Archive for April, 2023

John 6:16-21Walking on Water – A Reprise

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2023

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

 A Favorite from May 23, 2008.

In previous Noontimes, we have looked at chapter 6 of John and reflected on his Bread of Life Discourse.  Today we are drawn back to this chapter, but now to the incident that is sandwiched between the act of the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus’ explanation of the Eucharist, Jesus walks on the water.

I am thinking of a painting I saw by Henry Tanner when it was on exhibit at the BMA . . . and I go in search of it.  The waters in this painting are calm, one the apostles stands toward the front of the boat. Jesus approaches from the left.

The painting is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having. They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see. They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand. They are fishing alone when the storm rises up and they fear for their lives. Then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I. Do not be afraid.

 Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions. Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped, and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision. We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify, and so we go back to bailing. I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence. Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday. Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows, and something beckons just off behind our shoulder. We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be. We hear nothing that the ear recognizes and so, we go back to phone calls, emails, and messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I. Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the grass not mown, the laundry not washed. We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time. Jesus is. Jesus was. Jesus will be. In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working, we must pause to look and to listen. We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see because . . .

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Tomorrow, seeking Jesus. 

For more on Henry Tanner, visit: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Ossawa-Tanner 

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Ossawa_Tanner,_The_Disciples_See_Christ_Walking_on_the_Water,_c._1907.jpg

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Joshua 3: Crossing the Jordan

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Each time we must embark on an essential task which appears to be impossible, we ought to read this book of how a determined band of faith-filled people were able to accomplish something which appeared to be impossible, but only impossible in human terms, for with God, all things are possible.

This chapter follows on the heels of the story of how Joshua and his fellow-spies were saved by Rahab, the woman who runs a brothel perched higher than the city wall.  Footnotes tell us some interesting details about this woman whom the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews praises.  Details like these allow us to remember that God uses many ways to gain the ends he seeks, and God does not allow discontinuity or aberrations to interfere with the end goal of bringing the kingdom to fruition.  And this is good news for all of us for when we read Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, we read a litany of saints and sinners.  We are all members of Christ’s family.  We are his adopted sisters and brothers.  And as a community, we are his bride, invited to cross the Jordan in our journey home.

There are many river crossings for us to make. There are many currents that want to rip us away into an overwhelming tide. There are many boulders hidden under the rippling water that have slippery surfaces and sharp edges. The river is a beautiful life-giving place; yet it is full of danger. The Hebrews carried their God in an Ark they had fashioned carefully of gold. This Ark held the presence of Yahweh – desert manna, stone tablets of The Law, and Aaron’s rod. This Ark was later replaced by the Blessed Mother who bore the incarnation of God to the world. This Ark must now be the temple place we prepare in our hearts where Yahweh may dwell in each of us. This is the Ark that we now take up as we wade into the swirling depths of life.

What does our Ark contain? Have we made it with loving care? When we lift the lid, what do we see? Superficial lives or faithful service? Hollow hearts of false oaths or full ones yearning to share what we experience?  s the tablet still of stone or have we allowed God to write his promise on our hearts? Do we see the Law of Self or the Law of Love?

If we are to reach the opposite shore of the river, we might want to unpack and re-pack the ark of our lives before we step into the eddying water. Perhaps we will leave something behind. Perhaps we will go in search of something we know we ought to  have. How do we know what to take with us? It is simple. We must ask and answer this question: When we open this ark before God, our creator, will we find an image of God? Will God smile with the love of a parent who sees work well done by the child?

Before we step into the Jordan of our lives, let us think about the contents of the ark we carry on our shoulders and if we must, let us – with honesty – unpack and re-pack the contents of our lives.

Adapted from a favorite from May 26, 2008.

Image from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/stone-stacking-beside-a-river-12072433/

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Psalm 23Shepherding

Friday, April 28, 2023

A Favorite from April 10, 2011.

I attended a memorial service yesterday preceded by a celebration of the life of the deceased.  These things are never easy.  Part of the service was the comforting 23rd Psalm, the Old Testament reading was from Proverbs 3 (wisdom as a feminine force) and the New Testament was John 14 (Do not let your hearts be troubled . . . I am going to prepare a place for you.)  Scripture has the power to heal . . . if we allow it.

I am struck by how often we turn to the divine seeking solace – expecting the comfort and wisdom of the words to be instant much like our meals in the microwave, our movies on demand, and our relationships which must fulfill some purpose for us in order to be profitable.  The sermon today was given by Bishop Newman and he spoke of his time as pastor at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen when he asked a sound engineer to find the places in the immense building that did not receive sound well. He referred to these places as “dead areas” and he asked us to think of the dead places in our lives that were like the deadness of Lazarus which we had heard in today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45). He asked us to think of the “little deaths” we experience: addictions that govern us, work losses that discourage us, damage to relationships, troubles in a marriage that gnaw at us; and he asked us to think of how we resolved these problems or how we stirred ourselves to address these dead places. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives . . .

As he spoke, I thought of the dead zones in my life, and I thought about the opportunities I have been given for resurrection and redemption. Surely we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever . . .

We must be persistent and fearless in our pursuit of God’s understanding and in our practice of God’s love. I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . .

We must be courageous and creative in our determination to resolve the problems that create dead zones in our lives. Your rod and staff comfort me . . .

We must always take all problems with our enemies to God, remembering that God alone can deal with betrayal and deceit. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . .

We must remember that God constantly seeks new ways to love us and to bolster us on our journey. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows . . .

We cannot hear God through the cacophony of our days.  We must make a quiet place where we might allow rest and restoration because he makes me lie down in green pastures . . .

We must look for our imperfections, confess them, and ask God to heal them for God is more powerful than any force we know, even death. He called the dead Lazarus from the tomb, and so he calls us to come to him for healing. The extent of our “deadness” or the number of the “little deaths” in our lives is unimportant.  God is more powerful, and more loving, and more present than we have imagined. The Lord is my shepherd . . .

I love Marty Haugen’s version of this Psalm from the GATHER hymnal which we so often sing, and which I use as an opening prayer in my classes during this time of year: Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life . . .

Let us rejoice that God is among us always to comfort, to heal, to restore, to transform and to redeem.   And let us open ourselves more to God’s wise and merciful shepherding.

Tomorrow, crossing the Jordan.

Listen to the Marty Haugen setting of the 23rd Psalm at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L55J02iTGjM   

Image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/538672805408454029/

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Ephesians 4:25-32: A Clean Break

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Friends advise us: Just make a clean break. Go cold turkey. Say no. Walk away. These words are easily heard and just as easily ignored for it is so difficult to break away from habits that feel so comfortable and people who are so predictable . . . despite the fact that these people and circumstances bring us pain. We listen – as did the Ephesians – to Paul’s advice. From THE MESSAGE:

No more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

We tell ourselves to remain calm, to go with the flow. Paul has other words for us.

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life

We convince ourselves that we harm no one if we remain in a dishonest relationship. Paul tells us differently.

Did you used to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.

We say to one another that our anger is justified. Paul reminds us that there is another way.

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

We believe that we are disconnected, abandoned, neglected or forgotten. Paul tells us otherwise.

holy spirit dove in flightDon’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.

In the end, Paul tells us, a clean break is better than a rotting connection.

Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

 When we compare this translation with others, we find new meaning in old words.

Tomorrow, God’s shepherding love. 

Images from: https://www.thehealingcentervegas.com/blog/the20-secondruleandhabits and http://thesurprisinggodblog.gci.org/2012/12/does-everyone-have-holy-spirit.html

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Ephesians 4:17-24: The Empty-headed, Mindless Crowd

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

These are interesting words from Paul to the people of Ephesus; and they serve us today as we move through another political season. Use the scripture link to compare THE MESSAGE version cited here with another translation to see if perhaps different words speak to you.

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

Paul warns the Ephesians and he warns us that the life we fashion for ourselves is much less interesting, much less challenging, and much less loving than the life God has in mind for us.

That’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

What does it mean to take a new way of living? How might we better enact Jesus’ Law of Love as we move through our days? How do we deal with the challenges that greet us when we cast off unhealthy living? Why do we cling to the empty-headed, mindless crowd?

Tomorrow, making a clean break.

To read about crowd behavior, click on the image or visit: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180312-the-secret-science-that-rules-crowds 

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2 Timothy 4: Sound Doctrine

Tuesday, April 25, 2023Carroll-PopeFrancisandHisImplicitRevolution-690

Pope Francis shared thoughts on the family and the Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia); his thoughts drew both praise and scorn as we might imagine. Today as I read commentary, I am drawn back to a favorite reading from 2 Timothy. Thinking about sound doctrine, I found this reflection and post it today as a Favorite.

This reading has special meaning for me as it was the first reading at my Dad’s funeral, and my son Thomas was the lector. These verses embody, for me, the lessons I was taught by my parents – and it is my hope that my own children believe that I too, teach sound doctrine. I know that many times we have “itching ears,” that often we “heap up teachers according to our lusts,” and that we “turn away [our] hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables.” These are the struggles we have with the little messages that constantly bombard us in this world. But I hope and pray to “be watchful in all things, bear with tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the gospel, fulfill [my] ministry.” Every day as my students pass before me, I try to keep these things in mind while I attempt to “fight the good fight.” In the end, the children are watching us as we watched our elders. I did not miss much as a child or as a student, neither do my children or the young scholars who come into my classroom each day. These children constantly call me to my vocation of listening, learning, teaching, watching, hoping, waiting, believing, seeking and loving.

Pope Francis calls us to sound doctrine not only in his letters but in his every action. I pray that my own life might be an example of such fidelity, authenticity, joy and love.

An interesting commentary on the Pope’s encyclical by James Carroll can be found at the NEW YORKER site at: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/new-morality-of-pope-francis-joy-of-love

To read the encyclical, go to: https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

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Psalm 27: Fearless Trust

Monday, April 24, 2023

James Tissot: The Ark Passes Over the Jordan

The followers of Yahweh erected a tent to house the ark they created to hold their tangible remnants of their relationship with the Lord: stone tablets holding God’s ten pronouncements of the Mosaic Law, manna provided by the Lord during the Hebrews’ desert wanderings, and the staff that Aaron used to mystify Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt whom the enslaved people of God escaped. The Israelites replaced the tent with a glorious Temple to house the ark, sacred scrolls of God’s word to them. More than once this Temple was overrun, brought down, and reduced to rubble and a single, solemn wall of prayer. Today followers of Christ carry this tent, this Temple within; and it is in this sacred interior space that we find courage, hope, strength, faith, persistence, peace and joy. As we move through Eastertide, we bolster ourselves for the journey ahead as we continue our pilgrimage.

The New American Bible gives a wonderful title to these verses: A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God. We might benefit from the grace of this special prayer if we reflect carefully on its words as we pray them.

moses tabernacle

A depiction of the Moses Tent

When we are anxious or troubled, we recall . . .

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will never be afraid.

When we are overwhelmed and distraught, we remind one another . . .  

Even if a whole army surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,
    I will still trust God.

When we are lost or abandoned, we remember . . .

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the Lord’s house all my life,
    to marvel there at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

When all seems lost and dark, we remind one another . . .

In times of trouble God will shelter me;
    God will keep me safe in the Lord’s Temple
    and make me secure on a high rock.

When we are alone or bereft, we call out . . .

So I will triumph over my enemies around me.

    With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple;
    I will sing, I will praise the Lord.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
    Be merciful and answer me!

When we falter, we encourage one another . . .

When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalme today

The Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem today (The Wailing Wall)

When the world closes in and we find no exit from sorrow, we pray . . .

 Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do,
    and lead me along a safe path,
    because I have many enemies.

Don’t abandon me to my enemies,
    who attack me with lies and threats.

 When we are rescued, we rejoice . . .

I know that I will live to see

      the Lord‘s goodness in this present life.

Trust in the Lord.
    Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord.

woman-praying-darkWhen this present life seems as though there is no evidence of God’s presence, let us remember Christ’s temple of light and peace that we carry within.

Psalm 27, one of my favorites, has been set to music by many. As we pray today we might listen to the Shane and Shane rendition at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndZsEDuCVAQ 

If there is time in the next several hours, enter the word TEMPLE into the blog search bar and consider how God’s plan has brought us from enslavement through the desert to a solid place where we rejoice and yet remains with us when great loss or great sorrow overtake us. It is God’s abiding love that brings us this fearless trust in the temple of God that remains within. When we reflect on these images or listen to these or other audios as we pray, we allow this fearless trust in God to rest in us today. Wishing all of you peace and joy on this day and all days.

Images from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/103864335130600859/ and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Jacques_Joseph_Tissot_-_The_Ark_Passes_Over_the_Jordan_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg and https://bible-history.com/jerusalem/jerusalem-temple and http://www.levitt.com/slideshow/s01p05 and http://www.answersfromscriptureonline.com/tag/praying-women/

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Isaiah 49A Time of Favor

Third Sunday of Easter , April 23, 2023favor

In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you, to restore the land and allot the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners: Come out!  To those in darkness: Show yourselves!

All through this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy we hear that we are to trust the Lord, we are to be willing to be his faithful servants, we are not only saved but restored.

They shall not hunger or thirst . . .

When we are suffering through a trial it is difficult to step into the void and put all of our confidence in an unseen force.

Nor shall the scorching wind or sun scorch them . . .

When we are in pain it is difficult to let go and to believe that we are powerless, that our many resources count as nothing before the awesome power of God.

I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level . . .

When we are immersed in our human world it is difficult to remember that all we see has been created by God . . . not humans . . . and that God is in charge.

Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples . . . Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget I will never forget you.

The Lord God wants to redeem each creature that has sprung from his imagination and hands. Who are we to doubt that we are numbered in that flock?

Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains.  For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.

The Lord God comforts and cozens his people.  He nurtures them as a mother does. Even in dark days – especially in dark days – he loves and nourishes us, watches over us and does not abandon us.

In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you, to restore the land and allot the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners: Come out!  To those in darkness: Show yourselves! . . . I will never forget you.

Eastertide is a time of favor, a time when we celebrate God’s human presence among us, a time when we celebrate out divine presence in Christ, our brother. Let us remember the good news we have been told, and let us declare it to others.

Come out! Show yourselves! . . . I will never forget you . . . 

Image from: https://www.clevelandhope.com/hope-notes/2019/6/5/favor

A Favorite from May 13, 2010.


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Isaiah 62: Building Upbride

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Yesterday Isaiah gave us clear evidence that God can and will do the impossible in our lives. Today he tells us that God’s bounty promises more than we can imagine.

I will speak out to encourage Jerusalem;
I will not be silent until she is saved,
And her victory shines like a torch in the night.

Images of marriage, of building, and of sentinels watching for the coming of one who saves are all familiar to those who read scripture.  They will not be disappointed in today’s Noontime reading.

I will speak out . . . I will not be silent until she is saved . . . 

isaiah62I am thinking of the emotion we feel when we anticipate reunion with a loved one, when we enter into a new project or we feel the coming of change in our lives. Sometimes we can smell or taste or even feel a shift in the air. Sometimes these changes are good, sometimes not. In either case, change will arrive and although we have little or no control of what takes place, we do have control of our own behavior and of our own reactions to change. Isaiah here predicts something good in the offing. The fulfillment of a promise made by God, a promise that is certain to be kept, a promise that builds up and does not take away, a promise that brings light rather than dark, hope rather than despair.

I will speak out . . . I will not be silent . . . And her victory shines like a torch in the night.

And so we pray . . .

O God of justice and of love, you care for your people in every time and place, despite our tendency to stray from you in foolishness. Keep us in your care from morning until evening, that we may come to rest safely in the shadow of your all-powerful wings. We ask through our lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.  Amen. 

Adapted from a reflection written on Wednesday, August 25, 2010.

Visit the I will not be silent post on this blog by entering the words in to the blog search bar. 

Images from: http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2920314/posts 

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