A Riddle in Photos

An early morning stroll

Before Eucharist and Coffee with Breakfast

Brought me to the road towards the East and the rising sun.

Golden light and a sound alerted me to a photo about to be.

Can you see the sound?

Can you tell what is different in each photo? (ignore that the position of the camera moves slightly so that the view shifts, the edges are different.)

What is a wonderful Saturday morning, -2⁰ with clear sky and waning gibbous moon, a touch of frost and a good warm fire keeping ‘home’ warm, and the water for coffee boiling,

if not a perfect opportunity to play and make a small riddle-puzzle, seek-and-find photo series?

First View

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Second view

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Third View. See it yet?

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Fourth View. Have your glasses on?

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Fifth view. Get out the magnifying glass?

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How long did it take you?

What is your time compared to God’s time?

73804 Mitkommen!

73804 mitkommen!

As the cool days of fall darken earlier and earlier, and the dark of night stays with us longer and longer …

Dark comes early, closer to South

Dark comes early, closer to South

Leaves fall all

Leaves fall all

The wood pile is just high enough,

The food sufficient for the coming days,

The water enough and replenish-able,

And the air is fresh,

My clothing rather well prepared for the coming months,

The shelter from the weather to come is mostly prepared,

My labour is directed, consumedly so, towards writing what must be written.

My love grows and wanes, I am loved well and always.

And God holds me safe.

What more can one ask for from life, from God, from all that might be?

All that might be.

All that might be.

How many humans have had so much less, so much less, so much less.

So much less.

So much less.

The beauty of the world is at my fingertips, literally, as a cell phone camera captures what can be seen and hoped for?

Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters

Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters

Wahrheit

Was sonst?

God’s blessings

For what more would anyone wish from life?

More than the time each morning to celebrate that Christ is with us, in body and blood?

More than the ability to see beauty and share it with others?

Sharing beauty

Sharing beauty

More than the ability to know truth, without doubt, or hesitation?

More than to live well?

Live Well

Live Well

Legend:

73804 mitkommen! – from the movie Remembrance, Tomasc calls out to Hannah to come with him, he dressed as a German soldier initiating their escape, as he carries a canister of photos of the Nazi concentration camp.

Wahrheit, was sonst? – Truth, what else?

Und weshalb nicht?

Und weshalb nicht?

West with Accents

West with Accents

God’s Grace Gives Real Identity

The Light of Creation: God said It is GOOD!

Prayer

We pray that we may Guard the treasure of faith entrusted to us, relying on the Holy Spirit in all things!

This is life (challenges and tragedy): I’d like to tell you it’ll be ok, I cannot honestly do that: 100% death rate

You probably have heard it said, “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”

I’d like to tell you that the death rate for humans is less than 100%, but that’d be dishonest. It is the pain of death that rips our hearts and dreams right out of us. It is the basic, most profound fear of each human. It drives us to succeed, even by evil scheming, which leads to eternal failure.

Success:

The OT commonly claims that God blesses the faithful with material successes. There is no end of advice on how to be successful.

One of my favourites is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Charles R. Swindoll

Reba McEntire gives us: “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”

Pele, the soccer star, offered all together: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing….”

Winston Churchill pointed out that it’s always a process:“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

John Barrow said, “Music is 10% exhilaration and 90% utter disappointment.” Many great musicians will confirm this, and it seems success is like that as well: Despite all our efforts to succeed most of our efforts end in utter disappointment and only the cream of the crop rise to the top. Or as the lessons for today tell us, those who pursue evil schemes seem to succeed in life’s pursuits, and God does not bless the faithful with success.


Success is like photos, too often it looks too good to be really true.

Life’s challenges, tragedies, defeats – We’d like to say that they are not what they are, but they are what they are.

With the looming end of life at our own deaths, and the slim chance of success, even when we follow the best advice, it would be great if the church offered some kind of helpful advice to succeed in the face of life’s tragedies, challenges and defeats. Too often it does, and most often it is a false teacher who provides something other than the sound teaching of the Gospel.

Spouse develops dementia

When a spouse develops dementia, and lives on but does not even know their loved ones, we’d like to say that it will be OK, but it is not OK. It’s a loss for which hardly anything can prepare us.

Addicted

When a family member or friend becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, we’d like to tell you that they need to go to AA or NA and you to Al-anon and everything will be OK. It is so important to go to AA, NA or Al-anon, but that’s only a small step. For the addict the rest of life is one drink or fix away from the same devastating decline towards death. Those close to the addict are invisibly drawn down the same road as they fight to make the world right again. But attempting that impossible task robs us of all the goodness of life. Al-anon only helps us see the invisible road to disaster, even as we remain one misstep from jumping or rolling right down that path again.

Child dies

When perhaps the worst tragedy hits and a child dies: We cannot tell you that it was God’s will, and that everything will be OK. We can tell you that most people agree that parents are not supposed to have to bury their children. It’s a loss and tragedy that is beyond comparison.

Habakkuk pending defeat to Babylon

There is much more to say in the face of every challenge or tragedy, so do not despair.

Yet this is what especially the OT lesson for today tells us. There will be destruction, violence, strife, contention and justice that is perverted, and it will seem as if God has deserted us. Besides the breakdown of their nation’s integrity, the prophet’s people faced inevitable defeat by their powerful neighbours, Babylon and Egypt. The Promised Land will be lost. They will go into exile as slaves. Worst of all, their identity as God’s people in the Promised Land will disappear, if it has not already.

The Prophet’s Complaint and Plea, Posture (Standing, Waiting)

So the prophet cries and pleads with God, how long must they wait for God to save them from themselves and their neighbours?! The prophet does not lie down in resignation. Instead the prophet stands in wait for God’s answer.

God’s Answer: a Vision, a Promise

And God answers with a vision in which all is put right. It may seem to take too long, but in God’s time all will be done right!

The Prophets always look up!

That’s quite the promise. That promise is repeated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where it was instrumental in Martin Luther’s break through to understand that we are saved by Grace alone! Can we live abundantly in that promise, when we face challenges, losses and unimaginable tragedies, when we see creation rebelling against our abuses and we know success is rare and death is sure?

The best of creation is polluted. When will we learn!

That’s much harder than following all that advice on how to be successful. We might well cry to God, “Help! Give us faith!”

Gospel prelude to today’s lesson: Forgive

In the verses leading up to today’s Gospel Jesus has told the disciples that they must forgive, and forgive and forgive without end. The disciples see that as too hard. They do not know how to succeed at this. So the disciples’ plead with Jesus: “Increase our faith!”

In answer Jesus tells them the smallest amount of faith is more than sufficient. We know from Paul’s letters, especially Galatians, reflecting Habakkuk’s words, that faith is not up to us. It is a free gift that God gives to us undeserving sinners. That faith given to us by Grace transforms everything in our lives. We become God’s children who act out that same Grace for everyone around us.

Turning Point: Christ abolishes death!

We read in the Letter to Timothy how profound this transformation is: “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus…, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

This is the power of God! In Christ Jesus death is abolished. Our core identity becomes not how we live, not what we do, not who we live with, nor even for whom we live out our lives. Our core identity is established again as it was at creation: we are God’s people by Grace alone. It is what God does to us, not what we do, that gives us our identity.

We can trust the promise that, even though we be overrun by a foreign power, the Promised Land be taken from us, and we are scattered across the face of the earth, we remain God’s people.

Terry Waite

Terry Waite, as an envoy for the Church of England, negotiated the release of a number of hostages in the Middle East. Then during one negotiation, he was kidnapped and held from 1987 to 1991. For most of those five years he was isolated and blindfolded. It would have been so easy to lose himself, his identity, his sanity. A key component to his survival was daily Holy Communion. By himself, by memory, he went through the service using the old words from the English Book of Common prayer, even when he had no bread or water for the elements. This Word of God reminded Terry who he was and it reminded Terry who God was. It pulled him into communion with the faithful of every time and place – day … by day … by day: he was the one for whom Christ died, so that he might be forgiven and live abundantly, even in captivity.

Forgiving

Even a tiny bit of the faith, that Grace alone saves us, is enough for us to extend that same forgiveness to everyone around us.

Facing Real Life, even Defeat, as God’s Children

With even the smallest spark of that faith in us, death does not have the final say in our lives. The treasure of this grace-given-faith through the generations overcomes every challenge, tragedy and defeat. When a spouse develops dementia, when a loved one becomes an addict, even when a child dies, then we can trust that God carries us onward in the world God made and said “It is Good!”

Everything taken: we remain God’s Children

Everything can be taken from us. Like Paul, we can be imprisoned and even worse: our reputations can be ruined, our church can be taken from us, our livelihoods and ability to work can be taken from us, our freedom can be taken from us. Still we will remain God’s children, for God alone has made us God’s children. Nothing can take that from us.

Billboard of faith

Like a billboard the Holy Spirit has engraved the Gospel of Jesus on our foreheads with a cross, poured it into our hearts as love, and kneaded it like leaven into our minds and actions, so that a runner, or a fellow disciple in deep grief or having forgotten Grace-given-Faith, will easily be able to see the treasure of Christ’s Grace in our lives.

Knowing that Christ has defeated death and is raising us to new life, at the end of each day, whether it was challenging or not, we will not have chased after trite nor revered successes.

The End of our day, and all is well. We’ve lived as God’s children.

The Habit of Costly Faith Courageously Shared

Instead, having treasured Grace and forgiveness as a habit so that it comes easily to us, we will say: “We, faithful servants of Christ, have done only what we ought to have done! Though it cost us, like William Tyndale who was martyred in 1536 for translating the Bible into English, with the courage of the Holy Spirit we share with others the Grace that saves us.” …. [breathe!]

Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react[breathe!]
Yet it is 100% what God does for us that counts!

Amen

Still Morning Drips

Still Morning Ice Drops drip

Walking to haul wood for the stove

The trees have carpeted the path with themselves

sacrificing to the cold the colours left when photosynthesis cannot any more

as they shed summer and fall pushing the liquids of life back into the ground protecting themselves

from the expansion of freezing that would tear out their hearts.

In the still air as the light of warmth reaches through the tops to the yellow carpet below

the trees cry ice drops,

melting from the freezing night’s moisture collected on leaves not yet having succumbed like their fallen comrades

to the wretched destruction of passing time,

or

to the blessed transition from green biting-bug-and pollen-filled hot days transitioning to the cool respite of fall.

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Colour drips Drops of Time

Drip, drop, drip … it is time

time to prepare

time to celebrate what was

time to prepare for what will come

time to haul wood, trees murdered for a bit of white bark or taken as the victim’s of drug-hyped-senslessness and bravado that a madman with an axe can fell living trees just for the show of it, for the false exuberance of finally being able to master something, since he could not master himself.

Drip, drop, drip … it is time

time to prepare

for the Light of Christ to shine in the darkness.

Truth, How About You?

The Cost

“Everything has a cost, even the truth.

The Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a tent, my clothes and a bicycle.

The Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a tent, my clothes and a bicycle.

The Reward

But the reward for truth is a clear eye and a clear conscience.”

Clear eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.

Clear eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.

The True Work of Justice

“It is as important to exonerate an innocent person as to convict a guilty person.”

Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity

Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity

I have a clear eye and clear conscience.

So many who’ve had the chance have not paid any price for truth. It is a party where they imbibe the intoxicating evil of false power based on the Devil’s seductions, drunk so deeply in order to ignore the truth.

I do not see good people working for justice to exonerate the innocent, myself included. Like hundreds of thousands others, I see good people become evil, working to convict the innocent like me, a kind, generous, man of great integrity, an excellent stay at home father.

The long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the wonderful light.

The long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the wonderful light.

It’s colour that plays with the light.

It’s colour that plays with the light.

Rest in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted without just cause.

Rest in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted without just cause.

But woe to those who unjustly persecute the innocent. For God judges without rules of evidence or games of cover-ups possible. God judges the reality of one’s life and actions. There is no hiding possible for evil. There is no negotiating for something other than actual reality, for that is what God sees and judges. Entrance to blessing never comes with Spin or Cover-up, or declaring something to be other than it is.

In this life, our challenge is to not become like the persecutors, not to become vengeful and vindictive … but to remain, trusting God’s promises and quiet blessings each day, … to remain fully alive with grace.

As for me and my non-existent household, unjustly taken from me thrice, I and the Holy Spirit, we choose to live only by Grace.

How about you?

Today?

Will this be the day of our double victory?

The Grip of the Season

Fall

The trees have joined the low bushes in nodding to the coming time, fall will be here in a few days, and the leaves need to protect the forest floor from the nice ice that will carpet the bugs in their beds and mice in their burrows. May the freeze be deep and hard enough to clear out the ferocious biting pine beetles. I thought they were but a nuisance, not knowing what this ugly bug was, until someone told me their name, and then one had the audacity to land on my face and bite my hand when I brushed it off. Not just one, but a mini chainsaw effect.

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Just a few leaves scatter about

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The cool near the water turns a few not so hardy first

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The roads, as they are, open the cool air to reach low, the open meadow allows the young trees to turn first.

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As the grip tightens along the road the lines of colour serve as guides to the exit.

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The leaves begin to carpet the ‘roads’

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Fall has it’s grip down low and up high in the woods.

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Cool Night

The cooler nights have meant for better sleeping and clear air waking. The most dangerous animals are less frequent in these parts, though a few do venture out to wade as their dogs swim in the lake’s frigid waters, not quite so in the shallows of the sandy shorelines.

Their noisy absence leaves more peace for the four-legged animals to venture near, and deer, bear and squirrels, owls, loons and geese abound. Not that I have the equipment to catch photos of any.

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empty spaces

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Solitude Light

Which gives way for quiet solitude in the evenings as the last bit of light fades through dusk to dark, leave the last fade a line of western slivered light reflected in the lake’s undulating surface between the reeds.

The Last Light as Night overtakes Dusk

The sliver of solitude so difficult to find, more so to fully enjoy.

Joyous Homecoming

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51:1-10
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

We want it Simple, But life is messy

We really do like it simple: we want everything black and white, either Good or Evil. There are good people and there are evil people. We are the good people. They are the evil people. God chooses us, not them. But life is much messier than that. We are all simultaneously God-made saints and self-made sinners.

We are all sinners

Bill of AA

In the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous, at many meetings a comfortably dressed and well-groomed man would enter, not as a person of importance expecting special respect and appreciation. He never even sat in the front with the regulars. Instead he would choose the back, the place where someone new was likely to be sitting – someone with the shakes –someone with an odour that he recognized. He knew that odour. He could find it in the back of his own closet at home. Reminded how he was once right there dying with that smell, he loved that man.

When the time came he would stand and introduce himself like everyone else at the meeting. “Hello. My name is Bill, and I’m an alcoholic.”
He did not add that he was one of the co-founders of AA.

The back of our Closets

We all have ugly skeletons in the back of our closets that remind us how broken we really are. It is not easy to acknowledge what’s in the back of our closets, so we often say in confession: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

The important truth is that we are self-made sinners.

Do we have to make it to God,
Or does God come to rescue us?

How is it that we move from being sinners to being righteous before God? Of course we would like it to be simple, we just go to God, or God just comes to us. But real life is not that simple.

How far lost we can be, even far from the ocean waters

Huts on a deserted island

During a raging storm lightning struck a cruise ship disabling all communications and controls. Drifting far off course, hours later the ship struck a reef and sank off a deserted island. Having no end of conflict during the voyage due to outspoken beliefs the survivors sorted themselves on to the island according to their beliefs about God so as to avoid the ongoing conflicts.

Freewill

The largest group built huts helter-skelter around the lovely sandy beaches. Most organized themselves in small groups, working terribly hard, some to build a raft to float back to civilization, some to build a communication system to call for help, some to make themselves as comfortable as possible. A small number of them simply did nothing but gather food and coconuts to make alcohol.

This disparate group from all religions, even agnostics, believed that they had to save themselves. God, if there was one the agnostics added, was not going to intervene. It was all up to them. They said they had great moral guides, but they did whatever they could get away with, so trouble constantly arose between them. They fought to prove that they had indeed done enough good to earn God’s favour. This large group lived like God did not exist at all, even though they said they believed in God, except the agnostics.

Alice and Double Predestination

Alice’s group built huts far from everyone else, facing a square yard for the kids and adults to walk in and meet in. The believed God was in charge of everything, including everything bad that happened. They wanted to have as little to do with the others as possible. They knew that God had saved them and not the others. They lived to prove God had chosen to save them. This group could not admit that they had ever done anything wrong, so they stuffed their closets full of old skeletons. In the dark they exercised those skeletons all too well, but when the sun shone they denied everything.

Inside Alice’s group a sub-group set up in their own corner. They believed as well that God had saved only them, that God was in charge of everything, including all evil, like their shipwreck. Instead of trying to prove God saved them they just gave up and did as little as possible. God was going to do what God was going to do and there was no way to change that. So why care about anything? They simply let life progress as it would. It was all up to God.

Martin Luther’s messy Single Predestination

A third large group believed that God alone could save them, but they still had freewill to choose to walk away from God. Few of them could precisely describe their beliefs. They built huts all around the island. This group constantly held joyous meals, celebrating that, when this member or that member had walked away from God, by Grace God had brought them back.

They were usually the kindest people, but they admitted, sometimes also as cruel as could be! They said God saved them many times each day, just because God chose to. They believed their life purpose was to extend God’s Grace to everyone. This group had people from all faiths, even Lutherans. They understood Evil came, not from God, but from humans choosing to turn away from God, as God created them to be able to.

They neither hid their sins nor tried to hide from sin. They just didn’t worry about or focus on their sins, yet they weren’t reckless with sin. They trusted God’s constant forgiveness, and worked to be God’s people of Grace.

Simultaneously Saints and Sinners and Golden Calves Galore

They accepted Luther’s paradox that all God’s people are simultaneously saints and sinners. They understood all too well that they had been right there next to Bill at the back of the room and, many times, at the bottom of their own Mt Sinai, building their own golden calf, so like Moses’ people had.

Golden Calf – God Changes God’s Mind

Moses’ people feared God had abandoned them. God became visible to Moses just 3000 yards away, but they did not dare venture up that steep trail. So they waited for Moses to come back, but he didn’t. They impatiently needed a god who would be available to them. So they collected their gold, melted it into an idol and worshipped their little godlet. Their false worship settled their anxiety, but it ate out their hearts and souls.
God sees all this and asks Moses to leave him alone so that God’s wrath can burn hot and consume this perverse people. God goes so far as to tell Moses these are Moses’ people, whom Moses brought out of Egypt. That may be all true, of a sorts, so Moses reminds God that God has delivered the people, they are God’s people.

[May we never be in need of such boldness before God. But then if it need be, may we speak only the truth! And trust that God’s Grace will prevail also for us.]

Then God remembers God’s promises, and God changes God’s mind, from deserved annihilation to gracious forgiveness. God doesn’t smite the golden calf people. Instead they will stay in the wilderness for 40 years. The next generation will enter the promised land.

We would prefer to hide all the skeletons of golden calves

What are our ‘golden calves’?

What are our ‘golden calves’? How many times have we set up our own little godlets, not that far from the Altar of the Eucharist where God is visible and handed to us in the bread and wine?

It can be something as simple as the colour of the new carpet, the stewardship campaign we run, the prayers and music we can use in worship, or even who is welcome in ‘our’ church. In our daily lives our little godlets take on a variety that could more than fill all the stores and warehouses in the world.

God’s response to our sin

How does God respond when God sees all this? God remembers God’s promises, and chooses not to consume us with fury and wrath, which we deserve! Instead God changes God’s mind and does not smite us sinners as we worship our godlets of so great a variety.

Jesus eats with us, rejoices at our return

Instead Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, like us. And Jesus explains it like this: The shepherd loses one sheep of 100, leaves the 99 to find the lost one, and rejoices at it’s finding and celebrates with friends. The woman loses one coin, looks thoroughly for it, finds it, rejoices and calls friends to celebrate with her. So also as God all too often loses one of us to sin. God’s glory is not in smiting us out of existence, but in rescuing us. God delights and rejoices in bringing us home.

God comes all the way to us and through the sacrificial blood of Jesus reclaims us as holy saints. God makes us sinners into saints, and though we remain sinners we are simultaneously God-made saints.

What is it to live in God’s Promise to Rejoice at Forgiving Us Sinners?

How do we reflect our faith that Jesus came into the world to save sinners? Are we to sin all the more that God can continually delight in rescuing us! No, bound to sin and unable to free ourselves, we have all given God plenty of opportunity to save us and then to rejoice and celebrate our coming home.

We have no need to try to sin more. As much as God delights in our homecoming, God enjoys us most when we live at home with all the other saints in light.

Living in Grace: Not Simple, But Joyous!

We may want it simple, but there is never a simple answer to how to live Grace. It may sound simple: we sin, God saves us, everyone rejoices, repeat. That we repeat without end makes the cycle anything but simple. It is so far from simple, though it is profoundly joyous at each coming home.

It is not ever a treat to look in the back of our closets at all the godlets of our past, but when we do, and when we fully admit who we are as sinners, then God has already reclaimed us and is busy returning us home. The whole of heaven and all the saints celebrate our return. We, too, can rejoice. When others stray to worship their golden cafe godlets and God brings them home then we get to rejoice again.

Our Prayers

We pray that we might learn to love each other, especially the ones sitting in the back barely in the door but here, shaking with ugly sin as we have all done. We pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us to love the one’s we think we cannot love, and to rejoice at each one God brings home.

AMEN

Finding One’s Way

As the Seasons Turn

The leaves, after the cool nights, turned colours

leading one to believe fall had arrived.

Have the seasons shifted earlier, like puberty, with the age of maturity now put off into the 30’s if not 60’s or not at all?

It’s not Fall for another 10 days, and the leaves turned first at the beginning of the month.

Do we need to know, or would it just be nice, comforting? Like finding that trail marker after three hours of hiking not seeing anything, walking for hours on what appears to be a mere animal trail up the side of the mountain, with just the right angle to keep it not too steep.

The woods’ floor covered without a hint of a trail.

Days like that march into months and years of any normal life, if one cares to actually ask something serious about knowing yourself. Which way ought one turn, this way towards quick success at projects completely owned by a multi-national company driven to earn profits for the shareholders on the backs and lives of the employees, sharing the ‘wealth’ along the way with enough employees for people to convince themselves the project may even be valuable?

Or does one stay true to one’s well known self and work for peanuts, sometimes cashews, or even weak crackers, like for a parrot, except one gets to speak one’s mind intelligently, clearly, with deeply rooted integrity? The price is one may never be listened to, and one easily goes hungry, dropping off everyone’s radar into obscure poverty in old age. But one’s path will always be interesting, or better described, one’s path will always be enthralling, for the matter of each day is not just to plod on with some promised reward, but the project is to have a project worth the life one gives to it. By definition that must be fully engaging.

Can one find that path?

Colourful Challenging

Or, in truth, can one stand to continually struggle to avoid this path? This is what we all were created to be and do. To settle for other is to run out of sync with life, like a two propeller airplane setting up vibrations that can rip the whole plane, the whole plain life, apart. Even far short of that total disaster there is the profound dis-ease of living with the noise and vibrations of a life lived out of sync with creation.

Once one learns to live in sync, like a pilot that finally learns without thinking to set the props in sync, that ease and sense of oneness compared to the jarring throbs of being out of sync remind one that when God finished each day of creation God said, “It is good!”

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

2019 Aug 25: Reflections & Truth

Pentecost 11 Lec-C

Luke 13:10-17 & Isaiah 58:9b-14

Reflections of Truth

As the loons haunt the dim dawn light with their forlorn wails as if begging for something close to truth to be recognized in the coming light, the not quite still lake undulates softly the moon caught in it’s liquid mostly-water.

There are many powerful and privileged people of luxury far beyond necessity or souls’ enjoyment who fear the light, not of a simple day’s dawn, but the Light that dawns as the Truth is revealed.

There are more people who look to this dawn of brilliant Truth with expectation of exoneration and finally, finally real justice through which real mercy is possible.

The waters reflect the small light that persists despite the Darkness

As so many have confessed through generation upon generation, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It certainly cannot be that God plays games with us like those in power, teasing us and tempting us just to catch us off guard. No, if who we trust to be God is God, creator all powerful and merciful, loving, forgiving and gracious, yearning to delight in our existence, our joys and even our sorrows that make up an abundant life, then certainly God plays no games with us concerning the Truth of who we are and what we have actually done; whether we acknowledge the Truth or we hide from it.

The Truth.

Often it is so much simpler than we want to acknowledge, when we want to deceive ourselves. Like the water we too often want for wind to blow the clear reflection of what we have done, so that no evidence of the truth is discernible.

But the light will shine, and I for one, I, Tim Lofstrom, like I, Daniel Blake, eagerly wait the Light that will shine on the Truth. For I will be exonerated and those who have fabricated lies about me, bullied me, threatened my life, and sat in false judgment of me will be put to shame.

That which in them thrives on the darkness and falsehoods of their doings will be put to an end, as consumed by the fire of God’s judgment. Then our victory will be double, for not only will we be free, all of us falsely judged and destroyed by lies, but those who unjustly ruin and destroy us will be set free from the darkness that grips their whole unnatural being. Though little of them, who have given themselves to the Evil One, may survive as the kernels are separated from the chaff, still together we will bask in the Light, the Truth and the Grace which God delights in giving to us. Our collective shame will be ended.

For this day we wait, as we wait for the rising of the sun to replace the crescent moon which leaves darkness’ canopy pressing down on our hearts, our hopes, and our joys.

The Light catches all that would hide in chaos and makes it clear

In today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 13:10-17, Jesus reaches out and sets a woman free from 18 years of being held hostage to an ailment, an illness. She is set free and can walk upright, humbly unimpeded by a body oppressed by dis-ease in God’s creation.

The woman and the people are over-joyed. She is free!

But the temple priests have no joy because they are threatened. They have not provided this freedom and therefore they are not celebrated. They and the people now clearly know that the priests live in darkness and the light has just burst the seams of reality in ‘their’ temple.

They use the law as a hammer against the Light, to no avail. The law, given to guide the people in freedom, is corrupted in their hands to become the hammer that strikes down faith, joy, and hope in all the people. They would treat animals better than the people needing God’s Grace. They try to maintain an order that provides them false power and oppresses people into the mud of life. But the Light shines brightly.

The people rejoice in the healing of the woman.

The priests, they who would claim dark power over others, are put to shame. Their grip is loosened, if just for a few hours, days or weeks. Not only is this woman free, but all the people bask in the Light, sharing in this woman’s joy.

Who are you today?

Are you the woman, who after 18 years of suffering illness that consumes the essence of life right out of you, and yet leaves you a shell of a human still looking down at the daisies, wishing for freedom even if that freedom arrives on the other side of the grave?

Are you the people, who after generations of suffering the oppression of those who rule in darkness over them, are overjoyed that the Light has arrived for this woman, for they are caught also in its Light? Their oppressors are put to shame.

Are you the priest, the oppressors, who live in darkness, who are skilled at turning truths in to dark falsehoods? Are you one who plays with truth as an axeman cutting trees, with falsehoods chipping life out of your victims, over whom you claim power? Are you put to shame by the coming of the Light and Truth? Have you put yourself outside the delight of God, to whom the coming of the Light not only means shame but loss of most of who you have made yourself to be, against the yearnings of your creator?

Are you the hands of Christ, who understand that the perversions of the Law, perversions of God’s Grace even, can be healed with a word, a redeeming touch, with sacred oil, water and bread? Are you the one who God uses as a conduit, and instrument to set people free? Are you one, like so many in the great cloud of witnesses we inherit, who sacrifices the abundance of your life that others may simply live, knowing that God’s Light shines brightly even in our darknesses?

One thing is certain: God’s Light will shine brightly! Not according to our plans, but as God chooses.

As Isaiah. prophet of Exile awaited, survived and returned from, wrote of our simple ways and God’s mysteries of Grace:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
  the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
  and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
  and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
  and satisfy your needs in parched places,
  and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
  like a spring of water,
  whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
  you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
  the restorer of streets to live in.

Isaiah 58:9b-14

The Light brings Truth in Full Depth of Colour

As the loons haunt the dim dawn light with their forlorn wails as if begging for something close to truth to be recognized in the coming light, the not quite still lake undulated softly the moon caught by it’s liquid mostly-water.

There are many powerful and privileged people of luxury far beyond necessity or souls’ enjoyment who fear the light, not of a simple day’s dawn, but the light that dawns as the truth is revealed.

There are more people who look to this dawn of brilliant Truth with expectation of exoneration and finally, finally real justice through which real mercy is possible.

When the Light comes we will have a double victory: for ourselves and for you, our oppressors.