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.

Nobodies, Only Bodies, and Somebodies.

Thoughts and Draft Sermon

Rough Notes on the Lessons:

OT Thoughts

There was an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, the veracity of which God could not establish without going there, yet men go to investigate, while God remains to allow Abraham to speak with him, bartering/negotiating/futilely bantering with God about the count of righteous people needed to have God spare the cities.

The conversation is presumptuous on Ab’s part. He acknowledges it. It’s like talking to an angry King when bad news has just been delivered, the King wants vengeance, and anyone interfering may likely get caught in the unstoppable destruction that the King is in the middle of enacting.

Except it’s not a King, its the all-knowing God, putting on a play of not knowing? And an all-powerful God who can not only destroy in this world and the next but condemn one to a torturous eternity.

Abraham’s got chutzpah, maybe foolishness, to spare.

The argument is that the good should not perish with the evil.

And God responds to that, sort of, allowing that 10 good people in all of Sodom and Gomorrah will cause God to relent.

NO GRACE, it takes goodness to get God to relent!

And God knows there is only one man, Lot, his wife (maybe) and his 2 daughters, so 3 maybe 4 good people in the cities, though the son in laws are invited to leave as well and think that Lot is jesting. So maybe 6, but really only 3.

So why did Abraham not negotiate down to 2?

Because God would have had to relent and allow the cities’ destruction of so many people in their consuming depravity to continue.

Yes: The evil is powerfully destructive, like a cancer, and God will stop it, giving the few healthy an option to walk away alive.

Destroying the cities God saves generations who would have been sucked into the cities’ evil vortex.

But it is not ‘Sin City’ where this kind of living continues through the generations until it is acceptable everywhere, as bush parties out of control, and in control continue to give witness to locally here. And parties, raves, and you name it in the cities continue worse than Sodom. Bonnyville and CL (put in your own cities) not excepted either! Depravity required people to participate for it to exist, and then evil flourishes. Evil is only tempered by the distinct efforts of a few good people to have life otherwise.

2nd Lesson Thoughts

Note: as today in Paul’s day and for generations afterwards, ‘philosophy’ did not indicate the thoughtful, logical, deep and profound thinking about life’s most pressing issues. Like today’s ‘spin’, ‘news’, self-help gurus gone amok, ‘walking back’ what actually was said into something else, and justice based on blatant lies, ‘philosophy’ meant rhetoric and sophistry completely disconnected from any ethic or moral restraint to uphold the truth, i.e. anything from a destructive cult to a full-out scam to way of approaching life which helped only the privileged few and ruined everyone else.

Well, the urge to resist tempting heresies: philosophies, self-abasement, worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human thought, ANYTHING that does not hold fast to Christ Jesus as the head! From whom we all (the church) grow and are held together.

Temptations to depravity can come in all guises, some that look remarkably respectable, acceptable, thoughtful.

Imagine that!

Gospel Thoughts

Pray, teach us to pray like John’s disciples.

God gives b/c of persistence if not for friendship.

So God is to be bartered and negotiated, and badgered until one receives what one’s friends need.

So I need countless hoards, or at least one person, to pray relentlessly to God for what I need: True Justice. Lies exposed. Shelter, food, work, security.

The smiting of the corrupt people (or at least the corruption of the people) that causes this for me and so many others.

Can I pray ceaselessly, relentlessly that the Holy Spirit will invoke the grime reaper (if not of people than of the corruption at the root of this disaster for so many men, children and even women?!)

Or do I only get the Holy Spirit to inspire me to forgive the unforgivable!?

This could be a Sunday of law and revenge. (Let’s make sure it is not.)

Of useless mercy, of relentless prayers, of making justice happen.

Of helping one, two or three people survive the destruction the corruption causes.

Christ Alone is our Rock and Salvation

Draft Sermon

Real Life turns out to be nothing like the image that I developed from my experience. In my experience we were all somebodies, to each other, and especially to God.

But the people in this world so often treat each other and themselves as if they were nobodies.

My experience: Mom and Dad who loved us all, children who lived and grew reasonably, a home, at least rented, jobs and a good or at least reasonable salary, or at least a paycheck every once in a while. Inside the homes, sometimes, a bit of craziness, but nothing that threatens life, health or happiness. And always one knew God’s blessings.

Today’s first lesson is all about that the world is full of things that are quite different than my experience. It is not that people are held captive to poverty and can barely survive. It is that they have enough, and do not know the gift life is, nor what to do with it.

Sodom and Gomorrah are not healthy, and the hedonism the people pursue does not provide happiness, just short term satisfaction bought at the price of real happiness and health. And all their messing about threatens any guest who enters their gates.

God knows no way to heal the sickness of these two so depraved cities. Abraham tries to barter with God. God allows Abraham’s foolish petulance, even as God endures every foolish petition from us, even our angry fist shaking if that’s what we need to do. God knows everything. God knows that Sodom and Gomorrah need to be erased from the face of the earth in order to stop their destruction, not of only the people caught in them now, but into the future the generations that would be caught in them, and all the sojourners and those who think they might want to give the cities a try. God wants to save all those people.

Abraham can bring everything and anything to God. So he barters, also because Lot and his family live in those cities. For that they are offered a chance to leave and be saved. Lot and his daughters make it out alive, but the cost of the cities’ depravity has cost them dearly, it sticks to them, and their future generations are only the result of incest brought on by the daughters.

The world is full of things that are quite different: these are very ugly cities leaving very ugly scars on the three people who survive them.

Just surviving such terrible things is rarely to live well. One does not live by bread, or mere survival.

A father in the Jewish Ghetto, with food severely rationed, lights a candle every evening for prayers. When he has used up all their supply of candles he takes a string, molds a bit of their meager ration of butter around it, and lights it for prayers. His son challenges him, why should their food be so consumed for a mere light. The father responds, “Without food we can live a week. Without our faith we could not live for even an hour.”

If you live a faithful life, you know you are a somebody, to others and to God. It’s when you live faithless that you treat yourself and others as nobodies, or as in Sodom and Gomorrah, as only bodies.

I have lived in many different places, in a variety of manners. I lived in a missionary family in Africa. My father was a doctor, my mother a nurse raising 5 children when we arrived and 7 when we left, my father so sick they thought he had months to live if that.

We had plenty to survive on, but our toys were sticks. There were no extras, and the flour always came with flies in it. Our faith brought us there, and the faith of the people who were born there carried us through many a challenging dark night.

I lived in a city as a child, one of 9, with enough to live on, but no extras, and we scraped for enough food and enough hand me down clothes. I lived on a farm, where we had enough, including music though the garden was an essential contribution to all 13 of us.

I lived as a student, with enough to survive on, though I ‘wasted’ precious money on a good stereo for music, because I’d seen how music could cure what could not otherwise be cured. I’ve lived out of a tent on route to a university where I could not understand the language. I’ve lived with a multimillionaire without knowing how great was his wealth.

I lived happily in each place. But it was most difficult with the millionaire, because he cheated and lied about everything, derided and slandered others at each step, and hated the people poorer than he was, especially the aboriginal peoples. They reminded him that he came from a place where he was considered a nobody. So now he doesn’t know how to treat other people other than as if they were nobodies.

Jesus’ disciples come to him and ask him to teach them to pray as John has his disciples. They want to pray as if they are somebodies. Jesus gives them what we’ve come to call the Lord’s Prayer. Then he goes on to assure us that if we seek, we will find. If we ask, we will receive.

God is the one to yell at, be angry at, blame, and thrash. People are the ones who we need to treat with respect and care. There is a well grounded reason that the ten commandments include the prohibition to bear false witness against our neighbour. Our words can hurt people. Our lies are as effective as murder. God, on the other hand, can take anything we may want to throw his or her way.

Jesus does not say that if we ask for something, we will receive that thing. Or if we seek some thing, God will give us that thing.

But God will always provide. God will always answer. God will always listen, and respond. To most of our foolish prayers God answers with a simple no. Sometimes we get a more spectacular NO. Every once in a while God gives us a real kick in the pants, or a knock so hard we wonder where it came from as we pick ourselves up off the ground. And a few times God actually says yes to our good petitions.

I live without a home and I could tell you my sad story, pitifully played out by so many people bearing false witness against me. But astounding is the story of another person living without a home, who I met weeks ago.

She lives with plenty of equipment to protect her from the environment, and to provide for her well-being beyond her safety. Neither drugs, alcohol, addictions, nor prayer brought her to live in the woods without a home.

Her ex took advantage, did not care if she was close to death. She got out, barely and still has not healed. He still pursues her and bears false witness against her and gets support from the justice system. She functions, but has little faith left, though she knows that the wilderness heals her most. He behaves as a nobody, treats her as a nobody, and invites others to treat both of them as nobodies. One day the light of Christ will shine the truth so clearly everyone will be compelled to know it, to their shame for not admitting it sooner. They will be somebodies, but some bodies, souls, and minds who God deals with justly.

There’s a lot of bull in the world; comes from the sinners, in us each and all

The world is full of things that are quite different than I have ever imagined could be called living, some of it so ugly one wonders that it can exist at all, that anyone can survive it. Yet out of the worst ghettos God brings leaders and people who inspire others to waste nothing that life offers, and to bring everything possible to as many people as possible, so that all people can live well.

It may seem easy, or obvious, that we live out our faith. At least we go through the motions. But there are challenges in every life, even the ones that look so safe and healthy, so provided for in a solid home. Even people who appear in the world’s terms to be SOMEBODIES, can behave behind closed doors as if they and those close to them are NOBODIES.

We come to realize that the words to the Colossians are not to be taken for granted:

“… continue to live your lives in [Christ], rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit”

Philosophy mentioned then is quite different than most philosophy named today. Back then philosophy was more rhetoric and sophistry. Today’s equivalents abound as self-help gurus, or spinning events for the news, news that is no longer required to present a fair view of all sides of an issue, and the spin applied to events like seen in the US. No truth survives. That’s the warning given in Colossians.

It is too easy to give up on life in disgust for what stands as truth for some people, for some causes (usually their own wealth or hedonistic pleasures), or for some churches. Works Righteousness is always a favourite, though it can be coloured with heavy condemnation of other people making it drip with destruction. A friend joked in parody of this attitude: “I have learned to accept my imperfections. It’s other people’s imperfections that I find intolerable.”

The View of God With Us

What Paul proclaimed, Jesus taught by example, and generations have managed to remind us of is that Grace alone saves us. We are somebodies only because God chooses to make us so.

We can work like mad to make the world better, but we cannot work to make ourselves better in God’s eyes. We are already made righteous by Christ. Thereafter we do the work of the righteous, often with no reward or even notice. Sometimes, as if we were nobodies, we get punished and are left to die as thanks for doing the right and good thing.

So we pray that God will turn this world around. We work like it depends on us, and we relax knowing God intends for us to enjoy this creation with God at our side. For with God at our side we are all somebodies.

Amen

2019.07Jul07

Names in the Sky

Rough Draft:

lots of repetitions and sections needing tightening, deleting, or rewording, the essence is there though.

Still looking though the woods and trees to see the light.

Our Names are Written in Heaven

Skywriting:

Jane came out to the airport as she often did to watch Matt take off for his day’s work, crop dusting. This time Matt seemed to avoid getting off the ground, working around Steve’s plane instead. Then as Steve rolled out on to the grass runway Matt came over to Jane and asked her if she’d like a cup of coffee. He then stood with her, each with a cup of coffee in hand as Steve took off and began to spell out in the sky: S … U … lots of loops and crossing back and for forth for each letter E … M … A … … R … R … As Steve began the Y … Jane turned to Matt, knocking both their cups and spilling coffee freely, and hugged him, with a loud YES, and as Steve finished the … M … and the final E with the added touch of a ?, Matt came up for air from the long kiss he had planted on Jane to see the all 18 employees of the three businesses at the airport come outside to see, first Jane and Matt, then the trailing away letters Steve had written, and then to gather around Matt and Jane clapping. As Steve landed and ran over to join the crowd Matt and Jane were still shaking the hands of the people in line, taking their congratulations and well wishes, and answering they didn’t have solid plans yet but Jane was quick to say the wedding was going to be in their church, and long before it started to snow. Matt agreed, but the honeymoon would have to wait until winter.

With one marvelous flight, after years of joy, tears, and struggles Matt and Jane each knew that this day was wondrous, a dream come true. Everything about their lives was changed that day and again as they said their vows before the altar Jane’s great grandfather had built, covered with paraments made by her great grandmother. Over the previous 4 years, since they had started dating as teenagers, their lives had changed. No longer alone, everything took on a new perspective, the perspective of love.

Through their struggles they had learned that loving each other was wondrous, but also a lot of work, took a lot of patience, required a lot of forgiveness. The coming years would test the limits of their forbearance, their commitment to love and be gracious, and their ability to empathize for each other and other people for things they did not understand.

The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela

18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela stands tall at 80 years old, the first black president of South Africa, not a Black South Africa and not a white country gripped and choked by apartheid, but a country started on the difficult journey to reconciliation. He had spent 27 years in jail, been finally set free, and reunited with his wife Winnie. Time apart and Winnie’s other love drove them to separate and then divorce. Madiba was leader of a nation while still in prison, and then he’d been a leader not elected but negotiated with, and then the elected president tasked with bringing together a country of people separated by hatred and terrible atrocities against each other.

A man filled with love of many kinds he was NOW the most lonely person on planet.

Loss of love is as devastating as love is equipping and empowering to take on all demons

Then Nelson Mandela falls in love again with, Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel. He marries her on his 80th birthday! She is a leader in her own right already at 57.

Work of Love

Love is not free: it must be worked at each and every day.

If you work at being the person who behaves ‘in love’ with your spouse, you will love your spouse, as delightfully, marvelously, as colorfully as the first day you fell in love. Not being in love with the person you are married to, or being in married to someone who is unkind, or refuses to work at love is often a living hell. Being alone, for most people, is a great challenge.

When you both work at being in love with each other, Look Out! Being in love with the person to whom you are married makes life simply awesome! The hurts roll off your back. The challenges are met as best they can be. The responsibilities are met as if they were freedoms. And the joys multiply all by themselves through the years. This is how God intended us to experience life!

Extending that love to each other, and then to all the people who your lives touch: that is what the Kingdom of God is about!

What does that mean for us?

Now that the Kingdom of God has come near, what does this mean for us?

Quote from Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa said, “Our work is constant. The problems of the poor continue, so our work continues. Yet everyone can do something beautiful for God by reaching out to the poor. I see only people filled with God’s love, wanting to do works of love. This is the future—this is God’s wish for us—to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called.” Mother Teresa, The Book of Peace: Finding the Spirit in a Busy World (London: Rider, 2002), 74.

The poor bring us past all pretensions and lay bare the necessities of life and the awesome source of life’s great goodness, Grace, Love and Hope. These are the reality of the Kingdom of God.

What does that mean for us? What are we going to do in response?

Now that the Kingdom of God has come near, what does this mean for us?

And what are we going to do in response?

The Gospel for today is clear: share the Good News, Prepare the Way

Our responses are our lives, every minute, every choice, every action or inaction. Today’s Gospel clearly turns us, as Jesus did the 70, to go out into all of creation, to all people, to prepare the way for our Lord, healing and sharing the Good News of God’s Grace for all people.

Responses of bringing the Good News

Some will accept and grow from the nurture of God, like the nurture of a prosperous city, the city of Jerusalem.

Some will reject us and the peace and love of God that we bring. Still the message is the same: the Kingdom of God has come near!

Other lessons, what Good News will we share?:

OT: Always God is there for us:

From our other lessons we hear what Good News we have to bring.

As the people to whom Isaiah writes, as they return from Exile, we can share God’s promise of nurture, comfort, delight, and peace. We can share the comforting image of God as a Mother nursing us, carrying us, dandling us on her knees!

The Jerusalem of the/to day

Isaiah writes to people who had lost the Jerusalem they had known. They have returned, but what they find is not the Jerusalem they knew. It is gone. They mourn it’s loss. What they find is not yet the New Jerusalem that God promises them; it is still to come, a promise of God for the end of time.

Result for us:

Yet even in the Jerusalem of the present, and for us we may say, even in the the city, country, or Land we live in now: Here and now God will make prosperity flow like a river, full and flooding it’s banks distributing silt and soil for all in it’s vicinity.

Our hearts can rejoice. Our bodies shall flourish.

God there for ALL of us, as the past is gone, the promise of tomorrow not yet

How do we respond to God’s gifts now and the promises for the future? We rejoice, even as we mourn the loss of the old Jerusalem, the way it was in the past. Even as we mourn that our churches are not like they were in the past, brimming Sunday Schoools, bustling with children, abuzz with activities for all ages, providing learning, and sometimes real Gospel and real Grace of God, and real love of God.

Even as we mourn the losses of time passing we look with hope to the new creation!

There are lots of ways to try to create false hope, a false return to the past that is gone, to deny the reality of God’s grace in the present. Sarah and Abraham repeatedly tried to force their claim on God’s promise, and what suffering has arisen from the split of the family between their son Isaac and and Abraham and Hagaar’s son, Ishmael; between Jews or Christians and Muslims.

There is little more foolish, obviously ridiculous than a 70 year old male (think Trump and others), a man of power and corruption, divorcing his wife of his youth, and claiming again and again a yet younger woman, in an effort to remain youthful. This stereotypical man vainly tries to deny his age, tries to mourn what is lost by denying it is GONE, DONE, PASSED. Instead he tries to buy, with wealth gained by corruption, an image of being younger than the actual OLD of his age.

Of course there is the woman, just as foolish who does the same. Or the woman who reaches for wealth and prestige by marrying a man old enough to be her father or grandfather. These self deceptions are equally foolish and destructive to all sorts of people.

More destructive perhaps are all the faithful but untrusting people who look to the past of the church (denying the change of culture around us away from church participation) and expend great energy trying to recapture what is lost, past, or dying; instead of working to be what God makes us able to be today.

We miss out on the opportunities to work in the real world, from the real stories of each other’s lives. Like ostriches, we bury our heads in sand, unable to see the GOODness of creation. And we suffocate there, hiding from reality. God cannot nurture us there: no comforting, no nursing, no dandling on God’s knees.

In spite of us, God, through the prosperity of the City of God, the City of Peace, nurtures, comforts, and provides for us.

For us who have returned home from exile,

For us who have deserted home for better efforts elsewhere

For us who, like the older son of the prodigal father, have remained, worked diligently at home, and are envious of the returnees given free grace, we receive grace even though we have come to rely on ourselves, our works, our merits … though they may be something, they are nothing before God,

We all NEED God’s Grace.

God, through the prosperity of the City of God, the city of peace, nurtures, comforts, provides for ALL of us, just like a Mother provides for all her children.

This is love: God’s Love for us and our delight in God. Responding to God’s love we sing for joy, with praise and adoration, even as we mourn the losses of the past.

The truth of love

The truth of God’s love for us is that it is unconditional. In love with us, each of us, even you, God writes our/your name/s in heaven.

With that God fulfills our dream of all dreams and our hope of all hopes. God makes everything right for us and for God!

God claims, names, and commissions us, sends us into the plentiful harvest.

What does that mean for us? What are we going to do in response?

Confused Paul in Galatians:

In Galatians Paul, as is too often the case provides, in poor koininia Greek, confused words. He writes: bear each other’s burdens, and then all must carry their own loads. If we read carefully we can decipher that he likely meant, as we each sin, the rest of us carry that person with gentleness. Afterall we each will sin, we each will have our turn of needing to be carried by the others.

But as we work in our vocation and as we work to share the Good News with everyone we each should carry our own load, to provide necessities of life, for ourselves and for others.

God comforts, nourishes, and promises us that all will be well. But we still get to work like the dickens to make life good for ourselves and our community, and those in need.

God’s care does not supplant our own labours, but rather God enables us so that our labours can be productive.

There is joy in diligent, hard, directed, purposeful labour. A necessity of life: air, water, food, clothing, shelter, purposeful labour, and love (giving and receiving). As others bring us the Good News we should provide for them so that they can share the Good News without concern for their survival.

As we work: remember God’s promise: most important

As we work we remember God’s promise that our names are written in heaven. This promise is more important than our ability in Christ’s name to heal, to feed, to care for, to love others, to forgive, to be gentle with each other.

Like Jane reading her own name in the sky God has acted, named us, written our names in heaven!

Wondrous miracles to see in this creation. But the greatest miracle is God’s Grace which names us as God’s, claims, names, blesses, and equips us. God nourishes us, comforts us and carries us; and most of all God Loves us as we are and for who we really are!

That our names are written in heaven is not because of a fluke, not because of our work, not because of our correct faith, not because of our hanging on to or our letting go of our histories.

Our names are written in heaven simply because God wants it so, out of love for us.

Seeing the Colours set for our Names to be revealed.

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.

Lots of Heat, More Forgiveness

Spring Struggles to Break in as Large Flakes Cover the Once Bare Ground Again

My wood stove, set up to provide heat in the severe -40°C winter worked wonders. It even provided hot water for coffee in the morning and tea throughout the day. It was not without it’s challenges as the stove pipe got so hot that it melted the plastic tarps of the shelter around the stove.

Holy Week is our opportunity to remember and learn ever more from Jesus story. Jesus’ story is a life full of communication from God to us, in a way we can understand.

God tried to communicate to us with Word, creating a good creation. We messed it up, with trying to be smarter than we are and blaming others for the results. Kicked out of paradise we even became murderers, for a ‘good’ start.

God tried to communicate to us with the Law, we turned it into control of others.

God tried to communicate to us with the prophets, and we thought they were crazy, because they really were, trying to embody God’s Word does that to humans.

I rebuilt the damaged tarp sections, put in a heat shield and a remote thermometer. Now gets as hot as 70°C without problems.

God sent his Son, a full life story lived that we can learn. Jesus came to live, teach, heal, and do remarkable things like calming the chaos of the waters.

God exists beyond time, matter, limits. Now Jesus has all the limits of a human. Paul says it well: Jesus emptied himself of being other than human, and became limited as a human.

Why?

The real purpose of Jesus’ life was his death. That’s this week’s story.

No one really listened at first, and those that did usually got it all wrong. Listen to the parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem. They think that Jesus is God’s way of giving them control again of Jerusalem, maybe. That’s their hope.

Then things change.

The harsh winter slowly gives way to cool spring temperatures, and the 2000° C inside the furnace became way too hot in the shelter. Always the thermometer showed a max of 70°. It dawned finally on me that the thermometer could read no hotter than 70°C but the actual temperature could be much more!

Things change.

After the triumphant entry parade into Jerusalem, things go downhill fast and hard. Jesus is betrayed, deserted, tried, denied, whipped, condemned, mocked, tortured, abandoned, and murdered on a cross.

There is no greater measure of suffering.

God came to live and die exactly like this. Why?

God came to make clear: God understands our suffering, even if our measure seems to have an upper limit, God has no limits, God understands us, our pain, our sin, our suffering, our death.

God lived it to show us God’s intent for us.

As Jesus dies, he forgives those that mock, torture and kill him.

This is what God wants us to be to each other. Not sinners, destroyers, scape-goaters, or mockers, torturers, murderers, or chaos makers, not even people who cannot listen to others pain and suffering and not know what to do.

We know God knows our suffering.

In our suffering we experience what others suffer. We know what we most need when we suffer is forgiveness, love and not to be abandoned.

We learn this so that we can give God’s gifts of forgiveness, love and being present to others as they suffer.

God came as Jesus to show us God’s goodness and love for us has no limits. God’s forgiveness has no limits. We may not easily hear, listen or understand, but we have Jesus story handed from generation to generation. We can always learn more if we pay attention.

Jesus’ story is God’s new limitless thermometer by which we can measure what really goes on in this world. There’s lots of heat. There’s even more love, forgiveness, and compassion than we are ever capable of measuring.

This week, we remember, we listen as we can, we learn anew as we are able.

From Jesus story we know and trust, no matter what we do, what we succeed at or fail at, God understands our yearning, our chaos, our sufferings …

and God always loves, forgives and is present with us …

calling us to be exactly that for other people,

with Jesus as our model,

a model that has no limits.

Amen

Advent 1 Draft 1 Sermon

The following is the result of my and my wife’s efforts, which in some form she is likely preaching tomorrow at Hope Lutheran Edmonton.

Opening blessing/prayer[from the Psalm, lessons and Jesus’ command to love]:
May God, our only hope and salvation, guard our hearts, minds and souls this Advent, as always, that we may not be put to shame, but that we may know God’s ways, God’s truth, God’s steadfast love. May we trust God’s promises so that even in the most difficult of times, we may reflect God’s right-ness, order, and grace, to our neighbours, ourselves, and even our enemies. Amen.

Happy New Year, on this the first Sunday of the New Church Year, the first Sunday in Advent. Unlike many celebrations that call for exuberance, like Lent, Advent is a sombre celebration of our need for God’s Love and promises, a time to reflect and search out the roots of our faith. The colour is Blue, a rich colour of sky, and water, the basics for life. Blue is also a colour of an honest response to the chaos that grips the world: blue is sadness, even depression.
Blue for us is the colour of Hope, and Advent sits not on the evidence of the state of the world or us in it, but the hope created by God’s powerfully life-giving Promises. God promises us a new creation and steadfast love in the face of the worst the universe can throw at us.

If you came looking to hear the Gospel read today and to receive a soothing, comforting word … Well, hang on, it’s a rough ride first.

Drab Winter may be most appropriate for Advent

Jesus describes the end of time. To translate his images into 21st century awareness of our universe Jesus says:
You will see gravity decay, planets and stars disengage, galaxies splattering across the void. Dis-Order invades the sub-atomic particles of your very being, your skin will crawl with chaos, your minds unwind from within themselves, one moment you are able to be empathetic, to love and remember, the next not and the next moment you are again sentient, aware of what is happening to you and to the world all around.
Intuitively we know our sins and our cumulative sins as human beings are immense. We know we are responsible for some if not most of what’s coming. Global warming is only a small piece of the conundrum. Real guilt is indeed difficult to bear.

How can we respond to this prediction of the end of all time?

There are many similar challenges in life that overwhelm us. It may not signal the end of everything around us, but chaos invades the foundation of our lives at the loss of a beloved, a child, the end of a career, or being ruined by completely false accusations … or news that one has a death-sentence disease.
Will watched his wife Louise beat cancer twice, and it returned a third time. Her battle ended with him standing beside her grave. Two years later Will received news that cancer had invaded his body as well.
George flew as a pilot all his life, until the last medical exam revealed the side-effects of a medication taken years ago, which disqualified him from ever flying again.
Sam stopped his wife again, this time by twisting out of her hand the knife she was going to slash him with. When he made sure she went outside to cool down, she called the police, he was charged, convicted and served 2 years for assault and unlawful confinement.
Amy, not her real name, watched the Courts, time and time again disrupt her efforts to adopt her foster child, born to an addict woman. Then the Courts awarded this not-mother custody, even though the Courts knew her then housemate had sexually abused the not-yet two year old.
It may not be the end of all time, but it certainly is the end of time for us, as we gasp for breath … … … while the world continues on its course around us as if nothing has happened.

Jesus, at these times, points us to the first signs of trees budding new leaves. Jesus tells us: at these points when the end of time threatens our very breathing and being, we can remember God’s promises to make all things new with the coming of the Kingdom of God. The in-breaking of chaos, the end of time, is actually God bringing in a new creation.
God promises that in this new order we will live in safety, justice will be based on truth, instead of lies, and God’s steadfast love, the glue that holds the macro, micro and personal universe in order, will prevail. All right-ness, righteousness, will be God’s alone. Chaos of all kinds will give way to the order of God’s new creation. All people, not just us, will live in safety. All people will live in right relationship with God, with one another, with all of creation. The heavens and all space will sing in harmony. The Holy Spirit will move in our hearts, minds and souls, and we will dance with grace, every step of the day.

God does not just wait to the end of time to bring in the new creation. The Kingdom of God is already here. God fulfills promises in each generation. Christ has come.
CNN know this: and they play every news story as if it heralded something new (and news worthy), as if the world hinged on each small event. In a way it does, and for the news companies, it sells advertising, which is the foundation of their threatened existence.
CBC has ‘Good News’ segments, because it is commonly spoken about that ‘all the news is bad’ which is not true or right. But they appear to angle not so much that the good news is more obviously good, but that compared to the little good news segments, the real news is that much more important, that much more BAD.
The real  bad news is that all hell is breaking loose, just like it did for all the previous generations.

It is as any photographer can tell you the light is most beautiful in contrast to the dark. God’s wonders become more obvious to us, in contrast to the powers of chaos and evil.

Flowing Water in Frozen Winter, Light in the Dark

If we could ever say that Leonard Cohen sang well, it would be his Anthem line: There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in. Indeed, it is through our cracks, our sins, that God’s grace becomes known to us, not just in our minds, but in our hearts and souls. Grace becomes a visceral experience and memory when God gracefully forgives us our sins, and when the Holy Spirit continually takes us ungrateful, undeserving wretched sinners and makes us into saints.
Evil has got the world, our world, by the tail, so to speak, and the Devil is swinging it around, which messes tremendously with gravity and all that is up.

This Advent we face great challenges. The world seems to be falling apart, and the order of creation is threatened by earthquakes, storms, human induced disasters, and even asteroids and nuclear bombs.
Advent is not a time to bury our heads in the sands, or our hearts in the pre-Christmas hectic, nor our souls in all that consumes instead of giving life to all those around us. Advent is a time for serious and sombre soul searching, to discover again God’s steadfast love that holds the universe and our own hearts together, even as the universe and we too lose all bindings and forces that hold creation in place, even gravity and the electric impulses that power our brains.
As the end of all time tears at the foundations of the universe, as the end of our time tears at the core of our being, we need not fear and hate. Instead moved by the Holy Spirit, we can trust God and we can choose to love …
We bask in the beauty of the stars, the wonders of nature, the marvels of the cities, and the light of Christ that shines through each of us, through our brokenness. Love has a place … in every heart, in every galaxy, in every atom of the entire universe, because God created it so.
We pray that we may remain alert to God’s ways. We pray that we will count on God’s promises and the work of the Holy Spirit in us, that we will see in each tragedy and decaying of order, God’s work of making a new creation, also in us!
We will not be put to shame, for God is our rock and our salvation.
Amen

Advent 1 – Outline

Advent 1 Outline

Love is great,

But love becomes more obviously so powerful, so wonderful, so life-giving  …

in the face of hate, lies, sin, … and raw evil and cruelty – in the face of chaos.

God promises our redemption, a new creation, out of the end of the universe, the end of all time.

  1. Advent is
    • The beginning of the New Year, the Church year
    • Time for Reflection, a sombre season
    • Blue
    • Hope
    • So much more than pre-Christmas
    • Reflection on New Beginnings
  2. The Gospel is Hardly Good News
    • Foretelling disruption of the universe
    • 21st Century equivalents
      • macro, micro, psychological
    • What is this? How can we respond? What is this?
  3. Challenges of daily life
    • Can overwhelm us as much as anticipating the end of all time
    • Its not end times, it is as if all time ends for us, even while the world continues without us.
    • How can we respond when we are overwhelmed?
  4. Jesus:
    • Signs of the end, equated to signs of new life.
    • These overwhelming events, end times, or time that ends
      • Are actually God starting something new
  1. New:
    • Live in safety
    • Ruler that executes Justice based on truth, instead of lies and excuses for facts
    • All of the universe, the glue that holds everything in order,
      • Marco, micro, internally, personally
      • This is God
        • God is right-eousness
        • God is the one who makes everything right
        • Right is order, is the opposite of Chaos, is the opposite of Creation (Chaos is the opposite of all that is Good in Creation.)
        • Right for our safety,
        • Right in relationship to God
        • God is what holds chaos at bay
  1. Exactly in the horrendous view of the end of time, nature, world, universe, our minds
    • This is where God is most obviously discernible
    • This is where we see God most clearly
    • In the face of chaos Grace abounds
    • God present always, everywhere, but most obvious to us in the chaos
    • L Cohen: it’s through the cracks that the light gets in.
      • In sinners made saints God makes God present
      • And we see God face to face
  1. This Advent
    • All challenges that we face
    • God is our rightness
    • God is the source, re-creator, and guarantee of our safety, and our everything.
    • God is with us.
    • Time to reflect on the serious things of faith, life and our times.
      • So that the end of all time
      • Or the end of our time
        • Does not catch us unawares
      • So we pray: let us not be put to shame,
        • For God is our rock and our salvation

(I highly recommend reading the blog posts on sermon preparation in the order they are posted. So read the next two first. The visceral images of this week’s Gospel, reflected in the first post, and other references barely explained in the outline above are required to make sense of the outline. Otherwise it is as mundane, spit-warm and boring as the pre-Christmas musac that now pummels every shopper’s brain. Both the destructive power of what is objectionable and the amazing work of God’s Grace healing wretched sinners will be able to be smoothed over leaving us comfortable … even with the impending collapse of the universe, beginning with our minds.)

Beginnings

Beginnings

The snow is deep enough to ski.
I could not ski today.
The cold is mild enough to enjoy.
I could not enjoy today.
The sun was just bright enough to shine through the trees.
I could not take time to see the sun.

Its November only, already deep winter and I need to prepare …
And have little to prepare with, but much to prepare for … maybe.

What I did have is lumber scavenged from a garbage dump, solid 2×4’s 10’ and some 2×6 of various lengths.
And pallets that I pulled apart to use the light 4’ pieces as horizontal supports
For a shelter, an anteroom outside the door, for wood heat to be figured into,
For there is coming a wood stove.
A gift to compensate for the lack of money for propane.
A hope.
A back up.
A plan to use wood
For warmth when the propane gives out or the furnace takes leave again.
Or just when.
It’s a new beginning, not much of one, and it has a long road between today and the use of wood for heat.

So I did take time to see the sun rise … well to see the light of day break in.

And I noticed I am hardly alone in making a new beginning.

A seedling makes its fifth winter

I’m just in the end cycle days, instead of the start-up days.
More like the grass that is here one day and gone the next.

May the last days be many,
Filled with awe-filled wonders,
And great light,
The light of the world,
The King’s light,
Spectural light,
That shines
Through
The cracks in us to reveal the healing wonder of the Holy Spirit.

And yours,
May your new beginnings be worth the price
We all pay for choices
Away from
And towards
Somethings
The exact meaning and cost for which we can hardly know when we make the choices.

But choice we have, the basics of love.
Which is no guarantee that the force of evil will not mow us down long before our long fifth winter.

Still God stands by
Us
Engaged in helping us withstand the trials
And assaults on our being,
Consequences of choosing other than love.
But God does not end the assaults or trials, the consequences,
Nor cures the illness that is the cause.
As the seedling, we have the possibilities to grow strong,
And wave at the wind, the blowing of the Spirit.

There are no guarantees, just chocolates, of which we never know what we will get.

Thanks to the Forest.