God Blesses Us Despite What We Do!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Beaver

Giving Warning.

Do We Heed God’s Warnings? NO!

Yet God Continues to Bless Us!

Psalm 91:14

Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.

1 John 3:21-22

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

Words of Grace For Today

Julie and Greg sought refuge from the heat, well over 35⁰ each day from 8:00 to 20:00 or later making sleeping difficult, and at best restless. The packed up their little camper behind the truck and headed out to a lake more than an hour away, since all the campgrounds at other lake closer were overfilled. There was no proper campground, just crown land where random camping was allowed.

They were hardly the first to arrive, and most of the possible sites were filled and overfilled with others seeking relief from the heat and being cooped up for more than a year with the covid19 restrictions. With luck, or was it a pure blessing, they arrived just minutes after another family left one of the furthest campsites, one set among birch trees on a hill more than 50 feet above the lake. They settled in and carried their canoe down near the four log steps to the water.

For a week they ‘enjoyed’ temperatures that did not climb above 32⁰ and nights that cooled off after sunset at 21:30 to the high teens, making sleeping a wonderful and restful reprieve. The first few days they recovered and found wonder in the relative cool nights, and the canoe outings during the hottest part of the day into the cooler air above the water. They knew that God had delivered them.

Then they became accustom to the reprieve, and noticed the challenges of camping: the swarms of mosquitoes morning and evening made being outside less than comfortable, the flies that chewed small chunks right out of their arms, checks and even eyelids, and the bees and wasps whose stings they were allergic to. Then there were the late night parties from the other parts of the campground that seemed to never end until the sun rose; a downside of uncontrolled camping producing loud music and fireworks at all late hours! The quads, dirt bikes, and side by sides chewed up the dirt right before their camper, blowing exhaust into their camper at any hour. They became complainers instead of giving God thanks.

Saturday afternoon all that complaining ended with a real danger. The emergency broadcast service rang out from their cell phones: a tornado warning! A funnel was sighted moving fast NW just 30 miles away to the SW of their precious campsite. There was no basement or building to hide in against the SW wall. They did what they could. They pulled their hand-made cedar strip canoe high away from the lake and secured it among some strong trees and bush. The parked the truck on the lakeside of the camper, opened it’s windows and all the windows on the camper (to prevent the severe drop and rise in air pressure from blowing up either the truck or camper.) Taking a larger tarp they found where a tree’s roots had been ripped out leaving a depression, laid down the tarp, sat and laid in on it, and covered themselves with the tarp to protect themselves from the rain that pelted sideways at them in the high wind.

The last thing they saw before covering themselves was a funnel approach the other side of the lake, tossing trees out of it’s path like toothpicks, and throwing a great blinding spray of water that hid everything from sight as it came across the lake. The deafening sound grew until it went totally quiet, not from lack of sound but from the pressure built in their eardrums that made hearing anything impossible. In their bones they felt instead of heard the roar, the explosions and earth shaking thuds, and then the stillness ….

When they uncovered themselves all the trees for 100 yards in all directions were gone, in their place were shreds of logs piled in places like matchsticks poured out of their box by a child playing with danger.

They walked back to where they had laid their canoe. Miraculously the trees were gone, but the bush remained covering their untouched, precious canoe. In that same moment they recognized behind a jumble of logs their camper, and then their truck, both untouched by the destruction.

In the rest of the random campground 4 people were killed, 10 others injured, and many vehicles and camping units were damaged or totally destroyed. Some trees, though not many, remained standing as before. The shoreline was hidden beneath a mess of bush, logs, and the remains of boats that had been in the water or on shore. Julie and Greg used their truck to transport 8 people to the hospital and then a second trip with the other 2 less severely injured and 2 bodies they had found.

For weeks after both Julie and Greg, knowing that their sins were many and varied, knew that many days they had done nothing to please God, yet God had delivered them. They were alive. Their precious canoe, truck, and camper were undamaged. They were the only family camping that completely escaped damage or injury of some kind. They did not deserve this, so they gave God thanks, with words each morning and night, and with acts of kindness for others, helping others recover property, and cleaning up the camping area as they could. Somehow the heat that had returned, the mosquitoes, flies, bees and wasps that continued to swarm, and the parties that people somehow continued to hold each evening made little difference.

The goodness of life itself outshone all the challenges, obstacles, and ugliness around them.

Julie and Greg knew that God blessed them not because of what they had done, or not done, but simply because God so chose to bless them. They learned, slowly as the blessed shock of surviving unscathed, how to reflect God’s blessings in their daily lives, how to maintain their gratitude for each breathe and moment of life, and how to shine undeserved grace to other people.

Even scripture, given to humans to write, can be wrong when it somehow conveys that God blesses us because we obey his commandments and do what pleases God.

First God blesses us. Then like Julie and Greg we slowly learn to obey and do what pleases God. And we inevitably revert to our old ways of complaining about life and doing all things only for ourselves, until God surprises us with an undeserved blessing, so that we slowly learn again to obey and do what please God…. Until we inevitably revert to our old ways … and God surprises us again and again with undeserved blessings.

A House Does Not Make A Home

Saturday, May 22, 2021

No Matter the Storm or the Placid Calm

In the Wilderness of Homelessness,

A House Does Not Make A Home

Not Even for God!

2 Samuel 7:28

O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.

Hebrews 4:12

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Words of Grace For Today

King David, ruler of Israel, conqueror of all their enemies beginning with Goliath and the Philistines, and guided by Nathan to be wise and contrite when power had corrupted David … this powerful king, this young shepherd boy grown into a most powerful king, promises God that he will build God a house, a proper house made of cedar.

Through Nathan God provides David an unusual response: David shall not build God a house, for God has accompanied God’s people through the Reed Sea, the Wilderness, through battle and conflict, through the years and through the generations and never has God asked to be made to rest, unable to move with God’s people. Rather God will establish David’s house with a son, a lineage. God will establish Israel with a homeland, a place to gather without threat from their neighbours and enemies. David’s son will be loved and guided and disciplined by God. That son will build God a house most proper, [for then God’s people will be well established in the Promised Land].

Like David, we yearn to place God, to hold God, to worship God on our terms. God allows us our fantasies, doch we cannot control God in the least. Rather the Word of God lives and moves among and in us. We cannot control God or God’s Word in the least. Neither does God seek to control us. Rather God creates us, sustains us, walks with us, and always leaves us free to love, (which also means we are free not to love, rather to sin.)

As God creates us, sustains us, walks with us, and always leaves us free to love God’s Word remains in and among us, knowing everything about us more than we are able ourselves to know.

God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow.

God knows when we choose to sin, in every exact detail. We may try to fool ourselves that we have not sinned, doch God knows and judges even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

How are we to live knowing God knows our every evil thought and intention and judges them and us with them?

Only by Grace can we live. And by Grace, trusting God’s forgiveness, God enables us to live free and abundant.

Those whose sins are bound, are warned that they have repeatedly and horribly continued to sin against God and God’s ‘little ones’. They have given over their freedom to a bondage to sin that destroys so many people whom they effect. The warning gives them time for the amendment of life. And the binding of their sins gives their many victims (those whom they destroy and yet destroyed they still live abundantly) the assurance that God will deal with these destructive, unrepentant sinners. With this assurance, they are able to live in God’s Grace, trusting that God’s judgment and mercy will be brought to bear on those who seek to bring them to ruin and to their deaths. They can wait with God for the unrepentant sinners to be won over by God’s Grace, so that they may join in God’s double victory: the victory that their destruction is stopped, and the victory that they join God’s people as Grace-saved-repentant-sinners who live life abundantly. With this victory, instead of destroying people trying to make their way upwards through life, they are freed to sacrifice all they are to exercise Grace for others, so that more and more people may live life abundantly.

Solomon built God’s temple. Doch God is not tied to a place or just one people. God moves among, walks with, and by God’s Word of Grace (the old, old story of Jesus and his love) God frees all people so that we are all able to love.

Thanks be to God.

Destroy, … or … Jesus’ Story De-story’d

Sunday, May 9, 2021

How Often We Try to Change

God’s Story for Us

Into Something More to Our Liking

And We Destroy (de-storying) Ourselves!

Deuteronomy 33:27

He subdues the ancient gods, shatters the forces of old; he drove out the enemy before you, and said, ‘Destroy!’

Luke 1:50

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

Words of Grace For Today

Lord have mercy on us!

The people, led by Joshua, move across the Jordan into the Promised Land. They are going to take it, occupy it, and claim it as their God given right. They have something of a claim to some of the land, for this is where Abraham and Sarah raised first Ishmael and then Isaac, and their grandchildren, Jacob and Esau, and after them the great grandchildren including Joseph. The 2nd generation of those who ran from Pharaoh’s slavery to be delivered into the Wilderness are all there is left, for those that were delivered from Pharaoh’s chariots and army through the Red Sea, turned against God at Sinai, made a godlet, an idol of their own gold in the form of a calf, and worshipped it.

Now, the story is told that God has subdued the ancient gods, shattered the forces of old, driven out the enemy before them and called on them to ‘Destroy.’

For the Love of God, how can we mess up God’s story for us so badly.

And then Luke continues in the same vein, for it is not a seldom embraced idea that somehow ‘we’ are good or at least ‘chosen’ and ‘blessed by God’ and they (or all others) are bad and not chosen and not blessed, and here as it reads are destroyed.

First off we ought to notice with open minds that the ancient gods are not subdued. They and their supports in force have risen up in the form of ‘new age’ religions.

Second off we ought to notice that God has not driven off the enemy before us. The enemy is still here, doing great damage to so many people. Further, the greatest enemy is not those that work against us; it is ourselves working against God who give power to evil from others and from within ourselves. We end up worshipping that ‘golden calf’ of our own making from our own ‘gold’. We turn from God as fast and thoroughly as any of God’s people ever have!

Third off we ought to notice that humans have used God as an excuse to ‘destroy’ since the beginning of time. The story of Jesus, the old, old story of Jesus and God’s love does not include destroying our enemies. It teaches us that we, like God does for us and all people, are called to love, forgive, and hope that God can save our enemies, as God has saved us.

Lastly we ought to notice that God’s mercy, in so much of Jesus’ story this is made blatantly obvious, extends not to just a chosen few, not to just those who fear and trust God, but to all people, even our worst enemies! God’s mercy extends to all people, from generation to generation.

Those who God has saved, as we are, received abundant life. That is not a life of comfort and abundance. It is life lived, no matter our circumstances, blessed with God’s truth, with God’s Promise, and with the call to extend Grace and life abundant to as many people as we possibly can in our ‘3 score, ten’ that we breathe.

Lord have mercy on us, all!

God! Where ARE YOU?!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

W hen the dark storms of evil threaten …

Judges 6:13

Gideon answered him, ‘But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, “Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?” But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.’

Mark 4:38

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

Words of Grace For Today

Why is this happening to us?

Where is God?

Does God not care?

When unjust judges take life from us …

When the one who said, ‘I love you. Marry me?’, turns on you with physical violence or worse (because it is unseen) psychological gaslighting, lying to police and to church and to courts, destroying your reputation, leaving you so far in debt you will never get out, and your health plummets into pain and disarray …

When friends, bishops, and seemingly good people join the gaslighting as if you were a social pariah or dangerous sexual deviant, scapegoating you instead of dealing with their own failings to deal with reality and truth …

When there are no friends left to stand by you …

When flood waters wash away your home and life and hope …

When wildfires rage wiping out your home and life and hope …

When petty warlords churn your homeland into a war-wasted horror of death, bombs, night raids and killings, rape, torture, and dread of your neighbour falsely (or rightly) betraying you bringing death squads to your door to take you away never to be seen again …

When powers turn on your way of life, destroy it, and work to extract resources and power from your home land, leaving masses of your people without the necessities of life …

When you have lived in the wilderness for years, eking out a living of a kind, and you read of the wondrous deeds of God, as God saved our ancestors from these, similar and other worse assaults on their lives,

Then you and we will rightly ask, “God! Where are You!?! Do you not care for us!? Will you not save us, NOW! Before it is too late!”

Gideon asked this for his people. In time, as God instructed him, ((his ‘army’ blew the trumpets marching around Jericho, bringing down it’s walls, delivering it and then the rest of the Promised Land into their hands. — That was not Gideon. That was God delivering Joshua and the people. God did this so many times.))

In time, as God instructed him, Gideon with just a small army, drove out a great army and captured it’s kings … using surprise and loud noise making.

The disciples asked this as the storm of un-creation on the sea tossed their small boat about at whim between the tall waves and battered it with wind. They knew their deaths into the deep of the void (what was before creation) was imminent. Jesus wakes and speaks only a word. The un-creation void of the deep waters and winds of the storm settle into the fresh breeze and calm waters on which life was sustainable as the fishers knew so well.

God may not resolve the danger that threatens our lives. God is not a puppeteer, interrupting our freewill and others’ freewill as we choose our ragged paths forward in life through creation and human-made un-creation as we go (which we and others must then try to survive if it possible at all!)

God loves us.

God stands with us.

God suffers and weeps with us … at the loss of any of creation and any of God’s creatures … for God loves creation and all in it, and created it GOOD!

God does give us, sometimes, the possibilities to struggle against the evil that threatens us and to survive. If we live, God is with us. If we die, God is with us and gathers us home … home at last.

So whether we live or whether we die, we are God’s beloveds, blessed and grateful for whatever life we get to live in this miracle of creation!

God does not ever abandon us. Not ever. Not even during a pandemic. The stories of God rescuing our ancestors provides us witness to God’s love and care.

Thus, no matter how great the waves of evil pound over us, we do not lose hope.

As we live, we are God’s people who stand with others as the great waves of evil pound over them.

This is love. This is grateful, hope-filled living.

This is life abundant.

8th Day of …

Friday, January 1, 2021

Looking to the Light

As Our Way Forward

Leviticus 19:11

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.

1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

Words of Grace For Today

There is much that could be done which we know is wrong, and there is much we can do that is right. We pray for the wisdom to know the difference, and the courage to follow our hearts to know what is right. Most of all to forgive ourselves and all other people when what we do is not the best we could have done.

This New Year Day and the 364 days that follow, like all of the years and days before, is an opportunity for us to consider time past, time to come … and

most of all the time that is now, the present.

We take time to make promises to ourselves in the way of New Year Resolutions, which we know …

which we know from lots of experience

we WILL try to keep

and fail to do so

and we WILL try to forget what we know about ourselves,

so that we will be able to fool ourselves in the days ahead about the reality of our own weaknesses

in order that we can on our own make our way forward or pretend to make any progress in our lives on our own.

Happy New Year.

Make the best you can of everything, there is nothing that you can make perfect, yet in trying to make things better than they are, you just might completely miss what is most important: that we are at our best when we know we can at most be humble before God.

God gives us everything we need. So there is so much to do, and so much to be thankful for, and so much to do for others, so that they may live an abundant life.

What a life?

So what are we going to do this new day?

May it be blessed.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Sept 27

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Water

Little White Water

A pleasant water wave for children of Grace

Psalm 98:2

The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

Acts 14:27

When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.

Words of Grace For Today

God’s day of victory is a great day to celebrate,

for those whom God claims as children.

It is a day of reckoning and defeat for those who stand against God, for those who live a faith based on hate of others (the victims vary), for those who claim they make their own way without God, for those who have chosen their own rewards at the cost of others’ well-being and even lives, and for those who serve the Devil in so many a various ways.

Repeatedly God gives cause for celebration to God’s people as God opens up their understanding of God’s Grace to include more and more people, until all are included … or excluded by their own choices.

As the forecast has held steady in its predictions of strong winds, gusting winds, white water waves whipping winds, destructive winds the actual wind has been a light breeze or at most a steady, small wave making wind.

During these days I have taken particular notice, and been particularly grateful, for in preparation for the climate change’s last-year’s-extreme-become-this-year’s-normal storm and the new extreme storm, I’ve worked on setting two tarps to provide shelter in new ways. The work would have been challenging to design and construct with dried lumber of my choosing and materials that are offered for sale in any lumber yard store. I have none of that at hand. Only a few old tarps made from the skins of long since useless insulated tarps from which I’ve pulled the innards to work as insulation elsewhere and the dead trees killed by last winter’s thaw and freeze cycle.

I cobbled one tarp into place rather quickly earlier this week. It covered a nice area high enough plus about 6 feet. It has a nice airy feeling under it. Then there was only one day of winds 20 and 40 km/h gusting to 40 and 60 km/h. It whipped that tarp madly, snapped multiple strands of twine and even rope, and pulled stakes right out of the ground laying part of the tarp back down on the ground. I modified it for a temporary fix so that it would not all be ripped and shredded into nothing useful and waited for the winds to subside.

The forecast predicted strong winds with gusts for the next day as well. In the calm that came I was up a 12′ ladder made from 2×4’s long ago, with a chainsaw in hand, trying to delicately modify the top of a vertical support miscalculated to be a few feet too high to best withstand the winds, dragging tarps over new supports while standing a precarious perch 16′ feet in the air, and tying together tarps that are only tentatively anchored in place. Any strong gust could have put me on the ground, with a chainsaw running, or a small piece of twine wrapped around my hand or whatever.

I have been amazed how inaccurate the forecasts have become with climate change wildly playing havoc with historical precedents. These day’s I’ve been thankful, at least that the wind is not been as forecast.

Today, the tarps are in place, tied well (I hope), and staked solid. Now the winds are stronger, though still not the high gusts that were forecast. It’s a great test of the modified and improved protection by old tarps.

God’s Day of Vindication and Judgment is like that: we predict it to be ferocious, and destructive of many things we hold dear.

Those who dwell in the Word of Jesus, the Christ, have become accustom to Grace being God’s way with us, at the most unexpected times. It blows through us as a gentle breeze, in the quiet of calm, with the fragrance of fresh life.

God’s day of victory is a great day to celebrate,

for those whom God claims as children.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 6

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Bown Shaken but Not Down

Wind Blown Grass and Trees

God is not shaken

though the whole world be shaken off its axis.

Covid-19 shakes nothing when God stands still.

Daniel 4:3

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his sovereignty is from generation to generation.

Hebrews 12:28

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;

Words of Grace For Today

What shakes in your life?

When the wind blows and catches the solar panels on the roof this whole place rocks. The first time the 50 km winds did that, with 90 km winds in the forecast, I climbed out into the blowing snow and ice cold biting wind. I looked at what was shaking me in my boots.

It didn’t take long to figure out what was happening. Solid anyway I thought. Then I retraced the steps I had taken to face the solar panels into the winter sun that barely peeked above the treetops for a few minutes. I remembered how I had anchored everything solidly … and I remembered how the cold and the onset of dark had rushed me. While the front side was anchored solidly to the frame that held all the solar panels to the rooftop, and that was only probably solid enough to stand up to a 100 km wind, I had just left the back side resting on that frame of piping.

So was! The panels all together stood nearly vertically six feet above the roof and five feet wide. That’s a lot of sail force on that frame holding the panels.

It had inherent limits being on the roof anchored to the piping that held everything in place, AND the back side (in the direction the most powerful winds could hit – since there were trees disrupting the wind in the other direction) was just sitting there!

I was lucky it had not just up’ed and walked off the roof top smashing, twisting and ruining everything in its path!

So was!

I had found an abandoned 1″ thick rope a few months earlier. Not friendly to hands, it seemed tough enough, at least it looked tough. I grabbed it and let go of it right away. Then I put on my gloves first and grabbed it, ran out into sharp cold, and ran that rope from the top of the solar panel frame to the one tree that stood close on the side where the wind was blowing from. The next day I anchored it around both sides of the top of the panel and back to the tree. Done.

.

It still shook when the winds kicked up. I no longer was alarmed. Maybe I should have been? The whole set up is different now, but the rope is back in place, and when it shakes, I go right back to what I am doing.

Trust.

in an old rope.

in a tree, which is still alive, unlike it’s neighbours.

in my ingenuity … well not really. I’m just too tired to think how to make it better and then get out and make it so. Soon, one of these days. Maybe when the rain stops.

.

God’s Kingdom is not shaken. It does the shaking throughout the whole universe. Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord, and needs love of the Lord (based on the Lord’s love of us) to grow.

All around, even as Covid 19 shakes us, or it should, God’s wonders are worth being awestruck by. The rope may last another day or so, or a year. But God’s unshakability lasts forever. From generation to generation God rules the universe.

For this we can stand in awe and give God praise and thanks.

There is no wind, or virus, or evil that comes against us that God is not more powerful than.

Covid 19 has shown we can meet the emissions targets set by the U.N. Maybe, just maybe, we will learn to keep it up even as the economies restart, and hopefully grow.

Then the winds may not continue to become more and more ferocious. And we can stand in thankful awe of God’s power, instead of in awful fear of what we’ve brought the environment to do to try to be rid of our destructive ways.

We can

trust

.

God

..

above all else

and count our blessings … they never stop. God is not shaken as more and more blessings pour over us, for us to share with others.

M is for … Breathe the Music!

M is for … Breathe the Music

how is it that music

reaches

‘Ordinary’ Light, Ordinary Days

deep down inside our hearts

and strums

on something so deep

that penetrates the hidden reaches

giving joy

sadness

and hope

all in 

one

fell swoop

Every Piece of Life Compressed into Harmonies

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

major and minor, and 7ths for spice

bringing memories

long lost

to

the wear

and

tear of

loving once and amen

a

crazy spouse

who will

not stop at

anything

less than my death.

I in retreat and holding for God’s deliverance

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

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

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

What

is hope that

music strums to it

as

if

…?

Where does the feeling come from

that we can think of something other than the harmonies

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

other than words sung

so powerful

like a hand extended in love to care for another,

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

quite a privilege

for a small finite sinner creature

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

who is older

day by

day

until 

the ground accepts ones chemicals

once again.

For then the music will flow freely.

Epiphany: True Light, Real Darkness

Today we could sing:

Rise, shine, … Christ the Lord has entered.

He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,

with grace unbounded.

Today on Epiphany we celebrate that Christ is made manifest. Isaiah calls to us, “Arise and shine for your light has come!” and later he adds “Rejoice!”

The magi rejoice at finding Jesus, for whom they have waited generations to find. The Gentiles of Ephesus are over joyed, for salvation is not just for Jews; it is for them (and everyone) as well. The listeners to Isaiah are called to be full of joy for the light of God has shone on them.

But does the Light of Christ made manifest bring us light, or just make our darkness more obvious? Because the darkness is still with us, more than 2000 years after Christ. Because, though we are a congregation of faithful Lutherans, our future is not a given. Because, while we could celebrate and be joyful, there are millions on earth whose lives are at risk, even as I preach this sermon. The reality is our choices have put many of those people at risk. More than just a few have died since I started the sermon, and many more will die before I finish.

Rejoice? Really?

Fruitcake is made of things that I do not like, but mixed together I think it’s a great holiday treat. It is so wonderful and rich, especially if you soak it in rum (which I cannot stand on its own either) that it’s too easy to get too much of it.

How can the people in today’s lessons be overjoyed for there are also things in their fruitcake, so to speak, that hardly allow for any celebration. The magi tip off crazy Herod, and though they and Jesus escape, warned to safety by dreams, Herod will slaughter hundreds of children trying to protect his power.

The Ephesians are welcomed at the table to become followers of Christ, but in their day Christians were hunted and killed by the empire and the religious authorities alike.

While Isaiah calls the people to recognize the light shining on them, there are no obvious reasons to be joyful. Returned from exile, life back home is tougher than they could imagine. They are set in conflicts against their own people with little resolution in sight. It takes centuries before Jesus is born, and it takes until May 14th 1948 before the Jews have a homeland. Even so, they have been at war ever since, with neighbours and enemies who wish them all dead.

Forget that the fruitcake has things in it we may not like. The call to rejoice is made in the midst of some very rotten eggs being thrown into the batter, and it is much worse than just a few rotten eggs.

Now I want to be joyful. I’m sure you do, too. With all our heart, soul, and mind we want to be joyful. But I am not going to eat rotten fruitcake and say it tastes good. I don’t want to be full of joy and have to ignore the real darkness all around.

I recently added a safety margin to my existence: wood heat. Fire is powerful. The refurbished freshly painted wood stove provides heat, and how!

With care I test fired the stove with a decidedly small load. I wanted to avoid explosive possibilities as the smoke is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible at over 2000 degrees.

Fully fired the furnace still occasionally cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot. Fully stoked with vents wide open the furnace could probably melt itself to the ground.

Days after the furnace was in use, in the relative comfort of a condo, I relaxed with a simple candle set on the coffee table. Only a good sense of smell alerted me that someone must have put out the candle.

But no, looking up I saw the newspaper, absently set aside, 1/4 engulfed in flame which in a minute could burn the table to the ground and likely the condo with it. So, grabbing the flaming newspaper in my bare hands I smothered the flames with the newspaper against itself, leaving ashes everywhere. The condo still stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.

Do we see the light, but prepare for the wrong dangers in the wrong places? Do we let evil and sin creep into our lives in relatively safe places and nearly burn us down to the core?

It would be a great relief if, after baptism and each epiphany, we could thereafter always choose the light. But that’s not how life works. We continue to sin. We continue to choose the darkness. Therefore we, with billions of others, continue to suffer and unnecessarily die.

We’ve heard the old stories of horrific abuses out of the past, but they are not gone. Do we choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and corruption? Today these public abuses of trust are perhaps worse than ever, since they are so secreted under spin and even blatant lies.

Remember the official and political denial of the destructive power of CO2 emissions. Now we have Climate Change run rampant. Environment Canada warns that the extremes of the past are now the new norms. We will not survive the new extremes without greater resilience than ever before. Perhaps my overly sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.

With light pollution all around we may not be able to see the wonders of the stars, the marvels of the wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, or even our own backyards. How can we celebrate the light of Christ, if we live in such darkness?

It’s dark, real dark, in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for First Nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater than for other youth, which is already too high.

In Pinehouse SK, like many places around God’s creation, they know well what it means to arise and shine for their light has come. Youth in desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts, are finding that photography is all about light: seeing light, catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s beauty. It often remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo. Photography done well communicates real wonders.

As the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.

We live wholly by Grace in God’s creation lit up by Christ’s light. God commissions us to carry this same undeserved Grace and light to all others. No matter that we do not live as perfect people the Spirit uses us to be Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and unconditional love, and Christ’s hands for others.

In photography light is everything, and it is the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty.

We are reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular and beautiful. We share Christ’s light. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us, just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as can a fully stoked, vents wide open, wood stove.

Amidst every bit of darkness that is real, the reality is that the Holy Spirit is our flame and light, our breath, our hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All people to enjoy: Life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of wonder. Therefore even in darkness we can rejoice with all our hearts, minds, and souls. So we sing:

Rise, shine, … Christ the Lord has entered.

He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,

with grace unbounded.

Amen

The Power of Light

Or at what temperature is the Light of Christ pure?

It’s dark in remote northern SK especially in the winter, especially for first nations youth. Their suicide rate is more than 4 times greater than other youth.

In Pinehouse, like many places around God’s creation, they know well what it means to arise and shine for their light has come. Youth in desperate straights, often survivors of multiple suicide attempts, are finding that learning and practising photography brings light into the darkness. Photography is all about light: seeing light, catching light to tell a story. It also requires of the photographer to see the world in a different light, in the light of God’s beauty. Photography done well communicates real wonders. It often remains unnoticed, until the technical capabilities of photographer with camera and equipment in hand bring God’s beauty to the photo.

As the youth actively bring God’s beauty to their photos, they bring life and hope and light into the darkness of their own lives.

Tim recently added a safety margin to his existence; wood heat. It is not without it’s risks. Fire is powerful. The wood stove, well a furnace really, refurbished, with the outside shield freshly painted after years of abuse can provide heat, and how! With care Tim fired it up more than once with a decidedly small test fire, to ensure the draft worked, the smoke went up, and the dampers actually worked. Tim wanted to avoid explosive possibilities. Smoke is routed around inside to ensure it burns as much as possible. Less pollution, and more heat. Fully fired the furnace still occasionally cures the paint on the shield, and the room becomes insufferably hot. With diligent care now Tim supplements an insufficient propane furnace (which lasted only a year before needing to be replaced) with an overly sufficient HOT wood stove. Left wide open and fully stoked the wood furnace could probably melt itself to the ground, along with it’s shelter and occupant.

In the relative comfort of my condo, visiting over New Year’s, Tim let his guard down. A simple candle sat on the coffee table. He set a simple portion of the newspaper absently to the side. Only a good sense of smell alerted him that someone must have put out the candle.

But no, looking up he saw the newspaper 1/4 engulfed in flame, which in a minute would have burned the table to the ground and possibly the condo with it.

Grabbing newspaper aflame in hand he smothered the flames with what was left of the newspaper, leaving ashes everywhere. But the condo still stands, no fire damage. Just a scare.

Explosive fire from HOT HOT wood and smoke burning at 1000° degrees, all done safely. A small candle in the comfortably heated condo, with all the supports of a city all around goes up in free flame. Why does God let a fire with the newspaper scare us so?

In the Gospel we hear of great things that God does: Wise men follow a star and bring gifts of wealth. Dreams warn them to return home safely and for Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. But we know the rest. All those children in and around Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod. Why? Perhaps those Wise men were not so wise, going to Herod’s home town for directions?

Finding our way can be challenging. Mostly we like to make our own ways, who we make friends with, who we care for, who we spend time with.

God always surprises us:

In Isaiah, the prophet preaches to a group of returned Exiles. They find themselves in conflict with their relatives who never left. Those who stayed behind remember that they, and they alone, are God’s chosen people. The returnees want everyone included in God’s favour.

In Matthew the wise men come to honour Jesus, the king foretold by the star. They are not Jews. They are members of a completely different religion.

In Ephesians the central mystery of faith that the writer shares is that Christ is for all the Gentiles.

We ask today isn’t the central mystery of faith the un-earnable, unconditional Forgiveness? What about God’s Grace being a gift so that we are saved not because of what we do, say or think or even believe? It is just pure gift!

Of course we are included just as Jews may be. That’s old news. … But in Paul’s time no one besides Jews were considered, until Paul. God chose him specifically to preach to the Gentiles. While the rest of the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, with Jews joining them, Paul travelled the Mediterranean, spreading the Gospel to everyone, especially Gentiles. It was dangerous to be a new Christian. They were targeted and killed. If Paul had not spread the Good News, the early church, contained only in Jerusalem, made of only converted Jews, may easily have died off in the first few years.

After generations of God’s people claiming only they were chosen, and they held themselves apart as identifiably chosen, what is God up to letting in the Gentiles, us Gentiles?

When it comes to our God and our lives, God continually surprises us, yet we still have a long wish list:

Even in today’s lessons we read how we want: Just rulers, and Light in the darkness, which means a resolution for the all ails of the human condition. We want Prosperity in Light and Glory and access to God and Power. We want to be: God’s servants with authority.

We want OUR family together. We want our children in town or close by, our grandchildren nearby, and relative prosperity to accompany us all, always, to make our paths smooth.

God’s way, as history should fully teach us, though is not at all about our power, nor our wishes, nor making our paths smooth. God’s way is about light, and we get stuck in the Darkness. Our darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, and Evil as the necessary result of our inevitable and unavoidable sin. Darkness is us damning others for the evil that we and others suffer.

The REAL danger in life is not knowing the real power of God, present in various ways. God’s power is so powerful it is like a fully stoked furnace, in the guise of a candle flame, but capable of burning down the whole universe.

Still we choose to remain in darkness. We choose to not know the destruction of fright at injustice. Fright freezes us, or causes us to flee, or to stand and fight; all are choices in the face of obvious malfeasance that will sink us like an overheated candle melts in the midst of a condo consumed by fire.

We choose to be ignorant of today’s injustice, malfeasance, and corruption. We’ve heard the stories of old, but they are very present today, perhaps worse than ever since they are so secreted under spin and even blatant lie.

A terribly costly lie was the official and political denial of the destructive power of CO emissions. Now we have Climate Change run rampant. Environment Canada, reporting on the top ten stories of the past year, warns that the extremes of the past are now the new norms. We will not survive the new extremes without greater resilience than ever before. Perhaps the overly sufficient wood stove may become barely sufficient.

In our darkness with light pollution all around we may not be able to see the wonders of the stars, the marvel of the wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, or even our own backyards.

In our darkness we may not acknowledge the futility of security sought in prosperity. Even though we live in boom and bust Alberta, we too often seek security in wealth. We hoard it or we live lavishly. But prosperity and wealth can evaporate like water on an overheated wood furnace. It takes only a turn of a market, a corruption of an investor, a foreign or domestic attack, a new Storm, or a bad health event for ourselves or a loved one. After all we are all dying after the age of 26 or so; our bodies literally falling apart. It’s normal, for no one gets out of life alive.

The true Gospel, for also the Gentiles, given as a free gift, not earned by compliance to a set of rules or piety, is a true mystery. It brings the true light with true blessings to all who hear it.

We live not by prosperity but wholly by Grace. God commissions us to carry this same undeserved Grace to all others. We are only lowly servants. Our only power is Christ’s Power of self-sacrifice, truth, and of bringing life to others.

In whatever ways we are rulers, we can be just rulers. Even as middle or low class citizens or guests, or even as homeless squatters, the Spirit uses us to be for others Christ’s voice, Christ’s heart of grace and unconditional love, and Christ’s hands.

We share what we have freely received without cost: we share Hope based on God’s promises. We share God’s un-earned forgiveness. We share God’s over abundant grace.

As any good photographer will tell you, light is everything, and it is the contrast to the darkness and the play of specular light, light that is diffused and then reflected, that creates beauty. We are reflections of God’s diffused light. We are specular, spectacular and beautiful. We have the whole power of Christ moving through us, just as a small candle has the same power to consume a home, as a fully stoked, left wide open, wood furnace.

Flame is flame. The Holy Spirit is the source of our light, our breath, our hope, and our warmth and passion for life as God created it for All people to enjoy: Life as Christ’s servants is beautifully full of wonder. Arise and shine for our light has come!

Amen

Also possible

NASA celebrating when pictures come back from the other side of Pluto. Beyond expectations.

China: landed on the dark side of the moon, seeing images not seen before.