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The Storm Unleashed


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jeremiah 25:15-38

The Coming StormThe Storm Unleashed

As children we might see the Old Testament as a land of dichotomy where God speaks lovingly to the faithful and spews anger at those who fall away. As children we thrive in an atmosphere of absolute rules and clear boundaries. As adults, reality tells us another story in which we humans are rarely entirely honest and open as we struggle to balance our individual needs and hope with those of our broader society and even the world.  As adults we know that sometimes good people do bad things; too frequently the innocent suffer.

The fire and brimstone God we see today is far from the forgiving father in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) . . . or perhaps we are seeing with our human eyes and feeling with our human heart rather than allowing our divinity to govern us. What if we were to allow the Spirit within to sing the song we read today?

God calls to each of us, urging us home to live a life of generosity and kindness.

phoenix haboobThe Lord roars from on high, from his holy dwelling he raises his voice; mightily he roars over the range, a shout like that of vintagers over the grapes.

God urges all of us to work in solidarity for those on the margins, asking us to include all rather than to exclude many.

To all who inhabit the earth to its very ends the uproar spreads; for the Lord has an indictment against the nations.

God warns us of the surety of our actions; we sow our own reaping, we gather as we sow.

God passes judgment upon all mankind: the godless shall be given to the sword, says the Lord.

God reminds us that as we forgive so are we forgiven and that the storm that appears to hover on the horizon is surely coming our way; our own actions cannot be denied in God’s reality.

Coming_Storm_by_SheriffMercury99A great storm is unleashed from the ends of the earth.

False shepherds find themselves in the barren desert of their own hearts that they have fed with the souls of the innocent.

Howl, you shepherds, and wail! Roll in the dust, leaders of the flock!

The goodness of God welcomes home those who fall away . . . if only they will turn to God. Those who determine to remain in their fallen way will understand that they bring about their own destruction.

The lion leaves his lair, and their land is made desolate by the sweeping sword . . . as a great storm is unleashed from the ends of the earth.

Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

As children we are frightened by these images and we determine to be among the faithful who escape the storm. As adults we see that no one escapes and yet all escape. As adults we see that the great storm is already upon us . . . and yet quietly and persistently and lovingly . . . the forgiving father works among us, sheltering us from the lion, the sword and the storm.

Seventy Years


Monday, September 1, 2014

Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

Jeremiah 25:1-14

Seventy Years 

Can we imagine a seventy-year exile from all that we know? Can we picture seven times seventy years, or a four-hundred-ninety year banishment from all that we have come to love?

Jeremiah reframes for the Israelites – and for us – the cautions laid out by Yahweh with Moses on the desert mountain.

Turn back, each of you, from your evil way and from your evil deeds . . .

Then you shall remain in the land the Lord gave to you of old . . .

Do not follow strange gods to serve and adore them . . .

Jeremiah’s Yahweh speaks of punishment to be delivered in subsequent verses and this clashes with our understanding of the Lord as a forgiving parent who remains with us through every difficulty, even the difficulties we bring on ourselves.  We struggle to comprehend why the innocent suffer and why God does not intervene to eradicate every injustice.  And then we recall that we are created in love as God’s image in this world. We remember that we are part of God’s plan of salvation. We remember that our own hands and feet, our minds and lips are God’s in a world crying out for healing. We read these lines from thousands of years ago to recognize our role in God’s plan. When we discover injustice, we are called to act. When we see suffering, we are asked to intervene. When we find sickness, we are called to heal. Wherever we discern the crumbling walls of God’s kingdom, we are commissioned to love with, and for and in Christ.

Jesus tells us: Then the king will say . . . Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in;  naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me”. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?  And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Individually and collectively we have the power in Christ to build the kingdom in this time and space. Alone and together we have the power in the Spirit to cure and heal. On our own and in solidarity we have the power through God to repair and build. Let us determine to give the years of our exile over to Christ . . . for in so doing we live in the Spirit . . . and we transform ourselves and the world as we call forth the kingdom with God.

Enter the word captivity into the blog search bar and explore where or how we create our own exile from God . . . and what we might do to allow our separation to transform us.

For another Noontime reflection on this passage with some historical information, visit the Captivity post on this blog at: http://thenoontimes.com/2012/04/12/captivity/

For Bible study outlines, click on the image above or go to: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/category/old-testament-bible-study/page/37/ 

Two Baskets of Figs


Sunday, August 31, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJeremiah 24

The Two Baskets of Figs

From Bible footnotes: “Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, saw that no good could be expected from the people who had been left in Judah under Zedekiah or who had fled into Egypt; good was to be hoped for only from those who would pass through the purifying experience of the exile to form the new Israel.” (Senior 980)

If there is time in your day, read a bit about Jeconiah and the Chaldeans (Babylonians). If there is not much time, let us at least think about what God is asking of us when we experience exile, a time apart from places, persons or even events that are precious to us.  God assures us that there is always an opportunity for distillation when we are apart. God reminds us that we experience the abiding presence of the Spirit when we are away from what we love. God tells us that those who are left behind, or sent away, are not the juicy first figs of the season; rather, they are the poor fruit that will not grace the banquet table . . . but that is loved by God nonetheless. God is the faithful, persistent harvester who nurses fruit from struggling plants. God is the hopeful, healing shepherd, going out to find the one sheep while leaving the ninety-nine behind. God is the patient, able silversmith heating metal to drain away the detritus and keeping watch that the precious ore is not poured away. God is the potter working the clay of our lives in hands that know us better than we know ourselves. As always with God, it is the inverse that proves true: those left behind are those redeemed; those sent away are the rescued.  And here in these verses of Chapter 24, Jeremiah brings us the imagery of two baskets of figs . . . one with first fruits, the other with rotten offerings.

Yahweh says: I will look after them for their good, and bring them back to this land, to build them up, not to tear them down; to plant them, not to pluck them out. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and precious God, we know that you are with us always, even when we must be apart undergoing transformation. We know that we are clay in your hands that you mold with intent and great care. Help us to abide with you as you abide with us. Guide us to hope in you as you hope in us. Teach us to love the world with you even as you love us. We know that true transformation comes with suffering, and that suffering is the path your son strode before us. But . . . because the darkness sometimes feels too permanent, we ask that you guide us. Because the light sometimes seems as though it will never return, we ask that you lead us. Because the figs we bear are sometimes bitter, we ask that you carry us. Because the journey you ask us to walk is sometimes too perilous, we ask that you be us. For all of this we pray. Amen.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.980. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on June 14, 2007.

For more on Jeconiah and the Chaldeans, visit: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/711-did-jeremiah-err-regarding-jeconiah and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/c/chaldeans.htm

 

Gnats and Camels


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Camel in the Judean Wilderness

Camel in the Judean Wilderness

Matthew 23:23-26

Gnats and Camels

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.

It is too easy to judge others and forget to look in the mirror.

You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law; judgment and mercy and fidelity.

The words come to us quickly: I am too busy. I already know that. This is just the way I am. We cringe when we think we might have to change our perception of self.

Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

We fuss with details and avoid authentic conversion.

You cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.

We recognize our sense of entitlement but refuse to move forward in transformation.

Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus is clear. There are steps to be taken. Christ leads the way. There are changes to be made. Do we persist with a lifestyle that is comfortable and known but lacking in judgment, mercy and fidelity? Or do we choose a life of honesty and understanding?

Christ speaks to each of us today of gnats and camels. Christ speaks to us today of honesty and hypocrisy. Christ speaks to us of an opportunity to change. Let us spend some time today with Matthew 23 and look for the occasions we have wanted to strain gnats and swallow camels.

For a humorous post on How to Swallow a Camel with No Gnats, click on the image above or go to: http://www.waynestiles.com/how-to-swallow-a-camel-with-no-gnats/

Bless the Lord


Friday, August 29, 2014

Job 12:13

wisdomhelpBless the Lord

With God are wisdom and might; God’s are counsel and understanding.

We grapple with global and local events. Circumstances and people ruffle our calm or bring us peace. Nature frightens or entrances us. We live in a world of dichotomy. We find light not when we grasp at it . . . but when we hold our hearts and heads and hands open . . . ready to receive God’s wisdom, understanding, counsel and might.

God says: Do not worry about all that you cannot control. The experiences you want to govern are far greater than you imagine, far deeper than you dream. The repercussions of your words and deeds last an eternity as does my healing love for you. Put aside all that you cannot understand and rest in me. Manage the work you have before you and rely on me. Tend to the people given into your charge and ask me for guidance. You will always have my counsel. My wisdom is at your fingertips. With patience and with listening you will find me. When you act in me you are mighty. When you act for me you are understanding. When you act with me you are love.  

When we cease thinking that the world is a place of either or we come to a place that allows for both darkness and light, both ignorance and understanding, both violence and wisdom. When we give all that we have and all that we are into God’s capable hands, we learn how to sing the verses of Psalm 104 with a full and peace-filled heart.

As we break from Jeremiah’s prophecy, spend some time today with Psalm 104 and choose one or two verses that you might repeat when you encounter obstacles.

I will sing to the Lord all my life . . . I find my joy in the Lord . . . Bless the Lord, my soul.

The Depths of Riches


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Romans 11:33-36

the-universeThe Depths of Riches

Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable God’s judgments and how unsearchable God’s ways!

God says: I know that many of you do not worry about the details of your day, that you rely on me entirely, and that you rest in riches. I know that some of you are too frightened to rely on my wisdom and knowledge and that others of you want to understand every detail of every circumstance and challenge me to demonstrate my love for you in some tangible sign of your choosing.

For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been God’s counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that may be repaid?

God says: If I present to you the complexities of the universe and you struggle with that . . . how will you comprehend all the details you demand? If my prophet Jeremiah tires you . . . take heart. I am with you always. 

For from God and through God and for God are all things. To God be glory forever. Amen.

God says: I love more than all my riches, more than all my wisdom, more than all I know. If my ways are inscrutable to you, be patient. Once you have quieted your fear it will cease to control you. Once you have rested in me you will begin to feel my peace. Once you rely on me, you too will hold in your hands the depths of my riches.  

For more on God’s Wisdom, enter the words in the blog search bar and explore.

For a remarkable experience of our universe as we know it, click on the image above or go to: http://www.numbersleuth.org/universe/

Ungodliness


shepherdWednesday, August 27, 2014

Jeremiah 22 & 23

Ungodliness

Jeremiah presents us with a roll call of false leaders, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jeconiah.

Woe to him who builds his house on wrong; his terraces on injustice, who works his neighbor without pay, and gives him no wages.

Jeremiah also presents us with a messianic vision, the promise of a good and honest shepherd who fulfills the promise of bringing the faithful home.

I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.

Jeremiah shows us the dichotomy of evil and goodness in which we live. He gives us mirror in which we might discover our own ungodliness.

God says: You need not tremble when you read about the terrible leaders who lead my faithful away from me and to the hungry, demanding little gods of Baal. You need not fear for your life if you live in me. You need not hide or bury yourself away when danger threatens. You need only rest in me. Allow my peace to give you a quiet place of rest. Let the freedom I give you prove the depth of my love, the strength of my fidelity, and the healing power of my hope.  

False and true leaders, false and true prophets, false and true shepherds. Jeremiah draws clear pictures of what we may see in ourselves and others as he warns us of the danger of ungodliness.

For information about Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jeconiah, visit:

http://biblehub.com/dictionary/j/jehoahaz.htm

http://biblehub.com/dictionary/j/jehoiakim.htm

http://biblehub.com/dictionary/j/jeconiah.htm

To learn about Josiah, visit: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/j/josiah.htm

 

Do What Is Right


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Martin-Luther-King-Pic-21Jeremiah 22

Do What Is Right

Listen to the word of the Lord . . .

Do what is right and just . . .

Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor . . .

Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow . . .

Do not shed innocent blood . . .

With hindsight we can see where the chosen people miss-stepped. We can easily judge and say that we would have listened to God’s voice to avoid falling into the subtle trap of following little gods rather than the one Living God.

With understanding we can see how the chosen people miscalculated. We can quickly recognize the corruption that pervaded their religious and civic institutions.

With honesty we can see our own slide into first accepting and later following the way that is wide and dishonest rather than the narrow way that is difficult and authentic.

do-what-you-feel-is-rightMany people will pass by this city and ask one another: “Why has the Lord done this to so great a city?”

And the answer will be: “Because they have deserted their covenant with the Lord, their God, by worshiping and serving strange gods”.

What strange little gods do we allow to filter into our decisions? What small little gods rule our days and nights? What insignificant little gods threaten our peaceful relationship with God?

How do we do what is good and right and just?

We take time today to pause and reflect.

For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, go to: http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086#synopsis and http://www.biography.com/people/eleanor-roosevelt-9463366 

Oracles and Kings


Monday, August 25, 2014

Jeremiah 21

Oracles and Kings

19th Century English School: Blind Zedekiah, Last King of Judah, Before Nebuchadnezzar

19th Century English School: Blind Zedekiah, Last King of Judah, Before Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon

Many of us dislike hearing bad news; most of us hate delivering an unwanted message or information. We ask for input and then complain about the information we receive. “Consider the source,” my dad used to say, “and then take it to God”.

In today’s reading from Jeremiah we enter into the portion of his prophecy in which he brings us God’s word regarding the line of David, those who followed on the heels of greatness to lose the covenant gift given by God. The prophet speaks of the work of justice which must be done in this world in order to experience the next world well; we are to be about the work of advocacy for the poor, the down-trodden and those on the margins of life. This is clear. Verse 12: Each morning dispense justice, rescue the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor. When we continue reading, we see the consequence that Jeremiah foretells if we do not rise to answer our call.

The Gospel describes how Jesus’ disciples struggle to understand the true meaning of discipleship; they are no longer “of this world” just as Jesus is not of this world. Jesus asks that his disciples be “consecrated in truth” – consecrated in the word. There is no greater life to which a human might aspire than to stand in solidarity with those who suffer innocently. And Jeremiah calls to King, High Priest and commoner alike.

We are all Kings of the house of Judah; each of us is the High Priest; we also the adopted siblings of Christ. We are all called to abide by our covenant promises just as God abides with us. We are all called to dispense justice, to deliver hope in a real and immediate way, to advocate for those who have no voice. We are all called to consecration in the truth of the word of God just as the women and men who traveled with Jesus were. We are all called to be of the other world while still living in this world. We are all called to listen to the oracles of the Kings . . . and to respond.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 23, 2007.

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