Grace

Remember Our True Faith of Grace

The passages for this Sunday’s lessons are profoundly problematic.

Malachi 4:1-2a

Malachi promises that the day will come when arrogant and evildoers will be burned up entirely, stem to root. That is of course only Those, them, the others. And on that day We, us, those who revere God’s name, upon us (not them) the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in it’s wings.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

2 Thessalonians, either written by Paul or more likely a disciple of Paul writing in his name (as was common and acceptable then,) commands the readers to work for their food, and not be idle. And he also commands that those who do not work should not eat! This prescription to allow some people to starve has been used as justification for all sorts of injustices worked against the poor.

Luke 21:5-19

The Lukan passage deals with the end times, cautioning the listeners to not be taken in by false prophets claiming to be the returned Christ. Admonishing calm patience and faithfulness the passage ends with “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Blown in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?

Blown in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?

Unfortunately we do not use Psalm 98 this week.

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done | marvelous things,
  whose right hand and holy arm have | won the victory.
2O Lord, you have made | known your victory,
  you have revealed your righteousness in the sight | of the nations.
9The Lord will judge the | world with righteousness
  and the peo- | ples with equity.

Or perhaps it is a good opportunity that we do not use the Psalm.

While each text is filled with directions on what to do as Christians, even prescribing what things we must do in order to receive Salvation, we believe and hold firm the faith and tradition that is handed on to us, namely: that we are saved by grace alone, not by the merit of our works.

We interpret all scripture and spiritual thought through this lens: That we are saved only by God’s act upon us, that we remain totally sinners throughout our lives and at the same time God makes us, through Christ’s redemptive sacrifice for us, totally saints. This is a gift imputed to us, not infused into us. This gift is effective in us, yet does not overcome the sinner that we remain, until Christ comes again, God reckons righteousness to us, and we become saints in the light of Christ for ever. These precepts are paradoxical, and we believe they hold the truth of God’s Grace for us that cannot logically be expressed. Faith cannot be grasped and controlled. It can only we experienced and enjoyed with awe, or rejected with consequences unknowable.

So what are we to make of these scriptural judgments of others and promises that we are not them, of the command that if we or others do not work we are not to eat, or the admonishments to earn our salvation?

Our choices are four:

  1. We could preach the problematic parts as if they were the Gospel of Christ ignoring that they are destructive to faith and community.
  2. We could ignore or pretend to ignore the problematic parts of the texts. Preaching on Psalm 98 alone would be an opportunity to take this route.
  3. We could preach a reinterpretation of the passages so as to proclaim a faithful Word, a true witness to Christ, but not mention that we are interpreting the passages to bring Gospel out of them. OR
  4. We can be clear about the need to re-interpret and proclaim that need along with a clear proclamation of the Gospel after we re-interpret these passages according to Luther’s Gospel within a Gospel: that we are saved by Grace through Faith and not by merit of our works.
Gone are the days of colour and calm.

Gone are the days of colour and calm.

The Cold Hard Facts of the Gospel have arrived with the cold and snow in late fall.

Preach as you will, but as for me and my empty “household”, the woods, squirrels and the occasional deer, we will enjoy God’s grace and preach it clearly, honestly, and profoundly as, as much as God gives me opportunity and energy to do so.

Of course, the squirrels really do not listen very well, and the deer have no patience, anxious as they are from hunters pursuits.

What is clear from the lessons for this Sunday is that true discipleship is costly.

As costly as those we remember today, the veterans who have sacrificed to give us the possibility of the lives we now enjoy.

While we chafe under encouragements to tithe, giving 10% of the first fruits of all God gives us, our time, talents and resources, the call that claims us and the faith that is imputed to us demands not merely 10%. We chafe so brutally that we often demand no mention of tithing occur in our congregation, certainly not that we ask each other to work towards this small sacrifice, guilty as we are that we have never thought this possible for us ourselves. Always one hears how unjust this call is for those who are below the poverty line. Which is true sort of: 10% of an income of which 50% is spent on the bare necessities of life is challenging, but 10% of an income of which 110% or more is spent on the bare necessities of life is a challenge beyond respectable.

True discipleship costs us 100%, and our avoiding a call for 10% gives witness how weak our faith is practised in our lives.

Yet the True Gospel is not that we must give 100%, or that we must give even 10% for God’s grace to be effective in our lives and at the end of time, effectively applied to us. What counts is still what God does, not what we do.

Though it is problematic that we do not do what we readily could do, and instead we count on God’s Grace to save our neighbours from hunger, poverty, despair. Since Christ steps in for us sinners when we were lost (each day of our lives) why would we not strive with all our being to be Christ’s hands especially to our neighbours in desperate need!

But one can hardly preach that to people who refuse to be the hands of Christ, asking for the first 10% in good stewardship for their church. One does pray for them, and for one’s self: that we may all survive the winter, cold, hard, and brutal as it is … to be gracious with each other … soon, before it is too late.

That Ti –

That Ti-

Me

Of

Year

Aga-

in

nice ice at sun setting

nice ice at sun setting

Cool but warm inside.

Wonders and Miracles

flow freely to those with eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to believe,

and who pursue truth

in all things.

….

explanation for those who do not know enough to notice: the lake froze over last night thus the golden sheen on the lake ice all across.

Of course only being here will inform one that yesterday there was most of the lake still waving water,

saying goodbye

with great hopes of coming again

when the sun sticks around longer each day.

Choose grace, live hope, love even one’s enemies…

for God is a God of the living!

Berries Milk golden Koffee

In the quiet of the morning

With the sun just up, I trust, since the clouds are thick and low, but it is not dark as night anymore, when the waning crescent moon supplied a bit of light to step by to dump the ashes from the night’s fire as the early morning fire is stoked and left to burn hot,

With the sun just up, the logs have been hauled for fuel to heat with, and the Eucharist celebrated with thankful prayers for family, all.

As breakfast, a required meal of fibre and fruit to keep my body from rejecting most foods with spasms and great pain, is prepared, cereal in the bowl, coffee measured into a small glass, the french press ready, and then pre-heated and filled with water boiled on the wood burning in the fire in the stove … and

then the milk cold from the natural fridge is poured on the cool berries from nature’s fridge, the liquid milk freezes into crystals on the cold, cold berries decorating them with the snow white of frozen milk.

Add the hot coffee to milk, Kafe au lait, and the breakfast is balanced into good measures of blessing

to open this portion of the morning, with the routine well accomplished and work well planned.

First task of everyday, exercise, then Eucharist, then breakfast and something creative.

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cereal under Berries under Frosty Milk, before Coffee Golden

cereal under Berries under Frosty Milk, before Coffee Golden

Today Berries Under Milk, Quiet

as only the fire sparks and moans as logs become heat and clear smoke burned so hot!

Live well. Tell the truth only. Trust God’s protection and blessing.

Receive everything with Grace, Forgive all who can be, work diligently for justice for all, and hope for things unseen and for which there is no evidence it will be provided. For this is life, as God created us to live it, filled with Love, pure and simple, even for one’s enemies.

A Riddle in Photos

An early morning stroll

Before Eucharist and Coffee with Breakfast

Brought me to the road towards the East and the rising sun.

Golden light and a sound alerted me to a photo about to be.

Can you see the sound?

Can you tell what is different in each photo? (ignore that the position of the camera moves slightly so that the view shifts, the edges are different.)

What is a wonderful Saturday morning, -2⁰ with clear sky and waning gibbous moon, a touch of frost and a good warm fire keeping ‘home’ warm, and the water for coffee boiling,

if not a perfect opportunity to play and make a small riddle-puzzle, seek-and-find photo series?

First View

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Second view

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Third View. See it yet?

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Fourth View. Have your glasses on?

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Fifth view. Get out the magnifying glass?

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How long did it take you?

What is your time compared to God’s time?

73804 Mitkommen!

73804 mitkommen!

As the cool days of fall darken earlier and earlier, and the dark of night stays with us longer and longer …

Dark comes early, closer to South

Dark comes early, closer to South

Leaves fall all

Leaves fall all

The wood pile is just high enough,

The food sufficient for the coming days,

The water enough and replenish-able,

And the air is fresh,

My clothing rather well prepared for the coming months,

The shelter from the weather to come is mostly prepared,

My labour is directed, consumedly so, towards writing what must be written.

My love grows and wanes, I am loved well and always.

And God holds me safe.

What more can one ask for from life, from God, from all that might be?

All that might be.

All that might be.

How many humans have had so much less, so much less, so much less.

So much less.

So much less.

The beauty of the world is at my fingertips, literally, as a cell phone camera captures what can be seen and hoped for?

Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters

Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters

Wahrheit

Was sonst?

God’s blessings

For what more would anyone wish from life?

More than the time each morning to celebrate that Christ is with us, in body and blood?

More than the ability to see beauty and share it with others?

Sharing beauty

Sharing beauty

More than the ability to know truth, without doubt, or hesitation?

More than to live well?

Live Well

Live Well

Legend:

73804 mitkommen! – from the movie Remembrance, Tomasc calls out to Hannah to come with him, he dressed as a German soldier initiating their escape, as he carries a canister of photos of the Nazi concentration camp.

Wahrheit, was sonst? – Truth, what else?

Und weshalb nicht?

Und weshalb nicht?

West with Accents

West with Accents

God’s Grace Gives Real Identity

The Light of Creation: God said It is GOOD!

Prayer

We pray that we may Guard the treasure of faith entrusted to us, relying on the Holy Spirit in all things!

This is life (challenges and tragedy): I’d like to tell you it’ll be ok, I cannot honestly do that: 100% death rate

You probably have heard it said, “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”

I’d like to tell you that the death rate for humans is less than 100%, but that’d be dishonest. It is the pain of death that rips our hearts and dreams right out of us. It is the basic, most profound fear of each human. It drives us to succeed, even by evil scheming, which leads to eternal failure.

Success:

The OT commonly claims that God blesses the faithful with material successes. There is no end of advice on how to be successful.

One of my favourites is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Charles R. Swindoll

Reba McEntire gives us: “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”

Pele, the soccer star, offered all together: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing….”

Winston Churchill pointed out that it’s always a process:“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

John Barrow said, “Music is 10% exhilaration and 90% utter disappointment.” Many great musicians will confirm this, and it seems success is like that as well: Despite all our efforts to succeed most of our efforts end in utter disappointment and only the cream of the crop rise to the top. Or as the lessons for today tell us, those who pursue evil schemes seem to succeed in life’s pursuits, and God does not bless the faithful with success.


Success is like photos, too often it looks too good to be really true.

Life’s challenges, tragedies, defeats – We’d like to say that they are not what they are, but they are what they are.

With the looming end of life at our own deaths, and the slim chance of success, even when we follow the best advice, it would be great if the church offered some kind of helpful advice to succeed in the face of life’s tragedies, challenges and defeats. Too often it does, and most often it is a false teacher who provides something other than the sound teaching of the Gospel.

Spouse develops dementia

When a spouse develops dementia, and lives on but does not even know their loved ones, we’d like to say that it will be OK, but it is not OK. It’s a loss for which hardly anything can prepare us.

Addicted

When a family member or friend becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, we’d like to tell you that they need to go to AA or NA and you to Al-anon and everything will be OK. It is so important to go to AA, NA or Al-anon, but that’s only a small step. For the addict the rest of life is one drink or fix away from the same devastating decline towards death. Those close to the addict are invisibly drawn down the same road as they fight to make the world right again. But attempting that impossible task robs us of all the goodness of life. Al-anon only helps us see the invisible road to disaster, even as we remain one misstep from jumping or rolling right down that path again.

Child dies

When perhaps the worst tragedy hits and a child dies: We cannot tell you that it was God’s will, and that everything will be OK. We can tell you that most people agree that parents are not supposed to have to bury their children. It’s a loss and tragedy that is beyond comparison.

Habakkuk pending defeat to Babylon

There is much more to say in the face of every challenge or tragedy, so do not despair.

Yet this is what especially the OT lesson for today tells us. There will be destruction, violence, strife, contention and justice that is perverted, and it will seem as if God has deserted us. Besides the breakdown of their nation’s integrity, the prophet’s people faced inevitable defeat by their powerful neighbours, Babylon and Egypt. The Promised Land will be lost. They will go into exile as slaves. Worst of all, their identity as God’s people in the Promised Land will disappear, if it has not already.

The Prophet’s Complaint and Plea, Posture (Standing, Waiting)

So the prophet cries and pleads with God, how long must they wait for God to save them from themselves and their neighbours?! The prophet does not lie down in resignation. Instead the prophet stands in wait for God’s answer.

God’s Answer: a Vision, a Promise

And God answers with a vision in which all is put right. It may seem to take too long, but in God’s time all will be done right!

The Prophets always look up!

That’s quite the promise. That promise is repeated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where it was instrumental in Martin Luther’s break through to understand that we are saved by Grace alone! Can we live abundantly in that promise, when we face challenges, losses and unimaginable tragedies, when we see creation rebelling against our abuses and we know success is rare and death is sure?

The best of creation is polluted. When will we learn!

That’s much harder than following all that advice on how to be successful. We might well cry to God, “Help! Give us faith!”

Gospel prelude to today’s lesson: Forgive

In the verses leading up to today’s Gospel Jesus has told the disciples that they must forgive, and forgive and forgive without end. The disciples see that as too hard. They do not know how to succeed at this. So the disciples’ plead with Jesus: “Increase our faith!”

In answer Jesus tells them the smallest amount of faith is more than sufficient. We know from Paul’s letters, especially Galatians, reflecting Habakkuk’s words, that faith is not up to us. It is a free gift that God gives to us undeserving sinners. That faith given to us by Grace transforms everything in our lives. We become God’s children who act out that same Grace for everyone around us.

Turning Point: Christ abolishes death!

We read in the Letter to Timothy how profound this transformation is: “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus…, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

This is the power of God! In Christ Jesus death is abolished. Our core identity becomes not how we live, not what we do, not who we live with, nor even for whom we live out our lives. Our core identity is established again as it was at creation: we are God’s people by Grace alone. It is what God does to us, not what we do, that gives us our identity.

We can trust the promise that, even though we be overrun by a foreign power, the Promised Land be taken from us, and we are scattered across the face of the earth, we remain God’s people.

Terry Waite

Terry Waite, as an envoy for the Church of England, negotiated the release of a number of hostages in the Middle East. Then during one negotiation, he was kidnapped and held from 1987 to 1991. For most of those five years he was isolated and blindfolded. It would have been so easy to lose himself, his identity, his sanity. A key component to his survival was daily Holy Communion. By himself, by memory, he went through the service using the old words from the English Book of Common prayer, even when he had no bread or water for the elements. This Word of God reminded Terry who he was and it reminded Terry who God was. It pulled him into communion with the faithful of every time and place – day … by day … by day: he was the one for whom Christ died, so that he might be forgiven and live abundantly, even in captivity.

Forgiving

Even a tiny bit of the faith, that Grace alone saves us, is enough for us to extend that same forgiveness to everyone around us.

Facing Real Life, even Defeat, as God’s Children

With even the smallest spark of that faith in us, death does not have the final say in our lives. The treasure of this grace-given-faith through the generations overcomes every challenge, tragedy and defeat. When a spouse develops dementia, when a loved one becomes an addict, even when a child dies, then we can trust that God carries us onward in the world God made and said “It is Good!”

Everything taken: we remain God’s Children

Everything can be taken from us. Like Paul, we can be imprisoned and even worse: our reputations can be ruined, our church can be taken from us, our livelihoods and ability to work can be taken from us, our freedom can be taken from us. Still we will remain God’s children, for God alone has made us God’s children. Nothing can take that from us.

Billboard of faith

Like a billboard the Holy Spirit has engraved the Gospel of Jesus on our foreheads with a cross, poured it into our hearts as love, and kneaded it like leaven into our minds and actions, so that a runner, or a fellow disciple in deep grief or having forgotten Grace-given-Faith, will easily be able to see the treasure of Christ’s Grace in our lives.

Knowing that Christ has defeated death and is raising us to new life, at the end of each day, whether it was challenging or not, we will not have chased after trite nor revered successes.

The End of our day, and all is well. We’ve lived as God’s children.

The Habit of Costly Faith Courageously Shared

Instead, having treasured Grace and forgiveness as a habit so that it comes easily to us, we will say: “We, faithful servants of Christ, have done only what we ought to have done! Though it cost us, like William Tyndale who was martyred in 1536 for translating the Bible into English, with the courage of the Holy Spirit we share with others the Grace that saves us.” …. [breathe!]

Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react[breathe!]
Yet it is 100% what God does for us that counts!

Amen

Still Morning Drips

Still Morning Ice Drops drip

Walking to haul wood for the stove

The trees have carpeted the path with themselves

sacrificing to the cold the colours left when photosynthesis cannot any more

as they shed summer and fall pushing the liquids of life back into the ground protecting themselves

from the expansion of freezing that would tear out their hearts.

In the still air as the light of warmth reaches through the tops to the yellow carpet below

the trees cry ice drops,

melting from the freezing night’s moisture collected on leaves not yet having succumbed like their fallen comrades

to the wretched destruction of passing time,

or

to the blessed transition from green biting-bug-and pollen-filled hot days transitioning to the cool respite of fall.

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Colour drips Drops of Time

Drip, drop, drip … it is time

time to prepare

time to celebrate what was

time to prepare for what will come

time to haul wood, trees murdered for a bit of white bark or taken as the victim’s of drug-hyped-senslessness and bravado that a madman with an axe can fell living trees just for the show of it, for the false exuberance of finally being able to master something, since he could not master himself.

Drip, drop, drip … it is time

time to prepare

for the Light of Christ to shine in the darkness.

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?

The Grip of the Season

Fall

The trees have joined the low bushes in nodding to the coming time, fall will be here in a few days, and the leaves need to protect the forest floor from the nice ice that will carpet the bugs in their beds and mice in their burrows. May the freeze be deep and hard enough to clear out the ferocious biting pine beetles. I thought they were but a nuisance, not knowing what this ugly bug was, until someone told me their name, and then one had the audacity to land on my face and bite my hand when I brushed it off. Not just one, but a mini chainsaw effect.

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Just a few leaves scatter about

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The cool near the water turns a few not so hardy first

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The roads, as they are, open the cool air to reach low, the open meadow allows the young trees to turn first.

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As the grip tightens along the road the lines of colour serve as guides to the exit.

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The leaves begin to carpet the ‘roads’

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Fall has it’s grip down low and up high in the woods.

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Cool Night

The cooler nights have meant for better sleeping and clear air waking. The most dangerous animals are less frequent in these parts, though a few do venture out to wade as their dogs swim in the lake’s frigid waters, not quite so in the shallows of the sandy shorelines.

Their noisy absence leaves more peace for the four-legged animals to venture near, and deer, bear and squirrels, owls, loons and geese abound. Not that I have the equipment to catch photos of any.

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empty spaces

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Solitude Light

Which gives way for quiet solitude in the evenings as the last bit of light fades through dusk to dark, leave the last fade a line of western slivered light reflected in the lake’s undulating surface between the reeds.

The Last Light as Night overtakes Dusk

The sliver of solitude so difficult to find, more so to fully enjoy.