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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


Acts 6 & 7: God’s Yardstick – Stephen

God’s Grace and Energy

Paolo Uccello: The Stoning of Stephen

Paolo Uccello: The Stoning of Stephen

Monday, February 1, 2016

We may or may not know the story of Stephen, the martyr stoned for acting with and speaking about the healing power of Christ. Once the full impact of this story settles on us, we might hope that the Spirit not inspire us. We might wish to shed the power of God’s wisdom rather than ask that it dwell within. It is likely that the trials are not as severe as Stephen’s; yet gossip in the home or workplace can break the spirit just as stones break bones. Severe illness, economic and natural disasters, slander, bullying and fear can bring an end to life. Stephen’s reaction to his enemies gives us a measuring stick for our own actions.

If we look only quickly at these chapters, we might at first believe that the lives of all true Christians must come to a frightening end. When we look more closely to find clues in the details, we uncover what it means to live a life brimming with God’s grace and energy. No matter our persecution, no matter the place or time of our trial, Stephen’s yardstick serves as a stark measure of God’s love in our lives.

6:7: The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.

When we experience God’s presence, we can expect envy and anger from others. Like Stephen, we must persist in gentleness and honesty.

6:8: Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. 

When we witness God’s presence, we can expect dishonesty and deceit from others. Like Stephen, we must persist in courage and hope.

6:11: In secret [Stephen’s enemies] bribed men to lie [against him].

When we live in God’s presence, we can expect fear and anger from others. Like Stephen, we must persist in patience and love.

When we meet obstacles brought on by avarice, resentment and rage, we might consider the power we find in gentleness, honesty, patience, courage, hope and love. These traits will appear weak to the foolish, but in reality they are manifestations of God’s grace and energy, God’s enduring and healing love.

If we do not have time to spend with Chapters 6 and 7 of Acts, we might focus on Acts 6:8-10 and 7:54-59.

Tomorrow, the Gospel writers.

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1 Maccabees 2: God’s Yardstick – Mattathias

Generations of Fidelity

Michel Nicolas Bernard Lépicié: Mattathias Kills an Officer of Antiochus

Michel Nicolas Bernard Lépicié: Mattathias Kills an Officer of Antiochus

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

We continue to see God’s yardstick in the Old and New Testaments.

Mattathias laments that he lives in an age when centuries of fidelity fade into corruption: Woe is me! Why was I born to see the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city? We might well ask this question in any age and in any place. It seems that the human condition is to succumb to the temptation of the call of false teaching and self-promotion. Fraud replaces fidelity; dishonesty becomes truth; disgrace and honor trade places. But Mattathias calls on his sons to remember their lineage as beloved children of Yahweh. Falling back on their relationship with God, this ancestry is characterized by strong men who consistently rely on qualities that nourish truth and light. These forbears trust God alone, and they serve as a measuring stick for our own behavior in turbulent times.

Remember the deeds that our ancestors did in their times, and you shall win great honor and an everlasting name.

Abraham, faithful in trial, fills with righteousness. Joseph keeps the commandment, despite distress, to become master of Egypt. Phinehas, for his burning zeal, receives the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Joshua executes his commission to become a judge in Israel. Caleb bears witness before the assembly and receives an inheritance in the land. David, known for his loyalty, receives as heritage a throne of eternal kingship. Elijah, full of burning zeal for the law, is taken into heaven. For their faith, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael are saved from the fire. Innocent Daniel is delivered from the mouths of lions. (verses 51-60)

We might pause with these verses 61-63 in particular.

And so, consider this from generation to generation,
    that none who hope in Heaven shall fail in strength.

Do not fear the words of sinners,
    for their glory ends in corruption and worms.

Today exalted, tomorrow not to be found,
    they have returned to dust,
    their schemes have perished.

When we spend time reflecting on these verses today, we see how this pedigree inspired Mattathias and his sons to defend the kingdom whose loss they lament. Like Mattathias, we might also allow ourselves to see the measure of God’s love in our own spiritual family tree. Let us place our hope in heaven so that whatever our circumstances require of us . . . we do not fail in strength.

To learn more about Mattathias and his family and the story of Hanukkah, visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Maccabees.html

Tomorrow, Joseph. 

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Luke 2:36-38: God’s Yardstick – Anna The Prophetess

Never Forsaken

Anna Meets Christ Face to Face

Anna Meets Christ Face to Face

Friday, January 15, 2016

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

There was also a prophetess Anna, the daughter of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until the age of eighty-four.  She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. 

Simeon is not the only holy voice who recognizes the Messiah in the infant Jesus.  Simeon and Anna are “Israel in miniature, poised in anticipation of the new”.  (Mays 932) Yet despite the celebration of the moment there is a recognition of the suffering that will also take place.

God says: I do not want to dampen your joy or bring you sorrow.  I send Anna because I know that in your journey pain will always accompany rejoicing; and I want Anna to remind you that even when you believe I have duped you . . . you will have consolation.  I will never abandon you even though the harsh times may cause you to think that I will not return.  I will never leave you even though you may believe I have.  I want you to know that I need not return to you . . . for I have never left.  I am with you always. 

Anna’s appearance after the words of Simeon remind us that “Jerusalem will reject [Jesus] and will instead follow a way that will lead to disaster (19:41-44).  They will seem forsaken by God, but Anna is a reminder that the disaster is not God’s last word: Jesus remains for Jerusalem a sign of hope”. (Barton 930)

Enter the word hope into the blog search bar and explore other reflections that remind us of God’s constant presence in his precious gift of Jesus to the world.

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 930. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 932. Print.

This reflection was originally posted on 21 January 2013 and is re-posted today as a the last in a series of women who serve us as God’s yardstick. 

For another reflection on Anna, click on the image above or visit: https://pastorpilgrim.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/pilgrimage-to-bethlehem-anna/

 

 

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Daniel 13: God’s Yardstick – Susanna

When Goodness attracts Evil

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Today’s Noontime is a beautiful but difficult story.  An innocent, virtuous woman is wrongly accused; and an innocent yet wise child reveals lust and deceit.  Goodness wins in the end; evil slithers away to return another day.

The idea that Susanna’s virtue is the reason for her trial is a frightening thought. Her parents took care, the story tells us, to bring her up in the ways of Yahweh. And this was what stirred the lascivious men.

What does Susanna do when accused?  To whom does she turn?  What does she say in her defense?

Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly . . . “Oh, eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me”.  As the story continues, we see that the evil elders – whom the people had trusted – are done in by their own web of lies.  The story unfolds as the child Daniel cries out: Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” . . . The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in him.  They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. 

UK Parliament - John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

UK Parliament – John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

The end of this story is immediately satisfying.  Unfortunately for us, situations like these in our own lives may endure many days or months or years before the lies against us are revealed; yet revealed they will be for God’s goodness and truth always overcome darkness.  The measuring stick that Susanna uses, and that we must use, is to follow Yahweh, the creator who molds us from star dust for the purpose of love alone.

Our task, as followers of Christ, is to faithfully and persistently petition God, to fall back into the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to model ourselves after Jesus, and to continue to hope in the covenant promise that we are eternally forgiven and saved.  We might remind ourselves of the gifts we receive when we use God’s yardstick at the troubling times in our lives. The message of Daniel is clear:  When goodness attracts evil – as it surely will – the faithful need not fight; they need only rely on God . . . and never allow themselves to be separated in any way from their God who measures life in so loving a way. And so we pray . . .

The gift of persistence calls us to rely on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of faith asks us to place our petitions in God’s hands.

The gift of hope in the person of Jesus shows us how to offer love on behalf of our enemies.

The gift of life itself asks us to allow goodness and truth to conquer lust, lies and deceit. Amen.

A favorite from Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Enter the name Susanna in the blog search bar for more reflections about this woman.

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Luke 2:1-7: God’s Yardstick – Anne

A Quiet Knowing

Monday, January 4, 2016Ann-Joachim-Mary-233x300

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Are we content to live in obscurity? Can we allow the world to both affirm and vilify the outcome of our lives? Can we patiently, carefully and kindly live out our days in such a way that we bring Christ’s peace into a physical, tangible force? Can we imagine the home that nurtured the woman who would bring light and life to the world? Are we willing to live in and reflect that world of truth and transformation?

There are no official scriptural references to the woman who bore and raised the mother of God. We rely on tradition and common sense to fill in the gaps and blanks in this part of the Nativity story, but it is not difficult to imagine the shame, fear and doubt that Mary’s news would have brought to her family and into her home. Yet, the well-loved story implies more than it tells us overtly. As we read these verses we consider this question: Where else but in a faith-filled, hopeful and loving home might a pregnant, unwed young woman in the first century C.E. find the courage to become the first apostle of Christ? Today we consider Anne’s yardstick that allowed her daughter’s amazing story to unfold, burgeon, and bring light into the darkness. Today we consider how we might pick up this measuring stick to see how well we nurture those around us in a world that asks for transformation.

To learn something about the tradition of Anne, Joachim and Mary, click on the image above or visit: http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/saints-and-blesseds/feast-of-sts-joachim-and-anne-parents-of-mary 

Also visit the Encyclopedia Britannica at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint

Use this scripture link to explore the Nativity Story and to imagine the home of Mary in Nazareth. 

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Luke 1:46-56: God’s Yardstick – Mary

The First Apostle

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Tanner: The Annunciation

Tanner: The Annunciation

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Who among us might dance and sing with joy when discovering that our circumstances endanger our lives? Who among us can see that up is down and down is up when everything around us tells us otherwise. Who among is willing to sacrifice our lives with such outrageous hope? Who among us is so open to the indwelling of the Spirit? Who among us can see the world with Mary’s yardstick rather than the one we have fashioned with our lives?

To read other versions of these verses like THE MESSAGE version above, click on this scripture link and explore. Use the drop-down menus to find versions of the Bible that may be new to you. Consider why this canticle is part of the Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. To learn more about Henry Ossawa Tanner, click on the image above or visit: http://www.artstudio.org/virgin-mary-and-electricity/ 

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIIsolarsystem

A Prayer in Response to God’s Gift of Delight

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Today we end a cycle of days and weeks and months in which we have known great sorrow and great joy. As we consider all that we have seen and heard, felt and believed, let us give thanks for the gift of delight itself, the gentle pleasure that rises from honest relationships and open minds. Just as God delights in us, let us delight in God.

For the gift of winter cold that draws us together as we look for shelter and welcome friends and strangers from the wind. Let us treasure each winter hardship just as God treasures each of us. The infinite iterations of flakes on frosted windows can remind us that just as God creates each of these beautiful designs, so does God create each of us with our own unique features, joys and anxieties.

snowflake2For the gift of drawing in, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of spring that reminds us that new life always rises from the old. In springtime exuberance we open our hearts to the possibilities of our own resurrection. We remember that God always brings goodness out of harm, love out of hatred, generosity out of what is meant to be cruel, and love out of gestures of hatred and shame. The tiniest of plants and creatures burst forth in a rush to celebrate God’s goodness. Giant stars and the multiverse expand to open great hearts for God’s enormous love.

wisdom-at-creationFor the gift of burgeoning hope, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of summer that brings us into the energy of God’s passion and mercy. In the fullness of summer heat, we remember that with God all things are possible. With God all miracles bring new life and new meaning. With God resurrection is more than an idea or hope. Burgeoning crops, teeming waters, rain and sun drench us with God’s abundance and generosity. God calls us to match this zeal with the stores of understanding and courage we lay aside for the difficult times ahead.

KY-Breaks-Interstate-Park-river-sceneFor the gifts of kindness and goodness, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of autumn when we harvest the fortitude, perseverance, fidelity and truth that God has shared with us. We remember that nothing of this world is meant to take the place of God. We recall the great delight God has expressed in our willingness to be open to others just as Jesus is open with us. We respond with compassion and an ardent desire to heal broken relationships and people. We return this gift with our own desire to heal and advocate.

fall-leafFor the gifts of forgiveness and restoration, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

In all seasons of this year to come, we unite in a new thankfulness for God’s love, a new willingness to live as Jesus does, and a new urgency to heal and console just like the Holy Spirit. May we find the energy and determination to live in such a way that all those who encounter us will know that we delight in God’s own delight in us. Amen.

For a reflection on a full measure of joy, click on the snowflakes or visit: http://fullmeasureofjoy.com/?p=4253 

For a reflection on God’s wisdom in creation, click on the plant shoot or visit: http://elcmthoreb.org/2013/07/12/gods-wisdom-in-creation-this-week-at-elc/

For a refelction on seeing God’s creation, click on the river image or visit: http://www.seeingcreation.com/2012/nature-photography/natures-dictionary/

For a reflection on seeking God, click on the image of the leaf or visit: http://nancyaruegg.com/category/seeking-god/ 

 

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Isaiah 35:1-10: The Holy Road

Monday, December 7, 2015freephoto_feetwalking_pixabay

Daily headlines may lead us into thinking that we have no reason for hope in the future. Isaiah tells us that we would be mistaken. Isaiah gives us reason to enter into Advent hope, promise and joy.

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower . . .

All peoples and places where terror and pain rule will celebrate Christ’s healing rescue.

Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart!

All injury and harm that is meant to destroy will transform sorrow into joy with the Spirit’s comforting presence.

God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs.

All evil and darkness that whips up angry and anxiety will become tools for transformation with God’s renewing power.

Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song.

Jesus healed hundreds and fed thousands when he walked among us; Christ continues to restore and sustain.

desert-flowerSprings of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain.

The Spirit brings about the impossible; the Creator fulfills all promise.

There will be a highway called the Holy Road. No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road.

Jesus has shown us The Way in which we are to walk – with the marginalized rather than the powerful, with the abandoned rather than the famous and beautiful, with the abandoned rather than the familiar.

It’s impossible to get lost on this road. Not even fools can get lost on it. No lions on this road, no dangerous wild animals – nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.

temple_hera_roadThe Way is the Narrow Gate that stands before us. When we trust in God the door to this way opens to us. When we follow Christ the narrow gate opens wide. When we have faith in God the Holy Road opens at our feet . . . inviting us to move forward into a future full of hope, promise and joy.

The people God has ransomed will come back on this road. They’ll sing as they make their way home . . . welcomed with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

Reflect on the idea of repairing what we have rather than buying new. For an interesting perspective, read about why Patagonia ™ wanted its customers to stay away from its stores on Black Friday in the USA, a day dedicated to in-store and online shopping. Visit: http://www.patagonia.com/us/home OR http://www.techinsider.io/patagonias-well-worn-campaign-2015-11 OR http://fortune.com/2015/09/14/rose-marcario-patagonia/

For information on ancient Roman roads, visit: http://www.biblewalks.com/info/RomanRoads.html#Introduction

To visit an interesting blog, click on the desert flower image or go to: http://reverendmom.blogspot.com/2010/12/least-likely.html  

 

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Ezekiel 19Allegorylions

Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2015

Commentary tells us that the meaning of these two allegories has been lost but that scholars believe the two young cubs in the first refer to princes who were deported to Egypt and to Babylon (likely Jehoahaz and Zedekiah), and that the mother vine represents Judah.  Ezekiel already knows that Jerusalem has been destroyed and perhaps he writes these two metaphors in order to convey the trauma of the event.  We will never know; yet what we do know is this: Even though this prophet writes of a nation whose roots have been destroyed forever, yet he holds out hope for a new arising, for a rebirth, for restoration, for another coming.  In 37:24-28 he tells us: My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.  They shall live on the land which I gave to my servant Jacob . . . I will make them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

If we choose, we might write our own allegory, describing how and why we elect to follow this God who promises much and who never forgets his promises.

God’s dwelling has been made among us, just as he has promised.

In this season of joy, let us celebrate his coming.

The shoot from the stalk of Jesse has come to shepherd us.

In this season of hope, let us rise to walk with this God.

A covenant of peace has been made with us.

In this season of peace, let us share the good news of this coming and this covenant.

God’s Law of Love is written on our foreheads and on our hearts.

In this season of love, let us share this love with others – especially those who do us harm. 

We have our God, and we are God’s people.

In this season of possibility, let us dare to be one with this God. 

And may Christ’s peace and joy and love be upon us all.  Amen.

For notes on Ezekiel 19 click on the image above, or visit: http://www.lorisreflections.com/god-lessons/friday-revelation-lament-israel/

A Favorite from December 12, 2009.

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