26 May Easter 6

First Thoughts

Theme for ALL

“Love one another, even as I have loved you.”

The lens for all else in this Easter.

May 26, 2019 For Women, too. Easter 6

Having chosen to use the Alternative Gospel from John:

Jesus’ Story and Love, contrary to common practice, included Women.

And Jesus Love Heals; thus we heal one another.

Acts 16:9-15 – Lydia

Acts Thoughts

A women, if you judge me to be faithful, come and stay with me. Response of faith: to provide what is needed: hospitality for travellers, for homeless. Now common? Enough, but in those days, accepting a woman as one of the disciples was a rare act of equality.

No matter our traditions, our culture norms, our expectations; Jesus love reaches all people.

And we are to love as Jesus loves us,

We are to love those whom our tradition excludes from consideration.

Psalm 67 – Let all stand in Awe!

Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5

The city, no more night, only goodness

For the healing of the nations

Revelation Thoughts

In the New Jerusalem, in the City of God, An exclusion: no unclean, only those written in the Book of Life

there no other light needed than the Light of God, no night, no darkness, no abominations, nothing unclean.

[All chaff will have already been burned away.]

The tree produces fruits and leaves, the leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Gospel (alt.): John 5:1-9 Heal one another

as Jesus healed even on the Sabbath

Gospel Thoughts

Our travails last and last: this man’s for 38! years!

And all during that time no one has helped him.

Then in a heartbeat Jesus heals him, even though it is the Sabbath.

Love acts to restore health without regard for expectations and artificial limits (which do not provide health in following them.)

Love one another as Jesus Loves us means HEAL one another, even if the stink of rot has surrounded the illness or circumstance of sin for decades, for generations even!

Home, of Sorts

This Spring …

This is the neighbourhood of Home

All views taken one at a time

giving an accurate account

of beauty in a nutshell,

a life well lived,

of wonderful solitude

which has broken on the May long weekend

with a rather full camping area,

with only a few that do not show

fellow campers and the land the respect due.

Today it is so dry there is a province wide fire ban in place

Though this is the first

as yesteryear’s extreme’s become

today’s normal, and

today’s new extremes become

tomorrow’s normal.

Hang on!

It’s going to be a rough ride for the next 50 years!

First Break in Nice (Thick) Ice

Back when the ice was just breaking up, the reflection of light and cloud make the water and shore jump.

Birch White Goldenized

The Birch Show Their Colours Well

Mud Mirrors

Even the huge puddles of spring mud and snow melt pick up the the light of the sky behind the trees’ reflections.

Spring Moon Rises at Sunset

The moon ascends into the evening sky, brilliant white against the gold and blue of sunset.

Predawn Moon Going Down

Just days later the moon settles in the west as the dawn touches the east.

Sunrise Moon Setting

And settles closer to the water as the early morning breaks.

Open Cold Water

Waves and White Water return as the wind churns up the lake touched still with small patches of snow and ice.

Surviving Rodents

The few brush left with partial birch trunks, long since food for the beaver who keep the lake level high, stand out in the gold light at sunset.

Sol Plays with Aqua

The water and the setting sun play with each other in familiar yet newly wonderful manners almost each night.

Ugly becomes Gorgeous

Even the junk, abandoned, and starting to be trashed camper cannot help but shine with the immense wonders of the setting sun.

My favourite of late

The reaching thirsty trees along the shore silhouette wonderfully against the blues and oranges of the sun set reflecting remnants of light on the water.

Prepping for the Good Shepherd

May 12, 2019 Good Shepherd
Easter 4

See Previous Post for Themes of Each Sunday in Easter

The one theme for this entire Easter:

Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus’ single command that encompasses everything else that is God’s story of love, encompassed in the life of Jesus, (so that we -finite creatures- can comprehend what God -infinite divinity- wants us to know.)

God’s Light Reflected to Us

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, We are called to love one another as Jesus love us:

We are to be Good Shepherds to one another

Acts 9:36-43

Thoughts

As Jesus is able to bring the young girl and Lazarus back from the dead, so Simon Peter is able to bring Dorcas, Tabitha, back to life after she dies!

Our love can be as life giving as Jesus’.

Handle with care!

Psalm 23

Thoughts

The needs for life, abundant life, of a sheep, (green pastures, still waters) the good Shepherd provides for us.

More: in the dark valley of the shadow of death (the greatest evil) I need not fear, the shepherd’s tools: rod and staff, comfort us.

Table along with my enemies! My cup runs over!

Goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days. I dwell eternally in God’s house.

Revelation 7:9-17

Thoughts

There are those who will survive the Great Ordeal, the silence of Beale Street in every generation. They will be gathered at Christ’s throne!

They will be washed white in the blood of the Lamb!

Shelter, food, water, no scorching by sun, but water of life, and tears wiped away!

John 10:22-30

Thoughts

We, like the Jews, want to know plainly, though Jesus has told and done enough. Like doubting Thomas we want to put our hands in Jesus’ side and feel the nail marks in his hand, but that is not enough. The HS must transform our hearts, teach us to know Jesus’ voice.

Voice and sheep and shepherds and gathering in and gathering to go out to green pastures and still waters.

They will never perish, die but not perish! No snatching, not from God. Jesus is God, one and three persons.

Outline Ideas

We want to know plainly, though Jesus has said and done enough, and there is no more that would help us.

Apologists, trying to argue the existence of God, futile. Every argument for or against God’s existence begins with a presumption that is equal to the conclusion of the argument.

HS transforming our hearts. The gift of faith, the growth of faith, the exercise of responding to faith.

Jesus the Good Shepherd, 23rd and repeated in Revelations:

provides life abundant

protects from destruction and all loss

We are to exercise that same love for one another

Peter brings Dorcas back to life, as Jesus did with talitha cum, and Lazarus.

Our love, as Jesus’ Love, is a life changing thing.

Warning Label Volatile Potential Handle with Care

Handle with Care Negative Potential:

as always, what can be so positively powerful, with a slight twist, a few degrees off from original, and there can be as much destruction as there could have been profound positive change.

Devil is so tempting, looks like Jesus the shepherd, just not.

Sin looks so tempting, looks like good life, it is not.

Handle with Care Positive Potential:

give life, but in the lack of exercise, leave people ‘dead’.

Stories needed of giving life (being the good shepherd for one another), of degrees of destroying life, of withholding means destruction.

Mother’s Day, possibly use stories as above, of mothers in action giving life?

Looking for the Light

Surprises and Visions

2019 May 05, Easter 3

Winston Churchill once said: “[People] occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing had happened.”

The Light of Christ is alarming, blinding, and demanding. Often we try to control what part of the Light, what part of Jesus’ story, what part of the awful freedom of forgiveness we acknowledge.

Other times we entirely deny the Love of Christ that shines a light into every darkness, exposing all our secrets and revealing every hidden truth. Instead we choose to slip back into the convenient darkness of our daily lives.

The Light of Christ Finds Us in Our Darkness.

Jesus does not give up on us. He keeps showing up to get our attention. Have you seen Jesus talking? Or God giving a lesson? Or have you seen the crimson blood of Christ wash the stain of sin away to leave a person fuller white bright? For 200 years no one in England reported that they had, and then came Julian of Norwich who we commemorate this week.

While the Black Plague, the Peasants Revolt, and the suppression of the Lollards devastated the English countryside, Julian lived a mystic’s life, profoundly assured of God’s care and love as few people in all of history.

In the face of so much evidence that death, raw evil, and sin had the world in its control, she famously quoted Jesus in her vision, “All will be well. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.”

These simple words have given a thin thread of powerful hope to people in the most desperate situations. Among others, I know that it helped a young mother of two teenagers, living in Germany, stay alive. She was struggling to stay sane after years of abuse by her husband, when he had secretly already started another family with a much younger woman.

Julian wrote “God is nearer to us than our own soul”. God sees us as perfect and waits for the day when evil and sin will no longer hinder us.

Throughout these 7 Easter Sundays we keep in mind Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you.” It will be part of the Gospel in two weeks and we know these words contain everything else in Jesus’ story.

In today’s readings we hear how Jesus continues to surprise people with visions of his love.

Jesus in a vision astounds Saul of Tarsus. A well educated Pharisee and righteous under the law for himself, Saul is dedicated to God. He stones and arrests followers of Jesus to cleanse the synagogues of them. Then the Light of Christ finds him. Saul has a vision of Jesus telling Saul he is persecuting Jesus himself. Blinded by the Light, Saul needs help from others to regain his sight. When he does Saul is baptized as Paul.

After 3 years of study Paul spreads Jesus’ story of the Love of God around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Rome itself. In Paul’s writings to his congregations to encourage their faith we have the earliest accounts of the Christian faith, which we receive, practice and proclaim today.

Our reading from the Book of the Revelation to John reminds us of what danger and persecution the early Christians faced. Any author, carrier, or reader of Words about faith in Jesus, if caught by the Romans, would be put to death. Difficult to produce and therefore very precious, the writings would also be destroyed.

To preserve the writings (and the people) the writing’s content was codified. The codes, colourful and out of this world, were popularly used by Christians but not understood by their Roman persecutors. Today we can estimate much but do not fully know their code. Revelation is the only one of these many writings accepted into the New Testament.

Written to inspire, comfort, and encourage faith in people who were mercilessly persecuted, Revelation has touched the hearts of desperate people through the generations and even today!

Seeing What Others May Overlook, a Mystic’s View.

Today Jesus still appears in visions to people, though perhaps as rare as in Julian of Norwich’s time. I personally know only one sacramental mystic to whom Jesus appears in the ordinary things of creation: in Light, in Truth and in Grace, in visions both troubling and comforting.

This mystic’s experience is quite like the disciples’, who, having encountered the awesome, fearful truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, return to something familiar. They go fishing. Then Jesus appears, hardly recognizable, and asks them to fish on the other side of the boat. The results overwhelm the fishers and their nets, and open their eyes to who has spoken to them. Ashore he feeds them from their spectacular catch and with the bread of life. They leave the nets and resume Jesus’ ministry healing people with God’s love.

In the stories of the Fishers and of Paul, in stories codified to preserve them and in Julian’s visions and counsel, and in the words of mystics of all times, the constant in all of them is the brightly shining love of God.

This Love was exercised at great expense by Jesus for us, and by many who have gone before us and who handed on the faith to us.

Jesus’ love story is not a benign story, it is not a safe story, it is not an easy story to get right. It is always a story of how we are to love one another as Jesus loves us.

At age 60 James Mitchner, a man of grand words and acquaintance of powerful people everywhere, including many US presidents, told a story about the most influential person he ever met.

At 7 years old Jim was orphaned and sent to live with relatives. The couple was so poor both husband and wife worked seven days a week. That first weekend, with apologies, his foster parents set off to work leaving Jim alone. He was bored, bored stiff. He walked around the house. Nothing happened. So when he heard a truck coming down the alley just before noon, he went out on the back step. The truck stopped at each house until it stopped at his house. The driver got out with the truck running, emptied the garbage cans, got back into the truck, and drove on. That was the day’s greatest action.

The next Saturday, again Jim was just as alone, just as bored. Nothing was happening in the empty house. So just before noon he sat down on the back step to wait for the garbage truck. He waited and waited. Finally after an hour of waiting Jim heard the truck. It followed the same routine, stopping at each house until it stopped at his house. The driver got out with the truck running, emptied the garbage cans, got back into the truck and drove on. Lonely Jim was left to go back inside … to boredom.

The third Saturday, same story. Except the truck didn’t come. With nothing else to do Jim sat and sat, and waited. Finally about 3 o’clock he heard the truck. The truck kept the same routine, stopping last at his house at the end of the alley. The driver got out with the truck running, grabbed and emptied the garbage cans, and got back in the truck. But then the driver turned off the truck, walked through the gate and said,

“Hi, what’s your name.”

He answered, “I am Jim and I am lonely.”

“I have seen you for the last few weeks. I’ve thought of you each day and I am sorry I have not stopped.”

The garbage man sat and listened to Jim, not only that day, but each Saturday. James’ foster parents set out chairs for the garbage man and for Jim.

James Mitchner, a man of many words, acquaintance of most US presidents of his adult life, and of powerful people everywhere was most influenced by the garbage man who took the time to turn off his truck each Saturday from the time Jim was seven until he was seventeen.
(story told at Asset Build Workshop – Powell River)

God’s love story was lived out by a garbage man on Saturdays with a lonely child. What followed for James Mitchner was a life of military and civilian travel, adventure, and writing books that inspired a generation and more.

Christ’s Light will find us, shock us, blind us, turn us around, and make us into new people. Jesus’ love will send us into lives of real work filled with real excitement and challenges, even abundantly filled with real adventure, … if not in travels, then in learning, sharing, and bringing abundant life to others. The Light of Christ will repeatedly interrupt our work and dreams, guiding us onward, correcting and even reversing our courses, but always moving us towards loving one another with God’s love in all things.

The only question is what we are going to do with the brilliance of Christ’s Light, the Freedom of God’s Forgiveness, the comfort of the Spirit, the abundance Jesus helps us catch, and the abiding assurance that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well?

What are we going to do in response to the Love that resurrected Jesus from the dead, and saves us each day?

Amen

The Son’s Light Never Sets, God’s Love Never Ends.

As We Gather…for this Sunday

Born in 1342 Julian of Norwich was a mystic, counsellor, and lay theologian. We commemorate her on May8th. We know little directly about her life, but what we know leaves us to think she was married, lost her husband and children to perhaps the plague. We do know she became sick herself at age 30, thought she would die, received her last rites, and had 16 visions of Jesus.

Julian did not then die, though. She lived on, secluded in a cell attached to St. Julian’s Church, as an anchoress.

What was unusual is that she wrote down short descriptions of her visions. Only later people learned they were written by her.

Though living apart she received people for counselling and became known affectionately by many. Through many years she rewrote her visions adding theological reflections in what survive today as her book Revelations of Divine Love. Her words of counsel have provided inspiration and hope for generations of people. She died at least 74 years old, sometime after 1416.

April Ends; Spring Sprongs

Waiting, waiting, waiting …

and just when I thought it was safe to put away the winter jackets, the wool socks, take off the ice tires, bring out the canoe, lighten the setup, burn little if any wood for heat …

This comes down all morning long

http://www.prwebs.com/Life/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/20190430_065138.mp4

The Winter Sky is Falling, right into our Spring.

along with the temperature buried below freezing.

That leaves room for less wet, less bugs, less allergies so it is not all bad.

After cutting wood in comfort, not too hot, not too cold, and making some good progress stacking cut pieces to split later …

And after enjoying the snow free and sunny afternoon as the snow of the morning completely disappears…

I finally pull out the canoe, reattach the supports removed last fall to be sanded and varnished with a fresh coat to stop the break down at the attachment points.

The wood has been water stained, but the new coats of varnish should help them last a few more years.

Delivery is more difficult since the trailer is no longer available, wood furnace in a shelter tying it up.

So atop the truck, slow progress toward the lake, supper late, and finally delivery to the water.

Canoeing into the sunset wonders.

Wonderful to be out on the water again, though I did need a warm jacket against the biting wind. A vest and hoodie did not cut it.

Red Sky Sailors Delight; but here it still snows the next day, nicely like small cool ash melting on impact with the brown bare earth.

Later I watched as the sun set and left a red sky for the lake to reflect back on.

Good Friday Morning

Scapegoat No, Sacrifice Yes

This morning we remember Jesus’ last hours, as the soldiers, by Pilate’s orders, in response to the crowd’s demands, hung Jesus on the worst instrument of torture, the cross.

The characters

Remember the many characters in Jesus’ last hours. Judas, the soldiers, the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate, Malchus, Peter, the crowd, Jesus’ Mother Mary, her sister Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and of course Jesus.

Our part

None of us were present in that horrific drama more than 2000 years ago. Yet we are characters in so many terrible dramas that have taken place in our own life times, dramas that are devastatingly so similar.

Girard, Scapegoating

The French Historian and Anthropological Philosopher Rene Girard identified the similarity that ties Jesus’ last days with our all too common dramas as a common human sin, scapegoating. Girard pointed out that we all greedily strive to have more than just the necessities of life. Thinking that life is a zero sum project (that there is not enough for everyone) we try to take from others so that we will have more. That’s greed. And greed eats at our souls.

What nearly always happens next is worse. Since we cannot tolerate that we would be mutually so terrible to those close to us, we together find an innocent bystander, someone vulnerable and uninvolved, someone who we do not know well and therefore can bring ourselves to not care what happens to them. Without any justification we project all our collective sin and guilt onto that person, condemn them, judge them, and ruin them. Working together we ease the unbearable conflict between us.

Like Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament getting rid of the evidence of their horrendous sin against their own brother, we exile the innocent person. We’ve attached our sins to that person and then collectively forgotten about them and our sins, so that we can live together in peace. The darkness hides that our peace is bought at the price of an innocent bystander’s destruction.

We are exactly like the characters

In exactly this manner Judas, the high priests, the crowds, Pilate, and the soldiers condemn and kill Jesus. And we do this so often to other people today. We may not use crosses to crucify, because we want to be able to say we are not as bad as those who have gone before us. Instead we use gossip, innuendo, and rumours to ruin innocent people’s reputations, ruin them financially, and drive them from our communities.

Even when we are not Judas or soldiers or the crowd, or the high priests or Pilate, we stand too often with the crowds watching as another person’s reputation and finances are ruined. We watch and are too afraid to interfere. We are even entertained and reassured as if to say to ourselves, “all is well in the world if evil is uncovered in others and they are made to pay. We, though, are good enough for God.”

Jesus, Clear story of God’s intent: the last scapegoat

In truth Jesus came to be the last scapegoat, the last sacrifice needed to set us all free from all sins, especially these terrible sins of greed and scapegoating, of hiding from our own sins.

God led Abraham to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. But then God interrupts the sacrifice providing a goat instead for the ritual. God says: no more child sacrifice.

Likewise, God led Jesus to the cross, as the last scapegoat ever needed, and to give us Jesus’ life and death story so that we might learn more of God’s intention for us, which includes: no more scapegoats.

Jesus forgives those who betray, arrest, judge and crucify him. God calls us, instead of scapegoating innocent bystanders, to be that same forgiveness for all people.

Yet, we are still in bondage to sin and unable to free ourselves, and we continue to sacrifice others instead of ourselves.

Today we are in the crowd again

Today we remember how we are just like that crowd again, as Jesus is raised on the cross to die a torturous death.

We beg for forgiveness … and time

We ask for forgiveness. We hope we will learn to stop sacrificing innocent people as scapegoats. We pray that God will intervene, transform our sins into blessings, and make God’s will clear also among us, in our words and through our actions.

Even so, we know we will continue to sin, so remembering Jesus’ story, we beg God for mercy, and forgiveness, …

and time for the amendment of our lives.

Amen

A Short Walk

Three Stand Straight, Three Lean to the Light.

Tonight I took a short walk.

Around the sand roads and through the woods.

No bugs, lots of water spread across the low spots.

No great big, throny bushes, no green trees, and no crowds … in fact great solitude and quiet.

Just a walk around

a bit

near the sunset

before settling in as a guest of the Queen,

honoured chosen of my Lord,

on the shores of a small quite lake,

since the oil company bought it all up,

except a few pieces

which means the Queen still has a small plot

that she shares, by law, with a few homeless,

and quite a few wealthy land owners looking for

the gift of nature: health and joy.

There’s also enough detritus left around that proves there are a number of irresponsible beer drinking, condom throwing, and garbage dumping foolish visitors.

So I took a bag with me on my walk around to collect some of the detritus. Lots more, like the condoms, still lay strewn on the ground, things that I needed more than just one bag to be able to pick up and haul out for other fools.

Why does the Queen receive such fools?

Why does the Creator tolerate such fools?

Perhaps because one fool is pretty much like another, and all are fools in one way or another.

My call is to be a fool for Christ, so there is that.

And I took a quiet walk around tonight before enjoying a quiet night, with only a couple parking for hours, depositing another condom and toilet paper to found on a quiet morning walk before the full light of dawn.

Solitude is precious as are a good night’s sleep and the clear light of truth.

Midweek Lent 5 Reflection

Changing Our Plans

God Changes Our Plans

God’s Plans are Larger Than Ours

Tonight’s Theme
Our continuing theme for this Lent is from Isaiah 58, that we hold a fast acceptable to God, one that brings justice, freedom, food, and homes to those in need.
That combines with the weekly theme, always having to do with change, and tonight specifically we look at Changing Plans.

Lessons
Psalm 2
Isaiah 52:13-15
Mark 10:32-34

God’s Plans are Large Enough for Everything that Comes our Way.

Plans of Mice and [Wo]Men

We all have had plans. But God’s plans for us are larger. How many of us have planned our next steps as children moved out for jobs, university, trade school or full-time employment and even marriage. Then they rebound back home to recover before leaving again to make their way in today’s fast changing world.

The Lessons: God ‘Changes’ Plans OT vs NT God

Tonight’s readings seem to reflect an old tradition that God approached humans one way in Old Testament times. Then God changed his plans with Jesus.

In Psalm 2 God observes the nations conspiring against God and God’s anointed. God laughs at them and speaks to them with fury terrifying them, before warning them to serve the Lord in trembling submission or else God’s wrath will be quickly kindled against them and they will perish.

In comparison listen to the Gospel from Mark where God’s own people condemn the only Son of God to death. Then they hand him over to others who mock, spit on, flog and kill him.

The roles are reversed: God bears the fury and wrath of the people and in the end God perishes. It is as if instead of demanding obedience God finally figured out that humans could never stop sinning so God decided to bear the whole cost of forgiving their sins. Thereafter God asks, calls, entices, and inspires the people to do what is right and needs to be done.

Jesus reveals to us the heart of God

We know that Jesus came to teach, cure and care for people, and to die on the cross as the last sacrifice or scapegoat required. The cross on God’s heart becomes so undeniably visible with Jesus’ death and resurrection that we can only be astounded.

Even though we deserve nothing but death and void, God chooses to forgive our sins. God claims us as children, and we have the most meaningful work possible: to follow Jesus’ example of giving everything we are in order that others will have justice, freedom, food and homes.

Call to abundant life in response to Jesus

Our sacrifice may even hurt, yet this is what God created us to be and to do. This is God’s larger plan for us all so that we have life abundant. Abundant life has very little to do with abundant wealth, property, possessions, power and influence over others, or self-serving pleasures. Instead God calls us to sacrifice and to then celebrate God’s successes, when lost souls return to God. At times that is each of us.

We see more of God’s plan, God remains the same

The tradition that I accept is that God does not change God’s plan or approach to humans. Rather God was marked by the cross since the beginning of time as is witnessed to also in the OT, for example in tonight’s reading from Isaiah concerning the suffering servant. What certainly does change, and markedly, is who we people think God is. What changes is how we understand more and more of God’s larger plan for us.

Stuck with the ‘OT’ idea of God

Still we so often get stuck thinking that God demands and we have to obey; that as we merit we get rewarded with God’s protection or we perish by God’s fury, and the next generation starts all over learning to obey God or else.

Our plans vs God’s larger plans

In this view of God’s world, we must take control making worthwhile plans for ourselves. We plan for a great house, or job, or spouse, or children, or activities in retirement. Some even succeed with our plans.

God always has larger plans for us.

More than 7 decades ago a farm boy, inspired by a missionary visiting at his church, decided to become a missionary doctor. He worked his way through college, through a tour with the army in Korea, through medical school and reported to the church for service.

The church eventually sent him to Africa. The man planned to spend his life there with his wife and children. But God’s plan for him was larger.

The man got sick, was forced to return home to a family practice. God had larger plans for him and the man ended up studying again to become a pathologist. He set up a business in the ever-changing world of medicine, brought in a partner to expand and improve their services. Still God’s plan for him was larger.

On it went with God always moving the man about, even to Antarctica in the winter when he was 70, until at the age of 75 with his back crumbling, a double heart by-pass, and needing both knees and a hip to be replaced the man was ready to rest and stay home. But God’s plan for him was larger. The church sought him out to return to Africa to rebuild a medical delivery system that had fallen apart mostly due to corruption. Now in his 90’s he still travels six months of every year raising funds and the other six months he oversees the building of a children’s hospital in Zinga, TZ.

Sometimes God’s plan sees that we need to be rescued from disaster. I heard from another pastor about Sarah, who went to college in the States. Sarah met Jim, through campus ministry. They made great plans. He planned to be a surgeon and she a nurse. They both wanted lots of children. God seemed to agree with their plans as they married and both were accepted into their respective majors.

But Jim was drafted for Vietnam. He served as a medic and came back in a wheelchair with one arm and unable to have children. All their plans were taken from Jim and Sarah.

I’m not sure that was God’s plan for them, but God was there for them. Then Jim died suddenly one night, a hidden complication from his injuries.

Sarah changed plans and became a family doctor. She married a farmer and they had three wonderful children, now grown up with families of their own. God had a large enough plan for Sarah.

Sometimes the Devil has his way with our lives, but always God’s plans are larger.

Surprise

If we’ve thought God is vengeful, demanding, wrathful, and the warrior protector of us, then we may be in for a great surprise.

The CIA regime control

To protect US interests around the world the CIA often provided wet work and weapons to bring to and keep in power tyrannical dictators who do the US’s bidding and keep their people in line. It is a devil’s plan, in response to which God often brings in a larger plan.

CAI vs CIA

In Three Cups of Teaand Stones into Schools Greg Mortenson tells the story of the Central Asia Institute, the CAI, not to be confused with the CIA.

Mortenson’s project was born of a plan to change the world toward peace through providing schools and schooling to girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The girls, who would likely become mothers, would then educate their daughters and their sons. We know education is the most crucial piece to help the poorest in the world make life better for themselves.

The Central Asia Institute was hardly perfect because Mortenson, raised in Tanzania, was unpredictable and spontaneous. He rarely operated on a clock or even a calendar. Still the CAI was an effective project that made a real difference in a real way: by sacrifice and through real education.

The idea of education for young girls was picked up by the CIA as a model for diffusing hostilities, to little effect. Hatred of the west runs deep.

Terrorists also adopted the plan, unfortunately with great success, destroying schools for girls and establishing madrassas for boys which taught hatred of the west, and trained them for terrorist attacks around the world.

In real life the devil has life destroying plans.

As we Grow, we see the appropriate fast for us

We grow and change. Our plans change as we grow. As we learn more of God’s larger plans for us, we can better be God’s agents of grace for the strangers, refugees, hungry, homeless, the oppressed, and all those suffering injustice. Yet often God’s large plans catch us off guard.

The challenge is to discern at this time a) what is God’s larger plan for us to bring life abundant to others, and b) what the devil is trying to do to our lives that takes life from us and others.

God is always there for us, no matter what plans we have, but God wants us to change our plans to better match Jesus’ model for our lives. Jesus’ model is about making the acceptable fast, the sacrifice so that others may have life abundant.

Amen

Changing Hearts

The ‘Final’ Version

Our Way Through the Waters, to God’s Glory

Psalm 119 starts: Happy are those whose way is blameless

Wouldn’t it be spectacular if we could change our hearts and follow all God’s laws and be blameless for the rest of our lives. We would be profoundly happy, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength! Nothing would defile us from within or from outside ourselves.

But we confess that we are all sinful and unable to free ourselves. Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Luther and many others have made it crystal clear that no one can be entirely blameless. If anyone were able to be blameless the whole course of human history would be changed.

What then can we do to change our hearts? Can we change our hearts of stone for healthy hearts filled with God’s Spirit?

Since 1967, when Bernard Christian transplanted the first human heart, we can have surgeons transplant our diseased hearts with new hearts. Heart transplant patients report it is more than just a physical experience. Something more changes, as another person’s heart gives them life. The other person has met an untimely death. The transplant patient carries on with life, for themselves and in a small yet noticeable way for the donor.

Though our meaning tonight for changing our hearts is hardly physically accurate, we are talking about changing the seat of our emotions, the centre of our wills, and the motive behind our thinking and doing.

First off this is a very complicated idea. Secondly it is nearly out of the realm of human possibility. We so often get it all wrong.

Once a well-heeled congregation decided to look outside themselves and do something really good for a poor neighbourhood nearby. After carefully looking through the neighbourhood they found a deserted chunk of land, filled with weeds, stones, and syringes. They decided it would make the perfect neighbourhood playground. They bought the land, and brought in topsoil, sod, and playground equipment. Then they headed to the community centre to invite the community to make use of it. The community leaders said only a very polite thank you.

“What’s wrong?” a congregation member blurted out.

“Well,” said one of the community leaders, “we had plans for that land. We had been saving money and applying for grants, gotten corporate sponsors, and invested in getting drawings made up. We were on track to break ground in 6 months. Our plans included a picnic area, a play area, community gardens and even a basketball court on one end.

“Now we’ll have to let all that go and enjoy the playground.”

We can try to fix the world with our privilege, power, and wealth. Or we can use our ears to listen to those in need, our minds to discern what the real issues are, and our hearts to empathize with their plight so that how we act will actually meet the real needs of the people we try to help.

There are things we can do to change our hearts, to change how we feel about another person, our situation in life, and the events that happen around us. While we cannot change our individual emotional responses to events, we can slowly, through diligent practice of habits, change the range of our emotions. We can over time move ourselves from a destructive, disengaged range of emotional responses, to a hope-filled, engaged range of emotional responses to the same kind of events. It takes lots of time, diligent work, and a motivation that only the Holy Spirit can maintain in us.

The first thing we can do is forgive others. We act as if the other has not sinned against us. We treat them special, even giving them gifts they really want. When we behave as if they were precious, they become precious to us again. In time we will realize, we have actually forgiven them.

Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we truly change our hearts. We need God to send people to help. Hearts change the course of our lives, and the course of our communities, our churches, our countries, and even the course of human history.

St. Augustine, perhaps the most influential of Christianity’s early thinkers, writers, preachers, and practitioners of faith, did not start out a Christian. Born of a Christian mother and a pagan father, he was denied baptism. He spent his youth as a Manichaean, and according to his own account lost himself in pleasures and wanton living. He was befriended by Ambrose, who he met since they both shared exceptional skills as orators. While Ambrose’s preaching was exceptional and his message was the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, it was Ambrose’s friendship that deeply affected Augustine’s heart and drew him to convert to Christianity. St. Augustine gave himself to the work of Christ on earth, ending his life serving as the Bishop of Hippo in north Africa, where he wrote and preached. Imperfect, rescued, and saved Augustine steered the course of Christianity to be the faith we recognize today. He also steered the Roman Empire towards Christianity.

Because there was one human, Jesus, who lived entirely blameless before God, the whole of human history is changed. Yours and mine, and each of our lives are inexorably changed toward God, toward life, and toward giving everything we have and are in order that others may know God’s Grace as well. Augustine was one piece of this course of history.

Our hearts inform and equip us to turn our lives in new directions. As the Holy Spirit moves our hearts to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and strength, then we focus on faith, ideas, words, and actions which can affect others’ hearts with the same Grace that saves us each day.

We trust that God is always with us. We can be blameless and joyful therefore, not because we are perfect, but because Jesus steps in for us and we are reckoned to have Jesus’ blameless track record.

There is something spectacular to being the donor of Christ’s heart to those in need. It is to give to another the seat of our will and passion, the centre of our life, and to give our hearts to another in order that they may live, and that living they may have life abundant.

Have a heart. Have a change of heart. Because the Holy Spirit helps us surrender our hearts to the will, passion, and purpose of Jesus Christ, therefore we live, heart and all, as God calls and equips us to live.

We live as never before. We live the fast that is acceptable to God, the fast that through our sacrifice others receive justice, freedom, food, and homes.

Amen

Rough Draft: A Change of Heart, Lent 4 Midweek Reflection

This is really still way too rough, but here it is, as a way-point along the way. Before it is done it needs to be half as long, and more focused.

There’s work to be done on it.

Lenten Theme:
Isaiah 58:
A fast that is acceptable to God: sacrifice for justice, freedom, food, homes.

This week’s Theme:
Change of Heart

Lessons:
Ezekiel 36.22-28
Psalm 119. 1-16
Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Our Hearts are chaotic, reflecting so much of our lives, but they are not without the Light of Christ! We are never alone.

A Change of Heart

Happy are those whose way is blameless

Blameless No one!

Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Luther and many more Christian theologians and teachers have made it crystal clear that if anyone were to be able to be blameless the whole course of the human species would be entirely different. No one can be entirely blameless.

In fact we confess that we are all sinful and unable to free ourselves, that we require Jesus’ intervention of grace so that we can live in God’s promise that we are God’s children, God’s ambassadors of grace to all people.

Only Obey if written on our Hearts

The only way that we at all can obey God’s commandments and statutes is if through the Holy Spirit, they are emblazoned on our hearts, so that we can do no other than follow them.

Change Hearts: God does us right with God

Wednesdays after a soup supper we’ve looked at change of season, change of circumstance, change of habits, and today we look at changing our hearts.

The starting reminder is that this is not possible for us alone; and further that not our habits, nor our words, nor our thoughts, nor even our beliefs put us right with God. We never are right enough with God. God takes us in as Children, as recipients and bearers of Good News, as Ambassadors of Christ, as the voice, the hands, the feet, and the compassionate Grace of Jesus Christ for other people. God does it all, and then we get to respond, because the Holy Spirit equips us to respond.

We can practice responding, bathing ourselves first in reminders that we need the Holy Spirit to work in us, in order that our practice will be any good at all. Then we can set forth, practising all we can; Praying that the Holy Spirit will transform our feeble efforts into the real Grace of Jesus the Christ.

What can we do to change our hearts?

Transplants

Since 1967, when Bernard Christian transplanted the first human heart, we can have surgeons transplant our diseased heart with a new heart. Heart transplant patients report that having one’s heart changed is more than just a physical experience. Something more changes, as another person’s heart gives them life, a person that has met an untimely death. The patient carries on with life, for themselves and in a noticeable small way for the donor of the heart.

What is the heart to us? What exactly are we trying to change?

In many ways the heart is much more than it was thought to be in old Hebrew thought, or even in the thoughts concerning heart, mind and soul in Jesus’ day.

[fill in OT thoughts of heart, Greek thoughts of heart, compared to mind and soul, and compared to today: heart, the seat of emotion. Maybe maybe not?]

In many minds today the heart is the seat of emotion, of passion, of a person’s will. This may not match much of what we know about the physical anatomy of the human body and mind; but it is common in literature and in everyday thought.

Whether our understanding of the heart is accurate or not, this evening’s theme is precisely about more than changing just a physical heart. We are talking about changing that which is the seat of one’s emotions, the center of one’s own will, and the motive center behind one’s thinking and actions.

Nearly Impossible

To change the seat of emotions, the center of one’s will, the motives behind one’s thinking and actions is first off, a very complicated concept.

Secondly it is so much more complicated to accomplish. It is nearly out of the realm of human possibility, but not wholly.

So Many Efforts Miss

A well-heeled congregation decided to do something really good for a poor neighbourhood nearby. After carefully looking through the neighbourhood they found a deserted chunk of land, filled with weeds, stones, even the odd syringe. They decided it would make the perfect neighbourhood playground. They bought the land, brought in good topsoil, sod, and finally playground equipment. Then they headed to a community hall to “hand over” ownership. The community leaders said a very polite thank you, but seemed lacking in enthusiasm.

“What’s wrong?” a congregation member blurted out.

“Well,” said one of the community leaders, “we had plans for that land. We had been saving money and applying for grants with corporate sponsors, invested in getting drawings done and we were about 6 months from startup. It would have had a play area, community gardens and even a basketball court on one end.

“Now we’ll have to let all that go and enjoy the playground.”

But still we can start trying

There are things we can do to change our hearts, to change how we feel about another person, our situation in life, the events that happen around us. While we cannot change our individual emotional responses to events, we can slowly, through diligent practice of habits, change the range of our emotions that we experience. We can over time, encountering pretty much the same kind of events, move ourselves from a sad, downward unengaged emotional response to common enough events, to a hope-filled, engaged, even joy-filled emotional response to the same common events.

It takes lots of time, diligent work, and a motivation that is nearly without limit.

Holy Spirit is writing on our Hearts

And that is when we see that, though we may like to think we can accomplish such a change of heart, the Holy Spirit is required to change our hearts to be those of people to serve Christ and Christ’s people.

On the other hand if we ever would want to change our hearts away from God, then we need to fight off the Holy Spirit first. We need to fight against the Spirit to be able to think we taken even one step distance from God who has promised to be with us for life and beyond.

What we can do, forgive: act as if the other has not sinned against us. Treat them special, even. Give them gifts they really want. Behave that they are precious to us; they become precious, and then we realize, we have actually forgiven them. We’ve moved beyond the emotional load experienced when we remember what they have done to us. We still remember, but it is not an emotional drain. It is more and more like information that does not impact us.

Changing a Heart makes huge differences

In many ways we suffer what happens to our hearts.

But we can choose to set parameters for our hearts. We can choose the universe that our hearts operate in. Other people influence our hearts more than we will ever know.

We can try to fix the world with our privilege, power, and wealth. Or we can use our ears to listen to those in need, our minds to discern what the real issues are, and our hearts to empathize with their plight so that how we act will actually meet the real needs of the people we try to help.

St. Augustine, perhaps the most influential of Christianity’s early thinkers, writers, preachers, and practitioners of faith, did not start out a Christian. Born of a Christian mother and a pagan father, he was denied baptism. He spent his youth as a Manichaean, and according to his own accounts lost himself in pleasures and wanton living. He was befriended by Ambrose, who he met since they both shared exceptional skills as rhetoricians. It was Ambrose’s friendship that deeply effected St. Augustine’s heart. He converted to Christianity, was baptized, and ended his life serving as the Bishop of Hippo in north Africa, where he wrote and preached; and steered the course of Christianity to the faith we recognize today, as well as the Roman empire towards Christianity.

It is the heart that informs and equips us to turn our lives in a different direction, which can either be for ill or for the better. It is our hearts devoted to Christ, thankful for all Christ has done to give us breath and renewed life, which focus us on faith, ideas, words, and actions which can help others experience what we experience from Christ.

Hearts change the course of our lives, and the course of our communities, our churches, our countries, and even the course of human history.

Joyful and blameless; a gift

We trust that God is always with us. We can be blameless and joyful therefore, not because it is our track record, but because Jesus steps in for us and we are reckoned to have Jesus’ blameless track record.

One person, the Christ, was blameless, gifts his to us

Because there was one human who lived and lived entirely blameless before God, the whole of human history is changed, yours and mine, and each of our lives are inexorably changed toward God, toward life, and toward giving everything we have and are in order that others may know God’s grace as well.

Donor of a Heart; call to sacrifice so others may live with great hearts

There is something to being a human heart donor, besides that first one is on the other side of death. It is to give to another the seat of one’s will and passion, the center of one’s life, and to give it to another in order that they may live, and living may have life abundant.

Have a heart. Have a change of heart. Give your heart to living as God calls and equips you to live.

Surrender you heart to the will, passion, and purpose of Jesus Christ.

And live as never before: live the fast that is acceptable to God, the fast that through our sacrifice others receive justice, freedom, food, and homes.

Amen