Baptism of Our LOrd

Sermon notes? outline? sketch? yes that’s it, a sketch.

For the best read, take in the next blog post first, then this one.

Quick sermon outline for Baptism of Our Lord 13 Jan 2019

John is wild and calls for the chaff to be burned up.

Jesus will come to judge, and purify.

We need all that.

But Christ comes and graciously gives us life.

Where’s the hellfire and brimstone in that?!

Well…

Given free choice so that we can love

we can also choose ( and continually do) to hate, or to be deceptive and dishonest, disloyal, or even just plain BAD. Call that EVIL.

If we have choice, we will somehow, sometime still choose against love, against God, against living well.

God wants us to love, so we all get to put up with Evil, and suffer it too.

But

When

Jesus

comes

and

judges us!

Well then all that which brings us to sin and turn from God, to turn from loving our neighbour as ourselves and our enemies , and our God with all our heart mind and soul, then and only then Jesus will remove that from us …

But

it

is

not

going

to

be

feeling good.

That’s having the dross burned right out of ya.

And it is like having the chaff burned up in one big hot fire.

It will not be fun,

But it is what we most need, and we are going to get it!

To we are baptized, in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, always trinitarian, or it is not a complete baptism.

The water drowns out the sinfulness, and yet it remains as potential, inevitable potential, so that we can choose love.

The oil prepares us for God’s presence in us.

The sign of the Cross prepares us for sacrifice, even of our lives, so that others will know Grace upon Grace and God’s love, Christ’s forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s wild ride down the white water of life with wind, flame, breath, and beauty all everywhere.

Then for the rest of our lives we anticipate the life eternal, in the resurrection with Christ.

There

Freedom promised comes to be, after the dross is burned right out of us, so that we can enter Christ’s freedom in eternity.

This we look forward to.

But we do it, well … we do everything we do, as one of a crowd of witnesses, a crowd of saints, all in light,

specular light, diffused and reflected into beautiful images of God, as we are made.

It may be cold out there in that cruel world of dishonesty, deception and scapegoating,

but in here, where the natural fuels are burned,

the fuel of urgency until in God’s time there is patience,

the fuel of hurt (could become anger) until forgiveness flows freely like milk with ginger snap cookies,

the fuel of pride (that discounts others) until gratefulness abounds at each breath though one has nothing left,

These fuels are burned and burned well, until

in this mind, heart and soul

its as toasty comfortably warm as a great wood stove on a cold winter’s day.

Which it is that, too.

Stepping Out Not Alone

Sometimes it is easy to feel one is left alone, bracing oneself for what will come, expecting (as the past had provided) nothing good.

One leans as far as one can into the wind, treacherously close to losing one’s footing and disappearing into the abyss.

If we could only get a truer perspective, that we are hardly alone. Of course we’ve known that all along, but we’ve wanted to step out and do something more than just hide in the crowd.

That’s so boring.

It makes one a little green

in the middle

of a lot of other green.

and never quite enough green to be completely independent. **

One is like all the rest of the world, only able to thrive and live well if one realizes that one is interdependent; one of many living in concert or at war, but living with many others and connected in too many ways.

There is much to encounter out there. Best to take it on, along with your own kind.

At least one can be kind.

For reference: kind is the best thing to be as a spouse, if one cannot be God.*

Independence is a myth, as destructive for people to pursue as dependence.

Interdependence is life; good or bad, we are interdependent.

So be at least kind.

* of course no one can be God. The original sin was to think and act as if one could. It is now the common sin, and not so original any more.

Quick Sermon Outline fits with this: see next Blog [above].

[** a few Canadians have missed: to Unitedstatesians green is the colour of money, as well the colour of trees, life, growth … all that intended.]

Epiphany: True Light, Real Darkness

Today we could sing:

Rise, shine, … Christ the Lord has entered.

He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,

with grace unbounded.

Today on Epiphany we celebrate that Christ is made manifest. Isaiah calls to us, “Arise and shine for your light has come!” and later he adds “Rejoice!”

The magi rejoice at finding Jesus, for whom they have waited generations to find. The Gentiles of Ephesus are over joyed, for salvation is not just for Jews; it is for them (and everyone) as well. The listeners to Isaiah are called to be full of joy for the light of God has shone on them.

But does the Light of Christ made manifest bring us light, or just make our darkness more obvious? Because the darkness is still with us, more than 2000 years after Christ. Because, though we are a congregation of faithful Lutherans, our future is not a given. Because, while we could celebrate and be joyful, there are millions on earth whose lives are at risk, even as I preach this sermon. The reality is our choices have put many of those people at risk. More than just a few have died since I started the sermon, and many more will die before I finish.

Rejoice? Really?

Fruitcake is made of things that I do not like, but mixed together I think it’s a great holiday treat. It is so wonderful and rich, especially if you soak it in rum (which I cannot stand on its own either) that it’s too easy to get too much of it.

How can the people in today’s lessons be overjoyed for there are also things in their fruitcake, so to speak, that hardly allow for any celebration. The magi tip off crazy Herod, and though they and Jesus escape, warned to safety by dreams, Herod will slaughter hundreds of children trying to protect his power.

The Ephesians are welcomed at the table to become followers of Christ, but in their day Christians were hunted and killed by the empire and the religious authorities alike.

While Isaiah calls the people to recognize the light shining on them, there are no obvious reasons to be joyful. Returned from exile, life back home is tougher than they could imagine. They are set in conflicts against their own people with little resolution in sight. It takes centuries before Jesus is born, and it takes until May 14th 1948 before the Jews have a homeland. Even so, they have been at war ever since, with neighbours and enemies who wish them all dead.

Forget that the fruitcake has things in it we may not like. The call to rejoice is made in the midst of some very rotten eggs being thrown into the batter, and it is much worse than just a few rotten eggs.

Now I want to be joyful. I’m sure you do, too. With all our heart, soul, and mind we want to be joyful. But I am not going to eat rotten fruitcake and say it tastes good. I don’t want to be full of joy and have to ignore the real darkness all around.

I recently added a safety margin to my existence: wood heat. Fire is powerful. The refurbished freshly painted wood stove provides heat, and how!

With care I test fired the stove with a decidedly small load. I wanted to avoid explosive possibilities as the smoke is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible at over 2000 degrees.

Fully fired the furnace still occasionally cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot. Fully stoked with vents wide open the furnace could probably melt itself to the ground.

Days after the furnace was in use, in the relative comfort of a condo, I relaxed with a simple candle set on the coffee table. Only a good sense of smell alerted me that someone must have put out the candle.

But no, looking up I saw the newspaper, absently set aside, 1/4 engulfed in flame which in a minute could burn the table to the ground and likely the condo with it. So, grabbing the flaming newspaper in my bare hands I smothered the flames with the newspaper against itself, leaving ashes everywhere. The condo still stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.

Do we see the light, but prepare for the wrong dangers in the wrong places? Do we let evil and sin creep into our lives in relatively safe places and nearly burn us down to the core?

It would be a great relief if, after baptism and each epiphany, we could thereafter always choose the light. But that’s not how life works. We continue to sin. We continue to choose the darkness. Therefore we, with billions of others, continue to suffer and unnecessarily die.

We’ve heard the old stories of horrific abuses out of the past, but they are not gone. Do we choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and corruption? Today these public abuses of trust are perhaps worse than ever, since they are so secreted under spin and even blatant lies.

Remember the official and political denial of the destructive power of CO2 emissions. Now we have Climate Change run rampant. Environment Canada warns that the extremes of the past are now the new norms. We will not survive the new extremes without greater resilience than ever before. Perhaps my overly sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.

With light pollution all around we may not be able to see the wonders of the stars, the marvels of the wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, or even our own backyards. How can we celebrate the light of Christ, if we live in such darkness?

It’s dark, real dark, in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for First Nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater than for other youth, which is already too high.

In Pinehouse SK, like many places around God’s creation, they know well what it means to arise and shine for their light has come. Youth in desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts, are finding that photography is all about light: seeing light, catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s beauty. It often remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo. Photography done well communicates real wonders.

As the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.

We live wholly by Grace in God’s creation lit up by Christ’s light. God commissions us to carry this same undeserved Grace and light to all others. No matter that we do not live as perfect people the Spirit uses us to be Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and unconditional love, and Christ’s hands for others.

In photography light is everything, and it is the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty.

We are reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular and beautiful. We share Christ’s light. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us, just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as can a fully stoked, vents wide open, wood stove.

Amidst every bit of darkness that is real, the reality is that the Holy Spirit is our flame and light, our breath, our hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All people to enjoy: Life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of wonder. Therefore even in darkness we can rejoice with all our hearts, minds, and souls. So we sing:

Rise, shine, … Christ the Lord has entered.

He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,

with grace unbounded.

Amen

The Power of Light

Or at what temperature is the Light of Christ pure?

It’s dark in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for first nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater than other youth.

In Pinehouse, like many places around God’s creation, they know well what it means to arise and shine for their light has come. Youth in desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts, are finding that learning and practising photography brings light into the darkness. Photography is all about light: seeing light, catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s beauty. Photography done well communicates real wonders. It often remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo.

As the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.

Tim recently added a safety margin to his existence; wood heat. It is not without it’s risks. Fire is powerful. The wood stove, well a furnace really, refurbished, with the outside shield freshly painted after years of abuse can provide heat, and how! With care Tim fired it up more than once with a decidedly small test fire, to ensure the draft worked, the smoke went up, and the dampers actually worked. Tim wanted to avoid explosive possibilities. Smoke is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible. Less pollution, and more heat. Fully fired the furnace still occasionally cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot. With diligent care now Tim supplements an insufficient propane furnace (which lasted only a year before needing to be replaced) with an overly sufficient HOT wood stove. Left wide open and fully stoked the wood furnace could probably melt itself to the ground, along with it’s shelter and occupant.

In the relative comfort of my condo, visiting over New Year’s, Tim let his guard down. A simple candle sat on the coffee table. He set a simple portion of the newspaper absently to the side. Only a good sense of smell alerted him that someone must have put out the candle.

But no, looking up he saw the newspaper 1/4 engulfed in flame, which in a minute would have burned the table to the ground and possibly the condo with it.

Grabbing newspaper aflame in hand he smothered the flames with what was left of the newspaper, leaving ashes everywhere. But the condo still stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.

Explosive fire from HOT HOT wood and smoke burning at 1000° degrees, all done safely. A small candle in the comfortably heated condo, with all the supports of a city all around goes up in free flame. Why does God let a fire with the newspaper scare us so?

In the Gospel we hear of great things that God does: Wise men follow a star and bring gifts of wealth. Dreams warn them to return home safely and for Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. But we know the rest. All those children in and around Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod. Why? Perhaps those Wise men were not so wise, going to Herod’s home town for directions?

Finding our way can be challenging. Mostly we like to make our own ways, who we make friends with, who we care for, who we spend time with.

God always surprises us:

In Isaiah, the prophet preaches to a group of returned Exiles. They find themselves in conflict with their relatives who never left. Those who stayed behind remember that they, and they alone, are God’s chosen people. The returnees want everyone included in God’s favour.

In Matthew the wise men come to honour Jesus, the king foretold by the star. They are not Jews. They are members of a completely different religion.

In Ephesians the central mystery of faith that the writer shares is that Christ is for all the Gentiles.

We ask today isn’t the central mystery of faith the un-earnable, unconditional Forgiveness? What about God’s Grace being a gift so that we are saved not because of what we do, say or think or even believe? It is just pure gift!

Of course we are included just as Jews may be. That’s old news. … But in Paul’s time no one besides Jews were considered, until Paul. God chose him specifically to preach to the Gentiles. While the rest of the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, with Jews joining them, Paul travelled the Mediterranean, spreading the Gospel to everyone, especially Gentiles. It was dangerous to be a new Christian. They were targeted and killed. If Paul had not spread the Good News, the early church, contained only in Jerusalem, made of only converted Jews, may easily have died off in the first few years.

After generations of God’s people claiming only they were chosen, and they held themselves apart as identifiably chosen, what is God up to letting in the Gentiles, us Gentiles?

When it comes to our God and our lives, God continually surprises us, yet we still have a long wish list:

Even in today’s lessons we read how we want: Just rulers, and Light in the darkness, which means a resolution for the all ails of the human condition. We want Prosperity in Light and Glory and access to God and Power. We want to be: God’s servants with authority.

We want OUR family together. We want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us all, always, to make our paths smooth.

God’s way, as history should fully teach us, though is not at all about our power, nor our wishes, nor making our paths smooth. God’s way is about light, and we get stuck in the Darkness. Our darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, and Evil as the necessary result of our inevitable and unavoidable sin. Darkness is us damning others for the evil that we and others suffer.

The REAL danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in various ways. God’s power is so powerful it is like a fully stoked furnace, in the guise of a candle flame, but capable of burning down the whole universe.

Still we choose to remain in darkness. We choose to not know the destruction of fright at injustice. Fright freezes us, or causes us to flee, or to stand and fight; all are choices in the face of obvious malfeasance that will sink us like an overheated candle melts in the midst of a condo consumed by fire.

We choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and corruption. We’ve heard the stories of old, but they are very present today, perhaps worse than ever since they are so secreted under spin and even blatant lie.

A terribly costly lie was the official and political denial of the destructive power of CO emissions. Now we have Climate Change run rampant. Environment Canada, reporting on the top ten stories of the past year, warns that the extremes of the past are now the new norms. We will not survive the new extremes without greater resilience than ever before. Perhaps the overly sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.

In our darkness with light pollution all around we may not be able to see the wonders of the stars, the marvel of the wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, or even our own backyards.

In our darkness we may not acknowledge the futility of security sought in prosperity. Even though we live in boom and bust Alberta, we too often seek security in wealth. We hoard it or we live lavishly. But prosperity and wealth can evaporate like water on an overheated wood furnace. It takes only a turn of a market, a corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack, a new Storm, or a bad health event for ourselves or a loved one. After all we are all dying after the age of 26 or so; our bodies literally falling apart. It’s normal, for no one gets out of life alive.

The true Gospel, for also the Gentiles, given as a free gift, not earned by compliance to a set of rules or piety, is a true mystery. It brings the true light with true blessings to all who hear it.

We live not by prosperity but wholly by Grace. God commissions us to carry this same undeserved Grace to all others. We are only lowly servants. Our only power is Christ’s Power of self-sacrifice, truth, and of bringing life to others.

In whatever ways we are rulers, we can be just rulers. Even as middle or low class citizens or guests, or even as homeless squatters, the Spirit uses us to be for others Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and unconditional love, and Christ’s hands.

We share what we have freely received without cost: we share Hope based on God’s promises. We share God’s un-earned forgiveness. We share God’s over abundant grace.

As any good photographer will tell you, light is everything, and it is the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty. We are reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular and beautiful. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us, just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as a fully stoked, left wide open, wood furnace.

Flame is flame. The Holy Spirit is the source of our light, our breath, our hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All people to enjoy: Life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of wonder. Arise and shine for our light has come!

Amen

Also possible

NASA celebrating when pictures come back from the other side of Pluto. Beyond expectations.

China: landed on the dark side of the moon, seeing images not seen before.

The Power of Light

Sermon Draft for Epiphany 2019

This is Life in the Darkness

It’s dark in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for first nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater than other youth.

In Pinehouse, like many places around God’s creation, youth in desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts, are finding that learning and practising photography brings light into the darkness. Photography is all about light: seeing light, catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s beauty. Photography done well communicates real wonders. It often remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo.

As the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.

God’s ways unfathomable

Tim recently added a safety margin to his existence; wood heat. It is not without it’s risks. Fire is powerful. The wood stove, well furnace really, refurbished, with the outside shield freshly painted after years of abuse can provide heat, and how. With care Tim fired it up more than once with a decidedly small test fire, to ensure the draft worked, the smoke went up, and the dampers actually worked. There are explosive possibilities Tim wanted to ensure would not happen. Smoke is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible. Less pollution, and more heat. Fully fired the furnace still occasionally cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot. With diligent care Tim now supplements an insufficient propane furnace (which lasted only a year before needing to be replaced) with an overly sufficient HOT wood stove. Left wide open and fully stoked the wood furnace could probably melt itself to the ground, yet alone it’s shelter and it’s occupant.

In the relative comfort of my condo, visiting over New Year’s, Tim let his guard down. A simple candle sat on the coffee table. He set a simple portion of the newspaper absently to the side. Only a good sense of smell alerted him that someone must have put out the candle.

But no, looking up he saw the newspaper 1/4 engulfed in flame, which in a minute would have burned the table to the ground and possibly the condo with it.

Grabbing newspaper aflame in hand he smothered the flames with what was left of the newspaper, leaving ashes everywhere. But the condo still stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.

Explosive fire from HOT HOT wood and smoke burning at 1000° degrees, all done safely. A small candle in the comfortably heated condo, with all the supports of a city all around. Why does God let a fire with the newspaper scare us so?

In the Gospel we hear of great things all at God’s hand: Wise men follow a star and bring gifts of wealth. Dreams warn them to return home safely and for Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. But we know the rest. All those children in and around Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod. Why? Perhaps those Wise men were not so wise, going to Herod’s home town for directions?

God’s Way

We like to make our own ways, who we make friends with, who we care for, who we spend time with.

God surprises us:

In Isaiah, the prophet preaches to a group of returned Exiles. They find themselves in conflict with their relatives who never left. Those who stayed behind remember that they, and they alone, are God’s chosen people. The returnees want everyone included in God’s favour.

In Matthew the wise men come to honour Jesus, the king foretold by the star. They are not Jews. They are members of a completely different religion.

In Ephesians the central mystery of faith that the writer shares is that Christ is for all the Gentiles.

Mystery of Faith

We ask today, What about un-earnable unconditional Forgiveness. What about God’s Grace being a gift so that we are saved not because of what we do, say or think or even believe. It is just pure gift!

Of course we are included just as Jews may be. That’s old news. But in Paul’s time no one besides Jews were considered, until Paul. God chose him specifically to preach to the Gentiles. While the rest of the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, with Jews joining them, Paul travelled the Mediterranean, spreading the Gospel to everyone, especially Gentiles. It was dangerous to be a new Christian. They were targeted and killed. If Paul had not spread the Good News, the early church, contained only in Jerusalem, practised only by converted Jews, may easily have died off in the first few years.

After generations of God’s people claiming only they were chosen, and they held themselves apart as identifiably chosen, what is God up to letting in the Gentiles, us Gentiles?

When it comes to our God and our lives, we have a long wish list:

What we want

Even in today’s lessons we read how we want:

Just rulers.

Light in the darkness, a resolution of the all ails of the human condition

Prosperity in Light and Glory.

Access to God and Power: God’s servant with authority.

We want OUR family together, sons home, daughters cared for (sexism) so we really want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us all, always, to make our paths smooth.

God’s Light vs. Our Darkness

God’s way, as history should fully teach us is Not at all about our power, not our wishes, not making our paths smooth.

Darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, Evil as the necessary result, our participation in it as inevitable and unavoidable sinners. Darkness is us damning others for the evil that we and others suffer.

Real danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in various ways. God’s power is so powerful it is like a fully stoked furnace, in the guise of a candle flame, but capable of burning down the whole universe.

Still we choose to remain in darkness. We choose to not know the destruction of fright at injustice. Fright freezes us, or causes us to flee, or to stand and fight; all are choices in the face of obvious malfeasance that will sink us like an overheated candle melts in the midst of a condo consumed by fire.

We choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and corruption. We’ve heard the stories of old, but they are very present today, perhaps worse than ever since they are so secreted under spin and even blatant lie.

Like the denial of the destructive power of CO emissions. Now we have Global Warming run rampant. Environment Canada, reporting on the top ten stories of the past year warns that now the extremes of the past are the new norms. Without greater resilience than ever before needed, we will not survive the new extremes. Perhaps the overly sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.

In our darkness with light pollution all around we may not be able to see the wonders of the stars, the marvel of wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, even our own backyards.

In our darkness we may not acknowledge the futility of security sought in prosperity. Even though we live in boom and bust Alberta, we too often seek security in prosperity or wealth. We hoard wealth or we live lavishly. But prosperity and wealth can evaporate like water on an overheated wood furnace. It takes only a turn of a market, a corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack, a new Storm, a bad health event for ourselves or a loved one. After all we are all dying after the age of 26 or so, our bodies literally falling apart. It’s normal for no one gets out of life alive.

The true Gospel, True Mystery, True Light, True Blessings

The true Gospel, for the Gentiles, given as a free gift, not earned by compliance to a set of rules or piety, is a true mystery. It brings the true light with true blessings to all who hear it.

We live not by prosperity but wholly by Grace. God commissions us to carry this same undeserved Grace to all others. We are only lowly servants. Our only power is Christ’s Power of self-sacrifice, truth, and of bringing life to others.

As we are rulers we can be just rulers. Even as middle or low class citizens or guest, or even as homeless squatters, the Spirit uses us to be for others Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and unconditional love, and Christ’s hands.

We share what we have freely received without cost: we share Hope based on God’s promises. We share God’s forgiveness. We share God’s grace.

As any good photographer will tell you, light is everything, and it is the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty. We are reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular and beautiful. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us, just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as a fully stoked, left wide open, wood furnace.

Flame is flame. The Holy Spirit is the source of our light, our breath, our hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All people to enjoy: life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of wonder.

Amen

Also possible

NASA celebrating when pictures come back from the other side of Pluto. Beyond expectations.

China: landed on the dark side of the moon, seeing images not seen before.

Epiphany Sermon Themes and Outline

Themes:

Isaiah:

darkness

Light and Glory

Blessing as prosperity, Blessing with Prosperity, Blessing without Prosperity

Prosperity without blessing

Light, sought by many, short supply, great demand

produces prosperity

Blessing: bringing home the sons and daughters, not going afar to make a living, different in today’s world, or?

Thrill and rejoicing at abundance

End frankincense and gold: and praise of God

Psalm:

A just ruler, defends the poor, crushes the oppressor,

righteous flourish, abundance of peace

nations bow down before him

delivers the poor in distress, the oppressed with no helper

compassion for the lowly and the poor

preserves the lives of the needy

Ephesians

The copier, the cheat, plagiarism, the Gospel

A commission of Grace – voacation, calling, purpose to life, meaningful labour

Mystery of old, now made known: God comes to Gentiles (weird: mystery, Grace, forgiveness not earned or earnable, sacrifice not needed, not of animal, or thing, or OTHER PEOPLE. No scapegoating.

Mystery revealed by the Spirit, to holy apostles and prophets

This Gospel: Paul becomes a servant, does the copier, too?

A servant by grace, the working of God’s power, pretty small to be made servant, pretty awesome to be made God’s servant, power of the right hand? Power of the house of God? Power at all? Power of truth and self sacrifice, power of bringing life to others, life at the core.

The boundless riches of Christ! Wisdom of God in great variety made known to rulers and authorities.

We have access to God: in boldness and confidence, through faith in God!

Matthew

Wise men come, not so wise, the star stops guiding: they ask in corrupt Herod’s home town!

Set in motion

wealth for Mary to raise Jesus,

need to flee to Egypt

death of children 2 years and younger, in and around Bethlehem

After Herod: then the star kicks in again, find precisely Jesus (Bethlehem or Nazareth?)

overwhelmed with Joy, paid homage, provided gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh!

Warned in a dream. A little late. They are safe, but the children!

God’s ways, downright unfathomable at times. Dreams to save wise men, dream to save Jesus -flee to Egypt, why not dreams to save all the children!?!

Outline

God’s ways unfathomable

Wise men, star, gifts wealth, dreams, Egypt, but children!

Wise men not so wise

Mystery of Faith

Christ for all Gentiles, too

What about unearnable Grace, Forgiveness, God’s favour

part of for Gentiles and not just Jews, with practice and piety, Or Norwegians, or Lutherans of a certain ilk, my ilk of course are best.

What we want

Just rulers

Light against all darkness

resolution of the all ails of the human condition

Prosperity in Light and Glory

Power, access to God, servant’s with authority

OUR family together, sons home, daughters cared for (sexism, we really want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us always, to make our paths smooth.

God’s Light vs. Our Darkness

Not our power, not our wishes, not our paths smooth

Darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, Evil as the necessary result, our participation in it as inevitable and unavoidable, damning others for the evil that is, that we suffer, that others suffer.

Real danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in various ways

Example: not knowing the power of Light of Fire

Wood heat: hot to burn the dross and chaff, the new paint cured

Cold

Explosive possibilities

Simple candle and a newspaper

Example: not knowing the destruction of fright, at injustice

just being frightened at injustice

at being the malfeasance obvious

nothing doable, paralyzed, fighting, fleeing

Example: not knowing the stories of old corruption

Also present in our day, in every way, often worse than ever before,

Worse when they are hidden, secreted, covered by spin, even obvious lies

Example: not knowing the power of CO emissions

Global Warming run rampant

now the extremes of past are norm

new extremes are not survivable without complete new adaptations

need new resilience, preparation – harder to prepare and qualify to knowingly sleep through the night with calm, because prepared.

Example: not knowing the beauty of life

the light of stars without light pollution

the beauty of relative wilderness – worth preserving and caring for.

the beauty of your place, time.

Example: not knowing the futility of security sought in prosperity

boom bust

a turn of market, a corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack on market or other

a Storm

a health event, not emergency, falling apart of our lives, with loses: of self, or of loved ones, or of labour, or ?

normal: no one gets out of life alive.

The true Gospel, True Mystery, True Light, True Blessings

Not compromised by copying, plagiarism, the glory is God’s not the writer’s,

Grace, Commissions, Servants, Power of sacrifice, truth, bringing life to others

being the just ruler,

being Christ’s voice, heart of grace and unconditional love, being Christ’s hands

Hope based on God’s promises, God’s forgiveness, God’s grace, NOT us or prosperity.

Epiphany Sermon Notes

Year C – 06 January 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6

A prophet does not need to tell the people that great things will happen, if and when things are going well for the people. It is when the people are in the deep of it; then the prophet tells them of the great future God has in store for them.

Isaiah tells the people that they will be a shining light in the darkness that will cover the earth, and nations will stream to them to trade with them and to find light in the darkness.

First the images are wonderful, delightful, full of promise and fulfilled hopes:

While the rest of the world will be covered with a deep darkness, the people of Isaiah speaks to have a different future. The light of God will rise to shine on them! The Glory of God will appear over them.

Like the sunrise after a deep dark winter above the arctic circle, God’s light will rise. Now in the days of relative darkness, a day of sun expected this morning, the first in weeks, there is a feel for this relief of light in the darkness. Still this is hardly the darkness, the thick darkness that Isaiah speaks of, that the people easily believe will happen, or even has happened.

Today, the young people I know, expect a deep darkness. They expect things to be worse than they were for their parents and grandparents … much worse.

Into that kind of darkness Isaiah tells the people, God’s light will shine, God’s Glory will cover them.

Now light is wonderful, even after a relatively short absence of the sun. But the Glory of God, that’s out of this world marvellously, miraculously spectacular!

This is the Glory that the people knew would likely leave them dead if they encountered it in person. This is the Glory that left Moses white as a ghost on the mountain, having seen God in person and having received the ten commandments for the people. This is the Glory with which Jesus shone white at his transfiguration as Peter planned to encapsulate it in a memorium, which is simply impossible.

The people Isaiah speaks to will have the greatest blessings, while those around are starved of any light, glory, or blessing.

The people, the nations, will flock to Israel to be in the presence of their light. And through trade with the nations Israel will prosper. The people’s hearts will rejoice and thrill at their prosperity.

Their children, their sons and daughters, will return home. Together they will be a nation revered and honoured with gifts of frankincense and gold.

And they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord.

From the perspective of the people hearing Isaiah, the hope brought them is as wide, deep, profound, and inspiring as it gets.

Hang on to that.

We know that the rhythm of God’s people will bring them to enjoy the blessings of God, and to eventually forget who gave them such blessings, to ascribe their own right to such prosperity and blessings. They will create out of God’s light and glory their own darkness again.

The greatest delight will never be in prosperity. But from the perspective of abject poverty, foreign and oppressive rule, and being scattered as a people, and as families, a bit of prosperity would be a welcomed and appreciated blessing, one that we would all be grateful for. For a while anyway.

So these are the images, and the place they take in others’ lives. Where do they fit in our lives? Are we poor? Are we grateful? Are we blessed already and ungrateful, assuming we have ‘earned’ our blessings?!

Light: last night arriving home, the stars shone in the darkness. No moon. No clouds. Just pinpoints of light, in dazzling beauty. Does one need great light?

Well to setup the camper and shelter for wood heat, light is needed. To work on a computer, light and power is needed. To hope that this winter will be survived, and well, a little light and a lot of hope is needed.

Environment Canada gives its summary of the weather in 2018 and concludes that because of climate change brought on by us (no more false ‘Bush’ science to hide the truth) the extremes of weather that we were used to have all been met or exceeded in 2018, and even these extremes will be the norm in the future, starting already today!

https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/top-ten-weather-stories/2018.html : “Events that were once rare or unusual for our grandparents are now more commonplace, while we all become more vulnerable due to extreme weather. As the Top Ten Weather Stories of 2018 bear out, Canadians must become more resilient—not only for what lies ahead but also for the variations in climate, which are already here.” Catch the whole report while it is still available: it is an eye opener, a frightful look to what the weather has had, and will have in store for us in Canada.

Environment Canada gives its summary of the weather in 2018 and concludes that because of climate change brought on by us (no more false ‘Bush’ science to hide the truth) the extremes of weather that we were used to have all been met or exceeded in 2018, and even these extremes will be the norm in the future, starting already today!

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Any time we can get a ruler, a government collectively, a justice system included, who/which will provide justice and righteousness, for those caught in poverty, for those oppressed, for those desperately needing the basics of life … Anytime God provides us even part of that from our government, it is time to rejoice. So we wait. We rejoice for the little justice, righteousness and goodness that is possible in this time when (like most times in history) those who are protected are not the poor, the needy, the oppressed, but rather the rich, those wasteful with luxuries, and those who oppress others in order to maintain their positions of wealth and power.

In our day as well, the oppressors are able to claim they are the victims, and to motivate hoards of others to continue to make victims of the supposed ‘oppressors’. It’s always been done this way. It’s just a surprise when one discovers that it is so in our day, with the people and institutions one trusted.

The psalmist provides hope for the day when a great ruler will arise, and we are reminded, to be grateful for what we do have, such as it is. And we are warned, that if we are the oppressors, God’s not pleased with us, and our time will come to an end, if not soon enough, to save our victims.

Ephesians 3:1-12

It is a flavour different than Paul himself, yet an interesting, if somewhat disturbing, difference.

Paul is imprisoned, or perhaps was and is no longer to be seen or found. Someone, a follower, writes in Paul’s name. Today it is unacceptable. In Paul’s day it was both acceptable, common enough, and an honour to have someone write in your name … as long as the person did not get it all wrong.

This writer didn’t get it all right, but right enough.

Paul is a prisoner … not because he is a common criminal, but as a result of preaching the Gospel of Jesus the Christ … not to the Jews, but to the Gentiles. Which was common enough, even if one did not preach about Jesus. Just believing and someone reporting you could get you arrested and killed. It is a wonder that anyone survived; that the church survived, for the effort to eradicate the earth of the Way of Jesus was thorough.

The writer is not focused on Paul’s situation, as if it is old news or long ago history even: Paul is gone like ALL the earlier disciples.

Still Paul’s impact on the early church is not and this writer furthers Paul’s legacy; that the Gentiles can believe and be accepted as fellow followers of Jesus.

The writer describes Paul’s sharing the good news with the Gentiles, including the intended readers of this letter, as a ‘commission of God’s grace’.

A mystery is revealed to Paul in a revelation (on the road to Damascus); the mystery is not about Jesus. It is that the Gentiles can be followers of Christ along with the Jews. Our retrospective perspective informs us that of course the Jews are not even part of the church; they have a separate and exclusive faith, not a Christian faith. Yet without Paul, and others, reaching out to the Gentiles, only Jews would have been acceptable as Christians. We would all be merely a small group of a different kind of Jews. Instead, we are distinct and dependent upon Jewish faith even.

This is grace the writer says, grace to be a servant, grace to be in prison, grace to be a saint, the least of them, but a saint, and a bearer of the Gospel.

This is made known now clearly, what before was hidden.

A mystery of faith moves out of the shadows of the unknowns, into the light as a known piece of faith; namely that God is for all people Jews first and then all Gentiles who believe.

The end of this faith is that together they have access to God; not because they have earned it, but because it is given to them, by faith, a gift of grace.

Matthew 2:1-12


Three wise men come seeking Jesus. In the normal manner (is there any normal about this?) they inquire of the king’s whereabouts in the capital, Jerusalem, where the ruler, King Herod, hears of their inquiries.

Are the men really wise? A king is born, given to them to know by a star. Do they think that this is just going to be a son of the king who rules, and not a usurper? So they just ask in the home town of the siting king for the newly born king. And what they start!

King Herod is frightened. And when a despot king is frightened all the people are frightened with him, not for the same reason, but because of what the king will do because he is frightened. We know now that people who are frightened make poor decisions. We know that one of the qualities of people who handle risk on our behalf, like pilots, surgeons, priests and emergency response people is that they do not panic under pressure, but respond with extraordinary calm and clear thought. The fright they experience in an emergency is contained and not let loose to run havoc in their minds. Instead they evaluate risk, find solutions, and act quickly, decisively and per-emptively to bring the emergency to a good end and to minimize ongoing risks.

Good rulers do the same.

Herod is not a good ruler. And the people know it.

They too are frightened by the crazy, impulsive, power hungry Herod. There are plenty of crazy, impulsive, power hungry people, in the churches, in governments, in the courts, in the streets, in vehicles going down the road. They are everywhere, and one has reason to be rightfully frightened of the chaos they unleash on others.

The wisemen do get Herod to do their work for them. He calls together the experts to find out where the king is to be born. They bring back the right answer: Bethlehem. So off go the wisemen, to find Jesus, no longer in the dark.

Now the help given by Herod helps them not a bit. The start continues to lead them. So why the stop? Proper etiquette? The star leads them right to where Jesus is. Note that it is no longer ‘in a stable’ in a manger. It’s quite some time after Mary and Joseph have returned to Nazareth with Jesus. But no mention of that, so maybe Mary does not so soon make the return trip, for health or reputation or safety reasons.

The wisemen provide Jesus the gifts they have brought. Mary and Joseph are suddenly quite well off. Today it takes about .5 million to raise a child. Mary and Joseph get a headstart on what it took then, plus a bit.

The wisemen are warned off in a dream about returning to Herod, to let him know how to find the baby king and to allow him to ‘pay homage.’ They finally understand that they have brought a crazy king news that is likely going to bring the death of the child, who the star has led them to find.

We know how the story develops. Mary flees to Egypt with Jesus. Thank heavens for the frankincense and gold to pay their way.

But the other children of Israel ….

The people had good reason to be frightened of Herod being frightend.

Image all children in Canada, three and under, being killed to keep a despot government in power! We’d not allow it. We allow plenty already to keep ‘our’ government in power, but that is not usually on the table. Instead, in government, in churches, in courts, in vehicles on our roads, we sacrifice truth … and little by little we teach our children and all people, here you have good reason to be frightened that the truth will be sacrificed, and eventually your children will learn that truth is not safe, instead one must learn to lie and lie well to be able to survive.

Those who tell the truth are relegated to the trash heaps of life. So if you want a bit of security, a bit of warmth in the winter and protection from the rain and bugs in the summer, then you must learn to lie and lie well.

There is good reason to be frightened.

Because Jesus is born, survives the pogram, teaches, is sacrificed, crucified, dies, is buried, and is resurrected, we know that God is with us. We do not need to lie.

We can hope for a day when truth will prevail.

As I write this the wood stove, really a wood furnace, freshly stoked for the day with wood, and left with plenty of air, reaches it’s peak heat. The warmth spreads throughout the living space, and against the cold, the warmth prevails.

So likewise does God’s truth, God’s grace, God’s commission win out over all temptations to lie, to force our wills on others, to busy ourselves with penultimate life-work. God’s goodness prevails in our lives, by grace, by faith. We need only surrender and get out of the way, and sometimes become the hands, feet, voice and heart of Christ.

So likewise do the fires of judgment burn hot, consuming the dross of our being, the evil that we allow to play havoc with our lives and with our neighbours’ lives … and the children’s futures.

But that image of heat and hell and dross burning off is not in the text. It’s just in the smell of newly burned-in paint, from the freshly painted furnace, wafting my way on the waves of warmth, that repel the cold and preserve my life.

Advent 4 – Sermon: Cold Song Revolution Salvation

In today’s Gospel Mary sings joyfully of what God has done, as many have since. Singing about God’s acts for us can have real consequences.

In East Germany in 1989 for several months preceding the fall of the Berlin wall, the citizens of Leipzig gathered to sing on Monday evenings by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas. Histories of the “velvet revolution” often overlook that over two months their numbers grew from just over a thousand people to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city. They sang songs of hope and protest and justice, until their songs changed the world. Later, when someone asked one of the former officers of the Stasi, the GDR secret police, why they did not crush this protest like they had so many others, the officer replied “We had no contingency plan for song.” (David Lose “In the meantime…” 2015 reworked TL)

Tim visited in the GDR in the early 80’s and heard for himself the unknowable truth that was nonetheless well-known among church leaders: namely that Eric Honecker, leader of the GDR, and Bishop Schönberger head of the Lutheran Church, knew and respected each other. They had both been in concentration camps under the Nazis. The two leaders had an arrangement, that the church could be the pressure relief valve for the state, and …

Well … among church leaders the lack of contingency for singing was well-known, and known as an intentional ‘lack of preparation’ by Honecker. Together and so as not to be documented or suspected by the Russians, the two leaders planned for the fall of East Germany back into a reunified Germany, through singing in the church.

Our song is from today’s Psalm: Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

This refrain becomes most poignant in juxtaposition to the troubles of the people. Still on its own it bears noting that to have God’s face shine upon us is quite the experience.

Most everyone can remember a time when we felt the warm sunshine streaming down and warming our faces. Imagine how good that feels on a cold winter day, when the sun only peaks up above the horizon for a few hours each day. Imagine that storms and snow and slush have filled the skies, and streets for weeks. Then the sun shines free, welcomed and warm. For those few moments All is well.

Now take that memory and transposed it into the key of C for Jesus the Christ, the key of G for God, the key of S for the Holy Spirit …. While God’s face is hidden from us, we languish. As if caught in a spirit storm we find no joy, no purpose, no goodness in life. All is lost. Stretch this to make it the only vivid memory in our minds, and the hope that sustains us disappears. God has deserted us, or so we experience life.

Then enter into our lives God’s face, shining down on us as warm sunshine … and all is transformed … joy, purpose and goodness overflow each moment. God is present: All is well. All is well. All manner of things are well. [Julian of Norwich.]

Basking in God’s face shining in on us is beyond compare.

In the OT lesson for today Micah has, in typical prophet mode, let the people know they have sinned and are suffering because they are separated from God. Then he offers a vision, a restoration to the times of old. Like David a leader will rise. Micah gives the people the promise of a political solution for the challenges of his day.

We have used his words for much more; we’ve seen Jesus promised in them, and Jesus is so far beyond a political solution. Jesus is God’s complete and final solution to the timeless challenge of scapegoating and sin.

While the reasoning in the letter to the Hebrews may be dense, as obscure as the religious law it reflects, our second lesson for today makes clear that Jesus is the one-time sacrifice for all time foretold by the prophets. He replaces blood sacrifice and the indecipherable religious laws, traditions and ideas.

Even now, we can’t keep all God’s laws; no one is good enough to earn God’s favour. We need God’s saving action now and again and again, so we sing: Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

In the Gospel for today Mary sings a version of Hannah’s song. As all songs of faith, well composed and well sung, Mary sings a revolutionary song.

It is not just revolutionary in that God inspires us to revolve, to repent, to turn about and follow Jesus, instead of walking our own way and demanding that God follow us. Mary’s song is revolutionary in that it threatens corrupt power with God’s good order.

More than a few corrupt rulers have banned it.“The Magnificat was banned by the bishop from being sung or read in India under British rule. In the 1980’s, it was banned in Guatemala. In Argentina the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo – whose children all disappeared during the Dirty War (1976-1983) – placed the Magnificat’s words on posters throughout the capital plaza, and the military junta then outlawed any public display of Mary’s song.” – – The Subversive Magnificat: What Mary Expected The Messiah To Be Like https://kairoscenter.org/sermons-bible-studies-liturgies/politics-christmas-roman-empire/marys-magnificat-luke-146-55/ modified TL 2018

Why all the resistance, Mary’s song starts with Joy? What better way to start singing of God’s face shining upon us.

Mary realizes that God has taken a turn away from the powerful to the powerless. God looks to her, a lowly servant, caught pregnant out of wedlock. Yet Mary expects to be called great, not for what she has done, but for what God has done to and is doing through her.

This God is not the God of judgment that so many people fear without love. This is the God of mercy from generation to generation. God has great strength, and chooses to show it … Not to build up or sustain those with power and wealth, and pride. God scatters corrupt rulers as if they were despised weeds.

God then lifts up the lowly. God feeds the hungry, with good, nourishing food that makes for health. But the Rich God sends away empty handed. This revolution changes all power and privilege so that those caught in the bottom of injustice can sing, for to them God promises good food, good life, fair treatment, and great hope.

Using the Magnificat can change life, can bring us down if we are powerful, proud, and wealthy; but it brings up those of us who are humble out of necessity and position, wise but poor, who must count on God’s grace to survive each day. For our good honest labour has not netted us luxury and privilege.

We must work hard to survive the challenges of life whatever they may be: storms of climate change. bitter COLD.


Cold Bitter cold survival One step at a time

Flood, famine, war, addictions, earthquakes, disappearing fish, species, glaciers, clean water, honest people, friends … disappearing children. Or cancer and other life taking diseases.

A teacher landed her first job teaching children in a large hospital. One of her first pupils was a preteen Tommy. His teacher said he needed to work on his grammar – especially adverbs and adjectives. So she planned a lesson.

The teacher found Tommy … in the burn unit. The sight of the small boy, terribly burned and in tremendous pain – shook her. Not knowing what else to do, the young teacher worked through her per-prepared grammar lesson. The boy’s lips slowly answered her questions and responded to her comments. In great pain they completed the lesson.

The teacher then fled the burn unit, certain that her grammar lesson had been a callous and useless exercise. She avoided that area of the hospital. Then one morning she ran into one of Tommy’s nurses.

“What did you do to him?” the nurse demanded. The teacher was shocked and in dread. The nurse continued. “We had just about given up on him because he had given up on himself. After your visit he changed. He started fighting back, and now his prognosis is really very good. Come see him.”

In disbelief the teacher returned to Tommy’s bedside. Still in pain, he was sitting up smiling a smile that reached his eyes. Tommy explained to the teacher, “I thought I was going to die for sure. Then you came. When you left I knew I couldn’t be dying. Who would bother to teach a dying boy the difference between adjectives and adverbs?” (source unknown)

Our challenges may be worse than Adjectives and Adverbs. They may be loved ones who abuse and take everything we have and more. Or enemies that want vengeance for things we never did. Coworkers who are mean, or haughty and proud. Or institutions that are corrupt and decaying, destroying people caught in their downward spiral.

Or our challenges may be just plain Evil, in so many different guises, tempting us to try futilely to make our own lives good enough for God.

From all that we need to be saved, for we cannot save ourselves. So we cry out in song: Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved! Amen

Advent 4 – Rough Draft Sermon

Note that the headings are not part of the text to preach. Just for organization and brought forward from Outline.

Still missing one story, of the Magnificat being prohibited. It’s here somewhere. But then this obviously needs LESS by half not MORE.

This is not my childhood in Tanganyika when services were all day and sermons multiple hours long.

Mary sings

The Gospel Lesson is Mary’s Song. She sings it loud as many have since. It is a song sung even by captives and always by people of joy and hope. But be careful, singing this song and others can have unforeseen consequences.

Velvet Revolution story

The protesters in Leipzig in 1989 knew (the power of singing) well. While that element sometimes gets overlooked in the histories of the “velvet revolution,” it’s striking to note that for several months preceding the fall of the Berlin wall, the citizens of Leipzig gathered on Monday evenings by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas – to sing, and over two months their numbers grew from a little more than a thousand people to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world. Later, when someone asked one of the former officers of the Stasi, the East German secret police, why they did not crush this protest like they had so many others, the officer replied “We had no contingency plan for song.” (David Lose “In the meantime…” 2015)

But in the DDR in the 80’s (Tim visited and heard this for himself) it was a well-known, unknowable, among church leaders and government people:

Eric Honecker, leader of the DDR, and Bishop Schönberger, knew each other, and respected each other. They had both been in concentration camps under the Nazis.

Honecker and Schönberger had an arrangement, that the church could be the pressure relief valve for the state, and …

Well, the lack of contingency for singing was known well among church leaders, and known as an intentional ‘lack of preparation’ by Honecker. Together and so as not to be documented, the two leaders planned for the fall of East Germany back into a reunified Germany.

Today our song is from the Psalm

Refrain

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

Shining face: the image from winter sun

The refrain becomes most poignant in juxtaposition to the troubles of the people. Still on its own it bears noting that to have God’s face shine upon us is quite the experience.

Most everyone can remember a time when they felt the warm sunshine streaming down and warming one’s face. Imagine how good that feels on a cold winter day, when the sun only peaks up above the horizon for a few hours each day. Imagine that storms and snow and slush have filled the skies, days, and roads (streets for city dwellers) and for a time, the sun shines free, welcomed and warm … and for those few moments everything is alright. All is well in the world.

Now take that memory and transposed it into the key of G for God, the key of C for Jesus Christ, the key of S for the Holy Spirit …. While God’s face is hidden from us, we languish and no matter the circumstances of our lives, we find no joy, no purpose, no meaning for a life, for a year, for a day, for a moment. All is lost. Stretch this to time enough to make it the only memory that lives vivid in one’s mind, and the hope that sustains one disappears. God has deserted us, or so we experience life at that time.

Then enter on to the scene of our lives played out on a stage for all to see: God’s face, shining down on us … and all is transformed … there is no lack of joy, purpose and meaning for our lives. God is present: All is well. All is well. All manner of things are well. [Thank you Julian of Norwich.]

It is so good to bask in God’s shining in on us, knowing we will be saved.

Which just about sets the stage for a good nap. So I did at this point in writing the sermon, and in listening you may want to as well.

A nap

Begin able to nap is a sign of God’s presence

Amidst the challenges, to be able to rest in peace, or rather rest peacefully, when one’s enemies would prefer one rested in peace.

And after the nap, restored almost as good as new, we move on to face the challenges of our days.

Micah

In the OT lesson for today Micah has in typical prophet mode let the people know they have sinned and are suffering because of it.

Then he offers a vision, a restoration of to the times of old. Like David a leader will rise.

He gives the people the promise of a political solution for the challenges of his day.

We have used his words for much more, we’ve seen Jesus promised in them, and Jesus is so far beyond a political solution.

Jesus is God’s complete and final solution to the timeless challenge of scapegoating and sin.

Hebrews:

Beyond comprehension

If you think Hebrews is beyond comprehension, good for you. It is written just as obscurely as the complicated laws of Jesus’ day: and no one understood it then either. Still we use it and I turn to it in the sermon because it makes clear that Jesus is the one time sacrifice,

who replaces blood sacrifice and the indecipherable religious laws, traditions and ideas.

Jesus is One sacrifice, one solution for salvation for all people, for all time.

Old Injustice … still

In those days then, with the complicated laws, Justice was who knows you, not what you do, since no one can keep the law. Not much has changed with today’s civil law – for some people who are wrongly found guilty, despite what the evidence is that should exonerated them. And our jails are filled with native men, and innocent men falsely charged by their intimate partner.

What’s gone wrong with us? We use to do allow a man to use the justice system to put an innocent woman in jail, or to keep her drugged for decades in a mental institution. Now it’s men. What’s wrong with us?!

All have and do and will sin

Still now, no one can keep God’s laws; no one is good enough to earn God’s favour.

We need God’s saving action now and now again and again, so we sing:

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

Mary’s Song

Mary Sings a song. As all songs of faith well composed and well sung Mary sings a REVOLUTIONARY song.

It is not just revolutionary in that God inspires us to revolve, to repent, to turn about and follow Jesus, instead of walking our own way and demanding that God follow us.

This is revolutionary, as in More than a few oppressive rulers have prohibited the use of this song.

[Story of song banned.]

JOY

The start to Mary’s song is fitting. Mary starts with Joy. What better way to start singing of God’s presence in our lives.

THE LOWLY … GOOD NEWS

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

God looks to her, a lowly servant, caught pregnant before being married.

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

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

God has great strength, and chooses to show it … 

THE MIGHTY, THE OTHER KIND OF GOOD NEWS

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

God scatters them with their plain foolish pride their meager accomplishments as if they were seeds of weeds that are despised by all who see them grow.

The rulers are replaced.

Which is why many unjust rulers prohibit, under severe punishment, the singing or use of this song.

But to whom does God go?

God then lifts up the lowly.

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

The Rich God sends away empty handed.

This revolution changes all power and privilege.

So that those caught in the bottom of injustice can sing, for to them God promises good food, good life, fair treatment, and great hope.

Be careful

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

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

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

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

Whatever they are:

[fill in your choice, these were mine]

Cold

Bitter cold

Injustices

Enemies that want vengeance for things we never did.

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

Coworkers who are corrupt, or abusive, or mean, or haughty and proud, or self-righteous and judgmental, or self-declared entitled. OR the challenges of

Flood

Famine

War

Addictions

Storms

Earthquakes

Global Warming

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

Cancer and other life taking diseases

Adjectives and Adverbs

“A young teacher landed her first job teaching children in a large city hospital. She taught those young patients who missed a lot of school. She developed a routine. When she received a student’s name, she first phoned the child’s regular school teacher to find out if there were any particular areas the child needed to work on.”

“One ordinary day her list included a 12-year-old boy named Tommy. When she spoke to his teacher, she discovered that Tommy needed to work on his grammar – particularly adverbs and adjectives. So she planned a lesson and took it up with her to the boy’s room.”

“The teacher, being fairly new to the hospital, only first realized when she arrived on the floor that Tommy’s room was in the burn unit. The sight of the small boy – terribly burned and in tremendous pain – shocked her to her core. But not really knowing what else to do, the young teacher began to work through her pre-prepared grammar lesson. The boy’s lips slowly answered her questions and responded to her comments. In great pain, together they completed the assignment.”

“After the lesson, the teacher fled from the burn unit, certain that her grammar lesson had been a callous and useless exercise. She was ashamed that she had not met Tommy’s obvious needs, somehow better.”

“For the next few days the teacher avoided that area of the hospital, not wanting to see Tommy or any of the staff who worked with him. Then one morning she found herself in the elevator with the nurse who had shown her the way to Tommy’s room.”

“‘What did you do to him?’ the nurse demanded. Lost for words, the teacher just looked at the nurse, wishing she were any place else. ‘What did you say?’ the nurse continued. ‘After you left, Tommy was a changed boy. We had just about given up on him because he had given up on himself. But his attitude was totally different after your visit. He started fighting back, and now his prognosis is really very good. Come see him.’”

“In disbelief, the teacher allowed herself to be led back to Tommy’s bedside. Sure enough, he was sitting up now. He was still in pain, but he was smiling, and that smile reached his eyes. Tommy explained to the teacher, ‘I thought I was going to die for sure. Then you came. When you left I knew I couldn’t be dying. Who would bother to teach a dying boy the difference between adjectives and adverbs?’” (source unknown)

Bad Genes and simply dirty jeans

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

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

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

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

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

Save us we cry, Save us we sing.

From all that we need to be saved from, for we cannot save ourselves!

So we sing with a cry:

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

Amen

Advent 4 – Lessons All Updated

New Notes

Micah 5.2-5a

Bethlehem, home of David, shall produce another ruler of Israel, who comes from old stock, like in ancient days.

From Micah’s prophecy we can read the things that he and the people he spoke to, were looking for in a Saviour.

To understand this better, remember that Israel is far from its ‘glory days’ when David ruled. Of course the ‘good ole’ days usually get much better after time passes, and one can conveniently forget the not so good parts of the old days. The downfall of Israel though is more than just inner decay, and wishful remembrances. The people have been conquered by their enemies, they serve a foreign ruler, and they cannot openly and freely worship their God, the God of Abraham, who with Moses leading, brought them out of slavery in Egypt.

The prophets have made it abundantly clear that the reason the people have fallen so hard and deep is that they have not been true to their God. They have forgotten the deliverance God provided, the food in the wilderness, the reasons to worship God, the reasons not to take advantage of each other or their neighbours, or even their enemies.

Instead they have been sinful.

Well we know that every person in every generation is a sinful being, and cannot free themselves. We also believe that God does not put us into harm’s way, as punishment for our sins. We do not carry forward the faith so often reflected in the Old Testament, that if we are good, God favours us, and if we are bad, God punishes us.

We believe that people are not punished for their sins, so much as people suffer their (and other people’s) sins.

God holds us in favour, no matter what. But God does want us to behave well in response, to reflect for all around us the saving Grace that God extends to us.

We are not in exile, least not 75% of the world’s population. Nor are we ruled by a foreign ruler, least not 5% the world’s population. Nor are we ruled by an evil and sinful ruler, least not 0% of the world’s population.

(These statistics are not scientifically established, they are just wild guesses, but statements of truth none the less.)

Micah speaks to a people who are in exile, who need hope of redemption and deliverance from the horrors of their time. The best promise the prophet has to hand on to is the promise of political deliverance.

God will bring a ruler who will rule like David did.

Until that ruler is born, though, the God will give the people up to their enemies.

But when his mother gives him birth, then, from this small clan among the people of Abraham, his kindred will return to their homeland. And this ruler will feed his flock.

This is the image of David, the Shepherd, leading his people as a nation, as he did when he was younger and worked as a shepherd for his father.

The benefit for this small clan, and for all the people of God, will be that they will live securely; they shall live in peace, brought by this ruler.

This was the hope of the people, as presented by Micah as the promise to them, which God provided to them, which they had desperate need of. They needed the hope. They needed the political saviour, or so they thought.

They waited, hoped, and fought a revolution or two, hoping to realize this promise given by God, a promise that fueled them and renewed them and gave them reason to go on, even in the worst of times.

Hundreds of years later, they still waited … for

A political saviour.

The writers of the Gospels, the scholars of the early Church, for centuries, understood that this and similar Old Testament passages were in fact prophecies about Jesus. For Jesus was a descendent of David, born in Bethlehem, of a small clam, and though the hoped for political freedom did not arrive, they understood that Jesus brought a freedom, greater than any political freedom; a freedom greater than any one time. Jesus brought freedom from chaos and evil, and from sin and the consequence of being separated from God because we are not good enough for God.

(Jesus redeemed us, but God had been doing this all along. Jesus made it clearly so, obvious … yet it remains a matter of faith, not proof. How else is God to communicate this message: that God loves us, other than to demonstrate it as a human being living among us on earth? So God loves us.

The challenge of life is NOT to see if we can be good enough to earn God’s love and Grace. The challenge of life is, realizing, believing, trusting that God already loves and redeems us, … the real challenge is to life this, to live out of this love, to live this love out. How are we doing at that?)

Knowing that God, as demonstrated by God as Jesus born, living, dying, resurrected among us … knowing and trusting that God has redeemed us, is for us, loves us: This is true freedom. This is true peace. A freedom and peace for all people of all time.

Micah almost for sure had no idea that so many millennia later we would place such a hope as foretold in his words; but he would probably not mind either.

Even given this hope, promise and real peace provided by Christ, after weeks of stress and late nights, horrors of what is, and enemies that want me dead and gone, I still need sleep. So a nap.

A peaceful nap in the wilderness, in warmth, with freedom to ski, take photos, write, and work to make life better … all in all to live well, despite my enemies’ evil wishes.

But one human body is only able to do so much for so long, and then it also needs rest, peace, recovery … and hope that God will end also these trials and tribulations brought on by my enemies; lies and their ancient need to scapegoat instead of taking responsibility for their own sin. It ruins lives, corrupts the youth and children and burns a wide swath of destruction through the community, church and far beyond.

So while some will look for political freedom, a benevolent ruler, which would be wonderful, I am thankful already for a bit of sunlight, a bit of warmth, and a bit of peace … all which make for a small opportunity to take a short nap.

I’ll leave that for you to calculate how exactly that fits in the notes for Micah.

Psalm 80.1-7

The people are in trouble, grave trouble, as people are of every age. It’s a matter of whether they know it or not.

So they cry:

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

It is a refrain, and a refrain for all time, whether we know we should be singing it at all, whether we know we should be singing at all.

The refrain becomes most poignant in juxtaposition to the troubles of the people. Still on its own it bears noting that to have God’s face shine upon us is quite the experience.

Most everyone can remember a time when they felt the warm sunshine streaming down and warming one’s face. Imagine how good that feels on a cold winter day, when the sun only peaks up above the horizon for a few hours each day. Imagine that storms and snow and slush have filled the skies, days, and roads (streets for city dwellers) and for a time, the sun shines free, welcomed and warm … and for those few moments everything is alright. All is well in the world.

Now take that memory and transposed it into the key of G for God, the key of C for Jesus Christ, the key of S for the Holy Spirit …. While God’s face is hidden from us, we languish and no matter the circumstances of our lives, we find no joy, no purpose, no meaning for a life, for a year, for a day, for a moment. All is lost. Stretch this to time enough to make it the only memory that lives vivid in one’s mind, and the hope that sustains one disappears. God has deserted us, or so we experience life at that time.

Then enter on to the scene of our lives played out on a stage for all to see: God’s face, shining down on us … and all is transformed … there is no lack of joy, purpose and meaning for our lives. God is present: All is well. All is well. All manner of things are well. [Thank you Julian of Norwich.]

This reminds me constantly of the Irish blessing: … XXXXX

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall gently upon your field,
And may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

And the prayer: may we be just warm enough to enjoy the snow, with just enough to eat not to treat each other as hungry animals. XXXX

This refrain for the Psalm is quite the refrain, for the 4th Sunday of Advent. It ought to be sung well. Clearly as the refrain, not only in the Psalm recitation/singing, but throughout the service:

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

For this is the refrain of Advent: our hope is in God, in the person of Jesus once born on earth as one of us, and yet to return to earth. This is the hope of all hope, the basis of all our hope. We bask it this hope … especially when the world challenges us with every form of disaster and destruction.

The destruction is, like a good Psalm, not detailed, not so specific, that it fits only one time. It is a song of the congregation for generations. But the trouble of the people is not displayed as inconsequential.

God’s anger fumes against the people. That is not just God deserting the people but remembering their sins and letting them suffer all the power of God’s anger.

They have bread of tears, bowls of tears to drink.

They are the derision of their neighbours and their enemies have not only won, but scorn their very existence.

But the hope is there: Our prayer is that God will find the strength to come as a saviour to free us from our enemies’ scorn and our neighbours’ derision.

The good shepherd arrives. Remember how David led the people? Now, again we like dumb sheep need a saviour again.

Don’t we always?! But don’t we especially also this December, even this 4th Advent, this 23 December?

You can fill in what is called news. It is seldom if ever New, but the same old, old repeated ad nauseam the troubles of people, as in every generation … but it is our trouble, old troubles presented to us as new. And if you live through a disaster, it is new to you, so there is that: The troubles are new to those who suffer them. And we cannot healthily dismiss the horror and need of those brothers and sisters who suffer troubles. Living through troubles is what binds us humans together into communities of life, instead of communities of hell, blaming, complaining, and back-biting.

And is it not in the face our particular kind of trouble this December 23, that we need to sing aloud for all to hear:

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

I could tell you the troubles I have been given, thank you very much to all those who lie about me, but the interest for the congregation is not my troubles, but our troubles in the midst of which, Jesus appears, God’s face shines on us, and the Holy Spirit delivers us.

More to come on Hebrews and Luke, the Magnificat.

Hebrews 10.5-10

Hebrews is a letter written to people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah; a people of the ancients, the Law and the Prophets. They are people of the Temple, who bring their sacrifices to the altar. The blood life of the animal sacrificed, replacing their blood, brings God’s favour. It is an acknowledgement of one’s own sins and the need to be accountable for them before God. Their own sins, before God (like ours also) requires the life of the sinner to make payment, so grievous is even just one sin for it separates one from God, which is to be dead, even if one is still walking.

Instead of sacrificing people, an animal’s blood-life stands in for the human. Human sacrifice God does not want. God made this obvious in God’s interruption of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac on the altar on the mountain. No more child sacrifice. No more human sacrifice. But animal sacrifice stands in for human sacrifice.

The temple, with its institution of priests, and power, and money, and laws developed this far beyond simple sacrifices into what many called an impossible demand placed on the people. If the priests wanted to condemn someone of a law, it was always possible, for no one could keep all the complicated, sometimes even contradictory laws. Keeping on the right side of the law did not demand compliance, but the outward appearances and currying favour with those with enough power to assure one was never charged with breaking the law.

Enter Jesus into this. The letter to the Hebrews, in perfect imitation of the people of power’s obfuscations of the law, sets out in the lesson for Advent 4 that Jesus ends the temple sacrifices and institutes that, by God’s will, Jesus was the last sacrifice, the last blood-life required by God to make things right between humans and God.

So we are, forever, made right with God, by the sacrifice of one human who is also God, Godself. As it always was and is and will be: only God can set things right between us and God. Only God can make it right between you and God, between me and God. There is no one who does not sin, each moment all one’s life. There is no one who can make up for even one seemingly innocuous sin. There is not ‘grand gesture’ that any of us can perform or undergo to make up for even one sin, yet alone a lifetime’s sins, or a seemingly severe sin, like murder by suicide or attempted murder by suicide. There is no ‘grand gesture’ that makes us right with God, like ‘coming to Christ’ or believing with all one’s heart, or repenting, or devoting one’s life to God, or confessing and making atonement or making things right with other people. There is not even getting baptized. Baptism is God’s act, a sign for us to remember that the one baptized, specifically, has been made right with God, by God, by Grace.

That is to say: God does it solely because God chooses, irrespective of what we may or may not have done, thought, believed, chosen.

Which is exactly what Hebrews says today: it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

There are lawyers, and even myself a philosopher and theologian, who can decipher how the earlier passage is used to arrive at this end. But it is not logical, A + B then C, which bring us to G, for Grace.

Christ speaks to God

A: in the words of the Old Testament prophets clearly stating that God does not want or desire burnt offerings and sacrifices.

B: Instead God has prepared a body for Jesus.

C: And this is God’s will.

Put together simply by juxtaposition, and attributed to Jesus with the conclusion clearly made that the last statement C was intended to apply to B, was intended to counter A.

What seems logical lacks the basis: Jesus is not even quoted here as having said these separate things together, nor do the Gospels. But that is the illogic of a religious statement.

We believe the result. But no reasonable person would accept this argument as valid or helpful or significant.

But the writer of Hebrews presents it. The writings came to be authoritative in the early Christian church and it is included in the Canon, the Holy Scriptures. And we use it in our lectionary, logical and sound or not.

One of the many significant things to note is that this passage reminds us that we humans always want to be the ones in control of our relationship with God. We go to all ends to make it happen, and hide from ourselves that we are trying to wrestle control of our lives from God. That is the root of all sin, to try to displace God in God’s universe and in our lives as creatures in that universe … creatures who by our very nature are in a relationship with God, whether we like it, admit it, or deny it. And that relationship is determined wholly by God; including that God has given us freedom to choose to participate in that relationship of blessing, or not. Thus theologians have always worked at trying to explain how our freedom to choose fits together with God determining everything. Explanations run the gamut from God determines even our ‘free choice’ (there is no real free choice) to our free choice (given by God) undermines God’s power forever thereafter and we really do control the universe and our relationship with God, … and the explanations run the gamut using almost every possibility in between.

Luther landed, with many others, calling such matters, matters of faith, dealing with them as paradoxes. We are simultaneously both saints (God’s choice) and sinners (our free choice).

For Luther then (though he was not completely consistent about this either) God chooses to save us (through Jesus’ sacrifice); yet we have the free choice to separate ourselves, not only temporarily but permanently from God.

This is called our sinful, prideful insistence on sinning against the Holy Spirit – never too exactly defined, which would have the ugly consequence of giving avenue to evil people to lord it over others that they have sinned worse than any other and (by the determination of these evil people) the sinner is condemned and can be without consequence separated from life (killed, but it is not murder. Which of course still happens all the time under many guises, also in Canada to completely innocent people – open your eyes!)

Which is to say: the logic of it is not what is significant.

What is ultimately the most significant thing in all of life … the thing that really matters is simple: we rely solely on God’s Mercy, Grace, and Love is; we can and ought to reflect that Mercy, Grace, and Love in our lives, for ourselves, for our neighbours, and especially for our enemies. Whether we do or not, does not change God or God’s relationship with us, ours with God. It changes us, and it either gives life or robs life … from us, from our loved ones, from our neighbours, and from even our enemies.

So choose: do we want today, to give life, or take life!

God gives you and me the ability to make that choice each day, each moment, and the consequences are REAL.

But Jesus’ story is God telling us, that God alone determines our relationship with God. So stop the futile and life robbing behaviours, beliefs and condemnations that sacrifice others (and ourselves) as if that were going to make things right between any of us and God.

That’s God’s work, done, accomplished, for ever, and for everyone.

Get on with living, and living well … no matter what else is our life.

For that is what God created us to be and do:.. To choose to love, ourselves, our neighbours, and especially our enemies; for that is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds and our strength.

So we cry:

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

Luke 1.39-45- (46-55)

A visit

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

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

Surprise at Jesus’ visit

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

We ought to be so surprised that Jesus comes to us, every day, every minute. For what do we deserve but God’s condemnation! But we do not see Jesus, even standing beside us.

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

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

No More Scapegoating

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

All this is astounding

Is unusual

Is unique.

But

Then

Mary

Sings a song.

But as all songs of faith well composed and well sung

This is

REVOLUTIONARY

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

This is revolutionary, as in

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

JOY

The start is fitting.

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

THE LOWLY … GOOD NEWS

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

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

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

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

God has great strength, and chooses to show it … 

THE MIGHTY, THE OTHER KIND OF GOOD NEWS

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

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

The rulers are replaced.

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

But to whom does God go?

Or from our perspective, to whom does God come?

God lifts up the lowly.

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

But

The

Rich

God sends away empty handed.

This revolution changes all power and privilege.

And those of us caught in the bottom of injustice can sing

Can sing loudly, for all to hear,

That God has come,

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

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

By grace alone

Counted

Among Abrahams’ descendants

Forever.

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

Be careful

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

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

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

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

Challenges

Whatever they are:

Cold

Bitter cold

Injustices

Enemies that want vengeance for things we never did.

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

Coworkers who are corrupt, or abusive, or mean, or haughty and proud, or self-righteous and judgmental, or self-declared entitled. OR the challenges of

Flood

Famine

War

Addictions

Storms

Earthquakes

Global Warming

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

Cancer and other life taking diseases

Bad Genes and simply dirty jeans

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

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

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

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

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

Save us we cry, Save us we sing.

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

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