Churchill once said: “[People]
occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves
up and hurry off as though nothing had happened.”
Light of Christ is alarming, blinding, and demanding. Often we try to
control what part of the Light, what part of Jesus’ story, what
part of the awful freedom of forgiveness we acknowledge.
Other times we entirely deny the Love of Christ that shines a light into every darkness, exposing all our secrets and revealing every hidden truth. Instead we choose to slip back into the convenient darkness of our daily lives.
Jesus does not give up on us. He keeps showing up to get our attention. Have you seen Jesus talking? Or God giving a lesson? Or have you seen the crimson blood of Christ wash the stain of sin away to leave a person fuller white bright? For 200 years no one in England reported that they had, and then came Julian of Norwich who we commemorate this week.
the Black Plague, the Peasants Revolt, and the suppression of the
Lollards devastated the English countryside, Julian lived a mystic’s
life, profoundly assured of God’s care and love as few people in
all of history.
face of so much evidence that death, raw evil, and sin had the world
in its control, she famously quoted Jesus in her vision, “All will
be well. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.”
These simple words have given a thin thread of powerful hope to people in the most desperate situations. Among others, I know that it helped a young mother of two teenagers, living in Germany, stay alive. She was struggling to stay sane after years of abuse by her husband, when he had secretly already started another family with a much younger woman.
Julian wrote “God is nearer to us than our own soul”. God sees us as perfect and waits for the day when evil and sin will no longer hinder us.
these 7 Easter Sundays we keep in mind Jesus’ command to “Love
one another as I have loved you.” It will be part of the Gospel in
two weeks and we know these words contain everything else in Jesus’
today’s readings we hear how Jesus continues to surprise people
with visions of his love.
Jesus in a vision astounds Saul of Tarsus. A well educated Pharisee and righteous under the law for himself, Saul is dedicated to God. He stones and arrests followers of Jesus to cleanse the synagogues of them. Then the Light of Christ finds him. Saul has a vision of Jesus telling Saul he is persecuting Jesus himself. Blinded by the Light, Saul needs help from others to regain his sight. When he does Saul is baptized as Paul.
3 years of study Paul
spreads Jesus’ story of the Love of God
around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea
as far as Rome itself.
writings to his congregations
to encourage their faith we have the earliest accounts of the
which we receive, practice and proclaim today.
Our reading from the Book of the Revelation to John reminds us of what danger and persecution the early Christians faced. Any author, carrier, or reader of Words about faith in Jesus, if caught by the Romans, would be put to death. Difficult to produce and therefore very precious, the writings would also be destroyed.
To preserve the writings (and the people) the writing’s content was codified. The codes, colourful and out of this world, were popularly used by Christians but not understood by their Roman persecutors. Today we can estimate much but do not fully know their code. Revelation is the only one of these many writings accepted into the New Testament.
Written to inspire, comfort, and encourage faith in people who were mercilessly persecuted, Revelation has touched the hearts of desperate people through the generations and even today!
Jesus still appears in visions to people, though perhaps as rare as
in Julian of Norwich’s time. I personally know only one sacramental
mystic to whom Jesus appears in the ordinary things of creation: in
Light, in Truth and in Grace, in visions both troubling and
This mystic’s experience is quite like the disciples’, who, having encountered the awesome, fearful truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, return to something familiar. They go fishing. Then Jesus appears, hardly recognizable, and asks them to fish on the other side of the boat. The results overwhelm the fishers and their nets, and open their eyes to who has spoken to them. Ashore he feeds them from their spectacular catch and with the bread of life. They leave the nets and resume Jesus’ ministry healing people with God’s love.
In the stories of the Fishers and of Paul, in stories codified to preserve them and in Julian’s visions and counsel, and in the words of mystics of all times, the constant in all of them is the brightly shining love of God.
Love was exercised at great expense by Jesus for us, and by many who
have gone before us and who handed on the faith to us.
love story is not a benign story, it is not a safe story, it is not
an easy story to get right. It is always a story of how we are to
love one another as Jesus loves us.
60 James Mitchner, a man of grand words and acquaintance of powerful
people everywhere, including many US presidents, told a story about
the most influential person he ever met.
years old Jim was orphaned and sent to live with relatives. The
couple was so poor both husband and wife worked seven days a week.
That first weekend, with apologies, his foster parents set off to
work leaving Jim alone. He was bored, bored stiff. He walked around
the house. Nothing happened. So when he heard a truck coming down the
alley just before noon, he went out on the back step. The truck
stopped at each house until it stopped at his house. The driver got
out with the truck running, emptied the garbage cans, got back into
the truck, and drove on. That was the day’s greatest action.
The next Saturday, again Jim was just as alone, just as bored. Nothing was happening in the empty house. So just before noon he sat down on the back step to wait for the garbage truck. He waited and waited. Finally after an hour of waiting Jim heard the truck. It followed the same routine, stopping at each house until it stopped at his house. The driver got out with the truck running, emptied the garbage cans, got back into the truck and drove on. Lonely Jim was left to go back inside … to boredom.
The third Saturday, same story. Except the truck didn’t come. With nothing else to do Jim sat and sat, and waited. Finally about 3 o’clock he heard the truck. The truck kept the same routine, stopping last at his house at the end of the alley. The driver got out with the truck running, grabbed and emptied the garbage cans, and got back in the truck. But then the driver turned off the truck, walked through the gate and said,
“Hi, what’s your name.”
answered, “I am Jim and I am lonely.”
have seen you for the last few weeks. I’ve thought of you each day
and I am sorry I have not stopped.”
garbage man sat and listened to Jim, not only that day, but each
Saturday. James’ foster parents set out chairs for the garbage man
and for Jim.
James Mitchner, a man of many words, acquaintance of most US presidents of his adult life, and of powerful people everywhere was most influenced by the garbage man who took the time to turn off his truck each Saturday from the time Jim was seven until he was seventeen. (story told at Asset Build Workshop – Powell River)
God’s love story was lived out by a garbage man on Saturdays with a lonely child. What followed for James Mitchner was a life of military and civilian travel, adventure, and writing books that inspired a generation and more.
Light will find us, shock us, blind
us, turn us around, and make us into new
people. Jesus’ love will send us into lives of real work filled
with real excitement and
abundantly filled with real adventure, … if not in travels, then in
learning, sharing, and bringing abundant life to others. The Light of
Christ will repeatedly interrupt our work and dreams, guiding us
onward, correcting and even reversing our courses, but always moving
us towards loving one another with God’s love in all things.
The only question is what we are going to do with the brilliance of Christ’s Light, the Freedom of God’s Forgiveness, the comfort of the Spirit, the abundance Jesus helps us catch, and the abiding assurance that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well?
What are we going to do in response to the Love that resurrected Jesus from the dead, and saves us each day?
Gather…for this Sunday
1342 Julian of Norwich was a mystic, counsellor, and lay theologian.
We commemorate her on May8th. We know little directly about her life,
but what we know leaves us to think she was married, lost her husband
and children to perhaps the plague. We do know she became sick
herself at age 30, thought she would die, received her last rites,
and had 16 visions of Jesus.
Julian did not then die, though. She lived on, secluded in a cell attached to St. Julian’s Church, as an anchoress.
unusual is that she wrote down short descriptions of her visions.
Only later people learned they were written by her.
Though living apart she received people for counselling and became known affectionately by many. Through many years she rewrote her visions adding theological reflections in what survive today as her book Revelations of Divine Love. Her words of counsel have provided inspiration and hope for generations of people. She died at least 74 years old, sometime after 1416.
wondrous morning, we remember especially God’s victorious response
to death’s three-day claim on Jesus. We remember Jesus’
resurrection. And we hope for God’s resurrection response to all
claims evil has on us and on all people.
Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed!
The Darkness Before
we have remembered Jesus’ story, from the Palm procession into
Jerusalem, to his last meal with his disciples as he gave us the New
Covenant, … to his arrest and
his disciples deserting him, … to the questioning, the scapegoating
crowds, … to
Peter’s denials, and
mocking of Jesus, … to
and then his death and burial in an unused tomb. Rightfully so his
followers are fearful; they
hide behind locked doors.
All of this is so horrendous and unbearable.
we know the next part of Jesus’ story, because we celebrate it each
Sunday. We know that Jesus is Risen from the dead, back to life.
that evil played
against him and
overwhelmed so many people and then even Jesus himself in death …
Holy Week leading to Easter is so much more than that:
God did not just step in to defeat the death of Jesus. After all
Jesus is not the first to come back from the dead. Death is
– relatively speaking, – easily overcome, one person at a time.
Lazarus steps out of his tomb with grave clothes still covering him.
The young girl answers Jesus’ call Talitha cumi, and walks away
from her death bed.
we remember that God does something much, much larger.
The story is more than one resurrection
story is more than one resurrection. God
all evil. All
is not just laying down in one’s own bed and waking up the next
morning in one’s own home. It is to be able to do this after living
on the streets or in the woods for years, with no bed or home to call
one’s own, and
then one night having ones own bed to sleep in, in one’s own home.
It’s not just having three meals a day in the senior’s care centre and being able to give an CLWR offering for Easter, which will give meals to people starving in refugee camps who have fled genocide in their home countries. Rather it is as a child having only grass to eat on the walk out of Stalin’s drought in the Ukraine, and having survived years of hardships and hunger when there were no refugee camps. Then in one’s later years being able to make a donation that will feed others who now have no food.
It’s not just a love story of ‘girl gets guy’, and they waltz off into the sunset of life. It is growing up without friends as an immigrant, an outsider. Then evil being defeated means one finds love in the most unexpected place with the most unexpected person against the most unbeatable odds … in the family of what once was one’s real enemies.
not just Jesus coming back from the dead to live again, although
that’s a bit terrific already. It’s Jesus having taken on all
Evil and having taken on all the sins of every person who has and
ever will live. It’s having taken on the penalties
for all that sin along with the big
death for every person. Then
being brought back to live life. It’s having Jesus
on all that and having defeated it!
story is not like just standing at home plate and hitting a home run
out of the stadium. It’s standing at the plate, in the bottom of
the thirteenth inning, with a full count, down three runs, bases
loaded, with all your pitchers hurting, having been put up there in
desperation by the manager. You will never be here again, ever, no
matter if you play 1000 more games. Then
That’s like Jesus’ story; his life, suffering, death and resurrection mean so much more than we are able to imagine. That’s like our story or rather we each have a variation of that as our own story.
Jesus’ and in our stories, God defeats all Evil and all death once
and for all time.
sort of. God makes the promise visible to us, that one day, at the
end of this world, new life will be given to all the dead. There will
be a resurrection for everyone. That’s when God will put Evil to
promise to Abraham and Sarah took most of their life times before
God’s time was right for them to have a child, long past normal
time. God’s time to make this promise to us will come.
the meantime, today
we are God’s saints, not because we have done good things. Rather
are saints only because
us when we cannot
us the people who think the thoughts, who say the words, who do the
deeds of God’s perfect people. Jesus has pulled us from the grips
of evil where we’ve put ourselves, from where we only deserve
eternal death. From the darkest valley of the shadows of death Jesus
has brought blessed things to
us and out of
give life abundant to others around us.
do we respond to Gods’ work in and through us?
response can be to delve into Jesus’ story, again and again. Our
response can be to learn more and more of God’s purpose for us,
communicated by God from outside of time, beyond matter, from
infinity. God has compressed God’s will into Jesus’ life story.
God has funnelled it to us living inside of time, confined to bodies,
living a finite existence. God communicates everything we need to
know through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection story. Our
response can be to engage with Jesus’ story again and again our
Holy Spirit works in us to help us understand what we see and hear.
The Holy Spirit works in us so that like Mary in the Garden, we
recognize our shepherd’s voice and follow where he leads us.
Mary, we see angels but we may not know it. The Holy Spirit helps us
fill in the blanks. Like Peter, we may hear the women’s story, even
go to see for ourselves, and find the grave clothes neatly folded on
the stone death bed. Yet we not understand what it is that we see, or
it is that we do
not see. The Holy Spirit helps us comprehend the obvious but
God’s limitless creative power has just undone death through
the beloved disciple we may hear the women’s story, and see exactly
what Peter sees, and we may believe that Jesus lives. The Holy Spirit
helps us to grasp how we, as representatives of the human species,
just caught a new glimpse of God’s will and our place in creation.
Holy Spirit helps us continually change the rest of our lives, so
that we live as one
the whole fully
no longer need to compete with each other to succeed. God calls us to
the acceptable fast during Lent, giving of ourselves so that others
will have life abundant.
after Easter, God calls us to celebrate every day, not just how the
light of Christ frees us, and how that changes the rest of our lives,
but how we are to be Christ’s
Light for others. Everyone’s life can be changed. God
has a part in the creating the new creation for each of us.
we celebrate, even outright dance, the rest of our lives in Christ’s
we can, if we choose, and not just because Jesus is for us, but
because Jesus sends us to share that light with all people,
especially those in desperate need around the world.
Spirit helps us celebrate life with the most difficult people in our
lives, whether its a grouchy neighbour, a mean person we have to
relate to again and again, a nice but nosy relative, a recalcitrant
spouse, or a self-destructive friend.
we can celebrate and dance through the challenges that come our way,
because the Holy Spirit inspires and guides us to understand more and
more fully what it means that Jesus lived, taught, healed, suffered,
died and is resurrected back to life!
For we can, no matter our past or future, live well.
For we can, no matter our past or future, bring life abundant to all
What was once alive, once green, once bright, is now in these days dead, withered and dark.
only a faint hint of days long distant in the most recent of times.
it to succeed
leave a legacy?
overrun others, destroying them with lies, in order to have more, in
order to cover up one’s sins?
suffer rumours and lies that destroy one’s reputation and finances
leaving one homeless?
This day, Jesus answered God’s call to submit himself to death, a torturous death, and to die.
Jesus succeed? Did Jesus destroy others, or did he allow others to
try to destroy him, and respond with grace and forgiveness?
of the world knew Grace and lived it well, more people would succeed
bringing the basics of life to others with their sacrifices.
world may seem dark, especially in these days when we remember that
God died, and remained so, for three days.
only the reflection in our memories of the light that has guided our
paths. But there will be a great light, that will shine in every
darkness, and bring justice, restitution, and new life to those who
are destroyed by others lies.
those who have destroyed with lies … may God have mercy on them.
wood stove, set up to provide heat in the severe -40°C winter worked
provided hot water for coffee in
and tea throughout
without it’s challenges as the stove pipe got so hot that it melted
the plastic tarps of
the shelter around the stove.
Week is our opportunity to remember and learn ever more from Jesus
story. Jesus’ story is a life full of communication from God to us,
in a way we can understand.
God tried to communicate to us with Word, creating a good creation. We messed it up, with trying to be smarter than we are and blaming others for the results. Kicked out of paradise we even became murderers, for a ‘good’ start.
God tried to communicate to us with the Law, we turned it into control of others.
tried to communicate to us with the prophets, and we thought they
were crazy, because they really were, trying to embody God’s Word
does that to humans.
rebuilt the damaged tarp sections, put in a heat shield and a remote
thermometer. Now gets as hot as 70°C without problems.
sent his Son, a full life story lived that we can learn. Jesus came
to live, teach, heal, and do remarkable things like calming the chaos
of the waters.
exists beyond time, matter, limits. Now Jesus has all the limits of a
human. Paul says it well: Jesus emptied himself of being other than
human, and became limited as a human.
real purpose of Jesus’ life was his death. That’s this week’s
one really listened at first, and those that did usually got it all
wrong. Listen to the parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem. They think
that Jesus is God’s way of giving them control again of Jerusalem,
maybe. That’s their hope.
harsh winter slowly gives way to cool spring temperatures, and the
2000° C inside the furnace became way too hot in the shelter. Always
the thermometer showed a max of 70°. It dawned finally on me that
the thermometer could read no hotter than 70°C but the actual
temperature could be much more!
the triumphant entry parade into Jerusalem, things go downhill fast
and hard. Jesus is betrayed, deserted, tried, denied, whipped,
condemned, mocked, tortured, abandoned, and murdered on a cross.
is no greater measure of suffering.
came to live and die exactly like this. Why?
came to make clear: God understands our suffering, even if our
measure seems to have an upper limit, God has no limits, God
understands us, our pain, our sin, our suffering, our death.
lived it to show us God’s intent for us.
Jesus dies, he forgives those that mock, torture and kill him.
is what God wants us to be to each other. Not sinners, destroyers,
scape-goaters, or mockers, torturers, murderers, or chaos makers, not
even people who cannot listen to others pain and suffering and not
know what to do.
know God knows our suffering.
our suffering we experience what others suffer. We know what we most
need when we suffer is forgiveness, love and not to be abandoned.
learn this so that we can give God’s gifts of forgiveness, love and
being present to others as they suffer.
came as Jesus to show us God’s goodness and love for us has no
limits. God’s forgiveness has no limits. We may not easily hear,
listen or understand, but we have Jesus story handed from generation
to generation. We can always learn more if we pay attention.
story is God’s new limitless thermometer by which we can measure
what really goes on in this world. There’s lots of heat. There’s
even more love, forgiveness, and compassion than we are ever capable
week, we remember, we listen as we can, we learn anew as we are able.
Jesus story we know and trust, no matter what we do, what we succeed
at or fail at, God understands our yearning, our chaos, our
always loves, forgives and is present with us …
lots of water spread across the low spots.
big, throny bushes, no green trees, and no crowds … in fact great
solitude and quiet.
settling in as a guest of the Queen,
chosen of my Lord,
shores of a small quite lake,
the oil company bought it all up,
means the Queen still has a small plot
shares, by law, with a few homeless,
quite a few wealthy land owners looking for
of nature: health and joy.
There’s also enough detritus left around that proves there are a number of irresponsible beer drinking, condom throwing, and garbage dumping foolish visitors.
So I took a bag with me on my walk around to collect some of the detritus. Lots more, like the condoms, still lay strewn on the ground, things that I needed more than just one bag to be able to pick up and haul out for other fools.
Why does the Queen receive such fools?
Why does the Creator tolerate such fools?
Perhaps because one fool is pretty much like another, and all are fools in one way or another.
My call is to be a fool for Christ, so there is that.
And I took a quiet walk around tonight before enjoying a quiet night, with only a couple parking for hours, depositing another condom and toilet paper to found on a quiet morning walk before the full light of dawn.
Solitude is precious as are a good night’s sleep and the clear light of truth.
This is really still way too rough, but here it is, as a way-point along the way. Before it is done it needs to be half as long, and more focused.
There’s work to be done on it.
Lenten Theme: Isaiah 58: A fast that is acceptable to God: sacrifice for justice, freedom, food, homes.
This week’s Theme: Change of Heart
Lessons: Ezekiel 36.22-28 Psalm 119. 1-16 Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23
A Change of Heart
are those whose way is blameless
Blameless No one!
Paul, Augustine, Luther and many more Christian theologians and
teachers have made it crystal clear that if anyone were to be able to
be blameless the whole course of the human species would be entirely
different. No one can be entirely blameless.
fact we confess that we are all sinful and unable to free ourselves,
that we require Jesus’ intervention of grace so that we can live in
God’s promise that we are God’s children, God’s ambassadors of
grace to all people.
Only Obey if written on our Hearts
only way that we at all can obey God’s commandments and statutes is
if through the Holy Spirit, they are emblazoned on our hearts, so
that we can do no other than follow them.
Change Hearts: God does us right with God
after a soup supper we’ve looked at change of season, change of
circumstance, change of habits, and today we look at changing our
starting reminder is that this is not possible for us alone; and
further that not our habits, nor our words, nor our thoughts, nor
even our beliefs put us right with God. We never are right enough
with God. God takes us in as Children, as recipients and bearers of
Good News, as Ambassadors of Christ, as the voice, the hands, the
feet, and the compassionate Grace of Jesus Christ for other people.
God does it all, and then we get to respond, because the Holy Spirit
equips us to respond.
can practice responding, bathing ourselves first in reminders that we
need the Holy Spirit to work in us, in order that our practice will
be any good at all. Then we can set forth, practising all we can;
Praying that the Holy Spirit will transform our feeble efforts into
the real Grace of Jesus the Christ.
can we do to change our hearts?
1967, when Bernard Christian transplanted the first human heart, we
can have surgeons transplant our diseased heart with a new heart.
Heart transplant patients report that having one’s heart changed is
more than just a physical experience. Something more changes, as
another person’s heart gives them life, a person that has met an
untimely death. The patient carries on with life, for themselves and
in a noticeable small way for the donor of the heart.
What is the heart to us? What exactly are we
trying to change?
many ways the heart is much more than it was thought to be in old
Hebrew thought, or even in the thoughts concerning heart, mind and
soul in Jesus’ day.
in OT thoughts of heart, Greek thoughts of heart, compared to mind
and soul, and compared to today: heart, the seat of emotion. Maybe
many minds today the heart is the seat of emotion, of passion, of a
person’s will. This may not match much of what we know about the
physical anatomy of the human body and mind; but it is common in
literature and in everyday thought.
our understanding of the heart is accurate or not, this evening’s
theme is precisely about more than changing just a physical heart. We
are talking about changing that which is the seat of one’s
emotions, the center of one’s own will, and the motive center
behind one’s thinking and actions.
change the seat of emotions, the center of one’s will, the motives
behind one’s thinking and actions is first off, a very complicated
it is so much more complicated to accomplish. It is nearly out of the
realm of human possibility, but not wholly.
So Many Efforts Miss
well-heeled congregation decided to do something really good for a
poor neighbourhood nearby. After carefully looking through the
neighbourhood they found a deserted chunk of land, filled with weeds,
stones, even the odd syringe. They decided it would make the perfect
neighbourhood playground. They bought the land, brought in good
topsoil, sod, and finally playground equipment. Then they headed to a
community hall to “hand over” ownership. The community leaders
said a very polite thank you, but seemed lacking in enthusiasm.
wrong?” a congregation member blurted out.
said one of the community leaders, “we had plans for that land. We
had been saving money and applying for grants with corporate
sponsors, invested in getting drawings done and we were about 6
months from startup. It would have had a play area, community gardens
and even a basketball court on one end.
we’ll have to let all that go and enjoy the playground.”
But still we can start trying
are things we can do to change our hearts, to change how we feel
about another person, our situation in life, the events that happen
around us. While we cannot change our individual emotional responses
to events, we can slowly, through diligent practice of habits, change
the range of our emotions that we experience. We can over time,
encountering pretty much the same kind of events, move ourselves from
a sad, downward unengaged emotional response to common enough events,
to a hope-filled, engaged, even joy-filled emotional response to the
same common events.
takes lots of time, diligent work, and a motivation that is nearly
Holy Spirit is writing on our Hearts
that is when we see that, though we may like to think we can
accomplish such a change of heart, the Holy Spirit is required to
change our hearts to be those of people to serve Christ and Christ’s
the other hand if we ever would want to change our hearts away from
God, then we need to fight off the Holy Spirit first. We need to
fight against the Spirit to be able to think we taken even one step
distance from God who has promised to be with us for life and beyond.
we can do, forgive: act as if the other has not sinned against us.
Treat them special, even. Give them gifts they really want. Behave
that they are precious to us; they become precious, and then we
realize, we have actually forgiven them. We’ve moved beyond the
emotional load experienced when we remember what they have done to
us. We still remember, but it is not an emotional drain. It is more
and more like information that does not impact us.
Changing a Heart makes huge differences
many ways we suffer what happens to our hearts.
we can choose to set parameters for our hearts. We can choose the
universe that our hearts operate in. Other people influence our
hearts more than we will ever know.
can try to fix the world with our privilege, power, and wealth. Or we
can use our ears to listen to those in need, our minds to discern
what the real issues are, and our hearts to empathize with their
plight so that how we act will actually meet the real needs of the
people we try to help.
Augustine, perhaps the most influential of Christianity’s early
thinkers, writers, preachers, and practitioners of faith, did not
start out a Christian. Born of a Christian mother and a pagan father,
he was denied baptism. He spent his youth as a Manichaean, and
according to his own accounts lost himself in pleasures and wanton
living. He was befriended by Ambrose, who he met since they both
shared exceptional skills as rhetoricians. It was Ambrose’s
friendship that deeply effected St. Augustine’s heart. He converted
to Christianity, was baptized, and ended his life serving as the
Bishop of Hippo in north Africa, where he wrote and preached; and
steered the course of Christianity to the faith we recognize today,
as well as the Roman empire towards Christianity.
is the heart that informs and equips us to turn our lives in a
different direction, which can either be for ill or for the better.
It is our hearts devoted to Christ, thankful for all Christ has done
to give us breath and renewed life, which focus us on faith, ideas,
words, and actions which can help others experience what we
experience from Christ.
change the course of our lives, and the course of our communities,
our churches, our countries, and even the course of human history.
Joyful and blameless; a gift
trust that God is always with us. We can be blameless and joyful
therefore, not because it is our track record, but because Jesus
steps in for us and we are reckoned to have Jesus’ blameless track
One person, the Christ, was
blameless, gifts his to us
there was one human who lived and lived entirely blameless
before God, the whole of human history is changed, yours and mine,
and each of our lives are inexorably changed toward God, toward life,
and toward giving everything we have and are in order that others may
know God’s grace as well.
Donor of a Heart; call to sacrifice so others may
live with great hearts
is something to being a human heart donor, besides that first one is
on the other side of death. It is to give to another the seat of
one’s will and passion, the center of one’s life, and to give it
to another in order that they may live, and living may have life
a heart. Have a change of heart. Give your heart to living as God
calls and equips you to live.
you heart to the will, passion, and purpose of Jesus Christ.
live as never before: live the fast that is acceptable to God, the
fast that through our sacrifice others receive justice, freedom,
food, and homes.
As way of introductory words to explain Beale Street and ‘Justice’:
“Beale Street is a street in New Orleans, where my father, where Louis Armstrong and the jazz were born,” the quote reads in the opening shot of the movie. “Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the back neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy. This novel deals with the impossibility and the possibility, the absolute necessity, to give expression to this legacy.
“Beale Street is a loud street. It is left to the reader to discern a meaning in the beating of the drums.” James Baldwin
The actual street named Beale Street is located in Memphis. But there is a Beale Street in every city, in every town, in every rural place where people live. While the book/movies is about the racial realities of black discrimination, the injustice of false convictions run rampant in many places against many minorities. In Canada jails are filed with aboriginal peoples. In Alberta and elsewhere the discrimination has turned from <against women falsely accused by their men and then easily convicted> to <men falsely accused by their women and easily convicted without any real proof>. As were men in decades past, these women are encouraged and free to lie even under oath in court, with the courts also freely lying even in decisions to absolve women of their lies and to falsely convict men of things they have never done, and of things that often their women have done to the men. Our courts are no more just than any, ever. Capital punishment is not a sentence given by the judges; it is a sentence worked out by inmates and guards, and by countless people in the communities -not least the RCMP and Police and workers in the ‘Justice’ system, who may or may not believe the lies and false convictions, and who then, regardless, rob reputation, labour opportunities, and health from these innocent not-criminals.
Since the beginning of time people have lied to get ahead, to destroy others who are in their way, or just for the sport of it.
But the truth is known by God, and all will stand before God’s throne to be judged. While Grace is our hope, our proclamation, and God’s promise; there is also the promise that the oppressor, the unrighteous, the destroyers of others will face their end in God’s Judgment. There will be no witnesses needed, no testimony – false or not. God already knows everything.
We trust that what God judges will be gracious. We trust that those who stand against the truth somehow will be brought to stop.
But God is the judge, not us. not any of us
So we leave Justice in God’s hands, because humans botch it so consistently …
and we proclaim grace
and real hope.
Now for the sermon proper:
Lenten Theme Isaiah 58 The acceptable fast brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those without Lessons for this Sunday: Joshua 5:9-12 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Street Could Talk
wonders how the world would be if indeed the streets could speak of
the injustices that God’s people have suffered at the hands of
God’s people. If indeed the disgrace of God’s people would be
removed. If indeed the effects of all the sins of the people would be
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a movie (adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same title) about a young black man ruined by the in-justice system. A young white man has made unrelenting advances on his fiancée in a store. He stands up for her, drives the white thug off, but not before a dirty cop tries unsuccessfully to arrest the young black man. The dirty copy gets revenge. It is about the dirty justice system whose people make this wonderful, creative, loving young man into an incarcerated black. Everything about this young human being is reduced to one of many young black men jailed and beaten, though innocent.
old has passed away. Everything is made new.
This young man, a sculptor, a young father, makes things new out of chunks of wood. Until a dirty cop and a dirty justice system rob him of his everything, until they rob his family, his wife to be and their child, of everything. The dirty ones rob him by accusing him of a terrible, filthy, horrible rape. They disgrace him. They let him be beaten in jail. They terrorize him with delays upon delays and threats upon threats until he breaks and accepts a plea, a guilty plea of an innocent man, and he serves someone else’s time.
It’s quite the image that Joshua gives as the people gather to celebrate the Passover in the Promised Land: in the English we have God “rolls away” their disgrace. The German gives a hint that the Hebrew is more colourful: ‘Heute habe ich die Schande Ägyptens von euch abgewälzt.’. God ‘waltzes away’ the disgrace of the people. Generations ago they were saved but then enslaved, freed but then trapped in the wilderness … until today with Joshua, they stand in the land promised to Abraham, and they eat from the fruit of the land. No more wandering, no more manna. They have come home, and God welcomes them waltzing away in celebration their layers of slavery and disgrace.
waltzes away our disgrace, our sins, our slavery … and God sets us
For God made Jesus, who did not sin, to bear all the sins of all the people through time, precisely in order that you and I, in order that all of us, would not only be free. God set us free precisely in order that you and I and all of us would be made into the righteousness of God visible, embodied here and now on this earth.
Our freedom, our righteousness, in NO WAY is earned by our actions.
Either we are like the younger son, as we claim all sorts of rights and privileges, and all that is due us … and then we squander the precious things God has given us on the oldest vices available to humans who can choose. We can choose because God made us able to love. To love is to be able to choose to love, which means we must be able to choose not to love, which is to choose evil. So we either choose to squander God’s precious gifts to us …
like the older son as we serve God with great labours and
self-righteousness. We do not squander God’s love, but we
comprehend it completely not.
When God wants to celebrate God’s forgiveness, and a lost sinner’s return to life, we get self-righteously angry. We behave as if we somehow owned God’s will. As if we, with our obedience and labours, have earned all that we have, but even more so we own the right to judge other sinners. We’ve allowed ourselves to become so blind to the grace that daily gives us renewed breath. We want to be better than we are, and comparing ourselves to other’s whose sins are more known we think we are somehow good enough. Thus …
refuse to celebrate with God. We refuse to celebrate with God exactly
what we are created to be and do: we are created to proclaim and
celebrate that God is gracious, forgiving sins, dancing away
disgrace, and feeding us from the produce of the Promised Land.
the same old, same old that has hung around the necks and souls of
humans since the beginning of time.
Even though, all the time, each and every one of us is like either the younger or the elder son, and sometimes we are like both at the same time … Even so God promises us it is different in the Kingdom of God. It is different now, here and now, in the Kingdom of God. For the Kingdom of God is at hand.
the Kingdom of God, all confess that only by Grace do we breathe, or
drink, or eat, or work, or celebrate, or love, or hope.
By Grace all our sins, yours and mine and all of ours, are taken up in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are made into God’s righteousness.
not pretenders. God makes us not just good, not just sometimes good,
not better than others. God makes us into God’s own righteousness.
In that righteousness everything old has indeed passed away. In that righteousness everything is made new. You and I, and each one of us, are made into new creatures. All of creation is made new.
As God’s righteousness you and I and each one of us, really have nothing worth doing other than what Jesus calls us to do, what the Holy Spirit makes us capable of doing. We think, pray, speak and act so that those around us know that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and they are welcomed in just as we are; not because we’ve earned it, not at all. They and we are welcomed in because God wants it that way.
Though we remain sinners all the time, unable to free ourselves, God forgives us each day all our new sins, so that we can forgive ourselves, and so that then we can turn to everyone else and forgive them!
God has made us into Christ’s voice, hands and compassion, so that we will reconcile not only ourselves, but all others, and even the creation so broken … so that we will reconcile all people back to God, so that we will reconcile all creation back to God.
I, and each one of us, are God’s ambassadors.
We stand in the promised land, in the Kingdom of God, and we eat of the fruit of this land, the produce of this Kingdom.
The light of God is bright and the hyenas of home are sent scurrying for cover into their own darkness.
We stand, knowing that God is with us and was with us all the way or we would never reach the promised land. We stand and celebrate the return of each lost sinner. For we know that is us, each day. We trust that God will always be with us, as we arrive in the Promised Land anew each day. As we leave our pack of hyenas in the dark and come into the Light of life.
We trust that this Lent our being Christ’s ambassadors, no matter what it costs us, is our Lenten fast, the fast that God finds acceptable, the fast that brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those who most need them. Most of all our fast brings forgiveness and reconciliation to those who need it most: you and me, and each one of us.
Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear not only the Black man’s
story, or the indigenous man’s story, or the refugee’s story. If
everyone’s Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear Jesus’ story
and ourselves in it.
in this new creation,
the Light Shines!
One day, the Light of Christ will shine Light on every Beale Street story, and the disgrace will be where it belongs.