Epiphany Sermon Themes and Outline

Themes:

Isaiah:

darkness

Light and Glory

Blessing as prosperity, Blessing with Prosperity, Blessing without Prosperity

Prosperity without blessing

Light, sought by many, short supply, great demand

produces prosperity

Blessing: bringing home the sons and daughters, not going afar to make a living, different in today’s world, or?

Thrill and rejoicing at abundance

End frankincense and gold: and praise of God

Psalm:

A just ruler, defends the poor, crushes the oppressor,

righteous flourish, abundance of peace

nations bow down before him

delivers the poor in distress, the oppressed with no helper

compassion for the lowly and the poor

preserves the lives of the needy

Ephesians

The copier, the cheat, plagiarism, the Gospel

A commission of Grace – voacation, calling, purpose to life, meaningful labour

Mystery of old, now made known: God comes to Gentiles (weird: mystery, Grace, forgiveness not earned or earnable, sacrifice not needed, not of animal, or thing, or OTHER PEOPLE. No scapegoating.

Mystery revealed by the Spirit, to holy apostles and prophets

This Gospel: Paul becomes a servant, does the copier, too?

A servant by grace, the working of God’s power, pretty small to be made servant, pretty awesome to be made God’s servant, power of the right hand? Power of the house of God? Power at all? Power of truth and self sacrifice, power of bringing life to others, life at the core.

The boundless riches of Christ! Wisdom of God in great variety made known to rulers and authorities.

We have access to God: in boldness and confidence, through faith in God!

Matthew

Wise men come, not so wise, the star stops guiding: they ask in corrupt Herod’s home town!

Set in motion

wealth for Mary to raise Jesus,

need to flee to Egypt

death of children 2 years and younger, in and around Bethlehem

After Herod: then the star kicks in again, find precisely Jesus (Bethlehem or Nazareth?)

overwhelmed with Joy, paid homage, provided gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh!

Warned in a dream. A little late. They are safe, but the children!

God’s ways, downright unfathomable at times. Dreams to save wise men, dream to save Jesus -flee to Egypt, why not dreams to save all the children!?!

Outline

God’s ways unfathomable

Wise men, star, gifts wealth, dreams, Egypt, but children!

Wise men not so wise

Mystery of Faith

Christ for all Gentiles, too

What about unearnable Grace, Forgiveness, God’s favour

part of for Gentiles and not just Jews, with practice and piety, Or Norwegians, or Lutherans of a certain ilk, my ilk of course are best.

What we want

Just rulers

Light against all darkness

resolution of the all ails of the human condition

Prosperity in Light and Glory

Power, access to God, servant’s with authority

OUR family together, sons home, daughters cared for (sexism, we really want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us always, to make our paths smooth.

God’s Light vs. Our Darkness

Not our power, not our wishes, not our paths smooth

Darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, Evil as the necessary result, our participation in it as inevitable and unavoidable, damning others for the evil that is, that we suffer, that others suffer.

Real danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in various ways

Example: not knowing the power of Light of Fire

Wood heat: hot to burn the dross and chaff, the new paint cured

Cold

Explosive possibilities

Simple candle and a newspaper

Example: not knowing the destruction of fright, at injustice

just being frightened at injustice

at being the malfeasance obvious

nothing doable, paralyzed, fighting, fleeing

Example: not knowing the stories of old corruption

Also present in our day, in every way, often worse than ever before,

Worse when they are hidden, secreted, covered by spin, even obvious lies

Example: not knowing the power of CO emissions

Global Warming run rampant

now the extremes of past are norm

new extremes are not survivable without complete new adaptations

need new resilience, preparation – harder to prepare and qualify to knowingly sleep through the night with calm, because prepared.

Example: not knowing the beauty of life

the light of stars without light pollution

the beauty of relative wilderness – worth preserving and caring for.

the beauty of your place, time.

Example: not knowing the futility of security sought in prosperity

boom bust

a turn of market, a corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack on market or other

a Storm

a health event, not emergency, falling apart of our lives, with loses: of self, or of loved ones, or of labour, or ?

normal: no one gets out of life alive.

The true Gospel, True Mystery, True Light, True Blessings

Not compromised by copying, plagiarism, the glory is God’s not the writer’s,

Grace, Commissions, Servants, Power of sacrifice, truth, bringing life to others

being the just ruler,

being Christ’s voice, heart of grace and unconditional love, being Christ’s hands

Hope based on God’s promises, God’s forgiveness, God’s grace, NOT us or prosperity.

Dim December

The sunsets, thankfully not for months or weeks or even days, but for long hours.

The sun disappears about 16:00 to show up again maybe at 9:00 in these long-nighted cold days.

Even when it is up, the sun never climbs high enough to reach tree top.

Most mornings the clouds hold the sun at bay, delivering ice fog and delicate snow on the trees.

In this darkness the light shines in us all, through the cracks, the light gets in (LCohen). The darker, the more obvious the light, more clearly the yearning for light.

We can choose to be light or dark. It is too easy to mimic one’s environment, one’s companions, and be their darkness. But the light is clearly available to anyone who wishes to so choose.

The sun shines every day, it’s just sometimes one has to climb to above 60,000 feet to see it.

I went for a Winter Walk

I went for a walk with a real camera, old and borrowed, but good enough.

The

Light

was showing itself between the pine and spruce needles.

The wind had played rough with the needles and spread them everywhere.

Snow

not

an option

as a water source

without filtering

out the needles.

The ski tracks have filled in with snow and melting and more snow.

The little colour that is to be found is the yellow brown of the cattail reeds.

The shore is like before, though a sight for good eyes,

with light working the clouds to and fro.

Wind, not visible,

still leaves

it’s tracks

as

Does

the

Holy Spirit,

Wind

(Ruach.)

And that is as far as I got, before I

headed back

in

to warmth and work.

More joy

again

later.

Advent 2 Notes

Advent Preparations

After days of manual Fabricating and creating
Out of ¼ inch metal, without a welder or a cutting torch, just a grinder and lots of cutting wheels, and a drill and bits and bolts and nuts
And old junk and new junk
Cut up to make something that may save my life
And certainly will help keep me safer this cold winter,
I came to the lessons for this Sunday
With an eye to working to accomplish a something that will be useful.
It is Good labour, labour with tangible results, fabricating, fixing, and building.
It is lifesaving, purposeful and rewarding.
And then
I wanted to see,
If there were tangible work prescribed for us in the Gospel, what results would it produce?
Is there something for us to accomplish?

First some general notes about the lessons.
Malachi is Hebrew meaning ‘messenger’. We do not know much more than that about the writer of Malachi. It is written for the post-exilic remnant, anticipating or returning or establishing themselves in a devastated homeland, familiar, but so changed. The writer tells the people that worship in the temple, with sacrifices and all will be re-established, and that will be how God is with them.

The Psalm is the beautifully familiar, if not well known, canticle from Luke, which is used in various liturgies, including Holden Evening Prayer, by Marty Haugen.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is, along with those to the Thessalonians, among his warmest and most joyful. While we are not completely surprised, either by the sinners we see in the other Pauline letters (and in our congregations) or by the saints we see in these affectionate and warm Pauline letters … still both extremes repeatedly do catch us off guard. Oh, yes, there are saints in our congregations, too. Perhaps we take them, too, for granted?

The Gospel from Luke anchors the time. There was no set calendar, so the way to declare a time most clearly was through the years of the various rulers and high priests. These references are also Luke’s way of saying that Jesus was a real human and there were real political tyrants, or rulers anyway, Roman and otherwise, and the high priests had positions. Jesus’ Gospel came into this real world, and addressed not just the physical and spiritual maladies, but also the political and religious maladies as well.
Remember Luke is the physician who places Jesus as the ‘healer of our every ill’.
Here Luke foretells, with John’s call to repentance, Jesus’ ministry also to the political and religious leaders of the day … and by extension also the political and religious leaders of the readers’ days.

And then the rest of the thoughts from the lessons.

Malachi:
The messenger comes to the people, a messenger of the Lord.
In the exile, people understood that God had deserted them. That idea persists here, and the ‘Good News’ is that the Lord will return to the temple.
The end result will be that the offerings at the temple by Judah and Israel will, like of old, be pleasing to the Lord.
That’s the measure of proper sacrificial religion practiced right, and in good order.
The other piece of proper religion is the people’s delight in the covenant made by God with Abraham. This is a conflation of the covenants God made with Abraham into one covenant, but since Abraham is likely a conflation of multiple actual people into one forefather, the bearer of faith, why not conflate the covenants into just one.
These covenants with Abraham, unlike almost all others, were created unilaterally by God. Abraham did not have to agree, did not have to preform, and did not have to earn the benefits of the covenant. Some would say that Abraham did, but after the fact. We say with Paul, that it was reckoned to Abraham because of his faith, which faith was a gift from God. All of it then is a gift from God, and the covenant is God’s promise of offspring as many as the stars, and land. Which were for that place and time what made up security, along with lots of cattle.
One does then need to mention wives as well, the means to having offspring. But Abraham had Sarah, and Hagar her handmaid, whom Sarah gives to Abraham.
While the arguments abound, anyway you look at it Sarah was a handful, as was Abraham. Whether they honoured each other and to what degree seems to be based more on the experience of the observer, than the historical record, if that is to be trusted much either.
Let it just be said clearly: regardless of what our forbearers of faith may have been or done, we are to love the Lord, and that includes loving each other, and that means EVERY one, even our enemies. Loving means to fully honour every human as full humans, as full children of God, as simultaneously full (self-made) sinners and full (God-made) saints. Which is not ever going to be a simple matter to be accomplished by following a checklist or a set of rules. Loving and honouring is a work of art, with a lot of science thrown in, and then prayer … constantly. If in question, at least be kind.

It’s like finding a spouse: everything else can be accommodated, but find someone kind. (Tip of the hat to the writers of ‘About Time’, the movie, from the character of Tim’s father in his second best man’s toast. Being able to redo most weddings ought to be a requirement of getting married, except no one would get married … oh let’s see, hardly anyone is anymore anyway. – The movie About Time is one of a handful that I return to every once in a while. It’s one of those few movies that is worth most any effort spent to find it and watch it, and then return to view it. – so get your hands on it, watch it, and delight in it. It’s not a covenant, but easier to delight in for all that.)

The covenant, then and now, is God’s work, a promise, a contract signed by only the divine side. Count on it, and trust in it, and even delight in it. One has to ask: did the writer really think the people delighted in the covenant or did the writer just wish it were so?
As for the coming of the Lord, prepared for by the messenger, it is not unlike all anticipations of seeing the Lord, it is life-changing. The Lord will purify the people with the course fuller’s soap and with the intense fire of the smelter. Or the Lord will purify at least the priests, the sons of Levi, so that the temple is run in good order and the sacrifices are pleasing to the Lord.

Which begs the question: is there a work to be done there? Or do the people simply wait and let it happen to the sons of Levi?
Is it an accident that the Lord purifies like fire purifying silver and gold? Is that a suggestion that the people bring the priests their gold and silver?
Must we bring offerings in order to please God and therefore get from God what we want or need?
(Foreshadow or back-shadow: DOCH NEIN, no!!)

Psalm
From these and other obligations God has come to set us free. Or is it a different freedom that Luke writes about.
The Canticle of Luke’s says God frees us from our enemies, and all who hate us, which is a large enough pool of people. But does it also include those who pretend to be our friends and who then manipulate us out of our gold and silver in the name of religion? Martin Luther thought so.
Luther thought maybe not that Luke wrote so, but that God did so set us free.
Interesting that Luke names the covenant with Abraham as God’s promise to set us free from our enemies. Set me right if need be, but I don’t remember Abraham’s covenant as being more than children and land, but then conflation, so let’s add in another covenant of God’s and call it Abraham’s as well.
Even so, if you have land, then enemies can and will try to take it from you. So if you get to keep it, then I suppose God could corollary-wise have promised freedom from one’s enemies.
It is something to be able to worship without fear, and to be holy and righteous one’s whole life. But only God is righteous. God makes us saints, but we remain simultaneously sinners. As God-made saints we are holy, set aside to be a blessing to others, but never perfect or righteous, perhaps just self-righteous.
The interesting part is worship and fear. God’s covenant is expanded, as good Jewish law went, to include freedom to worship, and to worship free from fear.
Except, all worship of God begins with fear of God. Martin Luther explained the ten commandments well, beginning each explanation with ‘we are to fear and love God so that …’. The question is not whether to fear God, it is to fear God for what.
That God is a revengeful angry judge?
Well if you approach God that way, you may experience God that way.
Of course the favorite through history is to threaten everyone else with that fear of God and to reserve the gentle, compassionate God of mercy for oneself.
Now if we (historically speaking we)… if we properly feared God, and knew God as merciful and abounding in steadfast love, then we would reserve the judging God for ourselves, with grand doses of mercy and love and compassion and forgiveness … And we would tell others only of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.
But then people with no fear of God, expecting only mercy and forgiveness, take that as freedom to do whatever they wish, and they end up wreaking havoc and chaos on the people around them. Are we still obliged to share that God is merciful for all. Is not the more complete picture of God needed for everyone, us included? God is a judge to be feared, for there are no excuses or lies or side paths or injustice as escapes: what we do and who we are is an open record for God. But our God is also a God of infinite love and mercy, forgiveness and new life.
If there is a work to be done, something to accomplish then it’s that. We can and ought to provide to each other a reverence for God, a fear, along with mercy, forgiveness and new life. Once we know God to be that way for ourselves, how can we not make it so for others in all we are and do?
That is to be holy, and only somewhat righteous … as far, and only as, God makes us holy and righteous. In other words, this is our work, the saints’ work; but we are only able to do it because God makes us saints.
But to worship without fear, and that fear being fear of others killing us if we worship our God to be feared, our God of love and mercy, compassion and forgiveness, now that is a gift, and a thing to be coveted all one’s life.
Luke knew, as many did, and have since, that Jesus, the babe Joshua the saviour, was the infant child who would bring all this to be also for us (of each generation and place and people, us.)
And Luke reports that Jesus’ cousin, John, would come to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry by calling people to repent, to be forgiven; and through forgiveness to see God’s promises of salvation already happened and happening and yet to happen for them as well.

And then the image that steals every nature photographer’s heart, and many other hearts as well: In God’s tender compassion, the dawn from on high breaks in on us.
Now the sunrise many mornings is nothing short of a specular* event. But what is spectacularly special is that this light, this son-rise, this new dawn of all time, shines light (through the cracks –thank you L. Cohen) to all those who dwell in darkness, in the shadow of death.

 

The light shining on the snow.

Those in this time who dwell in darkness, in the shadow of death are great in number.
The darkness of being without the necessities of life, a unfathomable reality for a good third to half of those alive at any time is indeed a great darkness.
It is dark because the necessities exist in plenty, but we do not share them, not justly or lovingly, or mercifully, nor even kindly.
And the darkness of having the necessities while so many lack them … that is a mean kind of darkness, the kind that wears a pretty face and is cruel, or worse, apathetic to other’s darkness, as if ignoring other’s desperate needs makes the needs go away, and that oneself is somehow excused from the needs of life, the need to live well in the shadow of death. For death claims all of us. No human gets out of life alive. The fatality rate is 100% for all life on earth, also for humans. And all we can do in the face of death is to live lovingly, justly, mercifully and at least kindly, to ourselves and to others.
Pushing others to a premature death, does not somehow help us escape death. It may prolong our days, but at the cost of others’ lives … if we do that the darkness of death, their death, is eternally stained on us, on our very being.
However we deal with the shortness, cruelness, and plain old hardness of life, the light that Christ shines on us guides us to the ways of peace, for our own hearts, for our own families, for our own people, and for all other humans, now alive and yet to live.
It’s a path we create, like flagstones in sand, that we walk often if we are blessed.

Paul’s special joy for the Philippians:
Paul had started a number of congregations. He actually seems to have fond memories of a few of them. I’ve seen a few congregations in my day, started none, and I have a few fond memories. The rest … like Paul I can say they did not disappoint in making obvious the Grace of Christ … as needed for all of us sinners.
So Paul is joyed to write to the Philippians who have been with him through it all, the exuberant start-ups, the angry reactions, the imprisonment, the continued effort to proclaim the Gospel. Paul gives his all, and more than once dodges the crowd’s anger, and more than once lands in prison, and more than once gets out, and more than once impresses his guards, even converting a few, whose life he saves by not running when he is able, and terrifying a few who learn he is a Roman citizen. Roman citizens were not to be dealt with unjustly without cause … or there were repercussions.
I don’t have the Greek available to me now, but I’m pretty sure (can anyone verify) that the reference to the one who started them on their way will bring them to completion, is none other than Paul himself.
A little self-congratulations taken, explained, and probably well-earned.
And then to the point of my initial question: Is there something we should be accomplishing, because Paul prays that the Philippians can accomplish it: that they will be ‘be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness’….
I guess I should be a follower of Paul and not a descendant of sorts of Martin Luther. I could shoot for ‘pure and blameless’. And that as a product of the harvest of righteousness. So I attain righteousness first, then comes the harvest, then I am pure and blameless. Easy to write out those steps to perfection before Christ.
Except I believe, and experience tells me it’s blessedly right, that every one of us God-made saints, is also still simultaneously a wretched self-made sinner. That sinner part is inescapable, no matter what I try, you try, we try or they try. We are bound to sin, not just likely to sin, but tied and fettered to being sinners who do sin … and cause ourselves and others no end of grief and woe.
Now to be fair to Paul, even though he probably deserves all the above quite fairly since he did theology pretty much ad hoc (which is his gift to us), he does say that our righteousness, which becomes our being ‘pure and blameless’ is not self-made, nor is it for one’s own glory. That righteousness ‘comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God’. So it all starts and depends on God working in us. But Paul still does push his congregations and us his readers, to exert ourselves to being what Christ makes us able to be. I guess we could call it, fulfilling the God-made saint in us, even as the sinner lives on, strong and healthy.
The other obvious point is not in the words, but the situation. Paul continues to care for the congregations he starts. He continues to write to then and encourage them to be all they can be.
We all need a Paul in our lives, staying in touch with us, no matter the place, time or circumstances, who pushes us to be God-made saints with the greatest of integrity that we can muster.
And we can and need to be that ‘Paul’ for others. There is no one who becomes and remains a Christian without participating in community, at least through time. Encouragement is crucial. Reminders are crucial. Putting in some effort is crucial, otherwise the Good News of Jesus our saviour becomes banal. The Gospel is life changing because we take it to heart and choose to change, day after day, to change again to be who Christ guides us to be, and who God makes us able to be: saints. That we can is a miracle, that we do is awfully impressive. Impressive that God would do that much for us in us.
So perhaps we should all shoot for pure and blameless.
Forgiveness may be required, but what else would God want from us, but to accept forgiveness, the free gift from God that gives us life, and breath and real freedom.

Luke’s Gospel:
Filling the valleys, leveling the mountains, making the crooked straight, and the rough smooth. Anchored in history, Jesus addressing even earthly power, in all its forms. Again, made visible through the forgiveness of sins, experienced in baptism, a baptism of repentance, of the 180°, a dance step, an unusual one of switching partners, from devil that makes you do it (evil), to God who makes you able to do it (blessing others).
Returning to the Gospel after days of creating and fabricating from metal, for one’s own life sake and safety: does the Gospel require of us that we accomplish something, or are we just supposed to be able to sleep soundly at night*?
Luke anchors the story of John in the wilderness in the political and religious reality of the day. John points to Jesus, and Luke points to the two, and wants us not to forget that all that Jesus does also has political and religious impact. Jesus is not just a religious or spiritual event. Everything changes, not with God, but with what we know clearly about God: God does not want us to sacrifice each other anymore. The difference is also about all kinds of power.

From where the Word lands, it starts rustic and simple: the Word of the Lord comes to John in the wilderness.
People have been seeking out the wilderness for healing and health and perspective from the beginning of time. John does, too. There the Word lands right on him.

John picks up with everything symbolic and meaningful. He goes to the Jordan. This is the river that Moses did not cross, which Joshua did with the people who had been in the wilderness for 40 years, after God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
John has a more profound freedom that he proclaims: this is not just freedom from slavery. This is freedom of the ultimate kind.
It starts with the forgiveness of sins, our sins. John offers people the path to forgiveness: a baptism of repentance … in the waters of the Jordan River. Repentance is that 180° turn from dancing with the devil, to dancing gracefully with God.
Now there is something for people to do, something people can do and ought to do.
In anticipation of Jesus’ ministry, coming out into the public, John calls to the people to prepare the way for the Lord. Repent!
Make his paths straight, fill in the valleys, make the mountains and hills low, make straight the crooked, and make smooth the rough ways.
But no ordinary person can do any of that.
No extraordinary person can do any of that, either. Geography is geography.
With so many developments in technology today we can literally move mountains. Or at least dig dry ponds eight blocks big, and sink a park down to the bottom of it. Or mine from the surface down hundreds of feet, take what we want and either leave it a mess or fill it all in so nice it hardly looks like we touched the surface. But that’s with machines, and the technology of today. Back then it would have taken centuries of slave labour to accomplish the leveling, preparing and smoothing.
Obviously Luke is not talking literally, but figuratively.
Still is that something that they and we can do?
Can we prepare the way for the Lord?
For the Lord, can we fill in the valleys, level mountains, straighten the paths, and make smooth the rough ways?
Can we repent and change dance partners, switching from the sinner’s dance to the saint’s dance?
I suppose there is something to that.
Imagining it may be something we can do, but it’s like being a saint: it is possible only in our imagination. We are still stuck being sinners, dancing with the devil. God can make us saints. We … not so much. Actually we … not at all.
So why the call to repentance by John in preparation for Jesus?
Maybe it is all appearances? Jesus’ story needs someone to prepare the people like they have not been ever before? … Not so much.

The end result is fabulous. It is the ultimate change: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
I suppose there may be a caveat: that some see it but do not receive it?
Not going with that either.
The promise of God is that all will see the salvation of God.
And we do.
We may still be dancing with the devil, but God is dancing with us, a graceful, beautiful dance.
There is not much we can do one way or another on that, except keep dancing.
But

How do we respond knowing that God is dancing with us, always?
Do we know what it is to see salvation?
It will change one’s heart, mind and soul.
We just might end up kind.
Or we might be the one who tells the truth, even when it costs us.
Or we might dance more assuredly through each challenge, knowing that no matter what, the Lord has come, the dance is graceful and beautiful, and all is well with us and with the world.

Whatever the challenge, the mountain, the valley, the crooked way, or the rough spot of our lives, even when we do not prepare the way for the Lord, the Lord finds us as we are, where we are, and declares us acceptable to God. The Dance goes on.

Is there something we can do, ought to do, must do?
There is nothing we can do to be acceptable to God. We never can deserve that.
Yet God gives us that freely.

Then we can dance, and breathe, and there is a freedom in not having to prove ourselves to God, or to ourselves. That’s worth everything.

When it comes to doing, is it best to work on metal and wood and have a doable goal?
When it comes to salvation; we need a miracle. We need God to make us saints. And that is the goal of all goals.
Life is less like a box of chocolates, and more like a dance – a wild and slow, energetic and lethargic, a sickening repetitive and an engaging, enthralling dance.

In God’s tender compassion, the dawn from on high breaks in on us

What are we to do this Advent? What preparations are we to engage in and accomplish?

We are to respond to God’s work in all creation, especially God’s work of making us saints, with thanksgiving. And we are to then be the blessing we can be, for others!

Which means to be kind, and to be loving, gracious, forgiving, and reflectors of the spectacular light of Christ that is visible to us most because of our own sins.

It is not so much a task list as an art, with everything including science and prayer thrown in, especially prayer.

It is the art of being Christ’s hands, feet, words, and grace for others, as we dance gracefully toward Christmas and all the challenges of life that are to come.

 

*Specular
No that is not a miss-spelling, look it up if you’re not familiar with it. It is the light that makes photos more than pictures.

* To be able to sleep soundly:
A farmer, poor, needs a hired hand. They are hard to come by, and good ones even more rare. He interviews the one fellow who comes to town, asking him what his qualifications are. The answer is simple if not much help: I can sleep soundly at night.
With no other options the farmer hires the hand. A month or so later a terrible storm kicks up. The farmer runs outside, crying for the hired man to get up and help him secure everything so it is not ruined in the storm: the loose gate, the shingles missing on the roof, the fence post bearing weight from a fallen tree, the watering trough that’s teetering on uneven ground; the list is endless.
The hired hand cannot be woken up. So the farmer runs outside to start saving what he can by himself. But each place he looks, everything is already fixed and secured, storm-readied.
He goes back to bed, thanking God. For now he understands the hired hand’s qualification is everything.

Christ the King – Truth

What is truth?
Gospel: John 18:33-37
Selections from the texts for Christ the King Sunday, 25 November 2018, plus one verse:

Pilate: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus: “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate: “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own … have handed you over.
What have you done?”
Jesus: “My kingdom is not from this world.
If … then, my followers would be fighting.
Pilate: “So you are a king?”
Jesus: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born,
and … to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate: “What is truth?”

I went looking today:
I wanted to see things clearly, to know the truth about faith, love and hope.
I went looking as I often do across the water.
The water is hidden by ice,
Which is hidden by snow.
And today even the far shore is hidden by the fog across the lake.

 

I looked right.

 

I looked left.

 

I looked further to the left,
to the white sticks of birch.
But nothing about clarity came to me.

Pilate does not want to, but still he asks the question that must be asked: is Jesus the King of the Jews?
Jesus says he was born to have Pilate ask him this question … and
To testify to the truth.
Those that belong to the truth listen to Jesus’ voice.
So that Jesus is testifying to the truth: that’s simple enough: the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a story that we can listen to and understand.
It’s not a story about another world or another realm.
Jesus was born as a human.
And God sent Jesus to live, die and be resurrected to leave us with a story that profoundly changes everything we see in the world.
We see God more clearly: God intends and does free us from our own sins, not the consequences in this world, but the consequence that would separate us from God. Instead, as Jesus story makes clear, God sticks with us always, all ways.
That’s something … okay that is everything.
Even though we step away from God, God follows us, even picks us up and carries us forward when we can no longer walk in God’s ways or even in God’s creation.
To be loved by God, that’s everything.

That’s what Jesus’ story tells us about God most clearly,
And that we can follow in Jesus’ way …
We can (God equips us so)
Choose also
To love,
Forgive,
And be gracious
With all people
In all ways.

There is living water, flowing freely here
Beneath the ice
And it is visible
At the edge
Of the
Lake.
If
One looks in the right place for it.

Water freely flowing from under the ice.

We no longer need to sacrifice anyone or anything in order to make ourselves right with God.
First of all we cannot in any way through any means make ourselves right with God.
We just are too broken to do this.
Secondly we do not have to make ourselves right with God, because God, as Jesus did, makes Godself right with us, where ever we meander in life.
And God turns our meandering into dancing,
Our fear into deep breathing calm and assurance
And our chaos into God’s blessings for us and for others.

Abraham’s story of ‘sacrificing’ Isaac, being interrupted by God, is the story about God instructing us to stop sacrificing children to God, to appease God.
Jesus’s story of his life, death and resurrection is the story of God instructing us to stop sacrificing anything and everyone … God does not want any sacrifice, it does us no good, and God already is there by our side even when we still scapegoat someone … again … and again.

In response to the story unfolding before him, Pilate is like most of us, a bit befuddled and unaware of what’s at play before his eyes.
He thinks like a ruler of the Roman empire about to spiral into decay: there is no truth, there is no real God, there is only subjective, relativistic truth and there are only the many gods of the many religions of the many, many people conquered by Rome.
Who knows what is true about what happened before time,
Yet alone even tomorrow, given all the fake news, the lies upheld as truths, the spin that so many people put on so many things that even those that lie so freely, cannot keep track of what really happened.
But this is truth:
God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son to die for all of creation, so that those that believe in him might live, truly live, and know the truth of God’s Grace, Forgiveness, and Love.

Now that is a truth to base real hope on, hope that cannot disappoint.
That is truth.

It is the light that is always there, even if today it is obscured by the clouds so low,
The sun
Is
There

 

Visible at sunset
Yesterday after the clouds hung around all day.

And what do we do in response: Jesus calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves, even our enemies, and to love the Lord our God with all our hearth, mind and soul.

 

 

[okay, on further proof reading I see that I meant to write:

with all our heart, mind and soul.

I could have just corrected it, but I kind of like the image mixed in with the command to love God,

That we would love God with all our hearth … that spot below a fireplace or wood stove, from which heat is produced to keep us alive through the Canadian winters, or just cozy in modern Canada … well at least for most of us, or you all, cause I need a wood stove to help stay warm and alive this winter since I cannot afford the propane, nor to replace the furnace every two years. But back to the image:

That we would love God with that warm spot in the home, a place of family, parents and children, oh how I miss children. and that we would dedicate all that might entail,

sitting with children, reading near the hearth, playing on the hearth

sitting with one’s beloved, after the kids are in bed, or gone from home to their own lives and homes, near the hearth, reading or resting or enjoying a glass of Mosel, Saar, Ruhr – Riesling – Kabinett

and reviewing the gifts of God that day; those received and those given.

But perhaps you would have preferred I’d just made the correction to the typo.

But then I would have missed out on those memories, if not real, then hoped for, and the hope of soon having those memories near a wood stove, for real practical reasons:

I’ve these addictions I try to provide for:

I’m addicted to clean air, clean water, food, sufficient clothing, shelter enough to smile at the cold and snow, rain and heat; as well as meaningful labour, and to be loved, and most of all to remain capable of loving …

my neighbours,

my self,

my enemies,

my God.

with all my hearth and home,

all my heart, mind and soul,

and all my words, and photos.

 

Comments welcomed at shm at prwebs dot com.

That which makes life …

That which makes life so precious is for you yourself to know you are found to be worthy of love.

It is to be held as precious by someone who you yourself find precious.

Life cannot be made valuable by oneself. That is a futile chase that brings disasters of all kinds down on those around you, until you yourself are caught in some disaster or another.

The futile chase takes on many faces: accumulating wealth, power, influence, respect, position, family … you name it. Most often there goes with this chase the greatest effort to conceal from oneself and others that one is chasing these things as the central anchor of one’s life, and especially that one needs to conceal that one knows the chase is futile.

To be found worthy of love … is not something one does oneself, not even indirectly.

The most one can do is aspire to be the kind of person whom others will admire, be inspired by, and look to as the person who finds others worthy of being loved.

One finds others worthy of love, and one loves, without ever knowing that anyone will find one even interesting in the slightest, yet alone intriguing to the core, and redeemable enough to risk love on.

But all our efforts to love are incomplete, always a tad selfish, trying to get something for ourselves out of the deal.

Perfect love is God’s, and God’s alone.

And when God chooses to love us, then we are worthy.

And if God chooses not to love us, then we are not worthy, and that’s not the half of it.

Try … try to be loving, or at least kind.

Seek to love, and know like everyone, you also will seek to be loved.

But know that seeking is already completed: there is no love more perfect than God’s, and worth measured by God’s love for us cannot be equaled.

That love makes up for everything bad that others do to us, and we do to others, in the name of love, and in the name of hate, and in the name of indifference.

Indifference is true hell, killing the one possessed by it, and those around on whom it is focused.

 

That which makes life so precious is for you yourself to know you are found to be worthy of love, the best and only perfect love … God’s love.

 

Progress ?

Progress    ?

 

What is progress?

 

I do not mean just what is the definition of progress

But what is it to actually make some progress towards what is the ultimate goal or purpose of life?

 

So the question begs first the other question: what is the ultimate goal or purpose of life, and then what can one do to move towards that goal or purpose?

 

Better stated: how does one live, so that life is good?

Or

To use Julian of Norwich’s words:

How does one live, so that

All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well,

even when there is no evidence that anything is well at all?

 

There are so many considerations for all of that, which today I am not even going to try to approach yet alone address, or, maybe not.

But I saw

Progress

Right before my eyes.

 

First,

the natural progress,

comprssd over just a few days,

 

 

 

from snow free on the first,

with water free to canoe across

 

 

 

To lightly dusted

showing only on the cleared areas and pathways

 

 

 

To fully snow covered

ready for skiing

and open water waving nicely at the wind.

 

 

 

To obscured by the condensation on the window in the early hours

 

 

 

To a clear view of ice

Hanging on the reeds

 

 

 

To the ice covering the lake

The ice formed all across the rest of the lake all at once.

Two hours before this photo taken at 12:26 noon

The lake was still waving to the wind.

I thought it was hello but it was a good bye!

 

So far, besides the sudden full lake freeze

This is just the progress of a fall in Canada.

 

 

 

 

Until sunset, when the forces of expansion,

Ever present as water gives way to ice,

Break the one piece surface.

The cracks show the lake’s breaking points

In vivid tracks.

 

 

Now comes the challenge,

a bit of photography,

A bit of philosophy

A bit of Grace

And a lot of Hope:

How to capture the scene in front of me that sings so wonderfully

Across my eyes and through my fingers to my brain?

 

Because, just trying to capture that teasingly intriguing ‘S’ of a crack

The natural tendency, especially framed by the bushes on either side of

this narrow canoe landing,

oops

this ski entrance on to the lake, –

the natural tendency is to put the ‘S’ in the middle of the frame

 

And as marvelous as it was in-person here the above photo kind of dies

A quick death as the eye stops with the ‘S’ and moves no further.

 

 

So it takes some moving and trying, and seeing:

 

S Right

So the photos above and below are an effort to move the ‘S’ off the center

to invite one’s eye to dance around the photo.

 

 

 

 

S Left

Somehow they just still sit under the wonder, somehow flat.

 

 

So the idea is to look around in a different direction to see something more.

 

 

And with that effort  still missing the wonder of the view

I tried getting more,

literally more of what was in front of me:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The panorama of the whole view out the canoe, opps, ski access point.

It’s all there and still that wondrously difficult and intriguing ‘S’ falls dead compared to the reality in front of me.

 

So …

 

 

 

 

 

I tried for a little less of everything

Which becomes intriguing

with the clear focus on the near, iced shore,

a view of the ‘S’

heading off to the sunset

leaving us at the far shore

catching a ride back to the near shore,

broken by – well it’s

still not quite right with the small branch breaking in on the left,

A ‘merge’ that distracts the eye out of the essentials to the big ooppps.

 

But it is -20° C

That’s minus 20° Celsius

I’m using voice activation to start the photos,

Which does not work for panoramas

so off come the gloves to shoot.

And my bared fingers are crying SOS

(which always gives way to them splitting more painful cracks at the tips in protest, which take days to heal),

So I did not get that even normally simple merge corrected,

a small step of progress towards good,

That I normally would not pass up on.

 

 

Still the sun rises again the next morning, gorgeously red and promising …

 

Promising of more snow

Which comes in spades

Or inches

Or millimeters.

But it fills the skies after 10:00 until dark and beyond,

The land gets a new cover, perfect for skiing.

 

The furnace has developed a hole in the combustion chamber, pumping C0 into the cabin,

And I have to turn it off through the nights, and only when I can get by without it’s heat does my head clear enough to deal with all the challenges which a furnace-less camper presents.

 

I move from flowing water, even heated water,

to ‘running’ water:

I run,

to get water,

then I have running water.

 

 

 

 

Progress.

Do

You

See

What is progress?

 

The progress that is inevitable

And the progress which is the result of

the labour of hope and photography

Which catches and communicates the wonders of creation

To demonstrate

Pure

Beauty.

 

God’s beautiful world.

 

What progress have you made lately?

Not just getting through each inevitable day,

But moving each day a step sideways and deeper

Toward those things that

Are worth living

For

And

From?

 

 

Well,

Will

all be well,

Not just in words,

But in the soul of your life?

In the soul of this creation?

In the face of challenges and temptations that open the door

To evil and sin allowing them to prevail?

 

Or are you a Saint, by grace, giving witness to God’s presence everywhere, always.

 

Do you love your neighbours as your self, and your enemies,

and the LORD your God, with all your soul and your might?

 

Only by Grace,

is real progress possible.

How is it … ?

How is it that we always think that –

the hero of a movie cannot die,
that disaster cannot overtake us to our end,
that evil will not prevail over us.
When all the signs are …
all the evidence is ….
and all our experience would tell us
that it has already overcome all the goodness that was once given us,
and left us in ruins?
This is hope.
Perhaps out of hope will come a resurrection of life that is goodness …
as all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
This is not a happy ending to every life …
This is not a happy ending to every challenge …
This is not a happy ending to every story, or movie … though Hollywood would like us to believe otherwise.
After all, who wants to pay for entertainment that does not provide what one wants to, at least temporarily, imagine that life will be: that life, if not gentle with us along the way, will at least be generous to us in the near future, without too much lost time and suffering thrown at us first.
Hollywood endings are warm and fuzzy, and give us optimism.
The real challenges of life are not met by optimism.
The really devastating challenges require hope.
And
divine
assurance
that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
How is it that we always think that –
God is gracious and generous,
That Love is the meaning of life,
That Hope is everything?
Only by Grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit,
can we, in the face of the brutal reality of evil,
say with our whole heart, mind and soul,
that
all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

Change

Change

 

Yesterday
Was
All
Saints’
Sunday

The afternoon came late with snow
Enough to cover the browns of fall
And cover most everything with the white of winter.

Change.
It is not enough that it’s change.
This one, many of us would have wished, would have waited a month or more.
Makes for a long winter, or so we say.

We don’t mind change, we just want to be in control. We want to choose what change comes our way and forms our futures becoming our past.

So what change would we choose?
The lists are endlessly wishful, and just about totally impossible.

So what to do with this change, this snow change.
It’s a little thing, really, snow in November.
It’s the cold, the cost for fuel which may become impossible.
And that is not just a little thing.

Which does not melt the snow or reduce the cost for fuel.

What can one do with such a change?
It’s simple.
By morning more snow floated loose from the clouds
Onto the brow-beaten ground that is as much home as anywhere;
It’s enough to ski on.
And it’s enough to make a great time preparing for the winter to come.

Snow.
For Saints all, it is an opportunity,
an opportunity to turn what many will complain about,
into a graceful chance to enjoy the wonders of creation.

Wonders are many, and the thankfulness one holds
For the little things,
Or the big things,
That make cold into a gift and wonder.

The canoe is stored for the winter; it’s too dangerous to canoe with water so close to freezing as one glides on the ripples, waves and fish spinning galore.

And the skis are ready.
Tomorrow will be the day to first cross country ski on the ground that God created and called good.

All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

Home, Sweet No-Home

Home Sweet No-Home
This Halloween

The autumn this year has been mixed as to whether we are going to experience a bit of summer finally or at least a taste of fall, or is the weather just going to quick-jump right into freezing temperatures and snow cover, but never enough to ski on.

Summer to Snow

Snow lays on the ground even before the leaves have all fallen.

 

 

Bare Brown

The snow is gone and the leaves with it.

 

 

Piles of Ugly

The trash shows again, that people thought it was their privilege simply to toss along the path into the woods.

There are high piles of ash dotting the edges of the campsite and the woods around, as if to carry and pile them around were to have cleaned up after oneself. Nails, broken metal rods, pallet plates, bricks, concrete blocks, half burned plastics, old cans, broken plastic you-name-its, and the most disturbing, an old quad lead-acid battery. (We got that back into the recycle system thanks to Primco Dene’s staff at the car wash and oil change business!)
The bad behaviour of humans should no longer surprise me, but it does. Good behaviour is always welcomed and I try to remember to thank people for it.

 

 

 

The real joy of being home, at no-home, are the views and light and water and sky.

Standing Together

Whether it’s the solid white-ish grey trunks of the poplar,

 

 

 

Cross Tops
Or the tops of leafless trees crossing the grey skies.

 

Leaning White

Or the white birch barely hanging in there on the shore.

 

 

Wedges of Reality

There simply is nothing like being able to canoe out on to the lake to see the afternoon sun playing with clouds and pure reflections making harmonious orchestration wedges of trees on the shores.

 

 

 

Beckoning Light

Until the sunsets behind the trees on the shore beckoning me to wander closer to the wonders of creation.

 

Ending Delight

Then the universe comes together in specular beauty as the water reflects in ripples my presence in the canoe in the reeds as the sun claims clouds on the horizon as its playing field.

For being homeless, this is a wonderful home, creation with a small wonderful place for me.

Where is your home?
Do you see beauty all around you?
Do you see creation as a gift?
Life, each day, each hour, each moment as time to marvel at all that is, bad and good, ugly and beautiful
In creation and creatures alike?