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1 & 2 Kings: Some Left Over – Part III

Elijah Fed by Ravens

Elijah Fed by Ravens

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When we study the stories of Elijah and Elisha we find that with their miracles of sustenance for the marginalized there is always something left over. Their acts of mercy foreshadow Jesus’ acts of mercy in the New Testament.

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath: In 1 Kings 17 Elijah predicts a great drought. He moves east to rest, as God recommends, and rests near a stream where ravens bring him bread and meat. After a time the water dries up and so Elijah follows God’s voice as it counsels him to move to another place to stay with a particular widow. What follows when the prophet resides with her is a story that gives us counsel about what we might do when we find ourselves searching for solutions to problems that for us are enormous, but that for God are quite ordinary. When we use the scripture link to explore different versions of this story, for find that solutions to our own dilemmas appear – and we also find that when God provides, there is always something left over to share with others.

Aert de Gelder: Elisha and the Widow of the Prophet

Aert de Gelder: Elisha and the Widow of the Prophet

Elisha, the Widow’s Oil, and the Multiplication of Loaves: In 2 Kings 4 Elisha helps the widow of a God-fearing man whose creditors want to take his two children as slaves in payment for an unpaid debt. Miracles follow when Elisha follows God’s advice. Later in this chapter we see the renewal of life through resurrection, and transformation of a poisoned stew. More miracles follow in subsequent chapters and again, comparing varying versions of these stories using the scripture link brings us a fresh perspective of stories we may have heard many times. Ultimately, the message remains . . . when God provides, there is always something left over.

Tomorrow . . . Matthew’s story of the loaves and fish.


Exodus 16: Some Left Over – Part II

Tissot: The Gathering of the Manna

Tissot: The Gathering of the Manna

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bread from Heaven

The Lord said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you . . . Present yourselves before the Lord for God has heard your grumblings”.

How quick we are to complain when life does not go “our way”. When we take time to read the story of the desert manna we see that we are not the first people to forget our deliverance from slavery. And we suspect that we will not be the last to protest our circumstances. But are we willing to see how God cares for us when we are troubled and anxious?

In the Exodus story God provides a double portion of manna on the day before the Sabbath so that the weary desert wanderers may be sustained on their day of rest. On God’s direction, Moses calls forth water from rock (Exodus 17 & Numbers 20) when the people complain. Despite all of this grumbling, God provides enough so that there is some left over. God gives us more than what is sufficient to see us through the difficult places in our lives. It is up to us to remain open, listening and accepting. It is up to us to present ourselves. And when we do, we receive far more than mere bread and water.

Aert de Gelder: Abraham and the Angels

Aert de Gelder: Abraham and the Angels

Abraham’s Visitors

While the day was growing hot . . . Abraham saw three men standing nearby.

We might also take a lesson from Abraham who, on an ordinary day and in an ordinary way, unknowingly encounters God when he receives strangers into his camp. (Genesis 18) Abraham extends desert hospitality and sees that his guests’ feet are washed and that they receive food and drink. This traditional hospitality on a typical day brings a surprise announcement: despite their age, Abraham and Sarah will receive the gift of a child. When they open their hearts and home, Abraham and Sarah discover new depth in their lives; they celebrate new gifts.

The Road to Media

Bernardo Strozzi: Tobias Curing his Father's Blindness

Bernardo Strozzi: Tobias Curing his Father’s Blindness

Tobiah went to look for someone acquainted with the roads who would travel with him to Media.

In this wonderful story of Tobit, the faithful man who remains loyal to God even in the land of exile, we find another reason to open ourselves to the outsider. When Tobias (Tobiah) invites a stranger to accompany him on his journey to Media, he unwittingly enlists the aid of the Angel Raphael. (Tobit 5) Once again, we find that hospitality and fellowship lead to such great gifts and such great reward that there is always some left over.

Tomorrow, more Old Testament stories in which God provides more than enough.

To reflect more on these stories, enter the words Tobit, Abraham or Angels into the blog search bar and explore.  


2 Kings 4:42-44: Some Left Over – Part I

Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Sunday, August 2, 2015

When I was a child and company arrived unexpectedly on a warm summer afternoon, my mother would whisper to my older sisters, “Go peel another pound of potatoes, and squeeze more lemons for another batch of lemonade”. The main course would stretch, she knew; the other side dishes and desserts were ample. It was the sustaining starch and the refreshing fruit drink that our surprise summer visitors would need for their journey onward.

Each time I read about the manna and quail in the dessert I think of my mother and the trust she placed in God as she and my dad raised their large family in unpredictable times. And when I hear the story of Elisha read out during liturgy as it was last week, I pledge to affirm the faith of my parents, knowing that they understood the power of good stewardship and the gift of conserving what was left over.

“Wasting food is like stealing from the poor,” Pope Francis has told us, and it was is this spirit that I was raised. It is this spirit I have tried to pass on to my children and grandchildren. Offering food and drink to the wayfarer, my parents showed us, extending hospitality to all is a way of life worth fostering; it is a tradition we find in both the Old and New Testaments. Honoring the sudden guest is our affirmation that God always gives us enough. Inviting the lost into a safe refuge is our demonstration of belief in the mercy of God. Husbanding all that is left over is our response to God’s call that we treasure all we are given by a generous and loving God.

Over the next few days we will look at stories from scripture, both old and new, to explore God’s message about sustenance, hospitality, and something left over. Today, we read Pope Francis’ words about food and we use a search engine to find an agency that provides a means for the poor to gain a permanent food supply, and we consider giving something of our wealth left over – even if it is only a few barley loaves and fish – to this cause.

You might begin your search with these organizations, or you might conduct your own search of global or local agencies.

www.foodforthepoor.org, www.moveforhunger.org, www.feedthehungry.org, www.helpthechildren.org

If you still have no idea where to begin, consider food for the poor with the Forbes list of the 50 largest cities in the U.S.A. at http://www.forbes.com/companies/food-for-the-poor/ Or Feed the Future at www.feedthefuture.gov

Tomorrow, bread from heaven. 


John 21: Glory, Part XIV – Epilogue

Mike Moyers: Breakfast At Dawn

Mike Moyers: Breakfast At Dawn

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Disappointment, fear, hatred, trouble, emptiness, and doubt – these are the valleys we traverse on our road with God’s glory. Jesus washes our feet, gives us life on his great vine of love, tells us of the Advocate and asks us to hand ourselves over for the gift healing unity. And Jesus asks that we hand ourselves over in humility as true followers rather than passing fans. These are the gifts we have discovered on our road with God’s glory. Today’s we look at our final lesson on Glory: The epilogue of the Jesus story is the prologue of our own. How do we wish to tell it?

When we spend time with the last chapter of John’s Gospel, we will find many parallels between the lives of the apostles and our own. We can look at this brief list and add examples of our own discipleship.

  • The apostles go back to their old way of earning a living when Jesus leaves; and this is what we often do when we discover something about the kingdom but do not quite own it. We revert to what is familiar, even if it is not good.
  • Jesus calls his followers “children”. If these fishermen and the women who tend to this group are children then certainly so are we.
  • It is the beloved apostle, John, who recognizes Jesus while the others do not. We can imagine how many times a day Jesus walks past us without our noticing.
  • Peter is so excited when he sees Jesus on the shoreline that he leaps from the boat to walk on water, doubts and falters, but rises when Jesus encourages him. We also do this when we respond to God’s call, flounder, yet are raised up by the Creator.
  • When Jesus tells the tired apostles where to fish there are too many to haul on board in the same body of water where there were none. Too often we are tempted to cease just fishing when we need to continue.
  • Jesus cooks and eats with his tired followers. The Resurrected Jesus is just as real as the Human Jesus, they are one and the same. And this man who loves us so much and so well calls us to be nourished in him. He calls us to this same resurrection that he experiences.

Footnotes and commentary tell us that the character of this last chapter of John has non-Johannine “peculiarities” that suggest it was written by Luke.  Others say that it was definitely written by John.  Whoever the writer, it is clear that he is impelled to depict with clarity the surprise and happiness of these disciples Jesus knows so well. The writer is also eager for his readers to experience this same surprise and happiness in their own lives. And so it is with the last verse that he invites us to add our own stories of glory in and with God to this incredible story of goodness, mercy and light in a world that is too often dark . . . There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

Jesus is as big as all of us.  Jesus is as small and intimate as each of us. Separately and together we are Christ. How do we take him into the world every day?  Is this epilogue the end of the story . . . or is it the beginning of another encounter between us and our God? Is this the beginning or the end of God’s glory?

Adapted from a reflection written on February 26, 2008.


John 20:24-31: Glory, Part XIII – DoubtThomas

Friday, July 31, 2015

As we begin to conclude our thoughts on God’s glory, we look at a reflection written on August 22, 2007 and adapted today as a Favorite.

We hear this story often on the Sunday after Easter, when the pews that had been overflowing the Sunday before now stand strangely vacant.  I always think it sad that more of us do not hear this story, because there is a bit of Thomas in each of us.   

We call Thomas, Doubting, but we might better think of him as Questioning. Thomas insists on proof, much like a child, much like each of us. Thomas asks for the real presence of God, as do many children and as do many of us. Thomas refuses to follow blindly, as might all of us. Before we bring Jesus to others – as we are asked to do – we must argue, probe, doubt and finally believe genuinely as Thomas does. We must say, as Thomas does, “My Lord and my God!”

We would be false apostles as those we read about in Revelation 2:2-3“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles and discovered that they are imposters.  Moreover, you have endured and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary.”  The writer of Revelation, John of Patmos, also cautions that we are to repent, warning that the light of our lampstand will be extinguished if we lose the love we had at first.  We must realize who and what we are, we must repent and repair, forgive and ask forgiveness, heal and be healed, question and discuss.  We must seek so that and we will ultimately find God’s eternal, healing and inexplicable glory.

Using a search engine, we look for images of Doubting Thomas and study this story as we consider the questions we present to God . . . and the answers we receive. 


st-mary-magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene

John 20:1-18: Glory XII – Healing

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Adapted from a reflection written on August 9, 2007 and posted today as a message about God’s glory, an experience offered to each of us.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

The love between Jesus and his disciples is palpable, and when Jesus speaks to the Magdalene in verse 20:16, it is clear that this man had a very human relationship with the friends who surround himself.  And it is this same relationship that is offered to us, a relationship of healing love, truth and light. This is why it is so important for us to surround ourselves who will nurture the growth of Jesus’ truth and light and life, people who speak with their ears and live with their hearts, people who touch one another in the manner that Christ touched his followers, people who heal.

We are all called to be healers to one another; and as adopted sisters and brothers of Christ we have the power to heal one another not only in a medical way but emotionally and spiritually as well.  When we listen for God’s Word to speak, when we exercise patience and persistence, when we live out our faith in God, our hope in Christ and our love in the Spirit, we meet Christ. We heal and we are healed.

And so we pray, as Mary Magdalene may have prayed . . .

Precious God, keep me mindful of this your promise, to set us prisoners free from all that binds us, to raise us to the great hope you have placed in us, to send your Spirit into our temples to abide with us forever.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 


John 20: Glory, Part XI – Emptinessmiracles-happen

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Knowing that through humility, emptiness, and service, our journey leads us more quickly to the kingdom of God we seek.

Today’s lesson on Glory: Mary Magdalene and the other apostles discover an empty tomb and at first believe that Jesus has left them behind. Through many “wonders and signs,” Jesus assures them of his very real presence.

Each Easter we spend time with this chapter of John’s Gospel, reliving the passage Jesus’ followers make from emptiness to fulfillment. It is very like the same passage we make each time we traverse a difficult patch of our lives. We might re-read these verses when we find ourselves in the emptiness of betrayal, denial or abandonment. They hold stories we will want to re-live and re-tell.

mary-magdaleneThe Empty TombMary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. We might better manage our disappointments, fears and troubles if we remember that fulfillment follows this emptiness.

The Appearance to Mary of MagdalaMary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  We might better experience peace for the hatred we encounter in the world if we leave ourselves open to the visits of angels.

The Appearance to the Disciples On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, in fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you”. We might better discover unity in our divisions if we look for Christ who is always in our midst.

doubtiing thomas

Caravaggio: Doubting Thomas

ThomasThomas was not with them when Jesus came and so he said to the disciples, I will not believe”. Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you”. Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” We might better understand our role as branch to Jesus’ vine if we accept Jesus’ love with humility.

Signs and WondersNow Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. We might better hold firm in our love of Christ if we humble ourselves before the many signs and wonders we experience in our lives.

We might compare varying versions of John 20 and connect these stories to the hills in valleys in our own lives. Search this blog for reflections from John 20 and re-think the Easter miracle. 


John 19: Glory, Part X – Fans and Followers

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Carl Henrich Bloch: Christ on the Cross

Carl Henrich Bloch: Crucifixion

Today’s lesson on Glory: It is the quiet follower who lives in union with the shepherd while the boisterous fan will not hear the shepherd’s voice when it is crowded out by the jeering crowd. Yet, the loving shepherd continues to invite us all.

There is a difference between being a fan of Jesus and a follower.  While we may find it easy to cheerlead a message we long to communicate, it is something else entirely to live the message with great love. We like to gather with those of like minds to celebrate meaningful occasions but we shrink from sharing time and space with our enemies or even those with whom we may not agree on important issues. We listen to new stories that reinforce our already-formed ideas and turn away from information that will ask us to re-think or re-group. When Christ extends his offer of celebration we may find that our attendance requires work on our part – before, during and after the event. It requires that we trust God. It requires that we carry the Spirit so she may be easily identified. It may even require our willingness to take up a new cross that leads to crucifixion.

Fans appear for a special occasion and may even show up through a season but true followers are always present, willing to suffer persecution, slander, and even crucifixion. Fans hide when kangaroo courts form, put their hands out money appears and sidle up to cameras when fame is offered. Followers are not influenced by wealth or power; they are not turned by bribes or corruption. Followers continue in solidarity for strength and in prayer with God.

Carl Heinrich Bloch: In a Roam Osteria

Carl Heinrich Bloch: In a Roman Osteria

In John 19 we read that Jesus is mocked, beaten, humiliated, taunted, and made to carry the instrument which will help people to kill him.  In bowing to God’s plan and by suffering through this act of self-gift, Jesus offers us the opportunity to collaborate with him in our own redemption. Jesus invites us to spend time with him so that we will know the shepherd’s voice, hear the master’s footstep, and rejoice at the lover’s touch. Fans struggle to maintain their connection to this lover once the party turns into the passion of the crucifixion.  Fans slink away into the darkness when the lover calls to them and asks for their witness.  Fans go home once the party turns into something they do not control or do not like; they do not stay to pick up the leavings or to gather remnants into baskets for the poor. Fans have no way of experiencing the lasting joy of union because they have been practicing the art of separation; and yet despite all of this . . . Jesus continues to invite these fans to join him as followers. And for this we are grateful.

When we sit quietly for a few moments today to read this description of Christ’s passion and ultimate descent from the cross, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves these questions: Where and how do we see ourselves in the life of Christ? And how do we imitate this one who deserves not our overt fanaticism . . . but our quiet, persistent, and faithful following?

Carl Heinrich Bloch: Woman at the Well

Carl Heinrich Bloch: Woman at the Well

Use a search engine to find more images of the work of Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch as we reflect on the fans and followers of Jesus, or visit the slide show at: http://www.carlbloch.org/slideshow.html 

Adapted from a reflection written on June 5 and 6, 2008.


John 18:28-38: Glory, Part IX: Handing Ourselves Over1000509261001_1553982855001_Bio-Radio-Mother-Theresa-SF

Monday, July 27, 2015

The scene of Pilate moving from inside to outside and back again as he links Jesus and his accusers is an interesting one in which we see two worlds, two understandings, two ways of thinking collide.  In the end, Jesus allows himself to be handed over for judgment, punishment and execution . . . and in so doing he demonstrates to his followers how we are to behave when faced with insurmountable odds.  We are to obey the voice within, follow the example of Christ, and rest in the peace of the Holy Spirit to become the paradoxical witness to the world we know we are called to be.

Today’s lesson on Glory: When we hope to avoid suffering, we also avoid opportunities for intimacy in Christ.

In an auditorium recently in which young people had gathered to raise funds to help a sister parish in Haiti, teenagers sang and swayed to music glorifying God and his awesome works.  I was struck by their innocence and fervor, and I prayed that the crosses they had already born, along with the ones they would be called to bear, would not weigh on them too heavily.  And then I remembered that earlier that evening I had seen evidence that perhaps these young people were not so innocent of suffering after all.  Tucked quietly in an alcove behind the table where Haitian coffee was being served to guests was a simple hand-painted sign clearly written by a youngster . . . and as I read it, I hoped that this young woman or man understood the enormity of the citation cited from the words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta:

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. 

This speaks such plain truth.  And yet we fear the pain and suffering which leads to this tremendous love in which we might rest for eternity.  We too often rush to the arms of denial, quick comfort, or easy silence which gives assent to corruption and wrong doing.

In today’s reflection we see this truth in the gestures and words of Jesus who allows himself to serve as savior and symbol for all peoples of all times and all places.

May we serve as humble replicas of this paradox of Christ’s love. And may we come to know God’s glory through our simple acts of handing ourselves over to God.

Search for information about Theresa of Calcutta and reflect on why and how her presence among India’s poor gave rise to opposing views about her work. Consider how this paradox may or may not be a sign of God’s glory in our time. 

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 14, 2008.

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