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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.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

1 Samuel 11:9-10

The Men of Jabesh-Gilead

The Men of Jabesh-Gilead

The Surrender of Jabesh

Descendants of Ammon, a son of Lot, the Ammonites lived in a territory of Ammon that extended from the Arnon to the Jabbok and Jordan. But during Moses time they had been driven to the east by the Amorites. Moses was not allowed to attack them (Deuteronomy 2:19) despite the fact that they worshiped idols, especially Molech, or the god Saturn.

Cursed by Yahweh’s prophets, this tribe had a long history of conflict with the Israelites. Today we see Saul gather three hundred thousand men from Israel and seventy thousand from Judah before he announces that he will deliver the people of Jabesh-gilead who have been overtaken by Nahash, the Ammonite. And when the messengers came and reported this to the inhabitants of Jabesh, who were jubilant, [they] said to Nahash, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you may do whatever you please with us”.  They likely recognized that freedom from the enemy was upon them.

Conflict in this part of the world continues today; lessons in this ancient land reinforce division more than unity. Jeremiah’s words of prophecy pierce hearts but convert too few. Walking in hardness and obstinacy have become an engrained way of living; the day without remedy is infinite; the imagery of the potter’s flask and Topheth lie meaningless. And yet . . . the Lord is near.

In New Testament hope we recall the words of the apostle Paul: For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

Would that each of us might give over our interior conflict and place our hope in God. Would that each of us might surrender to Christ and the promise given to Abraham just as the people of Jabesh surrender in jubilation their trust in God.

For more on the story of Jabesh and how they showed their gratitude to King Saul, click on the image above or go to: http://lukedockery.blogspot.com/2007/11/gratitude-men-of-jabesh-gilead.html 

Interior Crisis


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jeremiah20.9Jeremiah 20

Interior Crisis

“Jeremiah accuses Yahweh of forcing him into a position where he is a laughingstock and an object of mockery (v.7); Yahweh is requiring him to deliver a message of doom that events of history have so far failed to confirm”. (Mays 561)

When we see doom arriving and announce its coming only to be laughed from the room, we know that we are prophesying. When we speak truth to friends or colleagues as God asks of us only to find those relationships severed, we know that we are prophets in our present world. When we caution loved ones about an impending disaster only to be mocked or ridiculed, we know that God is near. These experiences will easily give rise to an interior crisis in which we feel that we have been duped by God; and as the prophet Jeremiah says . . . I let myself be duped. It is when our hearts are broken that we are closest to God.  It is when our confidence is shaken that we have open ears for God’s word. And it is when we most feel like retreating from all that threatens us . . . that we are asked to allow our interior crisis to bring new growth.

“The reaction of [Jeremiah’s] audience to [his] message of doom is stated somewhat more generally than in other complaints, but it fits the picture gained from earlier ones . . . they wish to eliminate him and his rival message from the nation’s future. (Mays 561-562)

Our own circumstance may be dire as is Jeremiah’s – someone may or may not wish to eliminate us – but any time that we suffer rejection the sting is piercing. The pain of ridicule may last for years. The trauma of denunciation may endure for a lifetime. The effects of derision may color our world forever.  Yet, God accompanies us in our real or imagined isolation; Christ guides us as we navigate the road to new life; and the Spirit heals and consoles as we struggle for transformed wholeness.

You duped me, O Lord . . .

Rather than hear these words as a sign of failure, let us hear them as a signal of new life. Rather than struggle to keep ourselves from falling, let us decide to rise again in new life. Rather than turning away from our tormentors in anger or shame, let us step into our interior crisis with courage . . . thanking God for the gift of transformation.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 561. Print.

For a reflection and prayer on allowing ourselves to be duped by God, visit the posts on this blog at: http://thenoontimes.com/2013/01/10/being-duped-by-god/ and http://thenoontimes.com/2013/01/11/a-prayer-for-those-willing-to-be-duped/

 

The Dust of Topheth


Friday, August 22, 2014

Jeremiah 19

The Dust of Topheth

For information on the town of Topheth, the priest Pashur, the gods Baal and Molech, and how Jeremiah’s predictions play out, visit The Potter’s Flask posted for February 3, 2011 at: http://thenoontimes.com/2011/09/15/the-potters-flask/

Ancient society can be traced through its pottery. Ceramic pots were ubiquitous. They were designed, created and decorated by artisans to hold or carry everything from water and food to medicines and even funeral offerings. For more on this ancient craft, visit: http://www.ancient.eu/pottery/

Today, we spend time with Jeremiah and image of the broken jug.

The Dust of Topheth

The name of Topheth we utter no longer, its singular offering is shame and amazement.

The potter’s flask floats before us; yet we convince ourselves that our walls are exempt.

Our circumstance is special; our creation unique.

So well loved, we cannot stray.

So well nourished, we cannot fall.

 

The Valley of Slaughter is distant; yet Baal and Molech await first-born offerings with leery eye and eager lip.

Status and wealth build narrow walls against approaching truths.

So well tended, we cannot falter.

So well equipped, we cannot fail.

 

Prophets raise shadow arms to pronounce sacred words with parched throats while Pashur gathers warm beds against the arriving storm.

Deaf ears and silent hands cast down the potter’s flask where it lies broken with the bones of those who grapple with falling city walls.

So well guided, we cannot lose our way.

So well protected, we cannot perish.

 

And yet Adonai is near.

 

In the still of destruction the house of Jerusalem lives in the hearts of the remnant.

Israel breathes yet in the faithful who bore Topheth on exhausted backs and empty bellies.

Stiff necks and hard hearts vanish with the grime of rubble . . .

Leaving the hearts of the faithful to rise in the dust of Topheth.

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