Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 7

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

See?

What do you see?

What do you dare to see?

Do you really want to see

What Jesus has to show you?

Psalm 31:23

Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.

Mark 10:46-49

As [Jesus was] leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet …. Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’

Words of Grace For Today

Last evening a big greyish pickup truck, a deep-throated, noisey Dodge Ram, with flood lights on a roll bar, two burly men riding in the bed, and a beefy grill guard on the front came prowling the dirt lanes, round and round as if looking for someone and not finding their target. An intentional threat to someone, either as a threatening show of force, or an actual hit. Apparently I am not the only one with an ex who is not above breaking or bending the law to end someone’s life.

How can one respond with Grace?

It is easy of course to respond not with grace but with a wish to physically end the threat of violence with greater violence. Pre-emptive revenge. So goes the world. Today one sees the crumbling of the social contract we live inside of, and the breaks in the thin veneer of civilization that we take for granted. Covid 19 stresses us, stresses the social contract, and the social contract starts to crumble.

How is one to respond with Grace and Honour?

The others certainly are beyond that. They act with blatant disregard for truth, rightness, goodness, and preservation of the social contract which serves them as well.

Jesus lived in the social contract of the Roman Empire, which contract was imposed and maintained by force in many foreign lands which were then included in the Roman Empire.

Jesus lives in this contract, giving to Caesar what was due Caesar. Jesus teaches not revolution, but bending down to notice those left on the wayside by the progression of the empire. Jesus hears a nobody, a blind beggar, sitting on side of the road calling to him to have mercy. Everyone else tells the man to be quiet, that Jesus has no time for him. Jesus stops, though, and calls Bart to him, and shows him the greatest mercy possible: he forgives him his sins. And oh, Jesus also gives him sight. Bart can see for the first time.

Jesus does this for all of us. If only we dare see. God’s love, poured without end or restraint over us, is impossible to ignore. Once blind and wretched sinners, we see and can respond. Like Bart we can follow Jesus and love God with all our hearts, minds and strength. We can imitate Jesus, and bend down to see, heal and forgive all those the world has left in the dust.

We can entrust those threatening vulnerable people to God’s care, which may be Grace and new life, or God may give the haughty their due.

Either way, we are Christ’s. We stand by the vulnerable to protect them, even if it means it costs us our lives.

Covid 19’s huge stress on each of us and on the social contract does not make us into violent, vicious animals that we were not before. The stresses of life do not make us different. They show to others more clearly who we have been all along. Let us pray that we have learned how to be who Jesus makes us to be: following his Way of Grace and the Cross.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 4

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Mirroring God’s Goodness with our lives in the weeds.

God’s Yes

Our amen in the weeds.

Leviticus 26:9

Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

2 Corinthians 1:20

For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.

Words of Grace For Today

Understanding to learn God’s commandments is a child’s first step in following Jesus. Next the difficult part comes in following the commandments. The ten commandments are a beginning to what following Jesus’ commandments (to love God, self, others and even ones’ enemies) are all about.

Love is a life long challenge that is worth every bit of energy and time we put into it.

We are only able to follow through because God promises to love us, accept us, forgive us, and set us on a path to follow the Holy Spirit guiding us to do God’s will.

God’s promises are always Yes to life according to God’s will.

Trusting God we can put an amen ready on our lips for every occasion.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 2

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Pastor

A Spouse

You get the idea,

If you have a spouse

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

Luke 1:49

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Words of Grace For Today

All through life we learn how to respond to challenges. We learn to tie shoes. Maybe not, since more and more shoes are just Velcro. We learn to make allowances for others while we play, then as we study (if we learn to study), then as we raise a family (if we have children), as we mature with a spouse (you get the idea: if we mature -:), as we work, and as we age, retire and kick the bucket (stubbing our toe as we most always do).

All this supposedly gives us common sense, which seems less and less common. All this supposedly gives us knowledge, which seems less and less based on reality for many. All this supposedly gives us opportunity to fill our lives with goods, which we throw away for newer, maybe better goods as if our own worth were dependent on our goods.

God, in many and various ways, keeps trying to communicate to us, hard headed and stiff-necked that we are, to show us all of this is inside-out, up-side-down, or of no consequence when it comes to being part of God’s good creation, and the goodness we are to be (in thought, word, and deed) for others and our own souls.

How great it is that God keeps communicating with us, generation after generation, day after day. Only God who is holy could bear us rascal sinners with such loving patience and grace.

It is not complicated. It is so simple that this way of being (sacrificially loving, forgiving and renewing others) can easily come from infants and young children.

We get to unlearn the world’s lessons, and practice the foolish truths that a child’s perspective on the Goodness of Creation can teach us.

Thanks be to God.

Covid 19 places huge challenges before us. The blessing in these challenges is that we have to re-orient our lives and have therein opportunity to practice again that foolishness of Christ, which brings life to all people.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 30

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fog, Weeds, Trees

Seek God

Through the fog, the weeds, the woods

Psalm 27:8

Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, do I seek.

Philippians 4:6

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Words of Grace For Today

There is simply no command in all the universe that will stop someone from worrying.

To stop worrying can be pretty futile, even for us to try to move ourselves away from worry to another attitude, or waiting, or dreading, or enduring to some kind of an attitude not associated with worry or concern or anxiety.

The only possibility for worry, anxiety, concern, or dread to end is if we have our attitude about life adjusted.

God’s face can surely adjust our attitude. One would think at first to greater and greater anxiety, unless or until one recognizes the promise provided to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. God could justifiably smite us out of the universe as if we never existed with a word.

God doesn’t. God instead takes all the time, effort and heartache (even grief) of being born as one of us, living, teaching, and healing, all so that we might notice God’s love for us. And since that cannot make up for our sins, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross to remove sins from us on to himself. He died because of our sins. Then he was resurrected, and promises that we are resurrected with him.

That is a huge step away from the smite key installed on a control keyboard, a key that could be used quite often to end strife and conflict. Instead God promises to be with us always. Therefore we can sing Hallelujah always, Anyhow, no matter what.

What can we do to readjust our attitudes to remember God’s Grace for us: turn our concerns and worries into prayers for the God almighty to deal with. Seek a face to face with God.

Zoom during Covid 19 is only a foretaste of what face to face with God is like.

Up, Down

Seek God up high and down low

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 29

Monday, June 29, 2020

Burdened?

Bowed

but

Not Broken

Daniel 6:23

Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

2 Corinthians 4:9

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

Words of Grace For Today

The challenges of this life, Covid-19 being a relatively small one, can kick the breath right out of us. Sometimes, like Daniel thrown into the hungry lions’ den, we get a small reprieve before our enemies’ tools/animals of destruction tear us apart and consume us limb, by limb.

Fewer times than we notice other miracles during our short lives on this marvellously created planet, sometimes we survive the tools/animals hungry for our pieces, together which make up our lives. At those times, like Daniel, it is good to have friends in high places with real power, like kings and queens.

When it comes to the challenges of life beyond this life, in the battle between the Devil and God, we have no chance at all to even be effective on the playing field, the stage or the battle arena. The Devil always gets his devouring ways with us – unless the Holy Spirit steps in and defends us.

At that time it is good to be baptized, because in spite of all the doubt the Devil and his minions can create in us, we have a sure sign that God steps in for us, we bear the Cross of Jesus on our foreheads, emblazoned their never to be erased.

That cross does not fend off discomfort, doubts, physical hardships, or assaults of enemies. It does guarantee us that God never walks away from us. We can even turn on God, trying to create our own way forward, and God is still there, carrying us, caring for us, nurturing us back to full health.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

This is a two-fold promise: first that we will not be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed.

Second it is Paul’s full disclosure that following Christ, our enemies will afflict, perplex, persecute, and strike us down.

It’s good to have a cross on one’s forehead to remember, rely on, and especially to have a saviour in the highest places, as well as in the lowest places and everywhere in between.

Trust God. Everything else is a passing illusion. Trust God, no matter that you will not get out of this life alive; but you will live eternally, starting the day you were baptized.

Hallelujah Always!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 26

Friday, June 26, 2020

Cold Track

Cold and Off Track!

There is no photo of justice observed and righteousness done at all times.

It cannot exist, except by GRACE

Psalm 106:3

Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.

1 John 2:17

The world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever.

Words of Grace For Today

The way the world teaches it’s children to live is not to observe justice and do righteousness – just do not get caught.

The desires that fuel that kind of thinking are endless, in number and because of our inability to satisfy them. Our living experience of them is that they continue, as sure as the rock under our feet as we stand on a high crested mountain west of Edmonton.

Yet from God’s perspective that rocky mountain is a fleeting feature of earth, along with us living on it, and the entire planet as it spins around the star we call our sun will soon pass into oblivion.

The question for us all is how do we live in this fleeting moment, that lasts generation upon generation for us.

Observing Justice and doing righteousness at all times.

First that is impossible, a dream for some, and for all of us mostly wishful thinking.

We are saved by Grace alone. None of us are able to do other than sin, and we wretched sinners can only hope that Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection will save us, for there is no other hope for us.

So as long as we live, if we can always observe justice and do righteousness at all times, then we will be happy.

Since we cannot do that, is it true that we will never be happy?

I’d hope not, but …

… now is the moment when one needs to have prayed and trusted God, and paid a little attention in Confirmation Class.

We can be happy, because even though we cannot observe justice nor be righteous all the time, Jesus steps in for us, sets his record in place of our own.

Not on our own, but transformed by the Grace of God into saints, we can be happy, not just merely happy, but the happiest that we can ever be.

Able to observe justice and do righteousness always, only because Jesus steps in for us, the guarantee that we will be counted to have done exactly that cannot be more sure.

Happy hardly begins to describe how grateful we can be, relieved that we need not count on our own abilities, and exhilarated that life for us is wonderfully blessed by God.

Happy are we who have God doing justice, and observing righteousness, for us, for our record.

No matter our sins, as we trust God, we can join the many people who for so long have learned even amidst great grief to Sing Hallelujah Anyhow.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 18

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sky’s on Fire!

Storms a coming!

OR a Beautiful Night? OR

Waiting for the stars?

Genesis 6:22

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Words of Grace For Today

People say that there is no reason to hope that … and then they go on to say what they have no hope for.

Everyday language would use the word ‘hope’ that way. But hope is really something much different.

It may help to put the word hope in a few wider contexts with comparisons to other words.

Pessimism is looking at all the evidence available and drawing a conclusion that gives the bad evidence more importance. So the glass is half empty and going down. The world is in the worst shape it’s ever been. Humans are the worst species and are quick capable of destroying the whole earth. That’s pessimism for you, always coming up with the trajectory straight into trouble and deeper.

Optimism is looking at all the evidence available and drawing a conclusion that gives the good evidence more importance. So the glass is half full and getting fuller. The world is in the best shape it’s ever been. Humans are the best species with the greatest chance of saving planet earth. That’s optimism for you, always coming up with the trajectory straight into a wonderful world and beyond.

Realism what people use to say their view of optimism and pessimism is right, not skewed like the other views.

Hope looks at all the evidence available, finds none that indicates God’s will is being done, and yet with no evidence to support this belief, lays everything on the line, trusting that God’s will is being done, God’s will is what we are supposed to be cooperating with, and in the end God will provide all that we need, even if that means all we get is a room prepared for us in the city of light, in life eternal.

Hope beyond hope is just hyperbole. Properly said one might mean: hope beyond all evidence, which is hope in it self anyway.

If we need to remember how great hope can be, remember Noah building the ark and ridiculed by all around … until the water starts pouring down, and keeps pouring down.

We may face challenges, on top of Covid 19, someone we most trusted has broken that trust by doing something blatantly illegal; of cancer has returned; or your lies in court have been noticed by the police; or your cheating on your taxes is being investigated, or (fill in your favourite sin) has been noticed by someone close to us and we have gravely disappointed them, or … the kids are just getting on your nerves too much … or the idiots are running their unlicensed motorcycles and quads all over the place, set off fireworks every night, and party until 3 and 4 in the morning so that it’s terrific when it storms at night to shut it down.

Pessimists would say: it’s just going to get worse.

Optimists would say: it’s just people blowing off steam. It will get better soon.

The person of Hope would say: God’s creation will withstand also these assaults on good sensibilities, and God provide all enough sleep, despite the neighbours late hours.

Perhaps Noah would like to take the fireworks, motorcycles and quads, and the party-ers on the ark for a little ride … somewhere far away. But that’s just hope beyond hope.

Perhaps God has other plans?

Perhaps there is hope yet, that some sense, respect and common decency will enter into these people’s lives …

or more likely I will gain an understanding of how helpful and beneficial all these late hour activities are for other people, so I will smile, instead of grimace, at their occurrences, waking me from my sleep.

There’s always hope.

Here’s hoping.

I Hope.

.

Faith is beyond hope. It is a gift of trusting when there is no reason to trust, or to hope.

Faith is a gift that the Holy Spirit continually renews in us, since we wear it thin so quickly.

Faith is the most powerful thing we will ever know in our lives.

Love comes in almost tied with Faith.

Some have said Love comes in first.

Regardless, there are these three: Faith, Hope and Love.

There is nothing like them in all the universe.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 17

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Light into Every Darkness

The Light of Christ Sets

The Basis of Our Hope

Which Has No Other Basis in Experience

The Light of Christ Will Rise Again

Psalm 100:2

Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

Colossians 1:12

Give thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Words of Grace For Today

The Movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” portrays a hero who can with compassion, listening and friendship transform us from angry, cynical realists who doubt anyone is or can be really good, into kind, compassionate, loving spouses and fathers (or mothers, not to leave anyone out.)

The movie’s byline is We Could All Use a Little Kindness. Today’s polarized political worlds, the echo chamber of self absorbed opinions available on line, and the falsehoods presented as truths by those we previously would have respected, leave us needing kindness, compassion, and a renewed hope in humanity. We need a few new heroes to inspire us to be better people, especially with those people who are different than us.

We need a bit of truth to prevail, and decency: Hope Lutheran Edmonton’s council just voted and distributed material to the members: They know it is against their constitution, but they have, without proper process to leave the ELCIC voted to hold a mail-in vote to call a non-ELCIC pastor. It is blatant breach of trust.

The Bishop or the Bishop’s representation must be present at the meeting for it to be legal.

But if the council will vote to act against the constitution, and blatantly so, who can trust that any of the rest of the process will be anything close to fair or even decent.

That, and many stories like it, leave us knowing we need a LOT more kindness, compassion, and a renewed hope in humanity. We need a few new heroes to inspire us to be better people, especially with those people who are different than us. We need a few good people, a new kind of hero, to stand up to blatant evil and put it in it’s place.

There is nothing to support this hope, or to fill this need.

Instead we worship the Lord with gladness and come into his presence with singing. We give thanks to the Father, who has enabled us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

For no matter what or who assaults us in this life, we know who transforms us from wretched sinners into saints, who can only share God’s sacrificial Grace with all people, even those who exercise such blatant, and raw evil against the little ones of Christ.

We know that our very breath relies not on the goodness of other sinners. Neither does the terribleness of others’ sins take our breath, our spirit, our faith, our gratitude, our love for all people, nor our hope from us. For nothing can separate us from the love of God, and the love of God is what gives us life, no matter what else we face.

Thanks be to God.

Covid 19, you have got nothing on the sin and hurt that people are capable of causing others. We are thankful for all the people who are kinder, more compassionate, and more loving, having grown through the challenges of Covid 19.

Stay safe, for yourself, but even more so for those around you! We are in this together, this entire journey on the good creation earth.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 16

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Think Not the Trees Bow to You

.

Humble Pie

Is hard to eat,

but more nourishing than greed, pride, and bearing false witness,

and other ways we forsake our God.

Jeremiah 2:17

Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, while he led you in the way?

John 8:31

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

Words of Grace For Today

God does not forsake us, ever, no matter what.

The Holy Spirit always leads us onward to serve Christ, and Christ alone.

It is not that the Holy Spirit leads us onward to serve our vision of the future, say what our own congregation should look like, or how much money we will save by cheating others, or how much comfort is due us at others expense, or even seemingly good goals: like that we will build family camps to nurture the faith at home, or that we will bring Vacation Bible Schools to remote areas in the North, so that First Nations people will be educated in the Christian Faith (as patronizing as that has always been!), or that we will recruit more and more people to join our church so that we are strong again.

The Holy Spirit always leads us onward to serve Christ, and Christ alone.

Discerning what Christ’s will for us is seemingly difficult, which we get so wrong over and over again. Only hindsight shows us how wrong we’ve too often been: take slavery, or exclusion of others by race, or nationality, or social class; or sexual orientation; or now on gender identification.

The ways we forsake God and go our own way seems to be unlimited.

The ways that the Holy Spirit uses to bring us home again, are actually unlimited, as unlimited as God’s Love and Jesus’ Grace.

Continuing in Jesus’ Way cannot be reduced to a few or even many sayings, rules, or verses. Democracy is not about a constitution, but rather democracy is about an attitude that toleration of others and their opposing ideas is essential to life and therefore to governing a people.

Being Jesus’ disciples is not reducible, not at all, to a set of rules, sayings or a constitution. It is a full experience of God leading us in ways and in places, toward ends that we cannot imagine, nor as we are underway, even fathom. It is about holding Jesus’ story of bringing Grace to all people at great cost to himself (his own life) as the guide to how we live. Following Jesus’ Way is about living out an ever evolving ethics that holds us humbly needing Grace, and bearing our own crosses, while not dumping the cross on others.

When we have nothing left to lose, then we are totally free.

We lose everything to follow Jesus, including the right to claim our right to live. Everything is the Holy Spirit’s to use. We are bold to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, for though it cost us our lives on earth, no one can separate us from the Grace of Jesus, the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

What freedom that is! What security! What everlasting hope that provides!

We can be so bold,

and humble.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 15

Monday, June 15, 2020

There once was a home …

The old homestead

long ago bit the dust.

Might it be resurrected

with new life.

Isaiah 26:19

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a radiant dew, and the earth will give birth to those long dead.

2 Corinthians 4:14

We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.

Words of Grace For Today

The images for resurrection abound. Glorious, wonderful, hopeful.

The south wind blows hot air as I write this, warming it up into the high 30⁰.
Not that comfortable.

Deception and lies abound all around, making lots of people hot under the collars.
Not that comfortable.

Rule of law is lost as police brutality takes centre stage, with peaceful protests in response that are hijacked into violent riots in the heat of the nights for weeks.
Not that comfortable.

Patterns of RCMP here at home, blatant in statistics, are racially focused and motivated by hatred spawned from irrational fears. Real crime is ignored, or abided, in a subtle agreement that it must exist, or it is attacked as if it were already war … and truth is the first victim in war. Society decay receives the heat of corruption applied, speeding it’s crumbling beneath a veneer of nice politeness.
Not that comfortable at all.

In every generation the creative progress has always moved only along with the corruption of evil that permeates human efforts, so that eventually all (seemly) good things rot away.

The dead bodies of all human ‘achievements’ litter history and all creation.

In this dust, we each come to rest, at the end of our lives.

.

..

The promise made evident with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is that God does not abandon us to this dust, not after we die, nor as we live.

From this dust God will bring us back to new life, raised with Jesus Christ, to live in God’s presence.

It is a promise in which we place our trust and hope.

Hope pulls us up and out of the dust that surrounds us each day. We live differently, better, at peace, simply because we have this hope. We no longer need to struggle to be good, God makes us saints in spite of ourselves. We no longer need to struggle to make things happen, and in the process become the evil that we try to conquer, trying to do in secret what is certainly wrong, destructive, and futile.

Hope makes all the difference in how we live. We surrender to serve Christ and Christ alone, no longer making our own goals the purpose of life, at all costs.

Even today the Holy Spirit guides us to live this life. This life is as Christ provides: that we accept our own sinfulness, his forgiveness, and the renewed life that the Holy Spirit gives us – then we turn to other sinners and forgive them, helping them turn from the evil that consumes them.

God help us. Raise us from this dust that catches in our throats as we try to breathe. Give us Light, Breath, and Hope … by Grace alone.