Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 21

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Imperfect Reflections

Evil Uses Imperfect Reflections of God’s Will

to Guide Us to Our Destruction

Psalms 97:10

The Lord loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

Ephesians 4:15

Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Words of Grace For Today

How does one say this: some people are stupid. In Canada, one does not say this in polite company. Is this right? Or maybe the question is wrong. It should be: Is this the best we can say?

This past week campers have gathered as every year for the first weekend of the summer. In the random camping area where I live on crown land, there were no restrictions possible to limit units to every other campsite, since no official campsites are designated. There are unofficial ‘campsites’ well established though. Established enough that they are named.

Doublesite is the first site on the left as one enters the area. It has the end of the circle-road bisecting, after it loops through to the main campsites and just before it joins the entrance road again. It’s large enough open space to easily fit three (four are tight) camper units on one side of the road and two units and two large tents on the other side, though more are possible. This weekend three units circled tightly the central campfire (not fired up, thankfully with the fire ban on). Tents were pitched on the other side, but only one or two. People and especially the half dozen pre-teen children freely mingled and met around the toys and food tables.

There seemed to be little concern for Covid 19 physical distance restrictions. Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness.

Rightsite is the first site on the right as one enters the camping area. It has a 100 metre separate roadway through trees into it’s wide opening around a huge campfire pit. A favourite site, it is usually occupied by one unit, maybe two units. There are two pathways/roadways leading away from it where other units can fit into, though it’s not all that optimal. It can work though as a group campsite and occasionally it is just that.

This weekend a bus and three camper units, plus three tents were squeezed in around the campfire pit. Set off by itself it was hard to see whether a fire was lit. But the space hardly allowed for anything but absurdly normal interactions between the people with so many units filling the area, with no concern for Covid 19 restrictions of any kind. Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness.

Along the loop further past the winter landing for ice fishers, two sites (Lake 1 and Lake 2) sit between the road and the lake, within 5 metres of the water. This weekend the first was empty, but the second was occupied by one unit, a truck, a truck pulling a boat, and a third crossover vehicle.

Around at the end of the loop, before it returns through Doublesite a number of roadways intertwine between the trees making up Website. Usually one or sometimes two units fit back there, not necessarily camping together. This weekend it hosted three camper units and three tents, and twice that many vehicles, with vehicles coming and going all weekend long. The older teenagers and early 20-year-olds carried on like it was a regular bush party, drinking, making lots of noise, louder as the night wore on, tossing frisbees, and setting up drinking games (with shared bottles). After they left there were a number of areas a short ways into the woods with used toilet paper and not quite empty toilet paper rolls strewn about. Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness. Can you spell Darwin Awards?

And at night, the perpetrators unknown, someone lit off a series of fireworks, despite the fire-ban. If they had started a wildfire the dry conditions and the huge amount of dry junk brush in the woods and dead trees would have sent an inferno rolling through and out of here.

Can one say ‘stupid’ loud enough and long enough? With Covid 19 restrictions, who knows when firefighters enough may appear to control it! Who knows how much property would have been destroyed and how many lives would have been lost!

In Cold Lake itself, when I go shopping typically people breach a one metre physical distance from me on a regular basis despite my best efforts to avoid them, forget about 2 metres. I sat at the tailgate of the borrowed truck picking up hardware from Canadian Tire. No less than a dozen people walked past me, all within a foot, two at the most. I finally pulled out a 6 foot stick that I use to pull things out of the 6 foot truck-bed and propped it against the tailgate out onto the pavement easily covering the area where all those people had walked. It forced the next dozen to walk at least 1 metre away from me, and most did that and no more, cutting from the corner right past me at the tailgate.

I’ve heard people foolishly say that there is no Covid 19 in Cold Lake. 2 tested cases were reported, but the military do not report their cases, nor could Cold Lake report an outbreak or real numbers lest threats to Canada could know our military is unable to respond due to illness.

Can one say ‘stupid’ loud enough and long enough? Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness.

As Monday noon rolled around the vehicle noise from that end of the camp area increased, then settled down. I sat writing and out the window off to one side I saw a black something move across the narrow view. I stood up and peered out the window where I might see the whatever if it kept moving the same direction. Nothing, then from behind the borrowed truck meandered a young adult black bear, nosing about for food. Coming right toward me, it was no more than 3 metres away, through the window.

I grabbed a camera to get a few shots. Then as the bear continued to poke about and started toward the camper itself I started shouting. At first there was no response, then the bear slowly changed it’s slow meandering course away from the camper back toward where it had emerged from the roadway to the rest of the camp area.

This young bear has already learned that human campsites are a source of food. That makes for a dangerous bear, one that is not afraid of humans, one that will easily attack humans. Someone is going to get hurt, badly and likely killed eventually, before this bear’s life ends. Who left food out and when so that this bear learned humans are a source of food?

The Bear Truth:

Someone Taught this Bear

Humans Mean Food!

Can one say ‘stupid’ loud enough and long enough?

One can, but is it the wisest or best thing to say?

As we grow up into Christ we learn to hate evil, but to speak graciously and gently about others sinfulness. We remember our own and all that Christ forgives us. We extend that grace towards other sinners.

We speak the truth (about our and their sinfulness) with love (the same love God exercises for us in Christ, that erases those sins.)

The truth is, the population is rebelling against the present restrictions. Even the restrictions are not strong enough to stop Covid 19 from spreading; they will just slow it down to avoid spikes in cases that overwhelm the health care system. If we were under restrictions strong enough to stop Covid 19 from spreading, we would be in full rebellion.

Speaking the truth in love sometimes meaning saying what can be said to get people to do what can be done, and not trying to do what cannot be done, so that people rebel and do nothing to help reduce the dangers we face.

Lake 2 was the only campsite where a bunch of garbage was left scattered behind, (if one does not mention the used toilet paper around Website) though the fire-pits everywhere seem to be treated as if they were garbage cans. So there is that to thank all these campers for: comparatively little mess to clean up after them!

Now feeding that bear, intentionally or inadvertently by leaving food or garbage out for it to find … there just is no excuse for that.

Come to think of it, there is no real excuse for any sin, or for any of us to participate in evil. Yet we keep doing it, thinking it will bring us life.

Only life lived out of God’s Grace brings us and others life.

Be everything good and gracious you can be. At your worst, be kind. That will get you and yours through every challenge in these times when we are ripe pickings for the Devil’s temptations to call others ‘stupid’.

God’s Beauty

Perfectly Created

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Apr 18

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Laws of Physics. An Empty Glove Grows Cold Even in the Light

The Law, Greater than an Empty Hand

Jeremiah 8:7

Even the stork in the heavens knows its times; and the turtle-dove, swallow, and crane observe the time of their coming; but my people do not know the ordinance of the Lord.

Romans 2:14

When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.

Words of Grace For Today

Today all to often sinful people (like us) rationalize anything and everything, as if truth, goodness, purity, and obedience were all relative or in the eye of the beholder or fully dependent on one’s perspective.

Quatsch!

Absolute reality does exist, and those who pretend that they can change reality so that they get to take control and rule over others, are only working out the Devil’s own way.

The ordinances, the Law of God, given in the Old Testament, were not equivocal. Generations spent countless hours interpreting, applying and writing guides to them, but that never changed the Law given by God. Reality is reality. God is God. Law is Law.

Do not murder. Do no commit adultery. Do not steal. Do bear false witness. Do not covet.

These are not complicated, yet a life long challenge to obey.

Jesus’ command is simpler: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength! Love your neighbour as yourself, and your enemy.

Jesus’ command is a greater challenge to obey, for instead of proscribing destructive behaviour, Jesus prescribes life-giving behaviour. Jesus’ command impacts everything we think, say and do!

Of course one does not need to hear Jesus’ commands to be able to love God and all people.

On the other hand just because we are baptized hardly means that we will love God and all people. So we need to hear the command again and again, so that we remember what the Holy Spirit equips us to be able and ready to do, each and every day of our lives.

None of us are above God’s law, or above Jesus’ command to love God and all people.

Following the law perfectly is impossible. We remain sinners who break it constantly, but that does not mean that we can pretend the Law does not exist, that we will not break it, and that we are not condemned for those breaches. We are only saved by Grace. That we are saved by Grace alone inspires us to forgive others as we are forgiven.

What a beautiful world that makes, for we are in it, together.

2020 Apr 11 How to Grow During Covid 19

The Un-Secrets to Ministry Growth During Covid 19

The Word, the Light.

The Light is Glorious! Do you see?

Do you want the Word, Jesus Christ, to reach more and more people?

Do you want to grow the body of Christ, to share the Good News with new people, to provide ministry to more people than you have before?

Most pastors and leaders of congregations would say, Yes?

But are you willing to get the things done to make that happen?

Most pastors and leaders would say yes, but …. And then not do what is necessary.

So what if Covid 19 has shut down gatherings, including worship services. Our hearts and brains still live on, right?

Why is Covid 19 not an opportunity to reach more people?

It is easier to get someone to ‘participate in’, to ‘visit’, or to ‘try out’ a church on line than in person. So why are the churches not capitalizing on that?

Yes, some are putting together online worship opportunities, so severely limited by the brick and mortar model of worship, that it’s painful to watch the results, but then worship in person has often been that, too. No wonder memberships decline. Or worse is for it all to become an entertainment hour where the real Word of God is hardly a bother.

Assets

Intentional Interim Ministry teaches (as many elsewhere, too) that the way to grow a church is to build on the church’s assets, on your own assets.

Trinity’s Music as a good start

Look at Trinity Lutheran Church’s worship offered via a link from their website http://www.trinity-lutheran.ab.ca/ to Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIBh_NH2X34&feature=youtu.be#t=0s

Prelude & Postlude

Among Trinity’s assets are it has a cathedral style building with a pipe organ, and an organist in Cherie Larson who knows how to make it ‘sing’, and other musicians who contribute at a very professional level to enliven worship with profoundly meaningful music.

Trinity also tapped someone who is a professional quality photographer and a video editor to create an entrance/prelude collage and exit/postlude collage of photos, set to music which is an excellent experience to take in on Youtube (better than actually entering the brick and mortar building!)

So far, so good!

Hymns

Then for hymns for the worship service, the music (from the hymnal?) with words and musical notes are presented on the screen while the music is professionally produced for the audio track, also a joy to experience. It is as good as if one is there in person (almost – since other congregants voices are missing – but one hardly notices that lack since it is still terrific to experience as it is done.) No two hymns are presented in the same way. Different instruments and voice-collections are used for each hymn. Nothing is merely good enough and then boringly the same. Always a variety brings out the best in the music of the hymn presented, reflecting the content of the hymn in the best possible way.

So far, getting better.

The rest of Trinity’s worship can be skipped over so as not to detract from the worship experience. But read on to how easy it would be to make all profoundly wondrous.

God’s House?

The Body of Christ, the Church is not made of Brick and Mortar or Wood

So what’s missing?

Missing are liturgy, scripture readings, sermon and prayers that reflect the Good News they are intended to be, instead of half efforts to fulfill an obligation whatever that is.

Readings and Words spoken need to sing!

Readings of the biblical texts for the day, can be read with heart, clarity and meaning that convey the content of the lessons. Why present worship without scripture, and scripture presented like it truly is God’s Word to us, in all its glory.

Liturgy can easily be presented, like the hymns, so that one can participate. Again reflecting God’s Word to us in all its glory.

A sermon ought memorably reflects the lessons of the day, the news of the day, and God’s life-giving Word meeting us in our sinful/God-made saintly lives. It is not that difficult to present a sermon in a manner that makes it as profound an experience as the entrance/prelude or the hymns. Of course a sermon ought to reflect the theology of the cross, of grace, and of hope that inspired us to become pastors in the first place.

Other worship material can also easily be presented so that people can participate (like the hymns are presented to be participated in.)

How come these other pieces of the worship are not as good as the music? It’s not because they cannot be. I’ve experienced them at Trinity to be as good, and not. And at a great number of other churches, both as tremendously good and woefully poor. What is it anyway that we fail to be inspired (inwardly animated to engage in the profound in-breaking of the divine in our life at that moment) leading worship, as Pastors and as lay people?

So what could be done?

This is not just for Trinity, but for every congregation out there that dares to ask, how can we reach and minister to and provide care for even more people, especially during this crisis?

What are your assets?

Can someone do music well for the congregation?

Can someone do photography well for the congregation?

Can someone do video editing well for the congregation?

Can you do your own great version of Trinity’s Prelude/Postlude?

Note: the photography for all the photos throughout the service cannot be just pictures; Trinity’s are professional photos taken with great care to present what is there with the best light, composition, and tone! That is not simple or easy to reduplicate. But if you want to do this well, good photography is a minimum!

Note: the music is not just any music played sort of well. It is the right music for the season, for the experience of entering worship. That is not simple or easy to reduplicate. But if you want to do this well, good music is a minimum!

What to do to make this worship profound through the whole service?

What could make the ‘talking head’ sections of worship not just better but profoundly inspiring to experience?

How about the best lighting, composition, and tone set up for the recording of the Pastor/Readers?

How about putting the Pastor – even a still photo (especially if you cannot figure out good photography while recording video of the readings)- standing at the altar, or at the lectern or in the pulpit as is appropriate?

How about not presenting the Pastor sitting?

How about not presenting the ‘talking head’ throughout the section being presented?

How about starting with the live/still Pastor/Reader photos/videos, and then on top of the continuing audio using photos or video that reflect the meaning of the audio beneath?

Or animated [Lego] for the children? See https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1721092675775 and for the back story: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/lego-video-coronavirus-1.5524282

The Path

The Path Before Us May be Difficult

What not to do?

Do not present amateur photos or video or audio. Make it better than just good. Make it profoundly good!

Every human is a precious person, created in God’s image.

There is no human face that cannot be photographed to be engaging!

So do not present photos or videos that present any presenter (Pastor or lay) as washed out, greyed out, or old and tired.

Plain words are better than bad photos of the reader!

Same goes for voices! Remember, these voices carry the Word of God. Do not present almost dead, hard to hear, or confused voices. They ought to be professionally-played-on-a-pipe-organ music to one’s ears, heart, and soul! (Pastors: if you do not know how to do this then now is finally the opportunity to learn. Start with understanding the words and the Word they proclaim! The words ought to stir your spirit when you say them! Edit and practice saying them until they do!)

What is required to do this (much, so far)?

Equipment (computer and software) to record music.

Equipment (computer and software) to record ‘talking heads’.

A good [cell] camera, computer and software to produce the photos.

Equipment (computer and software) to edit video

A photographer.

A videographer. (these may be the same person, even one of the readers, pastors, or musicians.)

A website with Youtube posting or link capabilities.

A Youtube account.

Musicians, Pastor, Readers,

The Holy Spirit – is already ready to inspire everyone!

The Online Worship Results

So the worship experience on the church’s website is as terrific as it can be, worth participating in, something anyone would be proud to provide the link to, to anyone.

It’s all good enough to go viral and (not be an embarrassment to anyone, rather it would) make everyone proud to be part of the effort!

Now What? ‘Shoe Leather’ is Required

Now What!?

Now it’s the same as a mission church: share the good news.

Distribute hard copy invitations to be distributed (carefully protected as VIRUS CLEAN – state on the papers what precautions are taken to ensure the papers are CLEAN!)

Distribute them to members at home (lots of driving, but get it done, at least once!) Think about distributing already consecrated elements at the same time, in quantity to last a few months for all bound to the limits of home.

Give members multiple copies of the invite and encourage them to make more copies or ask for more if they need them.

Ask them to share the invitations with everyone they know, and anyone who is lonely! That’s a whole lot of people now!

In the neighbourhood around the church, hit the pavement with many persons working alone, putting the invitations in mailboxes -careful to be virus clean!

Why now?!

Because we can!

Because it’s God’s Word!

Because people are more in need of some contact, and open to responding to invitations online and have time to respond!

Because people are hurting, and hurting people are the people the church (historically, if not your church) cares about, and cares for!

Because it is why we live and breathe!

Because the hard work is rent for the air we breathe!

Do you want your congregation to grow, or it’s ministry to reach more people!?

Answer with your actions.

Chop Chop

Chop Chop, there’s work to be done!

Comments are welcome back to

shm AT prwebs DOT

Rev. Tim Lofstrom

Who am I? I know whose I am and who I am, but maybe you do not. I am:

Photographer, writer, blogger, and erstwhile Euphonium player and student of music.

B.A. summa cum laude from Concordia with CREDO honors, M.Div. from Yale, one year scholarship at Justus Liebig Universität, and 16 years parish experience spread over 4 decades, spouse to a parish pastor for over 3 decades.

Also commercial pilot; stay at home father; instructor at community colleges for computers; bookkeeping, photography; MCSE (NT4), ran a computer business for 8 years; and built a house with my own hands after retiring in my 40’s as a pastor in order to pull my pension as seed money for a home for my family.

Now: homeless, my reputation ruined thorough gaslighting even as I did laudably also for children, still creating photos, writing, and celebrating the Eucharist to remember who I am in the face of who people lie to say I am other.

http://www.prwebs.com/

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Apr 6

Monday, April 6, 2020

Look for the beauty no matter how small. Be guided by Beauty and Truth.

Hosea 8:12

Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions, they are regarded as a strange thing.

John 18:37

Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

Words of Grace For Today

Sometimes we cannot see anything straight, so blinded by our greed, envy, guilt, and anxiety. Some political satirists refuse to use Trump for material anymore. His lies are no longer at all humorous. Asked on Jan 22 whether the US should be concerned about a pandemic, he responded: “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” Trump’s lies have deadly consequences. As I write this predictions give 100k and 240k deaths in the US, alone. But before we defend this man, or attack him further, Stop. Think. Confess.

We all do this out of anxiety, guilt, envy or greed. We lie, even to ourselves. God speaks, we regard God’s Word as a strange thing, in order that we can carry on in our sinful ways.

Jesus came into the world to testify to the truth. No matter who we are, or what we say, no matter what we believe or disbelieve, Jesus was born to demonstrate the truth to us at it’s core. God loves us, all of us, even when we lie to ourselves and others about real important things in life. God sent Jesus to save us from our own lies, so that we can listen once again to Jesus’ voice: Love one another as yourself, even your enemies.

Stupid Deadly Things I’ve Heard Today

Interspersed with Truth and Beauty

You probably should be able to tell the difference!

Golden Grass

If there is all white almost everywhere, the exceptions, like a bundle of golden grass, will stand out, in the light, as beautiful.

If it’s just white,

It just snowed really heavily.

If it’s all just grass, this bundle is not that interesting, most likely.

If one has just gold, well that’s another problem I’ve never had,

money problems.

It’s just like a cold. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Right, for some people Covid 19 is just like a cold and does no more damage than a cold.

It’s just like the flu. I’m not worried.

Well, you should take flu more seriously. It’s fatality percentage is less than 1.0%, but it is still deadly for some people.

And it mutates every year, so it can become more deadly in a year or less.

Dull Light, Dull Brain All White

If there is no light, than nothing is seen as it really is. Everything becomes so much the same that it’s just dull, and then who would be interested?

It’s all a bunch of nothing. It’s just a kind of flu.

Yes, it is a kind of flu, a different kind of flu. Not in it’s make up, but in it’s ability to kill it has perhaps the same or greater fatality percentage as the Spanish flu. The Spanish flu hit a small community in northern Canada and of the 80 people there 72 died within a short time.

The Spanish flu killed in a few hours.

Covid 19 is estimated to have a fatality rate similar to the Spanish Flu.

The Spanish flu killed 50 to 100 million people.

So why worry if Covid19 and it’s mutations kill that many people every year or more – since the percentages of infected and the percentage of dead are the same, the population is much larger therefore proportionately many more people will die, or if this virus is not reduced by the passing of seasons (dies off due to the heat of summer) then it may be a great number more?

It may be in a short time that way too many people will die to allow life to continue as we know it!

Because it will not take long for there to be no one to grow, distribute and sell the food you have become dependent on, or the products, or … well, anything.

Making Tracks in the Simplest Part of the Day: Beautiful Light

When the light shines, then you can see the beauty of a simple day.

And when you take time to figure out the truth, then you can act appropriately,

so you do not expose dozens of people to your infection, killing a handful of them.

That’s the big deal.

Cold Lake has supposedly 4 cases of Covid 19 as of today.

Schools are closed until at least September, Libraries are closed.

Makes sense with a military base and lots of wealthy people traveling the world, and coming home

to share their experiences.

Wolf or Potato

Wolf Moon 2020 January

It’s not there yet or here yet,

but it’s really nearly here,

.

Light Night

Light of Night

Moon full of light,

Blazing Cold, Square Cold, Deep Cold

so a bit chilly, one might saw.

.

No Potato

No Potato

No Potato, But a Bit of Light on Snow, and Walla!

Or if one tries to peel a potato outside it might be the last potato or

anything else that might be peeled by one,

such as a bell.

Bells ring, for joy, for alarm.

What’s alarming in your life?

That many people regularly bully others in order to get their way with them.

A crime, it is, most, that no one cares for the most part about bullying by adults of adults.

Just when bullying is done to children … or vulnerable women.

What would one want? Justice.

Justice of course, laced with compassion. God’s way of being God.

We Regret

To inform you

That the duel at high noon

The Full Light of Day Was a No Show

The Full Light of Day Was a No Show

.

Was

(

You may be interested to know

Since you appear to

Have invested your everything

On the light

)

Lost

To the oncoming shadows’

Cold train of

Darkness

.

Due to the

Failure of light

E=MC2 and all

To make a

Full

Appearance.

.

Fits with the millions of letters and texts to karma:

Here’s a list of people you seem to have missed.

.

But The

Christ is born

To bear all this

Having borne all sins

Being born

without a father but within full blown scandal.

Sheltered by a good stepfather.

Of progeny from beyond the firmament and stars.

Divine progeny fit into human skin and all.

Bearing the light and life victorious

For all.

.

Shadows long at noon

Do nothing to separate

Us from the love of God.

Nobodies, Only Bodies, and Somebodies.

Thoughts and Draft Sermon

Rough Notes on the Lessons:

OT Thoughts

There was an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, the veracity of which God could not establish without going there, yet men go to investigate, while God remains to allow Abraham to speak with him, bartering/negotiating/futilely bantering with God about the count of righteous people needed to have God spare the cities.

The conversation is presumptuous on Ab’s part. He acknowledges it. It’s like talking to an angry King when bad news has just been delivered, the King wants vengeance, and anyone interfering may likely get caught in the unstoppable destruction that the King is in the middle of enacting.

Except it’s not a King, its the all-knowing God, putting on a play of not knowing? And an all-powerful God who can not only destroy in this world and the next but condemn one to a torturous eternity.

Abraham’s got chutzpah, maybe foolishness, to spare.

The argument is that the good should not perish with the evil.

And God responds to that, sort of, allowing that 10 good people in all of Sodom and Gomorrah will cause God to relent.

NO GRACE, it takes goodness to get God to relent!

And God knows there is only one man, Lot, his wife (maybe) and his 2 daughters, so 3 maybe 4 good people in the cities, though the son in laws are invited to leave as well and think that Lot is jesting. So maybe 6, but really only 3.

So why did Abraham not negotiate down to 2?

Because God would have had to relent and allow the cities’ destruction of so many people in their consuming depravity to continue.

Yes: The evil is powerfully destructive, like a cancer, and God will stop it, giving the few healthy an option to walk away alive.

Destroying the cities God saves generations who would have been sucked into the cities’ evil vortex.

But it is not ‘Sin City’ where this kind of living continues through the generations until it is acceptable everywhere, as bush parties out of control, and in control continue to give witness to locally here. And parties, raves, and you name it in the cities continue worse than Sodom. Bonnyville and CL (put in your own cities) not excepted either! Depravity required people to participate for it to exist, and then evil flourishes. Evil is only tempered by the distinct efforts of a few good people to have life otherwise.

2nd Lesson Thoughts

Note: as today in Paul’s day and for generations afterwards, ‘philosophy’ did not indicate the thoughtful, logical, deep and profound thinking about life’s most pressing issues. Like today’s ‘spin’, ‘news’, self-help gurus gone amok, ‘walking back’ what actually was said into something else, and justice based on blatant lies, ‘philosophy’ meant rhetoric and sophistry completely disconnected from any ethic or moral restraint to uphold the truth, i.e. anything from a destructive cult to a full-out scam to way of approaching life which helped only the privileged few and ruined everyone else.

Well, the urge to resist tempting heresies: philosophies, self-abasement, worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human thought, ANYTHING that does not hold fast to Christ Jesus as the head! From whom we all (the church) grow and are held together.

Temptations to depravity can come in all guises, some that look remarkably respectable, acceptable, thoughtful.

Imagine that!

Gospel Thoughts

Pray, teach us to pray like John’s disciples.

God gives b/c of persistence if not for friendship.

So God is to be bartered and negotiated, and badgered until one receives what one’s friends need.

So I need countless hoards, or at least one person, to pray relentlessly to God for what I need: True Justice. Lies exposed. Shelter, food, work, security.

The smiting of the corrupt people (or at least the corruption of the people) that causes this for me and so many others.

Can I pray ceaselessly, relentlessly that the Holy Spirit will invoke the grime reaper (if not of people than of the corruption at the root of this disaster for so many men, children and even women?!)

Or do I only get the Holy Spirit to inspire me to forgive the unforgivable!?

This could be a Sunday of law and revenge. (Let’s make sure it is not.)

Of useless mercy, of relentless prayers, of making justice happen.

Of helping one, two or three people survive the destruction the corruption causes.

Christ Alone is our Rock and Salvation

Draft Sermon

Real Life turns out to be nothing like the image that I developed from my experience. In my experience we were all somebodies, to each other, and especially to God.

But the people in this world so often treat each other and themselves as if they were nobodies.

My experience: Mom and Dad who loved us all, children who lived and grew reasonably, a home, at least rented, jobs and a good or at least reasonable salary, or at least a paycheck every once in a while. Inside the homes, sometimes, a bit of craziness, but nothing that threatens life, health or happiness. And always one knew God’s blessings.

Today’s first lesson is all about that the world is full of things that are quite different than my experience. It is not that people are held captive to poverty and can barely survive. It is that they have enough, and do not know the gift life is, nor what to do with it.

Sodom and Gomorrah are not healthy, and the hedonism the people pursue does not provide happiness, just short term satisfaction bought at the price of real happiness and health. And all their messing about threatens any guest who enters their gates.

God knows no way to heal the sickness of these two so depraved cities. Abraham tries to barter with God. God allows Abraham’s foolish petulance, even as God endures every foolish petition from us, even our angry fist shaking if that’s what we need to do. God knows everything. God knows that Sodom and Gomorrah need to be erased from the face of the earth in order to stop their destruction, not of only the people caught in them now, but into the future the generations that would be caught in them, and all the sojourners and those who think they might want to give the cities a try. God wants to save all those people.

Abraham can bring everything and anything to God. So he barters, also because Lot and his family live in those cities. For that they are offered a chance to leave and be saved. Lot and his daughters make it out alive, but the cost of the cities’ depravity has cost them dearly, it sticks to them, and their future generations are only the result of incest brought on by the daughters.

The world is full of things that are quite different: these are very ugly cities leaving very ugly scars on the three people who survive them.

Just surviving such terrible things is rarely to live well. One does not live by bread, or mere survival.

A father in the Jewish Ghetto, with food severely rationed, lights a candle every evening for prayers. When he has used up all their supply of candles he takes a string, molds a bit of their meager ration of butter around it, and lights it for prayers. His son challenges him, why should their food be so consumed for a mere light. The father responds, “Without food we can live a week. Without our faith we could not live for even an hour.”

If you live a faithful life, you know you are a somebody, to others and to God. It’s when you live faithless that you treat yourself and others as nobodies, or as in Sodom and Gomorrah, as only bodies.

I have lived in many different places, in a variety of manners. I lived in a missionary family in Africa. My father was a doctor, my mother a nurse raising 5 children when we arrived and 7 when we left, my father so sick they thought he had months to live if that.

We had plenty to survive on, but our toys were sticks. There were no extras, and the flour always came with flies in it. Our faith brought us there, and the faith of the people who were born there carried us through many a challenging dark night.

I lived in a city as a child, one of 9, with enough to live on, but no extras, and we scraped for enough food and enough hand me down clothes. I lived on a farm, where we had enough, including music though the garden was an essential contribution to all 13 of us.

I lived as a student, with enough to survive on, though I ‘wasted’ precious money on a good stereo for music, because I’d seen how music could cure what could not otherwise be cured. I’ve lived out of a tent on route to a university where I could not understand the language. I’ve lived with a multimillionaire without knowing how great was his wealth.

I lived happily in each place. But it was most difficult with the millionaire, because he cheated and lied about everything, derided and slandered others at each step, and hated the people poorer than he was, especially the aboriginal peoples. They reminded him that he came from a place where he was considered a nobody. So now he doesn’t know how to treat other people other than as if they were nobodies.

Jesus’ disciples come to him and ask him to teach them to pray as John has his disciples. They want to pray as if they are somebodies. Jesus gives them what we’ve come to call the Lord’s Prayer. Then he goes on to assure us that if we seek, we will find. If we ask, we will receive.

God is the one to yell at, be angry at, blame, and thrash. People are the ones who we need to treat with respect and care. There is a well grounded reason that the ten commandments include the prohibition to bear false witness against our neighbour. Our words can hurt people. Our lies are as effective as murder. God, on the other hand, can take anything we may want to throw his or her way.

Jesus does not say that if we ask for something, we will receive that thing. Or if we seek some thing, God will give us that thing.

But God will always provide. God will always answer. God will always listen, and respond. To most of our foolish prayers God answers with a simple no. Sometimes we get a more spectacular NO. Every once in a while God gives us a real kick in the pants, or a knock so hard we wonder where it came from as we pick ourselves up off the ground. And a few times God actually says yes to our good petitions.

I live without a home and I could tell you my sad story, pitifully played out by so many people bearing false witness against me. But astounding is the story of another person living without a home, who I met weeks ago.

She lives with plenty of equipment to protect her from the environment, and to provide for her well-being beyond her safety. Neither drugs, alcohol, addictions, nor prayer brought her to live in the woods without a home.

Her ex took advantage, did not care if she was close to death. She got out, barely and still has not healed. He still pursues her and bears false witness against her and gets support from the justice system. She functions, but has little faith left, though she knows that the wilderness heals her most. He behaves as a nobody, treats her as a nobody, and invites others to treat both of them as nobodies. One day the light of Christ will shine the truth so clearly everyone will be compelled to know it, to their shame for not admitting it sooner. They will be somebodies, but some bodies, souls, and minds who God deals with justly.

There’s a lot of bull in the world; comes from the sinners, in us each and all

The world is full of things that are quite different than I have ever imagined could be called living, some of it so ugly one wonders that it can exist at all, that anyone can survive it. Yet out of the worst ghettos God brings leaders and people who inspire others to waste nothing that life offers, and to bring everything possible to as many people as possible, so that all people can live well.

It may seem easy, or obvious, that we live out our faith. At least we go through the motions. But there are challenges in every life, even the ones that look so safe and healthy, so provided for in a solid home. Even people who appear in the world’s terms to be SOMEBODIES, can behave behind closed doors as if they and those close to them are NOBODIES.

We come to realize that the words to the Colossians are not to be taken for granted:

“… continue to live your lives in [Christ], rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit”

Philosophy mentioned then is quite different than most philosophy named today. Back then philosophy was more rhetoric and sophistry. Today’s equivalents abound as self-help gurus, or spinning events for the news, news that is no longer required to present a fair view of all sides of an issue, and the spin applied to events like seen in the US. No truth survives. That’s the warning given in Colossians.

It is too easy to give up on life in disgust for what stands as truth for some people, for some causes (usually their own wealth or hedonistic pleasures), or for some churches. Works Righteousness is always a favourite, though it can be coloured with heavy condemnation of other people making it drip with destruction. A friend joked in parody of this attitude: “I have learned to accept my imperfections. It’s other people’s imperfections that I find intolerable.”

The View of God With Us

What Paul proclaimed, Jesus taught by example, and generations have managed to remind us of is that Grace alone saves us. We are somebodies only because God chooses to make us so.

We can work like mad to make the world better, but we cannot work to make ourselves better in God’s eyes. We are already made righteous by Christ. Thereafter we do the work of the righteous, often with no reward or even notice. Sometimes, as if we were nobodies, we get punished and are left to die as thanks for doing the right and good thing.

So we pray that God will turn this world around. We work like it depends on us, and we relax knowing God intends for us to enjoy this creation with God at our side. For with God at our side we are all somebodies.

Amen

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

Fulfilled or Full of It

27 January 2019

Sermon Sketch

You choose which with your choices and actions

Grace or Greed?

Fulfilled Today?

-20°C Specular Sunset ; Spectacular Day

Jesus: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Quite the claim,

so familiar with it so we accept it

but the fulfillment of this good news is … well unbelievably good!

This has been sought, wished and prayed for through the generations for millennia.

Roots

in Isaiah 61,

while the people are in exile

“61The 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;

3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

Jubilee Year

First the year of the Lord’s favour:

never happened, an ideal that all debts would be reset to zero, everyone gets a fresh start.

Isaiah’s Word of Promise

The first verse though was wonderfully said,

good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, liberty for the captives!

also never realized.

The second verse turns a huge dark corner: vengeance on God’s enemies hope not to be in that number!

followed by great deliverances: from mourning, sadness, praise instead of faint of spirit,

and the ruins of the homeland through generations will be repaired, restored to their glory.

All of this, the restoration of home and a return home, the turning of mourning to gladness, a fresh start for everyone, and liberty for the captives, aid for the broken-hearted, oppressed get good news.

All this because God has anointed the prophet to proclaim these.

Yet they never happened, not all of them, and only a few partially, momentarily fulfilled.

Jesus’ Time

This Jesus picks up on: proclaims these same words of great hope and deliverance,

The people of his day also hoped for deliverance, from Roman’s oppression, and from each other’s oppressive dealings.

The marked difference is Jesus says: This is fulfilled in their hearing, today!

That’s quite some statement.

No evidence that it was fulfilled then,

Today

Still not fulfilled today.

Stories of not fulfilled today.

Poor receive very little if any good news, the blind stay blind, the captives are still in jail if not killed, oppressed not only not freed, their numbers multiple every year.

So what’s up?

!

Look Around

Ezra: account of worship for returned exiles:

worship: good and healthy, or controlled

Great experiences of good healthy worship:

music that reverberates in one’s soul, renews even one’s body,

sermons that speak volumes of God’s love for all, and for me,

liturgy that regularizes the basics of God’s stance to us: Grace

and regularizes our relationship with God, fully dependent on forgiveness

and regularizes our relationships with others (because God is as God is with us): Grace, Light, Forgiveness, (greatest gift) Love!

My favourite: children times where the children have loads of fun playing in [the yuckier, messier – yet with meaning brought out of it], and it all getting more or less cleaned up without a hitch; and the adults who pay attention hear that salvation is a gift, therefore we can be gifts of grace to each other

Bad Worship Experiences

healing services that victimized anyone who claimed they needed healing,

those offering blessings and prayers who had no empathy, who in other settings played power games to ensure their positions in the church.

cursed blessing’

Haugian Pietist congregation where this one quite elderly man came in to ‘bless’ me just prior to each service. Less blessing than a manner to control who I was, what I preached and not, and how he sought to ‘take credit’ for anything good that God accomplished in worship. When I gracefully pointed out that God blessed me already, that he was disrupting my own worship preparations and last minute communications with other worship leaders, and that another time would be more appropriate, he disappeared, replaced with another who told me at every meeting that they were going to get rid of me. Their gaslighting worked its wonders and my body physically failed me at a meeting not long after that. The heartburn felt like it was going to drop me to the floor. I needed out, I got out, walked for miles, false accusations were made against me against which no one can defend themselves and the bishop came to facilitate my exit. Not quite a blessed experience, rather quite cursed.

Sermons

that never mentioned God once

or that drove home that we needed to earn our salvation

or that had the depth of mud puddles on pavement, offering only that ‘love was the answer’ and ‘what would Jesus do’ which meant the preacher could tell us all what we should do, by ascribing to Jesus that behaviour in our situations.

[Fill in your own experiences of Religion and Worship as Control, instead of Grace.]

Gifts, Members: all for all

Variety of Gifts: good for one and for all,

great variety of members, but still all one body.

Not hang with those only like yourselves, but you are part of a whole collection of great variety.

Stick together, work to work together, love each other’s differences.

Fulfilled in your hearing, today

Still a matter of waiting. Hoping, Promises, giving generously

Faith is hardly a destination account of life: rather it is a way of proceeding on one’s way:

Jesus: fulfilled today in your hearing … and yet not.

The promise so powerfully said: rejected, and with threats of violence! Jesus is run out of Nazareth, his home town.

For us today: how will we choose to see each day:

as an opportunity to control others

or

as an opportunity to help others experience God’s Grace?

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!

If we hear, comprehend, internalize the promise and live as people of hope,

instead of cynics or controlling shallow-faith people, then

as we give good news to the poor, help release the captives, give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free and give everyone we can a year of God’s favour,

Then

Then indeed,

in our deeds,

these words will be fulfilled today,