The Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.
1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.
Words of Grace For Today
Like the wind that blows unseen, gently and refreshing at times and other times with great effect filling the sails of many and destroying others, the Holy Spirit moves through time and generations, stirring us up to do what we would not otherwise be capable of doing.
In baptism hands bring water over us and us under it, and bless us with touch and holy oil. Gifts of the Holy Spirit wend into our lives at that moment and every moment since, just as wind moves through the air we breathe.
We can try to fake the gifts and the Spirit, like turning on a fan to create air movement in closed spaces, out of reach of the wind. It is fake, and other than to deceive and open a door therewith for the Devil to bring us to do evil work, it is ineffective; certainly it cannot bring God’s blessings.
With confidence, like seasoned sailors, not foolish or reckless, we step into the winds that blow our times this way and that, and thinking-speaking-acting out the Holy gifts given to us, we contribute to the building up of the community of the saints.
The Devil has many people working overtime to destroy. The Holy Spirit has more power in the sacrificial, unconditional love of the saints for all people. The Devil will not triumph, for Christ has already defeated death and all the works of the Devil, though the Devil has not yet admitted it and laid down in surrender.
One person at a time, the wind blows into people’s lives and transforms them into saints with gifts that give life to all, without price exacted, as freely as God has given us life.
What a life it is, for us!
For those who still work to destroy us saints, bit by bit, one feels pity for the curse they live out will eventually consume everything about them and leave only ashes for eternity.
What a hell of life it is for them, until God’s Spirit reaches their hearts … then there is a celebration for the double victory, first that they no longer seek our destruction and second that they are counted among God’s saints on earth.
When Someone is peels away your protection from harm,
is it evil or good?
It is evil … and it is God’s blessing.
On the day of prosperity be joyful, and on the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Words of Grace For Today
There are all sorts of explanations for why evil exists.
Prosperity is easy for humans to explain; we worked hard for our success and deserve the privilege and comforts afforded by our prosperity.
Adversity is also easy for humans to explain, as long as it is not their own adversity; they did not work hard but were lazy, or made mistakes because they were not smart, or were corrupt (like everyone else) and got caught, or took risks and had bad luck and were caught out … or … and on go the explanations.
Neither are right, necessarily nor primarily, nor are sufficiently correct to stand long on their own. The beginning of the real explanation for prosperity is that God blesses creation with some success. The beginning of the real explanation for adversity is that God blesses creation with some failure.
From there, why we and others enjoy prosperity or adversity, is a complicated mix of circumstances of time and environment and agency – a bit of our own, but mostly others’ agency.
Ecclesiastes’ explanation is interesting: God makes prosperity and adversity so that we do not know what will come in the future. That may well be. It teaches us that ONLY God can be trusted, not adversity (for example of our enemies) nor prosperity.
Paul in many and various ways points us to rely on God alone. Here he provides the reassurance that all things work for good … (which is blatantly not true, but he qualifies it with) for those who love God. Which is blatantly not true, for example all the martyrs through the generations, and all those Christians who have suffered at the cruel hands of others.
Paul is right though in a more profound sense: while the circumstances and suffering of our lives may not seem like they are worked out for good, ours or anyone else’s, God works in marvellous ways to bring blessings from evil. In the end God always will win, and therefore even when we suffer not, God will bring good out of it for us and for all others. In this way Paul is most certainly right. God works all things for good! for everyone.
Even our most evil, cruel enemies.
God is creator and always the victor. We are blessed to be God’s children, adopted by the sacrifice of Jesus.
There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer.
We can answer with the farmer, “Maybe.” With Christ we can answer to both prosperity and adversity: “It is God’s blessings, no maybe about it.”
Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good, and guileless in what is evil.
Words of Grace For Today
It is common, too common, that we humans point to meaningless ritual that we keep, so as to divert attention from the truth of our sins as we try to ‘prove,’ or at least make the appearance to others, that we are ‘good’ people.
From powerful politicians fear mongering or even starting senseless wars to divert attention to their terrible politicking, to the abusive and neglectful mother who easily created lies about her husband to divert blame from herself to him, to even the youngest of children who point to their siblings or pets to lay blame for something bad anywhere. Just not on themselves.
Sacrifices on the altars started out as a meaningful observance of God’s right to all one had, and they became ways to keep up appearances for the rich, powerful and corrupt while they wreaked havoc on God’s good people, all in order to maintain their undeserved wealth, power, and fame.
Obedience to God’s Law was never taken seriously by such appearance keepers. So Samuel calls the people to be obedient to God’s Law.
Then playing out one’s obedience while breaking the spirit of it became the game the corrupt played with themselves, each other, and they thought with God.
God was not fooled, nor amused. God wept.
Paul encourages new Christians to not only be obedient to God’s Law, even it’s spirit, but to go much further. Paul calls them to become wise, to know beyond the letter and spirit of the Law. Paul calls them to know the Spirit of God (revealed to them by the Holy Spirit, and by Jesus’ example).
And not only to know, but to live accordingly, since the Spirit of God is not about anything if it is not about everything, including how one lives each moment, starting when one rises, and ending … well never ending!
What a life! To live according to God’s Spirit. Not that we can do it on our own at all, not at all. Instead the Holy Spirit transforms us and our thoughts, words and actions so that we live as God intended when God created us, forgave us, redeemed us, and made us holy people.
David said further to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.
1 Corinthians 4:1
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.
Words of Grace For Today
If ever there was a time when we needed good people to be courageous and act, it is now. Evil has found a home in so many institutions, so many pieces of civilization, and in so many hearts and minds. The social contract that underpins civilization has been under attack by those who abuse their power and position and wealth for so long, no one can predict how long it will last, as it teeters next to the abyss with one foot on a banana peel. Predictions are that no matter the election results this November in the USA there will be civil unrest and violence. Among many others who are corrupt (including those with power in the Courts, with positions in politics, with wealth from oil and the inflated economy that surrounds it) Trump is trouble, bad trouble, real bad trouble.
Fortunately not everyone is corrupt, yet. Before corruption, well past the critical mass for unrest, reaches so many people that civilization is shredded by it, we need many many many people who are willing to make good trouble, good trouble for Christ.
Martin Luther wrote, shortly after his trial where he was found guilty:
If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitioussinners. Be a sinner and sinboldly,but believe andrejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world]we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness,but, as Peter says,we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousnessdwells. It is enough that bythe riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.
No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sinsby so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.
Luther is not encouraging us to sin wildly. He states clearly that we sin already, no matter what we believe, think, do or do not do. The matter is then what? Do we recognize God’s Grace as the ultimate determination of our lives (each breath we take and each action we commit?) When we do, then we move beyond fearing our own sin. We accept it. We accept others’ sins. We exercise God’s Grace for ourselves and for others.
Levelled down to begging God for mercy, then we all can start to act, and act courageously. We can do everything the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do to counter the work of the Devil. So acting courageously we will continue to sin. This does not stop us for we trust God’ Grace.
David instructs Solomon to act, to serve God, for God will be with him.
Paul writes that we are servants of Jesus, stewards of God’s mysteries.
I gave thanks yesterday for water and fire, sufficient safe water and contained fire that keeps me warm, cooks food, and boils water.
It’s difficult to get water. Gas is too expensive to borrow a truck to travel the 25+ km there and 25 km back to get town water. There is no well and the lake water is contaminated far to much to use more than occasionally. No children have emerged from a swim with an extra leg or hand, but it’s bad. I have a bicycle that costs just my energy to run, though it’s not suitable for hauling water in any quantity. I have developed a way to collect rainwater. Since the recent rains I now have nearly full stores of rainwater, filtered and treated.
The stove that keeps me warm burns wood. LOTS of work. Every year the stove needs to be serviced, or more accurately rebuilt, fixed again and again, in order to eek out another winter of warmth from it. I was able to get this done over the Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s ready for the coming winter. There are other things I have to complete, but that one is the primary one.
Now I am set to work at surviving the winter, and living well!
What do we do with all that is life that God has given us?
David hoped his son would be faithful and serve God as Solomon ruled as king of Israel following David’s reign.
Paul hoped the Corinthians would learn to respect each other, not get caught in senseless squabbles, and look to serve (instead of rule over) others.
What do you hope for?
To live without sin and without trouble is not possible.
So serving Christ, trusting God’s Grace alone to save us, we can be so bold as opportunities provide for us, so that (though we may fail and likely will do something terribly wrong) God’s Grace will be known by many people through our words and actions (not by our sins.)
The point is, we will sin anyway, no matter what. Trying all your life not to sin is a useless consumption of our limited time alive. To do so would guarantee that we did nothing good at all. Not one little good thing at all.
Better to sin boldly.
Better to trust God to be with us.
Better to serve Christ and hold on to the mysteries we know about God.
Make trouble, good trouble. Invite others to make good trouble. We’re going to make trouble of some kind. Best we choose to make trouble, good trouble, serving Christ…
and trusting God’s forgiveness will extend also to us … especially when we need it.
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
Words of Grace For Today
God Creates with a Word.
Kings’, emperors’, and pharaohs’ power was such that they need only speak and others would make it happen for them! No one dared to disobey.
God speaks and the nothingness of the not-yet-universe becomes something, something firm, solid, and existing. That’s infinitely more power than the most powerful ruler.
The people of Jesus’ time saw the world much differently than we do today. A firmament, a dome and separator, stood in the sky. On our side of it the world existed. On the other side of it was the chaos of not-creation, the nothingness that God created the world out of. The chaos was, as best one could translate it in terms available today, anti-matter, or anti-existence.
The point of all that is that this same chaos-anti-matter-anti-creation came up in the oceans. The water, the deep, was the same thing that was beyond the firmament, which was clear because when the firmament leaked it rained. When one ventured forth on the sea, one was courageous indeed, for one came into contact with anti-creation.
When storms rose up on the sea, the anger of God or simply the chaos of not-creation rose up to consume everything in it’s way. The disciples in the boat with Jesus feared not only the storm that could wash them out of the boat and send it and them into the deep. The disciples feared the power of chaos, the power of not-creation, or antimatter that could swallow up them, their boat and who knew what all else. Anyone caught in a flood will have stories of this fear. It is part of our human DNA.
Jesus is not afraid!
Human that he is fully, he is also fully God. He proves it. He speaks and the chaos of anti-creation is stilled. He commands all of creation and all of not-creation.
Now that is someone we want on our side.
But that cannot and never does happen.
Instead God brings us on to God’s side, and Jesus pays the price to make that possible, and the Holy Spirit moves in and through us to get the work of God to come out of us, in spite of us remaining sinners. Wonders never cease with God working us for the goodness of creation.
Which is good, because Evil never ceases to flow from our sins destroying the goodness of life for us and those around us, and those that come after us for generations.
Next time you see it rain, or the waves rise from the water of a lake or ocean, imagine the truth that those before us knew: this is the chaos out of which God created, which can consume us back to not-creation.
Thanks be to God, the waves are down, the sky up, and the rain is sufficient but not too much. It’s a balance, that involves us as well, if we wish to cooperate with God’s good creation.
Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more.
He answered [the disciples], ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But [the Canaanite woman] came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
Words of Grace For Today
There are many sayings that poignantly highlight some aspect of human existence. One is ‘no on gets out of life alive.’ Another ‘the fatality rate for humans is 100%.’ Another, ‘In the end what do they call the man who accumulates the most [fill in ‘power’, ‘money’, ‘status’, or anything else humans compete for]? … dead.’
Knowing we will die is part of knowing who we are … and what we are not. We are not immortal, nor godlets. God gazing on us directly is a most terrifying experience (or so we are told, never having experienced it myself.) As one approaches the end of life, it is a simple step, one that every instinct drives us to avoid until it is unavoidable. Then it becomes an inevitable, immediate, one way event, with no mulligans.
One can waste all of life fretting about one’s inevitable death. Or one can learn to immerse oneself in the present, find great joy in the abundant blessings God fills and overfills our lives with, and we can smile. Our smiles are not mere lips turned up at the corners, nor even a twinkle of life in our eyes. Our smiles at the great abundance and wonders of the universe and our lives in it, stretch from our mouths, far past our eyes, deep into our minds and to the foundation of our souls.
Those smiles help us imitate the Canaanite woman, who knows enough: 1) Jesus can heal her daughter, 2) she can beg to Jesus, 3) she will persist no matter the insults thrown at her. She trusts that God wants to heal her daughter, and Jesus is the One who God sends to heal all who he encounters.
Being insulted always matters, it just does not matter even one iota in the context of saving her daughter. She’ll take whatever scraps of Grace Jesus has for a non-Jew, for a Canaanite, for a woman. Even a scrap is enough to save her daughter.
No matter who we are, even a scrap of Grace is more than we need for life to be wondrously filled with breathe, love and hope.
No matter who we are, Jesus has time for us.
That ought to put a smile into us who know Jesus is our judge, or it will scare the living daylights right out of us, if we do not trust Jesus’ to provide us wretched sinners Grace.
We pray, with simultaneous smiles and terror for we are saint/sinners always, that Jesus will show us the way as we follow him, and that Jesus will turn away for we would like to smile without the terror ripping our hearts out of us.
Always in terror and in our joyous smiles, God is with us. The Spirit guides us. And Jesus reaches out, and asks us to lend him our thoughts, our voices, and our hands, that we can be Jesus’ presence for others.
Great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals, rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings.
1 Timothy 4:10
To this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.
Words of Grace For Today
I’m tired. Tired of being Gaslit, by people I do not know, people I’ve known intimately, people who claimed to have loved me, people who I’ve loved, people who’ve corrupted their authority to protect and serve, people who are supposed to be religious leaders, people entrusted to exercise the law to provide justice based on truth.
I’m tired. I’m tired because it’s a whole lot of work to stay alive each day, and I’m getting old, worn and weary.
I’m tired of people (without masks or shields or any protection for them or me, or without any brains about how Covid 19 kills old people and young people as well) trying to push me (yes literally push me) aside to walk past me while I’m shopping. Or people breathing at me from a foot or two telling me it’s ok that ‘I’m so close’ to them when they walked right up behind me and I have to turn around because a lift blocks the aisle ahead.
I’m tired of people lying, begin stupid, and trying to kill me, intentionally or stupidly out of ignorance.
I’m tired of people lying to steal everything I have and then trying to steal even more than the courts have lied to give to them from money that is really not mine to access, or that they really should not have access to either.
Perhaps you are tired, too, of things similar, or of different Evil worked against you and people you know and care about.
Or perhaps you are not tired at all, since you have everything that you need for life, and your energetic work is about accumulating more wealth and privilege at others’ expense, so that you can get ahead in life.
For us all we read today: [God knows all and rules everywhere, and judges everyone,] rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings.
Yes, we can say. May it be so.
Finally Justice based on real truth for everyone! Especially those who’ve dealt with me as if I were a completely different person than I am. Justice. Let it be done, and soon!!
So we can wish. Unless we look at the sins we’ve committed to separate us from God – which are NOT what people Gaslight me or you perhaps, saying I have done. Sins that allow words that are unkind to be spoken, selfish acts to be done, and selfless acts to be undone.
Then we may be more humble, resting in God’s Grace given to us, trusting God’s wisdom not to be so simplistically applied to all, but with Grace first.
Still for those who corrupt justice, who seek to destroy others for no good reason other than the joy of the destruction, can we not hope that God’s Justice may reflect what they have done already?
So we pray: God save us, save us all from Evil. Help us each day to toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people.
I’m tired of it all, Doch God help me rest in you, in your justice and grace.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
[To the corrupt leaders:]I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Words of Grace For Today
Real people are vessels of real evil.
Of that there is no doubt.
People who are rich, are afflicted and actually poor in truth, poor in spirit, poor in life. They claim to be God’s people, and serve only Satan.
From these people, the Evil they work with lies (pretending to be good), and the Evil One they serve … from all these God promises to protect us, to protect our lives.
This protection is not that we are separated so far from Evil and people that work it that we never suffer Evil’s destruction. God’s promise is to always be with us, not to abandon us, and not to allow Evil to extract from us life itself.
Baptized we enter eternal life already during our time on earth.
Wonders of wonders, that nothing can take from us. We can surrender it, though God protects us from even that.
Wonders of wonders, we live, even in the face of corrupt, destructive, and unresting Evil worked against us.
Nothing compares to the Evil humans inflict on others.
You have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat, when the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of Grace For Today
Since Jesus’ record replaces ours, since our baptisms we have known and been able to trust even in the most horrific and trying times that our record before God will be sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Not even the miracles of God (or so we say) can (other than by replacing ours with Jesus’ record) keep our spirit and soul and body sound and blameless at all. We have and keep free choice, which in exercising we continually sin, i.e. we are hardly sound and blameless.
The question is not if we can be sinless. If it were no one would be acceptable to God, and the Kingdom of God would be empty forever.
The question, after God favours us and blesses us, what are we going to do with this ultimate favour and blessing?
Then we may pray earnestly that it can be said of us that when the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, then we have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
There is no shortage today of the blast of the ruthless. Now is the time to act. It is the time to be the refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needing in their distress, and a shelter from all that comes, whether it is the vicious rain, hail, snow and windstorms of climate change (the ‘new normal this year is last year’s extreme weather‘), or the blistering heat, wind and locust of drought, or the flooding of rain that will not let up.
The real blast, as in every generation, comes not from nature, not even pandemics like Covid 19. The real blast comes from ruthless and evil people, possessed by the empty promises of the Devil. The two legged wild animals bring more disaster to more people, more quickly than any new weather storm.
The dangerous ones are those who say there is no danger. They claim with words and/or actions: There is no more Covid19. It’s back to normal. We’re done with Covid 19. There is none here. They likely will not die or be maimed by Covid 19 or any other real danger. They will be oblivious to the loss of life around them, unless it invades their own home, and some even then pay it no heed.
May God protect us. We may wish that we can be sound and blameless, but that is the first step to ignoring our place, station, calling and weaknesses as the two legged children of God that Jesus calls us to be.
We still wish for what is not possible, and then we pray: May God protect us. May God protect you.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Words of Grace For Today
With the restrictions of Covid 19, sufficient to ‘flatten the curve’ but not stop it in it’s tracks, we have seen again and again that so much is dependent upon trust, reputation, and people’s reputations. So much of what seems to be significant is determined by what people think of you, or of someone else.
If we trust the chief medical officers, and/or the scientists, and/or the polititians, and/or the news reporters and internet writers … IF we TRUST then we listen and follow the ‘sensible’ recommendations/demands they make on us. The minute we hear that the any of these people are not trustworthy (and we hear it so often, sometimes with great justification!) then we stop listening, stop understanding, and stop complying … and fools that we can be, we often then stop doing what we ourselves know is best. We stop keeping physical distance and wearing masks and shields and washing/sanitizing our hands. The whole effort to flatten the curve collapses and the bodies start piling up. Real consequences for not listening and complying!
God wants us to listen … so to whom do we listen?
The root of Jesse will become, on that day (so it is not now), a signal for the people and people will seek him out.
Jesus is not just baptized. God’s voice comes from the heavens, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
These are written for us to read so that we might know to whom God would have us listen.
God would have us listen to the root of Jesse, Jesus, God’s own Son.
Listening to Jesus, gives us plenty of direction: love one another. With that we know we ought to help protect everyone from Covid 19. That’s a small part of loving others.
Wearing masks, shields, keeping physical distance, hand washing and sanitizing … and whatever else the scientists and chief medical officers recommend to us IS what we will DO, out of love.
Then for every in person visit we cannot make, we make a gracious, caring phone call. For every handshake we deny, we extend a warm, empathetic word. For every hug we cannot give, we extend words of clear, simple, unconditional love.
We can become more empathetic as a people, more caring, and more loving. Covid 19 is an opportunity for us to learn how … to listen to God and to those God sends to guide us forward.