Loon, Where to?

The signs of spring are well sprung

geese since weeks strut about

song birds galore fill the morning air

fishers drive through no more

the ice with cracks like rifle shots broke up, the wind pushed it to the shoreline and the warmer weather melted it off the lake, except for a few remnants on the windblown shore.

The occasional camper ventures out for a weekend.

Allergies return in force.

But my favourite by far is the return of the loons.

Calm after, Preparation for, Speck of Haunting Beauty

The question is always

where to this day, this month, this year, with this life, precious as Christ has claimed it to be?

The path toward the light at sunrise

Every moment opportunities to do well, do the right thing, are before us.

Which will you choose this day?

Will you walk to the light?

Or will you choose to remain in the darkness of greed, self interest, deception, and destruction in order to just make it through the days you’ve filled with such pain for others, and your own soul?

[replace the above with and fill in your own choice of sin, evil, and darkness – we all have our favourites!]

In the light is truth, grace, health, purpose, and peace.

And profound joy, even in the midst of grief.

Your choice?

The haunting loon returns with all the other signs of spring, by instinct, by the pull of nature, and for pure survival. Humans can choose more than survival and instinct. You can choose new life in the light, and choose to share it with everyone,

Or not.

Easter Later Service

Easter Morning Late

This wondrous morning we remember God’s victorious response to death’s three day claim on Jesus. We remember Jesus’ resurrection. And we hope for God’s resurrection response to all claims evil has on us and on all people.

Proclamation

With this profound hope we proclaim together three times:

Jesus Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen indeed!

The Darkness Before

This past Holy Week we have remembered Jesus’ story, from his triumphant procession into Jerusalem, to his last meal with his disciples as he gave us the New Covenant,

to his arrest, his disciples deserting him, and the questioning, … to the crowds scapegoating and condemning him, his flogging, and Peter’s denials, … to the soldiers mocking and torturing him.

Finally we remembered how Jesus died sooner than expected, nailed to a cross … abandoned even by God. His followers scattered and hiding, filled with fear for their lives.

We remembered how they buried him in a rock tomb.

Because the darkness, portrayed in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, is so deep, embracing everything, and so unbearably deadly, the next part of Jesus’ story is so much more than we can ever expect or comprehend, yet alone completely remember.

Every time we encounter it, we see how much more Jesus’ story is. The Light of Christ outshines such depths of darkness that we are dumbfounded, astounded and awestruck, …

if we listen carefully.

The Light

God did not just step in to defeat the death of Jesus. After all Jesus is not the first to come back from the dead. Lazarus steps out of his tomb with grave clothes still covering him. Jesus calls out Talitha cumi, and the young girl walks away from her death bed.

Jesus story is more than one resurrection

Jesus’ story is more than one more resurrection. With Jesus’ resurrection it’s all evil, all death defeated.

Home Run

Jesus’ story is not just standing at home plate and hitting a home run out of the stadium. It’s standing at the plate, in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, with a full count, down three runs, bases loaded, with all your pitchers used up. You’ve been put up there to bat in desperation by the manager. You are mostly recovered from a chemotherapy treatment three days ago and from surgery on your left shoulder last month. You’re no spring chicken at 65 years old. You will never be here again, ever, even if you beat cancer. There’s is no way you should be here. You just came back to visit the team on the bench.

Then you hit a home run to the utter astonishment of everyone and to the great benefit of a home city desperate for a team that would finally win.

Remember

Remember what Jesus has taught us, just as Jesus taught his first disciples. Remember Jesus’ story. It is also our story, or rather we each have a variation of that as our own story.

Every time we listen carefully we will be astounded and amazed at how God acts out God’s will with love and forgiveness, Grace and mercy, sacrifice and humility for us, and for all people, even our enemies.

What’s Next?

So what’s next for us?

It is easy to come to Easter worship, to be astounded by Jesus’ story and to bask in the music and words and movements of our celebration of life in the worship service and at breakfast. It’s easier yet to then once again walk back out into the world that keeps us occupied, forgetting what amazing things we’ve heard and seen. Who would believe us anyway if we told them someone came back from the dead to share God’s Word with us?

Isaiah’s New Heavens and New Earth

In the OT lesson from Isaiah for this morning, Isaiah speaks God’s words of promise to the exiles in Babylon. They’ve lost everything and been carted thousands of miles from home to be servants in a foreign land ruled by some not so nice people. They are not only servants, but they have years ago forgotten so much.

God creates new

God’s Word comes, not to fix things up, but to create a new heaven and a new earth. God’s words create, just as at the beginning of time. In the new creation we will no longer be God’s wayward people. Instead we will get to remain at home, cry to the Lord in joy and be a delight to God.

It is a Shalom vision of the Kingdom of God: there will be no weeping, no cries of distress.

New creation ends all suffering and need

In this world of Shalom, of God’s Peace, there is no homelessness, no hunger, no conflict or climate-change-displaced refugees. There are no untimely deaths, no violence or destruction or stolen lunches or unrewarded labour.

Even the dog-eat-dog order of the food chain will end. Predators and prey will live together in peace.

God’s new work in Jesus even more: perfect

Yet this vision in Isaiah is nothing compared to God’s work made clear in Jesus’ story that we have reflected upon this Lent and Holy Week.

In truth all things in God’s new creation will be re-created perfect.

Now we have only a foretaste of this new creation, a promise made in Jesus’ story.

Luke: Healing

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes that Jesus came to heal people, and with his death and resurrection to heal all creation.

As humans we often need healing. We often seek help and sometimes what ails us is dealt with. Even less frequently we even see that we are cured. When it comes to the wholeness of creation and our spirits we seem to be lost.

The brokenness of creation is more than we imagine. Our brokenness is more than we can imagine. The healing we need is so much more than we can imagine.

Healing, more than duct tape

It used to be that a good farmer could fix anything except the economy with bailing wire and pliers. Now days we use duct tape and plastic ties.

Which works out just fine until your life depends on the repair.

It’s like carabiners. There are so many kinds available today. I can get two for $1.25. And they work as key chains just fine. Until they do not, and my keys went missing because the cheap, carabiner I hung my keys on did not stay closed. Whoosh, click or slip and the key was goners. So now I use duct tape to hold the carabiner closed.

The fix when our lives depend on it

Which works just fine. But it would not be the fix needed if I were mountain climbing and hanging all my weight plus the stress of the wind blowing against me on that carabiner, tied by a rope into the rock face.

That kind of a carabiner cannot be a two-for-$1.25 purchase. For all the things we might be pleased to repair with duct tape and plastic ties, God asks so much more of us when it comes to our part in the new creation.

When we go through life, expecting that God just uses duct tape and plastic ties to heal creation, we miss out on the marvellous mystery, the eye-popping wonder, and the awe-filled power God uses to create a new heaven and earth for us, in us, and among us.

Sending

After Jesus’ resurrection, God sends us out to share the good news, to voice the prayers of compassion with those who suffer, and to be the hands of Christ that deliver the new creation to all people.

When we listen carefully, do diligently, remember remarkably, we will hear and see Jesus working in ways we hardly understand at first. We will be floored by the amazing tales Jesus has in mind for us to hear and even see for ourselves.

We ask that the Holy Spirit will help us watch carefully, listen intently, and pray fervently, that God’s new creation may come among also us. But most of all we ask that the Holy Spirit help us as we get ready to be bowled over. It not a small fix or even a big fix with duct tape. God creates a new world, a new universe, and even a new you and new me.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us through it.

Ready or not, the Holy Spirit will put us up to bat, with the bases load, in the bottom of the ninth, with the team needing us to hit a home run, and the world needing it even more.

Breath deeply and slowly. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t forget ….

Christ is Risen!

And that’s just the start of God’s new creation.

God is about to use each of us in ways we could not dream of.

Amen

Good Friday Success

What was once alive, once green, once bright, is now in these days dead, withered and dark.

There is only a faint hint of days long distant in the most recent of times.

What is it to succeed

and leave a legacy?

To overrun others, destroying them with lies, in order to have more, in order to cover up one’s sins?

Or to suffer rumours and lies that destroy one’s reputation and finances leaving one homeless?

This day, Jesus answered God’s call to submit himself to death, a torturous death, and to die.

Did Jesus succeed? Did Jesus destroy others, or did he allow others to try to destroy him, and respond with grace and forgiveness?

If more of the world knew Grace and lived it well, more people would succeed …

in bringing the basics of life to others with their sacrifices.

The world may seem dark, especially in these days when we remember that God died, and remained so, for three days.

There is only the reflection in our memories of the light that has guided our paths. But there will be a great light, that will shine in every darkness, and bring justice, restitution, and new life to those who are destroyed by others lies.

And for those who have destroyed with lies … may God have mercy on them.

A Short Walk

Three Stand Straight, Three Lean to the Light.

Tonight I took a short walk.

Around the sand roads and through the woods.

No bugs, lots of water spread across the low spots.

No great big, throny bushes, no green trees, and no crowds … in fact great solitude and quiet.

Just a walk around

a bit

near the sunset

before settling in as a guest of the Queen,

honoured chosen of my Lord,

on the shores of a small quite lake,

since the oil company bought it all up,

except a few pieces

which means the Queen still has a small plot

that she shares, by law, with a few homeless,

and quite a few wealthy land owners looking for

the gift of nature: health and joy.

There’s also enough detritus left around that proves there are a number of irresponsible beer drinking, condom throwing, and garbage dumping foolish visitors.

So I took a bag with me on my walk around to collect some of the detritus. Lots more, like the condoms, still lay strewn on the ground, things that I needed more than just one bag to be able to pick up and haul out for other fools.

Why does the Queen receive such fools?

Why does the Creator tolerate such fools?

Perhaps because one fool is pretty much like another, and all are fools in one way or another.

My call is to be a fool for Christ, so there is that.

And I took a quiet walk around tonight before enjoying a quiet night, with only a couple parking for hours, depositing another condom and toilet paper to found on a quiet morning walk before the full light of dawn.

Solitude is precious as are a good night’s sleep and the clear light of truth.

The Rising Dawn: The Hyenas, The Waltz

The darkness has succumbed to the rising dawn, until the sol of creation begins anew to give purpose and hope for the hours to come.

Light catches even the spider’s string


So …


I can close my eyes having kept the watch,
For the Christ’s Light now keeps the darkness and danger at bay.

The hyenas of home are driven back into hiding, until in darkness they will run freely again.


Let the waltz begin.
Let the celebrations begin.

Joshua, Paul, and the two Sons: Celebrate by Being …

As way of introductory words to explain Beale Street and ‘Justice’:

“Beale Street is a street in New Orleans, where my father, where Louis Armstrong and the jazz were born,” the quote reads in the opening shot of the movie. “Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the back neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy. This novel deals with the impossibility and the possibility, the absolute necessity, to give expression to this legacy.

“Beale Street is a loud street. It is left to the reader to discern a meaning in the beating of the drums.” James Baldwin

The actual street named Beale Street is located in Memphis. But there is a Beale Street in every city, in every town, in every rural place where people live. While the book/movies is about the racial realities of black discrimination, the injustice of false convictions run rampant in many places against many minorities. In Canada jails are filed with aboriginal peoples. In Alberta and elsewhere the discrimination has turned from <against women falsely accused by their men and then easily convicted> to <men falsely accused by their women and easily convicted without any real proof>. As were men in decades past, these women are encouraged and free to lie even under oath in court, with the courts also freely lying even in decisions to absolve women of their lies and to falsely convict men of things they have never done, and of things that often their women have done to the men. Our courts are no more just than any, ever. Capital punishment is not a sentence given by the judges; it is a sentence worked out by inmates and guards, and by countless people in the communities -not least the RCMP and Police and workers in the ‘Justice’ system, who may or may not believe the lies and false convictions, and who then, regardless, rob reputation, labour opportunities, and health from these innocent not-criminals.

Since the beginning of time people have lied to get ahead, to destroy others who are in their way, or just for the sport of it.

But the truth is known by God, and all will stand before God’s throne to be judged. While Grace is our hope, our proclamation, and God’s promise; there is also the promise that the oppressor, the unrighteous, the destroyers of others will face their end in God’s Judgment. There will be no witnesses needed, no testimony – false or not. God already knows everything.

We trust that what God judges will be gracious. We trust that those who stand against the truth somehow will be brought to stop.

But God is the judge, not us. not any of us

So we leave Justice in God’s hands, because humans botch it so consistently …

and we proclaim grace

and real hope.

Now for the sermon proper:

Lenten Theme
Isaiah 58
The acceptable fast brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those without
Lessons for this Sunday:
Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

If Beale Street Could Talk

One wonders how the world would be if indeed the streets could speak of the injustices that God’s people have suffered at the hands of God’s people. If indeed the disgrace of God’s people would be removed. If indeed the effects of all the sins of the people would be erased.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a movie (adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same title) about a young black man ruined by the in-justice system. A young white man has made unrelenting advances on his fiancée in a store. He stands up for her, drives the white thug off, but not before a dirty cop tries unsuccessfully to arrest the young black man. The dirty copy gets revenge. It is about the dirty justice system whose people make this wonderful, creative, loving young man into an incarcerated black. Everything about this young human being is reduced to one of many young black men jailed and beaten, though innocent.


It’s dark out There

Everything old has passed away. Everything is made new.

This young man, a sculptor, a young father, makes things new out of chunks of wood. Until a dirty cop and a dirty justice system rob him of his everything, until they rob his family, his wife to be and their child, of everything. The dirty ones rob him by accusing him of a terrible, filthy, horrible rape. They disgrace him. They let him be beaten in jail. They terrorize him with delays upon delays and threats upon threats until he breaks and accepts a plea, a guilty plea of an innocent man, and he serves someone else’s time.

It’s quite the image that Joshua gives as the people gather to celebrate the Passover in the Promised Land: in the English we have God “rolls away” their disgrace. The German gives a hint that the Hebrew is more colourful: ‘Heute habe ich die Schande Ägyptens von euch abgewälzt.’. God ‘waltzes away’ the disgrace of the people. Generations ago they were saved but then enslaved, freed but then trapped in the wilderness … until today with Joshua, they stand in the land promised to Abraham, and they eat from the fruit of the land. No more wandering, no more manna. They have come home, and God welcomes them waltzing away in celebration their layers of slavery and disgrace.

God waltzes away our disgrace, our sins, our slavery … and God sets us free.

It may be dark, but the Light comes to find us!

For God made Jesus, who did not sin, to bear all the sins of all the people through time, precisely in order that you and I, in order that all of us, would not only be free. God set us free precisely in order that you and I and all of us would be made into the righteousness of God visible, embodied here and now on this earth.

We stand, cut off, but we stand. We stand surrounded by the hard cold,
but we stand, for God is with us!

Our freedom, our righteousness, in NO WAY is earned by our actions.

Either we are like the younger son, as we claim all sorts of rights and privileges, and all that is due us … and then we squander the precious things God has given us on the oldest vices available to humans who can choose. We can choose because God made us able to love. To love is to be able to choose to love, which means we must be able to choose not to love, which is to choose evil. So we either choose to squander God’s precious gifts to us …

OR

We are like the older son as we serve God with great labours and self-righteousness. We do not squander God’s love, but we comprehend it completely not.

When God wants to celebrate God’s forgiveness, and a lost sinner’s return to life, we get self-righteously angry. We behave as if we somehow owned God’s will. As if we, with our obedience and labours, have earned all that we have, but even more so we own the right to judge other sinners. We’ve allowed ourselves to become so blind to the grace that daily gives us renewed breath. We want to be better than we are, and comparing ourselves to other’s whose sins are more known we think we are somehow good enough. Thus …

We refuse to celebrate with God. We refuse to celebrate with God exactly what we are created to be and do: we are created to proclaim and celebrate that God is gracious, forgiving sins, dancing away disgrace, and feeding us from the produce of the Promised Land.

This is the same old, same old that has hung around the necks and souls of humans since the beginning of time.

Even though, all the time, each and every one of us is like either the younger or the elder son, and sometimes we are like both at the same time … Even so God promises us it is different in the Kingdom of God. It is different now, here and now, in the Kingdom of God. For the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Here in the Kingdom of God, all confess that only by Grace do we breathe, or drink, or eat, or work, or celebrate, or love, or hope.

By Grace all our sins, yours and mine and all of ours, are taken up in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are made into God’s righteousness.

We are not pretenders. God makes us not just good, not just sometimes good, not better than others. God makes us into God’s own righteousness.

In that righteousness everything old has indeed passed away. In that righteousness everything is made new. You and I, and each one of us, are made into new creatures. All of creation is made new.

As God’s righteousness you and I and each one of us, really have nothing worth doing other than what Jesus calls us to do, what the Holy Spirit makes us capable of doing. We think, pray, speak and act so that those around us know that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and they are welcomed in just as we are; not because we’ve earned it, not at all. They and we are welcomed in because God wants it that way.

Though we remain sinners all the time, unable to free ourselves, God forgives us each day all our new sins, so that we can forgive ourselves, and so that then we can turn to everyone else and forgive them!

God has made us into Christ’s voice, hands and compassion, so that we will reconcile not only ourselves, but all others, and even the creation so broken … so that we will reconcile all people back to God, so that we will reconcile all creation back to God.

You and I, and each one of us, are God’s ambassadors.

We stand in the promised land, in the Kingdom of God, and we eat of the fruit of this land, the produce of this Kingdom.

The light of God is bright and the hyenas of home are sent scurrying for cover into their own darkness.

We stand, knowing that God is with us and was with us all the way or we would never reach the promised land. We stand and celebrate the return of each lost sinner. For we know that is us, each day. We trust that God will always be with us, as we arrive in the Promised Land anew each day. As we leave our pack of hyenas in the dark and come into the Light of life.

We trust that this Lent our being Christ’s ambassadors, no matter what it costs us, is our Lenten fast, the fast that God finds acceptable, the fast that brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those who most need them. Most of all our fast brings forgiveness and reconciliation to those who need it most: you and me, and each one of us.

If every Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear not only the Black man’s story, or the indigenous man’s story, or the refugee’s story. If everyone’s Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear Jesus’ story and ourselves in it.

This is my Beale Street, the entrance and exit, to my home; Here the Light Shines, especially in the darkness!

….


Here,

in this new creation,

the Light Shines!

One day, the Light of Christ will shine Light on every Beale Street story, and the disgrace will be where it belongs.

And God’s Grace and Justice will prevail …

Amen.

(Which means: this is most certainly true!)

How Cold?

How Cold Can It Get?

Sometimes words make a difference.

What words do you have, that you can use to inspire life abundant

in a camper warm in the cold, soaked in solitude, and connected to the beauty of life by a thin thread of grace and a camera, a chainsaw and a pile of wood, an old furnace, old metal doors, old tarps added to 1x4s and pallets, garbage wood and metal, propane and gasoline …

and hope?

Is your heart warm, your music lively and loud, your thoughts connected to the universe made by God’s grace?

At -25°C that would be helpful, if a bit elfish.

It warmed up suddenly, mostly the cool on the floor dissipated, why,

?

A wonderful feeling after being cold most of today.

Church: I arrive and within minutes need to take my boots off to rub my feet that are painfully cold still. 10 minutes and they warm up … so it goes all day.

Until now. Toasty warm.

Great music, to volume, the selection of Good Lovelies, Cohen, and Beethoven so far, more to come.

Find a corner that is kind

of friendly and cozy.

A woman at the till behind me, said I was nice, for letting her put her milk jug on the belt sooner than otherwise there would have been room.

I told her my wife doesn’t say I am nice.

She says I am kind ….

Kind of this and kind of that.

‘Cute’

Back out into the cold … it is soooo cold.

Some people heat their homes with gas,

the heat that is put into my face to burn the light out of me

is darkness in action,

the throngs that have used Gaslighting to beat me into submission, death or exile, whichever works first,

is darkness with a goal,

the lies that others live by and for and with,

is the darkness resident.

the pain that everyone suffers for their part in Gas creating,

Gaslighting me

is sadness given place where life belongs.

My little corner is cozy,

in the cold, it is always good enough, with lots of work, to be warm enough.

How cold can their hearts become, so that the weather hardly compares?

How cold can it get?

It can be as cold as it possibly can get, even with climate change,

where yesterday’s extremes are now today’s normals,

because

God’s Grace

and Love are more powerfully Light

than the darkness that people wish on me,

and the furnace

has plenty of wood,

so that

the kindness of my heart is enough,

by God’s Grace,

to hand on what was first given me

faith,

hope,

and

love.

How Cold will you let your life become, before you step into the light of Grace?

falls the snow

2019.01Jan25

Gently Falls the Snow

.

going out to cut

the electricity off

for the night

to save

on gas

.

I stoke the fire the last time before bed,

Hoping to remain warm the night through

And wake to embers glowing in the firebox

Enough to rebuild the fire for another day

As

I step

Beyond the door

Into the dark of the night

The soft gentle snowflakes float silently

To the ground, providing cover over yesterday’s mess

And a new carpet for tomorrow’s work beyond that marvellous door

.

Today

Yesterday’s carpet

Was well worn by the bright afternoon

Light that bounded out in the clear for all of 15 minutes

Before hiding until

Perhaps tomorrow.

Fulfilled Today?!

27 Jan 2019 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Today’s problems – fixes

An aside: not part of the sermon:

I think that most of life is getting down to the nitty gritty, seeing where one’s predecessors have gone, and finding one’s own way.

Just because someone has made a difficult trek, does not mean it is right for you.

or that because it is difficult, that it is wrong for you.


It is whether it fulfills who you are.


Are you a snow mobile, or a human with boots?

And do you want to walk easy on the snowmobile track or is it your calling to be in the shade in a moment for just a moment, for that is where you will be you?


So


that’s a photo story, from the photo

but it’s not a sermon made from a photo.

Sermon’s are supposed to start with the Gospel,


and love.

So a return to the sermon:

What, if it were to come about today, would fix some of the worst problems you face in your life?

Are you homeless so that a home would be a fulfilled dream? Are you caught in poverty so that a secure income, and benefits for health care, medications, dental, and eye care, along with water, food, clothing, and shelter security would be a fulfilled dream? Are you in captivity to a foreign power, or incarcerated for what you’ve not done, or abused in a relationship you cannot leave, so that freedom would be a palpable change? Are you suffering ill health which you cannot afford to deal with, or for which there simply is no cure or even treatment? Are you bored with life because there is no challenge left to meet and hope that in meeting it anything will become better or have you lost your vision of what could be if … if … but you get stuck because so many dreams have been dashed and there is no light at the end of the tunnel … so that if you were given new hope and new vision to see God’s promises coming to pass your life would be restored?

What, if it were to come about today, would solve some of the worst problems that we face as a congregation? As a community or city? As a country? As the world?

Would the reversal of climate change, a new energy source that did not eat out the world around us, a new attitude of all people that we could provide clean air, water, food security, clothing and shelter, meaningful labour and most importantly, the opportunity to love and be loved … would these bring new life to us all and a bright future for which we could engage in together?

What do we hope for?

Jesus’ words

Jesus’ words voice the purpose for his life, and give the foundation of hope for the world.

More than once Jesus paraphrases Isaiah to put solid words to what Jesus’ purpose is, what he brings to the world:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

These are words that people have heard and hoped in for millennia and generations.

These are not throw away words.

Liberation Theology looks to these words calling us to recognize that God has a preferential option for the poor.

Generations since Jesus’ have looked to these words for assurance that God is with them. Today we read them and receive assurance that God is with and for us, here and now. And there is even more!

Jesus astounding claim:

Jesus reads these words in worship, not just reading them, but then sits to teach about them in his home town. He says ‘today these words are fulfilled in your hearing.’

That’s the remarkable difference that Jesus brings. It’s one thing to hope for a home. It’s another to be told there is one there for you. Or a secure income, or medical care, or food, or a new cure, or whatever it is that will set the world right again,

It is one thing to hope for these, and to be reassured that God promises these to us, ‘next year in Jerusalem’; it is a whole other thing, a fabulous and fearful thing to be told that these things are fulfilled in our hearing them.

Response?

It demands some response. How do we respond?

It’s hard to really take them seriously, as if they are there for us this day; when we look about, and we have no home, or we have no income, or we have no food, or we have no security, or our health is failing and we know the end will be death too soon, or that what our church, community, city, country, or world desperately need simply is not there.

Unfulfilled in history

Isaiah

It is even more difficult when we realize that these words of hope were written by Isaiah as the people sat in exile, hoping to return home.

Isaiah’s words are a bit different, but they reverberate with the same sense of profound need and hope:

“61.1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

Ezra

These same words were read when the exiles had returned home as in Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s time. The people still carried these hopes because returning from exile did not provide what they needed, for it was not anything like it had been, not by a far cry.

Waiting for these hopes to be fulfilled, what did the people do?

As we read in today’s OT lesson from the book of Nehemiah:

They worship. And they worship not unlike we do still today: with standing, seeing and bowing as the book is opened and read from, and sitting to hear the interpretation given to us, and weeping with both sadness and joy at what we hear and understand from God’s word, we often hear that we have great cause to celebrate, to rejoice and be thankful for all that we have, for God has not abandoned us.

So today we worship, with good order, together revering God’s words, listening to the words of music and liturgy, scripture and preaching, eating and drinking together as God’s people in this time and this place.

And still we hear these words:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

But that they are fulfilled in our hearing, how can that be when we still hope for their fulfillment just as the people of Isaiah’s, Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s time did?

MLKing

In the states they honoured Martin Luther King Jr. last weekend.

During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 King called for civil and economic rights, and an end to racism in the US:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“I have a dream that today… that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low … and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh will see it together. This is our hope.”

“Let freedom ring… When we allow freedom to ring … from every city and hamlet … we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing … “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.” copyright 1963 Martin Luther King Jr.

We have a dream. God has a dream for us, too.

And as we hear God’s dream, and hearing it make it our own, and we give our hearts, minds and strength to making it so for others, then it is fulfilled already today in our midst.

We are not alone. The possibilities are not limited to what we are familiar with or what we have done in past, or what we ourselves can envision.

We are members of one body, the body of Christ. This body has many members with different gifts, different visions, and different possibilities.

We are only limited by our own unwillingness to welcome those members with other visions than what we have.

Our future is unlimited as God’s people in this time and place as we welcome everyone.

We gather to worship, much as we have for millennia, to honour God, to praise, pray, sing and feast together. We gather to give thanks and to fulfill God’s word also in our midst:

The poor hear good news, the captives are released, the blind see, the oppressed go free, and here it is always the year of the Lord’s favour.

God’s promises are simple and life changing.

We simply pray that they may be fulfilled today in our hearing as well.

Amen

Our Hearts

Sermon for 20 January 2019

Miracle or preparations

Qualified to Sleep through the night

A farm owner woke to the sounds of a terrible storm,

Running out to get the hired hand up to help him ‘batten down the hatches’

the hired hand refused to wake up to help.

So alone the farmer ran to the gate to tie it closed so the animals could not escape, because the wind could easily blow it open.

The gate was firmly shut, so that no wind could budge it.

He ran to the far side of the barn with a tarp, where loose shingles would be caught by the wind, more would come off and the insides would be sopping wet from the heavy rain that started.

There were no loose shingles.

Around he ran, to fix every known problem and inspect for new ones, but everything was fixed and secured against the storm.

The farmer thought it was a miracle, and went back to bed,

where as he fell back asleep to the pounding rain and wind, he remembered that he decided firmly not to hire this man even though he was the sole man available. This man had said his qualifications were simple: he could sleep through the night.

It was a miracle, because the farmer had gone back and hired this man, who could sleep through the night.

[Include your own stories of miracles, where you changed your heart, mind, and strength.]

Surviving Bitter Cold,

The other morning I woke to -33°C (-27°F).

The propane furnace had long since quit, it was -4°C inside, the generator was too cold to fire up, and the truck would not even turn over. There was a propane bottle heater, but it’s propane was too cold to flow.

So I put the propane bottle in the wood heated shelter to warm it up, put an old insulated tarp over the warmed up heater next to the generator and propped it high enough to light the propane heater without melting the tarp.

And I sat to have breakfast with fresh coffee, made from water boiling all night on the wood stove.

The generator then cooperated nicely, the block heater was plugged in, the battery charger set to the truck battery, and after doing dishes with hot water from the wood stove, I set the charger to 55 amp start mode and the truck fired up. I was only a few minutes late for my appointment. As I was away, the wood heat was blown to warm everywhere nicely including under the skirt to the propane tanks by electric fans powered by the generator. When I returned the furnace fired up nicely and at -25 outside with an overnight low again of -33 I was toasty warm.

It was a miracle, because I had firmly decided I could never get wood heat. It simply was not possible. But I had a change of heart, and after contributions from far and wide, lots of work, and a month or so, there was a wood stove. Otherwise I’d still be cold, maybe like a permanent popsicle.

Jesus’ first miracle

Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ first miracle, the wine at the wedding in Cana. There is more at stake than we may realize at first reading. To run out of wine was a loss of face for the groom’s family, and everyone there. They, friends and family, were expected to bring enough food and drink, potluck style, to help provide for everyone. Having no wine is not like it would be for us. There and then the water was known to be unsafe to drink. At gatherings and celebrations one served wine, which was safe. Having nothing to drink meant the guests had to chose between getting sick with dehydration, or from the water.

At stake for Jesus, as he tells his mother, it is not the right time to demonstrate to people what he can do.

Miracles

When it comes to miracles by God traditionally we’ve said and sometimes/some of us have believed that miracles are God stepping into our universe, breaking the laws we know and getting results we cannot get, good results. Miracles are God’s inexplicable intervention in our universe.

Other people, or sometimes us but only secretly, we’ve said that miracles simply do not happen. There is always an explanation for how things happened, we just do not know enough, so we call them miracles. But miracles are really Nonexistent

I’ve always believed God can inexplicably intervene, and make things happen that simply cannot. God does this very, very rarely. I’ve never liked the traditional message of what a miracle is, that God can miraculously fix everything, because then either God is really cruel because not everything is fixed (and it is unconscionable that somethings are not fixed!) Or we are really incompetent or hard-hearted because if we only prayed more fervently, people would not be suffering and dying, as we speak.

I have believed for a long time that there is a better explanation for miracles that is more powerful, poignant, realistic, hope-filled and hope-giving.

Wine at Cana

Traditionally Inexplicably

Traditionally this is Jesus’ first miracle. He turns water inexplicably into wine.

Work natural, just unknown

Practical explanations have existed. The one I always thought hokey was that the jars had a strong wine, a port, in them. Add water and you get wine.

Instant tang had just come on to the market, so this was ‘instant wine’. Really there was no miracle.
Sorry it’s not any port in a storm.

Explicable and …

Say and believe what you will but as for me: I believe that this is God’s universe, and God can do whatever and does … rarely even things inexplicably miracles. I just still do not believe the ‘instant wine’ denial of miracles (and of God’s being with us.)

I also know God created us intelligent, resourceful, gracious, kind, loving … and greedy, conniving, and deceitful.

I like the following account best of all because the miracle is something we all can and do ‘bank’ on every day. The text allows that there was enough wine, but someone had secreted away (stolen) the best of the wine. The servants are in the know, either as the doers, participants or as the knowers-of-many-secrets. When Jesus instructs them to fill the big jars with water, they decide to correct the wrong, they retrieve the stolen wine, and, as if it were water, pour it into the jars. The wine brought as a gift for the celebration is once again available.

The loss of face for the groom’s family and for all their guests is avoided. The ill health of all the guests is not in the works, and Jesus gets credit as credit is due: he is God’s son, who knows what the servants know, and knows how to help everyone put things right in God’s creation. All is well.

The miracle: Jesus changes hearts, at least of the servants, and perhaps of the thieves.

Good faith

Real difference is what it means to us.

If Miracles are God just doing the magically inexplicable, then everything that goes wrong could just as well be fixed, but God does not! Why does God not just fix everything!?

With that question begins the slippery slope to full-out doubt and disbelief.

When Jesus’ miracles have a simpler, very possible, explanation that Jesus changes people’s hearts to get them to do something different or new: then we have a real life-giving story.

When we face each real difficult challenge in our lives, we could just sit on our hands praying that God would do the inexplicable and fix this for us.

On the other hand, if Jesus’ miracle is that he changes hearts to get us to do things we might not have otherwise, then …

Well, every situation becomes Christ calling us and the Holy Spirit equipping us, and all people around us, to give our best, including giving a profound sense of hope that God is working a miracle through our hearts and hands to give other people a good life and solid grounds for hope.

As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where in God makes good use of us creatures of God, in order to bring about for us and others what God has promised us and wants for us.

As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where the common wisdom makes sense; namely that what happens to us is not so important as what we choose to do. Only 10% of life is what happens to us; the other 90% is how we respond..

That makes a real difference in the world we live in

[add your own stories that need a change of heart to turn out well for all]

Court

I’ve seen more darkness in court than one should ever see, and I rightfully yearn for Justice based on truth, not games and politics and bias’ used to force falsehoods to be facts.

That darkness will not change on it’s own; it requires a change of hearts, many hearts, in many places.

Starvation and World Population

While we’ve read/heard this sermon millions of people are starving and many of them have died. Ending hunger is not impossible. We have enough food and the means to distribute it, if we really wanted to. But it, like homelessness and poverty, avoidable diseases and unemployment can only be curbed and ended if many, many hearts change.

Isaiah & Global Warming

A prophet like Isaiah could well tell us that we have it real well, now, but our doom is coming, for we have ignored God’s Word. We have pretended that we can burn fossil fuels to provide luxurious life for some, but not others, all without paying the piper. Global climate change has well started. Extreme weather of the past is now already the norm, and the new extremes are wiping out populations. The ice melt coming will flood the coasts and our most populated cities will be uninhabitable.

If we had ended poverty in the early 80’s when the world’s population was only 4.5 billion, since we know people caught in poverty have many more children, we might not be taxing the limits of the environment to sustain our destructive ways. But now with 7.4 billion people we cannot stop ourselves it seems, not without a colossal portion of those 7.4 billion hearts changing … before it’s too late.

One way or another, the earth will reduce our population, but it may be too late for species human.

Paul: Tongues and Interpretation

Paul writes to the Corinthians. Their gifts are amazing, among them speaking in tongues and interpretation of what’s said. Paul recognizes this gift. But he puts it towards the bottom of the list.

Just speaking in tongues and interpreting it to have an answer for challenges in life is wonderful, but used too often, it’s just an easy out, too easy. It’s led to terrible divisions in the congregation. Wealthy people come with lots of food to the Eucharist, others have none. Everyone gets bread and wine. But only the wealthy eat. People caught in poverty are called lazy and held responsible: bring your own food or go hungry.

The community needs to see itself as servants of Christ, bringing grace and life to all around. They do not need an interpretation of someone speaking in tongues. They need a change of many hearts.

The 2nd Bitter Cold Night

That 2nd night of -33°C I was toasty warm. So were the walls around the wood stove. They were melted halfway through in the morning. The fan had blown the hot hot air against them and melted them away.

The real miracle is that the 2nd morning I was given an old, large insulated heating duct, big enough to be turned inside out to serve as a much needed heat protector for the walls.

Now … let’s hope that all that hard work until 3 in the morning to install the heat shield is sufficient. My heart is ready for a rest, if the preparations are sufficient to allow heat in the coldest time, sufficient to keep me warm, but not so intense so as to melt the walls, that otherwise protect me from the bitter cold.

We wait

Today we wait for a miracle, but we do not wait for God to intervene as if by magic to make everything right for us.

We wait for the real work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We wait for the miracle of our hearts changing. We wait for the real work of grace that starts by changing our hearts, minds and strength. We pray that we also will turn our ways to God’s will for all.

Amen