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Archive for February, 2020


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hosea 5:1-15: Affliction

Hear this, O priests, pay attention, O house of Israel . . . 

This is a sad picture – a people turned away from God in such a way that they have eliminated any possibility of return.  In today’s Noontime, the leaders in particular are held to judgment since they have been given the gift of office – yet they abuse it.  The priests celebrate their own harlotry.  Arrogance bears witness against itself.  There is political upheaval and insincere conversion.  All appears to be lost.

O household of the king, give ear . . . 

Hosea predicts an all-consuming whirlwind later in his prophecy, a coming storm that the prophet Ezekiel also predicts.  It is fascinating that no matter how much we are warned of our own coming fall, and no matter how much we learn about ourselves, we continue to walk toward and even tumble over the precipice that is clearly labeled with warnings.  There is something about us that wants to self-destruct.

And yet there is more to this story. We are graced to be New Testament people who know that God forgives us when we return to God’s call – even when this turning comes at the last moment. And so we look for salvation from our affliction. Do we know that what we truly seek is our own transformation? And do we know that we hold the key to this redemption and rebirth within?

As we move through our Lenten journey, we are called to return to God. Called to turn back to a time when we accepted God’s love with childlike glee. With this turning, we find an openness to change and possibility for healing from our own afflictions. We find a newness of change in Christ.

So although our leaders may have fallen into deep affliction, we need not follow. God’s persistent love – if only we open ourselves to its healing power – brings with it an invitation to wisdom, an offer of grace, a measure of humility, a taste of fidelity and strength, and the enduring gift of un-imagined freedom. Today we ask that God’s persistent love convert our deep affliction to the abiding hope and love that Hosea foretells.


Adapted from a Favorite written on September 8, 2010.

To find prayers for those who suffer during the Easter season, click on the image above or visit: https://newtonpresbytery.org/2019/04/25/prayers-for-those-suffering-in-this-season-of-easter/ 

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Hosea 2: Expectation

loaves[1]What does God expect of us?

Where is God?

How can God expect so much from us?

Why does God allow us to feel so alone/exasperated/angry/sad?

If we hear ourselves asking these questions endlessly with no hope of understanding, we may need to turn these questions on their heads and think of them in their inverted state.

What do we expect of God?

Where have we put God in our lives?

Why do we expect so little from God?

Why do we turn away from God when we are alone/exasperated/angry/sad?

We spend time today in our Lenten journey with Chapter 2 of Hosea’s prophecy in which the prophet’s unfaithful wife, Gomer, is described.  Metaphorically, this wife is each one of us when we reject the conditions in which we find ourselves.  As difficult as our problems may be, they are our lesson plans in life, our stepping stones to self-discovery and to serenity.  Once we learn to turn everything over to God, the sorrow and anger slip away.  And we suddenly find that we are more at peace with the circumstances that surround us.

In John’s Gospel story of the feeding of thousands (6:1-15) we see that Jesus asks the disciples how they want to feed so many – John writes: He said this to test them.  This does not mean that Jesus wants to throw his friends into turmoil; it means that Jesus wants to see how they hope to solve the problem before them.  Do they resort to themselves, or do they rely on God in any way?

We must remember to ask for miracles, because God wants to grant them.

We must remember to take our woes to God, because God welcomes them and erases them.

We must remember to leave our sadness in God’s hands, because he heals all mourning with his deep and abiding love.

Hosea laments his unfaithful wife.  God misses us when we leave him behind.  Why do we try to solve everything on our own?  And why do we expect so little from God?


Image from: http://ymiblogging.org/2011/06/the-little-boy-and-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand/

Tomorrow: Our Search for Happiness.

Written on May 6, 2011. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Hosea 1: The Covenant Path

path[1]I will save them by the Lord, their God; but I will not save them by war, by sword or bow, by horses or horsemen.

I am always struck by the deep sadness which permeates this prophecy and also by the intense loyalty which the prophet shows his harlot wife, Gomer.  This is the same fidelity which God demonstrates to us, the same constancy to which we are all called, the same covenant we have entered into with Our God.

. . . for you are my people and I will be your God.

The good news about this prophecy is that we are told again that no matter how often or how far we stray, we may return.  The tough part is that we must leave everything we have in order to follow this loyal, constant, ardent spouse.  In Luke 5:1-11 we hear the familiar story we have heard so often – Jesus calls Simon Peter and his partners James and John, sons of Zebedee, to follow him.  “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”.  When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.  Jesus worked a miracle for these men – when they did as he told them, they suddenly hauled in a huge catch where previously there had been nothing.  They recognized his divinity, left the things of this world and followed.  Jesus works miracles for us constantly yet for the most part we are unwilling to leave all and follow.  Do we act with constancy?  Do we maintain our covenant promise or do we return to the straying path which seems so much easier and so much more fun to follow?

Hosea forgives Gomer countless times.  Yet he maintains fidelity in the face of scandal and shame.  He demonstrates fidelity to her through great cost to himself.  He forgives.  We too, are forgiven.  We too, might forgive.  We too, are called.  We too, might follow.

We are asked to be faithful to our God and to God’s call, to the promise of fulfillment placed in us at our birth.

We are asked to follow the path less traveled, the road on which Christ accompanies us, the road with Christ as it destination.

We are asked to respond to the Spirit within, despite our inconstancy, our blundering and our misunderstanding.

We are asked to put all blaming and name-calling aside and we are asked to follow the covenant path of promise . . . for it is the only true path worth walking.  It is the only path that can save.  It is the only path that binds us in covenant love.


Image from: http://calebcompany.org/2012/09/gods-path-to-success/

First written on September 4, 2008. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hosea: Love


Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2013

Hosea: Love

3[1]Lent calls us to examine who we are and what we do.  Lent asks us to step forward in willing vulnerability to God.  Lent uses unusual images to help us see truths so basic that they are easily overlooked.  With the story of Hosea and Gomer we are given the opportunity to reflect on the beauty and integrity of God’s love.

This prophecy was written by a man married to a woman who found it impossible to remain faithful.  When we read these verses with care we also examine the distance that exists between the two people in this relationship and the distance we maintain in our relationship with God.  We have the opportunity to question whether we are determined to keep God at arm’s length . . . or whether we want to invite God into the most interior part of ourselves.  We consider who, and what, and how, and why we love, or if we even love at all.

As we examine the quirks of the relationship between Gomer and Hosea we might also examine our relationships with others – are we the inconstant wife, Gomer, in all we say and do – or are we more like the sorrowful prophet, Hosea, lamenting loss yet insisting on hoping for the fulfillment of promises made?

From La Biblia de América: The unhappy marital experience of Hosea, who remains faithful to Gomer despite everything he knows about her, serves as the context for an extraordinary deepening of the people’s relationship with God through the perspective of love’s stormy psychology.

Each of us has experienced love in some form or another: filial, parental, sibling, conjugal, familial, spiritual, and even collegial and civil.  Love manifests itself in many contexts from sexual and intimate to public and patriotic.  We express love of people, love of things, and love of ideas and concepts.  We also express love of God.

Reading the words of Hosea gives us the opportunity to experience a hope which is laced with sadness.  Listening to Hosea’s lament that weaves sorrow and joy into an intricate pattern of sharp edges and smooth surfaces, we perceive the bittersweet image of deep misery interwoven with soaring expectation.

Allowing the words of this prophecy to sink into our being, we might move closer to perceiving the amazing generosity with which God pardons the people who consistently betray him.  Hosea describes his unrequited love in such a piercing way that we cannot avoid its impact; yet he remains open to the possibility that not only may Gomer return . . . but that she will love him as he loves her.

When I imagine myself in God’s unrequited place, continuing to call as Hosea does, I begin to feel the depth . . . and height . . . and breadth of God’s love.  We are well and truly loved.  Let us spend some time with Hosea today to experience this kind of constancy and steadfastness.  This is not a love which allows itself to be abused; rather, it is a love which loves so much that it risks rebuking the abuse, it risks revealing its vulnerable self, it risks all for sake of the conversion of the beloved.

This is truly an immense and wondrous love.  Let us consider today if we will reject or accept this love.


Tomorrow . . . Hosea and Covenant Love

To better understand Gomer and Hosea and this prophecy, visit the Hosea – Alliances page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/hosea-alliances/

For more on Gomer and Hosea, click on the image above or go to: http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2011/08/gomer-and-lo-ruhamah.html or go to http://bible.org/seriespage/hosea

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

First written on Wednesday, May 27, 2009.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020: Sirach 8 & 9Part III

A Prayer for Friends and Friendship

friendship013[1]The wisdom of Proverbs and Sirach may be dismissed as childish or old-fashioned, but this week we have seen the depth and breadth of their astuteness and their keen understanding of human nature.  Today we see these verses as a welcome counterpoint to the material world and its headlong rush to acquire all that is new; we strive to keep all things in balance: Spurn not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint yourself with their proverbs; from them you will acquire the training to serve you in the presence of princes.  Reject not the wisdom of the old ones which they have learned from their elders; from it you will obtain the knowledge how to answer in time of need. (Sirach 8:8-9)

In our modern age of hyper-communication we might draw into ourselves in fear as we hear constant news of conflict and violence.  We may be tempted to look at all that is wrong and forget to look for all that is right with the world.  Anxiety may outweigh optimism.  Fear may trump trust.  Self-protection and avoidance of vulnerability may outweigh our courage to enter into friendship with sincerity and integrity.  If this is so, and if the familiar stories in scripture do not inspire us, we will want to return to the wisdom captured by Jesus ben Sirach, for he has much to offer us.

And so we pray in gratefulness for our true friends and in thanksgiving for the presence of Christ in our lives . . .

Good and gracious God, I thank you for the true friendship you have shared with me in the person of my friends.  Keep me ever aware of their value.  Remind me to thank them often.  Guide me in returning their nurturing care of my humanity.  Help me to recognize their divinity, just as these true friends affirm my divinity when I reflect you to them.  Thank you for adopting me as your daughter.  Remind me often that I am a citizen of the next world rather than one of this.  Give me the patience to wait while the wine of relationships ages.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the friendship of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Let us give thanks today for the gift of friendship.


Image from: http://www.cherrybam.com/friendship-quotes.php

For more wisdom from this text, type the “Sirach” into the blog search box and choose a reflection.   

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Monday, February 24, 2013: Sirach 8 & 9Part II

The Measure of Friends

af-grain-pouring-mali[1]Today’s Gospel is Luke’s description of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28b-36) and each time we come across these verses we are given the opportunity to again think about the concept of friendship: what it means to us, how we live out friendship with others, and what qualities we hope to find in friends.  So often in the New Testament stories we watch Jesus interact with those closest to him and we always find Jesus giving more than words or gestures to his friends; he brings more than The Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). He brings himself; he gives his full and total self.  And the marvel of Jesus is that he continues to be present to each of us today . . . even when we do not number him as one of our friends.  In his love for us, Jesus reminds us of the important of giving even when we anticipate receiving nothing in return for the measure with which we measure will be measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38, Mark 4:24, Matthew 7:2).  Jesus spares nothing in his great love for his friends.  We must spare nothing as well.  Sirach has words that help us to nurture friendship, and to gain the wisdom that helps us to be a good friend to others.

Sirach cautions us to stay away from the powerful.

Know that you are stepping among snares and walking over a net.

Sirach tells us that we ought not to worry about a “sinner’s fame” or a “proud man’s success”.

You know not what disaster awaits him . . . he will not reach death unpunished.

Sirach suggests that we measure our neighbors in order to associate with the wise and learned.

Let your conversations be about the law of the Lord.

Sirach reminds us of the intimacy of a shared meal.

Have the just for your table companions.

Sirach says to us what we know to be true about new friendship.

A new friend is like new wine which you drink with pleasure only when it has aged.

And Sirach tells us that time and patience are important between friends if the relationship is to have value.

Discard not an old friend, for the new one cannot equal him.

When we feel ourselves caught by the allure of control, when we feel trapped by the deception of an associate, when we realize that a colleague has been manipulative . . . we know that it is time to take measure.  Not of the other, but of ourselves.  Are we willing to witness to truth?  Are we willing to break silence about a long-held lie?  Where do we find comfort . . . in the solace of associates who stroke my wounded self . . . or in the integrity of a relationship where we are lovingly corrected?  And in turn, are we willing to become a wounded healer?  Are we willing to be a true friend?


Tomorrow, a prayer for Friends and Friendship.

Image from: http://www.iexplore.com/experiences/culinary/gallery

The other Transfiguration stories appear in Matthew 17:1-8 and Mark 9:2-8.

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Saturday, February 23, 2020

Sirach 8 & 9Part I

Staying Within our Means

article-new_ehow_images_a05_rc_gs_seed-money-inventors-800x800[1]We have been visiting with the Book of Sirach all week.  Today and tomorrow we will want to spend time with Chapters 8 and 9 and think about how we spend our fiscal, physical and spiritual cash.  We will want to ask ourselves if and how and even why we will want to stay within our means.

Many hurdles in life are too big for us to handle.  We live in a society that tells us that we can do anything once we put our minds to it; but this is not true.  We must recognize the limits with which we are born, assess our strengths, find our best talents and gifts, and use them well.  This is also true of our spirituality.  We are each endowed with a God-center in our brains which scientists have seen activated in meditating monks and nuns with brain scans.  And each of these God-centers is likely to be as different as our physical being.  It follows, then, that some of us feel more keenly the desire to seek God than others.  I am guessing that some may not feel this desire at all . . . and these are people whom only God can reach.  It is for these wounded souls that I pray each day.

Sirach urges us to steer clear of the quickly angry, the powerful, influential and rich.  Kindle not the coals of a sinner, lest you be consumed in his blazing fire . . . Provoke no quarrel with a quick-tempered man, nor ride with him through the desert; for bloodshed is nothing to him, and when there is no to help you, he will destroy you.  For my part, these words ring true.

In Chapter 9 we read more advice about becoming ensnared in matters which will take us beyond our own control mechanism.  We are asked, in other words, to know and understand our weaknesses and strengths . . . to go not surety beyond our means (verse 8:13)  . . . to exercise restraint where we know we have no strength . . . to take God with us everywhere we go . . . to include God in every relationship we enter.

This is the challenge we offer ourselves today as we continue our Lenten journey.


Image from: http://www.ehow.com/how_6140444_seed-money-inventors.html

Tomorrow – The Measure of Friends

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sirach 51: Canticle of Thanksgiving

JIM-give-thanks[1]When we feel as though we are about to slip into the abyss, when it seems as though we have nowhere to turn, there is one place we can always find comfort.  No matter how many times we visit this book of wisdom written by Jesus ben Sirach it always feels new.  As we linger among these verses of the last chapter, we might pause to add the details of our own lives amidst the ancient words.  In so doing, we move from darkness into light, from our own timeline to God’s.  We may even end each phrase with the details of our own journey to God.  Again, we find that the faithful do not need to fight.  They must be willing to do one thing . . . to refuse to take any action that will separate them from their God . . . and be willing to wait for the harvest to arrive . . . in due season.

Dear God,

You have saved me from death, and kept my body from the pit . . .

You have delivered me, in your great mercy, from the scourge of a slanderous tongue, and from lips that went over to falsehood . . .

You have delivered me from deceiving lips and painters of lies, from the arrows of dishonest tongues . . .

I turned every way, but there was no one to help me, I looked for one to sustain me, but could find no one . . .

But then I remembered the Lord . . .

So I raised my voice from the very earth . . .

I called out . . .

“You are my champion . . .

“Do not abandon me . . .

“I will ever praise your name and be in constant prayer to you . . .

He preserved me in time of trouble . . .

I sought wisdom . . .

She came to me in her beauty . . .

My feet kept to the level path . . .

I became resolutely devoted to her . . .

My whole being was stirred as I learned about her . . .

And Wisdom replies:

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction.  How long will you be deprived of wisdom’s food, how long will you endure such bitter thirst? 

Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.

Let your spirits rejoice in the mercy of God, and be not ashamed to give him praise in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward.

And we respond: So be it!  Amen!


IMage from: http://www.thedesertreview.com/give-thanks/jim-give-thanks/

First written on November 3, 2008.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Sirach 11:7-28: Moderation

moderation

Before investigating, find no fault; examine first, then criticize. Before hearing, answer not, and interrupt no one in the middle of his speech. Sirach 11:7-8

Today’s reading can be particularly meaningful in our Lenten journey.  Jesus ben Sirach gives us the advice which my own parents gave to me. Investigate first, pray first, reflect first, find no fault, do not interrupt, consider the other guy, don’t get involved in something that is not your business, stand up for yourself, measure yourself against yourself, listen to God . . . patience and perseverance moderate all things.

We succeed when we live in God . . . to the amazement of many.

When we run after our pleasures and whims, we . . . fall short all the more.

Good and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from the Lord.

As human beings we are so centered on surviving, on superseding, on exerting, on withdrawing, on hiding, on revealing . . . I cannot imagine what God must hear rising up from the earth on any given day when he listens to our petitions.

God’s blessing is the lot of the just man, and in due time his hopes bear fruit.

We need only have our eyes in one place . . . on God.

We need only have our ears tuned to one voice . . . the voice of God.

We need only look at the world around us, the people, the plants, the animals . . . to realize that God is all . . . and that God alone is enough.

Moderation. Asking not . . .  What do I need?  Saying not . . . I am independent.

Patience, perseverance, understanding our true relationship with God, knowing that we are loved. And responding to the call to love.

Moderation in all things. Jubilation in the Lord.


Image from: http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2012/08/28/an-experts-advice-on-how-to-balance-your-hormones/

First written on February 1, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

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