Lent 2, March 17, Citizens

Paul:

Writing to the Philippians Paul says we are citizens of heaven. What is it for us to be such citizens; to be citizens of the Kingdom of God?

Acceptable Fast

On Ash Wednesday we heard the call to fast this Lent with a fast that God desires, a fast that is not for us. It is a fast that brings justice and freedom in the face of injustice and oppression. It is a fast that brings food and homes to those who hunger and are homeless. It is a fast that brings Christ’s forgiveness, redemption and love to those who need it most.

Christchurch

After the horrible slaughter in Christchurch NZ during prayers at two mosques we remember God’s special concern for immigrants and refugees.

What kind of a fast do we hold for the victims of terrorism who lost their lives in the mosques this past week, and for the people the world over who without warning ended up watching this horror, all of which was intended to spread terror? The terror message was clear, but we say every refugee, every immigrant, every Muslin will be safe everywhere in this God’s creation. What kind of a fast says “God promises us it is so! We trust it is so!”

How do we know God promises so? How can we trust God’s promises?

Lawyer: Contract Terms

To explain the ritual in our OT lesson of the flames passing between the halves of the sacrificed animals, a pastor provided this in a text study:

He was in a Lawyer’s office signing a contract. The other party asked, “What if one of us fails to keep the contract? Will that be bad?”

The lawyer, who’d also studied theology, responded, “Well, you can try to settle it between yourselves. Or one of you can sue the other to have the courts settle it. It’ll be a mess.

“But in ancient times before paper and long before signatures people sealed an agreement by walking between the halves of animals sacrificed, halved, and laid out for the ‘signing’ ritual. It meant that if either party who walked between the halves failed to uphold their end of the agreement, they therewith allowed the other to literally and bloodily render them as were the animals.

“It made carrying out one’s agreements serious, and deadly if you did not.” (TL in a text study.)

OT – God makes covenant

God makes the Covenant with Abram in today’s OT lesson. Only God, in the form of the flames, passes between the halved animals. God gives his life as surety that God will fulfill the promises of descendants and land. Abram is just a by-stander, a free recipient of the promises.

Baptism Covenant

God also makes a one-sided covenant with each of us. In our baptisms God promises us forgiveness for all our sins, frees us, and then calls us to be Christ’s followers on God’s way, to be Christ’s hands, voice and presence of grace for every other sinner we meet.

God sends the Holy Spirit to surround us with a community of sinner-saints, just like us. The community are those we see in this place and time, and so many more we cannot see. We are surrounded by and connected to all sinner-saints from ancient times to the present and into the future to the end of time.

Spring Change as Chronos Time

In the past week people have reported signs of spring: song birds sing, owls hoot, geese arrive back, bees are out buzzing looking for pollen.

Time passes and the seasons change. We can look at a calendar and know that it is just about right, it’s March and spring starts showing itself around Edmonton.

God’s Time

Most contracts have very clear timelines, deadlines. God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah have none. They forget this and things go awry.

Abraham, Sarah, and most of us expect God to work with us in what the Greeks called calendar time, or chronos. The Greeks had a word for the time that God works with, the time when things are done at the right time. They called it kairos; the moment when it was the right time for something. Whenever God says is the right time, that’s the right time.

Ab & Sarah Mess Up

This is not the first time God makes Abram a promise. Years had passed since the first time. In those long years Abram and Sarai had not trusted God to act in God’s time. They tried to help God in their own time. They took so many shortcuts, passing Sarah off as Abraham’s sister, blackmailing their victims; Sarah offers her slave Hagar to Abraham; and Ishmael is born.

Each shortcut results in terrible disasters for everyone. God assures them Abraham’s heir is not Ishmael, nor any other child born in the household.

But God takes God’s own time … until when Sarah is way too old and Abraham is as good as dead, they finally have a child, Isaac. Then Sarah puts Hagar and Ishmael out in the desert to die in the dry heat. God cares for both, they survive their severe hardships, and Ishmael’s descendants grow greater in number than Isaac’s. Today the spiritual descendants of Ishmael are Muslims who worship in mosques around the world.

Jesus to Jerusalem

In this morning’s Gospel, the fear-filled Pharisees warn Jesus to turn back, for Herod will kill him.

Jesus will not respond to fear. Herod will not stop him. On God’s time Jesus takes a long calendar time to get to Jerusalem. Along the way he heals, teaches, blesses children, restores the outsiders, liberates the captives and tells stories of God’s grace and unending love. Jesus knows his end and purpose is to redeem all of Creation with his death in Jerusalem.

The Way, The Journey

In the early decades after Christ, Jesus’ followers were not known as Christians, but as followers of the Way. Everything about following Jesus is always about how we make our journey through life.

As followers of the Way, promised by God that we are children of God and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus calls us, and the Holy Spirit equips us, to travel without either being driven by fear or using it against other people.

Together with the hosts of sinner-saints of all time we answer this call and participate in the fast that does not sacrifice others. Instead we take opportunities to heal, to bless children, to restore outsiders, to liberate the oppressed … and we tell stories of God’s grace and unending love.

There is no goal or end to our journey of following Christ. We practice following more faithfully season after season, year after year, waiting until God says that is enough practice, and God calls us home.

Marriage Counselling vs Fitness

That practice reminds me that marriage counselling has a 75% or higher failure rate. Partly because it looks intensely at why and how and raises awareness of how bad it is, how broken they are, how difficult healing is.

By comparison marriage fitness, rescues maybe no more marriages, but it rescues people.

The goal is not to reach marriage perfection, but to practice being the person you want to be with your beloved: to be loving by DOING loving things, thoughtful things, things that are wanted, actions that are real gifts to the other person, and to do these things on a very regular basis.

No guarantee is made this will save the marriage, but if it can be saved then maybe it’ll work. Regardless you will have become the person you want to be in a relationship. Along the way you will have learned that the process of being a loving person is what it is all about, not some ideal goal of a perfect relationship or expecting to find or train the perfect spouse.

CoG Fitness

As Children of God we also live with many other people and we bump up against each other in so many ways.

Like couples thinking that they need a perfect spouse or a perfect relationship in order to be in love with each other, Christians often, and Lutherans real often, behave as if they have to be perfect or rather that others in the congregation have to be perfect, or this has to be a perfect congregation and then God will bless us. … Not so!

God gives blessings for the journey that we make together.

Interim ministry: Practice is the Way

Each year counts, especially years of interim ministry. These are the years that we practice being the kind of people we want to be, the kind of Christians we want to be. And we keep it up, as a process until God calls us home.

About Time

About Time is a movie of men able to go back in time, and how, with great humour, different men in the family use and abuse this gift. The hero’s father has worked out that the real trick is to take life one day at a time, and then to go back and relive each day, with no fear, celebrating the little things, noticing how much you love people and love work and love play, … to immerse yourself fully in every moment with thanks and joy.

The hero does this and then takes it one step further. He chooses to never go back in time, but to enter each new day, as if it were the day relived for the joy of it. He savours each moment and person, each love and joy, and even each challenge and each of his failures … as precious.

This Lent, especially in response to events that could freeze us with fear, God calls us to live each precious day as the people we truly want to be. The Holy Spirit equips us to be citizens of heaven, God’s saints.

As we undertake fasts that bring justice and freedom, food and homes, and hope and safety to all who need them, we live assured of God’s promises. In God’s time all will be well.

During this interim the Holy Spirit inspires us to not waste even one day. We are on our way, practising being the saints God makes us sinners to be. This is God’s time, not our calendar time.

Sending

God’s promises are sure. The signs are everywhere if you look: the Holy Spirit is here inspiring us to see each day as God’s precious time, to be lived with thankful, joyful and hope-filled hearts as we practice being followers of the Way and citizens of heaven.

We are citizens of heaven.

Amen

It’s about TIME

It’s about TIME

The way to defeat evil is to live a good life.

A trip to friends brought us to a familiar, wonderful view out over the mountains.

Though our visiting took priority over getting high on the mountains until the sun was well up in the sky. The sunrise was less rise than rain fall. So we enjoyed the clear air clean of the wildfire smoke from the many BC fires. The clear mountain air.

A breath of fresh air as good as good friends: priceless.

And after a jaunt up we went down by the riverside to enjoy the flow of wonder,

As water roiled serenely reaching for the sea across the rocks.

 

The last outing I had was a while ago, when ice still held the water under wraps

Just nice.

 

and the moon stuck itself hidden in clear view over the ice.

 

The greatest marvel though was definitely the golden

Wonder of the setting sun spread through the warp and weave of this universe.

My mind

Full

Ness

of what may come.

Grace is the only aspect of life that brings real rewards.

Breathe ….

Time is always on the side of truth.

Goodness shines bright. Think. Live. Be courageous,

The truth will win out.

Time for Beauty

Time for Beauty

There is very little time left.

 

But Spring is setting in.

The snow starts to show colour.

So there is that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then

The snow returns with a vengeance

Layering everything at least a few inches

And the ground gains a quick 6 inch topping

Smothering the melted 6 inches from yesterday.

 

 

 

 

And as the sun sets leaving a clear sky the tidbits of the shore colour it just a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The details up close show the grand colours of the night with a few wisps crossing the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as the night moves in on us the moon shows up across from the sun set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That may be all.

Enjoy, Smile, and Hope.

Winter Fresh

Winter Fresh
11 April and we get a 4” dump of fresh fluffy soft powdery wonderful-for-skiing snow.
Now that’s a gift.
The view after sunset is quite something.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many ways to see the same thing.
It’s good to have choices.

Trees, Trees, Light, Water, Hope

Trees, Trees, Light, Water, Hope

That’s the spot, where the borrowed trailer sits for the nights, when for a few brief hours the sun sets and the coyotes howl and the rains … well they did not do anything, but the bugs invaded like the empire’s drones.

 

The marvel is the trees and trees and trees backlit by the sun and water reflections pouncing in upon one’s thoughts as if …

As if the forest of trees and under-bush had come alive to welcome one to the healing refuge of nature or to warn one of what the (2 legged) wildlife had planned for one.

Drawn to the light like moths to a candle the breathing of the light overpowers ones vision and capacity to see clearly what is in store … What will the process ahead entail?

Will Grace and Forgiveness win out, or will judgment and condemnation ruin the days and lives of so many?

It is much more difficult to see the simplicity of love which unconditionally takes in everything about the other, every nook and cranny of Scheißheit and still turns, to give so that it is as if the Schieße Idiotische Irrtümliche Freaking Blödheit simply was not. Not to demand anything, but to make, out of one’s own sacrifice, the reality that the other is acknowledged to have done exactly what is done, and yet the other is treated as if … as if it were not so. It is much more difficult to see the simplicity of love so far beyond the complexity of horrendous things done redeemed by one’s own sacrifice … this is so much more difficult than it is to take in the lies as excuses to create more lies of false condemnations. Girard saw it clearly; we like teenagers gather for mass attacks and derogation of a poor victim who has done nothing other than be, we even adults swarm upon the one selected as our collective victim and against all logic viciously ruin that one. And released of our mass hysteria hidden so well in our civility, we feel we’ve done right to end the stress and we return to peace. A peace more dangerous than outright war, for the real villain lies within us hidden and nearly undiscoverable, ready to direct us against yet another unaware victim.

It used to be women. Now we’ve become politically correct and we do it to men. Especially men who are honest about what they’ve suffered.

The light, on the far side of complexity is revealing that lives are at stake.

Even knowing all that we are still surprised by the light upon the water from which life arose and upon which life depends each day, even hour. This light dazzles us and charms us into forgetting.

Forgetting is not forgiving. Forgetting is to have plaque on the brain, or plaque on the heart, so that one lives in a fantasyland, as if things were somehow different than they are. Truth is each of us beyond hope, lost from any blessed acceptance by anyone who ultimately matters.

But if we do not forget, if we remember, if we remember not with the poignancy of the pain of the Scheißheit that has been done to us, but remember knowing that it does no longer determine one’s life, nor need to determine the other’s life, so we remember without feeling the pain still, but knowing then and now we choose to move into the next moment of the present moving into the past, to move with grace and acceptance, not of the Scheißheit, but of the lovely person who did it to us.

And that

That is not simple, it is not the complexity of reality good and evil, it is past all layers and webs of complexity of black holes and supernovas that destroy life, back into the blessed breath and wind that brings new life even to the ravages thought to be impossibly lost, dead and gone.

This Simplicity is the light of truth; harsh in what it reveals and delicately soft in how it reflects each of us to the other, as a slow waltz encapsulates the love of years, new this moment again.

And then the water, the water that gave and gives life beginning and sustenance. Water that surrounds the rocks that could and would destroy everything, including life itself, allowing the water to swallow what it gave birth to. Water that is the cooling best of a hot hot day, and here the relief of bugs biting literally sucking the essence of life out of us.

The water gives and sustains life …

But the light made visible in the clouds spanning the sky draw wonder from our burden laden hearts, until

Until we see the light

And seeing the light we see the clouds

And seeing the clouds we know the storm to come

And knowing the storm to come we breathe easy in our preparations and survival of the last storm of chaos.

And

Breathing easier for the last survived and the next prepared for we hope …

And hope

Hope

Hope is the spark of life without which we die, shrivelled up in apathy and disregard for the life of others.

Hope is the spark of love that saves us from the animal survival instincts that turn others into prey and ourselves into combatants that must win at all costs to whomever.

Hope, we see hope in the world, and we can breathe.

But it is the other, committed to love and life,

Forgiveness even through the possible future of forgetfulness of age,

To making the other’s strengths shine and their weakness compensated for, so that life is GOOD!

It is the beloved who honours life, not out of irrational fear, but out of hope in self and the beloved. Standing shoulder to shoulder, taking on the challenges of life even when they seem insurmountable, and hoping against hope that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things shall be well.

What Gets Your Goat?

What gets your goat?

A simple question: and the answer to this one is a short hike up a lonely hill with camera to watch, and find and shoot the goat … with the camera, of course.

What gets your goat?

Climbing a short and steep, well-travelled, but still deserted, hike out into the mountains, this goat just showed up over the top of the horizon hiding the expansive river valley behind her.

She posed, and then circled around me, closer with each step, not challenging me, but as if to show off, assured I was no danger, coming within a few yards of me.

What gets my goat is – people who circle around your life, playing with you, posing for the famous shot to get everything out of you they can even if that means you are left with nothing or worse, unable to survive. For it is all about their image and reputation; that someone must pay for their mistakes so that they can appear to be without blemish.

The walks that day and the next gave us wonderful views, and great photos of crocuses, a favourite ever since they used to grow up the hillside on our land, always a challenge to photograph well.

What gets my goat is –  people who take beauty, hard won and paid for with forgiveness and love, diligence and hope, based on trust and promises … and systematically destroy it so that it can never be found again, so that next spring, they just will not blossom for fear, real fear of what will happen next.

As I returned to the path, the goat already ahead of me across the path, she turned one last time to look, to inquire, to insure I was no danger, to pose, knowing if I was even half decent she’d have her photo immortalized.

For the short life of a goat leaves little in memorial.

What gets my goat is –  people who take all that is the memory of a person, and through manipulation, deceit and outright lies, trash it, so that there appears to be nothing left of the person, and instead the lies create a monster of that person, a lie, but one that is who people think they meet and deal with when they see this person.

A wise person, fictional but still wise, said that the one thing to ensure as you choose a spouse is that the person is kind.

What gets my goat is –  people who pretend to be kind, but try to kill you, and when that does not work ruin you, and blame you for what they are doing to you.

This person, no matter how you frame it, is wise and honest, loyal and hopeful, is above all things, kind and gracious. That makes for life that is beautiful.

It does not make life easy or simple or even guaranteed; but it does make for life that is beautiful.

What gets my goat is –  people who are very intelligent and persevere at making sure they win at everything no matter the cost to others, even children, people who guarantee only other people’s destruction.

This is simple beauty.

Simple on the far side of complexity, the complexity of emerging early, even as frost still haunts the nights, and snow easily falls; at an altitude that is though easily attained still not quickly, and then one must bend low in humility and peer as one normally and simply cannot between the grass blades that become obstacles or makers of a photo … and then to focus as focus cannot even be easily seen.

To know where the focus is, not outside but deep within.

What gets my goat is –  people who only see the world through a fully reductionist approach, discounting all the information of truth and reality until they can justify declaring lies to be truths, deception to be light, and the person abused and killed to be responsible for all the fallout. Experts who have the degrees and with the adeptness of a sociopath set out to declare imaginary things to be reality, who twist and turn love-and-trust-and-forgiveness-and-hope into accusations of delusion, to make whole and laudable people and efforts seem to be ugly; simply because they cannot see beyond the grass and twigs to focus on reality which is very beautiful.

 

The view up close …

What gets my goat is – people who do not see to the horizon and beyond, so they never know the reality that is skewed to create deceptions deadly.

The view less up close …

What gets my goat is – people who cannot change their perspective to see reality.

 

The view starting to look through the trees up close …

What gets my goat is – people who cannot see the trees for what they are, nor have the courage to look through to see the horizon. And worse, they think because they do not have the courage to even try to see past the trees, that others who do are either stupid, wrong, or insane.

The view looking through and past the trees up close …

What gets my goat is – people who do not know the beauty of the people up close and the crowds that make up the community and the world of grandeur. It may be unreachable and unfathomable but it can be seen and seen to be beautiful, even promising.

The view of the mountains framed by the trees up close …

What gets my goat is – when I cannot see the frame, nor the distant beauty.

 

The view of the distant mountains without losing touch with the trees up close …

What gets my goat is – people who cannot see what is up close, nor what is the context of what is close, who make what is up close into something it is not, and who ignore that is the environment. And they destroy everything trying to make sure they are determined to be right … even when they are so wrong.

There are lots of paths to follow, through the beauty of the trees, some paths deeply trodden and marked by wheels, others barely visible at all.

What gets my goat is – people who think that deceiving others into believing the well-trodden paths are the only paths to take, because true kindness, grace, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, love and promise are often barely chosen, or stuck to very long, for the brambles are high and thick on these seldom traversed paths.

The view, amidst the grass, of beauty emerging promising even more … and many promises not so obviously, more blossoms so tiny, yet emerging.

What gets my goat is … people who cannot see promise as hope, hope as the only guarantee to be trusted, and love as the only thing that has lasting value. Instead they crucify others trying to force hope, trust, and love from money, things or winning.

God save us … all.

Enjoy the view, relaxing in what is provided.

There is beauty even if people get my goat so commonly. People are beautiful, even though they are ugly mean at the same time.

Sky Dark but by North

The night is come swift
Leaving only the north
Cloud swathed and light twinged
Reminding us all of the persistence of
Trust
The basic building block of love
To hang out there
If not present powerfully
Then as wisps of remainder light
Enveloping even the deep darkest
Whole
Life lived so partially
Afraid to offend.
Bursting rather vivaciously
Through
The ragged
Cracks
To keep us ever northbound oriented
By
Grace
Dancing an easy waltz so elegant.
Begging
Hoping
Come dance.
… still…

April Skiing

April Skiing

Out on the flats, the spring snow covers what was bare most of the winter and the skiing is smooth, not so cold and wonderfully sunny.

Then the sky clouds over with billows and pillows and I’m without my camera.

 

The view is too large to capture, but with stitching it comes together, but the lines are evidence the cell phone is not up to the job of careful stitching.

Just to be sure of a somewhat good photo, the sky as much as possible is captured without stitching.

The sky, my dear the sky, is alive with all that can be.

It is only a few who are missing out on the joy.

Small towns, big ideas, great hopes, reality is narrow.

Simple Spring Snow

Simple Spring Snow
As the heavens poured out the white, winter, down-duvet-split-open-softness on to our heads and campsite and woods the colours and light danced so quietly
as my boots crunched, the water gurgled and Karin’s beer spray protected us all from invisible rye and malt humour.

So is the bed of peace and hope.

There are a few children missing, but nothing more than what is being done can be done. So pray with us, for us, for them.

 

There are views of life that are so subtly similar, yet a step to the right, left or ahead provide a completely different perspective, seeing in through the cracks that are in everything the light that is Grace and Hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trees, alive with light on the walk out of the warmth into the wilderness.

 

 

Water the source of life, the wonder of life, the beauty of life. Green. Why?

Not because it’s cold, but because it is not cold enough to keep the glaciers from melting.

 

Glowing, white streams in the green of gorgeous. Can you see it here, too?

 

The River looking onto it from various points, perspective that changes light and subject, all the same yet completely different.

 

Turtles, of the snacking kind were at the table the night before, and here they appear again, a bit molded and quiet, looking not to be eaten anymore.

 

The soft look of fallen snow and fog on the mountains beyond the river.

 

Rocks … below and …

Rocks below … and …

 

Rocks beyond …

 

The River Upstream

 

Turning 180°

 

More turtles and …

 

Rocks and …

 

Rocks and …

 

Rocks and …

 

 

 

Rocks … until …

 

There are no more rocks in view as one looks downstream to Pyramid Mountain.

 

The path back to coffee and breakfast.

 

 

As the snow hangs tight but loosened by melting, waffles wait with syrup from trees and butter enough.

 

The light and the drips of water frozen in place the evening before.

 

 

The Pine trees up-close, frozen mid-drip.

 

 


The victory.