Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 11

Friday, September 11, 2020

Light or Fire!

Light of death

Fire of life

Life in the Light, even in our deaths

Psalm 39:13

Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more.

Matthew 15:24-8

He answered [the disciples], ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But [the Canaanite woman] came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

Words of Grace For Today

There are many sayings that poignantly highlight some aspect of human existence. One is ‘no on gets out of life alive.’ Another ‘the fatality rate for humans is 100%.’ Another, ‘In the end what do they call the man who accumulates the most [fill in ‘power’, ‘money’, ‘status’, or anything else humans compete for]? … dead.’

Knowing we will die is part of knowing who we are … and what we are not. We are not immortal, nor godlets. God gazing on us directly is a most terrifying experience (or so we are told, never having experienced it myself.) As one approaches the end of life, it is a simple step, one that every instinct drives us to avoid until it is unavoidable. Then it becomes an inevitable, immediate, one way event, with no mulligans.

One can waste all of life fretting about one’s inevitable death. Or one can learn to immerse oneself in the present, find great joy in the abundant blessings God fills and overfills our lives with, and we can smile. Our smiles are not mere lips turned up at the corners, nor even a twinkle of life in our eyes. Our smiles at the great abundance and wonders of the universe and our lives in it, stretch from our mouths, far past our eyes, deep into our minds and to the foundation of our souls.

Those smiles help us imitate the Canaanite woman, who knows enough: 1) Jesus can heal her daughter, 2) she can beg to Jesus, 3) she will persist no matter the insults thrown at her. She trusts that God wants to heal her daughter, and Jesus is the One who God sends to heal all who he encounters.

Being insulted always matters, it just does not matter even one iota in the context of saving her daughter. She’ll take whatever scraps of Grace Jesus has for a non-Jew, for a Canaanite, for a woman. Even a scrap is enough to save her daughter.

No matter who we are, even a scrap of Grace is more than we need for life to be wondrously filled with breathe, love and hope.

No matter who we are, Jesus has time for us.

That ought to put a smile into us who know Jesus is our judge, or it will scare the living daylights right out of us, if we do not trust Jesus’ to provide us wretched sinners Grace.

We pray, with simultaneous smiles and terror for we are saint/sinners always, that Jesus will show us the way as we follow him, and that Jesus will turn away for we would like to smile without the terror ripping our hearts out of us.

Always in terror and in our joyous smiles, God is with us. The Spirit guides us. And Jesus reaches out, and asks us to lend him our thoughts, our voices, and our hands, that we can be Jesus’ presence for others.

That’s Hallelujah … everyday, every way.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 11

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Dance Holy Fire, Sing Holy Fire

Sing Praise

to the One who rides upon the Clouds

Who is the Light in the Clouds

Who is the Light of the World.

Psalm 68:4

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

Philippians 4:4

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

Words of Grace For Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 4

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Standing on level ground

as God’s mysteries pour in

Psalm 26:12

My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

1 Corinthians 14:26

What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Words of Grace For Today

Standing on level ground: building up the gathering of followers.

Out hiking in the mountains, more so as the years accumulate on one’s frame, one needs to take breaks from the steady walking forward, upward in order to catch one’s breath, to regroup one’s commitment and to let one’s body catch up on the energy output so slight for each step, yet so great for hours and hours of steps forward and upward.

A cool drink of water, or juice, and a handful of trailmix or cheese or pemmican helps the body and the spirit rejuvenate.

While one rests it is the first obvious thing, one seeks out a level spot, perhaps with a log or rock on which one may sit to rest. Experience will teach one that sitting is best kept brief, and that standing or walking easily about, catching any great view available, is the best way to rejuvenate one’s spirit for the arduous labour of one step times thousands per hour.

So also it is best to find one’s place in the congregation standing on level ground, orienting oneself to the view, toward God in our midst, and toward the people gathered, and toward all the people who are not present but are out there. So oriented one can assess the circumstances and discern God’s work, and with all that one brings to the congregation one can ensure it will build up the congregation, each person and all of us together.

What does not build up has no place in the congregation.

Paul had an earful of what the people in the congregation at Corinth were capable of, which did not build up, but rather divided the congregation.

Paul did not give up on the congregation, nor anyone person in it. He writes with clarity about the divisions and actions of the congregation that tear the congregation apart, that tear it down. And he points to ways the congregation can work to build each other up, to provide for each person, and not to continue hubris practices that divide and destroy the congregation.

For generations now those words, and unfortunately those circumstances, resonate as people stand against each other, against faith with integrity, and for their own limited vision of what the church is. We still pray: God save us from division. God grant us unity.

and then we whisper: my kind of unity, thank you God.

We really need to take a break, on level ground, give God thanks, and celebrate what the Holy Spirit has made of each person.

Together we can pray: God save us from temptation and deliver us from Evil.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 31

Friday, July 31, 2020

False Witness like Smoke Spreads

and cannot be undone

and can only be stopped

by putting out the fire

Exodus 23:1

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness.

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Words of Grace For Today

False witness.

Truth witness.

Martin Luther, the victim of a false conviction achieved by many false witnesses and corrupt judges, equated bearing false witness with murder.

Spreading rumours is essentially the same as bearing false witness. The audience is the open community instead of the confines of a court.

An old story recounts how a student asked his teacher what was so wrong with rumours. The teacher, on who effectively used illustrations and demonstrations as much as lectures, instruct the student to take two feather pillows, place them outside on his neighbours doorstep, and slit them open and return with the pillow cases. The student did this and returned to report to the teacher asking what this could possibly mean. The teacher instructed the student return the next day. That next day the teacher directed the student to take the pillow cases, collect the feathers, and sew up them closed to be used as pillows.

The student stood aghasted. It will be impossible to collect the feathers now. The wind has blown overnight. More than a handful of feathers will be impossible to find, yet alone collect.

The teacher said, so it is with rumours (and false witness). Once rumours are spoken the spread like wildfire in the community and beyond so that nothing can undo them, true or not. They destroy like invisible poison not only the person they are told about, but the people who spread them. In that way they are like Covid 19.

False witness, like rumours, once told are sins for which little restitution can be made to the person they are told about, and certainly not to all who hear them in the community or the courts. They are an indiscriminate poison that kills both body and spirit.

Thus we followers of Christ are not called to speak falsely of others.

We followers of Christ are not called to silence, rather we are called to speak truth. Always truth begins with what God has done for us, Jesus’ story, our salvation and daily renewed life, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Against rumours and false witness: we can do no other than to forgive as we can, to bind sins for God to judge, and to clearly speak the truth in the face of all false witness and rumours. We can expect that those caught in rumour and false witness will expend every effort to end the truth, and us with it; history will continue to repeat itself, and good people will be killed to protect the lies of corrupt and sick people.

Life following Christ is not safe, and never boring. It is life abundantly blessed, even when one is caught in life threatening poverty.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 30

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Coals and Flames

Hell Fires

Hot

and Ready?

Zephaniah 1:7

Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.

Mark 4:9

And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

Words of Grace For Today

Be silent! The day of the Lord is at hand!

Let anyone with ears to hear listen.

Dread.

Silent Dread, no opportunity to protest.

If one has not believed then now one will, without a doubt.

For God is all powerful and all knowing.

It’s not like the threatening spam email I received that claimed my computer was locked! Well it’s not. But the email claimed that the writer could see through my camera, but it’s physically covered so even if someone activates it, it’s blank. And of course the email demanded bitcoin payment to a numbered account, untraceable, with the threat to share the video made of me with all my contacts.

This is a bad hoax, a spam email, a real idiot who wrote it, but a poor sucker who would fall for it and make payment.

One could treat God like a stupid spammer, wait and see that God is real, for real and one’s own judgment day is real.

There are things to take seriously by trusting them; God’s Word is the prime example.

There are things to not take seriously by acting as like the joke is on in the ‘threatening’ idiot: a good example is a spam email that demands money.

Place dread where it is accurate.

Place trust where it is warranted.

As one knows quite well that Jesus’ pure record stands in for one’s own very imperfect record there is nothing to fear of the Day of the Lord.

Rather it is something to await with great anticipation and joy.

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Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 12

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Light

Light is a Gift

Like Salvation A Gift From God.

We See Salvation More Clearly When We Confess Our Sins,

Like Smoke Makes Light Obvious.

Daniel 9:7

Righteousness is on your side, OLord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us all , those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.

Ephesians 2:8

By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Words of Grace For Today

It is good to confess one’s own sins.

It can be helpful to confess your people’s sins, in which you are part of that guilty community.

It is most helpful to confess that we are saved by faith through grace – and that our faith and the saving us is not our doing, but a gift (which is Grace) from God.

Most things in life that we receive are earned through work, some of it extremely hard work. The work can be ours or someone else’s.

The car in your drive, or the bicycle against the post: someone worked hard to have them.

The house you wake up in, or the ram-shackled shelter the wind rattles you out of in the morning, which keeps you somewhat dry and warm through the nights: someone worked hard for them.

The nutritious and balanced fresh food you put on your table from which you can choose a selection to enjoy, or the past-the-best-buy-date canned food from the food bank that may fill your belly and only get you a little sick: someone work hard for them.

The clothes in your closet from which you have your pick of styles, functions, and colours, all freshly cleaned, or the same old sweaty and stained jeans and dirty T-Shirt that you slept in last night: someone worked hard for them.

Salvation cannot be worked for, though. When we try, the results would be comical, except it is tragic how much harm we usually do others and ourselves in the effort. It’s like trying all day to find your glasses … which sit perched on your nose.

God’s Grace provides us salvation without effort or cost to us, but at great cost to Jesus.

After we confess, trusting we are forgiven, we can only extend that Grace to others, at whatever cost is required of us, in order that they can live life, and live it abundantly.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 2

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Pastor

A Spouse

You get the idea,

If you have a spouse

Psalm 8:2

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

Luke 1:49

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

Words of Grace For Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 23

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Fire, Fire

Fire of God

Word of God

Both spread like Wildfire!

Psalm 147:15

He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.

2 Timothy 2:8-9

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.

Words of Grace For Today

People’s responses to God’s Grace can all too often be rejection and attack of the messengers.

God’s Word is not affected or restricted or limited or stopped. God’s Word permeates the universe like the strings that physicists theorize may make up the universe.

The Word, like subspace transmissions, travels faster than light, travels instantaneously everywhere.

Jesus Christ lives. Not even death can stop God!

God’s Word will where it wants, makes what it will.

We know, it wills not that we are enslaved, but that we remain free in God’s own good creation: free to choose to love instead of hate; free to choose to do righteousness for others instead of harm others striving for our own self realizations; free to choose to sacrifice ourselves in order that others may live, as Christ did for us; free to choose to live an abundant life, measured not by comfort, things, privilege or power, but measured by how many other people benefit from us reflecting God’s free, gracious, generous forgiveness, renewed life, and spirit (sometimes called chutzpah or gumption or nerve) to reflect the Light of Christ instead of our meagre attempts to shine.

The Word

travels instantaneously to where it is needed,

to strengthen the defences against the Devil and his evil perversions of good creation.

to heal our every ill

to renew life.

There is nothing else that is trustworthy other than God’s Word.

What Is Energy?

Energy is Something, eh?

Wood Cut

Is energy what God stores, in places we’ve found, to extract to use to warm, power, and run our lives of greater and greater comfort.

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Small Pile

Can we store up energy, in a pile, or in tanks, in order to stay alive?

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White Birch Lovely

Does God Store Energy in Beauty?

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Fire Red

Does God Store Up Energy in the White and Red Clouds?

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Smoke and Cloud

Can We See the Energy That is There?

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Branch and Light

Certainly There is Great Energy in a Little Branch and Great Beauty

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Water Swirls Reflect Reality?

Sometimes Swirls of Clouds Reflected in the Greatest Reservoir of Energy is God’s Clue

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See the Light? Fear the Light as the Wicked, Or Rejoice in the Light?

The Light of the Sun has the Greatest Energy, other than its Maker

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It is the Maker that we reflect with hope and faith.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 18

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sky’s on Fire!

Storms a coming!

OR a Beautiful Night? OR

Waiting for the stars?

Genesis 6:22

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Words of Grace For Today

People say that there is no reason to hope that … and then they go on to say what they have no hope for.

Everyday language would use the word ‘hope’ that way. But hope is really something much different.

It may help to put the word hope in a few wider contexts with comparisons to other words.

Pessimism is looking at all the evidence available and drawing a conclusion that gives the bad evidence more importance. So the glass is half empty and going down. The world is in the worst shape it’s ever been. Humans are the worst species and are quick capable of destroying the whole earth. That’s pessimism for you, always coming up with the trajectory straight into trouble and deeper.

Optimism is looking at all the evidence available and drawing a conclusion that gives the good evidence more importance. So the glass is half full and getting fuller. The world is in the best shape it’s ever been. Humans are the best species with the greatest chance of saving planet earth. That’s optimism for you, always coming up with the trajectory straight into a wonderful world and beyond.

Realism what people use to say their view of optimism and pessimism is right, not skewed like the other views.

Hope looks at all the evidence available, finds none that indicates God’s will is being done, and yet with no evidence to support this belief, lays everything on the line, trusting that God’s will is being done, God’s will is what we are supposed to be cooperating with, and in the end God will provide all that we need, even if that means all we get is a room prepared for us in the city of light, in life eternal.

Hope beyond hope is just hyperbole. Properly said one might mean: hope beyond all evidence, which is hope in it self anyway.

If we need to remember how great hope can be, remember Noah building the ark and ridiculed by all around … until the water starts pouring down, and keeps pouring down.

We may face challenges, on top of Covid 19, someone we most trusted has broken that trust by doing something blatantly illegal; of cancer has returned; or your lies in court have been noticed by the police; or your cheating on your taxes is being investigated, or (fill in your favourite sin) has been noticed by someone close to us and we have gravely disappointed them, or … the kids are just getting on your nerves too much … or the idiots are running their unlicensed motorcycles and quads all over the place, set off fireworks every night, and party until 3 and 4 in the morning so that it’s terrific when it storms at night to shut it down.

Pessimists would say: it’s just going to get worse.

Optimists would say: it’s just people blowing off steam. It will get better soon.

The person of Hope would say: God’s creation will withstand also these assaults on good sensibilities, and God provide all enough sleep, despite the neighbours late hours.

Perhaps Noah would like to take the fireworks, motorcycles and quads, and the party-ers on the ark for a little ride … somewhere far away. But that’s just hope beyond hope.

Perhaps God has other plans?

Perhaps there is hope yet, that some sense, respect and common decency will enter into these people’s lives …

or more likely I will gain an understanding of how helpful and beneficial all these late hour activities are for other people, so I will smile, instead of grimace, at their occurrences, waking me from my sleep.

There’s always hope.

Here’s hoping.

I Hope.

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Faith is beyond hope. It is a gift of trusting when there is no reason to trust, or to hope.

Faith is a gift that the Holy Spirit continually renews in us, since we wear it thin so quickly.

Faith is the most powerful thing we will ever know in our lives.

Love comes in almost tied with Faith.

Some have said Love comes in first.

Regardless, there are these three: Faith, Hope and Love.

There is nothing like them in all the universe.