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Archive for February, 2017


Sirach 2:1-6: Serving the Lord

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tintoretto: Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples

Tintoretto: Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples

We are small children, eager to please our doting parent. We put our trust in the Lord and expect that our lives will run smoothly. Struggles will be brief and bearable, we say to ourselves. This is easy if I am in God’s corner and God is in mine.

Jesus ben Sirach has words for us: My child, if you are going to serve the Lord, be prepared for times when you will be put to the test.

We are ready, we tell ourselves. We are eager to follow.

Be sincere and determined.

We will persevere. We will remain faithful.

Keep calm when trouble comes.

We will live in hope, actively waiting for God’s promise.

Stay with the Lord; never abandon God, and you will be prosperous at the end of your days. 

We wonder if God really understands our circumstances.

Accept whatever happens to you. Even if you suffer humiliation, be patient.

We wonder if we will endure even with the assurance of God’s love.

Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation.

We struggle to live meekly as Jesus lives. We yearn for the justice we know God wants. We live in the hope that the Spirit will not abandon or deceive us.

Trust the Lord, and God will help you. Walk straight in God’s ways, and put your hope in God.

We continue to live in The Way Christ shows us. In patience and humility, in fidelity and hope, persevering and waiting in love.

 

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Sirach 1:1-10: God’s Wisdom

Monday, February 27, 2017

Retro key and opened book on wooden table.

God’s wisdom is eternal.

All wisdom comes from the LORD and with the LORD it remains forever, and is before all time.

God’s wisdom is immense and all-encompassing.

The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth, the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?

God’s wisdom is prudent.

Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity. The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom and her ways are everlasting.

God’s wisdom does not discriminate.

To whom has wisdom not been revealed? Who knows her subtleties? To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed? And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways? There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring, seat upon his throne and the LORD is the God of dominion. The LORD has lavished wisdom on the friends of God.

God’s wisdom invites each of us to listen to her today.

When we use the scripture link and the drop down menus to explore these verses, we open ourselves to  the surprises God’s wisdom has in store for us.

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Psalm 14: The Dreams of the Poor

Sunday, February 26, 2017wise_fool-large

If we have read Psalm 14 before we are familiar with the opening verse: The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (NASB) But today when we look at THE MESSAGE translation, we discover new meaning in an ancient prayer.

Bilious and bloated, they gas,
    “God is gone.”

If this is what we believe, we will want to examine the path we took to arrive at this thinking. Our fears and anxieties may lead us in this direction. Our constant prayers keep us connected to God.

God sticks his head out of heaven.
    He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
    one man, even, God-expectant,
    just one God-ready woman.

If this is what we are thinking, we will want to think again. God knows that there are many who live as Jesus suggests. There are many who give voice to the voiceless and aid to the poor.

He comes up empty. A string
    of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
    to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
    follow their fellow.

Don’t they know anything,
    all these impostors?

If we are following a false shepherd because we believe the true shepherd has abandoned the flock, we must be afraid to be the first to turn away from the imposter.
Don’t they know
    they can’t get away with this—
Treating people like a fast-food meal
    over which they’re too busy to pray?

If we have decided that it is best to find comfort in this world because we have no energy to stand for authentic justice, we will want to remember the promise of Scripture.

Night is coming for them, and nightmares,
    for God takes the side of victims.
Do you think you can mess
    with the dreams of the poor?

If we have forgotten that God abides with the the marginalized, we will want to reconnect with our Maker, revisit our relationship with Christ, and renew our lives in the Spirit.

You can’t, for God
    makes their dreams come true.

Is there anyone around to save Israel?
    Yes. God is around; God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
    turned-around Israel sings laughter.

fool-quoteIf we hope to rejoice for an eternity, if we plan to turn mourning into joy, if we live in the promise of salvation, we must turn around and give new voice to the hopes of the poor. We must take a hard look at the shepherds we follow. We must listen to the words we say and watch the actions we take. The psalmist reminds us that we cannot hope to languish in comfort and ignorance while false leaders attack the dreams of the forgotten. The psalmist reminds us that we invite our own nightmares and live dangerously if we mess with the dreams of the poor.

Compare other versions of this psalm and explore its meaning for us today.

 

 

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Deuteronomy 31:12-13: The Aliens Among Us

Saturday, February 25, 2017refugees-have-no-choice

Moses says: Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear [the Law] and learn to honor the Lord your God . . .

God says: Do you notice that I do not ask you to lock the foreigner away from you? Do you understand that I myself am a stranger in a strange land when I walk among you in the person of Jesus? Do you believe that you exclude my Spirit when you build walls and sow hatred? Do you see that it is you who are the alien when you shut yourselves away from others whom I have created?

Our newsfeeds bring stories that can stir both fear and compassion. Our hearts read these verses and nudge us to live in God’s Law of Love. Our spirits weave together as one in God’s great heart.  Moses’ words call us in our own millennium.

 Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns . . .

When we hear the word of the Lord, let us determine to remain open to the aliens among us.

When we read other versions of these verses, we open our hearts to understand the plight of the refugee and alien. Can we predict which cultures or countries take in those who flees oppression? For Figures at a Glance from the UN Refugee Agency that tell the story of who is displaced and who shelters the aliens, visit: http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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