Ezekiel 38The Land of Gog

Friday, June 22, 2018

Scholars tell us that the land of Gog was located in Asia Minor, and Ezekiel predicts that these tribes will attack once Israel returns to her land.  The Israelites are not to worry, however, for God will be with his faithful remnant as he has promised.  God will not abandon those who remain in him.  This enemy will not realize that the Israelites who appear weak will in fact be strong because of Yahweh’s presence; and Gog’s defeat in a cosmic battle will serve God’s purpose: “When the nations see God’s victory, then they will recognize the divine power at work on Israel’s behalf”.  (Mays, 621)  This is a familiar theme for us.  God will save his people and in so doing he will prove himself far more powerful and far more loving than any pagan god.

Today’s Mass readings also speak to God’s fidelity to the covenant promise he makes with us (Genesis 15:1-18, Psalm 105, and Matthew 7:15-20).  Created in God’s love, we are to beware of false prophets and remain true to who and what we are: creatures brought into existence to bear the fruit of love.  This is our nature whether we believe it or not for, as Jesus reminds us . . . a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. 

So we are reminded today that the Land of Gog, or Magog, and the people of Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, or Beth-togarmah are always just over the horizon.  These alien tribes who do not know the promise of the Living God will think themselves superior and they will invade . . . and they will be surprised by the strength of the God who abides with us and protects us.  They will be overcome by the breadth and depth of our God’s presence and power.  There will be a great shaking upon the land . . . but God’s faithful will be saved.  This happens, God tells us, so that the nations may know of me, when in their sight I prove my holiness through you, O Gog.

No matter the number of the enemy, no matter the strength of the invading horde, no matter the skill or persistence of those who would invade and conquer . . . God’s faithful will remain while others will disappear . . . for this is how much our God loves us . . . that he delivers us out of the hands of the people of Gog.

Mays, James L., ed. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 22, 2011.

2 Chronicles 1Our Requests

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Several days ago we reflected on David’s last words and what our own might be.  Today we look at what immediately follows.  Solomon’s request gives us hope for this people who have struggled against odds to be a nation of their own.  When we read the entire story we know how things end for Solomon; but rather than focus on hopes dashed by tragic defects, we might instead consider what we might ask of God if he were to say to us as he does to Solomon: Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

God actually appears to Solomon and this we might envy, wishing that God would approach us in human form to speak with us directly.  Yet, have we considered that God does this daily by appearing through others?  And when God does appear, what is it that we ask of him?  Do we ask for comfort and ease?  Something that brings us and others justice?  Do we look for some wide and sweeping gift like world peace, or good leaders?  Or do we ask for something small for each of us: freedom from fear of any kind, respect for others and for the planet? 

God actually appears to us every minute of every day – although we may not feel his presence he is there all the same.  Jesus lived among humans for a brief time and the resurrected Christ appeared to the twelve, to the seventy and seventy-two and to hundreds and thousands.  Jesus continues to appear to us each day and each night always asking us – just as he did for the blind, the lame, the sick and the sorrowful: What is that you want?   Jesus is constantly saying to us in both little ways and big ways – just as he did for those who accompanied him in his ministry – Do not be afraid, you have nothing to fear, I am with you. 

God wants to grant our heart’s desire.  God has plans of joy for us.  God loves us beyond measure.  God wants us to be happy.  God wants to bring us justice.  God holds us and cares for us constantly.  God’s Spirit has chosen to dwell within us just as God chose to live among the Israelites in the tent we read about today.  God exists and abides with us; we just want proof that he is actually where we want him to be . . . looking like someone we want him to look like . . . acting like someone we want him to act like . . . saying what we want him to say.  But this is not how God works.  Still . . .

Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

We constantly complain that we might be happier, more prosperous, better looking, and less cranky if only . . .   If only I had a better job, if only the church service were more interesting,  if only my family understood where I was coming from, if only the government would . . . if only.  Yet, when we honestly examine our lives we discover that we have most of what we have requested and often more besides – just like Solomon; but we have allowed ourselves to become so overwhelmed by what our culture demands of us – which often runs counter to what God asks of us – that we have not even noticed.  And so we add more if onlys” to our litany.

Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

God grants Solomon the gifts of wisdom and knowledge and more besides; God also gives Solomon riches, treasures and glory.   It is Solomon who struggles to handle all of this.  It is Solomon who becomes influenced by the world and who turns away from God . . . it is not God who ignores or abandons Solomon.

Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

We may want to spend some reflection time today pondering what it is exactly that we want from God . . . and what it is exactly that we will do with these gifts – for God will surely grant our request.

We may also want to spend some time pondering how it is exactly that we will share these gifts, how it is exactly that we plan to remain close to God, how it is exactly that we will bear fruit back to this marvelous God who loves us so much that he says to us daily . . . Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 21, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.thesunblog.com/gourmetgal/2009/01/ and http://www.thesunblog.com/gourmetgal/2009/01/

Ephesians 2: One in Christ

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This month we have reflected on the names God gives to us so that we might call on God when we mourn and when we celebrate. We have also considered the names Jesus shares with us, Good Shepherd, the Gate, Bread of Life, the Way, Vine and Branches, the Truth, the Light, Life. These images give us tools to connect with the human Jesus; a link to our shared divinity in God’s creation.

We have recently reflected on the names Christ gives us as we work in God’s Kingdom: Children of God, Friends of Jesus, Salt, Light, and Yeast for the world, Temples of the Living God. With these appellations, we examine our fears and joys. With these definitions, we explore our motivations and inspirations. With these invitations, we determine our tasks as we work together in God’s glorious and great work of art. We celebrate our oneness in Christ, our unity in the Spirit, our beauty as creations of God’s marvelous hands.

In our union with Christ Jesus, [God] raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 

This is an offer we will want to accept.

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus, [God] has created us for a life of good deeds, which [God] has already prepared for us to do.

This is work we will want to join.

So then, you . . . are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God. You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord.

This is a truth we will want to affirm.

In union with [Christ], you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

This is a story we will want to celebrate.

Remembering that we are one with Christ and  all of creation, we repeat verse 10 of Psalm 16 as an antiphon when we pray today: For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your devout one see the pit.

When we use the scripture link to compare other versions of THE GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION of Ephesians 2, we begin to more fully understand that we are God’s wondrous work of art. We are one with Christ and all of creation.

1 Corinthians 6:19: Temples of the Spirit

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lebanon Cedar Forest

Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us: Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God. The faithful want to believe that Christ acts within where the Spirit animates the body and encourages the soul.

Jesus tells his followers: Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again. (John 2:13-25) The faithful misunderstand his meaning, but still Jesus abides with them, nurturing the Spirit, sustaining the heart.

In 1 Kings Chapter 6, we find a description of Solomon’s Temple, built to replace the Ark of the Covenant the faithful carried through the desert on their journey to The Promised Land. The description of the building as the permanent Temple is full of detail. With the tall cedar timbers, the Temple would have smelled truly divine; the gold covered surfaces and sacred utensils would have dazzled the eye. It took seven years to build this temple, and it is written in verse 7 that there was no noise of iron striking stone because the masons brought the blocks ready-hewn. What a peace-filled space this must have been, even during the years of construction.

Inside the Jerusalem Temple

These readings have a connection that we reflect on today. With God’s loving providence and care, the desert Ark becomes the city Temple. With Christ’s compassionate mercy and burning justice, the Temple of stone becomes the living Temple within each of us. With the Spirit’s healing transformation and nurturing mercy, the Temple that Christ rebuilds in three days becomes our very essence and nature.

Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us: Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God. The faithful want to believe that Christ acts within where the Spirit animates the body and encourages the soul. Let us determine to listen to this voice that calls us to union and wholeness.

Today we pray Psalm 84 and we repeat verse 2 as an antiphon. I long to be in the Lord‘s Temple.
With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God.

Tomorrow we conclude our reflections on the names God uses when calling us. 

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lebanon_cedar_forest.jpg and http://padreperegrino.org/2017/05/26/ascension-2017/

Matthew 13:33: Critical Yeast

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.” (GNT)

We know that when we bake bread, the baker must thoroughly mix the yeast with all the ingredients. To leave one portion untouched means that the loaves will bake unevenly; one slice of the loaf will be light and airy while another will be heavy and flat. Jesus asks that we go out to all those he invites to join him in the Kingdom.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (NRSV)

We know that when we bake bread, the baker must knead and re-knead the dough, punching down the growing form to eliminate bubbles. To leave these pockets of air distorts the baking loaf and gives it unusual proportions. Jesus asks that we rise again when circumstances keep us from our work in building the Kingdom.

And he told them yet another parable. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with a bushel of flour, then waited until the whole batch of dough rose.” (CJB)

We know that Jesus gave his twelve Apostles authority over evil when he sent them into the world to build the Kingdom. (Mark 6:7) Jesus sends us into the world each morning as yeast for the kingdom; he welcomes us home each evening to heal our wounds and restore our flagging spirit.

Another story. “God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread—and waits while the dough rises.” (MSG)

We know that Jesus sends seventy-two disciples in the world. He sent them out two by two, to go ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1) Jesus sends us into the world not as large cohorts but in small groups to be yeast that will leaven all places of his kingdom.

God creates us as critical yeast for the world. God’s very Word empowers us as he sends us into all parts of the kingdom. The Spirit raises us repeatedly after each buffeting so that we might bring God’s critical leavening to a world that longs for the Kingdom.

Today we pray Psalm 31 and we repeat the anitphon: A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9).

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we discover new ways to become yeast that will build God’s Kingdom. 

Tomorrow, we are the Temple.

To learn more about cricial yeast in the world, listen to the June 7, 2018 podcast of Krista Tippett’s On Being show with AMERICA FERRERA AND JOHN PAUL LEDERACH: “How Change Happens, In Generational Time”. https://onbeing.org/programs/america-ferrera-john-paul-lederach-how-change-happens-in-generational-time-jun2018/

Image from: https://www.circleofhope.net/jonnyrashid/bake-bread-follow-jesus/

Isaiah 9:1-6: People of Light

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Jesus tells us, I am the light. (John 8:12)

John tells us, In [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus tells us, You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  (Matthew 5:14-15)

How do we bring light to a world that seems determined to live in darkness? We remember this Favorite written on October 19, 2007.

Isaiah tells us, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!

We sing these words in the advent season when Christmas nears.  Handel set them to music and surrounded them with soaring strands of notes to lift us up.

You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing . . .

We believe that Christ’s presence among us is a joy.  We believe that he has come to release us from bondage, to set us free from our exile of anxieties, addictions, and damaging behavior.

For a child is born to us, a son is given us . . .

We know these words in the marrow of our bones.  Jesus resides in each of us.  We are his adopted brothers and sisters.  He has come to redeem, to restore, to heal, to transform.

They call him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

We hear these words and somehow know them to be true, know them to be meant as a consolation, yet we fear that the reality we live in is more true than the one these words describe.

His dominion is vast and forever peaceful . . . both now and forever . . . 

Good and gracious God, you know that we walk in darkness and so you reach out your hands to us.  You know that we see the light but are often afraid of its fierce honesty.  Help us to meet the intensity of this light with our own courageous response to your Call.  Abide with us now and forever.  May your zeal and passion for us bring us fully into your light and bring us fully to life.  Bring us to your celebration. Amen.

Today as we pray Psalm 18, we repeat verse 29 as an antiphon: For you, Lord, give light to my lamp; my God brightens my darkness. 

Tomorrow, we are leaven for the world. 

Image from: https://www.democraciaejustica.org/galery/a-candle-loses-nothing-by-lighting-another-candle.html

Matthew 5:13: Becoming Salt for the World

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Too much salt makes our meals bitter, dries out all that it touches, and adds pain to an open wound.

Too little salt gives us bland food, allows stored meats to deteriorate, and allows infection to invade a damaged area.

Just the right amount of salt gives seasoning to our lives, preserves what we need to sustain us, and heals our hurts.

From the Torah and Narratives, through the Prophets and Wisdom, scripture asks us to consider the qualities of salt. Jesus gives us concepts to sort and decipher.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says: You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot.

In Mark 9:50, he tells us: Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

In Luke 14:34-35 we hear: Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

The Dead Sea, between Israel and Jordan

Today, Christ calls us to measure the way we live. The Dead Sea was and is a living example of what happens when water enters a body and has no outlet; yet, despite its astonishingly high level of salt and other minerals, scientists find that it is full of microbial life. It seems that Mother Nature, and indeed all of creation, reminds us that we must look to maintain balance in a world full of polarities. We must discern the order that exists despite apparent chaos. We must work toward unity in a universe that brings us a message of dichotomy. We must be salt for a world that yearns for peace.

Today we pray the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), and as we do, we repeat Matthew 5:13 as an antiphon: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

Tomorrow, we are light.

For more Noontime reflections on salt for the world, enter the word salt into the search bar and explore. 

Read about what is going on in the Dead Sea at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/fountains-of-life-found-at-the-bottom-of-the-dead-sea/

To discern what it means to be salt for the earth, visit: https://ccsouthbay.org/blog/salt-of-the-earth

Find 40 verses about salt in scripture at: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Salt

Images from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/table-sea-or-kosher-which-salt-is-healthiest/article10812924/ and https://www.deadsea.com/articles-tips/interesting-facts/why-is-the-dead-sea-called-the-dead-sea/

John 15:15: Fools and Friends

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jesus reminds us that he calls us his friends. To think we are otherwise is foolish.

I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father.

As we consider what it means to be a friend of Christ, we remember this Favorite written on November 1, 2009. Sirach 22

There are many verses in this chapter that to make us smile and at times laugh aloud. Jesus ben Sirach knows human nature well; and he understands the importance of true friendship in which even the action of drawing a sword against a friend can be undone.  Yet, in these verses there are gentle warnings: the rest of us stand aloof from those who harm friends, treachery can drive away any friend, prosperity can get in the way of friendship, insults cause great harm in close relationships.

Equally significant are the verses pertaining to fools and those addicted to laziness.  Who among us has not been a fool at one time or another, and who among us has not been damaged by a fool?  Sirach advises well when he writes: teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot, or disturbing a man in his sleep . . . speak seldom with the stupid man, be not the companion of a brute . . . neither can a timid resolve based on foolish plans withstand fear of any kind.

We find many examples of foolishness, laziness, brutishness; and we see the value of tending to friendships.  In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul plays with the ideas of foolishness and weakness in humans and in God.  We become weak and foolish as humans in order to become strong and wise with and in Christ.   We give over our worldly wisdom and strength in order that we might submit ourselves freely to God’s will and power.  This is the secret of inversion in Christianity; and it is a truth we sometimes find difficult.  In 1 Corinthians 3:18-23 we read:  Do not deceive yourselves.  If anyone of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “the Lord knows that their thoughts are futile”.  So then, no more boasting about men . . . all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 

Today we have something to ponder as we wind down into the evening, into prayer and into sleep.  What or who do we see as foolish?  What or who do we see as wise?  What or who do we see as strong?  What or who do we see as weak?  Do sincere friends abound?  Who and what do we suffer and why?

Sirach presents a stark contrast in this chapter as do our own lives.  Everywhere we look we see the lights and darks that present an ever-shifting world; but the one true place we will always find a steady foundation is the masonry bonded with wooden beams . . . not loosened by an earthquake . . .This foundation is Christ.

A resolve that is backed with prudent understanding is like the polished surface of a smooth wall.  This resolve is funded by Christ.

Small stones lying on an open height will not remain when the wind blows . . . so this is why we must stand on the rock of Christ.  All else is weak.

Neither can a resolve based on foolish plans withstand fear of any kind . . . and this is why we must place our friendship in Christ.  All else is foolish.

We consider our friendship with Christ as we pray Psalm 122, and repeat the antiphon, For the sake of my family and friends, I say it again: live in peace.

Tomorrow, becoming salt. 

For more reflections on friendship, enter the word friend into the blog search bar and explore.

For more on the friendship pyramid and the stages of friendship, click on the image from: https://humans.media/stages-of-friendship

John 15:1-5: Branches

Thursday, June 14, 2018

We have examined scripture to reflect on the ways in which the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love in our identity in Christ exemplify our relationship with God in the Spirit. Jesus tells us who he is, reflecting Yahweh’s promise of “I Am Who I Am”. Today we continue to reflect on who we are, and on how we respond to God’s call for merciful justice in all of creation.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples”. (THE MESSAGE)

Rather than giving in to our fear that we might fall away from the Vine of Christ, we consider the beauty of union with all of creation.

Rather than seeking revenge for the injustices we suffer, we reflect on the wisdom of grafting ourselves to the healing truth of the abiding Spirit.

Rather than lamenting the evil that stalks societies, we contemplate the truth of pruning away all that separates us from the courage and patience of God.

Today we have the opportunity to produce fruit on the great vine of life. Today we rejoice in the gift of Christ’s vineyard. Today we come together in the Spirit of beauty, wisdom, truth, and love.

We pray Psalm 80and we consider God’s gifts of healing, restoration, and transformation while we repeat verses 8-10 as the antiphon, 

You brought a grapevine out of Egypt;
    you drove out other nations and planted it in their land.
You cleared a place for it to grow;
    its roots went deep, and it spread out over the whole land.
It covered the hills with its shade;
    its branches overshadowed the giant cedars.


To find more Vine and Branches posts on this blog, use these links.

The Vine and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/05/19/john-15-the-vine-and-branches/

Sawing Off Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/01/30/mark-322-30-sawing-off-branches/

Roots and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/02/07/roots-and-branches/

Grafting to the Vine: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/05/26/psalm-106-grafting-to-the-vine/

Enter the words, Vine or Branch into the blog search bar to explore other reflections.

When we compare other versions of these verses, we discover the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love of our relationship of Vine and Branches.

Image from: https://www.stpeterschurchchicago.org/cm/articles/vine-and-branches

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