Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 4

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Mirroring God’s Goodness with our lives in the weeds.

God’s Yes

Our amen in the weeds.

Leviticus 26:9

Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

2 Corinthians 1:20

For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.

Words of Grace For Today

Understanding to learn God’s commandments is a child’s first step in following Jesus. Next the difficult part comes in following the commandments. The ten commandments are a beginning to what following Jesus’ commandments (to love God, self, others and even ones’ enemies) are all about.

Love is a life long challenge that is worth every bit of energy and time we put into it.

We are only able to follow through because God promises to love us, accept us, forgive us, and set us on a path to follow the Holy Spirit guiding us to do God’s will.

God’s promises are always Yes to life according to God’s will.

Trusting God we can put an amen ready on our lips for every occasion.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 22

Friday, May 22, 2020

Grass is Green -er

Trees and Grass are Green

Fog is grey.

People come in Genders.

Colour or Gender

do not

Determine Sinfulness

nor

Criminality.

Goodness is Fully Dependent on God’s Grace!

Jeremiah 31:20

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore I am deeply moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.

Luke 15:20

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Words of Grace For Today

Ephraim is in trouble often with God, for God speaks often against him.

The selfish son is in trouble, deeply with his father, for he’s taken his inheritance before his father is even close to the end of his life. Then he’s squandered the entire inheritance.

That sounds like it’s not far from our own stories, each of ours. We take what we can claim as ours and run, and get into trouble, with our fathers, with God, – with our mothers, siblings, extended families, the community we live in, the church … and with God all over again. There are a great number of variations to the story, and every single one of us can be described by one variation or another.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is – well first a few thoughts about God as father. The image of God as father in itself is a very healthy image, one to embrace with profound joy. There’s nothing quite like the goodness of a father directed at us, loving, forgiving, accepting and inspiring us to live even better than we thought we could.

The damage done by the image of God as father is not in the image itself. It is in the abuse of positions of power occupied by men for centuries. Every good thing can be perverted. This is no exception.

The problem comes when we toss the baby out with the dirty bath water.

The abuse needs to be identified, clearly named and condemned … and ended.

The problem comes when we stupidly think that the abuse of the image of God as father is somehow made better when we replace it with abuse of the image of God as mother.

The problems multiply astronomically when we think that naming men as the problem, while ignoring the same kind of abuse, perversions, and destruction is perpetrated by women. The flavours, smells, and theme of the abuse and perversions can sometimes be collated to the gender of the abuser, but it’s just superficial.

Point blank: men abuse women. AND women abuse men. AND men abuse men. AND women abuse women. AND … God knows this all. So should everyone of us.

AND all of it is evil, and needs to be stopped. ALL abuse when it runs without restraint ends up killing it’s victims (and often the perpetrators, too.) A person is just as dead if they are murdered by physical violence as when they are driven to despair with no escape except suicide.

ME-TOO is all wrong, in that it only deals with one flavour of abuse, and ignores the rest. It is perhaps more destructive in that it sets so many people up to think that abuse is dealt with … so that the rest of it can continue unabated, the victims abandoned, the deaths unnoticed and uncounted.

The bishop last year said that we (this synod) are just starting to recognize and work on the issues of women being treated equally.

I spoke up, as I was able: some of us have been working on that for more than three decades, with everything we are, as men making sure the women in our lives get every opportunity possible and a fair deal (as much as possible.) It’s taken great sacrifice, and we’ve been sidelined often as irrelevant, our contributions raising children with great skill, grace and success belittled, and our words of giving attention to all issues of abuse ridiculed.

The challenge now is to acknowledge all kinds of abuse, by men and women, of men and women. To look at the root of it all: the need to scapegoat others as a means to advancing ourselves in life.

Back to the passages that speak profoundly of God’s unconditional acceptance of sinful sons. The translation to God’s unconditional acceptance of daughters needs be imagined, added to these stories. The stories though are powerful.

Who is your God? Not the God you say you believe in, but the God that your thoughts, words and actions belie you trust and believe in! Who is the God you live your life in response to?

Is your life a reflection of God, the universally, unconditionally accepting and forgiving father who, of a wayward son, says “I will surely have mercy on him!”

Does your life reflect the God who is portrayed in Jesus’ story as the prodigal father, who seeing his self-destructive, wasteful, wanton son approach, “filled with compassion runs and put his arms around him and kisses him?”

How marvellous it is to read these passages and know that God welcomes us, even when we have rebelled and wasted our lives and those around us!

The challenge is now:

Are we ready to be that welcoming father for all those people who have walked away from Grace and Goodness, and now desperately need a morsel of what we have in order to survive? Can we imagine being that overjoyed in welcoming back our wayward sons, daughters, parents, extended family, community members, church members, others known and strangers, even refugees and immigrants … and even those of other faiths or of no faith at all?

As we are able to do that, en-mass, then abuse, perversions and destruction of people will finally be dealt with in a manner so that they can be ended.

And all of us will be able to joyously embrace images of God as father, as mother, as Jesus the man, and as the Holy Spirit, wind, breath, and fire – lighting one under us to get on with the work of God’s Kingdom here and now.

Ah, what makes that all possible is that our God is a God of compassion and mercy, who rushes to greet us when we return to him!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 17

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rutted Ways Ahead

Lost in the Ice

Canoe Ready

or Set in the Comfortable and Familiar

The Challenge to be

Who we are is Constant

1 Kings 8:58

Incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors.

Colossians 2:6-7

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Words of Grace For Today

There are so many things to do to discipline oneself to live well.

The challenges are never ending, sometimes overwhelming, other times simple. Life without challenges is not life. The questions constantly before us are:

A. Who are we?

B. Whose are we?

Every other question is subsumed into these, and the answers we give to every other question with our living (thinking, dreaming, planning, organizing, talking, writing, and doing – or not) are also the answer to these two questions.

Once we realize and confess that we are

A. wretched sinners saved by Grace alone (not by anything we do/not do/are/aren’t), transformed continually to be Saints, and

B. God’s people by baptism into Christ,

Then we have our work cut out for us to live out the promise God creates us to be for other people: That we will bear God’s Grace and the Good News of Jesus’ saving us all, also them.

So we continue to live our lives rooted and built up in Christ, as we are established in faith.

We incline our hearts to God walking in Christ’s Way, keeping his commandments to love our neighbour and ourselves and our enemies as he has loved us.

And, as the saints in light who have gone before us have taught us, we live with overflowing gratitude.

Covid 19 has put somethings in perspective, slowed us down, kept us home, given us time to see ourselves and our families up close for hours on end, or to submerse ourselves in solitude (for those of us who live alone.)

The challenges are still great, and they tax us in new ways, and they give us new opportunities to discover who we are, and whose we are.

For this we give thanks!

The Fog of Life

Makes the Light of Christ

Visible

We Reflect God’s Perfection Imperfectly

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 7

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Daffodile

A Rose by any name is still a Rose

even if we have a daffodile

Nehemiah 9:17

You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.

2 Timothy 2:13

If we are faithless, God remains faithful – for God cannot deny Godself.

Words of Grace For Today

God is often seen (as God is reflected often in Scripture) as a wrathful, judging, and destroying God … God who we need fear, obey, and worship.

Amidst this rough view of God, a reflection of our image of ourselves on to God, these words of God’s character repeat often in scripture:

God is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

These words are taken up into our liturgy. We repeat them Sunday after Sunday (perhaps not every Sunday if our congregation uses many of the liturgies available to keep our hearts and minds freshly engaged by the Word, also the Word in liturgies.) That is one of the benefits of liturgies moulded for centuries on scripture, repeated and repeated and repeated … the words are so familiar that we know them as our Good Shepherd’s voice for us!

This promise of God is … amazing!

It is filled with that amazing grace that saves wretches like us!

We all need forgiveness, from God and countless other people. We need God to be gracious and merciful to us, to be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

As God is to us, God creates us, Jesus calls us, and the Holy Spirit equips and inspires us to be to all other people:

forgiving,

gracious and merciful,

slow to anger,

and abounding in steadfast love!

Even when we no longer have even a tiny trace of faith or hope or love or mercy or grace or forgiveness in us, (due to whatever Evil or stress, even Covid 19 and it’s side effects on us all) God is still faithful.

God is still faithful!

God remains always faithful to even the most terrible wretches, like us.

God is always faithful,

simply because that is who God is!

wild rose

A Rose

2020 Apr 11 How to Grow During Covid 19

The Un-Secrets to Ministry Growth During Covid 19

The Word, the Light.

The Light is Glorious! Do you see?

Do you want the Word, Jesus Christ, to reach more and more people?

Do you want to grow the body of Christ, to share the Good News with new people, to provide ministry to more people than you have before?

Most pastors and leaders of congregations would say, Yes?

But are you willing to get the things done to make that happen?

Most pastors and leaders would say yes, but …. And then not do what is necessary.

So what if Covid 19 has shut down gatherings, including worship services. Our hearts and brains still live on, right?

Why is Covid 19 not an opportunity to reach more people?

It is easier to get someone to ‘participate in’, to ‘visit’, or to ‘try out’ a church on line than in person. So why are the churches not capitalizing on that?

Yes, some are putting together online worship opportunities, so severely limited by the brick and mortar model of worship, that it’s painful to watch the results, but then worship in person has often been that, too. No wonder memberships decline. Or worse is for it all to become an entertainment hour where the real Word of God is hardly a bother.

Assets

Intentional Interim Ministry teaches (as many elsewhere, too) that the way to grow a church is to build on the church’s assets, on your own assets.

Trinity’s Music as a good start

Look at Trinity Lutheran Church’s worship offered via a link from their website http://www.trinity-lutheran.ab.ca/ to Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIBh_NH2X34&feature=youtu.be#t=0s

Prelude & Postlude

Among Trinity’s assets are it has a cathedral style building with a pipe organ, and an organist in Cherie Larson who knows how to make it ‘sing’, and other musicians who contribute at a very professional level to enliven worship with profoundly meaningful music.

Trinity also tapped someone who is a professional quality photographer and a video editor to create an entrance/prelude collage and exit/postlude collage of photos, set to music which is an excellent experience to take in on Youtube (better than actually entering the brick and mortar building!)

So far, so good!

Hymns

Then for hymns for the worship service, the music (from the hymnal?) with words and musical notes are presented on the screen while the music is professionally produced for the audio track, also a joy to experience. It is as good as if one is there in person (almost – since other congregants voices are missing – but one hardly notices that lack since it is still terrific to experience as it is done.) No two hymns are presented in the same way. Different instruments and voice-collections are used for each hymn. Nothing is merely good enough and then boringly the same. Always a variety brings out the best in the music of the hymn presented, reflecting the content of the hymn in the best possible way.

So far, getting better.

The rest of Trinity’s worship can be skipped over so as not to detract from the worship experience. But read on to how easy it would be to make all profoundly wondrous.

God’s House?

The Body of Christ, the Church is not made of Brick and Mortar or Wood

So what’s missing?

Missing are liturgy, scripture readings, sermon and prayers that reflect the Good News they are intended to be, instead of half efforts to fulfill an obligation whatever that is.

Readings and Words spoken need to sing!

Readings of the biblical texts for the day, can be read with heart, clarity and meaning that convey the content of the lessons. Why present worship without scripture, and scripture presented like it truly is God’s Word to us, in all its glory.

Liturgy can easily be presented, like the hymns, so that one can participate. Again reflecting God’s Word to us in all its glory.

A sermon ought memorably reflects the lessons of the day, the news of the day, and God’s life-giving Word meeting us in our sinful/God-made saintly lives. It is not that difficult to present a sermon in a manner that makes it as profound an experience as the entrance/prelude or the hymns. Of course a sermon ought to reflect the theology of the cross, of grace, and of hope that inspired us to become pastors in the first place.

Other worship material can also easily be presented so that people can participate (like the hymns are presented to be participated in.)

How come these other pieces of the worship are not as good as the music? It’s not because they cannot be. I’ve experienced them at Trinity to be as good, and not. And at a great number of other churches, both as tremendously good and woefully poor. What is it anyway that we fail to be inspired (inwardly animated to engage in the profound in-breaking of the divine in our life at that moment) leading worship, as Pastors and as lay people?

So what could be done?

This is not just for Trinity, but for every congregation out there that dares to ask, how can we reach and minister to and provide care for even more people, especially during this crisis?

What are your assets?

Can someone do music well for the congregation?

Can someone do photography well for the congregation?

Can someone do video editing well for the congregation?

Can you do your own great version of Trinity’s Prelude/Postlude?

Note: the photography for all the photos throughout the service cannot be just pictures; Trinity’s are professional photos taken with great care to present what is there with the best light, composition, and tone! That is not simple or easy to reduplicate. But if you want to do this well, good photography is a minimum!

Note: the music is not just any music played sort of well. It is the right music for the season, for the experience of entering worship. That is not simple or easy to reduplicate. But if you want to do this well, good music is a minimum!

What to do to make this worship profound through the whole service?

What could make the ‘talking head’ sections of worship not just better but profoundly inspiring to experience?

How about the best lighting, composition, and tone set up for the recording of the Pastor/Readers?

How about putting the Pastor – even a still photo (especially if you cannot figure out good photography while recording video of the readings)- standing at the altar, or at the lectern or in the pulpit as is appropriate?

How about not presenting the Pastor sitting?

How about not presenting the ‘talking head’ throughout the section being presented?

How about starting with the live/still Pastor/Reader photos/videos, and then on top of the continuing audio using photos or video that reflect the meaning of the audio beneath?

Or animated [Lego] for the children? See https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1721092675775 and for the back story: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/lego-video-coronavirus-1.5524282

The Path

The Path Before Us May be Difficult

What not to do?

Do not present amateur photos or video or audio. Make it better than just good. Make it profoundly good!

Every human is a precious person, created in God’s image.

There is no human face that cannot be photographed to be engaging!

So do not present photos or videos that present any presenter (Pastor or lay) as washed out, greyed out, or old and tired.

Plain words are better than bad photos of the reader!

Same goes for voices! Remember, these voices carry the Word of God. Do not present almost dead, hard to hear, or confused voices. They ought to be professionally-played-on-a-pipe-organ music to one’s ears, heart, and soul! (Pastors: if you do not know how to do this then now is finally the opportunity to learn. Start with understanding the words and the Word they proclaim! The words ought to stir your spirit when you say them! Edit and practice saying them until they do!)

What is required to do this (much, so far)?

Equipment (computer and software) to record music.

Equipment (computer and software) to record ‘talking heads’.

A good [cell] camera, computer and software to produce the photos.

Equipment (computer and software) to edit video

A photographer.

A videographer. (these may be the same person, even one of the readers, pastors, or musicians.)

A website with Youtube posting or link capabilities.

A Youtube account.

Musicians, Pastor, Readers,

The Holy Spirit – is already ready to inspire everyone!

The Online Worship Results

So the worship experience on the church’s website is as terrific as it can be, worth participating in, something anyone would be proud to provide the link to, to anyone.

It’s all good enough to go viral and (not be an embarrassment to anyone, rather it would) make everyone proud to be part of the effort!

Now What? ‘Shoe Leather’ is Required

Now What!?

Now it’s the same as a mission church: share the good news.

Distribute hard copy invitations to be distributed (carefully protected as VIRUS CLEAN – state on the papers what precautions are taken to ensure the papers are CLEAN!)

Distribute them to members at home (lots of driving, but get it done, at least once!) Think about distributing already consecrated elements at the same time, in quantity to last a few months for all bound to the limits of home.

Give members multiple copies of the invite and encourage them to make more copies or ask for more if they need them.

Ask them to share the invitations with everyone they know, and anyone who is lonely! That’s a whole lot of people now!

In the neighbourhood around the church, hit the pavement with many persons working alone, putting the invitations in mailboxes -careful to be virus clean!

Why now?!

Because we can!

Because it’s God’s Word!

Because people are more in need of some contact, and open to responding to invitations online and have time to respond!

Because people are hurting, and hurting people are the people the church (historically, if not your church) cares about, and cares for!

Because it is why we live and breathe!

Because the hard work is rent for the air we breathe!

Do you want your congregation to grow, or it’s ministry to reach more people!?

Answer with your actions.

Chop Chop

Chop Chop, there’s work to be done!

Comments are welcome back to

shm AT prwebs DOT

Rev. Tim Lofstrom

Who am I? I know whose I am and who I am, but maybe you do not. I am:

Photographer, writer, blogger, and erstwhile Euphonium player and student of music.

B.A. summa cum laude from Concordia with CREDO honors, M.Div. from Yale, one year scholarship at Justus Liebig Universität, and 16 years parish experience spread over 4 decades, spouse to a parish pastor for over 3 decades.

Also commercial pilot; stay at home father; instructor at community colleges for computers; bookkeeping, photography; MCSE (NT4), ran a computer business for 8 years; and built a house with my own hands after retiring in my 40’s as a pastor in order to pull my pension as seed money for a home for my family.

Now: homeless, my reputation ruined thorough gaslighting even as I did laudably also for children, still creating photos, writing, and celebrating the Eucharist to remember who I am in the face of who people lie to say I am other.

http://www.prwebs.com/

Truth, How About You?

The Cost

“Everything has a cost, even the truth.

The Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a tent, my clothes and a bicycle.

The Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a tent, my clothes and a bicycle.

The Reward

But the reward for truth is a clear eye and a clear conscience.”

Clear eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.

Clear eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.

The True Work of Justice

“It is as important to exonerate an innocent person as to convict a guilty person.”

Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity

Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity

I have a clear eye and clear conscience.

So many who’ve had the chance have not paid any price for truth. It is a party where they imbibe the intoxicating evil of false power based on the Devil’s seductions, drunk so deeply in order to ignore the truth.

I do not see good people working for justice to exonerate the innocent, myself included. Like hundreds of thousands others, I see good people become evil, working to convict the innocent like me, a kind, generous, man of great integrity, an excellent stay at home father.

The long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the wonderful light.

The long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the wonderful light.

It’s colour that plays with the light.

It’s colour that plays with the light.

Rest in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted without just cause.

Rest in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted without just cause.

But woe to those who unjustly persecute the innocent. For God judges without rules of evidence or games of cover-ups possible. God judges the reality of one’s life and actions. There is no hiding possible for evil. There is no negotiating for something other than actual reality, for that is what God sees and judges. Entrance to blessing never comes with Spin or Cover-up, or declaring something to be other than it is.

In this life, our challenge is to not become like the persecutors, not to become vengeful and vindictive … but to remain, trusting God’s promises and quiet blessings each day, … to remain fully alive with grace.

As for me and my non-existent household, unjustly taken from me thrice, I and the Holy Spirit, we choose to live only by Grace.

How about you?

Today?

Will this be the day of our double victory?

Joyous Homecoming

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51:1-10
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

We want it Simple, But life is messy

We really do like it simple: we want everything black and white, either Good or Evil. There are good people and there are evil people. We are the good people. They are the evil people. God chooses us, not them. But life is much messier than that. We are all simultaneously God-made saints and self-made sinners.

We are all sinners

Bill of AA

In the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous, at many meetings a comfortably dressed and well-groomed man would enter, not as a person of importance expecting special respect and appreciation. He never even sat in the front with the regulars. Instead he would choose the back, the place where someone new was likely to be sitting – someone with the shakes –someone with an odour that he recognized. He knew that odour. He could find it in the back of his own closet at home. Reminded how he was once right there dying with that smell, he loved that man.

When the time came he would stand and introduce himself like everyone else at the meeting. “Hello. My name is Bill, and I’m an alcoholic.”
He did not add that he was one of the co-founders of AA.

The back of our Closets

We all have ugly skeletons in the back of our closets that remind us how broken we really are. It is not easy to acknowledge what’s in the back of our closets, so we often say in confession: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

The important truth is that we are self-made sinners.

Do we have to make it to God,
Or does God come to rescue us?

How is it that we move from being sinners to being righteous before God? Of course we would like it to be simple, we just go to God, or God just comes to us. But real life is not that simple.

How far lost we can be, even far from the ocean waters

Huts on a deserted island

During a raging storm lightning struck a cruise ship disabling all communications and controls. Drifting far off course, hours later the ship struck a reef and sank off a deserted island. Having no end of conflict during the voyage due to outspoken beliefs the survivors sorted themselves on to the island according to their beliefs about God so as to avoid the ongoing conflicts.

Freewill

The largest group built huts helter-skelter around the lovely sandy beaches. Most organized themselves in small groups, working terribly hard, some to build a raft to float back to civilization, some to build a communication system to call for help, some to make themselves as comfortable as possible. A small number of them simply did nothing but gather food and coconuts to make alcohol.

This disparate group from all religions, even agnostics, believed that they had to save themselves. God, if there was one the agnostics added, was not going to intervene. It was all up to them. They said they had great moral guides, but they did whatever they could get away with, so trouble constantly arose between them. They fought to prove that they had indeed done enough good to earn God’s favour. This large group lived like God did not exist at all, even though they said they believed in God, except the agnostics.

Alice and Double Predestination

Alice’s group built huts far from everyone else, facing a square yard for the kids and adults to walk in and meet in. The believed God was in charge of everything, including everything bad that happened. They wanted to have as little to do with the others as possible. They knew that God had saved them and not the others. They lived to prove God had chosen to save them. This group could not admit that they had ever done anything wrong, so they stuffed their closets full of old skeletons. In the dark they exercised those skeletons all too well, but when the sun shone they denied everything.

Inside Alice’s group a sub-group set up in their own corner. They believed as well that God had saved only them, that God was in charge of everything, including all evil, like their shipwreck. Instead of trying to prove God saved them they just gave up and did as little as possible. God was going to do what God was going to do and there was no way to change that. So why care about anything? They simply let life progress as it would. It was all up to God.

Martin Luther’s messy Single Predestination

A third large group believed that God alone could save them, but they still had freewill to choose to walk away from God. Few of them could precisely describe their beliefs. They built huts all around the island. This group constantly held joyous meals, celebrating that, when this member or that member had walked away from God, by Grace God had brought them back.

They were usually the kindest people, but they admitted, sometimes also as cruel as could be! They said God saved them many times each day, just because God chose to. They believed their life purpose was to extend God’s Grace to everyone. This group had people from all faiths, even Lutherans. They understood Evil came, not from God, but from humans choosing to turn away from God, as God created them to be able to.

They neither hid their sins nor tried to hide from sin. They just didn’t worry about or focus on their sins, yet they weren’t reckless with sin. They trusted God’s constant forgiveness, and worked to be God’s people of Grace.

Simultaneously Saints and Sinners and Golden Calves Galore

They accepted Luther’s paradox that all God’s people are simultaneously saints and sinners. They understood all too well that they had been right there next to Bill at the back of the room and, many times, at the bottom of their own Mt Sinai, building their own golden calf, so like Moses’ people had.

Golden Calf – God Changes God’s Mind

Moses’ people feared God had abandoned them. God became visible to Moses just 3000 yards away, but they did not dare venture up that steep trail. So they waited for Moses to come back, but he didn’t. They impatiently needed a god who would be available to them. So they collected their gold, melted it into an idol and worshipped their little godlet. Their false worship settled their anxiety, but it ate out their hearts and souls.
God sees all this and asks Moses to leave him alone so that God’s wrath can burn hot and consume this perverse people. God goes so far as to tell Moses these are Moses’ people, whom Moses brought out of Egypt. That may be all true, of a sorts, so Moses reminds God that God has delivered the people, they are God’s people.

[May we never be in need of such boldness before God. But then if it need be, may we speak only the truth! And trust that God’s Grace will prevail also for us.]

Then God remembers God’s promises, and God changes God’s mind, from deserved annihilation to gracious forgiveness. God doesn’t smite the golden calf people. Instead they will stay in the wilderness for 40 years. The next generation will enter the promised land.

We would prefer to hide all the skeletons of golden calves

What are our ‘golden calves’?

What are our ‘golden calves’? How many times have we set up our own little godlets, not that far from the Altar of the Eucharist where God is visible and handed to us in the bread and wine?

It can be something as simple as the colour of the new carpet, the stewardship campaign we run, the prayers and music we can use in worship, or even who is welcome in ‘our’ church. In our daily lives our little godlets take on a variety that could more than fill all the stores and warehouses in the world.

God’s response to our sin

How does God respond when God sees all this? God remembers God’s promises, and chooses not to consume us with fury and wrath, which we deserve! Instead God changes God’s mind and does not smite us sinners as we worship our godlets of so great a variety.

Jesus eats with us, rejoices at our return

Instead Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, like us. And Jesus explains it like this: The shepherd loses one sheep of 100, leaves the 99 to find the lost one, and rejoices at it’s finding and celebrates with friends. The woman loses one coin, looks thoroughly for it, finds it, rejoices and calls friends to celebrate with her. So also as God all too often loses one of us to sin. God’s glory is not in smiting us out of existence, but in rescuing us. God delights and rejoices in bringing us home.

God comes all the way to us and through the sacrificial blood of Jesus reclaims us as holy saints. God makes us sinners into saints, and though we remain sinners we are simultaneously God-made saints.

What is it to live in God’s Promise to Rejoice at Forgiving Us Sinners?

How do we reflect our faith that Jesus came into the world to save sinners? Are we to sin all the more that God can continually delight in rescuing us! No, bound to sin and unable to free ourselves, we have all given God plenty of opportunity to save us and then to rejoice and celebrate our coming home.

We have no need to try to sin more. As much as God delights in our homecoming, God enjoys us most when we live at home with all the other saints in light.

Living in Grace: Not Simple, But Joyous!

We may want it simple, but there is never a simple answer to how to live Grace. It may sound simple: we sin, God saves us, everyone rejoices, repeat. That we repeat without end makes the cycle anything but simple. It is so far from simple, though it is profoundly joyous at each coming home.

It is not ever a treat to look in the back of our closets at all the godlets of our past, but when we do, and when we fully admit who we are as sinners, then God has already reclaimed us and is busy returning us home. The whole of heaven and all the saints celebrate our return. We, too, can rejoice. When others stray to worship their golden cafe godlets and God brings them home then we get to rejoice again.

Our Prayers

We pray that we might learn to love each other, especially the ones sitting in the back barely in the door but here, shaking with ugly sin as we have all done. We pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us to love the one’s we think we cannot love, and to rejoice at each one God brings home.

AMEN

Finding One’s Way

As the Seasons Turn

The leaves, after the cool nights, turned colours

leading one to believe fall had arrived.

Have the seasons shifted earlier, like puberty, with the age of maturity now put off into the 30’s if not 60’s or not at all?

It’s not Fall for another 10 days, and the leaves turned first at the beginning of the month.

Do we need to know, or would it just be nice, comforting? Like finding that trail marker after three hours of hiking not seeing anything, walking for hours on what appears to be a mere animal trail up the side of the mountain, with just the right angle to keep it not too steep.

The woods’ floor covered without a hint of a trail.

Days like that march into months and years of any normal life, if one cares to actually ask something serious about knowing yourself. Which way ought one turn, this way towards quick success at projects completely owned by a multi-national company driven to earn profits for the shareholders on the backs and lives of the employees, sharing the ‘wealth’ along the way with enough employees for people to convince themselves the project may even be valuable?

Or does one stay true to one’s well known self and work for peanuts, sometimes cashews, or even weak crackers, like for a parrot, except one gets to speak one’s mind intelligently, clearly, with deeply rooted integrity? The price is one may never be listened to, and one easily goes hungry, dropping off everyone’s radar into obscure poverty in old age. But one’s path will always be interesting, or better described, one’s path will always be enthralling, for the matter of each day is not just to plod on with some promised reward, but the project is to have a project worth the life one gives to it. By definition that must be fully engaging.

Can one find that path?

Colourful Challenging

Or, in truth, can one stand to continually struggle to avoid this path? This is what we all were created to be and do. To settle for other is to run out of sync with life, like a two propeller airplane setting up vibrations that can rip the whole plane, the whole plain life, apart. Even far short of that total disaster there is the profound dis-ease of living with the noise and vibrations of a life lived out of sync with creation.

Once one learns to live in sync, like a pilot that finally learns without thinking to set the props in sync, that ease and sense of oneness compared to the jarring throbs of being out of sync remind one that when God finished each day of creation God said, “It is good!”

Choose Life, Give Freedom

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

In the Promised Land, Choose!

In the Fade, movie

Set in Germany In the Fade is a movie about people choosing the destruction of life. A German mother drops her young son off with her husband at work so that she can make a visit. Leaving his office the mother admonishes a young woman to lock up her new bike she’s just left with a case on its rear carrier. When the mother returns the police inform her that her husband, a German of Turkish descent, and their young German-born son were killed by a fertilizer nail bomb. The bike’s case held the bomb made by the perpetrator’s husband.

The outcome of the trial seems obvious, but their lawyer creates reasonable doubt; the bombers are acquitted. Captive to revenge the grieving mother tracks the guilty-acquitted couple to a beach on the ocean. There she kills them with a fertilizer nail bomb, and she loses her life in the process.

The movie denounces the rise of neo-Nazi killings. The first bomb was set to kill as many non-native Germans as possible. More clearly it demonstrates that, without the freedom of faith that calls us to forgive, people choose to become captives to revenge. Revenge is a two-edge sword that cuts everyone.

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The Dark Churn of Chaos Obstructs Our View of God’s Son

OT: As you enter the PL, Choose: life or death, blessings or curses

By comparison, living in God’s promise is a multi-sided blessing. As God delivers God’s promise to Abraham and ushers the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses admonishes them to choose God each day. Moses knows they will need to or they will fall under the curses of other gods, including gods that people still choose today. Living in the Promised Land does not mean that life will be easy, obvious, or without dire peril. Nor does it mean that all people are free. Today people are regularly enslaved as labourers around the world and on the high seas as well as those forced into the sex trade.

God delivers us into the Promise. God will not take us out of the Promised Land. As God’s children God frees us so that we always have a real choice between Life and Death, between blessings and curses, even when we do not see the choices clearly.

What Promised Land has God brought us to, long ago, or maybe just yesterday? What Blessings and Curses must we choose between?

Remember first that God’s Promise delivered at our baptism is that we are always God’s children, made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice and Grace. God gives us a choice, but it is not about receiving or earning God’s Grace and our salvation. Our choice is how we live in that Grace. Do we, guided and inspired by God’s Spirit, choose blessings and life, or do we choose our own ways that lead to curses and death for us and for others?

Break my Heart, (Set me on fire!)

A well-known prayer reads: “May my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” (World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce).

The risk of praying this prayer is that God might just answer it with a Holy Fire that sets our hearts on fire to bring blessings to every human of the 7.7 plus billion whom we can possibly effect, starting today, with those beside us, those we meet each step through each day, and those we go out of our way to encounter, until everything in our lives changes as we become the hands, voice and blessings of Christ. We join the great cloud of witnesses to Christ’s love for all people.

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When We Dwell Beside Living Water, God Fires Up Our Hearts

NT Philemon’s Real Story: Giving FREEDOM

In our second lesson for today we read part of the letter Paul wrote to Philemon and his congregation. It is about an escaped slave, Onesimus, the man who carries the letter to Philemon. Paul sends him back to his master, Philemon, and lights a Holy Fire under Philemon.

Escaped slaves were crucified, a dire warning to any other slaves who tried to escape. Anyone, through a terrible turn of fortune or war, could become a slave. Becoming a freed slave was very, very rare.

Still Paul admonishes Philemon, with the congregation listening, to do the rare but right thing, the good thing, the personally costly thing.

C.S. Lewis: Paint and Eggs, Stain and Get Cracking

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity called this the difference between paint, which merely covers the surface, and stain which soaks in deep to protect to the centre. Paul trusts that the Gospel daily seeps down into Philemon’s heart and strength. As with all Paul’s new converts in congregations spread so far, Paul nurtures the seeds of faith, like a mother hen sitting on her eggs. It is fine to be a fertilized egg, waiting to become something, but now it’s time to get cracking. It’s time for Philemon to show his colours and give Onesimus his freedom.

How does God place before us this day the choice of blessings gained by sacrificing our rights and privileges in order that another human can live in freedom? What egg needs to hatch in our lives bringing us into a new reality? What choices does God give us today?

Route 44, Not Getting it Right

We may not get it right. We may be more like the 88 year old driver of the car the cop pulls over because it was going 44 kph on the highway where the speed limit is 110. When he approaches the car he notices that the four elderly passengers appear to be shocked into a daze, the air taken out of them.

The officer warns the driver that it is dangerous to drive so far below the speed limit. She responds that she was going exactly the speed limit of 44 kph just like the sign said.

The officer starts to answer sternly until the light bulb goes off for him and he says: “No ma’am, the speed limit is 110 here. Though this is highway 44.”

“Oh,” says the driver as it’s obvious the wheels are churning for her. Then the officer asks, “Is everyone alright? They all seem shell shocked.”

The driver answers as it falls into place for her, “No, officer. Thank you. Yes, they will be alright in a minute or two. You see, a few miles back we turned off highway 169.”

Taking care of ourselves, our faith, and the promised land we live in is hardly simple. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing in our lives to get right. When we make mistakes with the freedom Christ gives us, we often add a huge dose to the challenges the Devil tries to suck us into. The results can often scare the living daylights out of us, at least they should.

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The Expanse of the Universe Outta Scare Us Silly, The Cost of Discipleship Even More-so

Luke: Know the Cost

In today’s Gospel Jesus admonishes the crowd to know and prepare for the cost of discipleship as they commit themselves to following him.

Hate is not Jesus’ way, but it is an example of the extreme commitment that following Jesus will place on us. Nothing else can be more important to us than following Jesus, nothing, not even love for family. Jesus tells us to count the cost before we jump in, for the cost will be more than any love or even all of our possessions. Better to count the cost first and be prepared, than to run into a wall too high, or a battle too big, and collapse in shame.

It is not unlike marriage. If we really knew what we were getting into there are precious few of us who would be able to make such a commitment. Fortunately, endorphins and hope help us commit to each other in marriage. Its challenges are God’s way of bringing us to understand God’s love for us.

Likewise, fortunately, most of us are baptized as infants, a choice made for us by our parents and sponsors, otherwise the high cost could stop many of us. Yet the cost of discipleship is required for us to participate in life overflowing with God’s blessings for which we are created!

Kidnapping Gramma!

William White tells the story of Heddie Braun, a woman who lived the first four years of her life in Norway and then emigrated to Little Prairie, WI.

Heddie was a powerful presence at the age of 88 with all of her 80 lbs. hung on a 5’ 2” frame. On a cold fall evening Heddie was kidnapped from her single-story home where she lived with Eddie, her blind husband. The kidnapper cut power and telephone wires to the house, entered through the backdoor, picked up Heddie and put her in the trunk of his car. He drove her to his home, put chains on her legs and hid her in a tiny trailer out back. For days Heddie was always cold, she didn’t have her heart medicine, and she lost track of time. A confusing ransom call was made on a disposable phone to her grandson. It was a total failure.

Although time melted into a well-stirred soup, Heddie was not confused about who she was and to whom she belonged. Held captive she knew Christ made her free.

The police identified the kidnapper. He had worked for the family, but was now unemployed and desperate. At one time he had been a friend.

Heddie almost lost her foot to frostbite but she was tough and her foot was saved. Asked later how she stayed so strong, Heddie replied. “I’m Norwegian. The whole time I was in the trailer I remembered that my kidnapper was just a person like me. No matter what the cost I was going to choose life. It was so hard, harder than anything I’ve ever done, but I forgave him.” She turned to her grandson, “You have to forgive him, too.” (In Over Our Heads, pp. 14ff, Augsburg 2007, re-told TL and KAS)

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Life is Beautiful !!! As We Live In the Light of Christ

So we pray

Christ sets us free, so we pray: May our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God.

May our joy be in choosing life, blessings, and freedom for all people.

Amen

2019 Aug 25: Reflections & Truth

Pentecost 11 Lec-C

Luke 13:10-17 & Isaiah 58:9b-14

Reflections of Truth

As the loons haunt the dim dawn light with their forlorn wails as if begging for something close to truth to be recognized in the coming light, the not quite still lake undulates softly the moon caught in it’s liquid mostly-water.

There are many powerful and privileged people of luxury far beyond necessity or souls’ enjoyment who fear the light, not of a simple day’s dawn, but the Light that dawns as the Truth is revealed.

There are more people who look to this dawn of brilliant Truth with expectation of exoneration and finally, finally real justice through which real mercy is possible.

The waters reflect the small light that persists despite the Darkness

As so many have confessed through generation upon generation, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It certainly cannot be that God plays games with us like those in power, teasing us and tempting us just to catch us off guard. No, if who we trust to be God is God, creator all powerful and merciful, loving, forgiving and gracious, yearning to delight in our existence, our joys and even our sorrows that make up an abundant life, then certainly God plays no games with us concerning the Truth of who we are and what we have actually done; whether we acknowledge the Truth or we hide from it.

The Truth.

Often it is so much simpler than we want to acknowledge, when we want to deceive ourselves. Like the water we too often want for wind to blow the clear reflection of what we have done, so that no evidence of the truth is discernible.

But the light will shine, and I for one, I, Tim Lofstrom, like I, Daniel Blake, eagerly wait the Light that will shine on the Truth. For I will be exonerated and those who have fabricated lies about me, bullied me, threatened my life, and sat in false judgment of me will be put to shame.

That which in them thrives on the darkness and falsehoods of their doings will be put to an end, as consumed by the fire of God’s judgment. Then our victory will be double, for not only will we be free, all of us falsely judged and destroyed by lies, but those who unjustly ruin and destroy us will be set free from the darkness that grips their whole unnatural being. Though little of them, who have given themselves to the Evil One, may survive as the kernels are separated from the chaff, still together we will bask in the Light, the Truth and the Grace which God delights in giving to us. Our collective shame will be ended.

For this day we wait, as we wait for the rising of the sun to replace the crescent moon which leaves darkness’ canopy pressing down on our hearts, our hopes, and our joys.

The Light catches all that would hide in chaos and makes it clear

In today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 13:10-17, Jesus reaches out and sets a woman free from 18 years of being held hostage to an ailment, an illness. She is set free and can walk upright, humbly unimpeded by a body oppressed by dis-ease in God’s creation.

The woman and the people are over-joyed. She is free!

But the temple priests have no joy because they are threatened. They have not provided this freedom and therefore they are not celebrated. They and the people now clearly know that the priests live in darkness and the light has just burst the seams of reality in ‘their’ temple.

They use the law as a hammer against the Light, to no avail. The law, given to guide the people in freedom, is corrupted in their hands to become the hammer that strikes down faith, joy, and hope in all the people. They would treat animals better than the people needing God’s Grace. They try to maintain an order that provides them false power and oppresses people into the mud of life. But the Light shines brightly.

The people rejoice in the healing of the woman.

The priests, they who would claim dark power over others, are put to shame. Their grip is loosened, if just for a few hours, days or weeks. Not only is this woman free, but all the people bask in the Light, sharing in this woman’s joy.

Who are you today?

Are you the woman, who after 18 years of suffering illness that consumes the essence of life right out of you, and yet leaves you a shell of a human still looking down at the daisies, wishing for freedom even if that freedom arrives on the other side of the grave?

Are you the people, who after generations of suffering the oppression of those who rule in darkness over them, are overjoyed that the Light has arrived for this woman, for they are caught also in its Light? Their oppressors are put to shame.

Are you the priest, the oppressors, who live in darkness, who are skilled at turning truths in to dark falsehoods? Are you one who plays with truth as an axeman cutting trees, with falsehoods chipping life out of your victims, over whom you claim power? Are you put to shame by the coming of the Light and Truth? Have you put yourself outside the delight of God, to whom the coming of the Light not only means shame but loss of most of who you have made yourself to be, against the yearnings of your creator?

Are you the hands of Christ, who understand that the perversions of the Law, perversions of God’s Grace even, can be healed with a word, a redeeming touch, with sacred oil, water and bread? Are you the one who God uses as a conduit, and instrument to set people free? Are you one, like so many in the great cloud of witnesses we inherit, who sacrifices the abundance of your life that others may simply live, knowing that God’s Light shines brightly even in our darknesses?

One thing is certain: God’s Light will shine brightly! Not according to our plans, but as God chooses.

As Isaiah. prophet of Exile awaited, survived and returned from, wrote of our simple ways and God’s mysteries of Grace:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
  the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
  and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
  and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
  and satisfy your needs in parched places,
  and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
  like a spring of water,
  whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
  you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
  the restorer of streets to live in.

Isaiah 58:9b-14

The Light brings Truth in Full Depth of Colour

As the loons haunt the dim dawn light with their forlorn wails as if begging for something close to truth to be recognized in the coming light, the not quite still lake undulated softly the moon caught by it’s liquid mostly-water.

There are many powerful and privileged people of luxury far beyond necessity or souls’ enjoyment who fear the light, not of a simple day’s dawn, but the light that dawns as the truth is revealed.

There are more people who look to this dawn of brilliant Truth with expectation of exoneration and finally, finally real justice through which real mercy is possible.

When the Light comes we will have a double victory: for ourselves and for you, our oppressors.