Easter ‘Sunrise’ Sermon

Easter Early Morning

This 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.

The Proclamation

3x Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed!

The Darkness Before

This past week, Holy Week, 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 and condemning crowds, … to his whipping, Peter’s denials, and the mocking of Jesus, … to his torture, 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.

Except 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.

The Light

Even though all that evil played out against him and overwhelmed so many people and then even Jesus himself in death … Even so God defeats death.

Yet 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 apparently, – 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.

Today we remember that God does something much, much larger.

The story is more than one resurrection

The story is more than one resurrection. God defeats all evil. All death defeated.

It 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.

It’s 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 penalty, death for every person. Then it is being brought back to live life. It’s having Jesus take on all that and having defeated it!

Home Run

Jesus’ 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.

Our Response

In Jesus’ and in our stories, God defeats all Evil and all death once and for all time.

Or 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 rest.

God’s 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.

In the meantime, today we are God’s saints, not because we have done good things. Rather we are saints only because God takes us when we cannot do anything good. God makes 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 us. These blessing give life abundant to others around us.

How do we respond to Gods’ work in and through us?

Our 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 lives long.

The 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.

Like 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 rather what it is that we do not see. The Holy Spirit helps us comprehend the obvious but impossible: namely that God’s limitless creative power has just undone death through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Like 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.

The Holy Spirit helps us continually change the rest of our lives, so that we live as one person in the whole fully changed human project.

We 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.

Then 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.

Can we celebrate, even outright dance, the rest of our lives in Christ’s Light?

Yes, 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.

The Holy 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.

Yes, 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!

Jesus lives!

Alleluia! For we can, no matter our past or future, live well.

Jesus lives!

Alleluia! For we can, no matter our past or future, bring life abundant to all people!

Amen!

Easter Later Service

Easter Morning Late

This 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.

Proclamation

With this profound hope we proclaim together three times:

Jesus Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen indeed!

The Darkness Before

This 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,

to his arrest, his disciples deserting him, and the questioning, … to the crowds scapegoating and condemning him, his flogging, and Peter’s denials, … to the soldiers mocking and torturing him.

Finally 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.

We remembered how they buried him in a rock tomb.

Because 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.

Every 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, …

if we listen carefully.

The Light

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. 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

Jesus’ story is more than one more resurrection. With Jesus’ resurrection it’s all evil, all death defeated.

Home Run

Jesus’ 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.

Then 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 finally win.

Remember

Remember what Jesus has taught us, just as Jesus taught his first disciples. Remember Jesus’ story. It is also our story, or rather we each have a variation of that as our own story.

Every 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?

So what’s next for us?

It is 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

In the 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

God’s 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

In this world of Shalom, of God’s Peace, there is no homelessness, no hunger, no conflict or climate-change-displaced refugees. There are no untimely deaths, no violence or destruction or stolen lunches or unrewarded labour.

Even the 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

Yet this 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.

In truth all things in God’s new creation will be re-created perfect.

Now we have only a foretaste of this new creation, a promise made in Jesus’ story.

Luke: Healing

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes that Jesus came to heal people, and with his death and resurrection to heal all creation.

As 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.

The 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 can imagine.

Healing, more than duct tape

It 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.

Which works out just fine until your life depends on the repair.

It’s 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

Which 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 rock face.

That 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.

When we 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.

Sending

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.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us through it.

Ready or 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.

Breath deeply and slowly. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t forget ….

Christ is Risen!

And that’s just the start of God’s new creation.

God is about to use each of us in ways we could not dream of.

Amen

God’s New Thing, Our Celebration and Praise; Lent 5

Anxiety overcome by something worth celebrating!

Lazarus, Mary’s response of extravagance

In the Gospel story for this morning Jesus returns to Lazarus’ home for a meal. This is where Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead. Together with the disciples they share a meal.

Mary ‘wastes’ costly oil washing Jesus’ feet. For a blessing the oil would have been poured on his head. This, though, is just a foot washing, a practical kindness offered to guests.

Foot washing sandaled feet

People wore sandals. They walked the hot and dusty paths and road ways. On arrival for a meal, where everyone reclined around the table, feet washing refreshed the guest and removed the awful smell from the elite people’s animal waste that lay along the way.

Extravagance

Mary’s perfume was way too costly for the task – probably worth in excess of $50,000 in today’s funds. It was an extravagance which no common person could afford.

It was an extravagance Mary offered for the man who brought her brother back to life, for the teacher who carried the Kingdom of God around him, palpable to all who encountered him, for the man who, Mary believed from her pondering, was the Saviour, the Christ, God’s Son sent to fulfill God’s promises of old.

Objections

However one of the disciples objects to the extravagance, because he would have liked to have the proceeds from its sale put in the purse that he stole from. He wanted the extravagance for himself. Who knows what this disciple really wanted, or if anything would have been enough for him.

Real Fear of poverty

Given all the goodness of life and the luxuries we take for granted, there is always a part of each one of us that objects to such extravagances. For we have our hands in the cookie jar, and we want more. Poor people be … well … ignored, … and condemned to live lives we are so afraid our lives may become. We justify all kinds of deceit trying in vain to secure our place far from the poor.

Anxiety is us losing perspective of what is real and large, and what is not.

We have real cause, every day, to get lost in this and all sorts of anxiety. Our past is full of sins that should land us not just in the poor house, but out of the Kingdom of God. Instead Jesus comes to us, each day, starting by saying, do not be afraid!

What does Jesus have in store for us?

What does Jesus have in store for us?

OT God’s up to something again: something new

In the OT lesson for today Isaiah writes to the people in exile in Babylon that God is up to something again. Like they, we too often give up and stop looking for Christ’s light.

To the exiles and to us Isaiah repeats God’s words: Do not remember the things of our past. Yet remember that God is the one who brought us out of slavery, through the wilderness into the Promised Land. Free from the anxiety of our past that grips us at the roots, we can now look to the new work that God is about to begin.

God’s new thing: living water in the deserts

For the Creator and Re-creator is acting again: A new thing is about to become: water will flow in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

Canada’s water

In Canada we have lots of fresh water. Of course there are plenty of small communities who have not had clean, fresh water for many decades. And a survey a few years ago estimated that between one-third and one-half of North Americans are mildly, chronically dehydrated. (Published by Dr. Susan Kleiner, dietician in Seattle-area, reported in Chatelaine April 2000.) Early signs of dehydration are fatigue and headaches. We need water. Yet when we turn on the taps and enjoy clean water, it is difficult to appreciate that we are not getting enough water or what it means not to have water.

Salt water, fresh water, living water

Imagine the drought driven dry desperation of thirst caught in an endless desert. It is worse for people who survive in life rafts after being shipwrecked at sea, who spend days on the ocean waters without fresh water. On the sea water is everywhere, but it cannot quench one’s thirst, it only makes it worse.

We are surrounded by so much fresh water, and yet we thirst for the living water that gives life. We are surrounded by luxuries the people of history could hardly imagine, powered by oil, technology, and seemingly magical realities. Yet we often deeply thirst for the meaning of life, for our place in it, for something to be and do that will fulfill what we were created to be. Our past is riddled with failures we hardly comprehend.

If it is as if our tongues were parched so dry that we could barely swallow because it hurts so much, and we know we deserve even worse.

Paul, Our Efforts = Nothing

Like Paul we try diligently to be the people that we think God wants and needs us to be. We may not be as successful as Paul. He was quite an accomplished man of God. But all that effort Paul counts as nothing, in order that, still striving to be the man of Grace that Christ called him to be, he might receive, not earn, but receive without merit, the Grace of God, the righteousness which is Christ’s. This righteousness is only Paul’s or ours as a gift through faith by Grace.

Christ’s Gifts = everything

Paul cannot own his righteousness, it is only a gift. He must leave behind all his struggle, straining, and striving to fulfill the law. Instead he strains forward to whatever Christ has in store for him. God has a whole lot in store for Paul. Most of it is challenging.

God’s Gift, flowing, living water

And when God acts with a shockingly new thing, then water flows, not just out of our taps in small trickles, not just clean, fresh water. The water of life flows in broad rivers, assuring us that the drought is done.

Praise for the water from all

How astounding it is to undeservedly receive water, flowing fresh water, the living water from God.

Does it really take so much to move our hearts, to make things different in our minds, hearts, and souls … so that we will forget the past failures and recognize the wonder of God’s gifts, the gifts so basic to life as even breath itself? All this just so that we might give God praise!

Drenched in the new largess of God, we should be barely able to contain ourselves. No matter what we need, God provides, so that we can and will live in praise of our Creator and Re-creator.

What does God have in store for us?

What has Christ in store for each of us? For all of us as a community of faith?

Lenten fast

This Lent Jesus has in mind for us a fast named in Isaiah 58 (from Ash Wednesday’s lessons), a sacrifice of all that is given us, so that those suffering from injustice will receive justice, so that the oppressed will be set free, so that those who hunger will have food, and those who have no homes will find homes in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, in our families of faith.

Celebration of Easter Coming

At the end of our fast, Jesus has in store for us a celebration that is so great nothing is too extravagant to be shared with those suffering injustice, those oppressed, those hungry, those homeless, who now are with us. This is the celebration of new life given to each of us.

Baptismal water promises

Just as Jesus raises Lazarus back to life, we receive the promise and assurance in the waters of our baptisms that we will be raised from the dead as well. We too, sinners though we be, will be brought into the New Jerusalem with all the saints of all times.

All will praise God

Even the despised jackals and hyenas will sing God’s praise. No matter how despised the animal, or the person, all will sing God’s praise. Even the reality denying ostriches, or similarly the people who stick their heads in the sand at the signs of danger … Even those who deny reality will be unable to deny Christ’s reality. When God does God’s new thing among us, the anxieties about our past will be gone and no one will be able to stop from singing God’s praise.

For this we were created, redeemed, made God’s children, and promised eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

Smell the perfume of extravagant celebration, and sing as we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength.

As at Daybreak celebrate [extravagantly]

When God does this new thing, as at daybreak, the darkness will succumb to the rising dawn. Then the sol of creation begins anew to give purpose and hope for the hours to come. The Light will reach everywhere. The New Light will catch even the spider’s string [in the sermon photo.]

So … leaving behind all our anxieties, we can close our eyes having kept the watch,

For the Christ’s Light now keeps the darkness and danger at bay.

The hyenas of home are driven back into hiding. We will have challenges ahead, even more darkness to face, but Christ expects us to trust his promises, as we will then again wait for the dawn to return.

But for now…

Let the waltz begin.

Let the celebrations and our praise begin.

God’s Glory

Amen

Joshua, Paul, and the two Sons: Celebrate by Being …

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

If Beale Street Could Talk

One 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 erased.

“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.


It’s dark out There

Everything 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.

God waltzes away our disgrace, our sins, our slavery … and God sets us free.

It may be dark, but the Light comes to find 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.

We stand, cut off, but we stand. We stand surrounded by the hard cold,
but we stand, for God is with us!

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 …

OR

We are 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 …

We 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.

This is 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.

Here in 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.

We are 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.

You and 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.

If every 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.

This is my Beale Street, the entrance and exit, to my home; Here the Light Shines, especially in the darkness!

….


Here,

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.

And God’s Grace and Justice will prevail …

Amen.

(Which means: this is most certainly true!)

Coffee, Reality, Grace: Breathe and Respond

Find your way, see the Light, No matter what God walks with you through the deep snow or … manure

Lent 3 – 24 March 2019

Theme for Lent: what is the acceptable fast?

 Isaiah 58

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

Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9 

Sermon

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Coffee and Death

When our children were not yet teenagers they wanted to drink coffee. I told them with humour: If you drink coffee you will die. That was true, but not the whole truth.

The fatality rate for humans is 100%. The only question is when and how each of us will die.

Our children were precocious and figured it out. The second time I told them they’d die if they drank coffee, they responded: Yes, but if we do not drink coffee we will die, too.

Coffee has little if anything to do with it. Everyone is a sinner, all of us deserve to die, all of us will die.

Because God …, Therefore we can ….

This is the background to each of the texts, which if forgotten, leaves us reading as if God’s reality for us were something different than because God claims us, therefore we can live and respond.

Isaiah writes: listen that you may live.

This is not listen or else you will die. You will die anyway. Rather Isaiah calls to us: listen while you still can to God’s Word that proclaims that God makes it possible for us to live abundantly and boldly:

Because God is gracious, even if and when we fail miserably,

Therefore we can live boldly and abundantly.

Paul writes that we should learn from the examples of those who died in the wilderness during the exodus: We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and they were destroyed by the serpent.

This is not Paul telling us that if we put Christ to the test, then we will die. It is Paul having told us first that we are saved by grace, no matter what we cannot earn it. And as God’s children we can learn to not put Christ to the test. Because putting Christ to the test takes the life right out of us. We will die, whether we put Christ to the test or not, but if we avoid putting Christ to the test, we will live more as Christ calls us to live.

And what is the context of Paul’s admonishments? We will all be tested. Paul’s readers in Corinth were being tested, so much so that they felt overwhelmed. Paul reminds them that because God has claimed them God also gives them the ability to endure any testing that comes their way; therefore they do not need to live in fear, or be overwhelmed. They can endure. They can live like children of God.

In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus answers the question brought to him about those who suffer Pilate’s cruelty: they are not worse sinners than any others. Do not repent and you will perish as they did. Repent, and you will perish in some other way. It’s like coffee. Except that by repenting we can live more boldly and more abundantly. We can be the people that Christ calls us to be, so that others will see God’s grace for them in our sacrifices to bring justice, freedom, food and homes to those without.

The story of the fig tree that does not produce fruit is not a threat that we will be cut down. Someday, no matter what, we will be removed from the garden. We are here in God’s garden to produce fruit. Yet, whether we produce fruit or not, only by grace do we continue to live, ‘one more year’; and we live only ‘one more year’ at a time, or more accurately, only one day at a time, minute by minute.

Life on our own

This is the reality of life lived on our own. We broken humans on our own make life cruel, short and brutish for ourselves and others. Our faith is tested, our endurance tested, our will to be gracious is tested; often we are tested beyond our own limits. Evil is suffered by everyone. And everyone perpetrates evil, for themselves and for others.

One only need listen to the news to hear the same old stories told over and over again, different times, places and characters, but the same scripts: worshippers are gunned down in Christchurch. Flood waters and mudslides cover villages people and all. Tsunamis set off by earthquakes wipe shorelines clear of all life and buildings for miles inland. Millions face death by starvation even though there is enough food for everyone. People continue to die from diseases that are curable. Intentional international chaos of many kinds causes thousands and millions passed, current and future deaths; the chaos is created to cover the decimation of the earth leaving it barely inhabitable for future generations. All this is done to secure profits and power for a few trillionaires, a few multinational corporations, and a few unknown power brokers and wielders.

Left to our own devices the only good news for us humans is that everyone will die eventually; for this evil cannot be endured for ever.

God does not leave us on our own

Today’s readings, though, remind us again in so many ways that God does not leave us to our own devices, not at all. God’s thoughts and ways are so high above our thoughts and ways. While we charge and convict one another of great evils, God abundantly pardons. God calls us as we thirst and hunger, to come, to drink and eat our fill of good food, delightful food, to buy wine and milk without money or price.

Paul assures us there is no test beyond our endurance. The Holy Spirit equips us to meet every challenge, so that we may respond with grace. Jesus talks about the manure thrown on us through or lives. Is that not a nice translation. We know the more accurate, evocative translation. Jesus reminds us that the manure of life is nourishment for our souls.

God asks of us

What does God ask of us in return for life, life with God at our side?God asks that we honour the goodness of Creator and Creation.

God asks that we seek the Lord while he may be found, while he is close while we still have ‘one more year’.

God asks that inclining our ears to God, we turn from wickedness and unrighteous thoughts, that we trust God’s faithfulness.

God asks that we understand the manure of life as nourishment for our souls. Having had plenty of manure dumped on us and dug in around us, having been soaked in the drowning waters of baptism, and after days and months of being drenched in the bright light of Christ God asks that we produce fruit that reflects God’s ways of astounding faithfulness, sacrifice, mercy, love and free renewal for everyone regardless of supposed merit.

God asks that we learn from examples of our fore-bearers.

God asks that we give witness of God’s Grace to nations we do not know.

This is our Lenten fast of sacrifice, that we fast and sacrifice in order that injustice will be stopped, that the yoke of oppression be broken, that our bread will give life to those that are hungry, and our homes become the home for those who are homeless, that our country become the country for those who have no safe country.

It may not seem that we accomplish much. Sometimes that is truer than we can tolerate.

For example after Christchurch New Zealand passed a law making illegal many of the rapid fire, multi shot guns. Farmers and others turned in their weapons. One farmer said it well: it was a convenience, but that convenience was not worth allowing mass shootings to be so easily arranged.

As faithful people, as Children of God, most often our efforts net only small starts at rectifying injustices. We breathe, we take steps, we struggle forward. It’s never really enough, but we keep working one small step forward at a time.

Because God is faithful, Therefore we remain faithful.

Breathe Gracefully, while We can

We all breathe air, take up space, in order to produce fruit for God, to do God’s will, to be Christ’s presence of humble compassion and care, Christ’s hands of poignant purpose and clear justice, and Christ’s voice of brilliant light and hope.

We, each and every one of us, mature because of the manure of life. There is plenty manure for each and every one of us. There is more injustice than is comprehensible, so much cruelty that is beyond imagination, and a plethora of ignorance and apathy that is unfathomably astounding. We all live through the tests of life and grow strong, or we die trying.

If you think you have no testing, no manure as nourishment for your soul, then you are asleep at the wheel; you are wasting air.

It is through the tests of life that we come to know God’s power to overcome evil with goodness, vengeance with forgiveness, hate with love, and chaos with grace leading to hope.

If we drink coffee … well we know how that goes. The question is: how do we choose to live while we still have breath?

God offers us grace, so that we may gracefully offer life abundant to everyone.

Amen

Lent 3 – Coffee, as Life

This is a rough outline of a sermon I may yet get written. Lots on the go.

Theme for Lent: what is the acceptable fast?

 Isaiah 58

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

Isaiah 55:1-9 

Psalm 63:1-8 

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 

Luke 13:1-9 

Outline

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Intro:

when our children were young they asked for coffee:

I told them with humour: If you drink coffee you will die.

Truth it was, truth it was not because it was incomplete.

The fatality rate for humans is 100%, the only question is when and how each of us will die.

Our children were precocious and figured it out. The second time I told them they’d die if they drank coffee, they responded: If we do not drink coffee we will die, too.

Coffee has nothing, or at least very little, to do with it. Everyone is a sinner, all deserve to die, all will die.

This is the background to each of the texts, which if forgotten, leaves us reading as if God’s reality for us were something different than

Because God claims us, Therefore we can live and respond

Isaiah writes: listen that you may live.

This is not listen or else you will die. You will die anyway. Rather Isaiah calls to us: listen to God’s Word that proclaims that God makes it possible for us to live abundantly and boldly:

Because God is gracious, even if and when we fail miserably,

Therefore we can live boldly and abundantly.

Paul writes that we should learn from the examples of those who died in the wilderness: We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and they were destroyed by the serpent.

This is not Paul telling us that if we put Christ to the test, then we will die. It is Paul telling us first that we are saved by grace, no matter what we cannot earn it. And as God’s children we do can learn to not put Christ to the test. Because putting Christ to the test takes the life right out of us. We will die, whether we put Christ to the test or not, but if we avoid putting Christ to the test, we will live more as Christ calls us to live.

And what is the context of Paul’s admonishments? We will all be tested. Paul’s readers in Corinth were being tested, even so that they often felt overwhelmed. But because God had claimed them, and because God gave them the ability to endure any testing that came their way, therefore they do not need to live in fear, or be overwhelmed by the testing of the present day. They can endure. They can continue to behave like children of God.

In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus answers the question brought to him about those who suffer terribly: they are not worse sinners than any others. Do not repent and you will perish as they did. Repent, and you will perish in some other way. It’s like coffee. Except that by repenting we can live more boldly and more abundantly. We can be the people that Christ calls us to be, so that others will see God’s grace for them in our sacrifices to bring justice, freedom, food and homes to those without.

No matter what we do, only by grace do we continue to live, ‘one more year’

One: This is real Life

cruel short brutish

testing, to our limits of endurance

evil suffered.

Evil perpetrated.

all will die.

Eg: shooting in Christchurch, deaths by flood, by tsunami,

death by completely avoidable starvation, completely avoidable illnesses,

passed, current and future deaths caused by intentional chaos to cover decimation of the earth leaving it barely inhabitable for future generations, all done to secure profit and power for a few trillionaires, a few multinational corporations, a few unknown power brokers and wielders.

Two: This is God’s Reality

God’s Work, Word, Purpose, Hope for life

God’s thoughts and ways so high above our thoughts and ways,

God abundantly pardons

God calls us thirsting and hungering to come, to drink and eat our fill of good food, delightful food

to buy wine and milk without money or price

Christ assures us there is no test beyond our endurance

Three: This is what God asks of us

that we honour the goodness of Creator and Creation

seek the Lord while he may be found, while he is close

while we still have ‘one more year’

that inclining our ears to God, we turn from wickedness and unrighteous thoughts

that we trust God’s faithfulness

that we understand the manure of life as nourishment for our souls

that we produce fruit: made possible by manure of evil, soaking and drowning waters of baptism, bright light of Christ (God’s ways of astounding faithfulness, sacrifice, mercy, love and renewal)

that we learn from examples of our fore-bearers

that we be witnesses of God’s Grace to nations we do not know

This is our Lenten fast of sacrifice, that we fast and sacrifice in order that injustice will be stopped, that the yoke of oppression be broken, that our bread will give life to those that are hungry, and our homes become the home for those who are homeless, that our country become the country for those who have no safe country.

Eg

NZ: taking rapid, multi shot guns off the market, turned in by farmers and others for who they were conveniences, but not worth the price of allowing such easy access to make mass shootings easy to arrange.

A small start on the injustice rectifying.

We breathe, we take steps, we struggle forward,

It’s never really enough, but we keep working forward, one small step at a time

Because:

God is faithful

Therefore:

we remain faithful

Conclusion:

We all breathe air, take up space, in order to produce fruit for God, to do God’s will, to be Christ’s presence of humble compassion and care, Christ’s hands of poignant purpose and clear justice, and Christ’s voice of brilliant light and hope.

We, each and every one of us, mature through the manure of life. There is plenty manure for each and every one of us. There is more injustice than is comprehensible, so much cruelty that is beyond imagination, and a plethora ignorance and apathy that is more than astounding.

Everyone lives through it, or dies from it.

If you think you have no testing, no manure as nourishment for your soul, then you are asleep at the wheel; a waste of air.

It is through the tests of life that we come to know God’s power to overcome evil with goodness, vengeance with forgiveness, hate with love, and chaos with grace leading to hope.

Amen

Imagine: That Time Again

Imagine

That time again:

It’s that marvellous time in the morning. The light is broken through the darkness, the sun yet to shine is promised. All is quiet, except the contained roar of burning wood in the furnace, the left overs from the water heated for coffee cooling in the pan on the stove, and every once in a while a plastic container popping loudly as the freeze of last night (or perhaps still left over from the -32°C storage for a week while I was in surgery) is slowly pushed back by the flames conductive reach.

Earlier, before the light made the snow clear, an owl kept measure of the coming dawn with it’s ominous who, who, who. Who indeed has done all this?

Who is the owl calling to the end of life on this earth? There was an owl in this man’s drive, not a live one, but carved from wood. A sign, that stood for years; he was driven to take his own life by the woman he trusted most; she driven by an irrational fear that attached itself impromptu on whomever was close enough. The owl stood and still stands, a sign of a death not yet done.

Of course, life is never done with us until death harvests what is left of us.

In the quiet of the dawning day, not yet demanding so many things be finished, or progressed, or started, one can see the rhythm of the blessed goodness of life. A breath in, a breath out. A heartbeat on the left, then on the right. A cough from the wood heat smoke of yesterday still irritating the fragile, allergy-beaten sinuses.

This is the time that imagination sets the course of the day. Can you imagine forgiveness for one’s enemies who attacked and/or harmed you all your yesterdays? Can you imagine doing forgiveness, not just hoping it is what you’ve thought well enough to make real?

Can you see the temperature, so cold in the morning at -20°C, holding the frozen food frozen, the ice packs in the fridge cold to avoid fuel to keep a fridge cool, the frozen things frozen outside awaiting a later day for the ground to become soft? Or do you have to imagine the pain in your hands working out in this cold?

Can you see the sun creating electricity to store in the batteries to give you light, and then with time, you are able to create words of truth and freedom? Or are you afraid of the light, for it burns invisibly hot through one’s skin and eyes: therefrom grow cancers and cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration?

Can you imagine the sounds of squirrels chirping, wind breathing softly, kind voices greeting each other, preparing for the day’s tasks whatever they may be: school, work, ice fishing, travelling to deliver the goods? Or do you allow the haunt of yesterday’s abuse and lies run loose bouncing off every occasioned imagination and sound or light?

Just done, remember the soft warm feel of water with soap cleaning the breakfast dishes, and cool water rinsing away the suds.

Imagine Julian of Norwich’s words of hope realized in your coming days: all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

Now, breathe in and out, the gifts of life here to share: clean air and water, food sufficient for all, clothing appropriate, shelter sufficient, meaningful labour, and love (given and received).

Now, the day calls. Make your way as you have been made able, to share what you’ve been given: blessings upon blessings, forgiveness, love, and hope.

It’s that time again:

Imagine!

Solution or More Problem



The sun rises to colour pieces of the air.

What do we want to be?

Right and therefore probably terribly wrong and the perpetrator of worse: or humble and humorous?

Leaving the study conference, the presenter came to the door, with packed suitcase, leaving with someone else to catch a plane at the airport an hour away. It had been bitter cold, below -30°C. As we left the temperature was still a stiff -20°C with a windchill of -27°C, which does make a difference for what happened next.

I asked if she had a parka. She said it was packed in the suitcase. I continued with my real concern saying that at these temperatures one ought have it at least right handy in the vehicle so that if something happens one is prepared.

She returned a glazed look and said that she would be in the car and into the airport. She had no plans to be outside.

I shook my head in disbelief and said that was ok, but the concern was if an emergency came up, she would not be ready.

More non-commitment, and I departed.

Later I remembered this conversation and one of her comments in her presentation:

‘Mansplaining’ are those spouting off by men without qualifications or attention to the-woman-they-speak-to’s qualifications, as if all wisdom came only from men. And her learned and practiced response was to ignore the words as much as possible and move on.

Ahh, so that was what she did to my words at the door, as I bundled into my down parka on my 40 feet to the car, travelling that same hour to the airport, also never leaving the car.

Perhaps I was just a dumb Minnesotans (she’s from St. Paul MN) from the sticks (Brainerd), who was male and therefore mansplaining her. Perhaps in a different universe.

I have winter survival training, specifically for the weather we were suffering. As a commercial pilot I flew in northern (so it’s called, though it is really central) Alberta. The training was to help us as pilots know how to prepare and then ensure we and our passengers survived after a crash in the bush at extreme temperatures for at least 72 hours. During the training it went down to below -20°C each night as we made our shelters with only natural materials with the tools we normally flew with (or should have never flown without.) The last night it went well below -40°C.

In addition I have had the misfortune of being in a vehicle accident in the winter, and the difference made by having a parka on was critical for survival. Perhaps everything would have turned out ok had I had the parka near me. But then everything was tossed far and away during the pirouette and flips. So maybe not. But getting it out of a packed suitcase? Not a chance that would have gone well.

So maybe I was just mansplaining and her best response was to ignore my words with judgmental disdain and move on; which is good enough until there is an accident, and the parka could have made the difference between life and death, for her or for others in her car or others vehicles.

Maybe she is fully qualified to make the risk assessment, did so and chose comfort over the small likelihood of being in an accident on the way to the car or to the airport.

Or maybe she was not, and as a professor in St. Paul she may never have to work to survive in the outside below -20°C.

But to dismiss my good words, kind even, wise from training and experience, well that is just proof that mansplaining is hardly the problem. The problem is that she dismisses what men say.

NOT

The sun colouring book is actually the smoke of the fire that keeps me warm, or at least alive, when it dips below ‘Youch-It-BITES-to-be-Outside!)

I have no idea if she glazed over about my comment. Or if she actually had a parka to pull out, or was sheepishly covering for the fact she’d travelled, via California, without a parka this time, or she actually made the risk assessment fully informed and the best she wanted to.

Regardless: travelling with no parka at least on the seat beside oneself in the deep freeze of winter is not wise.

Maybe my commenting, with surprise and expecting a humorous exchange, was out of place: why care about how strangers deal with the elements. It’s just the extremes of yesteryear are now the norms, because of climate change. Besides if the stranger is a woman, then it is politically incorrect to try to assist in some normal way.

The best thing to do is let all women suffer, even if there are simple words of hard won wisdom that are worth sharing.

Besides, who cares if I was a stay at home parent, and listened to all the womansplaining that was directed at me at parent-teacher meetings, or other gatherings of parents. Now of course fathers as at home dads is more common. Back then I was singular in most every woman’s experience, and obviously I was stupid at it … because helping raise 7 younger siblings does not really give any man real child rearing experience. You have to be a girl to learn to raise children, practising on your younger siblings, right?!

And all of that is utter nonesense. How do I even know the speaker responded to me as if I were mansplaining her?

I do not.

And why does she ignore men who she thinks are mansplaining her? Because she needs to survive.

But ignoring men, is exactly what women are complaining about: they are ignored.

So the real fix is to blame men and ignore them, to shut them down and silence them, right?!

Wrong.

That kind of working hard to turn the tables on people who treat me/us as if I/we do not count is much more of the same injustice and it breeds injustice, until it has built enough to cause a war, or a personal fight … and then the number of people who are silenced grows out of hand.

Empathy, kindness, reaching into the unfamiliar to understand; These are a good start toward a real solution.

Blaming, dismissing others because they are xsplaining you is not an answer, it is a dodge that perpetuates and makes worse the situation. One could have solved it, but one chose instead to become like one’s enemies and wreak havoc on them as they have you.

No solution comes from diminishing the other, nor from making them one’s enemies.

Only grace truly works.

It’s cold outside. That does not mean one’s heart needs be ice hard.

Be safe, outside, travelling, and with the hearts given into one’s care.

Sometimes the treat is to see something up close, real, beautiful … and forget the rest.

Our Hearts

Sermon for 20 January 2019

Miracle or preparations

Qualified to Sleep through the night

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

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

the hired hand refused to wake up to help.

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

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

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

There were no loose shingles.

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

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

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

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

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

Surviving Bitter Cold,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ first miracle

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

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

Miracles

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

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

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

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

Wine at Cana

Traditionally Inexplicably

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

Work natural, just unknown

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

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

Explicable and …

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

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

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

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

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

Good faith

Real difference is what it means to us.

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

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

When Jesus’ miracles have a simpler, very possible, explanation that Jesus changes people’s hearts to get them to do something different or new: then we have a real life-giving story.

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

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

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

As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where in God makes good use of us creatures of God, in order to bring about for us and others what God has promised us and wants for us.

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

That makes a real difference in the world we live in

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

Court

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

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

Starvation and World Population

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

Isaiah & Global Warming

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

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

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

Paul: Tongues and Interpretation

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

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

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

The 2nd Bitter Cold Night

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

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

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

We wait

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

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

Amen

Living Winter … Well

Living Winter … Well?

or living well in the winter

or

just

plain

still

living

through

the winter

bitter cold that

could without notice

shorten

one’s

life.

The secret is simple and widely known but seldom recognized.

Look down.

Look Down and Back: Notice was is and was.

Notice what has gone before you.

Catch everything that you can from it all.

Did you notice,

the remnants of water alive,

and

not just the tracks

but the possibilities:

the sled that made perfect X-country tracks all the way across the lake

and

off

I went

all the way across the lake like never before

for wonderful and needed exercise, until a few hours later, heart pumping, breathing easier, sweating lightly,

I arrive back on this shore and tuck into work with an inspired heart and mind, if a bit tired on my legs.

And look up

Look up to forever and beyond.

See the snow of yesterday collecting light, waiting for the sun to shine gloriously on the sparkles hidden in the snow.

Look for the promise of tomorrow,

the promise that what is plain and climbing nowhere toward nothing

can ascend to beauty and truth, hope and freedom, love and trust.

The shadows point to the light.

And always watch the light when it arrives:

when it shines, see it,

not just a glance but see what it does to the simple landscape,

to the people

(especially those hiding in the darkness of lies and deceit, of profound sin … all which are left for God to judge, for consequences that begin now even as they choose to abandon their hearts and minds and rebuild a simulation which changes as quickly as their whim)

and the animals that move,

but marvel at how much those things that cannot move are transformed

from ho-hum

to walkers and creators of shadow

that accents the light and points to the source

even when it is not seen.

The light, Elijah, the Light!

No matter the view you’ve taken

do not forget to notice the large picture,

the grand scheme of things,

God’s view of our little troubles, darkness, and the forest of challenges that lean in to overwhelm us.

Always our darkness points us to the source of light for us all.

When such destructiveness is undeservedly foisted into one’s life

then the only thing to do is to live well.

And if it is winter, even then live so well.

Though there is more than work

to survive the cold

for in the basics of life,

like staying warm

one easily can pay attention

and meet the challenges well:

Wood heat, portable, and lots of left over insulated tarps, even some that have something in them, and recycling everything one can, until

Even on a night when the propane furnace does not work, because the propane is gelled,

and the generator will not start, because the oil is thick to sledgy, or just too cold,

and the propane heater will not work without warming up the propane in the tank,

and when it starts it is too hot so that it’ll melt a hole in the insulated tarp around the generator,

but a 6 foot 2×6, construction junk, serves well enough to keep the tarp raised high enough from the heater,

to get the generator to finally pop, and then fire and run.

And then to have to scramble, arms flailing against the tarp draped all about, out from under the tarp fast filling with CO! And plug in those cords.

Which means the fans can blow the wood heat into the living quarters,

and the block heater can be plugged in

with the battery charger set to charge,

while one has hot coffee from the wood stove boiled water through a french press, with milk and cereal with blueberries,

and then when starting, to 55 amp start mode,

and the vehicle, against it’s better computer programming jumps to life the third try.

Left to warm up as everything is packed away and padlocked safe,

It’s off to meet the day’s requirements.

And between necessary appointments, errands and refueling, take the time to write what must be written and filed soon: more truth in the face of biased error based on obvious lies, but the truth is too inconvenient to allow.

As if to hide that the earth revolves around the sun by a simple sentence of silence.

Fools are made of powerful people at every turn; the emperor may seem, but is not, dressed.

And many scurry to try to lay the tracks of deceit deeper yet, pretending, pretending, pretending, when it is God, from whom nothing is hidden, who judges and rules without deceit or corruption, but with promise and yesterdays that give grounded hope and trust.

And in this rampart run mobile through one’s 3rd act, there is great humour, and opportunity to look, down, up, noticing the light, and seeing the big picture; as Jupiter resounds and reverberates off the windows, before the Athem and then it’s closing time. Ring the bells, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.

Then it’s once for the Devil and once for Christ, as all hell breaks loose

as

the

nightmares

set

in

again

until

even

in such a distant universe

brought close by the folds of time-space in light.

And it is

holding the beloved

in one’s heart, mind and strength,

with great clarity

and thankfulness for great kindness,

and forgiving the darkness and all it’s dark horses

that come charging still through the light touch of chilly, hope-giving and grace-filled dancing

disrupted only by the power of lies.

Live winter well:

dance, and let deceit melt with the ice on the wood turning into heat, as we dance away;

embrace the chilly light, if that is all there is, it still points to something that otherwise one would miss,

and work as if nothing else will save you from the bitter cold, and the bitterness foisted on your path, but know that Christ walks in the bitter cold, and crosses every path with redemption and grace … until one arrives home.

It may be closing time, but the light and dance of peace and joy, and the promise of hope-giving tomorrows

even also for eternity,

have not disappeared,

So breathe in warmly, and visit the

Cold

sharp clear

biting cold that claws momentarily

until one returns to the result of deep hard work, deep in the forest, yet warm.

And one marvels at the heat of red

hot

coals.

That is living well in the bitter cold:

to be prepared in heart, mind, and body;

And not to forget to dance a glorious step for those who cannot or will not.