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Judges 16: The Strength of Samson

Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Reubens: Samson and Delilah

February 26, 2015

Then Delilah said to Samson, “How can you say that you love me when you do not confide in me?”

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. Words of love can manipulate and destroy as well us build up and restore.

So he took her completely into his confidence and told her, “No razor has touched my head, for I have been consecrated to God from my mother’s womb”.

In this well-told Old Testament story we see how trust and betrayal both tug on the body, mind and soul.  Acts of deceit become preludes to acts of greatness when God is central to our lives.

Delilah had Samson sleep in her lap, and called for a man who shaved off his seven locks or hair. Then she began to mistreat him, for his strength had left him.

In this familiar Old Testament story we see how intimacy and revenge are dichotomous sisters in our modern lives. But always, as in this story, malice is superseded by God’s love.

Samson cried out to the Lord and said, “Oh Lord God, remember me! Strengthen me, O God.

In any array of negative emotion we call on God for strength; and so our fear, anger, and desire for revenge become hope, mercy and love.

Jesus reminds us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. In this often-told New Testament story we see how words of love can build up and restore. As we journey toward the Easter promise, let us reflect on the actions and words of Samson, Delilah and Jesus. Let us determine the source of our strength; and let us determine who we choose to follow and why.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Gerard Seghers: Christ and the Penitents

Gerard Seghers: Christ and the Penitents

Ephesians 2:13

Quite Near

Psalm 13:1: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

In yesterday’s Noontime we gathered our prayers and petitions to carry them to the one who holds all the answers. Today we gather ourselves to listen to the Word of God.

Ephesians 2:13: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near.

Paul answers our question of how long we must wait for God to appear when he reminds us that Christ answers our plea with unquestioning patience, indomitable mercy and limitless love. Jesus replies swiftly with his own presence, and with his invitation to join him in his union with the creator. Today we gather ourselves to hear the Word of God.

Luke 10:1-9: The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers few . . . Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way”.

God answers our petition for help by asking us to trust in the plan laid out for our rescue. Today we gather to accept God’s invitation to join in the vital work of the harvest.

Psalm 94:3: How long shall the wicked, O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult?

We have asked how long our suffering will endure . . . and the response to this question is not a pat answer that tells us how many days or weeks or years or eons we must wait for God’s justice to prevail. A close reading of the Gospels tells us what we already know. In the person of Jesus we have all the answer we might need. In our finite world we look for finite solutions and well-defined answers that content us for today, but that have no place in God’s infinite world. In our apocalyptic view of the world we seek a justice that will measure out punishment and reward as if we were all small children, but God asks us to step into something much bigger than the little window we have on the God’s justice.

Psalm 13:1: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

God does not hide from us. God is with us constantly and everywhere in the person of the rescuing Jesus. God does not forget us. God is within and around us in the person of the healing Spirit. God does not lose hope in us. God protects and guides, cajoles and upholds, saves and teaches, heals and loves us more than we can understand. Despite our faults and infidelities, God persists in waiting, calling, blessing, forgiving and loving.

Psalm 74:9: We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, nor is there any among us who knows how long.

There is no need to ask how long; there is no need to despair for we already have God’s response . . . the surety that God dwells within us, asking for our trust and fidelity, forgiving our missteps and misgivings, calling us to great love and great mercy. In our darkest moment and in our deepest grief . . . God has not been distant or hiding. God has been quite near.

Let us move into the world around us . . . and act in a way that confirms our trust in God.

Wealthy80_WEB190115Recently, Oxfam produced a study indicating that next year one percent of the world’s population will hold more than half of the world’s wealth. The hungry, the impoverished, the homeless may well ask How Long of God as they manage their daily survival. Read the two views at the links below, and reflect on how each of us might be the presence of God to the marginalized.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/19/global-wealth-oxfam-inequality-davos-economic-summit-switzerland

There are voices that oppose the view expressed above

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/23/davos-wpp-martin-sorrell-equality-prosperity

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

JRC Martin: Resurrection Morning

JRC Martin: Resurrection Morning

Daniel 12

The Great Apocalypse

What images come to mind when we hear the word Apocalypse? What are our hopes? What are our fears? And what image of God do we offer to the world with all we say and do?

“Resurrection is explicitly affirmed only here in the OT, though belief subsequently spread until it finally became orthodox Jewish doctrine. But who is to be revived? ‘Many’ appears to mean only ‘some’, but it includes righteous and wicked. The scenario makes best sense if we see the problem being addressed as one of justice. There are those who have suffered undeservedly and those who have sinned without punishment. Both groups must be revived so that justice can be administered”. (Barton, and Muddiman 570)

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, teach us to remain in you as you remain in us.

Good and patient Christ, help us to love our enemies as you love yours.

Good and encouraging Spirit, heal us of all our wounds and worries, our hates and fears . . . so that we might remain ever in and with you. Amen.

Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford: Christ Raising the Dead

Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford: Christ Raising the Dead

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 570. Print.

For more reflections on the words of this prophet, enter the words Daniel or Apocalypse into the blog search bar and explore.

 

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Daniel 12

Dimensions

Daniel 12: 3: The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmamement, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

Daniel 12: 3: The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever and ever.

“Daniel’s apocalyptic view of history is most fully laid out in Chapters 10-12, which make up one long vision. There an angel explains to Daniel that there is an ongoing battle in heaven between the archangels Michael and Gabriel on the one hand and the angelic “princes” of Persia and Greece on the other. This battle is reflected on earth in the wars of the Hellenistic age, which are described at length in Chapter 11 . . . At the end Michael will arise in victory and the resurrection will follow”. (Senior RG 349)

Apocalyptic writing was popular in the centuries before and after Jesus’ birth and although it is characterized by symbolism and descriptions of cataclysmic events, it is rooted in the teachings of the prophets. Dire circumstances and extreme conditions experienced by the Jewish people provided fertile ground for early writers as they warned, predicted and called the remnant people to fidelity. Living in times of hopelessness and desperation, the faithful took heart as they heard the stories of rescue, redemption and salvation. These images laid the groundwork for the genesis of Christianity, and Jesus’ introduction of the work of discipleship.

Many shall be refined, purified, and tested, but the wicked shall be proven wicked, none of them shall have understanding, but the wise shall have it. (Daniel 12:10)

Jesus describes the life of a disciple clearly in his Sermon on the Mount:  Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Daniel 12:12: Blessed is the one who has patience and perseveres . . .

Jesus tells a parable of the persistent widow who patiently returns to a corrupt judge, asking endlessly for justice. Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart . . . (Luke 18:1-8)

Daniel 12:13: Go, take your rest, you shall rise for your reward . . .

Jesus asks us that to give him our worries and anxieties that are too great for us to bear. Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

sleep in the dustThis portion of Daniel’s prophecy brings a new perspective of an old vision. Battle between good and evil are not new. But what Daniel brings us is the foreshadowing of a new and wonderful reason for hope and joy. Daniel opens up for us a new dimension. The world of joy born out of pain, of celebration rising from sorrow, and of new hope burgeoning from old wounds.

When we spend time with Daniel 12 today, we see new light leading us into a world of new dimension.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 149. Print.   

For more reflections on this prophecy, enter the word Daniel into the blog search bar and explore. 

 

 

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Christmas_BethlehemThursday

January 15, 2015

Joy and Micah

Outrage

The prophets warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today we feel the outrage of the prophet Micah who challenges the rich, witnesses to the corruption and immorality of religious leaders . . . and offers hope and promise to the exploited.  

The second chapter of Micah begins: Woe to you who lie awake at night, plotting wickedness; you rise at dawn to carry out your schemes; because you can, you do. You want a certain piece of land or someone else’s house (though it is all he has); you take it by fraud and threats and violence. (2:1-2)

We do not have to wonder about the identity of Micah’s audience. A contemporary of Isaiah, little is known about him except that, “With burning eloquence he attacked the rich exploiters of the poor, fraudulent merchants, venal judges, corrupt priests and prophets”. Scholars note that although Micah delivers “reproach and the threat of punishment, [he also offers] a note of hope and promise”. (Senior 1140)

According to Micah, the Lord promises to deliver evil for evil (2:3). The Lord’s threats are for our good, the prophet tells us, to get us on the right path. (2:7) Exasperated, Micah speaks frankly:  You steal the shirts right off the backs of those who trusted you, who walk in peace. You have driven out the widows from their homes and stripped their children of every God-given right. Up! Begone! This is no more your land and home, for you have filled it with sin, and it will vomit you out. I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and drink”—that is the kind of drunken, lying prophet that you like! (2:9-11)

Micah confronts evil with its own image, pointing out to those who find comfort at the expense of truth and integrity that they deceive no one by pretending that the joy they find in temporal pleasure can in any way equal the joy God offers.

Restoration is assured, Micah tells anyone who will listen. Humans will no longer train for war; each one of us might sit serenely beneath our own fig trees without fear. And who will bring this renewal? O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past! (5:2)

As we reflect on this Christmastide we have so recently shared, let us consider the gift of self that God brings us. And let us remember that despite his outrage . . . Micah brings us the good news of redemption, hope and promise.

For a reflection on finding Christmas in the Old Testament, click on the Bethlehem image above, or visit: http://www.pointcommunitychurch.org/2014/12/christmas-in-the-old-testament/ 

joySenior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1140. Print.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

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

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hosea and gomerSaturday

January 10, 2015

Joy and Hosea – Metaphor

The prophets chronicle a people’s yearning for union with their creator and un uncanny understanding of their own vulnerabilities. Their words warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today Hosea shows us his love for Gomer, his unfaithful wife. And he tells us that God’s joy will renew the darkest betrayal.

“A very sensitive, emotional man who could pass quickly from violent anger to the deepest tenderness. The prophecy pivots around his own unfortunate marriage to Gomer, a personal tragedy which profoundly influenced his teaching. In fact, his own prophetic vocation and message were immeasurably deepened by the painful experience he underwent in his married life”. (Senior 1108)

Hosea 2:15: There I will give back her vineyards to her and transform her Valley of Troubles into a Door of Hope. She will respond to me there, singing with joy as in days long ago in her youth after I had freed her from captivity in Egypt.

We might see this prophecy as a description of God’s infinite capacity for unrelenting compassion and restoration . . . and we might also experience it as a call to our own potential to forgive and heal.

I will give back her vineyards . . .

We might see this prophecy as Gomer’s inability to remain steadfast or faithful . . . and we might also experience it as our own opportunity to change.

She will respond to me there . . .

We might see this prophecy as Hosea’s journey from sorrow to joy . . . and we might also experience it as our own deepening joy in God’s presence in our lives.

She will sing with joy . . .

joySearch the verses of this prophecy and look for the metaphors that reflect your own valleys of troubles and doors of hope. In what relationships have you experienced betrayal by someone quite close to you? Where are the deserts and vineyards in your life? What idols and their priests have drawn you into their false promise? What doors of hope and joy have opened to you?

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 1108. Print.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to further explore scripture, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

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

 

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Pompeo Batoni: St. Paul

Pompeo Batoni: St. Paul

New Year’s Day

Thursday

January 1, 2015

Joy and Discipleship

Romans 14-15

 The New Testament brings us the good news that God has come to live among us, has died as one of us and has risen from the dead as one of us. Paul tells us that with Christ there is always hope when we sink into doubt, light when we walk in darkness, and joy when we suffer sorrow.

Paul speaks to the Romans two thousand years ago, and he also speaks to us today. His life as a disciple was difficult and yet Paul shares with us the great joy he experiences in his travail.

The apostle Paul says: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

God says: The world of corruption, greed and warfare is the kingdom as you have constructed for yourselves. When you live in me this world becomes one of righteousness, peace and joy. I know that this is difficult for you to believe but just one of you can make a difference; and if two or more of you come together in my name, your light will pierce the darkness. 

The follower of Christ, Paul says: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

God says: The life of sadness, pain and sorrow is the life you have fashioned for yourself. When you place your days and years in my hands you live the potential I have dreamed for you. If you are overcome, seek help. If you are overwhelmed, find others who are determined to live in peace rather than revenge. If two or more of you gather in my name, your prayer converts harm to good. 

The sharer of Christ’s work and work, Paul says: I urge you, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in the struggle by your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the disobedient, and that my ministry may be acceptable so that I may come to you with joy by the will of God and be refreshed together with you. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen. (Romans 15:30-32)

God says: The struggles you experience are opportunities to discover new strength in one another and in my Spirit. The ministry you live is a new opening to life in Christ. The prayer you offer is reliance on my strength and fidelity. When you bring me your sorrows and your fears you step into the depths of my love . . . you become one in your brother Christ, and you rise to live again in the Spirit, converting the pain of the world to celebration. Come, and follow me . . .

joyToday Paul speaks to us to bring us the hope and joy and word of God. Let us set aside a bit of time tonight before the close of this first day of the new year to decide how we will respond. How will we share with others the good news that the depths and heights and breadth of darkness will always be overcome by the light of Christ’s joy? How will we strengthen ourselves and others in Christ?

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

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

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Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Annunciation

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Annunciation

Monday

December 29, 2014

Joy and the Impossible

Luke

 The New Testament brings us the good news of personal freedom and the reality of our individual relationship with God. Joy continues to surprise us as we rejoice in the coming of the Messiah.

Luke’s Infancy Narrative (Luke 1-2) is likely well-known to us. It is also likely that the story of the disciples who meet Christ on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25) is also a familiar one. When we read these two stories side by side we understand that Christ’s joy defeats all sadness, bridges all gaps, heals all wounds, brings light to all darkness, and is always present in our lives. When we find ourselves in circumstances that offer every reason to doubt the power of God’s joy, we might turn to these verses to remind ourselves that with God all things are possible, with God there is always hope in the midst of despair, with God there is always a reason to celebrate.

joy

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

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

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John Singleton Copely: The Nativity

John Singleton Copely: The Nativity

Wednesday

December 24, 2014

Joy and Lamentations

Christmas Eve

“The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel. With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of the leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end”. (Senior 1017) Today joy surprises us from the depths of despair as a people lifts hope high . . . waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

This book of verses expresses the profound grief of a people stretched beyond the limits they had imagined bearable. The jubilant bride has become the bereft widow. Abandoned and disgraced, suffering the wrath of a conquering nation, besieged by guilt and every kind of negative emotion, the people of God await rescue. The faithful raise high their outrageous hope that God will transform their lives as they rely on the Lord’s infinite compassion and love. Joy seems a distant memory to the people of God . . . yet, we know that the awaited Messiah arrives in this holiest of nights. The awaited Messiah is indeed already among us.

Verse 2:15: All who pass along the way clap their hands in derision at you; they hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem, “Is this the city of which they said, ‘The perfection of beauty, a joy to all the earth’?”

These verses presage the story of Christ’s passion and death on Calvary when passers-by mocked him, taunting him to call on God for deliverance. These words recall a sweet time of happiness when all was well, and they foretell a time when the rescue they so sorely need will arrive as promised.

The five laments in this book “combine confession of sin, grief over suffering and humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in Yahweh’s love and power to restore. The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constant prophetic vision of the weakness of man and the strength of God’s love; it also shows how Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”. (Senior 1017)

joyJust as these ancient people place their hope in God who saves and heals, so do we place our hope in the child who comes into our lives this night of nights. Let us take a few moments today to study Copely’s rendering of The Nativity above, and let us gather our lamentations over all that pains us. Let us also gather our individual and collective hope and know that despite dire circumstances and ruin, with God all will be well. And let us open ourselves to the joy that God has in store for us for God, Emmanuel, is among us.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urge you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

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

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1017. Print. 

 

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