2019 Aug 25: Reflections & Truth

Pentecost 11 Lec-C

Luke 13:10-17 & Isaiah 58:9b-14

Reflections of Truth

As the loons haunt the dim dawn light with their forlorn wails as if begging for something close to truth to be recognized in the coming light, the not quite still lake undulates softly the moon caught in it’s liquid mostly-water.

There are many powerful and privileged people of luxury far beyond necessity or souls’ enjoyment who fear the light, not of a simple day’s dawn, but the Light that dawns as the Truth is revealed.

There are more people who look to this dawn of brilliant Truth with expectation of exoneration and finally, finally real justice through which real mercy is possible.

The waters reflect the small light that persists despite the Darkness

As so many have confessed through generation upon generation, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It certainly cannot be that God plays games with us like those in power, teasing us and tempting us just to catch us off guard. No, if who we trust to be God is God, creator all powerful and merciful, loving, forgiving and gracious, yearning to delight in our existence, our joys and even our sorrows that make up an abundant life, then certainly God plays no games with us concerning the Truth of who we are and what we have actually done; whether we acknowledge the Truth or we hide from it.

The Truth.

Often it is so much simpler than we want to acknowledge, when we want to deceive ourselves. Like the water we too often want for wind to blow the clear reflection of what we have done, so that no evidence of the truth is discernible.

But the light will shine, and I for one, I, Tim Lofstrom, like I, Daniel Blake, eagerly wait the Light that will shine on the Truth. For I will be exonerated and those who have fabricated lies about me, bullied me, threatened my life, and sat in false judgment of me will be put to shame.

That which in them thrives on the darkness and falsehoods of their doings will be put to an end, as consumed by the fire of God’s judgment. Then our victory will be double, for not only will we be free, all of us falsely judged and destroyed by lies, but those who unjustly ruin and destroy us will be set free from the darkness that grips their whole unnatural being. Though little of them, who have given themselves to the Evil One, may survive as the kernels are separated from the chaff, still together we will bask in the Light, the Truth and the Grace which God delights in giving to us. Our collective shame will be ended.

For this day we wait, as we wait for the rising of the sun to replace the crescent moon which leaves darkness’ canopy pressing down on our hearts, our hopes, and our joys.

The Light catches all that would hide in chaos and makes it clear

In today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 13:10-17, Jesus reaches out and sets a woman free from 18 years of being held hostage to an ailment, an illness. She is set free and can walk upright, humbly unimpeded by a body oppressed by dis-ease in God’s creation.

The woman and the people are over-joyed. She is free!

But the temple priests have no joy because they are threatened. They have not provided this freedom and therefore they are not celebrated. They and the people now clearly know that the priests live in darkness and the light has just burst the seams of reality in ‘their’ temple.

They use the law as a hammer against the Light, to no avail. The law, given to guide the people in freedom, is corrupted in their hands to become the hammer that strikes down faith, joy, and hope in all the people. They would treat animals better than the people needing God’s Grace. They try to maintain an order that provides them false power and oppresses people into the mud of life. But the Light shines brightly.

The people rejoice in the healing of the woman.

The priests, they who would claim dark power over others, are put to shame. Their grip is loosened, if just for a few hours, days or weeks. Not only is this woman free, but all the people bask in the Light, sharing in this woman’s joy.

Who are you today?

Are you the woman, who after 18 years of suffering illness that consumes the essence of life right out of you, and yet leaves you a shell of a human still looking down at the daisies, wishing for freedom even if that freedom arrives on the other side of the grave?

Are you the people, who after generations of suffering the oppression of those who rule in darkness over them, are overjoyed that the Light has arrived for this woman, for they are caught also in its Light? Their oppressors are put to shame.

Are you the priest, the oppressors, who live in darkness, who are skilled at turning truths in to dark falsehoods? Are you one who plays with truth as an axeman cutting trees, with falsehoods chipping life out of your victims, over whom you claim power? Are you put to shame by the coming of the Light and Truth? Have you put yourself outside the delight of God, to whom the coming of the Light not only means shame but loss of most of who you have made yourself to be, against the yearnings of your creator?

Are you the hands of Christ, who understand that the perversions of the Law, perversions of God’s Grace even, can be healed with a word, a redeeming touch, with sacred oil, water and bread? Are you the one who God uses as a conduit, and instrument to set people free? Are you one, like so many in the great cloud of witnesses we inherit, who sacrifices the abundance of your life that others may simply live, knowing that God’s Light shines brightly even in our darknesses?

One thing is certain: God’s Light will shine brightly! Not according to our plans, but as God chooses.

As Isaiah. prophet of Exile awaited, survived and returned from, wrote of our simple ways and God’s mysteries of Grace:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
  the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
  and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
  and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
  and satisfy your needs in parched places,
  and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
  like a spring of water,
  whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
  you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
  the restorer of streets to live in.

Isaiah 58:9b-14

The Light brings Truth in Full Depth of Colour

As the loons haunt the dim dawn light with their forlorn wails as if begging for something close to truth to be recognized in the coming light, the not quite still lake undulated softly the moon caught by it’s liquid mostly-water.

There are many powerful and privileged people of luxury far beyond necessity or souls’ enjoyment who fear the light, not of a simple day’s dawn, but the light that dawns as the truth is revealed.

There are more people who look to this dawn of brilliant Truth with expectation of exoneration and finally, finally real justice through which real mercy is possible.

When the Light comes we will have a double victory: for ourselves and for you, our oppressors.

Get A Life?

What a Coffee and Life We’ve been Given!

Get a life, right side up

Get a life. That’s what people had told the farmer-woman, when she discovered her ex-husband had molested their children. Get a life. She’d already left him behind after the cops only took him for coffee when they came and found him playing Russian Roulette with her life. Get a life?

She told her story when a new acquaintance, an older man, mentioned to her how the cops tried to arrest him after is ex, with whom he can have no contact, chased him down country roads trying to force contact. He was afraid for his life and called 911 when other vehicles were caught as she blocked the roads in front of him. As the cops left, threatening to arrest him if this ever happened again, they told him to get a life.

Look and Find the Light, Find a Life?

Get a Life! What is Life? Who are we to get it? We think we know and then the Good News of Jesus Christ (also in today’s lessons) turns our understanding of life right-side-up.

OT: we expect God to demand; not.

As we read the OT Lesson we may expect Moses to demand that the people obey God’s commandments, which are hard to understand, require research to discover, and great effort to obey. But maybe if the people persevere and obey the commandments then they will get to enter into the Promised Land. Not at all so.

Twain: Do Good, gratify, astound

Mark Twain once wrote “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Twain’s humour catches us because we too often think that always doing the right thing is an option too far from reality to be considered.

Gospel: Parable of surprises

Today’s Gospel is delightful, full of corrections that keep surprising us, even though we are so familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus Answers Different Questions

The lawyer’s questions are often our own. They seem right and most important for life. Yet they are all wrong. In fact, Jesus answers as if the lawyer had asked different questions.

The lawyer asks: what must I do to inherit eternal life.

Jesus answers: how can we have life now.

The lawyer asks: who is my neighbour whom I shall love.

Jesus answers: who is a real neighbour, to those in need regardless of who they are.

It would be so much easier if Jesus just answered the question of who our neighbour is. We could limit who we must love to just those people! That would be a little more possible to do, and we could always fudge who was our neighbour so that we did not need to help the billions who are in great need.

Good Samaritans Loose teeth

When we see people in need, it’s too easy to come up with all sorts of reasons to walk by on the other side of the road. The robbers could be lying in wait for anyone who comes to the aide of the half dead man.

An old Winthrop cartoon (1982) shows two small boys staring off into the distance. One of the boys, Winthrop, starts to recognize what he is seeing. “What’s going on over there? Looks like a fight! … It’s Nasty McNarf … He’s beating up on some kid! … Come on… Let’s go and make Nasty leave that kid alone!”

The second boy speaks up, “Wait a minute…I don’t think we’d better do that.”

“What do you mean?” asks Winthrop, “Don’t you want to be a Good Samaritan?”

“Frankly, no.” replies the second boy. “Good Samaritans always wind up with loose baby teeth.”

But remember: we are going to lose baby teeth and our lives eventually. Adult teeth and life eternal will replace them.

We try to get eternal life on our own terms

Exactly, so we are right there with the lawyer asking what can we do to inherit eternal life. Instead of answering that question, Jesus asks back what the lawyer knows well: what does the law say he should do. The lawyer answers: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replies: You know it! Now do it!

What does love look like? (in the Gospel)

What does it look like to love God, our neighbour, and ourselves, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind?

It looks like crossing the road in order that we can help, aide, assist, and care for those who are left half dead by the roadways through the world, and thereby allow ourselves to be marked as foolish, unclean, not-blessed by God, and not welcome at work or in worship.

It looks like giving a full day of our life to an unexpected need of another person, again and again.

It looks like giving a great portion of our purse or wealth so that another less fortunate person’s wounds will be bound up and given a chance to heal, so that person will regain life.

It looks like promising carte blanche that we will cover the costs of providing life to another person in need.

All this to our enemy

It looks like doing all this for our mortal, religious, economic, and/or personal enemy who is left half dead on the side of life’s road, left there by all those things and people and circumstances that can so easily beat us up, rob us of everything we have, and leave us half dead. It is knowing always that but for the Grace of God, we would never survive even a day of the Devil’s guile and destruction.

The Homeless Guy who gives

Tony Campolo, a minister and sociologist from Philadelphia tells this story:

“… walking down the street in Philadelphia …  a [dirty looking homeless man] came towards me. I mean a … filthy guy  .. from head to toe. …He had this huge beard

[with]

rotted food stuck in [it]. As he approached me, he held out a cup of McDonald’s coffee and said, ‘Hey mister, want some of my coffee?’

“[I thought to myself, not on your life, but] I said, ‘Thanks, but that’s okay,’ and I walked by him. The minute I passed him, I knew I was doing the wrong thing, so I turned around and said, ‘Excuse me. I would like some of your coffee.’

“I … sipped … and gave it back to him. … ‘You’re being generous. How come…?’

“… this [guy] looked at me and replied, ‘… the coffee was especially delicious today and I think that when God gives you something good, you ought to share it with people.’

“I didn’t know how to handle that, so I said, ‘Can I give you anything?’ I thought that he would hit me [up] for five dollars.

…‘No.’ [he turned to go, and then turned back], ‘Yeah, yeah. … there is something you can give me. You can give me a hug’

“[I held my breath, wishing he’d asked for] five dollars! He put his arms around me and I put my arms around him…. as I, in my establishment dress, and he, in his filthy garb, hugged each other on the street, I had the strange awareness that I wasn’t hugging a bum, [no. Jesus was hugging me.]”

In Baptism: Enter the Promised Land, then Obey for Goodlife’s Sake

Returning to the OT lesson: God does not reward obedience with entrance to the Promised Land. All get to enter. The commandments are not far away, difficult to find or to understand: God has put them in our mouths and in our hearts! The commandments are not burdensome; they are life-giving. They are God’s guide for abundant life. Obedience brings us to live well, so that God delights in our renewed prosperity as we move out of slavery into the Promised Land!

In our baptisms we have already receive eternal life. Now what are we going to do with this life in the Promised Land?

Farmer’s Parting Words

As the farmer-woman drove away, she shouted out her truck window to the man harassed by his ex and the cops: They are jealous. Don’t let them tell you to get a life; you have one. They’re just trying to take it from you.

Do not be afraid, Do not be shamed.

Jesus says do not be afraid, we cannot be shamed for we already have a life, a good life.

What now?

So what are we going to do with God’s gift of our good, abundant lives in the Promised Land?

Giving what God Has Given Us

Jesus’ Parable compels us to ask: What kind of life do we live if we do not stand ready to risk losing everything that God has given us, in order that others may live, and live abundantly?

After all, without Jesus’ redemption we would remain strangers to God, and no matter what we would do, we would be lost, our lives worthless and meaningless. But with Jesus’ redemption we inherit the Kingdom of God.

Answers not far, nor impossible, for God is with us

The answers to life’s questions and mysteries are not too far away in the chaos of pre-creation between the galaxies that we must send someone to bring the answers to us. The answers are on our lips, and in our hearts: We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and our neighbours as our selves.

This love is all very possible for us:

for our strength is from God’s all-mighty power,

for our freedom and faith are given to us as free gifts by Jesus,

for our days are guided, inspired, and completed by the spectacular truth and light of the Holy Spirit.

Walking Toward Us: the Blessings God Shares with So Many People.

We’ve got a life, given to us … and there’s really good coffee coming down the street toward us. …

Are we ready for Jesus to give each of us a huge, warm hug?

What a thing of beauty this life is!

Amen

No Sermon, Sorry

Gaslit Again


No sermon this past week. Sorry.
A few photos though still brighten the horizon even as bleak as it could be.

It was a difficult week again. A judge made an order, full of ….
You cannot safely say the truth about judges; though it would be nice if judges would base their work on truth.


This past week has been draining.


Gaslighting is a powerfully terrible thing to experience.


These snippets from a google search highlight just what this is, just how terrible it is, and just how terrible it is that the justice system participates in this. All apologies if any are really needed for just grabbing this information without keeping records to give credit. It’s the kind of thing that after one suffers it, again and again, at one’s spouse’s hand, and then repeatedly at one’s pastor’s, (she was ordained today, just for a sample of God’s justice waiting, and God’s Grace filling undeserving lives), other pastors who have great sins to hide in their false accusations about me, and then almost without ceasing by various RCMP officers, even VSU when I called them, a great number of people working in the justice system, and then again and again at the hand of judges ….
It’s the kind of thing that when you have to deal with it again things do not always get done with the correct process. So my apologies.

Birds Fly, even if I Cannot

To Gaslight


to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

Gaslight


Gaslighting is used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when an abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make a victim question his or her sanity. Gaslighting intentionally makes someone doubt their memories or perception of reality.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victim’s an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. … The emotional damage of Gaslighting is huge on the narcissistic victim.
Gaslighting can also be part of an authoritarian personality. A person with an authoritarian personality tends to think in absolutes: Things are 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong. When a gaslighter thinks that they are not the problem and everyone else is, this is called having an ego-syntonic personality.


Signs of being Gaslit


• no longer feeling like the person you used to be.
• being more anxious and less confident than you used to be.
• often wondering if you’re being too sensitive.
• feeling like everything you do is wrong.
• always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong.
• apologizing often.


The following from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/are-gaslighters-aware-what-they-do


… Gaslighting is a pattern of manipulation tactics used by abusers, narcissists, dictators, and cult leaders to gain control over a person or people. The goal is to make the victim or victims question their own reality and depend on the gaslighter.
So, do gaslighters know they’re doing it?
It depends on the gaslighter.

Light and the Road. They have Chosen.

Living Well, Surviving Gaslighting

There is only one way to survive Gaslighting:

to live well, as well as one can, given the circumstances.
I live well, even if the challenges are great.

In the Purple Light of an Early Morning Before the Storm That follows that Day.


My work is rough. Outdoors, building, tearing down, moving, rebuilding. It’s a dream for a young man who loves to build things with his hands.
It’s tough and rough work for an older man like me, even if I like working with my hand. My hands, precious instruments of my creativity.

And the Light at Night

I live well.

The sun sets over the lake outside the window. A canoe rests near the water available to take a camera out to create beauty from what can be ordinary. People respond well to my company, my words, and simple joy of life. I receive grace given to me in abundance. I share grace with everyone I meet, and it makes a visible difference, a positive difference.

I help guide a new truck driver from being stuck to safely position her vacuum truck to be able to do her work and be able to drive out. It just took some well placed shovel work, and some good driving, well planned driving.

I cleaned up 5 garbage bags of drunken, drugged, and orgy leftovers out of this random camping area.

I’ve pulled two dead-falls down this past week, one down by a fool with an axe, the other by a strong wind. Who knows what may have happened, but no one will get hurt from them.

The fireworks after 23:00 are loud, but the view is okay. There are no complaints.


The light is wonderful, when one sees it with the truth that God created it to reflect.


Gas – Lighting

It’s the kind of lighting that only God can put right. I can forgive the family stuff, the gaslighting in the family as horrendous as it was. But the professionals: they should know better: their sins are bound. God will deal with their sins, not forgiven but bound.
That, because it is my responsibility to forgive all that can be, and to bind what cannot be. I place it behind me so that I can continue to deal with these people of horrendous deeds with grace. I place it behind me and before them for the rest of their lives. God’s truth has no diminished clarity, no possibility of being lied about, nothing to be spun or hidden.

And the Birds Still Fly


God’s forgiveness, which I have given, remains as clear as God’s light of truth.
Photos show reality, the clarity of God’s light shining on God’s wonderful creation.

God took seven days,

and said it was Good.


I live well in that Goodness.

A Name for Ourselves: God’s Gift

Who are we? Do we need to make a name for ourselves? Will we ever be satisfied with God’s Word present among us?

Good Potential

God created the universe. On the seventh day God rested and declared it was all good. God created us with such potential: the potential to reach for the stars, the potential to love one another, ourselves and even our enemies. Our power of imagination to see what is not and strive to accomplish things new and wonderful carries us from one generation to the next. We can share the breath of beauty, the wind of hope, and the fire of the future with one another.

Evil Potential

God also gave us freedom, so that we have the potential to reject the gifts God gives us. The goodness of life is fragile. There are so many ways for life to go wrong. We can choose to dive into the depths of darkness, to hide our false pride and our self-centered arrogance, to wallow in the despair that consumes generation after generation. We can succumb to addictions and armed conflict, to abuse and terror that causes PTSD in its victims, to Gaslighting, bearing false witness, and even murder. We have the potential to destroy all of life on earth, but the real destruction are all the avenues we create for life to implode on itself.

Jane

Jane sat at the table in her favourite restaurant, enjoying the familiar smells that reminded her of the news she had received here. Years ago, on this very spot she’d opened her letter of acceptance into university, the first one in her family, ever. That shaped everything about her life, now a Doctor of History, a professor emeritus, a famous author. Later that same day years ago she’d received the other news that formed her life and was bringing it to an indecent early end. She had MS. She had lived with it for so long, many years in a wheelchair, but now her systems were slowly giving out. Her name given to her at her baptism is Jane.

The White Purity of Birch, The Bleach of Life is not so pleasant a white.

Babel Blessing

In the lesson from Genesis we read how the people came together to build a marvelous city and a tower that would reach the heavens, in order to make a name for themselves. They also distrusted God’s rainbow, and wanted security from any future flood. God comes to bless the people with confused speech, with different languages, so that their prideful project will halt. Divided the people disperse far and wide to inhabit the earth. Ever since, we create divisions and conflict more easily than we build healthy communities. We have built more than a tower of Babel as our fossil fuel consumption produces more pollution than the earth can tolerate, resulting in violent climate change. Our civilization is built on time bombs that destroy people.

George and Emily

George and Emily walked the beach, they’d grieved the addiction of their daughter for an eternity, grieving the birth of grandchildren, each lost to foster care. Now they’d received the phone call they’d feared. Jenny had overdosed on drugs yet again. This time she had not recovered. Their names are George and Emily and they gave Jenny her name at her baptism.

Languages A Gift

Today we recognize the power of languages. They keep us apart and distinct. Yet when we live in a second language, we experience not just different grammar and words. We experience more of the world that God created good. Different languages carry different pieces of the marvels of this creation which we can barely fathom in a full lifetime.

First Pentecost

That first Pentecost the disciples proclaimed in their own language the wonders of God’s work for everyone. God inspired the listeners to hear the disciples in each listener’s own language. As at Babel God confused the language of the people to save them from their pride, so at the first Pentecost God overcame the language barrier in order that people could hear and understand each other and the Good News of what God had done in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Language is powerful.

Greta

Greta was born in Jena, in East Germany. A Christian, at great cost she had dedicated her life to serving Christ. Working with youth she excelled, until jealous gossip was started about her. Under intense pressure and unearned shame Greta slowly lost her confidence, then her sense of self, and finally her sense of reality. She succumbed to a half living state of senseless babble that sometimes erupted into excruciatingly painful clarity about what had been done to her, and how helpless she was. Her name, given to her at her baptism, is Greta. She remained Greta even as she lost her mind to the horrendous cruelty of gossip that pretends to know reality beyond God’s goodness.

Clarity in Miracles

Like the disciples we always want God to be more clear. The words are plain enough. Yet God rarely leaves it to just the words. The signs, the miracles, that accompany the Good News are remarkable. We may not recognize what God is doing, but we always hope that in the end all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well, for God created the universe and said it was good.

That first Pentecost so that people could not miss the miracle of the Holy Spirit given to God’s children, God marked the disciples with tongues of fire.

Small Miracles, double sun, leaves growing.

Fire

One of the distinct gifts God gave humans is Fire. It is powerful, both for good and for evil. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, guided the people through the wilderness with a pillar of flame, and will cleanse us at our judgment with God’s purifying fire.

As we have breathed these past weeks, the result of climate change brings more wildfires, and more smoke that covers vast areas, inhibiting life in so many ways. Humans are not the only ones affected by wildfires. The smoke reduced the available solar power, a nuisance at least for those whose electricity is produced by solar power. The greater loss was to the plants whose basis of life depends on photosynthesis.

In the face of life so challenged, God finds ways to bless us, with hope.

Sam and Allicia

Sam and Allicia both lost their childhoods to wars of terror and genocide. In their teens they each survived the squalor and hunger of refugee camps, their families having all been killed. Sponsored as immigrants in their late teens by a Lutheran congregation in Edmonton, they met, shared the struggles of finding their way, fell in love, were married and are expecting their first child this summer. With different mother tongues they communicate in Canadian English. Their names given to them at their baptisms are Sam and Allicia. They have chosen names for their first child at its baptism, in memory of their families lost.

Our Name

Though we reach for the stars, to make a name for ourselves, to succeed at what we attempt, even to make life more than it is, there is no name that we can make for ourselves greater than what God has already given us. With tongues of fire God has marked us, anointed us, and called us.

Three Confirmed, we stand with them

As these three, Tristan, Connor, and Aysiah, were marked with the cross in their baptisms, and now they stand as young people, maturing, beginning to accept responsibility for their own being, so we each were marked. At the right time we also stood on our own to respond to the gifts that God gives us, promising to receive, abide in, act out of, and grow into the people God calls us to be. Today we still stand, not on our own as if our faith were merely personal or private. Rather we stand as one faith community united by the fire of the Holy Spirit. As we stand with one another in love, so we stand with these three young people. Their names, given to them in their baptisms, are Tristan, Connor, and Aysiah.

Our name: potential as love

Again today we share with them the name God has given us all. There is no greater name. It is not a name we could make for ourselves. It is the name that God gave us in our baptisms and shares with us each day. God names us God’s children.

The language of our name is not limited to one of the diverse languages that God gave us to propel us across the earth, to inhabit it and do well by it. The language of our name is love, in all its rainbow colours.

In our love for one another we best reflect the One who abides with and in us, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. It is in our love for our enemies that we dance with the miraculous power of life which the Spirit pours down on us in the form of flames of fire.

As we do what it takes to love one another, though the world roils with conflict, abuse, and destruction, we rest in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We have no cause to be troubled. Nor do we suffer the greatest enemy: the denial of evil’s potential. Nor do we need to fear flood nor fire nor anything, for God is at work to keep evil in its place and God in God’s place … and to keep us on earth with and for each other.

Our name given to us in our baptisms is children of God. We are the inheritors of the miracle that brings life to be with a word, with a breath, with a breeze, with a fire.

Amen

Truth? Who Cares?

Who


I have a wise old friend who told me her story, so similar to another I know as well, too similar for both not to be listened to, believed, and heeded. It is a story how the darkness overcame her and landed her in the darkness from which there was no escape, no matter what she tried.
It nearly ended her.

little light in the darkness

The small light in the darkness saves many.
The darkness is made by lies that engulf, sink, and consume the will for joy.
Who indeed cares for the truth?
Is it little, too little perhaps, to ask that the truth be spoken, heard and listened to?
A young girl saw her mother cry silently without words not knowing what was happening. … the guest did as he wished with no fear for if anyone objected then or later complained death would come quickly.
And so many times, a different guest, a repeat guest, a different guest.
The young girl was ordered to ready the house for the guests so that they would be pleased, moving so quickly to run from the terror. She left behind any thought that she was a person, other than one that made everything ready for the guests.
Until this daughter was taken in turn, too young, and taught the small pleasures that are possible, of sorts.
In that moment the lies began, and they overtook reality, the horrible reality, that nothing could make right.
The darkness is made by lies that engulf, sink, and consume the will for joy. But the darkness, somehow for this little girl, is still lighter than the void that took her soul.
Who cares for the truth?
It is no joy to know, but the truth does make a few things understandable, even the lies.


Why


So why ask or hope for truth?
Through all of time girls and boys have hoped that there would be a place for them in the world, not just a pit of worthlessness, but a path through the sun, through the rain, through the cold, through the heat, through the storms, and in the calm evening breeze on the lake.
Why ask if truth is a factor? Cannot one just live with the lies? Cannot one live with the fiction that demeans some in order to eliminate them, and leave more space on the path for others? We have been doing it forever as humans, why not just let it continue?
God.
God loves.
God loves all.
So all will be well. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.
And we will be the ones to make it well, for all.
That is why the truth is important!
The truth, bright, blazing truth of Christ, takes all that is not well, makes it brilliantly clear what it is, horrendous and terrorizing, and makes it also well.


The Beaver

Beauty Waiting

The other night, as the evening darkness began to colour the world in blues and oranges,
a small beaver swam by going south out from its home in the creek,

Going to safety.

and alerted to my presence on shore slapped an alarm and dove to safety leaving the rings of golden shimmer against the night between the trees.

Still going.

And came back to the surface further on its journey, out in the deep.

Calm

The beauty of the night deepened and shone as a few stumps left by the earlier beaver stood watch as the horizon climbed over the shore into the little light that remained.

Home for the night..

While just a tinge of light still touched the shore, the beaver came back, heading home for the night, leaving a wake behind that danced in the blues and in the orange-silver-golds of the set sun.
Ahh, the night was set right and I headed back home as well …

Onward

but no, the beaver was still out for more yet this evening, going back away from, not towards home.

I did then head home, to sleep well, no guests.
Under the care of the Spirit that makes all things well.

Light Truth Joy


It is at sunset as the light begins to close the day, that we see how the light, the goodness of the light persists always to bring us to face, see, hear, and heed the truth, for then the watchful Spirit inspires us to be able to know profound joy.

The sun that daily sets … and rises new again each morning.

The sun that daily sets … and rises new again each morning.
This friend came to see her darkness, to embrace it, and to set it aside with truth telling
and truth listening
and truth sharing.
Which inspired a number of people to embrace their past, of darkness and ill, and to allow God to redeem it with love for themselves.


A Path


There is a path for everyone, or rather a path for each of us, not that it exists until we walk forward, but it unfolds under our movements forward in life toward the end, which is not death, but the ability to love, truly love, with all the sacrifice that entails.

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

Good Friday Success

What was once alive, once green, once bright, is now in these days dead, withered and dark.

There is only a faint hint of days long distant in the most recent of times.

What is it to succeed

and leave a legacy?

To overrun others, destroying them with lies, in order to have more, in order to cover up one’s sins?

Or to suffer rumours and lies that destroy one’s reputation and finances leaving one homeless?

This day, Jesus answered God’s call to submit himself to death, a torturous death, and to die.

Did Jesus succeed? Did Jesus destroy others, or did he allow others to try to destroy him, and respond with grace and forgiveness?

If more of the world knew Grace and lived it well, more people would succeed …

in bringing the basics of life to others with their sacrifices.

The world may seem dark, especially in these days when we remember that God died, and remained so, for three days.

There is only the reflection in our memories of the light that has guided our paths. But there will be a great light, that will shine in every darkness, and bring justice, restitution, and new life to those who are destroyed by others lies.

And for those who have destroyed with lies … may God have mercy on them.

Meals and Nourishment

Maundy Thursday

Opener

A little wonder is not missing.

Tonight we remember Jesus’ last supper as he declared Gods’ New Covenant with us by offering his body, the bread of life, and his blood, the wine, to all people.

This Covenant is handed down to us, starting with the disciples present at Jesus’ last supper, to Paul, and through Paul to generations upon generations. Each handed Jesus’ story on to the next so that this Covenant of Life would be remembered and many lives could be lived in response to it. Jesus uses an ordinary meal.

Salad

There is nothing quite like an ordinary meal that begins with a crisp, fresh, green salad, with freshly squeezed lemon on top.

Perhaps you’d like to add salad dressing, cheese, croutons, or tomatoes.

Or perhaps you’d actually prefer a lot of tomato sauce, all on one big crouton with lots of cheese melted on top, with slices of pepperoni. Okay maybe a big pizza instead of a salad.

Just an ordinary, nourishing meal.

Setting of the Last Supper

Jesus knows he and his disciples are at great risk in Jerusalem. For days now he has taught in public and all has gone well. Jesus is ready for what must come. They will betray, torture and kill him. He has not given up, rather he has answered God’s call for him to suffer so that all people will know about God’s forgiveness for them.

On his last night he gathers to celebrate the Passover with his disciples. He makes sure that his disciples for generations to come will remember him and thereby know God’s Grace. Jesus uses two very common items of the meal, bread and wine, and instructs his disciples to remember him every time they eat bread and drink wine. It may sound like wine was a special component, but the water was not safe to drink, so, if one could, one drank wine instead.

Each meal, Everyone

Jesus directed all of us to remember him each time we eat bread and drink water or wine. The Church ritualized this meal and made it central in worship so that it would not be forgotten. Still we’ve taken this common meal, revered it, and reserved it for a special celebration held sometimes at most once a month. At times we’ve limited who can take part in the meal to just good people.

Regardless how we practice it, we do remember Jesus’ words, take it all of you. Whenever you eat and drink, do this in remembrance of me.

To drink

Most of our common meals today include something to drink: a cup of coffee or tea, or glass of water or even a good glass of fruit juice and spritzer to whet one’s appetite.

Meal to Remember and Learn from

Jesus made the New Covenant at their Passover Supper so that his disciples would take note. He gave us his words to ensure we would remember, even if we would not practice, what his words tells us.

Jesus intends that we remember and discover again God’s purpose for each of us. God gives us Jesus’ example to follow, giving up any privilege we have, humbling ourselves to serve others, sacrificing of ourselves so that all others will receive justice, freedom, food and homes, and everything else they need for the abundant life God intends for each of us. Jesus shows us how to forgive everyone always, even as he dies on the cross.

Vegetables

Most of us commonly have vegetables at our meal, green and dark coloured, maybe a variety of cut vegetables with a creamy cheese sauce on top.

Common Food Items, With Great Effects

Jesus does something very uncommon at his last Passover. He washes the feet of his disciples. It is a task for a servant. Today foot washing is not part of meal preparation, since we do not walk everywhere on dusty roads wearing sandals, and we do not recline to eat.

Eating and drinking, though, will remain common as long as humans live, ensuring that celebrating the Lord’s Supper may be common enough, as long as Christians remember and hand on what has been handed on to them.

Through the generations remembering Jesus’ Last Supper has held many families and churches together, kept many falsely incarcerated, exiled and oppressed people alive when they could not gather for worship. Along with our simple confession that Jesus is Lord, this meal has helped preserve the faith in many places many many times in history when all seeme lost. This meal of simple items has soothed the anxious souls of countless Christians through the generations.

Protein

The heart of our common meal comes down to some protein, perhaps a little roast beef, pork ribs, or chicken. Maybe a fresh fish from the lake via the grocery store, a handful of mixed nuts, or even eggs.

The New Covenant

At the heart of his last supper Jesus establishes God’s New Covenant with us. God has made covenants with the people before.

One of the first was the covenant with Noah, when God promised never again to wipe out creation with floods. It is marked by the rainbow in the sky.

Perhaps the greatest in the OT is God’s Covenant with Abraham. God promised Abraham and Sarah descendants enough to make a great people and land for security and stability. This covenant is marked by the Passover meal recounting how God delivered our ancestors from slavery, bringing them through the wilderness into the Promised Land.

The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood poured out for us is God’s most complete communication of who God is, and how God relates to us with Grace and forgiveness made possible through God’s own sacrifice.

Dessert

To top off our common meal we’ll include a light fruit dish with coffee hagen daaz ice cream. OK too uncommon and too expensive. So maybe a slice of apple, cherry or pumpkin pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, not a five quart scoop. Just one simple scoop as a bit of a teaser, on top of a good meal, to help us remember the meal, for hours to come.

Until we grow hungry again the next day and start over feeding our bodies so that we might live.

For Each and Every Christian

God makes the New Covenant with each of us in our Baptisms with water and Word. God renews this covenant with all of us at each meal.

When we offer each person Christ’s body and Christ’s blood, we say Christ’s body given for you, and Christ’s blood shed for you.

We gather as a community to share Jesus’ meal with everyone. Jesus’ gifts, though, are not just generally available. They are very specifically for each of us, to heal the brokenness and suffering of each one of us, to nourish our spirits and to give each of us abundant life.

Tie the two together: our daily meals, Jesus’ Last Supper celebrated

There are common meals to nourish our bodies. We hope and work so that everyone has at least one of those each day. We humans also require meals to sustain our spirits.

There is no challenge, no work of the devil, no grip of sin, no enemy’s attack on us that is impossible for us to face, because we feed on the body and blood of God’s own Son. God’s Spirit in and through us is undefeatable, even by death.

After this his last supper, Jesus goes out to pray in Gethsemane, until the soldiers …

Tomorrow we continue our worship service with the next segment of God’s story given to us through Jesus’ life, remembered and handed on to us, so that we can hand it on to others, … so that all may have life abundant.

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!)

Changing (to good) Habits

Jesus calls us to build our homes on solid foundations, foundations of good habits. So how do we change so that our habits reflect the people God created, redeemed, and sanctified us to be?

First and last remember that any change is practically impossible if we are coerced. Change only really works if we want it ourselves. From there the Holy Spirit equips us to be God’s children, with habits of thoughts, words and actions that reflect God’s love, grace, and promises.

Habits are important. When we were children our parents made sure we learned to wash our hands. Most of us resisted in deviously creative ways before we finally gave in and we learned to wash our hands. As adults we learned just how important habitually washing hands is: it is the number one defence against spreading viruses and deadly infections.

Habits are important. When we habitually respond to similar situations we lay down chemical pathways in our brains. That allows us to reach decisions more quickly. On the downside, habit pathways in our brains can cloud the full reality of what really is going on before us, and that can get us into lots of trouble. On the other hand, if we develop the right habits, those pathways can cloud the threat of evil, which allows us to respond with grace, no matter the situation we face.

Since according to the ways of the world we need to behave to get ahead, we could understand that we need to develop good habits in order to get into the Kingdom of God. In tonight’s reading from the letter to the Galatians, Paul, the first author of Christ’s Grace, says exactly that. Why?

It helps to understand that Paul was originally Saul. Well into adulthood, Saul judged and brutally condemned others. He was the leader at whose feet the crowd placed their robes as they picked up rocks to stone to death Stephen the first Christian martyr. On the road to Damascus Saul was intent on rounding up more Christians to stone them.

God had other plans. By grace and a miracle Saul became Paul, but Saul’s old habit of judging others did not always disappear, even though Paul championed grace as the only means to salvation.

It’s so frustrating to see people waste their lives on unnecessary, destructive sins, sins of choosing pleasure for the self and pain for others. The temptation is to toss out grace, judge other’s sins, and tell them they are going to hell if they do not smarten up. That’s right up there with pride as the most common sin: to judge others. Which is why Jesus often warns us against it.

Co-operating with the work of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to change well worn pathways in our brain, even judging others. By the Holy Spirit we can become reflectors of grace, imbuing health for ourselves and everyone we come into contact with. … Or not. Instead we can go with Paul judging others for their terrible sins, warning them to smarten up and develop good habits or they’re not going to inherit the Kingdom of God.

But as for me and my household, we choose to trust God’s grace, not only for ourselves, but for others as well. We trust that judging other people is a waste of our breath. God welcomes all us sinners into the Kingdom of God. The only question is what we are going to do there. So we try to avoid judging others. But let me tell you about the terrible things I saw people doing the other day …. OK, we try. I didn’t say we always succeed. We work at developing good habits, habits formed, fuelled, and completed by grace.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – those are habits we can choose to develop because the Holy Spirit so equips us. These and other healthy habits of Grace are the rock solid foundation Jesus calls us to build our homes on in the Kingdom of God.

Too often we are led to believe that the Kingdom of God starts after we die and God judges us whether we get to go to heaven. That’s where the Kingdom of God is.

As for me and my household, we hear the words of Jesus saying: the Kingdom of God is at hand now! What we do builds or destroys the Kingdom of God around us. That the Kingdom of God is here, though, is already determined by God.

This Ash Wednesday God’s Word called us to make an acceptable Lenten fast, to hold a fast that is not for our benefit. Rather our fast will bring justice and freedom in the face of injustice and oppression. Through our sacrifice we bring food and homes to those who hunger and are homeless. Our fast reflects Christ’s forgiveness, redemption and love for all who sin.

During the season of Lent we can choose to live already the life of the Kingdom. We can change to be generous and kind, patient and faithful, and hope-filled…

Or not. Either way, God’s mercy abounds. God’s Kingdom is here now. Why would we not want to join in?

What does changing our habits look like? While fasting is about sacrifice, we do not lose ourselves reflecting God’s Grace. As Nelson Mandela said forgiveness is not just altruistic. It is the best form of self interest. Grace makes for a marvellous life.

But how can we change ourselves to practice good habits, and get rid of the old? First, it helps to acknowledge that we will never get rid of our own sin completely. It is destructive to demand others be perfect. It is also self-destructive to expect that we ourselves will be perfect. Instead we trust God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, for ourselves and everyone.

Second, it helps to know that emotions happen to us setting off a chemical event in our brains that last 90 seconds. We can choose to wait 90 seconds before we choose what to do next. We can be free of any emotion, if we want to be.

Third, it always helps to recognize who our Creator is, what goodness our Creator gives us, including the gift that we can wait 90 seconds to choose to respond, not because we need to in order to be acceptable to God. God already accepts us as we are. We choose to wait and respond with good habits, because the Holy Spirit so equips us.

If we find nothing else so poignant, we can start by practising being kind and gracious to everyone we meet. That’s a habit that makes other good habits possible for us to choose and practice. That makes a great foundation for our home in the Kingdom of God, and it makes for a marvellous life, for us and those around us.

Amen