Isaiah 10Social Injustice

 Friday, June 9, 2023renewal

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in and indeed, this one is already among us. Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation if we but follow the Light, the Christ. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds. If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear. Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands. The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the axe. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind. The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3 and Luke 13:24, most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few. This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile. This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.

Image from: http://fromemptyhands.blogspot.com/2012/12/shoot.html

A Favorite from June 10, 2009.

Luke 12:33-48: Being Prepared

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Today’s Noontime begins and ends with two sayings or two mantras we might allow to hum within when we feel ourselves slipping onto a byway rather than the straight road to Christ. Our treasure lies in what we store. And those who have been given much have much to return. Both of these refrains call us to think about what serve us well: relationships that have meaning and depth and significance, relationships that are eternal.

In this chapter of his story, Luke records many sayings and stories of Jesus that speak to us about the importance of being prepared for God’s arrival. Jesus asks us to think about how we spend our time. What do we labor to store up? Goods?  Memories? Works? Fruit of our labor? And once stored, what do we do with our treasure? Keep it? Divide it? Dole it out? Share it?

We are asked to prepare ourselves so that once we arrive at the feast we will not be escorted from the party as was the unprepared guest in Matthew 22 who had come to celebrate but was unprepared. We are asked to be faithful, hopeful and loving. We are asked to witness, to watch and to wait. We are asked to be prepared, just as we are with our burglar alarms, our bank accounts and our degrees and awards. We are asked to tend to the work that matters, the work of kingdom-building.

From last evening’s MAGNIFICAT prayer we might gain some insight and strength as we pray:

For those whose works of love meet opposition: protect them from discouragement and harm.

For those whose fidelity is assailed by criticism: defend them from the temptation to abandon their commitment to the Gospel.

For those who have died at the hands of persecutors: raise them up in joy. 

We do well to help one another in the pilgrimage we make together.

We do well to lay up stores of good works for the treasure house.

We do well to share the gifts we are freely given because . . . where our treasure lies, that is where we spend eternity . . . what we have, we are given to share . . . and once shared, this rich abundance goes out to return a hundred fold.  We do well to be prepared. 

Adapted from a reflection written on May 25, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.5 (2009). Print.  

Image from: https://www.thenivbible.com/blog/where-is-your-treasure/

Ezekiel 13False Prophets

Wednesday, June 7, 2023wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on evil leaders.  Today we spend time praying and thinking about false prophets.  Who are they in our lives?  How have we been false prophets ourselves?

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on how evil leaders operate, how they appear to working for good and may even use the vocabulary we come to expect from those who walk in the light.  Today we meditate on how we might be lured into following the broad road rather than the narrow path.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on those who surround evil leaders to enable them in their dark work. Today we think and pray about those whose gestures and actions appear to have divine inspiration but do not.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

We notice that God does not remain silent when evil operates. We see that God speaks to darkness. We understand that even the dark ones are offered the opportunity to allow their pain to transform them.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

When we are doubtful about false and true leaders and prophets, we might remember that our courage, strength and perseverance lie in and with God. When we read scripture, when we join in liturgy, when we try to do as Jesus does, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, this is how we will know what to think, what to say, and how to act. And so we pray.

When silence is more attractive than fidelity to the truth: Our God, remember us.

When approval is more desirable than perseverance in good: Our strength, abide with us.

When safety is more appealing than suffering for righteousness’ sake: Our Lord, transform and heal us. 

When we celebrate and commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit, we remember that it is impossible for us to discern false and true leaders and prophets on our own. We can only maneuver life’s treacherous waters when we rely on the Spirit who will tell us where to go and what to say. If we want to live with less fear, if we want to transform the lives of our enemies and even our own lives, we might remember: Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

This is a promise worth remembering.

Image from: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/07/on-false-teachers-and-false-prophets.html

Adapted from a favorite written on May 31, 2009.

2 Kings 21: Wicked Kings


Michelangelo: Manasseh (on the right – the figure on the left is likely Manasseh’s wife)

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

He did evil in the site of the Lord. 

It is easy to point to leadership and begin to make a litany of their defects. What is more difficult is to look inward to ourselves to examine the way we bring Christ into our interactions with others. It is helpful when we hear those around us criticize our political, social, family and workplace leaders to study carefully how these leaders call us into action. Do they appeal to our care and concern for all and one another; or do they activate our anxiety for a special group of clique? Do they look for ways to build bridges and overcome division; or do they relish splits and schisms? Do they delight in mercy and compassion for all; or do they gloat at the misfortune of those not included in their group?  By these signs and by the fruits of their labor, we will know who is doing evil and who is doing good and we will know whom to follow.

He did evil in the site of the Lord. 

In the Old Testament we see this sentence used frequently in the writer’s description of how leaders who have been given the gift of servant to a people misunderstand the trust placed in them.  Manasseh and Amon allow and even encourage the people to turn from God and to turn to the worship of whatever gives them pleasure: money, sex, politics, the newest fashion, and so on.

He did evil in the site of the Lord. 

I am reading a book I bought recently by Caroline Myss which I will keep by my side this summer as part of my reflective reading.  It is entitled ANATOMY OF A SPIRIT: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, and the first page I opened carried the bold sub heading: Challenging Toxic Tribal Power.  Out of respect for the writer, I am the sort of reader who begins a book at its first page and reads through to the last; but this page was too much of a temptation for me.  I was drawn to skim this chapter which deals with Loyalty, Honor and Justice and how these concepts can be used to either counterbalance evil or to be “restrictive or narrow when interpreted narrowly”.  (Myss 113) Myss tells us that before we can allow healing to begin, we must examine our attachments to tribal prejudices. I suspect these pages will hold many thoughts for reflection this summer but I am struck by how the strategies and tactics of these ancient wicked kings still have power over us. When the leader of the pack tells us that a thing or a person or an event is good or bad, do we accept this statement blindly as truth? Or do we challenge toxic behavior with compassion, openness and a heart of mercy?

He did evil in the site of the Lord. 

We can never allow toxic behavior to hold us captive. We must, speak, act and rebuke with compassion. And we must always leave ourselves open to the outrageous hope that those who do evil may find transformation. Indeed, it is this very transformation that we as the victims of abuse must petition before God, because with God all things are possible, even the redemption of wicked kings.

He did evil in the site of the Lord. 

Let us, today, petition God to soften the hearts and open the souls of the those who do evil that they, with us, may come to know the richness and depth of God’s love.

Image from: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Manasseh_of_Judah

A Favorite from May 30, 2009.

Myss, Caroline. Anatomy of a Spirit:The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. Harmony Books, New York. 1997.  

For a YouTube introduction to ANATOMY OF A SPIRIT, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sADOmxzbil4 

Romans 5The Difficulty of Love

Monday, June 5, 2023Authentic-love-graphic

A Favorite from August 10, 2010.

It is in this chapter of Romans that we receive our greatest challenge of all challenges: Only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps even for a good person one might even find the courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 

We read today one of the great paradoxes of Christian living – that we receive the gifts of faith, hope, love, grace, peace and life eternal when we are willing to die to self with Christ, so that we might rise again in new life.  We are reminded that none of our transgressions can turn God away.  Our creator is always waiting to comfort us, save us and free us from all that makes us unhappy.  It is we who forget this as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians 4:6-7: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

romans-5-8Commentary tells us that here we see the law and sin in proper relationship to one another – only through the sacrifice of Jesus. We may well wonder how we view our own transgressions against God, self and neighbor in light of this good news. Do we shrink from examining our conscience, afraid of what we might find to confess? Do we eagerly give ourselves over to recollection and self-questioning in order that we more fully understand our proper relationship with God through his Spirit? If the former, we take consolation from today’s Noontime that reassures us that no human can surprise God with sin. If the latter, we do not hesitate to quiet ourselves within so that we might fully understand and believe that God wants nothing more than to love us and be loved in return.

The difficulty with genuine and authentic love is this, that it imitates Christ. It is willing to die to self even for enemies, because genuine and authentic love knows that through Christ there is always the opportunity to transform. Through Christ we are each called to rise and live again. In this way through Christ, our hearts and minds are guarded in Christ Jesus. We can find no better champion than Christ. We can find no better protector than Christ. We can find no better lover than Christ. For it is Christ who makes all difficult things possible, through his abundant and difficult love.

Image from: https://www.gracecommunity.org/sermons/series/authentic-love

Joel 3:17-21: Salvation for God’s Elect

Trinity Sunday, June 4, 2023Wonder-and-Amazement

The expression “God’s Elect” seems contrary to the message of Jesus about universal access to God and salvation. We are all given the option to listen, seek, obey and serve. So the expression we see here today may put us out of our comfort zone. We need to think about this.

From the NAB: “This prophecy is rich in imagery and strongly eschatological in tone. . . Its prevailing theme is the day of the Lord.”

From today’s MAGNIFCAT: “Jesus said: ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture’.” John 10:9 The gate to the Lord’s sheepfold is narrow and cut in the shape of a cross. Yet Christ leads the flock safely through to the place of pasture he has prepared for us. . . Two distinct groups follow Jesus as he goes up to Jerusalem. Those who walked with him who ‘were amazed’ are the ones who live the prayer, ‘Look upon us, show us the light of your mercies. Give new signs and work new wonders.’ However, those who walked behind him ‘were afraid.’ Joining with Jesus who gives his life as a ransom for many changes our fear into amazement.”

With God and prayer, fear turns to amazement. We must remember this.

When we turn to God through our suffering, our wonder and awe are increased many-fold. When we see how God provides for us, our faith is increased many-fold. When we dream of prayers God might answer for us, our petitions are answered many-fold. When we love as God loves us, our love is increased many-fold. And so we pray.

Good and gracious God, grant us the patience, the wisdom, and the perseverance to seek the narrow gate and to enter it. May our fear turn to awe, and may we be continually amazed by your goodness. Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite from May 30, 2007.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 30.5 (2007). Print. 

Image from: http://quotesgram.com/amazement-quotes/

Isaiah 43:20-25: Already Given

Saturday, June 3, 2023gift

We ask for good health, security, predictability, fidelity. We look for mercy, wisdom, hope and love. We anticipate salvation, healing, transformation and resurrection. But these gifts we believe we need to acquire have already been generously given.

The beasts of the field will glorify me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people.

When we feel as though the world has let us down, we come to understand that all that we need we already hold.

The people whom I formed for myself will declare my praise.

All that is required of us is that we remain faithful in our gratitude.

I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

All that we need remember is that God wants to forgive and heal. All that is confusion and mystery becomes peace-filled and comforting. All that we seek we already have in abundance. So let us give thanks, for once we begin to practice thankfulness, we also begin to fully experience what the Lord has freely and wonderfully already given.

Image from: http://www.zazzle.com/superhero+gifts

Baruch 3 and 4: A Prayer for Mercy

Friday, June 2, 2023012015wisdom_tim

An Exhortation on the Law of Wisdom

Baruch, born into a noble family, served the prophet Jeremiah as disciple and secretary. Along with Lamentations, and Jeremiah’s prophecy which Baruch penned, we have a unique treasure. These three Books taken together remind us of our special nature as loved creations of God, they give us a foundation of wisdom that we might use to navigate our own sacred story, and they propel us into a future of hope and mercy. Links to notes below* fill in any gaps we may have with this long yet interesting tale, and today we look at it to reflect on what we have learned about ourselves, our traditions, and our shared sacred history.

Why do we lapse into behavior we have sworn to eliminate from our lives? Jeremiah, through Baruch, suggests that we lack wisdom. But where do we find it?

For Baruch and Jeremiah wisdom lies in the Mosaic Law. For us as people of the New Testament the old law has been superseded and fulfilled by the new law, Jesus. And the new law of the Gospels is about love in the form of service to God in advocacy for those on the margin.

In chapter 4 Baruch writes that the Jewish people have been sold to the Gentiles for their lapse, for turning away from Yahweh to the pagan gods. He continues in this chapter with a classic description of Wisdom: Patience and Hope for Deliverance. We gain wisdom, Baruch tells us, by patiently yet actively hoping, expecting the Holy One to appear. And the Living God does appear before us every day.

Today we pray. Merciful God, you give us so many opportunities to soften our hard hearts and turn them toward you. You constantly open little gates for us to enter your Way. You visit your wisdom and patience and peace and love and mercy upon us. Grant that we may see you, grant that we may hear you, grant that we may feel you in our lives. Bring us the healing which we so desire in order that we may truly serve you and find union with you. We ask this through Christ your son, in union with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If there is no time to spend with these two chapters today, focus on 4:22-23: I have put my hope for your deliverance in the Eternal One, and joy has come to me from the Holy One because of the mercy that will swiftly reach you from your eternal Savior. With mourning and lament I sent you away, but God will give you back to me with gladness and joy forever.

*For notes on BARUCH, visit: http://www.usccb.org/bible/baruch/0

*For notes on LAMENTATIONS: http://www.usccb.org/bible/lamentations/0

*For JEREMIAH: http://www.usccb.org/bible/jeremiah/0

Adapted from a favorite written on May 25, 2007.

Image from: https://www.dreamstime.com/open-book-metal-vintage-key-open-book-metal-vintage-key-wooden-background-image112145728

1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part VI

Thursday, June 1, 2023gods-love-story-1-728

A Prayer in celebration of our story

We have read about the women and men who bring us an accounting of the rise and fall of the human journey along God’s Way. We see the acts and hear the thoughts of those who are willing to share their experiences – both the ugly and the beautiful – of their encounters with the Living God. Today we reflect on all that we have learned as we pray.

Singular and gathering God, we know that you are the beginning and end of our faith. We realize this in your Alpha and Omega presence in Christ among us.

Patient and persistent God, we see that you are the form and substance of all hope that is true and everlasting. We see this in all of creation that constantly strives to return to you.

Healing and transforming God, we understand that nothing matters and no one exists in a world without your Law of Love. We experience this mercy and forgiveness in the goodness that you pull from each harm that we commit or have done unto us.

Teach us to also forgive. Lead us always into the light. Protect us from all that would obliterate us. Love us into your goodness. Bring us your truth. Counsel us in your healing and nurturing way. Re-tell us the stories of our shared and sacred history. Shelter us in the warmth of your embrace. And keep us always ever close to you. Amen.

finger paint heartThe two books of Chronicles have four major portions that show us very human leaders; they illustrate the rise and fall of a people and nation. These verses tell us how division and exile can lead to forgiveness and return. Our sacred history shows us how we will want to learn to replace pride with humility. Our shared story guides us in moving from fear to love. These holy stories are treasures we will want to examine often, and share with the world.

For more on this amazing story, enter the words God’s Love Letter into the blog search bar and explore.

Images from: http://www.slideshare.net/anion/gods-love-story-2259081 and https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/finger-paint-texture

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