Grace

Remember Our True Faith of Grace

The passages for this Sunday’s lessons are profoundly problematic.

Malachi 4:1-2a

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.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

2 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.

Luke 21:5-19

The 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.”

Blown in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?

Blown in the dark cold wind of self-righteousness, what are we to do?

Unfortunately we do not use Psalm 98 this week.

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done | marvelous things,
  whose right hand and holy arm have | won the victory.
2O Lord, you have made | known your victory,
  you have revealed your righteousness in the sight | of the nations.
9The Lord will judge the | world with righteousness
  and the peo- | ples with equity.

Or perhaps it is a good opportunity that we do not use the Psalm.

While 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 works.

We 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 consequences unknowable.

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?

Our choices are four:

  1. We could preach the problematic parts as if they were the Gospel of Christ ignoring that they are destructive to faith and community.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
Gone are the days of colour and calm.

Gone are the days of colour and calm.

The Cold Hard Facts of the Gospel have arrived with the cold and snow in late fall.

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.

What is clear from the lessons for this Sunday is that true discipleship is costly.

As 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.

True discipleship costs us 100%, and our avoiding a call for 10% gives witness how weak our faith is practised in our lives.

Yet 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.

That Ti –

That Ti-

Me

Of

Year

Aga-

in

nice ice at sun setting

nice ice at sun setting

Cool but warm inside.

Wonders and Miracles

flow freely to those with eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to believe,

and who pursue truth

in all things.

….

explanation for those who do not know enough to notice: the lake froze over last night thus the golden sheen on the lake ice all across.

Of course only being here will inform one that yesterday there was most of the lake still waving water,

saying goodbye

with great hopes of coming again

when the sun sticks around longer each day.

Choose grace, live hope, love even one’s enemies…

for God is a God of the living!

73804 Mitkommen!

73804 mitkommen!

As the cool days of fall darken earlier and earlier, and the dark of night stays with us longer and longer …

Dark comes early, closer to South

Dark comes early, closer to South

Leaves fall all

Leaves fall all

The wood pile is just high enough,

The food sufficient for the coming days,

The water enough and replenish-able,

And the air is fresh,

My clothing rather well prepared for the coming months,

The shelter from the weather to come is mostly prepared,

My labour is directed, consumedly so, towards writing what must be written.

My love grows and wanes, I am loved well and always.

And God holds me safe.

What more can one ask for from life, from God, from all that might be?

All that might be.

All that might be.

How many humans have had so much less, so much less, so much less.

So much less.

So much less.

The beauty of the world is at my fingertips, literally, as a cell phone camera captures what can be seen and hoped for?

Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters

Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters

Wahrheit

Was sonst?

God’s blessings

For what more would anyone wish from life?

More than the time each morning to celebrate that Christ is with us, in body and blood?

More than the ability to see beauty and share it with others?

Sharing beauty

Sharing beauty

More than the ability to know truth, without doubt, or hesitation?

More than to live well?

Live Well

Live Well

Legend:

73804 mitkommen! – from the movie Remembrance, Tomasc calls out to Hannah to come with him, he dressed as a German soldier initiating their escape, as he carries a canister of photos of the Nazi concentration camp.

Wahrheit, was sonst? – Truth, what else?

Und weshalb nicht?

Und weshalb nicht?

West with Accents

West with Accents

Truth, How About You?

The Cost

“Everything has a cost, even the truth.

The Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a tent, my clothes and a bicycle.

The Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a tent, my clothes and a bicycle.

The Reward

But the reward for truth is a clear eye and a clear conscience.”

Clear eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.

Clear eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.

The True Work of Justice

“It is as important to exonerate an innocent person as to convict a guilty person.”

Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity

Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity

I have a clear eye and clear conscience.

So many who’ve had the chance have not paid any price for truth. It is a party where they imbibe the intoxicating evil of false power based on the Devil’s seductions, drunk so deeply in order to ignore the truth.

I do not see good people working for justice to exonerate the innocent, myself included. Like hundreds of thousands others, I see good people become evil, working to convict the innocent like me, a kind, generous, man of great integrity, an excellent stay at home father.

The long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the wonderful light.

The long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the wonderful light.

It’s colour that plays with the light.

It’s colour that plays with the light.

Rest in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted without just cause.

Rest in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted without just cause.

But woe to those who unjustly persecute the innocent. For God judges without rules of evidence or games of cover-ups possible. God judges the reality of one’s life and actions. There is no hiding possible for evil. There is no negotiating for something other than actual reality, for that is what God sees and judges. Entrance to blessing never comes with Spin or Cover-up, or declaring something to be other than it is.

In this life, our challenge is to not become like the persecutors, not to become vengeful and vindictive … but to remain, trusting God’s promises and quiet blessings each day, … to remain fully alive with grace.

As for me and my non-existent household, unjustly taken from me thrice, I and the Holy Spirit, we choose to live only by Grace.

How about you?

Today?

Will this be the day of our double victory?

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.

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!

Pentecost: Thoughts Toward a Sermon or more

Genesis 11:1-9


Thoughts


One language,


One language, one gathering,
making a name
making a name for themselves:


God helps


God helps them avoid disaster: nothing will stop them! Not even them destroying the planet or at least life on it.
God saves us by ending it, prayer answered: NO!
God comes to see the city, the tower, and God is alarmed? Displeased? Not said: just God ends it: confuses languages and scatters them.


Divisions vs community


Divisions over conflict is EASY, building community despite differences is the challenge, the miracle that shows God is at work with us!


Confuses Gramma [r]s


God confuses their language, into different words, sounds, gramma(r)s, they leave off the tower building.

God Blesses us, even in our conflicts, with the healing power of the earth


Acts 2:1-21


Thoughts


Language


HS with ability to hear and understand, unites people from every language into the church,
All hear in their own language: not glossolalia! But clear speech beyond language barriers!


Fire:


All that it is: God’s presence, God’s guide in wilderness, mark of humans, gathered at campfire safe from animals who fear fire, fire that purifies by consuming dross, as judgment purifies us of sin, by consuming it with fire.
Fires burn, destroys: revenge of the earth to climate change by burning fossil fuels beyond our share. We’ve built more than than the tower of babel. We’ve setup the earth to turn on all the life on it, us included.
Fires: prevented fought down, now the fuel available is generation’s worth, burns all at once and the sun is blotted out.
Solar power: winter 1.2 to 3 maybe 4 amps. Now in mid day 15 easy.
But with fire’s smoke, down to 3 or 1 or less.
Solar power, the basis of photosynthesis; the growth of plants, upon which the chain of food is built, from smallest life forms, to plants, to small bugs, to small animals to larger animals to largest to the most dangerous: humans.


Prophesy of Joel:


All will prophesy, sons and daughters, slaves men and women; old men will dream dreams (usually stop because there is no hope that the dreams can be fulfilled or seen through, a surrender of the world to the younger generation) but here: old men dream and set to being the fulfillment of dreams, God’s dreams.


Portents:


blood, fire, smoky mist, moon to blood,
Lord’s Day
before the Lord’s glorious day!


Be saved


Call upon him and all will be saved!

John 14:8-17 [25-27]


Thoughts


Satisfied


We will never be satisfied, but we continually hope.
Even when what we ask for is right in front of us, we ask for more.


Miracles


DO help us believe that Jesus is God is the Holy Spirit is Jesus … is working in our midst
Ask, I will give. But so much asked for and not ever yet given.
Be careful what you ask for, sometimes Jesus gives us what we ask for: we ask for foolish things, impossible things, things that will hurt others, and Jesus answers NO. Other times Jesus gives us what we ask for and we do not recognize it.


Love and Obey


Love is to obey Jesus’ commands: to love your neighbour as yourself and your enemy!


Lawyer in court – Advocate – Of New


God gives advocate (lawyer in God’s Court for us), who will be with us forever, though Jesus goes away.
We see HS, the advocate, the Spirit of Truth! Able because God is in us, HS in us
World cannot receive him, does not see him,
New, always present
Jesus tells us, so we will know, but the Advocate will be with us, reveal new things, make us see new things, remind us of Jesus!


No worries Mate


Do not be troubled, do not be afraid (Fear is the greatest enemy), anxiety gets people to behave in bad ways.


1. Thoughts Towards an Outline


Fire:


the season, the ban, the power, the saving power – distinctively human
the destroying power, wildfires, smoke, solar blocked, photosynthesis, stopped, dross, judgment where sins are burned away like dross, leaving us pure, ready for the New Jerusalem.
Spirit
Ruah, breath, spirit into inert forms →life, inspiration, spirit means vivified, and for God’s good purposes.


Language


Language, the basis of communication, but more, the basis of thought! New language, new thoughts, new history new manners:
2nd language: a world opens up when one lives in it.
Computer languages: a whole new world opens up, but it is not filled with people, but imaginations made statically moving, reading conjures up the creative imaginative mind. TV rests the mind and slowly atrophies thoughts and creativity; computer interactions with games, deepens the narrowing of the thought, away from others, to chips. Everyone knows chips are not healthy, not potato chips, not chocolate chips, though tastey; neither computer chips alone.
But as a tool, as an avenue to other people, to expand imagination in writing and conceiving uses, ways to be used, ways to be helpful to others: first text to talk: allow blind woman to continue significant work in the community (PR),


Reaching to the Heavens

All that we dream of is seen in our dream of reaching the stars


Reaching to the Heavens, the dream of humans since we peered at the stars outside the safety of the cave.
Space travel.


Conflict and Differences


Conflict and Differences : Blessed by God, caused by God to save us from our own selves.
Limits on name for ourselves: God’s blessing


Working out the bugs

Misquotes in even the smoky photos: upper left, that’s no helicopter.

There are some bugs to work out, of course, these are just rough thoughts scratched together.

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.

Lots of Heat, More Forgiveness

Spring Struggles to Break in as Large Flakes Cover the Once Bare Ground Again

My wood stove, set up to provide heat in the severe -40°C winter worked wonders. It even provided hot water for coffee in the morning and tea throughout the day. It was not without it’s challenges as the stove pipe got so hot that it melted the plastic tarps of the shelter around the stove.

Holy Week is our opportunity to remember and learn ever more from Jesus story. Jesus’ story is a life full of communication from God to us, in a way we can understand.

God tried to communicate to us with Word, creating a good creation. We messed it up, with trying to be smarter than we are and blaming others for the results. Kicked out of paradise we even became murderers, for a ‘good’ start.

God tried to communicate to us with the Law, we turned it into control of others.

God tried to communicate to us with the prophets, and we thought they were crazy, because they really were, trying to embody God’s Word does that to humans.

I rebuilt the damaged tarp sections, put in a heat shield and a remote thermometer. Now gets as hot as 70°C without problems.

God sent his Son, a full life story lived that we can learn. Jesus came to live, teach, heal, and do remarkable things like calming the chaos of the waters.

God exists beyond time, matter, limits. Now Jesus has all the limits of a human. Paul says it well: Jesus emptied himself of being other than human, and became limited as a human.

Why?

The real purpose of Jesus’ life was his death. That’s this week’s story.

No one really listened at first, and those that did usually got it all wrong. Listen to the parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem. They think that Jesus is God’s way of giving them control again of Jerusalem, maybe. That’s their hope.

Then things change.

The harsh winter slowly gives way to cool spring temperatures, and the 2000° C inside the furnace became way too hot in the shelter. Always the thermometer showed a max of 70°. It dawned finally on me that the thermometer could read no hotter than 70°C but the actual temperature could be much more!

Things change.

After the triumphant entry parade into Jerusalem, things go downhill fast and hard. Jesus is betrayed, deserted, tried, denied, whipped, condemned, mocked, tortured, abandoned, and murdered on a cross.

There is no greater measure of suffering.

God came to live and die exactly like this. Why?

God came to make clear: God understands our suffering, even if our measure seems to have an upper limit, God has no limits, God understands us, our pain, our sin, our suffering, our death.

God lived it to show us God’s intent for us.

As Jesus dies, he forgives those that mock, torture and kill him.

This is what God wants us to be to each other. Not sinners, destroyers, scape-goaters, or mockers, torturers, murderers, or chaos makers, not even people who cannot listen to others pain and suffering and not know what to do.

We know God knows our suffering.

In our suffering we experience what others suffer. We know what we most need when we suffer is forgiveness, love and not to be abandoned.

We learn this so that we can give God’s gifts of forgiveness, love and being present to others as they suffer.

God came as Jesus to show us God’s goodness and love for us has no limits. God’s forgiveness has no limits. We may not easily hear, listen or understand, but we have Jesus story handed from generation to generation. We can always learn more if we pay attention.

Jesus’ story is God’s new limitless thermometer by which we can measure what really goes on in this world. There’s lots of heat. There’s even more love, forgiveness, and compassion than we are ever capable of measuring.

This week, we remember, we listen as we can, we learn anew as we are able.

From Jesus story we know and trust, no matter what we do, what we succeed at or fail at, God understands our yearning, our chaos, our sufferings …

and God always loves, forgives and is present with us …

calling us to be exactly that for other people,

with Jesus as our model,

a model that has no limits.

Amen

Joshua, Paul, and the two Sons: Celebrate by Being …

As way of introductory words to explain Beale Street and ‘Justice’:

“Beale Street is a street in New Orleans, where my father, where Louis Armstrong and the jazz were born,” the quote reads in the opening shot of the movie. “Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the back neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy. This novel deals with the impossibility and the possibility, the absolute necessity, to give expression to this legacy.

“Beale Street is a loud street. It is left to the reader to discern a meaning in the beating of the drums.” James Baldwin

The actual street named Beale Street is located in Memphis. But there is a Beale Street in every city, in every town, in every rural place where people live. While the book/movies is about the racial realities of black discrimination, the injustice of false convictions run rampant in many places against many minorities. In Canada jails are filed with aboriginal peoples. In Alberta and elsewhere the discrimination has turned from <against women falsely accused by their men and then easily convicted> to <men falsely accused by their women and easily convicted without any real proof>. As were men in decades past, these women are encouraged and free to lie even under oath in court, with the courts also freely lying even in decisions to absolve women of their lies and to falsely convict men of things they have never done, and of things that often their women have done to the men. Our courts are no more just than any, ever. Capital punishment is not a sentence given by the judges; it is a sentence worked out by inmates and guards, and by countless people in the communities -not least the RCMP and Police and workers in the ‘Justice’ system, who may or may not believe the lies and false convictions, and who then, regardless, rob reputation, labour opportunities, and health from these innocent not-criminals.

Since the beginning of time people have lied to get ahead, to destroy others who are in their way, or just for the sport of it.

But the truth is known by God, and all will stand before God’s throne to be judged. While Grace is our hope, our proclamation, and God’s promise; there is also the promise that the oppressor, the unrighteous, the destroyers of others will face their end in God’s Judgment. There will be no witnesses needed, no testimony – false or not. God already knows everything.

We trust that what God judges will be gracious. We trust that those who stand against the truth somehow will be brought to stop.

But God is the judge, not us. not any of us

So we leave Justice in God’s hands, because humans botch it so consistently …

and we proclaim grace

and real hope.

Now for the sermon proper:

Lenten Theme
Isaiah 58
The acceptable fast brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those without
Lessons for this Sunday:
Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

If Beale Street Could Talk

One wonders how the world would be if indeed the streets could speak of the injustices that God’s people have suffered at the hands of God’s people. If indeed the disgrace of God’s people would be removed. If indeed the effects of all the sins of the people would be erased.

“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a movie (adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same title) about a young black man ruined by the in-justice system. A young white man has made unrelenting advances on his fiancée in a store. He stands up for her, drives the white thug off, but not before a dirty cop tries unsuccessfully to arrest the young black man. The dirty copy gets revenge. It is about the dirty justice system whose people make this wonderful, creative, loving young man into an incarcerated black. Everything about this young human being is reduced to one of many young black men jailed and beaten, though innocent.


It’s dark out There

Everything old has passed away. Everything is made new.

This young man, a sculptor, a young father, makes things new out of chunks of wood. Until a dirty cop and a dirty justice system rob him of his everything, until they rob his family, his wife to be and their child, of everything. The dirty ones rob him by accusing him of a terrible, filthy, horrible rape. They disgrace him. They let him be beaten in jail. They terrorize him with delays upon delays and threats upon threats until he breaks and accepts a plea, a guilty plea of an innocent man, and he serves someone else’s time.

It’s quite the image that Joshua gives as the people gather to celebrate the Passover in the Promised Land: in the English we have God “rolls away” their disgrace. The German gives a hint that the Hebrew is more colourful: ‘Heute habe ich die Schande Ägyptens von euch abgewälzt.’. God ‘waltzes away’ the disgrace of the people. Generations ago they were saved but then enslaved, freed but then trapped in the wilderness … until today with Joshua, they stand in the land promised to Abraham, and they eat from the fruit of the land. No more wandering, no more manna. They have come home, and God welcomes them waltzing away in celebration their layers of slavery and disgrace.

God waltzes away our disgrace, our sins, our slavery … and God sets us free.

It may be dark, but the Light comes to find us!

For God made Jesus, who did not sin, to bear all the sins of all the people through time, precisely in order that you and I, in order that all of us, would not only be free. God set us free precisely in order that you and I and all of us would be made into the righteousness of God visible, embodied here and now on this earth.

We stand, cut off, but we stand. We stand surrounded by the hard cold,
but we stand, for God is with us!

Our freedom, our righteousness, in NO WAY is earned by our actions.

Either we are like the younger son, as we claim all sorts of rights and privileges, and all that is due us … and then we squander the precious things God has given us on the oldest vices available to humans who can choose. We can choose because God made us able to love. To love is to be able to choose to love, which means we must be able to choose not to love, which is to choose evil. So we either choose to squander God’s precious gifts to us …

OR

We are like the older son as we serve God with great labours and self-righteousness. We do not squander God’s love, but we comprehend it completely not.

When God wants to celebrate God’s forgiveness, and a lost sinner’s return to life, we get self-righteously angry. We behave as if we somehow owned God’s will. As if we, with our obedience and labours, have earned all that we have, but even more so we own the right to judge other sinners. We’ve allowed ourselves to become so blind to the grace that daily gives us renewed breath. We want to be better than we are, and comparing ourselves to other’s whose sins are more known we think we are somehow good enough. Thus …

We refuse to celebrate with God. We refuse to celebrate with God exactly what we are created to be and do: we are created to proclaim and celebrate that God is gracious, forgiving sins, dancing away disgrace, and feeding us from the produce of the Promised Land.

This is the same old, same old that has hung around the necks and souls of humans since the beginning of time.

Even though, all the time, each and every one of us is like either the younger or the elder son, and sometimes we are like both at the same time … Even so God promises us it is different in the Kingdom of God. It is different now, here and now, in the Kingdom of God. For the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Here in the Kingdom of God, all confess that only by Grace do we breathe, or drink, or eat, or work, or celebrate, or love, or hope.

By Grace all our sins, yours and mine and all of ours, are taken up in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are made into God’s righteousness.

We are not pretenders. God makes us not just good, not just sometimes good, not better than others. God makes us into God’s own righteousness.

In that righteousness everything old has indeed passed away. In that righteousness everything is made new. You and I, and each one of us, are made into new creatures. All of creation is made new.

As God’s righteousness you and I and each one of us, really have nothing worth doing other than what Jesus calls us to do, what the Holy Spirit makes us capable of doing. We think, pray, speak and act so that those around us know that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and they are welcomed in just as we are; not because we’ve earned it, not at all. They and we are welcomed in because God wants it that way.

Though we remain sinners all the time, unable to free ourselves, God forgives us each day all our new sins, so that we can forgive ourselves, and so that then we can turn to everyone else and forgive them!

God has made us into Christ’s voice, hands and compassion, so that we will reconcile not only ourselves, but all others, and even the creation so broken … so that we will reconcile all people back to God, so that we will reconcile all creation back to God.

You and I, and each one of us, are God’s ambassadors.

We stand in the promised land, in the Kingdom of God, and we eat of the fruit of this land, the produce of this Kingdom.

The light of God is bright and the hyenas of home are sent scurrying for cover into their own darkness.

We stand, knowing that God is with us and was with us all the way or we would never reach the promised land. We stand and celebrate the return of each lost sinner. For we know that is us, each day. We trust that God will always be with us, as we arrive in the Promised Land anew each day. As we leave our pack of hyenas in the dark and come into the Light of life.

We trust that this Lent our being Christ’s ambassadors, no matter what it costs us, is our Lenten fast, the fast that God finds acceptable, the fast that brings justice, freedom, food and homes to those who most need them. Most of all our fast brings forgiveness and reconciliation to those who need it most: you and me, and each one of us.

If every Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear not only the Black man’s story, or the indigenous man’s story, or the refugee’s story. If everyone’s Beale Street Could Talk, we would hear Jesus’ story and ourselves in it.

This is my Beale Street, the entrance and exit, to my home; Here the Light Shines, especially in the darkness!

….


Here,

in this new creation,

the Light Shines!

One day, the Light of Christ will shine Light on every Beale Street story, and the disgrace will be where it belongs.

And God’s Grace and Justice will prevail …

Amen.

(Which means: this is most certainly true!)