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.

The Power of Light

Sermon Draft for Epiphany 2019

This is Life in the Darkness

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, 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.

God’s ways unfathomable

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 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. There are explosive possibilities Tim wanted to ensure would not happen. 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 Tim now 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, yet alone it’s shelter and it’s 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. Why does God let a fire with the newspaper scare us so?

In the Gospel we hear of great things all at God’s hand: 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?

God’s Way

We like to make our own ways, who we make friends with, who we care for, who we spend time with.

God 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.

Mystery of Faith

We ask today, What about 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, practised only by 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, we have a long wish list:

What we want

Even in today’s lessons we read how we want:

Just rulers.

Light in the darkness, a resolution of the all ails of the human condition

Prosperity in Light and Glory.

Access to God and Power: God’s servant with authority.

We want OUR family together, sons home, daughters cared for (sexism) so we really 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 Light vs. Our Darkness

God’s way, as history should fully teach us is Not at all about our power, not our wishes, not making our paths smooth.

Darkness is us not acknowledging God as God, Love as our commission, Evil as the necessary result, our participation in it as inevitable and unavoidable sinners. Darkness is us damning others for the evil that we and others suffer.

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.

Like the denial of the destructive power of CO emissions. Now we have Global Warming run rampant. Environment Canada, reporting on the top ten stories of the past year warns that now the extremes of the past are the new norms. Without greater resilience than ever before needed, we will not survive the new extremes. 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 wilderness worth preserving, nor the inherent beauty of even our city, our streets, 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 prosperity or wealth. We hoard wealth 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, 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, True Mystery, True Light, True Blessings

The true Gospel, for 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.

As we are rulers we can be just rulers. Even as middle or low class citizens or guest, 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 forgiveness. We share God’s 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.

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.

Advent 4 – Outline

Mary sings

And it is quite the song.

Sung loud.

It’s sung with joy, and it’s been sung often since.

But be careful, singing this song may have unforeseen consequences.

Velvet Revolution story

The protesters in Leipzig in 1989 knew (the power of singing) well. While that element sometimes gets overlooked in the histories of the “velvet revolution,” it’s striking to note that for several months preceding the fall of the Berlin wall, the citizens of Leipzig gathered on Monday evenings by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas – to sing, and over two months their numbers grew from a little more than a thousand people to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world. Later, when someone asked one of the former officers of the Stasi, the East German secret police, why they did not crush this protest like they had so many others, the officer replied “We had no contingency plan for song.” (David Lose “In the meantime…” 2015)

But in the DDR in the 80’s (Tim visited and heard this for himself) it was a well-known, unknowable, among church leaders and government people:

Eric Honecker, leader of the DDR, and Bishop Schönberger, knew each other, and respected each other. They had both been in concentration camps under the Nazis.

Honecker and Schönberger had an arrangement, that the church could be the pressure relief valve for the state, and …

Well the lack of contingency for singing was known well among church leaders, and known as an intentional ‘lack of preparation’ by Honecker. Together and so as not to be documented, the two leaders planned for the fall of East Germany back into a reunified Germany.

One still needs to be careful when one chooses to sing, especially if one choose to sing as Mary does.

Bit first the other lessons, because they set the stage for us to better appreciate Mary’s simple song.

Today our song is from the Psalm:

Refrain

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

Shining face: the image from winter sun

Fill it in

It is so good to bask in God’s shining in on us, knowing we will be saved.

Which just about sets the stage for a good nap.

A nap

A sign of God’s presence

Amidst the challenges, to be able to rest in peace, or rather rest peacefully, when one’s enemies would prefer one rested in peace.

And after the nap, restored almost as good as new, we move on with our busy days.

Micah

political solution

The promise of a political solution for the very present like of old

Use of his words for more:

Beyond political solution

Jesus, a very not political solution to the timeless challenge of scapegoating and sin, which is more than any political solution could be.

Hebrews:

Beyond comprehension

If you think Hebrews is beyond comprehension, good for you. It is written just as obscurely as the complicated laws of Jesus’ day: and no one understood it then either.

Jesus, Last Sacrifice, a new justice

But the point of Hebrews: that’s clear

Jesus is the one time sacrifice,

who replaces blood sacrifice and in decipherable webs of laws.

One sacrifice, one salvation for all people, for all time.

Old [sic] [in]justice

In those days then, with the complicated laws, Justice was who knows you, not what you do, since no one can keep the law. Not much has changed with civil law – for some people who are guilty, despite what the evidence is that should exonerated them. And our jails are filled with native men, and innocent men falsely charged by their intimate partner.

What’s gone wrong with us? We use to do this to women, allow a man put her away for nothing, or for nothing keep her drugged for decades in a mental institution. Now it’s men. What’s wrong with us?!

All have and do and will sin

Still now, no one can keep God’s laws, no one good enough to earn God’s favour.

We need God’s saving action now and now again and again

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

Mary’s Song

More than once in history, tyrannical rulers have banned the singing of this song, for it is revolutionary, in the political sense.

[Story of song banned.]

Mary Sings a song. As all songs of faith well composed and well sung Mary sings a REVOLUTIONARY song.

Not just that God inspires us to revolve, to repent, to turn about and follow Jesus, instead of walking our own way and demanding that God follow us.

This is revolutionary, as in More than a few oppressive rulers have prohibited the use of this song.

JOY

The start is fitting.

Mary’s spirit rejoices. What better way to start singing of God’s presence in our lives.

THE LOWLY … GOOD NEWS

Mary realizes that God has taken a turn from power to the powerless.

God looks to the lowly servant, Mary, caught pregnant before being married.

And she expects to be called great, not for what she has done, but for what God has done to her.

This God is not the God of judgment that so many people fear without love. This is the God of mercy from generation to generation.

God has great strength, and chooses to show it … 

THE MIGHTY, THE OTHER KIND OF GOOD NEWS

But not to build up or sustain those with power and wealth, and pride,

But to scatter them with their thoughts of how great they are, thoughts so mistaken that they are just plain foolish, even if they carry their own day, or seeming carry the day until God scatters their thoughts and meager accomplishments as if they were seeds of weeds that are despised by all who see them grow.

The rulers are replaced.

Which is why many unjust rulers prohibit, under severe punishment, the singing or use of this song.

But to whom does God go?

Or from our perspective, to whom does God come?

God lifts up the lowly.

God feeds the hungry, with not just cheap food, but the good stuff, the nourishing food that makes for health and good life.

But The Rich God sends away empty handed.

This revolution changes all power and privilege.

So that those caught in the bottom of injustice can sing

The lowly Can sing loudly, for all to hear,

That God has come,

In Mary’s and Elizabeth’s day God comes to Israel, today to us, to whomever and where ever we are.

God comes to us keeping the promises he made to Abraham, for we also are By grace alone Counted Among Abrahams’ descendants … Forever.

God claims us, and makes us worthy of good food, good life, fair treatment, and great hope.

Be careful

Using the Magnificat can make life changed, can change life, can bring us down if we are powerful, proud, and wealthy.

But it brings up those of us who are humble out of necessity and position, wise but poor,

Who must count on God’s grace to survive each day.

For our good honest labour has not netted us luxury and privilege, so that we can rest instead of working to survive the

Challenges

Whatever they are:

[fill in your choice, these were mine]

Cold

Bitter cold

Injustices

Enemies that want vengeance for things we never did.

Enemies that know nothing of who we are, except that they hate us and want us dead.

Coworkers who are corrupt, or abusive, or mean, or haughty and proud, or self-righteous and judgmental, or self-declared entitled. OR the challenges of

Flood

Famine

War

Addictions

Storms

Earthquakes

Global Warming

Disappearing fish, species, glaciers, clean water, honest people, friends … children

Cancer and other life taking diseases

Adjectives and Adverbs

“A young teacher landed her first job teaching children in a large city hospital. She taught those young patients who missed a lot of school. She developed a routine. When she received a student’s name, she first phoned the child’s regular school teacher to find out if there were any particular areas the child needed to work on.”

“One ordinary day her list included a 12-year-old boy named Tommy. When she spoke to his teacher, she discovered that Tommy needed to work on his grammar – particularly adverbs and adjectives. So she planned a lesson and took it up with her to the boy’s room.”

“The teacher, being fairly new to the hospital, only first realized when she arrived on the floor that Tommy’s room was in the burn unit. The sight of the small boy – terribly burned and in tremendous pain – shocked her to her core. But not really knowing what else to do, the young teacher began to work through her pre-prepared grammar lesson. The boy’s lips slowly answered her questions and responded to her comments. In great pain, together they completed the assignment.”

“After the lesson, the teacher fled from the burn unit, certain that her grammar lesson had been a callous and useless exercise. She was ashamed that she had not met Tommy’s obvious needs, somehow better.”

“For the next few days the teacher avoided that area of the hospital, not wanting to see Tommy or any of the staff who worked with him. Then one morning she found herself in the elevator with the nurse who had shown her the way to Tommy’s room.”

“‘What did you do to him?’ the nurse demanded. Lost for words, the teacher just looked at the nurse, wishing she were any place else. ‘What did you say?’ the nurse continued. ‘After you left, Tommy was a changed boy. We had just about given up on him because he had given up on himself. But his attitude was totally different after your visit. He started fighting back, and now his prognosis is really very good. Come see him.’”

“In disbelief, the teacher allowed herself to be led back to Tommy’s bedside. Sure enough, he was sitting up now. He was still in pain, but he was smiling, and that smile reached his eyes. Tommy explained to the teacher, ‘I thought I was going to die for sure. Then you came. When you left I knew I couldn’t be dying. Who would bother to teach a dying boy the difference between adjectives and adverbs?’” (source unknown)

Bad Genes and simply dirty jeans

Parents who need more than we can give, children who are almost on their own.

Grandchildren who cannot seem to live a life that is not confused and desperately chaotic.

Spouses who abuse and take everything we have to give and more.

Institutions that are corrupt and decaying, destroying people caught in their downward spiral.

Or plain Evil, in so many guises, tempting us to be God, and to try (futilely) to make our own lives good enough for God.

Save us we cry, Save us we sing.

From all this we need to be saved, for we cannot save ourselves, so we cry

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

Amen

Advent 4 – Luke

Luke 1.39-45- (46-55)

A visit

It is just a visit with a relative, Mary, pregnant before she is married, heads to the hills to see Elizabeth, wife of the one of the priests. Elizabeth is pregnant as well and at the sound of the guest’s greeting, her fetus leaps in her.

Elizabeth cries out, and exclaims (ok, how did she know already that Mary was go give birth to God’s own son, the saviour of the universe, but it’s a story, so not all of it is going to make all the logical and logistical sense of an historical account. This is an account of the purpose of God. So of course Elizabeth knows Mary’s son will be their saviour!)

Surprise at Jesus’ visit

Elizabeth cries out and exclaims that Mary is blessed among women and her son is blessed as well. Elizabeth is more than a bit astounded, that Mary, the mother of her Lord, has come to visit her!

We ought to be so surprised that Jesus comes to us, every day, every minute. For what do we deserve but God’s condemnation!

Or we are so used to Jesus’ presence with us that we behave like we are bored with it, as if nothing significant were to come of God standing with us, face to face, shoulder to shoulder. Gracing us with God’s presence, promising us that all will be well … even when there is nothing that is well at all to be seen or known. For when God is with us, already all things are well, all manner of things are well.

For Elizabeth understands that Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew, meaning saviour) is indeed God’s son, our saviour; this infant is the boy that will grow to be the man who will save us all … 

No More Scapegoating

And make it obvious that we do not need to sacrifice anyone else anymore; no more scapegoating.

All this is astounding

Is unusual

Is unique.

But

Then

Mary

Sings a song.

But as all songs of faith well composed and well sung

This is

Revolutionary

Not just that God inspires us to revolve, to repent, to turn about and follow Jesus, instead of walking our own way and demanding that God follow us.

This is revolutionary, as in

More than a few oppressive rulers have prohibited the use of this song.

Joy

The start is fitting.

Mary’s spirit rejoices. What better way to start singing of God’s presence in our lives.

The Lowly … Good News

Mary realizes that God has taken a turn from power to the powerless.

God looks to the lowly servant, Mary, caught pregnant before being married.

And she expects to be called great, not for what she has done, but for what God has done to her.

This God is not the God of judgment that so many people fear without love. This is the God of mercy from generation to generation.

God has great strength, and chooses to show it … 

The mighty, the other kind of Good News

But not to build up or sustain those with power and wealth, and pride,

But to scatter them with their thoughts of how great they are, thoughts so mistaken that they are just plain foolish, even if they carry their own day, or seeming carry the day until God scatters their thoughts and meager accomplishments as if they were seeds of weeds that are despised by all who see them grow.

The rulers are replaced.

And this causes many unjust rulers to prohibit, under severe punishment, the singing or use of this song.

But to whom does God go?

Or from our perspective, to whom does God come?

God lifts up the lowly.

God feeds the hungry, not just cheap food, but the good stuff, the nourishing food that makes for health and good life.

But

The

Rich

God sends away empty handed.

This revolution changes the power and privilege.

And those of us caught in the bottom of injustice

Can sing loudly, for all to hear,

That God has come,

In Mary’s and Elizabeth’s day to Israel, today to us, whoever and where ever we are.

God comes to us keeping the promises he made to Abraham, for we also are 

By grace alone

Counted

Among Abrahams’ descendants

Forever.

God claims us, and makes us worthy of good food, good life, fair treatment, and great hope.

Be careful

Using the Magnificant can make life changed, can change life, can bring us down if we are powerful, proud, and wealthy.

But it brings up those of us who are humble out of necessity and position, wise but poor,

Who must count on God’s grace to survive each day.

For our good honest labour has not netted us luxury and privilege, so that we can rest instead of working to survive the

Challenges

Whatever they are:

Cold

Bitter cold

Injustices

Enemies that want vengeance for things we never did.

Enemies that know nothing of who we are, except that they hate us and want us dead.

Coworkers who are corrupt, or abusive, or mean, or haughty and proud, self-righteous and judgmental, and entitled.

Flood

Famine

War

Addictions

Storms

Earthquakes

Global Warming

Disappearing fish, species, glaciers, clean water, honest people, friends … children

Cancer and other life taking diseases

Bad Genes and simply dirty jeans

Parents who need more than we can give, children who are almost on their own.

Grandchildren who cannot seem to live a life that is not confused and desperately chaotic.

Spouses who abuse and take everything we have to give and more.

Institutions that are corrupt and decaying, destroying people caught in their downward spiral.

Or plain Evil, in so many guises, tempting us to be God, and to try (futilely) to make our own lives good enough for God.

Save us we cry, Save us we sing.

From all this we need to be saved, for we cannot save ourselves, so we cry

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved.

Advent 3 Outline

I. Bad News is Good News
A. John the Baptist
insults them
warns them of the wrath of God coming to them
exhorts the people
exhorts them to
To repent
To do good for others,
And not to take advantage of others for their own benefit
B. Sword of God’s judgment
Awesome power of seeing God face to face
Tradition: no one lives
Exceptions notable
Moses
Now us
Still we are purified
Ax laid to the root in us that does not bear good fruit
Burned in the unquenchable fire
Bad news for those who lose
Are those who had all for themselves
Those who win
Everyone who God chooses to bless with faith
Good News for some Bad for others
We ALL are both all the time


II. Appropriate response
A. Sing Aloud
Contrast to not being able or safe to sing
Under Threat, 
Natural or another person
not able to sing, constant vigilance
In captivity
Singing a threat to captors
Dangerous to sing
Now Freedom to sing
B. Joy
The choice to habitually respond with gratitude
Wait 90 seconds with bad emotions
Free of emotional charge, able to move beyond reptilian to choose
To recognize more than flight, fight or freeze
Habitual choice to rejoice always, in all circumstances
Brain lays down pathways, shortcuts for quick responses to similar circumstances
Possible to respond with joy to everything
Cannot choose not to experience negative emotions, dangerous if we could,
Can choose to wait, to pause, to evaluate, to respond with reasoned choice to every bad circumstance.
Joy is not the absence of sorrow, grief, pain, 
Joy is the recognition that God is present, blessing every moment, even the most difficult.
Good News even in midst of terrible challenges, even if Good News is God’s 2x edge sword:
Joy always
God present especially clear in the worst of times

III. God is for us
A. Blessings – 
not that we get what we want
but that God gets for us what God wants.
John the Baptist: tough words bring Good News
God’s order for us all arrives with the Messiah
Not the messiah people want
But God’s messiah for us
No more sacrifice of each other to get through life.
This is joy
This is coming home
This is worth living for
This is freedom
From fear, anxiety, shame, effects of enemies that would destroy
This is living out of what God wants for us, not what we want for ourselves
B. Coming Home
Contrast to not welcome, unable, dangerous, or homeless
Security, Accepted as is, Rest, Able to receive and to give security, acceptance, a place for rest, recovery, healing, and inspiration to be what God makes us to be
C. Christ is come
Christ was born,
Christ is born again, each day, each Christmas
Christ will come again, basis for all hope
Holy Spirit moves us to recognize again
Christ was and is born, and 
Christ will come again, to once again change the world, 
D. God’s Revolution
A revolution to all order, so that all things will revolve around what God wants for us
Instead of what we want for ourselves

IV. Advent is
Advent is not a time to hide, or to bury oneself in Pre-Christmas hectic
Advent is a time to

Reflect deeply
Be awestruck
Realize God’s power to change the world, and us, all of us, each of us. Be purified.

Act appropriately
Ensure all have the basics of life
Ensure all have clean air and water
Ensure all have good food and clothing
Ensure all have shelter, but more
A home, safety, acceptance, to be loved
Ensure all have opportunity for meaningful labour
Ensure all are able to choose to love, one’s neighbour, the outcasts, most of all one’s enemies,
And to love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul.

Be joyful, in all circumstances
Share goodness of life in all ways with all around us.

V. Now may the peace that surpasses all understanding, guard safe our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Love Cannot be Forced

Love Requires Free Choice

We believe that God created the world, and all of us,
in order that we can
love our neighbours as our selves, and especially our enemies,
and that we can love God with all our hearts, minds and souls.

Love
requires that the person who loves,
freely chooses to love.

Love cannot be forced from another, it must come freely from the person who loves.

And that also requires that we can choose to not love,
that we can choose to hate, to seek vengeance, that we can break ourselves and our relationships, even our relationship with God,

the consequences for which, since we all make this choice again and again,
are suffered not only by the person who chooses not to love
but by all of us.

There is so much sinning and suffering, only God can make it right.

So he gave his son
(more on that another day)
to pay the final and complete price for our failed choices, our choices

not

to

love.

God not only pays the price, but stays with us, even as we suffer the consequences of our own and other’s sins.

God again and again re-creates in us the ability, willingness, and possibility
to choose to love.

And we choose to love, even those who make themselves our enemies.

Dance.

Dance and choose to love.

Dance and love and choose to give thanks.

Dance and love and give thanks and choose to hope.

Be hope-filled, thankful, loving and full of the dance,

so that you can know against all odds and evidence and experience to the contrary that

all will be well,
all will be well,
all manner of things will be well.