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2 Kings 9:30-37: Death of Jezebel

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

We have looked at Jezebel and the role she played in the death of Naboth (1 Kings 21); several weeks ago we reflected on the city of Tyre, the birthplace of Jezebel.  Today we pause to think about her end.  It is not a pleasant story.   In fact, it is dreadful.

My sister passed along to me a recipe for an appetizer which combines horseradish, apple jelly, yellow mustard, and pineapple preserves.  This concoction – generously spiced with ground pepper and served over cream cheese, is spread on crackers.  It sounds dreadful, but it is divine.  Every time I take it to a party – or place it on my own front porch table when my family gathers – it disappears in a flash.  It stimulates and tantalizes, is piquant but lovely.  It does not remain long on the table.  It is called Jezebel.  And without fail, each time I put jam and jelly in my shopping cart, I think of this story.  What is about this woman who so enamored some and so enraged others?  Do we have modern-day Jezebels?  How do they rise to power?  What draws us to them?  What repels us from them?

When we are lured by the Jezebels in our lives to enter into their games of deceit and lies, it is difficult to pull ourselves away.  Even after we have escaped their siren call we find them seated next to us in church, working by our side . . . living in our home.  There is only one sure way to avoid the luring call of the dark and exciting killer game of Jezebels.  We must put all our decisions about this portion of our lives into the hands of God.  God creates us . . . God creates the Jezebels.  God understands these people . . . we do not.

Life consists of opposites attracting and repelling, pulling and pushing.  This much we can expect.  And when Jezebel moves in next door and covets what we have, we can only turn to God.  When she whispers lies to friends to bring about our end, we can only turn to God.  Only God can understand her inmost workings.

Our work with Jezebel is that we witness to her schemes.  Our plan with Jezebel is that we keep God close while she is near.  For in the end, we of ourselves can do nothing on our own but to listen to the voice within which tells us how to behave, what to say and do.  And in the end . . . when we find that we have sailed dangerously close to the Jezebels in our lives and have escaped with our souls, we will know that God has been watching, protecting and guiding.  We will know that the sum and total of their worth is that they are no longer among us.  Only God can pronounce with authority the judgment that wipes out their existence so that no one might say . . .  This was Jezebel.


Written on September 24, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2007/11/06/defending-jezebel

Psalm 108: Steadfastness


Psalm 108: Steadfastness

Monday, November 11, 2019

When we read this psalm we might recall the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which our Jewish sisters and brothers call The Shemathe listening, or the accepting.  It is intoned as part of the morning and evening prayer and is considered by many to be their most important prayer:  Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!  Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.  Take to heart these words which I enjoin in you today.  Drill them into your children.  Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.  Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. 

Psalm 108 bears the description Prayer for Victory, but in my heart it is a call to be one with God in every way possible not because we want something from God, but because we love God and all that he is this much . . . that we dedicate all that we are and all that we hope to be to his work.

My heart is steadfast, God; my heart is steadfast.

No matter what we have done, Lord, you are always present when we ask forgiveness.  May we reflect your steadfastness.

My eyes are truly fixed, O Lord; my eyes are truly fixed.

We are frequently lost but we are found when we look for the searchlight of your eyes calling us to you.  May our lives serve as a beacon to others as we struggle to follow you.

My ears are open, God; my ears are open.

The noise of the world often captures our attention more than the whisper or boom of your voice.  May we answer willingly when we hear your call.

My strength is willing, O Lord; my strength is willing.

There are days when we want to quit, when life feels overwhelming; yet you always buoy us up even as we feel about to drown.  May our lives serve as a lifeline that connects lost souls to you.

My spirit is rising, God; my spirit is rising.

Even when there seems to be no light, even when the darkness seems to have taken over, we feel and know your saving presence.  May we be this presence to those who feel alone or abandoned.

My heart is loving, O Lord; my heart is loving.

We have been wounded many times by being open to your possibilities and yet when we consider the miracles you have wrought in our lives we take up hope again.  May we sing always of your wondrous love for us.  And may we be as steadfast to you as you are to us.

My heart is steadfast, God; my heart is steadfast.

Amen. 


 First written on October 23, 2012.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on persevering and never giving up, click on the image above or go to: http://coachotis.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/ 


Rembrandt: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem

Jeremiah 39:15-18: A Gesture of Comfort

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Even among the twists and turns in the tangled web of intrigue which surround Jeremiah’s life, this prophet remains true to his God.  Both his words and actions reveal his total devotion to the Lord, and his life – like the flight of a well-aimed arrow – arcs through turbulent history to blaze a path as safe passageway for the faithful to follow.  No one, after reading this man’s story, can say that their burden is too weighty to carry.  Anyone can see – from Jeremiah’s story – that tragedy and loss are not always a bad thing.  We frequently find redemption in the ashes of failure.  But we must be open to the belief that all is possible through God.  We must demonstrate trust.

Today finds us at a point in Jeremiah’s story where he is rewarded by the invaders for maintaining his fidelity to God.  In the midst of horror comes a gesture of comfort.  Horrible events spin around Jeremiah.  The king and his sons have been captured by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops.  Zedekiah’s eyes have been put out, his sons have been executed.  The palace has been burned; the walls of the city are demolished; the deportation to Babylon has begun.  Jeremiah will be given permission to live where he likes – with the exiled or with the remnant.  A time of respite is upon him.

We do not know precisely where or how or when Jeremiah eventually dies; but one thing we know for certain is that he will remain as true to his God in his end days as we see him today.  Jeremiah will be rescued as he is always rescued.

Although there are times when we sit in the mud of the cistern of life, we too, are always rescued.  A word of comfort pierces the darkness.  A gesture of healing staunches a bleeding wound.  The sign of peace arrives at our door.  We know we are blessed.

In these graced moments amid life’s battles, we might pause to give thanks for such a healing and loving God.  All God asks in payment is our trust.


Written on October 20, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on this prophet and his prophecy, see the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/jeremiah-person-and-message/


Sirach 40: Joys and Miseries of Life

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Southern Oregon, USA: Ten Years After the Biscuit Fire

As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.  (Verse 7)

If only we might remember this constantly when deep grief or great sorrow overtakes us.

Each time we find that we have come through the fire . . .

We can look back to see where we were when we first felt the warning frisson that something was arriving at our door that would call to our best self that aches when stretched.

We can think back to feel the pain as we squeeze through the narrow gate of the life of Christ to which we are called.

We can look back to see ourselves exhausted and collapsed . . . searching for familiar landmarks with foggy eyes.

We can remember the sense of drifting that accompanies the re-awakening.

We can sense that our suffering self has connected with our healing self.

And we can look forward to the next encounter with one of life’s miseries . . . out of which will grow one of life’s joys . . . into which we go to meet our God.  What do we fear . . . ?

As she reaches safety, she wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.  

If only we might remember this constantly.


Written on October 9, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To learn more about nature’s recovery of the Biscuit Fire in Southern Oregon, click on the image above or go to: http://oregonstate.edu/terra/2012/10/the-biscuit-fire-10-years-later/


Luke 4:38-44: Taking Time to Heal

Friday, November 8, 2019

I always try to imagine what it must have been like to have Jesus walking among us to heal our physical and psychological ailments.  There were so many of them . . . there are so many of us.  No wonder Jesus had to continually repeat a cycle of retreat and prayer before returning to service.  Two things come to mind in a dovetail as I read these verses today . . . and these thoughts lead to an existential question that came up in my literature class.

Jesus still walks among us healing our ailments . . . God must be quite occupied with all of the problems we continually send to him . . . that is why we rest on Sundays.  Does God rest?  Do we rest in the proper way?

We are continually healed of our afflictions.  We continually receive balm for our spiritual wounds – and our spiritual self is the version of us that matters most in the end.  The enormity and the immensity of God are evident as we see Jesus walking among the people he loves, healing them with his passing.  In today’s hectic life this is sometimes hard to feel.  We are too occupied.  This leads us to the dovetail.

When God created the world, according to the versions of the story we find in Genesis, he rested.  He asks that we rest as well.  In twenty-first century USA perhaps we have too much activity on Sundays.  Perhaps we ought to return to the days of a few decades ago when only nurses, police, fire personal and other emergency personnel worked on the Sabbath – and perhaps we might honor these dedicated rescuers and healers more often. Perhaps we have forgotten to retreat in an intentional way.  Maybe the only times we do retreat are when we are exhausted.  I think this cannot be good.

Jesus rebukes the fever in Simon’s mother-in-law so well and so thoroughly that she immediately returns to her kitchen chores.  It must be wonderful to be able to bounce back in that way from an illness.  Yet this is what we are offered each day on our rising.  Do we respond to this call?  Or are we too exhausted or too occupied with the day’s schedule to hear it?

When we hear Christ invite us away from something in which we are fully engaged, do we turn to him or do we say that we will meet him at the next appointed worship event?  Are we scheduling our prayer and healing rather than living it moment to moment?  Is this what ails our collective and individual selves?

Jesus physically leaves the town of Capernaum but he remains in the hearts of the people whom he healed.  Jesus is itinerant, wandering among us, making home in our hearts and minds, settling into our routines with us, calling us away to sit with him a little while from time to time, asking us to put down our pencils, our papers, out thoughts . . . to be with him.

Perhaps the healing we receive in daily doses does not register so well with us because we are rushing forward in petition to make our next appeal for grace and peace.

Perhaps we do not allow the many blessings we have received to fully permeate our being because we are not quite ready to give up our illnesses.

Perhaps Jesus calls us away just when we begin something we want to complete in order that we make a demonstration of our belief that only he is worth living through and for.

Perhaps . . . but we must take the time to heal in order that we know him.  We must leave Capernaum from time to time when Christ calls to go into the desert . . . to strip away the world . . . and meet our God.

Perhaps . . . but we will never know until we begin.  So let us begin today.


Written on October 22, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://universitychurchdenver.org/index.php/articles/article/open-the-eyes-of-my-heart/

Genesis 33: Reunion


Genesis 33: Reunion

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hendrick Ter Bruggen: Esau Selling His Birthright

In the past we have reflected on the story of how Jacob found himself in hiatus from all he knew – and how we find ourselves in that same place from time to time in our lives.  Often we wander – guessing at our true destiny, seeing glimpses of it now and then, wanting the end of the endless waiting to arrive.  We have also reflected on how Jacob came to realize that his place of exile from home had become dangerous.  He plots to outwit Laban, his father-in-law, and he manages to escape the wrath of Laban’s sons – but where does he go?  He returns home.  Re reunites with his brother Esau– whom he had deceived.  The story of Jacob until this point is one of God’s pruning of a valuable vine.  So too are we the branches of this same vine.  So too does the master of the vineyard prune us – his faithful.

Today we reflect on Jacob’s reunion with the brother he had deceived.  We can learn much about ourselves in this meeting of two who once loved and have been in hiatus.

As I read through these verses today I am so struck by how this relationship has changed during the brothers’ time apart.  The attitude of deception that characterized Jacob in Chapter 27 is gone and in fact Jacob begs Esau to accept his presence and his gifts in verse 10.  And look at what he says.  “No, I beg you!” said Jacob.  “If you will do me the favor, please accept this gift from me, since to come into your presence is for me like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly”.

Jacob – in receiving mercy from his brother rather than a wrath that would be justified – realizes and then admits aloud that he and Esau have a holy union.  They are meant to love one another and not deceive one another.  During their time apart, Jacob has come to understand that not only had he tried to deceive Esau when he sought to cheat him of his birthright . . . he had sought to deceive God himself.  He had sought to manipulate God’s plan.

Esau wants to accompany his brother home.  Jacob does not want to tax his family or his herds.  Esau offers guards to ensure the safety of his brother’s tribe.  Jacob declines.  The two bothers come to an agreement and eventually reunite.

Last year when we reflected on Jacob and the lessons he learned about being willing and faithful, this was the prayer that came to us that day.  I offer it again below.  May all of our waiting dreams and broken hearts find such sweet reunion as these two brothers with whom we reflect today.

Sweet and loving God, may I be ever-listening, ever-faithful, ever-willing to obey your plan.  I understand that you have something wonderful in mind for me and that from where I stand I cannot see as well as you and so sometimes I am a bit afraid of what will pop up next over my horizon.  May I refrain from manipulation and from being manipulated.  May I refrain from separating myself from you, may I return to you always when I am afraid, because I know that you are always with me.  Amen.   


Image from: http://www.pubhist.com/work/10288/hendrick-ter-brugghen/esau-selling-his-birthright

Written on October 17, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Proverbs 7: Infidelity


Proverbs 7: Infidelity

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

In the past, we spent time reflecting on the first nine chapters of Proverbs.  Today we focus on Chapter 7 – a warning against listening to false wisdom – a warning against adultery.

I now understand that infidelity is not a single turning away.  Much like the codependent relationship of an addict and his or her enabler, the one who strays must have his or her passive aggressor, someone who – with silence and deception – encourages the leaving.  Although there are many roads to infidelity, the result is always the same – as quickly as it is born, it leaves shattered lives in its wake.

When we think of infidelity, we most often think of a fractured marriage, and that is the image evoked in today’s citation – “Come let us drink our fill of love, until morning, let us feast on love!  For my husband is not at home, he has gone on a long journey; a bag of money he took with him, not till the full moon will he return home.”  But infidelity may happen in any intimate relationship – between friends, between family members, between coworkers, between our God and our selves.  We are all susceptible to the siren call of control, self-importance, manipulation of discourse, narcissistic self-fulfillment, love of discord.  And some of us feel the ancient pull to submit, go along, deny, and maintain quiet at all costs.  This however, is not a peaceful life.  On the contrary, it is a life filled with risk, thrill-seeking, and even voyeurism.  “What if” takes the place of “This I believe”.  “If only” leaps forward to stand before “This is how it is”.  Insincerity and self-deception always precede infidelity.  Integrity and authenticity never accompany betrayal.

For many are those she has struck down dead, numerous, those she has slain.  Her house is made up of ways to the nether world, leading down into the chambers of death.

All of us – although striving to be open and loyal communicators ourselves – have an intimate knowledge of infidelity that at times has left us stunned and uncomprehending.  That is because there is nothing comprehensible about infidelity.  That is because infidelity is about indifference.  And indifference is the opponent of love.

Love acts.  Love questions.  Love perseveres.  Love does not take pleasure in anyone’s woe.  Love actively abides.  We know Paul’s description of Love from 1 Corinthians 13.  It is patient, it is kind.  Love waits upon Wisdom – the perfect – and only – antidote to betrayal.  Wisdom converts to eventual joy the stunned silence and the blurred vision of the one who suffers at the hands of the betrayer.  Wisdom and her attendant companion Understanding bring a healing balm to counteract the sting which will otherwise embitter the betrayed.

[So] my son, keep my words, and treasure my commands.  Keep my commands and live, my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Say to Wisdom, “You are my sister!”  Call Understanding, “Friend!”

This is the mystery of God’s love for us.  Not that he created us in his image.  Not that he loves us; but that, despite our constant turning away from and turning to him, he remains a faithful, ardent lover – always calling, always wooing.  Calling to life.  Calling to true and lasting joy.


First written on August 30, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2009/02/12-ways-to-mend-a-broken-heart.html

To read “12 Ways to Mend a Broken Heart,” click on the image above or go to: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2009/02/12-ways-to-mend-a-broken-heart.html

2 Samuel 6: Michal


2 Samuel 6: Michal

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tissot: Michal Despises David

Yesterday we spent time with the opening portion of this chapter; today we focus on the rest of the story.  Just as we are given an opportunity to see the realities of life in the story of Uzzah, we are given the chance to see our own reality in the story of Michal.

It has been noted that Michal is the only woman in scripture described as loving a man who does not love her in return.  As with many women in scripture she is used by a pawn. In this case it is her father and husband who exploit Michal . . . the two men closest to her . . . the two men charged with her protection.  Again as a child I saw her circumstances as out of her own control and I saw her life as one of deepest betrayal.  As with the tale of Uzzah, we turn to commentary to ask why in 1 Samuel 19 to find that David and Michal had pagan statues in their household and we might nod smugly and knowingly and comment that perhaps she suffered for bringing idol-worship into her home.  If we spend time reading the scattered fragments of Michal’s story we pull together the threads of her life.  As a child I saw her as a victim; as an adult I understand that there are far too many circumstances beyond Michal’s control and I watch as she sees all her dreams melt away into nothing.  I begin to understand how her passion becomes loathing.

As we grow in God’s love begin to understand that with mercy there are no bounds; we see that justice is best delivered in God’s time and according to God’s plan; we know that love carries with it the dark potential to become great hatred unless it is founded in God.  As with the story of Uzzah yesterday, we see that life defies description.  Again we learn that what looks correct may not always be correct.  And we feel the full force of the lesson that we cannot make events occur nor can we prevent circumstances from overtaking us.  We can rest only in the surety that God is in us, that we are in God, and that our relationship with God is the only eternal and permanent promise that matters.

Uzzah, Michal and David teach us much.  Their stories might embolden or frighten us.  Their circumstances may cheer us or depress us.  Their lives may dissolve or transform us.  But in all of this, as we examine the lives of Uzzah, Michal and David . . . we have much to think about today.


A re-post from October 15, 2012.

Image from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/717.html

To learn more about Michal and to put her story together, go to: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/michal-bible or http://www.alabaster-jars.com/biblewomen-m.html or http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/Women-Of-The-Bible/a/021511-CW-Michal.htm


2 Samuel 6: Part I: Uzzah

Monday, November 4, 2019

In several places, this chapter calls us to pause for reflection: We watch as Uzzah is struck down by the Lord, and we witness the turning of Michal’s love for her husband David turn to hatred.  Commentary will guide us through these puzzles but we are left with the lingering thought that there are always many ways to read the story of David.

We know that David’s life is full of ups and downs – just like our own.  We know that David feels the call of God and the call of the world – just like our own.  And we know that David is both strong and vulnerable – just as are we.  We might learn something about ourselves once we spend time with this story today.

Scholars explain the punishment of Uzzah saying that he had become too familiar with the ark since it had remained in his father’s house for some time.  Others say that he did not trust the Lord to rescue his own dwelling place, the Ark.  Some say that we must learn from this incident that we are to never question the clear authority of God.  And yet others say that we are to learn that we must practice acting in due time, listening for God’s call, and living in God’s plan.

I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that it may have been possible that Uzzah had misunderstood God.  Perhaps he thought God asked him to reach out to steady the ark when in fact he had said that Uzzah ought not touch the cart.  In my child’s mind the world was black and white: we do what our elders tell us and all goes well.  In my adult life I know that life is much more complicated than this.  As we grown in God we learn that obeying rules does not keep us safe.  We discover that life does not follow guidelines and that it defies logic.  We understand that we must be grateful for all that goes well; we know that there are no guarantees; and we see that the innocent will often suffer unjustly.  We come to understand that rules and laws do not save us . . . that God is the only safety net we can trust.

David and Uzzah teach us all of this today when we allow this story to speak to us.


A re-post from October 14, 2012.

For more on Uzzah, click on the image above or go to: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/death-and-the-dance-david-uzzah-and-the-ark-robert-leroe-sermon-on-gods-holiness-48196.asp and http://www.lookingfortigger.com/2012/06/12/the-uzzah-incident/

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