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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
One language, one gathering, making a name making a name for themselves:
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.
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!
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.
blood, fire, smoky mist, moon to blood, Lord’s Day before the Lord’s glorious day!
Call upon him and all will be saved!
John 14:8-17 [25-27]
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.
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
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, 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
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
There are some bugs to work out, of course, these are just rough thoughts scratched together.
wood stove, set up to provide heat in the severe -40°C winter worked
provided hot water for coffee in
and tea throughout
without it’s challenges as the stove pipe got so hot that it melted
the plastic tarps of
the shelter around the stove.
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.
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.
rebuilt the damaged tarp sections, put in a heat shield and a remote
thermometer. Now gets as hot as 70°C without problems.
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.
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.
real purpose of Jesus’ life was his death. That’s this week’s
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.
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!
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.
is no greater measure of suffering.
came to live and die exactly like this. Why?
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.
lived it to show us God’s intent for us.
Jesus dies, he forgives those that mock, torture and kill him.
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.
know God knows our suffering.
our suffering we experience what others suffer. We know what we most
need when we suffer is forgiveness, love and not to be abandoned.
learn this so that we can give God’s gifts of forgiveness, love and
being present to others as they suffer.
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.
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
week, we remember, we listen as we can, we learn anew as we are able.
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
always loves, forgives and is present with us …
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
Street Could Talk
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
“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.
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.
waltzes away our disgrace, our sins, our slavery … and God sets 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.
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 …
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Atwood’s quote, ” Men are afraid women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid men will kill them.” is too simplified to
honestly live on it’s own, unless it is just meant to honour women,
and disparage men.
the real deep problem of illuminating only part of reality, but that
is what we are at most capable of.
misadrism it’s not really helpful, it kills the human spirit.
honest is to say:
are afraid men will kill them, men they know, but especially men they
do not know. Their fear is real, and tragically accurate of a few
afraid women will drive them to kill themselves, especially women
they know, but generally all women. Their fear is real, and
tragically accurate of more than a few women.
fear is of real, literal death; but also of smaller deaths, even
figurative deaths, deaths that rob a man (or a woman) of life at the
killer is the fear. Living in fear limits the horizon to only well
guarded, defensive stances.
Atwood also wrote: “I hope that people will finally come to realize
that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all
members of it.”
Life for each and every one of us is intended to be lived looking to God’s horizon that is so far out-reaches any of ours that we can only be astounded as we glimpse the vistas available to us, each and all.
is measured in how we help each other see those vistas and the
creator of them.
forecast this morning. Instead we received snow, fluffy big heavy
flakes that made noise landing on the tarps shelter.
is the time of re-newed life. But first, as the snows of the winter
melt, we must face the dreck of the life through the winter, records
of the mess we’ve lived and made.
instead of rain that makes mud, to get snow that gives a fresh cover
again over the remains of past efforts to live, including many
vista reaches deep inside as the horizon is clouded away and the
light is dimmed.
Sounds like a winter baptism of the world and for the creatures.
Fear, of how the past will catch us, is no way to live. There are renewals that do not hide or cover up that past.
They are called forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope …
hope that allows one to laugh with instead of at another person.
This Ash Wednesday the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah 58 read in part :
not this the fast that I choose:
the bonds of injustice,
undo the thongs
of the yoke,
let the oppressed
to break every yoke? 7Is
it not to share
your bread with the hungry,
the homeless poor into your house;
you see the naked,
to cover them,
to hide yourself from your own kin? 8Then
shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing
spring up quickly;
vindicator shall go before you,
of the Lord shall
be your rear guard.”
this I choose for all of my Lent this theme:
is the acceptable fast?
When fish became a common fast, Fridays one gave up other meats to eat only fish. It was indeed a matter of justice. It was designed to help struggling fishers by creating a larger market for their product.
it became a mark of piety, a proud mark of piety, that one could eat
good works become meaninglessly banal and then a perversion of the
is about remembering, and always being creative with purpose driving
So what is it this Lent that we give up, not for the giving up, but that others will have the basics of life!?;
so that the bonds of injustice will be loosened, the yokes will be untied, the oppressed will see freedom, every yoke of slavery and oppression will be broken, no one will hunger, go unclothed, or remain homeless.
Note that this is more than everyone will have shelter sufficient, which is more basic. This is that everyone will have a home. A home means among other things that one has a place marked for one as a unique individual, one has a place one belongs, is cared for, cares for others, and most of all where one can go in the best of times and the worst of times and the doors are open to one.
The light of beauty.
I am homeless, so
I am sensitive to this issue.
By the grace of God and generosity of many different people, I have a home: a borrowed old 18’ camper, attached to a 9.5’x8’ tarp shelter on a trailer in which there is a rebuilt wood stove that provides heat sufficient even at -40°C. It just takes an awful lot of wood.
challenge is I have no where to set up the camper and trailer, so I
am a guest of the Queen on Crown Land, always temporarily.
there are locations where this all works:
Oh and there are many other challenges including connecting the camper and the trailer-shelter, and setting up the arrangement for 14 days at a time. Then I have to tear it all down, pack it up, and move it off Crown land. That’s a lot of work and a lot of money in gasoline to move the trailer and the camper.
It takes at least two days to set up, and a day and a half to tear down, more when it’s colder than -15°C. In the deeper cold it is only possible if I get the wood heat going, and stoke the fire full blast, with doors still open and heat the inside up to 50°C so I have a place to warm up between stints of working outside, and a toasty place to warm up boots and gloves that I switch back and forth.
But it is my home such as it is, and for that I am thankful.
Financially I am hanging on by a thin thread. Though so far though I have not gone hungry, not that my diet has been the best all the time, and my health demands a pretty careful diet.
My situation is a result of others bearing false witness against me, which is injustice, raw and simple and very destructive … and obvious.
I am not yoked, or enslaved, or oppressed as most would understand
those terms. I am not unclothed. (That would bring one to a very
quick end in the Canadian winter.)
And I am alive. Though challenged sometimes close to my capacity to meet the challenge, I live well.
is a statement of resilience and faith, of seeing God at work when
others seem oblivious.
At sunrise, as the wood smoke wafts up through the woods, especially as I start a new load in the furnace before the smoke gets hot enough to burn real cleanly, this reality bears witness to God’s presence, to Christ’s light, to the promise that God is here with me. In the wilderness and cold, in the solitude and quiet God is here as the wood furnace works to help me survive. Wonderfully the stove gives off what is needed for me to see the presence and power of the sunrise light even before it hits the solar panels sufficient to provide electricity to recharge the batteries.
The Light Undoubtedly Breaking In With Blessings
blesses us that we may be blessings to others.
This Lent may our fasts be undertaken, not for us, but to bring to all justice, freedom, clean water and air, food and clothing, homes and meaningful labour, love and, most of all, hope.
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?
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?
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.
Deuteronomy’s reading for today the
promised land is possessed and settled. The
survival and security, the land
is yearly crops for food, for trade to provide for other needs, the
status and a place to call home … sort of.
the land is provided by God. It is not earned or deserved. God
one sided promises it. God continues to give it each day.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Devil tempts us with everything as though life were an if/then
reality: if you serve the devil then you will succeed in life.
assures us that life is not that way, not blessed life lived
abundantly. Life lived abundantly is always an because/therefore
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.
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.
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.
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.
is in control. God continues to give land
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
There are so many
things in life that remain a mystery.
As the sun rose
after a bright moonlit night I kept working inside and missed the
marvel of the sunrise through the trees.
provides little light above the trees, so even when I was able to
emerge, this caught my eye. I moved easily to get my camera for this
was far to complex a shot than possible with a simple cell camera
which I also did not have on me.
Then as I mounted
the steps to go inside I noticed the light change and with a panic
that only a photographer can know too well, I ran to catch the light
at play before it moved to something, somewhere else.
Back outside the
light returned to play, and these two of the few I took surprised me
I went back to work
after adding them to my desktop slideshow.
This evening they
showed up for the first time, which brought me to decide to postpone
sleep until they are up for others to enjoy.
The challenge is to
find the right composition and play to show what caught my eye.
Here the lines are
strong, though the mystery is less if at all.
Here the mystery
lays fully in the frame.
There was no fog, as
one can tell with a trained eye. This is smoke from the campfire
burning up some junk wood and chainsaw chips, with the temperature
just right that the smoke traversed quite a ways through the trees on
its way to ‘freedom’ in the atmosphere.
Small mysteries include how people can possibly not understand what Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu demonstrated so diligently:
It is very difficult requiring great patience and diligence to throw off oppressive, racists, unjust rulers.
But if one simply replaces them with one’s own version of oppression, racism, and injustice then one actually only takes a step deeper into greater difficulties for which one is then responsible: Getting rid of one’s oppressors becomes a step deeper into oppression, from which one has less likelihood of getting free of, for one has deepened the cycle of revenge … and that can take more than generations to be free of.
Mandela and Tutu demonstrated that FRFEDOM from one’s oppressors only is possible if one finds a way free from being the oppressors first, last and all the way in between, which is so much more difficult than throwing off one’s oppressors!
Another small mystery is how it is that so many people think that their lies which ruin other people, are not seen as lies, and that there are terrible consequences, natural consequences and God wrought consequences for such injustice. Even people entrusted with great authority, or perhaps most of all, people entrusted with great authority seem to be oblivious to their own lie’s baldfaceness, and the unjust consequences to other people far beyond the persons they lie about, and the ruinous consequences to themselves. Lies rot a person from the inside until there is nothing left inside, until one is physically alive, but there is no soul left.
While God punishes people for their sins, or forgives them, But unless one repents (changes 180° the sin) the sinner suffers the sin more than anyone else.
Another small mystery of life is how people can think that doing nothing about lies and injustice are even options for life.
Bringing light to bear upon lies and injustice may seem to be costly, even one’s job, or peace, or reputation … but to do nothing in the face of lies leaves one rotting inside as badly as the liars and perpetrators of injustice.
One can look a far, or not so far, just south of the border, to see how destructive lies and ignoring them, can be. But one ought also to pay attention to what is happening in one’s own town: in the politics, the power plays, the wealth thrown around and cow towed to, the public officials, elected and appointed who are entrusted with maintaining good order and justice. Of course one also needs to start in one’s own family, and with one’s self.
The mystery of life for me has been how so many people whom I’ve met are so unaware of the themselves, as they hammer others down and about to make their way forward and upward through life. It’s as if kindness we completely unknown, honesty never heard of, and fairness and justice concepts that mean whatever gets me ahead at whatever cost.
The profound mystery is how light plays on all these self-deceptions, colouring the world ugly.
Except by Grace the colouring can be also a thing of beauty as one forgives and loves despite the cruelty focused at oneself and at others.
Forgiveness is not always possible: sometimes one needs to leave the judgement to God, and move on, not forgiving and fully remembering the sins, but not condemning. The sinners suffer their sins. God eventually judges them, no spin, no evidence hidden, no witnesses excluded — God knows all with or without evidence and witnesses. And since God exists beyond time the consequences of that judgement begins at one’s birth; thus sinners suffer their sins more than are punished for them.
As an ordained person, responsible and with authority to bring forgiveness to sinners, and also entrusted with the terrible authority to bind sins for God to judge, I have seldom done other than pronounce forgiveness, until the last few years. Now the injustice that I have been the brunt of, which is not limited to just me, but most men abused by women, falsely convicted in our courts … which forces me to estimate that more than 75% of men convicted of a crime against their spouse or partner are truly innocent; so pervasive is this turn. We used to hear that men without a thread of truth could bring their non-compliant wives to jail to be ruined or to mental institutions to be drugged out of their minds for decades. Now the system has changed: and it allows women, without truth, to bring their husbands and partners to jail and mental institutions.
These sins, that make this possible, that invite women to do this, as if this deals with the real abuse of women by men, and clearly ignores the real abuse of men by these women … these sins cannot be forgiven. They are bound for God to judge.
The rest of us need to work to bring light to these injustices, or we rot just like the perpetrators.
The small mystery, or not so small mystery, is why this takes so long for us to bring the light to bear upon such blatant sin?
Those are small to immense mysteries. They are dwarfed by the real mystery.
The real mystery is
This coming Sunday
we read: love your enemies.
How is that even
The answer is simple
and elusively complex.
Just do it!
But the prerequisite
is that one knows two things at least:
That one does not
deserve to be loved by God, not at all.
And that God still
does love you, fully and without reserve or hesitation.
And the third thing
to know is that God calls us to love our enemies as God has loved us.
They may not deserve
it, but we are to love them anyway.
It’s a matter of faith.
Simply possible for
the Holy Spirit through us, since God makes us saints.