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Archive for the ‘Comparing Scripture’ Category


Revelation 1:7-8: I am the Alpha and the Omega

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

We continue to explore the definitions with which Jesus defines himself, looking for The Way to better follow his lead, seeking the Good Shepherd who guides and protects, searching for Vine so that we might be the Branches.

The Book of Revelation is full of apocryphal images that we struggle to understand without consulting a commentary. We may want to set aside a chunk of time to study this book since it is the culmination of the before, the now and the yet to come. It is the Word, written and brought to us by the Holy Spirit. It is the Word, Christ himself, both microcosm and macrocosm. It is the Word that is God, God the beginning and God the end, God who is all. With these verses, we come to know that there is nothing else but this triune God.

John 1:3: Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. (GNT)

The Apostle John tries to put into words all that he has experienced with the human and risen Jesus. Can we say that Christ is our beginning and end?

Isaiah 41:4: Who did this? Who made it happen?
    Who always gets things started?
I did. God. I’m first on the scene.
    I’m also the last to leave. (MSG)

The prophet Isaiah asks us how we understand God. Can we say that God is the source and goal of all we do?

Matthew 5:17: Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. (CJB)

The disciple Matthew records Jesus himself telling us that he is with us to fulfill rather than destroy. Can we say that we build up more than e tear down?

Revelation 22:13: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (NRSV)

Jesus himself describes to us how the first becomes last, and the last first. He becomes for us the parable described in Matthew 20:16. How do we order our days? How do we prioritize our hours? What do we do with the precious moments of time that God gives us?

Once we begin to open our lives to Christ, the true Revelation of how we embody God’s image becomes our own alpha and omega.


When we compare other translations of these words, we better see how we might be both first and last in Christ.

Click on the images to explore. 

Images from: http://www.stfrancisnyc.org/2014/08/alpha-and-omega/ and https://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2010/11/alpha-and-omega.html 

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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Monday, May 21, 2018

Near King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel there was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth.

We know the goodness of the well-tended vineyard. The Master maintains a sturdy wall to protect the vines from those who would plunder the fruit of sun and soil. The crop flourishes under the caring hands of the workers who gather in the harvest in due time. Jesus uses the metaphor of the grapevine to explain to us the nature of our relationship with him; and yet, Jesus also knows the familiar story of how Naboth’s vineyard aroused envy and later fury in those who held power.

John Liston Byam Shaw: Queen Jezebel

One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard; it is close to my palace, and I want to use the land for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will pay you a fair price.”

We hold on to that which we hold dear; we cling to the beliefs that support us as we engage in our work and play.

“I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors,” Naboth replied. “The Lord forbid that I should let you have it!”

My father always advised us that the better we became at our work, the more enemies we would have. He also reminded us that there is a difficult line to walk between minding our own business and speaking up about injustice. My mother advised us to stay away from gossip and squabbles, and always, no matter the circumstance, to “kill your enemies with kindness”. My parents knew that these adages would not keep us safe from the world; but they also knew that in living with Christ, we would survive calamity with the more valuable gift: unity with Christ, transformation, redemption.

The officials and leading citizens of Jezreel did what Jezebel had commanded. They proclaimed a day of fasting, called the people together, and gave Naboth the place of honor. 

The schemes of Ahab, Jezebel, and their powerful friends are insidious; these corrupt leaders strike at the heart of Naboth’s industry; they mock his fidelity, and ignore his goodness. They lure him to the feast only to betray him on the deepest level. When we put aside our negative emotions to read this story with patience, we see Ahab ride to his death in battle. Later, in 2 Kings 9; and we witness Jezebel’s gruesome end. We might be tempted to gloat over these outcomes that feel like divine justice. We may want to join in the chaos of war or the crowd’s frenzy; but rather than seek revenge, we might instead focus on Naboth’s goodness that despite the fact that it has the capacity to bring out the worst in his enemies, it also delivers redemption.

Thomas Matthew Rooke: Naboth Refuses King Ahab his Vineyard

During Eastertide, we heard several times the words Jesus speaks to his followers, words we will want to hear again today as we read about Naboth: If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

Be ready, Dad would say, to find that enemies accompany your successes. Be ready, Mother would remind us, to kill your enemies with kindness. This is our work in the vineyard. No matter the circumstances, we must cling to the vine that sustains us; we must produce good fruit in good time; and we must remain always in Christ who saves, transforms and redeems.


Tomorrow, Jesus is the alpha and the omega.

Compare the GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION with others for a better understanding of these verses.

For more reflections on Naboth, Ahab, Jezebel, or vineyard enter the words into the blog search bar and explore.  

How bad was Jezebel? Visit: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/how-bad-was-jezebel/

Images from: https://929chapters.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel and https://thetorah.com/the-story-of-naboths-vineyard-and-the-ancient-winery-in-jezreel/ 

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John 15: The Vine and Branches

Saturday, May 19, 2018

We continue our exploration of the way in which Jesus describes himself, helping us to sustain strength on our difficult journey, to remain always in and for the Lord.

Because he understands the difficulties of our lives, Jesus explains our connection to him with a simple yet powerful image. This power, wisdom, strength, and understanding were predicted by the prophet Isaiah. Listen while I sing you this song, a song of my friend and his vineyard. (Isaiah 5:1)

Later, Jesus tells his followers – as he tells us – just how important we are to his kingdom.

I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

Jesus says to his disciples – as he says to us – that we are essential to God’s plan.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

Jesus wants each of us to experience the joy of sorrow becoming celebration, of grief turning to gladness.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you.

Jesus leads us into the newness of redemption and resurrection with the grace of fidelity. Jesus leads us from fear to mercy with the gift of transformative love. Jesus shows us the Way from shadow to sunshine and invites us to join him in outrageous hope.


Tomorrow, Isaiah and The Vineyard Song.

When we compare other translations of John 15, we discover how we might become strong branches on Christ’s sustaining vine.  

Image from: https://redeeminggod.com/sermons/john/john_15_1-8/

 

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Hosea 14: The Good Shepherd Foreshadowed

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May those who are wise understand what is written here, and may they take it to heart. The Lord’s ways are right, and righteous people live by following them, but sinners stumble and fall because they ignore them.

We constantly look for messages and signs; yet we too often ignore the Word before us. Yesterday we reflected on Jesus as The Good Shepherd. Today we explore the many ways each of us might respond to God’s call.

Hosea, a prophet about whom we know little, brings us the heartbreaking image of one who loves greatly and suffers deeply. Some might say that in pledging himself to the prostitute Gomer, Hosea deserves the anguish she brings him.  Others will admire his steadfastness, mercy, and hope. The imagery we see today leaves us with no doubt that no matter the severity of any pain we cause the Creator, the Good Shepherd will always welcome us back to the sheepfold.

The Lord says:

“I will bring my people back to me.
I will love them with all my heart.

“I will be to the people of Israel
    like rain in a dry land.
They will blossom like flowers;
    they will be firmly rooted
    like the trees of Lebanon.

“I will answer their prayers and take care of them.
Like an evergreen tree I will shelter them;
    I am the source of all their blessings.”

These Old Testament words foreshadow a new prophet who will search endlessly for the last lost sheep. How can we turn away from one who follows us so closely? How can we reject a love that runs so deep and true? How can we reject a hope that transforms us forever?

May those who are wise understand what is written here, and may they take it to heart.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we open our hearts to the Good Shepherd. 

Tomorrow, Jesus as The Way.

Image from: http://www.timothybrownjr.com/following-the-good-shepherd-and-not-the-bad-ones/

 

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Luke 6:45: Fullness of Heart

RC DeWinter: The Tree of Hearts

Saturday, May 12, 2018

We have established a dwelling place where we rest in the Spirit only to find that there are times when we must flee this sanctuary. Some of us are called to remain forever outside of that refuge, and others are called to return transformed and transforming. No matter our circumstances, we might do as the words from Luke ask us.

A good person out of the store of goodness in the heart produces good; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (NAB)

In this image of God’s kingdom as a tree bearing fruit, there is no doubt that storing up goodness is the heart of our daily mission; but today we pause to reflect on what we might do when we are weighted with a burden too heavy to carry. How are we to manage when we are overwhelmed with doubt or fear? Jesus tells us: Do not let your hearts be troubled. (John 14:1) Today we rest in these words.

A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (GNT)

The looming image of God measuring out the good from the bad is too terrible for us to consider for those who find themselves barely able to journey from morning to evening without losing heart. How are we to manage when our hearts are too empty to fill? Jesus reminds us: Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4) Today we rely on these words.

The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (NRSV)

The dual image of an either/or world asks us to make too simple a choice when we know that few of us are all good or all bad, but rather a blend of both worlds. How are we to manage a dualistic world that offers only black-or-white decisions when we know that the real world we live in is mostly gray? Jesus asks us: Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast. (Matthew 22:9) Today we have hope in these words.

The good person produces good things from the store of good in his heart, while the evil person produces evil things from the store of evil in his heart. For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart. (CJB)

The image of an intense struggle between goodness and evil rises before us as we consider this verse, giving us a deceiving reality of false choices. How are we to behave when it appears that everything and everyone align in a tribal dance of self versus other? Jesus says to us:  Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:35) Today we find a challenge in these words.

You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds. (MSG)

If the image of a worm-infested life terrifies us so that we are unable to accept our reality, we have taken this image too far. When life itself frightens us, we must find a way to pray for those who harm us, and ask that Christ show us the way to still our troubled minds and dissolve the anger, fear, hatred, and fog . . . and to fill our troubled hearts with forgiveness, patience, courage and clarity. In time, we discover that despite, or perhaps because of all we have suffered, we have a certain fullness of the heart.


When we compare translations of these verses, we open our hearts so that Christ might fill them with his generous love. 

Images from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-tree-of-hearts-rc-dewinter.html and http://www.boiseccc.org/sermons/chouer-love-your-enemies-2/

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Hebrews 10:30-39: Trials Well Borne

Friday, May 11, 2018

James Tissot: The Mess of Pottage – Jacob and Esau

This reflection continues thoughts posed in the Revenge and Forgiveness post from September 9, 2012.

Obadiah, one of the Minor Prophets, offers us ideas we will want to examine further.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE we discover themes. We learn that Obadiah’s  name means “servant of Yahweh,” and many scholars believe that his brief prophecy was written between 586 and 553 B.C.E. We know that Obadiah does not specify that his prophecy is meant for any particular king or event; yet he indicates that a major calamity has occurred in Judah and that the Edomites have capitalized on this event.  In general, scholars believe that there was a post-exilic setback for the Israelites, and most believe it to be the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. They also remind us that Edom itself fell to this same empire in 553 B.C.E.  All of this sets up a story of intense tribalism, payback, and retaliation. We look a little further.

Who are the Edomites and where is their land? These people descended from Esau, the son of Issac, who was cheated of his heritage by his brother Jacob and his mother. Obadiah writes to the people of Judah (the descendants of Jacob) condemning the Edomites for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah.  He also rails against the people for their sins of arrogance and indifference toward God.  So this prophecy harkens back to the conflict between these two brothers.  Judah feels that the hostility shown to them when they are at a low point by the people of Edom is cruel and unjustified.  Edom’s arrogance was founded in its nearly impregnable mountain strongholds where the Edomites safeguarded their wealth (gained from trade) in rock vaults.  Obadiah teaches that God is sovereign over all nations. (Zondervan 1464-1465)

James Tissot: The Meeting of Esau and Jacob

So much of what we read here reminds us of the story we live each day; our modern world is occupied with ancient themes: indifference to a higher authority, arrogance of the ego, injustice of systems and structures, and the use of cruelty as a fair means to any end. The rivalries in this prophecy echo the petty rivalries we set up early in life and, as we grow older, carefully nurture.

Turning to today’s reading, we see these familiar words in verse 18: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”. Yet, despite our recognition of the truth these words bring to us, we need more urging. The prophet, knows that despite enlightenment we will have setbacks, and so he lays them out for us to examine in ourselves: the malignant hope for revenge, the overpowering force of hubris, the willingness to use any means to achieve our ends, the animal-instinctive fear of others. Obadiah asks us examine the suffering of our daily experience as we reflect on his prophecy.

As New Testament believers, we want to be poised for Jesus’ coming into our lives and receptive to the Spirit that lives among us. Feeling Christ’s call to our highest goodness, we might look at Hebrews 11 and determine to follow the example of the faithful lived by the Patriarchs: Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and the Judges . . . “all these . . . approved by the testimony of faith”.  We might look to these people as models of how and what we are to do, how and why we are to overcome our lust for revenge, how and why we are to practice love.  When we study their individual stories, we see that these ancestors do not lead perfect lives; but they strive for that perfection in their loyalty to Yahweh.  They listen, they obey, and they bear their trials well.

In the name of Jesus, let us call out our best selves to serve God, to fulfill his hope in us.  Let us be good and loyal servants who want nothing more than to discern our mission and to complete it well.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the one who dwells among us to lead us, to heal us, to restore us, to be one with us.

Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 27, 2007.

Read the brief prophecy of Obadiah and compare varying translations to better understand our tendency to seek revenge . . . and our need to rely on God’s wisdom rather than our own.  


ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464-1465. Print.

Visit the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/obadiah-outrageous-hope/  or the Revenge and Forgiveness page at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/09/revenge-and-forgiveness/

 

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Exodus 39:32-43: Presentation of Work

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Moses’ Tabernacle Tent

Yesterday we reflected on how at times we must abandon the sanctuary.  Delving into this separation from all that comforts us helps us to explore the idea that there are times when God calls us to leap over the abyss of our doubts.  Today we reflect on the establishment of the first sanctuary or “dwelling place” for Yahweh, the desert temple tent.  Verse 43 tells us that Moses was pleased with the work of the people and so he blessed them.  This is reminiscent of the Creation story when God moves through the phases of creation – the sea, the land, the plants and animals, the humans – he sees that the work is good.  In the relativistic twenty-first century western world, it is easy to think that our standard for goodness relies on our personal perspective. But when we read both Old and New Testaments, we remember that accountability, evaluation, and even assessment are part of the Gospel story.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

It is good to review the portions of Exodus that describe in detail the Temple Tent of Yahweh that the people carried as they wandered the wilderness for several generations.  Verse 39:43 describes the experience of joy in the completion of work and a task well done for Yahweh.  When we read varying translations of these words, we begin to feel the blessing God gave the Hebrews – that God gives to us.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we complete any task to which God calls us, it is good to rest awhile and reflect on what we have accomplished.  It is good to give God thanks for we know – if we will admit it – that all we do is done through God. All we do that is worthy, is done with God.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

This blessing of all work done in God’s name may put a new spin on our daily lives, and in fact, it ought to do so.  If we work, play, and pray for ourselves, we have missed the point of our existence. When we work, play, and pray with God, we participate in a plan far greater than any we might devise.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

For more information, click on the image, or visit: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tabernacle-of-moses.html

When we have struggled through the travail of repairing a relationship, we will know the goodness of God’s providential care. When we have repaired, restored, rejuvenated our soul with God, we will know the beauty of God’s plan.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we have worked our way carefully through the many tasks of a day with no casualties or misunderstandings, we know the joy of putting a peaceful head on our nighttime pillow.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we make a presentation of our work, and we see that our efforts have produced fruit in abundance that will last, we know the perfect serenity of God.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we are forced to flee our sanctuary and then agree to return, restored and healed, we will see that the work we have done has been done just as the Lord commanded. We will know that we, like the Hebrew people, are blessed. We will know that the presentation of our labor is pleasing to God, so let us rejoice in God’s blessing.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 16, 2008.


Images from: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tabernacle-of-moses.html

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Psalm 132: The Dwelling Place 

Bethlehem, Israel at night

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I’m not going home,
    and I’m not going to bed,
I’m not going to sleep,
    not even take time to rest,
Until I find a home for God,
    a house for the Strong God of Jacob.

So sings the psalmist in the opening of this prayer. Might we imagine ourselves so dedicated that we do not rest until we have prepared a dwelling place for God within?

Remember how we got the news in Ephrathah,
    learned all about it at Jaar Meadows?
We shouted, “Let’s go to the shrine dedication!
    Let’s worship at God’s own footstool!”

Ephrathah, the ancient name of Bethlehem district in which Jaar Meadows, or Ya’ar Woods, was located. The psalmist taps our joy of the past and paints an image or remembrance to stir us. Might we remember a time of joy when we were eager to give thanks for God’s presence among us?

God gave David God’s word,
    God won’t back out on this promise.

We too often set up our temples in places or people we want to control. We see happiness as an end rather than a Way. Might we picture our relationship with the Spirit as God’s temple within?

God says, “This will always be my home;
    this is what I want, and I’m here for good”.

A springtime field in Haifa, Israel

We long for eternal union with God and the peace that settles into God’s temple. Might we conceive of our lives in Christ as the temple God longs to make a home?

God says, “Oh, I’ll make the place radiant for David!
    I’ll fill it with light for my anointed!

We look for stability, predictability, and safety. We want to exert external controls on an inner peace; but today the psalmist reminds us that we find lasting peace when we give over control of our dreams to God, when we surrender our fears to the Spirit, and when we joyfully prepare a holy dwelling place in our softened hearts.

I’m not going home,
    and I’m not going to bed,
I’m not going to sleep,
    not even take time to rest,
Until I find a home for God.

Might we imagine ourselves so dedicated that we do not rest until we have readied a dwelling place for God within?

Tomorrow, at times we must flee the sanctuary . . . 


These verses are from THE MESSAGE translation. When we compare other versions, we find the peace to prepare God’s dwelling place within. We find the joy to celebrate God’s promises kept. We find the gratitude to share God’s peace with others.

Enter the word dwelling into the blog search bar to explore more reflections.

Find information Jaar Meadows at: https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/H3293/ya%60ar.htm and about Ephrathah at: http://bibleatlas.org/ephrathah.htm 

Images from: https://www.eggedtours.com/Bethlehem/ALL and http://meganbrand.blogspot.com/2011/04/land-flowing-with-milk-and-honey.html

To explore posts of “An American in Haifa,” click on the meadow image or visit: http://meganbrand.blogspot.com/2011/04/land-flowing-with-milk-and-honey.html

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John 17: Two Worlds 

NASA: Spiral Galaxies in Collision

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 6, 2018

In September of 2017, Pope Francis reminded us: We are a people chosen for the truth, and our call has to be in truth. There can be no place for deceit, hypocrisy, or small-mindedness if we are . . . to bear fruit. (Cameron 422)

We have heard Christ’s message that the Creator calls each of us to live in both this world and the next. We have felt the Spirit’s urging to bear fruit in good season. Today, as we reflect on the challenge of living this dual life as if it were one, we explore words from Pope Francis as he unravels the mystery that is Christ, our human and divine brother.

“We all would like to count on a world with straightforward families and relationships, but we are part of this changing age, of this cultural crisis and, in the midst of it, in response to God’s continuing call . . . Even with [today’s] crisis, God still calls. It would be almost unrealistic to think that all of you heard the call of God in the midst of families sustained by a strong love and full of values such as generosity, compromise, fidelity, and patience; some, yes, but not all. Some families are like this, and I pray to God that there are many. But keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground means recognizing that our vocational experiences, the awakening of God’s call, brings us closer to what God’s Word already reveals”. (Cameron 422)

NASA: Space Hubble Telescope

Like Jesus, Francis asks us to cease making excuses for our unwillingness to sit at the banquet of life with those who hate or harm us. In the Spirit, Francis points out that few of us have perfect families, perfect circumstances or perfect relationships. Like the Creator, Francis calls us to something beyond our smallness, something greater than our fears. Francis urges us to maintain contact with God always so that the great vine of God’s love might sustain us through drought and nourish us through upheaval.

“Don’t think of an ideal situation, for this situation is the real one. God manifests his closeness and his election where he wills, in the land he wills, in whatever situation it is in, with its real contradictions, as he wills. He changes the course of events to call men and women in the frailty of their own personal and shared history”. (Cameron 422)

Rather than long for ideal circumstances that will likely never fall into place, Francis urges us to seize on the moment we now have. Rather than yearn for people to surround one another with a love they proscribe, Christ calls us to rest in the love of his ample arms. Rather than reason with us over the causes of contradictions that plague the world, the Spirit calls us to goodness despite our conditions. So rather than wait for the perfection of a world that does not exist, let us plant our feet firmly in our imperfect world, and ask God for the patience, courage, persistence, and clarity to live in the two worlds of our humanity and divinity.


When we use multiple translations of John 17 to study Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, we open our minds and hearts to better understanding what it means to live in two worlds.  

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 29.4 (2018): 421-423. Print. 

Explore the worlds of the universe with NASA and Hubble photographs by clicking on the images, or visiting: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140119.html and https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html

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