the cool days of fall darken earlier and earlier, and the dark of
night stays with us longer and longer …
Dark comes early, closer to South
wood pile is just high enough,
food sufficient for the coming days,
water enough and replenish-able,
the air is fresh,
clothing rather well prepared for the coming months,
shelter from the weather to come is mostly prepared,
labour is directed, consumedly so, towards writing what must be
love grows and wanes, I am loved well and always.
God holds me safe.
more can one ask for from life, from God, from all that might be?
that might be.
many humans have had so much less, so much less, so much less.
beauty of the world is at my fingertips, literally, as a cell phone
camera captures what can be seen and hoped for?
Cell camera photos: harvest moon, over three harvesters
what more would anyone wish from life?
than the time each morning to celebrate that Christ is with us, in
body and blood?
than the ability to see beauty and share it with others?
than the ability to know truth, without doubt, or hesitation?
than to live well?
mitkommen! – from the movie Remembrance, Tomasc calls out to Hannah
to come with him, he dressed as a German soldier initiating their
escape, as he carries a canister of photos of the Nazi concentration
Cost for Truth has been everything for me, except a sleeping bag, a
tent, my clothes and a bicycle.
the reward for truth is a clear eye and a clear conscience.”
eyes enable one to see the beauty of life.
The True Work of Justice
is as important to exonerate an innocent person as to convict a
Clearly Fog Challenges Clarity
I have a clear eye and clear conscience.
So many who’ve had the chance have not paid any price for truth. It is a party where they imbibe the intoxicating evil of false power based on the Devil’s seductions, drunk so deeply in order to ignore the truth.
I do not see good people working for justice to exonerate the innocent, myself included. Like hundreds of thousands others, I see good people become evil, working to convict the innocent like me, a kind, generous, man of great integrity, an excellent stay at home father.
long view allows one to see the the rocks and sticks, and the
colour that plays with the light.
in the solitude and calm is possible as God blesses those persecuted
without just cause.
But woe to those who unjustly persecute the innocent. For God judges without rules of evidence or games of cover-ups possible. God judges the reality of one’s life and actions. There is no hiding possible for evil. There is no negotiating for something other than actual reality, for that is what God sees and judges. Entrance to blessing never comes with Spin or Cover-up, or declaring something to be other than it is.
life, our challenge is to not become like the persecutors, not to
become vengeful and vindictive … but to remain, trusting God’s
promises and quiet blessings each day, … to remain fully alive with
As for me and my non-existent household, unjustly taken from me thrice, I and the Holy Spirit, we choose to live only by Grace.
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
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.
The following is the result of my and my wife’s efforts, which in some form she is likely preaching tomorrow at Hope Lutheran Edmonton.
Opening blessing/prayer[from the Psalm, lessons and Jesus’ command to love]: May God, our only hope and salvation, guard our hearts, minds and souls this Advent, as always, that we may not be put to shame, but that we may know God’s ways, God’s truth, God’s steadfast love. May we trust God’s promises so that even in the most difficult of times, we may reflect God’s right-ness, order, and grace, to our neighbours, ourselves, and even our enemies. Amen.
Happy New Year, on this the first Sunday of the New Church Year, the first Sunday in Advent. Unlike many celebrations that call for exuberance, like Lent, Advent is a sombre celebration of our need for God’s Love and promises, a time to reflect and search out the roots of our faith. The colour is Blue, a rich colour of sky, and water, the basics for life. Blue is also a colour of an honest response to the chaos that grips the world: blue is sadness, even depression.
Blue for us is the colour of Hope, and Advent sits not on the evidence of the state of the world or us in it, but the hope created by God’s powerfully life-giving Promises. God promises us a new creation and steadfast love in the face of the worst the universe can throw at us.
If you came looking to hear the Gospel read today and to receive a soothing, comforting word … Well, hang on, it’s a rough ride first.
Drab Winter may be most appropriate for Advent
Jesus describes the end of time. To translate his images into 21st century awareness of our universe Jesus says:
You will see gravity decay, planets and stars disengage, galaxies splattering across the void. Dis-Order invades the sub-atomic particles of your very being, your skin will crawl with chaos, your minds unwind from within themselves, one moment you are able to be empathetic, to love and remember, the next not and the next moment you are again sentient, aware of what is happening to you and to the world all around.
Intuitively we know our sins and our cumulative sins as human beings are immense. We know we are responsible for some if not most of what’s coming. Global warming is only a small piece of the conundrum. Real guilt is indeed difficult to bear.
How can we respond to this prediction of the end of all time?
There are many similar challenges in life that overwhelm us. It may not signal the end of everything around us, but chaos invades the foundation of our lives at the loss of a beloved, a child, the end of a career, or being ruined by completely false accusations … or news that one has a death-sentence disease.
Will watched his wife Louise beat cancer twice, and it returned a third time. Her battle ended with him standing beside her grave. Two years later Will received news that cancer had invaded his body as well.
George flew as a pilot all his life, until the last medical exam revealed the side-effects of a medication taken years ago, which disqualified him from ever flying again.
Sam stopped his wife again, this time by twisting out of her hand the knife she was going to slash him with. When he made sure she went outside to cool down, she called the police, he was charged, convicted and served 2 years for assault and unlawful confinement.
Amy, not her real name, watched the Courts, time and time again disrupt her efforts to adopt her foster child, born to an addict woman. Then the Courts awarded this not-mother custody, even though the Courts knew her then housemate had sexually abused the not-yet two year old.
It may not be the end of all time, but it certainly is the end of time for us, as we gasp for breath … … … while the world continues on its course around us as if nothing has happened.
Jesus, at these times, points us to the first signs of trees budding new leaves. Jesus tells us: at these points when the end of time threatens our very breathing and being, we can remember God’s promises to make all things new with the coming of the Kingdom of God. The in-breaking of chaos, the end of time, is actually God bringing in a new creation.
God promises that in this new order we will live in safety, justice will be based on truth, instead of lies, and God’s steadfast love, the glue that holds the macro, micro and personal universe in order, will prevail. All right-ness, righteousness, will be God’s alone. Chaos of all kinds will give way to the order of God’s new creation. All people, not just us, will live in safety. All people will live in right relationship with God, with one another, with all of creation. The heavens and all space will sing in harmony. The Holy Spirit will move in our hearts, minds and souls, and we will dance with grace, every step of the day.
God does not just wait to the end of time to bring in the new creation. The Kingdom of God is already here. God fulfills promises in each generation. Christ has come.
CNN know this: and they play every news story as if it heralded something new (and news worthy), as if the world hinged on each small event. In a way it does, and for the news companies, it sells advertising, which is the foundation of their threatened existence.
CBC has ‘Good News’ segments, because it is commonly spoken about that ‘all the news is bad’ which is not true or right. But they appear to angle not so much that the good news is more obviously good, but that compared to the little good news segments, the real news is that much more important, that much more BAD.
The real bad news is that all hell is breaking loose, just like it did for all the previous generations.
It is as any photographer can tell you the light is most beautiful in contrast to the dark. God’s wonders become more obvious to us, in contrast to the powers of chaos and evil.
Flowing Water in Frozen Winter, Light in the Dark
If we could ever say that Leonard Cohen sang well, it would be his Anthem line: There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in. Indeed, it is through our cracks, our sins, that God’s grace becomes known to us, not just in our minds, but in our hearts and souls. Grace becomes a visceral experience and memory when God gracefully forgives us our sins, and when the Holy Spirit continually takes us ungrateful, undeserving wretched sinners and makes us into saints.
Evil has got the world, our world, by the tail, so to speak, and the Devil is swinging it around, which messes tremendously with gravity and all that is up.
This Advent we face great challenges. The world seems to be falling apart, and the order of creation is threatened by earthquakes, storms, human induced disasters, and even asteroids and nuclear bombs.
Advent is not a time to bury our heads in the sands, or our hearts in the pre-Christmas hectic, nor our souls in all that consumes instead of giving life to all those around us. Advent is a time for serious and sombre soul searching, to discover again God’s steadfast love that holds the universe and our own hearts together, even as the universe and we too lose all bindings and forces that hold creation in place, even gravity and the electric impulses that power our brains.
As the end of all time tears at the foundations of the universe, as the end of our time tears at the core of our being, we need not fear and hate. Instead moved by the Holy Spirit, we can trust God and we can choose to love …
We bask in the beauty of the stars, the wonders of nature, the marvels of the cities, and the light of Christ that shines through each of us, through our brokenness. Love has a place … in every heart, in every galaxy, in every atom of the entire universe, because God created it so.
We pray that we may remain alert to God’s ways. We pray that we will count on God’s promises and the work of the Holy Spirit in us, that we will see in each tragedy and decaying of order, God’s work of making a new creation, also in us!
We will not be put to shame, for God is our rock and our salvation.
But love becomes more obviously so powerful, so wonderful, so life-giving …
in the face of hate, lies, sin, … and raw evil and cruelty – in the face of chaos.
God promises our redemption, a new creation, out of the end of the universe, the end of all time.
The beginning of the New Year, the Church year
Time for Reflection, a sombre season
So much more than pre-Christmas
Reflection on New Beginnings
The Gospel is Hardly Good News
Foretelling disruption of the universe
21st Century equivalents
macro, micro, psychological
What is this? How can we respond? What is this?
Challenges of daily life
Can overwhelm us as much as anticipating the end of all time
Its not end times, it is as if all time ends for us, even while the world continues without us.
How can we respond when we are overwhelmed?
Signs of the end, equated to signs of new life.
These overwhelming events, end times, or time that ends
Are actually God starting something new
Live in safety
Ruler that executes Justice based on truth, instead of lies and excuses for facts
All of the universe, the glue that holds everything in order,
Marco, micro, internally, personally
This is God
God is right-eousness
God is the one who makes everything right
Right is order, is the opposite of Chaos, is the opposite of Creation (Chaos is the opposite of all that is Good in Creation.)
Right for our safety,
Right in relationship to God
God is what holds chaos at bay
Exactly in the horrendous view of the end of time, nature, world, universe, our minds
This is where God is most obviously discernible
This is where we see God most clearly
In the face of chaos Grace abounds
God present always, everywhere, but most obvious to us in the chaos
L Cohen: it’s through the cracks that the light gets in.
In sinners made saints God makes God present
And we see God face to face
All challenges that we face
God is our rightness
God is the source, re-creator, and guarantee of our safety, and our everything.
God is with us.
Time to reflect on the serious things of faith, life and our times.
So that the end of all time
Or the end of our time
Does not catch us unawares
So we pray: let us not be put to shame,
For God is our rock and our salvation
(I highly recommend reading the blog posts on sermon preparation in the order they are posted. So read the next two first. The visceral images of this week’s Gospel, reflected in the first post, and other references barely explained in the outline above are required to make sense of the outline. Otherwise it is as mundane, spit-warm and boring as the pre-Christmas musac that now pummels every shopper’s brain. Both the destructive power of what is objectionable and the amazing work of God’s Grace healing wretched sinners will be able to be smoothed over leaving us comfortable … even with the impending collapse of the universe, beginning with our minds.)
What is truth?
Gospel: John 18:33-37
Selections from the texts for Christ the King Sunday, 25 November 2018, plus one verse:
Pilate: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus: “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate: “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own … have handed you over.
What have you done?”
Jesus: “My kingdom is not from this world.
If … then, my followers would be fighting.
Pilate: “So you are a king?”
Jesus: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born,
and … to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate: “What is truth?”
I went looking today:
I wanted to see things clearly, to know the truth about faith, love and hope.
I went looking as I often do across the water.
The water is hidden by ice,
Which is hidden by snow.
And today even the far shore is hidden by the fog across the lake.
I looked right.
I looked left.
I looked further to the left,
to the white sticks of birch.
But nothing about clarity came to me.
Pilate does not want to, but still he asks the question that must be asked: is Jesus the King of the Jews?
Jesus says he was born to have Pilate ask him this question … and
To testify to the truth.
Those that belong to the truth listen to Jesus’ voice.
So that Jesus is testifying to the truth: that’s simple enough: the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a story that we can listen to and understand.
It’s not a story about another world or another realm.
Jesus was born as a human.
And God sent Jesus to live, die and be resurrected to leave us with a story that profoundly changes everything we see in the world.
We see God more clearly: God intends and does free us from our own sins, not the consequences in this world, but the consequence that would separate us from God. Instead, as Jesus story makes clear, God sticks with us always, all ways.
That’s something … okay that is everything.
Even though we step away from God, God follows us, even picks us up and carries us forward when we can no longer walk in God’s ways or even in God’s creation.
To be loved by God, that’s everything.
That’s what Jesus’ story tells us about God most clearly,
And that we can follow in Jesus’ way …
We can (God equips us so)
And be gracious
With all people
In all ways.
There is living water, flowing freely here
Beneath the ice
And it is visible
At the edge
One looks in the right place for it.
Water freely flowing from under the ice.
We no longer need to sacrifice anyone or anything in order to make ourselves right with God.
First of all we cannot in any way through any means make ourselves right with God.
We just are too broken to do this.
Secondly we do not have to make ourselves right with God, because God, as Jesus did, makes Godself right with us, where ever we meander in life.
And God turns our meandering into dancing,
Our fear into deep breathing calm and assurance
And our chaos into God’s blessings for us and for others.
Abraham’s story of ‘sacrificing’ Isaac, being interrupted by God, is the story about God instructing us to stop sacrificing children to God, to appease God.
Jesus’s story of his life, death and resurrection is the story of God instructing us to stop sacrificing anything and everyone … God does not want any sacrifice, it does us no good, and God already is there by our side even when we still scapegoat someone … again … and again.
In response to the story unfolding before him, Pilate is like most of us, a bit befuddled and unaware of what’s at play before his eyes.
He thinks like a ruler of the Roman empire about to spiral into decay: there is no truth, there is no real God, there is only subjective, relativistic truth and there are only the many gods of the many religions of the many, many people conquered by Rome.
Who knows what is true about what happened before time,
Yet alone even tomorrow, given all the fake news, the lies upheld as truths, the spin that so many people put on so many things that even those that lie so freely, cannot keep track of what really happened.
But this is truth:
God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son to die for all of creation, so that those that believe in him might live, truly live, and know the truth of God’s Grace, Forgiveness, and Love.
Now that is a truth to base real hope on, hope that cannot disappoint.
That is truth.
It is the light that is always there, even if today it is obscured by the clouds so low,
Visible at sunset
Yesterday after the clouds hung around all day.
And what do we do in response: Jesus calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves, even our enemies, and to love the Lord our God with all our hearth, mind and soul.
[okay, on further proof reading I see that I meant to write:
with all our heart, mind and soul.
I could have just corrected it, but I kind of like the image mixed in with the command to love God,
That we would love God with all our hearth … that spot below a fireplace or wood stove, from which heat is produced to keep us alive through the Canadian winters, or just cozy in modern Canada … well at least for most of us, or you all, cause I need a wood stove to help stay warm and alive this winter since I cannot afford the propane, nor to replace the furnace every two years. But back to the image:
That we would love God with that warm spot in the home, a place of family, parents and children, oh how I miss children. and that we would dedicate all that might entail,
sitting with children, reading near the hearth, playing on the hearth
sitting with one’s beloved, after the kids are in bed, or gone from home to their own lives and homes, near the hearth, reading or resting or enjoying a glass of Mosel, Saar, Ruhr – Riesling – Kabinett
and reviewing the gifts of God that day; those received and those given.
But perhaps you would have preferred I’d just made the correction to the typo.
But then I would have missed out on those memories, if not real, then hoped for, and the hope of soon having those memories near a wood stove, for real practical reasons:
I’ve these addictions I try to provide for:
I’m addicted to clean air, clean water, food, sufficient clothing, shelter enough to smile at the cold and snow, rain and heat; as well as meaningful labour, and to be loved, and most of all to remain capable of loving …
I’ve been away for a while, missing the beauty of home.
One of the first things I did is put the canoe in the water just after sunset
Immerse myself in
the Fresh Air
Of a pair of loons calling to each other.
Sunset drips colour into solitude. These attributes reach well towards Plato’s ideals.
It took a while to get everything safely secured for the fall.
But with a warm fire burning, the stars in full view, and the air just cool enough to keep almost every bug at bay,
I settled in for a sleep in a bed custom made by me for this old body, firm for my arthritic back, a hip hole for the arthritic hip, raised for the GI that is so challenging and warm against even the deepest cold.
Waking before sunrise the stars were clear but the lake deep in fog so obvious even in the dark of night.
After a short walk I took this shot literally out the window, weathered grime and all on the window, with the fog back-dropping the trees, water and reeds.
View from a room.
Before the walk,
Before the sunrise,
I stepped out to the fresh quiet and put this together in a panorama.
Birch Frames, Water Fogged, Reeds Galore.
It’s good to be home.
It’s bittersweet to be home.
It’s part of the colour of life to be home having survived so many threats to my well-being and life.
If you pray, pray for me and mine; but pray most of all for all those whose lies brought my life to be threatened, and for those who threatened, directly or indirectly.
I cannot imagine what it is like to live, knowing one’s own lies, blatant and obvious, ignored as lies by others, any who have added their own lies to the perverse saga, bring such cruelty to another human being.
I cannot imagine what it is like to live, knowing that one’s own willful blindness invites and allows others to lie, blatantly and obviously, and then to bring threat upon another’s life.
That kind of winning is …
It’s not winning, it’s losing in the ultimate way, it is to lose one’s integrity and being. It is to sacrifice what cannot be regained or bought or undone. It is to sacrifice one’s own good, to bring rot on another human.
My life may have been, may still be under threat, very real and present.
But I still remember the actual events of history, the loving kindness given and received, the abuse and false accusations, the wondrous times of trust, the unpredictable outrages, the marvelous times of affection, the danger to myself and the ones given into my care, the delight for us all, the Gaslighting and perversions, the truth and my resilience,
My yes’s and my no’s.
My clear response to attacks on my person: my insistence that reality be participated in and NO I was not going to kill myself as I was constantly accused I would.
Who in their right mind would say it is a crime to answer one’s spouse’s constant barrage of false accusations that one is going to kill oneself by saying that one is immune, one has been inoculated, the side effects of medicine no longer make the abuse beyond intolerable, though the abuse certainly continues. NO means NO.
And in this case NO is a clear statement of LIFE at it’s best. How could that be criminal? Or possibly create fear? Or be unnatural?
What’s unnatural is one’s spouse’s constant barrage of false accusations that one is going to kill oneself….
And this is home … where this does not stop.
And I stay, because this is where I am, if barely.
When, though, will it become as important to listen to a man say NO, as it is a woman say NO.
Today, I say YES, an amazing YES … this is the wonder of home.
Today, I say NO, NO, those who have done me evil will NOT determine my life. God will adequately deal with them, and I am thus able to remain gracious and kind.
Who would want, given the opportunity to leave all judgement and consequence to God … who would want to become vengeful after a life of forgiving and unconditional love?
Let’s see: on the one hand one would become Evil personified, one would consume life, one would rot from within, one would live in torment and in order to make it through each day one would have to live in denial.
Or one can by grace choose to be Goodness personified, and therein one gives life freely to so many around, one grows, matures, and blossoms as beauty within, one lives at peace with the universe, with others (even one’s enemies) and with God, and one can embrace truth, both the evil and the good of truth … and one can delight in things small and great.
How do you choose?
As for me and my household, we choose to serve the Lord, and to trust and live out amazing Grace.
A trip to friends brought us to a familiar, wonderful view out over the mountains.
Though our visiting took priority over getting high on the mountains until the sun was well up in the sky. The sunrise was less rise than rain fall. So we enjoyed the clear air clean of the wildfire smoke from the many BC fires. The clear mountain air.
A breath of fresh air as good as good friends: priceless.
And after a jaunt up we went down by the riverside to enjoy the flow of wonder,
As water roiled serenely reaching for the sea across the rocks.
The last outing I had was a while ago, when ice still held the water under wraps
and the moon stuck itself hidden in clear view over the ice.
The greatest marvel though was definitely the golden
Wonder of the setting sun spread through the warp and weave of this universe.
of what may come.
Grace is the only aspect of life that brings real rewards.
Time is always on the side of truth.
Goodness shines bright. Think. Live. Be courageous,