Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 20

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

When the Courts take everything ensuring your death, though you’ve done nothing wrong, the social contract disintegrates … further.

When Someone is peels away your protection from harm,

is it evil or good?

It is evil … and it is God’s blessing.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

On the day of prosperity be joyful, and on the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them.

Romans 8:28

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Words of Grace For Today

There are all sorts of explanations for why evil exists.

Prosperity is easy for humans to explain; we worked hard for our success and deserve the privilege and comforts afforded by our prosperity.

Adversity is also easy for humans to explain, as long as it is not their own adversity; they did not work hard but were lazy, or made mistakes because they were not smart, or were corrupt (like everyone else) and got caught, or took risks and had bad luck and were caught out … or … and on go the explanations.

Neither are right, necessarily nor primarily, nor are sufficiently correct to stand long on their own. The beginning of the real explanation for prosperity is that God blesses creation with some success. The beginning of the real explanation for adversity is that God blesses creation with some failure.

From there, why we and others enjoy prosperity or adversity, is a complicated mix of circumstances of time and environment and agency – a bit of our own, but mostly others’ agency.

Ecclesiastes’ explanation is interesting: God makes prosperity and adversity so that we do not know what will come in the future. That may well be. It teaches us that ONLY God can be trusted, not adversity (for example of our enemies) nor prosperity.

Paul in many and various ways points us to rely on God alone. Here he provides the reassurance that all things work for good … (which is blatantly not true, but he qualifies it with) for those who love God. Which is blatantly not true, for example all the martyrs through the generations, and all those Christians who have suffered at the cruel hands of others.

Paul is right though in a more profound sense: while the circumstances and suffering of our lives may not seem like they are worked out for good, ours or anyone else’s, God works in marvellous ways to bring blessings from evil. In the end God always will win, and therefore even when we suffer not, God will bring good out of it for us and for all others. In this way Paul is most certainly right. God works all things for good! for everyone.

Even our most evil, cruel enemies.

God is creator and always the victor. We are blessed to be God’s children, adopted by the sacrifice of Jesus.

There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer.

We can answer with the farmer, “Maybe.” With Christ we can answer to both prosperity and adversity: “It is God’s blessings, no maybe about it.”

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 15

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Path to Where?

Golden Path

Pray, We Find God’s Path

not the dead ‘fake gold’ of once green leaves.

It’s beautiful, even if the leaves are now dead and soon ugly brown.

Jeremiah 25:5

Turn now, everyone of you, from your evil way and wicked doings, and you will remain upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your ancestors from of old and for ever.

Romans 7:22-23

For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Words of Grace For Today

In every generation God calls us in many and various ways to be aware of Good and Evil and to choose to serve God, and God alone.

In every generation we fail, miserably; each and everyone of us.

Thank God our acceptance by God is not dependent on our choices, actions, thoughts and wishes or dreams.

God exercises Grace for us.

Awesome!

And we pray that we will be able to choose to turn from evil, even as we know we are still bound to sin.

It is a wonder that humans do anything good at all. It is a miracle that humans do any good at all. It is a commonplace Grace that the Holy Spirit pulls out of us, our thoughts, our words, our actions and inaction many things that serve God and are Good.

When we take time, God’s will is a delight to immerse oneself in. Being sure one immerses oneself in God’s Will can be a whole other (impossible and frightening) thing.

By Grace alone ….

Still, after we know that God accepts us, ‘warts’ and all, then it is a pure delight to strive in all of life, each moment, to serve God, and God alone.

Wonders never cease!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 14

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Look

See

Fear and Love

Live

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.

Acts 10:34-35

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Words of Grace For Today

“… anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God.”

Thankfully Peter did not say that only those who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to God, otherwise no one would be acceptable to God.

That would be to deny Grace.

Truth is no one can do what is right and therefore be acceptable to God.

Our duty is to keep God’s commandments, which we can only do with God’s help. Fearing God is the first step.

Luther added to that: we are to fear and love God. This is more complete, in that it brings us to the essence of God’s relationship to us. God loves us and graciously gives us freedom to choose, to forgive, and the ability to breathe, work and love … and hope.

God gives these gifts to every human, without partiality.

Accept who we are and what God gives us, and we enjoy the fullness of life and life eternal.

We can spend many hours, days and years trying to be what we are not, trying to separate ourselves from God. All of it is futile.

God stays with us, calling us to be all that God created us to be.

We can never be separated from God …

and God’s Grace.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – October 4

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fall, Colours, Shack not fallen yet.

Matt’s

Abandoned Not-Home

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

1 Peter 1:13

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

Words of Grace For Today

The world demands that we strive to prepare, possess, and secure for ourselves all that is necessary for the best life we can achieve. We are taught: Trust possessions, wealth, fame or at least good reputation, and your own knowledge and intelligence to provide a future of the best and and greatest comfort available to you.

God created us and provided us creation for an entirely different way of living. We must strive. That is a given. But we are created to strive to connect with our Creator and Saviour, and with other creatures of God. This includes working to provide ‘daily bread’, the necessities of life. We provide them not just for ourselves and our own. We provide them also for the needy, the poor, the strangers, the refugees, the outcasts … and for all the people the world prefers to forget.

This is to prepare our minds for action, to discipline ourselves, to count on God’s Grace alone, to trust the Lord with all our hearts, to acknowledge God. To count on Grace alone and to acknowledge God enables us to prepare for action and to discipline ourselves to be Christ’s hands, feet, and voice of Grace for the ‘forgotten.’

Covid 19 restrictions and precautions have taught us once again that ‘we are in this together!’ It does no good to protect just the wealthy and the privileged. The poor and the homeless need to be protected as well or no measures are sufficient. To protect the poor and the homeless requires first that we ensure the basics of life are available to them as well.

Long since recognized is that it costs less to provide homes for the poor, than it does to provide all the other services, like emergency services, minimal health care, etc for people living without a home.

In homes, people are better able to care for themselves, even when some cannot do that well, caught as they are in addictions or circumstances beyond which they can resolve. People caring for themselves, from a level in a home, achieves greater results than from the street or woods level. ‘Homes’ does not mean an apartment in a run down, dangerous, crime controlled place of squalor. ‘Homes’ means a place that anyone would be eager to live in: a safe, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, dry, pest-free, friendly neighbourhood. That’s why homes for the poor need to be built in every community, sprinkled in as part of life, in all our lives. So NIMBY has no place in this world. God calls us to say YIMBY! and YIOBY! and YIYBY! Yes! in Everyone’s ‘Best Yard’!

When we trust the ways of the world, or our own insights, then we settle for much less than we are capable of, less than providing well for all other people.

Trusting God alone, and God’s Grace alone, moves us to be in ways and to do things that we could never have imagined we were capable of being and doing.

God’s ways with us are wonderful, awesome, and down right frightening – unless we trust God. Trusting God they are wonderful, awesome and enthralling – inspiring and life-giving!

Breathe!

Now comes the adventure of your life.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest.

Which may be a calm day, a break from work.

Or

It may be God’s day to get us to provide for the rest of the poor people in our city, county, M.D., or community a home, food, clothing and love!

It may be God’s day for us to get the rest of God’s work finally done! (or well on it’s way.)

Breathe, and prepare ourselves.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 13

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Cold and Dark are the Paths

The Paths Forward

Press on toward God’s Light

Jeremiah 32:17

Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Words of Grace For Today

God is with us.

For some those words are the most comforting, promise-filled, powerful words that can be spoken, written or read. They name God’s choice to accompany one through all that life presents to us, both good and bad, marvellous and destructive, and hope-giving and despair oppressing.

For others these words can be the greatest cause of fear, dread, and angst. For they have chosen again and again to act selfishly, relentlessly destroying others for their own advantage, and trying to hide the truth from all. God still knows what they have done. To know that God not only knows, but God also accompanies one through life and the hell one creates for others, is to hear that God is not just aware of what one has done and still does, but God is profoundly affected by it as well. God’s wrath will rise up against one, in the end if not before.

God’s wrath is to be dreaded greatly!

For God has created the universe with God’s own power, with a word and an outstretched hand. Nothing is too hard for God. Destroying a person who has given themselves over to evil every day of their lives and only tries to hide this from others and themselves, and even from God … this kind of destruction is child’s play for God.

God is also so powerful as to send us to share God’s Grace with others, and to be ready to baptize them into the Way of Jesus, the Redeemer of the world. We know that Jesus has commanded us what is profoundly easy to repeat, and on our own impossible to obey: to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength; to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to love even our enemies.

This is only possible since God is with us always, that we can love unconditionally as God first loves us.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 25

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

As Trees in a Forest

We are in this together

1 Samuel 2:1

Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

Luke 1:46-48

Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.

Words of Grace For Today

It would be more comfortable for us, if Hannah’s prayer ended before she says her mouth derides her enemies. Not that we do not understand her prayer. We just wish it would not be ours, or recorded as prayed often by the saints in light.

But that is sin, and we cannot deny it.

For exactly this moment Jesus came to command us to love our enemies, so that we would recognize the sin in Hannah’s prayer, and in our prayers. It is sinful to wish that we ‘win’ at the cost of others, enemies or not.

It is a sad fact of human existence that too often in order to survive we must be victorious over our enemies. Even then Jesus’ example is that our victory is no victory if we are not gracious with our enemies, as God is gracious with us. We need must remember our place. We are desperate sinful wretches, no better than slave traders and mass murderers, for our thoughts would have disastrous results for so many people, were they to become reality just in the wishing.

In the middle of a prayer/wish like Hannah’s we recall Mary’s Magnificat: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.

We pause in our sinful prayer/wish we remember our own lowly position, and with humble gratitude we recall how much favour God has poured over us!

God helps us remember Mary, the saint, who for generations we have called blessed, for though being Jesus’ mother put her life often in danger more often in pain … and she watched him unjustly suffer crucifixion at the hands of the priests and the soldiers.

Enemies. They are our collective misunderstanding of God’s Grace and purpose for us all.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 17

Monday, August 17, 2020

Royal Purple

God’s Glory and Favour

For All to See

Zechariah 8:23

Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’

Acts 2:46-47

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Words of Grace For Today

Living with thanks, and with success that others recognize and want to be a part of, to join in. This is to have the goodness of heart and faith, of a purity and strength that others will …

No … that’s all wrong.

The way of following Jesus does not guarantee at all that others will notice the abundant life that God gives to us. That kind of prosperity is not to be equated with being blessed by God, otherwise there are so many evil ways to get there, and the ends could be seen to justify the means. This is exactly what the Devil wishes us to do. Reduce following Jesus into a code that we keep and which keeps others out.

Jesus embraces all nations, all creeds, all colours, all every kind of human. We humans are the ones who create artificial boundaries and exclusions in order to pretend we are special.

Jesus brings all nations to our doorstep to show us how varied the Kingdom of God is, and how much work there is for us in welcoming all people. So they flock to us for help. It is not because we are special, it is because God is special.

This account from Acts is remarkable, that the followers of Jesus had the goodwill of the people. That was in some ways true and in so many other ways it was not true. Jesus was a threat to so many people and so many people wanted to be done with him … and it will not take long before the followers of Jesus are hunted and slain like vermin in the floor boards.

In preparation for the persecutions to come, God gives them a respite, a time of calm, a time of relative safety … before the persecutions begin. Then all hell breaks loose against them.

Whether we are grieving a loss, reorganizing our lives after a loss, resting from the ‘funerals’ or caught in the middle of the persecutions, Jesus has a task for us. Even or especially in the middle of this Covid-19 pandemic Jesus’ task for us is to welcome the stranger into our midst, just as they are. We get to exercise God’s unconditional love.

What a life!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 16

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Looking out from down low

Psalm 136:23

It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures for ever.

Hebrews 13:3

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

Words of Grace For Today

It is so easy to forget our past, when we were so much less than we are now. Become wealthy and soon one easily forgets what it is like to struggle to survive without enough money. With God and God’s people it is different, though.

Become educated and it is easy to forget how it is to be ignorant and vulnerable. With God and God’s people it is different, though.

Yet as one becomes more educated one learns that one really did and still does know so little. This is closer to how it is in our relationship with God, if we care at all for the Truth of Jesus’ love and life for us.

When God forgives us our sins, it may seem easy to forget our sins, now that Grace has saved us. We can easily pretend or delude ourselves that we somehow no longer need forgiveness, though as we grow, if we learn to be honest with ourselves then we recognize that we still sin, and more profoundly and profusely then we care ever to admit. We desperately need to be forgiven, more it seems each passing day.

When we learn this anew each day, then it makes sense to give thanks to God for all that we are, for we have and are nothing on our own. Only by God’s hand do we have anything given to us as stewards of it, nor are we anything other than the chemicals our body is made of, except that the Holy Spirit breathes life into us each day.

As we remember how much we daily depend on God’s good Graces, then it is not difficult to remember each day to pray for and work to support those in prison.

Yes, there are some real criminals in prison. They are people capable of great destruction to property and person without much thought of the damage they do. There are also many minorities, especially men, who have been taken advantage of and invited into a world where crime is the only way of life. There also are a great number of people, men and women, who are falsely convicted and never did anything to deserve to be put in prison.

Someone decided they would be their target. They would be lied about, false witnesses would be found against the person, and false reports and charges are brought against them … and judges easily lie about the evidence before them and convict people, on the basis of easily identifiable lies. The measure of correct judgments is that a fully informed, reasonable person would agree with the judge’s decision. But one has to be willing to lie, and reasonable has to be not that the person is actually guilty, but someone with enough money or power wants this person convicted, and the fully informed part of that has to be understood as meaning one had to understand that someone with wealth or power or a sadistic habit has to be satisfied … and yet another innocent person goes to jail.

We are to remember all the people in jails, not from our place of comfort and privilege, but as if the prison director had us in custody and was using the guards, some violent, some friendly, to sadistically ‘play’ with us, to torment us. And that some health care people working in prisons go out of their way to provide inappropriate, even deadly health care to prisoners/us; because if we are in jail then surely we deserve no good health care.

For people tortured, well it helps to have been tortured at some point, so that we can not only empathize with those who are tortured, but that we can also remember what it was like to be tortured.

If you have made it thus far in life without being tortured, then watch perhaps 12 Years a Slave, for an insightful presentation of what being enslaved is like, and to be tortured, having one’s life taken from one, piece by piece.

Then we can wake to each morning, give God thanks for all we have, and fervently pray for others’ in real need. One does not need much to be thankful. One needs only eyesight to see the world’s beauty. Or eyes to see the people in the neighbourhood. Or ears to hear the loons’ cry echoing across the water. Then one can be thankful, that one has something, has eyes, has ears.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Aug 14

Friday, August 14, 2020

Pointing the Way?

Where to Go?

Why go for love

When it is right in front of you?

God’s unconditional love!

Psalm 73:25

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.

John 6:67-69

So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

Words of Grace For Today

To be loved unconditionally.

To know that one is chosen, precious, cared for, watched over, and fully desired; this is to know one is loved by God. God equips us to embody this love for one another. We do this imperfectly, and only by God’s grace working through us.

Do you wish to go away?

There is much in life that is difficult. We learn early on that life is easier if we avoid what is difficult. The most powerful people in life learn how to avoid the messy parts of life, or if it is not possible to spin the events so that some one else is seen to be the cause of and main character in the mess. Passive aggressive personalities develop out of this, always presenting that nothing is wrong, and then behind the scenes, hidden from others’ knowing, they manipulate, scheme and carry out revenge and punishments for those that dare cross them. Variations of passive aggressive personalities, the more severe cases, are named personality disorders (like borderline personality disorder), or psychoses, like sociopaths and psychopaths. In whatever guise these people who adroitly learn to pass the ‘mess’ of life on to others, accumulate power by appearing to be devoid of ‘mess’. They end up destroying many many lives around them. As parents they most often raise children who are even more effectively destructive then they themselves. The ‘cleaner’ these people make themselves appear the more dangerous they become.

If we are blessed we learn early on that the goodness of life is not in running away from what is difficult, but in facing it, being challenged, and overcoming the challenge. Sometimes there is a reward. For the most significant and difficult challenges the reward is ‘silent’ and ‘invisible’, seen only with eyes equipped to see God’s work.

The disciples know it is difficult travelling with Jesus. The disciples know there is danger staying with Jesus, the signs are clear that trouble BIG TROUBLE is ahead. Some people leave, no longer facing the difficulties and dangers. Jesus turns to the twelve and asks if they, too, will leave.

Peter’s response is that they will stay because they believe Jesus is the Holy One of God.

Where else would they go? Well there are lots of places they could go. And lots of other ‘teachers’ that they could follow. None are like Jesus, though.

That is what they have experienced, as Jesus reaches out to the worst sinners, the most vulnerable people (women and men alike, and children), and to the most sick. They have learned that the difficulty and danger of following Jesus is the only way to experience the real, profound, powerful, and live giving goodness of life.

So it is with us today. We need not seek out difficulty. It will come our way. We need only face it with all the grace and love Jesus has demonstrated for us.

Until the great difficulty finds us, for every day we have the ability, we ‘collect two days’ worth of firewood, one for this day, and one for the day we ‘cannot gather firewood’ and it is ‘cold, life threatening cold.’ Then when the ‘cold of difficulty that can kill us’ finds us, we will be equipped with ‘firewood aplenty’. We will have God’s real grace, embodied in the reality of this world like ‘firewood’, that we can draw on to see us through.

When we find ourselves having walked into a hell of our own or someone else’s making, knowing Jesus was here before us, is with us even now again, and that cooler days are ahead, we need to keep moving, right through the heat of hell to the refreshing air of a good thundershower providing cool winds and the water of life.

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.