I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.
Words of Grace For Today
The case where we find ourselves in our stories after we sin, yet again:
To be lost.
To be lost in despair.
To be lost in despair as the rest of the world seemingly peers down on us as nothing.
The case where God’s story takes over ours and becomes ours:
To be found.
To be found worthy.
To be found worthy and given all that can be dreamed of.
If we have not known the first circumstance as our own, each day many times over … if we continually hide the truth from ourselves and we cannot and do not admit how lost we are, then the second circumstance can hardly mean anything.
The Son of Man did not come to heal the self declared ‘healthy’ nor to rescue those that claim not to be ‘lost’. God’s Son came and comes, sought out and seeks out those that are lost, found and finds us and restores us to the fullness of life, found and blessed.
God blesses us by planting us in this land in faithfulness. What a land that is: no fake news, no relative truths, no deception, no getting ahead at others’ cost, no rules using Covid as a cover for corruption and no rampant evil run amok. This land in faithfulness is a land where everyone has a home, a good home. And everyone is faithful to each other and to God.
Of course when the world around us gangs up on us for things we have not done and tries to Gaslight us in to believing that we are worthless, then it certainly helps to know the first case very well as it is actually true for ourselves, AND to know the second case (God’s Grace) to be true for us at the same time. Because then the Gaslighting, no matter how persistent nor long, will not destroy us. Then we benefit for God has planted us in the land of faithfulness. We know how humble we must be, how broken and lost we are, and how blessed we are that God claims us as God’s own children.
In the land of faithfulness all people prosper, contribute, and share blessings, especially with those in need. All the possible dreams of being blessed by God are made to come to be, for us all.
No Covid 19, restrictions, loneliness, covidiots, storming unrighteous and foolish mobs, or threats to our well-being can separate us from God’s blessing.
… So we lay ourselves to sleep each night confident that God’s will can be done also among us, and we will sleep in safety.
… So we rise up in the morning each day confident that God’s will can be done also among us also by us, and we shall live in safety, boldly acting as agents for the Son of Man, seeking, finding, and rescuing the lost … rescuing them with the same Grace that daily saves us.
Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.
For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Words of Grace For Today
After, in the prophetic image of Hosea given to him by God, … after God ‘plays the lover of an adulteress.’ For Israel has wandered yet again from God’s love to the adulteress love of other ‘gods’ and other values and other everything. Israel is trying to play being godlets, or at least as if they could choose their ‘god’. So Hosea, as God commands him, takes a harlot as his ‘wife’, to demonstrate to the people how they have taken ‘gods’ and loves that are not God, that are not Love!
Thankfully God does not abandon Israel, nor us (for such wandering is commonly repeated even in these days). God has an afterwards for us. Afterwards is always a time of return to God, seeking God, and being in awe of God, so that we once again know God’s goodness in and among us!
This is the time that God’s gifts of the Spirit enable us to choose, to will and to work for God’s good pleasure … that all people have life, and life abundant!
Which time is this day for you?
Playing with other ‘loves’ and trying to hide from the love of God?
Seeking, walking with God (since God walks with you already), standing in awe of God’s work in and among us, and enjoying God’s goodness for all people?
The deep-freeze will arrive this day, staying minus 20⁰C ish day and night, going to minus 27⁰C at least one night, maybe even minus 30⁰C. A touch of cleansing cold.
Will our hearts become or stay so cold?
Or will we choose to will and work for God’s good pleasure?
As for me and my household (oops, no household, just me) we/I will choose to …
hope that the Spirit will overcome sin in us/me and bring God’s will to be among us, also.
except they did not proclaim the Gospel when it was right there to be proclaimed,
so instead of being adversely effected by this let down, I decided to provide an outline or draft for a sermon worth preaching and hearing.
What is missing is the colour of the sunset and sunrise, the stories of heart and strength, the accounts of the saints in light, which guide us to embrace God’s Grace. Maybe I’ll find time to insert some.
The Gospel for this day: Matthew 35: 31-46
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
We might say: the End of Time, loved ones’ deaths or our judgment before Christ, or even the end of the church year provides clarification of what is truly important. Yet clarity is rarely the result of grief.
Rather grief, as the loss of one’s child (our losses that reflect God’s loss of Jesus) rips the innards of our lives right down to the foundation and leaves us totally discombobulated. Meaning and language and words do not organize. Chaos overtakes any order we used to have in our lives.
Clarity at the end of time, for loved ones, for ourselves, is not guaranteed. Rather it is rare.
Clarity about our judgment day reflected in the passage for today’s Gospel reveals that everyone (not denying their actions – a rather foolish attempt it would be before God)… everyone (all sheep and all goats) is surprised … because they did not see Jesus … in the outcasts, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or in the imprisoned.
Any sane person is going to be frightened at the thought of facing Christ on our judgment day. Goats to the left into eternal perdition with the devil, and Sheep to the right into eternal life with Jesus.
And how is the determination made? It is determined by what we have done for the least of God’s people (all people.) Did we care for the outcasts, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or the imprisoned?
Whether we are motivated to do these things by love, by passionate compassion, or by anything else, matters not one iota!
On the simplistic reading of the passage, our eternal path is determined by what we have done or not done for the least of God’s people!
Still, in this profoundly misguided, disturbing, and Gospel-less reading of this passage of scripture, we MUST DO what is right, OR we end up with the goats on the left.
If that is the ultimate determination for all of us, we are all lost into perdition, for by our own confession as faithful Lutherans, we confess that we are all bound to sin (and cannot by our own do what is right – including, by whatever means, care for the outcasts, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or in the imprisoned. Therefore we are all lost into perdition – and great consternation or grand denial can be our only response to this passage. Surprise! When we thought we might get into heaven because we did a few things right, even profoundly right, instead we ALL get the goats path to perdition! That’s a hell of a surprise!
Thankfully our confession of faith is simpler and far more profound: We not only confess that we are all damned sinners. We also confess that we are God-made saints. That is we also confess that we are all saved (sorted out to be with the sheep) only by Faith through Grace (God’s gifts us faith!) and NOT by our works (by what we have done or do or will do!)
So how can we possibly read and respond to this passage, given our simple confession of faith: Everything relies on God’s Grace?
If left to our own deeds, we are all sorted with the goats. We all do not care for all the least of God’s people. Even if we think we did what God requires of us (whenever we saw Jesus, but we rarely saw Jesus at all), and even if we can throw evidence at the wall of judgment, nothing will stick, because we have already failed so many times in so many ways that nothing can make up for our wholesale sins. We all have failed, do fail and will always fail to see Jesus where Jesus surprises us with his presence!
Doch! We confess we are not left to be judged by our own deeds. Rather, Surprise! Jesus places his record in place of ours as we are judged. Therefore we will not know when we cared for the outcasts, provided for the poor, gave homes to the homeless, fed the hungry, gave clean water and drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, nursed the sick, or visited the imprisoned.
We will be sorted with the sheep, not because of what we have done or not done. We are sorted with the sheep because of how Jesus lived, and because Jesus gives us his record in place of ours!
It’s all grace! It’s all gift! Our judgment does not depend one iota on us and what we think, say, or do.
Instead it depends only on God, and God is sure, steadfast in unconditional love forever!
So, we are sorted with the sheep! Phew! We dodged an eternal bullet of damnation there!
So back to our cozy, mixed up, sinful lives?! Right! We are getting away with whatever we do, good and bad, heaven and hell that we create for others, great ambitions to do right and little follow through. Nothing really matters in the end or even now! Right!? So let us celebrate, eat, drink, and be merry in the days God gives us. Right!?
Once Jesus’ record is in place of our own, we are free.
And what are we free from? We are free from our sins strangling us, binding us, keeping us from recognizing we live not to provide for ourselves, but as Christ provides for us.
What are we free for:
We are free to recognize others’ needs, endless as they are. Empowered by Christ’s example of forgiveness for us and the renewed life we receive daily from Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can provide for others. We GET to care for the outcasts, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or in the imprisoned.
Gosh golly gee, for sure that’s passionate compassion. That is living to provide justice for all. That’s being transformed to embody Christ in this world.
As the wretched sinners that we are, we certainly are surprised that God gets us to do such good things!
Of course, it is not something we can do ourselves, or choose for ourselves. We cannot choose to be passionately compassionate, or live for justice, or be Christ embodied in the world! We simply cannot on our own choose to do what God requires of us in order that we can be saved at the day of our judgment.
Surprise! It is only possible because of God’s Grace for us!
Now that’s Good News, because anything that depends on us is wholly unreliable.
Doch, what relies solely on God is as sound as the music of the spheres, the music of the strings that make up the universe. It is as sound as God, our rock and salvation, the Creator, all powerful. So sure is our salvation and the gifts that enables us for, in spite of being sinners, we are also simultaneously God-made saints.
We get to reflect Christ’s Light in all our days!
That is the clarity that we receive and can reflect to others. It comes rarely as we face the end of times. More often it comes as a complete surprise, in the ordinary, mundane suffering and challenges of life. During Covid 19 there are more than enough of those to go around, and hit us from behind again in the second wave.
Even when it hits us again and again, what matters is the surprise of what Christ does for us, and by Grace through us for others.
What Christ does for us and through us is the only and the everything that is important. What Christ does determines our judgment day, and all of every day in all the universe! Now that is sweet music to our ears
as we sing, Take my life that I may be consecrated Lord to thee!
Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.
1 Corinthians 8:3
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.
Words of Grace For Today
What is it that we do, in order to try to hide in secret places from God?
We try to be little ‘godlets’, masters of our lives and of others. Sometimes it even looks like we succeed. The delusion required to make it look like we succeed is fascinatingly stupid.
God is with us always, not tagging along, but we are in God’s omnipresence wherever we go. God sees our foolish pretending to be masters of most anything. Ah, how painful that must be for God.
We all sin. Most often it seems people try to pretend that their sin is something else, or that someone else did their sin and that they did not do it, or that they really did not do that evil thing, but something else that only appears to look like sin. The cover up is worse than the sin.
We ALL sin. The only way forward to goodness is not to pretend at all. Certainly we cannot move forward to health if we pretend that we know enough to talk, manipulate or manoeuvre our way out of the sin we’ve done.
The only way forward towards an abundant life is to already trust that God will forgive us, freely, without cost to us. To trust that the price for our sins (every last one of them) is already paid for by Jesus’ death. To trust that the loss of God’s own life is recouped in the resurrection. With that trust (that only the Holy Spirit can give to us – but which we certainly can refuse) then we can face God, deserving condemnation and knowing that we will be forgiven. Not just that our past sin is wiped away. We also have our future life renewed, so that hope is real. So that our expectations can be for a good future for us, for our loved ones, for God’s people around us, and for the strangers among us on this planet earth – so that we can expect (and thereby help bring to be) good things to happen.
It is no less than being told our lives are over … and then we hear that miraculously we are healthy and will live. Or it is to know that everything good we have worked for and been and become will be taken from us (not possessions, but our selves). We anticipate with horror living as mere shells, having the innermost things that make up who we are ripped out of us and shredded away to dust and water. Then we discover that, though our expectations were accurate, by some inexplicable change in history and current events, we are left intact, whole and looking forward to living a full life for years to come.
How different it is for people like the church council who have breached their own constitution and legal process to falsify a vote to hire a man who is not qualified to be a pastor. What kind of guts and prideful foolishness does that take? What kind of innermost self are those people made up of that they brashly contravene their own constitution, and work to deceive and lie and cover up what they are doing? To be them must be terrible!
For to be them is as terrible as it is to be any and every other kind of sinner who cannot find forgiveness in the ‘godlets’ they have perversely begun to worship.
Catching Covid 19, whether one barely has symptoms, one suffers symptoms and recovers (either with chronic issues afterwards or not), or whether one succumbs into death (and still have the promise of life eternal) is not as bad as losing one’s self, that spirit that God has breathed into us at our baptisms, which gives us life. That is a horror that never stops no matter what one stuffs into one’s life.
With profound gratitude, even as we are caught in the snare of the Evil One, we trust that we will find our way forward to goodness and health, but only through God’s unending Grace, forgiveness and the gift of renewed life.
Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonour your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us.
1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Words of Grace For Today
Jeremiah pleads with God not to break the covenant God made with their ancestor, Abraham. God alone made the covenant. It was not a bi-lateral agreement. It was not tit-for-tat. It was not a contract with the members agreeing on the exchange of things of value.
God made the covenant, simply because God choose to make the covenant. Thereafter, God returns numerous times to restate the promises. In addition to Abraham and his family and descendants being made, by God’s act alone, into the people of God, God makes promises: God will give the wandering Arameans land flowing with milk and honey. God will give Abraham and Sarah descendants as numerous as the stars.
God makes good on God’s promises. God makes good on more than that.
God comes in the human life of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s own son on earth, to live, heal, teach, suffer, and die … to pay for what you and I and all our ancestors and their descendants (i.e. all people) have done against God and the goodness of creation.
The story continues. Death does not win out, because God raises Jesus back to life.
God does this not because we deserve it, but because God so chooses.
God also chooses you and me to join in the fellowship of Jesus, the body of Christ on earth.
We may turn from God.
We may suffer as a result of sins.
We may face challenges we may not know we can even survive, like Covid 19.
God remains trustworthy. God remains a Rock for us to rely on. God remains with us!
This is the ongoing story of God. God remains with us, even when we no longer deserve the great blessings God has given us.
All good is to God’s glory. God’s glory is not our brokenness, doch God’s will to heal us.
May we be healed of all the ills that we face because of isolation, because of loss of loved ones, because of the illness we face, which may indeed bring us to death’s door.
On this and the far side of that door, God stands with us. God is worthy of our trust.
There is Benjamin,
the least of them, in the lead, the princes of Judah in a body, the
princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
The next day the
great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming
to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to
meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the
name of the Lord, the King of Israel!’
Words of Grace
have our ways of doing what we do in this world. The great are
celebrated. We follow the charming leaders who we think will give us
the most. God’s way is different. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the
people greet him in celebration singing Hosanna! Jesus’ path was
not what they expected. Instead it was self sacrifice so that all
people would be saved. Benjamin, Isaac’s youngest and favourite
son, does not blossom into a great people. They remain the least of
the tribes of Israel. God’s way is not to make us into saints that
lead, conquer, and control the world around us. God’s way is the
quiet, subversive, gentle, gracious, forgiving ways of giving other
people the fullness of life, out of the limelight, as we the Body of
Christ, give of ourselves to be Christ present to all.
passages for this Sunday’s lessons are profoundly problematic.
Malachi promises that the day will come when arrogant and evildoers will be burned up entirely, stem to root. That is of course only Those, them, the others. And on that day We, us, those who revere God’s name, upon us (not them) the sun of righteousness will rise, with healing in it’s wings.
Thessalonians, either written by Paul or more likely a disciple of
Paul writing in his name (as was common and acceptable then,)
commands the readers to work for their food, and not be idle. And he
also commands that those who do not work should not eat! This
prescription to allow some people to starve has been used as
justification for all sorts of injustices worked against the poor.
Lukan passage deals with the end times, cautioning the listeners to
not be taken in by false prophets claiming to be the returned Christ.
Admonishing calm patience and faithfulness the passage ends with “By
your endurance you will gain your souls.”
in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?
we do not use Psalm 98 this week.
a new song to the Lord,
who has done | marvelous things,
whose right hand and holy
arm have | won the victory. 2O
you have made | known your victory, you
have revealed your righteousness in the sight | of the nations.
will judge the | world with righteousness
and the peo- |
ples with equity.
perhaps it is a good opportunity that we do not use the Psalm.
each text is filled with directions on what to do as Christians, even
prescribing what things we must do in order to receive Salvation, we
believe and hold firm the faith and tradition that is handed on to
us, namely: that we are saved by grace alone, not by the merit of our
interpret all scripture and spiritual thought through this lens: That
we are saved only by God’s act upon us, that we remain totally
sinners throughout our lives and at the same time God makes us,
through Christ’s redemptive sacrifice for us, totally saints. This
is a gift imputed to us, not infused into us. This gift is effective
in us, yet does not overcome the sinner that we remain, until Christ
comes again, God reckons righteousness to us, and we become saints in
the light of Christ for ever. These precepts are paradoxical, and we
believe they hold the truth of God’s Grace for us that cannot
logically be expressed. Faith cannot be grasped and controlled. It
can only we experienced and enjoyed with awe, or rejected with
So what are we to make of these scriptural judgments of others and promises that we are not them, of the command that if we or others do not work we are not to eat, or the admonishments to earn our salvation?
choices are four:
We could preach the problematic parts as if they were the Gospel of Christ ignoring that they are destructive to faith and community.
We could ignore or pretend to ignore the problematic parts of the texts. Preaching on Psalm 98 alone would be an opportunity to take this route.
We could preach a reinterpretation of the passages so as to proclaim a faithful Word, a true witness to Christ, but not mention that we are interpreting the passages to bring Gospel out of them. OR
We can be clear about the need to re-interpret and proclaim that need along with a clear proclamation of the Gospel after we re-interpret these passages according to Luther’s Gospel within a Gospel: that we are saved by Grace through Faith and not by merit of our works.
are the days of colour and calm.
Cold Hard Facts of the Gospel have arrived with the cold and snow in
Preach as you will, but as for me and my empty “household”, the woods, squirrels and the occasional deer, we will enjoy God’s grace and preach it clearly, honestly, and profoundly as, as much as God gives me opportunity and energy to do so.
Of course, the squirrels really do not listen very well, and the deer have no patience, anxious as they are from hunters pursuits.
is clear from the lessons for this Sunday is that true discipleship
costly as those we remember today, the veterans who have sacrificed
to give us the possibility of the lives we now enjoy.
While we chafe under encouragements to tithe, giving 10% of the first fruits of all God gives us, our time, talents and resources, the call that claims us and the faith that is imputed to us demands not merely 10%. We chafe so brutally that we often demand no mention of tithing occur in our congregation, certainly not that we ask each other to work towards this small sacrifice, guilty as we are that we have never thought this possible for us ourselves. Always one hears how unjust this call is for those who are below the poverty line. Which is true sort of: 10% of an income of which 50% is spent on the bare necessities of life is challenging, but 10% of an income of which 110% or more is spent on the bare necessities of life is a challenge beyond respectable.
discipleship costs us 100%, and our avoiding a call for 10% gives
witness how weak our faith is practised in our lives.
the True Gospel is not that we must give 100%, or that we must give
even 10% for God’s grace to be effective in our lives and at the
end of time, effectively applied to us. What counts is still what God
does, not what we do.
Though it is problematic that we do not do what we readily could do, and instead we count on God’s Grace to save our neighbours from hunger, poverty, despair. Since Christ steps in for us sinners when we were lost (each day of our lives) why would we not strive with all our being to be Christ’s hands especially to our neighbours in desperate need!
But one can hardly preach that to people who refuse to be the hands of Christ, asking for the first 10% in good stewardship for their church. One does pray for them, and for one’s self: that we may all survive the winter, cold, hard, and brutal as it is … to be gracious with each other … soon, before it is too late.