Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 25

Friday, September 25, 2020

Long Way to the Light!

Covid 19, like most viruses,

sleeps fine when frozen, in stasis,

waiting to thaw and live down the road

to surprise you!

Psalm 119:165

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Words of Grace For Today

Love God’s Law and you will have peace, for nothing will make you stumble, and let Christ’s words dwell in you, teach and admonish each other all wisdom, and with grateful hearts sing to God!

All this is providing care for ourselves, though none of it earns us God’s favour or Grace. God promises us God’s favour, righteousness in God’s eyes, even though we certainly do not deserve it. What God gives us we do not and cannot earn. It is all free gift!

Then we get to respond. That’s our time for loving God’s Law, and letting Christ’s word dwell in our daily lives, as we teach and admonish one another (note that it’s mutual, not an authoritarian telling others what is right or wrong – that kind of judgment is God’s and God’s alone.) The great thing we get to do (actually one of so many great things we get to do) is to sing.

Covid 19 is transmitted by micro-droplets of breath, and singing produces lots of them and spreads them great distances, much greater than 2 metres! So we do not get to sing in large groups. Not until the pandemic is finished.

Just because stupid people say they are not worried about Covid 19, or they are going to live, or they are done with it, does not mean Covid 19 is done with us. Singing in groups for now is just stupid. As is coming close to strangers when it is not at all necessary. Or shaking hands with strangers. Or not wearing masks and face shields (oh, that’s right, hardly anyone wears a face shield!) Or not leaving in ‘isolation’ purchases for 3 days before handling them, and refrigerated or especially frozen items should be washed with a strong bleach solution. (Cold and frozen temperatures preserve the virus, and waiting three days for something in the freezer does no good for letting the virus die of its own accord. Warm up that frozen or refrigerated item and bingo bango splat – any virus on it comes back to life to infect you.

All the precautions that we can take are good. Learn a few more each week and add them to your fall repertoire, before the 2nd wave hits us harder than the 1st!

It’s a long haul discipline, not a short sprint. So take care of you and yours. Make new connections (physically distant.) And sing. Go into the bathroom, turn on the ventilation fan and sing your heart out! Go outside on a windy day or a great distance (at least 10 metres) from others and sing your heart out. Who cares what people think! We all know we need to sing with grateful hearts every day.

Teach, learn and admonish one another to take new precautions and keep the old ones. Practice them more diligently. Voluntarily shrink the size of you ‘cohort’, which means start keeping 2 metres apart from people who used to be in your cohort, wear masks and wear them correctly! (how many people do I see wearing them not over their nose, not even over their mouth! or handling them as if they could never be full of the virus!) even at home except with the smallest number of people possible (your children and spouse, for example,) and buy a face shield and start using it, use hand sanitizer right away after every time you touch anything that could be contaminated, and frequently all through the day, at every transition. You know the drill. Practice it without one leak in the guard between you and Covid 19.

Be smart. Be wise. Be patient. Be kind. And this thanksgiving and every one from now on you will still be able to celebrate with the ones you love, knowing you did not kill someone else with your reckless or just sloppy Covid 19 prevention practices. Covid 19 prevention practices are part of God’s Law: Do not Kill.

Rather be at peace, knowing you have done everything possible and wise to keep you and others safe.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 11

Friday, September 11, 2020

Light or Fire!

Light of death

Fire of life

Life in the Light, even in our deaths

Psalm 39:13

Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more.

Matthew 15:24-8

He answered [the disciples], ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But [the Canaanite woman] came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

Words of Grace For Today

There are many sayings that poignantly highlight some aspect of human existence. One is ‘no on gets out of life alive.’ Another ‘the fatality rate for humans is 100%.’ Another, ‘In the end what do they call the man who accumulates the most [fill in ‘power’, ‘money’, ‘status’, or anything else humans compete for]? … dead.’

Knowing we will die is part of knowing who we are … and what we are not. We are not immortal, nor godlets. God gazing on us directly is a most terrifying experience (or so we are told, never having experienced it myself.) As one approaches the end of life, it is a simple step, one that every instinct drives us to avoid until it is unavoidable. Then it becomes an inevitable, immediate, one way event, with no mulligans.

One can waste all of life fretting about one’s inevitable death. Or one can learn to immerse oneself in the present, find great joy in the abundant blessings God fills and overfills our lives with, and we can smile. Our smiles are not mere lips turned up at the corners, nor even a twinkle of life in our eyes. Our smiles at the great abundance and wonders of the universe and our lives in it, stretch from our mouths, far past our eyes, deep into our minds and to the foundation of our souls.

Those smiles help us imitate the Canaanite woman, who knows enough: 1) Jesus can heal her daughter, 2) she can beg to Jesus, 3) she will persist no matter the insults thrown at her. She trusts that God wants to heal her daughter, and Jesus is the One who God sends to heal all who he encounters.

Being insulted always matters, it just does not matter even one iota in the context of saving her daughter. She’ll take whatever scraps of Grace Jesus has for a non-Jew, for a Canaanite, for a woman. Even a scrap is enough to save her daughter.

No matter who we are, even a scrap of Grace is more than we need for life to be wondrously filled with breathe, love and hope.

No matter who we are, Jesus has time for us.

That ought to put a smile into us who know Jesus is our judge, or it will scare the living daylights right out of us, if we do not trust Jesus’ to provide us wretched sinners Grace.

We pray, with simultaneous smiles and terror for we are saint/sinners always, that Jesus will show us the way as we follow him, and that Jesus will turn away for we would like to smile without the terror ripping our hearts out of us.

Always in terror and in our joyous smiles, God is with us. The Spirit guides us. And Jesus reaches out, and asks us to lend him our thoughts, our voices, and our hands, that we can be Jesus’ presence for others.

That’s Hallelujah … everyday, every way.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 29

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Cold Light

No matter how cold life seems

God is with us, laying down tracks with us

shining on us day and night by sun, moon, and Holy Spirit

Thank God!

2 Chronicles 32:24-25

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not respond according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem.

Luke 17:15-16

Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The leper was a Samaritan.

Words of Grace For Today

False pride and arrogance or humility and gratitude, two apparently mutually exclusive manners of responding to all God has done for us.

In 2 Chronicles the writer interprets the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem as God’s response to Hezekiah’s proud and hard heart. In Luke the writer interprets Jesus’ healing the lepers as done in response simply to the lepers asking.

That one returns to thank Jesus, against Jesus’ directions that they fulfill the Jewish Law and show themselves to the priests (to be recorded as cured and therefore free to return to their families and position in Jewish society.) The one who returns gains nothing by visiting the priests. He is an outsider and gains no ‘return’. Leper or not, he is not accepted into Jewish society. He returns then to Jesus, acknowledging that Jesus has more authority than any priests.

Luke’s message is that those who are burdened with their own religious authorities and practices may well fulfill their obligations to them, Jesus still comes and heals those people. People with no locally recognized religious authorities and practices to fulfill (the Samaritan perhaps had some, just not recognized by the Jews), are free to recognize Jesus’ greater authority and to respond with appropriate gratitude.

Who are we?

We wish we were like the Samaritan, free to recognize Jesus’ authority and power with thanks and gratitude.

If we are honest, we are like the other 9 Jewish lepers, bound to duty to other authorities, and easily able to miss the wonders Jesus provides and therefore easily able to miss out on thanking Jesus and living with wondrous gratitude. That gratitude is a more powerful force in life than ‘falling in love’, about which much is written, spoken and known – how it transforms life for the better (or worse.) Gratitude transforms life always for the better, and it does not wear off after a short few months.

If we are honest, we are also often like Hezekiah, proud and hard hearted, completely capable of pleading to God for help when life catches us in disaster or deadly illness or total loss. But when it comes to giving God thanks for all God has given us, our breath and very lives … Well then we are back to fulfilling our ‘obligations’ to other authorities and demands (like careers, money, status, reputation among those driven by greed and avarice, and false images of ourselves as above or without God).

Luther described all of these as happening simultaneously in our lives as responses to the same events. To which he prayed as we well can: God save us!

And save us, Luther knew as we can know, Jesus already has.

We can choose to live lives transformed by thanks and gratitude. Bit by bit each day.

Why not?

Where else are we going to turn for the living water? the bread of life? the Words of eternal life? the hope that does not disappoint? the promises that fill us so that we have more than enough to share with all who need life?

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 26

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Left Behind

Left Behind by Accident or as Sacrifice?

Christ reconciles us to God, no sacrifice required!

We have a blemish free record, no matter how many ‘gloves’ we’ve lost.

Isaiah 43:24-25

You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Colossians 1:21-22

You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.

Words of Grace For Today

The sacrifices made to God have changed through the centuries and generations. Once we offered birds, animals, and before that other people, even children. We knew that, having done something wrong, having sinned, we owed God payment for our sins.

When we know we have sinned our minds recognize how estranged we’ve made ourselves from God. Knowing what we’ve done we become hostile to God as well.

We ‘dig our own grave’. Yet God does not leave us there.

No sacrifice by us is sufficient to pay for what we have done, and continue to do, and will do. God knew this, knows this. God sent Jesus, his Son, to sacrifice himself, the one last sacrifice needed to set things right between us and God, between all humans and God.

Nothing is needed on our part.

Now since God sets us right with God, holy and blameless … well the possibilities are astronomical, and wondrous.

Jesus calls us and the Holy Spirit equips us to be the voice, hands, and feet of Christ on earth, extending unconditional love to others, providing justice based on truth combined with mercy and wisdom, and blessing all people with more than just the basics of life. As the Holy Spirit equips us we can offer others abundant life. That may require sacrifice on our part, yet all we have is given to us, so it is not really ours to give up, it is ours to share with everyone.

Makes for a wondrous life for us, and for all people.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 24

Monday, August 24, 2020

Gold

Gold on Gold

God’s Gold Abounds Without End

For Us All to Bask in

Psalm 23:5

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Mark 14:3-6

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.

Words of Grace For Today

Waste.

When one has too much, wasting things is easy, and commonplace. Oil companies flowed with money as oil sold for over $90 a barrel, and office chairs with one broken, easily replaced, caster were thrown out and a new $450 chair replaced the not-broken-but-needing-simple-repair chair.

God blesses us with God’s abundance. God has plenty. We sit with our enemies at God’s table prepared for us where God’s oil marks us as holy and God’s Grace flows over us. Our elegant or plain glass, or any vessel or receptacle we could bring cannot contain God’s generosity. God ‘wastes’ Grace on us, on all of us, even on our enemies! There is so much, so much that one need not worry about what spills over. What we still hold in our vessels Jesus shows us by example is not to be hoarded or held tight. We can empty everything we have and are; and God will always fill us back up full and overflowing with Grace.

An the unnamed woman comes to anoint Jesus with her expensive ointment, though the disciples would have the money instead of the wondrous aroma giving Jesus the honour of being cleansed with such gloriously expensive suave. So they scold the woman and try to shame her for her generosity.

Jesus knows all about God’s unending generosity, and our ability to live without limit to our generosity. Jesus calls his disciples to stop their derision of the woman and to accept that he is so honoured.

How often we claim God’s generous Grace all for ourselves and use it as a club against others! Still God comes and remains faithful and generous and gracious with us.

God hopes we just might catch on. Life is not a zero sum game. It is, when we sacrifice for one another, unlimited in it’s blessings for all.

What a life God calls us to recognize is ours, all of ours!

Gold upon Gold

for all!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 15

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Storm’s Arrived!

In the Storms of Life

God teaches us to trust

Grace.

Zechariah 7:10

Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

1 Corinthians 1:28

God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.

Words of Grace For Today

The way we humans organize our world and our lives, the strong step on the weak to lift themselves out of the morass of life into the rarefied air of privilege and comfort.

God’s intention for us is not so.

Jesus calls us to turn towards the poor, the vulnerable, the aliens and the outsiders and provide them the goodness of life, which God has already shared with us.

According to our world measures, God is not powerful. Yet God is all-powerful, unequalled in power.

According to our world measures where information is power, and time is money, God is not significant nor rich. Yet God is all-knowing and owns all of time, as well as everything ‘before’ and ‘after’ and ‘outside’ of time.

God turns our world measures upside down and shakes them out like an old gunny sack, showing that we have collected at most chaff, not the grain from which the bread of life is made.

God uses what the world considers refuse, cast aways, and expendable; with these God demonstrates his power with Grace, and his knowing everything about us with Love. God gives us in the darkest places hope, for out of our deepest darknesses God brings us the greatest experiences and lessons of how Grace works for us and for all people. These experiences teach us how futile evil scheming is. Only loving ourselves, our neighbours, and even our enemies, can bring us true joy, abundant life, and the meaning for our lives that God created us to enjoy.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 13

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sacrificing a Tree

a dead tree for firewood is one thing,

stripping the bark to kill a living tree for no good purpose is evil.

Isaiah 53:5

But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

John 11:51-52

He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

Words of Grace For Today

We humans understand how innocent people or animals are sacrificed to ‘pay a debt’ and free us. There are two kinds of sacrifice, one destructive evil, one gracious goodness.

Rene Girard developed a few ideas that many have applied and adapted. At the core is his mimetic theory that we ‘remember’ we desire something by seeing others having it, which causes senseless competition between even friends. Competition leads to conflict and conflict cannot be between friends, so the friends use a scapegoat (an innocent, vulnerable bystander) on whom they pile fictitious blame. This cathartic release of blame onto a third party relieves the conflict between the two friends and they continue on, the desire that caused the conflict resolves into the senselessness it was at the beginning. The friendship is saved, the friends continue on.

The vulnerable, innocent scapegoat is destroyed.

This is the destructive evil sacrifice.

Girard interprets the story of Jesus’ sacrifice for us as God’s clear statement that scapegoating innocent, vulnerable people is not acceptable or needed, just as God’s clear statement by calling Abraham to the mountain to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and then stopping Abraham, was that God did not want any child sacrificed to himself.

God clearly does not want destructive evil sacrifice by any humans.

God does send his son, Jesus, to live, preach, teach, heal and sacrifice himself to the corrupt power of his time, the Roman empire and the Chief Priest. This is the sacrifice of gracious goodness. It is chosen by the one surrendering to sacrifice. The sacrifice does not destroy innocent and vulnerable people. Exactly the opposite, it gives life to all.

Jesus calls us to wisely sacrifice, sometimes little, sometimes everything, in order that other people will be able to live. We do not send someone else to be the sacrifice. We go ourselves, knowing that all we are and have is a gift from God, and if God can use us to give life, then as followers of Jesus we can give of ourselves, and even give everything of ourselves, in order that others may live, and live in the abundance of Grace, Love and Hope that God created us all to enjoy.

So much in life tries to get us to strive to achieve and receive at others’ cost (the destructive evil sacrifice). This is not the way of life for the followers of Jesus, and for all the children of God.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 12

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Anyone There?

Reeds, Weeds, Bushes and Trees

Does anyone hear?

1 Kings 8:52

Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant, and to the plea of your people Israel, listening to them whenever they call to you.

John 14:14

If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Words of Grace For Today

Praying to be heard, and a promise to be heard carte blanch.

Being Gaslit taught me much, much that I would hope no one else would have to learn: what it is like to have one’s children and one’s beloved turn on you, telling lies that are beyond abominations; what it is like to be condemned in the church, community and courts for things you’ve never done; what it is like to be silenced so that no one will listen to you, no matter what you do there is no one, and talking to one’s self goes nowhere. It is to be ghosted by everyone.

And then I was made to sit and listen to the unending lies about me with no way to interrupt and prove they were lies. And when I was given opportunity to speak I was bullied, harangued and Gaslit even more.

So much to say. So many lies told that others use to define me.

My prayer was desperate: to be heard. God listen as you know the truth. Let me speak and make these people listen. Give me your ear, Your heart, and at least a sliver of hope that this nightmare, this twilight zone will end.

But it never ends.

At least now I can speak, though no one listens. People still ghost me. I know the lies do not define me. The lies define those who told them, and those who, knowing truth still used the lies as if they were true, and those who do not stop to think that the lies are not truth.

How terrible it is to be defined by the lies one has told, lies that destroyed other people, and hurt oneself as well. How ghastly it must be to be such a person, where no direction is down or up, or right or wrong. Everything is winning and surviving and having more money … no matter who you destroy in the process.

When I speak the truth, people run and then ghost me.

God when will it end!!

Then Jesus’ words give this hope: If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

God, I ask, as all people have since the beginning of time, hear me and give me meaning and love and hope …

hope that truth will prevail,

hope that the children will be safe from abuse and gaslighting and from being brought to sacrifice truth for money, and life for money, and love for money.

hope that God will hear what is in our hearts

and give us what God knows we need.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 10

Monday, August 10, 2020

Holy

Holy Spirit

Holy Fire

Holy Wild Ride

Through Light and Life

Judges 8:23

Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.’

2 Corinthians 10:18

For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

Words of Grace For Today

Many strive to achieve for themselves great position of authority and power. For example one needs only look at all the bishops our church has had who seriously wanted to become bishops. They were disastrous for the church, each in their own special corrupt way.

The best bishops were those who did not want the work, nor the honour, nor the heartache of presiding over a church in decline.

The church remains in decline.

What does that say to us other than God has plans that are not those of the church which wants to grow … according to our measure of growth.

There is no shortage of people trying way too hard to make their plans into God’s plans for the church. All are dangerous and destructive.

What we need is leaders like Gideon, who though offered control and rule, chose instead that the people would be ruled by God.

To be ruled by God is something, not anything like being ruled by a code of what someone has determined is ‘for sure’ God’s will (though it looks like a terrible subset of faith, reduced so that that it is worthless.)

To be ruled by God is something, not anything like being ruled by a person who supposedly can speak God’s will. We’ve had no end of despots, also in the church.

To be ruled by God is something that will lead us in places we cannot anticipate, into adventures we cannot imagine, and to share life with people we had never known before as God’s people. It’s a wild ride.

Hang on tight

to the Holy Spirit’s fire and breath.

That’s all God gives us most of the time, everything else we see as solid is an illusion we create for our own sense of (false) security.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 28

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Seek the Light

It’s hot this end of July,

It’s cold that end of October,

No matter the challenge,

God is with us.

1 Samuel 7:12

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

Words of Grace For Today

In the midst of Covid 19 challenges, easing restrictions, and great losses already it is not hard to feel the pinch of everything else in life that goes wrong or is done against one just that much more intensely.

Rates of infection climb in the US. Riots and violent confrontation with police continue. Lies continue to have devastating effects on scapegoats. Children get hurt, invisibly and visibly, by parents who disregard them as humans. Despots use anything, Covid 19 as well, for cover for their unjust efforts to maintain control and carry out their destructive plans in countries around the world and even in churches in the local community. Business people make plans to ‘contribute’, which is hardly contributing but will net them an unfair profit.

Even amidst all this, God has equipped Jesus’ followers with wisdom to see not only the truth behind the attempts to deceive and destroy. God gives us the wisdom to see the Holy Spirit at work all around us. Real efforts in many long term care facilities net joy and contentment as unusual plans and policies allow families to reunite for visits. From declining resources families find ways to ‘visit’ with each other across thousands of miles and just across town. Neighbours pay attention and chip in to ensure everyone has enough food, supplies, and regular conversation. Churches, stuck in the mud of privilege and wealth for decades, actually start to care for the homeless in their own communities. Parents develop summer opportunities for children to encounter nature in ways not possible before, now that the ‘regular’ summer activities are not possible.

God has even given us plenty of rainwater, and a cool July … until now!

(Well the last is from my perspective where anything over 25⁰ creates real hardships. Not that I’ll melt like chocolate. I just run out of steam, and the mosquito bites seem to be tiny neutron bombs irradiating the life right out of me.)

Thus far the Lord has helped us.