What is Our One Thing?

or Whadda’ ya’ want?

What is your ‘one thing’?

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, and of your church. What would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

The Gift of the Magi, O Henry

In the radio adaptation of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi a young couple has two precious belongings in their otherwise poverty captured lives: his heirloom golden pocket watch, and her flowing hair that would put the jewels of the Queen of Sheba to shame. In a shop window they see an exquisite pair of bejeweled shell combs that match her hair perfectly. But they are unimaginably expensive.

Unbeknownst to the other as Christmas Eve arrives, he buys the combs for her, and she buys for him a silver chain perfect for his watch. But the price for each of the gifts is so high.

‘One Thing’

What is the ‘one thing’ of all your dreams?

Martha’s, Mary’s and Our ‘One Things’

After Martha invites Jesus into her home one thing fully occupies her: respecting an ancient tradition as hostess she must provide for her guest.

Mary has one thing on her mind, and it has nothing to do with Martha’s busy concerns. Mary sits attentively listening to Jesus.

Isn’t it true how as listeners we do not worry about the preoccupied doers’ tasks and obligations. And as doers we are offended by the lazy, unrealistic listeners or talkers who do not help with the obligations that must be met!

Whether you are a doer or a listener, what is the one thing that you dream of that would make life good and fulfill all that God intended you to be?

Sitting by the Oaks of Mamre

In the OT lesson for today Abraham sits under one of Mamre’s oaks in the midday heat, recovering from his recent circumcision.

Mamre is one of Abraham’s three allies. Abraham and Sarah have no land. They squat in tents by Mamre’s oaks. Eventually Abraham will buy a piece of land near the oaks. There in a hewn cave Abraham buries Sarah. Isaac and Ishmael, the son of Hagar, bury Abraham there. Jacob and Esau, the estranged twins together, bury Isaac there. Jacob buries Leah there. Joseph returns from Egypt to bury Jacob there.

God Comes Strolling Up

Abraham and Sarah do not go to God to find him. God comes as three strangers, yet one, strolling up to their camp at the oaks of Mamre, where they have built an altar to worship God.

Observant, Inviting, Busy, and Attentively Listening

Abraham beseeches the Strangers to pause to receive his hospitality as required by ancient custom. They accept, which sets Abraham, Sarah and their servants all into a flurry of action preparing a feast!

Abraham stands listening attentively under the oaks as the Strangers eat.

The Stranger asks after Sarah by name and includes her in God’s restated Promise. She shall bear Abraham a son when the Stranger returns again.

Sarah and Abraham listened to God. They risked everything to leave home. They have established themselves in the new land with reputation, herds and flocks, servants, and a place they borrow to call home. Though God has promised many times God has still not blessed them with a son. For an heir is the one thing they lack to fulfill God’s purpose for them: to inhabit this new land.

What is our ‘one thing’ we dream of?

What is the one thing that we wish and dream for that will make life good? What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill our lives by completing for us all that God intends us to be as children of God?

A Canoe, a Boat (the Church)

A canoe has one purpose, to traverse the waters without sinking. It may require at least one person handy with a paddle, and the ability to launch the canoe, and to secure it from theft and storms between uses. But the canoe is not purposed to sit on land, or in a garage, or to be hidden under a tree or set out in the sun to rot. A canoe is made to traverse the water as early as the misty dawn of light that pushes back the fog, and as late as the last drop of sun light recedes below the horizon after sunset.

Our Purpose?

Do each of us have one purpose? Is there one thing that in the doing we would fulfill our purpose, the purpose for which God created each of us?

God Comes to Us: We do the Works of the Righteous

It is clear in today’s OT and Gospel lessons: We do not need to go to God to fulfill our purpose. God comes to us, names us, and calls us. God comes many times to us, as God does to Abraham and Sarah, as Jesus does to Martha and Mary. God builds a relationship with us. We do not build a relationship with God, we are not the builders; we are the clay and God is the Potter. As Abraham and Martha, so we too can only be attentive and welcome God, in whatever guise God arrives in our lives.

What can God do to give you a fulfilled life?

Maudie, the movie: How Can She Be Happy!

One would hardly think that Maud Lewis would be happy.

As the movie Maudie portrays her, she was born an invalid, able to walk but not well. She bore a child, the result of incest, who she was told was so invalid the baby died. But the baby was healthy and sold by her brother, never to know Maud as her mother. Maud’s parents die, her aunt takes her in, and treats her as if she cannot care for herself. They treat Maud as a nobody.

So Maud strikes out on her own to work as a live-in housemaid for a simple man. But Everett hits her, is at best grouchy and at worst impossible. She prevails and starts to paint flowers on the walls in the dingy one room house in rural Nova Scotia. Eventually the two fall in love and are married.

Maud goes on to sell numerous small paintings, most for pennies and some for only a few dollars.

Eventually people travel to buy her paintings. She is even commissioned by Richard Nixon among others. But she lives in poverty her whole life.

In a TV documentary on her, which makes her more famous, she smiles, and paints within the small reach of her arthritic hands, arms and body.

Her aunt on her death bed astounds Maud by asking her about her appearance on TV: How come, of all of us in the family, you, Maud, are the only one who turns out to be happy?

Curmudgeon and insecure Everett gets fed up with Maud’s success. Fearing Maud will leave him, he forces her out. When he finally visits her at her friend’s he asks clearly if she will leave him for someone better.

Maud Lewis’s Pair of Oxen with Sled of Logs. (Consignor Canadian Fine Art)
Linked From CBC website.

Maud Responds

To her aunt’s question about how she turns out to be the one who is happy Maud responds: “I am happy with whatever, as long as I have a paintbrush in my hands.”

To Everett when he asks if she will go off with someone better than him, she responds simply and completely:

“I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.”

The Gift of the Magi: the cost so high, yet Rich beyond their dreams!

On Christmas Eve James and Della discover that she has sold her hair to buy him the chain for his watch and he has sold his watch to buy her the precious combs. So they set their gifts aside and sit down to their coffee and supper of meat … with each other.

For what is more precious than her hair or his watch, more precious than his silver chain or her precious hair combs? Most precious in all the world is their love for each other, and their loving sacrifices made for the other. They are poor, but their love makes them the richest people on earth.

Jesus: One Thing

At Martha’s Jesus says only one thing is needed. He is not clear what that one thing is. It is left up to us to discover.

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill our lives? Have we discovered it, for this time and place?

Happy are they who know God’s ‘One Thing’ for them!

As the earth moves through space and time we are not unnamed nobodies. God comes to each and all of us wherever we are and relates to us.

God Colours us More Beautiful than all the Flowers in the Woods.

How can our ‘One Thing’ be anything other than our Knowing that God knows our names, claims us, redeems us, loves us, inspires us, gives us work that has great meaning, and gives us people who we love and who love us, even if they are curmudgeons or our enemies.

The Church, the Boat

The ancient symbol of the Church is a boat, a boat to traverse the waters of life. It carries us as we give God thanks for all the challenges of travelling to a new land where we have no home, a borrowed place where we must wait for God to give us heirs to carry on into God’s future for the Church.

Our ‘One Thing’

No matter our circumstances we can say to our God, “I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.”

Amen

Pentecost 6 Sermon Draft

This is 7 pages, needs to be 4, fact checked, refined. Always hesitate to post this rough. But it’s the process.

So a very rough draft. How one may refine it differently than we would, well that’s your opportunity … and work.

It’ll take me a few hours of rewriting, focusing, and cutting.

But for now: the rough:

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, your church, and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

The Gift of the Magi, O Henry:

In the radio adaptation of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi a young couple has two precious belongings in their otherwise poverty captured lives: his heirloom golden pocket watch, and her flowing hair that would put the jewels of the Queen of Sheba to shame. In a shop window they see an exquisite pair of tortoise shell and gem combs that match her hair perfectly. They are unimaginably expensive.

Unbeknownst to the other as Christmas Eve arrives, he buys the combs for her, and she buys for him a silver chain perfect for his watch. But the price for the each of the gifts is so high.

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, your church, and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

Martha’s and Mary’s One Thing

Martha

Martha invites Jesus into her home to stay as he preaches, teaches and heals people who’ve come to see and hear him.

Martha has one thing on her mind, fully occupying her: respecting an ancient tradition as hostess she must provide for her guest.

Mary

Mary has one thing on her mind, and it has nothing to do with Martha’s busy concerns. Mary sits attentively listening to Jesus.

Isn’t it true how as listeners (or Mary-s) we do not worry about the preoccupied doers’ tasks, the Martha-s’ obligations. And as doers or Martha-s we are offended by the lazy, unrealistic listeners or talkers (the Mary-s) who do not chip in to help with the many tasks and obligations that must be met!

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good and would fulfill all that God intended you to be?

OT: Abraham, Sarah, and the guests. God comes strolling up

In the OT lesson for today Abraham sits by the tree in the midday heat, recovering from his and the males in his household’s recent circumcisions.

Three strangers come walking down the road toward the tree, one of the terebinth (oaks to us) that belong to Mamre, one of three allies Ab has in this new land. Abraham and Sarah have amassed great wealth, many servants, herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, great respect from their allies, and a little fear from their enemies. Yet Abraham himself has no land. He is welcome to squat in his tents here by Mamre’s oaks. Eventually Abraham will buy a piece of land near the oaks from Ephron the Hittite. On it he hews out a cave, and he buries Sarah there. Isaac and Ishmael bury Ab there. Jacob and Esau bury Isaac there. Jacob buries Leah there. Joseph buries Jacob there.

God Comes

To the tents by the Oaks of Mamre God comes to Abraham and Sarah. They do not go to God to find him. God comes as three men, yet one.

Observant and Inviting

Abraham beseeches them to take a pause, to receive his hospitality as he is required by ancient custom to provide guests. They accept, which puts Abraham, his servants, Sarah and her servants all into a busy flurry of action getting things ready. They prepare an overabundance of food: three bushels of flour, a full fated calf, with curds and milk. A full feast!

Sitting attentive to

Abraham serves the strangers and stands listening attentively under the tree with them as they eat and drink.

Promise Again

Having enjoyed their hospitality, the stranger, the Lord, restates God’s promise of a child, an heir, to Abraham. The Stranger, knowing Sarah’s name, asks after her and includes her in the Promise. She shall bear Abraham a son when the Stranger returns again.

The one thing that Abraham and Sarah lack: an heir

They have so much and more of what they needed to establish themselves in this new land: wealth, reputation, herds and flocks, servants, a place they borrow to call home. But Abraham has no son with his wife, though he has many other children by concubines. What a shame to not take care of his wife first! What a great lack of blessing from the God he trusted to follow, leaving home for the challenges and risks of a new land. For an heir is the one thing that they lack to have fulfilled the purpose God has for them, to inhabit this new land.

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good? What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life by fulfilling all that God intended you to be?

A canoe

A canoe has one purpose, to traverse the waters without sinking. It may require a person handy with a paddle, and the ability to launch the canoe on to the water, and take it off to safely secure it on land between uses. But the canoe is not purposed to sit on land, or in a garage, or be hidden under a tree, or set out in the sun to rot. A canoe is made to traverse the water as early as the misty dawn of light that pushes back the fog, and as late as the last drop of sun light recedes below the horizon after sunset.

Do each of us have one purpose? Is there one thing that in the doing we would fulfill our purpose, the purpose for which God created each of us?

God Comes

It is clear in today’s OT and Gospel lessons: We do not need to go to God to fulfill our purpose. God comes to us. As Abraham and Sarah, so we too can be attentive and welcome God, in whatever guise God arrives in our lives.

God knows our names

In both the OT and the Gospel God knows the people’s names to who God comes: God names Sarah without being told her name, and asks after her and assures Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son.

In the Gospel. When Jesus comes to Martha’s house he knows Martha’s name, he knows Mary’s name. Did someone tell him, likely so, but he remembers their names.

God knows each of our names as well!

God comes to build a relationship with us

In both the OT and the Gospel God comes to build or continue to build a relationship. God renews the promise of an heir to Abraham and Sarah. Jesus begins a relationship with Martha and Mary. Martha grows palpably, and as their brother Lazarus dies, her faith is made stronger. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

God comes to us and builds a relationship with us.

It is important to be significant enough on the face of the earth as it moves through time to be seen, recognized, and related to by others, to be more than just unnamed nobodies. We are each someone to God, someone significant!

What is the one thing that you wish and dream for that will make life good?

What can God do to give you a fulfilled life?

Maud Lewis, Painter, the one in the family who is happy?

You would hardly think that Maud Lewis would be happy.

As the movie Maudie portrays her, she was born an invalid, able to walk but not well. She bore a child, the result of incest, who she was told was so invalid the baby died. But the baby was sold by her brother, never to know Maud as her mother. Her parents gone, her aunt takes her in and treats her as if she cannot care for herself, in any way. Her brother sells their parents’ home without consulting Maud. They treat Maud as a nobody, burden.

Maud strikes out on her own, and gets work as a live-in housemaid for a single man. But Everett hits her, is at best grouchy and at worst impossible. She prevails and starts to paint flowers in the dingy one room house in rural Nova Scotia. Eventually the two are married, though Everett always dominates Maud.

Maud goes on to sell numerous small paintings, most for pennies or at most a few dollars.

In a TV documentary on her, which makes her more famous, she smiles, and paints within the small reach of her arthritic hands, arms and body.

Eventually people travel to buy her paintings. She is even commissioned by Richard Nixon among others. But she lives in poverty her whole life.

On her death bed her aunt astounds Maud by asking her about her appearance on TV: How come, of all of us in the family, you alone are the one who turns out to be happy?

When curmudgeon and insecure Everett gets fed up with Maud’s success and the traffic around his very humble house, he fears Maud will leave him for someone better. He forces her out. And then finally he comes to visit her, and asks her if she will go with someone better than himself.

God comes: We Respond

Maud responds

To her aunt’s question about how she turns out to be the one who is happy Maud responds: I am happy with whatever, as long as I have a paintbrush in my hands.

To Everett when he asks if she will go off with someone better than him, she responds simply and completely:

I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.

Gift of the Magi Resolution: What is the one thing

So on Christmas, in the Gift of the Magi, when James and Della open their gifts and the cost of each is revealed, they set their gifts aside and sit down to their coffee and supper of meat … with each other.

For what is more precious than her hair or his watch, more precious than his silver chain or her precious hair combs? Most precious in all the world is their love for each other, and their loving sacrifice made for the other. They are poor, but their love makes them the richest people on earth.

Jesus: No Orders: but there is only one thing (not what)

Staying at Martha’s Jesus could have many things on his mind, and yet only two things are clear: 1) for Martha he will not tell Mary to help with the work. And 2), at least for Martha to hear Jesus says Mary has chosen the better portion.

What is not clear is: what is the one thing that is required that Jesus speaks about?

In Life: Happy are they who know the One Thing

What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life?

How can it be anything other than knowing that God knows our names, claims us, redeems us, loves us, inspires us, gives us work that has great meaning, and gives us people who need our love and who love us.

The Church; the boat

The ancient symbol of the Church is a boat. A boat to traverse the waters of life. It carries us as we give God thanks for knowing our names, giving us challenging and meaningful labours, and giving us people (even or especially curmudgeons and other difficult people) who love us, and whom we can love.

And neighbours, even enemies, who we can love.

No matter our circumstances we can say, “I have everything with you, Lord, that I have ever wanted.” Amen

Get A Life?

What a Coffee and Life We’ve been Given!

Get a life, right side up

Get a life. That’s what people had told the farmer-woman, when she discovered her ex-husband had molested their children. Get a life. She’d already left him behind after the cops only took him for coffee when they came and found him playing Russian Roulette with her life. Get a life?

She told her story when a new acquaintance, an older man, mentioned to her how the cops tried to arrest him after is ex, with whom he can have no contact, chased him down country roads trying to force contact. He was afraid for his life and called 911 when other vehicles were caught as she blocked the roads in front of him. As the cops left, threatening to arrest him if this ever happened again, they told him to get a life.

Look and Find the Light, Find a Life?

Get a Life! What is Life? Who are we to get it? We think we know and then the Good News of Jesus Christ (also in today’s lessons) turns our understanding of life right-side-up.

OT: we expect God to demand; not.

As we read the OT Lesson we may expect Moses to demand that the people obey God’s commandments, which are hard to understand, require research to discover, and great effort to obey. But maybe if the people persevere and obey the commandments then they will get to enter into the Promised Land. Not at all so.

Twain: Do Good, gratify, astound

Mark Twain once wrote “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Twain’s humour catches us because we too often think that always doing the right thing is an option too far from reality to be considered.

Gospel: Parable of surprises

Today’s Gospel is delightful, full of corrections that keep surprising us, even though we are so familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus Answers Different Questions

The lawyer’s questions are often our own. They seem right and most important for life. Yet they are all wrong. In fact, Jesus answers as if the lawyer had asked different questions.

The lawyer asks: what must I do to inherit eternal life.

Jesus answers: how can we have life now.

The lawyer asks: who is my neighbour whom I shall love.

Jesus answers: who is a real neighbour, to those in need regardless of who they are.

It would be so much easier if Jesus just answered the question of who our neighbour is. We could limit who we must love to just those people! That would be a little more possible to do, and we could always fudge who was our neighbour so that we did not need to help the billions who are in great need.

Good Samaritans Loose teeth

When we see people in need, it’s too easy to come up with all sorts of reasons to walk by on the other side of the road. The robbers could be lying in wait for anyone who comes to the aide of the half dead man.

An old Winthrop cartoon (1982) shows two small boys staring off into the distance. One of the boys, Winthrop, starts to recognize what he is seeing. “What’s going on over there? Looks like a fight! … It’s Nasty McNarf … He’s beating up on some kid! … Come on… Let’s go and make Nasty leave that kid alone!”

The second boy speaks up, “Wait a minute…I don’t think we’d better do that.”

“What do you mean?” asks Winthrop, “Don’t you want to be a Good Samaritan?”

“Frankly, no.” replies the second boy. “Good Samaritans always wind up with loose baby teeth.”

But remember: we are going to lose baby teeth and our lives eventually. Adult teeth and life eternal will replace them.

We try to get eternal life on our own terms

Exactly, so we are right there with the lawyer asking what can we do to inherit eternal life. Instead of answering that question, Jesus asks back what the lawyer knows well: what does the law say he should do. The lawyer answers: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replies: You know it! Now do it!

What does love look like? (in the Gospel)

What does it look like to love God, our neighbour, and ourselves, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind?

It looks like crossing the road in order that we can help, aide, assist, and care for those who are left half dead by the roadways through the world, and thereby allow ourselves to be marked as foolish, unclean, not-blessed by God, and not welcome at work or in worship.

It looks like giving a full day of our life to an unexpected need of another person, again and again.

It looks like giving a great portion of our purse or wealth so that another less fortunate person’s wounds will be bound up and given a chance to heal, so that person will regain life.

It looks like promising carte blanche that we will cover the costs of providing life to another person in need.

All this to our enemy

It looks like doing all this for our mortal, religious, economic, and/or personal enemy who is left half dead on the side of life’s road, left there by all those things and people and circumstances that can so easily beat us up, rob us of everything we have, and leave us half dead. It is knowing always that but for the Grace of God, we would never survive even a day of the Devil’s guile and destruction.

The Homeless Guy who gives

Tony Campolo, a minister and sociologist from Philadelphia tells this story:

“… walking down the street in Philadelphia …  a [dirty looking homeless man] came towards me. I mean a … filthy guy  .. from head to toe. …He had this huge beard

[with]

rotted food stuck in [it]. As he approached me, he held out a cup of McDonald’s coffee and said, ‘Hey mister, want some of my coffee?’

“[I thought to myself, not on your life, but] I said, ‘Thanks, but that’s okay,’ and I walked by him. The minute I passed him, I knew I was doing the wrong thing, so I turned around and said, ‘Excuse me. I would like some of your coffee.’

“I … sipped … and gave it back to him. … ‘You’re being generous. How come…?’

“… this [guy] looked at me and replied, ‘… the coffee was especially delicious today and I think that when God gives you something good, you ought to share it with people.’

“I didn’t know how to handle that, so I said, ‘Can I give you anything?’ I thought that he would hit me [up] for five dollars.

…‘No.’ [he turned to go, and then turned back], ‘Yeah, yeah. … there is something you can give me. You can give me a hug’

“[I held my breath, wishing he’d asked for] five dollars! He put his arms around me and I put my arms around him…. as I, in my establishment dress, and he, in his filthy garb, hugged each other on the street, I had the strange awareness that I wasn’t hugging a bum, [no. Jesus was hugging me.]”

In Baptism: Enter the Promised Land, then Obey for Goodlife’s Sake

Returning to the OT lesson: God does not reward obedience with entrance to the Promised Land. All get to enter. The commandments are not far away, difficult to find or to understand: God has put them in our mouths and in our hearts! The commandments are not burdensome; they are life-giving. They are God’s guide for abundant life. Obedience brings us to live well, so that God delights in our renewed prosperity as we move out of slavery into the Promised Land!

In our baptisms we have already receive eternal life. Now what are we going to do with this life in the Promised Land?

Farmer’s Parting Words

As the farmer-woman drove away, she shouted out her truck window to the man harassed by his ex and the cops: They are jealous. Don’t let them tell you to get a life; you have one. They’re just trying to take it from you.

Do not be afraid, Do not be shamed.

Jesus says do not be afraid, we cannot be shamed for we already have a life, a good life.

What now?

So what are we going to do with God’s gift of our good, abundant lives in the Promised Land?

Giving what God Has Given Us

Jesus’ Parable compels us to ask: What kind of life do we live if we do not stand ready to risk losing everything that God has given us, in order that others may live, and live abundantly?

After all, without Jesus’ redemption we would remain strangers to God, and no matter what we would do, we would be lost, our lives worthless and meaningless. But with Jesus’ redemption we inherit the Kingdom of God.

Answers not far, nor impossible, for God is with us

The answers to life’s questions and mysteries are not too far away in the chaos of pre-creation between the galaxies that we must send someone to bring the answers to us. The answers are on our lips, and in our hearts: We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and our neighbours as our selves.

This love is all very possible for us:

for our strength is from God’s all-mighty power,

for our freedom and faith are given to us as free gifts by Jesus,

for our days are guided, inspired, and completed by the spectacular truth and light of the Holy Spirit.

Walking Toward Us: the Blessings God Shares with So Many People.

We’ve got a life, given to us … and there’s really good coffee coming down the street toward us. …

Are we ready for Jesus to give each of us a huge, warm hug?

What a thing of beauty this life is!

Amen

2019.07Jul07

Names in the Sky

Rough Draft:

lots of repetitions and sections needing tightening, deleting, or rewording, the essence is there though.

Still looking though the woods and trees to see the light.

Our Names are Written in Heaven

Skywriting:

Jane came out to the airport as she often did to watch Matt take off for his day’s work, crop dusting. This time Matt seemed to avoid getting off the ground, working around Steve’s plane instead. Then as Steve rolled out on to the grass runway Matt came over to Jane and asked her if she’d like a cup of coffee. He then stood with her, each with a cup of coffee in hand as Steve took off and began to spell out in the sky: S … U … lots of loops and crossing back and for forth for each letter E … M … A … … R … R … As Steve began the Y … Jane turned to Matt, knocking both their cups and spilling coffee freely, and hugged him, with a loud YES, and as Steve finished the … M … and the final E with the added touch of a ?, Matt came up for air from the long kiss he had planted on Jane to see the all 18 employees of the three businesses at the airport come outside to see, first Jane and Matt, then the trailing away letters Steve had written, and then to gather around Matt and Jane clapping. As Steve landed and ran over to join the crowd Matt and Jane were still shaking the hands of the people in line, taking their congratulations and well wishes, and answering they didn’t have solid plans yet but Jane was quick to say the wedding was going to be in their church, and long before it started to snow. Matt agreed, but the honeymoon would have to wait until winter.

With one marvelous flight, after years of joy, tears, and struggles Matt and Jane each knew that this day was wondrous, a dream come true. Everything about their lives was changed that day and again as they said their vows before the altar Jane’s great grandfather had built, covered with paraments made by her great grandmother. Over the previous 4 years, since they had started dating as teenagers, their lives had changed. No longer alone, everything took on a new perspective, the perspective of love.

Through their struggles they had learned that loving each other was wondrous, but also a lot of work, took a lot of patience, required a lot of forgiveness. The coming years would test the limits of their forbearance, their commitment to love and be gracious, and their ability to empathize for each other and other people for things they did not understand.

The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela

18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela stands tall at 80 years old, the first black president of South Africa, not a Black South Africa and not a white country gripped and choked by apartheid, but a country started on the difficult journey to reconciliation. He had spent 27 years in jail, been finally set free, and reunited with his wife Winnie. Time apart and Winnie’s other love drove them to separate and then divorce. Madiba was leader of a nation while still in prison, and then he’d been a leader not elected but negotiated with, and then the elected president tasked with bringing together a country of people separated by hatred and terrible atrocities against each other.

A man filled with love of many kinds he was NOW the most lonely person on planet.

Loss of love is as devastating as love is equipping and empowering to take on all demons

Then Nelson Mandela falls in love again with, Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel. He marries her on his 80th birthday! She is a leader in her own right already at 57.

Work of Love

Love is not free: it must be worked at each and every day.

If you work at being the person who behaves ‘in love’ with your spouse, you will love your spouse, as delightfully, marvelously, as colorfully as the first day you fell in love. Not being in love with the person you are married to, or being in married to someone who is unkind, or refuses to work at love is often a living hell. Being alone, for most people, is a great challenge.

When you both work at being in love with each other, Look Out! Being in love with the person to whom you are married makes life simply awesome! The hurts roll off your back. The challenges are met as best they can be. The responsibilities are met as if they were freedoms. And the joys multiply all by themselves through the years. This is how God intended us to experience life!

Extending that love to each other, and then to all the people who your lives touch: that is what the Kingdom of God is about!

What does that mean for us?

Now that the Kingdom of God has come near, what does this mean for us?

Quote from Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa said, “Our work is constant. The problems of the poor continue, so our work continues. Yet everyone can do something beautiful for God by reaching out to the poor. I see only people filled with God’s love, wanting to do works of love. This is the future—this is God’s wish for us—to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called.” Mother Teresa, The Book of Peace: Finding the Spirit in a Busy World (London: Rider, 2002), 74.

The poor bring us past all pretensions and lay bare the necessities of life and the awesome source of life’s great goodness, Grace, Love and Hope. These are the reality of the Kingdom of God.

What does that mean for us? What are we going to do in response?

Now that the Kingdom of God has come near, what does this mean for us?

And what are we going to do in response?

The Gospel for today is clear: share the Good News, Prepare the Way

Our responses are our lives, every minute, every choice, every action or inaction. Today’s Gospel clearly turns us, as Jesus did the 70, to go out into all of creation, to all people, to prepare the way for our Lord, healing and sharing the Good News of God’s Grace for all people.

Responses of bringing the Good News

Some will accept and grow from the nurture of God, like the nurture of a prosperous city, the city of Jerusalem.

Some will reject us and the peace and love of God that we bring. Still the message is the same: the Kingdom of God has come near!

Other lessons, what Good News will we share?:

OT: Always God is there for us:

From our other lessons we hear what Good News we have to bring.

As the people to whom Isaiah writes, as they return from Exile, we can share God’s promise of nurture, comfort, delight, and peace. We can share the comforting image of God as a Mother nursing us, carrying us, dandling us on her knees!

The Jerusalem of the/to day

Isaiah writes to people who had lost the Jerusalem they had known. They have returned, but what they find is not the Jerusalem they knew. It is gone. They mourn it’s loss. What they find is not yet the New Jerusalem that God promises them; it is still to come, a promise of God for the end of time.

Result for us:

Yet even in the Jerusalem of the present, and for us we may say, even in the the city, country, or Land we live in now: Here and now God will make prosperity flow like a river, full and flooding it’s banks distributing silt and soil for all in it’s vicinity.

Our hearts can rejoice. Our bodies shall flourish.

God there for ALL of us, as the past is gone, the promise of tomorrow not yet

How do we respond to God’s gifts now and the promises for the future? We rejoice, even as we mourn the loss of the old Jerusalem, the way it was in the past. Even as we mourn that our churches are not like they were in the past, brimming Sunday Schoools, bustling with children, abuzz with activities for all ages, providing learning, and sometimes real Gospel and real Grace of God, and real love of God.

Even as we mourn the losses of time passing we look with hope to the new creation!

There are lots of ways to try to create false hope, a false return to the past that is gone, to deny the reality of God’s grace in the present. Sarah and Abraham repeatedly tried to force their claim on God’s promise, and what suffering has arisen from the split of the family between their son Isaac and and Abraham and Hagaar’s son, Ishmael; between Jews or Christians and Muslims.

There is little more foolish, obviously ridiculous than a 70 year old male (think Trump and others), a man of power and corruption, divorcing his wife of his youth, and claiming again and again a yet younger woman, in an effort to remain youthful. This stereotypical man vainly tries to deny his age, tries to mourn what is lost by denying it is GONE, DONE, PASSED. Instead he tries to buy, with wealth gained by corruption, an image of being younger than the actual OLD of his age.

Of course there is the woman, just as foolish who does the same. Or the woman who reaches for wealth and prestige by marrying a man old enough to be her father or grandfather. These self deceptions are equally foolish and destructive to all sorts of people.

More destructive perhaps are all the faithful but untrusting people who look to the past of the church (denying the change of culture around us away from church participation) and expend great energy trying to recapture what is lost, past, or dying; instead of working to be what God makes us able to be today.

We miss out on the opportunities to work in the real world, from the real stories of each other’s lives. Like ostriches, we bury our heads in sand, unable to see the GOODness of creation. And we suffocate there, hiding from reality. God cannot nurture us there: no comforting, no nursing, no dandling on God’s knees.

In spite of us, God, through the prosperity of the City of God, the City of Peace, nurtures, comforts, and provides for us.

For us who have returned home from exile,

For us who have deserted home for better efforts elsewhere

For us who, like the older son of the prodigal father, have remained, worked diligently at home, and are envious of the returnees given free grace, we receive grace even though we have come to rely on ourselves, our works, our merits … though they may be something, they are nothing before God,

We all NEED God’s Grace.

God, through the prosperity of the City of God, the city of peace, nurtures, comforts, provides for ALL of us, just like a Mother provides for all her children.

This is love: God’s Love for us and our delight in God. Responding to God’s love we sing for joy, with praise and adoration, even as we mourn the losses of the past.

The truth of love

The truth of God’s love for us is that it is unconditional. In love with us, each of us, even you, God writes our/your name/s in heaven.

With that God fulfills our dream of all dreams and our hope of all hopes. God makes everything right for us and for God!

God claims, names, and commissions us, sends us into the plentiful harvest.

What does that mean for us? What are we going to do in response?

Confused Paul in Galatians:

In Galatians Paul, as is too often the case provides, in poor koininia Greek, confused words. He writes: bear each other’s burdens, and then all must carry their own loads. If we read carefully we can decipher that he likely meant, as we each sin, the rest of us carry that person with gentleness. Afterall we each will sin, we each will have our turn of needing to be carried by the others.

But as we work in our vocation and as we work to share the Good News with everyone we each should carry our own load, to provide necessities of life, for ourselves and for others.

God comforts, nourishes, and promises us that all will be well. But we still get to work like the dickens to make life good for ourselves and our community, and those in need.

God’s care does not supplant our own labours, but rather God enables us so that our labours can be productive.

There is joy in diligent, hard, directed, purposeful labour. A necessity of life: air, water, food, clothing, shelter, purposeful labour, and love (giving and receiving). As others bring us the Good News we should provide for them so that they can share the Good News without concern for their survival.

As we work: remember God’s promise: most important

As we work we remember God’s promise that our names are written in heaven. This promise is more important than our ability in Christ’s name to heal, to feed, to care for, to love others, to forgive, to be gentle with each other.

Like Jane reading her own name in the sky God has acted, named us, written our names in heaven!

Wondrous miracles to see in this creation. But the greatest miracle is God’s Grace which names us as God’s, claims, names, blesses, and equips us. God nourishes us, comforts us and carries us; and most of all God Loves us as we are and for who we really are!

That our names are written in heaven is not because of a fluke, not because of our work, not because of our correct faith, not because of our hanging on to or our letting go of our histories.

Our names are written in heaven simply because God wants it so, out of love for us.

Seeing the Colours set for our Names to be revealed.

Writing in the Sky

Lessons

Isaiah 66:10-14,
Psalm 66:1-9,
Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16,
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Rough Outline

Our Names are Written in Heaven

Skywriting:

A proposal by airplane. Wondrous, a dream come true for two people in love

Everything about their lives is changed:

The perspective of love.

The work of love

The forbearance of love

The genuine empathy of love

The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

at 80, 27 years in jail, freed, reunited with Winnie, Winnie’s other love, separated from Winnie, divorced from Winnie, leader of a nation before he was even released from prison, and now a leader not elected but negotiated with, and then elected,

and NOW the most lonely person on planet.

Loss of love is as devastating as love is equipping and empowering to take on all demons

Then at at 79 Nelson Mandela falls in love again with, Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel. (born 17 Oct 1945.)

He marries her on his 80th birthday!

The trees, the stumps of the past, the light.

Work of Love

Love is not free: must be worked at each and every day.

If you work at being the person who behaves ‘in love’ with your spouse, you will love your spouse, as delightfully, marvelously, as colorfully as the first day you fell in love.

How that makes life different!

What does that mean for us?

Now that the Kingdom of God has come near,

Quote from Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa said, “Our work is constant. The problems of the poor continue, so our work continues. Yet everyone can do something beautiful for God by reaching out to the poor. I see only people filled with God’s love, wanting to do works of love. This is the future—this is God’s wish for us—to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called.” Mother Teresa, The Book of Peace: Finding the Spirit in a Busy World (London: Rider, 2002), 74.

What does that mean for us?

What are we going to do in response?

In the meanwhile:

Some will accept and grow from the nurture of God, like the nurture of a prosperous city, the city of Jerusalem.

Some will reject us and the peace and love of God that we bring. Still the message is the same: the Kingdom of God has come near!

Other lessons:

OT: Always God is there for us:

on return from Exile:

Promise of nurture, comfort, delight, and peace.

If ever an image is needed: of God: Mother nursing us, carrying us, dandling us on her knees!

The Jerusalem of the/to day

not the old, it’s gone, can be mourned

not the New, it’s coming, a promise of God at the end of time

Result for us:

Prosperity will flow like a river, full and flooding it’s banks distributing silt and soil for all in it’s vicinity.

Our hearts shall rejoice

our bodies shall flourish.

God there for ALL of us, as the past is gone, the promise of tomorrow not yet

Response: rejoice, even us that mourn the loss of the old Jerusalem, the way it was in the past.

Like brimming churches with SS busy with children, many per age in classrooms abuzz with activities, learning, and sometimes real Gospel and real Grace of God, and real love of God.

Mourn the loss, look to the new creation!

Nothing more foolish, bare obvious ridiculous than a 70 male, a man of power and corruption, divorcing himself from his wife of his youth, and claiming again and again a yet younger woman, in an effort to remain youthful, to deny his age.

Mourning what is lost by denying it is GONE, DONE, PASSED. Instead buying with wealth gained by corruption, an image of being younger than the real OLD of his age.

Nothing more foolish, than an woman who does the same. Equally foolish and destructive to all sorts of people, in the deception of self.

Except perhaps all the faithful people who look to the past of the church, deny the change of culture around us away from church participation, and expend great energy trying to recapture what is lost, past, or dying; instead of working to be what God makes us able to be today.

We deny one another’s stories, we’re too busy struggling as a congregation with each other’s untoward behaviours, anxious behaviours.

We miss out on the opportunities to work in the real world, from the real stories of each other’s lives. Like ostriches, we bury our heads in sand, unable to see the GOODness of creation. And we suffocate there, hiding from reality. God cannot nurture us there: no comforting, no nursing, no dandling on God’s knees.

God, through the prosperity of the City of God, the city of peace, nurtures, comforts, provides for us,

us who have returned home from exile,

us who have deserted home for better efforts elsewhere

us who, like the older son of the prodigal father, have remained, worked diligently at home, and are envious of the returnees given free grace, we receive grace even though we have come to rely on ourselves, our works, our merits … though they may be something, they’re nothing before God,

We all NEED God’s Grace.

God, through the prosperity of the City of God, the city of peace, nurtures, comforts, provides for ALL of us,

Just like a Mother provides for her infants.

This is love: God’s for us, our delight in God: we respond with singing for joy, with praise and adoration, with joy, even as we mourn the loss of the past.

The truth of love

God: in love with us, you, writes our/your name/s in heaven: the dream of all dreams, hopes, and life itself, fulfilled, for us and for God!

God claims, names, and commissions us, sends us

into the harvest: plentiful, with few workers:

What does that mean for us?

What are we going to do in response?

The work, the paddling, the water of life, the light.

Confused Paul in Galatians:

bear each other’s burdens, all must carry their own loads.

As we sin, each carried with gentleness by the rest of us.

As we work, each carry our own load, to provide necessities of life.

God comforts, nourishes, promises: But we still get to work like the dickens to make life good for ourselves and our community, and those in need.

God’s care does not supplant our own labours, rather God, enables our labours to be productive.

There is joy in diligent, hard, directed, purposeful labour. Labour is a necessity of life: air, water, food, clothing, shelter, purposeful labour, and love (giving and receiving).

As we work: remember God’s promise: most important

God promise:

our names are written in heaven.

More than our ability in Christ’s name to heal, to feed, to care for, to love others, to forgive, to be gentle with each other:

That God has acted, named us, written our names in heaven!

Wondrous miracles to see in this creation. Greater is God’s Grace which names us as God’s

Claimed, named, blessed, equipped. Nourished, comforted, carried,

But most of all LOVED for who we really are!

Names written not because of a fluke, not because of our work, not because of correct faith, not because of our hanging on to or letting go of our histories, but
Just because God wants it so, out of love for us.

The power of the heavens, where our names are written

No Sermon, Sorry

Gaslit Again


No sermon this past week. Sorry.
A few photos though still brighten the horizon even as bleak as it could be.

It was a difficult week again. A judge made an order, full of ….
You cannot safely say the truth about judges; though it would be nice if judges would base their work on truth.


This past week has been draining.


Gaslighting is a powerfully terrible thing to experience.


These snippets from a google search highlight just what this is, just how terrible it is, and just how terrible it is that the justice system participates in this. All apologies if any are really needed for just grabbing this information without keeping records to give credit. It’s the kind of thing that after one suffers it, again and again, at one’s spouse’s hand, and then repeatedly at one’s pastor’s, (she was ordained today, just for a sample of God’s justice waiting, and God’s Grace filling undeserving lives), other pastors who have great sins to hide in their false accusations about me, and then almost without ceasing by various RCMP officers, even VSU when I called them, a great number of people working in the justice system, and then again and again at the hand of judges ….
It’s the kind of thing that when you have to deal with it again things do not always get done with the correct process. So my apologies.

Birds Fly, even if I Cannot

To Gaslight


to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

Gaslight


Gaslighting is used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when an abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make a victim question his or her sanity. Gaslighting intentionally makes someone doubt their memories or perception of reality.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victim’s an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. … The emotional damage of Gaslighting is huge on the narcissistic victim.
Gaslighting can also be part of an authoritarian personality. A person with an authoritarian personality tends to think in absolutes: Things are 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong. When a gaslighter thinks that they are not the problem and everyone else is, this is called having an ego-syntonic personality.


Signs of being Gaslit


• no longer feeling like the person you used to be.
• being more anxious and less confident than you used to be.
• often wondering if you’re being too sensitive.
• feeling like everything you do is wrong.
• always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong.
• apologizing often.


The following from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/are-gaslighters-aware-what-they-do


… Gaslighting is a pattern of manipulation tactics used by abusers, narcissists, dictators, and cult leaders to gain control over a person or people. The goal is to make the victim or victims question their own reality and depend on the gaslighter.
So, do gaslighters know they’re doing it?
It depends on the gaslighter.

Light and the Road. They have Chosen.

Living Well, Surviving Gaslighting

There is only one way to survive Gaslighting:

to live well, as well as one can, given the circumstances.
I live well, even if the challenges are great.

In the Purple Light of an Early Morning Before the Storm That follows that Day.


My work is rough. Outdoors, building, tearing down, moving, rebuilding. It’s a dream for a young man who loves to build things with his hands.
It’s tough and rough work for an older man like me, even if I like working with my hand. My hands, precious instruments of my creativity.

And the Light at Night

I live well.

The sun sets over the lake outside the window. A canoe rests near the water available to take a camera out to create beauty from what can be ordinary. People respond well to my company, my words, and simple joy of life. I receive grace given to me in abundance. I share grace with everyone I meet, and it makes a visible difference, a positive difference.

I help guide a new truck driver from being stuck to safely position her vacuum truck to be able to do her work and be able to drive out. It just took some well placed shovel work, and some good driving, well planned driving.

I cleaned up 5 garbage bags of drunken, drugged, and orgy leftovers out of this random camping area.

I’ve pulled two dead-falls down this past week, one down by a fool with an axe, the other by a strong wind. Who knows what may have happened, but no one will get hurt from them.

The fireworks after 23:00 are loud, but the view is okay. There are no complaints.


The light is wonderful, when one sees it with the truth that God created it to reflect.


Gas – Lighting

It’s the kind of lighting that only God can put right. I can forgive the family stuff, the gaslighting in the family as horrendous as it was. But the professionals: they should know better: their sins are bound. God will deal with their sins, not forgiven but bound.
That, because it is my responsibility to forgive all that can be, and to bind what cannot be. I place it behind me so that I can continue to deal with these people of horrendous deeds with grace. I place it behind me and before them for the rest of their lives. God’s truth has no diminished clarity, no possibility of being lied about, nothing to be spun or hidden.

And the Birds Still Fly


God’s forgiveness, which I have given, remains as clear as God’s light of truth.
Photos show reality, the clarity of God’s light shining on God’s wonderful creation.

God took seven days,

and said it was Good.


I live well in that Goodness.

Pentecost 2, How do we respond?

its still a draft, the first, but it is a formulation of what will become a sermon.

How do we Respond

Front Yard 1 Juniper hole

My front yard needed something to replace the juniper that had taken over the front of the porch, toxic as it was to some of us living in the house. So I bought a plant to replace the juniper that was cut off last fall leaving a stump.

The Question of the sermon: how do we respond?

Through all the lessons for today a theme winds its way: How do we respond? Who do we respond to?

In Isaiah, God is ready for the people to respond to God, but they tell him to stay away. The Psalmist cries to the Lord for rescue from the enemies, God saves the Psalmist, and the Psalmist with all who fear the Lord, sing God’s praise. They remember who God is and whose they are.

In his letter to Galatians Paul recounts how we are to respond to the demands of the Law. We can set it aside. And how we are to respond to the Gospel of Jesus. We can trust it fully to justify us before God, for our faith is a gift from God and it alone is what we need to be counted among God’s own children, and heirs of God’s own Kingdom!

The Gospel story recounts how a mass of demons respond to Jesus’ arrival with great fear, how the herders respond to the drowning of their pigs in the lake, and how the towns people respond to Jesus driving the demons out of the man they’ve possessed for so long. Most significant is how the healed man responds. He sits at Jesus’ feet in worship, asks to come along, and when denied that request follows Jesus’ command to tell everyone all that Jesus has done for him! He becomes the one who proclaims in this foreign land Jesus’ Good News!

Trump

This past week Trump found himself in another brinkmanship showdown this time with Iran. He stood minutes away from ordering an attack that would break out in another long and costly war. Threatening had spiraled down to making good on extreme threats, had come to ordering a military preemptive response.

Despite advice from many corners to stop such brinkmanship showdowns, and this one in particular, Trump had carried on. Then a phone call from Fox News came, alerting Trump that his planned attack would certainly lose him the next election. So Trump stood down the military attack.

Front Yard 2 Snow-shovelled ‘salted the earth’

My front yard also needed something to fix a foot wide strip of grass along the driveway where no grass will grow. Each winter snow was shoveled to the side of the driveway, the only place to shovel it, and all the salt from the vehicles from the streets has been dumped on the lawn. Generally it’s suffered, but that first foot has been thoroughly salted earth. A few brave weeds try to conquer it each summer with little success. I had tried, as many others had, to ignore that I’d salted the earth there, but enough was enough.

So I planned to put in some kind of walk way, which would absorb the salt and snow melt, and not need to have anything grow there, without just extending the ‘salted earth’ effect another foot into the lawn.

Responses that deny anything is wrong

Sometimes it is just easier to deny that things are wrong.

In Isaiah, God stands ready and eager to have the people respond, but they do not. They go so very far as to tell God that they want God to stay far away.

Tevye, in the Fiddler on the Roof, when he is asked, proposes such a blessing for the czar: He asks God to bless the czar and keep him from them very far. Of course the Czar wishes no good for Tevye and his community. Good wishes Good for us all!

Sometimes it is just easier to assume that someone else is the source of the problem that we encounter, or to pretend there is no real problem at all, even as life itself seems to melt away to viruses, antibiotic resistant bacteria, or cancer.

Woman without the Cookies

A woman waiting to catch a flight bought herself a book and a bag of cookies, settled in a chair, and began to read. Suddenly the man beside her started helping himself to her cookies. Not wanting to make a scene, she read on and ate cookies. For every cookie she took, he took one, too. She got more irritated and muttered, “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d give him a piece of my mind!” She wanted to move the cookies to her other side but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. When only one was left, with a smile on his face and a nervous laugh, he took it and broke it in half.

Then he offered her half, and he ate the other. She snatched it from him and thought, “This guy has some nerve, and he’s so rude. He didn’t even show any gratitude!” When her flight was called, with relief she headed for the gate, refusing to look at the ungrateful “thief.” She boarded the plane and sank in her seat, reached in her bag to get a book to read and to forget about the incident.

Next to her book … was her full bag of cookies.

Front Yard 3 Porch covered HOLE

My remembering had not completed the whole picture. Under my front porch, with the ground for a good 12 to 20 feet around, there is a sinkhole in the corner of the foundation that had dropped a good three feet below grade. The sump pump was right there. Good. It pumped out the water about 12 feet away along the other wall right at the rhubarb plant just three feet from the porch corner where the juniper stood, so all the water freely flowed right back down the foundation to the sump pump again. No wonder the rhubarb and juniper did so well every year, no matter how dry a summer we had!

So I planned to fill that sink hole in with extra black dirt, but then thought that I’d better fill it with clay, so the water would not just seep through the black dirt.

Cookies, Clay, Good Creatures, possesed but redeemed by Jesus

Sometimes we not only get it wrong whose bag of cookies we are eating from, we forget the big hole that we have at home, right in our own hearts, and we simply do not remember what will fill it.

Clay is fine for my hole under the porch. But what of all the holes left by all the losses we encounter through life? What do we fill them with?

According to the Norsky Sunday School song, the workers wouldn’t work and the painters wouldn’t paint, so God in creating the earth thought the quickest thing to do was to fill it up with dirt.

But when God came to us humans, God did not create with just dirt. God breathed into us, gave us spirit and life, memories and regrets, and thoughts and hopes. God gave us the ability to fear and love God, and each other. God made us Goooood. Then when we were possessed by the demons of sin and evil, God sent Jesus, God’s own Son, to demonstrate for us what we can barely comprehend, but we can remember: God so loved the world and all of us in it that God rescues us from all the demons.

In our baptisms God claims us and makes us God’s own children. There is no greater thing that God can do for us.

ML Baptized I live in the face of all demons

Martin Luther knew about demonic powers. In his early adult life, after being near-struck by lightning he completely gave himself over to fighting against demonic powers. He became a monk serving God with his whole being, disciplining himself harshly, even flogging himself, to drive the devil’s demons out, and to make penance for the many sins he committed every day.

Then one day, Martin Luther again read the letter to the Galatians. That simple word, justified by faith, not by works, turned his whole understanding of his part in God’s Kingdom right-side-up. Luther read that it was not his doing or even believing the right things that saved him. Rather God acted, through Jesus, to create faith in him, a faith that trusts the story of Jesus’ sacrifice for him. This faith saved him.

Thereafter when Luther encountered demons he fought them off with a little word: “I am baptized” (although he said it in Latin). …He did not battle Satan with, “I believe in Christ” or “I am a Christian.” His confidence was not centered on his faith or beliefs, but on an act of God — God’s claim on his life given in baptism. (Stoffregen 2010- reworked )

After baptism, after we know we have faith given to us, then the battles against demonic powers are not ours any more. We simply surrender 100% of our lives to Christ, and the war is won, though the battles still rage on.

Lutherans believe that trusting God’s actions to create faith in us is the Gospel within the Gospel. It is the central Word of God by which we discern the Word of God in the rest of Scriptures, in the rest of literature, in the rest of our lives.

We respond to God’s gifts with fear, love and diligence: We pray as if everything depended on God. But we do not rest. We work as if the salvation of the world depended on us.

There are pathways to be built, holes to fill, grass to sow and plants to plant. There are broken hearts to heal. There are broken dreams to re-form into something possible. There are the denials of sin and evil to overcome … not with more threats, but with love and the promise of healing.

Like the man free of the demons, we each have a story of God’s work in us to heal us and give us new life. Our work is to tell our stories, which are really God’s story of God loving us, and to tell it with an abundance of love for each other, even love for our enemies.

Front Yard 4 Remembering the whole project together

As I shared with Tim my plans to plant that replacement for the juniper, I remembered that the sink hole would be filled part way with the clay dug out from along the drive where the earth was salted. The whole area where I wanted to put that plant would be a construction site, and it needed to be this summer.

I also remembered that all the ground around the porch, rhubarb, and the new plant spot needed to be sloped with fresh black dirt so that water drained away from the building towards a trench in the lawn that would take it to the street.

I also remembered that flagstone was possibly the best for that path: solid but with space between the rocks to allow water and salt to seep down.

Well, I was reminded so I remembered, which was just as good.

So I went to Burnco to chose stone with Tim, and then got out of the way as he took his three days plus to pull out the juniper stump with the truck, dig out the salted black dirt and 8 inches of clay along the drive, toss that clay and more under the porch more than filling the hole. He then layered the bottom 6 inches of the resulting trench along the drive with road crush and topped that with a layer of sand. With help from Richard lifting the heavy rock to save Tim’s back he danced the irregular stones into a pattern for the walk and filled in the gaps with more sand. Then he took new black dirt, re-sloped the grass area to be, and planted seeds.

That’s when I stepped back in to help ensure the area was watered lightly many times each day. A week later the seeds have sprouted.

Remember that was all to replace the juniper with the plant I bought two weeks earlier. Meanwhile it had to be planted elsewhere, to be out of the way, and so as not to die in it’s pot.

Respond by remembering, working, fearing, praising and telling

How do we respond? Sometimes it’s all about remembering.

Remembering how God created us, made us good, and sent Jesus to save us from our sins. Then we can see the steps, hard as they may be to bring living beauty back into our lives where something toxic has grown and even the ground has been salted.

Sometimes, remembering will remind us that there is a great deal of work to be done. God needs us to be the hands of Christ to make things happen, to make the Goodness of Creation possible also today. Often that will be something completely new, un-imagined until we see the desperate need of those around us.

As we remember God’s great gifts given to us, we will be fearful, awestruck, and we will give God praise. We will go out to tell all everything that God has done for us, healing us of our every ill, naming us as heirs to God’s great promises.

Amen

Pentecost 2

There are demons everywhere, the power of evil. There are weeds everywhere even in beauty.

Thoughts

The lessons present powerful images, critical issues, and connections to issues today are profound.

This is a sermon not to missed, not to be sloughed off as something ordinary, or made into something other than what the lessons present: The reality that is ours: God verses Evil in our own hearts> God wins every time, and it always looks like Evil wins, because our measure is tainted, while God’s measure of winning (and everything else) is pure, simple, clear and based in truth.

I could just jump to write a sermon, it is after all already Saturday morning, the week being a series of tasks that once started commanded my full energy-time-focus so that here I am, not starting with the sermon process, but putting it to paper (so to speak) for the first time this week.

Reminder of the steps I take at a minimum to prepare to write a sermon:

1. read the texts at least once through.

2. re-read each text, highlighting in yellow all the crucial phrases, and in green the really outstanding phrases or words, so that in a glance I can see the text again with the significant points clear before me.

3. I read others’ take on the lessons. This presumes that I have already through the years done many proper exegeses of the texts. I wish I had time to delve back into the original language but those resources were jettisoned when there was no room for me in the Inn.

4. I develop an outline from the crucial ideas of the lessons, connected to this world, connected to this week, and this congregation (which sometimes is an actual congregation and sometimes, without a congregation I place it in any one of many congregations I am a part of this week): I organize, prioritize, and start to develop the flow, the point, the purpose of the sermon, and the story of the sermon as a whole. All this answers one question first: What will the sermon proclaim?

5. I rework the outline, to that crucial question: does everything help or hinder proclaiming what the sermon will proclaim.

6. I look again at the outline, and sometimes the paragraphs I’ve written to fill out some points: I ask: does this proclaim Gospel or Law. Does it proclaim the freedom from sin and the bondage to Christ? Because if it is the other way around, it needs to be fixed. This is often a matter of a few degrees, and it is so easy to allow one’s writing and preparation slip away from Gospel into ‘laying on the people what they must do to please God.’

7. I write the outline into paragraphs.

8. repeat 6

9. I shorten the sermon to 13.35 minutes give or take 5 minutes. While shortening I use the criteria of the question in 4. Everything that can be dropped or shortened or tightened, so that the Sermon remains the proclamation it is intended, that’s what’s done to shorten the result. This is where good thinking, good writing, and excellent language skills come into play. The editor.

10. Then I repeat 6 again, and invariably there are a few degrees that need to be made. When there is not, I become suspicious of my ability to see the Gospel.

11. I repeat 9 and 10 until I run out of time or energy. Sometimes, rarely, I need to add an idea back in, or find a completely new idea. Unfortunately, if that happens, that usually happens Sunday morning, requiring 9 and 10 to be repeated yet again. It helps to know I can preach well from an outline, so if I need to jettison the whole thing and start over, I only need an outline. But that’s got to be significant, because … well see 9 and 10: doing those on the fly is nearly impossible!

These ideas from the highlighting:

From Isaiah 65:1-9

God is ready. What is it like when God is not?

God calls Here I am! But the people are rebellious. As always? Or often!

The people follow their own devices. Today the language means something interestingly different and significant: the people follow all their electronic devices, instead of being able to think clearly for themselves, and like following GPS directions, they/we often end up someplace wrong! Which applies to the original meaning of following their own devices.

The people provoke me: and in the sense of the old law: sacrificing in gardens, incense on bricks (other god worship … see devices above), sit in tombs (see the Gospel: the man who lives in tombs), eat pig with abominable things in the broth.

Then the staple of worshiping other gods prevalent still today: the people say to God: keep to yourself. That’s Tevye’s blessing for the Czar: may God bless him and keep him from us very far!

But then the real kicker: Stay away God, for I am TOO HOLY for you!

God’s response: smoke in my nostrils, fire that burns all day. In the wake of forest fires leaving the air difficult to breathe we know how putrid and tiresome smoke in the nostrils can be.

How does God respond!? Look out! (here is the temptation to become the proclaimer of the LAW:

God will repay, I will measure into their laps as they have done to me!

But then that extreme judgment is taken back: and the whole is spared the judgment of the few.

Instead, the chosen will settle the land of those who worship other Gods.

And from that we have ages of wars over whose land it is anyway. As we all forget that it is God’s creation to be shared equitably!

From Psalm 22:19-28

The cry, the deliverance, the freedom, the praise.

God does not despise the poor their poverty! Unlike the world!

The Psalmist will praise God, and the poor will eat and be satisfied.

All who FEAR the Lord will praise God!

All the ends of the earth will REMEMBER! That one’s green!

REMEMBER, it is not to learn something entirely new, though it may seem so, it is to remember God as creation’s creator, as faith’s giver, as life’s breather into us!

And Dominion (green) is God’s. All that we seek to take as our dominion, all that is false, corrupt and the core of the demonic! All dominion is God’s.

I had a friend who came to me amidst great lies and gaslighting and worse, and proclaimed to me that God was not out there somewhere, but in her. So that she could create a false reality and make it true! It is the same kind of thing that the movie Vice portrayed Bush and Cheney shows motivated them, as one must surmise may motivate Trump: the unitary executive theory claims that if the president does it, it is legal. Which is a bunch of hooey and trouble for everyone.

From Galatians 3:23-29

The wonderful Galatians: the source of Luther’s realization (remembering) that we are not saved by what we do, but by faith, which is what God does to us.

There was the LAW, imprisoning and guarding us, but with Christ we are freed from the LAW, we do not need it?, at least we are not saved by it.

Instead we are clothed in white clothes of Christ’s righteousness. We are justified by faith (which is God’s gift to us.)

There is no distinction upon which civilizations are built: Jew or Greek (nationality or land of origin or culture practiced), slave nor free, NOT even male distinct from female! All ALL are ONE in CHRIST!

And we are all HEIRS, offspring of Abraham (by God’s act, not by blood), and heirs according to the PROMISE. The Promise is after all that by which Abraham became significant for us all in the first place!

From Luke 8:26-39

There is work everywhere, even finding the light.

First Jesus has passed into the foreign territory and there encounters a demon, not just a single demon but a legion of demons.

This is a serious case: the demon has possessed him for a long time, and many more demons have entered the man. He no longer wears clothes, lives in a home (but tombs instead, the the OT notes). The people have sought to control him with chains and shackles, but like a person on Meth he breaks the bonds and goes wild. See the movie, A Beautiful Boy (2018 with Steve Carell), if you wish to begin to understand Meth and other drugs’ destruction of and attraction in a young person’s life.

The demon knows Jesus is God’s Son. Demons may be evil, but they do know the truth of what they are and who God is. They just present it differently to those they possess.

The demons want to know what Jesus has to do with them. They expect to be tormented, as they torment their victims!

Jesus asks first what the demons’ name is. The name is the handle. It’s sort of like computer programming. If you do not know the name of a procedure or event or function or container it is really hard to even start programming or make anything happen, without getting stuck in the goo or gui.

So the demon gives up it’s name, and then begs not to be driven back into the abyss. Speculation is rife on what that means, with plenty of scifi to go with it. But the result is the demon begs to be sent into the pigs, Jesus does that, and the unclean pigs drown themselves. They are not that dumb, they know a demon when they see one! And the demon ends up in the abyss anyway. Water is the pre-creation void and abyss welling up from below.

So Jesus sends them to the abyss after all and the difference is that a whole herd of unclean animals gets eradicated in the process. Of course we eat pork. And we understand the waste. So is this cleansing good for the poor pig farmer? Is it fair? Is it necessary? All questions beyond the Gospel of the day, but worth another look at some other time than in a sermon, maybe?

The result is clear: the people of the country side are seized by fear, and they want Jesus to leave them. The thing that the demon wanted. The thing that the people of the Isaiah lesson do to God, which raises God’s ire!

And Jesus leaves.

For these people who want nothing more of him, Jesus leaves a witness and no better witness is to be found. The man, once demon possessed and driven mad and wild for a long time, now healed, tells all the people all that Jesus has done for him.

It is those that know their illnesses most closely and clearly, who Jesus heals, who can tell the wonders of God most poignantly, so that God can create faith in many more people.

And those people can recognize their illnesses, honestly, and they will be healed as well.

That’s the Gospel: If you do not know your illness, there are plenty of people who can tell you the power of Jesus to heal, how it healed so many people. Thus armed and emboldened, many will be able to face their own horrific illnesses, the ones that drive people to dishonesty, destruction, and false claims of being healthy, even while cancer, viruses, and diseases eat the very life out of them.

And to heal us, sometimes there are things that we or others must lose in the process, even things that are our livelihoods. Instead we are left with the bread of life, the Good News of all that Jesus has done for us.

Even as the sun sets Golden and we lose another day of the few allotted us, all is well.

Trinity: 42, Chocolate or Love

What do we dream of

What, if it were to take place for you this week, would fill your eyes and heart with tears … tears that could hardly stop, tears for all things lost, and tears of unbounded joy.

Yearn for the Light, but move away from it?

Age of Adeline

In the movie Age of Adeline a woman stops aging as a result of a car accident at the age of 29. This starts out to be the fulfillment of a dream that many of us may have: to live without the effects of aging. The movie follows her life as those around her age and she does not, as she is able to accumulate wealth that others simply cannot, for she has time and through the years an abundance of wisdom. She remains a young and beautiful woman inside and out as she accumulates decades of life with no end in sight.

Ah, to have it so. No arthritis, no forgetfulness, no impending death, no illness, no drain of one’s energy, no need to be impatient with life, but to be able to travel, to enjoy, to work, to read, to write, to create; all without the pressure of knowing it will not be so someday, for one will eventually lose the ability to do all of these wonderful things, yet one will live on.

Today we celebrate the Holy Trinity

This Sunday is the only Sunday of the entire church year that we celebrate a doctrine of the Christian Church. The doctrine of the Trinity is the core doctrine of the Church. The doctrine that defines more than anything else what is Christian and what is not.

The spectacular Doctrine: relationship

God is Three Persons in one Godhead. So God is one God, but God is three. Three yet one. That’s a paradox. What usually cannot be is: Three describes one and one describes three.

Martin Luther spoke of the two sacraments, and then he would name Baptism and Holy Communion, and Marriage and Confession, and on he would go until he had named most of the seven sacraments of the Catholic church that he tried to reform, had booted him out, named him a nonperson who could be killed by anyone who wished, and it would not be murder, and who Martin Luther demonstrated it’s corruption as he corrected it and established churches similar but improved, sort of. Still filled with sinners, even if everyone is a God made saint.

That kind of numbering of the Trinity, Three in One, is not what Martin Luther was all about in naming the Sacraments. This is us being as clear as we can be about God who really is beyond any clear explanation.

What we know and affirm is that God and all of creation is at it’s core about relationship.

The lessons speak about Trinity and about life.

In our lesson from Proverbs Wisdom calls out to all who live, to know her. (As the original Hebrew ascribes gender to her): She is God’s first act of creation. She witnessed all God’s acts of creation and she was God’s delight as she delighted in God’s inhabited world and in the human race.

Proverbs was written long before Jesus walked the earth, before the triadic expressions of God in the NT writings, and before the doctrine of the Trinity was formalized starting with the Nicene Creed of 325, revised in 381, and settled under the leadership of the three Cappadocian Fathers in its current form by the end of the fourth century. In Proverbs we have a similar relationship between God and wisdom as Arianism understood the relationship between God and Jesus; that God created Wisdom and Jesus. This understanding was not accepted by the wider church. It was supplanted first by the understanding that Jesus is fully God, present always as one of the three persons of the one God. The last piece of the doctrine to be settled was that the Holy Spirit, often understood to include the OT traditions of Wisdom, was also not a creation of God, but existed with God always, the third person of One God, the Trinity.

Even in Proverbs we see how significant it is that God delights in Wisdom and how Wisdom delights in the human race. Creation is all about God’s delight and God’s glory, all portions of what love is.

The Psalm celebrates God’s glory, and presents that same glory in lesser portion given to humans. It is stated that God has put all things under the humans’ feet. Today we would understand that this is not just dominion over, but responsibility to preserve, nurture, and ensure the survival of. We would no longer embrace any idea that we are to exploit creation for our selfish benefit to the detriment of future generations or the future of creation. Which is also a good portion of what love is all about, love for future generations and for all of creation.

The Gospel of John is chosen because in Jesus’ Farewell words, given after the Last Supper and before his arrest, he gives words to the trinitarian God; God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today we might better express that as God the Parent recognizing first the equality of all genders, second our innate limits when it comes to knowing anything about gender for God, and third the powerful impact our providing God a gender has towards gender inequality.

The one powerful and crucial point that John’s Gospel makes is that it is God the Holy Spirit who continues to reveal to us more of the truth, as we are able to bear it. There is a kindness in God’s approach, revealing to us what we can bear; and we would expand that to say, revealing to us what we can grasp, understand, and make use of. It is always helpful to remember that God is not ever done teaching us about the truth.

At no time do we posses the truth of God in its entirety. At best we have a good start. That is a powerful reminder that humility is always a good starting point and ending point for us. Which is also a good portion of what love is all about.

Our lesson from Romans is one of the enduring passages of wisdom, hope and love that Paul provided to the Church. First that we are justified before God not by what we do, but by the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit. Second that what we value and can boast about is not us, but God, and not our accomplishments, but God’s, and not in our glories, but we boast about our sufferings.

And here we encounter what appears to be the upside down, and inside out logic of God’s relationship to us and our relationship to our own experiences. Who ever heard of boasting not about our successes, but about what others have made us suffer! The Word of God though is right side up, outside out, inside in. It is our thinking that is topsy turvy. It is our taking over God’s place by thinking that our successes are what constitutes real glory. No Paul makes it clear, we followers of Christ know that our suffering is what we can boast about, because suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

God’s love begins with the Holy Spirit pouring love into us and it grows through suffering that begets endurance that begets character that begets hope.

And hope is an essential portion of love, which the Holy Spirit pours into us!

Relationships

Through all the generations of Christians, we have utilized the doctrine of the Trinity to clarify that though we cannot know many things absolutely about God, as the Holy Spirit continues to reveal to us more and more as we can bear more truth, we can affirm whole-heartedly that the basis of God’s own being is not as an independent God. God exists in relationship with God’s self, with all three persons together.

As we are created in God’s image, God intends for us to exist in relationship as well, in relationship with God, in relationship to each other, and in relationship to all of creation.

Though they involve suffering, endurance, character and hope supported by love, our relationships with God, each other and all creation are to be fundamentally relationships of delight; which is perhaps the best portion of love.

All the things that we could dream of

Work success,

wealth

reputation

security

enjoyment of life’s opportunities and options.

(You can fill in examples or stories about each of these.)

The one thing that the doctrine of the Trinity affirms is THE EVENT of our dreams.

A relationship of love.

It can be a life partner, a spouse.

Or a companion, or a person with whom one can share one’s life’s work.

There is a reason that movies, books, poems, yearnings, and our hopes so often land on falling in love.

We fill life with all kinds of other strivings and measures of success.

But our life is made up of what we are: we are made in God’s image. We are made for relationship.

Our lives are made to make sense only when we love.

It is not that we need to be ‘in love’ which is indeed a life changing matter. We are made to love other people.

Not just the people we like.

But the people, all the people around us. Even our enemies.

The meaning of life, not 42, or chocolate: but love

What really is the meaning of life??! The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy presents it as the completely random and meaningless number 42. Some people say with taste buds delighted and a bit of energy renewed from the caffeine and sugar that it is chocolate.

On our death beds, almost everyone, who has opportunity to tells us, reports, we will find no solace in the many things that we have striven for and achieve or not.

Not in Work success, wealth reputation, security, enjoyment of life’s opportunities and options, nor anything else.

On our death beds only one part of life will gives us solace, comfort and a sense of union with God’s universe. Only one thing will afford us a sense that all is well, all is well, indeed all manner of things are well. The one thing that will give us a sense of what God has had for us all along is the love we have given to others, and the love we have received.

Adaline Looses the Essential of Life: to Love and be Loved

Adaline’s ideal life, where the ravages of age do not touch her, does not progress so ideally. Because she does not age she suffers profound losses. She loses the ability to keep her own name. She loses the ability to develop life-long friends, not even pets. But most of all she loses the ability to love and be loved; and most precious of all, to face suffering and one’s impending death with someone she loves, with someone who loves her. She has great opportunities to delight in all of creation, but her tears that continue to increase in intensity are of losing the meaning of her life; she is unable to love.

The cinematic highlight of the movie arrives when she must decide, whether to risk choosing to love, as she is able, even though she will never grow old with the one she loves; even though if she is found out, she will be treated as a specimen to be studied, probed and experimented on. Can she, will she dare risk that suffering, in order to finally be able to love someone?

Reflect the Light that Created You

Jesus’ Command: Be as God Created us to be

This Trinity Sunday we celebrate that God is a God of three persons in one godhead. Which sounds paradoxical, but that is how it is with relationships of love. We are people meant to love one another.

Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as ourselves, and even our enemies, is not a command that we need to follow … or else!

It is a command that we should follow if we want to not just to be happy, but because it is who God created us to be! As we love others we will be right with God’s universe and with God’s Will for us.

The words sincerely said: “I love you” do not just give us life, but withholding love from another robs them of God’s intent for them. So wherever you are in your life, know this: God the Parent, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, all three, in one voice that shakes the greatest molecule at the beginning and ends of the universe … God says most sincerely to each of us, “I love you.”

Now it’s okay to cry with tears that cannot stop, for both the suffering and pain of all that has been lost, for the pain of all that never was which should have or could have been, and with all the joy of all the love that has been, is and always will be. It’s always okay to cry those tears of loss and overwhelming joy. This is what being at Peace with God looks like!

For this God created us, to be delighted with one another, with all creation, and with God, three in one.

Amen

Readings and Psalm

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15