M is for … Breathe the Music!

M is for … Breathe the Music

how is it that music

reaches

‘Ordinary’ Light, Ordinary Days

deep down inside our hearts

and strums

on something so deep

that penetrates the hidden reaches

giving joy

sadness

and hope

all in 

one

fell swoop

Every Piece of Life Compressed into Harmonies

as if our existence were mathematically determined by the progressions of 4ths and 5ths 

major and minor, and 7ths for spice

bringing memories

long lost

to

the wear

and

tear of

loving once and amen

a

crazy spouse

who will

not stop at

anything

less than my death.

I in retreat and holding for God’s deliverance

if only in small parcels, then so be it, but hoping for

place and opportunity to work, write, and take photos.

Finding the path Despite the Trees, White as they may seem.

What

is hope that

music strums to it

as

if

…?

Where does the feeling come from

that we can think of something other than the harmonies

as if God had not created the harmony of the spheres with

other than words sung

so powerful

like a hand extended in love to care for another,

the touch of empathy, concern, and ties to the divine, the infinite;

quite a privilege

for a small finite sinner creature

Ever onward through the weeds, across the calm of life’s chaos to the Light Setting.

who is older

day by

day

until 

the ground accepts ones chemicals

once again.

For then the music will flow freely.

Fear … NOT!

No Worries Mate, Treasure Threatened

Decades ago a friend lost his credit card so he phoned to get a new one. After putting him on hold the man on the phone came back in his Aussie accent, “No worries mate. We have you covered.” Which made my friend start to worry. Did he miss something? What did they have covered? If the card was maxed out it’d take years to pay it off.

When something threatens our treasure, pulses quicken, blood pressure rises and worries multiply.

Storm Clouds threaten the Light

Do Not Be Afraid: powerful words

God comes to Abram and starts with, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus speaks to his disciples and often starts with, “Do not be afraid….” These are not like the Aussie, ‘no worries mate’. These are powerful, life-changing words.

Imaginary, Real, Abuse of Fears

Life is full of imaginary worries: a man reacts with that ancient instinct from back when threats to our lives were around every tree. He worries about his next meal even though his fridge, freezer and bank account are quite full. Or the middle-aged woman who as a child witnessed her mom being repeatedly abused by soldiers, and now suffers a form of PTSD. She fears everyone who tries to care for her, projecting her terror on to them and blaming them for anything bad that happens, even if she is the one at fault.

Yet, besides Fear of God, which begins every journey with God for us sinners, too often fear is real. Everywhere people die from the lack of life’s basics: clean air and water, nourishing food, adequate clothing, or sufficient shelter. War threatens lives. Refugees flea only to be at the mercy of other countries. A few weeks ago, the earth came close to being hit by an asteroid big enough to have the effect of many nuclear bombs, landing us in a dark age, literally, with the sun blocked by the fallout. If that’s not enough the effects of climate change could make coastal cities uninhabitable by 2075 or earlier. Think Vancouver, Montreal, NYC, Miami, most of Micro Indonesia and more!

And then corrupt would-be-leaders drum up fear in order to manipulate more and more power from us until we have none left. Too often we fall for it all and do senseless things to make ourselves feel safe, as if we could get out of life alive.

Story: no bomb shelter needed

A pastor remembers fondly when their next door neighbours built a bomb shelter … in 1959. She asked her Dad if they were getting one. He was a military man and he said, “Believe me, you don’t need one.” Back then that assurance meant to her that nothing bad would happen. Years later she realized it meant that if the bombs fell, a shelter was so inadequate it wouldn’t do her any good. (Ann Brezendine Sermonshop 08)

Do Not be Afraid, Pleasure to give KoG

Jesus comes with a fuller response: Do not be afraid! For it is God’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom! Here on earth we do not need a bomb shelter. But in this world’s kingdoms our expectations of our leaders often net us what we deserve, both good and bad. From that there is no shelter, either.

3 am Fears

Kamala Harris, running her 3am Agenda, hopes to be the next US President. In the face of fear politics gone amok, she tells people she will work on those things that they worry about at 3 am.

The thing about 3 am fears is that they can be real or imagined, but they almost always are exaggerated and amplified so that they demand we deal with them; or else they eat away at what’s left of our souls.

God comes to Abram in a vision. And it may as well have been 3 am in his tent, for Abram is consumed by worry that he has no son to be his heir.

Do not Fear: shield and reward

Yet God comes with a promise: Do not be afraid. [Even at 3 am.] For God is your shield and your reward will be great.

Abram and Sara’s Story: God’s work, timeline, not ours

Abram and Sara have cause for real fear. They left their home in Ur, traveled great distances not knowing where to go, lived in tents, and struggled to survive. Despite God’s Promises they still have no son or land! Both are way too old to have a child. Is God against Abram and Sara?

Even so: God says again, “Do not be afraid.”

We may think we know where our life is going. We only notice our error when our plans tumble into the dust. Then, lost in the chaos, we can listen, for God speaks right to us: “Do not be afraid.” And there is MORE!

Where do you think your life is going? Follow the Light … of Christ.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Yet for Abram and Sara to trust God’s Word, given and so many times not fulfilled, now requires more than any human can muster on their own.

Do Not be Afraid and More

God comes and says, “Do not be afraid.” And then God creates faith in their hearts, so they do not need to be afraid. As we listen we will know these words and faith are also for us. And there is still MORE!

God Reckons Righteousness

God does one more remarkable thing in this passage. God reckons this gift of faith as righteousness for Abram. This is the same reckoning that God does for us in our baptisms.

God’s ‘spreadsheet’

What is this reckoning? It is as though God has a spreadsheet.

Under each person’s name there is a bookkeeping of the events in that person’s life with their positive and negative values and in another column the value of that person’s relationship with God. Because math can represent the entirety of creation, God totals it all up into one number.

If that number is anything less than infinity, that person is not acceptable to God. After a useless life on earth, God strokes the Smote Key on the keyboard of eternity and they no longer exist (or something like that. You get the idea.)

Surprise! God deals with Abram differently. Even though God has placed faith in Abram, God decides to ‘cheat’ with Abram’s values and call it more than good enough. God places God’s own infinite value, the infinity symbol (the lazy 8 laying on its side, ), as Abram’s total.

What is most remarkable is there is then NO event that can possibly subtract enough from his value to God to change the end result: it will remain, no matter what Abram does, as an infinite value. ∞

What does this mean for us?

What does this mean for us?

What it means is that for each of us at our baptisms God provides Jesus’ infinite value ∞ on our reckoning sheet as our value to God.

It does not mean that God gives us everything we think we would want. God does not give us an easy and comfortable life. Rather the opposite. God keeps placing new challenges in front of us all through our lives.

It does not mean that God gives us success, respect, or admiration. Rather God lets us live rejected, as were the early Christians, and dishonoured as was Jesus. The world sees us as fools working to bring life abundant to others.

Fools’ Project Zinga

There is a fools’ project, for instance, in Zinga north of Dar Es Salaam. A few people started with a bare piece of ground, with bare bank accounts. In a few years they want to turn that place into the first Children’s Hospital in Tanzania. They trust that a 91 year old doctor and his nurse wife, on fund raising tours in North America 6 months of every year, will raise enough interest and personal commitment from enough people willing to provide enough money, materials and skills and expertise of all kinds to make it a reality. All with no promise of success.

Promise, Not as we imagine, not on our deadline

God does not promise us that God will provide what we think God’s will for us is. Just because we once thrived, or because others still thrive, does it mean that God promises we will thrive again, as we imagine. God promises to be with us through our successes and our failures. God promises to send us new visions of what God intends for us. But God may not fulfill God’s promises to us on our timeline, maybe not even for generations.

Challenge, Treasure, Hearts, Delight, City or Woods

The challenge for us, our whole lives, is not to make ourselves good for God. Jesus steps in for us, gives us infinite value ∞ to God and says, “Do not be afraid.” And there is MORE.

God delights that we live now and for eternity in God’s kingdom. We can live well. All things can be well. All manner of things are well. And there is still MORE.

God prepares a city for us, or maybe a retreat beside pristine water. City or retreat, God prepares a perfect home for us in the future, for eternity.

We can listen and hear these words and know that they are for us: God plans for our futures, and for eternity. We do not need to be afraid!

Practice: Delight, Reckoning, & Service

We can respond, by practicing being who we aspire to be, who God wants us to be, putting our treasure in God, the only place where it is safe. These are not the treasures of wealth, earthly security, power, position, skills or abilities. Instead our treasure is to practice reckoning to others infinite value ∞ and sharing God’s delight that others live in God’s kingdom. Our treasure is to practice serving others, giving them the same grace and love God first gives us.

We do not need to be afraid, for our treasure from God cannot be taken from us, nor subtracted from, not even at 3 am. Our treasure goes on to infinity ∞, like the stars in the sky.

A fuller perspective: The ‘Storm Clouds’ are topped by Light!

Amen

Trees, Stars, and Passion for Beauty and Order

Trees: Aim Between

When skiing in the mountains on a slope with trees on it


I’ve taught more than a few people how to ski. Invariably we arrive on top of a slope where there are trees at least dotting the slope. The student looks with apprehension. I say respect the trees, but do not fear them. Do not look at them or you will head straight into one of them. Look at the snowy hillside between the trees where you want to ski.


Three Lessons full of Trees


Lost in the Fog of Delusion


OT: The self deluded Teacher Fool

We heard the Teacher in today’s first Lesson say:

Vanity of vanities! … All is vanity.

Our labour produces great results but our results are left to others, who may be wise or foolish.

Ecclesiastes


It is tempting to think he may be right: that God has created, humans have worked, and nothing is worth anything. But the Teacher’s wisdom is a big forest of trees of hopelessness.
Here God’s truth disappears like the misty fog evaporating with the rising sun. Then any lie can be presented as if true. Despair takes on all sorts of guises. Instead of being thankful, one demands more and more of things that cannot fill the empty void that should be one’s heart.
This kind of life is at war with itself and the ensuing conflict and chaos allow one to hide from accountability, hope, love and even Jesus.


NT: The Different Life of Lists

In contrast the writer of Colossians reminds us that Christ raises us differently, into life free from what destroys us.
The writer then presents us with lists of things to leave behind: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry), anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. Do not lie to one another.
These are more trees to avoid.

The one exception would be passion, though as all God’s gifts, passion can be abused and used as a destructive force in one’s own life and in others’.

Since the early Christians, including the Colossians, expected Jesus to return in their own lifetimes, their sense of urgency valued the freedom of celibacy and devalued the ties of passion. But God created passion as an important and healthy motivation for much of life including marriage, parenting, care of the earth and the building of a just society.


Gospel: Using Jesus for Greed

Today’s Gospel is a great parable within a parable: A man comes to use Jesus to get an inheritance from his brother, against the tradition of the time.
Through the ages we human beings have more than perfected the use of Jesus or Religion to pound others down and try to feed our own greed.
Greed is related to gluttony.

“A glutton is (a person) who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.”

(Wishful Thinking, F Buechner)

Gluttony and Greed kill us as we try to eat or possess more than we can stand.
To teach us this, Jesus tells a parable of the pathetic wealthy man who after a great harvest, builds new barns to hold it and anticipates the remainder of his life as an easy retirement. But his possessions are the end of him. It’s all for naught!


Lots of Trees to Avoid

That gives us lots of trees to avoid. There is precious little of what we should aim for. It’s like skiing down a mountain and all we see are trees.

Look beyond the Trees


Where is Grace

So where is the Good News?


NT: Look above

The writer of Colossians points us to set our minds on things that are above. So looking up ever since we lived in caves we see the stars, the moon and the sun. Aided by the passionate drive of George Ellery Hale, and so many others, to see and learn more by building bigger and better telescopes in the last 100 years, what we see is astoundingly mind boggling. (E.g. see the documentary Journey to Palomar)
Before, we knew the earth, one of nine planets, revolved around the sun. Now, we’ve seen numerous planetoids, one being Pluto, so there are only eight planets. We know our sun has a magnetic field, with flares that cause the northern lights and disrupt satellite communications. We know about galaxies, that most of the matter in the universe is invisible, that the universe is expanding and the universe is so, so much larger than we ever imagined! We have not found alien life, but in the immense expanse of the universe it is probable, if not guaranteed.
We have seen God’s handiwork in the awesome expanse and workings of the universe and begun to understand their impact on our daily lives.
Are these ‘the things above’ that we are to aim for? Maybe not, one would quickly say. But then perhaps we ought not be too quick to decide.


Rest of Scripture

With so many trees in our lessons, we look to the rest of Scripture and the Christian Church’s history, to guide us to the joy of life ‘skiing’, as it were, without hitting the trees.


Relationships Trinity

We believe that God is Trinitarian. God is three in one. In part that means that the basic reality of God is that God is in relationship. We are created in God’s image, so we know we are created to be in relationship.


God Loves, We love

Luther taught that the core of the Gospel could be summed up in one short passage “ God so loved the world that God sent his only Son so that everyone believes in Jesus may have eternal life.” God loves – us … and the whole universe God created! In relationships we are to love one another and all of creation.
The Teacher’s wisdom is folly because he ignores other people as God’s good creatures. Work is not to be hated, rather it is to be joyful and rewarding precisely because it provides for others, just as God has provided for us!
The pathetic farmer in Jesus’ parable is consumed by his possessions because he has no sense that his bounty is a gift from God entrusted to him to be shared with others.


The wonders of Creation



God’s Grace and Work

We know God’s Grace for us. We know that God comes to us, forgives us, makes us righteous before God, by Grace (in other words, as a gift that we do not earn!)
We know that God does this first, then we can get down to living and working as God’s own children in this marvelous creation.


Riches with God

In today’s Gospel Lesson, Jesus points us ‘to build up riches with God’. It is easy to understand that our ‘riches with God’ are what God gives us, namely God’s Grace and all that flows from it.


Our work: Response, because … therefore

We know then our work is NOT to make ourselves good enough for God. Everything we do is to be a response to God’s Grace for us.
Because God makes us Good, perfect before God,
therefore we can fully engage in creation. We can be passionate about life and the goodness of creation, so that we can share the necessities of life and the wonders of the universe with ALL other people, in the present and for all generations to come.
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes had no room for any passion for sharing the beauty of life with others. He had no passion to know that God’s love moved God to speak a word “Let there be Light,” and after 7 days to say, “it is good!”
In the resulting blessed creation of order and beauty, we can be passionately engaged in the wonders of the universe.
We can share this life with another person with the passion of a marriage. We can invest in friendships that carry us, our friends, and people around the world through the trials of life.
Sharing God’s riches brings us to be so passionate about life that we can expend all of our lives striving to see and share our place in God’s awesome universe. For some of us that may mean building bigger and better telescopes. For all of us it means respecting but leaving behind the ‘trees’ of judgment, condemnation and lists, sharing instead God’s Grace with all people. We can choose to make justice a reality for each person.

Sharing God’s riches is possible for everyone.
We could choose not to share God’s riches. But why would we?


Story: We Ain’t Poor by Florence Ferrier


In the story We Ain’t Poor! the Sheldons, a large family in the Appalachians, live in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. They receive inadequate assistance, yet they manage their meager income with ingenuity — and without complaint.
One fall day the social worker “visits the Sheldons in the ramshackle rented house they lived in at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear, which strayed into their yard once too often. They canned it so that there would be meat even during the worst of the winter when their fuel costs were high.
The social worker reported: “Mr. Sheldon offered me a jar of bear meat. I hesitated to accept it, but he said kindly and firmly. ‘Now you just have to take this. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!’“[In astonished disbelief, the social work asked, ‘How can you say that?’] His answer proved unforgettable.
“’When you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then you ain’t poor. When you don’t feel easy giving something away even if you got more’n you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.’”

(Gospel Notes 2001, Brian Stoffregen, reworked TL)


Look at the World all around you! … God has made us Rich and given us the ability to see more and more of the universe as God’s amazing creation … Can we say ‘We ain’t poor!’?
Amen


I do not have much, but it is more than enough!

Happy Birthday

Today is my x’s xth birthday, since the photos are too large to email, I’ve posted the greeting and photos here, for x and for all to enjoy.

Photos made especially to celebrate a good birthday, when I cannot be there in person to celebrate with everyone.

Life

is full of

opportunities and pathways.

Some of the best moments are available to us when we take time to notice the small, less traveled side roads.

Whether you find those moments or not the golden blessing of Christ’s light will always be there for you, long after the sun has set on any times of your life.

The water of life is yours, in great quantities.

and also sprinkled drop by drop where beauty transforms life from mundane to precious.

When one does not notice those moments there are still the telltale signs of blessings left behind.



Life will bring many great things your way, some will grow and die; always there will be something new beginning, promising great things for your future.

Enjoy all the blessings of each day, especially this day as you are celebrated.

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.

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.

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

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.

God Calls Us

Note: this is a sermon for those who have the privilege on
the second Sunday of Christmas.

IHP TZ is an organization started by Dr Dennis and Paula Lofstrom, working to build health care facilities in TZ (Tanzania) where I spent some of my childhood. Their first project was in Iambi.

They and many others joining them (you could, too!) are building a miracle: the first pediatric hospital in TZ, just north of Dar, in Zinga. See http://www.ihptz.org/ for more information.

God Calls Us Home, Today, Again

This Christmas, on each and every one of the 12 days of Christmas, we celebrate God coming to us. God comes to us in the form of an infant child, fully God, fully human. This birth is such a common thing: that another human is born. This birth is such an extraordinary thing: that it is God born as one of us – this birth is so different for God. It changes everything.

But it is not that God changes at all. It is not that God’s mercy is only now known. It is not that God does anything new – except that with Jesus’ birth God gives us a clearer view of God’s own self.

Christmas is not when God somehow changes to be with us.

God was always with us.

The greatest change is in us. God changes us so that we trust God’s presence. We are the ones, traipsing along on a wayward trip, who Jesus’ birth changes.

We see God’s self better, as a human who lived among us, ready to sacrifice himself, not others, to bring order our of chaos by Grace. We see most clearly God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and eagerness to give us new life. We see the Holy Spirit continuing God’s work even today among us!

We become better than we were, but more importantly we become less than we were before: less independent and more interdependent, less demanding and more generous, less greedy and more thankful, less hard-necked and more flexible, less judgmental and more forgiving.

In a word, Jesus is born, so that we can hear God’s invitation to come home.

On that dark night on the hills surrounding Bethlehem the shepherds are out with their flocks. Shepherds are the lowest kind of humanity. They are the ones sent out to keep sheep safe from the dangers of the night. These are more than unqualified, they are the ones others determined to be expendable, unqualified except to guard stupid sheep.

God makes them a special invitation. God invites them to his own home, to celebrate the birth of his only son. This home doesn’t look like much. It is a simple stable. Okay, it’s really a dirty animal barn.

Animals and a few poverty-captured people sit around after a birth of a baby boy. And this is a Jew that is born, a member of the backward religious people that cannot run their own affairs well enough to keep from getting overrun by foreign power after foreign power. The Romans are just the lastest of a long line of more powerful countries that have conquered these poor people.

What can the shepherds do? The sky shines bright with a star like no other. The air resounds with choruses of angels. One angel says not to be afraid, but these poor shepherds are beyond being afraid. Their world just got all turned around. Everything is changed. And God invites them to his home.

What can they do but go and pay him a visit?

At least they do not need to change to fit in. The stable is for animals and people like them. So the shepherds go to visit God at home.

If God invites the shepherds, then the God certainly will invite us. And neither do we need to change to fit in. There is no special suit, no special words to say. God invites us into the earthy parts of this world. For that is God’s home. That is where God’s heart is.

Home. Home is the place where your heart is. Home is where your family is. Home is where you belong, no matter what you do, no matter what happens, no matter what you do good or wrong.

Home is this and much more.

Home is where God created us to live, it is paradise, it is the New Jerusalem, it is the answer to every yearning.

This Christmas we come home. Not just to those who gave us birth and raised us. Not just to those who grew up with us. Not just to those we gave birth to. Not just to those who love us. This Christmas we come home to the One who loves us unconditionally.

From Iambi Tanzania this a snippet from the 2003 news:

The air is very soft this morning, just a whisper of breeze, temp. about 70. It rained last night, again. Yes, the rains have returned. Thank you for your prayers, and thank You, God!

One day after I sent the last e-mail winds had shifted in Dar es Salaam. The following day it rained in Singida. The day after that it sprinkled here rather like a promise, “Don’t despair.” The following night it rained, a good pour with lightning and thunder, and the night after that and last night. The lake is filling like a bathtub.

The frogs are in full chorus as the Duromo’s streams began to fill and flow once more. New life, new hope. The spring rains, though 2 months late, have come.

Our neighbors are all busy now that the rains have come. They’ve cleared the fields by hand during the dry season, and cattle and goats grazed the soil almost bare. Subsistence farming is a cooperative family enterprise. Grand parents watch the youngest children while Dad gets behind the plow. Younger children guide the two small oxen with sticks and Mom drops the precious maize seeds into the newly cut furrow and covers them over. Up one row and down the next.

But, for the next three months, until the harvest begins, there will be severe hunger on the Iamba Plateau. Some people think that growing a cash crop, like the English imposed growing potatoes on the Irish, or raising sheep for wool in New Zealand, or growing strawberries in Guatemala for the Americans is a good alternative to subsistance farming, but what if the cash crop fails or the market changes? How do those farmers then feed themselves? Are there social impact studies as well as environmental ones when it comes to agricultural management?

I went down to the hospital a few days ago to snap pictures of our nurse-midwife taking advantage of the midwife kits supplied to us by Global Health Ministries. The moms and midwives were delighted with the hats, towels, soap, washcloths, and receiving blankets in each kit. One mom had had a C-section which costs $60.00 at Iambi. At all of the other hospitals it’s $100 to $105.00 But when the average family’s cash income averages only $20.00 a month, as it is in this area, the hospital bill of $60.l00 is staggering. After a month, if the family cannot pay the bill, it is forgiven, and the mom and baby go home. But the hospital cannot absorb these costs and still pay the nursing staff, buy the medicines and anesthesia, and even the cleaning supplies and still function without outside assistance.

Suffering and hopelessness are the best means to learn the best and strongest lessons for each of us. As acceptance unfolds, dimly at first, and then more clearly, we see that God’s divine timing has been working all the time and that we have lost nothing that is not coming back to us, perhaps in new containers, but in God’s abundance.

Paula concluded her email with: Thank you for your prayers. Thank You God for the rain and the promise of new life. Thank you for birds and bull frogs and lizards large and small.

Home is where God calls us to live. Home is where God gives us opportunity to give our very lives that others may live. Home is where we stop violence and injustice, where forgiveness and mercy prevail.

Home.

Home is where God invites us to live, no matter who we are. No matter what we are. Whether we’ve been good or bad. Because we have always been both.

Home is where we hope, and it becomes true.

This Christmas God invites you to come home, to see Jesus in your lives at all turns and to reflect him in your thoughts, words and actions of love and forgiveness.

This is the home that God invites us to, here where his only son is born.

Amen!



This is my home, today with ice fog deposited everywhere in wonder.
Home: a Miracle
This is my home everything borrowed except a bicycle, sleeping bag and tent. A borrowed wood stove addition (built to emit clean, more fully burned smoke) connected by tarps to a borrowed camper, all mobile, since I have certainly have no land, nor none lent me, I am the guest of the queen, but for only 14 days at a time before I have to move everything off and find somewhere else to crash for three days.
A miracle.

Where is your home?

Your real home?

Where you are unconditionally loved?

Where can you safely unconditionally love others?

Where are you together with people of all colours, faiths, and cultures, shoulder to shoulder as equals facing each challenge and joy, … together with your beloved, you siblings, your children, your parents, your relatives, and your guests?

The Son has Risen

The morning of the eighth round of trying to get December to behave.

It is a futile struggle, for December has no agency, and yet we all persist,

Missing the light, golden and promising reaching through the trees snow covered green needled branches

Above a bed begging to be skied.

But I struggle with …

The simple joys that pull me into the quiet, resisting the

Work that will secure my warmth and safety, as pleasurable as it may be

To see something come from pieces of otherwise uninteresting stuff and junk.

The sun is risen, it is quiet, the peace is palatable, for I am warm enough to admire the snow, the light, the day.

Though promise of colder mornings drives me to work, constructing, slow in the cold with this old body and eyes.

For now there is enough, and for that I am thankful, and fearful since I see no supply for the short or long term.

My fingers are all split and painful at typing. Even this is slow.

I am blessed then with the possibility of enjoying each moment, savoring it, taking this day slowly, and noticing the little things.

God has saved me from my enemies,

Not by keeping their evil from destroying all I had, but they have not been able to destroy me.

I live well, with little, and prepare for less yet.

And warmth through the winter.

This is joy.

Leaning to the Light

For though I need more junk or stuff, to finish the project outside the window,

There is time, a little time, so little time,

That it must be savored deeply

So as not to miss the ignored

Or taken for granted

Blessings that are

Given to me so

That I am

Able to

Share

Now.

Thank you,

For your contributions to my days and daze

Love you,

The son of a sinner

Actually two.