Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 25

Friday, September 25, 2020

Long Way to the Light!

Covid 19, like most viruses,

sleeps fine when frozen, in stasis,

waiting to thaw and live down the road

to surprise you!

Psalm 119:165

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Words of Grace For Today

Love God’s Law and you will have peace, for nothing will make you stumble, and let Christ’s words dwell in you, teach and admonish each other all wisdom, and with grateful hearts sing to God!

All this is providing care for ourselves, though none of it earns us God’s favour or Grace. God promises us God’s favour, righteousness in God’s eyes, even though we certainly do not deserve it. What God gives us we do not and cannot earn. It is all free gift!

Then we get to respond. That’s our time for loving God’s Law, and letting Christ’s word dwell in our daily lives, as we teach and admonish one another (note that it’s mutual, not an authoritarian telling others what is right or wrong – that kind of judgment is God’s and God’s alone.) The great thing we get to do (actually one of so many great things we get to do) is to sing.

Covid 19 is transmitted by micro-droplets of breath, and singing produces lots of them and spreads them great distances, much greater than 2 metres! So we do not get to sing in large groups. Not until the pandemic is finished.

Just because stupid people say they are not worried about Covid 19, or they are going to live, or they are done with it, does not mean Covid 19 is done with us. Singing in groups for now is just stupid. As is coming close to strangers when it is not at all necessary. Or shaking hands with strangers. Or not wearing masks and face shields (oh, that’s right, hardly anyone wears a face shield!) Or not leaving in ‘isolation’ purchases for 3 days before handling them, and refrigerated or especially frozen items should be washed with a strong bleach solution. (Cold and frozen temperatures preserve the virus, and waiting three days for something in the freezer does no good for letting the virus die of its own accord. Warm up that frozen or refrigerated item and bingo bango splat – any virus on it comes back to life to infect you.

All the precautions that we can take are good. Learn a few more each week and add them to your fall repertoire, before the 2nd wave hits us harder than the 1st!

It’s a long haul discipline, not a short sprint. So take care of you and yours. Make new connections (physically distant.) And sing. Go into the bathroom, turn on the ventilation fan and sing your heart out! Go outside on a windy day or a great distance (at least 10 metres) from others and sing your heart out. Who cares what people think! We all know we need to sing with grateful hearts every day.

Teach, learn and admonish one another to take new precautions and keep the old ones. Practice them more diligently. Voluntarily shrink the size of you ‘cohort’, which means start keeping 2 metres apart from people who used to be in your cohort, wear masks and wear them correctly! (how many people do I see wearing them not over their nose, not even over their mouth! or handling them as if they could never be full of the virus!) even at home except with the smallest number of people possible (your children and spouse, for example,) and buy a face shield and start using it, use hand sanitizer right away after every time you touch anything that could be contaminated, and frequently all through the day, at every transition. You know the drill. Practice it without one leak in the guard between you and Covid 19.

Be smart. Be wise. Be patient. Be kind. And this thanksgiving and every one from now on you will still be able to celebrate with the ones you love, knowing you did not kill someone else with your reckless or just sloppy Covid 19 prevention practices. Covid 19 prevention practices are part of God’s Law: Do not Kill.

Rather be at peace, knowing you have done everything possible and wise to keep you and others safe.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 13

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Cold and Dark are the Paths

The Paths Forward

Press on toward God’s Light

Jeremiah 32:17

Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Words of Grace For Today

God is with us.

For some those words are the most comforting, promise-filled, powerful words that can be spoken, written or read. They name God’s choice to accompany one through all that life presents to us, both good and bad, marvellous and destructive, and hope-giving and despair oppressing.

For others these words can be the greatest cause of fear, dread, and angst. For they have chosen again and again to act selfishly, relentlessly destroying others for their own advantage, and trying to hide the truth from all. God still knows what they have done. To know that God not only knows, but God also accompanies one through life and the hell one creates for others, is to hear that God is not just aware of what one has done and still does, but God is profoundly affected by it as well. God’s wrath will rise up against one, in the end if not before.

God’s wrath is to be dreaded greatly!

For God has created the universe with God’s own power, with a word and an outstretched hand. Nothing is too hard for God. Destroying a person who has given themselves over to evil every day of their lives and only tries to hide this from others and themselves, and even from God … this kind of destruction is child’s play for God.

God is also so powerful as to send us to share God’s Grace with others, and to be ready to baptize them into the Way of Jesus, the Redeemer of the world. We know that Jesus has commanded us what is profoundly easy to repeat, and on our own impossible to obey: to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength; to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to love even our enemies.

This is only possible since God is with us always, that we can love unconditionally as God first loves us.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 12

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Setting Sun

or Dying Star

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

For The Traveller You Light The Way

Until In The End We Can Only Hope

That From This Star We Would Be Ever So Far.

Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.

Ephesians 5:15

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise.

Words of Grace For Today

Psalm 111:10 (and twice in Proverbs, once in Ecclesiasticus) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Be careful, live as wise people.

Wisdom requires fear.

Why fear God?

God made the world, the universe, and all that is in it, and all that live in it.

Fear is the appropriate attitude to take to the one who creates such a marvellous and ferocious and beautiful and destructive universe.

Watch a star through its life,ending in a supernova explosion*! How can one respond other than in fear of what God has made?

Watch one’s child be born! How can one respond other than in fear of what God has made and given one responsibility for?

Fear is a great motivator. It’s kept us alive as a species as long as we’ve existed. It’s given despots power since before history was written. It’s kept marriages together and blown them apart. It’s kept vulnerable persons alive and sane, and driven the strongest people insane.

By itself it helps move us to survive, but it does not move us to live fully.

Martin Luther begins each explanation in his Small Catechism with “We are to fear and love God so that ….”

Knowingly participating in God’s Kingdom requires fear and love of God.

Love of God, as our response to God’s unconditional love of us, when combined with fear of God, keeps us mindful of our place in the universe and before God, and mindful of the wonders and blessings God provides for us each day, undeserving though we all are!

Together, fear and love, bring us to seek goodness for everyone, to right injustices, and to sacrifice that others may know the good blessings God provides for all people to share.

That is the beginning of wisdom, the kind of wisdom that the Creator of all intended us to live with each day, even as we live with challenges insurmountable, like Covid-19, and the really dangerous rampant denial that Covid 19 is here and does seemingly randomly kill.

.

.

* for those unfamiliar with what a supernova is: science.howstuffworks.com/star6.htm

Stars More Massive Than the Sun

When the core runs out of hydrogen, these stars fuse helium into carbon just like the sun. However, after the helium is gone, their mass is enough to fuse carbon into heavier elements such as oxygen, neon, silicon, magnesium, sulfur and iron. Once the core has turned to iron, it can burn no longer. The star collapses by its own gravity and the iron core heats up. The core becomes so tightly packed that protons and electrons merge to form neutrons. In less than a second, the iron core, which is about the size of Earth, shrinks to a neutron core with a radius of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). The outer layers of the star fall inward on the neutron core, thereby crushing it further. The core heats to billions of degrees and explodes (supernova), thereby releasing large amounts of energy and material into space. The shock wave from the supernova can initiate star formation in other interstellar clouds. The remains of the core can form a neutron star or a black hole depending upon the mass of the original star.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 10

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Glory

Wondrously, Creation Dances

Genesis 9:13

I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Hebrews 13:9

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them.

Words of Grace For Today

Regulations about food. Abstinence from tobacco, or from alcohol, or from dancing, or from Jazz, or from [fill in the piety thing to forego].

These are all ways to try to gain God’s approval.

Foregoing these or anything else, or obligatorily keeping some ritual or habit, are all futile efforts. Nothing we do or do not do can gain us God’s favour. Our place in God’s creation is far lower than that we have such capacity.

More significantly it is superfluous. God already has given us God’s favour. Still we get carried away by all kinds of strange (and yet devilishly familiar) false teachings about our place in God’s creation, as if we were as powerful as God, or more so, even able to be godlets ourselves.

It is the truth that many regulated behaviours have been scientifically good for us at the time and therefore healthy for us to observe. Not all are beneficial. Dancing is actually an activity that if one continues to practice into one’s old age it can help keep one’s mind clear, and one’s body able longer than if one had not. Still many call for avoiding dancing, because it leads to sex, which leads to children. The greater truth is that sex leads to children, which leads to dancing joyously. Whether sex is healthy depends not on dancing, but on one’s choice of partner and how one relates to him/her; which dancing has little to do with.

To remind us how we were and are so sinful and evil that God chose to flood out all life except a sample of each kind along with Noah and his family, and how gracious God is in re-establishing a covenant (an unusual unilateral covenant) with us, beginning with a promise not to flood all life away again.

So that we not forget, which we do so easily as we try to re-invent our relationship with God and creation … So that we do not forget God places a rainbow in the sky.

Light intersects the moisture of rain in the sky, and the prism effect of the moisture paints a bow of all colours across the sky. God continually works to show us how gracious God is.

Instead of abstaining or partaking or striving to achieve God’s favour, God invites us to immerse ourselves in God’s Grace which fills us and overflows all around us.

Grace! Grace is God’s free gift of liking us, of loving us unconditionally (despite the truth that we deserve condemnation), of forgiving us and giving us new chances. Second chances are far too few for God’s attitude towards us. God gives us new chances at life each minute, in each decision.

Grace!

Bask in Grace. It’s like dancing only wondrously better for strengthening one’s heart, soul and mind at all ages.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 09

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Forest Dark

In the Dark

The Light,

God’s Promise Guides Us

Isaiah 47:13-14

You are wearied with your many consultations; let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars and at each new moon predict what shall befall you. See, they are like stubble, the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!

Hebrews 6:18

Through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.

Words of Grace For Today

The cool of fall has arrived, so that sitting in front of a fire is not merely an evening pleasure for campers, but a necessity for keeping oneself warm.

The fire that God sends the condemned to is no such fire. It is like a raging wildfire that consumes everything in its path. Our human efforts to know the future, in order that we can have the advantage over others are legendary … and futile. Our efforts to destroy others in order to get ahead are also legendary. Destruction we succeed at quite well. Getting ahead is a real failure as well, not that we have not often thought we’ve won and made great headway forward. It is that we make headway toward the Devil and our own condemnation, not that we make headway toward God’s will and design for us, namely that we live sacrificial lives in order that others may live abundantly.

The challenges that the Devil places in our paths seem without end. They obscure our vision of God’s will, our ability to thrive as we give life to others, and our discerning the value of truth in the face of lies that seem to flourish better than Canadian thistle or leafy spurge.

Into a world filled with these challenges we awake each day. God knows this well, for God is with us, Jesus’ name is Emmanuel (God with us). God created us with a spirit to discern Good from Evil, and God knows we so often choose Evil, for others and for ourselves.

So God makes promises for us to know and trust. Land flowing with milk and honey. Descendents greater than the stars in the skies. A Saviour for all people of every age that we can live freed from our bondage to sin, so that we can imitate the Christ in our daily lives, forgiving others their sins.

God guarantees these promises by the greatest authority of all, God’s own.

In this we can live, trusting our very lives to God’s promises and God’s living Word.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 30

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Cold Blown Grasses

Cold Winter Winds Will Blow

Cold Hearts Will Set

The Holy Spirit Will Keep Our Hearts Thawing

Trust God’s Promises

Isaiah 32:17

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

Romans 14:17

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

Words of Grace For Today

Of what is life?

Food and drink?

OR

Peace, quietness and trust, righteousness and joy?

The basic requirements for minimum and full human life are:

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

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

Yet we can too easily get our priorities all wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 29

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Cold Light

No matter how cold life seems

God is with us, laying down tracks with us

shining on us day and night by sun, moon, and Holy Spirit

Thank God!

2 Chronicles 32:24-25

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not respond according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem.

Luke 17:15-16

Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The leper was a Samaritan.

Words of Grace For Today

False pride and arrogance or humility and gratitude, two apparently mutually exclusive manners of responding to all God has done for us.

In 2 Chronicles the writer interprets the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem as God’s response to Hezekiah’s proud and hard heart. In Luke the writer interprets Jesus’ healing the lepers as done in response simply to the lepers asking.

That one returns to thank Jesus, against Jesus’ directions that they fulfill the Jewish Law and show themselves to the priests (to be recorded as cured and therefore free to return to their families and position in Jewish society.) The one who returns gains nothing by visiting the priests. He is an outsider and gains no ‘return’. Leper or not, he is not accepted into Jewish society. He returns then to Jesus, acknowledging that Jesus has more authority than any priests.

Luke’s message is that those who are burdened with their own religious authorities and practices may well fulfill their obligations to them, Jesus still comes and heals those people. People with no locally recognized religious authorities and practices to fulfill (the Samaritan perhaps had some, just not recognized by the Jews), are free to recognize Jesus’ greater authority and to respond with appropriate gratitude.

Who are we?

We wish we were like the Samaritan, free to recognize Jesus’ authority and power with thanks and gratitude.

If we are honest, we are like the other 9 Jewish lepers, bound to duty to other authorities, and easily able to miss the wonders Jesus provides and therefore easily able to miss out on thanking Jesus and living with wondrous gratitude. That gratitude is a more powerful force in life than ‘falling in love’, about which much is written, spoken and known – how it transforms life for the better (or worse.) Gratitude transforms life always for the better, and it does not wear off after a short few months.

If we are honest, we are also often like Hezekiah, proud and hard hearted, completely capable of pleading to God for help when life catches us in disaster or deadly illness or total loss. But when it comes to giving God thanks for all God has given us, our breath and very lives … Well then we are back to fulfilling our ‘obligations’ to other authorities and demands (like careers, money, status, reputation among those driven by greed and avarice, and false images of ourselves as above or without God).

Luther described all of these as happening simultaneously in our lives as responses to the same events. To which he prayed as we well can: God save us!

And save us, Luther knew as we can know, Jesus already has.

We can choose to live lives transformed by thanks and gratitude. Bit by bit each day.

Why not?

Where else are we going to turn for the living water? the bread of life? the Words of eternal life? the hope that does not disappoint? the promises that fill us so that we have more than enough to share with all who need life?

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 26

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Left Behind

Left Behind by Accident or as Sacrifice?

Christ reconciles us to God, no sacrifice required!

We have a blemish free record, no matter how many ‘gloves’ we’ve lost.

Isaiah 43:24-25

You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Colossians 1:21-22

You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.

Words of Grace For Today

The sacrifices made to God have changed through the centuries and generations. Once we offered birds, animals, and before that other people, even children. We knew that, having done something wrong, having sinned, we owed God payment for our sins.

When we know we have sinned our minds recognize how estranged we’ve made ourselves from God. Knowing what we’ve done we become hostile to God as well.

We ‘dig our own grave’. Yet God does not leave us there.

No sacrifice by us is sufficient to pay for what we have done, and continue to do, and will do. God knew this, knows this. God sent Jesus, his Son, to sacrifice himself, the one last sacrifice needed to set things right between us and God, between all humans and God.

Nothing is needed on our part.

Now since God sets us right with God, holy and blameless … well the possibilities are astronomical, and wondrous.

Jesus calls us and the Holy Spirit equips us to be the voice, hands, and feet of Christ on earth, extending unconditional love to others, providing justice based on truth combined with mercy and wisdom, and blessing all people with more than just the basics of life. As the Holy Spirit equips us we can offer others abundant life. That may require sacrifice on our part, yet all we have is given to us, so it is not really ours to give up, it is ours to share with everyone.

Makes for a wondrous life for us, and for all people.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 19

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Trees Bow to the Light

We bow to our Creator

Humble Glory

Exodus 33:13

Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.

2 Thessalonians 2:14

For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Words of Grace For Today

It is easy to have silly hopes … and it is foolish to live one’s life built on those silly hopes.

One can, for example, hope that (contrary to all experience past and reasonable expectation for the future) that one will have a [fill in your desired, unreachable thing, like a ‘private lake’]. It is all silliness, hoping to possess things. It is foolish then to build one’s life so that one can finally buy a boat, and then store it away for the day that you can make it’s maiden voyage on your ‘private lake.’

To have hope that inspires the best of life into one and drives one to live the best and that draws from one better than one can imagine … to have that kind of hope one cannot foolishly build one’s life based on silly hopes. One needs to understand profoundly what is before one in the present, what is behind us in the past, and what lies ahead for us in the future.

Moses, wise as he was, is not always written about as if he were so wise. He asks of God, who has just told him that God favours Moses, that Moses will be able to live knowing God’s ways (in Hebrew this knowing is also to be intricately wound up in, to be active in the doing of God’s ways). And to what end does Moses make this request? To find God’s favour.

Yet, God’s favour is already pronounced by God! Moses is making a circular request.

This is us, all too often. God saves, loves us, favours us, and tells us so. We respond by asking that if God loves us and favours us we may know how to earn God’s love and favour!

We all too often want not to be in God’s debt, but we want to know ourselves, and be seen by others, to have earned all that God has gifted us! So Moses is written about as if Moses did not accept God’s favour, but wanted to earn it. Indeed, Moses wanted others to see without a doubt that God favoured Moses. It was required for his and his people’s survival.

There is so much more going on than a silly wish, to earn God’s favour. We can learn if we see.

The second passage also contains something to see. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that his proclamation of Jesus the Christ to them is to bring them Jesus Christ’ Glory.

Christ’s Glory is not something that many people would seek: it involves betrayal by one’s friend, a false conviction, a torturous cross, and death. Only then does it come to anything like what we might expect as Glory.

But Glory, God’s kind of Glory it is. It is that God brings us to life abundant through our being betrayed, being falsely convicted and our bearing our own crosses, which indeed kill us. Then we can start to understand the sacrifice for others lives that Jesus accepted, that Jesus calls us to accept.

On this cross, on this glory, we can hope that God will show us how to live the abundant life … not so that we can earn God’s favour. Rather we ask that God will show us how to live the abundant life that does not require things at all. Rather we ask that God will show us how to live the abundant life as our response to trusting that God saves us, loves us (unconditionally), and favours us.

Knowing this love, trusting this love, we are able to answer Christ’ call to sacrifice our selves, even our lives, so that others may have life, and have it abundantly.

That’s Glory. That’s Grace. That is us as Jesus’ humble followers.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 6

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Everyday Corners

The corner?

What’s there, around the corner?

Life, with all it’s challenges and opportunities!

Psalm 103:10

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

Acts 15:11

On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’

Words of Grace For Today

If we are honest with ourselves and each other, we know our participation in original sin.

It is the opposite of what we wish well for ourselves and others, that we would consider the goodness of life, and what we understand God intends for us.

We know that we deserve all judgments of God made against us, and all punishments and consequences we may encounter.

So it is of the greatest consequence that we know God promises to deal with us NOT according to what we deserve, not according to our iniquities. How wonderful it is that we understand, on the contrary, that we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as all people will be saved by grace.

Now that our salvation is secured, what can we do about all those iniquities that keep piling up? Can we stop increasing them? Unfortunately not, but we ought try with grace and gratitude with all our mind, body and strength.

We can offer grace to all other living people. We can breathe and love and hope.

Life is messy, and we can live with confidence and courage in the face of all kinds of evil knowing God has already dealt with it all. So onward, with what this day has to offer; countering all evil and sin as we can, and bringing God’s grace to bear on all that we can.

Hallelujah!