Archive for December, 2022

Luke 1:46-56: God’s Yardstick – Mary

The First Apostle

Saturday, December 31, 2015

Tanner: The Annunciation

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Annunciation

On this eve of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Who among us might dance and sing with joy when discovering that our circumstances endanger our lives? Who among us can see that up is down and down is up when everything around us tells us otherwise. Who among is willing to sacrifice our lives with such outrageous hope? Who among us is so open to the indwelling of the Spirit? Who among us can see the world with Mary’s yardstick rather than the one we have fashioned with our lives?

To read other versions of these verses like THE MESSAGE version above, click on this scripture link and explore. Use the drop-down menus to find versions of the Bible that may be new to you. Consider why this canticle is part of the Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. To learn more about Henry Ossawa Tanner, click on the image above or visit: http://www.artstudio.org/virgin-mary-and-electricity/ 

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Numbers 1: God’s Yardstickyardstick

Friday, December 30, 2022

We human beings always want to know how many, how much, or how often; we seem consumed with counting and itemizing. We are driven by data; we want our sports teams to be first rather than second or third. Some of the techniques used by writers of both ancient epic poetry and modern magical realism are similar and they have to do with numbers: listing, enumerating, and exaggeration of how much, how many and how often. Is this why we are constantly placing ourselves against the yardstick of others rather than self? Is it an innate quality we humans have to want to be higher, lower, bigger, smaller, greater, less, best, worst at something?

It is good news that God relates to us as individuals and urges us to rise to our personal best – without comparing ourselves to anyone or anything else.

Today we read about how the Hebrew nation takes great pains to count itself; even the enumerators are named. Some tribes are large, some small, and this will later determine the amount of territory they receive in the Promised Land. Perhaps we subconsciously worry about the attention we receive from God or others – will we be too small or too unimportant to catch anyone’s notice?

This is the traditional time of year when we look to past and future, stepping from one year to another. Really, it is a time like any other but it is such a good time to assess as we plan to move forward into a new year.

As we end another cycle, it is also a good time to thank God for all God has done for us – particularly in this last year. Some of us will have long lists of new intentions, others shorter but lists nonetheless. As we are making our own enumeration, we may want to pray Psalm 96 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all you lands. Sing to the Lord; bless God’s name; announce God’s salvation, day after day.

Even when life is bleak there will be something to celebrate. We may not see this in our moment of suffering, but eventually we do. After pain comes relief, then finally joy. After sorrow comes release, then understanding. After tears, there is a time to sing. Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all you lands. Sing to the Lord; bless God’s name; announce God’s salvation, day after day. 

Let us count ourselves in a new way, using God’s measure of success rather than our own. Let us count ourselves as the faithful, the steadfast, the hope-filled and merciful. And let us sing a new song to bless God’s name. Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all you lands. Sing to the Lord; bless God’s name; announce God’s salvation, day after day. 

As we soon move forward into a new year, we will example God’s yardstick and how we use it in our lives.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 31, 2010. 

Image from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/old-wooden-yardsticks-kae-cheatham.html

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIIsolarsystem

A Prayer in Response to God’s Gift of Delight

Thursday, December 29, 2022

We near the end of a cycle of days and weeks and months that we designate as a year. Soon we will celebrate the past twelve months in which we have known great sorrow and great joy. As we consider all that we have seen and heard, felt and believed, let us give thanks for the gift of delight itself, the gentle pleasure that rises from honest relationships and open minds. Just as God delights in us, let us delight in God.

For the gift of winter cold that draws us together as we look for shelter and welcome friends and strangers from the wind. Let us treasure each winter hardship just as God treasures each of us. The infinite iterations of flakes on frosted windows can remind us that just as God creates each of these beautiful designs, so does God create each of us with our own unique features, joys and anxieties.

snowflake2For the gift of drawing in, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of spring that reminds us that new life always rises from the old. In springtime exuberance we open our hearts to the possibilities of our own resurrection. We remember that God always brings goodness out of harm, love out of hatred, generosity out of what is meant to be cruel, and love out of gestures of hatred and shame. The tiniest of plants and creatures burst forth in a rush to celebrate God’s goodness. Giant stars and the multiverse expand to open great hearts for God’s enormous love.

wisdom-at-creationFor the gift of burgeoning hope, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of summer that brings us into the energy of God’s passion and mercy. In the fullness of summer heat, we remember that with God all things are possible. With God all miracles bring new life and new meaning. With God resurrection is more than an idea or hope. Burgeoning crops, teeming waters, rain and sun drench us with God’s abundance and generosity. God calls us to match this zeal with the stores of understanding and courage we lay aside for the difficult times ahead.

KY-Breaks-Interstate-Park-river-sceneFor the gifts of kindness and goodness, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of autumn when we harvest the fortitude, perseverance, fidelity and truth that God has shared with us. We remember that nothing of this world is meant to take the place of God. We recall the great delight God has expressed in our willingness to be open to others just as Jesus is open with us. We respond with compassion and an ardent desire to heal broken relationships and people. We return this gift with our own desire to heal and advocate.

fall-leafFor the gifts of forgiveness and restoration, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

In all seasons of this year to come, we unite in a new thankfulness for God’s love, a new willingness to live as Jesus does, and a new urgency to heal and console just like the Holy Spirit. May we find the energy and determination to live in such a way that all those who encounter us will know that we delight in God’s own delight in us. Amen.

For a reflection on a full measure of joy, click on the snowflakes or visit: http://fullmeasureofjoy.com/?p=4253 

For a reflection on God’s wisdom in creation, click on the plant shoot or visit: http://elcmthoreb.org/2013/07/12/gods-wisdom-in-creation-this-week-at-elc/

For a reflection on seeing God’s creation, click on the river image or visit: http://www.seeingcreation.com/2012/nature-photography/natures-dictionary/

For a reflection on seeking God, click on the image of the leaf or visit: http://nancyaruegg.com/category/seeking-god/ 


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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIisaiah62-4

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The significance of the name Tirzah in Hebrew is “favorable” or “she is my delight”; yet we have the picture in today’s reading of something once valued being left behind for richer fields and stronger walls. If we were to name our own capital, what would it be? Would there be sacred places within the limits of this city along with places of commerce? Would these places welcome all and be a gathering place where new ideas are as important as tradition, and old wisdom as important as new growth? When later generations excavated, would they find a site with remnants of a life well lived, open in hospitality to weary strangers who harbored there awhile before moving on?

Tirzah, a place of favor and delight, but abandoned. What happens with us that we tire so quickly of a place and her people that we move on without taking much time to think?

Consulting a concordance, we find a great number of times that writers of the sacred text use the word delightGod delights in Jesus. The crowds listened to Jesus with delight. We delight in God, God’s Law, and God’s holy ones. We delight in our salvation and vindication by God, God’s justice, mercy, righteousness and kindness. With St. Paul in his letters to Corinthians, we even delight in the weakness, hardships, persecutions and difficulties suffered for Christ’s sake. (2 Corinthians 12) We find delight in our family, friends and work. We may delight in the obstacles, hardships and rejections. And we must certainly delight in all gifts we receive from God.

We can spend hours with this word and still not plumb its depths, but let us linger a bit longer over the words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:17) who tells us: The Lord your God is with you, God is mighty to save. God will take delight in you, God will quiet you with love, God will rejoice over you with singing. 

So we may want to return to the places of Tirzah that we have abandoned. We may want to excavate the secrets that lie hidden there, the secrets that we ourselves have left behind.  And in these hidden places, we may once again realize just how much God takes delight in us.

For a quick analysis of how the population in the USA sees God, click on the image below. As a Christmas gift to ourselves, we might want to reflect on our own view of God and the world we inhabit. Touching Earth

Tomorrow, as we end another year and prepare to celebrate newness, a prayer for a fuller understanding of God’s delight in us.

Adapted from a favorite written on December 22, 2009.

Images from: http://thepreachersword.com/2013/03/20/whats-your-view-of-god/ and https://dailybible.co/p/HkbSZDfoEg/web/

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part Igood-creation

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

As we move through the Christmas season, let us pause to consider what delight we take in God’s great gift of self to humanity, and what gift we give to God in return. 

Tirzah, located in the Manasseh tribal region, rose to importance under King Baasha (900 – 877 B.C.E.).  This king was buried in Tirzah and is, in fact, the only Israelite king whom the Bible specifically states was interred in the city. Tirzah’s significance dwindled after Omri shifted the northern kingdom’s capital to Samaria. At that time Tirzah was abandoned as is evidenced by materials left behind: partly-dressed masonry blocks alongside well-dressed masonry, and the absence of ruins. “Song of Songs 6:4 sets Tirzah alongside Jerusalem as one of Israel’s two great cities, indicating that the Song was written during Tirzah’s glory days”.  (Zondervan 509)

The Tirzah Valley

The Tirzah Valley

This city, once so important that the king wishes to be buried within her precincts, is later abandoned and we do not know why. We might use this Noontime to examine the history we see attached to people and places. It also calls us to examine our own contribution to the common history we leave behind. What will future excavators find when they exhume our lives? Will they find forsaken shells of something once important? Are songs written to our beauty? Do we leave a legacy that indicates that we were once loyal and faithful followers of Christ? What is the treasure we have amassed? Does it have a positive influence here in this world? Does it live forever in the next? What is the significance the sum total of our actions? What is the name with which we tag the space and time we have occupied here on earth? Is there anything about this record of ourselves that we wish to change?

Tomorrow, gifts accepted, and gifts abandoned. 

For Biblewalk through the Tirzah Valley, click on the image above or visit: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Makhruk.html

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 509. Print.

 Adapted from a favorite written on December 22, 2009.

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Philippians 4:1-9: Joy and Peace

Monday, December 26, 2022

Carl Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child (detail)

Carl Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child (detail)

Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! 

St. Paul establishes this first community in Europe on his second missionary journey sometime around the year 50 and though his subsequent travels, he reminds the Philippians that . . .

Your kindness should be known to all, the Lord is near.

He sends the Philippians advice which we might take today . . .

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

While in Philippi, he converts a wealthy business woman, his jailer and the jailer’s family, and he later writes to this community to remind them of what is truly important . . .

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . .

This letter was written while Paul was imprisoned elsewhere, perhaps Rome, Caesarea or Corinth; but wherever the prison, he continues to exhort his fellow Christ followers in Philippi to . . .

Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child

Carl von Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child

During this Christmastide, may you all know the Joy of Christ’s Hope, and may you all rest in his Serene Peace . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! 

A favorite from December 26, 2007.

Images from: https://www.jsonline.com/story/entertainment/arts/2017/12/25/carl-von-marrs-adoration-depicts-virgin-mary-different-light/968413001/ 

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Esther 3 (B): Preamble – Part III

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 2022

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther

This week we spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to new grace and blessings.

We see how God’s grace enters Mordecai, Esther and Ahasuerus. We see how God’s power comes through a vulnerable and frightened, yet brave woman. We see how God acts through inversion. We see how God dwells with the lowest and the poorest. We see how God guides, protects, calls and loves his faithful. We see a foreshadowing of God’s most wonderful gift to come, the saving and redemptive power of the gift of Christ.

Mordecai remains true to his God and for this he draws the venomous envy of Haman. He goes to God when the decree of destruction is read out, and he does as God asks, he goes to Esther.

Esther remains faithful to God and believes that God loves and protects her even as he calls her to take on in a dangerous mission. She overcomes her fear and acts from her position of weakness, not from any strength, to become an agent for good.

Zurbarán: Madonna with Child

Francisco Zurbarán: Madonna with Child

Jesus comes to live among us as one of the world’s most helpless. In this way, he places himself in our hands and asks that we place ourselves in his. This is the amazing story of Jesus that we know so well. This story of Esther is a fitting preamble to understanding the gift of Christ. Let us spend some time with this story, and with Christ, today.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Francisco_de_Zurbaran_-_Madonna_and_Child_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg and 


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Esther 3 (B): Preamble – Part II

Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2015

Paul Alexander Leroy: Mordecai and Haman

Paul Alexander Leroy: Mordecai and Haman

This week we spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to a new simplicity.

God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Exactly the same sign has been given to us. God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how God reigns. God does not come with power and outward splendor. God comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help. God  does not want to overwhelm us with strength. God takes away our fear of God’s greatness. God asks for our love: so God becomes a child. God wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into God’s feelings, God’s thoughts and God’s will – we learn to live with God and to practice with God that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made of self so small that we could understand the enormity of God, welcome God and love God. 

MAGNIFICAT MINI-REFLECTION December 25, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI Christmas Homily 2009

We might reflect on the life of Esther in a similar way. God sends a sign to God’s people through a woman who is considered an appendage of her husband, for the queen in this kingdom is not allowed to enter into the king’s presence without his permission. In this time and place, Esther’s intrusion on her husband’s time and person is punishable by death and so we see that God’s sign comes to his people through a woman who has been taken as part of the household of a pagan king and who fears for her life whether she remains silent or speaks. God comes to the LORD’s people through this defenseless woman who is in need of someone’s help. When we read her story, we might imagine ourselves as equally defenseless, equally frightened. If we allow ourselves to accompany Esther as she listens to her uncle Mordecai tell her that she has been chosen by God to speak on behalf of her people, we will watch as she opens herself to allow God into her life fully. If we watch what happens to the man, Haman, so filled with hatred that he plots the deaths of thousands in order to have his bruised pride assuaged, we will see Ahasuerus deliver to Haman the consequence of his own plots against God’s people.

Tomorrow, grace and blessing.

To learn more about why Mordecai did not bow before Haman, click on the image above or visit: http://thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman/ 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 25 December 2010. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

Jean François de Troy: Triumph of Mordecai

Jean François de Troy: Triumph of Mordecai

Images from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437845, and http://thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman/

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Esther 3 (and B): Preamble – Part I

Friday, December 23, 2022queen-esther

We have visited the story of Esther frequently in our Noontime journey and this Christmas as pause to spend some time in Chapter 3. Because of various redactions, different Bibles have divided this story with both numbered and lettered parts but today we are looking at both Chapter 3 and B, the story about the letter of King Ahasuerus that decrees death to the Jewish people on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar. When we read the entire account, we know how the king finds out that Queen Esther is Jewish. We know how Esther and her uncle Mordecai intercede with God and king for the preservation of the Jewish people. And we know what becomes of the envious Haman and his family. This may be an unusual story to consider in the last week of Advent, but when we pause we see a connection with the Christmas Story: signs of God’s grace coming to a nation through people who are easily overlooked in a world that focuses on the supremacy and authority of powerful men. Today’s stories are about the surprising influence of the most vulnerable among us: a baby, and a woman.

While we are not in any way suggesting that Esther is the equivalent of the Christ child, we may want to consider the parallel these stories offer as analogous to our own feelings of defenselessness. And we may want to take direction from both Esther and Jesus as we watch them obey the Father who created them. These stories show us that the human life is best lived in search of and in preparation for our divinity. They show us that fidelity, simplicity, honesty and courage are essential to one who seeks to arrive at the potential God breathed into each of us at our creation.

Spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to a new coming.

Tomorrow, God’s sign is simplicity.

Image from: http://growing4life.net/lessons-from-esther/queen-esther/

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.


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