reveals to us the heart of God
know that Jesus came to teach, cure and care for people, and to die
on the cross as the last sacrifice or scapegoat required. The cross
on God’s heart becomes so undeniably visible with Jesus’ death
and resurrection that we can only be astounded.
though we deserve nothing but death and void, God chooses to forgive
our sins. God claims us as children, and we have the most meaningful
work possible: to follow Jesus’ example of giving everything we are
in order that others will have justice, freedom, food and homes.
abundant life in response to Jesus
sacrifice may even hurt, yet this is what God created us to be and to
do. This is God’s larger plan for us all so that we have life
abundant. Abundant life has very little to do with abundant wealth,
property, possessions, power and influence over others, or
self-serving pleasures. Instead God calls us to sacrifice and to then
celebrate God’s successes, when lost souls return to God. At times
that is each of us.
We see more
of God’s plan, God remains the same
tradition that I accept is that God does not change God’s plan or
approach to humans. Rather God was marked by the cross since the
beginning of time as is witnessed to also in the OT, for example in
tonight’s reading from Isaiah concerning the suffering servant.
What certainly does change, and markedly, is who we people think God
is. What changes is how we understand more and more of God’s larger
plan for us.
the ‘OT’ idea of God
we so often get stuck thinking that God demands and we have to obey;
that as we merit we get rewarded with God’s protection or we
perish by God’s fury, and the next generation starts all over
learning to obey God or else.
vs God’s larger plans
this view of God’s world, we must take control making worthwhile
plans for ourselves. We plan for a great house, or job, or spouse, or
children, or activities in retirement. Some even succeed with our
always has larger plans for us.
than 7 decades ago a farm boy, inspired by a missionary visiting at
his church, decided to become a missionary doctor. He worked his way
through college, through a tour with the army in Korea, through
medical school and reported to the church for service.
church eventually sent him to Africa. The man planned to spend his
life there with his wife and children. But God’s plan for him was
man got sick, was forced to return home to a family practice. God had
larger plans for him and the man ended up studying again to become a
pathologist. He set up a business in the ever-changing world of
medicine, brought in a partner to expand and improve their services.
Still God’s plan for him was larger.
it went with God always moving the man about, even to Antarctica in
the winter when he was 70, until at the age of 75 with his back
crumbling, a double heart by-pass, and needing both knees and a hip
to be replaced the man was ready to rest and stay home. But God’s
plan for him was larger. The church sought him out to return to
Africa to rebuild a medical delivery system that had fallen apart
mostly due to corruption. Now in his 90’s he still travels six
months of every year raising funds and the other six months he
oversees the building of a children’s hospital in Zinga, TZ.
God’s plan sees that we need to be rescued from disaster. I heard
from another pastor about Sarah, who went to college in the States.
Sarah met Jim, through campus ministry. They made great plans. He
planned to be a surgeon and she a nurse. They both wanted lots of
children. God seemed to agree with their plans as they married and
both were accepted into their respective majors.
Jim was drafted for Vietnam. He served as a medic and came back in a
wheelchair with one arm and unable to have children. All their plans
were taken from Jim and Sarah.
not sure that was God’s plan for them, but God was there for
them. Then Jim died suddenly one night, a hidden complication
from his injuries.
changed plans and became a family doctor. She married a farmer and
they had three wonderful children, now grown up with families of
their own. God had a large enough plan for Sarah.
the Devil has his way with our lives, but always God’s plans are
we’ve thought God is vengeful, demanding, wrathful, and the warrior
protector of us, then we may be in for a great surprise.
protect US interests around the world the CIA often provided wet work
and weapons to bring to and keep in power tyrannical dictators who do
the US’s bidding and keep their people in line. It is a devil’s
plan, in response to which God often brings in a larger plan.
CAI vs CIA
Three Cups of Teaand Stones into Schools
Greg Mortenson tells the story of the Central Asia Institute, the
CAI, not to be confused with the CIA.
project was born of a plan to change the world toward peace through
providing schools and schooling to girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The girls, who would likely become mothers, would then educate their
daughters and their sons. We know education is the most
crucial piece to help the poorest in the world make life better for
Central Asia Institute was hardly perfect because Mortenson, raised
in Tanzania, was unpredictable and spontaneous. He rarely operated on
a clock or even a calendar. Still the CAI was an effective project
that made a real difference in a real way: by sacrifice and through
idea of education for young girls was picked up by the CIA as a model
for diffusing hostilities, to little effect. Hatred of the west runs
also adopted the plan, unfortunately with great success, destroying
schools for girls and establishing madrassas for boys which taught
hatred of the west, and trained them for terrorist attacks around the
real life the devil has life destroying plans.
As we Grow,
we see the appropriate fast for us
grow and change. Our plans change as we grow. As we learn more of
God’s larger plans for us, we can better be God’s agents of grace
for the strangers, refugees, hungry, homeless, the oppressed, and all
those suffering injustice. Yet often God’s large plans catch us off
challenge is to discern at this time a) what is God’s larger
plan for us to bring life abundant to others, and b) what the devil
is trying to do to our lives that takes life from us and others.
is always there for us, no matter what plans we have, but God wants
us to change our plans to better match Jesus’ model for our lives.
Jesus’ model is about making the acceptable fast, the sacrifice so
that others may have life abundant.
the Gospel story for this morning Jesus returns to Lazarus’ home
for a meal. This is where Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother
Lazarus from the dead. Together with the disciples they share a meal.
‘wastes’ costly oil washing Jesus’ feet. For a blessing the oil
would have been poured on his head. This, though, is just a foot
washing, a practical kindness offered to guests.
washing sandaled feet
wore sandals. They walked the hot and dusty paths and road ways. On
arrival for a meal, where everyone reclined around the table, feet
washing refreshed the guest and removed the awful smell from the
elite people’s animal waste that lay along the way.
perfume was way too costly for the task – probably worth in excess
of $50,000 in today’s funds. It was an extravagance which no common
person could afford.
was an extravagance Mary offered for the man who brought her brother
back to life, for the teacher who carried the Kingdom of God around
him, palpable to all who encountered him, for the man who, Mary
believed from her pondering, was the Saviour, the Christ, God’s Son
sent to fulfill God’s promises of old.
one of the disciples objects to the extravagance, because he would
have liked to have the proceeds from its sale put in the purse that
he stole from. He wanted the extravagance for himself. Who knows what
this disciple really wanted, or if anything would have been enough
Fear of poverty
all the goodness of life and the luxuries we take for granted, there
is always a part of each one of us that objects to such
extravagances. For we have our hands in the cookie jar, and we want
more. Poor people be … well … ignored, … and condemned to live
lives we are so afraid our lives may become. We justify all kinds of
deceit trying in vain to secure our place far from the poor.
have real cause, every day, to get lost in this and all sorts of
anxiety. Our past is full of sins that should land us not just in the
poor house, but out of the Kingdom of God. Instead Jesus comes to us,
each day, starting by saying, do not be afraid!
does Jesus have in store for us?
does Jesus have in store for us?
God’s up to something again: something new
the OT lesson for today Isaiah writes to the people in exile in
Babylon that God is up to something again. Like they, we too often
give up and stop looking for Christ’s light.
the exiles and to us Isaiah repeats God’s words: Do not remember
the things of our past. Yet remember that God is the one who brought
us out of slavery, through the wilderness into the Promised Land.
Free from the anxiety of our past that grips us at the roots, we can
now look to the new work that God is about to begin.
new thing: living water in the deserts
the Creator and Re-creator is acting again: A new thing is about to
become: water will flow in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Canada we have lots of fresh water. Of course there are plenty of
small communities who have not had clean, fresh water for many
decades. And a survey a few
years ago estimated that between one-third and one-half of North
Americans are mildly, chronically dehydrated. (Published
by Dr. Susan Kleiner, dietician in Seattle-area, reported in
Chatelaine April 2000.)
Early signs of
dehydration are fatigue and headaches. We need water. Yet when
we turn on the taps and enjoy clean water, it is difficult to
appreciate that we are
not getting enough water or what
it means not to have water.
water, fresh water, living water
the drought driven dry desperation of thirst caught in an endless
desert. It is worse for people who survive in life rafts after being
shipwrecked at sea, who spend days on the ocean waters without fresh
water. On the sea water is everywhere, but it cannot quench one’s
thirst, it only makes it worse.
are surrounded by so much fresh water, and yet we thirst for the
living water that gives life. We are surrounded by luxuries the
people of history could hardly imagine, powered by oil, technology,
and seemingly magical realities. Yet we often deeply thirst for the
meaning of life, for our place in it, for something to be and do that
will fulfill what we were created to be. Our past is riddled with
failures we hardly comprehend.
it is as if our tongues were parched so dry that we could barely
swallow because it hurts so much, and we know we deserve even worse.
Paul, Our Efforts = Nothing
Paul we try diligently to be the people that we think God wants and
needs us to be. We may not be as successful as Paul. He was quite an
accomplished man of God. But all that effort Paul counts as nothing,
in order that, still striving to be the man of Grace that Christ
called him to be, he might receive, not earn, but receive without
merit, the Grace of God, the righteousness which is Christ’s. This
righteousness is only Paul’s or ours as a gift through faith by
Gifts = everything
cannot own his righteousness, it is only a gift. He must leave behind
all his struggle, straining, and striving to fulfill the law. Instead
he strains forward to whatever Christ has in store for him. God has a
whole lot in store for Paul. Most of it is challenging.
God’s Gift, flowing, living water
when God acts with a shockingly new thing, then water flows, not just
out of our taps in small trickles, not just clean, fresh water. The
water of life flows in broad rivers, assuring us that the drought is
for the water from all
astounding it is to undeservedly receive water, flowing fresh water,
the living water from God.
it really take so much to move our hearts, to make things different
in our minds, hearts, and souls … so that we will forget the past
failures and recognize the wonder of God’s gifts, the gifts so
basic to life as even breath itself? All this just so that we might
give God praise!
in the new largess of God, we should be barely able to contain
ourselves. No matter what we need, God provides, so that we can and
will live in praise of our Creator and Re-creator.
does God have in store for us?
has Christ in store for each of us? For all of us as a community of
Lent Jesus has in mind for us a fast named in Isaiah 58 (from Ash
Wednesday’s lessons), a sacrifice of all that is given us, so that
those suffering from injustice will receive justice, so that the
oppressed will be set free, so that those who hunger will have food,
and those who have no homes will find homes in our homes, in our
neighbourhoods, in our families of faith.
of Easter Coming
the end of our fast, Jesus has in store for us a celebration that is
so great nothing is too extravagant to be shared with those suffering
injustice, those oppressed, those hungry, those homeless, who now are
with us. This is the celebration of new life given to each of us.
as Jesus raises Lazarus back to life, we receive the promise and
assurance in the waters of our baptisms that we will be raised from
the dead as well. We too, sinners though we be, will be brought into
the New Jerusalem with all the saints of all times.
will praise God
the despised jackals and hyenas will sing God’s praise. No matter
how despised the animal, or the person, all will sing God’s praise.
Even the reality denying ostriches, or similarly the people who
stick their heads in the sand at the signs of danger … Even those
who deny reality will be unable to deny Christ’s reality. When God
does God’s new thing among us, the anxieties about our past will be
gone and no one will be able to stop from singing God’s praise.
this we were created, redeemed, made God’s children, and promised
eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
the perfume of extravagant celebration, and sing as we love the Lord
our God with all our heart, mind, and strength.
at Daybreak celebrate [extravagantly]
God does this new thing, as at daybreak, the darkness will succumb to
the rising dawn. Then the sol of creation begins anew to give purpose
and hope for the hours to come. The Light will reach everywhere. The
New Light will catch even the spider’s string
[in the sermon photo.]
… leaving behind all our anxieties, we can close our eyes having
kept the watch,
the Christ’s Light now keeps the darkness and danger at bay.
hyenas of home are driven back into hiding. We will have challenges
ahead, even more darkness to face, but Christ expects us to trust his
promises, as we will then again wait for the dawn to return.
119 starts: Happy are those whose
way is blameless
it be spectacular if we could change our hearts and follow all God’s
laws and be blameless for the rest of our lives. We would be
loving the Lord our God with all our heart,
mind and strength! Nothing
would defile us from within or from outside ourselves.
we confess that we are all sinful and unable to free ourselves.
Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Luther and many others have made it crystal
clear that no one can be entirely blameless. If anyone were able to
be blameless the whole course of human history would be changed.
What then can we do to change our hearts? Can we change our hearts of stone for healthy hearts filled with God’s Spirit?
1967, when Bernard Christian transplanted the first human heart, we
surgeons transplant our diseased hearts
with new hearts.
Heart transplant patients report it
is more than just a physical experience. Something more changes, as
another person’s heart gives them life. The other person has met an
untimely death. The transplant patient carries on with life, for
themselves and in a small yet noticeable way for the donor.
our meaning tonight for changing our hearts
is hardly physically accurate,
talking about changing the seat of our
emotions, the centre
of our wills, and
the motive behind our
thinking and doing.
off this is
a very complicated idea.
it is nearly out of the realm of human possibility.
We so often get it all wrong.
a well-heeled congregation decided to look
outside themselves and do something really
good for a poor neighbourhood nearby.
After carefully looking through the neighbourhood they found a
deserted chunk of land, filled with weeds, stones, and
decided it would make the perfect neighbourhood playground. They
bought the land, and
brought in topsoil, sod, and playground
equipment. Then they headed to the
the community to make use of it. The
community leaders said only a
very polite thank you.
wrong?” a congregation member blurted out.
said one of the community leaders, “we had plans for that land. We
had been saving money and applying for grants, gotten corporate
sponsors, and invested in getting drawings made up. We were on track
to break ground in 6 months. Our plans included a picnic area, a play
area, community gardens and even a basketball court on one end.
“Now we’ll have to let all that go and enjoy the playground.”
can try to fix the world with our privilege, power, and wealth. Or we
can use our ears to listen to those in need, our minds to discern
what the real issues are, and our hearts to empathize with their
plight so that how we act will actually meet the real needs of the
people we try to help.
There are things we can do to change our hearts, to change how we feel about another person, our situation in life, and the events that happen around us. While we cannot change our individual emotional responses to events, we can slowly, through diligent practice of habits, change the range of our emotions. We can over time move ourselves from a destructive, disengaged range of emotional responses, to a hope-filled, engaged range of emotional responses to the same kind of events. It takes lots of time, diligent work, and a motivation that only the Holy Spirit can maintain in us.
The first thing we can do is forgive others. We act as if the other has not sinned against us. We treat them special, even giving them gifts they really want. When we behave as if they were precious, they become precious to us again. In time we will realize, we have actually forgiven them.
with the help of the Holy Spirit can we truly change our hearts. We
need God to send people to help. Hearts change the course of our
lives, and the course of our communities, our churches, our
countries, and even the course of human history.
St. Augustine, perhaps the most influential of Christianity’s early thinkers, writers, preachers, and practitioners of faith, did not start out a Christian. Born of a Christian mother and a pagan father, he was denied baptism. He spent his youth as a Manichaean, and according to his own account lost himself in pleasures and wanton living. He was befriended by Ambrose, who he met since they both shared exceptional skills as orators. While Ambrose’s preaching was exceptional and his message was the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, it was Ambrose’s friendship that deeply affected Augustine’s heart and drew him to convert to Christianity. St. Augustine gave himself to the work of Christ on earth, ending his life serving as the Bishop of Hippo in north Africa, where he wrote and preached. Imperfect, rescued, and saved Augustine steered the course of Christianity to be the faith we recognize today. He also steered the Roman Empire towards Christianity.
there was one human, Jesus, who lived entirely
blameless before God, the whole of human history is
changed. Yours and mine, and each of our lives are inexorably changed
toward God, toward life, and toward giving everything we have and are
in order that others may know God’s Grace as well. Augustine was
one piece of this course of history.
hearts inform and equip us to turn our lives in new directions. As
the Holy Spirit moves our hearts to love the Lord with all our
hearts, minds, and strength, then we focus on faith, ideas, words,
and actions which can affect others’ hearts with the same Grace
that saves us each day.
trust that God is always with us. We can be blameless and joyful
therefore, not because we are perfect,
but because Jesus steps in for us and we are reckoned to have Jesus’
blameless track record.
is something spectacular to being the donor of Christ’s heart to
those in need. It is to give to another the
seat of our will
and passion, the centre
of our life,
and to give our hearts
to another in order that
they may live, and that living
they may have life abundant.
a heart. Have a change of heart. Because the Holy Spirit helps us
surrender our hearts to the will, passion, and purpose of Jesus
Christ, therefore we live, heart and all, as God calls and equips us
live as never before. We live the fast that is acceptable to God, the
fast that through our sacrifice others receive justice, freedom,
food, and homes.
This is really still way too rough, but here it is, as a way-point along the way. Before it is done it needs to be half as long, and more focused.
There’s work to be done on it.
Lenten Theme: Isaiah 58: A fast that is acceptable to God: sacrifice for justice, freedom, food, homes.
This week’s Theme: Change of Heart
Lessons: Ezekiel 36.22-28 Psalm 119. 1-16 Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23
A Change of Heart
are those whose way is blameless
Blameless No one!
Paul, Augustine, Luther and many more Christian theologians and
teachers have made it crystal clear that if anyone were to be able to
be blameless the whole course of the human species would be entirely
different. No one can be entirely blameless.
fact we confess that we are all sinful and unable to free ourselves,
that we require Jesus’ intervention of grace so that we can live in
God’s promise that we are God’s children, God’s ambassadors of
grace to all people.
Only Obey if written on our Hearts
only way that we at all can obey God’s commandments and statutes is
if through the Holy Spirit, they are emblazoned on our hearts, so
that we can do no other than follow them.
Change Hearts: God does us right with God
after a soup supper we’ve looked at change of season, change of
circumstance, change of habits, and today we look at changing our
starting reminder is that this is not possible for us alone; and
further that not our habits, nor our words, nor our thoughts, nor
even our beliefs put us right with God. We never are right enough
with God. God takes us in as Children, as recipients and bearers of
Good News, as Ambassadors of Christ, as the voice, the hands, the
feet, and the compassionate Grace of Jesus Christ for other people.
God does it all, and then we get to respond, because the Holy Spirit
equips us to respond.
can practice responding, bathing ourselves first in reminders that we
need the Holy Spirit to work in us, in order that our practice will
be any good at all. Then we can set forth, practising all we can;
Praying that the Holy Spirit will transform our feeble efforts into
the real Grace of Jesus the Christ.
can we do to change our hearts?
1967, when Bernard Christian transplanted the first human heart, we
can have surgeons transplant our diseased heart with a new heart.
Heart transplant patients report that having one’s heart changed is
more than just a physical experience. Something more changes, as
another person’s heart gives them life, a person that has met an
untimely death. The patient carries on with life, for themselves and
in a noticeable small way for the donor of the heart.
What is the heart to us? What exactly are we
trying to change?
many ways the heart is much more than it was thought to be in old
Hebrew thought, or even in the thoughts concerning heart, mind and
soul in Jesus’ day.
in OT thoughts of heart, Greek thoughts of heart, compared to mind
and soul, and compared to today: heart, the seat of emotion. Maybe
many minds today the heart is the seat of emotion, of passion, of a
person’s will. This may not match much of what we know about the
physical anatomy of the human body and mind; but it is common in
literature and in everyday thought.
our understanding of the heart is accurate or not, this evening’s
theme is precisely about more than changing just a physical heart. We
are talking about changing that which is the seat of one’s
emotions, the center of one’s own will, and the motive center
behind one’s thinking and actions.
change the seat of emotions, the center of one’s will, the motives
behind one’s thinking and actions is first off, a very complicated
it is so much more complicated to accomplish. It is nearly out of the
realm of human possibility, but not wholly.
So Many Efforts Miss
well-heeled congregation decided to do something really good for a
poor neighbourhood nearby. After carefully looking through the
neighbourhood they found a deserted chunk of land, filled with weeds,
stones, even the odd syringe. They decided it would make the perfect
neighbourhood playground. They bought the land, brought in good
topsoil, sod, and finally playground equipment. Then they headed to a
community hall to “hand over” ownership. The community leaders
said a very polite thank you, but seemed lacking in enthusiasm.
wrong?” a congregation member blurted out.
said one of the community leaders, “we had plans for that land. We
had been saving money and applying for grants with corporate
sponsors, invested in getting drawings done and we were about 6
months from startup. It would have had a play area, community gardens
and even a basketball court on one end.
we’ll have to let all that go and enjoy the playground.”
But still we can start trying
are things we can do to change our hearts, to change how we feel
about another person, our situation in life, the events that happen
around us. While we cannot change our individual emotional responses
to events, we can slowly, through diligent practice of habits, change
the range of our emotions that we experience. We can over time,
encountering pretty much the same kind of events, move ourselves from
a sad, downward unengaged emotional response to common enough events,
to a hope-filled, engaged, even joy-filled emotional response to the
same common events.
takes lots of time, diligent work, and a motivation that is nearly
Holy Spirit is writing on our Hearts
that is when we see that, though we may like to think we can
accomplish such a change of heart, the Holy Spirit is required to
change our hearts to be those of people to serve Christ and Christ’s
the other hand if we ever would want to change our hearts away from
God, then we need to fight off the Holy Spirit first. We need to
fight against the Spirit to be able to think we taken even one step
distance from God who has promised to be with us for life and beyond.
we can do, forgive: act as if the other has not sinned against us.
Treat them special, even. Give them gifts they really want. Behave
that they are precious to us; they become precious, and then we
realize, we have actually forgiven them. We’ve moved beyond the
emotional load experienced when we remember what they have done to
us. We still remember, but it is not an emotional drain. It is more
and more like information that does not impact us.
Changing a Heart makes huge differences
many ways we suffer what happens to our hearts.
we can choose to set parameters for our hearts. We can choose the
universe that our hearts operate in. Other people influence our
hearts more than we will ever know.
can try to fix the world with our privilege, power, and wealth. Or we
can use our ears to listen to those in need, our minds to discern
what the real issues are, and our hearts to empathize with their
plight so that how we act will actually meet the real needs of the
people we try to help.
Augustine, perhaps the most influential of Christianity’s early
thinkers, writers, preachers, and practitioners of faith, did not
start out a Christian. Born of a Christian mother and a pagan father,
he was denied baptism. He spent his youth as a Manichaean, and
according to his own accounts lost himself in pleasures and wanton
living. He was befriended by Ambrose, who he met since they both
shared exceptional skills as rhetoricians. It was Ambrose’s
friendship that deeply effected St. Augustine’s heart. He converted
to Christianity, was baptized, and ended his life serving as the
Bishop of Hippo in north Africa, where he wrote and preached; and
steered the course of Christianity to the faith we recognize today,
as well as the Roman empire towards Christianity.
is the heart that informs and equips us to turn our lives in a
different direction, which can either be for ill or for the better.
It is our hearts devoted to Christ, thankful for all Christ has done
to give us breath and renewed life, which focus us on faith, ideas,
words, and actions which can help others experience what we
experience from Christ.
change the course of our lives, and the course of our communities,
our churches, our countries, and even the course of human history.
Joyful and blameless; a gift
trust that God is always with us. We can be blameless and joyful
therefore, not because it is our track record, but because Jesus
steps in for us and we are reckoned to have Jesus’ blameless track
One person, the Christ, was
blameless, gifts his to us
there was one human who lived and lived entirely blameless
before God, the whole of human history is changed, yours and mine,
and each of our lives are inexorably changed toward God, toward life,
and toward giving everything we have and are in order that others may
know God’s grace as well.
Donor of a Heart; call to sacrifice so others may
live with great hearts
is something to being a human heart donor, besides that first one is
on the other side of death. It is to give to another the seat of
one’s will and passion, the center of one’s life, and to give it
to another in order that they may live, and living may have life
a heart. Have a change of heart. Give your heart to living as God
calls and equips you to live.
you heart to the will, passion, and purpose of Jesus Christ.
live as never before: live the fast that is acceptable to God, the
fast that through our sacrifice others receive justice, freedom,
food, and homes.
As way of introductory words to explain Beale Street and ‘Justice’:
“Beale Street is a street in New Orleans, where my father, where Louis Armstrong and the jazz were born,” the quote reads in the opening shot of the movie. “Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the back neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy. This novel deals with the impossibility and the possibility, the absolute necessity, to give expression to this legacy.
“Beale Street is a loud street. It is left to the reader to discern a meaning in the beating of the drums.” James Baldwin
The actual street named Beale Street is located in Memphis. But there is a Beale Street in every city, in every town, in every rural place where people live. While the book/movies is about the racial realities of black discrimination, the injustice of false convictions run rampant in many places against many minorities. In Canada jails are filed with aboriginal peoples. In Alberta and elsewhere the discrimination has turned from <against women falsely accused by their men and then easily convicted> to <men falsely accused by their women and easily convicted without any real proof>. As were men in decades past, these women are encouraged and free to lie even under oath in court, with the courts also freely lying even in decisions to absolve women of their lies and to falsely convict men of things they have never done, and of things that often their women have done to the men. Our courts are no more just than any, ever. Capital punishment is not a sentence given by the judges; it is a sentence worked out by inmates and guards, and by countless people in the communities -not least the RCMP and Police and workers in the ‘Justice’ system, who may or may not believe the lies and false convictions, and who then, regardless, rob reputation, labour opportunities, and health from these innocent not-criminals.
Since the beginning of time people have lied to get ahead, to destroy others who are in their way, or just for the sport of it.
But the truth is known by God, and all will stand before God’s throne to be judged. While Grace is our hope, our proclamation, and God’s promise; there is also the promise that the oppressor, the unrighteous, the destroyers of others will face their end in God’s Judgment. There will be no witnesses needed, no testimony – false or not. God already knows everything.
We trust that what God judges will be gracious. We trust that those who stand against the truth somehow will be brought to stop.
But God is the judge, not us. not any of us
So we leave Justice in God’s hands, because humans botch it so consistently …
and we proclaim grace
and real hope.
Now for the sermon proper:
Lenten Theme Isaiah 58 The acceptable fast brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those without Lessons for this Sunday: Joshua 5:9-12 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Street Could Talk
wonders how the world would be if indeed the streets could speak of
the injustices that God’s people have suffered at the hands of
God’s people. If indeed the disgrace of God’s people would be
removed. If indeed the effects of all the sins of the people would be
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a movie (adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same title) about a young black man ruined by the in-justice system. A young white man has made unrelenting advances on his fiancée in a store. He stands up for her, drives the white thug off, but not before a dirty cop tries unsuccessfully to arrest the young black man. The dirty copy gets revenge. It is about the dirty justice system whose people make this wonderful, creative, loving young man into an incarcerated black. Everything about this young human being is reduced to one of many young black men jailed and beaten, though innocent.
old has passed away. Everything is made new.
This young man, a sculptor, a young father, makes things new out of chunks of wood. Until a dirty cop and a dirty justice system rob him of his everything, until they rob his family, his wife to be and their child, of everything. The dirty ones rob him by accusing him of a terrible, filthy, horrible rape. They disgrace him. They let him be beaten in jail. They terrorize him with delays upon delays and threats upon threats until he breaks and accepts a plea, a guilty plea of an innocent man, and he serves someone else’s time.
It’s quite the image that Joshua gives as the people gather to celebrate the Passover in the Promised Land: in the English we have God “rolls away” their disgrace. The German gives a hint that the Hebrew is more colourful: ‘Heute habe ich die Schande Ägyptens von euch abgewälzt.’. God ‘waltzes away’ the disgrace of the people. Generations ago they were saved but then enslaved, freed but then trapped in the wilderness … until today with Joshua, they stand in the land promised to Abraham, and they eat from the fruit of the land. No more wandering, no more manna. They have come home, and God welcomes them waltzing away in celebration their layers of slavery and disgrace.
waltzes away our disgrace, our sins, our slavery … and God sets us
For God made Jesus, who did not sin, to bear all the sins of all the people through time, precisely in order that you and I, in order that all of us, would not only be free. God set us free precisely in order that you and I and all of us would be made into the righteousness of God visible, embodied here and now on this earth.
Our freedom, our righteousness, in NO WAY is earned by our actions.
Either we are like the younger son, as we claim all sorts of rights and privileges, and all that is due us … and then we squander the precious things God has given us on the oldest vices available to humans who can choose. We can choose because God made us able to love. To love is to be able to choose to love, which means we must be able to choose not to love, which is to choose evil. So we either choose to squander God’s precious gifts to us …
like the older son as we serve God with great labours and
self-righteousness. We do not squander God’s love, but we
comprehend it completely not.
When God wants to celebrate God’s forgiveness, and a lost sinner’s return to life, we get self-righteously angry. We behave as if we somehow owned God’s will. As if we, with our obedience and labours, have earned all that we have, but even more so we own the right to judge other sinners. We’ve allowed ourselves to become so blind to the grace that daily gives us renewed breath. We want to be better than we are, and comparing ourselves to other’s whose sins are more known we think we are somehow good enough. Thus …
refuse to celebrate with God. We refuse to celebrate with God exactly
what we are created to be and do: we are created to proclaim and
celebrate that God is gracious, forgiving sins, dancing away
disgrace, and feeding us from the produce of the Promised Land.
the same old, same old that has hung around the necks and souls of
humans since the beginning of time.
Even though, all the time, each and every one of us is like either the younger or the elder son, and sometimes we are like both at the same time … Even so God promises us it is different in the Kingdom of God. It is different now, here and now, in the Kingdom of God. For the Kingdom of God is at hand.
the Kingdom of God, all confess that only by Grace do we breathe, or
drink, or eat, or work, or celebrate, or love, or hope.
By Grace all our sins, yours and mine and all of ours, are taken up in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are made into God’s righteousness.
not pretenders. God makes us not just good, not just sometimes good,
not better than others. God makes us into God’s own righteousness.
In that righteousness everything old has indeed passed away. In that righteousness everything is made new. You and I, and each one of us, are made into new creatures. All of creation is made new.
As God’s righteousness you and I and each one of us, really have nothing worth doing other than what Jesus calls us to do, what the Holy Spirit makes us capable of doing. We think, pray, speak and act so that those around us know that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and they are welcomed in just as we are; not because we’ve earned it, not at all. They and we are welcomed in because God wants it that way.
Though we remain sinners all the time, unable to free ourselves, God forgives us each day all our new sins, so that we can forgive ourselves, and so that then we can turn to everyone else and forgive them!
God has made us into Christ’s voice, hands and compassion, so that we will reconcile not only ourselves, but all others, and even the creation so broken … so that we will reconcile all people back to God, so that we will reconcile all creation back to God.
I, and each one of us, are God’s ambassadors.
We stand in the promised land, in the Kingdom of God, and we eat of the fruit of this land, the produce of this Kingdom.
The light of God is bright and the hyenas of home are sent scurrying for cover into their own darkness.
We stand, knowing that God is with us and was with us all the way or we would never reach the promised land. We stand and celebrate the return of each lost sinner. For we know that is us, each day. We trust that God will always be with us, as we arrive in the Promised Land anew each day. As we leave our pack of hyenas in the dark and come into the Light of life.
We trust that this Lent our being Christ’s ambassadors, no matter what it costs us, is our Lenten fast, the fast that God finds acceptable, the fast that brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those who most need them. Most of all our fast brings forgiveness and reconciliation to those who need it most: you and me, and each one of us.
Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear not only the Black man’s
story, or the indigenous man’s story, or the refugee’s story. If
everyone’s Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear Jesus’ story
and ourselves in it.
in this new creation,
the Light Shines!
One day, the Light of Christ will shine Light on every Beale Street story, and the disgrace will be where it belongs.
Jesus calls us to build our homes on solid foundations, foundations of good habits. So how do we change so that our habits reflect the people God created, redeemed, and sanctified us to be?
and last remember that any change is practically impossible if we are
coerced. Change only really works if we want it ourselves. From there
the Holy Spirit equips us to be God’s children, with habits of
thoughts, words and actions that reflect God’s love, grace, and
are important. When we were children our parents made sure we learned
to wash our hands. Most of us resisted in deviously creative ways
before we finally gave in and we learned to wash our hands. As adults
we learned just how important habitually washing hands is: it is the
number one defence against spreading viruses and deadly infections.
are important. When we habitually respond to similar situations we
lay down chemical pathways in our brains. That allows us to reach
decisions more quickly. On the downside, habit pathways in our brains
can cloud the full reality of what really is going on before us, and
that can get us into lots of trouble. On the other hand, if we
develop the right habits, those pathways can cloud the threat of
evil, which allows us to respond with grace, no matter the situation
according to the ways of the world we need to behave to get ahead, we
could understand that we need to develop good habits in order to get
into the Kingdom of God. In tonight’s reading from the
letter to the Galatians, Paul, the first author of Christ’s Grace,
says exactly that. Why?
helps to understand that Paul was originally Saul. Well into
adulthood, Saul judged and brutally condemned others. He was the
leader at whose feet the crowd placed their robes as they picked up
rocks to stone to death Stephen the first Christian martyr. On the
road to Damascus Saul was intent on rounding up more Christians to
had other plans. By grace and a miracle Saul became Paul, but Saul’s
old habit of judging others did not always disappear, even though
Paul championed grace as the only means to salvation.
so frustrating to see people waste their lives on unnecessary,
destructive sins, sins of choosing pleasure for the self and pain for
others. The temptation is to toss out grace, judge other’s sins,
and tell them they are going to hell if they do not smarten up.
That’s right up there with pride as the most common sin: to judge
others. Which is why Jesus often warns us against it.
with the work of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to change well worn
pathways in our brain, even judging others. By the Holy Spirit we can
become reflectors of grace, imbuing health for ourselves and everyone
we come into contact with. … Or not. Instead we can go with Paul
judging others for their terrible sins, warning them to smarten up
and develop good habits or they’re not going to inherit the Kingdom
But as for me and my household, we choose to trust God’s grace, not only for ourselves, but for others as well. We trust that judging other people is a waste of our breath. God welcomes all us sinners into the Kingdom of God. The only question is what we are going to do there. So we try to avoid judging others. But let me tell you about the terrible things I saw people doing the other day …. OK, we try. I didn’t say we always succeed. We work at developing good habits, habits formed, fuelled, and completed by grace.
joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness,
and self-control – those are habits we can choose to develop
because the Holy Spirit so equips us. These and other healthy habits
of Grace are the rock solid foundation Jesus calls us to build our
homes on in the Kingdom of God.
often we are led to believe that the Kingdom of God starts after we
die and God judges us whether we get to go to heaven. That’s where
the Kingdom of God is.
As for me and my household, we hear the words of Jesus saying: the Kingdom of God is at hand now! What we do builds or destroys the Kingdom of God around us. That the Kingdom of God is here, though, is already determined by God.
Ash Wednesday God’s Word called us to make an acceptable Lenten
fast, to hold a fast that is not for our benefit. Rather our fast
will bring justice and freedom in the face of injustice and
oppression. Through our sacrifice we bring food and homes to those
who hunger and are homeless. Our fast reflects Christ’s
forgiveness, redemption and love for all who sin.
the season of Lent we can choose to live already the life of the
Kingdom. We can change to be generous and kind, patient and faithful,
not. Either way, God’s mercy abounds. God’s Kingdom is here now.
Why would we not want to join in?
does changing our habits look like? While fasting is about sacrifice,
we do not lose ourselves reflecting God’s Grace. As Nelson Mandela
said forgiveness is not just altruistic. It is the best form of self
interest. Grace makes for a marvellous life.
But how can we change ourselves to practice good habits, and get rid of the old? First, it helps to acknowledge that we will never get rid of our own sin completely. It is destructive to demand others be perfect. It is also self-destructive to expect that we ourselves will be perfect. Instead we trust God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, for ourselves and everyone.
it helps to know that emotions happen to us setting off a chemical
event in our brains that last 90 seconds. We can choose to wait 90
seconds before we choose what to do next. We can be free of any
emotion, if we want to be.
Third, it always helps to recognize who our Creator is, what goodness our Creator gives us, including the gift that we can wait 90 seconds to choose to respond, not because we need to in order to be acceptable to God. God already accepts us as we are. We choose to wait and respond with good habits, because the Holy Spirit so equips us.
If we find nothing else so poignant, we can start by practising being kind and gracious to everyone we meet. That’s a habit that makes other good habits possible for us to choose and practice. That makes a great foundation for our home in the Kingdom of God, and it makes for a marvellous life, for us and those around us.
not this the fast that I choose:
the bonds of injustice,
undo the thongs
of the yoke,
let the oppressed
to break every yoke? 7Is
it not to share
your bread with the hungry,
the homeless poor into your house;
you see the naked,
to cover them,
to hide yourself from your own kin? 8Then
shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing
spring up quickly;
vindicator shall go before you,
of the Lord shall
be your rear guard.
Isaiah 55:1-9 Psalm 63:1-8 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9
testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is
faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength,
but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you
may be able to endure it.
Coffee and Death
our children were not yet teenagers they wanted to drink coffee. I
told them with humour: If you drink coffee you will die. That was
true, but not the whole truth.
fatality rate for humans is 100%. The only question is when and how
each of us will die.
Our children were precocious and figured it out. The second time I told them they’d die if they drank coffee, they responded: Yes, but if we do not drink coffee we will die, too.
has little if anything to do with it. Everyone is a sinner, all of us
deserve to die, all of us will die.
Because God …, Therefore we can ….
is the background to each of the texts, which if forgotten, leaves us
reading as if God’s reality for us were something different than
because God claims
us, therefore we
can live and respond.
writes: listen that you may live.
is not listen or else you will die. You will die anyway. Rather
Isaiah calls to us: listen while you still can to God’s Word that
proclaims that God makes it possible for us to live abundantly and
God is gracious, even if and when we fail miserably,
we can live boldly and abundantly.
writes that we should learn from the examples of those who died in
the wilderness during the exodus: We must not put Christ to the test,
as some of them did and they were destroyed by the serpent.
This is not Paul telling us that if we put Christ to the test, then we will die. It is Paul having told us first that we are saved by grace, no matter what we cannot earn it. And as God’s children we can learn to not put Christ to the test. Because putting Christ to the test takes the life right out of us. We will die, whether we put Christ to the test or not, but if we avoid putting Christ to the test, we will live more as Christ calls us to live.
what is the context of Paul’s admonishments? We will all be tested.
Paul’s readers in Corinth were being tested, so much so that they
felt overwhelmed. Paul reminds them that because God has claimed them
God also gives them the ability to endure any testing that comes
their way; therefore they do not need to live in fear, or be
overwhelmed. They can endure. They can live like children of God.
the Gospel from Luke, Jesus answers the question brought to him about
those who suffer Pilate’s cruelty: they are not worse sinners than
any others. Do not repent and you will perish as they did. Repent,
and you will perish in some other way. It’s like coffee. Except
that by repenting we can live more boldly and more abundantly. We can
be the people that Christ calls us to be, so that others will see
God’s grace for them in our sacrifices to bring justice, freedom,
food and homes to those without.
story of the fig tree that does not produce fruit is not a threat
that we will be cut down. Someday, no matter what, we will be removed
from the garden. We are here in God’s garden to produce fruit. Yet,
whether we produce fruit or not, only by grace do we continue to
live, ‘one more year’; and we live only ‘one more year’ at a
time, or more accurately, only one day at a time, minute by minute.
Life on our own
is the reality of life lived on our own. We broken humans on our own
make life cruel, short and brutish for ourselves and others. Our
faith is tested, our endurance tested, our will to be gracious is
tested; often we are tested beyond our own limits. Evil is suffered
by everyone. And everyone perpetrates evil, for themselves and for
only need listen to the news to hear the same old stories told over
and over again, different times, places and characters, but the same
scripts: worshippers are gunned down in Christchurch. Flood waters
and mudslides cover villages people and all. Tsunamis set off by
earthquakes wipe shorelines clear of all life and buildings for miles
inland. Millions face death by starvation even though there is enough
food for everyone. People continue to die from diseases that are
curable. Intentional international chaos of many kinds causes
thousands and millions passed, current and future deaths; the chaos
is created to cover the decimation of the earth leaving it barely
inhabitable for future generations. All this is done to secure
profits and power for a few trillionaires, a few multinational
corporations, and a few unknown power brokers and wielders.
to our own devices the only good news for us humans is that everyone
will die eventually; for this evil cannot be endured for ever.
God does not leave us on our own
readings, though, remind us again in so many ways that God does not
leave us to our own devices, not at all. God’s
thoughts and ways are so
high above our thoughts and ways. While we
charge and convict one another of great evils,
pardons. God calls
us as we thirst and hunger,
to come, to drink and eat our fill of good food, delightful food, to
buy wine and milk without money or price.
assures us there is no test beyond our endurance. The Holy Spirit
equips us to meet every challenge, so that we may respond with grace.
Jesus talks about the manure thrown on us through or lives. Is that
not a nice translation. We know the more accurate, evocative
translation. Jesus reminds us that the manure of life is nourishment
for our souls.
God asks of us
does God ask of us in return for life, life with God at our side?God
asks that we honour the goodness of Creator and Creation.
asks that we seek the Lord while he may be found, while he is close
while we still have ‘one more year’.
asks that inclining our ears to God, we turn from wickedness and
unrighteous thoughts, that we trust God’s faithfulness.
asks that we understand the manure of life as nourishment for our
souls. Having had plenty of manure dumped on us and dug in around us,
having been soaked in the drowning waters of baptism, and after days
and months of being drenched in the bright light of Christ God asks
that we produce fruit that reflects God’s ways of astounding
faithfulness, sacrifice, mercy, love and free renewal for everyone
regardless of supposed merit.
asks that we learn from examples of our fore-bearers.
asks that we give witness of God’s Grace to nations we do not know.
is our Lenten fast of sacrifice, that we fast and sacrifice in order
that injustice will be stopped, that the yoke of oppression be
broken, that our bread will give life to those that are hungry, and
our homes become the home for those who are homeless, that our
country become the country for those who have no safe country.
may not seem that we accomplish much. Sometimes that is truer than we
example after Christchurch New Zealand passed a law making illegal
many of the rapid fire,
multi shot guns. Farmers
and others turned in their weapons. One
farmer said it well: it was a convenience,
but that convenience was
not worth allowing mass
shootings to be so
faithful people, as Children of God, most often our efforts net only
small starts at rectifying injustices. We breathe, we take steps, we
struggle forward. It’s never really enough, but we keep working one
small step forward at a time.
God is faithful, Therefore we remain faithful.
Breathe Gracefully, while We can
all breathe air, take up space, in order to produce fruit for God, to
do God’s will, to be Christ’s presence of humble compassion and
care, Christ’s hands of poignant purpose and clear justice, and
Christ’s voice of brilliant light and hope.
each and every one of us, mature because of the manure of life. There
is plenty manure for each and every one of us. There is more
injustice than is comprehensible, so much cruelty that is beyond
imagination, and a plethora of ignorance and apathy that is
unfathomably astounding. We all live through the tests of life and
grow strong, or we die trying.
you think you have no testing, no manure as nourishment for your
soul, then you are asleep at the wheel; you are wasting air.
is through the tests of life that we come to know God’s power to
overcome evil with goodness, vengeance with forgiveness, hate with
love, and chaos with grace leading to hope.
we drink coffee … well we know how that goes. The question is: how
do we choose to live while we still have breath?
offers us grace, so that we may gracefully offer life abundant to