Archive for March, 2018

Mark 16:1-7: Servant Work – Rolling Away the Stone

Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018

We have witnessed the passion of Jesus, we have heard the promise of covenant fulfillment, and we wait in quiet for resurrection. We rest in the consolation of the Spirit, we turn to one another in our disappointment, and we wait in quiet for resurrection. We plan to go to the tomb to anoint the body of the one who brought promise and healing, we ask who will roll away the stone, and we wait in quiet for resurrection.

From the Complete Jewish Bible: When Shabbat was over, Miryam of Magdala, Miryam the mother of Ya‘akov, and Shlomit bought spices in order to go and anoint Yeshua. Very early the next day, just after sunrise, they went to the tomb. They were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” 

A rolling-stone grave in Galilee.

Like the women who tend to routine tasks that keep our days moving forward, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like the men who wait in fear for consequences they cannot control, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like the children who show us the way through darkness, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like the disciples who travel to Emmaus, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like the apostles who return to their nets and boats, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like the servants who know their mission, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like the servants who witness and watch, we wait in quiet for resurrection.

Like all those who follow Christ, we wait in quiet for resurrection and we ask, “Who will roll away the stone?”

Like all those who follow Christ, we wait in quiet for resurrection, we witness to injustice, we pray for our friends and enemies, and we trust that when we arrive at the tomb . . . Jesus himself will have rolled away the stone . . . so that we might step forward as servants in Christ.

Tomorrow, greeted by angels.

Read about the March for Our Lives movement in which the youth of a nation work together to roll away stones once thought unmovable at: https://marchforourlives.com/ 

When we compare other translations of these verses, we open ourselves to the reality that Christ rolls away stones so that his servants might work to build God’s kingdom.

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Isaiah 52-53: Servant Work

James Tissot: Mordecai

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

The second part of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Book of Consolation, contains clear instructions for what to do when we are deeply troubled, for when we believe that we do not fully understand God’s plan, for when we feel abandoned by God. Verse 20 with its imagery of children caught in a net is particularly troublesome; but the image of our enemies drinking from the bowl of wrath that they themselves have brewed, quickly follows. This image reminds us of Haman in the story of Esther. As a successful servant of King Xerxes, Haman displays jealousy of Mordecai, a Jewish man whom Xerxes respects and values. Upset that Mordecai worships the One God, Haman fumes when Mordecai will not bow in homage to him. Haman plots a genocide of the Jews, and he erects a gallows in front of his house so that he may witness Mordecai’s execution. Later we discover that it is Haman and his family who are executed on this gallows.

So when we are fear-filled, we must remember to ask God’s grace, patience, and wisdom, to discern God’s hand in all that happens around us.  We try to follow the example that Jesus has shown us, we abide in the faith that God knows all and keeps promises, and we pray intercessory prayers for those who do us damage.

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.  Even as many were amazed at him – so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals – so shall he startle nations.

James Tissot: The Council the Morning of Good Friday

As faithful servants, we strive not for perfection but for persistence. We cannot expect to live life unscathed, rather, we strive to reach the potential God has placed in us.  The faithful servant wears the scars of existence and lives along the margins of life. This servant does not seek comfort in the physical world, nor does this one stay long in the heady turmoil of power, fame and wealth.  The true servant meets God’s mercy and grace through the pain and suffering of life.  The true servant knows that she finds serenity in God and not in the superficial satisfaction of grudges long held or of worldly battles soundly won.  This is the mystery of Christ, and it is the mystery to which we are called.  We are created to be servants to one another, servants of God.

On this Good Friday, we remember that Mary Magdalene in the cemetery garden and the apostles on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Christ in the early moments of his return . . . so transformed was he . . . so momentous was the transition from one life to the next.

This one who is God himself comes to meet us through the woe of our living.

This one who is God himself comes to meet us through the miseries of our existence.

This one who is God himself graces us with his healing touch.

This one who is God himself knows the intimate detail of our suffering.

This one who is God himself loves us so much that he will go wherever we are . . . sit with us no matter who we are . . . walk with us no matter where we go. This love knows no limit.  This love leads us to joy.

Servant work is difficult.  Servant work is frustrating.  Servant work is humbling.  Servant work is a gift.  Servant work is the only work truly worth doing.  Servant work is the work of Christ.  As servants, we want to Awake, awake and put on our glorious garments of celebration.  We want to shake off the dust, ascend to the throne with Christ where the bonds will be loosed from around our necks.  We come forth, to depart, to set our feet upon the path of our journey with God as our faithful rear guard.  We answer the call we hear . . . for it is the Servant Song, the song of the true, faithful servant.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 14, 2010.

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Exodus 12:1-28: The Servant’s Exodus

Holy Thursday, March 29, 2018

James Tissot: The Waters are Divided

We are familiar with the elements of this story: the birth of Moses, the call from the burning bush, the killing plagues, crossing the Red Sea, wandering in the desert, and finally a glimpse of the Promised Land. This is Moses’ story, it is Jesus’ story, it is the story of the faithful servant, and it is our own.

From DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE 2018 written by Michelle Francl-Donnay. Exodus reminds us we are not to settle into our pews, to watch events unfold like an epic movie in which the hero rises in the very last scene, only to pour back out into the lobby at intermission, tossing our crumpled worship aids into the recycling bins. No, sit on the edge of your seats, and be ready to fly forth with only what you have in hand”. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants, we must be ready for flight.

The Eucharist is fast food, trail food. This is not a private feast, a family dinner to be lingered over, however reverent, and beautiful the liturgy is. This is a public meal, food for those in flight, food for those about to be dispatched on a mission. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

James Tissot: The Last Supper

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants, we must be prepared to receive God’s promise in the person of Jesus.

Tonight we will do as Jesus commanded at the Last Supper. We will wash each other’s feet, to show each other in the presence of the faithful what we have vowed to do. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants, we must go into the world with words and acts of peace.

So now we wrap Christ around us, and kneel before the hungry child, the homeless mother, the refugee whose shoes are worn through, to care tenderly for what the world would trample underfoot. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants – and no matter the sorrow or pain we suffer – we must make our exodus into the world with words and acts of joy.

Wishing each of you Christ’s peace on Maundy Thursday 2018.

Tomorrow, the goodness of Good Friday.

For a reflection on the Exodus story, visit the Exodus page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/exodus-the-story/ 

Francl-Donnay, Michelle. DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2017. 92-93. Print.

Images are from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/moses/3_passover.htm  and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-last-supper-tissot.html 

To better understand the word “maudy,” visit: https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/what-is-maundy-thursday-11628350.html


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Isaiah 50: The Servant’s Help

Holy Wednesday, March 28, 2018

This week we spend time reflecting on how we might best become God’s faithful servant. When we watch Jesus approach his Easter exodus and resurrection, we are encouraged by the joy of his Easter rising, but frightened by his passion and death. We ask . . . are we able followers of Christ today? Do we rest in the Spirit’s healing consolation? How much do we rely on God for help in all matters, large and small?

A Favorite from June 17, 2010.

“Responding to the people’s complaint of utter abandonment by God, the prophet shows that their sins were responsible for their banishment.  Since there was no bill of divorce, the bond between the Lord and his people still exists and he will ultimately save them”.  (Senior 932)  This is good news for each of us!  It is also a call to investigate our relationship with God to ascertain how well we are connected with this life-saving and eternity-giving force.

In verses 4 through 11, the third of four “Servant of the Lord” oracles (932), we read the description of a well-tuned connection with God.  Despite the buffeting and spitting received from one’s enemies or from the mere living out of one’s life each day, the soul rises each morning when God opens the ear for hearing, when God gives words to the well-trained tongue for speaking, and when we trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God.

The Lord my God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced . . . (Isaiah 50:7)

You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay . . . (Psalm 40:17 and 70:5)

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me . . . (Psalm 54:4)

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings . . . (Psalm 63:7)

Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

The word of God among us is Christ . . . who awakens us each morning that we might hear and see what we are to say and do.

These songs comfort us because they remind us of what we know – even if or when we do not want to admit that we know – our only substantial help is in God.  And once we have been helped by God, we are to turn to those who follow behind, and minister to them as God asks.

The Lord my God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced . . .  This is the reason we will want to listen for words to come from the Holy Spirit.  This is the reason we will want to follow Christ.  This is the reason we will want to rest in the hands of the Lord . . . for in this place is our hope, our shelter, our redemption and our salvation.

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I may how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them . . . When we are buffeted and tossed life, rather than think of our own pain, let us listen for how we are to use what we feel.  And let us take shelter in the Lord who is our only salvation. Our only help.

Tomorrow, a familiar story . . . Exodus.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.932. Print.   

Images from: http://www.pinsdaddy.com/the-lord-is-our-help_Xlbxi7XVN8fmQmcnA817233wVH7fwrXplSandwKpg8M/ and https://dlw-walkinfaith.tumblr.com/post/135313176609/isaiah-504-nkjv-the-lord-god-has-given 

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Isaiah 49:1-6: The Servant’s Mission

Holy Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the role of the servant in God’s plan for creation. Today we reflect on the servant’s mission.

I will also make you a light to the nations—
    so that all the world may be saved. (GNT)

When we wonder if our thoughts are one with God’s, we examine the source of our motivations. Do we forgive our enemies? Do we pray for those who harm us? Do we reach out to those who are broken-hearted?

I will give you as a light to the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (NRSV)

When we wonder if our words reflect God’s plan, we examine the foundation of our beliefs. Do we speak up when we see injustice? Do we rebuke ourselves and our loved ones when we go astray? Do we shelter the homeless and feed the hungry?

I will also make you a light to the nations,
so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth. (CJB)

When we wonder if our actions serve to build God’s kingdom, we examine the fruits born from our life’s work. Do we work to break down unjust structures? Do we work with others to ferret out corruption no matter where we find it? Do we work to create societies that give preference to the poor?

I’m setting you up as a light for the nations
    so that my salvation becomes global” (MSG)

When we wonder if we have the faith to persist in our mission, we ask God for strength. When we wonder if we have the hope to believe in God’s promises, we rely on Christ’s encouraging presence. When we wonder if we have the love to work for the transformation of the world, we rest in the Spirit who heals, counsels, and consoles. As we near the Easter Triduum, we move forward to continue the work of our mission as God’s servants.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the strength, confidence and mercy to move forward in our mission as disciples of Christ. 

Images from: http://lutheran-church-regina.com/blogs/post/sermon-january-12th-2014-isaiah-42 and http://www.turnbacktogod.com/pray-for-gods-servants/ 

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Isaiah 42:1-7: My Servant

Holy Monday, March 26, 2018

We enter the holiest of weeks. We reflect on the scriptures that bring us to Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. We enter into this story as best we can to discover how we might become God’s servants.

When we look for intimacy with God, we remember that God chooses us and nurtures a relationship with us.

Here is my servant, whom I support,
my chosen one, in whom I take pleasure.
I have put my Spirit on him;
he will bring justice to the [nations].

When we wonder how we are to behave, we remember that God comes to walk among us to lead us out of the darkness and into the light.

He will not cry or shout;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.

He will bring forth justice according to truth;

he will not weaken or be crushed.

When we think about how we are to proceed, we understand that no matter the obstacle, God is with us. No matter the betrayal, God is for us, and no matter the separation, God unites us.

I, Adonai, called you righteously,
I took hold of you by the hand,
I shaped you and made you a covenant for the people,
to be a light for the [nations],

so that you can open blind eyes,
free the prisoners from confinement,
those living in darkness from the dungeon.

When we reflect on Isaiah’s message on this Holy Monday, we arrive at understanding that we are created in love, created by love, and created for love. When we accept this thinking, we take our first steps as God’s holy servant.

When we compare other translations with the COMPLETE JEWISH BIBLE version, we discover how we might become God’s servants. 

Tomorrow, walking with eyes open.

Click on the image to learn about the doctrine of Jesus as a social justice issue. 

Image from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mica-mcgriggs/doctrine-of-christ_b_8125510.html 

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Isaiah 43Promises of Redemption and Restoration

Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Favorite from February 21, 2008. 

We sing this hymn so often that these words of Isaiah are familiar to us . . . and they are so beautiful.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

Dear God in Heaven, we so many times feel so alone or abandoned.  We think we have done what you have asked, but somehow things just are not working out.  We feel as though we are sinking to the bottom of the sea.

When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.

Dear God on Earth, we so many times know that we are called and, wanting to be good servants, we want to obey but we are frightened or anxious.  We feel as though we are burning alive.

When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.

Dear God who dwells within, we so many times feel so apart from you as we do the work you have asked of us.  We feel isolated and misunderstood.  We want to come home to you.

I give . . . your ransom because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you.

Dear God who made us, we wander here on earth and long for the serenity and beauty of your Holy City on a Hill.  We want to hear you clearly, we want to see you distinctly.  We long to be with you.

I will say to the north; Give them up! and to the south: Hold not back!  Bring back my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth: Everyone who is named as mine, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  Lead out the people who are blind though they have eyes, who are deaf though they have ears.

Dear God who is tender, kind and loving, we are many times afraid to stand when you say stand, to sit when you say sit, to be still when you say be still, to speak when you say speak.  We want to trust.  We want to be authentic.  We want to embody integrity.

Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right, that one may hear and say, “It is true!”  You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I. 

Dear God who is glorious, awesome, and all-knowing, we do not know how to begin, we do not know where to go.

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland rivers.  Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people who I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.

Dear God who walks among us, you have shown us The Way, the Truth and the Light.  We will follow you.  We will enter the desert to meet you . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will sojourn among the jackals and the ostriches . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will walk beside the humble . . . for we know that is where you are.

Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.


Find the hymn “Be Not Afraid” by John Michael Talbot, with video clips from the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI49peWG2d0 

David Haas’ hymn “You Are Mine” is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgm9lkTNQmc 

Image from: https://rickandlindareed.com/2014/12/12/do-not-be-afraid/ 

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Ezekiel 37:21-28: Deliverance and Reunion

Saturday, March 24, 2018

On this day before Palm Sunday, we visit the first reading for today’s liturgy, and we remember. The dry bones brought to life out of the dust of nothingness . . . we remember Israel and Judah reuniting in the metaphor of the two sticks . . . and we remember the promise to us of deliverance and reunion.

Oh my people!  I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord.  I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer Mini-reflection: Because we have been forgiven, we know the way of forgiveness; because we have been healed, we know the way of healing; because we have known God, we know the way of God.  The gifts given to us are gifts for us to give.  This introduces Psalm 86:11-17, and James 2:12-13.  The citations are worth reading.  These are the intercessions.

The Lord commanded us to show to one another the love that he has shown to us.  Let us pray earnestly for the gift of charity made real in our daily lives, saying:  O God, give us your help. 

You have said: do not judge, and you will not be judged – grant us the compassion to seek what is good in others as you have sought what is good in us.  O God, give us your help. 

You have said: do not condemn, and you will not be condemned – grant us the mercy to build up others as you have built us up.  O God, give us your help. 

You have said: pardon and you shall be pardoned – grant us the grace to forgive as you have forgiven us.  O God, give us your help. 

Today we celebrate the life of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan, who was held at Auschwitz and died on this date in 1941 when he took the place of another who was condemned to death.  Kolbe acts on the hope expressed by the image in Ezekiel today, he follows Christ’s request that we refrain from judging and condemning, and he pardons those who enslave and murder their fellow countrymen.  Kolbe knew – and we know – that God promises rebirth, new life, reunion and new life to each of us.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Ezekiel uses a story of desiccated bones and broken pieces of wood to prophesy our future.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.

Let us think of all that troubles and divides us, and hand it over to God.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Let us think of all that breaks us and brings harm, and hand our anger over to God.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Let us think of all that pains us and is sorrowful, and hand the sadness over to God.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Oh my people!  I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord.  I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.  Amen. 

A Favorite from August 14, 2010.

For another reflection on deliverance and reunion on this blog, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/09/01/ezekiel-37-deliverance-and-reunion/

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 14.8 (2010). Print.


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Jeremiah 20:10-13: Whispering 

Friday, March 23, 2018

On this Friday before Palm Sunday, we visit the first reading for today’s liturgy, and we reflect upon the difficulties of life when we believe our friends have betrayed us.

For I hear many whispering:
    “Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
    All my close friends
    are watching for me to stumble.

On this Friday before we re-live Christ’s deep passion for eternal life, and deep love for God’s people, we reflect upon the path that is open to us when we feel terror on every side.

But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
    therefore my persecutors will stumble,
    and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
    for they will not succeed.

On this Friday before we enter into the holiest of weeks, we reflect upon the wonders that God works in our lives . . . and we give thanks.

Sing to the Lord;
    praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
    from the hands of evildoers.

Visit the posts Desire and Terror, and Terror and Wisdom on this blog. https://thenoontimes.com/2012/05/09/desire-and-terror/ and https://thenoontimes.com/2012/03/04/terror-and-wisdom/

Image from: http://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2013/the-hearing-loss-whisper-game/

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