What Land Do We Possess?

March 10, 2019
First Sunday in Lent, Year C

Opening question

What land do we possess, where have we settled, that does God continue to give to us, that continues to produce for us that we can share with others?

Ripples – not alone.

The land that God gives us each minute has ripple effects on us, which catch the light of Christ, resplendent.

Theme for Lent: what is the acceptable fast?

 Isaiah 58

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
  to loose the bonds of injustice,
  to undo the thongs of the yoke,
 to let the oppressed go free,
  and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
  and bring the homeless poor into your house;
 when you see the naked, to cover them,
  and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
  and your healing shall spring up quickly;
 your vindicator shall go before you,
  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

In Deuteronomy’s reading for today the promised land is possessed and settled. The land is survival and security, the land is yearly crops for food, for trade to provide for other needs, the land is status and a place to call home … sort of.

For the land is provided by God. It is not earned or deserved. God one sided promises it. God continues to give it each day.

Knowing our history is key to living life abundantly. We know history, not just to avoid repeating bad history, but to know the good of history, to know God’s story, and our place in it. To remember how much God has blessed us.

What is it for each of us that God promises and gives us to posses and settle, that provides us survival and security, that is a place to call home, to share with our family. A place from which we are known to be grounded and where we come from.

For a few of us it also includes land, literally, a piece of ground that we hold the title to. For most of us it is something else, a profession, a career, or a job that included a retirement plan of some kind that still produces some kind of an income for us. Or perhaps it is family before us or after us, who have provided or still provide for us, security, survival, a place to call home. Or perhaps it is our reputation, that brings us recognition, respect, and a sense of worth. Or perhaps it is our ability to make friends, or our ability to write, or produce art or music. Or it is our ability to listen, understand, and comfort others in duress.

This is the land that God is giving to us. The text makes the point that God’s giving us the promised land is ongoing, each day.

God sends Isaiah to tell us what our response is to be: Each year at harvest we give first fruits that this land has produced and we recite God’s history with us, how God delivered us, we who were in our past aliens, formerly hungry, once unclothed, used to be captives, once upon a time … before we are what we are now, we used to be those kind of people, if not in this generation then in our ancestors’ time. Now God gives us the land not because we are good, or pious, or righteous, but because the land remains God’s and God chooses to give it to us. Though we posses it and settle it the land is always God’s.

When we are done giving the first fruits then Isaiah reminds us that God wants us to celebrate that God’s land has produced again, and just as we once were outcasts, outsiders, or aliens, so also we celebrate with the outcasts, outsiders, and aliens in our midst. In Canada we call them immigrants or refugees, and others designated as outcasts, outsiders,
personae non gratae.

In today’s Gospel Jesus faces the Devil, the great deceiver. The Devil wants Jesus, hungry from fasting, to feed himself, claim power for himself, and prove for himself that God will save him.

The Devil tempts Jesus with everything for Jesus himself, just sacrifice the teensie, weensie little thing of worshipping Satan. The things the Devil offers are not bad in and of themselves. They become evil when they are hoarded for oneself, instead of provided to everyone!

The Devil tempts us with everything as though life were an if/then reality: if you serve the devil then you will succeed in life.

God assures us that life is not that way, not blessed life lived abundantly. Life lived abundantly is always an because/therefore reality:

because God blesses us therefore we can bless others.

Jesus knows clearly that the Devil is the great deceiver who perverts everything into a private if/then proposition. Jesus knows that bread is good for life, but not just for himself, rather for all people. Instead Jesus gives his life that others may eat and never be hungry.

Jesus knows that power is important, that it can save and destroy people. Jesus is not ready to take shortcuts to gain corrupt power, power promised by the great deceiver, power which is really nothing. Instead Jesus exercises God’s power by sacrificing himself so that all people may live. That’s real power.

Jesus knows clearly that people of faith trust God because of what God has done for them and that God promises to protect them. But to test God is something entirely different from trusting God.

Instead Jesus exposes the Devil’s false use of scripture. Jesus trusts that even as he faces the cross, the most horrific death known at the time, God’s angels will be on watch with him, as he sets right the chaos of the devil in all the universe for all people. Jesus demonstrates so clearly God’s grace and acceptance for everyone, so that we no longer have any real excuse to try to test God.

In Paul’s writings to the Romans Paul makes this very clear: salvation witnessed to by the confession of Jesus Christ on one’s lips and in one’s heart is not reserved for just some people. Jesus’ salvation is offered for everyone. The Holy Spirit can create faith in anyone. There is no closed club, or special skills required, or properly formed faith practices that make only certain people God’s children. God’s grace alone creates children of God. The Holy Spirit creates saints of sinners. God never stops giving to us what we need to be faithful. But the key is this: everything is dependent on God, not on us, not even on our responses.

God is in control. God continues to give land to us.

We get to respond, giving our first fruits and practising the fast that brings justice, freedom, clothes, food, and homes for those without. So we celebrate along with even the outsider, the outcast, and the alien all that God has done for us, through history and in these last days.

God’s Glory Shines, even when we forget.

Amen

Living Winter … Well

Living Winter … Well?

or living well in the winter

or

just

plain

still

living

through

the winter

bitter cold that

could without notice

shorten

one’s

life.

The secret is simple and widely known but seldom recognized.

Look down.

Look Down and Back: Notice was is and was.

Notice what has gone before you.

Catch everything that you can from it all.

Did you notice,

the remnants of water alive,

and

not just the tracks

but the possibilities:

the sled that made perfect X-country tracks all the way across the lake

and

off

I went

all the way across the lake like never before

for wonderful and needed exercise, until a few hours later, heart pumping, breathing easier, sweating lightly,

I arrive back on this shore and tuck into work with an inspired heart and mind, if a bit tired on my legs.

And look up

Look up to forever and beyond.

See the snow of yesterday collecting light, waiting for the sun to shine gloriously on the sparkles hidden in the snow.

Look for the promise of tomorrow,

the promise that what is plain and climbing nowhere toward nothing

can ascend to beauty and truth, hope and freedom, love and trust.

The shadows point to the light.

And always watch the light when it arrives:

when it shines, see it,

not just a glance but see what it does to the simple landscape,

to the people

(especially those hiding in the darkness of lies and deceit, of profound sin … all which are left for God to judge, for consequences that begin now even as they choose to abandon their hearts and minds and rebuild a simulation which changes as quickly as their whim)

and the animals that move,

but marvel at how much those things that cannot move are transformed

from ho-hum

to walkers and creators of shadow

that accents the light and points to the source

even when it is not seen.

The light, Elijah, the Light!

No matter the view you’ve taken

do not forget to notice the large picture,

the grand scheme of things,

God’s view of our little troubles, darkness, and the forest of challenges that lean in to overwhelm us.

Always our darkness points us to the source of light for us all.

When such destructiveness is undeservedly foisted into one’s life

then the only thing to do is to live well.

And if it is winter, even then live so well.

Though there is more than work

to survive the cold

for in the basics of life,

like staying warm

one easily can pay attention

and meet the challenges well:

Wood heat, portable, and lots of left over insulated tarps, even some that have something in them, and recycling everything one can, until

Even on a night when the propane furnace does not work, because the propane is gelled,

and the generator will not start, because the oil is thick to sledgy, or just too cold,

and the propane heater will not work without warming up the propane in the tank,

and when it starts it is too hot so that it’ll melt a hole in the insulated tarp around the generator,

but a 6 foot 2×6, construction junk, serves well enough to keep the tarp raised high enough from the heater,

to get the generator to finally pop, and then fire and run.

And then to have to scramble, arms flailing against the tarp draped all about, out from under the tarp fast filling with CO! And plug in those cords.

Which means the fans can blow the wood heat into the living quarters,

and the block heater can be plugged in

with the battery charger set to charge,

while one has hot coffee from the wood stove boiled water through a french press, with milk and cereal with blueberries,

and then when starting, to 55 amp start mode,

and the vehicle, against it’s better computer programming jumps to life the third try.

Left to warm up as everything is packed away and padlocked safe,

It’s off to meet the day’s requirements.

And between necessary appointments, errands and refueling, take the time to write what must be written and filed soon: more truth in the face of biased error based on obvious lies, but the truth is too inconvenient to allow.

As if to hide that the earth revolves around the sun by a simple sentence of silence.

Fools are made of powerful people at every turn; the emperor may seem, but is not, dressed.

And many scurry to try to lay the tracks of deceit deeper yet, pretending, pretending, pretending, when it is God, from whom nothing is hidden, who judges and rules without deceit or corruption, but with promise and yesterdays that give grounded hope and trust.

And in this rampart run mobile through one’s 3rd act, there is great humour, and opportunity to look, down, up, noticing the light, and seeing the big picture; as Jupiter resounds and reverberates off the windows, before the Athem and then it’s closing time. Ring the bells, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.

Then it’s once for the Devil and once for Christ, as all hell breaks loose

as

the

nightmares

set

in

again

until

even

in such a distant universe

brought close by the folds of time-space in light.

And it is

holding the beloved

in one’s heart, mind and strength,

with great clarity

and thankfulness for great kindness,

and forgiving the darkness and all it’s dark horses

that come charging still through the light touch of chilly, hope-giving and grace-filled dancing

disrupted only by the power of lies.

Live winter well:

dance, and let deceit melt with the ice on the wood turning into heat, as we dance away;

embrace the chilly light, if that is all there is, it still points to something that otherwise one would miss,

and work as if nothing else will save you from the bitter cold, and the bitterness foisted on your path, but know that Christ walks in the bitter cold, and crosses every path with redemption and grace … until one arrives home.

It may be closing time, but the light and dance of peace and joy, and the promise of hope-giving tomorrows

even also for eternity,

have not disappeared,

So breathe in warmly, and visit the

Cold

sharp clear

biting cold that claws momentarily

until one returns to the result of deep hard work, deep in the forest, yet warm.

And one marvels at the heat of red

hot

coals.

That is living well in the bitter cold:

to be prepared in heart, mind, and body;

And not to forget to dance a glorious step for those who cannot or will not.

Baptism of Our LOrd

Sermon notes? outline? sketch? yes that’s it, a sketch.

For the best read, take in the next blog post first, then this one.

Quick sermon outline for Baptism of Our Lord 13 Jan 2019

John is wild and calls for the chaff to be burned up.

Jesus will come to judge, and purify.

We need all that.

But Christ comes and graciously gives us life.

Where’s the hellfire and brimstone in that?!

Well…

Given free choice so that we can love

we can also choose ( and continually do) to hate, or to be deceptive and dishonest, disloyal, or even just plain BAD. Call that EVIL.

If we have choice, we will somehow, sometime still choose against love, against God, against living well.

God wants us to love, so we all get to put up with Evil, and suffer it too.

But

When

Jesus

comes

and

judges us!

Well then all that which brings us to sin and turn from God, to turn from loving our neighbour as ourselves and our enemies , and our God with all our heart mind and soul, then and only then Jesus will remove that from us …

But

it

is

not

going

to

be

feeling good.

That’s having the dross burned right out of ya.

And it is like having the chaff burned up in one big hot fire.

It will not be fun,

But it is what we most need, and we are going to get it!

To we are baptized, in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, always trinitarian, or it is not a complete baptism.

The water drowns out the sinfulness, and yet it remains as potential, inevitable potential, so that we can choose love.

The oil prepares us for God’s presence in us.

The sign of the Cross prepares us for sacrifice, even of our lives, so that others will know Grace upon Grace and God’s love, Christ’s forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s wild ride down the white water of life with wind, flame, breath, and beauty all everywhere.

Then for the rest of our lives we anticipate the life eternal, in the resurrection with Christ.

There

Freedom promised comes to be, after the dross is burned right out of us, so that we can enter Christ’s freedom in eternity.

This we look forward to.

But we do it, well … we do everything we do, as one of a crowd of witnesses, a crowd of saints, all in light,

specular light, diffused and reflected into beautiful images of God, as we are made.

It may be cold out there in that cruel world of dishonesty, deception and scapegoating,

but in here, where the natural fuels are burned,

the fuel of urgency until in God’s time there is patience,

the fuel of hurt (could become anger) until forgiveness flows freely like milk with ginger snap cookies,

the fuel of pride (that discounts others) until gratefulness abounds at each breath though one has nothing left,

These fuels are burned and burned well, until

in this mind, heart and soul

its as toasty comfortably warm as a great wood stove on a cold winter’s day.

Which it is that, too.

Stepping Out Not Alone

Sometimes it is easy to feel one is left alone, bracing oneself for what will come, expecting (as the past had provided) nothing good.

One leans as far as one can into the wind, treacherously close to losing one’s footing and disappearing into the abyss.

If we could only get a truer perspective, that we are hardly alone. Of course we’ve known that all along, but we’ve wanted to step out and do something more than just hide in the crowd.

That’s so boring.

It makes one a little green

in the middle

of a lot of other green.

and never quite enough green to be completely independent. **

One is like all the rest of the world, only able to thrive and live well if one realizes that one is interdependent; one of many living in concert or at war, but living with many others and connected in too many ways.

There is much to encounter out there. Best to take it on, along with your own kind.

At least one can be kind.

For reference: kind is the best thing to be as a spouse, if one cannot be God.*

Independence is a myth, as destructive for people to pursue as dependence.

Interdependence is life; good or bad, we are interdependent.

So be at least kind.

* of course no one can be God. The original sin was to think and act as if one could. It is now the common sin, and not so original any more.

Quick Sermon Outline fits with this: see next Blog [above].

[** a few Canadians have missed: to Unitedstatesians green is the colour of money, as well the colour of trees, life, growth … all that intended.]

The Power of Light

Or at what temperature is the Light of Christ pure?

It’s dark in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for first nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater than other youth.

In Pinehouse, like many places around God’s creation, they know well what it means to arise and shine for their light has come. Youth in desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts, are finding that learning and practising photography brings light into the darkness. Photography is all about light: seeing light, catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s beauty. Photography done well communicates real wonders. It often remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo.

As the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.

Tim recently added a safety margin to his existence; wood heat. It is not without it’s risks. Fire is powerful. The wood stove, well a furnace really, refurbished, with the outside shield freshly painted after years of abuse can provide heat, and how! With care Tim fired it up more than once with a decidedly small test fire, to ensure the draft worked, the smoke went up, and the dampers actually worked. Tim wanted to avoid explosive possibilities. Smoke is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible. Less pollution, and more heat. Fully fired the furnace still occasionally cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot. With diligent care now Tim supplements an insufficient propane furnace (which lasted only a year before needing to be replaced) with an overly sufficient HOT wood stove. Left wide open and fully stoked the wood furnace could probably melt itself to the ground, along with it’s shelter and occupant.

In the relative comfort of my condo, visiting over New Year’s, Tim let his guard down. A simple candle sat on the coffee table. He set a simple portion of the newspaper absently to the side. Only a good sense of smell alerted him that someone must have put out the candle.

But no, looking up he saw the newspaper 1/4 engulfed in flame, which in a minute would have burned the table to the ground and possibly the condo with it.

Grabbing newspaper aflame in hand he smothered the flames with what was left of the newspaper, leaving ashes everywhere. But the condo still stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.

Explosive fire from HOT HOT wood and smoke burning at 1000° degrees, all done safely. A small candle in the comfortably heated condo, with all the supports of a city all around goes up in free flame. Why does God let a fire with the newspaper scare us so?

In the Gospel we hear of great things that God does: Wise men follow a star and bring gifts of wealth. Dreams warn them to return home safely and for Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. But we know the rest. All those children in and around Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod. Why? Perhaps those Wise men were not so wise, going to Herod’s home town for directions?

Finding our way can be challenging. Mostly we like to make our own ways, who we make friends with, who we care for, who we spend time with.

God always surprises us:

In Isaiah, the prophet preaches to a group of returned Exiles. They find themselves in conflict with their relatives who never left. Those who stayed behind remember that they, and they alone, are God’s chosen people. The returnees want everyone included in God’s favour.

In Matthew the wise men come to honour Jesus, the king foretold by the star. They are not Jews. They are members of a completely different religion.

In Ephesians the central mystery of faith that the writer shares is that Christ is for all the Gentiles.

We ask today isn’t the central mystery of faith the un-earnable, unconditional Forgiveness? What about God’s Grace being a gift so that we are saved not because of what we do, say or think or even believe? It is just pure gift!

Of course we are included just as Jews may be. That’s old news. … But in Paul’s time no one besides Jews were considered, until Paul. God chose him specifically to preach to the Gentiles. While the rest of the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, with Jews joining them, Paul travelled the Mediterranean, spreading the Gospel to everyone, especially Gentiles. It was dangerous to be a new Christian. They were targeted and killed. If Paul had not spread the Good News, the early church, contained only in Jerusalem, made of only converted Jews, may easily have died off in the first few years.

After generations of God’s people claiming only they were chosen, and they held themselves apart as identifiably chosen, what is God up to letting in the Gentiles, us Gentiles?

When it comes to our God and our lives, God continually surprises us, yet we still have a long wish list:

Even in today’s lessons we read how we want: Just rulers, and Light in the darkness, which means a resolution for the all ails of the human condition. We want Prosperity in Light and Glory and access to God and Power. We want to be: God’s servants with authority.

We want OUR family together. We want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us all, always, to make our paths smooth.

God’s way, as history should fully teach us, though is not at all about our power, nor our wishes, nor making our paths smooth. God’s way is about light, and we get stuck in the Darkness. Our darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, and Evil as the necessary result of our inevitable and unavoidable sin. Darkness is us damning others for the evil that we and others suffer.

The REAL danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in various ways. God’s power is so powerful it is like a fully stoked furnace, in the guise of a candle flame, but capable of burning down the whole universe.

Still we choose to remain in darkness. We choose to not know the destruction of fright at injustice. Fright freezes us, or causes us to flee, or to stand and fight; all are choices in the face of obvious malfeasance that will sink us like an overheated candle melts in the midst of a condo consumed by fire.

We choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and corruption. We’ve heard the stories of old, but they are very present today, perhaps worse than ever since they are so secreted under spin and even blatant lie.

A terribly costly lie was the official and political denial of the destructive power of CO emissions. Now we have Climate Change run rampant. Environment Canada, reporting on the top ten stories of the past year, warns that the extremes of the past are now the new norms. We will not survive the new extremes without greater resilience than ever before. Perhaps the overly sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.

In our darkness with light pollution all around we may not be able to see the wonders of the stars, the marvel of the wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, or even our own backyards.

In our darkness we may not acknowledge the futility of security sought in prosperity. Even though we live in boom and bust Alberta, we too often seek security in wealth. We hoard it or we live lavishly. But prosperity and wealth can evaporate like water on an overheated wood furnace. It takes only a turn of a market, a corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack, a new Storm, or a bad health event for ourselves or a loved one. After all we are all dying after the age of 26 or so; our bodies literally falling apart. It’s normal, for no one gets out of life alive.

The true Gospel, for also the Gentiles, given as a free gift, not earned by compliance to a set of rules or piety, is a true mystery. It brings the true light with true blessings to all who hear it.

We live not by prosperity but wholly by Grace. God commissions us to carry this same undeserved Grace to all others. We are only lowly servants. Our only power is Christ’s Power of self-sacrifice, truth, and of bringing life to others.

In whatever ways we are rulers, we can be just rulers. Even as middle or low class citizens or guests, or even as homeless squatters, the Spirit uses us to be for others Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and unconditional love, and Christ’s hands.

We share what we have freely received without cost: we share Hope based on God’s promises. We share God’s un-earned forgiveness. We share God’s over abundant grace.

As any good photographer will tell you, light is everything, and it is the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty. We are reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular and beautiful. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us, just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as a fully stoked, left wide open, wood furnace.

Flame is flame. The Holy Spirit is the source of our light, our breath, our hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All people to enjoy: Life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of wonder. Arise and shine for our light has come!

Amen

Also possible

NASA celebrating when pictures come back from the other side of Pluto. Beyond expectations.

China: landed on the dark side of the moon, seeing images not seen before.

Dim December

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advent 1 – Outline

Advent 1 Outline

Love is great,

But love becomes more obviously so powerful, so wonderful, so life-giving  …

in the face of hate, lies, sin, … and raw evil and cruelty – in the face of chaos.

God promises our redemption, a new creation, out of the end of the universe, the end of all time.

  1. Advent is
    • The beginning of the New Year, the Church year
    • Time for Reflection, a sombre season
    • Blue
    • Hope
    • So much more than pre-Christmas
    • Reflection on New Beginnings
  2. The Gospel is Hardly Good News
    • Foretelling disruption of the universe
    • 21st Century equivalents
      • macro, micro, psychological
    • What is this? How can we respond? What is this?
  3. Challenges of daily life
    • Can overwhelm us as much as anticipating the end of all time
    • Its not end times, it is as if all time ends for us, even while the world continues without us.
    • How can we respond when we are overwhelmed?
  4. Jesus:
    • Signs of the end, equated to signs of new life.
    • These overwhelming events, end times, or time that ends
      • Are actually God starting something new
  1. New:
    • Live in safety
    • Ruler that executes Justice based on truth, instead of lies and excuses for facts
    • All of the universe, the glue that holds everything in order,
      • Marco, micro, internally, personally
      • This is God
        • God is right-eousness
        • God is the one who makes everything right
        • Right is order, is the opposite of Chaos, is the opposite of Creation (Chaos is the opposite of all that is Good in Creation.)
        • Right for our safety,
        • Right in relationship to God
        • God is what holds chaos at bay
  1. Exactly in the horrendous view of the end of time, nature, world, universe, our minds
    • This is where God is most obviously discernible
    • This is where we see God most clearly
    • In the face of chaos Grace abounds
    • God present always, everywhere, but most obvious to us in the chaos
    • L Cohen: it’s through the cracks that the light gets in.
      • In sinners made saints God makes God present
      • And we see God face to face
  1. This Advent
    • All challenges that we face
    • God is our rightness
    • God is the source, re-creator, and guarantee of our safety, and our everything.
    • God is with us.
    • Time to reflect on the serious things of faith, life and our times.
      • So that the end of all time
      • Or the end of our time
        • Does not catch us unawares
      • So we pray: let us not be put to shame,
        • For God is our rock and our salvation

(I highly recommend reading the blog posts on sermon preparation in the order they are posted. So read the next two first. The visceral images of this week’s Gospel, reflected in the first post, and other references barely explained in the outline above are required to make sense of the outline. Otherwise it is as mundane, spit-warm and boring as the pre-Christmas musac that now pummels every shopper’s brain. Both the destructive power of what is objectionable and the amazing work of God’s Grace healing wretched sinners will be able to be smoothed over leaving us comfortable … even with the impending collapse of the universe, beginning with our minds.)

Advent 1

2018 Dec 02
First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

As with all the Sermon Prep Notes, it’ll start off with rough notes throughout, and be refined as the week progresses. I may even make it to posting a completed sermon occasionally.

Fear and Trust
Fear and Trust are mutually exclusive
Fear begets Hate
Trust begets Love, and the relationship is even more tightly wound. Love requires trust.

Fear and Hate severely limit life, for us and all around us.
Trust and Love open the horizons of our lives, for us and all around us.

Caution, it’s another thing

5 inches of ice.

Checking what will hold us up,
before venturing out …
on the Lake …
and through the winter …
and on into the days of life.
Advent is all about staying alert!

Time

It is Time for change, whether we are ready or not, whether we like it or not.
It is the New Year, the New beginning in the church,
Which starts with the same old season, advent, the blue hope of advent.

We’ve seen this a few times before, one for each year we’ve lived. And it can be challenging to face, just like the same old blue, darks and lights of the Cloudy, snowy, foggy end of November days, which promise more of the same and deeper cold months to come.

The horizon limits the empty white.

Favorites: Blue and Advent

Blue
and
Advent
Now these are some of my longest held favorites, and since I’ve seen more than a few decades and they’ve been there all that I can remember of those few days.
Blue: The sky, the water, clean and life giving, blessed hope.
Advent: Not Xmas mess, it’s not that fake bought and sold holiday we’ve let it become all around us and deep into our bones.
Rather Advent is still about deep introspection and searching of our traditions for the ultimate of life. We must wait for the ultimate: Christ returning to earth, as we gather together with all living saints and more. These days of waiting, this attitude of shared waiting through all of time are the center of our real basis for true hope.
And Advent sees us
Waiting
for the birth of a baby.
And almost everyone understands the gift of the birth of a baby.
As a man who was one of the first to be the at home father, for all six children, and an old man with no grandchildren …
A father who misses his children,
And misses the wonders of nurturing children,
The waiting for the birth of a child is a little closer to my heart than for some, but obviously not an uncommon waiting …
Waiting …
Waiting … for children.

Good change
And Advent is about Change.
Some of it is always Good
Like getting a new car (bicycle), falling in love and getting married, birth of baby, starting a promising new job, moving into a great home, retiring with ample to live on. (that would be precious compared to being driven homeless and destitute!)
Advent is a New Year. And the seasons of the year begin their circle once again, with promises that this
‘year in Jerusalem’
God’s promises will be manifest in our lives.
All around we look and see
Signs of change.

Not Good Change
There are plenty of signs that the change will not be good,
Also not this year.
In the Gospel Jesus points to the fig tree with its
Budding leaves,
and signs of the beginning of the upheaval of the order of the universe.
Signs in the sun, moon, stars, water.
That last seems easy enough,
Unless you’ve survived the horrors of a flood.
But it is more poignant for Jesus’ listeners because water, in their worldview, was what the pre-creation universe was made up of.
Water
Is
Chaos.
Water lay below the earth and welled up in the lakes and oceans, sometimes to wash out of the banks and consume land and life.
And water was above the heaven’s firmament, a barrier between creation and the chaos above. With storms God allowed the chaos to break in on the earth from above, with chaos breaking through the barrier, in measured doses, giving life, but beyond control, again consuming everything in its wake.
For us today, with our view of the universe:
It is as if gravity were decaying, planets and stars disengaged, galaxies sent splattering across the emptiness of space between galaxies, which at the same time were invading the sub-atomic particles of our very being, and our environment: it would be macro and micro chaos.
The chaos would be as if time were coming unwound and disconnected from matter.
Our very skin would crawl with the chaos,
Our hearts unwind
Our minds go in a manner that by comparison Alzheimer’s would seem benign.

Order of everything turned upside down.
Like an unexpected death or divorce, or a borderline personality disordered spouse: what seemed to hold one’s world more or less intact, dissolves.

Love of spouse;
Evaporated, gone

BP chaos
Or a borderline personality disordered spouse who moves from loving and affectionate to cruel, Gaslighting, lying, and betraying, and back without warning. Disordered, chaos creating, projecting and blaming to avoid any hint of responsibility.

Great wisdom:
10% of life: what happens to you
90% of life is how you respond.

Grace, the ‘secret ingredient’ for a great life:
Some things: only God can help us respond to with grace.
Most all the important things, all the ultimate things:
we need God’s help to respond to with grace.

Not up to us:
We like to think: it’s up to us, or to me:
We are or I am so good, that things will go well for me.
But
No one is good enough to make the universe hold together,
Or
To respond well when the sun, moon, stars fall apart, people come apart in expectation
And nations explode,
Or
Who can respond well when:
The foundations of life evaporate, with a divorce, a death, a disordered spouse, or with the Courts falsely convicting one over and over again. (And no, no one is safe from this being done, intentionally to them. It is only a blessing that it passes over most of us, or rather you.)
We all react with All-out fear.

How not to be dragged Down!?
How to hold our heads up then?
That visceral fear grips us,
The foundations of life, goodness, hope, love, trust are not just attacked,
But wiped out of our lives.
Who can withstand that onslaught beyond imagining?
No one.
We survive, but
Only by God’s Grace
Why?
Because God promises to bring in one who will execute justice and righteousness!! Allow us all to live in safety!
Now is that not the image:
Us living in safety
While the whole universe slowly comes apart at the seams
Or is it
It all seems to come apart
And some miracle holds us together?
Within ourselves,
And with each other!

Where do the Signs bring us?
Foreboding,
Look ahead to travesty and decay
At a sub-atomic level and at the macro astrophysical level.
And we look like a person suffering Alzheimer’s, knowing what will happen to our minds, hearts and souls, as our ability to be aware, to be sentient, to be empathetic, to love
Changes
One minute there, the next not, and then again
With an awareness of what happened in between,
And that it will happen again.
We are rightfully horrified,
Or we are already insane not to be horrified to the core.

With heads raised:
Yet, the Jesus calls to us in this Gospel lesson to await these coming changes, disasters, decay of everything we know and are, not in horror,

But with our heads raised!
Jesus calls us to
Trust.
To Trust God’s promises,
For even as this is to happen,
Instead of the rulers and courts that plague us all,
With facts that are not based on truths or reality,
God will bring in a ruler, a system, a way of living through which
True justice will be executed,
Instead of innocent people.
And absolute righteousness will be the basis of our relationships
Between people, and among all of creation,
And then
Finally
As
Hoped for
From generation
To generation
We will all
Live
In
Safety.

Even in the face of micro-macro universal decay.
For God
Will rule
And this will be named
God is our righteousness!

Eyes and Mind wide open
Until that day

Be on guard,
Be alert,
Do not be weighed down with
Dissipation – that giving in to apathy, giving up on the goodness of life and becoming a being without true life, often referring to a descent into debauchery, decadence, excess, overconsumption, self-indulgence, wildness.
Drunkenness – that taking in to oneself anything that warps one’s mind,
Or
Worries of this life – that concern that drives us to take life from others,
even though we suffer plenty of concerns of this life, plenty enough to consume everything about our lives!

Pray
Pray for we cannot do it on our own
Pray for strength to survive to see the Son of Man.

Advent can be that way as we prepare for Christmas.
We pray for strength to see baby Jesus once again,
To make it past the fake sales nad hyped lights,
To survive the jangled music,
And to endure the obligatory and trite parties
That year after year after year
catch us and
nauseate us
Or worse,
We get used to, or numb to their
Unending
Blatant contradiction to the wonder of Christmas.

Even when we think everything is the same
It is changing.

Stay alert for Colours

Real change:
The real change happens not outside ourselves, but within

As the Holy Spirit
Moves our hearts, minds and souls from fear to trust.
Which brings us into love, to be loved by God, the ultimate love, and to be able to love (which is the greatest challenge in all of life.)
And in spite of ourselves
We end up
Loving our neighbours, as ourselves, and even our enemies!
And loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul,

Whether the change coming this year is the end of time.
Or just
The end of another year.

Thankful for each other, hope-filled
As we watch, alert, and pray that the Holy Spirit will change us
We pray
That we may always be able to be thankful for one another, and to grow together in faith.
That we may always be able to pray for our enemies with love, and let God judge their destruction.
That our hope may always remain that God may move them to choose not to be our enemies.
That regardless we may love them and wish them well.

The Miracle of Christmas, the preparations of Advent
As we prepare for Christmas, we know the same challenges will again this year, this month, this day force their ugliness on us. But we also know that the miracle of seeing Christ … in the manger … in one another … in the light that holds back the darkness … in the gift of life given to each other … this miracle is the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts from

Fear
To
Trust.

And then all things are possible.

Take the Long-Wide View
Even when it’s not large.

Comments or questions welcome at shm at prwebs dot com.

Christ the King – Truth

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

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

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

 

I looked right.

 

I looked left.

 

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

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

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

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

Water freely flowing from under the ice.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

with all our heart, mind and soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve these addictions I try to provide for:

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

my neighbours,

my self,

my enemies,

my God.

with all my hearth and home,

all my heart, mind and soul,

and all my words, and photos.

 

Comments welcomed at shm at prwebs dot com.

God gave his Son

We sin.

God loves us.

God gives her Son to die, to pay for our sins.

(About the pronoun for God, see the ending.)

We ought not suffer the consequences of our sins if Jesus pays the price for them, Right?

The consequence that we do not suffer is God does not honour the reality that our sins create: namely that we are separated from God.

The rest of the consequences, we and others still suffer. And we do it sometimes too often without any Grace.

Grace, it’s that wonderful attitude of God toward us,

that is so great and large that it may be hard to comprehend well.

Just say that God is dancing with us through life, and when we sin, taking a misstep in the dance, God does not step on our toes, even when we put them right under God’s nose … or rather feet.

Grace is how God dances with us, serene, always there, smooth, never predictable, but never strained or clumsy, … just there

especially when we deserve everything but God’s presence.

Grace, that’s how God responds to our sins.

One tradition explains it all by saying that there is a price to pay for every sin. We can pay it, or, as in times of old, we can offer a sacrifice, an offering to atone, or make up for, the sin. It’s sort of like not really paying but paying something not so bad instead.

Which leads to all sorts of traditions around altars and killing and blood and …

Even Jesus death is seen this way, as a sacrifice, offered by God, taken by us all (no scapegoating – but that’s jumping ahead-).

The conundrum of this view is that Jesus pays the price for our sins, but we still suffer the consequences, except that God is not separated from us. God remains with us, which is something (well actually it’s everything) but we humans have always wanted to be free from the consequences of our sins, because we seem to understand how terrible they are.

If we were still in the business of sacrificing, killing, and offering blood to God to atone for our sins, then Jesus as the sacrificial lamb would make a lot of sense.

A side step first: Jesus living and dying did not change God; it changes what we know of God, and how we know it. Jesus life story makes us able to know many things about God that we may not have been so able to know, and to know just by knowing a story.

Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, stepping right out of the altar sacrifice, blood and making good for sins in the temple, is a powerful image, and not at all to be lost.

The story God gave us with his son is quantum levels more significant.

God gave his son to show us that God has made the last sacrifice on an altar, a blood offering, a life offering.

And that is supposed to show us, simple and easy, that that’s the end of that.

And not just the blood offering, taking of a life, but the kind of sacrificing someone else, making them pay for what we have done.

It’s about Grace making it possible for us to be fully accountable for our own sins. Enough (and then some) scapegoating.

It’s easy to know Jesus’ story as the end to blood offerings, because we don’t do that anyway.

It’s a full reality pill to swallow, one that will transform our lives if we pay attention to the story, if we understand that Jesus’ story is supposed to be the last time that anyone scapegoats anyone.

That’s harder to swallow because … well we all scapegoat people, sometimes even innocent bystanders to the mess we make of our lives.

So: God gives his son … to teach us, to give us a clear story of how God intended us to live, and scapegoating is not any part of what God intended.

If we know that God forgives us, stays right by our side when we suffer the consequences of our own or others’ sins, then it is possible to be accountable for our sins. We do not need to scapegoat someone else in order to think that God still accepts us, in spite of the terrible sins we commit.

God loves us, forgives us, stays with us: that’s the purpose of God giving Jesus … so that we can know God’s grace first hand, and then give it to others.

Even at sunset, God loves, forgives and stays with us … in the light.

Dance. For God is dancing, singing, laughing with us.

Dance. For God is carrying us, wailing in pain, and crying with us.

Dance. That’s what we do, if we choose not to scapegoat someone else for what we’ve done wrong.

God gave his Son, so that we might truly live and dance.

Even if we only dance in our dreams.

’cause if you’re not dancing … you ain’t nothing doing.

Now where did I put that music, the song of God’s creation, dancing with light and snow and cold and heat and rain and drought and … well all of us.

Breathe

There is a way through any dance, any circumstance, any challenge.
Even when the light is nearly gone, there is a way.

Breathe,

because in the next moment wen you recognize that God is leading, you just might not be able to catch your breath, the steps are so wondrously tantalizingly

grace – full.

Now about that pronoun for God:

There is so much that God has made clear for us to know, but what God has not made clear is if God is male, female or other, or how we ought to use pronouns referring to God. So they are all available, some disturbing in their historical and hysterical use, abuse and demand that others use the ‘right’ one.

The one thing we know clearly is: God is also full of Grace about all the pronoun use/abuse/demands; and we can be, too, if we so choose.

The only thing I’m pretty clear on, is demanding that others … fill in the blank … is almost always counter-productive, and doing so about the pronoun used for God is counter-grace-full.

That’s a dance, too. I wish only that it were more often a dance of grace instead of anger.

Pronouns are important, language is important, but only if they are part of a dance of grace.

Breathe.

God gave God’s son so that we could all breathe, and dance with Grace.