Swimming Circles in Emptiness of Opulence

Sunday, January 31, 2021

When we have so much and still cannot share generously and freely,

We drive in circles,

leaving tracks all over others,

bearing witness to our craziness, the emptiness of our lives,

and our inability to live abundantly.

1 Chronicles 29:9

Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly.

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Words of Grace For Today

Why do we give?

Why do you give?

We do not give in order to earn God’s favour. That is a futile way to earn God’s favour and a destructive way to live.

We give because 1) others are in need of what we can share, and 2) because giving cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion, reflects and determines who we are and who we become.

We give because God has not left us poor!

The Sheldons were a large family in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. The help they received was not adequate, yet they managed their meagre income with ingenuity – and without complaint.

A new social worker in poverty-stricken Appalachia was assigned the Sheldon family and shared this story about her first visit with them.

One fall day I visited the Sheldons in their ramshackle rented house where they lived at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear that strayed into their yard once too often. The meat had been processed into all the big canning jars they could find or swap for. There would be meat in their diet even during the worst of the winter when their fuel costs were high.

Mr Sheldon offered a jar of bear meat to me. I hesitated to accept it, but the giver met my unspoken resistance firmly. “Now you just have to take this. We want you to have it. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!”

I couldn’t resist asking, “What’s the difference?

His answer proved unforgettable. “When you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then you ain’t poor.When you don’t feel easy giving something away even if you got more’n you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.”

Florence Ferrier Gospel Notes 2001, Brian Stoffregen, reworked KAS and TL 2004 &2020

Just because one is wealthy, powerful or famous does not mean one does not need, for one’s own well being, to give and give generously. Even King David joined the people in giving and in rejoicing!

As for people that are so flush with luxury and comfort that they have forgotten that others are in need, and who are so poor the hoard their untold wealth, only God can deal with them. We cannot nor do we need to deal with them. That’s one more blessing for which we can be grateful to God!

Who Do We Follow? One who’s blind or God become human?

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Word

Is Everywhere

Even after the sun sets!

Genesis 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

Luke 6:39

He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”

Words of Grace For Today

Who do we follow?

Can we follow others …

into the ways of the Devil?

on the way of Jesus?

So much is made, to great detriment, of ‘the woman’ seeing the forbidden tree was good for food, eating first, then offering her husband the same.

Truth is, as every honest person knows, men and women alike are as easily and as likely to see forbidden fruit as something they desire, must have, and for which they do great evil things to acquire.

Every day, each of us, needs a Word, whether from our memories or renewed, currently spoken to us, … a Word that creates faith in us such that we can resist temptation to pursue life for ourselves (to the great detriment of many others).

That Word does not come from anyone, anywhere, at any time, other than from God. And God’s Word must be spoken, written or communicated (through events, dance, music or something similar) by other humans. It is a paradox: only God’s Word can save us; only another human can provide that Word for us.

Thank God, God’s Kingdom is at hand, and God’s Word is given freely for anyone who is inspired by the Spirit to provide it to others.

In this time of pandemic, now in it’s tenth month of restrictions for us, we need this Word … to inspire us not to listen to the words of discouragement, of resignation, and especially of lies … as if ignoring the danger with reckless behaviour can save any of us.

Yet covidiots spring up everywhere, sometimes even in us.

The Word…

Only the Word that gives us breath and life, joy and meaning, love and hope can save us from the Devil’s temptations if not to participate in covidiot behaviours, then to ridicule and complain about those who do.

Thankfully we are not led by blind men or blind women. We are led by Jesus, who has vision to see God as we are unable.

We can approach each day with confidence that God feeds us all we require for abundant life … there is no need to go searching for fruit from the forbidden tree, or even the forbidden tree. Thankfully God provides those who can provide God’s Word to us, and even use us to provide God’s Word to others. Covid 19 has given us even greater opportunities to shared God’s Word.

Be of good courage. There’s much good to be done each day.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace December 7

Monday, December 7, 2020

Look Up

To See the Light,

Wait, Keep Alert!

For Christ Will Come Again To Shine Everywhere,

In Every Heart!

Daniel 12:3

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

2 Corinthians 5:20

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Words of Grace For Today

The pied piper led many though they knew not why or whereto.

Lemmings like sheep follow a leader who is blind to the path taken, even when it’s over a cliff to their death.

If we are ambassadors for Christ and God makes God’s appeal through us to people to be reconciled to God, and the wise shine like the daytime brightness of the sky, and those who lead others to righteousness shine forever like the stars in the dark night, then to what are we to lead people.

We confess that we cannot do anything to make ourselves righteous before God. We confess that we cannot do anything to reconcile ourselves to God.

Can we then lead other people to make themselves righteous before God? Can we lead other people to reconcile themselves to God? No, not all all.

When we try, we are as stupid as dumb sheep and lemmings leading people over a cliff of self over-importance, self-righteousness, and arrogance before God that is an attempt to be godlets, when in fact we are no more than beggars for God’s mercy and grace.

Fortunately God supplies us with both mercy and grace, along with renewed life and the old, old story of Jesus and God’s love.

This is what we can bring to people. And through us the Holy Spirit may indeed reconcile many people to God, and God may bring us to be among the saints, the people who reflect Christ’s Light to all people.

Can we do nothing, then, in relation to being reconciled to God? Yes, though we can do plenty to resist and destroy and tear down and separate ourselves from God. We do have free choice, and we each of us exercises it plenty in trying to turn away from God, to try to take over what only God can do, to try to become godlets unto ourselves, as if we created the universe and could ever control it.

Since God reconciles us to God by Grace alone, and since God shines Christ’s Light through us to the world, and since God sends us and equips us to be God’s ambassadors to Christ’s Grace, then through us the Holy Spirit can and does make wondrous things happen, signs for all to see God’s glory in Grace and Love.

10:00 am as I write this. The sunshine finally finds the snow on the lake, though not a drop has found the snow on the meadow between the trees. We likewise find ourselves in the escalating numbers of the second wave of Covid 19, as it spreads like wildfire across Alberta, the government responding with ideological priorities, so as not to offend those who hold their individual rights and freedoms must not be infringed on. The light seems to be that a vaccine will be available in a month. The reality is it will be available to only a few at first. It will likely be a half year at the earliest that everyone who wants a vaccine will receive it. The number who will refuse is likely to be so high that there will be little ‘herd vaccine protection’ and the virus will take a few years to subside … perhaps just in time for the next mutation of a coronavirus to sweep across the too densely populated earth.

In this mess and chaotic, deadly non-response to the virus, we are sent as ambassadors of Christ’ Light and Grace. Reach out to all those in need, especially the ineffective leaders, and the masses of skewed-thinking people who think it’s all a hoax, or that their individual rights and freedoms cannot be limited so as to save everyone.

And pray, for this is just one chaotic mess made by humans that only God’s Grace can set right. Carry on each day, trusting the God’s Grace is sufficient for our days.

Facing Covid 19 and inherent Evil: Daily Words of Grace – November 11 – Lest We Forget

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Light of the Sun Reflected

We get to reflect the Light of the Son

Why Pursue Anything Else?

Proverbs 15:16

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.

Mark 8:36

For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

Words of Grace For Today

Remember lest we forget those who sacrificed that we might live without overt fascism!

Covid 19 is in it’s second wave, and it runs rampant through Alberta (as many other places). Officially the word is that people are partying. This can be taken to be true … and stupid if understandable. There is likely more … also stupid and somehow some of it is less understandable.

Caution is thrown to the wind in so many ways in Alberta. Premier Kenny refuses to do more than make suggestions to people in order to stop the wave that is well on its way to overrunning the health care system. Cities and local governments have led the way mandating masks.

In Cold Lake nothing is mandated by the city. Stores with headquarters elsewhere have mandated masks and hand sanitizing upon entry. Guides are in place for physical distancing and in some stores for one way aisles. Nothing is done to mitigate aerosol transmission, which evidence shows is a likely path of transmission. That means unless huge volume air ventilation systems are in place an infected person can spread the virus in the air for 10 or more metres and leave the virus hanging in the air for hours.

The measures in place are of little use since there is no enforcement past the entrance doors. People remove their masks when they are away from the door, wear their masks so as to cover just their mouths or just their chins. People regularly touch their masks pulling them up or down and then touch products they do not buy. Everyone, store staff included, walk wherever they please, against the one way arrows, with no thought of physical distancing, regularly passing within inches of other people.

The majority of people speak volumes with their reckless behaviour, and their tolerance of other people’s reckless behaviour: they are ready to forfeit their life, or rather someone else’s life.

God created us to live as Jesus set the example: with grace forgiving, healing, and welcoming all people, sacrificing ourselves in order to bring other the abundance of life that God has provided for all people.

After SARS in Canada the recommendation for future pandemics was clear: the government should act quickly, decisively, and strictly, long before the evidence is in what the minimum is that is required. Immediate, maximum restrictions should have been in place long ago.

Now with the second wave, again slow minimal responses continue to be the norm, and the new case numbers are skyrocketing. Why the slow ineffective responses, last January and now this fall? Because the maximum restrictions cost the economy hugely, and it’s all about money for the rich, though the story now is that it robs ordinary people of their income. That it does. But a quick decisive response costs everyone less in the long term than slow minimal responses do!

Decisive maximum responses can cost politicians in the polls, but the record shows that lack of action, like Kenny’s, costs them more.

So why this slow, ineffective response?

Who is to profit from it? What kind of dictatorial interests are at play to trade people’s health and lives for their profit, power, and privilege?

Then one reads today: what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? or rather our lives. – Though we understand clearly to forfeit others lives is to forfeit everything about one’s own life that God created us to be: reflectors of Christ’s Light.

It is simply better to live with very little, fearing and loving God; than it is to live with a great deal of wealth, power, influence, status, and/or fame and have a great deal of trouble with it.

So what are we to do. Dr. Tam almost said it: We should do EVERY LITTLE THING we can think of to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and EVERYONE ELSE.

We are in this together, and the virus does not distinguish it’s victims according to wealth, power, influence, status, and/or fame. It just needs a live human, and healthy, young, minimally affected are the best for transmitting it to many others.

Every live human counts equally.

We are all in this together.

So let’s ALL start behaving like there are a lot of LITTLE THINGS we can do, and start doing them!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 12

Monday, October 12, 2020

Tevia’s Blessing for the Czar –

God: Further Please!

Psalm 16:2

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’

John 17:3

This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Words of Grace For Today

Another Sci-Fi flick portrays the destruction of the human species, not quite by it’s own hand. An alien intelligence helps us along. Yet encountering a single, sort of good or at least good enough person, preserves her spirit, reincarnates her into an AI being and elevates that spirit to a new level, another dimension. The movie is boring, for all sorts of reasons, not least is that the move to a next level is in itself not interesting, nor effectively portrayed. How can it be?

Life is full of goodness, just because it is filled with challenges, hair falling out, birth of children (grandchildren if one is so blessed), losses and victories, getting wet and cold – and being comfortable and warm …. Life is good and interesting because it is embodied. It is mundane. It is vulgar and we strive to make it honourable and civilized.

Too many people assume that the thin veneer of civilization can be maintained even as they violate the basic sensibilities of respect and empathy for others that is at the heart of any good civilization. Out to get the most for themselves, they act as barbarians towards the truth, towards other people, and toward justice. When people with power start to create psuedo-realities that have little to nothing to do with reality, civilization teeters on the brink of chaos.

What follows history portrays often enough: we become barbarians, killing and maiming each other in order to survive and take the plunder for ourselves.

Courts that proceed based on blatant lies and allow people and lawyers complete latitude to kill others indirectly through the unjust results, invite more than insurrection. They invite the collapse of civilization.

The only thing that can save us is …

reform?

truth?

might?

No, none of these save us. Only God’s Grace saves us. Only Grace received and then exercised for others can possibly rebuild civilization enough that it can withstand the onslaught to the social contract that awaits us, that is underway already by fools, idiots, and fanatical makers of ir-realities and chaos.

The Irish called it shenanigans. Leprechauns, playful beings, pull on the strings of daily events, disrupting the procession from morning to night to morning just enough to bring humour to our efforts to be in control at all, at all.

That’s not this kind of shenanigans. This is the kind perpetrated by the evil minded dwarfs that work to thwart life wherever and how ever they can. That kind of shenanigans is the kind that unseats civilizations and all the powers that exist in it.

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Rulers and Courts who play with dwarf-minded shenanigans work to unseat themselves. Either they need to be unseated sooner than later, or God needs to give us the miracle of double victories. First that the injustice stops and truth dictates the winners. Second that the liars and creators of ir-reality, even the Rulers themselves, are won over to live for goodness sake, with Grace and empathy for all people.

This is life, filled with Grace, that God created us to enjoy on our journeys. Eternal life is to know the God who created us, to fear and love God. And eternal life is to know Jesus, God’s only Son, who sacrificed himself so that we may indeed live, with God walking on our journeys with us.

Try as we may, there is no real goodness that comes out of us, ourselves. All goodness that seems to come from us, is the reflection and result of God’s Grace winding its way in and through us.

Thank God for Grace!

Please God save us; give us double victories, your miracles in these troubling times. Covid 19 does not make things worse, or people worse. It merely raises the stress so that who evil people are, and how dangerous our times are, become frightening clear.

God save us, all of us! We are all in this together!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 9

Friday, October 9, 2020

Birch

Birch Still Standing.

Though someone is cutting them down left right and centre

as we are

these still stand

as we will always!

Isaiah 49:4

I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.

Words of Grace For Today

In this world the life of honesty and honour, of sacrificial and unconditional love, and of grace and hope is not rewarded by many. It is by many, even in the Courts, attacked and condemned with blood sport, lies and games with one’s life.

It is too often that striving to reflect the life the prophets called us to, to Jesus’ Way of being in the world, often leads us to the same end as he met: lies, injustice, cruelty, torture, and even death.

Met with this profound malfeasance we are readily able to say with Isaiah: We have laboured in vain, we have spent our strength for nothing and vanity. The work of the Devil meets our efforts to live graciously in response to God’s gift of life abundant. Seemingly the Devil wins every time.

Truth is otherwise. The Devil, all his works, and the people that do his deeds against us and so many others only show how lost and condemned those people are who follow his ways. They pronounce with lies that we are criminal, that we are vexatious, that we are unreliable. Their pronouncements do not reflect who we are, what we have done and not done. Their pronouncements reflect how corrupt they and all the liars are that bear false witness against good people like us.

They use their positions of power to create their own illogical, unreal bubble of existence. They dismiss scientists and science, logic and the laws of physics and other sciences (like gravity and toxicity), and the power of truth, love and hope. In their place they construct a world that serves their own greed, corrupt power, and decadent hedonism.

The devil’s miracle is that so many people accept this fantastical construction of ir-reality as if it were real, true, and valid. They construct religions of destruction of their enemies.

We hold to our faith in God who is all-powerful, Creator, and all-knowing. Our God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. By Grace alone (not by our merit) God forgives us our sin, adopts us as children, and empowers us to be the voice, hands, and feet of God’s own Son, Jesus, who gave his life to redeem us. Our faith does not condemn others. That is in God’s hands, and God’s alone. Our faith gives life, and promises life eternal to those who believe and accept the redemption worked out for them each day, each minute.

Therefore we are steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because we know that in the Lord our labour is not in vain.

Covid 19 has nothing on the destructive power of the Devil, his works and the people who do his deeds. By Grace we shall live with God walking with us and suffering with us everything done to us, even through all these trying times. Even if our bodies die, we shall live for God cannot be defeated, nor can we be separated from God.

Breathe as we are still able. These are blessed lives God accompanies us through.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 6

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Cold Cold Cold

Cold

Covid 19 does not die in the cold

It just lays dormant, waiting

to warm up and infect more people

Cold

means more caution is needed!

Ezekiel 39:29

I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Words of Grace For Today

During Covid 19, like many times before though for some much more intensely, we need to be careful for each other.

The kind of care is not to avoid some great big monster of a villain, who invades our lives and leaves tracks and vivid images of the him/herself in our memories.

This villain is a teeny, tiny virus that can get us mildly sick and contagious, or very ill so that we feel we are dying, to killing us … and what many seem to forget is even if one survives, this little virus can leave it’s surviving victims’ health compromised for the rest of their lives. The compromise can be as little as an irritation to deal with, to major health issues that alter how one can live through a normal day.

We cannot know, if we are in an proximity of other people (and very few of us live anywhere NOT in close proximity to others through a normal week), if we or someone else is infected and contagious, or what air space is filled with contaminated microdroplets containing the virus, or what surface has the virus waiting for contact to infect us. And we cannot know for sure when we are leaving the virus behind for others to be infected from us.

Stupid is the infected President who waves to people from the balcony, takes of his mask, and turns to be in close proximity to a number of his staff … and they test positive a few days later!

Stupid is a lot of what people do nowadays!

Stupid and deadly for some people, debilitating for others, inconvenient for others.

God promises not to hide his face from us, again.

So God endures these stupidities with us.

God has given us all many gifts of great varieties, and to all of us God has given the Holy Spirit for the common good. Each and every one of us has received the gifts to not have to be stupid about Covid 19.

We may be sick and tired of the limits and restrictions. Still we can and must comply with health restrictions and recommendations to keep each other safe.

It’s better to be sick and tired of the limits, than to be sick and tired, out of breath, and incapable of living fully for the rest of our lives, simply because we or someone that came close to us, decided to be stupid about being sick and tired.

God, save us from stupid! Especially from those who have authority and means to provide for our safety (individually and collectively) … and they do not.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 25

Friday, September 25, 2020

Long Way to the Light!

Covid 19, like most viruses,

sleeps fine when frozen, in stasis,

waiting to thaw and live down the road

to surprise you!

Psalm 119:165

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

Colossians 3:16

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

Words of Grace For Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 24

Thursday, September 24, 2020

We bear fruits

unless the stress of life puts us down,

like this once beautiful birch.

Jeremiah 6:13-14

For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace.

Luke 6:44-45

Each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Words of Grace For Today

The good person … produces good and the evil person … produces evil.

Forest Gump quotes his mother: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

We like to paint the world in black and white, good and bad, yes or no. Binary absolute polarized categories are simpler to describe, identify, and judge. Polarized thinking is dangerous, and destructive to others and ourselves.

Christ calls us to a different view: He ate with sinners and tax collectors, welcoming in the women of ill-repute, the lame, the outcast, and even lepers.

Martin Luther clarified for us the view of humanity that Jesus calls us to embrace: that before God (in the ultimate judgment of us) we are all sinners, always, forever.

Only through Grace does Jesus step in and give us his impeccable record, not only before God, but also as the record we can live with as our past as we move into the future! Thus we are God-made saints.

Sinners we remain, God makes us saints, and it’s not sometimes one and then other times the other. We are simultaneously both saints and sinners. That goes for every last one of us! No exceptions for good or bad behaviour.

Pen-ultimately (of a 2nd order of significance) we know that how we live our lives effect others who live now on this earth and those who follow us. In other people’s eyes we can be seen to do good things, and be judged as a good person, OR to be seen to do bad things, and be judge as a bad person.

These orders of significance, the ultimate judgment of God, and the penultimate judgment of history about our lives, are not ours to make. There are other lower orders of significance where we may be able to judge ourselves as going good and being good, or as doing bad and being bad. They are the level at which we can understand Luke wrote about people being like trees: we produce the fruit that is of the kind we are. This image breaks when we realize that God made us all ready, able, and eager to only do good; yet we broke from the kind of people (‘trees’) that God made us to be, we sinned, and we have done evil things.

Jeremiah writes how everyone (but not Jeremiah or God’s faithful few) is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.

Sometimes it seems that everyone else has become evil. In a world economy that is based on greed it is difficult to see anyone conduct business not based on greed. Laws are written to ensure that CEO’s conduct business as greedily as possible for the shareholders.

In this messed up world, it is easy to see and to say that everyone has become greedy, taking from others what is not ours to take.

Stupid is as stupid does and everyone does stupid. There is no evil that is not stupid, yet not all evil is stupid. (Some stupid is not evil, it’s just stupid.) So perhaps better said: stupid evil is as stupid evil does, and everyone does stupid evil.

Saints are a miracle. Only by God’s Grace is anyone able to be seen as a saint, in spite of their stupid doings.

Only the paradox that Luther provides covers it: we are all simultaneously saints and sinners. God creates us Good. We all choose to be stupid by our (fallen) nature, and only by Grace are we ever made wise.

Thanks be to God for saints, like us. And Grace be to those terrible sinners, like us.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 13

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sacrificing a Tree

a dead tree for firewood is one thing,

stripping the bark to kill a living tree for no good purpose is evil.

Isaiah 53:5

But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

John 11:51-52

He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

Words of Grace For Today

We humans understand how innocent people or animals are sacrificed to ‘pay a debt’ and free us. There are two kinds of sacrifice, one destructive evil, one gracious goodness.

Rene Girard developed a few ideas that many have applied and adapted. At the core is his mimetic theory that we ‘remember’ we desire something by seeing others having it, which causes senseless competition between even friends. Competition leads to conflict and conflict cannot be between friends, so the friends use a scapegoat (an innocent, vulnerable bystander) on whom they pile fictitious blame. This cathartic release of blame onto a third party relieves the conflict between the two friends and they continue on, the desire that caused the conflict resolves into the senselessness it was at the beginning. The friendship is saved, the friends continue on.

The vulnerable, innocent scapegoat is destroyed.

This is the destructive evil sacrifice.

Girard interprets the story of Jesus’ sacrifice for us as God’s clear statement that scapegoating innocent, vulnerable people is not acceptable or needed, just as God’s clear statement by calling Abraham to the mountain to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and then stopping Abraham, was that God did not want any child sacrificed to himself.

God clearly does not want destructive evil sacrifice by any humans.

God does send his son, Jesus, to live, preach, teach, heal and sacrifice himself to the corrupt power of his time, the Roman empire and the Chief Priest. This is the sacrifice of gracious goodness. It is chosen by the one surrendering to sacrifice. The sacrifice does not destroy innocent and vulnerable people. Exactly the opposite, it gives life to all.

Jesus calls us to wisely sacrifice, sometimes little, sometimes everything, in order that other people will be able to live. We do not send someone else to be the sacrifice. We go ourselves, knowing that all we are and have is a gift from God, and if God can use us to give life, then as followers of Jesus we can give of ourselves, and even give everything of ourselves, in order that others may live, and live in the abundance of Grace, Love and Hope that God created us all to enjoy.

So much in life tries to get us to strive to achieve and receive at others’ cost (the destructive evil sacrifice). This is not the way of life for the followers of Jesus, and for all the children of God.