But God is reflected even in the weeds of Creation
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
Words of Grace For Today
God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
God is merciful and gracious.
God delights in forgiving and receiving home the sinner.
God delights not in wickedness. Evil does not travel to stay temporarily with God.
Evil, and we are that when we sin, tend to run from God. We do not travel to stay with God even temporarily. We want to hide from God’s view, God’s judgment, and our shame.
God though stays with us, no matter where we go. Evil does not stay with God, because God forgives it and transforms it, by the sacrifice of Jesus and through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Evil in God’s presence is transformed so that the evil is eradicated and God’s good creation abides with God.
That is really good news. It’s exactly as if God stayed with us when we venture out to places with people we are not supposed to be near, and we spread Covid 19 and are silent about where we’ve been so others are infect unawares, until there is another outbreak with no known source.
Except God’s presence eradicates the virus from us and from everyone else that would have been infected. And all is well, not because we’ve done the right things, but because God works for us in all things.
Except God does not eradicate Covid 19 or any other disease, contaminant, or destructive organisms that we can encounter in the world. God is with us, and suffers with us. God gives us eternal life starting the day we are baptized, but God does not make life free of danger for us.
God does send the Holy Spirit to guide us, inspire us, and to light a fire (under us, mostly).
Therefore each day we can pray as the Holy Spirit moves us, for all the other saints struggling, and all others, so that God will also transform their lives to be lives of purpose reflecting Christ’s sacrifice to bring life to so many.
Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore I am deeply moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.
So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Words of Grace For Today
Ephraim is in trouble often with God, for God speaks often against him.
The selfish son is in trouble, deeply with his father, for he’s taken his inheritance before his father is even close to the end of his life. Then he’s squandered the entire inheritance.
That sounds like it’s not far from our own stories, each of ours. We take what we can claim as ours and run, and get into trouble, with our fathers, with God, – with our mothers, siblings, extended families, the community we live in, the church … and with God all over again. There are a great number of variations to the story, and every single one of us can be described by one variation or another.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is – well first a few thoughts about God as father. The image of God as father in itself is a very healthy image, one to embrace with profound joy. There’s nothing quite like the goodness of a father directed at us, loving, forgiving, accepting and inspiring us to live even better than we thought we could.
The damage done by the image of God as father is not in the image itself. It is in the abuse of positions of power occupied by men for centuries. Every good thing can be perverted. This is no exception.
The problem comes when we toss the baby out with the dirty bath water.
The abuse needs to be identified, clearly named and condemned … and ended.
The problem comes when we stupidly think that the abuse of the image of God as father is somehow made better when we replace it with abuse of the image of God as mother.
The problems multiply astronomically when we think that naming men as the problem, while ignoring the same kind of abuse, perversions, and destruction is perpetrated by women. The flavours, smells, and theme of the abuse and perversions can sometimes be collated to the gender of the abuser, but it’s just superficial.
Point blank: men abuse women. AND women abuse men. AND men abuse men. AND women abuse women. AND … God knows this all. So should everyone of us.
AND all of it is evil, and needs to be stopped. ALL abuse when it runs without restraint ends up killing it’s victims (and often the perpetrators, too.) A person is just as dead if they are murdered by physical violence as when they are driven to despair with no escape except suicide.
ME-TOO is all wrong, in that it only deals with one flavour of abuse, and ignores the rest. It is perhaps more destructive in that it sets so many people up to think that abuse is dealt with … so that the rest of it can continue unabated, the victims abandoned, the deaths unnoticed and uncounted.
The bishop last year said that we (this synod) are just starting to recognize and work on the issues of women being treated equally.
I spoke up, as I was able: some of us have been working on that for more than three decades, with everything we are, as men making sure the women in our lives get every opportunity possible and a fair deal (as much as possible.) It’s taken great sacrifice, and we’ve been sidelined often as irrelevant, our contributions raising children with great skill, grace and success belittled, and our words of giving attention to all issues of abuse ridiculed.
The challenge now is to acknowledge all kinds of abuse, by men and women, of men and women. To look at the root of it all: the need to scapegoat others as a means to advancing ourselves in life.
Back to the passages that speak profoundly of God’s unconditional acceptance of sinful sons. The translation to God’s unconditional acceptance of daughters needs be imagined, added to these stories. The stories though are powerful.
Who is your God? Not the God you say you believe in, but the God that your thoughts, words and actions belie you trust and believe in! Who is the God you live your life in response to?
Is your life a reflection of God, the universally, unconditionally accepting and forgiving father who, of a wayward son, says “I will surely have mercy on him!”
Does your life reflect the God who is portrayed in Jesus’ story as the prodigal father, who seeing his self-destructive, wasteful, wanton son approach, “filled with compassion runs and put his arms around him and kisses him?”
How marvellous it is to read these passages and know that God welcomes us, even when we have rebelled and wasted our lives and those around us!
The challenge is now:
Are we ready to be that welcoming father for all those people who have walked away from Grace and Goodness, and now desperately need a morsel of what we have in order to survive? Can we imagine being that overjoyed in welcoming back our wayward sons, daughters, parents, extended family, community members, church members, others known and strangers, even refugees and immigrants … and even those of other faiths or of no faith at all?
As we are able to do that, en-mass, then abuse, perversions and destruction of people will finally be dealt with in a manner so that they can be ended.
And all of us will be able to joyously embrace images of God as father, as mother, as Jesus the man, and as the Holy Spirit, wind, breath, and fire – lighting one under us to get on with the work of God’s Kingdom here and now.
Ah, what makes that all possible is that our God is a God of compassion and mercy, who rushes to greet us when we return to him!
The righteous know the rights of the poor; the wicked have no such understanding.
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.
Words of Grace For Today
The rights of the poor
are known by those who are righteous, who seek to do God’s will,
but they are unrecognized by those who are wicked, who turn from God’s will.
This is a statement about what we now call universal human rights: that all people, wealthy or poor, powerful or weak, privileged or disadvantaged all have the same rights. These rights are everyone’s simply because they exist. They are inherent rights.
No one can give these rights, nor can anyone take them away or assign them to someone else. They are inalienable rights.
These do not fully exist. For the sinfulness of humans always leave those who are privileged and powerful to ignore or pervert the rights of others, poor or wealthy, in order to gain an advantage for themselves. Though our Canadian court system is supposed to uphold these inalienable rights, they tromp all over the rights of the disadvantaged. Minorities, especially First Nations and Metis are dis-proportionally convicted and incarcerated. Decades ago men used to bring their wives to court and have them convicted or worse detained in psychiatric facilities (drugged out of their minds) for years without end. Now women can do this to men, and the police, the churches, and the courts oblige them convicting on lies and against hard evidence, using W.D. as a full means to override truths with the biased will to convict no matter, just as long as the woman will lie somewhat convincingly under oath.
Those who are wicked, who think that since they break the laws and act in blatantly unethical manners, therefore everyone does, easily dismiss false convictions as if they are not a concern, or rather false convictions are SOP.
Those who strive to do God’s will, do recognize that even the courts are corrupt, falsely convicting innocent poor people routinely. And with the routine false conviction, courts blatantly invite police and women to freely lie in court. Worse they are free to gaslight their chosen victims, and to invite other bystanders to do the same.
Covid 19 makes this blatant perversion less of a priority to be dealt with than it ever was. Good people turn their eyes to ‘more important things, like the community surviving this pandemic.
Doch the righteous always recognize, work to protect, and struggle to uncover the abuses of universal human rights.
Who do we choose to be today? We will not always choose to deal with injustice and follow through, sinners as we remain. The beginning, and sometimes the best we can do is to remember. Remember how God saved us, and how God desires to use us to save others from injustices, and abuses of their basic rights.
God does recognize and reward our efforts. God already gives us salvation, freely, overwhelmingly, without reserve. We are in God’s family, God’s own people. God recognizes and rewards our efforts to support the saints (the God-made saint in each of us baptized people.) The rewards never end, and include contentment with life, a clear conscience, a pure heart, loving empathy, and renewed energy for life.
These rewards are part of the abundant life God promises us.
Rest in God’s promise, and work like the dickens to protect and keep everyone aware that universal, inherent and inalienable rights for everyone always need protecting.
This will inform our efforts to deal with Covid 19, as well. We bring protection, treatment, and (eventually) the ‘cure’/vaccine equally to everyone.
Incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Words of Grace For Today
There are so many things to do to discipline oneself to live well.
The challenges are never ending, sometimes overwhelming, other times simple. Life without challenges is not life. The questions constantly before us are:
A. Who are we?
B. Whose are we?
Every other question is subsumed into these, and the answers we give to every other question with our living (thinking, dreaming, planning, organizing, talking, writing, and doing – or not) are also the answer to these two questions.
Once we realize and confess that we are
A. wretched sinners saved by Grace alone (not by anything we do/not do/are/aren’t), transformed continually to be Saints, and
B. God’s people by baptism into Christ,
Then we have our work cut out for us to live out the promise God creates us to be for other people: That we will bear God’s Grace and the Good News of Jesus’ saving us all, also them.
So we continue to live our lives rooted and built up in Christ, as we are established in faith.
We incline our hearts to God walking in Christ’s Way, keeping his commandments to love our neighbour and ourselves and our enemies as he has loved us.
And, as the saints in light who have gone before us have taught us, we live with overflowing gratitude.
Covid 19 has put somethings in perspective, slowed us down, kept us home, given us time to see ourselves and our families up close for hours on end, or to submerse ourselves in solitude (for those of us who live alone.)
The challenges are still great, and they tax us in new ways, and they give us new opportunities to discover who we are, and whose we are.
Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one person deceives another?
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!
Words of Grace For Today
An exam, sample exams, test scores, failing marks, proving oneself.
All of these come into play for human examinations.
God works differently.
First, there is actually a kind of failing, of standing against the work of the Holy Spirit so doggedly and determinedly and persistently and … or something else (we simply do not know what it is that we can do to fail.) Certainly we know we all fail to be good enough; we are saved only by the Grace of God, through faith, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
That’s exactly the breaking point of our trying to determine when we fail God’s Grace so completely that we are outside God’s abundant love. We humans cannot judge it.
All we know is that God’s Grace is for us and for all others, even the most wretched sinners … as we all were before Jesus saves us …
There are serious deceptions that humans carry out in daily life to get the better of others for themselves. None of these work on God.
God sees right through us to the core and all the way to the core and back. God knows everything about us.
If we were planning … no (it is not IF, it is since … so) Since we all plan to try to deceive God about ourselves this is definitely something to worry about, to be fearful of, and to become existentially anxious about.
The freedom we seek is to realize our attempts at deceiving God and how futile the are, and to once again throw ourselves into God’s mercy.
We can test ourselves. If we are so out of touch with our place with God it is a good place to start some finite self-awareness. The real test has already been played out on the cross, and with the resurrection we have all passed … on Jesus’ coat-tails.
When we realize how dependent our existence is on God’s Grace, then we more often, perhaps more quickly, give up on our efforts to deceive God … and other humans … about ourselves. We learn to point to God’s Grace, and offer it to others.
The greatest freedom is ours when we no longer need to depend on our own performances at all the tests life puts in front of us. We can boldly, courageously, faithfully, and lovingly trust that Jesus is with us each step of the way … and use all our energies and focus to work to give God glory in all we attempt, give God thanks in all we accomplish, and be even more grateful that we survive all the times our attempts fail.
Covid 19 is more than a test of our health. It is a test of our ability to work with and for other humans. We will fail. We will succeed, only as God gives us the abilities and we work diligently with them.
Covid 19 may be in many ways a test of our faith.
Consider that every day we face tests of our faith.
Consider there is much we each can do, even in these times.
Testing our faith does not produce a grade or pass/fail. It is not a measure of our pasts. It is a preparation for the future. It gives us a measure compared to the saints in light, which helps us answer the question, “Is there more we can do! If so, show us!”
Only you, Lord, know what is in every human heart.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
Words of Grace For Today
Jesus says, “Let your hearts not be troubled” in the Gospel for last Sunday, and Pastor Ingrid, www.trinity-lutheran.ca, in last Sunday’s sermon, asked for us all, “You’ve got to be kidding! Are you serious!?!” (These are perhaps close to her words:)
When asked what troubles our hearts we consider our full situation these days …
and answer “You ask what troubles your hearts today? Are you kidding? Are you serious?
“Do you know what is happening in our lives and in our world?
“We live in the midst of a global crisis. We live lives separated from our loved ones, concerned about our financial security, concerned about elderly parents or family members abroad, and concerned about the way our children have to grow up.
“We feel: overwhelmed, isolated, powerless, off balance, and thoughts spinning in our heads.
“My heart is troubled. I think of the pandemic. I think about immigrants nad refugees. I think about gun violence, racism, and poverty. [I would add, the growing blaming, hatred and hate speech online and elsewhere.] I think about those grieving and mourning lingering illness and death of loved ones. I think about families who are struggling and people who are hanging on by a thread.
“And I feel overwhelmed, isolated, powerless. and off balance, with thoughts spinning in my head.
“And you ask what’s troubling our hearts today. Are you kidding me, Jesus. Are you serious about that!?!”
(If you are looking for great music, thought provoking sermons, and meaningful worship – though the liturgy is missing – look to Trinity’s online worship.)
When this is what’s troubling our hearts, can it possibly be that Jesus responds to us by telling us to not yet our hearts be troubled!?!
The truth of the matter is Jesus knows our hearts better than we ourselves.
The truth of the matter is Jesus comforts us exactly where and how our hearts are troubled.
The truth is the Holy Spirit inspires us to extend the love and grace of eternal comfort and good hope to everyone we meet …
and with the internet, to so many people we’ve never met, and who may never meet.
Good work and words …
Being kind …
Listening and learning …
Ready or not the future we feared has arrived and demands more of us …
God has made us ready.
Now we need to be bold.
The Holy Spirit lights a fire under us everyday, not just a light on our heads like angels.
God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’
This is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless.
Words of Grace For Today
“… So that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless.” Well, sinners all, that is impossible … except that Jesus’ record will be used in place of ours.
That redemption of our sinful lives is not dependent upon us, not in anyway. That’s God’s choice, God’s gift, God’s promise to us, each of us.
Now to live boldly, to God’s glory, with courage, as we are able.
Able to have God’s love overflow more and more into us and out of us to others.
So that the ability to discern good and evil, full knowledge and insight help us determine what is best everyday, no matter our circumstance.
We may not have Solomon’s responsibilities, to govern God’s people as ruler, leader and king. Each of us does impact the lives of those around us. We each ‘lead’ and ‘govern’ greatly how others encounter the world and God … either as curse, harsh, short and brutish OR as blessing, redeemed, eternal and joyful.
So we pray: give us, God, your love overflowing that from your Grace and Mercy our knowledge and wisdom may govern our lives and contribute to the lives of those around us.
As we face Covid 19, and every challenge of our lives, let us find wisdom beyond our years.
Let us help others facing loneliness, depression, oppression, scapegoating and gaslighting find your Light shining also for them through us.
no matter the challenges or frustrations of this day
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Words of Grace For Today
Since forever people have called upon God, and with various degrees of real expectation on a scale from demanded to hoped that God would respond and save them.
On the demand end of that scale of calling upon God for deliverance, the Psalm seems to reflect the old and very common perversion of faith that says: because I have done X then God must do Y for me.
It is about trying to control the uncontrollable things about life. It is trying to raise oneself above the reality of life to become a little godlet: ‘Look at me! I am so X, that I can control what happens to me, to you, in the universe, … why I even can control what God does!’
The hubris of it is astounding, or it would be, if it were not so common … to every human to some degree. After all life is cruel, short and brutish, right?
As Jesus does for Simon’s mother-in-law, why would we not want Jesus to be with us today, walking in to our elders’ sick rooms, struck with Covid 19 as they are, needing ventilators to stay alive and dialysis to cleanse the poisons from their blood?
It’s a bit harder to make this plea for Jesus’ healing with a sense of being able to demand intervention to save a life.
How are we to call upon God?
First off, if we are going to error about communication, then the best one to do this to is God. Save great exercise of kindness and politeness for those we live with and among. The people in our lives need our kindness and politeness. God, on the other hand, already knows we can be less than kind, faithful, loving, and even decent. God is not hurt by our stupidity, if we really come pleading (or angrily demanding) to God.
The gracious reality of God is that God chooses to listen to us, no matter what. God responds, most often with a chuckle and a quiet, ‘no way!’ Or too often with a tear dropping steadily in pain as God dismays at our behaviour so lacking in gratitude as we mostly are, as God must simply say, ‘No, that’s not how life works. You are free. Freedom means suffering is part of life. I am here, suffering with you. Do not let your hearts be troubled.’
Grace abounds also, and sometimes God’s answer is YES! and our request for life, health, and faith are fulfilled. Likely God had it in the works already. Or someone stepped up to make things change, or life just developed that way anyway. Those times of desperate need answered with a YES are more common than we seem to remember.
So we pray today again: God save us! Save us from ourselves, from each other, from the works of the Devil in us all. Save us from destruction, pain, illness, and death. Save others. Do this because you, God, choose. Do this because it will give witness that you watch over your people. Do this for whatever reason, but please do this for us, today; if that is not too much to ask.
Few if any of us can pray, save us from this Covid 19 pandemic; because almost all of us have already suffered some loss because of it. We can pray, loudly, clearly and hopefully,
God deliver us, that we may live to give you the glory!
Today we can start giving God the glory: be thankful for everything we have.
Share with those who desperately need what we take for granted.
Laugh heartily at the good things, the humorous things that surround us each day.
Smile gently at those you meet; we are almost all struggling in some way, more so these days.
Look up to see the Light
Life is colourful, and most coloured by our attitude. Life is beautiful.
And be reflected by all water and life in Creation
I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Words of Grace For Today
Darkness. Total, deep, profound darkness of the soul. No light at the end of the tunnel.
When we find ourselves there, to put it into cosmic terms, in a black hole that pulls everything around it into nothingness …
When we find ourselves there it seems that everything is lost, not only things that build a sense of continuity and security (like jobs, homes, family, church, and even the tool that enables one to create – a camera, a pencil, a computer, a canvas), not just life and all good life at that for us and for creation, but meaning, history, presence and future ….
When time and hope are lost into the void and emptiness that is left to us, then only memory of, or re-spoken promises made in the past, or that little light at the end of the vortex can save us from going totally bonkers.
Covid 19’s threat (the lock-down, our isolations, our ‘staying the blazes home’, our financial concerns, the risk to our and our loved ones’ health and lives), for most of us does not approach the vortex of a black hole where no light exists. For some of us it does.
Whether its a total black out, or a brown out, or we have already gone a bit bonkers so that it all looks like dark colours everywhere …
However this affects us,
We yearn for Light, if yearning is still possible.
God promises to turn darkness into light, rough places into level ground. The dawn from on high breaks in on us in darkness, in the shadow of death, and guides us in the way of peace.
That’s the promise that we can remember … if we can remember.
That’s the promise that we can re-speak for others … when they cannot remember, we can, and we can still speak.
That’s the promise that we need to re-speak, to proclaim with all the vivid colours of the rainbow splashing about …
because even if we do not notice them, there is someone onto whom those colours (carrying Light) will splash.
And they will be saved from the vortex of absolute darkness, by our generous, reckless, prodigal re-speaking a promise that created, redeemed, and guides this whole universe of creation to be able to seek peace.
Peace is not something we attain and hold on to.
Peace is a manner of being in this universe, when participated in brings us to reflect God’s intent for us, but which is lost as quickly as a candle is snuffed out by even a gentle breeze.
Peace be with you, also this day, whatever this day is for you.
Splash and be splashed by the Light and Colours of the rainbow, God’s rainbow of promise, faith, hope, love, grace, and life – abundant life.