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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

76d2ce62177a139a96b48d628d63c470[1]1 John 5:13-14

Simple Truths

I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life . . . And we have this confidence in the Son of God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 

This week we have highlighted several verses from the first letter of John and we have examined the words he records to remind us of how much and how well we are loved.  Today, if there is time in our busy schedules, we might spend time with the entire letter. As we continue to journey through the COVID-19 pandemic, we find wisdom here.

John experienced friendship with Jesus first hand.  He was present at the Transfiguration.  John is the Beloved Apostle to whom Jesus gave over care of his mother, Mary.  He is the faithful disciple who writes the beautifully soaring Gospel defining Jesus as the Word that has been from the beginning and will be to the end.  We do well to spend time with this letter written directly to each of us today.

“The purpose of this letter is to combat certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community . . . The author affirms that authentic Christian love, ethics, and faith take place only within the historical revelation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ . . . The author sets forth the striking contrasts between light and darkness, Christians and the world, and truth and error to illustrate the threats and responsibilities of Christian life.  The result is not one of theological argument but one of intense religious conviction expressed in simple truths”.  (Senior 387)

Why are we so reluctant to believe the good news that each of us has a personal invitation to be as close to Jesus as John is?  Do we cherish the idea that some of us are more special or less special to Christ?  In believing this we would be straying from the lesson Jesus teaches us.

When are we ever happy with the story of salvation?  When it is the version we have dreamed for ourselves?  In thinking this we would be missing the lesson Jesus taught us.

How will we come to grips with the fact that following Christ requires intense religious conviction?  Or are we hoping to write our own plan for salvation and telling God how we best fit into this plan for the world?  In this desire we illustrate that we have missed all that Jesus has taught us.

John reminds us in his first letter that we are Children of God, that we suffer threats and share responsibilities as Christ’s followers, and that we reap gifts beyond imagining when we allow ourselves to be one with the Mystical Christ.  These simple truths bring forth complex emotions and intense reactions.  They call us out of ourselves and into the world for others.  They carry the weight of the world yet raise us in freedom and salvation.  These simple truths are lived out for us by Christ each day and they bring us the message of our rescue from darkness that we long to hear: that Christ hears our petitions and holds them as dearly as he holds each of us. May we hold one another in Christ as we listen to and take heed of God’s simple truth.


Image from: http://pinterest.com/alinekd/god-is-cool/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.387. Print.


Monday, July 6, 2020

website_p5_B_Page_1-300x199[1]1 John 5:9-12

Testimony Within

If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater.  Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself . . . And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son does not have life.

Although John describes God’s in-dwelling in an abstract manner, he does not mean to say that God is an idea. On the contrary, the presence of Christ in each of us is very real.  The Spirit abides and consoles while Jesus teaches and heals, and God protects and guides.  All three persons of the Trinity are constantly present to and in us.

God says: I understand that the idea of eternal life is both exhilarating and frightening but you need not fear.  It is a real as the pain you feel when you suffer and as real as the joy you feel when you celebrate.  Yet, my love is more than emotion or thought.  My love is substantial.  It cures.  It sustains.  It converts and transforms. It is constant and deep.  It is authentic and reliable.  My love is worthy of your trust.  My love is worthy of your love in return.

When we find that we insist on our own interpretation of scripture or we split hairs and parse words for explicit and implicit meaning . . . we have strayed from the love John explains to us.  When we rely on God’s goodness and the truth of John’s testimony . . . we acknowledge the gift of God’s testimony within each of us.

To reflect on how we might better comprehend God’s love for us, enter the word witness into the blog search bar and explore.

Search for a labyrinth near you and consider this form of prayer.  It may lead you to a meaningful conversation with God Within You. 


The images above shows a labyrinth, a centuries old device for contemplative or meditative prayer. https://www.wildspring.com/labyrinth.htm 

To learn how to use a labyrinth while praying, go to: http://www.emu.edu/seminary/labyrinth or https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/labyrinth-chartres-cathedral 

For information on ancient references to God Within, visit: https://quantumstones.com/embracing-the-god-within-us/


Sunday, July 5, 2020

God-is-Love[1]1 John 4:16-19

God is Love

We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.  God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.  In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 

We have the idea that “love” means we have no doubts or fears, that we are constantly positive and fulfilled.  We also believe that “perfection” means that we must never err, never waver, never give in to our desire to control.  John tells us that God’s love does not punish but rather drives out fear . . . and in this there is perfection.

God says: I know that the world is a distressing place but you need not fear for your eternal life.  I want to calm all the big and little anxieties that beset you.  I want to heal all the big and little ways in which you reject me.  I know that you strive for perfection in that you try to always “be good” and this is not what I ask of you.  What I ask is this: Love me as I love you; love others rather than hate them; and in this you will find perfection.  I do not ask that you do not err.  What I ask is this: When you err, come to me; when others err, forgive them and pray for them. In this way you will rest peacefully.  In this way you will come to know my perfection.

In our interconnected world when all that goes wrong floats to the top of the headlines, we frighten ourselves and build walls to keep ourselves safe and “others” out.   In this we fail to see that the “others” are also God’s children.  In our rush to be “perfect” we try to manipulate our circumstances and to control others.  In this we fail to see that true perfection comes from filtering all we say and do through the Gospel and in loving those who harm us.  In our desire to be “good” we create and follow rules that apply to all of humanity in the name of the common good.  In this we fail to see that each of us in created in God’s image . . . and that God is Love.

Enter the phrase God is Love in the blog search bar and continue to reflect on the meaning of God’s Love.


Image from: https://lifehopeandtruth.com/god/who-is-god/god-is-love/


Saturday, July 4, 2020

gods-hands-holding-child[1]1 John 4:1-3

Belonging

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God.

The prophets and the apostles warn us about false spirits and false teachers and their warning is a universal call to be wary of those who come to us in the false disguise of God’s holy ones.  The world is full of those who are adept at deceiving the faithful, and they are often most successful in their deception when we are celebrating.

God says: I do not mean to frighten you; I only encourage you to be cautious when your guard is down.  Know that I am with you always and do not abandon you to the wolves.  But also know how cleverly the false ones costume themselves in sheep’s clothing.  They spend their time and energy looking for ways to gather in my sheep for themselves and yet they never win for I always save my sheep.  So do not fear . . . but be prudent and circumspect . . . and call on me always to save you.

God loves our innocence and trusting spirit.  We can rely on God to preserve us when we falter and to save us when we are beguiled by the false ones. This is why our daily contact with God is so important.  We belong to God and God alone.  Let us rejoice in our belonging.

Enter the word belonging in the blog search bar and examine how, and who, and what, and why you trust.


Image from: http://uncletreeshouse.com/


Friday, July 3, 2020

Child-of-God-720213.22824220_std[1]1 John 3:1-3

God’s Children

See what the Father has bestowed on us that we might be called the children of God.  Yet so we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know God. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like God, for we shall see God as God is.  Everyone who has this hope based on God makes himself pure, as God is pure. 

At times we relish the idea of being children of God.  At other times we rebel against the obedience we owe to our loving parent.  None of our thoughts or emotions shock God for God already knows our anxieties, and our celebrations.

God says: Nothing is really new to me and still I am fascinated by you.  I love to spend time listening to your thoughts and words.  And I love watching how you go through your days and nights.  I love protecting and guiding you.  I delight in healing and carrying you when you are weary.  I celebrate when you laugh.  I love everything about and from and in you.  Tell me how you feel when the world shuns you because of your closeness to me.  Bring me both your troubles and your joys.  I have already foreseen them but I want to hear your voice intertwined with mine.  And I want to curl you into my heart for you are my greatest happiness.

No matter what we have done . . . no matter what we have thought . . . no matter what we have said . . . we are loved by God.

Enter the phrase Children of God in the blog search bar and explore your own relationship with God.


Image from: https://www.freeimages.com/search/daughter-farmer-father


Thursday, July 2, 2020

in%20gods%20light%20600[1]

Linda Duferrena: In God’s Light

1 John 1:5 & 2:1,5

God as Light

Now this is the message that we have heard and proclaim to you: God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all.  My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Whoever keeps God’s word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.  This is the way we know that we are in union with God: whoever claims to abide in God ought to live just as Jesus lived.

Light first parts the darkness and calls order out of chaos.  Light is both visible and invisible.  Light travels at high velocity and yet has eternal permanence. Light creeps into murky corners and reveals all that is hidden.  Light heals what ails us and calls us to perfection.  Light comes to us from billions  of stars.  Light emanates from those who persist in following God.

God says: When you falter, do not hide from me.  I see you anyway.  When you worry, bring me your problems.  My shoulders are broad.  When you stray and err, come to me immediately.  I want to settle you into my heart and heal you of all that brings you pain or grief.  Come to me always.  I am the light that sees and orders and reconciles all.   

Perfection is such a high standard that we are easily convinced that we are unworthy. Yet God calls us to a generous heart that loves persistence and fidelity.  Rather than shrink from the brightness and truth of God when we have gone wrong, let us move toward the light that transforms us.

Enter the word darkness into the blog search bar and reflect on how God pierces the darkness on order to save us.


For more images of desert Nevada, U.S.A. by Linda Duferrena, click on the image above or go to: https://www.lindadufurrena.com/gallery


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Word of God

The Word of God

1 John 1:1-4

The Word of Life

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of Life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too many have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

We are a visual, tactile people.  We look for data. We rely on evidence.  We want facts.  We seek reason over emotion and the Apostle John understands this – as does God.

God says: I know that you want cold, hard proof that I am with you and yet you have it each day at your rising to a new sun and a new beginning.  Did I not awaken you this morning? I understand that you rest on science and law and that you measure your life with scientific and legal standards.  Do I not show you my justice and mercy every minute of every hour each day as you go through your work and play? I comprehend that you have fears and anxieties that rattle you and shake your confidence.  Will I abandon you when you lay your head to rest this night to gather strength for a new day?  You can rely on the testimony of the Beloved Apostle who recounts his experiences to you.  Learn to trust his word . . . for it is mine. 

When doubt assails us we waver.  When obstacles obstruct our path we stumble.  When opposing arguments clatter around us we shrink and hesitate.  John tells us today that these doubts, obstacles and arguments are as nothing before the profound truth that supports and protects us. John speaks to us with passion so that we too might believe.  When we spend time with John 1:1-5, we explore our fears and joys about the message we hear.


A re-post from July 1, 2013.

Image from: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=156989&picture=smoke-13


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

EphraimHighlited[1]John 11

The Raising of Lazarus and the Retreat to Ephraim

We hear and read this story so many times.  It holds the brief verse, “Jesus wept”.  It tells a story which holds so much hope.  It is followed by the simple fact that “Many . . . believed in him.  But some of them went away to tell the Pharisees, and told them the things that Jesus had done . . . So from that day forth their plan was to put him to death”.

We realize that because of this, “Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but withdrew to the district near the desert, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with his disciples. . .”

We see that the chapter closes with these words, “the Pharisees had given orders that, if anyone knew where he was, he should report it, so that they might seize him”.

I am not thinking about the story in this chapter that we know so well, how Jesus calls Lazarus to stand erect and to come forth, which he does.  No, I am thinking about the aftermath of the story, about how the structure plotted against this man who came to release people from bondage and to heal.  When we peek into the next chapter we will see that the Sanhedrin also plans to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus.  They must project their own need to plot and conspire upon these two friends.  I want to focus on the hope-filled story of Lazarus; but I am thinking about how from time to time in my own life, I retreat with Jesus to Ephraim.

I finally came upon a reference to this small town in the HARPER COLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE.  In the footnote we are told that its location is uncertain, and we are referred to 2 Samuel 13:23 and 1 Maccabees 11:34.  It may be located near Bethel; it may be the town also known as Aphairema.  Perhaps it is appropriate that we have no clear name and no clear latitude and longitude for this place; because within each of us there is an Ephraim.  Each of us has a quiet place to which we retreat when we have tried to do something good or for which we know we will suffer. (Meeks)

Perhaps it is the instinct for survival in human beings that causes so much anger and jealousy.  Perhaps it is an inborn desire to lay out territory or to strive for fame and wealth.  The temple leaders did not like the fact that Jesus was drawing off revenue when believing Jews turned to him for what the priests could not provide.  We will never truly know what was in the hearts of the men who connived against Jesus rather than offer themselves to him as open, honest and sincere men of God.  We will never know if it was pride, fear, envy, or sloth, but what we do know is that Jesus went with his disciples to Ephraim to recover, to re-group, to regain before he began his pilgrimage into Jerusalem for the last Passover.

So let us come together when we mourn, let us gather to pray when we celebrate, let us set off to Ephraim to find respite with Jesus and the other disciples.  Let us retreat for a while to gather resources before stepping again on the path of the pilgrims who journey to Jerusalem to atone, to repair and to give thanks and celebrate.  Let us find refuge in Ephraim where we know there is safety in the Lord.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 13, 2007.

To read about The Tribe of Ephraim, click on the image above or go to: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tribe-of-ephraim.html

To read about Ephraim in scripture, go to: http://topicalbible.org/e/ephraim’s.htm

 


Monday, June 29, 2020

eph-3_18-web[1]Marking God’s Presence

Psalm 121:3-8

God will not permit your foot to stumble; God who guards you will not fall asleep.  Indeed, the one who guards Israel never slumbers, never sleeps.  The Lord serves as your guardian.  God is at your right hand to serve as your shade.  The sun will not strike you during the day, nor the moon during the night.  The Lord will protect you against all evil; God will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over your coming and your going both now and forevermore. 

We know that the pagan gods sleep.  Our God does not.  We know that the pagan gods mock and deceive humankind.  Our God does not.  We know that the pagan gods care more about themselves than they do the mortals whose lives they control.  Our God does not.

God says: I love you more than you can imagine.  My heart aches when you are sad.  I grieve when you suffer in any way.  I rejoice when you laugh.  When the deserts of life wear you down I want to shelter you in my shade.  When evil prowls its earthly domain I am ever alert to warn and protect you.  I mark your lying down and your rising.  I mark your going out and coming in.  I mark your tears and your laughter.  I mark all . . . because you are all to me.

It is too easy to forget that God is constantly with us.  We too quickly plan our day and leave God out of our activities.  We too often act as if we must protect and save ourselves.  When we mark our days with little “God appointments” . . . we also mark God’s presence . . . and we remember that to God, we are all.


To explore how to best mark God’s presence in our lives, type God Time in the blog search bar and examine your day in a new way.

Tomorrow, retreating from the world for a little time . . .

Image from: http://godsabundantblessings.com/

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