Lent: A Fast for Justice – Seeing God

2019 Mar 15

See Reality, See Our Creator

The light of life, the light of Christ.

This Ash Wednesday the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah 58 read in part :

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.”

From this I choose for all of my Lent this theme:

What 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.

Then it became a mark of piety, a proud mark of piety, that one could eat fish.

Always good works become meaninglessly banal and then a perversion of the original goodness.

Life is about remembering, and always being creative with purpose driving creativity.

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 from on High, the Light from Below: The Light of all Creation.

The light of beauty.

Technically, 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.

The 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.

Fortunately 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.

But 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.

That 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

God 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.

Remember God’s promises.

Remember the victims in Christchurch.

Remember without fear.

Live well, that terror have no place among us.

Mysteries —

all kinds of
wonderful unknowables

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.

Winter though 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 nicely.

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 faith:

This coming Sunday we read: love your enemies.

How is that even possible?

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.

Simple.

Simply impossible.

Simply possible for the Holy Spirit through us, since God makes us saints.

What Does -36°C Look Like

Simple question, simple answer.

It looks like an old photographer with camera in hand, bathrobe bare legs exposed, stepping outside to catch the morning photo(s) for the day.

(I will spare you that selfie … and pretty much all selfies. I’ve never thought much of selfies, being even a reluctant model for myself when I was working with lighting and had no other model to practice on.)

This morning having emerged from the 45°C plus shelter for the wood stove I stepped brashly without a jacket or anything more than my bathrobe to dump the ashes from the fire.

Now that tray, usually a bit toasty, was HOT, so much so that even though I ran (I usually do not) this time it seared through my gloves before I reached the fire pit. It has to be dumped not anywhere since the hot coals that hide in the ash are very alive, passionate red, like some people I’ve known well. As I started to flip the ash tray over the heat hit a nerve and the leprechauns grabbed it out of my hands and threw everything into the snow: hot metal hitting cold snow with sizzles and pops – the tray warped!

Cold has it’s impact.

I grabbed the tray, flipped it to empty it fully, and dashed lively back into the 45°C heat. I did manage to notice the light of the sunrise poking a few holes in the coldscape.

Since I survived that I grabbed my camera, and stepped outside, again.

About the time I caught the first photo I started to feel the deep hard bite of below frostbite warning levels. By the time I made the third photo the bite had eased. Comfortable, and alarmed at how quickly it felt OK, I stretched through the five steps to through the door and thawed my nerves back to yelling painfully alive next to that HOT fire.

Words convey the cold.

But how to say it with a photo?

The best addled thought I had, given the bite I knew was coming, was to contrast the cold with the smoke of the hot fire.

So this shot: Not much there? Looks the same as -3.6°C or even +3.6C.

Yes, that red used to be a deck table leg and support: garbaged, recycled with the cutting wheel of a grinder, and re-purposed to support, minus two legs and the table support arms, a chimney.

Inside my brain started to work again, once thawed. Since the window had cleared of the thick frost present at my wake-up an hour earlier (a nice side benefit of wood heat that it is DRY) I decided the blatant visual was going to have to be the best effort for this early hour. The long end of the needle points halfway between 30 and 40 on the left side, the negative side of zero.

A Little Light, a Little ‘Warmer’ -35°C

The rest of the world that is to be seen from ‘my’ window is as beautiful as always on a clear snow covered winter day. Fresh snow. Solitude.

Things are looking up; it’s warmed up a degree, to -35°C

How Cold?

How Cold Can It Get?

Sometimes words make a difference.

What words do you have, that you can use to inspire life abundant

in a camper warm in the cold, soaked in solitude, and connected to the beauty of life by a thin thread of grace and a camera, a chainsaw and a pile of wood, an old furnace, old metal doors, old tarps added to 1x4s and pallets, garbage wood and metal, propane and gasoline …

and hope?

Is your heart warm, your music lively and loud, your thoughts connected to the universe made by God’s grace?

At -25°C that would be helpful, if a bit elfish.

It warmed up suddenly, mostly the cool on the floor dissipated, why,

?

A wonderful feeling after being cold most of today.

Church: I arrive and within minutes need to take my boots off to rub my feet that are painfully cold still. 10 minutes and they warm up … so it goes all day.

Until now. Toasty warm.

Great music, to volume, the selection of Good Lovelies, Cohen, and Beethoven so far, more to come.

Find a corner that is kind

of friendly and cozy.

A woman at the till behind me, said I was nice, for letting her put her milk jug on the belt sooner than otherwise there would have been room.

I told her my wife doesn’t say I am nice.

She says I am kind ….

Kind of this and kind of that.

‘Cute’

Back out into the cold … it is soooo cold.

Some people heat their homes with gas,

the heat that is put into my face to burn the light out of me

is darkness in action,

the throngs that have used Gaslighting to beat me into submission, death or exile, whichever works first,

is darkness with a goal,

the lies that others live by and for and with,

is the darkness resident.

the pain that everyone suffers for their part in Gas creating,

Gaslighting me

is sadness given place where life belongs.

My little corner is cozy,

in the cold, it is always good enough, with lots of work, to be warm enough.

How cold can their hearts become, so that the weather hardly compares?

How cold can it get?

It can be as cold as it possibly can get, even with climate change,

where yesterday’s extremes are now today’s normals,

because

God’s Grace

and Love are more powerfully Light

than the darkness that people wish on me,

and the furnace

has plenty of wood,

so that

the kindness of my heart is enough,

by God’s Grace,

to hand on what was first given me

faith,

hope,

and

love.

How Cold will you let your life become, before you step into the light of Grace?

Solution or More Problem



The sun rises to colour pieces of the air.

What do we want to be?

Right and therefore probably terribly wrong and the perpetrator of worse: or humble and humorous?

Leaving the study conference, the presenter came to the door, with packed suitcase, leaving with someone else to catch a plane at the airport an hour away. It had been bitter cold, below -30°C. As we left the temperature was still a stiff -20°C with a windchill of -27°C, which does make a difference for what happened next.

I asked if she had a parka. She said it was packed in the suitcase. I continued with my real concern saying that at these temperatures one ought have it at least right handy in the vehicle so that if something happens one is prepared.

She returned a glazed look and said that she would be in the car and into the airport. She had no plans to be outside.

I shook my head in disbelief and said that was ok, but the concern was if an emergency came up, she would not be ready.

More non-commitment, and I departed.

Later I remembered this conversation and one of her comments in her presentation:

‘Mansplaining’ are those spouting off by men without qualifications or attention to the-woman-they-speak-to’s qualifications, as if all wisdom came only from men. And her learned and practiced response was to ignore the words as much as possible and move on.

Ahh, so that was what she did to my words at the door, as I bundled into my down parka on my 40 feet to the car, travelling that same hour to the airport, also never leaving the car.

Perhaps I was just a dumb Minnesotans (she’s from St. Paul MN) from the sticks (Brainerd), who was male and therefore mansplaining her. Perhaps in a different universe.

I have winter survival training, specifically for the weather we were suffering. As a commercial pilot I flew in northern (so it’s called, though it is really central) Alberta. The training was to help us as pilots know how to prepare and then ensure we and our passengers survived after a crash in the bush at extreme temperatures for at least 72 hours. During the training it went down to below -20°C each night as we made our shelters with only natural materials with the tools we normally flew with (or should have never flown without.) The last night it went well below -40°C.

In addition I have had the misfortune of being in a vehicle accident in the winter, and the difference made by having a parka on was critical for survival. Perhaps everything would have turned out ok had I had the parka near me. But then everything was tossed far and away during the pirouette and flips. So maybe not. But getting it out of a packed suitcase? Not a chance that would have gone well.

So maybe I was just mansplaining and her best response was to ignore my words with judgmental disdain and move on; which is good enough until there is an accident, and the parka could have made the difference between life and death, for her or for others in her car or others vehicles.

Maybe she is fully qualified to make the risk assessment, did so and chose comfort over the small likelihood of being in an accident on the way to the car or to the airport.

Or maybe she was not, and as a professor in St. Paul she may never have to work to survive in the outside below -20°C.

But to dismiss my good words, kind even, wise from training and experience, well that is just proof that mansplaining is hardly the problem. The problem is that she dismisses what men say.

NOT

The sun colouring book is actually the smoke of the fire that keeps me warm, or at least alive, when it dips below ‘Youch-It-BITES-to-be-Outside!)

I have no idea if she glazed over about my comment. Or if she actually had a parka to pull out, or was sheepishly covering for the fact she’d travelled, via California, without a parka this time, or she actually made the risk assessment fully informed and the best she wanted to.

Regardless: travelling with no parka at least on the seat beside oneself in the deep freeze of winter is not wise.

Maybe my commenting, with surprise and expecting a humorous exchange, was out of place: why care about how strangers deal with the elements. It’s just the extremes of yesteryear are now the norms, because of climate change. Besides if the stranger is a woman, then it is politically incorrect to try to assist in some normal way.

The best thing to do is let all women suffer, even if there are simple words of hard won wisdom that are worth sharing.

Besides, who cares if I was a stay at home parent, and listened to all the womansplaining that was directed at me at parent-teacher meetings, or other gatherings of parents. Now of course fathers as at home dads is more common. Back then I was singular in most every woman’s experience, and obviously I was stupid at it … because helping raise 7 younger siblings does not really give any man real child rearing experience. You have to be a girl to learn to raise children, practising on your younger siblings, right?!

And all of that is utter nonesense. How do I even know the speaker responded to me as if I were mansplaining her?

I do not.

And why does she ignore men who she thinks are mansplaining her? Because she needs to survive.

But ignoring men, is exactly what women are complaining about: they are ignored.

So the real fix is to blame men and ignore them, to shut them down and silence them, right?!

Wrong.

That kind of working hard to turn the tables on people who treat me/us as if I/we do not count is much more of the same injustice and it breeds injustice, until it has built enough to cause a war, or a personal fight … and then the number of people who are silenced grows out of hand.

Empathy, kindness, reaching into the unfamiliar to understand; These are a good start toward a real solution.

Blaming, dismissing others because they are xsplaining you is not an answer, it is a dodge that perpetuates and makes worse the situation. One could have solved it, but one chose instead to become like one’s enemies and wreak havoc on them as they have you.

No solution comes from diminishing the other, nor from making them one’s enemies.

Only grace truly works.

It’s cold outside. That does not mean one’s heart needs be ice hard.

Be safe, outside, travelling, and with the hearts given into one’s care.

Sometimes the treat is to see something up close, real, beautiful … and forget the rest.

Fulfilled Today?!

27 Jan 2019 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Today’s problems – fixes

An aside: not part of the sermon:

I think that most of life is getting down to the nitty gritty, seeing where one’s predecessors have gone, and finding one’s own way.

Just because someone has made a difficult trek, does not mean it is right for you.

or that because it is difficult, that it is wrong for you.


It is whether it fulfills who you are.


Are you a snow mobile, or a human with boots?

And do you want to walk easy on the snowmobile track or is it your calling to be in the shade in a moment for just a moment, for that is where you will be you?


So


that’s a photo story, from the photo

but it’s not a sermon made from a photo.

Sermon’s are supposed to start with the Gospel,


and love.

So a return to the sermon:

What, if it were to come about today, would fix some of the worst problems you face in your life?

Are you homeless so that a home would be a fulfilled dream? Are you caught in poverty so that a secure income, and benefits for health care, medications, dental, and eye care, along with water, food, clothing, and shelter security would be a fulfilled dream? Are you in captivity to a foreign power, or incarcerated for what you’ve not done, or abused in a relationship you cannot leave, so that freedom would be a palpable change? Are you suffering ill health which you cannot afford to deal with, or for which there simply is no cure or even treatment? Are you bored with life because there is no challenge left to meet and hope that in meeting it anything will become better or have you lost your vision of what could be if … if … but you get stuck because so many dreams have been dashed and there is no light at the end of the tunnel … so that if you were given new hope and new vision to see God’s promises coming to pass your life would be restored?

What, if it were to come about today, would solve some of the worst problems that we face as a congregation? As a community or city? As a country? As the world?

Would the reversal of climate change, a new energy source that did not eat out the world around us, a new attitude of all people that we could provide clean air, water, food security, clothing and shelter, meaningful labour and most importantly, the opportunity to love and be loved … would these bring new life to us all and a bright future for which we could engage in together?

What do we hope for?

Jesus’ words

Jesus’ words voice the purpose for his life, and give the foundation of hope for the world.

More than once Jesus paraphrases Isaiah to put solid words to what Jesus’ purpose is, what he brings to the world:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

These are words that people have heard and hoped in for millennia and generations.

These are not throw away words.

Liberation Theology looks to these words calling us to recognize that God has a preferential option for the poor.

Generations since Jesus’ have looked to these words for assurance that God is with them. Today we read them and receive assurance that God is with and for us, here and now. And there is even more!

Jesus astounding claim:

Jesus reads these words in worship, not just reading them, but then sits to teach about them in his home town. He says ‘today these words are fulfilled in your hearing.’

That’s the remarkable difference that Jesus brings. It’s one thing to hope for a home. It’s another to be told there is one there for you. Or a secure income, or medical care, or food, or a new cure, or whatever it is that will set the world right again,

It is one thing to hope for these, and to be reassured that God promises these to us, ‘next year in Jerusalem’; it is a whole other thing, a fabulous and fearful thing to be told that these things are fulfilled in our hearing them.

Response?

It demands some response. How do we respond?

It’s hard to really take them seriously, as if they are there for us this day; when we look about, and we have no home, or we have no income, or we have no food, or we have no security, or our health is failing and we know the end will be death too soon, or that what our church, community, city, country, or world desperately need simply is not there.

Unfulfilled in history

Isaiah

It is even more difficult when we realize that these words of hope were written by Isaiah as the people sat in exile, hoping to return home.

Isaiah’s words are a bit different, but they reverberate with the same sense of profound need and hope:

“61.1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

Ezra

These same words were read when the exiles had returned home as in Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s time. The people still carried these hopes because returning from exile did not provide what they needed, for it was not anything like it had been, not by a far cry.

Waiting for these hopes to be fulfilled, what did the people do?

As we read in today’s OT lesson from the book of Nehemiah:

They worship. And they worship not unlike we do still today: with standing, seeing and bowing as the book is opened and read from, and sitting to hear the interpretation given to us, and weeping with both sadness and joy at what we hear and understand from God’s word, we often hear that we have great cause to celebrate, to rejoice and be thankful for all that we have, for God has not abandoned us.

So today we worship, with good order, together revering God’s words, listening to the words of music and liturgy, scripture and preaching, eating and drinking together as God’s people in this time and this place.

And still we hear these words:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

But that they are fulfilled in our hearing, how can that be when we still hope for their fulfillment just as the people of Isaiah’s, Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s time did?

MLKing

In the states they honoured Martin Luther King Jr. last weekend.

During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 King called for civil and economic rights, and an end to racism in the US:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“I have a dream that today… that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low … and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh will see it together. This is our hope.”

“Let freedom ring… When we allow freedom to ring … from every city and hamlet … we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing … “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.” copyright 1963 Martin Luther King Jr.

We have a dream. God has a dream for us, too.

And as we hear God’s dream, and hearing it make it our own, and we give our hearts, minds and strength to making it so for others, then it is fulfilled already today in our midst.

We are not alone. The possibilities are not limited to what we are familiar with or what we have done in past, or what we ourselves can envision.

We are members of one body, the body of Christ. This body has many members with different gifts, different visions, and different possibilities.

We are only limited by our own unwillingness to welcome those members with other visions than what we have.

Our future is unlimited as God’s people in this time and place as we welcome everyone.

We gather to worship, much as we have for millennia, to honour God, to praise, pray, sing and feast together. We gather to give thanks and to fulfill God’s word also in our midst:

The poor hear good news, the captives are released, the blind see, the oppressed go free, and here it is always the year of the Lord’s favour.

God’s promises are simple and life changing.

We simply pray that they may be fulfilled today in our hearing as well.

Amen

Fulfilled or Full of It

27 January 2019

Sermon Sketch

You choose which with your choices and actions

Grace or Greed?

Fulfilled Today?

-20°C Specular Sunset ; Spectacular Day

Jesus: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Quite the claim,

so familiar with it so we accept it

but the fulfillment of this good news is … well unbelievably good!

This has been sought, wished and prayed for through the generations for millennia.

Roots

in Isaiah 61,

while the people are in exile

“61The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

Jubilee Year

First the year of the Lord’s favour:

never happened, an ideal that all debts would be reset to zero, everyone gets a fresh start.

Isaiah’s Word of Promise

The first verse though was wonderfully said,

good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, liberty for the captives!

also never realized.

The second verse turns a huge dark corner: vengeance on God’s enemies hope not to be in that number!

followed by great deliverances: from mourning, sadness, praise instead of faint of spirit,

and the ruins of the homeland through generations will be repaired, restored to their glory.

All of this, the restoration of home and a return home, the turning of mourning to gladness, a fresh start for everyone, and liberty for the captives, aid for the broken-hearted, oppressed get good news.

All this because God has anointed the prophet to proclaim these.

Yet they never happened, not all of them, and only a few partially, momentarily fulfilled.

Jesus’ Time

This Jesus picks up on: proclaims these same words of great hope and deliverance,

The people of his day also hoped for deliverance, from Roman’s oppression, and from each other’s oppressive dealings.

The marked difference is Jesus says: This is fulfilled in their hearing, today!

That’s quite some statement.

No evidence that it was fulfilled then,

Today

Still not fulfilled today.

Stories of not fulfilled today.

Poor receive very little if any good news, the blind stay blind, the captives are still in jail if not killed, oppressed not only not freed, their numbers multiple every year.

So what’s up?

!

Look Around

Ezra: account of worship for returned exiles:

worship: good and healthy, or controlled

Great experiences of good healthy worship:

music that reverberates in one’s soul, renews even one’s body,

sermons that speak volumes of God’s love for all, and for me,

liturgy that regularizes the basics of God’s stance to us: Grace

and regularizes our relationship with God, fully dependent on forgiveness

and regularizes our relationships with others (because God is as God is with us): Grace, Light, Forgiveness, (greatest gift) Love!

My favourite: children times where the children have loads of fun playing in [the yuckier, messier – yet with meaning brought out of it], and it all getting more or less cleaned up without a hitch; and the adults who pay attention hear that salvation is a gift, therefore we can be gifts of grace to each other

Bad Worship Experiences

healing services that victimized anyone who claimed they needed healing,

those offering blessings and prayers who had no empathy, who in other settings played power games to ensure their positions in the church.

cursed blessing’

Haugian Pietist congregation where this one quite elderly man came in to ‘bless’ me just prior to each service. Less blessing than a manner to control who I was, what I preached and not, and how he sought to ‘take credit’ for anything good that God accomplished in worship. When I gracefully pointed out that God blessed me already, that he was disrupting my own worship preparations and last minute communications with other worship leaders, and that another time would be more appropriate, he disappeared, replaced with another who told me at every meeting that they were going to get rid of me. Their gaslighting worked its wonders and my body physically failed me at a meeting not long after that. The heartburn felt like it was going to drop me to the floor. I needed out, I got out, walked for miles, false accusations were made against me against which no one can defend themselves and the bishop came to facilitate my exit. Not quite a blessed experience, rather quite cursed.

Sermons

that never mentioned God once

or that drove home that we needed to earn our salvation

or that had the depth of mud puddles on pavement, offering only that ‘love was the answer’ and ‘what would Jesus do’ which meant the preacher could tell us all what we should do, by ascribing to Jesus that behaviour in our situations.

[Fill in your own experiences of Religion and Worship as Control, instead of Grace.]

Gifts, Members: all for all

Variety of Gifts: good for one and for all,

great variety of members, but still all one body.

Not hang with those only like yourselves, but you are part of a whole collection of great variety.

Stick together, work to work together, love each other’s differences.

Fulfilled in your hearing, today

Still a matter of waiting. Hoping, Promises, giving generously

Faith is hardly a destination account of life: rather it is a way of proceeding on one’s way:

Jesus: fulfilled today in your hearing … and yet not.

The promise so powerfully said: rejected, and with threats of violence! Jesus is run out of Nazareth, his home town.

For us today: how will we choose to see each day:

as an opportunity to control others

or

as an opportunity to help others experience God’s Grace?

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!

If we hear, comprehend, internalize the promise and live as people of hope,

instead of cynics or controlling shallow-faith people, then

as we give good news to the poor, help release the captives, give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free and give everyone we can a year of God’s favour,

Then

Then indeed,

in our deeds,

these words will be fulfilled today,

Our Hearts

Sermon for 20 January 2019

Miracle or preparations

Qualified to Sleep through the night

A farm owner woke to the sounds of a terrible storm,

Running out to get the hired hand up to help him ‘batten down the hatches’

the hired hand refused to wake up to help.

So alone the farmer ran to the gate to tie it closed so the animals could not escape, because the wind could easily blow it open.

The gate was firmly shut, so that no wind could budge it.

He ran to the far side of the barn with a tarp, where loose shingles would be caught by the wind, more would come off and the insides would be sopping wet from the heavy rain that started.

There were no loose shingles.

Around he ran, to fix every known problem and inspect for new ones, but everything was fixed and secured against the storm.

The farmer thought it was a miracle, and went back to bed,

where as he fell back asleep to the pounding rain and wind, he remembered that he decided firmly not to hire this man even though he was the sole man available. This man had said his qualifications were simple: he could sleep through the night.

It was a miracle, because the farmer had gone back and hired this man, who could sleep through the night.

[Include your own stories of miracles, where you changed your heart, mind, and strength.]

Surviving Bitter Cold,

The other morning I woke to -33°C (-27°F).

The propane furnace had long since quit, it was -4°C inside, the generator was too cold to fire up, and the truck would not even turn over. There was a propane bottle heater, but it’s propane was too cold to flow.

So I put the propane bottle in the wood heated shelter to warm it up, put an old insulated tarp over the warmed up heater next to the generator and propped it high enough to light the propane heater without melting the tarp.

And I sat to have breakfast with fresh coffee, made from water boiling all night on the wood stove.

The generator then cooperated nicely, the block heater was plugged in, the battery charger set to the truck battery, and after doing dishes with hot water from the wood stove, I set the charger to 55 amp start mode and the truck fired up. I was only a few minutes late for my appointment. As I was away, the wood heat was blown to warm everywhere nicely including under the skirt to the propane tanks by electric fans powered by the generator. When I returned the furnace fired up nicely and at -25 outside with an overnight low again of -33 I was toasty warm.

It was a miracle, because I had firmly decided I could never get wood heat. It simply was not possible. But I had a change of heart, and after contributions from far and wide, lots of work, and a month or so, there was a wood stove. Otherwise I’d still be cold, maybe like a permanent popsicle.

Jesus’ first miracle

Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ first miracle, the wine at the wedding in Cana. There is more at stake than we may realize at first reading. To run out of wine was a loss of face for the groom’s family, and everyone there. They, friends and family, were expected to bring enough food and drink, potluck style, to help provide for everyone. Having no wine is not like it would be for us. There and then the water was known to be unsafe to drink. At gatherings and celebrations one served wine, which was safe. Having nothing to drink meant the guests had to chose between getting sick with dehydration, or from the water.

At stake for Jesus, as he tells his mother, it is not the right time to demonstrate to people what he can do.

Miracles

When it comes to miracles by God traditionally we’ve said and sometimes/some of us have believed that miracles are God stepping into our universe, breaking the laws we know and getting results we cannot get, good results. Miracles are God’s inexplicable intervention in our universe.

Other people, or sometimes us but only secretly, we’ve said that miracles simply do not happen. There is always an explanation for how things happened, we just do not know enough, so we call them miracles. But miracles are really Nonexistent

I’ve always believed God can inexplicably intervene, and make things happen that simply cannot. God does this very, very rarely. I’ve never liked the traditional message of what a miracle is, that God can miraculously fix everything, because then either God is really cruel because not everything is fixed (and it is unconscionable that somethings are not fixed!) Or we are really incompetent or hard-hearted because if we only prayed more fervently, people would not be suffering and dying, as we speak.

I have believed for a long time that there is a better explanation for miracles that is more powerful, poignant, realistic, hope-filled and hope-giving.

Wine at Cana

Traditionally Inexplicably

Traditionally this is Jesus’ first miracle. He turns water inexplicably into wine.

Work natural, just unknown

Practical explanations have existed. The one I always thought hokey was that the jars had a strong wine, a port, in them. Add water and you get wine.

Instant tang had just come on to the market, so this was ‘instant wine’. Really there was no miracle.
Sorry it’s not any port in a storm.

Explicable and …

Say and believe what you will but as for me: I believe that this is God’s universe, and God can do whatever and does … rarely even things inexplicably miracles. I just still do not believe the ‘instant wine’ denial of miracles (and of God’s being with us.)

I also know God created us intelligent, resourceful, gracious, kind, loving … and greedy, conniving, and deceitful.

I like the following account best of all because the miracle is something we all can and do ‘bank’ on every day. The text allows that there was enough wine, but someone had secreted away (stolen) the best of the wine. The servants are in the know, either as the doers, participants or as the knowers-of-many-secrets. When Jesus instructs them to fill the big jars with water, they decide to correct the wrong, they retrieve the stolen wine, and, as if it were water, pour it into the jars. The wine brought as a gift for the celebration is once again available.

The loss of face for the groom’s family and for all their guests is avoided. The ill health of all the guests is not in the works, and Jesus gets credit as credit is due: he is God’s son, who knows what the servants know, and knows how to help everyone put things right in God’s creation. All is well.

The miracle: Jesus changes hearts, at least of the servants, and perhaps of the thieves.

Good faith

Real difference is what it means to us.

If Miracles are God just doing the magically inexplicable, then everything that goes wrong could just as well be fixed, but God does not! Why does God not just fix everything!?

With that question begins the slippery slope to full-out doubt and disbelief.

When Jesus’ miracles have a simpler, very possible, explanation that Jesus changes people’s hearts to get them to do something different or new: then we have a real life-giving story.

When we face each real difficult challenge in our lives, we could just sit on our hands praying that God would do the inexplicable and fix this for us.

On the other hand, if Jesus’ miracle is that he changes hearts to get us to do things we might not have otherwise, then …

Well, every situation becomes Christ calling us and the Holy Spirit equipping us, and all people around us, to give our best, including giving a profound sense of hope that God is working a miracle through our hearts and hands to give other people a good life and solid grounds for hope.

As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where in God makes good use of us creatures of God, in order to bring about for us and others what God has promised us and wants for us.

As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where the common wisdom makes sense; namely that what happens to us is not so important as what we choose to do. Only 10% of life is what happens to us; the other 90% is how we respond..

That makes a real difference in the world we live in

[add your own stories that need a change of heart to turn out well for all]

Court

I’ve seen more darkness in court than one should ever see, and I rightfully yearn for Justice based on truth, not games and politics and bias’ used to force falsehoods to be facts.

That darkness will not change on it’s own; it requires a change of hearts, many hearts, in many places.

Starvation and World Population

While we’ve read/heard this sermon millions of people are starving and many of them have died. Ending hunger is not impossible. We have enough food and the means to distribute it, if we really wanted to. But it, like homelessness and poverty, avoidable diseases and unemployment can only be curbed and ended if many, many hearts change.

Isaiah & Global Warming

A prophet like Isaiah could well tell us that we have it real well, now, but our doom is coming, for we have ignored God’s Word. We have pretended that we can burn fossil fuels to provide luxurious life for some, but not others, all without paying the piper. Global climate change has well started. Extreme weather of the past is now already the norm, and the new extremes are wiping out populations. The ice melt coming will flood the coasts and our most populated cities will be uninhabitable.

If we had ended poverty in the early 80’s when the world’s population was only 4.5 billion, since we know people caught in poverty have many more children, we might not be taxing the limits of the environment to sustain our destructive ways. But now with 7.4 billion people we cannot stop ourselves it seems, not without a colossal portion of those 7.4 billion hearts changing … before it’s too late.

One way or another, the earth will reduce our population, but it may be too late for species human.

Paul: Tongues and Interpretation

Paul writes to the Corinthians. Their gifts are amazing, among them speaking in tongues and interpretation of what’s said. Paul recognizes this gift. But he puts it towards the bottom of the list.

Just speaking in tongues and interpreting it to have an answer for challenges in life is wonderful, but used too often, it’s just an easy out, too easy. It’s led to terrible divisions in the congregation. Wealthy people come with lots of food to the Eucharist, others have none. Everyone gets bread and wine. But only the wealthy eat. People caught in poverty are called lazy and held responsible: bring your own food or go hungry.

The community needs to see itself as servants of Christ, bringing grace and life to all around. They do not need an interpretation of someone speaking in tongues. They need a change of many hearts.

The 2nd Bitter Cold Night

That 2nd night of -33°C I was toasty warm. So were the walls around the wood stove. They were melted halfway through in the morning. The fan had blown the hot hot air against them and melted them away.

The real miracle is that the 2nd morning I was given an old, large insulated heating duct, big enough to be turned inside out to serve as a much needed heat protector for the walls.

Now … let’s hope that all that hard work until 3 in the morning to install the heat shield is sufficient. My heart is ready for a rest, if the preparations are sufficient to allow heat in the coldest time, sufficient to keep me warm, but not so intense so as to melt the walls, that otherwise protect me from the bitter cold.

We wait

Today we wait for a miracle, but we do not wait for God to intervene as if by magic to make everything right for us.

We wait for the real work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We wait for the miracle of our hearts changing. We wait for the real work of grace that starts by changing our hearts, minds and strength. We pray that we also will turn our ways to God’s will for all.

Amen

Living Winter … Well

Living Winter … Well?

or living well in the winter

or

just

plain

still

living

through

the winter

bitter cold that

could without notice

shorten

one’s

life.

The secret is simple and widely known but seldom recognized.

Look down.

Look Down and Back: Notice was is and was.

Notice what has gone before you.

Catch everything that you can from it all.

Did you notice,

the remnants of water alive,

and

not just the tracks

but the possibilities:

the sled that made perfect X-country tracks all the way across the lake

and

off

I went

all the way across the lake like never before

for wonderful and needed exercise, until a few hours later, heart pumping, breathing easier, sweating lightly,

I arrive back on this shore and tuck into work with an inspired heart and mind, if a bit tired on my legs.

And look up

Look up to forever and beyond.

See the snow of yesterday collecting light, waiting for the sun to shine gloriously on the sparkles hidden in the snow.

Look for the promise of tomorrow,

the promise that what is plain and climbing nowhere toward nothing

can ascend to beauty and truth, hope and freedom, love and trust.

The shadows point to the light.

And always watch the light when it arrives:

when it shines, see it,

not just a glance but see what it does to the simple landscape,

to the people

(especially those hiding in the darkness of lies and deceit, of profound sin … all which are left for God to judge, for consequences that begin now even as they choose to abandon their hearts and minds and rebuild a simulation which changes as quickly as their whim)

and the animals that move,

but marvel at how much those things that cannot move are transformed

from ho-hum

to walkers and creators of shadow

that accents the light and points to the source

even when it is not seen.

The light, Elijah, the Light!

No matter the view you’ve taken

do not forget to notice the large picture,

the grand scheme of things,

God’s view of our little troubles, darkness, and the forest of challenges that lean in to overwhelm us.

Always our darkness points us to the source of light for us all.

When such destructiveness is undeservedly foisted into one’s life

then the only thing to do is to live well.

And if it is winter, even then live so well.

Though there is more than work

to survive the cold

for in the basics of life,

like staying warm

one easily can pay attention

and meet the challenges well:

Wood heat, portable, and lots of left over insulated tarps, even some that have something in them, and recycling everything one can, until

Even on a night when the propane furnace does not work, because the propane is gelled,

and the generator will not start, because the oil is thick to sledgy, or just too cold,

and the propane heater will not work without warming up the propane in the tank,

and when it starts it is too hot so that it’ll melt a hole in the insulated tarp around the generator,

but a 6 foot 2×6, construction junk, serves well enough to keep the tarp raised high enough from the heater,

to get the generator to finally pop, and then fire and run.

And then to have to scramble, arms flailing against the tarp draped all about, out from under the tarp fast filling with CO! And plug in those cords.

Which means the fans can blow the wood heat into the living quarters,

and the block heater can be plugged in

with the battery charger set to charge,

while one has hot coffee from the wood stove boiled water through a french press, with milk and cereal with blueberries,

and then when starting, to 55 amp start mode,

and the vehicle, against it’s better computer programming jumps to life the third try.

Left to warm up as everything is packed away and padlocked safe,

It’s off to meet the day’s requirements.

And between necessary appointments, errands and refueling, take the time to write what must be written and filed soon: more truth in the face of biased error based on obvious lies, but the truth is too inconvenient to allow.

As if to hide that the earth revolves around the sun by a simple sentence of silence.

Fools are made of powerful people at every turn; the emperor may seem, but is not, dressed.

And many scurry to try to lay the tracks of deceit deeper yet, pretending, pretending, pretending, when it is God, from whom nothing is hidden, who judges and rules without deceit or corruption, but with promise and yesterdays that give grounded hope and trust.

And in this rampart run mobile through one’s 3rd act, there is great humour, and opportunity to look, down, up, noticing the light, and seeing the big picture; as Jupiter resounds and reverberates off the windows, before the Athem and then it’s closing time. Ring the bells, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.

Then it’s once for the Devil and once for Christ, as all hell breaks loose

as

the

nightmares

set

in

again

until

even

in such a distant universe

brought close by the folds of time-space in light.

And it is

holding the beloved

in one’s heart, mind and strength,

with great clarity

and thankfulness for great kindness,

and forgiving the darkness and all it’s dark horses

that come charging still through the light touch of chilly, hope-giving and grace-filled dancing

disrupted only by the power of lies.

Live winter well:

dance, and let deceit melt with the ice on the wood turning into heat, as we dance away;

embrace the chilly light, if that is all there is, it still points to something that otherwise one would miss,

and work as if nothing else will save you from the bitter cold, and the bitterness foisted on your path, but know that Christ walks in the bitter cold, and crosses every path with redemption and grace … until one arrives home.

It may be closing time, but the light and dance of peace and joy, and the promise of hope-giving tomorrows

even also for eternity,

have not disappeared,

So breathe in warmly, and visit the

Cold

sharp clear

biting cold that claws momentarily

until one returns to the result of deep hard work, deep in the forest, yet warm.

And one marvels at the heat of red

hot

coals.

That is living well in the bitter cold:

to be prepared in heart, mind, and body;

And not to forget to dance a glorious step for those who cannot or will not.

Our Hearts: bitter cold or miracle makers?

Outline for sermon for 2019 January 20

Jesus at the Wedding in Cana; water or wine, which? Both.

Sunset – Smoke signs of small miracles for us all.

John 2-1-11, Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36: [1-4] 5-10 [11-end], 1Cor 12:1-11 

  1. Last Night was Cold, Bitter Cold, -33°C (-27.4°F)
    1. I wake to a propane furnace will not fire, no generator running, almost out of battery power
    2. Wood heat possible, with wood stashed long ago, newly finished wood-stove shelter and connector to the camper.
    3. So I
      • Pull out the propane heater, warm up the tank in the wood heat shelter
      • Build an ad hoc shelter in which to heat the generator (insulated tarp)
      • Protect tarp with wood holding it to the sides and 6 feet over heat
      • 20 minutes make coffee from water on wood stove
      • Start gen after 10 pulls a pop, then three more, fire, c02 filled, scramble with tarp to get to fresh air
      • Plug in block heater, hook up battery charger,
      • Eat breakfast and drink coffee
      • Set charger to 55 amp starter, and start the borrowed vehicle
      • Off ten minutes late to a meeting
    4. Almost every safety back up came in to play, one stupid mistake: turning the generator off at midnight to sleep the night before.
    5. All the carefully planned and executed plans and preparations pay off: I’m safe,
    6. Best latest addition makes the best difference: wood heat that warms to 50° C, provides
      • A place to warm up even before it was completely setup and connected to the camper,
      • A place to warm up propane tank,
      • A place to warm up waiting for the generator to warm, and the vehicle to warm up.
      • A warm place to come home to even at -33°C
    7. Tonight is forecast to be colder: leave the generator on all night, simplify it a bit.
    8. Tomorrow, more wood cut.
  2. I can sleep through the night, story of the farm hand’s qualifications: he could sleep through the night. Storm, owner panics, hired hand sleeps on. Farmer finds everything already secured against the possible storm. The qualification was the most important: he got things prepared for the worst, and enjoyed the best and most important; a good night’s sleep.
  3. Miracle:
    1. Jesus’ first miracle: water into wine
      • Who is Jesus? He’s a miracle doer, as God’s son
    2. Dynamics: loss of face, community support, health necessity, water not safe to drink.
    3. Everyone there is looking poorly, not just the hosts
  4. Miracles:
    1. Some people like to say it’s all just God’s ‘magic’, or God inexplicably entering the universe and superseding all the laws of reality to make something inexplicable to happen.
    2. Others say miracles do not happen, no matter what the story-line is.
    3. There’s a third possibility, one I’ve embraced for quite some time.
      • Inexplicable is possible for God, but hugely rare, and there is not really much for us in it. Only one time-event-place fixes.
      • Jesus’ miracles are much more meaningful, much more difficult to pull off, and so much more hope-giving.
  5. Miracles: explicable
    1. Take the bringing wine to the wedding feast in Cana.
    2. Inexplicably, traditionally we’ve seen that Jesus, through the work of the servants who pour water into 6 jars set aside for the purification rights, makes the water chemically transform into some very good wine. Every good vintner can tell you the science of making a good wine is more an art; it’s complicated and to master it is a goal to strive towards rather than a destination one arrives at.
    3. There has been another interpretation, not in contradiction with the texts: There was something like real strong port in the jars so that adding water diluted it into good wine.
      • A little stretch that there is something like ‘instant wine’, just add water; but it is an effort to explain that Jesus just made the obvious happen, though it was not obvious to his on-lookers.
    4. There is a better miracle explanation: namely that the servants had stolen (or helped someone steal, or knew that someone had stolen) the best wine from all the gifts that evening.
    5. When Jesus directs them to fill the jars, he gives them a way to make it right.
      • The best wine is available for the wedding guests;
      • No health risk or embarrassment for the hosts or the guests.
        • As guests, they were supposed to bring enough food and wine so that this did not happen.
      • Water was not safe to consume, food was perhaps a bit off often enough, so a wine, a weak wine was needed to give all the guests something to drink, not to be dehydrated through the whole celebration.
      • What Jesus knows is that the servants know where to go to get the good wine that is taken from the celebration, which belongs to the celebration.
      • They do. They correct the wrong, and everyone saves face.
      • And Jesus’ power and authority are manifest in that he knows how to provide for the occasion so that a past wrong is corrected before it becomes so much worse.
    6. The miracle that Jesus performs is that he changes hearts, which is the most difficult miracle of all. Work contradictory to the laws of nature, well that’s simple; it’s magic, no real work done, just wave your wand or speak a word.
  6. Real difference is what it means to us.
    1. If God just works the inexplicable, then everything that goes wrong could just as well be fixed, but God does not; SO Why does God not just fix everything!? (Real theological and hope problem there.)
    2. And with that question begins the slippery slope to full-out doubt and disbelief.
    3. When Jesus’ miracles have a simpler, very possible explanation that Jesus changes people’s hearts to get them to do something different or new; then we have a real challenge: given each real difficult challenge in our lives, we could face the challenge sitting on our hands and praying that God will do the inexplicable and fix this for us.
    4. But if Jesus’ miracle is that he changes hearts to get us to do things we might not have otherwise, then …
    5. Well, every situation can become a challenge that calls us, and all around us, to give our best, including a profound sense of hope that God is working a miracle through our hearts and hands to give other people real grounds for hope.
  7. As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where in God makes good use of us creatures of God, in order to bring about, for us and others, what God has promised us and wants for us.
  8. As for me, I like a world, a world of faith, where good common wisdom makes sense; namely that what happens to one is not so important as what we choose to do. 90% of life is how we respond, the other 10% is what happens to us.
  9. Consider some life challenges; with inexplicable miracles, we can do nothing but wait for God to act and make things different and better for us. If Jesus’ miracles are that he changes hearts and gets people to act as they would not have otherwise. Then we can get about working to make things better … starting with our own hearts, minds and souls.
  10. Court: I, as much if not more than most, want a real justice based on real truths to be possible.
    1. Choose: Wait or work.
    2. Much more hopeful being able to work, knowing if we do not do it perfectly, God will make it good enough.
  11. Every minute people around the world are starving, literally to death.
    1. If God works miracles inexplicably, then we need to pray that starvation not happen or go away. But since it persisted for the last … well since recorded history. What kind of hope is it to think that God is going to change now, so that what people have prayed for since beginning of time will somehow get fixed. That’s just arrogant hubris.
    2. But if God changes our hearts so that we can learn new things and do new things to help people to not starve, then there is real hope in that.
  12. A Prophet like Isaiah would tell us (who live in the greatest luxury the world has ever provided so many people:) pay attention: what you’ve chosen to do with oil and energy and food production has had consequences: lost family farms, lost environment as farmers chemicalize greater and greater production, global warming brings yesterday’s extreme weather to be today’s normal, and the new extreme to be deadly for so many, the ice melt will flood the coasts. The earth will have less people on it, one way or another.
    1. But if we had not waited for a miracle 40 years ago, an inexplicable action of God, to solve the population explosion,
    2. If we’d had a change of heart (that would have been a miracle of Jesus) and decided to end poverty (since poor people always have had more children as future security) world population could have stayed at 4.5 billion instead of the 7.5 billion of today.
  13. In Corinthians Paul speaks to the congregation about their gifts: the miracle-make-it-happen-gift of speaking in tongues and interpretation is not denied reality, but it they are not the most important gifts:
    1. Also for them Christ calls them through Paul, to wake up and be the ones who make justice happen for all:
    2. All people should share equally in the food of the feasts, not just the wealthy get to eat well.
    3. And the gifts, all from Christ, are not drowned out by speaking in tongues, or it’s interpretation: God calls them to not forget that God works miracles through them: ending hunger, homelessness, poverty are all going to take miracles; and that miracle is not someone speaking in tongues so that God does something inexplicable.
    4. Rather these scourges on the face of humanity will end when enough people have a change of heart. That’s the real miracle.
  14. The great praise of God in the Psalm fits well in our lives, not on its own as if, miraculously all were right in the world and our faith in God suddenly became perfect.
    1. The Psalm is actually very real:
    2. The verses before our selection are a lamentation for how much humans have messed things up.
    3. Then come the change: the hearts giving God praise for helping them end the time of lamentation.
    4. After these verses of praise, then the people return to lamentations, begging for God’s protection from their enemies.
    5. This is the real rhythm of us people of faith: we are simultaneously saints and sinners;
    6. We may get things sort of right, but there is always the next challenge, the next sin (or rather billions of sins) committed each minute; the consequences which we all suffer.
    7. Our salvation is that God comes to work miracles in us.
      • God changes our hearts
        • And we no longer wish to protect ourselves
        • We are interested in protecting everyone, equally
        • We are interested in ending homelessness, best strides ever have been taken by people who know the greatest miracle is a changed heart.
        • We are interested in ending hunger. Because it always comes around to us. And it’s is something we can solve: there is enough food, its distribution that is controlled and provided unequally to the wealthy (us) over the poor (others) until we become the poor and the poor become wealthy enough to have enough good food.
  15. Today we wait for a miracle: and we know that it will start with us, our hearts, minds and strength, turned once again to God’s will for all.