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Archive for August, 2016


Psalm 83: A Hostile Nation

Wednesday, August 31, 2016psalm 83

A Favorite from August 28, 2010.

They conspire against your people . . .

It is likely that each of us has known a time when we felt – either correctly or incorrectly – that the world is conspiring against us.  The only exit from this kind of thinking is the giving over of our own agenda to God.

They scheme with one mind . . .

It is likely that each of us has felt the disappointment of exclusion – either rightly or wrongly – that comes when humans come together in groups.  The only comfort and healing to be found is in our relationship with God.

Deal with them . . .

When we realize that there is a hostile nation against us, the only hope is in asking God to deal with the enemy.

Let them be dismayed . . .

Even we New Testament people will want God to intercede against our foes, but as Christians we will ask for their conversion rather than their destruction.

Show them you are alone are the Lord . . .

We might be amazed that even after God has shown himself to our adversaries that they persist in their deceitful ways.  Sooner or later they will see which way they are to go but only God can bring them to seeing.

You alone are the Most High over all the earth.

The outcome of the battle pitched between God and those who plot against the faithful is assured.  God will always win.  For God alone is the Most High over all the earth.

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Sirach 44:1Singing Praise

Tuesday, August 30, 2016Singing_God_Praise

A Favorite from August 27, 2010.

Let us now sing the praises of famous men and women, our ancestors in their generation.

We have so much to be grateful for when we look to our past and remember the stories we have heard about the generations who preceded us.  They laid the foundation for who and what we are today.

We have so much to give thanks for when we look at those young ones around us who will carry us into the future.  They carry the dream we hope for who and what we will be in the years to come.

We have so much to sing joyously in the present for as we ponder the love our maker has for us.  This creator wants nothing more than our welfare and success.

These words of St. John of the Cross appear in MAGNIFICAT today as the Meditation.  When read carefully and thoughtfully, they can bring us to an appreciation for the level of joy Hebrew ancestors felt when they worshiped Yahweh in the desert tent.  They can bring us an understanding of the goodness of the Lord, our Bridegroom.

When one loves and doses good to another, he loves and does good to him in the measure of his own nature and properties.  Thus your Bridegroom, dwelling within you, grants you favors according to his nature.  Since he is omnipotent, he omnipotently loves and does good to you; since he is wise you feel that he does good to you with wisdom; since he is infinitely good, you feel that he loves you with goodness; since he is holy, you feel that with holiness he loves and favors you; since he is just, you feel that in justice he loves and favors you; since he is merciful, mild, and clement, you feel his mercy, mildness and clemency; since he is strong, sublime, and delicate being, you feel that his love for you is strong, sublime, and delicate; since he is pure and undefiled, you feel that he loves you in a pure and undefiled way; since he is truth, you feel that he loves you in truthfulness; since he is liberal, you feel that he liberally loves you, without any personal profit, only in order to do good to you; since he is the virtue of supreme humility, he loves you with supreme humility and esteem and makes you his equal, gladly revealing himself to you in these ways of knowledge, in this his countenance filled with graces, and telling you in this union, not without great rejoicing: “I am yours and for you and delighted to be what I am so as to be yours and give myself to you”. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 27.8 (2010). Print.  

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Job 7Suffering Without End

Monday, August 29, 2016grapevines

A Favorite written on August 27, 2009

This is what we humans try to avoid at all cost – suffering without end – and yet this is impossible for us.  We will only experience true joy that lasts when we learn to allow suffering to transform us – and this is what I was thinking as I drove through Long Green Valley this morning on my way to work.  The heavy mist curled through the vineyards at our local winery, nourishing the grapes which are promised for the fall.  The vines are well tended, all reaching out to support one another – having been pruned back to little more than stumps last winter.  Interlocked, these branches reinforce one another, anticipating the heavy crop to come.  The workers go through their strict cycle of pruning and flourishing; the plants burgeon, wither and burgeon again, answering their maker’s call to yield fruit that will sustain.  I was imagining myself as a branch of God’s vines just as Christ tells us in John 15: I am the true vine, and my Father is the true grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whosoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 

This chapter in Job is followed by ones in which people who call themselves his friends urge him to confess his sins so that he might enjoy God’s grace once again.  Job will repeat often in this story that he is innocent – and he is.  His acquaintances will continue to berate him.  He will continue to trust in God.  And in the end . . . he will be restored.

We often feel as though we are suffering without end . . . and we are.  Yet, this suffering brings about abundant fruit which we will not have to struggle to produce.  This suffering carries within itself the seeds of restoration.  This suffering is not to be avoided for when it is, we avoid the opportunity to be touched, and held and cured by the master grower’s hands.  And this is something we do not want to miss.

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Psalm 49: Self-Rescue

Sunday, August 28, 2016psa-49-15-ww-stock-9x

Yesterday we heard from Peter about sloppy living; today we hear the psalmist’ words on the foolishness of trusting in wealth. Today we pray Psalm 49 using THE MESSAGE translation and we open ourselves to the understanding that God alone saves, God alone transforms, God alone gives us the gift of eternal life.

The psalmist prepares us to hear words that save.

Listen, everyone, listen—
    earth-dwellers, don’t miss this.
All you haves
    and have-nots,
All together now: listen.

The psalmist delivers words that calm.

So why should I fear in bad times,
    hemmed in by enemy malice,
Shoved around by bullies,
    demeaned by the arrogant rich?

The psalmist sings verses that reveal.

Really! There’s no such thing as self-rescue,
    pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
The cost of rescue is beyond our means,
    and even then it doesn’t guarantee
Life forever, or insurance
    against the Black Hole.

The psalmist speaks verses that ring true.

Anyone can see that the brightest and best die,
    wiped out right along with fools and dunces.
They leave all their prowess behind,
    move into their new home, The Coffin,
The cemetery their permanent address.
    And to think they named counties after themselves!

The psalmist declares truths that are evident.

So don’t be impressed with those who get rich
    and pile up fame and fortune.
They can’t take it with them;
    fame and fortune all get left behind.
Just when they think they’ve arrived
    and folks praise them because they’ve made good,
They enter the family burial plot
    where they’ll never see sunshine again.

The psalmist proclaims words we will want to sing out together as we give thanks for God’s gifts of assurance, redemption, and rescue.

Listen, everyone, listen—
    earth-dwellers, don’t miss this.
All you haves
    and have-nots,
All together now: listen.

Compare this translation with others to better understand the psalmist’s message.

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1 Peter 1:17-21: Sloppy Living

Saturday, August 27, 2016o-WRAPPED-GIFT-facebook

As the leader of Christ’s nascent church, Peter laid out a simple plan to avoid what he called sloppy living. Let there be doubt, he tells us, each of us has the gift of life from one who loves us dearly; and each day of our journey brings us another opportunity to unfold this gift.

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. 

Peter is clear, the sacrifice freely given by Christ deserves our best response. And this response cannot be languid or superficial. It must be authentic and deep.

As the leader who continues to lead us on our journey, Peter challenges us to live up to the promise placed in us. He urges us to return the compassion and kindness so lovingly and intentionally given. He implores us to trust God consciously and always.

God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare THE MESSAGE version of these verses with other translations, we are given the opportunity to explore our own lives to look for traces of sloppy living.

Tomorrow, the foolishness of trusting in riches. 

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Deuteronomy 32:3-12: A Straight-Arrow God

Friday, August 26, 2016unity

When we look upon the world that surrounds us we may well wonder why so many of us throw so many sticks and stones at those who do not measure up to our standards; yet God believes in all of us still.

His messed-up, mixed-up children, his non-children,
throw mud at him but none of it sticks.

When we criticize and gossip, pass on rumors and make innuendo, we might be making more of a statement about ourselves than others; yet God is patient with us still.

Don’t you realize it is God you are treating like this?
This is crazy; don’t you have any sense of reverence?

When we forget our own shortcomings but are critical of others, when we ignore well-advised words, we signal how much confidence we lack by the false confidence we feign; yet God places hope in us still.

Read up on what happened before you were born;
dig into the past, understand your roots.
    Ask your parents what it was like before you were born;
ask the old-ones, they’ll tell you a thing or two.

When we look for a model, search for wisdom, cry out for peace, we open ourselves to this straight-as-an-arrow God who abides, steers and protects; and despite our efforts to leave God behind, God loves us still.

  A God you can depend upon, no exceptions,
a straight-arrow God.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other translations of these verses, we discover more than we have imagined about our God who consoles, remains and encourages us still.

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Sirach 8: 1-14: Perplexity


Sirach 8: 1-14: Perplexity

Thursday, August 25, 2016perplexity-20301609

Last year we took a look at Sirach 18 and 19 to focus on the idea of living within our spiritual means much like we strive to stay with our financial means or our physical limitations. We reflected on the idea of having high expectations of ourselves without stressing ourselves beyond our capacity.  As the ancient Eastern proverb says, All things in moderation.  As my Dad used to say, All things, even if they are good things, become bad things when we take them too far.  And that brings us to today, when we ponder this: When human beings have finished they are just beginning, and when they stop, they are still perplexed. The writer Jesus ben Sirach also gives us this to think about: What are human beings, and of what use are they?  What is good in them, and what is evil?  We are also told: The Lord has patience with us because he sees that we are miserable. 

We may or may not agree with these ideas.  We may or may not like the idea that we spend much of our human existence being perplexed.  In communion with our God, we may wish to have more answers, to be more prepared, to receive more information . . . but this is not what our maker expects.  God expects that we go to him when we are in difficult places in our lives – as small children go to their parents – to place their trust in God’s providence.

I have spent my prayer time this weekend with Sirach and today I open scripture to arrive again at a seminal idea in this book: That we are created to love and to be loved, and that God asks us to walk with him, trusting that he knows how and where we are in every moment of our existence.

Being perplexed is not a bad thing when we take our confusion to God before anyone else.  We can remind ourselves of this each time we feel at sea, each moment we experience negative feelings, each hour we spend in grief.

Being perplexed is not a bad thing when we remember that we are children of God . . . and that this God wishes us every good.

A Favorite from August 31, 2009.

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Sirach 32: 1 -13At the Table

Tuesday, August 23, 2016heavenly banquet

I continue to love the words of this writer – they are so to the point and true!  Knowing that the table where meals are shared is an important part of both ancient and modern life, the images here of people sharing food are as apt today as they were when they were written.  Food, one of the most basic of life’s necessities, is such an essential part of living that we put down our animosities regarding one another in order to bring in the harvest, and to share space and time in one another’s company.  Today’s Noontime gives us the opportunity to reflect on the most sacred of all meals – the Eucharist.  What a great and wonderful gift is this that Christ comes to us to share his physical presence with us and to sustain us in our journey here on earth.  Jesus Ben Sirach tells us how we are to come to the table, how we are to behave, what we might expect.

Take care of guests before sitting down yourself . . .

Temper your wisdom when you speak, do not be too puffed up and self-important . . .

Be aware of how much wine you are drinking and its effects upon you . . .

Be brief and be concise when speaking; observe and listen more than you speak . . .

Leave when it is time to go being certain to not out-stay your welcome . . .

As I reflect on all of this I realize that this is how we ought to come to every gathering.  We need to take ourselves seriously – but not overly so.  We need to enjoy ourselves – but not overly so.  We need to recognize ourselves in one other without losing our own identity.  We must remember always that just as we are temples of the living God, so is everyone else around the table.

communionEarly humans must have always been on the hunt for food; mealtimes where memories, songs, jokes and profound ideas might be shared were surely a luxury.  How blessed are we to have the gift of leisure that we can spend an hour or two each day with family, friends and colleagues to bare our souls, share concerns, to laugh, to question, even to cry, as we share a meal.  How blessed are we to have a God who wishes to share a banquet with us daily as he delivers the gift of himself for us to use as we will.

I have always cherished the time spent at the table with those I love.  What is more difficult is to sit at the table with those who have announced that they are our enemies and yet when we truly believe that Christ is present when we come together, what is there to fear?  If we can come together to celebrate the Eucharist – the gift of Christ himself to us – then let us also come together in amity to journey through our days together helping, abiding, remaining in Christ before all else.  When Christ is seated at the table, no weapons or defense or offense are needed.  We only need bring ourselves and our own humble gifts.

A Favorite from August 25, 2009.

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John 11The Death of Lazarus

Wednesday, August 24, 2016Lazarus

A Favorite from August 28, 2009.

This is a bittersweet story if we believe in the resurrection.  Each time I read it, I linger over verse 35: Jesus wept.  As a child I believed that the Christ wept because his good friend had died.  As I grew older I believed he mourned the fact that he knew he was calling this friend back from a beatific place.  Now when I read this verse it seems to me that Christ cries out of his humanity; he cries at the tragedy of our human fragility.  As I continue to grow I am guessing that I will have other perspectives, other reasons for Jesus’ tears.  This is what is so wonderful about the message of the Messiah: each time we read it, we come away with something new, something surprising, something healing.  This is why, I believe, God came to walk among us . . . so that we might number our sorrows with his.  When we cry out to God, he can honestly tell us that he experiences our pain.

There is another point which always intrigues me about this story.  Hard on its heels arrives the story of the plot to kill Jesus.  I am always struck with the vigor of the jealousy and venom of his enemies.  Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council and said, “What are we to do?  This man is performing miracles, many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the holy place and our nation”.  This narrative continues to verses 53 and 54: So from that day on they planned to put him to death.  Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews.  And this chapter ends with . . . Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. 

When I put myself into this story, I wonder where I would fall.  Am I among the Pharisees, the priests, the followers who report Jesus?  Am I one who succumbs to jealousy and revenge?  Am I one who believes and follows?  Do I understand that the “death” of Lazarus is really the initiation rite of his new life?  Am I willing to enter into the hope God offers us when he frees us in the person of Jesus?  Do I comprehend the joy I might experience when I unite with the Holy Spirit to carry the message of freedom to others?  Am I willing to accept surprise in my life?  Am I willing to hand myself over to a belief in something I cannot see?  Am I ready to accept a new way of living?

There is much newness to think about as we read this old story.  What appears to be death might actually be life.  What seems to the end of a story, may actually be the beginning.  What is apparently a handing over of self in obedience can be a surprising release into a full liberty of expression.  We will only know when we choose to follow.

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