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2 Kings 17: A Stiff-necked Peopleheart image

Friday, May 29, 2015

We humans can get in our own way to such an extent that we tumble head over heels and find ourselves unable to pick ourselves up from the place we have fallen. We can allow our ego and self-interests to narrow our world view to such a point that we can only see ourselves.  Sometimes we are so consumed by saving the world that we neglect ourselves and those closest to us.  When this imbalance happens we look for someone to blame, and when we do this we miss the whole point of Jesus’ message: when mistakes are made, reparations can follow . . . allowing forgiveness and mercy to transform people of our sorrow into people of joy, hope, and salvific love.

The ancient nation of Israel splits into two kingdoms; northern Samaria is taken over by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.; southern Judah eventually falls in 586 B.C.E.  The people have begun to worship other gods, the leaders believe that the nation’s survival hinges not on their fidelity to their agreement with God, but on their own skill as diplomats and negotiators.  They have gone to bed with the enemy and are swept up by the siren song of power, fame and prestige.  They have arrived in a place from which only drastic measures can redeem them.  They have become a truly stiff-necked people.

We modern day believers fall into the same traps and so we benefit from asking ourselves: Who and what are our idol gods today?  Are we unable to balance ourselves our world and our God?  Have we succumbed to the myth that God watches us from afar and does not love us enough to save us?  Do we believe that we are unworthy of redemption, or that we are so special that no one understands us?  Is our case too far gone, our actions too self-serving, our needs too great?  Reading this Chapter today, we might remember that no place and no people are beyond God’s reach.

The Books of Kings were written by a Judean in exile in order to preserve the history of his people for future generations.  He writes not only the episodes of depravity, but also those of greatness and glory as Kings rise and fall.  When we are in exile, these stories – along with those of the prophets Elijah and Elisha – remind us of our true vocation: to be holy people of God, authentic in our pledge of faith, hopeful in God’s plans for us, and full of God’s love for all creation.  The twin themes of judgment and prophecy are ones we might take up and examine in order to apply them to our own stiff-necked-ness.  And after this self-examination, we must lay all that we are and all that we have done at God’s feet, ask forgiveness, and return to God’s welcoming arms transformed by deep and abiding love.  This is where we find joy.  This is the purpose of grinding pain and soul-wringing sorrow.  We are made to seek, to wonder, to learn and renew.  We are made for conversion and for love.  We are made in God’s image because of God’s love, and to this love we must return after exile . . . for we are, when all is said and done, love itself.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 17, 2009.

 


Micah 6:1-10: Requirementsmicah-6-8-21

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What is it that God requires of us if we wish to enter the kingdom as children of God?

This is what your God requires of you . . .

And when we ask, can we say that we can put aside our willfulness to listen for God’s voice?

Do justice . . .

When we hear these words, are we willing to enact God’s justice?

Love kindness . . .

When we love our friends, can we also love our enemies?

Walk humbly with your God . . .

When we blame others for our failures, can we accept our faults and ask forgiveness?

God asks: My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me.

When we hear these words, what do we reply?

Enter the citation Micah 6:8 into the blog search bar to further explore God’s lessons and requirements.


Zechariah 8:15-17: LessonsIf-You-Tell-The-Truth

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scripture gives us clear instruction on how we are to act and what we are to say. Our free will allows us to choose this disciple path or reject it for the road of comfort that is wide but that has many pitfalls. The narrow path appears more dangerous and has fewer travelers; but it leads to the narrow gate that opens for us eternal life.

The prophet Zechariah reminds of God’s word: Do not fear! These then are the things you should do: Speak the truth to one another; let there be honesty and peace in the judgments at your gates, and let none of you plot evil against another in his heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate.

God says: When my prophet tells you that I hate lies, insincerity and evil, he speaks to you in his dual way. I want you to understand that I call all liars to honesty. This is difficult for those who believe the stories they weave for they find it nearly impossible to live without the illusions they have conjured. I want you to understand that authenticity is essential in my kingdom. Integrity sets a standard that some of my children despise for it cannot be manipulated. I want you to love goodness. Genuine mercy can only come from a heart that loves and so if you find that it is challenging for you to love your enemy, ask me to help you with this problem. My compassion is infinite. My patience never-ending. My hope is outrageous. My fidelity is unmatchable. My love is wider, broader and deeper than you can understand . . . and it is within you now, looking for your willingness to be transformed. This is my instruction for you today. Allow these words to enter your bones. Allow me to heal your broken heart.

Use the scripture link to compare versions of these verses and listen for God’s instruction.

Enter the word Instruction in the blog search bar and explore other posts about God’s lesson plans for us.


John 15:18-20: Slaves and Masters

Dougga, Tunisia: Roman mosaic with slaves carrying wine jars

Dougga, Tunisia: Roman mosaic with slaves carrying wine jars

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When we try to reconcile this world with the kingdom, we often find more misunderstanding than peace. Jesus gives us important information about how we might handle this difficulty.

Jesus says: If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.

God says: Spend time with these confusing words today until they begin to clarify. Spend time with me today until you better see how to be in the world and not of it. Spend time with me until you see that the world’s persecution is a quiet blessing. Spend time with me until you believe that you are made in my image and are called to enact my love in a world that cries out for compassion. Spend time with me until you understand that the slaves of this world are always masters in the next. Then go into the world that wants to enslave you and carry my Spirit within. You will find that you are master of far more than you had imagined. 

Scripture is always showing us the inversions of the kingdom and Jesus speaks to us directly today in the hope that we understand how our witness in his name will generally bring us scorn rather than praise. Enter the word inversion into the blog search bar and look for other ways that the kingdom turns the world on its head.

 

The Spirit


Acts 19:1-8: The SpiritGUWG-Heart-Bible-Pic

Monday, May 25, 2015

In the New American Bible Paul said to the Ephesians: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?

They answered him: We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

Today we take time to consider our own concept of the Spirit and our willingness to allow the Spirit’s impact on our lives. To do this we might use the scripture link above to explore other versions of these verses. We may or may not be baptized or confirmed in a Christian way of life. If we have, we might consider how vulnerable we have allowed ourselves to become. If we have not, we now have the opportunity to consider entering into this special relationship.

In the Message, Paul asks: Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?

And the people answer: We’ve never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?

How much does the Spirit influence our lives? Are we aware that God lives within? Do we welcome the Spirit? Do we share our Spirit experiences with others? Do we thank God for this faithful, hope-filled, healing presence?

what-is-the-holy-spirit2-740x405If Paul were to walk among us today and ask us his question, what do we answer? Have we heard of the Spirit? Do we recognize or understand this powerful force in our lives? Do we hold this message within or do we spread the good news?

Here is how Paul reacts to the questions that pepper him: He entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

What is our response to those who question the presence and power of the Spirit? How do we enact the Spirit in our relationships with others? And what do we do with the good news we have received?

Enter the word Spirit into the blog search bar, explore, reflect, rejoice and share.


Acts 2:1-11: Pentecostpentecost

May 24, 2015

All through Eastertide we have reflected on the gifts and treasures God so generously bestows on us. We have considered our role in God’s great plan. And we have remembered Jesus’ actions and words as he worked to build God’s kingdom on earth among God’s children. Today spend time with these verses and look for their impact in your own life.

When the time was fulfilled . . . frequently we hear these words in scripture. When we take these words in we understand that God’s work comes about in God’s time and space, and not ours.

They were all in one place . . . a number of times we hear God’s call to unity in the Spirit. When we come together in Jesus’ name our prayers are answered even though we might not believe this truth to be so.

The Spirit enabled them to proclaim . . . through both Old and New Testaments we are often told that the Spirit will tell us which way to walk, that a voice will speak to us to give us the words we will need to speak in God’s time and in God’s plan. When we relax into this knowledge we find new peace, a new skin, a new heart.

They were confused . . . so often in the Bible stories we read we understand that even those who are intimately involved with God are confused by the plan that lies before them. When we rest in the knowledge that God has nothing but our joy in mind, we can trust the Spirit to show us which path to take in labyrinth of life.

They were astounded and in amazement . . . repeatedly we hear this news in both Old and New Testaments that we humans are astonished at the depth and breadth and height of God’s goodness and love. When we allow ourselves to believe this good news, we find new peace, new life and new serenity.

We hear them speaking . . . we are constantly barraged by so many words and so many images. Today we open our hearts to the Spirit and focus on one or two of these phrases or words. Today we allow God to speak through us. Today we celebrate the enormous gift and presence of the Spirit in our lives. Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost.

mainslide-pentecostUse the scripture link and the drop-down menus to spend time with these Pentecost verses today . . . imagine the world we might create . . . let go of all small and petty plans . . . prepare to be amazed by God’s goodness . . . to be wrapped in Christ’s love . . . to be healed by the Spirit’s power to restore. Let us go out to all the nations in Christ so that all will hear us as if we were speaking in their own tongues . . . for it is in this way that we encounter the gentle compassion and eternal strength of Christ.


Matthew 10:1-15: Our Commission 

Tissot: Exhortation to the Disciples

Tissot: Exhortation to the Disciples

May 23, 2015

Today is the eve of Pentecost Sunday and so we take time to review our Eastertide Noontimes to consider God’s wisdom in each of us as we look for the answer to these questions: What does Jesus have in mind for us this Pentecost? How does Jesus expect us to bring compassion to the world? And, where will we find the wisdom, courage and strength to do so?

A foundational theme in Jesus’ work and words is the importance of inclusion. We see him interact with women, tax collectors, Pharisees and lost souls. He walks among the clean and unclean alike; he ministers to the deaf and blind as well as the comfortable and well-off. Today and tomorrow we reflect on where and when we might step into the mission God extends to us. Do we move out and away from the community in which we are planted or do we remain and look for new windows of opportunity to enact our commission? As we prepare for our newest assignment in this important work, we do well to remember Jesus’ words.

Go to the lost sheep . . .

Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons . . .

Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give . . .

Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it and stay there . . .

As you enter a house, wish it peace . . .

If the house is worthy l let your peace come upon it . . .

If not, let your peace return to you . . .

Use the scripture link above to search other versions of these verses . . . and allow God to reveal to you the commission he has in mind for your work. Enter the word Pentecost into the blog search bar and explore.

Tomorrow, the fire of God’s Pentecost.


Matthew 9:35-38: The Compassion of Jesusharvest

May 22, 2015

We have spent time with Jesus as he heals leprosy, paralysis and blindness, stills an intense and dangerous storm and enables the mute to speak. We have followed him as he casts out demons, admonishes corrupt leaders and heals an older woman’s hemorrhaging on his way to raise a young woman from the dead. We listen to Jesus when he reminds us to use shrunken cloth to mend our old cloaks and to put our new wine into new skins. Jesus is well aware of the suffering that surrounds him yet he does not shrink from the painful challenge; rather, he brings joy and healing and transformation.

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.

Let us imagine a world in which we all proclaim the good news, in which we all teach with our example of witness, in which we touch our enemies and friends alike with compassion.

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.

Let us imagine a world in which we shepherd one another when our hearts are low and our spirits falter, in which we act in mercy rather than revenge, in which we look for union rather than separateness.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send the laborers for his harvest.

Let us imagine a world in which masters and laborers work together to bring compassion to work places across the globe, in which parents and children act in love and peace in their homes, in which leaders and followers find common ground for the common good.

As we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost and the close of Eastertide, let us imagine a world such as this . . . and let us step into the role that Jesus has in mind for us as we bring Christ’s compassion to the world.

Visit the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Movement site at www.catholicworker.org or another site of your choice, and be open to the harvesting work to which God may be calling you. Share your experience in a blog comment and invite others to join in Jesus call of compassion for the world.


Matthew 9:32-34: Healing our Muteness

Click on this image to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Click on this image to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

May 21, 2015

“Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, despite his ardent nationalism. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out…” (Holocaust Encyclopedia www.ushmn.org) Read Niemöller’s sermon, and then consider . . .

God says: The Pharisees accused my son of using the power of the prince of demons to heal muteness in one of my sheep. Do not allow your ears to be closed to my word in you. Do not allow your fear to cripple my voice in you. Speak when I ask you to tell my good news. Be still when I ask you to wait for my word to flow through you. Take courage. When you live in me you will never die. When you offer your voice in my name you are one with me. 

Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemöller

Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum site and reflect on the power of human silence and human speech. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007391 Remember that there are those in our world who deny the fact that this human carnage took place . . . and then consider how and where and when we want to lend our voices to God’s cause.

To learn more about Martin Niemöller, click on his image to the left or visit:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414633/Martin-Niemoller

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