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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category


Luke 4:16-30: The Brow of the Hill

Friday, March 8. 2019

Jesus

Today we remind ourselves that Jesus was rejected in his hometown and this ought to help us feel better about our failures both perceived and real.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed through the midst of them and went away.  I am reading this and thinking that Jesus lives most of his life on the brow of the hill, at danger of being hurled down headlong.  We know how Jesus died and so we understand that finally the jealousy, anger and fear took over enough people to drown out the voices of the faithful followers.  We also know, because we have read the story and heard it told to us each Eastertide, that death did not put an end to Jesus and his kingdom; rather, it birthed a movement and a way of being that swept the world and changed human history forever.  We need to remember all of this when we find ourselves on the brow of the hill outside our own hometown or any place else.  We need to remember that what we first perceive as an end will become a beginning through Christ.  We need to remember that what we fear becomes our joy through Christ.  We need to remember that nothing can obliterate us and God restores and saves.  We need to remember that God turns all harm to good.  We need to remind ourselves that when we live and move in the Spirit we are infinite and eternal.  We need to remind ourselves that when we pray and act in the Spirit, nothing is impossible.  He passed through the midst of them and went away.

What did Jesus do or say that angered those who had known him from birth?  A few days ago we heard the Isaiah 61:1-2a reading that Jesus found and read from the scroll.  The spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . there are those who resent good things happening to other people.  He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to the prisoners, and a day of vindication by our God . . . there are those who want to be the only giver of goodness, the only advocate for peace.  There are those who want to control even the goodness of God.

The Isaiah reading continues: I rejoice heartily in the Lord . . . and so must we even in the face of disappointment.  My God is the joy of my soul . . . and so we turn to him when we are rejected and scorned.  He has clothed me with a robe of salvation . . . God will leave the ninety-nine safe and secure to seek for and save the one lost sheep.  He has wrapped me in a mantel of justice . . . God will right wrongs and mend brokenness in God’s time and place.

The people in the synagogue were all filled with fury . . . we have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ Advent into our lives with impatience and resentment.  At the same time we have the opportunity to welcome him into our lives even when we know that following Jesus is difficult work.

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing . . . we do not have to wait for some distant and unknown day to celebrate God’s saving power; rather we can proclaim our joy today and every day.  We can willing follow Christ even to the brow of the hill secure in the knowledge that although we fear being hurled headlong down the precipice Jesus stands with us to lead us through the midst of them . . . to lead us to eternal safety and joy.


For an insightful blog posting on the Luke reading in today’s Noontime, click the Jesus image above and follow the link.  For a site that has information about films about Jesus, click on the image below.

1977 film: Jesus of Nazareth

A re-post from December 13, 2011.

Images from: http://fralfonse.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html and http://biblefilms.blogspot.com/2010/11/comparison-jesus-gospel-manifesto.html

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Joshua 23: A Final Plea

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Jericho

It is clear that Joshua understands his people when we read today’s Noontime scripture.  He has brought them from the edge of the wilderness into the fertile land that God has promised them.  He has led their troops, solved their squabbles, and he has kept them faithful to God as they live side by side with pagan peoples.  He has one final plea.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, a time for reflection and introspection. Today we have an opportunity to consider that we stand before Joshua, a man who knows our story. Let us listen well.

Strive hard to observe and carry out all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, not straying from it in any way or mingling with these nations while they survive among you.  We might recall here the parable of the weeds growing among the wheat in Matthew 13:24-30 that we considered in our Continued Progress NoontimeGod does not call us to wipe out all who oppose or stifle us; rather, God asks that we learn to grow amid those who would pull us from our steady progress toward God.  Joshua calls likewise to us today, encouraging us to follow the voice of God, to grow in wisdom.  When we allow God’s wisdom to counsel us rather than succumb to our own petty fears and whims, we will have responded to this final plea.

At your approach you have driven our large and small nations, and to this day no one has withstood you.  One of you puts to flight a thousand because it is the Lord, your God, himself who fights for you, as he promised you.  We so quickly take credit for our successes and blame God for our failures.  It seems we cannot withstand the truth of our own existence.  When we remember the so many big and little triumphs of our lives in the light of God’s goodness instead of the brightness of our own effort, all anxiety, resentment and envy melt away.  We cease to compare our circumstances to those of others; we see our lives for what they are: a continuing response to – or a willful turning away from – God’s call.  Joshua asks us today to consider the origin of our security and achievement; and he reminds us that God alone governs all.  When we admit that God’s strength and fidelity are gifts we receive without even asking, we will have demonstrated our own willingness to respond to this final plea.

If you ever abandon God and ally yourselves with the remnant of these [pagan] nations while they survive among you, by intermarrying and intermingling with them, know for certain that . . . they will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes.  Joshua worries, of course, that his people will disappear into the societies that surround and live side by side with them.  He knows how easily we can be convinced that daily prayer and faithful worship have little effect upon us.  He understands our weaknesses because he has managed the in-fighting and back-stabbing that happens when people come together in a common cause.  He also understands our strengths because he has led a stiff-necked and cantankerous people successfully by following God’s counsel rather than the shallow wisdom of oracles; he has deferred to God’s plans and put away his own.  Joshua recalls the covenant they have agreed upon with God and that it invokes reward or doom; he reminds his people that God always keeps his promises. When we willingly turn away from the siren call of the idols that clutter our lives, we will give witness to our own commitment to God, and we will have answered this final plea.

This chapter closes with a description of God’s Wrath and before we become frightened by these images let us remember that Christ comes to fulfill the Old Testament Covenant and to replace it with a new Law of Love.  When we remember that the God of wrath we see described here is actually the God of Love that Christ shows us . . . we will have little trouble – and much reward – when we respond to Joshua’s final plea.


Adapted from a reflection posted on December 11, 2011.

Image from: http://www.biblebios.com/joshua/joshua.htm

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Philippians 3:12-16: God’s Upward Calling

Monday, March 4, 2019

It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus].  Paul always insists that our perfection lies not in that we live without error, but rather that we persist in pursuing wisdom and obeying God.

I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.  Paul always explains that our lives are nothing if they are not centered in Christ and lived through Christ.  And Paul remains God’s humble servant as he empties himself of self in order to make room for the Spirit to dwell within.

Paul does not worry about how to be perfect for when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:10). 

Paul exhorts others to persist in this noble pursuit, to fight the good fight, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith.  (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

Paul explains that although we are in the flesh we do not battle in the flesh, for the weapons of our battle are not of the flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Paul reminds us that whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

When I was a child I remember the days that ran up to Christmas as ones that were full of mystery and quiet excitement.  Did Mother hide the presents in a place I might stumble upon as my sister had done?  Would the surprises in store for us on Christmas Eve be spoiled by running ahead too quickly or with the wrong intention?  Did Santa really think that I might be old enough to appreciate the gifts I wanted so much?  Is it really possible for a tiny baby to save the world?

We noticed that Mother and Dad exchanged quick looks when one of us talked about what we hoped to find under the tree.  We saw that Mother smiled a lot as she brought in the extra groceries for holiday meals; and that Dad did not mind the extra work it took to prepare a household for a Christmas worth remembering.  And without words being spoken, we were aware of how important God was to our celebrating.  We were asked to live lives of quiet gratitude for all that we had and all that we were . . . and we were asked to do this well.

In our plugged-in, high-powered world today, the days of Advent seem cluttered with too much activity and not enough reflection, too many loud advertisements and not enough quiet jubilation.  In this special season of mystery and anticipation, Paul reminds us that unless we move forward in Christ we are stagnant, or worse, we move backward.  Paul tells us that the race is long and that we must pace ourselves.  Paul calls us to join him in his faithful, constant, steady progress in Christ, for Christ, toward Christ.  Paul asks us to be our best selves in spite of all that we see around us that disappoints us or causes fear; he tells us that our genuine maturity arrives with Christ and not in spite of him.

When we move forward in Christ we cannot lose, we must win.

When we move forward in Christ we do not grieve forever, we will rejoice.

When we move forward in Christ, our worst fears and anxieties will not overpower us, we will learn to face and even conquer them; and we will discover that we have indeed been taken possession of by Christ, we have pursued and even claimed the prize of God’s upward calling.


A re-post from December 10, 2011.

Image from: http://www.darren-price.com/android/

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Exodus 18: A Task Too Heavy

Friday, March 1, 2019

J. James Tissot: Jethro and Moses

You are not acting wisely.  You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but these people with you; you cannot do it alone.

We do not hear much about Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, but what we do hear makes much sense.  Only God is able to serve everyone all of the time; yet some of us act as if we are God.  We behave as if we have limitless energy and infinite empathy; and we forget that we must recharge ourselves.  We neglect our own spiritual, mental and physical heath in the service of others and we are surprised when our body, mind or spirit stalls.

Now, listen to me, and I will give you some advice, that God may be with you.

Some of us may have learned this lesson early in life or perhaps we have always had the knack for pacing ourselves.  Still, there are times when woes or sorrows or circumstances overtake us; and without our knowing how we sink into sadness or even depression.  When we ask more of ourselves than God does we will find ourselves undone.

We have often heard the phrase that God does not give us something we cannot handle and I have quietly disagreed with that, thinking of those among us who take our own lives.  The level of desperation is enormous for the besieged spirit that finds it can battle no longer.  There are tasks too heavy for us to take upon ourselves, and when this happens our only route of escape is the door that opens to Christ.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Once I was recovering from surgery and my neighbor came across the yard to bring me a dinner in a baking dish for my family and me.  When I politely said that she should not have gone to the trouble – knowing that she had her own family to feed with chores and work to tend to, she wisely replied: “You must allow me to do something for you otherwise you deprive me of my chance to do the right thing”. I remember her words every time I begin to say that I have a job handled, that I need no help, that I can go it alone.  And now we have the words of Jethro as well.

Why do you sit alone?

In the days that run up to a holiday, we can overwhelm ourselves with too many tasks that weary the soul and increase our burden.  When we celebrate a special day, we hope to experience hope and light; yet when we clutter our days with details that take away from the celebration we not only miss the rejoicing, we also sap our own energy.

The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. 

When we wake up tired or cannot sleep because we have over-taxed ourselves, we need to ask why we think we must work alone.  Do we find ourselves better than others?  Worse than others?  Outside of our comfort zone?  Overly concerned about details?  Unimpressed with the work of others?  Advent is a time to consider who we are, where we are, what we are doing and how we interact with God and others.  Today we have the opportunity to examine the tasks we have taken on to determine if some of them might be shared with others or with God . . . lest we find ourselves crushed by the weight of a task too heavy.


Image from: http://gorepent.com/2010/11/15/notes-for-exodus-chapter-18/

Adapted from a reflection posted on December 7, 2011.

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Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking


Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tissot: Cain Leads Abel

It is likely that we each have our own definition for sin and we may want to compare it with what we find in Genesis 4 when we hear the Creator warning Cain: Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?  If you do well, you can hold up you head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.

We are only a few pages into the Bible and God describes to us what sin is and how it can steal into our hearts almost without our knowing. How is it that we miss the personal implications for our own development when we hear this story?  Cain is told what sin is and is cautioned about sin.  God does not withdraw his love yet Cain seems to feel slighted and he appears to think only of himself and his own sadness; he does not celebrate Abel’s good fortune but instead takes Abel out into the fields to murder him.  The ground that Cain had tilled now becomes a killing field; and the innocent Abel dies without reproducing his own family.  As this chapter unfolds, we see that the chain of violence begun by Cain continues through his descendants and, we suppose, continues through time even to us.  Sin that has been unleashed in the world continues to be a demon lurking at the door which we have the power to master yet somehow do not.

Commentary will elucidate further for us.  Although Cain and Abel may represent nomadic versus sedentary farmers, or rival ways of life, Cain’s act of violence represents “an attack on the integrity of the family, an offense against the divinely intended order of creation expressed in the command to reproduce.  But Cain’s sin is more than a rejection of the divinely established order; in arrogating to himself the divine sovereignty over life in ending a life, Cain has repeated the sin of his parents by making himself ‘like God’.”  (Mays 887)

When we think of sin we are accustomed to feeling less worthy, less hope-filled, more culpable, more ashamed.  When we think of sin we think of turning away from God, of being self-centered and un-controlled and we forget about God’s grace and God’s love.  Rather than give ourselves an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, how much better we might fare if we focused instead on how God loves us and wants to help us.  In short, rather than fuss with ourselves about how poorly we are doing we might feel more successful if we focus instead on giving our feelings of resentment, disappointment and anger over to God.  Knowing that we may too easily succumb to the devil that prowls at the door, let us give our negativity to the one who converts it into goodness.  Let us acknowledge the negative emotions that sneak up on us, and then instead of acting on them . . . let us turn them over to God.

Sin has been described as the willful turning away from God, and in turn this means a turning away from hope.  In this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the light into the darkness of the world, let us take a journey inward to uncover the Cain in each of us.  And rather than take our brother into the fields to kill him in the place where we have harvested goodness in God’s name, let us celebrate the good fortune of others . . . and turn over all resentment to God.  In this way we easily and happily turn the tables on the demon who constantly lurks at our door.


A re-post from December 4, 2011.

Image from: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/vintagecharming/3784014/Cain_and_Abel_1904_James_Tissot_Chromolithograph_Print/Ephemera

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 887. Print.

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Numbers 21Worn Out

Monday, February 25, 2019

Several years ago we focused on verses 4 through 9 of this chapter in a Noontime reflection about The Bronze Serpent and at that time we noted that this story is often read during the Lenten season when we are called to repent and make reparations.  We reflected on the thought that God in great wisdom and mystery sends a cure to the people that is similar to their disease; and we saw the Hebrews succumb to the temptation to complain when their patience is worn out by the journey.  Just as we travel toward Easter during Lent, and move Advent waiting for the light.  When we have so much invested in our waiting it is easy to give in to the kind of impatience we see today; and we know the feeling of despair that replaces hope when the expected outcome is so long in coming.  We zero in on our disappointment and forget to look at the many victories in our lives.

The episode of the bronze serpent is sandwiched between stories of victory over Arad, Moab, Sihon and Og.  God has accompanied the Hebrews and seen to their welfare; yet the travail of the journey has worn their patience thin and they turn against God.  Although they experience a series of triumphs, they complain about their food and drink.  They want to control the smallest details of their lives and rather than rest in the triumphs they have lived they obsess about the minutiae.  This is a story in which we can place ourselves.

Whether we find ourselves in Advent or Lent, or find ourselves in an ordinary time of extraordinary waiting, we can look at the Hebrews to see ourselves in their impatience; and we can make our own journey through the lands of Arad, Moab, Sihon and Og.   We can examine what motivates us, what leads us, what stops us.  And we can pray . . .

Do I too often steer clear from something when the cure lies in my willingness to enter God’s plan?

Am I too stiff-necked or too impatient?

Do I fear too much and trust too little?

Am I too controlling or too impatient?

Do I complain too much and give thanks too little?

Am I too unwilling or too impatient?

Do I take the victories for granted and throw temper tantrums when my own plans come up short?

Am I focused on self and not on God?

In the hardship of the journey it is easy to concentrate on our fears and wishes; it is difficult to keep our eyes on the prize.  So when we feel this impatience welling up, let us look to God for strength; let us ask God for the stamina we need to see the journey through.  Let us look at the many victories that line the pathways of our lives; and let us remember that when we rely on God rather than self . . . our patience will never wear through.


A re-post from December 3, 2011.

For more reflections on traveling the road of life, see the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog.

Images from: http://jewlistic.com/2010/06/ive-had-it-with-these-snakes-in-this-portion/ and http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx303.htm

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Luke 8:22-24Calm

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Ludolf Backhuysen: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Moments before opening scripture I came from the classroom of a teacher who is new to us this year and we spoke about creating calm in the midst of rush.  Today’s Noontime brings us the same message: when we have difficulty finding peace in the hectic pace of our lives, we can always turn to Christ . . . for Christ knows best how to still the storm.  Christ reminds us to . . . Be still! 

Steven Curtis Chapman performs Be Still and Know, a song based on Psalm 46.  The lyrics are well worth reading, and the song worth hearing. They remind us that we cannot survive the wind-tossed waves alone; they tell us that we must seek refuge from powerful winds and mighty seas in Christ only.

In Exodus 14:14 Moses tells his disquieted people, The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.

As Nehemiah and Ezra rebuild the temple and city of Jerusalem and call the people back to God, the Levite priests say to the people: Be still, for this is a sacred day.  Do not grieve. (Nehemiah 8:11)

The Psalms remind us: Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways,when they carry out their wicked schemes(Psalm 37:7)

Be still, and know that I am God;I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  (Psalm 46:10)

The prophet Zechariah tells us: Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.  (Zechariah 2:13)

And in Mark’s version of today’s story Jesus rebukes the wind with the words: Quiet!  Be still!  (Mark 4:39)  The wind dies down and all is completely calm . . .

Christ’s followers are amazed when Jesus commands even the waters and winds . . . and so may we be once we fully hand our lives over to the one who has created us.

Christ’s detractors complain that Jesus breaks all the observed laws . . . and so may we if we allow the laws to become our gods.

Christ’s enemies stalk him with envy and greed . . . and so may we if we allow the details of life to overcome us.

Christ’s true disciples read this story and believe . . . and so may we believe once we live each moment in Christ rather than fret the minutes of each day away in ourselves.

And so we pray . . .

On this day when we consider all that is turbulent in our lives, let us allow Christ to silence the tumult of our lives and let us be still.  In this rush of activity, let us invite Christ into our lives and let us give over to him all that troubles us.  In this season of waiting in joyful hope, let us make room for Christ – even if we can only manage a small pocket of quiet.  In this time of anticipation, let us surrender to him all our dreams and desires.  Let us give willingly to him all that we are, and all that we have.  Let us go to Christ openly, honestly and lovingly.  And let us hunker down in the ship of life and trust that God will calm both the wind and the sea.  Amen. 


Link to Chpaman’s Be Still: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHlbnNUHQGI 

Adapted from a reflection posted on December 1, 2011. 

Image from: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/jesus_calms_the_storm.htm

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Romans 1A Slave for Christ

Friday, February 22, 2019

Paul ruffled feathers as he moved about the Empire delivering the message of Christ.  As apostles we too can expect adversity.

Paul traveled approximately 10,000 miles in his journeys for Jesus.  As followers of Jesus cannot be timid about sharing our own story of Jesus as we too travel many miles.

Paul aggravated his political and spiritual leaders yet he helped a burgeoning Jewish sect establish a religion that would overtake the empire itself.  As Christians we too contribute to the flowering of Jesus’ message.

Membership in the early church was often more a liability than a boon since Christians were viewed as cannibals and participants in incestuous relationships. It is not until the beginning of the 4th Century (323 C.E.) that Christianity becomes an accepted form of worship.  As modern Christians we too may be viewed with skepticism, we too may wait long years before we are seen as the faithful.

Cult worship favored by most Romans was a very different spirituality from Christianity.  In the former, mortals serve whimsical gods; in the latter, a constant and faithful Living God dedicates himself to the care and protection of his creatures.  This Living God comes among his creatures to live as one with them while the Olympian gods tormented mortals.  Our petty gods continue to lure us from our true journey; they taunt us with the false promise of fame, fortune and power.

While we today may be haunted by the many small demons of status and superficiality, Romans believed in spirits who guarded rivers, woods, homes, and families.  Early Christians were consoled and counseled by the Holy Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit that brought unity out of God’ great variety . . . as the Spirit still does today.

Early Christians gather in Rome

Rome reaches out to connect England to Egypt, Spain to Syria; and this Roman world in which Paul lives and moves is a world of slaves and masters, poor and rich.  When Paul goes to Rome he enters the epicenter of the Mediterranean world . . . and all that he says and all he does speaks of Christ Jesus . . . as must we today.

Do we have the strength to stand up against the tide of the times?  Paul becomes a slave for Christ to do so. So must we.

Do we have the tenacity to persist in delivering a message the world does not want to hear? Paul suffers beatings, stoning, imprisonment and all forms of derision to do so.  So must we.

Do we trust enough in God to await the words of the Holy Spirit when we find ourselves confronted by overwhelming odds?  Paul becomes the ultimate apostle who sets self aside to live out the mission Christ gives him.  So must we.

Do we love God enough to see others as images of God?  Paul moves among the “unclean” gentiles as God asks of him to bring the Gospel story of freedom to all.  So must we.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, writes Paul.  Are we willing to confront gossip and lies; do we invite others to allow Jesus to enter their lives; do we pray for our enemies willingly?  Can we also say that we are not ashamed of the Gospel?  Are we willing to reject our petty gods of sleek cars, stock options, extravagant clothing, excess food, influence with power structures, and our dependence on ultra conveniences in order to share what we have with the poor? Are we willing to be slaves for the marginalized as Paul is?  Are we willing to decrease to nothing so that Christ might increase?

This is what Paul calls out to us today.  What is our reply?


For wonderful information on Christians in the Roman Empire, go to the public television site below.    We will find it well worth the time we invest; and we may learn something we did not know about St. Paul and his missionary journeys.   

A re-post from November 30, 2011. 

http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/christians.html

Images from: http://savingparadise.net/about/ and http://www.mitchellteachers.org/WorldHistory/AncientRome/BeginningsofChristianity.htm and http://hudsonfla.com/artchristian.htm and http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/timeline_09.html 

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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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