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Archive for December, 2018


Nehemiah 6:1-14A Great Enterprise

Monday, December 31, 2018

Model of the Temple Courtyard

Written on January 2, 2011 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

I am engaged in a great enterprise and am unable to come down; why should the work stop, while I leave it to come down to you?

In this portion of the rebuilding story, Nehemiah knows that Israel’s enemies – Sanballat and Gesham – plot against them, trying to create problems for the Jewish people as they rebuild their city and temple.  They invite the builder to the plain of Ono – about 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem – in a plot to harm him.  If he does not meet with him, they threaten, they will alert the king of Persia that Nehemiah was planning to make himself king.  Nehemiah refuses their “invitation,” turning away outside threats.

We also read about the advice given to Nehemiah by Shemaiah, a prophet who was likely paid by Sanballat and Tobiah to lure the builder into breaking an important law – laypeople were allowed to seek asylum by grasping the horns of the altar in the courtyard, but were not permitted to enter into the temple itself.  Nehemiah fends off this “invitation” and another from the prophetess Noadiah, turning away threats from within.  (Mays 348)

What was it that called these outer and inner enemies to want to overthrow Nehemiah?  As we see in the previous chapter, he has the well-earned reputation of being a man lacking self-interest, he cannot be bought or bribed, and the enterprise he has undertaken is going well.  His work goes well because it is God’s work, and Nehemiah trusts God to see the work finished.  Those who plot Nehemiah’s end do not understand this perhaps because they do not live their lives in this way.  They do not see themselves as stewards of God’s grace . . . for this is the great enterprise in which Nehemiah sees himself engaged.  It is the huge project he will not forsake.

Today we hear a portion of the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians read to us at Mass in which he explains this special stewardship with which each of us is charged: to share our talents – whatever they may be – with all, in order that we participate fully in God’s plan.  Whether we know or believe this does not matter, we still carry this gift within, and we are meant to share it as Nehemiah shares: utterly, totally, and always.  We are accountable for our own participation in the great enterprise. 

Robert Morneau writes in today’s meditation and then poses questions in DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2010-2011: Everyone is given the privilege and duty of being a steward of God’s grace . . . This stewardship, this receiving, nurturing, and sharing of God’s love and life, is a way of life and involves serious accountability . . . In what way are you called to be a steward of God’s grace?  What is your unique gift?  Do you have a sanctified vision of God’s plan of salvation?

William Brassey: Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem

Nehemiah will not be drawn away from what he sees to be the work that God has laid in his hands.  He is confident of God’s call in his life, and the firmness of this belief is seen in the focus he gives to this work.  He allows no influence – either from within his community or from outside it – to diminish his determination.  In this way, he takes up the gift and privilege of serving God.  In this way, he engages in the greatest enterprise any of us will ever know . . . the work of God’s incomprehensible yet breathtaking plan for our salvation.


A re-post from November 28, 2011. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 348. Print.

Morneau, Robert F. DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2010-2011. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2010

Images from: http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/files/OT_history/unit4/Unit4b_exile.htm and http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/J_Transp/J01_JudaismIntro.html 

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1 Corinthians 11Imitators of Christ

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Written on January 29 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Vermeer: Christ in the house of Martha and Mary

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.  Ephesians 5:1-2

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model in Macedonia and in Achaia . . . For you became imitators in God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: you suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered.  1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2:14

This portion of 1 Corinthians deals with problems in liturgical assembles; the church Paul established in Corinth was experiencing difficulties in maintaining the customs instituted by the apostle and so he writes to counsel them.  He encourages them to remember who they are and all that God has given them; he asks them to serve as good models of Christian living – even though he, Paul, is not with them.  He asks that they call upon their faith in Christ’s promise to be with them always in the offering of bread and wine.  He asks that they put aside the corrupt ways they have allowed the creep into their spiritual practices.

Samaritan Woman

Some of what we read is troublesome when we look on these words from our place in the twenty-first century.  Commentary tells us that Paul’s attitude toward women was in concert with the thinking of that day.  Fundamentalists take these words literally and diminish women to a status below men.  Most scholars today aver that if Paul were living in our world he would give women equal status with men.  But rather than focus on some of Paul’s words here, what we can focus on is the way Christ himself treated women, beginning with his own mother, and the sisters of his friend Lazarus, Mary and Martha.  It is clear from the Gospel stories that the Samaritan Woman in John 4, the woman with the hemorrhage in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8, the Canaanite/Syrophonecian woman in Matthew 15, and Mark 7, the woman crippled by a spirit for thirteen years in Luke 13, the woman caught in adultery in John 8 are all important to Jesus.  He uses women in his parables in Matthew 13, for example – The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough and in Luke 15 with the woman and the lost coin.  There are other instances but these few serve to show the respect with which Christ treated women and this is what we are called to model.

Bernardino Luini: Mary Magdalene

As Paul writes to the Corinthians – and to us today – about how we misuse and even abuse the gift of presence God gives to us each day either through the Eucharist or in any other form, we might remind ourselves that while we strive to imitate Christ perfectly we will miss the mark frequently.  And as we read through the many stories we have about Jesus, we find one thing in common: Jesus loves us all, greatly and deeply.  This is what Paul calls us to imitate.  This is what we can strive to be and do.  This is the person we can follow no matter our circumstance, gender, or status.  This is all that God asks of us.  This and nothing more.


A re-post from November 27, 2011.

Images from: http://thesisterproject.com/sisterpedia/fiction-as-a-cure-for-sister-rifts-throwing-the-book-at-bad-behavior/ http://www.haverford.edu/relg/faculty/amcguire/marymimages.htm 

http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2011/03/the-samaritan-woman-loneliness.html 

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Colossians 1:1-14: Continued Progress

Saturday, December 29, 2018

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you . . .

In all of our anxiety we may forget to pray for one another . . . and we may forget that others pray for us.  Let us remember and give thanks for the prayer that binds us all in Christ. For wherever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20)

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones . . .

In all of our activity we may forget that faith in Christ Jesus has the power to transform . . . and the power to save.  Let us remember and give thanks for the gift of faith we share.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from there and it will move.   Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing so also is it among you . . .

In all of our frustration we may forget that despite the negative news and dire predictions Christ Jesus grows in us . . . and Christ Jesus strengthens us as we grow among the weeds. When the servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds the enemy has planted among the wheat?” he answered, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into the barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Egypt: A woman carries wheat

Paul knows how difficult it is to remain faithful to the Gospel and so he offers the Colossians – and us today – a Prayer of Thanksgiving for Continued Progress . . .

We ask that you be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . .

We wish you to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God . . .  

We ask that you be strengthened with every power, in accord with God’s glorious might . . .

We wish for you all endurance and patience . . .

With joy we give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. 

God delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Let us give thanks for God’s gift of fidelity, faith.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of endurance, patience.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of great strength, deliverance from the darkness and the weeds.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of our inheritance, God’s light that gathers us into the barn.

Let us give thanks for the holy ones in heaven. 

Let us give thanks for the prayer we both offer and receive. 

Let us give thanks for our continued progress in God’s love. 

At this harvest time of year, let us give thanks . . . Amen.

Glendening:Surrey Cornfield


A re-post from November 26, 2011.

Images from: http://www.faithandworship.com/Harvest_Thanksgiving_Resources_and_Prayers.htm and http://inhisfathershouse.wordpress.com/category/getting-real-not-religious/page/2/ and http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/category/egypt-ancient/page/2/ 

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Exodus 36-38The Altar of Our Lives

Friday, December 28, 2018

At this harvest time of year when we gather to give thanks for all that we are and all that we have, let us consider our thoughts, words,and deeds in light of the Hebrews’ desert experience and in gratitude for the fulfillment of God’s best hope in us.

Written on November 16, 2008 and posted today as Favorite . . .

The Israelites were faithful to Yahweh in constructing a residence for their one true God, and this one God Yahweh – who tolerated no other gods before him – was faithful in accompanying his people to guide and protect them.  Today’s reading describes the detail the Israelites followed in order to provide the appropriate altars, veil, table, ark and lampstand.  The chapters preceding these describe the collection of materials and artisans.  The chapters following these describe the vestments, and dwelling . . . and how Yahweh settles into his home on earth among the human race.

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

In the New Testament story, Jesus comes to earth to be the new high priest . . . and to construct a new temple in place of the former one.  He also calls his artisans and gathers his materials . . . his original apostles and disciples . . . and all those apostles and disciples who have heard his story . . . and who have acted in faith to join this story.  He also settles into his home on earth . . . in the hearts, bodies and minds of all those who follow him today and all days.

In Acts we read about the coming of the Holy Spirit settling upon the original apostles in flames of fire.  The Spirit still settles upon and in those who join with Christ in his mystical body to become living stones in the new living temple of Yahweh.

The Hermitage of San Girolamo, Italy

We are creatures seeking the God who created us, the God who walks with us, the God who abides with us.  We are formed for worship and for joy.  Each day at our rising, each noon at our pausing, each night at our entering into the world of dreams and sleep we have a new opportunity to refurbish our temple . . . to keep it always a pleasing place of adoration . . . a place where our souls sing in communion with others who wish to walk and live in this liminal space of love and peace, mystery and serenity.

What does our God require of us?  This is no mystery.  He does not require holocausts or sacrifice.  He does not require incense morning, noon and night.  But this is what he requires: that we do what is right, love goodness, and walk humbly with our God.  (Micah 6:8

Let us offer our sacrifices of fear, anxiety, pain and anger on the altar of our lives.  Let us do what is right; let us love goodness; and let us walk humbly as we work at the building of God’s temple with the surrender of our lives.

John Pettie (1884):Fixing the Site of an Early Christian Altar


A re-post from November 25, 2011.

Images from: http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/73395/fixingthesiteofanearlychristianaltar1884 and http://taniarubimenglish.blogspot.com/2011/02/bible-trivia-furniture-of-tabernacle.html and http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/cucco711.jpg

A good website for information concerning the Hebrew temple furnishings.  http://taniarubimenglish.blogspot.com/2011/02/bible-trivia-furniture-of-tabernacle.html

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Wisdom 15:1-6God’s Wrath

Thursday, December 27, 2018

But you, our God, are good and true, slow to anger, and governing with all mercy.

It is easy to believe that God is full of wrath when we read the Old Testament; the New Testament tells us that this is not so.   Yesterday’s Mass and MAGNIFICAT readings and prayers all tell us that we have much to be grateful for in God.  They tell us that we have much to be happy about with God.  They tell us that we have much to love through God.

God is our constant shepherd – even when we do not feel God’s presence, God is with us.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp, now moved and went around behind them. (Exodus 14:19)

The angel of the Lord . . . stood between the fleeing Israelites and their Egyptian pursuers during the exodus, and hid them from sight.  God goes with us, guards us and guides us today with the same protective love. 

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher.  While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right and to the left.  (Isaiah 30:20-21)

Yesterday’s first reading was from Daniel 5 in which King Belshazzar asks advice of Daniel, the Jewish exile in whom the spirit of God rests.  Daniel interprets “the writing on the wall” and brings God’s wisdom to those who would worship idols rather than the living God.

Yesterday’s Gospel from Luke 21:12-19: Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.  Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to refute.  You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  You will b heated because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

We may find all of this frightening . . . yet this is the work of Christ’s disciples.

We may find all of this exhausting . . . yet we draw strength from Christ.

We may find all of this overwhelming . . . yet we as disciples persist through Christ.

If we find all of this too confusing and too difficult, we will want to remember that Christ is God among us who comes to live as one of us . . . who brings us wisdom and strength.

If we find all of this too baffling and too crushing, we will want to remember that our perfection lies in our persistence . . . and that this is all that God asks of us.

If we find that all of this causes anger to rise within, we will want to remember that what we see as God’s wrath is God’s love.

And so we pray . . .

Dear God, From time to time our sight is blurred and our hearing dimmed and we must retreat for a time to take a journey inward, to ask your counsel, and to seek your wisdom.  Bring us your comfort and strength.  Set us on the right path.  Teach us to put aside our anger and our ridiculous idols.  Teach us to listen for you.  Teach us to trust in you alone.  Call us home to you.  Amen.


A re-blog from November 24, 2011.

Image from: http://cldefelice.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html

If we come to this hectic holiday season with too much anger, we may want to take a journey inward to examine who we are and how we behave.  To take a journey in which we examine our own use of anger go to the Journey of Transformation page on this blog. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 23.11 (2011): 317-318. Print.  

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1 Maccabees 11Alliance and War

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jonathan Maccabeus

Ptolemy VI, Demetrius, Alexander and Trypho – we watch these rulers exchange lies as easily as they shake hands.  Nothing and no one stand for what they say they do; the world into which we step with this Noontime is one of deceit and triple-speak.  It is a world that may seem familiar to us.

In this portion of the Maccabees story, Jonathan knows that his tiny kingdom is a simple pawn in the chessboard of the region yet he persists in his struggle to retain and hold secure the sacred city of Jerusalem and some districts of the former kingdom.  He seems to achieve and hold his goal . . . at least for a while.

Alliance and war, promise and conflict, peace and confrontation – these larger battles are reflections of the personal battles we wage each day.  The Euro-zone struggles, personal freedom is or is not guaranteed in Egypt, the debt crisis in the U.S. causes financial markets to totter; corruption in political and financial arenas is blamed for personal, national and global failure and depression.  News headlines today read much like this Maccabees accounting.  What has changed?

We like to think that humanity makes progress and our inventions might give us the impression that we do.  We communicate with one another across the globe in an instant; but do we hear one another any better?  We cure diseases that previously devastated entire nations; but do we cure the disease of greed and alienation?  We have world-wide conferences that give the appearance of ecumenism and openness; but do we tend to the soul any better than we did two thousand years ago?

Amid the hurley burley of human activity there is only one place to go when headlines distress us or when family and friends become prickly or insensitive.  The last verse of the chapter tells us where to go and what to do . . . Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem. High Priest-Warrior who follows in the footsteps of his slain brother Judas, Jonathan makes it clear where his center lies . . . he returns to Jerusalem.  Steadfast diplomat who manages to maneuver the tricks and fall backs of his opponents, Jonathan refuses shady deals and shaky terms to make clear where he focuses his energy . . . he returns to Jerusalem Through alliance and war, despite political setback and personal failure, Jonathan Maccabeus shoots like an arrow straight and true.  He homes toward the epicenter of his faith and hope . . . he returns to Jerusalem. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, abide with us as we worry our way through our days.  Keep us true to you as we avoid the temptation to give in to a false and passing alliance that brings nothing but death.  Teach us how to remain in touch with you when the clamor of the day and the fear of the night dull our senses and attacks our resolve.  Speak to us loudly and clearly when the road signs that point toward you have been washed away by slick talk and deceitful hands.  Pull us to you and hold us close when our inner turmoil and fear erode our confidence and hope. Keep us ever mindful of your care and love . . . and remind us that when the stricture of alliance clouds our vision or when the fog of war numbs our good judgment . . . we have only to cry out to you and ask that you return us to the safety of Jerusalem.  For it is there that we find eternal rest and boundless peace in you.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 23, 2011.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Apphus

For more information on Jonathan Maccabeus you might try these sites:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/353845/Jonathan-Maccabeus

 http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hasmoneans/

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2 Chronicles 26Pride and Fall

Tuesday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2018

On the day we celebrate the humble entry of the Christ in a world yearning for healing, we remember the re-post from November 22, 2011. We remember the lesson of  pride that Uzziah teaches us.

Rembrandt: King Uzziah

My mother warned us often: Pride goeth before a fall; she was likely referring to Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.   Today we are presented with a detailed story of how Uzziah takes so much that God has given to him – wealth, power and fame – and quickly loses it: But after he had become strong, he became proud of his own destruction and broke faith with the Lord, his God.  Was it the flocks and vineyards he owned, the soldiers he commanded or the city fortifications he built that fogged his vision?  We will never know what urged him to take over the office of the temple priest, but we do know his fate: leprosy broke out on his forehead . . . [and the priests] expelled him from the temple.  He fled unwillingly, for the Lord had afflicted him. King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He lived in exile, in a segregated house, excluded from the Lord.  We can imagine how difficult it must have been for Uzziah to process what had happened to him; and we can appreciate how difficult it must have been for him to deal with his heavy loss: a man who has all suddenly is separated from all that makes him powerful, rich and famous.

David: The Coronation of Napoleon

I remember an historical novel my Mother gave me to read; it was by Annemarie Selinko and was later made into the film Désirée.  It is the intriguing and convoluted story of Napoleon Bonaparte told from the point of view of a young woman he met, wooed and left behind.  It was valuable to me as a young girl and it is valuable to me today as I recall its latent message of pride going before a fall, and I also recall a conversation I had with Mother about humility and gratitude being the antidotes that will inoculate us against the insidious, deadly workings of pride.

Pride can make us ugly.  It can warp and distort our vision and hearing.  It makes us the people we have pledged to never be.  Gratitude puts us in proper relationship with self, God and others.  It reminds us gently that we are not the alpha and omega.  It whispers to us quietly that we have much to learn and that we cannot foresee or control the future.  Humility reminds us to take the last seat at the table rather than the first.  It gives us time to think, restrains us from making fools of ourselves and saves us from impulsivity.  Together, gratitude and humility can steer us away from the fall of pride but ultimately we must be the ones who save ourselves from the hubris that stalks any successful man or woman.

Napoleon crowns himself king, I learned in high school, and when I saw the painting by David in our textbook I remembered the story of the young girl who found out that the disaster of her inconstant suitor was salvation in disguise.  Uzziah is king and enters the temple to act as a priest and make an offering on the altar.  These are stories worth remembering.  They are lessons worth learning.  As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us call upon the twin angels of gratitude and humility . . . and keep them close at hand.


More details about Uzziah can be found at the following sites: http://www.christianlibrary.org/authors/John_L_Kachelman_Jr/kings-ot/uzziah.html and http://bibleencyclopedia.com/uzziah.htm

Images from: http://badgercatholic.blogspot.com/2011/05/mary-help-of-christians-ora-pro-nobis.html and http://biblicalgenealogy.kavonrueter.com/Pictures-Ozias.htm

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Matthew 17:24-27The Temple Tax

Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24, 2018

Today we celebrate the coming of the One who teaches us how to pay the Temple tax, how to live in this world while not being part of it. 

L.L.Effler: Paying the Temple Tax

When we throw ourselves into understanding and living the Gospel we run the risk of becoming fanatic about its meaning and implications.  Ultimately, God speaks to each of us in our hearts to answer questions and to clear up ambiguities.  In due course, God makes the meaning of his Word known . . . and it is for each of us to learn how to best live out this Word.

The story of Jesus paying the temple tax with a coin found in a fish is one that appears simple but is, in fact, complex.  It calls us to examine our relationship with the society’s civil and religious structures.  It asks us to evaluate our own concept of personal freedom.

 “The point [here] is not that Jesus rejects the temple cult.  He rather rejects the idea that theocratic taxation is the appropriate means of maintaining that cult.  But with the miracle – not actually narrated – of the coin in the fish (which sounds like a piece of folklore), Jesus makes arrangements for payment.  He thereby avoids offending the devout people who, in collecting the money, think themselves to be serving God.  Personal freedom must be delimited because it must be frequently exercised, which means it must take into account the effect upon others (cf. 1 Cor. 8:13).  At the same time, by not giving his own money but by giving a lost coin, Jesus does not acknowledge the legitimacy of a mandatory tax”.  (Barton and Muddiman 866)

As a youngster I was fascinated by the idea that my personal liberty ends where others’ liberty begins.  I remember the animated discussions my middle school teachers sparked with their blanket statements; these generalities were blatant syllogisms of reason used poorly and we young people responded enthusiastically.  We honed our systems of well-ordered logic and practiced the art of zeroing in a specious argument with respect and courtesy.

As a young woman the realities of life asked me to draw lines and determine boundaries; and I began to learn how to effectively and politely use the phrase that is not my problem while still taking responsibility for my actions.  It was a time of separation from the old with an exciting entrance into to new.  I tried to fully comprehend my Dad’s warning that it’s not so bad to be ignorant of the facts but it is unforgivable to be stupid!  Dad encouraged us to learn as much as possible in order to keep our risk of being ignorant low; and he was clear that there was no excuse for a lack of common sense.  Stupidity, in his view, was a willful neglecting of the facts that blocked our own liberty or the liberty of others.  Dad worked hard at being open and he encouraged that openness in us.

In today’s Noontime Jesus teaches by his example.  As happens so many times in the Gospel accounts Jesus lays open reality for us to examine.  He gives us an opportunity to educate ourselves.  He encourages us to hone our sense of fair play.  He asks us to think about others while at the same time we refine our sense of fair play and propriety.  Jesus asks us to think for ourselves, to use divine logic and in brief . . . Jesus asks us to grow up.

It is clear from his actions and words that Jesus places prime importance on taking care of others even to the point of sacrifice.  But it is also clear that we are responsible for observing spiritual and actual parameters.  We are not encouraged to enable or pretend but rather, we are asked to serve others before self, act in kindness, hold true to the commandment of love we have been given, and to exercise our own freedom while not trampling of the right of others to likewise be free.

Many of us have difficulty with this lesson and yet once learned it is not forgotten because the sweet joy of personal liberty has a value beyond price.  The boundary between self and others is clearly delineated by courtesy and kindness.  The rule of generosity and compassion pertains to each and to all of us.  The temple tax is to be paid out of respect for others . . . but the legitimacy of our own relationship with God is never to be forfeited.


A re-post from November 21, 2011.

Image from: http://www.revelationart.org/Gallery1.html

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001.866. Print.

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Job 10The Shining in the Dusk

Sunday, December 23, 2018

In the opening of this chapter, Job’s frustration is evident with the lack of answers from God for the fundamental question concerning his guilt or innocence. He is in the darkest yet brightest of places . . . he is in that luminal space between day and night, heaven and earth, joy and sorrow, well-being and pain.  He stands at the moment of a new creation . . . In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.  God saw how good the light was.  God then separated the dark from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4Job yearns for God to separate him from the darkness that has descended upon him; Job wants to know if he is innocent or guilty.  Job wants to know why he is suffering so deeply.

Job sees a darkness yawning before him and does not know why he stands on this threshold.  “Discouraged, worn down by pain and by the assaults of friends and deity alike, [Job] closes his part of this cycle of speeches (v. 18) by returning to the theme of his beginning: ‘Why did you bring me out of the womb?’ In chap. 3 he thought it would be better to be dead, and in 7:16, 19 he proposed to be left alone.  He ends with a figure of the darkness to which we will go, ‘deep shadow, all disordered, which shines like dusk’ (10:22).  It is the mirror image of his beginning in 3:4: ‘That day, let there be darkness.’  But Job has come to a different point.  Then being alive was too terrible; now he wants to be dead because his structure of assumption has fallen apart.  Divine power is not correlated with divine justice, and, though he deserves the latter, he is subjected to the assaults of the former”.  (Mays 375)

We watch Job struggle and we are fascinated because we see our own flailing against pain in this story.  We see that he stands on the verge of complete exhaustion and decomposition.  We hear that he looks for an end to his existence. Job demands answers of God as night threatens, and as he sinks into deep despair he runs the risk of missing the luminosity of this moment between worlds. As the shadowy dusk approaches we suddenly see the smallest glint of light in the gathering darkness and we sense something here . . . Job stands not on the edge of destruction but rather on the brink of an incredible new beginning.  There is a shinning in the dusk that harbingers a new and indecipherable rebirth rather than a horrible and ignoble end.

Job’s suffering will end and he will experience God’s goodness in a way he had not imagined; but today we see him on a precipice of cataclysm, stunned by a belief that God’s power does not appear to be accompanied by mercy.  Job will struggle with the misguided advice from his companions; he will persist in searching for answers to his questions.  A new dawn will burst upon him instead of the nighttime he fears.  We know that Job will come to find that the bottomless well of nothing over which he is poised to fall is in fact a bottomless well of safety . . . surety . . . and limitless love.  This is the liminal space in which Job finds himself today.  It is a space that we too may sometime occupy.

With God, even the night sky holds a starry luminosity that guides us back to the light of day.  In God, all harm turns toward good, all disaster becomes rescue. Through God there is a shinning in the impending dusk because God separates the darkness from the light . . . and sees that it is good.

So let us remember and pray . . .

When we stand on the brink of disaster, let us close our eyes, fold our arms across our lungs that gasp for air, and allow ourselves to sink into the shining darkness of God’s arms.  And let us allow God to bring us out of the abyss into the eternal light of God’s love.  Amen.


Also see the “Falling Down the Well” page on this blog.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 375. Print.

A re-post from November 20, 2011.

Images from: http://reflectivedust.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html and http://deadpoet88.wordpress.com/category/love/

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