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 – 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 – 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.

End of Many Concerns

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Ahh, Great Light, Great Night to Come, Easy Walk.

Nice Day on the Ice

End of

A good day fishing

Fishing season

Drinking on the lake

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Lots of Tracks

Lots of Tracks

SarsCov2 in that fishing hut

Risk management with a wood stove

Warm days at the lake

‘Burning your playhouse down’

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Looking for the Light

Looking for the Light

Sharing one’s feelings 

Hauling, Cutting, Hauling, Splitting, Hauling, Smoke, Ash

Hot Times on the Ice

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The Butt End of it All

The Butt End of it All

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….

Start of:

Living alone

Fishing in the cold air

More bad luck

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Catching the Last Rays of the Day

Catching the Last Rays of the Day

Looking for SarsCov2 elsewhere

Being able to stand up straight without hitting ones head

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It’s All She Wrote

Karma – (But, Karma, this was not on the list! Karma, what you doing!)

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That’s it! Schluss! Fire’s Gone Cold.

That’s it! Schluß! Fire’s Gone Cold.

Choose Life, Give Freedom

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

In the Promised Land, Choose!

In the Fade, movie

Set in Germany In the Fade is a movie about people choosing the destruction of life. A German mother drops her young son off with her husband at work so that she can make a visit. Leaving his office the mother admonishes a young woman to lock up her new bike she’s just left with a case on its rear carrier. When the mother returns the police inform her that her husband, a German of Turkish descent, and their young German-born son were killed by a fertilizer nail bomb. The bike’s case held the bomb made by the perpetrator’s husband.

The outcome of the trial seems obvious, but their lawyer creates reasonable doubt; the bombers are acquitted. Captive to revenge the grieving mother tracks the guilty-acquitted couple to a beach on the ocean. There she kills them with a fertilizer nail bomb, and she loses her life in the process.

The movie denounces the rise of neo-Nazi killings. The first bomb was set to kill as many non-native Germans as possible. More clearly it demonstrates that, without the freedom of faith that calls us to forgive, people choose to become captives to revenge. Revenge is a two-edge sword that cuts everyone.

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The Dark Churn of Chaos Obstructs Our View of God’s Son

OT: As you enter the PL, Choose: life or death, blessings or curses

By comparison, living in God’s promise is a multi-sided blessing. As God delivers God’s promise to Abraham and ushers the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses admonishes them to choose God each day. Moses knows they will need to or they will fall under the curses of other gods, including gods that people still choose today. Living in the Promised Land does not mean that life will be easy, obvious, or without dire peril. Nor does it mean that all people are free. Today people are regularly enslaved as labourers around the world and on the high seas as well as those forced into the sex trade.

God delivers us into the Promise. God will not take us out of the Promised Land. As God’s children God frees us so that we always have a real choice between Life and Death, between blessings and curses, even when we do not see the choices clearly.

What Promised Land has God brought us to, long ago, or maybe just yesterday? What Blessings and Curses must we choose between?

Remember first that God’s Promise delivered at our baptism is that we are always God’s children, made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice and Grace. God gives us a choice, but it is not about receiving or earning God’s Grace and our salvation. Our choice is how we live in that Grace. Do we, guided and inspired by God’s Spirit, choose blessings and life, or do we choose our own ways that lead to curses and death for us and for others?

Break my Heart, (Set me on fire!)

A well-known prayer reads: “May my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” (World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce).

The risk of praying this prayer is that God might just answer it with a Holy Fire that sets our hearts on fire to bring blessings to every human of the 7.7 plus billion whom we can possibly effect, starting today, with those beside us, those we meet each step through each day, and those we go out of our way to encounter, until everything in our lives changes as we become the hands, voice and blessings of Christ. We join the great cloud of witnesses to Christ’s love for all people.

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When We Dwell Beside Living Water, God Fires Up Our Hearts

NT Philemon’s Real Story: Giving FREEDOM

In our second lesson for today we read part of the letter Paul wrote to Philemon and his congregation. It is about an escaped slave, Onesimus, the man who carries the letter to Philemon. Paul sends him back to his master, Philemon, and lights a Holy Fire under Philemon.

Escaped slaves were crucified, a dire warning to any other slaves who tried to escape. Anyone, through a terrible turn of fortune or war, could become a slave. Becoming a freed slave was very, very rare.

Still Paul admonishes Philemon, with the congregation listening, to do the rare but right thing, the good thing, the personally costly thing.

C.S. Lewis: Paint and Eggs, Stain and Get Cracking

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity called this the difference between paint, which merely covers the surface, and stain which soaks in deep to protect to the centre. Paul trusts that the Gospel daily seeps down into Philemon’s heart and strength. As with all Paul’s new converts in congregations spread so far, Paul nurtures the seeds of faith, like a mother hen sitting on her eggs. It is fine to be a fertilized egg, waiting to become something, but now it’s time to get cracking. It’s time for Philemon to show his colours and give Onesimus his freedom.

How does God place before us this day the choice of blessings gained by sacrificing our rights and privileges in order that another human can live in freedom? What egg needs to hatch in our lives bringing us into a new reality? What choices does God give us today?

Route 44, Not Getting it Right

We may not get it right. We may be more like the 88 year old driver of the car the cop pulls over because it was going 44 kph on the highway where the speed limit is 110. When he approaches the car he notices that the four elderly passengers appear to be shocked into a daze, the air taken out of them.

The officer warns the driver that it is dangerous to drive so far below the speed limit. She responds that she was going exactly the speed limit of 44 kph just like the sign said.

The officer starts to answer sternly until the light bulb goes off for him and he says: “No ma’am, the speed limit is 110 here. Though this is highway 44.”

“Oh,” says the driver as it’s obvious the wheels are churning for her. Then the officer asks, “Is everyone alright? They all seem shell shocked.”

The driver answers as it falls into place for her, “No, officer. Thank you. Yes, they will be alright in a minute or two. You see, a few miles back we turned off highway 169.”

Taking care of ourselves, our faith, and the promised land we live in is hardly simple. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing in our lives to get right. When we make mistakes with the freedom Christ gives us, we often add a huge dose to the challenges the Devil tries to suck us into. The results can often scare the living daylights out of us, at least they should.

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The Expanse of the Universe Outta Scare Us Silly, The Cost of Discipleship Even More-so

Luke: Know the Cost

In today’s Gospel Jesus admonishes the crowd to know and prepare for the cost of discipleship as they commit themselves to following him.

Hate is not Jesus’ way, but it is an example of the extreme commitment that following Jesus will place on us. Nothing else can be more important to us than following Jesus, nothing, not even love for family. Jesus tells us to count the cost before we jump in, for the cost will be more than any love or even all of our possessions. Better to count the cost first and be prepared, than to run into a wall too high, or a battle too big, and collapse in shame.

It is not unlike marriage. If we really knew what we were getting into there are precious few of us who would be able to make such a commitment. Fortunately, endorphins and hope help us commit to each other in marriage. Its challenges are God’s way of bringing us to understand God’s love for us.

Likewise, fortunately, most of us are baptized as infants, a choice made for us by our parents and sponsors, otherwise the high cost could stop many of us. Yet the cost of discipleship is required for us to participate in life overflowing with God’s blessings for which we are created!

Kidnapping Gramma!

William White tells the story of Heddie Braun, a woman who lived the first four years of her life in Norway and then emigrated to Little Prairie, WI.

Heddie was a powerful presence at the age of 88 with all of her 80 lbs. hung on a 5’ 2” frame. On a cold fall evening Heddie was kidnapped from her single-story home where she lived with Eddie, her blind husband. The kidnapper cut power and telephone wires to the house, entered through the backdoor, picked up Heddie and put her in the trunk of his car. He drove her to his home, put chains on her legs and hid her in a tiny trailer out back. For days Heddie was always cold, she didn’t have her heart medicine, and she lost track of time. A confusing ransom call was made on a disposable phone to her grandson. It was a total failure.

Although time melted into a well-stirred soup, Heddie was not confused about who she was and to whom she belonged. Held captive she knew Christ made her free.

The police identified the kidnapper. He had worked for the family, but was now unemployed and desperate. At one time he had been a friend.

Heddie almost lost her foot to frostbite but she was tough and her foot was saved. Asked later how she stayed so strong, Heddie replied. “I’m Norwegian. The whole time I was in the trailer I remembered that my kidnapper was just a person like me. No matter what the cost I was going to choose life. It was so hard, harder than anything I’ve ever done, but I forgave him.” She turned to her grandson, “You have to forgive him, too.” (In Over Our Heads, pp. 14ff, Augsburg 2007, re-told TL and KAS)

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Life is Beautiful !!! As We Live In the Light of Christ

So we pray

Christ sets us free, so we pray: May our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God.

May our joy be in choosing life, blessings, and freedom for all people.

Amen

A Name for Ourselves: God’s Gift

Who are we? Do we need to make a name for ourselves? Will we ever be satisfied with God’s Word present among us?

Good Potential

God created the universe. On the seventh day God rested and declared it was all good. God created us with such potential: the potential to reach for the stars, the potential to love one another, ourselves and even our enemies. Our power of imagination to see what is not and strive to accomplish things new and wonderful carries us from one generation to the next. We can share the breath of beauty, the wind of hope, and the fire of the future with one another.

Evil Potential

God also gave us freedom, so that we have the potential to reject the gifts God gives us. The goodness of life is fragile. There are so many ways for life to go wrong. We can choose to dive into the depths of darkness, to hide our false pride and our self-centered arrogance, to wallow in the despair that consumes generation after generation. We can succumb to addictions and armed conflict, to abuse and terror that causes PTSD in its victims, to Gaslighting, bearing false witness, and even murder. We have the potential to destroy all of life on earth, but the real destruction are all the avenues we create for life to implode on itself.

Jane

Jane sat at the table in her favourite restaurant, enjoying the familiar smells that reminded her of the news she had received here. Years ago, on this very spot she’d opened her letter of acceptance into university, the first one in her family, ever. That shaped everything about her life, now a Doctor of History, a professor emeritus, a famous author. Later that same day years ago she’d received the other news that formed her life and was bringing it to an indecent early end. She had MS. She had lived with it for so long, many years in a wheelchair, but now her systems were slowly giving out. Her name given to her at her baptism is Jane.

The White Purity of Birch, The Bleach of Life is not so pleasant a white.

Babel Blessing

In the lesson from Genesis we read how the people came together to build a marvelous city and a tower that would reach the heavens, in order to make a name for themselves. They also distrusted God’s rainbow, and wanted security from any future flood. God comes to bless the people with confused speech, with different languages, so that their prideful project will halt. Divided the people disperse far and wide to inhabit the earth. Ever since, we create divisions and conflict more easily than we build healthy communities. We have built more than a tower of Babel as our fossil fuel consumption produces more pollution than the earth can tolerate, resulting in violent climate change. Our civilization is built on time bombs that destroy people.

George and Emily

George and Emily walked the beach, they’d grieved the addiction of their daughter for an eternity, grieving the birth of grandchildren, each lost to foster care. Now they’d received the phone call they’d feared. Jenny had overdosed on drugs yet again. This time she had not recovered. Their names are George and Emily and they gave Jenny her name at her baptism.

Languages A Gift

Today we recognize the power of languages. They keep us apart and distinct. Yet when we live in a second language, we experience not just different grammar and words. We experience more of the world that God created good. Different languages carry different pieces of the marvels of this creation which we can barely fathom in a full lifetime.

First Pentecost

That first Pentecost the disciples proclaimed in their own language the wonders of God’s work for everyone. God inspired the listeners to hear the disciples in each listener’s own language. As at Babel God confused the language of the people to save them from their pride, so at the first Pentecost God overcame the language barrier in order that people could hear and understand each other and the Good News of what God had done in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Language is powerful.

Greta

Greta was born in Jena, in East Germany. A Christian, at great cost she had dedicated her life to serving Christ. Working with youth she excelled, until jealous gossip was started about her. Under intense pressure and unearned shame Greta slowly lost her confidence, then her sense of self, and finally her sense of reality. She succumbed to a half living state of senseless babble that sometimes erupted into excruciatingly painful clarity about what had been done to her, and how helpless she was. Her name, given to her at her baptism, is Greta. She remained Greta even as she lost her mind to the horrendous cruelty of gossip that pretends to know reality beyond God’s goodness.

Clarity in Miracles

Like the disciples we always want God to be more clear. The words are plain enough. Yet God rarely leaves it to just the words. The signs, the miracles, that accompany the Good News are remarkable. We may not recognize what God is doing, but we always hope that in the end all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well, for God created the universe and said it was good.

That first Pentecost so that people could not miss the miracle of the Holy Spirit given to God’s children, God marked the disciples with tongues of fire.

Small Miracles, double sun, leaves growing.

Fire

One of the distinct gifts God gave humans is Fire. It is powerful, both for good and for evil. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, guided the people through the wilderness with a pillar of flame, and will cleanse us at our judgment with God’s purifying fire.

As we have breathed these past weeks, the result of climate change brings more wildfires, and more smoke that covers vast areas, inhibiting life in so many ways. Humans are not the only ones affected by wildfires. The smoke reduced the available solar power, a nuisance at least for those whose electricity is produced by solar power. The greater loss was to the plants whose basis of life depends on photosynthesis.

In the face of life so challenged, God finds ways to bless us, with hope.

Sam and Allicia

Sam and Allicia both lost their childhoods to wars of terror and genocide. In their teens they each survived the squalor and hunger of refugee camps, their families having all been killed. Sponsored as immigrants in their late teens by a Lutheran congregation in Edmonton, they met, shared the struggles of finding their way, fell in love, were married and are expecting their first child this summer. With different mother tongues they communicate in Canadian English. Their names given to them at their baptisms are Sam and Allicia. They have chosen names for their first child at its baptism, in memory of their families lost.

Our Name

Though we reach for the stars, to make a name for ourselves, to succeed at what we attempt, even to make life more than it is, there is no name that we can make for ourselves greater than what God has already given us. With tongues of fire God has marked us, anointed us, and called us.

Three Confirmed, we stand with them

As these three, Tristan, Connor, and Aysiah, were marked with the cross in their baptisms, and now they stand as young people, maturing, beginning to accept responsibility for their own being, so we each were marked. At the right time we also stood on our own to respond to the gifts that God gives us, promising to receive, abide in, act out of, and grow into the people God calls us to be. Today we still stand, not on our own as if our faith were merely personal or private. Rather we stand as one faith community united by the fire of the Holy Spirit. As we stand with one another in love, so we stand with these three young people. Their names, given to them in their baptisms, are Tristan, Connor, and Aysiah.

Our name: potential as love

Again today we share with them the name God has given us all. There is no greater name. It is not a name we could make for ourselves. It is the name that God gave us in our baptisms and shares with us each day. God names us God’s children.

The language of our name is not limited to one of the diverse languages that God gave us to propel us across the earth, to inhabit it and do well by it. The language of our name is love, in all its rainbow colours.

In our love for one another we best reflect the One who abides with and in us, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. It is in our love for our enemies that we dance with the miraculous power of life which the Spirit pours down on us in the form of flames of fire.

As we do what it takes to love one another, though the world roils with conflict, abuse, and destruction, we rest in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We have no cause to be troubled. Nor do we suffer the greatest enemy: the denial of evil’s potential. Nor do we need to fear flood nor fire nor anything, for God is at work to keep evil in its place and God in God’s place … and to keep us on earth with and for each other.

Our name given to us in our baptisms is children of God. We are the inheritors of the miracle that brings life to be with a word, with a breath, with a breeze, with a fire.

Amen

Our Hearts: bitter cold or miracle makers?

Outline for sermon for 2019 January 20

Jesus at the Wedding in Cana; water or wine, which? Both.

Sunset – Smoke signs of small miracles for us all.

John 2-1-11, Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36: [1-4] 5-10 [11-end], 1Cor 12:1-11 

  1. Last Night was Cold, Bitter Cold, -33°C (-27.4°F)
    1. I wake to a propane furnace will not fire, no generator running, almost out of battery power
    2. Wood heat possible, with wood stashed long ago, newly finished wood-stove shelter and connector to the camper.
    3. So I
      • Pull out the propane heater, warm up the tank in the wood heat shelter
      • Build an ad hoc shelter in which to heat the generator (insulated tarp)
      • Protect tarp with wood holding it to the sides and 6 feet over heat
      • 20 minutes make coffee from water on wood stove
      • Start gen after 10 pulls a pop, then three more, fire, c02 filled, scramble with tarp to get to fresh air
      • Plug in block heater, hook up battery charger,
      • Eat breakfast and drink coffee
      • Set charger to 55 amp starter, and start the borrowed vehicle
      • Off ten minutes late to a meeting
    4. Almost every safety back up came in to play, one stupid mistake: turning the generator off at midnight to sleep the night before.
    5. All the carefully planned and executed plans and preparations pay off: I’m safe,
    6. Best latest addition makes the best difference: wood heat that warms to 50° C, provides
      • A place to warm up even before it was completely setup and connected to the camper,
      • A place to warm up propane tank,
      • A place to warm up waiting for the generator to warm, and the vehicle to warm up.
      • A warm place to come home to even at -33°C
    7. Tonight is forecast to be colder: leave the generator on all night, simplify it a bit.
    8. Tomorrow, more wood cut.
  2. I can sleep through the night, story of the farm hand’s qualifications: he could sleep through the night. Storm, owner panics, hired hand sleeps on. Farmer finds everything already secured against the possible storm. The qualification was the most important: he got things prepared for the worst, and enjoyed the best and most important; a good night’s sleep.
  3. Miracle:
    1. Jesus’ first miracle: water into wine
      • Who is Jesus? He’s a miracle doer, as God’s son
    2. Dynamics: loss of face, community support, health necessity, water not safe to drink.
    3. Everyone there is looking poorly, not just the hosts
  4. Miracles:
    1. Some people like to say it’s all just God’s ‘magic’, or God inexplicably entering the universe and superseding all the laws of reality to make something inexplicable to happen.
    2. Others say miracles do not happen, no matter what the story-line is.
    3. There’s a third possibility, one I’ve embraced for quite some time.
      • Inexplicable is possible for God, but hugely rare, and there is not really much for us in it. Only one time-event-place fixes.
      • Jesus’ miracles are much more meaningful, much more difficult to pull off, and so much more hope-giving.
  5. Miracles: explicable
    1. Take the bringing wine to the wedding feast in Cana.
    2. Inexplicably, traditionally we’ve seen that Jesus, through the work of the servants who pour water into 6 jars set aside for the purification rights, makes the water chemically transform into some very good wine. Every good vintner can tell you the science of making a good wine is more an art; it’s complicated and to master it is a goal to strive towards rather than a destination one arrives at.
    3. There has been another interpretation, not in contradiction with the texts: There was something like real strong port in the jars so that adding water diluted it into good wine.
      • A little stretch that there is something like ‘instant wine’, just add water; but it is an effort to explain that Jesus just made the obvious happen, though it was not obvious to his on-lookers.
    4. There is a better miracle explanation: namely that the servants had stolen (or helped someone steal, or knew that someone had stolen) the best wine from all the gifts that evening.
    5. When Jesus directs them to fill the jars, he gives them a way to make it right.
      • The best wine is available for the wedding guests;
      • No health risk or embarrassment for the hosts or the guests.
        • As guests, they were supposed to bring enough food and wine so that this did not happen.
      • Water was not safe to consume, food was perhaps a bit off often enough, so a wine, a weak wine was needed to give all the guests something to drink, not to be dehydrated through the whole celebration.
      • What Jesus knows is that the servants know where to go to get the good wine that is taken from the celebration, which belongs to the celebration.
      • They do. They correct the wrong, and everyone saves face.
      • And Jesus’ power and authority are manifest in that he knows how to provide for the occasion so that a past wrong is corrected before it becomes so much worse.
    6. The miracle that Jesus performs is that he changes hearts, which is the most difficult miracle of all. Work contradictory to the laws of nature, well that’s simple; it’s magic, no real work done, just wave your wand or speak a word.
  6. Real difference is what it means to us.
    1. If God just works the inexplicable, then everything that goes wrong could just as well be fixed, but God does not; SO Why does God not just fix everything!? (Real theological and hope problem there.)
    2. And with that question begins the slippery slope to full-out doubt and disbelief.
    3. When Jesus’ miracles have a simpler, very possible explanation that Jesus changes people’s hearts to get them to do something different or new; then we have a real challenge: given each real difficult challenge in our lives, we could face the challenge sitting on our hands and praying that God will do the inexplicable and fix this for us.
    4. But if Jesus’ miracle is that he changes hearts to get us to do things we might not have otherwise, then …
    5. Well, every situation can become a challenge that calls us, and all around us, to give our best, including a profound sense of hope that God is working a miracle through our hearts and hands to give other people real grounds for hope.
  7. As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where in God makes good use of us creatures of God, in order to bring about, for us and others, what God has promised us and wants for us.
  8. As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where good common wisdom makes sense; namely that what happens to one is not so important as what we choose to do. 90% of life is how we respond, the other 10% is what happens to us.
  9. Consider some life challenges; with inexplicable miracles, we can do nothing but wait for God to act and make things different and better for us. If Jesus’ miracles are that he changes hearts and gets people to act as they would not have otherwise. Then we can get about working to make things better … starting with our own hearts, minds and souls.
  10. Court: I, as much if not more than most, want a real justice based on real truths to be possible.
    1. Choose: Wait or work.
    2. Much more hopeful being able to work, knowing if we do not do it perfectly, God will make it good enough.
  11. Every minute people around the world are starving, literally to death.
    1. If God works miracles inexplicably, then we need to pray that starvation not happen or go away. But since it persisted for the last … well since recorded history. What kind of hope is it to think that God is going to change now, so that what people have prayed for since beginning of time will somehow get fixed. That’s just arrogant hubris.
    2. But if God changes our hearts so that we can learn new things and do new things to help people to not starve, then there is real hope in that.
  12. A Prophet like Isaiah would tell us (who live in the greatest luxury the world has ever provided so many people:) pay attention: what you’ve chosen to do with oil and energy and food production has had consequences: lost family farms, lost environment as farmers chemicalize greater and greater production, global warming brings yesterday’s extreme weather to be today’s normal, and the new extreme to be deadly for so many, the ice melt will flood the coasts. The earth will have less people on it, one way or another.
    1. But if we had not waited for a miracle 40 years ago, an inexplicable action of God, to solve the population explosion,
    2. If we’d had a change of heart (that would have been a miracle of Jesus) and decided to end poverty (since poor people always have had more children as future security) world population could have stayed at 4.5 billion instead of the 7.5 billion of today.
  13. In Corinthians Paul speaks to the congregation about their gifts: the miracle-make-it-happen-gift of speaking in tongues and interpretation is not denied reality, but it they are not the most important gifts:
    1. Also for them Christ calls them through Paul, to wake up and be the ones who make justice happen for all:
    2. All people should share equally in the food of the feasts, not just the wealthy get to eat well.
    3. And the gifts, all from Christ, are not drowned out by speaking in tongues, or it’s interpretation: God calls them to not forget that God works miracles through them: ending hunger, homelessness, poverty are all going to take miracles; and that miracle is not someone speaking in tongues so that God does something inexplicable.
    4. Rather these scourges on the face of humanity will end when enough people have a change of heart. That’s the real miracle.
  14. The great praise of God in the Psalm fits well in our lives, not on its own as if, miraculously all were right in the world and our faith in God suddenly became perfect.
    1. The Psalm is actually very real:
    2. The verses before our selection are a lamentation for how much humans have messed things up.
    3. Then come the change: the hearts giving God praise for helping them end the time of lamentation.
    4. After these verses of praise, then the people return to lamentations, begging for God’s protection from their enemies.
    5. This is the real rhythm of us people of faith: we are simultaneously saints and sinners;
    6. We may get things sort of right, but there is always the next challenge, the next sin (or rather billions of sins) committed each minute; the consequences which we all suffer.
    7. Our salvation is that God comes to work miracles in us.
      • God changes our hearts
        • And we no longer wish to protect ourselves
        • We are interested in protecting everyone, equally
        • We are interested in ending homelessness, best strides ever have been taken by people who know the greatest miracle is a changed heart.
        • We are interested in ending hunger. Because it always comes around to us. And it’s is something we can solve: there is enough food, its distribution that is controlled and provided unequally to the wealthy (us) over the poor (others) until we become the poor and the poor become wealthy enough to have enough good food.
  15. Today we wait for a miracle: and we know that it will start with us, our hearts, minds and strength, turned once again to God’s will for all.