Archive for the ‘Comparing Scripture’ Category

Nehemiah 6: Doing a Great Work

Jerusalem: The Golden Gate

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Chapter in Nehemiah’s story is interesting. The good work he is doing brings suspicion, envy and even anger from certain quarters. What does this builder do? He refuses to put aside the great work he is doing, and when her finds himself in a precarious position he does not hide; but rather, he prays. All the forces of Sanballat, Tobiah and Gesham are no match for this man and his God. The prophetess Noadiah holds no sway over the builder. We hear the story in Nehemiah’s voice.

Now when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no gap left in it (though up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. (NSRV)

When Nehemiah declines to neglect the great work he is about, his enemies persist.

Sanvalat and Geshem sent me a message which said, “Come, let’s meet together in one of the villages of the Ono Valley.” But they were planning to do me harm; so I sent them messengers with this message: “I’m too busy with important work to come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?” They kept sending this sort of message to me — four times — and I answered them the same way. (CJB)

But Nehemiah sees through the ruse.

I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” (MSG)

Nehemiah sees their deceit.

They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!” (GNT)

Nehemiah remains firm.

I answered, “I’m not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won’t do it.” (GNT)

Nehemiah asks help of the one who brings good out of harm.

“O my God, don’t let Tobiah and Sanballat get by with all the mischief they’ve done. And the same goes for the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who have been trying to undermine my confidence.” (MSG)

Nehemiah remains in the arms of God and does not fear the enemies who unite against him.

After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul. When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help . . . People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me. (GNT)

Nehemiah lives out his trust in the Lord, knowing that he is doing the Lord’s great work.

Tomorrow, an assembly of clans.

When we use the scripture link to compare translations of this story, we come to understand the value of fidelity, steadfastness, and trust in the Lord.

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Nehemiah 4: Hostile Plots

Sunday, October 15, 2017

We may recognize a familiar pattern in many lives.

Just when we believe our work is moving forward with purpose and success, an obstacle blocks our way to make forward progress impossible.

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews. (NRSV)

Just when our relationships are most fruitful and supportive, a loss brings stress that strains the bonds we have built over so many years and with so much effort and prayer.

But when Sanvalat, Toviyah, the Arabs, the ‘Amonim and the Ashdodim heard that the repairs on the walls of Yerushalayim were going forward, and the breaks were being filled in, they became very angry. (CJB)

Just when our work place is most fulfilling and rewarding, stealthy plotters threaten chaos and destruction.

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he exploded in anger, vilifying the Jews. In the company of his Samaritan cronies and military he let loose: “What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe?” (MSG)

Just when our prayer life is fruitful and healing, duplicitous schemers find their way into the heart of all that matters to us.

When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to ridicule us. (GNT) 

We may recognize a familiar pattern in many lives, and when we do, there is only one path of return to peace. We best thwart all hostile plots when we place our lives in the hands of God.

When we compare varying versions of how evil plots threaten the new-found order brought out of chaos, we open our hearts and minds to the healing order of the Spirit.

For more information on Sanballat, Nehemiah’s nemesis, visit: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13167-sanballat 

Tomorrow, dealing with oppression.

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Cyrus the Great

Ezra 1:1-6: Stirring Up the Spirit

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Unless we spend time with the story of Ezra, we miss the many miracles that call a broken people back home.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict. (NRSV)

Unless we reflect on these ancient verses, we fail to hear the message that with God all things are possible.

In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire. (GNT)

Unless we attend to the story of King Cyrus of Persia and Ezra the priest, we ignore the healing love of the Spirit.

In the first year of Koresh king of Persia, in order for the word of Adonai prophesied by Yirmeyahu to be fulfilled, Adonai stirred up the spirit of Koresh king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his whole kingdom, which he also put in writing. (CJB)

Unless we listen for the voice within that promises to stir up the Spirit in us, refuse the gift of everlasting life.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. (MSG)

aftertheexile_herocoreTo better understand the events surrounding the Jewish people’s return to Jerusalem, click on the image to the left or visit; http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/after-the-exile-gods-people-return-to-judea

For more information about King Cyrus and Ezra, visit http://biblehub.com/topical/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm and http://biblehub.com/topical/c/cyrus.htm

When we use the scripture link to explore varying translations of these verses, we begin to see the stirring of the Spirit in our own lives as we ask: When has God put opportunities for change in our path? When have impossible circumstances turned in our favor? When have we helped others to see the movement of the Spirit in their lives?


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Reg Cartwright image for open exh

Image by Reg Cartwright from Ann Carter’s book for children, BIRDS, BEASTS AND FISHES: A SELECTION OF ANIMAL POEMS

Job 12:7-10: Ask the Beasts

Monday, October 2, 2017

The pace of modern Western life can move us along life’s path too quickly. And so we might ask the beasts how they live so simply.

Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom. All of them know that the Lord’s hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power. (GNT)

Current global events cause us to lose sleep. And so we might ask the birds of the air how they live so faithfully.

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and the birds of the air, and they shall tell thee. Speak to the earth, and it shall answer thee: and the fishes of the sea shall tell. Who is ignorant that the hand of the Lord hath made all these things? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the spirit of all flesh of man. (CJB)

Science drives us always into new frontiers that call for new balance in out thinking. And so we God’s creatures how they live so fully.

But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand— Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature? Isn’t this all just common sense, as common as the sense of taste? Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom, that you have to grow old before you understand life? (MSG)

The pace of Western modern life can move us along life’s path too quickly. And so we might ask all of creation how to muster the hope we need for each new day . . . and we allow God’s creatures to instruct us.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore varying translations of these verses, we find common sense in the lives of the beasts of the land and sea, and the birds of the air. To learn more about Ann Carter’s book, click on the image above or visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6188005-birds-beasts-and-fishes


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Isaiah 55:8-9: God’s Ways

Sunday, October 1, 2017

There is little wonder that we become confused in our contemporary society; and God is aware of this.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NRSV)

God’s generosity is far too deep and far too wide for us to understand; and God is aware of this.

“My thoughts,” says the Lord, “are not like yours,
    and my ways are different from yours.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so high are my ways and thoughts above yours. (GNT)

God’s call to us to follow in the ways we cannot understand are a struggle. And God is aware of this.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (CJB)

God’s hope for us is greater than we can imagine. And God is aware of this.

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think. (MSG)

God’s love for us is greater than we can take in. And God is aware of this.

Although God’s ways are not our ways, God abides with us still. For God is aware of who we are. And so God loves us still.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we understand the enormity of God’s faith, hope and love in and of us.

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Ezekiel 34: Parable of the Shepherds – Part IV

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Himalayan Shepherd

The New Testament Gospels of Mark, Matthew and John describe the Good Shepherd, and because we have heard these lines often, we may be able to recite them from memory. If this is the case, we will want to spend time with varying translations to allow these images to sink into our sinew and bone. For we can only act as Jesus asks when we fully own his words. We can only enact our own Good Shepherd Parable when his words move through us into our ears and lips, hands and feet.

In Matthew 9 and Mark 6 we read that Jesus sees the people as a shepherd-less flock.  In Matthew 25 and Mark 14, Jesus tells us that the Son of Man will divide his flock as a shepherd does, knowing each sheep well.  In Matthew 26 when Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, he uses the metaphor of a shepherd being struck down and the flock scattering.  St. John in Chapter 10 develops the beautiful imagery of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. The hired hand runs away in fear and abandons the sheep to the attack of the wolf while Jesus, the sheep gate, admits only those he knows . . . I know my sheep and my sheep know me

It is difficult to distinguish between false shepherds and the Good Shepherd and so it is important to look for the one who mercifully brings other sheep into the one fold, the one who forgives and heals, the one who calls, leads and protects, the one who watches through the night, the one inviting us to begin our own parable of shepherding.

Tomorrow, shepherds in The Letters and Revelation.

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 20, 2008.

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Ezekiel 34: Parable of the Shepherds – Part II

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In Psalms 23, 28, 78 and 80 the Holy Spirit brings us beautiful words of the comforting, guiding, protecting shepherd.  In the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes chapter 12 we also hear and see the image of “shepherd”.  If we choose one of these Books or Chapters today, and reflect on the sacred words, we open our hearts and minds to the Parable of the Shepherds, and we give ourselves an opportunity to enact our own parable.

Tomorrow, the prophets and shepherds. 

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 20, 2008.

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Ezekiel 33:7-9: Warning to All

Sunday, September 17, 2017

We have read this message before. We have heard this call. Today we have the opportunity to respond to the warning, and to pass it along to others.

From last Sunday’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection in the Morning Prayer: The greatest demand love makes on us is that we help one another into the kingdom of God. Sometimes love requires us to speak a painful word of truth to awaken someone blinded by sin, recognizing that we ourselves are also sinners. Let us do for one another what we would have others do for us. (Cameron 130)

Of course, there are days when our ego wants to do precisely what we like without regard for anyone or anything. The child in us wants to have our way. There are other days when we want to take splinters our of our neighbors eyes without tending to the beams in our own. And there are days when we take credit for all that goes well while throwing blame on others for all that goes wrong. Ezekiel tells us that God warns the sentinels among us, and he tells us that we must listen for the word of warning from them and from God.

Yesterday we spent time reflecting on true wisdom – what it is and where it is found. Today we further explore that wisdom as we hear it when we listen to the sentinel warning, and when we experience it as we gather together in Jesus’ name.

Other readings from last Sunday that accompany Ezekiel’s warning bring us further wisdom when we spend time with them. Psalm 95 . . . If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. Romans 13:8-10 . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. And in Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus gives us a tiered process to rebuke or warn another. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you . . . If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

Giving voice to warnings, rebuking one another in love, these are hallmarks of a disciple and we need true wisdom from God in order to follow the process Jesus describes for us. And so we reflect today.

Do we listen for or listen to the warnings we hear? Do we rebuke one another with compassion? Do we listen when others rebuke us? Do we witness with kindness? Do we gossip about others because we cannot summon up the courage to go to another in mercy? How do we react to gossip spread about us? How do we rebuke gossip when we hear it? And what do we do when scandal hits our church, our group of loved ones who gather in Christ’s name?

We must heed the warnings we hear. We must interact with others with patience, care and wisdom. We must seek true sentinels rather than false prophets. And we must always be certain that our actions bear fruit that is goodness and that bring goodness out of harm.

We must take time to reflect today, for we never know at what hour God’s warnings arrive. And we must prepare ourselves, for we will need all the wisdom and love God gifts to disciples.

When we compare varying translation of these verses, we open ourselves to God’s warning, we better learn how to rebuke another, and we better learn how to receive a rebuke from another. 

For more reflections on false and true prophets, for sentinels who hear and pass along warnings, and for ways to rebuke and be rebuked, use the blog search bar and explore.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.9 (2017): 129-130. Print.


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Colossians 1:21-27: True Wisdom

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Cathedral of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, Colombia

Brother and sisters: You once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds; God has now reconciled you. God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NRSV)

We sometimes read familiar verses quickly, thinking that we have felt their full impact and heard their divine wisdom. When we pause to consider singular words or phrases, and when we read varying translations, we open ourselves to their beauty and power. Last week was the feast day of St. Peter Claver when this citation was part of Morning Prayer; yet for some reason this portion of Colossians has stayed with me.

God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. (GNT)

St. Peter Claver

Peter Claver (1581-1654), born in Spain, traveled to the New World and landed in Cartagena – today located in Colombia – to begin his ministry to slaves brought to South America. Entering the holds of ships when they arrived in the harbor, Peter Claver managed the juxtaposition of wealthy slave traders with the plight of those they enslaved. Knowing that he could not possibly change the structures encouraging this lucrative trade, Claver moved forward to answer God’s call as he attended those in need. We might take a lesson from this young man who learned how to live a life of paradox. We might gain this divine, true wisdom of forgiveness, fidelity and love.

And the secret is this: the Messiah is united with you people! In that rests your hope of glory! (CJB)

Writing from jail, Paul tells the Colossians that despite his imprisonment, he is cheerful. As we read these verses, we realize that despite any evil we have committed, God forgives us when we are willing to put aside any harm we do so that we might return to God’s goodness. We understand that evil exists alongside goodness. We begin to appreciate the secret of true wisdom that brings goodness out of all harm.

The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 

That is the substance of God’s plan. That is the substance of true Wisdom. Let us enjoy this gift today.

We can read more about the remarkable Peter Claver at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/16th-and-17th-century-ignatian-voices/st-peter-claver-sj

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