The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet….”
Words of Grace For Today
Now if you want to display your greatness … well there are all sorts of things humans do, most of them on the spectrum from silly to outrageously stupid and futile.
We do plenty of things on that spectrum for all sorts of other reasons as well. Sin abounds from us and among us.
Now if you were God (which you are not I’ll remind you in case you might momentarily forget!) and wanted to display your greatness there is no limit to what you can do and do do. The greatest of these is make good people out of us sinners.
So the Spirit of the Lord reaches out to the down-troddened and those dealt with unjustly to lift them up to the fullness of life.
So Jesus comes to show us God’s unending grace and choice to forgive us wretched sinners (actually we are pretty darn good sinners, really) and to celebrate who we are with a feast like no other.
Come all you who are thirsty for truth, and justice, and grace, and blessings. God has poured out enough to fill every thirst and hunger.
This is God’s display of greatness.
And we saints? We remain really good sinners, yet again to be saved by God’s display of greatness in mercy and grace.
Another grey northern autumn day in the solitude of the bush. The kind photographers shake their heads at and return to the darkroom to work and wait for another day. Just the kind of day that God uses to show us how beautiful life is.
You will say on that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.
Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.
Words of Grace For Today
When the cell phone rings it plays a wonderful tune, reminding me of the person who is calling. Or if it is an unknown to me caller it plays the default, rather unpleasant ringtone.
I am fortunate that I do not get angry phone calls. I get enough angry visitors who have displaced their anger and focused at me. Hard to tell what they were legitimately angry at or about, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what they are angry about that involves me. Mind you I get other visitors, too, it’s just the angry and violent ones are more memorable in the danger they could be to me. So far nothing has come of any of their anger, usually drunken or drug enhanced anger.
Getting anger directed at one by God … well that’s a whole other level of anger and a real and present danger!
Fortunately I can say, and I would hope, we all can say: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.
We trust in God’s Grace made clear to us by Jesus’ sacrifice and call for us to follow him. We were and still are sinners, and Jesus comes to call not the righteous but sinners.
So that certainly includes all of us.
Yet God-made-saints, by Grace alone.
That is enough for any day, and every day, including today.
Thanks we give to God for that,
when we hear that ring-tone (Amazing Grace) of Christ’ call.
Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’
Words of Grace For Today
Niklaus von Flüe, Bruder Klaus ist bekannt in der ganzen Schweiz. Als Ratsherr war er im 15. Jahrhundert sehr geschätzt. Später wurde er Einsiedler und Mystiker.
Niklaus von Flüe, brother Klaus is known throughout Switzerland. As a councilman, he was highly valued in the 15th century. Later he became a hermit and mystic.
That’s the short introduction ZDF provided to the worship service broadcast this past Sunday from St. Peter’s in Zurich.
St Bruder Klaus began his prayer, Mein Herr und Mein Gott, My Lord and My God. It has been used as the theme for a hymn popular in Switzerland.
As Pastor Cornelia Camichel Bomeis recounted in her sermon she visited with a faithful woman who said she refused to sing that hymn. The 90 year old explained that it was a dishonourable thing that Bruder Klaus did when he upped and left his wife and their 10 children, the youngest not yet a year old. He may have been named a saint, but it should have been his wife, who raised the ten children on her own. Mind you she was not destitute since Klaus was wealthy man.
Born into a wealthy family Klaus was a farmer, military leader, member of the assembly, councillor, judge and mystic-hermit.
Pastor Bomeis explained that she could only celebrate Bruder Klaus after she heard a note about Klaus’ circumstances that explained his departure from his wife and their ten children. Serving as a soldier he came home injured as we know today in an invisible way that manifest itself later. He suffered PTSD.
From this injury God brought forth a man of visions and wisdom who was sought out (in his hermitage) by people and leaders from around Europe.
We can say as Klaus did: Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.
No matter our circumstance we can take heart because Christ is calling us, each morning, noon, and night; calling us to leave behind our blindness, injuries, and scars and follow Christ’s voice. There is a wonderful world to see, even more wonderful if one is so gifted to see God each day in all that is.
While We Are In The Dark In The Cold, Leafless Bowels of the Forests of Life,
God’s Glory Still Shines,
Beckoning Us to Rise Up And Love One Another
As God Loves Us.
First Samuel 2:6
The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Words of Grace For Today
I don’t think of God killing, just bringing to life, not of bringing us down to Sheol (hell as it is), just raising us up out of the hell we get ourselves into.
There’s a plaque I saw once in a furniture store. Plaques with platitudes usually do not catch my attention but this one did:
Karma, I have a list of people you seem to have missed.
Well, I suppose we all might have such a list, and the idea that we can influence karma, well, that’s a wild idea.
But we pray to God constantly.
So can we provide that same list to God and ask God to do the killing stuff with the list?
Surely we can acknowledge (well most of us do, or at least many, well maybe it’s just some of us nowadays) that God is the almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end. God as the bringer of life as well as death certainly belongs with that. So yes, God hears our prayers and answers them. And yes God could take that list and kill ‘em all off.
Why would God?
To please our blood-thirst or hunger for revenge? That is not our God, not at all, not at all.
God believes in every single one of us frail, broken, sinful creatures, enough to free us again and again from our sin so that we might live abundant lives (which means we understand that God created us to provide the best life possible to other people, and that we act accordingly.)
So our task with that list of ours is to see if we can give them the same kind of Grace that God extends to us.
It’s another day of challenges, dealing with others’ and our own brokenness, failings, and sinfulness.
Let us find the peace that God offers, so that we can forgive and give renewed life to those who sin against us.
Still, God, can we review my karma list sometime to see if just perhaps you can bring a few of those people their just desserts. Wouldn’t want them to miss out on the end of the feast now would we?
O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.
Words of Grace For Today
At 3:00 I was up.
It was dark.
I walked outside for air.
Aurora Borealis painted the sky,
Dancing as it does,
From the western horizon, across the lake and trees –
over the meadow in a circle,
pointing to this blessed place,
and back down and around out to the East
and to the North
in wisps, feathery light
and unseen by most people
safely asleep through the northern night.
Then jets roared overhead
from the east
bound to the northwest.
A sortie to defend Canada’s north from predators,
of the human being kind.
This on spaceship earth, caught last evening, probing it’s way through the sunlight
into the dark.
Where are you headed today? Have you your eyes open to see the creation and it’s Creator, at work, at play, suffering, and in joy?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old.
But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Words of Grace For Today
Jason sat a huge bit bewildered as he remembered the last seven days. How could life change so fast in so many ways? How was he going to go forward and towards what? It all started with the fire that burned his house down.
But that can only be explained, he realized, if you start before that. His life had progressed pretty much according to plan, with a few unforeseen changes that only improved on things for him. Stacey was one of those changes. Then to understand how that change was so good, he remembered how Robin had played him and broke up with him and disappeared just a week before their planned wedding. That was hard to take at the time, though it was for the best he realized within a few weeks. His career as an engineer had just taken off. Robin had taken so much of his time, high-maintenance as she was, and she really loved the prospect of his money more than she loved him.
After those few terrible weeks he buckled down at work and within a year had established himself as one of just a few experts in the world in the then emerging field of solar power. A number of companies sought him out for his advice on how to produce their products so that he and no more than a handful of others pretty much determined how fast their design of products came to dominate the field. It was exciting, rewarding, and challenging. With all that the rewards were tremendous, not only financially but the respect others showed him and the awards given to him. His most treasured were the two doctorates he received after he wrote the textbook on solar power design. That was as much a doctoral theses as any could be. The doctorates were honorary, but he’d earned them, one in electrical engineering and one in computer sciences.
He’d travelled the world more weeks of the year than not for his work back then. On one trip he’d met Stacey, working for an NGO in Tanzania. They’d fallen in love and gotten married three months later after he’d returned to Tanzania ten times, supposedly to follow up on work projects, but it was actually to spend time with Stacey. He’d moved to Dar es Salaam, where she was based for a year. Then they moved back to Athabasca, north of Edmonton in Canada, where Stacey was from. They’d built a home, had four children, all as bright as their parents. Jason cut back on his travelling to one trip each month at most, then to one every two to three months. The field of solar power had developed fast. Now the challenge was to find the resources to build the panels, and to design hardware and software up to the increasing demands for electricity from them.
Their oldest child had been 7, the youngest 2. The fire had taken them and left Stacey in a coma with brain damage so bad that when she woke up she was hardly there, unable to talk or move on her own. The doctors recommended taking her off life-support. Jason finally agreed and Stacey died the rest of the way within minutes.
Now, seven days later, he was empty. He had money enough to not ever work again. So he quit. He moped about, lost. A friend, Fred, came by to see him about his own solar panel project for his camper. It was something so small Jason had never even thought about that kind of a project. When he had nothing to offer Fred asked him if he would take a day trip with him. Fred could always get Jason to agree to anything, but this time he said no. Fred just ignored that and told him he’d pick him up at 7 the next morning. Dress to be outside in the cold, he’d said.
Jason made the mistake of asking where they were going. Fred just said it was to look at a solar panel project at a hermitage, but mostly to see the hermit. He was a mystic.
So hours later Jason sat there and wondered like he had not had occasion to for decades at how one could be a mystic, and how others would not understand it at all. Fred could not have known that Jason’s confirmation pastor all those years ago had told him he was a mystic, that he saw God more clearly present than anyone else around.
Jason wholeheartedly thought: Restore me to yourself, O Lord, that I may be restored; renew my days as of old.
But he also knew he had done nothing to deserve to be saved. He’d ignored God for so many years. He certainly was ready to be saved now. Being this empty and lost was not to be alive.
That changed when Jason walked the last half mile into the hermitage. The expectation of it being holy, the peace all around, and even Fred’s sudden loss for words, impacted Jason like nothing had since he’d fallen in love with Stacey. The visit with the hermit was anticlimactic. Jason, as they left, asked if he could come back a few times in the next few months. God had started the transformation of a lost soul into a saint, a renewed mystic, and a servant of people desperate for life abundant.
So those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory; for he will come like a pent-up stream that the wind of the Lord drives on.
Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
Words of Grace For Today
In this generation there are many people who do not believe in God, as in every generation. The span the globe from east to west, north to south, and live in every corner, circumstance, and comfort/desperation.
This is a wonderful vision that one day all people will come from the East and the West and fear God and God’s glory, that people will come from the north and the south to feast in God’s Kingdom. It just is not how it is today, or that there is any evidence that it will come about any day soon.
How just it will be that some of those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last. It is better that it be all the first will be last and all the last will be first, but we will go with Luke’s version. That’s something of an improvement over the injustice that leaves so many people struggling to survive each day, many succumbing and more wishing they could be done with the struggle, one way or another.
Many who do not believe in God are completely ignorant or apathetic to the reality that God believes in them, in the possibility that they will turn from their arrogant evil ways and not only believe in, but fear and love God. And fearing and loving God will turn to serve others, working to give them life abundant. For now they fight against that possibility totally unaware that if God did not believe in them they would cease to breathe.
As we breathe, as we are together with saints from the south, north, west, and east, as we are joined by the saints in light who no longer need to breathe, we give God thanks …
Thanks for everything that keeps us living and able to see God’s glory each day, poured out on us all and over creation.
Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey.
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.
Words of Grace For Today
We all live on some ground or another. We are blessed greatly if it is a land flowing with milk and honey.
Sometimes what is crucial is less the land we live on and more the way we see it.
Many lived in the days and place when and where Jesus was born and grew up, but very few noticed what tremendous blessings God placed among them, like the child Jesus arriving at the Temple.
We ask everyday that God will give us eyes and ears to see and hear the wonders God showers down on us.
As most photographers can tell us, they see everything that the rest of us see, yet they see more. They (well full disclosure here, it’s we, since I’m one of them photographers) see how what they look at will or can with a camera be made into a photo that reflects exactly what is there and yet more, often by excluding some of what is there so that we notice more of what is.
Mystics live, see, and hear in much the same way, though we work without a camera, instead using hearts, minds and souls to see the world and all that happens in it as God’s gift to us.
Mystics and photographers see the light, the Light of the world that is our salvation. The results are not always happy to see, though it is profoundly reassuring knowing that it is all blessed by God.
So we often say with Julian of Norwich (even as we also witness tragedies without end), all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
Thus you shall keep my commandments and observe them: I am the Lord.
Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain.
Words of Grace For Today
Leviticus lays out rules upon rules before coming to this passage: Thus you shall keep my commandments … Just prior to this conclusion the offering of young animals is laid out in clear detail.
Now if these few rules were all it took to keep the Lord’s commandments, then we’d have a hope of being able to keep and observe them. They are, instead, voluminous even in scripture and interpretations fill seemingly endless volumes, often with contradictory rules and admonishments, so that keeping them is impossible.
Jesus pared the commandments down to Love the Lord your God, with all you heart, mind, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself, even your enemy. And with that concise formulation it seems possible at first glance, but …
But only by denial of one’s own reality, one’s wishes, desires, yearnings, and actions taken to make it through life – only by denial of one’s own reality is it possible to think that one can keep this one commandment.
The simple truth is we fail at keeping the commandments, every last one of us. That does not mean that we ought to go about our days intentionally murmuring and arguing, or that we should remain oblivious to how our actions hurt others. We need make great efforts to help others.
We need not do all this in hope of satisfying God’s commandments. Rather we can only do this with hearts filled with gratitude in response to all God has done for us.
Obligation does not produce goodness from and in us.
Obligation seeks approval for what is already not good enough.
Gratitude seeks nothing except that other people will benefit from one’s words and actions.
We are not going to get out of life free from blemish. Trying to do so is futile and drags us down into the pit of despair, out from which we do not emerge on our own, though we all too often create a false narrative for our lives that tries to convince ourselves we are not stuck in the pit of our own sin, of our own making.
Rather gratitude accepts that we are all blemished, ourselves as much or more than others. Gratitude accepts that God alone transforms us, while we remain wretched, dreadful sinners, into saints who bring life abundant to others.
Thus, as we enjoy meals, and family, and time to relax, reflect, and give thanks (well some of us anyway, for many have none of that even this day), we remember that:
The value of life and of ourselves is a gift from God.
The joy of life is knowing to whom we owe thanks, and being able to give it.
So today we Give Thanks, as grateful people, as sinners-made-saints.
Those Days of Golden Light, Shine Already in Our Hearts, by Faith Alone.
Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
1 John 2:8
Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
Words of Grace For Today
We try so hard in life to succeed. And there are all sorts of ideas about how to succeed.
One of my favourites* is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. *though I cannot recommend the man to whom it is attributed – Charles R. Swindoll
Reba McEntire gives us: “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”
Pele the soccer star offered: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
Colin Powell put it plainly, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
Winston Churchill pointed out that it is always a process: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Out in left field: John Barrow said, “Music is 10% exhilaration and 90% utter disappointment.”
But what really counts in life is Faith
How can we succeed at faith?
Can we ever succeed at faith?
No, because Faith is not something we can do or succeed at.
Faith is a gift, a precious gift, that God gives us. It is the gift that sees us through the dark days of life that are so many and brings us to the days when the bright light of God’s Kingdom shines bright all around.
On those days we can Break forth together into singing, … for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed us all.