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Archive for February, 2016


Luke 4:24-30: The Brow of the Hill, A Reprise

Monday, February 29, 2016Jesus-Icon1

How do we rise again once we have failed? How do we handle jealousy and envy, our own and that of others? Where do we find our escape route on the brow of the hill and how do we get to it when the world crowds around us? Today’s Gospel calls us to re-visit the December 2011 post on how Jesus reacts to the rejection he experiences in his own home town. When we realize that those closest to us seem like strangers, we read these verses and consider how Jesus is rejected in his own hometown. We reflect on how he escapes the anger of those he wants to save. And we continue our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “The dream of peace is an unreal and distant illusion,” let us think instead, “The dream of peace we hold is present in God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is now”.

For the original post, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/12/13/the-brow-of-the-hill/ 

Tomorrow, seventy-seven times.

 

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Luke 13:1-9: The Dream of Peace

Third Sunday of Lent, February 28, 2016

Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi

In today’s reading we watch as the seeds of division are sown by the discontent, the petty and the anxious. They want to know who has sinned and who has not, who is guilty and who is not, who is worthy and who is not. Jesus deftly turns the crowd away from the littleness of their questions and turns them back to the bigness of God. In essence he tells his listeners – as he tells us: there is no need to parse through the little details we drag up as we move through the gossip, scare-mongering and trivialities of our days. There is only a need to reflect the generosity, the beauty and fidelity of God and of God’s creation. There is only the call to bear fruit in the ground where we are planted. It is in this determination to bring good out of bad that God rests. And it is in this same persistence to remain faithful to God that we find God’s hope, and joy and peace.

women for women logoSpend a bit of time today to listen to: Women, Wartime, and the Dream of Peace, a 2010 Ted Talk by Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi author, women’s rights activist, humanitarian, social entrepreneur, and media commentator who founded Women for Women International. Visit the organization Salbi founded, Women for Women International, to see how we might find the peace that is promised to us as we build God’s kingdom today. Go to: http://www.womenforwomen.org/

Click on the images above to learn more, or visit: https://www.w4.org/en/voices/helping-women-survivors-conflict-zainab-salbi/  and http://www.womenforwomen.org/

Between two worldsYou may also be interested in Salbi’s book, Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, that describes her incredible life story, and her up-close experience with tyranny as a daughter of privilege in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

We begin a new Lenten practice this week. Rather than thinking: “The dream of peace is an unreal and distant illusion,” let us think instead, “The dream of peace we hold is present in God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is now”.

Tomorrow, our native place.

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Luke 15:11-32: Squandering Our Inheritance

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

There is a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 10: 20-27) which speaks to us about holding on to the tiniest thread of hope even when everyone else has walked away, has given up and given in. When all is dark and seems lost forever to the dark ways, somewhere deep, and often hidden, there is a tiny grain of hope. And these tiny grains of hope are Christ who is in each one of us, and in every part of creation.  This Christ is hope.

In the image of the The Return of the Prodigal Son by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo we see the return of the errant son, and the darkness on the face of the envious son who remains. We also see abundant joy on the face of the father who has persisted in remnant hope and love.

This story is familiar to us and yet we benefit from reflecting with the words and the image.

Both sons of this loving father struggle – whether or not they physically or spiritually separate from him.  Both want to inherit the Father’s gifts, both want to experience life and its joys . . . yet are they willing to be remnant? And are we?

Today we reflect on the meaning of remaining, the meaning of hope, and how we too often squander both of these gifts in our own lives.

Do we remain?  Do we abide?  Are we faithful?  Do we offer God our constancy?  Do we embody hope? Do we examine our motives and our conscience?  Do we seek enablers in our lives or do we gather honest, authentic friends around us who love us enough to be careful mirrors?  

We are imperfect creatures, framed by time and space.  Our souls either languish or flourish. They rely on the food and drink we bring them.  They burgeon with prayer.  They wither when they lack Eucharist, Scripture and dialog with Christ.

Our innermost heart is our core which either collapses with neglect or flowers with grace.  Our minds are fed by the images and words we select as most worthy of holding and remembering.  Our bodies weary from their world journey, yet hum with joy when we nourish them well.

Being remnant is a difficult task.  It makes the decision to return after waywardness.  It makes the decision to strengthen its bonds even if it has remained.

Being remnant is an arduous task.  It calls for holding on in the face of impossibility.  It requires that we turn away from the hectic social demands on our time and space.

Being remnant is a beautiful gift. It demands that we make a refuge each moment of every day  to reconnect with God. And it obliges us to look at Murillo’s painting to ask and answer the questions: Who am I?  One of the Sons?  The Forgiving Parent?  The Obliging Servant?  Am I Remnant?  Am I Hope?

Adapted from a Favorite written on June 7, 2008.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Some ancient manuscripts contain verse 44 while others lack it. For commentary on this verse and parable, visit: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/21-44.htm

Tomorrow, the Samaritan woman. 

 

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Matthew 21:33-46: The Stumbling Stone

Friday, February 26, 2016stumbling blocks

In this second of two parables using the vineyard as metaphor, Jesus addresses Temple leaders who attack him with a story, and then follows it with several pronouncements. He cites Psalm 118:22: The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone; and then he acknowledges that many will indeed reject him. He refers to Isaiah 8:14-15: He shall be a snare, a stone for injury, a rock for stumbling to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to those who dwell in Jerusalem; and many among them shall stumble; fallen and broken; snared and captured.

Jesus cautions religious leaders that apathy toward him is like standing in the way of a rock fall; he warns that opposition to him only leads to destruction. Jesus identifies himself as a stumbling stone that serves to bring down those who oppose him and at the same time serves to establish a foundation for our lives.

Rejection of Jesus is fatal. Indifference is deadly. So we welcome Jesus as a stumbling stone, a rock of salvation, a refuge of strength. This is the Good News we share with others today.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Some ancient manuscripts contain verse 44 while others lack it. For commentary on this verse and parable, visit: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/21-44.htm

Tomorrow, squandering our inheritance.

 

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Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

The Lazarus in scripture whom we perhaps know well is the brother of Martha and Mary whom Jesus’ raises from the tomb in a prefiguring of his own resurrection. Today’s Lazarus is not this friend of Jesus but rather a poor man named covered with sores, [who] had been dumped on [a rich man’s] doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

In death we see the reversal of their stations; the rich man suffers in hell while Lazarus finds himself in the lap of the patriarch Abraham. This inversion of status is one we might easily predict if we only read the Gospel with care. Jesus is constantly reminding us that the first will be last and the last first. And yet we easily – and frequently happily – ignore this teaching.

We make our Lenten journey to our Easter home and today’s words from Luke ask us to consider our station in the eternal world with more care than we examine our position and status in this world. In the hubbub and noise of modern society we are easily caught up in gaining, storing, achieving and making a mark. Yet here we see that we are wise to focus instead on nurturing, tending, healing and transforming ourselves and – with the gift of the Spirit – making Christ visible in a greedy and foggy world.

As we think about our status in God’s eternal kingdom, let us examine more closely how we bring this Gospel message into our temporal lives and how we share this message with others. Let us be more attentive to the little ordinary moments in each day that we ignore and so easily bypass. And rather than work so hard at ignoring the people and events that bring us discomfort, let us work instead to bring the beauty of God’s kingdom into fullness today.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Tomorrow, rejecting the cornerstone.

 

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Matthew 20:17-28: The Chalice

Wednesday, February 24, 2016communion-cup_bread

Salome, the mother of James and John, the Zebedee brothers, asks Jesus to give her sons places of honor in the new kingdom; yet she does not fully understand . . . and so Jesus explains the terrible and beautiful importance of this special cup of blessing.

From Psalm 116 (verses 12-18)

What can I give back to God
    for the blessings the LORD poured out on me?

We are accustomed to asking God for favors. Do we think about giving thanks for our cup of salvation?

I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!

We are accustomed to thanking God quietly and privately. Do we think to join our voices with others in praise of God’s goodness?

I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
    and I’ll do it together with God’s people.

We are accustomed to joining in Sabbath prayer and song. Do we think about giving testimony to a broader circle about God’s mercy?

When they arrive at the gates of death,
    God welcomes those who love the LORD.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
    your faithful servant: set me free for your service!

bread cupWe are accustomed to approaching each day’s obstacles. Do we think about serving God by tending to the barriers we meet as Jesus does? Do we think about the cup we have asked to take as curse or blessing? Are we prepared to accept the cup that passes before us?

As we think about God’s beautiful and challenging cup of salvation, we remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Tomorrow, the rich man and Lazarus.

 

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Matthew 23:1-12: Preaching and Practicing

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Accustomed to Confusion, Jesus Teaching

Accustomed to Confusion
Jesus Teaching

Jesus’ words are clear and simple as he tells us how to discern false teaching.

False leaders talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.

Jesus’ words carry great weight.

Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals.

Jesus’ words bring us an eternal vision.

They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. 

Jesus’ words lay out clear guideposts.

Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. 

Jesus’ words describe our lives keenly.

They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

Jesus’ words show us how we might change.

Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let God tell you what to do.

Jesus’ words sustain and nurture.

There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

Jesus’ words clarify and heal, explain and comfort, teach and bring peace.

jesusDo you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

Let us pray Jesus’ words together today.

As we think about what we preach and what we practice, we remember to share Jesus’ words with others as we reflect on our Lenten practice for the week. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Tomorrow, the chalice.

 

 

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Matthew 16:13-19: The Christ

Monday, February 22, 2016you_are_the_christ_son_of_the_living_god

We might well wonder who Jesus is. For centuries scholars and common folk alike have pondered this question. Religious wars are fought; synods and councils are called; church leaders write creeds that lay out who and what this man means to us. Old and New Testaments predict and describe him and while sacred scripture and secular writings alike attempt to define him, Jesus gives us his open arms and willing heart. Jesus both defies and invites definition. Who and what are Jesus?

Jesus asks his disciples: What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?

They reply saying: Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.

Jesus presses them: And how about you? Who do you say I am?

Simon Peter says: You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Jesus then replies: God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.

Testimonies record encounters with the risen Christ and we may also have recorded or passed on our own encounters to those who have open ears and minds and hearts.

Today we hear Jesus ask each of: And how about you? Who do you say I am?

Today we have the opportunity to add our own demonstration of faith in Christ to the countless stories that have been told and are yet to be told. Let us count ourselves among that number as we remember our Lenten practice and . . . Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Human Christ Charlotte AllenCharlotte Allen, a controversial journalist published in the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington, Post, the Washington Times, Insight, City Journal, Washington Monthly, the New Republic and the Atlantic, has written The Human Christ: The Search For The Historical Jesus (ISBN 0-684-82725-5). Her interesting blog can be found at: https://blogstupidgirl.wordpress.com/

For more on the divine Christ, visit the Bible Hub at: http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/adeney/the_divine_christ.htm 

For a Noontime reflection on the connection between Jesus and Jonas, read the Jonah 3:1-3: Setting Out for Nineveh post at: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/03/05/jonah-31-3-setting-out-for-nineveh/

Today we think about the many perspectives on the identity of Jesus. Tomorrow, they preach but they do not practice. 

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Luke 9:8-36: Transfiguration

Second Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2016grymes violins

So many times we are called to Transfiguration.  So many times we are called to Exodus.  So many times we meet angels and prophets and yet do not respond.  We are so caught up in getting through the day, getting through the night, the week, the month, the year . . . the life.

So often we want to pause at a happy spot to set up a tent to house that moment and hold it.  So often we want to wrestle with time until it obeys us.  We live in the past . . . live in the future . . . live anywhere else but the present . . . re-living, un-living, projecting, transferring.

Jesus goes up to the mountain with two of his beloved apostles to speak with Elijah, Moses and his Father about the work that lies before him.  Of course he knows what was expected of him – down to the smallest detail – yet he listens to those who have gone before him. He listens to the wisdom of the ages. And he shares the experience with his friends.

violins of hopeJesus shares this wisdom and love with us as well.  He give to us the opportunity of transfiguration of self.  We are not held away from the gift of salvation; rather, we are invited to join Christ’s joy and glory.  So when the cloud descends upon us, and we hear the voice from the mist say: This is my Son, listen to him . . . may we have the courage, the wisdom, the light and the joy to do as we are bidden.  Because through this experience comes a true knowing of God, a true knowing of self.  With this comes an openness to the Word and the Truth and the Light.

In this Lenten journey, it is good to pause to reflect upon the possibilities offered to us through Transfiguration.

Adapted from a Favorite from December 11, 2007.

Looking for transfiguration, we begin a new Lenten practice this week. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

grymes bookTo learn more about how the Violins of Hope provide an opportunity for learning and reflection through restored instruments that survived the Holocaust, and to see how Cleveland’s MALTZ MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE offers opportunities of transfiguration, click on the images above or visit: http://www.violinsofhopecle.org/

To hear these violins in concert, go to a CBS video at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/violins-of-hope/  

Learn about the book Violins of Hope by James A. Grymes at: http://www.jamesagrymes.com/

Tomorrow, the Christ.

 

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