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Joy and Killing


joyTuesday, November 25, 2014

Esther 9

Joy and Killing

Much like the Book of Judith, the story of Esther is another that is full of danger and violence but this time counterpointed by trust in God . . . and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite palace intrigue, envy and anger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of massacre and war.

Chapter 9 of Esther’s story describes the origin of the Purim festival, a celebration of the Jewish nation’s deliverance. We know that after a plot against these faithful was thwarted and as too often happens when power changes hands, wide-scale killing takes place. Old feuds rise and are settled. Grudges surface and are acted upon. Personal agendas take over.

Andrea del Castagna: Queen Esther (detail)

Andrea del Castagna: Queen Esther (detail)

We humans have not moved much past these ancient rituals of slaughtering the conquered. Despite the fact that in many cultures leaders are elected by free and fair elections, too many peoples suffer at the hands of those who see instability as a time to take over, to amass power, and to use corruption as a governing tool rather than social justice or the rule of law. And we need not look to the evening news to find examples of how we repress one another in the hope of currying favor or gaining control. Our workplaces, neighborhoods and even our homes sometimes serve as microcosms of the problems we see on a more global scale.

Today we may be horrified at the acts of revenge we read in the Book of Esther. And today we might also be surprised at the elation that sweeps through these people who thought themselves dead. Today we remember that we witness many small killings too frequently in our lives, the killing of the spirit, the killing of the heart, mind and soul, the killing of ideas, hopes and dreams. The killing of innocence. And then . . . let us reflect on how we might find joy in times when insanity reigns and reason disappears.

Verses 9:17-23: This was on the thirteenth day of Adar. On the next day, the fourteenth, there was no more killing, and they made it a joyful day of feasting. The Jews of Susa, however, made the fifteenth a holiday, since they had slaughtered their enemies on the thirteenth and fourteenth and then stopped on the fifteenth. This is why Jews who live in small towns observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a joyous holiday, a time for feasting and giving gifts of food to one another. Mordecai had these events written down and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, throughout the Persian Empire, telling them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar as holidays every year. These were the days on which the Jews had rid themselves of their enemies; this was a month that had been turned from a time of grief and despair into a time of joy and happiness. They were told to observe these days with feasts and parties, giving gifts of food to one another and to the poor. So the Jews followed Mordecai’s instructions, and the celebration became an annual custom.

Let us pause and consider how we might refrain from seeking revenge when we have been wronged. Let us mediate on the meaning of interceding for our enemies. And let us celebrate deliverance from evil and killing we too often find in our own lives.

For more information about the feast of Purim, click on the image of Queen Esther above, or visit: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645309/jewish/What-Is-Purim.htm and http://www.mythicmaps.net/Festival_calendar/March/Purim.htm

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Esther into the blog search bar and explore.

Read the rest of this story in Esther 9-10.

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

Joy and Intrigue


joyMonday, November 24, 2014

Esther 8

Joy and Intrigue

Much like the Book of Judith, the story of Esther is another that is full of danger and violence but this time counterpointed by trust in God . . . and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite palace intrigue, envy and anger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of deceitful intrigue.

The opening chapters of Esther’s story describe how this young woman, despite her Jewish identity and fidelity to Yahweh, finds herself at the center of a major, political power struggle. Esther’s uncle Mordecai counsels her; and the courtier Haman – full of hatred, envy and pride – plots to kill all Jews in the kingdom. Resenting the power and influence Mordecai and Esther hold with the king, Haman hatches a devilish plot; and Esther finds that the only way for her to survive is to rely on God’s providence and care. In the end, the tables turn on Haman and he suffers the very punishment he had hoped to exact on the Jewish people, death on the gallows built at his own command.

Arent de Gelder: Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim

Arent de Gelder: Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim

Verses 8:15-17:  Mordecai left the palace, wearing royal robes of blue and white, a cloak of fine purple linen, and a magnificent gold crown. Then the streets of Susa rang with cheers and joyful shouts. For the Jews there was joy and relief, happiness and a sense of victory. In every city and province, wherever the king’s proclamation was read, the Jews held a joyful holiday with feasting and happiness. In fact, many other people became Jews, because they were afraid of them now.

The story of Esther is one we will want to remember when we find ourselves looking for power and revenge. The story of Esther is one we will want to remember when we find ourselves plotting to preserve power or damage another another’s reputation. The story of Esther is one we will want to recall when we find ourselves thrilling to schemes of undoing . . . rather than planning to work in the kingdom of God.

For more about the painting by Arent de Gelder, click on the image above or go to: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/174.html

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Esther into the blog search bar and explore.

Read this story from the beginning at, Esther 1-8. 

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Joy in Small Matters


joySunday, November 23, 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

Joy in Small Matters

We move further into scripture looking for stories of joy that continue to surprise us. To explore other stories, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we pause to consider the joy we might find in the smallest of places in our lives . . . and the way in which small matters have great effect in our lives.

We know the answer to the question: What can one person do about the ills of the world? We easily reply that we can – in apparently unimportant ways – take small actions that have huge, rippling effects in a world looking for a reason to hope. Today we consider the parable of the talents.

From www.christianity.about.com : A talent was an ancient unit of weight and value in Greece, Rome, and the Middle East. In the Old Testament, a talent was a unit of measurement for weighing precious metals, usually gold and silver. In the New Testament, a talent was a value of money or coin . . . In the New Testament , the term “talent” meant something very different than it does today. The talents Jesus Christ spoke of in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35) and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) referred to the largest unit of currency at the time. Thus, a talent represented a rather large sum of money. According to New Nave’s Topical Bible, one who possessed five talents of gold or silver was a multimillionaire by today’s standards. Some calculate the talent in the parables to be equivalent to 20 years of wages for the common worker. Other scholars estimate more conservatively, valuing the New Testament talent somewhere between $1,000 to $30,000 dollars today. (http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/a/Talent.htm )

JOYIn this parable Jesus alerts his disciples to the real meaning of a disciple’s call: The work is arduous but immensely rewarding.

With this parable Jesus reminds us that while much is asked of us, much will also be given.

Through this parable Jesus shows us that when we find joy in the smallest of matters . . . we harvest great joy in the most surprising of ways.

The end of the liturgical calendar is upon us when we look forward to the celebration of Advent, a season of anticipation, a time of hope in the darkness, a rejoicing in the coming of Christ’s healing light in a suffering world longing for transformation. As we prepare for this special time of year, let us close doors on all that has harmed us and open doors to building bridges where rifts have grown. Let us determine to put toxic places and people aside and to ask God’s intervention in rebuilding broken relationships. And let us agree to choose joy even in the darkest of times and in the grimmest of circumstances. We will be mightily surprised at what God has in store for those who respond to God’s call in the smallest of places and in the smallest of matters.

talentsFor more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Joy and Deliverance


joySaturday, November 22, 2014

Judith 11-16

Joy and Deliverance

The story of Judith is full of danger and violence counterpointed by fidelity and great rejoicing. Today we discover that despite grave danger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in miraculous deliverance.

Judith’s story is not included in all versions of the Bible because it is regarded by some to be an historical novel rather than sacred word. Others see is as a kind of allegory in that the name Judith is the feminine form of the word Judah. Still others point to anachronisms and decline to regard these words as inspired. In any case, the story holds is one of consequence, and one in which we see God’s deliverance of the faithful from the most extreme of circumstances.  It is a story to which we will want to attend.

Artemisia Gentilischi: Judith and the Maid-servant with the head of Holofernes

Artemisia Gentilischi: Judith and the Maid-servant with the head of Holofernes

If you did not have time to read the introductory chapters, move through them today – if even only quickly. The opening pages of the book prepare us for the dreadful middle and the joyful end. They put us in a time and place we will recognize as much like our own. They will give us a firmer footing from which to view this story, a stronger reason to hope as Judith does, and a clearer image of the desperation and joy she experiences.

Verse 14:9: When she had finished her story, the people cheered so loudly that the whole town echoed with sounds of joy.

Is there a Judith among us who quietly moves forward through God’s plan and surprises us with an outrageous act of hope? Are we the unobtrusive Judith or almost unseen handmaiden who turns history on its head in a surprising way? And when God intervenes with and in us in such startling ways, do we recognize the presence of the Spirit in our hour of desperation?

Verse 15:9: When they arrived, they all praised her, “You are Jerusalem’s crowning glory, the heroine of Israel, the pride and joy of our people!”

Do we recognize the Judiths among us and if so, do we value their quiet persistence and determination? Do we perhaps see ourselves in the gritty and resolute actions of these women?  And when God intervenes with and in us in such surprising ways, do we give thanks and honor to the Living God who is in and with all who find joy in great peril and outrageous deliverance?

To better understand Judith’s world, click on the Gentileschi image above, or visit: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/artgentileschi_judithandthemaidservantwiththeheadofholofernes_1625.jpg 

For more details and insights about the encounters between Judith and Holofernes, visit other Noontime reflections by entering the word Judith into the blog search bar.

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Joy and Peril


joyFriday, November 21, 2014

Judith 9-10

Joy and Peril

The story of Judith is full of danger and violence counterpointed by fidelity and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite grave danger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in great peril.

The opening chapters of Judith’s story set a scene of violence, intrigue and power. War begins. An ultimate is delivered. An enemy is defeated and a council takes place to assess plans and possibilities. Nineveh and Ecbatana are now at the center of this drama, but Nebuchadnezzar rages against more than Persia. He lays out a secret plan to take revenge on the entire world, and once these plans are complete he sends for his general Holofernes. These events bring forth images from our daily newscasts that we might recognize in our modern world. Who would suspect that the town of Bethulia and the little-known widow, Judith, would turn the Assyrian power structure on its head? How might each of us, in our own infinitesimal way, have an effect upon the wider world? How might each of us find joy amid the peril that surrounds us?

Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith and her Maidservant

Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith and her Maidservant

Verse 10:3: She took off the sackcloth and her widow’s clothes . . . Judith turns away from her inner grief and turns outward to the world. So might we.

She took a bath, and put on rich perfumes . . . Judith enters into an intentional plan brought forward through prayer. So might we.

She brushed her hair, tied a ribbon around it . . . Judith prepares herself as herself and not as another entity with grandiose ideas. So might we.

She dressed herself in the fine clothes she used to wear on joyful occasions when her husband Manasseh was still alive . .  . Judith moves forward in the only way she knows how. In fidelity. In trust. In faith. In hope. So might we.

In Chapter 9 we find The Prayer of Judith, beautiful, honest verses of petition from one who is so small against gargantuan obstacles. If we spend some time with these words today, we might better understand how Judith calls forth the joy she had once known to find joy in great peril.

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Judith into the blog search bar and explore.

 

For information about the woman who painted this rendition of Judith and her servant, click on the image above or visit: http://zadokromanus.blogspot.com/2005/06/artemisia-gentileschi.html 

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

Joy and Praise


joyThursday, November 20, 2014

Tobit 13

Joy and Praise

We move further into the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we come to the end of the Book of Tobit.

Tobit dies at the age of 112 and he was given a burial with honor. After regaining his sight he lived in prosperity, giving alms and continually blessing God and praising the divine Majesty.  In Chapter 13 we find his Song of Praise, a hymn of thanksgiving from one who was once in the abyss but who now understands that God was with him throughout his long travail. Understanding the valuable gift of God’s presence . . . Then Tobit composed this joyful prayer . . .

Lippi: Tobias and the Archangel Raphael

Lippi: Tobias and the Archangel Raphael

Let us join Tobit in our own song of thanks.

Blessed be God who lives forever . . .

Where once we saw sorrow we now find joy.

Praise with full voice . . .

When once we were timid now we are bold.

In the land of my exile I praise him . . .

When once we were apart we are now united in Christ.

Praise the Lord for his goodness . . .

Where once we saw pain we now find thanksgiving.

A bright light will shine to all parts of the earth . . .

Where once we saw darkness we now perceive Christ’s light.

My spirit blesses the Lord . . .

When once we felt sadness we now experience joy

Blessed be God who has raised us up . . .

And blessed be God who sustains us. Amen.

Spend time with Chapters 11-14 of Tobit today and discover why and how the people in this story celebrate.

For more information about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Joy and Tears


joyWednesday, November 19, 2014

Tobit 8

Joy and Tears

We move further into the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. For the next few says, our story is taken from the Book of Tobit.

The story continues and we wonder what will become of the young couple – Tobias and Sarah – who live in fear. How will their parents, Tobit, Anna, Raguel and Edna, resolve the problems that plague their families? And how does the disguised Rafael bring about God’s renewal and transformation to convert tears of sorrow into tears of joy?

Steen: Wedding of Tobias and Sarah

Steen: Wedding of Tobias and Sarah

Spend time with Chapters 6-10 of Tobit today and discover the surprise of God’s healing presence. As we watch Tobit and Anna, Raguel and Edna, Tobias and Sarah, let us look for connections with our own worries and problems. Observe Azarias, the Archangel Raphael in disguise, as he quietly, patiently calms and heals these worried people. Let us mark the times in our own journey when the healing of relationships has taken place when we least expect it. Let us watch for the surprising ways in which joy is always with us, even in the presence of demons. And finally, spend time with the prayers of Tobias, Sarah and Raguel in Chapter 8. With a bit of pondering, we might write our own petition for protection and  song of thanksgiving.  And as we journey with these characters who might be our neighbors or family members, we arrive at a better understanding of how tears of sorrow might become tears of joy.

For Noontimes based on this story, enter the word Tobit in the blog search bar and explore.

For more information about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Joy and Desperation


joyTuesday, November 18, 2014

Tobit 5

Joy and Desperation

We move further into the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. For the next few says, our story is taken from the Book of Tobit.

If you have not had time for the story of Tobit, begin to read it today. It brings us a world of frustration and renewal, desperation and hope, deep sorrow and overwhelming joy. It features the healing touch of the Archangel Gabriel and the surprising good news that even the most dire circumstances give us a reason for courage and happiness.

Rembrandt: Sarah Waiting for Tobias

Rembrandt: Sarah Waiting for Tobias

Tobit 5:9-10: Then Tobias went out and called [the young man], and said, “Young man, my father is calling for you.” So he went in to him, and Tobit greeted him first. He replied, “Joyous greetings to you!” But Tobit retorted, “What joy is left for me anymore? I am a man without eyesight; I cannot see the light of heaven, but I lie in darkness like the dead who no longer see the light. Although still alive, I am among the dead. I hear people but I cannot see them.” But the young man said, “Take courage; the time is near for God to heal you; take courage.” Then Tobit said to him, “My son Tobias wishes to go to Media. Can you accompany him and guide him? I will pay your wages, brother.” He answered, “I can go with him and I know all the roads, for I have often gone to Media and have crossed all its plains, and I am familiar with its mountains and all of its roads.”

Rembrandt: Tobit and Anna

Rembrandt: Tobit and Anna

When we welcome the stranger into our lives we may unwittingly welcome a healing angel. When we open ourselves to the gift of courage we may unknowingly find the surprise of quiet joy. When we trust in God’s messengers to guide us along unknown roads we may suddenly find new paths to cross uncharted plains and looming mountains.

Spend time with the first five Chapters of Tobit today and discover the surprise of God’s healing presence. Look for Anna and Sarah, and anticipate what might happen with the desperation that has taken over their lives.

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

Joy and the Law


joyMonday, November 17, 2014

Nehemiah 8

Joy and the Law

We continue through the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is taken from the Book of Nehemiah.

The priest Ezra and the organizer Nehemiah bring the faithful back to Jerusalem to rebuild the, city, the temple and their relationship with Yahweh. The faithful find it in themselves to ask forgiveness, to ponder their recklessness and abandon. Yahweh receives the faithful with loving forgiveness. For Yahweh has been waiting with open arms all along their journey home.

We might find it difficult to understand what The Law really is, and last winter we spent a number of weeks reflecting with Psalm 119. In this series, we found a variety of ways in which we are called to perceive the concepts in the Mosaic Law and in the end we determined that this psalm – the longest Chapter in scripture – is actually an exchange of love letters between God the Creator and us, God’s creatures. This is what the stories in Nehemiah call us to today.

Nehemiah 8:9-10: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 12:43: They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

What is this law that brings the faithful back to God?

images-joy-redAleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He . . . the first five letters in the Hebrew alphabet and the opening stanzas of this prayer of the Law. These letters bring us the understanding that we are made in God’s image of mercy, forgiveness and love. This is God’s promise.

Waw, Azyin, Heth, Teth, Yodh . . . the second five letters bring home to us the idea of trusting God beyond all others and all else. We also come to understand that joy is always somewhere hidden in sorrow. This is our portion.

Kaph, Lamed, Mem Nun, Samekh . . . kindness, transformation, dedication, insight, promise. These are the gifts we receive when we contemplate God’s law. These are the gifts that often only come through strife and contention. God promises that despite our portion of suffering, there will always be great joy. This is our call.

Ayin, Pe, Sadhe, Qoph, Resh . . . discernment, serenity, freedom, discipleship, eternal life. Once we begin to live in God’s Way rather than our own, we understand how and why we are Children of God. We understand that we are most free when we give ourselves over to God. We understand that we must die to self before we experience eternal life. This is our rescue.

psalm-119-32Shin and Taw . . . the Law of Love arrives when the creator comes to walk among us as a man of flesh and bone. We are marked with the sign of Tau, claimed as God’s own. When we journey through and with God’s Law we begin to experience transformation. This is our redemption and our own resurrection from the life of the dead.

If we struggle to find how God’s Law brings more freedom and not less, we might spend time with this story. If we balk at the lesson that we must die in order to rise, we might spend time with this Psalm. Ezra and the Levites teach the people. Nehemiah organizes the work. Together these leaders and these people enact God’s Law. Together these leaders and these people find rejoicing in what had once been a great sorrow.

To investigate God’s Law in these stanzas, enter Psalm 119 in the blog search bar.

To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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