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 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 2

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

When One’s Child is Taken

All Beauty Begins to Die

and wither as if winter were setting in

1 Samuel 2:1

Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

1 Peter 1:8

Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,

Words of Grace For Today

It is sometimes much easier than at other times to give God praise. We stand in awe of Hannah, though, because her heart exalts in the Lord at a most unlikely time. Her victory is nothing small. It is what Jewish women (or so we are told by tradition, fuelled by the need to increase in number in a sparsely populated earth!) in her day saw as God blessing them, that is to have a child demonstrated God blessed them. To be barren was the opposite. Societal expectations aside, Hannah has prayed for a child, has given birth to one, a son, who they name Samuel. So far so good!

Before Hannah sings her praise of victory, she has prayed with such fervour that Eli thought she were drunk. Now! now she gives up this child, her only child to Eli that he may be raised as a Nazirite! Hannah sings to God of her victory as she loses what she has prayed for: her child.

I’ve had children and raised them as the at home dad, long before that was common at all. I cannot imagine giving up one of my children. I was forced to, due no fault of my own, but as part of being terribly gaslit. It was and still is one of the most painful losses I have ever suffered. Those responsible, who are mentally ill, I have forgiven. But others, people of position and power, authority and responsibility who do this repeatedly, routinely, as a matter of course, and then cover it up … these people I cannot forgive, and I have bound their sins – God must deal with them, judge them, expose their sins that they cover up so well, and then move on as if they have done nothing wrong. I have learned of a corruption that I never thought could exist except in history books. My response is to remember everything, and pray to God every day. Every day I practice who I am and whose I am, so that I neither forget the gaslighting nor God’s gifts of beauty, joy and love that remain in my life, despite the Gaslighters’ efforts to ruin everything in me and in my life. I give God praise each day, but not for the loss of my children, or the gaslighting that was done to accomplish it.

Hannah gives up her only child willingly! and then sings God’s praises! She does give up Samuel to live with Eli and to be raised to serve God. She trust her son to God’s care and service. Samuel will become more than he ever imagined.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit moves us to be more than we imagined we could ever be. Too often the Devil invites us to be more malicious and destructive than we ever imagined we could be.

We pray again today that no matter the stress of Covid 19 or anything else in our lives, we will respond to the Holy Spirit working in us, and not the Devil working against us all.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 18

Monday, May 18, 2020

God Provides

Even as We Near

the End of the Road

Nehemiah 9:20

You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and gave them water for their thirst.

John 14:26

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Words of Grace For Today

40 years in the dry wilderness, God’s people wandered. Freed from slavery they crossed out of civilization into the barren land. Life became difficult in new and different ways. They had no water. They had nothing to eat. Then they had no meat. It did not take them long to complain that perhaps Moses had led them into the wilderness to die. When God provided water flowing from rocks struck with Moses’ staff it did not take them long to complain that they had nothing to eat and to blame Moses and God for it. God then provided again what they needed; manna appeared on the dry ground each morning for them to gather and eat for the day. It’s shelf life was only a few hours, so each day they depended on God to provided them again this wonder. Still it was not enough. They complained again, this time that they had no meat to eat. So quail appeared in flocks that they could harvest from for their meat.

No matter our real needs, God has always provided for us.

Or has God?

Millions of people die from lack of water. No rocks produce water for them.

Millions of people die from lack of food. No manna appears each day for them.

Millions of people die from lack of proper nutrition. No quail appear for them to harvest.

Millions of people are torn from life by injustices: roving murdering bands ‘disappear’ people, courts accept and thereby invite police and citizens to lie in order to destroy innocent people, advocates for human rights are detained, the earth is ravaged and those living nearby are left to die from the pollution … on goes the list.

How can we forget?

Yet we so easily, striving to gain just one more thing that we think we need for life, forget all the people that suffer injustices, murder, and worse.

We forget so easily all that God has done for us, like water from rocks, manna in the desert, quail that arrive on their own … our list could be long or short and yet we forget how God has blessed us and continues to bless us …

even if we suffer injury, illness and death …

even as Covid 19 challenges us in new ways to make sense of the world we live in and our role in the progression of time as it moves us toward eternity.

We forget so easily as we get buried under new injustices, new accounts of new threats to our way of life, new things that would kill us, or new challenges of all kinds.

Doch!

God does not forget us.

God does not let us forget.

The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, comes to remind us of all that Jesus has taught us:

The poor, the meek, those suffering injustice, the outcast, the ill and dying … these are the ones that God builds God’s Kingdom out of.

We receive all we need for eternal life, for life abundant now … for all we need is the willingness to give up everything so that others can experience that God loves them! Just as God has loved us.

We move forward in time, in step to the music of the spheres for the Creator of the Universe is for us, claims us, redeems us, and sets us free …

to be …

those that remember, trust, and share …

all that God provides.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 15

Friday, May 15, 2020

See the Light

No matter the trees, rocks, weeds and water,

No matter the clouds or storms that may,

The Light of Christ always Shines.

Deuteronomy 26:7

We cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

Luke 18:7

And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

Words of Grace For Today

There are so many people throughout history who have been afflicted, toiled in slavery, and been oppressed; there have been so many people throughout history who have cried to God day and night, and God has not delivered them.

Are we to say they were not God’s chosen people and somehow delude ourselves that it will be different with us, and all God’s chosen people today?

Are we to say that the delay is not long, even though vast numbers of people in history, a number greater than the sands and the stars, have died without ever seeing justice?

Are we to deny that today a great number of even Canadians are gaslit, lied to and about in their communities, by their churches? Are we to deny that false reports are made to the police in order to destroy innocent people? Are we to deny that the police have not added more lies in order to create false reports about innocent people? Are we to deny that the police have solicited and recruited false reports from citizens to support their gaslighting in order to knowingly make false arrests? Are we to deny that further gaslighting by lawyers and Crowns is needed in order to bring the false charges to trial, and they easily, routine provide these lies? Are we to deny that the Courts continue the Gaslighting adding their own false accounts of the already blatantly false evidence in order to convict when the person on trial is clearly innocent? Are we to deny that the Courts of Appeal add to the Gaslighting with their denials of appeals where the false convictions appealed are blatantly in error, the Gaslighting palpable and overriding?

No we cannot contribute to the lies by denying that such things commonly happen, for I can tell you from my own experience that this is so.

Is God listening to our cries for justice? Even if we do not wish for revenge, but for the amendment of life by those who participate in the Gaslighting?

One could say, like Leonard Cohen wrote about Alexandra Leaving, that we should not imagine that these things have not happened, that we should not stoup to strategies like this.

There are real evil things that God’s own people have suffered, are still suffering today, are here at home suffering and it is covered up by bullies who think that they have won by piling lies upon lies.

No, we will not imagine that these things do not happen. No we will not stoup to strategies like that.

No, our ‘Alexandras have left and are lost’ in so many ways. Our ‘Alexandras’ are far more than romantic relationships. They are hardly that at all. Our ‘Alexandras’ are all the love of life that could be for so many people, the grace that restores honour in the face of disgrace, the assurance of justice for all people (not injustice to the advantage of those who already have privilege and wealth), the hope that all things will be well, all manner of things will be well.

But our ‘Alexandras’ have left at so many turns, denying life, and robbing so many people of hope. We can recover, but unlike Cohen’s serial relationships about which he writes so well as he probes the trials of love, these are not replaced, displaced, or forgotten. These leave holes in the fabric of life into eternity.

So …

Where is God? Has God left? Is God lost also?

DOCH

Everything the saints in light have given us, everything we have heard, listened to, known to be true, believe, trust, and hold precious lead us to pray daily:

God save us from our afflictions, our unjust toils, our oppressions, and the injustices that evil bullies work against us even now!

Covid 10 has levelled the playing field in many ways. The bullies, oppressors and their victims alike must ‘stay the blazes home’ and rightfully fear contracting what can be a deadly virus.

We know, since we have received the saints’ accounts of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, that God is with us …

no matter what comes our way; bullies who gaslight or Covid 19 or whatever.

No matter what comes our way we remember the truth, the suffering, the unjust toils, the oppression, and the perpetrators of this evil throughout history and even today, for God is with us.

Take that Covid 19!

Take that bullies and Gaslighters!

Take that oppressors, in all history and especially today!

You can work against us and even kill us, but God has saved us and promised us eternal life and in that life (started long ago at our Baptisms and re-starting always in the now) that the Light of Christ will shine on all that is done to us. Christ’s Light has already exonerated us, relieved our afflictions, unjust toils, and oppression, and provided true justice.

With Cohen we sing and ring the bells that still can ring. We celebrate the cracks through which the Light of Christ gets into this world.

With all the saints in light we pray each day: God deliver us!

For God stands right there with us in all we suffer, supporting us, shining truth, justice, and hope on all that comes our way.

Sing it however you like: this is God’s creation, we are God’s own people, and God is victorious, even over death! For Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Crises Define Us

Psalms 147:11

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Mark 3:35

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

Words of Grace For Today

Everywhere one hears that we are facing a new and unprecedented crisis. It is new for most of us, though, as humans, we have in history faced many similar crises and challenges. Our faith prepares us for everything that happens on earth. What happens to us determines only 10% of who we are. 90% of who we are is determined by what we do. We are well equipped to do the will of God; we are God-made saints, though still sinners. Because our hope is based on God’s love for all creation, we can reach out to others isolated, alone, and afraid, by every means still available to us. We can be the people of God, claimed by Christ, and equipped by the Holy Spirit. Bringing Light to others with a simple telephone call can make all the difference for them, and for us.

We’re in the Pink*

If Only

In the movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, Fred Rogers helps Lloyd Vogel process his relationship with his father and re-connect with him after decades of cutoff on both sides…. It leaves us thinking we can’t change the past, but maybe we can give the story a different ending….** If only we could be just a bit better than we are, a lot less anxious, helping others trust God just a mite more, so that our stories could have a good ending. **adapted from Healthy Congregation Words by Rachel Tune, Pastor Wittenburg University***

Joy Sunday Contrasts with Advent Blues

Today, the third Sunday of Advent, is the Sunday of Joy. Advent was historically a time to prepare for Epiphany baptisms, a time to take in Jesus’ costly journey of bringing faith to us. During the rest of Advent we get ourselves alert, reflect on the cost of our faith, prepare for, but wait patiently for, Christ’s coming and our celebration that he has come, and is present.

Joy is out of step with the Lenten-like mood of waiting. Our wreath has one pink candle among the blue candles of hope. In this season of waiting to celebrate, how did the Joy Sunday and the pink candle get into the mix? Except this contrast makes our Christmas joy that much more intense.

Today we highlight the opposite of the rest of Advent, making our preparations and joy all that more vivid. Only blue on the dark black of the long nights won’t do, neither would all pink be great. If Advent were all joy, then it’d be hard to celebrate Christmas; it’d be as if we’d nibbled at the turkey, dressing and all, and gobbled up all the Christmas cookies for weeks. The celebration would be just more of the same, if anything were left for the feast. But on the dark background of real life, pink decorates blue spectacularly, and since it denotes God’s joy then the best pink would be hot-pink on deep sea blue rising to sky blue.

God’s Hot-Pink

Winter Blues

Winter Blues

Today, though, we also remember that Christmas, more so because it’s supposed to be such a joyous time, can actually be the most painful, sorrowful, lonely and despairing time of the year. It can be all so blue. For this reason we offer Blue Christmas Services.

Insert here Niel Diamond singing Song Sung Blue YouTube – Song Sung Blue or your favourite song about the blues, our old friend the blues, or your favourite song about the blues, our old friend the blues.

The New Ending Needed

In the name of Jesus we can’t change the past, but we know the story needs a different ending….

Biblical Images of Life Dried Up

Images of dried up creation abound in today’s lessons: wilderness, dry land, desert … weak hands, feeble knees, fearful hearts … blind, deaf, lame, speechless people … burning sand, thirsty ground, haunts of jackals, dry grass … lions, ravenous beasts … sighing and sorrows.

The New Ending, Possible?

That is the past. We can’t change the past, but can we really give this story a different ending?

Dark, Cold Tunnel of Real Life

It’s dark. The sun rises but stays below the southern roof- or tree-tops. It’s cold. In the city it’s dipped into the minus teens. Not far away, on a little lake that’s as much home as anywhere, it’s been below -30⁰C and not over -15⁰ for days. Most everyone is affected, some a bit more as they struggle with mild to severe depression because of the lack of sunshine. Too often this season can seem like a cold, dark tunnel that we get thrust into, whether we choose it or not.

Unemployment

In Alberta now, after the oil bust of 2014 and lately Premier Kenny’s cuts, 20% of young men are unemployed. That does not count those who have given up trying to find work, or those who are back at school trying to increase their odds of finding a job (going in debt to do so), or those who have part-time jobs where they work pitifully few hours, so that it’s less a job, and more a hindrance to finding real work. Employers more cheaply employ 10 part-time workers 8 hours each week than 2 full-time employees 40 hours each.

This is real. These young men face hunger, homelessness, losing their vehicles. Forget about having anything for health and dental care.

Chaplains in hospitals write up verbatims: formerly well-paid men are hounded by their spouse (or not-spouse) to bring home the same money for the pricey lifestyle they’ve spent themselves into. Turning to crime or not, the stress eats away at the men’s health. For some, physical or psychological violence at home puts them in the hospital. Women know the courts will likely believe any lie they tell and the men will be convicted and jailed, even when they are the victims.

The Booby-trapped Tunnel

The dark tunnel we find ourselves in can, in this or other ways, turn out to be full of traps set by people we would trust. People point us to the light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems a long ways off through the dark and dangerous cold.

The New Ending Beyond Us.

We know full well we can’t change the past, but even trying to give the story a different ending seems beyond us.

Epidemic of Senior Loneliness

The severity of the seniors’ epidemic of loneliness increases at Christmas. 25% percent of seniors live alone often not by choice. Living alone or not, an unknown number of seniors are severely lonely, cut off from meaningful engagement in life. Loneliness affects health and precipitates death as quickly as any disease. Two of life’s necessities are missing: a meaningful contribution to life and an ability to love and be loved.

There are walls to stare at, perhaps paths to walk. But one is alone even in crowds. Few reach out with kindness and understanding, and time. Everyone has their own busy agenda to help them ignore the emptiness that threatens.

Worse still are the seniors that experience elder abuse. Seniors can be more vulnerable than young children and become targets because they may appear to have wealth, and the taking appears to be easy. This month we collect for “No Room In the Inn” to create a safe place to which they can escape.

The Light in the Tunnel is a Train

The light they told us was at the end of the tunnel looks more and more like a train coming right at us in this dark tunnel and we cannot see any way out. We can’t move fast enough to find any emergency exit that may be somewhere out there.

The New Ending Only Hoped For

We can’t change the past, and we only hope we can give the story a different ending before it’s too late.

God’s Transformations

Exactly into this dark reality, our Advent Sunday of Joy is set as a stark contrast to our Lenten-like Advent preparations.

This Sunday is exactly like the Crocus named in the OT lesson. The first flower of Spring, it pushes up and blossoms even while the snow and morning frosts keep other plants at bay.

Similarly all the desolate images serve as the setting into which God comes and transforms creation. Cool streams flow in the wilderness, over the dry land, and on the burning sand bringing them to rejoice and blossom, with joy and singing. Weak hands are strengthened, feeble knees made firm, fear is met with encouragement, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap, and the speechless sing.

A highway is made upon which no lion or beast or thief prowls, and even a fool cannot go astray. Those redeemed by Christ will obtain joy and gladness. All sorrow and sighing will flee away. In a simple word, we and all creation are baptized in the water of God’s blessings. It is a marvellously new creation. We are made saints and set to live well in it!

God’s coming is already, and not yet. Like the farmer we wait patiently for the early and the late rains of God’s blessings to tumble down on us and through us. We do not grumble against each other, for grumbling against each other is caustic to life and for it we would be justly judged by the Judge at the door. There are no evidentiary rules, precedents, or arguments required. This Judge is omnipotent and all-knowing, and the judgments are fair, clearly so to all. Jesus’ every judgment is made to make life possible for all.

Jesus comes to set things right, to make people healthy, what is wrong is set right. Jesus comes in poverty, born homeless in a cow barn. Jesus comes to those least acceptable to the world of his day. Jesus comes to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the lepers, the dead, and the poor.

The Light in the Tunnel is Christ’s Light on God’s Train Coming at Us!

It turns out that the light at the end of the cold, dark tunnel is a train coming right for us. Or rather it is the Light of Christ barrelling down on us like a train. This train is not loaded with oil, grain, lumber, or other goods.

The first cars of this train have the Blue Hope of Advent spilling out in endless streams over the landscape of God’s wonderful and broken creation.

Hope is followed by cars as numerous as the stars spewing Justice, Mercy, Forgiveness, Inspiration, Gratitude, Generosity, Faith, Love in Action, and Love Universal and Unconditional. Look at all the colours streaming across the desolate landscape of our broken lives!

See the Light. Run to it. Dance to it. Sing for it with the deepest and broadest joy.

Insert here the Proclaimers singing I’m On My Way [From Misery to Happiness]. You Tube- I’m On My Way

For God intends for us, even in our sadness and loneliness, to be overwhelmed with the Goodness of life given to us by the Holy Spirit, the engine of that train. It may be cold and dark outside but the pink of joy covers the dark and decorates our blues.

God’s New Ending

We can’t change the past. And we cannot give the story a different ending. This Advent we remember, we do not have to. God has already given the story the best ending possible! What Joy!

We wait, full of anticipation for the celebration of Christmas, marking Jesus’ birth, proclaiming Jesus’ presence now, and hoping for Jesus the Christ’s return!

We pray, Let us be the blessed “who do not let the Messiah [we] are expecting blind [us] to the Messiah who is standing right in front of [us]” (Barbara Brown Taylor, God in Pain: Teaching Sermons on Suffering [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998]).

Our Response: We are the Pink in the Blues

Today we reflect on joy, and its roots in the dark of misery, and its place within the blues of Hope. The Holy Spirit makes us the streams of cool water flowing in the deserts of life, the crocuses springing up for those to whom Christ came. We are the patient, non-anxious, gracious, kind, and generous ones. In us others see Christ active for them even if the world frosts them out.

This is the ending to the story that God has for creation and all of us in it: that Christ came, that Christ comes, that Christ will come, and all of creation was, is and will be baptized with living water, transforming it and all of us. Therefore we follow Christ’s example: bringing real joy to those with SADS, the unemployed, the lonely, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the lepers, the dead, and the poor. This is the pink of our Advent Blues. It may not be more than a touch on the horizon in our preparations, nor need it be more. It is like the light at the end of the tunnel, giving us reason to Hope, even in the blues.

We are the pink of Advent

We are the pink of Advent for those in need around us.

Amen

As we get ready to sing: Let me highlight with pink and blue a few words of our hymn of the day:

All earth is hopeful, the Savior comes at last! Furrows lie open for God’s creative task: this, the labour of people who struggle to see how God’s truth and justice sets [Blue:] everybody free.

We first saw Jesus a baby in a crib. This same Lord Jesus today has come to live in our world; he is present, in neighbours we see our Jesus is with us, and ever sets [Pink:] us free.

Theme and Notes

Joy, the pink contrast to the Blues of Advent, draws us to be God’s people to bring transformation to those most in need.

*In the Pink: to be in the best of health; by Grace alone the best spiritual health.

***Wittenberg University is a private liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio. It has approximately 2,000 full-time students representing 37 states and 30 foreign countries.

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.

Music Shows us Life, as God Made us to Live!

The sermon is interspersed with snippets of music.

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Hebrews 11:29–12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Jesus says We Cannot Interpret the Present

How is it that Jesus says we do not know how to interpret the present time?

We can forecast the weather so we know it will rain before the clouds appear on the horizon, and we know days before the wind starts it’ll be scorching hot or freezing cold. Can we really not interpret the present time?

Look, Jesus the Bringer of Peace?

We’ve looked to the stars, to see the number of descendants God promised Abraham and Sarah. We’ve looked to Jesus on the cross and heard that as we confess our sins and forgive others their sins Jesus forgives us. We’ve listened and heard that Jesus blesses peacemakers.

We have sung of Jesus bringing Peace Like a River, with it’s catchy melody.

Peace Like a River

God Does Not Come In Monochrome

Creation in Colour

Jesus Brings Conflict, Fire, The Hammer of God

Yet the lessons for today say, “Think again!” Jesus came not to bring peace, but instead division. Jesus came to bring God’s Word of fire. God’s word is a hammer that strikes the solid rock foundations of our lives and shatters them.

God’s Creation is no Monophony

God’s Word is so much more like Beethoven’s 5th. It comes down like a hammer in our hearts, pounding out any notion that what is to come might be whimsical or easy. God sends Jesus, the Word made flesh; and God means business.

Beethoven’s 5th opening ‘hammers’ and a phrases following

God Does Not Come In Monotone

God Comes to Us and Means Business

Music Broad Enough to Communicate God’s Reality

Music moves our hearts stimulating in the same moment Joy, Grief and Hope in us. How better to make sense of the harsh reality of these lessons. Music, with the touch that harmonizes the spheres of the universe, heals us and sets us right with God’s people and creation: we thrive with music in our hearts. Like everything there is of course Music that serves to break down creation, as at Jericho, but we will leave that behind. But should we?

God’s Creation is no Monodrama

Conflict In and Between Us

Jesus says he comes not to bring peace, but division and conflict. God means business, sending Jesus, who is as powerful as the Word that created the universe, which separated the Light from the Darkness.

We must respond. If we respond with faith, our lives are forever changed. If we respond with disbelief, then our lives take another path. Even with faith created in us we still remain sinners who do not believe. Jesus brings conflict within each of us. Since Luke’s time the Gospel has divided also families. Often in history if one believed, one would be persecuted and killed. Those of us who believe end up in conflict with those who do not.

God Does have a Monopoly on Loving Us ALL

Belief was expensive. Faith still is as Jesus’ Love Catches Us.

Belief was expensive among Luke’s readers. When Jesus creates faith in us it still is.

Most music we know is not about our lives. We just get caught up in the rhythm and dance our hearts out. ABBA’s Ma Ma Mia is such a piece. Then Jesus comes, catches us, and suddenly we are not merely dancing to the music. The music is our lives. We are caught by Love, Jesus’ love, and getting away is impossible … even though we know there are consequences for letting this love reach us … yet again.

Ma Ma Mia

God Did Not Create Us as Mono-mimetic

We are in the Picture, We are God’s Picture.

God Yearns that We Remember God’s Name

God yearns for us, just as God yearned for the false prophets to give up on spreading their own dreams and deceptions as if they were God’s Word. God yearns because these false dreams and deceptions capture our hearts and minds and cause us to forget God’s name. What a terrible thing to suffer. To forget God’s name. To not even know one’s own creator, redeemer, and guide to an abundant life.

It is like going to a classical concert without knowing what is on the program and after a warm up to Mozart, being agitated, gurgitated and served up on a platter of confusion by Hindemith’s [/Bartók’s] atonal music.

Hindemith or Bartók

God is more than Polyphiloprogenitive, God is Poly-All

Sometimes the Universe seems a few degrees or more off kilter

God fills the universe

Can we find God in that music? According to Jeremiah God is not far off, nor only near. God fills the entire universe; and yet we forget God’s name because we listen to tempting, false words.

Then God sends someone to remind us that without God Our Blue Eyes are Crying in the Rain, and we know that we’ve deserted love and left our hearts as empty as a Monday Morning Church.

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain OR Monday Morning Church

God’s People are Polychromatic, Polyphonic, Polyrhythmic, Poly- of ALL Kinds

Someone comes and reminds us: God is for us!

The Faithful Cloud

Yet God has not deserted us. We have a great cloud of witnesses that tell us otherwise: From the Red Sea, to Jericho, to Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and to the prophets God has made great things happen. But not all God’s people were brought success or honour.

Many of God’s faithful die after they suffer shame, having lived destitute, persecuted and tormented, wandering homeless the deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground.

Doch, God provides for them all a better end, to live with us, in faith.

This great cloud of witnesses to God’s Word, accompanies us each day, as we persevere in the race put before us. Ours is not a race of our choosing. God puts this race before us, and race we must.

God’s People are Poly-therapeutic

The Faithful Cloud Reflected Down to Earth

Story: Movie The Last Face: Living the life God gives us: for others

In the movie The Last Face, two doctors work in Liberia and Sierra Leone’s conflicts. Wren is an idealist, fundraiser and organizer. Migel is an orphan, a realist, working on the front lines.

Caught on the front lines with him, Wren falls in love with Migel and it changes them forever, as love is wont to do. Then she has to choose which one of six people will be given the last of their blood supply. The other five will die. When they have to leave all six of them to die as the conflict arrives the next day at their makeshift hospital, Wren loses her nerve. It is impossible to make any difference. She questions why they are there anyway. Why do these people have to live like this!

Migel lives beyond hopelessness to fully trusting not that he can make the whole situation change, but that he can in one area if only temporarily, one day at a time, one patient at a time, do what he is able as a doctor.

Wren protests the senselessness of helping people who will die just days later in the conflict anyway. He responds: these people are given this life to live. Yes, I can leave, fly out to a city with safety and hot showers and a good bed. They cannot. I cannot change the life they are given, but I can give them what I have to give.

God’s People are Poly-Resilient

Sometimes the race that God puts us into is so profoundly hopeless that we get caught up in the blues, depression, or even life-threatening hopelessness. For we see the circle of life that does not change for the better for so many of God’s own people.

Even then we know that if we put our blues to song, and we sing them out, they become our prayers, and by grace they lose their grip on us.

Song Sung Blue

God’s Race for Us is not Monotonous

The View to the Boat, the Church

Challenges: the race

As we struggle to meet the challenges of each day God’s powerful Word accompanies us, not to make it easy for us, but to buck us up to do the hard work in the race put before us.

Movie The Forgiven

Remembered in so many ways, including in the movie Forgiven, Bishop Desmond Tutu struggled against so many detractors who threatened to sink the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because it would expose the atrocities they had contributed to. Tutu meets these challenges, not easily but with Grace, determination, joy, love, condemnation and hope.

People had killed people. People revenged the killings. People revenged the killings revenging killings. And on it would continue, if kept in secret, forever. But brought out into the open it gave people the opportunity to forgive!

Forgiveness is God’s Music

With forgiveness, which made S.A.’s future as a united country possible, we experience the long lead up to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony’s resolution in the Ode to Joy Chorus, ringing across the stars and back into the depths of our hearts. Here we experience the power of Grace, of Love, of Joy, mixed with struggle, loss, and grief until it comes out in us as Hope.

Beethoven’s 9th lead up to Ode to Joy

God Created the Universe from Chaos, Making Harmonies: from Galaxies to Atoms, from the Circle of Life to Emotions and Beauty.

God Offers us Polyphonic Lives in Harmony with God’s Universe

The Trees and the Light

How to interpret the present time?

How can we possibly interpret the present time? Only when we realize that God is here for us, can we see clearly that just as the south wind brings scorching heat and the north wind brings bleeping freezing Cold, so God brings rainbows of challenges each and every day in the race set before us just so that we can practice meeting everyone with Forgiveness and Grace.

Then we can move from Misery to Happiness, giving God thanks for everything with the music that brings us into harmony with God’s Good Creation. So we sing: “Now Thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices”

Now Thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices!

Amen

M is for … Breathe the Music!

M is for … Breathe the Music

how is it that music

reaches

‘Ordinary’ Light, Ordinary Days

deep down inside our hearts

and strums

on something so deep

that penetrates the hidden reaches

giving joy

sadness

and hope

all in 

one

fell swoop

Every Piece of Life Compressed into Harmonies

as if our existence were mathematically determined by the progressions of 4ths and 5ths 

major and minor, and 7ths for spice

bringing memories

long lost

to

the wear

and

tear of

loving once and amen

a

crazy spouse

who will

not stop at

anything

less than my death.

I in retreat and holding for God’s deliverance

if only in small parcels, then so be it, but hoping for

place and opportunity to work, write, and take photos.

Finding the path Despite the Trees, White as they may seem.

What

is hope that

music strums to it

as

if

…?

Where does the feeling come from

that we can think of something other than the harmonies

as if God had not created the harmony of the spheres with

other than words sung

so powerful

like a hand extended in love to care for another,

the touch of empathy, concern, and ties to the divine, the infinite;

quite a privilege

for a small finite sinner creature

Ever onward through the weeds, across the calm of life’s chaos to the Light Setting.

who is older

day by

day

until 

the ground accepts ones chemicals

once again.

For then the music will flow freely.