Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 24

Thursday, September 24, 2020

We bear fruits

unless the stress of life puts us down,

like this once beautiful birch.

Jeremiah 6:13-14

For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace.

Luke 6:44-45

Each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Words of Grace For Today

The good person … produces good and the evil person … produces evil.

Forest Gump quotes his mother: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

We like to paint the world in black and white, good and bad, yes or no. Binary absolute polarized categories are simpler to describe, identify, and judge. Polarized thinking is dangerous, and destructive to others and ourselves.

Christ calls us to a different view: He ate with sinners and tax collectors, welcoming in the women of ill-repute, the lame, the outcast, and even lepers.

Martin Luther clarified for us the view of humanity that Jesus calls us to embrace: that before God (in the ultimate judgment of us) we are all sinners, always, forever.

Only through Grace does Jesus step in and give us his impeccable record, not only before God, but also as the record we can live with as our past as we move into the future! Thus we are God-made saints.

Sinners we remain, God makes us saints, and it’s not sometimes one and then other times the other. We are simultaneously both saints and sinners. That goes for every last one of us! No exceptions for good or bad behaviour.

Pen-ultimately (of a 2nd order of significance) we know that how we live our lives effect others who live now on this earth and those who follow us. In other people’s eyes we can be seen to do good things, and be judged as a good person, OR to be seen to do bad things, and be judge as a bad person.

These orders of significance, the ultimate judgment of God, and the penultimate judgment of history about our lives, are not ours to make. There are other lower orders of significance where we may be able to judge ourselves as going good and being good, or as doing bad and being bad. They are the level at which we can understand Luke wrote about people being like trees: we produce the fruit that is of the kind we are. This image breaks when we realize that God made us all ready, able, and eager to only do good; yet we broke from the kind of people (‘trees’) that God made us to be, we sinned, and we have done evil things.

Jeremiah writes how everyone (but not Jeremiah or God’s faithful few) is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.

Sometimes it seems that everyone else has become evil. In a world economy that is based on greed it is difficult to see anyone conduct business not based on greed. Laws are written to ensure that CEO’s conduct business as greedily as possible for the shareholders.

In this messed up world, it is easy to see and to say that everyone has become greedy, taking from others what is not ours to take.

Stupid is as stupid does and everyone does stupid. There is no evil that is not stupid, yet not all evil is stupid. (Some stupid is not evil, it’s just stupid.) So perhaps better said: stupid evil is as stupid evil does, and everyone does stupid evil.

Saints are a miracle. Only by God’s Grace is anyone able to be seen as a saint, in spite of their stupid doings.

Only the paradox that Luther provides covers it: we are all simultaneously saints and sinners. God creates us Good. We all choose to be stupid by our (fallen) nature, and only by Grace are we ever made wise.

Thanks be to God for saints, like us. And Grace be to those terrible sinners, like us.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 23

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fall Arrives with Colours

in the Light.

There’s old stories in all that.

Isaiah 25:8

He will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

2 Corinthians 5:4

For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Words of Grace For Today

In a word it’s done: God swallows up death, wipes our tears away, takes away our disgrace from earth!

While under this tent (the firmament, the sky) we groan burdened down. We wish not to be disgraced further by being stripped of everything of life. Rather we wish to be robed in Christ’s glorious robes, so that what is mortal, frail, and failing (sinful) in us will be swallowed by God’s Word, which gives us and all creatures and plants life, and indeed brought the universe to exist in its good order from nothing.

There is disgrace before other people, sometimes deserved, more often fabricated by others to destroy innocent people. This is difficult to bear, until one realizes that the fabricating of disgrace 1) has been going on since the first generation, 2) it does not constitute actual disgrace for us, but 3) it does constitute real disgrace for those who fabricate disgrace for us. Still this disgrace is a terrible burden to bear.

In the scheme of the universe created in good order disgrace before others (real or fabricated) is nothing compared to disgrace before God. Fabricating disgrace for others is only one way in which so many disgrace themselves before God. The Devil has his wiles in endless variety.

While disgraced before others we groan with the burdens of trying to survive each day. We seek relief in so many ways. So many require that we throw off life, what little we have left, and throw away all that is of value and joy in this mundane world. As if disconnecting ourselves from our bodies, from the grass, trees, and lakes and oceans, from other people whom we love and whom love us, and from other people who suffer like us and so much worse. Tossing away life given to us by our Creator cannot give us life. This is another wile of the Devil. It merely furthers our disgrace.

Disgrace seems to swallow up all of life, before others, and before God. Death pales in comparison and merely gives relief from disgrace.

God does not leave it to be so. God speaks a Word. With a Word (of might beyond our imagining) God removes our disgrace from all creation. God robes us in Christ’s glorious robes of unconditional love. Death is swallowed up by God’s giving us re-newed life, life in Christ’s name.

With a Word. God speaks and it is so.

Human masters can speak words and order others to make it so. God speaks and all of creation is so.

More power cannot be.

And this power clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, covering our sins, our disgrace, freeing us from disgrace fabricated by others, and we are able to engage fully in life, for ourselves and more. We are able to follow Christ, sacrificing all we are and have and can do in order that others will hear this Word of life.

Hallelujah!

This is the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 22

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Dark

No Matter How Dark the Days

Christ’s Light Shines Each Day

Psalm 13:2

How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

John 16:33

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’

Words of Grace For Today

It is good to know that Jesus has won the war, because our enemies certainly seem to be winning a lot of battles, even when I refuse to fight any battles.

Now the Psalmist knows exactly what it is like, not just for me, but for so many people through the generations: our enemies seek the destruction of whatever and whomever gets in their way in order that they can pretend to be powerful, powerful enough to make their way without God. Once they start to ‘win’ by destroying others, they seem not to be able to stop.

This is the persecution that followers of Christ have faced in every generation.

Our hope is sure. Christ has conquered the world, and more so, Christ has conquered death!

What is a series of battles lost, when life eternal awaits us? Certainly we can survive …

though today in the middle of these huge losses, it feels more like the world comes to an end, at least for us already today.

Thank God, we are not on our own.

Through all our pain and sorrow, through all our persecution, we know we are not alone.

God is with us.

With God we can hope to survive these trials and persecutions.

With God we can hope with a sure hope that ALL God’s promises will come to pass, including that our enemies will be defeated, not by their defeat. Rather by the Holy Spirit transforming them into followers of Christ.

In the end, since Christ has conquered death and the world, everyone wins. Finally we will win, in God’s way of giving life abundant for all. We win life now and eternally.

For today we pray, and struggle to remain filled with gratitude.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 21

Monday, September 21, 2020

Golden Sun

Living Water

Beauty and Life Forever

Psalm 88:9-10

My eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise you? Selah

John 17:15

I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.

Words of Grace For Today

Water. It is the basis of life, the cleanser, the thirst quencher ….

What can we do when our eyes water with tears of sorrow?

What can we do when we call on God, with upraised hands … and yet there is no answer.

What will come of us when there is no more life in us?

We will no longer be able to call on God, nor will God be able to answer us.

So while we live … yes, while we live we call upon God for all good things, with hearts filled with gratitude, and hopes of high expectations for all that God has promised.

The real challenge of life is not mere logistic chaos to organize, or engineering problems to designed to a resolution, or stories of lives that have gone amok, and not even the real lives that the stories represent. The real challenge in life is to face, with almost no expectation of relief, the deepest depths of the Devil’s work. For we knowing we could only be lost if we are left on our own.

Yet, there is no danger, for Christ is with us, not to take us out of the world to another place. No, Christ has stood with us each hour as the Devil works his terrible wiles, and protected us, and given us the best that life has to offer: Living Water. This is the water that quenches all thirst in life, and gives us life so abundant it carries us beyond all imagination.

Each day, drinking in the living water, we call upon God, knowing that Jesus hears our every word and the Holy Spirit guides us to be all that we can be, as God’s children.

Selah!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 20

Sunday, September 20, 2020

.Rose.

Not everything is a rose.

Nor does anyone smell like roses through and through.

Where is your place in the universe,

Where Roses die and rose-hips take their place?

Exodus 20:12

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Romans 15:7

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Words of Grace For Today

One hopes always, not just for oneself, but for each child, that the parents are honourable, and worthy of being honoured. Of course no one is really worthy. Being a parent is not a skill set one is born with. It is acquired through trial and error, lots of trials and lots of errors.

As in almost everything, if one is kind as a parent, that goes a long way to making everything else possible to work out or work with.

Yet no matter one’s parents, there is value in honouring your parents. This only starts with treating them with respect, though not always obedience as one becomes an adult oneself. The real gist of honouring one’s parents is to recognize one’s own place in the universe, right down to the family.

As child to parents, even more so as one becomes an adult child, one receives great blessings in learning to value your parents, just as they are. No good comes of painting them either better than they are, nor from painting them worse then they are. The blessing is in taking them just as they are, and honouring them for their trials and errors raising you, or not if they did none of that (which means you were probably better off than with them.)

This is an essential step in maturing as a person. One recognizes one’s parents are fully human. An accompanying step is to recognize that you, too, are fully human, trials and errors included.

Learning how invaluable kindness is, and how it helps one make up for so many other terrible things is also an essential step in maturing.

God gave us this commandment that we might become healthy, mature people, always children of God.

Honouring one’s parents, knowing one’s place in the universe right down to the family, accepting others and oneself as flawed and wonderful humans, and being kind: these are the stepping stones that enable us to welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed us.

Of course so many people say they do this just fine thank you. It’s just ‘those’ people, the strangers, the homeless, the different orientated, the people of a different faith, the people of a different race or face or tongue, ‘those’ people (you know who we mean, they say), those people are not welcome.

When Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, Jesus will welcome the inhospitable people just as they welcomed ‘those’ people.

Gracious God gives us time now for the amendment of life, to mature enough to recognize Jesus in the face of ‘those people’ before it’s too late and we now longer have the opportunity to share God’s Grace as God has so freely given it to us.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 17

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Visitor Running

Isaiah 41:13

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’

Matthew 14:30-31

But when [Peter] noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’

Words of Grace For Today

There are great challenges, enough to scare any sensible person out of their skin. God walks with us, holding our right hand, reassuring us that we are not alone. We need not fear anything, not nature, nor humans, nor monsters, nor evil itself … and not even a teensie weensie virus that can kill us.

In the course of many ordinary days, Jesus calls us to be courageous, faithful, and trusting, as we venture where others fear to go … in order that we can give life abundant to others, even our enemies. Walking on water is rather simple as the miracles go that Jesus calls us to trust the Holy Spirit enacts for us. Come visit in the winter and I can show you how easy walking on water can be.

Forgiving, especially one’s enemies, is no small thing. At times it is so difficult it is beyond us. There are real monsters in human form that walk among us. It is hard to forgive the evil that incarnates itself in people, bent on destroying that person and all people around them.

Today a visitor came up to the window, and stopped just a few feet away as I pounded on the window to scare her off. It’s not that I do not like visitors. I just prefer not to be a juicy meal for a visitor, or a punching bag, or a bloody pile of bones to be batted about.

I should have grabbed the camera sitting right there near the window instead of pounding, but I was afraid. It bears considering the power in the paws, instead of the possibility of recording one’s last moments. Thankfully she ran. The question is who taught this yearling to explore near human habitat for food or fun? Dangerous.

Fear not, for God walks with us, even when big dangerous show up, or when small dangerous float about. This is God’s creation, and we are God’s people, the people God walks with through life.

So the little bear finally ran off, or rather lopped off and then carefully stepped over a few logs in it’s path.

One day, that bear will end up on someone’s table.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 30

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Cold Blown Grasses

Cold Winter Winds Will Blow

Cold Hearts Will Set

The Holy Spirit Will Keep Our Hearts Thawing

Trust God’s Promises

Isaiah 32:17

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever.

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Words of Grace For Today

Of what is life?

Food and drink?

OR

Peace, quietness and trust, righteousness and joy?

The basic requirements for minimum and full human life are:

  1. clean air to breath
  2. clean water to drink
  3. nourishing food to eat
  4. adequate clothing to wear
  5. adequate shelter to protect one from the elements
  6. meaningful labour so that one contributes and receives sufficient reward for one’s labour
  7. love: most significantly that one is loved unconditionally, and that one can love others unconditionally.

Food and Drink are requirements, as we all know. One can last 3 or so days without water, and up to a few weeks without food. Not well, and not many times over. One should have water and food multiple times each day to stay healthy.

Yet we can too easily get our priorities all wrong.

We can loose balance, perspective, focus, and gratitude. There are many ways to say this, and it happens to us in as many ways. When we live with food and drink as the focus of our lives, to the detriment of labour and love, then we live off balance, out of kilter, or, as it’s said in so many ways, ‘messed up.’

It is exceedingly difficult to achieve peace, quietness and trust, righteousness or joy. Truthfully one cannot achieve them at all. We receive them as gifts from God.

It is hard to imagine that we would over focus, live out of kilter, living for peace, quietness and trust, righteousness and/or joy. Yet this also is possible. We humans have great ingenuity when it comes to ‘messing up’ life.

These gifts from God are not for us to achieve. Rather they are for us to share, and in sharing God fills us to overflowing with them.

While Covid-19 restrictions, and even the lifting of restrictions and a return to more ‘normal’ can tax us, at times beyond our limits, the stress of these times do not change who we are. The stress just makes very clear to ourselves and to others what kind of people we really are.

We are children of God and wretched sinners, simultaneously. We need to be loved, unconditionally. And to love unconditionally. Yet we ‘mess it all up’ terribly.

Thank God, we are forgiven, and given re-newed life each day, each hour, as the Holy Spirit works in and through us, despite our wretchedness.

It is beginning to feel much like fall as I write this. Cool air blows, tree tops sway, leaves rustle and fly, rain spits and drips. Everything inside is set to retain warmth and let in what light there is. In this day whatever it is like where you are may God’s blessings be obvious and not forgotten by our living off balance.

May we be caught tipped by the weight of blessing raining down on us, refreshing us, giving us the most precious things to experience and share.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 28

Friday, August 28, 2020

Leaves fall all

Leaves Strewn on the Path

God’s Glory is as obvious as these golden leaves

Jesus’ voice is as prevalent as the wind in the trees.

Psalm 63:2

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

John 7:37

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.’

Words of Grace For Today

Everyday life is filled with many mundane things. We can busy ourselves seemingly endlessly in things that have little significance in God’s Kingdom, and we know nothing other than we keep ourselves busy, so busy.

Then when we are not paying attention, we see God in all God’s glory. When we are so busy celebrating, even giving God thanks, we hear Jesus offer us thirsty people a refuge, the living water that is the only water that will quench our thirst.

Our thirst is what drives us to keep so busy, trying to fill ourselves with things that really mean nothing. The challenge is that we get rewarded so apparently well for busying ourselves as we do. What is really meaningless appears by the heavy rewards we gain to be actually full of significance for life.

Wealth, power, and status come our way as if rewarding us with everything we could dream of, just for such devotion to our pursuits.

How can anything take us away from these pursuits?

Then we see God’s glory right in front of us. Then we hear Jesus call to all who thirst.

Are we ready to see? Are we ready to hear?

The Holy Spirit enables us to see and hear, and then we can respond. Will we respond as we can?

When we see, hear, and respond, then we have something to celebrate. Then we have everything to celebrate.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 23

Sunday, August 23, 2020

God’s Glory in Light

To Think One Controls This is Delusion

Psalm 62:9

Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.

1 John 5:14

This is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Words of Grace For Today

The thin veneer of civilization provides some, the privileged few, the illusion that they deserve and have earned a better life than the majority of other humans.

This is a delusion. A very powerfully destructive and persistent delusion.

Most humans alive today, and most who have ever lived, have lived in conditions we in Canada would define as abject poverty. In them God has invested the breath, the wind, the fire of the Holy Spirit. This holy Ruach gives each of us life. Without it we remain dust.

Those of us who have not, through delusions and veneer, forgotten who God is and who we are in God’s creation, can live with a boldness, extending ourselves every hour even beyond our apparent limits to empathize with, love unconditionally, and care for all other humans around us.

We can also boldly face all the uncertainties of each hour and every future day, knowing that we can ask for what we need from Jesus, who gave his life that we might be rescued from our sins. We can boldly trust that Jesus listens to our pleas, and provides all we need to continue to empathize with, love unconditionally, and care for all other humans around this whole earth.

What a life God has breathed into us!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 21

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Secure Tomorrow

as Impossible for Us

as for Grass and Trees

Isaiah 47:13

You are wearied with your many consultations; let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars and at each new moon predict what shall befall you.

Matthew 18:1-3

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Words of Grace For Today

We humans tend to get agitated by the trouble that may befall us tomorrow.

We go to all sorts of lengths to try to secure our tomorrows. All that is in vain. There really is nothing that can secure our tomorrows, not wealth, nor power, nor status, nor anything under the sun, not even education or integrity.

In Isaiah’s day, and still today, people look to the stars and moon to predict their tomorrows. This also is a futile effort.

Jesus points to the way of his followers. We are to become like children. We trust like children the Word of God. We hope like children for our tomorrows.

We are able to celebrate today and tomorrow, as children, in the moment.

For God promises we have everything we need to live abundantly and blessedly.

Hallelujah!