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Matthew 5:17-37: Putting it All Together

Friday, February 24, 2017puzzle-pieces

If we find ourselves confused when we look to God’s Law for direction, we must consider Jesus as the Living Law of God.

I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.

If we find ourselves confused when we search to God’s Law for answers, we must consider Jesus as the exemplar of all creation.

God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.

If we find ourselves in pain when we look to God’s Law for solace, we must consider Jesus as God’s answer to the corruption the world gives us.

Take God’s law seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.

If we find ourselves anxious about God’s Law and its consequences, we must consider the integrity and authenticity of Jesus.

You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say “yes” and “no”. When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

If we find ourselves at peace in giving ourselves over completely to God’s Law, we realize that we have put it all together.

When we compare differing translations of these verses, we begin to synthesize Jesus’ message to bring it into our hearts . . . we begin to put God’s message together. 


1 Corinthians 2:6-10: The Freedom of Wisdom

Thursday, February 23, 2017tree-of-knowledge

We scour bookshelves. We search the Internet. We gather with friends. We quiz colleagues. We share our deepest worries with loved ones. Our pursuit of wisdom is a universal human quest and our search consumes much of our time; yet the knowledge we so avidly seek is a knowledge we already hold, the eternal mindfulness that springs from God’s wisdom. We only need open our hearts to God’s Word.

St. Paul tells us: We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground . . . but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so.

God says: You need not succumb to your fears and anxieties. Bring them to me and my Spirit will quiet them. When you put your faith in the world and the skills you have honed to get the best of that world, you rely on fleeting talents. When you stand on your trust in me, you stand on firm ground. This is the wisdom you seek.

St. Paul continues: God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of God’s purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out God’s best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is.

God says: You need not give in to your anger and resentment. Bring these passions to me and my Spirit will transform them. I live in you for an eternity and my plan is to bring you home to me. When you place your hope in the promises of the world, you rely on potentials that can never develop. When you hope in me, you hope in God’s own purpose. This is the wisdom that redeems.

We are offered the gift of a quiet, internal wisdom that brings calm in the chaos. We are given the promise of eternal deliverance from all that we fear. We are blessed with the freedom to choose God’s endless and redemptive wisdom. To this gift and promise we open our hearts. For this gift and promise let us give thanks.


Sirach 15:15-20: Your Own Choice

Wednesday, February 22, 2017free-will-problem

We have reflected on Jesus’s admonition that we leave vengeance and judgment in God’s hands; and we have spent time exploring Jesus’ call that we love our enemies. Today we ponder words from Sirach. Words that remind us of the gift of free will we each hold in our hands, and hearts and minds.

If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

We may want to make someone else responsible for our decisions; but when we are honest, we know that we are free to reject or to choose God.

God has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

We may believe that we live in isolation, living invisibly, doing as we please and avoiding consequences; but when we are truthful we know that we are free to be open or closed to Christ.

Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.

We may believe that we are the source of our own intelligence and good fortune, reaping the rewards of a life well lived; but when we are candid we know that we are free to accept or refuse the healing of the Spirit.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord; God is mighty in power and sees everything; God’s eyes are on those who love the LORD, and God knows every human action.

There is no greater source of understanding than God. There is no greater heart of love than Jesus.

God has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and God has not given anyone permission to sin.

There is no greater power to heal than the Spirit. Let us rejoice that we live in the gift of God’s mercy, and that we have been given the freedom to make a choice of our own.

When we compare these verses with THE GOOD NEWS translation, we gain clarity and focus, discernment and wisdom. We find that we really do possess the gift of making our own choices.


Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part III

Tuesday, February 21, 2017be-perfect-like-god-matthew-5-verse-48-1

Today we hear Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount. He asks us to live generously, he challenges us to love our enemies, and he reminds us that we are already members of his kingdom.

In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

We linger with the thought that God lives toward us, not only giving us breath but also nurturing and sustaining us, moving into our every bone and tissue.

You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (GNT)

We pause to reflect that God calls us to Christ’s presence in us, flourishing into the light of Christ, blooming into the healing presence of the Spirit.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NRSV)

james-1-4We react to God’s request that we grow up, that we mature in Christ, that we reconcile in the Spirit, and that we transform in the Creator. This is the perfection that God asks of us. Not that live a life free or error, but that we offer to God the flowering of the potential and trust placed in us at our conception.

The Apostle James tells us that when we persist in Christ, we begin to understand what God asks of us when he asks for our perfection.

Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:4 (GNT)

When we compare varying versions of Matthew 5:48, we begin to understand what it is that God asks of us, and how we might grow up, how we might be perfect in Christ.


Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part II

Monday, February 20, 2017love_your_enemies_by_kevron2001-d9h02h0

Today we continue to explore Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount as we struggle to love our enemies.

Jesus asks us to live in a new way that we revolutionize our relationships. But are we up to this challenge?

You’re familiar with the old written law, “Love your friend,” and its unwritten companion, “Hate your enemy”. I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

Here is another impossible perspective, we tell ourselves. No one would risk so much as to be nice to their enemies. What in the world is Jesus asking? There is no way, we say quietly to friends. I will never see how this can make sense. This is impossible we repeat.  And then . . .

God says: I know the enormity of the challenge I present to you; and I know your depths, your strengths, and the heights to which you might soar. I created you and know you better that you know yourself. The energies of prayer I ask you send to me are precisely that. When you ask me to intercede for someone who has done you harm, those prayers fly to me more quickly than any other petition. I love to see you emulate me in forgiving one another, in allowing one another to grow, in refusing gossip and in nurturing newness. Instead of seeing this as an impossible task, do as Jesus suggests and when you meet those who are hostile, work on yourself. Change your reactions. Take on a new perspective and let your enemies bring out the best in you – not the worst. You will be amazed at the fresh air this new attitude invites. And you will be amazed at the new direction your life will take.

Jesus challenges us to be more that the run-of-the-mill sinner as he reminds us that anyone can love their friends. The true challenge is in loving those who harm us. Do we believe in Jesus enough to take on this challenge?

 


Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part I

Sunday, February 19, 2017god-is-love1

For the next several days we will explore Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount. Today, what does Jesus tell us about the freedom we find when we stay clear of the temptation to seek revenge?

Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: “Don’t hit back at all”. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (MSG)

Jesus challenges us to live generously; yet what does this mean?

This is impossible, we say to ourselves as we hear his words. And a life lived in this way will never work. Who will protect me and my loved ones if I do not? How will I keep the bullies at bay? And how will I avoid being everyone’s doormat? This is impossible we repeat.  And then . . .

confucious-revenge-two-gravesGod says: I am quite aware that many of you see Jesus’ suggestion as an idealistic, and even ridiculous, plan for living. You see the Law of Freedom as a threat to your autonomy. You see the world viewed from this perspective of love – without defenses and using liberal amounts of revenge – as childish. But I say to you that it is childlike. I do not ask you to go into the world completely open to assault; rather, I ask that you use my enormous power, presence and love as a bulwark and as your rock of safety. I ask you to trust me more than you trust your own resources and your little powers. I also ask that you replace your bluster and bravado with my own call to love those who hate you and wish you harm. When you surrender to my Law of Freedom, you give up all pretense of power – and yet you will have more power than you ever imagined. When you remain in and with me, you need not build the walls you falsely believe will protect you. I ask that you put away your childish ways of dependence of self and replace them the childlike life of generosity and openness. I tell you that this new interaction with the world brings you a new freedom . . . and even a new authority, the authority of my love that surpasses all.

Jesus challenges us to live generously. Do we see ourselves as able to follow this call?


James 2:12-13: Law of Freedom

Saturday, February 18, 201750623-freedom

Speak and act as people who will be judged by the law that sets us free. For God will not show mercy when he judges the person who has not been merciful; but mercy triumphs over judgment. (GNT)

Today’s Noontime reflection asks us to explore our own actions to determine how – or if – our words and actions nurture freedom or project fear.

Keep speaking and acting like people who will be judged by a Torah which gives freedom. For judgment will be without mercy toward one who doesn’t show mercy; but mercy wins out over judgment. (CJB)

How well – or how poorly – do we share power with others?

How easily – or how nervously – do we welcome collegiality?

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (NRSV)

How happily – or how begrudgingly – do we open ourselves to new ideas or new relationships?

How trustingly – or how obsessively – do we construct bridges with our enemies?

For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. (MSG)

What does freedom look like in our daily interactions?

How authentically – or how deceptively – do we nurture freedom in others and in ourselves?


Tobit 4:5-7: Through All Our Days

book-of-tobit1

Mattie Preti: Tobit Blesses Tobias

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tobit gives instruction to his son just as God gives instruction to us.

Tobit says: Through all your days, keep the Lord in mind.

God says: Through all your days, remain in me as I remain in you.

Tobit says: Do not seek to sin or to transgress the commandments.

God says: Through all your days, practice kindness and mercy, charity and forgiveness, and forgive all as I forgive you.

Tobit says: Perform righteous deeds all the days of your life.

God says: Through all your days, witness, watch and wait, calling always on me.

Tobit says: Do not tread the paths of wickedness.

God says: Through all your days, persist in goodness and shun revenge.

Tobit says: Give alms from your possessions.

God says: Through all your days, care for the marginalized, for that is where you find me.

Tobit says: Do not turn your face away from any of the poor.

God says: Through all your days, look on me as I look on you with loving eyes, healing hands, and grateful heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other translations of these verses, we know how to move through all our days . . . whether they be filled with grief or joy.

To better understand the story of Tobit and Tobias, go to: http://www.usccb.org/bible/tobit/0 

 


Ephesians 5:8-10: Groping Through the Murk

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dave Erickson: Fog Dome

Dave Erickson: Fog Dome

In times of trouble, we might turn to scripture.

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. (NRSV)

In times of joy, we might share verses of praise.

You yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord’s people, you are in the light. So you must live like people who belong to the light, for it is the light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. (GNT)

In times of pain, we might seek Christ in The Word.

For you used to be darkness; but now, united with the Lord, you are light. Live like children of light, for the fruit of the light is in every kind of goodness, rightness and truth — try to determine what will please the Lord. (CJB)

In times of anxiety, we might flounder through our days in the Spirit.

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it. (MSG)

In times of doubt, we know that God’s word is a light in the darkness.

stepping-stonesIn the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. (NCV)

In times of celebration, we know that Christ’s light has brought us through the murky confusion of this life, always showing us The Way to an eternity of peace.

When we compare varying translations, we begin to see that the obstacles in our lives are the stepping-stones that lead us through the murk and into the light that is Christ.

For more photographs by Erickson, click on the image above or visit: http://ericksonphotography.net/?p=130

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