The sermon is interspersed with snippets of music.
Jeremiah 23:23-29 Hebrews 11:29–12:2 Luke 12:49-56
We Cannot Interpret the Present
is it that Jesus says we do not know how to interpret the present
can forecast the weather so we know it will rain before the
clouds appear on the horizon, and we know days before the wind
starts it’ll be scorching hot or freezing cold. Can we really not
interpret the present time?
the Bringer of Peace?
looked to the stars, to see the number of descendants God promised
Abraham and Sarah. We’ve looked to Jesus on the cross and heard
that as we confess our sins and forgive others their sins Jesus
forgives us. We’ve listened and heard that Jesus blesses
have sung of Jesus bringing Peace Like a River, with it’s catchy
Peace Like a River
God Does Not Come In Monochrome
Brings Conflict, Fire, The Hammer of God
the lessons for today say, “Think again!” Jesus came not to bring
peace, but instead division. Jesus came to bring God’s Word of
fire. God’s word is a hammer that strikes the solid rock
foundations of our lives and shatters them.
Creation is no Monophony
Word is so much more like Beethoven’s 5th. It comes down
like a hammer in our hearts, pounding out any notion that what is to
come might be whimsical or easy. God sends Jesus, the Word made
flesh; and God means business.
5th opening ‘hammers’ and a phrases following
Not Come In Monotone
Enough to Communicate God’s Reality
moves our hearts stimulating in the same moment Joy, Grief and Hope
in us. How better to make sense of the harsh reality of these
lessons. Music, with the touch that harmonizes the spheres of the
universe, heals us and sets us right with God’s people and
creation: we thrive with music in our hearts. Like everything there
is of course Music that serves to break down creation, as at Jericho,
but we will leave that behind. But should we?
Creation is no Monodrama
and Between Us
says he comes not to bring peace, but division and conflict. God
means business, sending Jesus, who is as powerful as the Word that
created the universe, which separated the Light from the Darkness.
must respond. If we respond with faith, our lives are forever
changed. If we respond with disbelief, then our lives take another
path. Even with faith created in us we still remain sinners who do
not believe. Jesus brings conflict within each of us. Since Luke’s
time the Gospel has divided also families. Often in history if one
believed, one would be persecuted and killed. Those of us who believe
end up in conflict with those who do not.
have a Monopoly on Loving Us ALL
expensive. Faith still is as Jesus’ Love Catches Us.
was expensive among Luke’s readers. When Jesus creates faith in us
it still is.
music we know is not about our lives. We just get caught up in the
rhythm and dance our hearts out. ABBA’s Ma Ma Mia is such a piece.
Then Jesus comes, catches us, and suddenly we are not merely dancing
to the music. The music is our lives. We are caught by Love, Jesus’
love, and getting away is impossible … even though we know there
are consequences for letting this love reach us … yet again.
Ma Ma Mia
God Did Not
Create Us as Mono-mimetic
that We Remember God’s Name
yearns for us, just as God yearned for the false prophets to give up
on spreading their own dreams and deceptions as if they were God’s
Word. God yearns because these false dreams and deceptions capture
our hearts and minds and cause us to forget God’s name. What a
terrible thing to suffer. To forget God’s name. To not even know
one’s own creator, redeemer, and guide to an abundant life.
is like going to a classical concert without knowing what is on the
program and after a warm up to Mozart, being agitated, gurgitated and
served up on a platter of confusion by Hindemith’s [/Bartók’s]
God is more
than Polyphiloprogenitive, God is Poly-All
we find God in that music? According to Jeremiah God is not
far off, nor only near. God fills the entire universe; and yet we
forget God’s name because we listen to tempting, false words.
God sends someone to remind us that without God Our Blue Eyes are
Crying in the Rain, and we know that we’ve deserted love and left
our hearts as empty as a Monday Morning Church.
Crying in the Rain OR Monday Morning Church
People are Polychromatic, Polyphonic, Polyrhythmic, Poly- of ALL
God has not deserted us. We have a great cloud of witnesses
that tell us otherwise: From the Red Sea, to Jericho, to Rahab,
Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and to the prophets
God has made great things happen. But not all God’s people were
brought success or honour.
of God’s faithful die after they suffer shame, having lived
destitute, persecuted and tormented, wandering homeless the deserts
and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground.
God provides for them all a better end, to live with us, in faith.
great cloud of witnesses to God’s Word, accompanies us each day, as
we persevere in the race put before us. Ours is not a race of our
choosing. God puts this race before us, and race we must.
People are Poly-therapeutic
Movie The Last Face: Living the life God gives us: for others
the movie The
Last Face, two doctors work
in Liberia and Sierra
Leone’s conflicts. Wren
is an idealist, fundraiser
organizer. Migel is an
realist, working on the front lines.
on the front lines with him, Wren falls in love with Migel and it
changes them forever, as love is wont to do. Then she has to choose
which one of six people will be given the last of their blood supply.
The other five will die. When they have to leave all six of them to
die as the conflict arrives the next day at their makeshift hospital,
Wren loses her nerve. It is impossible to make any difference. She
questions why they are there anyway. Why do these people have to live
lives beyond hopelessness to fully trusting not that he can make the
whole situation change, but that he can in one area if only
temporarily, one day at a time, one patient at a time, do what he is
able as a doctor.
protests the senselessness of helping people who will die just days
later in the conflict anyway. He responds: these people are given
this life to live. Yes, I can leave, fly out to a city with safety
and hot showers and a good bed. They cannot. I cannot change the life
they are given, but I can give them what I have to give.
People are Poly-Resilient
the race that God puts us into is so profoundly hopeless that we get
caught up in the blues, depression, or even life-threatening
hopelessness. For we see the circle of life that does not change for
the better for so many of God’s own people.
then we know that if we put our blues to song, and we sing them out,
they become our prayers, and by grace they lose their grip on us.
Song Sung Blue
Race for Us is not Monotonous
we struggle to meet the challenges of each day God’s powerful Word
accompanies us, not to make it easy for us, but to buck us up to do
the hard work in the race put before us.
in so many ways, including in the movie Forgiven, Bishop Desmond Tutu
struggled against so many detractors who threatened to sink the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission because it would expose the atrocities
they had contributed to. Tutu meets these challenges, not easily but
with Grace, determination, joy, love, condemnation and hope.
had killed people. People revenged the killings. People revenged the
killings revenging killings. And on it would continue, if kept in
secret, forever. But brought out into the open it gave people the
opportunity to forgive!
is God’s Music
forgiveness, which made S.A.’s future as a united country possible,
we experience the long lead up to Beethoven’s 9th
Symphony’s resolution in the Ode to Joy Chorus, ringing across the
stars and back into the depths of our hearts. Here we experience the
power of Grace, of Love, of Joy, mixed with struggle, loss, and grief
until it comes out in us as Hope.
Beethoven’s 9th lead up to Ode to
the Universe from Chaos, Making Harmonies: from Galaxies to Atoms,
from the Circle of Life to Emotions and Beauty.
us Polyphonic Lives in Harmony with God’s Universe
interpret the present time?
can we possibly interpret the present time? Only when we realize that
God is here for us, can we see clearly that just as the south wind
brings scorching heat and the north wind brings bleeping freezing
Cold, so God brings rainbows of challenges each and every day in the
race set before us just so that we can practice meeting everyone with
Forgiveness and Grace.
we can move from Misery to Happiness, giving God thanks for
everything with the music that brings us into harmony with God’s
Good Creation. So we sing: “Now Thank we all our God, with hearts
and hands and voices”
Now Thank we all our God, with hearts and hands
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23 Psalm 49:1-12 Colossians 3:1-11 Luke 12:13-21
These are a number of thoughts collected about the lessons for this Sunday. Not really the sermon at all yet. But the challenges faced in finding a sermon when the lessons reflect heresies rejected by the Church, false wisdom, and admonitions of what not to be, but very little Gospel, Grace or … even Faith, Hope or Love.
When skiing in the mountains on a slope with trees on it Fear focuses one on the trees. But that is most likely going to get one right into a tree. One needs to focus on the good spaces between the trees where one wants to ski.
The Word for today: all of what we ought not to do? OT: the Wisdom, of a Fool, Disconnected from relationships NT: the Lists, hardly the freedom of Christ, and then Passion excluded, Passion which is God’s gift of fully engaging in life! Gospel: Greed, the thing that destroys life. Possessions, the things that overtake life.
The hints of Grace:
OT: nothing NT: seek things above clothed yourself with the new self, being renewed in the image of its creator in the renewal distinctions are gone, all are the same, Greek and Jew Gospel: Be rich (not in possessions) but towards God
What is Left?
Talk about the folly of each: the what we are not to be Bring to it our own assurance of God’s Grace: and how it applies to these foolishness, bad advice, and condemnation of being possessed by possessions. Bring to it our own sense of relationships as essential to human life, to the nature of God, i.e. Trinity, of accountability and responsibility to future generations
Seek Things above:
The Movie: The Journey to Palamor
The story of astronomical exploration through telescopes and our understanding of the universe: rate of expansion, quasars, galaxies, black matter, black holes, and on it goes. At one time Hale said the Wilson telescope would allow us to see the nature of the creator of the universe. Criticized: not to see the face of God Applauded: God’s handiwork is more marvelous than ever imagined. From the Earth being circled by lights (stars) and the sun and (planets) to the universe expanding out from one great explosion and the end of the universe coming when that explosion collapses on itself in b/trillions of years.
Thoughts about Each Lesson
OT: The self deluded fool
Vanities all that is is vanities
This supposedly wise man thinks he has it all well and good.
He says: Our toils produce and others enjoy it, who may be wise or foolish. He has no family, no friends, no community. This is a man who is a rock unto himself, He has laboured, and known great results, great wealth, great power, King of the people, enough that he identifies his being with the results of his labours and in his misguided wisdom he declares that God has created, man has worked, and nothing is worth anything more than the vapour of self-importance based on absolutely nothing at all.
The life with this fool’s perspective
What does this kind of life look like? It is a life where one makes oneself important. It is a life where God’s truth disappears into the vapours like the mists of the fog disappearing with the rising sun. And then anything that one wants can become the truth, or rather the lies that one believes are true. People are sacrificed. People do not count as people. They become stepping stones to make one succeed at whatever one counts that decade, that year, that month, that day as worth achieving. It is a life where despair takes on all sorts of guises, where one does not sacrifice to give other’s life. It is a life where instead of being thankful for what one has, one demands more and more of things that cannot fill the empty void that should be one’s heart and soul and full mind. It is a life that is at war with life itself. Where conflict and chaos allow one to hide from accountability or hope or love or … Jesus. It is a life that accepts that violence and vengeance are acceptable.
Story We Ain’t Poor
Florence Ferrier In the story We Ain’t Poor! a social worker in poverty-stricken Appalachia tells of her work with the Sheldons, a large family in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. The help they received was not adequate, yet they managed their meager income with ingenuity — and without complaint. One fall day the social worker “visited the Sheldons in the ramshackle rented house they lived in at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear, which strayed into their yard once too often. The meat had been processed into all the big canning jars they could find or swap for. There would be meat even during the worst of winter when their fuel costs were high. “Mr. Sheldon offered me a jar of bear meat. I hesitated to accept it, but the giver met my unspoken resistance firmly. ‘Now you just have to take this. We want you to have it. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!’“[The social work asked, ‘How can you say that?’] His answer proved unforgettable. “’When you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then you ain’t poor. When you don’t feel easy giving something away even if you got more’n you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.’” [Can we say] ‘We ain’t poor!’?
(Gospel Notes 2001, Brian Stoffregen, reworked TL)
NT: The Different Life: In Christ
In contrast to the wise king’s hopeless lack of vision in God’s creation, because he only knows himself, and does not let anyone into his own life, the writer of Colossians reminds us that Christ raises us differently into life free from what destroys us.
We can wonder that passion is somehow among the writer’s list of things that are to be left behind. Though if we remember that their expectations were that Jesus would return and the world would end, so leaving passion behind seemed a wise thing.
Living Now with Passion, Beauty
We know centuries later that the end may come at any time but we none the less must live so that the world is also filled with hope for our children and grandchildren, and generations after them. At creation God’s gifts includes passion. God’s gifts always include passion as a gift that binds us to one another. This is what the king had no room for. He had no passion to share the beauty of life with another person. He had no passion to know that God’s love and passion for creatures moved God to speak a word “Let there be Light.” From God’s simple words the whole of what is came into being. But chaos of the life that the king has found where everything is futile and vapours and vanity, that is what God took and with a word created non-chaos, creation. We live in that blessed creation of order and beauty.
It is not perfect, for God loved us enough to give us freewill. We choose, too often, not to love all creation with the passion that God put into those words: “Let there be Light!”. Each of us requires God’s great sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son, to redeem us, to make us good in God’s eyes. But then … then the whole of creation in all it’s order and beauty and passions and hope and loves transforms all that we see and know. Not just for ourselves, but for the next generation, and all the generations to come.
Story The Next Generations Ain’t Heavy
A family, in a country of a repressive government, were placed under house arrest. Under pressure from other nations, the parents were told they could leave the country, but that they could only take two hundred pounds with them. So the family began to argue about and sort through what to take: computers, cooking utensils, books, toys, clothing; what was most important? Finally they had decided. An official came to the door. “Are you ready?” “Yes, we’re ready. We’ve packed two hundred pounds.” The official asked, “Did you weigh the children?” Suddenly, computers, pots & pans, books, toys, clothing seemed absolutely worthless.
(Sharla Hulsey, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Sac City, Iowa reworked TL2001 reworked kas 2016)
Greed, It is a false passion that takes all the joys and hopes and dreams and real visions of the goodness of creation, denies them all, and tries to replace them with a thing, a quantity, a power, a gathering of wealth.
Greed is related to gluttony; it kills us as we try to possess too much. “A glutton is (a person) who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.”
(Wishful Thinking, F Buechner)
But the world is not good because one has money, or power, or anything else.
Ante-Greed, Sacrificial Labour and Love
The world God created is made of sacrificial love. Life sharing love. Labours for others, for the next generations. Time so precious for we only have so many days on this wonder-filled world. We have only so many minutes to share God’s own beauty with others. The world God created us to live in brings us a life of challenges, hopes, and dreams, some too often dashed, promises realized, or not. Always God calls us to see so far beyond all our possessions. We all get caught by them and they possess us. But Jesus lived, died and rose back to life, just so that we can see beyond what would capture and suffocate our hearts. We can see those things above. And seeing the things above we can know how precious God names all those things that are this earth, this world, this wonder.
What life? Choose!
What life do you want to live? A life of vanities, all is vapours, all is for nothing, for generations of fools will follow us. Or A life of dreams, passionate beauty, simple joys, shared so that they multiply and bring us all to hope, to hope that our labours will give the goodness of life to others, for generations to come.
Scratch Notes on Each Lesson
Scratch OT Thoughts
Vanity, also vapour. All is vanity: this is a BAD take on God’s good creation
Not Wisdom, Folly
This is not wisdom, this is stupidity, faithlessness, depression, self-based delusion of world-denying-God thoughts. This is in the Canon: one can only point out how wrong it is! The Teacher, when King, (probably NOT a king then a teacher!)
I saw all the deeds: This guy is pretentious. No human can see all the deeds done. From such a skewed take on his own reality and place in creation, he comes to the conclusion that ‘all is chasing after the wind.’ Tapes our fears This has a ring to it that seems true. We’ve all had the feeling that life is useless and labour the most useless part of it. It is tempting to think that it is right. It is tempting, but it is not right or healthy or wise or blessed, or anything worth much except to create fear in people instead of calm that feeds good labours that bring the fullness of life to oneself, one’s family, community, and to others, i.e. strangers, guests, sojourners, enemies.
Choice of Hate:
hated: well that is a choice of how to respond to the world, a bad choice, an against-God, faith, life choice. No wonder the ‘Teacher’ ends up thinking as he does!
To hate work
hated his toils: That is a choice, a choice of privilege and luxury. Hatred of the essential work to stay alive is a sure way to come to an abrupt and early end. Even despicable labour, if required for life, has a redeeming value. Tedious work today has the reward of a pay-cheque, which enables one to eat, have shelter, provide for one’s family. To love (boring) work Making work that is tedious nonetheless interesting is valuable skill of living well. It is a choice to learn it, it is a choice to refuse to learn it. Nearly everyone gets lots of opportunity to learn it. Only the decadent wealthy can skip that one!
Devolved Despair, ante-faith
The texts devolves into foolishness: despair and complaint that one’s labours can be such to provide for the next generation(s), though one cannot control whether they be wise or foolish who inherit the benefit of one’s labours. Where is this guy’s sense of community, of continuity, or existing through the results of his labours in a small way contributing to the future generations. All of this is not only missing, it is flat out bemoaned as possible! That is the essence of EVIL. To take what is blessing and make it cursed! He turns his heart to despair: this is the antithesis of faith! A choice.
Benefits of Labour
What do mortals get from their labours: they get meaning and life well lived and a legacy … and joy and hope, and the pleasure of seeing things accomplished that would not otherwise be if one did not labour! YES: our days are full of pain and vexation. Our nights full of minds that do not rest. For we worry when and how we do not need to, which produces no good results … BECAUSE we do not trust that God is at work in our labours as well! BECAUSE we turn from the blessing of God’s presence, and try to live on our own. And that kind of living, trying to live separate from God our creator, redeemer and inspirer/guide, is what leads to all sorts of EVIL starting with abandoning one’s heart to despair/Evil/hatred/vengeance/blindness: conflict, sexual misconduct, abuse, lies, wars, and destruction of creation and people. So the Teacher is right: abandon God (as if one could) and then all is just vanity, vapour, ethereal, false, empty, futile, meaningless … and all that is the basis of stupidity, not wisdom. So the guy is all screwed up, like us all.
Know our place: we are creatures and all of us will die, wise or foolish. Our riches can never make life good. Only God can do that for us. God has done that for us.
Scratch NT Thoughts
This psuedo pauline thought is treacherously deceptive: but there is a core that is healthy and helpful: Christ moves us beyond our Past There are things in our past, which Christ moves us beyond. Look above, to the heavens. See God’s truth, There are things that make for life, and redeemed by Christ, raised up with Christ we can live better (not good enough for God, for that we require Christ’s redemption first, foremost and throughout to the last).
Hidden to be revealed
The anticipation of Christ’s return: of us being hidden with Christ and revealed in Glory with Christ is wonderful and deceptive. Life as faithful that is secret is not full life. But at times that has been the only option forward for the faithful as forces would destroy them if they revealed themselves as Christ’s – see the Missionaries to Japan, the movie where they denounce Christ, even write tracts against Christianity, but in secret they continue to witness to their faith and those who in secret know what to look for, see their witness and their sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice: giving up one’s faith to be faithful witnesses They sacrifice the ability to practice, profess and teach the faith. They spit on God, and on Jesus, they tread on the Bible. But they remain faithful! For outward practices are NOT faith.
Lists of ‘faith practices’
Christ is the ALL in ALL. All our whimpy attempts to reduce faith to a certain set of practices is vanity, all vanity, and a temptation to deny true faith in our hearts, minds, souls, families, churches, communities, nations, world, and in all of God’s creation. So the writer’s lists of what is left behind is … deceptive. There are things in the list that are destructive, and we can leave them behind if we wish a better, fuller life. Lists denounce Passion, But Passion is a gift from God Passion though! That is all wrong. Though passion can be embraced outside of faithful living and run amok. See Sodom and Gomorrah and, and and …. But passion as the full-hearted embracing of being a body in God’s creation, is truly one of the most precious gifts God made as part of creation. We like Luther, can embrace the mundane as sacred: beer is God’s gift, sexuality is dangerous to deny and a great joy to embrace in a marriage. The problem with making lists of acceptable behaviours and unacceptable behaviours is it is wrong headed: the destruction is in these, but the foolishness of thinking one can entirely free oneself from sin, or that telling others to is at all helpful, really … the foolishness is profoundly wrong headed and endangers not only oneself, but those to whom one would teach/demand these lists.
Be … Blessed
Be passionate, about God’s beautiful creation and all that is in it, that God has blessed us with short days to enjoy! Be free in Christ to move beyond selfishness, greed and … that is a list … so that one can live more fully. But always remember that one lives fully only because of Christ’s redemption, not because of one’s efforts to be good. Be free, be bold, be beautiful, and let God forgive your sin, and all the sin around you. Breathe the Spirit in. The vapours/vanity/supposed wisdom is actually blessed God present calling us forward out of our despair into the Light of creation.
Scratch Gospel Thoughts:
Using Christ to get ahead, get more, ahh we have more than perfected the use of God/Christ/Spirit/Religion to pound others down and try to get ahead.
More than abundance
Clear from Christ: life is much more/other than the abundance of possessions. For possessions are not a blessing; they possess one. They are as much an impediment to the fullness of life as any misappropriation of God’s good creation. The foolish man, like the ‘wise Teacher who despairs’, thinks only of himself. Good crops, bigger barns, security for the future of the community … all that is good! The cursed thought: Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.
One’s own treasure, or God’s Gifts
That is the error of death: to think that one’s treasures are ‘for [one’s self]’ Fools who are already walking dead think their treasure is for themselves! Rather be rich towards God, well that takes no possessions, and even with many possessions it is possible, though the more one is possessed by possessions (the more one possesses one is possessed by them!) the greater the temptation is to find security in one’s own wealth, instead of in God’s mercy and grace!
Our hoarding gives others inability to live, at all.
Then one hoards and is greedy and one denies the ample production of creation which others need! Just to survive, yet alone live abundantly!
Dorothea Sölle gave the usual list of the 5 basic requirements for life:
appropriate clothing (not fashion, but function: safe from the environment.)
shelter to these she added two more:
love – being loved and being able to love others. And to that I will add that one needs
culture: art like music and photography. Tonight, after a day of church and work continuing to set up a campsite for the remainder of the allowed 14 days before breaking it all down and moving off for 72 hours, we decided to go for a walk. It was after supper, so with a few tools, we headed out on a trail rarely used, and apparently not at all for the last year or so. As we went we cleared it so that coming back would be easier, and others could use it. There is a great deal of good fire wood to collect, that will otherwise rot. The temperatures out are a comfortable 20⁰C dropping to 17⁰ before we got back just as the sun set orange out over the lake.
So I have much to give thanks for:
Air the air is clean
Water there is plenty of clean water to drink and to clean with.
Food there is for this day nourishing food.
Clothing I have good clothing for living in the woods and for this walk enough deet spray to cover my shoes, socks, jeans, and a special hat that has flaps down over the ears and the back of one’s neck. Sprayed with deet that hat keeps the bugs off the entire head. And gloves, oh so crucial, leather gloves to protect the hands from all the brush and mosquitoes!
There is a very cozy camper to return to, in which no bugs survive for long, it is temperature controlled, with a place to write, sleep and wash up.
Meaningful Labour This work of clearing off the path took just the right amount of work, soaked my shirt with sweat completely, and did not over tax any of my aging muscles. And the benefit of our labours will be enjoyed by countless people.
Love, given and received! This I all got to enjoy with the love of my life, who loves me unconditionally, who I can safely love unconditionally. No, we are not perfect nor are our lives, but we are both kind, and kind to each other. And we dance delightfully together, with our own kind of stepping marvellously in tune to the other, with the ability to start and stop and change the step to a great variety, so as to allow the aging bones and muscles a variety of movements to not freeze up from repetition, yet alone to leave one’s mind frozen in one count or hitch.
Culture That is always a bit of culture, that remains a joy for both of us, and most all who witness us at graceful play. So on return I got to enjoy: a great option to clean up with hot water! A great hot cup of spice tea, with just the right amount of milk added, which somehow reminds me of growing up with 5 brothers and 5 sisters, and taking an afternoon break with my dad, who always had a cup of tea, and easily allowed us one as well if we added milk. Along with the tea just right I had some lemon yogurt, just the right mix of sour and sweet, the pucker power reminds me of my youngest son who loved lemons, just so. As we puckered up and said it was great vitamin C!
Music The greatest part of the evening is to return with enough solar power collected to allow an hour of so of music, from my playlist. Notably (which means these pieces evoke some of the deepest most thorough joy I have known): Good Lovelies, especially and starting off with Lie Down Beside Me, to be reminded of the goodness of love and of it’s loss. Rufus Wainwright singing Cohen’s Alleluia, a haunting reminder of God’s presence in the darkest times of my life. Over the Rainbow by Israel k. Just goodness of life! The Proclaimers’ I’m On My Way [to Happiness] which always gets the base turned up, the volume up too high and smiles, reminders of many a dance step of grace, enjoyed by us and the band that noticed us. A great number from ABBA Take a Chance on Me, Fernando, of course Mama-Mia, and Cohen, not least of Take this Waltz, Anthem, and Closing Time. I toss in a bit of Mozart French Horn, the beauty of brass, even though I played the Euphonium, I always envied the French Horn players. And to top off the end of the music before too many volts are consumed: The Proclaimers’ 500 miles, a simple and thorough statement of being a man who will live ‘in love’, which we know is a choice of health!
But the photography that is always there is the desktop I’ve chosen recently of a photo I took this year on 19th July at 21:34.
It haunts me every time I see it, even though I am the photographer whose taught for years. This photo keeps me from getting right down to work each time, but the time is not wasted.
Right there the essence of culture meets my mind no matter the colour or gray of the day: There is light at play from all sides collecting on the birch logs and waves, but pulling attention to the clouds on the horizon spanning from tree to tree with the blue of the water countered with the orange of the setting sun!
The photo haunts even me the photographer.
Why is it so haunting? Clue a panorama so that the light and wave patterns are just normal enough and yet out of place to be intriguing, if you do not discount it as a panorama.
There is nothing quite like it: spice with milk, lemon with sweet, the fresh air, clean hot water, the mosquitoes kept at bay, the cozy camper a home not quite a home, a path nearly cleared, all this shared with a kind person who loves me without guile or selfish demands, and spiced milk, sweet lemon, and the best music selection short but good enough to change one’s heart from set and hard to lively and inspired. Life is great!
It is a miracle to be somebody, somebody who knows how to enjoy life fully, with so little, but with everything that makes for a full life.
How’s your days measuring up? Are the daisy’s still down? Can you still dance with grace through all the challenges that come your way each day? Do you know God’s love is so assured that it need not even be mentioned as part of the essentials of life? Do you have music that inspires you to love all of life completely, to a 4/4 two step, or a 3/4 waltz? What are you missing? Ask and you shall receive, for God gives us all that we need, just not everything we ask for!
Be Somebody: share the essentials of good life everyday with someone new. Everyone needs them! And smile, God created you, and us all, to be able to enjoy the deep based line of nature’s best music.
The owl may hoot every night, but I am not the one tagged for death, I am the one tagged for extraordinarily important things to happen around and because of: It is enough to see one’s love dancing to the Proclaimers’ “I am going to be the man who will grow old with you. I will walk 500 miles and I would walk another 500 miles just to be the man who walked one thousand miles to fall down at your door.”
Isaiah 66:10-14, Psalm 66:1-9, Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Our Names are Written in Heaven
A proposal by airplane. Wondrous, a dream come true for two people in love
about their lives is changed:
perspective of love.
forbearance of love
genuine empathy of love
The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela 18 July 1918 –
5 December 2013
at 80, 27 years in jail, freed, reunited with Winnie, Winnie’s other love, separated from Winnie, divorced from Winnie, leader of a nation before he was even released from prison, and now a leader not elected but negotiated with, and then elected,
and NOW the most lonely person on planet.
love is as devastating as love is equipping and empowering to take on
Then at at 79 Nelson Mandela falls in love again with, Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel. (born 17 Oct 1945.)
marries her on his 80th birthday!
trees, the stumps of the past, the light.
Work of Love
not free: must be worked at each and every day.
work at being the person who behaves ‘in love’ with your spouse,
you will love your spouse, as delightfully, marvelously, as
colorfully as the first day you fell in love.
makes life different!
What does that mean for us?
the Kingdom of God has come near,
Quote from Mother Theresa
Teresa said, “Our work is constant. The problems of the poor
continue, so our work continues. Yet everyone can do something
beautiful for God by reaching out to the poor. I see only people
filled with God’s love, wanting to do works of love. This is the
future—this is God’s wish for us—to serve through love in
action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called.”
Book of Peace: Finding the Spirit in a Busy World
(London: Rider, 2002), 74.
What does that mean for us?
What are we going to do in response?
In the meanwhile:
will accept and grow from the nurture of God, like the nurture of a
prosperous city, the city of Jerusalem.
will reject us and the peace and love of God that we bring. Still the
message is the same: the Kingdom of God has come near!
OT: Always God is there for us:
return from Exile:
of nurture, comfort, delight, and peace.
an image is needed: of God: Mother nursing us, carrying us, dandling
us on her knees!
The Jerusalem of the/to day
old, it’s gone, can be mourned
New, it’s coming, a promise of God at the end of time
Result for us:
will flow like a river, full and flooding it’s banks distributing
silt and soil for all in it’s vicinity.
hearts shall rejoice
bodies shall flourish.
God there for ALL of us, as the past is gone, the
promise of tomorrow not yet
rejoice, even us that mourn the loss of the old Jerusalem, the way it
was in the past.
brimming churches with SS busy with children, many per age in
classrooms abuzz with activities, learning, and sometimes real Gospel
and real Grace of God, and real love of God.
the loss, look to the new creation!
more foolish, bare obvious ridiculous than a 70 male, a man of power
and corruption, divorcing himself from his wife of his youth, and
claiming again and again a yet younger woman, in an effort to remain
youthful, to deny his age.
what is lost by denying it is GONE, DONE, PASSED. Instead buying with
wealth gained by corruption, an image of being younger than the real
OLD of his age.
more foolish, than an woman who does the same. Equally foolish and
destructive to all sorts of people, in the deception of self.
perhaps all the faithful people who look to the past of the church,
deny the change of culture around us away from church participation,
and expend great energy trying to recapture what is lost, past, or
dying; instead of working to be what God makes us able to be today.
one another’s stories, we’re too busy struggling as a
congregation with each other’s untoward behaviours, anxious
out on the opportunities to work in the real world, from the real
stories of each other’s lives. Like ostriches, we bury our heads in
sand, unable to see the GOODness of creation. And we suffocate there,
hiding from reality. God cannot nurture us there: no comforting, no
nursing, no dandling on God’s knees.
through the prosperity of the City of God, the city of peace,
nurtures, comforts, provides for us,
have returned home from exile,
have deserted home for better efforts elsewhere
us who, like the older son of the prodigal father, have remained, worked diligently at home, and are envious of the returnees given free grace, we receive grace even though we have come to rely on ourselves, our works, our merits … though they may be something, they’re nothing before God,
NEED God’s Grace.
through the prosperity of the City of God, the city of peace,
nurtures, comforts, provides for ALL of us,
Just like a Mother provides for her infants.
love: God’s for us, our delight in God: we respond with singing for
joy, with praise and adoration, with joy, even as we mourn the loss
of the past.
The truth of love
love with us, you, writes our/your name/s in heaven: the dream of all
dreams, hopes, and life itself, fulfilled, for us and for God!
claims, names, and commissions us, sends us
harvest: plentiful, with few workers:
What does that mean for us?
What are we going to do in response?
work, the paddling, the water of life, the light.
Confused Paul in Galatians:
each other’s burdens, all must carry their own loads.
sin, each carried with gentleness by the rest of us.
work, each carry our own load, to provide necessities of life.
comforts, nourishes, promises: But we still get to work like the
dickens to make life good for ourselves and our community, and those
God’s care does not supplant our own labours, rather God, enables our labours to be productive.
There is joy in diligent, hard, directed, purposeful labour. Labour is a necessity of life: air, water, food, clothing, shelter, purposeful labour, and love (giving and receiving).
As we work: remember God’s promise: most
our names are written in heaven.
than our ability in Christ’s name to heal, to feed, to care for, to
love others, to forgive, to be gentle with each other:
has acted, named us, written our names in heaven!
miracles to see in this creation. Greater is God’s Grace which
names us as God’s
written not because of a fluke, not because of our work, not because
of correct faith, not because of our hanging on to or letting go of
our histories, but
Just because God wants it so, out of love for
power of the heavens, where our names are written
are we? Do we need to make a name for ourselves? Will we ever be
satisfied with God’s Word present among us?
created the universe.
On the seventh day God rested and declared it was all
good. God created
us with such
potential: the potential to reach for the stars, the potential to
love one another, ourselves and even our enemies. Our power of
imagination to see what is not and strive to accomplish things new
and wonderful carries us from one generation to the next. We can
share the breath of beauty, the wind of hope, and the fire of the
future with one another.
also gave us freedom, so that we have the
potential to reject the gifts God gives us. The
goodness of life is fragile. There
are so many ways for life to go wrong. We
can choose to dive into
the depths of darkness, to hide our false pride and
our self-centered arrogance, to wallow in
the despair that
generation after generation. We can
to addictions and armed conflict, to abuse
and terror that causes PTSD in its victims, to Gaslighting, bearing
false witness, and even
murder. We have
the potential to destroy all of life
on earth, but the real destruction are all
the avenues we create for life to implode on itself.
sat at the table in her favourite restaurant, enjoying the familiar
smells that reminded her of the news she had received here. Years
ago, on this very spot she’d opened her letter of acceptance into
university, the first one in her family, ever. That shaped everything
about her life, now a Doctor of History, a professor emeritus, a
famous author. Later that same day years ago she’d received the
other news that formed her life and was bringing it to an indecent
early end. She had MS. She had lived with it for so long, many years
in a wheelchair, but now her systems were slowly giving out. Her name
given to her at her baptism is Jane.
the lesson from Genesis we read how the people came together to build
a marvelous city and a tower that would reach the heavens, in order
to make a name for themselves. They also distrusted God’s rainbow,
and wanted security from any future flood. God comes to bless the
people with confused speech, with different languages, so that their
prideful project will halt. Divided the people disperse far and wide
to inhabit the earth. Ever since, we create divisions and conflict
more easily than we build healthy communities. We have built more
than a tower of Babel as our fossil fuel consumption produces more
pollution than the earth can tolerate, resulting in violent climate
change. Our civilization is built on time bombs that destroy people.
George and Emily
and Emily walked the beach, they’d grieved the addiction of their
daughter for an eternity, grieving the birth of grandchildren, each
lost to foster care. Now they’d received the phone call they’d
feared. Jenny had overdosed on drugs yet again. This time she had not
recovered. Their names are George and Emily and they gave Jenny her
name at her baptism.
Languages A Gift
we recognize the power of languages. They keep us apart and distinct.
Yet when we live in a second language, we experience not just
different grammar and words. We experience more of the world that God
created good. Different languages carry different pieces of the
marvels of this creation which we can barely fathom in a full
first Pentecost the disciples proclaimed in their own language the
wonders of God’s work for everyone. God inspired the listeners to
hear the disciples in each listener’s own language. As at Babel God
confused the language of the people to save them from their pride, so
at the first Pentecost God overcame the language barrier in order
that people could hear and understand each other and the Good
News of what God had done in the life, death and resurrection of
was born in Jena, in East Germany. A Christian, at great cost she had
dedicated her life to serving Christ. Working with youth she
excelled, until jealous gossip was started about her. Under intense
pressure and unearned shame Greta slowly lost her confidence, then
her sense of self, and finally her sense of reality. She succumbed to
a half living state of senseless babble that sometimes erupted into
excruciatingly painful clarity about what had been done to her, and
how helpless she was. Her name, given to her at her baptism, is
Greta. She remained Greta even as she lost her mind to the horrendous
cruelty of gossip that pretends to know reality beyond God’s
Clarity in Miracles
the disciples we always want God to be more clear. The words are
plain enough. Yet God rarely leaves it to just the words. The signs,
the miracles, that accompany the Good News are remarkable. We may not
recognize what God is doing, but we always hope that in the end all
will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well,
for God created the universe and said it was good.
first Pentecost so that people could not miss the miracle of the Holy
Spirit given to God’s children, God marked the disciples with
tongues of fire.
of the distinct gifts God gave humans is Fire. It is powerful, both
for good and for evil. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, guided
the people through the wilderness with a pillar of flame, and will
cleanse us at our judgment with God’s purifying fire.
we have breathed these past weeks, the result of climate change
brings more wildfires, and more smoke that covers vast areas,
inhibiting life in so many ways. Humans are not the only ones
affected by wildfires. The smoke reduced the available solar power, a
nuisance at least for those whose electricity is produced by solar
power. The greater loss was to the plants whose basis of life depends
the face of life so challenged, God finds ways to bless us, with
Sam and Allicia
and Allicia both lost their childhoods to wars of terror and
genocide. In their teens they each survived the squalor and hunger of
refugee camps, their families having all been killed. Sponsored as
immigrants in their late teens by a Lutheran congregation in
Edmonton, they met, shared the struggles of finding their way, fell
in love, were married and are expecting their first child this
summer. With different mother tongues they communicate in Canadian
English. Their names given to them at their baptisms are Sam and
Allicia. They have chosen names for their first child at its baptism,
in memory of their families lost.
we reach for the stars, to make a name for ourselves, to succeed at
what we attempt, even to make life more than it is, there is no name
that we can make for ourselves greater than what God has already
given us. With tongues of fire God has marked us, anointed us, and
Three Confirmed, we stand with them
these three, Tristan, Connor, and Aysiah, were marked with
the cross in their baptisms, and now they
stand as young people, maturing, beginning to accept responsibility
for their own being, so
we each were marked. At
the right time we also stood
on our own to respond to the gifts that God gives us, promising to
receive, abide in, act out of, and grow into the people God calls us
to be. Today we
still stand, not on our own as if our faith
were merely personal or private. Rather
we stand as one
faith community united
by the fire of the Holy Spirit. As
we stand with one another in love, so we
stand with these
three young people. Their names, given to them in their baptisms, are
Tristan, Connor, and Aysiah.
Our name: potential as love
today we share with them the name God has given us all. There is no
greater name. It is not a name we could make for ourselves.
It is the name that God gave us in our baptisms and shares with us
each day. God names us God’s children.
language of our name is not limited to one of the diverse languages
that God gave us to propel us across the earth, to inhabit it and do
well by it. The language of our name is love, in all its rainbow
our love for one another we best reflect the One who abides with and
in us, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. It is in our love for our
enemies that we dance with the miraculous power of life which
the Spirit pours down on us in the form of flames of fire.
we do what it takes to love one another, though the world roils with
conflict, abuse, and destruction, we rest in the abiding presence of
the Holy Spirit. We have no cause to be troubled. Nor do we suffer
the greatest enemy: the denial of evil’s potential. Nor do we need
to fear flood nor fire nor anything, for God is at work to keep evil
in its place and God in God’s place … and to keep
us on earth with and for each other.
name given to us in our baptisms is children of God. We are
the inheritors of the miracle that brings life to be with a word,
with a breath, with a breeze, with a fire.
June 2, 2019 Be One: Love your enemies Easter 7 The story setup
Nice Ice Left Over Hostiles In the movie, the Hostiles, set in 1892 starting from New Mexico a small band of soldiers and their charges, their enemies, ride across the wilds of the west north to Montana. In 1876, just 14 years earlier General Custer made his last stand in the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Before and after that battle both the army and the Indians, (or indigenous warriors we might better refer to them now) engaged in warfare as despicable as ever. Soldiers, non-combatants, women and children were captured, raped, tortured, and killed without reason. The captain in charge of this little band moving north had lost his wife and children to the Indians, learned their languages, joined the fighting against the Indians, killed, slaughtered and revenged death upon death. He lived out his hate under the auspices of the army and he did it better than most. Arriving at a fort in New Mexico with captured Indians, he receives new orders. Orders he cannot stomach. The captain is ordered to escort and protect his enemy, a chief, along with his family, who’ve been held captive 7 years in New Mexico, back to the chief’s home ground in Montana. There the captain is ordered to release his enemy, to give the chief back his freedom. This chief is responsible for the death of the captain’s family. He has engaged in slaughtering settlers, among them women and children, as well as scalping and torturing his victims. He has revenged the killing of his people as effectively as the captain. The captain can hardly believe his orders. He rebels and refuses, threatening to resign his commission. Then it’s pointed out that he will not be allowed to resign. Instead he will be courtmarshalled and stripped of his pension. At that, against every angry bone in his body, the captain begrudgingly accepts his orders. He obeys. As they ride across the wilds of the west north to Montana the captain puts his male prisoners, the chief and his son, in chains. The chief is old and riddled with cancer. He will soon die, which is the reason his request to be allowed to return home is granted.
The view south as we move north Similar stories nonfiction setup There are so many stories like this one. The movie is fiction. But is a fictional story filled with truth. There are so many non-fiction stories like this one. M&B Mizen In May 2008 16 year old Jimmy Mizen from South London was brutally attacked and killed by another boy. His parents could hardly believe it. http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf Gee Walker In 2005 by two racist thugs torturously murder Anthony Walker, 18, with an axe. His parents could not believe it. http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf
It may seem ordinary but … Bishop Pierre-Marie Théas In 1944 one evening in German occupied France, Bishop Pierre-Marie Théas preached a fiery sermon against the persecution of Jews and deportation of French men as forced labourers. The following night he was arrested by the Gestapo. He was sent to a detention camp at Compiègne from where most prisoners were transported to concentration camps in Germany. http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf The normal course: There is no life lived without being hurt by others. Our normal and natural response, built into us by millennia of survival instinct, is to allow hurt to grow into anger, and terrible hurt to grow past anger into rage. Over time, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, we instinctually allow anger and rage to grow into determined revenge. Revenge may become polite comeback. But, fuelled by hatred, our anger becomes vicious payback, just reckoning, and even, in the extreme, murder or even mass murder. We find polite comebacks and even vicious payback short of killing to be somehow expected and acceptable.
Stand Tall in the Dark God’s Doch To that acceptance God says a strong DOCH! But let me put that in a context that will perhaps help us understand exactly what God does with our natural urge towards revenge, polite or vicious, or even outrageous. Intro to Doch As we celebrate the last Sunday in Easter we remember that on Easter, God changed everything. On Easter God undid the laws of causality and set all of us free: God took death and turned it to life; God took despair and turned it into hope; God took the emptiness of consuming and turned us to value each tiny piece of creation. God took everything that breaks us, dosed it in Light and made it into a salve of holy healing which makes us stronger, more compassionate, and more loving than we were before. In the words of Rev. Dr. Anna Madsen, who presented Grace to us at the Study Conference in Canmore a few years ago, God took the world God created good, which we broke bit by bit and said “Doch!” Now if you – like me – don’t know German we need a translation or really an explanation of Doch. Doch, D O C H, has different degrees of intensity. Doch can mean simply ‘Not so’: If I say: “His shirts are wrinkled” and you respond “Doch, he ironed them.” It’s just a few degrees different. Or Doch can be a voracious protest against what is previously stated. It’s a change of many degrees. When a person suffering alone from mental illness cries out in fear of what will come, We say “Doch! We will learn to stand with them, to give people with mental illness what they need to be able to stand tall and function well and live among us!” Or taken to the extreme, Doch can mark a change in the universe. It can be God turning us or the world around 180 degrees. God created the world good, but we broke it, which could be the end of our story! But God says “Doch, Doch, Doch! My Son, Jesus redeems the world.” God constantly changes our paths, by just a degree or by 180 degrees and we end up in completely different places. God’s doch shepherds us. Most people grow up and find their way into a vocation, a career, a job or series of jobs; Doch the prophets, in other words all of us children of God, are called even before we leave the womb to the task of proclaiming God’s Good News with our choices, actions, and lives. This job is not easy or safe, DOCH, God calls us to turn as many degrees as it takes to challenge the throngs of people that have turned away and call them back to God … as many degrees as it takes. It can be dangerous work, fraught with risks. Aber (Ahh Bear) Doch, We, the people of God, will not live afraid of what can be done to us, for God is with us.
The View is wide and wild Emotions not to control, but motivate us There is too much hurt in every single life. Now we cannot stop an emotion. Try to just stuff it down and it’ll just go somewhere crazy on us. But we can choose what to do with any and every emotion that comes our way. We can let it run loose and effect our words and actions OR we can choose to align our choices and actions with our priorities and goals in life. Since our No 1 Priority is to be and do the Good News, then we soon learn, often the hard way, that letting loose with even a bit of revenge, yet alone with outrageous vengeance, and being the Gospel to other people are mutually exclusive. Most emotions own us for about 90 seconds. Our feelings should not be stopped. But we don’t have to hang on to them for even hours yet alone weeks or years. Furthermore raw action should never erupt out of our emotions. DOCH. Our actions should always be a choice of our heart and mind and body, so that we live according to the goals God calls us from the womb to strive toward. Emotions, carefully chosen, can motivate us towards God’s calling for us.
Emotions seem to loom over us, but we can choose how to respond
Themes all Easter In today’s Gospel Jesus prays, “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Last week we heard an earlier part of Jesus’ prayer put it more simply. We are to love one another as Jesus loved us, so that by our love the world will know us as Jesus’ disciples. Story of Paul and Silas In the first lesson for today, Paul and Silas heal a young girl who was possessed by a demon. The owners, who were making money with the demon’s ability to tell the future, have them arrested, flogged, and imprisoned. An earth quake hits the city as they sing and pray. The doors are broken open and the chains unfastened. Instead of escaping, Paul and Silas urge all the prisoners to stay put, thus saving the life of the jailor. That jailor is so impressed with the unusual manner that his life is saved that he believes the Gospel that Paul and Silas proclaim. He and his household are baptized.
A view through a grid; Still Christ’s Light Shines Golden
God’s Doch God’s constant DOCH is ‘at all costs, love even your enemy.’
Story resolution Hostiles In the movie the Hostiles, as they ride across the wilds of the west to Montana the captain encounters God’s Doch. As they stop where the chief has returned home and will breathe his last breath in the wild mountains of Montana, the captain says that, though they have each fought against the other, and each has lost so many friends to the other, when the chief dies a piece of the captain will die with him. In obeying the orders he cannot stomach, the captain eventually gives his enemy his last breath in freedom at home, no longer as an enemy, but as a friend. The captain recognizes the gift of life, even in his enemy, as they ride across the wilds of the west to Montana.
In the wild … there is the Light
What about us? As we encounter the terrible ravages of evil that leaves us so wanting for life, can we recognize the gifts of God even in our enemies? Can we give them life at their last breaths, as friends, because God has made us, all of us, while yet sinners, children of God?
Similar stories nonfiction resolutions In the real life of so many people, this is exactly what they chose. Gee Walker After Anthony Walker’s murderers were sentenced Gee Walker, his mother, said: “I cannot hate. I have to forgive them. … Their minds must be very tortured. … Hate is what killed Anthony.” http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf
No Matter, Let the Light Shine
M&B Mizen After her 16 year old son was killed, Jimmy Mizen’s mother Margaret said “I just want to say to the parents of this other boy, I want to say I feel so, so sorry for them. I don’t feel anger, I feel sorry for the parents. We have so many lovely memories of Jimmy and they will just have such sorrow about their son. I feel for them, I really do…. People keep asking me why I am not angry but I say …There is too much anger in the world…. it was anger that killed my son. If I was angry I would be the same as this boy.” On the first anniversary of his murder Jimmy’s father said, “today, for us, was a message of peace, a message of change that we have been gradually working towards over [a] year. … This affects everybody. If somebody is killed in your local park or in your local shop, then this affects you. We didn’t just get here overnight…. If the will … is for it [here and now], we can change.” http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf Bishop Pierre-Marie Théas Bishop Théas was imprisoned for ten weeks with Protestants, Jews, non-believers, trade unionists, young resistance workers, and French officers. When some prisoners asked for a day retreat he preached about forgiveness, and suggested they should pray for their captors. This provoked outrage. Théas replied, “My friends, I cannot proclaim anything except what the Lord said: Love your enemies. No more, no less.” http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf
The extreme story, resolution Cartier and Nixon When former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey died hundreds of people from across the world attended his funeral. All were welcome, but one – former President Richard Nixon, who had recently dragged himself and his country through the humiliation and shame of Watergate. Eyes turned away and conversations ran dry around him. He was being shunned and ostracized. Then the current president Jimmy Carter walked into the room. President Carter, not of Nixon’s party and well known for his honesty and integrity, moved toward his seat, until he noticed Richard Nixon standing all alone. Carter changed course, walked over to Richard Nixon, held out his hand, and smiling genuinely and broadly embraced Nixon and said “Welcome home, Mr President! Welcome home!” Newsweek magazine reported the incident including the words, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.” Source: Reported in Maxie Dunnam, The Workbook on Living as a Christian, pp.112-113 https://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/love-for-enemies/
Whatever comes our way, God’s Light will shine!
MLKing Martin Luther King dared to suggest that Blacks should have the same civil rights as other Americans. For all he stood for King received death threat after death threat, he was maliciously accused of being a communist, his house had been bombed, and he was jailed over 20 times. Yet in his essay, Loving Your Enemies, he wrote: “To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.’” https://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/love-for-enemies/ and http://paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Elements_Love-Your-Enemies-Stories.pdf Jesus Jesus says to us, love one another as I have loved you. Love even your enemies. Us Following Jesus as his disciples is complicated, challenging and sometimes calls us to things we can hardly stomach. But still through words from each other and in so many other ways the Holy Spirit guides us to see Christ loving even our enemies, as we journey through the wilds of our lives, even when our greatest enemy is ourselves.
Whatever, However, Whenever God embraces us, even when we are our own enemies the Light still shines beautifully for us.
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
wondrous morning we remember 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.
this profound hope we proclaim together three times:
Christ is Risen!
is risen indeed!
The Darkness Before
past Holy Week we
have remembered Jesus’ story, from his
triumphant procession into Jerusalem, to
his last meal with his disciples as he gave us the New Covenant,
his arrest, his disciples deserting him, and
the questioning, … to the
crowds scapegoating and condemning him,
his flogging, and Peter’s
denials, … to the
and torturing him.
we remembered how Jesus died sooner than
expected, nailed to a cross … abandoned
even by God. His
followers scattered and hiding,
filled with fear for their lives.
remembered how they buried him
in a rock tomb.
the darkness, portrayed in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth,
is so deep, embracing everything, and so unbearably deadly, the next
part of Jesus’ story is so much more than we can ever expect or
comprehend, yet alone completely remember.
time we encounter it, we see how much more Jesus’ story is. The
Light of Christ outshines such depths of darkness that we are
dumbfounded, astounded and awestruck, …
not just step in to defeat the death of Jesus. After all Jesus is not
the first to come back from the dead. Lazarus steps out of his tomb
with grave clothes still covering him. Jesus calls out Talitha cumi,
and the young girl walks away from her death bed.
Jesus story is more than one resurrection
story is more than one more resurrection. With Jesus’ resurrection
it’s all evil, all death defeated.
story is not 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 used up. You’ve
been put up there to bat in
desperation by the manager. You are
mostly recovered from a chemotherapy treatment three days ago and
from surgery on
your left shoulder last month. You’re no
spring chicken at 65 years old. You will
never be here again, ever, even if you beat cancer. There’s
is no way you should be here. You just came back to
visit the team on the bench.
you hit a home run to the utter astonishment
of everyone and
to the great benefit
of a home city desperate for a team that would
what Jesus has taught us, just as Jesus taught his first disciples.
story. It is also
our story, or rather we each have a variation of that as our own
time we listen carefully we will be astounded and amazed at how God
acts out God’s will with love and forgiveness, Grace and mercy,
sacrifice and humility for us, and for all people, even our enemies.
what’s next for us?
easy to come to Easter worship, to be astounded by Jesus’ story and
to bask in the music and words and movements of our celebration of
life in the worship service and at breakfast. It’s easier yet to
then once again walk back out into the world that keeps us occupied,
forgetting what amazing things we’ve heard and seen. Who would
believe us anyway if we told them someone came back from the dead to
share God’s Word with us?
Isaiah’s New Heavens and New Earth
OT lesson from Isaiah for this morning, Isaiah speaks God’s words
of promise to the exiles in Babylon. They’ve lost everything and
been carted thousands of miles from home to be servants in a foreign
land ruled by some not so nice people. They are not only servants,
but they have years ago forgotten so much.
God creates new
Word comes, not to fix things up, but to create a new heaven and a
new earth. God’s words create, just as at the beginning of time. In
the new creation we will no longer be God’s wayward people. Instead
we will get to remain at home, cry to the Lord in joy and be a
delight to God.
It is a
Shalom vision of the Kingdom of God: there will be no weeping, no
cries of distress.
New creation ends all suffering and need
this world of Shalom,
of God’s Peace, there is no homelessness,
no hunger, no
climate-change-displaced refugees. There
are no untimely deaths, no
stolen lunches or unrewarded labour.
dog-eat-dog order of the food chain will end. Predators and prey will
live together in peace.
God’s new work in Jesus even more: perfect
vision in Isaiah is nothing compared to God’s work made clear in
Jesus’ story that we have reflected upon this Lent and Holy Week.
all things in God’s new creation will be re-created perfect.
have only a foretaste of this new creation, a promise made in Jesus’
Gospel emphasizes that Jesus came
to heal people, and with his death and resurrection to heal all
humans we often need healing. We often seek help and sometimes
what ails us is dealt with. Even less
frequently we even see that we are cured.
When it comes to the wholeness of creation
and our spirits we seem to be lost.
brokenness of creation is more than we imagine. Our brokenness is
more than we can imagine. The healing we need is so much more than we
Healing, more than duct tape
used to be that a good farmer
could fix anything except the economy with
bailing wire and pliers.
Now days we use duct tape and plastic ties.
works out just fine until your life depends on the repair.
like carabiners. There are so many kinds available today. I can get
two for $1.25. And they work as key chains just fine. Until they do
not, and my keys went missing because the cheap, carabiner I hung my
keys on did not stay closed. Whoosh, click or slip and the key was
goners. So now I use duct tape to hold the carabiner closed.
The fix when our lives depend on it
works just fine. But it would not be the fix needed if I were
mountain climbing and hanging all my weight plus the stress of the
wind blowing against me on that carabiner, tied by a rope into the
kind of a carabiner cannot be a two-for-$1.25 purchase. For all the
things we might be pleased to repair with
duct tape and plastic ties, God asks so much more of us when
it comes to our part in the new creation.
go through life, expecting that God just uses duct tape and plastic
ties to heal creation, we miss out on the marvellous mystery, the
eye-popping wonder, and the awe-filled power God uses to create a new
heaven and earth for us, in us, and among us.
After Jesus’ resurrection, God sends us out to share the good news, to voice the prayers of compassion with those who suffer, and to be the hands of Christ that deliver the new creation to all people.
When we listen carefully, do diligently, remember remarkably, we will hear and see Jesus working in ways we hardly understand at first. We will be floored by the amazing tales Jesus has in mind for us to hear and even see for ourselves.
We ask that the Holy Spirit will help us watch carefully, listen intently, and pray fervently, that God’s new creation may come among also us. But most of all we ask that the Holy Spirit help us as we get ready to be bowled over. It not a small fix or even a big fix with duct tape. God creates a new world, a new universe, and even a new you and new me.
the Holy Spirit to help us through it.
not, the Holy Spirit will put us up to bat, with the bases load, in
the bottom of the ninth, with the team needing us to hit a home run,
and the world needing it even more.
deeply and slowly. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t forget ….
that’s just the start of God’s new creation.
about to use each of us in ways we could not dream of.