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slideshow_advent_3First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014

Joy and the Psalms

Presence

The Book of Psalms calls us to praise God and these hymns created millennia ago still resonate with us as we ask for God’s help and intercession, bless and honor God’s name, mourn our losses and rejoice in our understanding of God’s goodness. Many resources are available to understand this longest Book in the Bible – and the second of the Wisdom Books – and during this first week of Advent we will focus on the power of the psalms in a number of ways: they connect us with God as sisters and brothers in Christ, they give us a healing pathway on which to carry our lament to the Spirit, they call us together as we praise and honor the creator God, and they offer us more examples of how God’s joy surprises and even overcomes us when we least expect it.

If this week’s exploration of Psalms calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in acknowledging God’s presence.

joyUsing a concordance we can easily find dozens of references to Joy in the Psalms. Devoting a bit of time each day this week, we may be surprised to find how much joy these simple verses lend to our lives in this time of year so full of activity. The following verses have been modified to give us mantras that we might hold on to as we move through our days and nights. If you are able, carve out a bit of Advent time this afternoon or evening to reflect on one or two of these verses and ponder what their meaning might be for you in your particular circumstances. Click on the scripture links and explore other versions of these verses. Share an idea about the surprise of joy in the dark places and times in your lives with a loved one, a neighbor or friend. And allow the surprise of joy to brighten this first Sunday in the season of hope-filled waiting for the arrival of the Christ.

Psalm 4 verse 7: The joy that you have given us, Lord, is more than we will ever have with all our grain and wine. How might we might share God’s joy with others?

Psalm 5 verse 11: But all who find safety in you, Lord will rejoice; they can always sing for joy. Protect those who love you; because of you they are truly happy. Do we call on God’s joy when we are in dark times and places?

Psalm 9 verse 2: I will sing with joy because of you, Lord. I will sing praise to you, Almighty God. Do we acknowledge God’s role in the joy that unexpectedly comes to us?

Psalm 16 verse 11: You will show me the path that leads to life, Lord; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever. Do we recognize and value God’s presence in our lives? Do we share the joy of this presence with others?

god's presenceDuring this first week in Advent we will continue to share simple verses from Psalms that bring joy to our hearts. Let us consider broadening our horizon and find the time today to listen to part or all of a podcast interview with Dr. Robert L. Okin, a clinical pychiatrist who challenges us to find our political will to change the lives of the homeless. Listen and reflect at: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-11-24/dr_robert_l_okin_silent_voices_people_with_mental_disorders_on_the_street We may also want to begin an Advent journey of seeking God’s true presence by dipping into Okin’s book, Silent Voices: People With Mental Disorders on the Street.

Jonathan is one of the homeless men psychiatrist Robert Okin met on the Streets of San Francisco.

Jonathan is one of the homeless men psychiatrist Robert Okin met on the Streets of San Francisco.

Tomorrow, God protects and defends, rescues and saves.

For a brief reflection on God’s presence in our lives, click on the Presence image above or visit the “Practicing God’s Presence” post at: http://scottberglan.org/2013/03/22/practicing-gods-presence/ 

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

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joySaturday, November 29, 2014

Job

Joy and the Storm

The Books of Wisdom call us to fidelity; they give us a reason to come together in outrageous hope; and they call us to love as God loves, with compassion, patience and understanding. This sapiential literature offers us the miracle and wonder of joy. If today’s exploration of the Book of Job calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of turmoil, travail and turbulence.

If the story of Job is unfamiliar to us, we will want to spend time with notes and commentary. If the story is a familiar one, we will know where to look for the verses that bring hope to the hopeless and joy to the joyless. In either case, the verses offered below give us a door to the miracle of joy found in the tempest of life.

Verse 5:11: Yes, it is God who raises the humble and gives joy to all who mourn.

Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Job and His Friends

Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Job and His Friends

God says: My son Jesus tells you that I am always with the broken-hearted, the down-trodden, the oppressed and forsaken. He brings this promise to you daily. Jesus also shows you how humility and patience bring not woe but joy. Open the story of my servant Job and you will see how he persists in loving me even when he has nothing. Open your heart to the authority of Christ within you and you will experience joy in the stormy days of your life.

Verse 8:19: Yes, that’s all the joy evil people have; others now come and take their places.

God says: My Spirit cannot be contained or owned; yet she inhabits all there is and was and will be. The Spirit abides, consoles, heals and mends. The Spirit engenders joy even in the midst of the storm and the swirl of deceit. The Spirit fashions joy out of cruelty and dishonesty. The Spirit creates joy in the face of pride and haughtiness. Open your heart to the power of the Spirit within you and will find joy in the dark nights of your journey.

Verse 22:26: Then you will always trust in God and find that he is the source of your joy.

job (1)God says: I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the beginning and the end. I am the source and summit. I am the impetus and the goal. I am. And I am within you. Open your heart to the power of my love within you and unleash the joy that conquers all evil. Open your heart to the miracles I create for you and discover the full power of my presence. Like my servant Job, you will experience joy in the most dire of circumstances and the most horrific of situations. Examine his story today and look for the dawn that always follows the deep darkness of overpowering storms. 

Verse 38:7: In the dawn of the day of creation the stars sang together, and the heavenly beings shouted for joy.

Blake: Job's Tormentors

Blake: Job’s Tormentors

Job suffers every kind of humiliation and pain at the hands of Satan; yet he survives and is fully restored as God’s wondrous creation. We too, are God’s creation and so today we ask for the gift of fidelity to God’s call, for the grace of God’s hope that brings us patience, and the presence of God’s love that is the miracle of joy we seek.

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

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joySaturday, November 22, 2014

Judith 11-16

Joy and Deliverance

The story of Judith is full of danger and violence counterpointed by fidelity and great rejoicing. Today we discover that despite grave danger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in miraculous deliverance.

Judith’s story is not included in all versions of the Bible because it is regarded by some to be an historical novel rather than sacred word. Others see is as a kind of allegory in that the name Judith is the feminine form of the word Judah. Still others point to anachronisms and decline to regard these words as inspired. In any case, the story holds is one of consequence, and one in which we see God’s deliverance of the faithful from the most extreme of circumstances.  It is a story to which we will want to attend.

Artemisia Gentilischi: Judith and the Maid-servant with the head of Holofernes

Artemisia Gentilischi: Judith and the Maid-servant with the head of Holofernes

If you did not have time to read the introductory chapters, move through them today – if even only quickly. The opening pages of the book prepare us for the dreadful middle and the joyful end. They put us in a time and place we will recognize as much like our own. They will give us a firmer footing from which to view this story, a stronger reason to hope as Judith does, and a clearer image of the desperation and joy she experiences.

Verse 14:9: When she had finished her story, the people cheered so loudly that the whole town echoed with sounds of joy.

Is there a Judith among us who quietly moves forward through God’s plan and surprises us with an outrageous act of hope? Are we the unobtrusive Judith or almost unseen handmaiden who turns history on its head in a surprising way? And when God intervenes with and in us in such startling ways, do we recognize the presence of the Spirit in our hour of desperation?

Verse 15:9: When they arrived, they all praised her, “You are Jerusalem’s crowning glory, the heroine of Israel, the pride and joy of our people!”

Do we recognize the Judiths among us and if so, do we value their quiet persistence and determination? Do we perhaps see ourselves in the gritty and resolute actions of these women?  And when God intervenes with and in us in such surprising ways, do we give thanks and honor to the Living God who is in and with all who find joy in great peril and outrageous deliverance?

To better understand Judith’s world, click on the Gentileschi image above, or visit: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/artgentileschi_judithandthemaidservantwiththeheadofholofernes_1625.jpg 

For more details and insights about the encounters between Judith and Holofernes, visit other Noontime reflections by entering the word Judith into the blog search bar.

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

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joyFriday, November 21, 2014

Judith 9-10

Joy and Peril

The story of Judith is full of danger and violence counterpointed by fidelity and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite grave danger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in great peril.

The opening chapters of Judith’s story set a scene of violence, intrigue and power. War begins. An ultimate is delivered. An enemy is defeated and a council takes place to assess plans and possibilities. Nineveh and Ecbatana are now at the center of this drama, but Nebuchadnezzar rages against more than Persia. He lays out a secret plan to take revenge on the entire world, and once these plans are complete he sends for his general Holofernes. These events bring forth images from our daily newscasts that we might recognize in our modern world. Who would suspect that the town of Bethulia and the little-known widow, Judith, would turn the Assyrian power structure on its head? How might each of us, in our own infinitesimal way, have an effect upon the wider world? How might each of us find joy amid the peril that surrounds us?

Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith and her Maidservant

Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith and her Maidservant

Verse 10:3: She took off the sackcloth and her widow’s clothes . . . Judith turns away from her inner grief and turns outward to the world. So might we.

She took a bath, and put on rich perfumes . . . Judith enters into an intentional plan brought forward through prayer. So might we.

She brushed her hair, tied a ribbon around it . . . Judith prepares herself as herself and not as another entity with grandiose ideas. So might we.

She dressed herself in the fine clothes she used to wear on joyful occasions when her husband Manasseh was still alive . .  . Judith moves forward in the only way she knows how. In fidelity. In trust. In faith. In hope. So might we.

In Chapter 9 we find The Prayer of Judith, beautiful, honest verses of petition from one who is so small against gargantuan obstacles. If we spend some time with these words today, we might better understand how Judith calls forth the joy she had once known to find joy in great peril.

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Judith into the blog search bar and explore.

 

For information about the woman who painted this rendition of Judith and her servant, click on the image above or visit: http://zadokromanus.blogspot.com/2005/06/artemisia-gentileschi.html 

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

 

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joySunday, November 9, 2014

1 Samuel 18

Joy and Suspicion

Today we continue to visit with scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a variety of ways. If you want to explore other stories in which joy astounds us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Samuel.

Too often the high points in our lives are followed by turmoil and darkness brought on by jealousy. My dad always warned us that as we move up the ladder of life to become more proficient in the workplace we may also become targets for office gossip and suspicion. But, he added, we cannot allow this to affect either our work or our relationships. Rather than frighten us, Dad meant to arm us with the knowledge that joy is accompanied by suspicion, and we see truth play out with David today when he returns from slaying the giant Goliath to be greeted with both great joy . . . and deep suspicion. If we spend time with these verses, we see that success may breed its own kind of darkness. It is up to us to decide how we will react. It is in our power to look for joy hidden in the dark recesses of suspicion.

Verses 6-9: It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.

Steen: David's Triumphant Return

Steen: David’s Triumphant Return

Suspicion, gossip, jealousy, envy. These are the slippery steps that David navigates with God’s help. Later in his story, David succumbs to temptation that ruins the lives of many, but his actions bring us hope when we understand that even God’s anointed will err.

Fidelity, trust, hope, love. These are the footholds we look for in the face of the mountain we climb. We find joy even in the darkest of places when we rely on God’s providence, God’s wisdom and God’s love.

Visit 1 and 2 Samuel if you have time over the next few hours to put today’s Noontime into context.

Enter the words, Saul, David, envy or jealousy into the blog search bar and explore. Discover ways in which God’s quiet joy is always with us . . . even when we lest expect to feel its presence.  

Click on the Steen image above for more information about this story of triumph, suspicion and ultimately . . . joy. 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

 

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Set Free


christ heals crippled womanMonday, November 3, 2014

Luke 13:10-17

Set Free

When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said . . .

Jesus heals in the moment he sees suffering. Let us also heal one another with kind words and acts of mercy.

“You are set free . . .”

Jesus speaks in the simplest of terms the words we long to hear, “You are set free!” Let us also keep our hearts simple and our minds open for possibility.

He laid his hands on her . . .

Jesus does not fear interaction with the stranger. Let us also extend ourselves to those we meet in our daily journey, especially the broken-hearted and the down-trodden.

At once she stood erect . . .

Jesus brings healing to those who suffer. Let us also offer hope and love and faith to those who are troubled or oppressed.

But the leader, indignant, said . . .

Jesus is condemned by those who want to regulate or limit God’s infinite love. Let us also remember that discipleship is a difficult road.

“Why heal today when there are six days to heal . . . ?”

Jesus is challenged by stiff necks and narrow minds. Let us also offer Christ’s goodness and power against the stinginess and cruelty we meet in these words.

And Jesus said . . .

TwoBrothers_BentWoman_710Jesus so often answers a challenge with a question. Let us also offer up a question rather than argument to those who would bend the world to their will.

“Does not each of you untie an ox on the Sabbath . . . ?”

Jesus is so sensible and concise in his replies to those who wish to silence him. Let us also remember to keep our dialogs simple, our prayers intense, and our eyes always on the Lord.

It is in this way that we set one another and ourselves free of terror, oppression and fear.

Amen.

Click on the image above to see a video clip from the Jesus Film Project posted on YouTube, or visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_80Xpyqibr0

For commentary on these verses, click on the carving above or visit: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1753

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Tissot: Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees

Tissot: Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mark 12:18-27

Resurrection – Part IV: Witnessing 

Are you not mislead because you do not know the power of God?

On this day of All Saints we celebrate the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in their own act of witness. On this day when we celebrate our own gift of sainthood we recall words from the Letter to the Hebrews: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

In reflecting on the idea of resurrection, we have come to understand that it is not a possession that we might earn but rather a presence already in our midst. Christ is among us, healing and calling, soothing and loving. But we must be watchers with open minds.

When we consider the gift of resurrection, we have come to believe that it is not a privilege bestowed on an elite few but rather a gift already given to all. Christ is within us, restoring and renewing, transforming and changing. But we must be receptive with open hearts.

Once we understand that Christ is already among us and that we will glimpse him in the loving acts of another, we also understand that we must witness to this wondrous gift of self freely given. When we slip into the thinking of the Pharisees who say that in order to love God we must memorize a code and adhere only to this code without considering what results from our elitism, we know that we must watch for the healing hand of God who includes all and excludes none. When we find ourselves thinking as these Sadducees who doubt that the Living God exists and that he loves us to the point of taking us in, forgiving and holding us forever in love . . . we must be on watch for the Spirit who speaks ardently to those who fear or doubt.

And once we have watched . . . once we have waited . . . once we have worked as a response to the Gospel call . . . then we must call one another to faith . . . a faith filled with outrageous hope in new possibilities.

We must be on watch like the sentinel on the high city tower. We must wait patiently as the virgins who anticipate the coming of the bridegroom. We must work in the kingdom fields of mercy and compassion and healing.  And as we watch and wait and work we must witness as the risen Christ to one another as we call out to one another these truths we hold dearly and closely. We ask intercession from the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us to help us as we run the race of life. In this way we might hope to avoid the fate of the Sadducees we see today . . . the fate of living a life that is greatly misled. 

Compare other versions of today’s citation and watch for the presence of the Spirit in your life today.

Adapted from a reflection written on November 22, 2008.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jeremiah 15:10-21

The-Goodness-of-God-Blog-BannerPurposes for Good

Surely I will set you free for purposes of good . . .

Before we leave the prophecy of Jeremiah, let us remember his help when we feel separate or alone, exiled or forgotten.

Before we forget the words of Jeremiah, let us remember his hope when we are discouraged or overwhelmed, empty or lost.

Before we move into the tomorrow God promises, let us remember our potential for worth, the joy of our work, and the purpose of God’s goodness.

Before we step into the gift God plants in us, let us remember that God wants nothing more than our love, nothing more than our fidelity . . . and nothing less than eternal, intimate union with us.

Adapted from a reflection first written on April 17, 2007.

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parent-worthyMonday, October 20, 2014

1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

God’s Eternal Call

As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you . . .

We linger with the thoughts that Jeremiah’s words bring to us in the 21st Century. This prophecy continues to move us millennia after it was first spoken. Each of us has experienced exile from a loved one or a loved place. Each of us has known the devastation of corrupt leadership and betrayal. Each of us has received God’s call to live in a manner worthy. Before we allow the words of the prophet to cease their resonating power, let us reflect on the power of God’s persistent, endless love.

God’s Eternal Call

This stillness of separation nurtures sweet embers of hope . . . for God is near.

The darkness of rejection gives way to a rising spark of confidence . . . for God is at hand.

Vertigo of displacement, sting of betrayal, agony of deception . . . consumed by God’s burning desire to live within.

Overcome not by darkness but by the piercing light of God’s love.

Fire of courage sweeps through dry tinder of exile.

Flames of resolution rise up to greet the call.

Anger, revenge, corruption . . . disappearing in the conflagration of God’s indwelling.

Hope, fidelity, love . . . living in a manner worthy of God’s eternal call. 

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians – and he reminds us – that despite trials and suffering, God’s word is at work in us. This word will not be extinguished. This words breaks forth in the darkest of times. This word is the unceasing presence of God’s fervent call. Let us live in thanksgiving of this worthy indwelling.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you . . .

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