Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Words of Grace For Today
If life is a zero-sum ‘game’, then the goal is to get ahead by whatever means, destroying as many enemies and people who get in your way.
With the earth overburdened with nearly 9 billion people, we are pressing the limits of what the earth can sustain, with our ‘great’ life style, comforts, and luxuries. It is the generations old solution to compete for the ‘limited resources’, and to ‘take no prisoners’ along the way.
We humans thus reduce life to a zero-sum ‘game’, a project of limited resources which each person or family or nation needs to seek to gain for themselves before others do, or to take them from others if they have the resource you want.
It is hard to imagine in this zero sum ‘game’ that anyone will stop to bear the sins of the many and make intercession for the transgressors, or bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you.
Since God did not create life to be a zero sum ‘game’, rather that life is abundant for all if all share what is available, it is obvious that we will bless those who curse us, and pray for our abusers and the transgressors.
Life is a project of being grateful.
God has provided plenty … for everyone,
Life is not sustained by things, consumables, resources, comforts, or possessing more than others, or enjoying luxuries.
Life is sustained in being God’s blessings for others.
That changes the colour of life from a zero sum ‘game’ to a ‘game’ of giving to others what they need in order to have an abundant life (which is not the same as a life of comfort or luxury).
We get to celebrate all God’s blessings for all people, even those who curse us for not playing their ‘game’.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
1 Peter 3:18
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.
Words of Grace For Today
God’s judgments are in all the earth and the judgments God makes is –
that God will sacrifice himself, even to death on a torturous cross, in order to give us life abundant.
Usually we think of judgments as condemning the unrighteous and commending the righteous. This is not God’s way with us.
Good thing because, if we acknowledge the truth, we are all unrighteous and worthy only of being condemned.
This day we remember that Jesus, fully God, lay dead in a tomb hewn out of a rock hillside.
God was dead.
This is what we unrighteous people deserve, yet fully righteous Jesus suffers our deserved ends.
The universe did not fully know then, and we can hardly full know now, the profound event of God being dead, of God suffering death and a torturous death at that, and of unjust humans exercising their petty power to condemn God to death.
This we remember for three days, or part thereof, and this Saturday all day long.
We remember, with grateful hearts, for without this sacrifice we would likely not know God’s intentions towards us unrighteous people. God’s intentions are …
Well the story of God communicating to us through Jesus, fully God and fully human, does not end on this day. It continues tomorrow, and each tomorrow … even during Covid 19 pandemic’s challenges.
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always continue in the fear of the Lord.
Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
Words of Grace For Today
Those who want more, demand more, comforts in life will always take short cuts and dishonest paths to get more, tramping down others to get and get and get … for such wants are never satisfied but always want yet another and another and another. It is a hellish way to live.
Reminds me of the fisher’s wife who always wanted more.
The fisher meets a magical fish who grants his wishes, as he repeats more and more his wife’s wish to have more than their humble fishing cottage, which becomes a mansion, then a palace, then a ruler’s grand house, the pope’s cathedral …
until she wishes to be God and live in God’s house
and he returns from that last visit to the magical fish to find his wife living happily (or not) in their original humble fishing cottage by the sea.
We are to continue to fear God, know our place, live everyday filled with gratitude for all we have, and work hard to provide others what they need to enjoy an abundant life (as God provides us). We start by forgiving them their sins (as God has forgiven us – when we did not know what we were/are doing.)
It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
When he has found [the lost sheep], he lays [the reckless, cantankerous, wandering-into-danger sheep] on his shoulders and rejoices.
Words of Grace For Today
Today so many people make up their religion from what they find available around them, as if it were all on a smorgasbord, all-you-can-eat for one small price.
They pick a little of this, and little of that, pile into their lives and try to make it through the day. Their smorgasbord is not certified or health inspected, nor governed by any safety measures. It contains delicious looking poisons, some that work fast, some that work slow, some that only work as death approaches from some other cause.
I met an older man when I was on 4 different medications and a regular injections just to make it through the day. He told me his story when he saw me take one pill. Years before he had a small health problem, went to the doctor and was prescribed a powerful medicine to deal with the issue. Then after months he developed a more serious issue, went to the same doctor and again received a script for medication to deal with that issue. In a few months he had three other rather debilitating issues including that he could not sleep through the night. More medications and a referral to a sleep clinic and thousands of dollars later he went to sleep with a breathing machine on his face. The first mask had eaten into his nose creating a sore that just would not heal, so he had to pay hundreds of dollars to get a different larger mask that covered most of his face. The sore took months to heal and left a noticeable scar.
One day, four years after his first minor issue, he got up and went out to repair a fence. It was rather simple manual work. Before this all started he did this kind of thing easily. Now he could barely gather the tools and supplies together. He made two slow trips to get the tools and supplies to the fence where it needed repairing. He spent hours to get the simple repair done that should have taken less than a half hour. Finally toward supper he came back into the yard, completely exhausted. He left his things for the next day to be put away and shed his jacket and boots as he came in and barely made it to his bed to lay down.
The next morning he woke up famished. His last meal was the morning the day before. He had not used his sleeping machine, he’d forgotten to take his medications. He felt better. He realized that while taking his medications and using the sleeping machine he felt ten times worse then he had with the first minor issue he went to the doctor to have dealt with years earlier. He stopped taking all the medications and using the sleeping machine.
Each day he felt noticeably better. A week later he went out to repair another area of the fence and it took him a half hour. Then he went online to the Mayo Clinic website and read about his first symptom, the medications he added each few months and their side effects. He realized that the first symptom could be dealt with by a change in diet and more exercise on a very regular basis. All the other symptoms were known side effects for the medications, each as they were added, at least for the first 4 drugs. Then it became clear to him he’d been on such a soup of drugs his body was completely incapable of dealing with all the powerful effects and side effects and it had started to slowly shut down.
His last comment finally caught my attention: he’d talked to a number of men who’d suffered the same thing. It was as if doctors were trying to incapacitate men with medications.
It took me a few months to realize the same thing had been done to me. I stopped taking all but the one medication I’d been on for decades that I needed for my GERDS. Life returned to normal and I started to realize I was also being abused and gaslit by my now ex.
As in the days of old, God gathered in this wandering sheep, carried me back to the flock, and saved my life, literally and figuratively. For this I give God thanks each day, and pray for those that tried to do me in, and still try to this day. May God gather them into the flock, as in the days of old.
Faith and one’s faith community is not a smorgasbord, any more than medications are a smorgasbord to pick and choose from. Traditions develop and continue because they provide a healthy manner of living. Humans continually mess up the traditions, and the traditions, at least my Lutheran Christian tradition, is well prepared to face such challenges and call us back to rely on …
to rely on God alone, and God’s Grace for us as the only thing that saves us. We need one thing, something like I needed only one medication. We require God’s Grace. Everything else only appears to provide us life abundant. In fact the ‘side effects’ of most religious self-made conglomerations is that one finds oneself out in the wilderness, defenceless as the wolves come closer and closer.
Thanks be to God, for God’s Grace, made known to us through Jesus’s old, old story.
As of old, God walks with us, and rejoices when we return to the flock after we inevitably stray into danger that could do us in. Our enemies, and God’s enemies, may want us dead and work hard to accomplish that, doch God works wonders to save us, and there is joy for us, because of God’s Grace, all the days of our lives.
‘So perish all your enemies, O Lord! But may your friends be like the sun as it rises in its might.’ And the land had rest for forty years.
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.
Words of Grace For Today
God creates order for all of creation … and for us.
Peace and rest come only when God’s order prevails.
From a very limited human perspective it may seem that when one’s enemies perish and one’s friends rise like the sun with might, then God’s good order prevails. Thus the passage that when one’s enemies have perished and when the sun rises on one’s friends the land can rest for as long as it takes … for forty years.
Reality is different: God’s will does not eliminate enemies by making them perish. God’s will eliminates enemies by converting them to friends. And that is the key to celebrating God’s love for us, to know that God does not wish us ill. God does everything to offer us the greatest thing, God adopts us as children even when we are yet still God’s enemies.
It is everything that God wishes us well. God breathes the essence and the best of life into us, and through us to the rest of all people and all creation.
It is God’s unconditional love for us that drives us to answer God’s call to follow Jesus. Just as in this pandemic we really do not know what will come next, so we know not where Jesus will ask us to follow. We do know from his ministry that Jesus does not overthrow governments, neither does Jesus take us into retreat from the world. Jesus takes us out into the world to meet people with diseases to heal them, with demons to free them, and with doubts to reassure them of God’s good will to all of creation.
It is for us no more a tried and true path that Jesus (also during this pandemic) calls us to follow him on than it was for the fishermen near Capernaum. The path we tread, though full of challenges, is an exciting life. It is life as we were created and redeemed to live.
Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Words of Grace For Today
In the dead-cold of winter (so mild before this week, but no longer at all mild at -36⁰C) a bit of fire is a welcome thing. Vented, directed, contained with plenty of snow at shovel length to put out anything that approaches too much fire, the heat of fire meets the bleeping cold air and provides a livable space.
Most people in homes enjoy the balance of fire against cold as a product of natural gas ignited in a furnace with the heat distributed to the rest of the home by electricity (either an air fan or a water pump.)
There are cautionary tales to be told or rather seen: the house that one day is an example of a grand house on a hill in the woods, and the next a scarred roof line behind an untouched facade, which on closer viewing displays the chimney standing on it’s own with the building around it on the side and back of what used to be a house, missing and what is visible is jagged and charred. A chimney fire it seems consumed a home, hopefully without loss of life. The 5th wheel RV appears setup along side the remains of the house for the remainder of the winter, spring and summer, with the dogs running outside as they usually had.
One sees on the news videos of thick smoke and vehicles making their collective and slow exit out of Fort McMurray as wildfires wipe out huge areas of the city.
One sees the photos of a railroad accident fire that has burst and melted rail cars and rails themselves.
It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others. Not every life can be a success, just like not every vessel can be seaworthy. But there’s no shame in being one spectacular shipwreck.
God’s Word is like all that, taking what is evil in the world, what is evil and sinful in us, and burning it up like chaff ….
Ah, what a fire that will be!
God’s Word always is a two edged sword, cutting away evil, also from us, among us, and from within each of us!
The Word of God cleanses with fire, and what a fire it is already in us!
The Word of God cuts away and burns away our sin and evil, and cleanses us, pure and righteous! By Grace we live through the cleansing fire.
God provides more than an RV replacement for a home. God provides us a home in the New Jerusalem, the City of God, the New Creation.
For some of us so connected to nature in our existence God provides that we need not move into a city; God provides a home in the wilds of nature’s wonders and beauty.
God’s cleansing fire that Jesus brings is destructive, powerful and wonderfully just. We pray it will be kindled soon among us. We pray the hammer of God will break apart Evil from within us and from among us, so that all will have homes, all will have food, all will have a good life, an abundant life!
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”
Words of Grace For Today
Who do we follow?
Can we follow others …
into the ways of the Devil?
on the way of Jesus?
So much is made, to great detriment, of ‘the woman’ seeing the forbidden tree was good for food, eating first, then offering her husband the same.
Truth is, as every honest person knows, men and women alike are as easily and as likely to see forbidden fruit as something they desire, must have, and for which they do great evil things to acquire.
Every day, each of us, needs a Word, whether from our memories or renewed, currently spoken to us, … a Word that creates faith in us such that we can resist temptation to pursue life for ourselves (to the great detriment of many others).
That Word does not come from anyone, anywhere, at any time, other than from God. And God’s Word must be spoken, written or communicated (through events, dance, music or something similar) by other humans. It is a paradox: only God’s Word can save us; only another human can provide that Word for us.
Thank God, God’s Kingdom is at hand, and God’s Word is given freely for anyone who is inspired by the Spirit to provide it to others.
In this time of pandemic, now in it’s tenth month of restrictions for us, we need this Word … to inspire us not to listen to the words of discouragement, of resignation, and especially of lies … as if ignoring the danger with reckless behaviour can save any of us.
Yet covidiots spring up everywhere, sometimes even in us.
Only the Word that gives us breath and life, joy and meaning, love and hope can save us from the Devil’s temptations if not to participate in covidiot behaviours, then to ridicule and complain about those who do.
Thankfully we are not led by blind men or blind women. We are led by Jesus, who has vision to see God as we are unable.
We can approach each day with confidence that God feeds us all we require for abundant life … there is no need to go searching for fruit from the forbidden tree, or even the forbidden tree. Thankfully God provides those who can provide God’s Word to us, and even use us to provide God’s Word to others. Covid 19 has given us even greater opportunities to shared God’s Word.
Be of good courage. There’s much good to be done each day.
I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Words of Grace For Today
Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you!
At first glance it looks like we get carte blanch requests; our every wish will be fulfilled!
That result flows from an equation that starts from life only as we might presume to know it, that everything about us is chosen and determined by ourselves or others working against us. In this setting God (supposedly) promises that our every wish can bring us fulfillment and life abundant.
That is not the start of the equation for God’s promise that all our wishes will be fulfilled.
The promise flows from blessed life as God created us to be alive: the ‘equation starts’ with a life of seeking to understand God’s Word, God’s precepts.
The ‘equation starts’ start with us abiding in Jesus, God’s Word of life.
That of course sounds like we need to earn our way into God’s favour and blessings.
Yet, we know very well that we cannot earn God’s favour and blessings, God promises us them first, as free gift.
Given God’s favour and blessings, we then can choose to respond with gratitude, and that is us abiding in God’s Word.
Full of gratitude, abiding in God’s Word, our wishes are not the same as when life is lived as if we or others determined everything about our lives.
Instead our wishes flow in line with God’s good will for us …
and then of course, all our wishes, being God’s wishes for us, will be done for us!
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.