Lent: A Fast for Justice – Seeing God

2019 Mar 15

See Reality, See Our Creator

The light of life, the light of Christ.

This Ash Wednesday the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah 58 read in part :

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
  to loose the bonds of injustice,
  to undo the thongs of the yoke,
 to let the oppressed go free,
  and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
  and bring the homeless poor into your house;
 when you see the naked, to cover them,
  and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
  and your healing shall spring up quickly;
 your vindicator shall go before you,
  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”

From this I choose for all of my Lent this theme:

What is the acceptable fast?

When fish became a common fast, Fridays one gave up other meats to eat only fish. It was indeed a matter of justice. It was designed to help struggling fishers by creating a larger market for their product.

Then it became a mark of piety, a proud mark of piety, that one could eat fish.

Always good works become meaninglessly banal and then a perversion of the original goodness.

Life is about remembering, and always being creative with purpose driving creativity.

So what is it this Lent that we give up, not for the giving up, but that others will have the basics of life!?;

so that the bonds of injustice will be loosened, the yokes will be untied, the oppressed will see freedom, every yoke of slavery and oppression will be broken, no one will hunger, go unclothed, or remain homeless.

Note that this is more than everyone will have shelter sufficient, which is more basic. This is that everyone will have a home. A home means among other things that one has a place marked for one as a unique individual, one has a place one belongs, is cared for, cares for others, and most of all where one can go in the best of times and the worst of times and the doors are open to one.

The Light from on High, the Light from Below: The Light of all Creation.

The light of beauty.

Technically, I am homeless, so I am sensitive to this issue.

By the grace of God and generosity of many different people, I have a home: a borrowed old 18’ camper, attached to a 9.5’x8’ tarp shelter on a trailer in which there is a rebuilt wood stove that provides heat sufficient even at -40°C. It just takes an awful lot of wood.

The challenge is I have no where to set up the camper and trailer, so I am a guest of the Queen on Crown Land, always temporarily.

Fortunately there are locations where this all works:

Oh and there are many other challenges including connecting the camper and the trailer-shelter, and setting up the arrangement for 14 days at a time. Then I have to tear it all down, pack it up, and move it off Crown land. That’s a lot of work and a lot of money in gasoline to move the trailer and the camper.

It takes at least two days to set up, and a day and a half to tear down, more when it’s colder than -15°C. In the deeper cold it is only possible if I get the wood heat going, and stoke the fire full blast, with doors still open and heat the inside up to 50°C so I have a place to warm up between stints of working outside, and a toasty place to warm up boots and gloves that I switch back and forth.

But it is my home such as it is, and for that I am thankful.

Financially I am hanging on by a thin thread. Though so far though I have not gone hungry, not that my diet has been the best all the time, and my health demands a pretty careful diet.

My situation is a result of others bearing false witness against me, which is injustice, raw and simple and very destructive … and obvious.

But I am not yoked, or enslaved, or oppressed as most would understand those terms. I am not unclothed. (That would bring one to a very quick end in the Canadian winter.)

And I am alive. Though challenged sometimes close to my capacity to meet the challenge, I live well.

That is a statement of resilience and faith, of seeing God at work when others seem oblivious.

At sunrise, as the wood smoke wafts up through the woods, especially as I start a new load in the furnace before the smoke gets hot enough to burn real cleanly, this reality bears witness to God’s presence, to Christ’s light, to the promise that God is here with me. In the wilderness and cold, in the solitude and quiet God is here as the wood furnace works to help me survive. Wonderfully the stove gives off what is needed for me to see the presence and power of the sunrise light even before it hits the solar panels sufficient to provide electricity to recharge the batteries.

The Light Undoubtedly Breaking In With Blessings

God blesses us that we may be blessings to others.

This Lent may our fasts be undertaken, not for us, but to bring to all justice, freedom, clean water and air, food and clothing, homes and meaningful labour, love and, most of all, hope.

Remember God’s promises.

Remember the victims in Christchurch.

Remember without fear.

Live well, that terror have no place among us.

What Land Do We Possess?

March 10, 2019
First Sunday in Lent, Year C

Opening question

What land do we possess, where have we settled, that does God continue to give to us, that continues to produce for us that we can share with others?

Ripples – not alone.

The land that God gives us each minute has ripple effects on us, which catch the light of Christ, resplendent.

Theme for Lent: what is the acceptable fast?

 Isaiah 58

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
  to loose the bonds of injustice,
  to undo the thongs of the yoke,
 to let the oppressed go free,
  and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
  and bring the homeless poor into your house;
 when you see the naked, to cover them,
  and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
  and your healing shall spring up quickly;
 your vindicator shall go before you,
  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

In Deuteronomy’s reading for today the promised land is possessed and settled. The land is survival and security, the land is yearly crops for food, for trade to provide for other needs, the land is status and a place to call home … sort of.

For the land is provided by God. It is not earned or deserved. God one sided promises it. God continues to give it each day.

Knowing our history is key to living life abundantly. We know history, not just to avoid repeating bad history, but to know the good of history, to know God’s story, and our place in it. To remember how much God has blessed us.

What is it for each of us that God promises and gives us to posses and settle, that provides us survival and security, that is a place to call home, to share with our family. A place from which we are known to be grounded and where we come from.

For a few of us it also includes land, literally, a piece of ground that we hold the title to. For most of us it is something else, a profession, a career, or a job that included a retirement plan of some kind that still produces some kind of an income for us. Or perhaps it is family before us or after us, who have provided or still provide for us, security, survival, a place to call home. Or perhaps it is our reputation, that brings us recognition, respect, and a sense of worth. Or perhaps it is our ability to make friends, or our ability to write, or produce art or music. Or it is our ability to listen, understand, and comfort others in duress.

This is the land that God is giving to us. The text makes the point that God’s giving us the promised land is ongoing, each day.

God sends Isaiah to tell us what our response is to be: Each year at harvest we give first fruits that this land has produced and we recite God’s history with us, how God delivered us, we who were in our past aliens, formerly hungry, once unclothed, used to be captives, once upon a time … before we are what we are now, we used to be those kind of people, if not in this generation then in our ancestors’ time. Now God gives us the land not because we are good, or pious, or righteous, but because the land remains God’s and God chooses to give it to us. Though we posses it and settle it the land is always God’s.

When we are done giving the first fruits then Isaiah reminds us that God wants us to celebrate that God’s land has produced again, and just as we once were outcasts, outsiders, or aliens, so also we celebrate with the outcasts, outsiders, and aliens in our midst. In Canada we call them immigrants or refugees, and others designated as outcasts, outsiders,
personae non gratae.

In today’s Gospel Jesus faces the Devil, the great deceiver. The Devil wants Jesus, hungry from fasting, to feed himself, claim power for himself, and prove for himself that God will save him.

The Devil tempts Jesus with everything for Jesus himself, just sacrifice the teensie, weensie little thing of worshipping Satan. The things the Devil offers are not bad in and of themselves. They become evil when they are hoarded for oneself, instead of provided to everyone!

The Devil tempts us with everything as though life were an if/then reality: if you serve the devil then you will succeed in life.

God assures us that life is not that way, not blessed life lived abundantly. Life lived abundantly is always an because/therefore reality:

because God blesses us therefore we can bless others.

Jesus knows clearly that the Devil is the great deceiver who perverts everything into a private if/then proposition. Jesus knows that bread is good for life, but not just for himself, rather for all people. Instead Jesus gives his life that others may eat and never be hungry.

Jesus knows that power is important, that it can save and destroy people. Jesus is not ready to take shortcuts to gain corrupt power, power promised by the great deceiver, power which is really nothing. Instead Jesus exercises God’s power by sacrificing himself so that all people may live. That’s real power.

Jesus knows clearly that people of faith trust God because of what God has done for them and that God promises to protect them. But to test God is something entirely different from trusting God.

Instead Jesus exposes the Devil’s false use of scripture. Jesus trusts that even as he faces the cross, the most horrific death known at the time, God’s angels will be on watch with him, as he sets right the chaos of the devil in all the universe for all people. Jesus demonstrates so clearly God’s grace and acceptance for everyone, so that we no longer have any real excuse to try to test God.

In Paul’s writings to the Romans Paul makes this very clear: salvation witnessed to by the confession of Jesus Christ on one’s lips and in one’s heart is not reserved for just some people. Jesus’ salvation is offered for everyone. The Holy Spirit can create faith in anyone. There is no closed club, or special skills required, or properly formed faith practices that make only certain people God’s children. God’s grace alone creates children of God. The Holy Spirit creates saints of sinners. God never stops giving to us what we need to be faithful. But the key is this: everything is dependent on God, not on us, not even on our responses.

God is in control. God continues to give land to us.

We get to respond, giving our first fruits and practising the fast that brings justice, freedom, clothes, food, and homes for those without. So we celebrate along with even the outsider, the outcast, and the alien all that God has done for us, through history and in these last days.

God’s Glory Shines, even when we forget.

Amen

Mysteries —

all kinds of
wonderful unknowables

There are so many things in life that remain a mystery.

As the sun rose after a bright moonlit night I kept working inside and missed the marvel of the sunrise through the trees.

Winter though provides little light above the trees, so even when I was able to emerge, this caught my eye. I moved easily to get my camera for this was far to complex a shot than possible with a simple cell camera which I also did not have on me.

Then as I mounted the steps to go inside I noticed the light change and with a panic that only a photographer can know too well, I ran to catch the light at play before it moved to something, somewhere else.

Back outside the light returned to play, and these two of the few I took surprised me nicely.

I went back to work after adding them to my desktop slideshow.

This evening they showed up for the first time, which brought me to decide to postpone sleep until they are up for others to enjoy.

The challenge is to find the right composition and play to show what caught my eye.

Here the lines are strong, though the mystery is less if at all.

.

.

.

Here the mystery lays fully in the frame.

There was no fog, as one can tell with a trained eye. This is smoke from the campfire burning up some junk wood and chainsaw chips, with the temperature just right that the smoke traversed quite a ways through the trees on its way to ‘freedom’ in the atmosphere.

Small mysteries include how people can possibly not understand what Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu demonstrated so diligently:

It is very difficult requiring great patience and diligence to throw off oppressive, racists, unjust rulers.

But if one simply replaces them with one’s own version of oppression, racism, and injustice
then one actually only takes a step deeper into greater difficulties for which one is then responsible:
Getting rid of one’s oppressors becomes a step deeper into oppression, from which one has less likelihood of getting free of, for one has deepened the cycle of revenge … and that can take more than generations to be free of.

Mandela and Tutu demonstrated that FRFEDOM from one’s oppressors only is possible if one finds a way free from being the oppressors first, last and all the way in between, which is so much more difficult than throwing off one’s oppressors!

Another small mystery is how it is that so many people think that their lies which ruin other people, are not seen as lies, and that there are terrible consequences, natural consequences and God wrought consequences for such injustice. Even people entrusted with great authority, or perhaps most of all, people entrusted with great authority seem to be oblivious to their own lie’s baldfaceness, and the unjust consequences to other people far beyond the persons they lie about, and the ruinous consequences to themselves. Lies rot a person from the inside until there is nothing left inside, until one is physically alive, but there is no soul left.

While God punishes people for their sins, or forgives them, But unless one repents (changes 180° the sin) the sinner suffers the sin more than anyone else.

Another small mystery of life is how people can think that doing nothing about lies and injustice are even options for life.

Bringing light to bear upon lies and injustice may seem to be costly, even one’s job, or peace, or reputation … but to do nothing in the face of lies leaves one rotting inside as badly as the liars and perpetrators of injustice.

One can look a far, or not so far, just south of the border, to see how destructive lies and ignoring them, can be. But one ought also to pay attention to what is happening in one’s own town: in the politics, the power plays, the wealth thrown around and cow towed to, the public officials, elected and appointed who are entrusted with maintaining good order and justice. Of course one also needs to start in one’s own family, and with one’s self.

The mystery of life for me has been how so many people whom I’ve met are so unaware of the themselves, as they hammer others down and about to make their way forward and upward through life. It’s as if kindness we completely unknown, honesty never heard of, and fairness and justice concepts that mean whatever gets me ahead at whatever cost.

The profound mystery is how light plays on all these self-deceptions, colouring the world ugly.

Except by Grace the colouring can be also a thing of beauty as one forgives and loves despite the cruelty focused at oneself and at others.

Forgiveness is not always possible: sometimes one needs to leave the judgement to God, and move on, not forgiving and fully remembering the sins, but not condemning. The sinners suffer their sins. God eventually judges them, no spin, no evidence hidden, no witnesses excluded — God knows all with or without evidence and witnesses. And since God exists beyond time the consequences of that judgement begins at one’s birth; thus sinners suffer their sins more than are punished for them.

As an ordained person, responsible and with authority to bring forgiveness to sinners, and also entrusted with the terrible authority to bind sins for God to judge, I have seldom done other than pronounce forgiveness, until the last few years. Now the injustice that I have been the brunt of, which is not limited to just me, but most men abused by women, falsely convicted in our courts … which forces me to estimate that more than 75% of men convicted of a crime against their spouse or partner are truly innocent; so pervasive is this turn. We used to hear that men without a thread of truth could bring their non-compliant wives to jail to be ruined or to mental institutions to be drugged out of their minds for decades. Now the system has changed: and it allows women, without truth, to bring their husbands and partners to jail and mental institutions.

These sins, that make this possible, that invite women to do this, as if this deals with the real abuse of women by men, and clearly ignores the real abuse of men by these women … these sins cannot be forgiven. They are bound for God to judge.

The rest of us need to work to bring light to these injustices, or we rot just like the perpetrators.

The small mystery, or not so small mystery, is why this takes so long for us to bring the light to bear upon such blatant sin?

Those are small to immense mysteries. They are dwarfed by the real mystery.

The real mystery is faith:

This coming Sunday we read: love your enemies.

How is that even possible?

The answer is simple and elusively complex.

Just do it!

But the prerequisite is that one knows two things at least:

That one does not deserve to be loved by God, not at all.

And that God still does love you, fully and without reserve or hesitation.

And the third thing to know is that God calls us to love our enemies as God has loved us.

They may not deserve it, but we are to love them anyway.

It’s a matter of faith.

Simple.

Simply impossible.

Simply possible for the Holy Spirit through us, since God makes us saints.

What Does -36°C Look Like

Simple question, simple answer.

It looks like an old photographer with camera in hand, bathrobe bare legs exposed, stepping outside to catch the morning photo(s) for the day.

(I will spare you that selfie … and pretty much all selfies. I’ve never thought much of selfies, being even a reluctant model for myself when I was working with lighting and had no other model to practice on.)

This morning having emerged from the 45°C plus shelter for the wood stove I stepped brashly without a jacket or anything more than my bathrobe to dump the ashes from the fire.

Now that tray, usually a bit toasty, was HOT, so much so that even though I ran (I usually do not) this time it seared through my gloves before I reached the fire pit. It has to be dumped not anywhere since the hot coals that hide in the ash are very alive, passionate red, like some people I’ve known well. As I started to flip the ash tray over the heat hit a nerve and the leprechauns grabbed it out of my hands and threw everything into the snow: hot metal hitting cold snow with sizzles and pops – the tray warped!

Cold has it’s impact.

I grabbed the tray, flipped it to empty it fully, and dashed lively back into the 45°C heat. I did manage to notice the light of the sunrise poking a few holes in the coldscape.

Since I survived that I grabbed my camera, and stepped outside, again.

About the time I caught the first photo I started to feel the deep hard bite of below frostbite warning levels. By the time I made the third photo the bite had eased. Comfortable, and alarmed at how quickly it felt OK, I stretched through the five steps to through the door and thawed my nerves back to yelling painfully alive next to that HOT fire.

Words convey the cold.

But how to say it with a photo?

The best addled thought I had, given the bite I knew was coming, was to contrast the cold with the smoke of the hot fire.

So this shot: Not much there? Looks the same as -3.6°C or even +3.6C.

Yes, that red used to be a deck table leg and support: garbaged, recycled with the cutting wheel of a grinder, and re-purposed to support, minus two legs and the table support arms, a chimney.

Inside my brain started to work again, once thawed. Since the window had cleared of the thick frost present at my wake-up an hour earlier (a nice side benefit of wood heat that it is DRY) I decided the blatant visual was going to have to be the best effort for this early hour. The long end of the needle points halfway between 30 and 40 on the left side, the negative side of zero.

A Little Light, a Little ‘Warmer’ -35°C

The rest of the world that is to be seen from ‘my’ window is as beautiful as always on a clear snow covered winter day. Fresh snow. Solitude.

Things are looking up; it’s warmed up a degree, to -35°C

Fulfilled or Full of It

27 January 2019

Sermon Sketch

You choose which with your choices and actions

Grace or Greed?

Fulfilled Today?

-20°C Specular Sunset ; Spectacular Day

Jesus: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Quite the claim,

so familiar with it so we accept it

but the fulfillment of this good news is … well unbelievably good!

This has been sought, wished and prayed for through the generations for millennia.

Roots

in Isaiah 61,

while the people are in exile

“61The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

Jubilee Year

First the year of the Lord’s favour:

never happened, an ideal that all debts would be reset to zero, everyone gets a fresh start.

Isaiah’s Word of Promise

The first verse though was wonderfully said,

good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, liberty for the captives!

also never realized.

The second verse turns a huge dark corner: vengeance on God’s enemies hope not to be in that number!

followed by great deliverances: from mourning, sadness, praise instead of faint of spirit,

and the ruins of the homeland through generations will be repaired, restored to their glory.

All of this, the restoration of home and a return home, the turning of mourning to gladness, a fresh start for everyone, and liberty for the captives, aid for the broken-hearted, oppressed get good news.

All this because God has anointed the prophet to proclaim these.

Yet they never happened, not all of them, and only a few partially, momentarily fulfilled.

Jesus’ Time

This Jesus picks up on: proclaims these same words of great hope and deliverance,

The people of his day also hoped for deliverance, from Roman’s oppression, and from each other’s oppressive dealings.

The marked difference is Jesus says: This is fulfilled in their hearing, today!

That’s quite some statement.

No evidence that it was fulfilled then,

Today

Still not fulfilled today.

Stories of not fulfilled today.

Poor receive very little if any good news, the blind stay blind, the captives are still in jail if not killed, oppressed not only not freed, their numbers multiple every year.

So what’s up?

!

Look Around

Ezra: account of worship for returned exiles:

worship: good and healthy, or controlled

Great experiences of good healthy worship:

music that reverberates in one’s soul, renews even one’s body,

sermons that speak volumes of God’s love for all, and for me,

liturgy that regularizes the basics of God’s stance to us: Grace

and regularizes our relationship with God, fully dependent on forgiveness

and regularizes our relationships with others (because God is as God is with us): Grace, Light, Forgiveness, (greatest gift) Love!

My favourite: children times where the children have loads of fun playing in [the yuckier, messier – yet with meaning brought out of it], and it all getting more or less cleaned up without a hitch; and the adults who pay attention hear that salvation is a gift, therefore we can be gifts of grace to each other

Bad Worship Experiences

healing services that victimized anyone who claimed they needed healing,

those offering blessings and prayers who had no empathy, who in other settings played power games to ensure their positions in the church.

cursed blessing’

Haugian Pietist congregation where this one quite elderly man came in to ‘bless’ me just prior to each service. Less blessing than a manner to control who I was, what I preached and not, and how he sought to ‘take credit’ for anything good that God accomplished in worship. When I gracefully pointed out that God blessed me already, that he was disrupting my own worship preparations and last minute communications with other worship leaders, and that another time would be more appropriate, he disappeared, replaced with another who told me at every meeting that they were going to get rid of me. Their gaslighting worked its wonders and my body physically failed me at a meeting not long after that. The heartburn felt like it was going to drop me to the floor. I needed out, I got out, walked for miles, false accusations were made against me against which no one can defend themselves and the bishop came to facilitate my exit. Not quite a blessed experience, rather quite cursed.

Sermons

that never mentioned God once

or that drove home that we needed to earn our salvation

or that had the depth of mud puddles on pavement, offering only that ‘love was the answer’ and ‘what would Jesus do’ which meant the preacher could tell us all what we should do, by ascribing to Jesus that behaviour in our situations.

[Fill in your own experiences of Religion and Worship as Control, instead of Grace.]

Gifts, Members: all for all

Variety of Gifts: good for one and for all,

great variety of members, but still all one body.

Not hang with those only like yourselves, but you are part of a whole collection of great variety.

Stick together, work to work together, love each other’s differences.

Fulfilled in your hearing, today

Still a matter of waiting. Hoping, Promises, giving generously

Faith is hardly a destination account of life: rather it is a way of proceeding on one’s way:

Jesus: fulfilled today in your hearing … and yet not.

The promise so powerfully said: rejected, and with threats of violence! Jesus is run out of Nazareth, his home town.

For us today: how will we choose to see each day:

as an opportunity to control others

or

as an opportunity to help others experience God’s Grace?

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!

If we hear, comprehend, internalize the promise and live as people of hope,

instead of cynics or controlling shallow-faith people, then

as we give good news to the poor, help release the captives, give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free and give everyone we can a year of God’s favour,

Then

Then indeed,

in our deeds,

these words will be fulfilled today,

Our Hearts

Sermon for 20 January 2019

Miracle or preparations

Qualified to Sleep through the night

A farm owner woke to the sounds of a terrible storm,

Running out to get the hired hand up to help him ‘batten down the hatches’

the hired hand refused to wake up to help.

So alone the farmer ran to the gate to tie it closed so the animals could not escape, because the wind could easily blow it open.

The gate was firmly shut, so that no wind could budge it.

He ran to the far side of the barn with a tarp, where loose shingles would be caught by the wind, more would come off and the insides would be sopping wet from the heavy rain that started.

There were no loose shingles.

Around he ran, to fix every known problem and inspect for new ones, but everything was fixed and secured against the storm.

The farmer thought it was a miracle, and went back to bed,

where as he fell back asleep to the pounding rain and wind, he remembered that he decided firmly not to hire this man even though he was the sole man available. This man had said his qualifications were simple: he could sleep through the night.

It was a miracle, because the farmer had gone back and hired this man, who could sleep through the night.

[Include your own stories of miracles, where you changed your heart, mind, and strength.]

Surviving Bitter Cold,

The other morning I woke to -33°C (-27°F).

The propane furnace had long since quit, it was -4°C inside, the generator was too cold to fire up, and the truck would not even turn over. There was a propane bottle heater, but it’s propane was too cold to flow.

So I put the propane bottle in the wood heated shelter to warm it up, put an old insulated tarp over the warmed up heater next to the generator and propped it high enough to light the propane heater without melting the tarp.

And I sat to have breakfast with fresh coffee, made from water boiling all night on the wood stove.

The generator then cooperated nicely, the block heater was plugged in, the battery charger set to the truck battery, and after doing dishes with hot water from the wood stove, I set the charger to 55 amp start mode and the truck fired up. I was only a few minutes late for my appointment. As I was away, the wood heat was blown to warm everywhere nicely including under the skirt to the propane tanks by electric fans powered by the generator. When I returned the furnace fired up nicely and at -25 outside with an overnight low again of -33 I was toasty warm.

It was a miracle, because I had firmly decided I could never get wood heat. It simply was not possible. But I had a change of heart, and after contributions from far and wide, lots of work, and a month or so, there was a wood stove. Otherwise I’d still be cold, maybe like a permanent popsicle.

Jesus’ first miracle

Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ first miracle, the wine at the wedding in Cana. There is more at stake than we may realize at first reading. To run out of wine was a loss of face for the groom’s family, and everyone there. They, friends and family, were expected to bring enough food and drink, potluck style, to help provide for everyone. Having no wine is not like it would be for us. There and then the water was known to be unsafe to drink. At gatherings and celebrations one served wine, which was safe. Having nothing to drink meant the guests had to chose between getting sick with dehydration, or from the water.

At stake for Jesus, as he tells his mother, it is not the right time to demonstrate to people what he can do.

Miracles

When it comes to miracles by God traditionally we’ve said and sometimes/some of us have believed that miracles are God stepping into our universe, breaking the laws we know and getting results we cannot get, good results. Miracles are God’s inexplicable intervention in our universe.

Other people, or sometimes us but only secretly, we’ve said that miracles simply do not happen. There is always an explanation for how things happened, we just do not know enough, so we call them miracles. But miracles are really Nonexistent

I’ve always believed God can inexplicably intervene, and make things happen that simply cannot. God does this very, very rarely. I’ve never liked the traditional message of what a miracle is, that God can miraculously fix everything, because then either God is really cruel because not everything is fixed (and it is unconscionable that somethings are not fixed!) Or we are really incompetent or hard-hearted because if we only prayed more fervently, people would not be suffering and dying, as we speak.

I have believed for a long time that there is a better explanation for miracles that is more powerful, poignant, realistic, hope-filled and hope-giving.

Wine at Cana

Traditionally Inexplicably

Traditionally this is Jesus’ first miracle. He turns water inexplicably into wine.

Work natural, just unknown

Practical explanations have existed. The one I always thought hokey was that the jars had a strong wine, a port, in them. Add water and you get wine.

Instant tang had just come on to the market, so this was ‘instant wine’. Really there was no miracle.
Sorry it’s not any port in a storm.

Explicable and …

Say and believe what you will but as for me: I believe that this is God’s universe, and God can do whatever and does … rarely even things inexplicably miracles. I just still do not believe the ‘instant wine’ denial of miracles (and of God’s being with us.)

I also know God created us intelligent, resourceful, gracious, kind, loving … and greedy, conniving, and deceitful.

I like the following account best of all because the miracle is something we all can and do ‘bank’ on every day. The text allows that there was enough wine, but someone had secreted away (stolen) the best of the wine. The servants are in the know, either as the doers, participants or as the knowers-of-many-secrets. When Jesus instructs them to fill the big jars with water, they decide to correct the wrong, they retrieve the stolen wine, and, as if it were water, pour it into the jars. The wine brought as a gift for the celebration is once again available.

The loss of face for the groom’s family and for all their guests is avoided. The ill health of all the guests is not in the works, and Jesus gets credit as credit is due: he is God’s son, who knows what the servants know, and knows how to help everyone put things right in God’s creation. All is well.

The miracle: Jesus changes hearts, at least of the servants, and perhaps of the thieves.

Good faith

Real difference is what it means to us.

If Miracles are God just doing the magically inexplicable, then everything that goes wrong could just as well be fixed, but God does not! Why does God not just fix everything!?

With that question begins the slippery slope to full-out doubt and disbelief.

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 life-giving story.

When we face each real difficult challenge in our lives, we could just sit on our hands praying that God would do the inexplicable and fix this for us.

On the other hand, if Jesus’ miracle is that he changes hearts to get us to do things we might not have otherwise, then …

Well, every situation becomes Christ calling us and the Holy Spirit equipping us, and all people around us, to give our best, including giving a profound sense of hope that God is working a miracle through our hearts and hands to give other people a good life and solid grounds for hope.

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.

As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where the common wisdom makes sense; namely that what happens to us is not so important as what we choose to do. Only 10% of life is what happens to us; the other 90% is how we respond..

That makes a real difference in the world we live in

[add your own stories that need a change of heart to turn out well for all]

Court

I’ve seen more darkness in court than one should ever see, and I rightfully yearn for Justice based on truth, not games and politics and bias’ used to force falsehoods to be facts.

That darkness will not change on it’s own; it requires a change of hearts, many hearts, in many places.

Starvation and World Population

While we’ve read/heard this sermon millions of people are starving and many of them have died. Ending hunger is not impossible. We have enough food and the means to distribute it, if we really wanted to. But it, like homelessness and poverty, avoidable diseases and unemployment can only be curbed and ended if many, many hearts change.

Isaiah & Global Warming

A prophet like Isaiah could well tell us that we have it real well, now, but our doom is coming, for we have ignored God’s Word. We have pretended that we can burn fossil fuels to provide luxurious life for some, but not others, all without paying the piper. Global climate change has well started. Extreme weather of the past is now already the norm, and the new extremes are wiping out populations. The ice melt coming will flood the coasts and our most populated cities will be uninhabitable.

If we had ended poverty in the early 80’s when the world’s population was only 4.5 billion, since we know people caught in poverty have many more children, we might not be taxing the limits of the environment to sustain our destructive ways. But now with 7.4 billion people we cannot stop ourselves it seems, not without a colossal portion of those 7.4 billion hearts changing … before it’s too late.

One way or another, the earth will reduce our population, but it may be too late for species human.

Paul: Tongues and Interpretation

Paul writes to the Corinthians. Their gifts are amazing, among them speaking in tongues and interpretation of what’s said. Paul recognizes this gift. But he puts it towards the bottom of the list.

Just speaking in tongues and interpreting it to have an answer for challenges in life is wonderful, but used too often, it’s just an easy out, too easy. It’s led to terrible divisions in the congregation. Wealthy people come with lots of food to the Eucharist, others have none. Everyone gets bread and wine. But only the wealthy eat. People caught in poverty are called lazy and held responsible: bring your own food or go hungry.

The community needs to see itself as servants of Christ, bringing grace and life to all around. They do not need an interpretation of someone speaking in tongues. They need a change of many hearts.

The 2nd Bitter Cold Night

That 2nd night of -33°C I was toasty warm. So were the walls around the wood stove. They were melted halfway through in the morning. The fan had blown the hot hot air against them and melted them away.

The real miracle is that the 2nd morning I was given an old, large insulated heating duct, big enough to be turned inside out to serve as a much needed heat protector for the walls.

Now … let’s hope that all that hard work until 3 in the morning to install the heat shield is sufficient. My heart is ready for a rest, if the preparations are sufficient to allow heat in the coldest time, sufficient to keep me warm, but not so intense so as to melt the walls, that otherwise protect me from the bitter cold.

We wait

Today we wait for a miracle, but we do not wait for God to intervene as if by magic to make everything right for us.

We wait for the real work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We wait for the miracle of our hearts changing. We wait for the real work of grace that starts by changing our hearts, minds and strength. We pray that we also will turn our ways to God’s will for all.

Amen

Baptism of Our LOrd

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

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

Quick sermon outline for Baptism of Our Lord 13 Jan 2019

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

Jesus will come to judge, and purify.

We need all that.

But Christ comes and graciously gives us life.

Where’s the hellfire and brimstone in that?!

Well…

Given free choice so that we can love

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

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

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

But

When

Jesus

comes

and

judges us!

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

But

it

is

not

going

to

be

feeling good.

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

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

It will not be fun,

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

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

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

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

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

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

There

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

This we look forward to.

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

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

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

but in here, where the natural fuels are burned,

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

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

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

These fuels are burned and burned well, until

in this mind, heart and soul

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

Which it is that, too.

Stepping Out Not Alone

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

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

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

That’s so boring.

It makes one a little green

in the middle

of a lot of other green.

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

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

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

At least one can be kind.

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

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

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

So be at least kind.

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

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

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

Blessed New Year

Miracles are welcome!
May the cards you and yours are dealt bring peace and joy. May your responses to especially the ‘off suit’ cards bring others peace and joy beyond all expectations.
365 days to let God wow us with what God can pull out of us, and what the Spirit can pull off in spite of us.
Breathe,
Smile,
Play,
And ‘dance with Grace.’

And occasionally laugh out loud

Just to let them wonder

What you’re up to.

God certainly knows how to weep, grieve, and suffer with us;
But I think God enjoys the breathing, smiling, playing, dancing, and laughing
A bit more.

Make ithe New Year as awesome as each past and yet coming at us; 
Unconditional love is the key,
So open the gates.
We are not alone.

God …
All ways, always.

All will be well.

All will be well.

All manner of things will be well.

Dim December

The sunsets, thankfully not for months or weeks or even days, but for long hours.

The sun disappears about 16:00 to show up again maybe at 9:00 in these long-nighted cold days.

Even when it is up, the sun never climbs high enough to reach tree top.

Most mornings the clouds hold the sun at bay, delivering ice fog and delicate snow on the trees.

In this darkness the light shines in us all, through the cracks, the light gets in (LCohen). The darker, the more obvious the light, more clearly the yearning for light.

We can choose to be light or dark. It is too easy to mimic one’s environment, one’s companions, and be their darkness. But the light is clearly available to anyone who wishes to so choose.

The sun shines every day, it’s just sometimes one has to climb to above 60,000 feet to see it.