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2 Samuel 22: Warrior’s Song

Friday, March 22, 2019

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri: Saul Attacking David

As human beings, we have a desire to record the emotions of great events so that the effect they hold on us will not be lost.  We retain love letters, programs from special ceremonies, photographs and recordings . . . all in an attempt to recreate an emotion or a feeling we once had.  Rather than press flowers or save baby teeth and ringlets of hair, what might we find within ourselves if we were to create hymns of praise for the ways God has been present in our lives in a palpable way?  More importantly, how might we magnify God – each in our own small way – if we began to speak to one another of the wondrous transformations we experience rather than the daily toil and drudgery of our lives?

The story of David is such a good one because David is so human.  He has both smallness and greatness.  He succumbs to his human frailty and he glorifies God with abandon when goodness comes to him.  David is not ashamed or embarrassed to acknowledge God.  Davis knows how to wait on the Lord.

Today’s reading follows other less happy events in David’s life: his hiding in fear from the anger of King Saul against whom he had done nothing to merit persecution, the sad and unnecessary death of Saul and his son Jonathan (David’s boon companion), his taking of Bathsheba and the arranged murder of her husband Uriah in battle, the death of their son Absalom after a bitter civil war.  Yet despite the unhappiness he has experienced, David rises from the ashes of sorrow and pain to praise God who is his strength and his rock.

Today’s song is also found in the Psalter as Psalm 18; and it is fitting that these verses appear twice in scripture as they so beautifully express the emotion we all long to feel.  For it is with these verses that we magnify God . . . it is with these verses that we form a scrap book of memories and emotions that will never fade.  These verses bring us what we seek; they answer the ancient yearning to acknowledge and to be acknowledged.  They are all we truly need.

My rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my savior, my stronghold, my refuge . . . from violence you keep me safe.

David suffered years of persecution by Saul, years of struggle as the young king of a small desert nation; yet he places all of this anguish where it belongs, at the feet of God.

In my distress I called on the Lord and cried out to my God.  From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry reached his ears.

In this Lenten season we also must raise our voices in appeal to our God who hears all petitions.  Let us not be shy about seeking peace from the Lord; but rather let us intercede for ourselves and for our enemies as we have been taught by Christ the saver of all.

He rescued me from my enemy, from my foes, who were too powerful for me.  He set me free in the open and rescued me, because he loves me.

We also can number the times we have been pulled from despair and its downward tug by some sudden and surprising turn of events.  Enslavement comes to us in many forms; so does deliverance.

You have given me your saving shield; you girded me with strength for war.

We also find this same strength when we put on our armor of Christ to walk humbly but with authority, to live justly and mercifully, to love well and always – no matter the cost.

Therefore will I proclaim you, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praise to your name.

We also might pronounce stories of the times we have been rescued and upheld.  We also might sing a pilgrim’s song of praise for our deliverance from all that drags us down and brings us fear.

So let us sing praise to the Lord our God, who hears our voices when we call . . . and who answers our cries for help.  Let us join ourselves in a Warrior’s Song of Praise . . .  to the one true God who loves us all . . . and loves us all so well.


A re-post from March 22, 2012. 

Image from: http://theoblogic.blogspot.com/2011/04/spirit-david-and-saul.html

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Exodus 23:20-33: Reward of Fidelity

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Pillar of Fire

Some time ago we reflected on the effects of idolatry in our lives; today we look at the reward for maintaining authenticity through tribulation.  As human beings, with our many fears and anxieties, we succumb quickly to the turmoil of life . . . and fidelity to self and others is too often given over quickly so that we might take up convenience, comfort and ease.  God is always faithful to us; he never forgets to think about us, he never forgets his promises.  We, on the other hand, too often find it difficult to stand by God when challenged by the pressures and influences of modern living.

Just over two years ago we looked at chapters 20 to 24 of Exodus to reflect on the two-way relationship we have with God as represented by the Covenant agreement mediated through Moses and represented in a very visual way by the Ten Commandments.  Today we can zero in on 23:20-33 and spend some time with the image of the angel of the Lord who goes before us, to guard us on our way and to bring us to our destination, a place prepared for us by God in the New Jerusalem.

We need not doubt that there is a dwelling place for us and a purpose for us beyond this life.  John records what Jesus tells us in Chapter 14 of his Good News:  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith in me.  In my father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  The apostles knew – and we know today – that this man Jesus who has always acted in compassion will not lie to us for the sake of easing fear.  He speaks truth to us because he can do other thing – he cannot lie.  This we know and hold through faith, we believe through hope, and we act in through love.

The Pillar of Smoke

This Exodus story today reminds us of another of God’s promises: not only does Jesus go before us to prepare our place, but God sends his messenger to accompany us, to bring us safely to that home.  The voice of God tells us how important it is for us to look for this angel as we wander through the desert and cross through seas and rivers: Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him . . . my authority rests in him.  The tough part, of course, is to discern the angel in the smoke and haze of living, to hear the voice of God and his messengers through the cacophony of life; however, today’s reading indicates that we need not have a physical explanation of why we believe.  We need only muster our faith.  The reward of this fidelity to our belief is the guidance and protection we so keenly seek.

I have noticed something about life and perhaps you have, too.  I cannot miss the fact that the more often and the more deeply I trust the God who goes before me as a column of smoke in the day and as a column of fire by night (Exodus 13:20-22), the more confidence I feel, the less fear I experience, and the easier it becomes to do what God asks of us in today’s reading: Be attentive to the voice.  Do not rebel against it.  My children, grandchildren and friends know that when I feel frightened, I step into that column – which seems a foolish thing to do when we notice how it roils and churns.  And yet there is something mystical in this pulsing smoke and intense fire – it empowers more than it overcomes; it gives life rather than consumes it.

Be attentive to the voice.  Do not rebel against it.  What is the reward we receive for this kind of fidelity?  To live within this column of smoke and fire and never be consumed.  To know the touch of God within and without.  To shed fear, to love well, and to walk humbly with our God.

Be attentive to the voice.  Do not rebel against it. 


A re-post from March 21, 2012.

For more on The Desert Tabernacle click on one of the images above or go to: http://thedeserttabernacle.blogspot.com/2010/06/numbers-915-23-pillar-of-smoke-and.html

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Sirach 31:1-11: Wealth

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

From the notes in the New American Bible: Solicitude for acquiring wealth and anxiety over preserving it disturb repose and easily lead to sin and ruin.  See Matthew 6:26-34.  A rich man who has not sinned or been seduced by wealth is worthy of praise (8-11).

At first glance we will read this advice from Jesus ben Sirach along with this story from the Book of Matthew and we will check it off as one of the ways we are confident that we do not allow ourselves to become separate from God.  We have kept money in its proper place in life.  We are careful to render both to Caesar and to God.  But now I go a step further.  Where in my life do I amass wealth . . . and do I let it color my decisions in any way?

Lent, as we have been observing over the past weeks, is the perfect time to take an interior pilgrimage to examine dusty corners and cabinets full of things we have forgotten.  As I unlock files of memories I thought were well-sorted and archived, I discover some old injuries and wounds.  Perhaps I have hoarded these, thinking that by keeping them from the light I have prevented them from maintaining safe harbor in my dreams.  Have they taken on a life which seduces me?  Do I spend time keeping watch over them to keep them from escaping my control, or do I trust God enough to release them into the present winds?

Anything which we store up is where our heart lies (Luke 12:34) so this causes me to wonder . . . Where have I put my energies and talents?  What do I lose sleep over?  What do I protect from moths and thieves?  What do I take to the granary to keep?  What do I measure out with care?

If when we open the storehouse doors we find the silos are full of petitions answered and hopes fulfilled, this is a sign of God’s blessing on us and this is good news indeed.  If the stores are meager, that is fine . . . we only need to begin today to bring the harvest of our lives.  God is so loving that he pays all workers in the vineyard equally . . . no matter the number of hours spent at the vines.

And once we begin to see the balance sheet rise to numbers higher than we might have imagined, what do we do then?  Do we seal up the bins and vats to put them away for another quick glance on another day?  Do we cover over the chinks to keep every grain inside the tower . . . or do we fling open the doors as our father does with his own bounty, to share what has been given?  What kind of harvester is he or she who has much but who is not seduced?

Who is he that we may praise him?  He, of all his kindred, has done wonders, for he has been tested by gold and come off safe, and this remains his glory; he could have sinned but did not, could have done evil but would not, so that his possessions are secure, and the assembly recounts his praises.

The wealth we store is the wealth we have to share.  What we have been freely given, we must freely give (Matthew 10:8).

When we go to the storeroom today . . . what will we find . . . and what will we share?


A re-post written on March 19, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Image from: http://www.nri.org/projects/wrs/publications.htm

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Wisdom 18:20-25: Intercession

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The faithful will always have a priest willing to intercede for them.  Today we read about Aaron who intercedes as a spiritual leader for the Israelites; every day we have Jesus who intercedes for us in all that we petition.

Bridge-building is important to a Christian community for without the lifelines that we toss out to connect ourselves to one another, we run the risk of sinking into oblivion.  Just as camel caravans link the living water and sheltering palms of desert oases, we reach out to one another so that we do not become stranded in the lonely desert parts of life.  We must celebrate life where we find it . . . and build bridges to call together the limbs of Christ’s Mystical Body.

Forgiveness – both the asking and the granting – is the essential construction material that we will need for these Jesus bridges.  There is no one among us who has not needed to ask and to give forgiveness and so we pray.

The world is rent asunder by our refusal to forgive, we pray:  Bring us, Lord, your perspective of hope. 

For the hardness of heart we have shown toward those we have hurt, we pray: Bring us, Lord, your openness of heart. 

For the breaches in relationships we have allowed to live and grow, we pray: Bring us, Lord, your depth of wisdom. 

For the resentments we have accumulated, we pray: Bring us, Lord, your counsel and courage. 

If the Lord rescues me from the snare of my faults, should I not extend the same hand of rescue to my neighbor?  Resentment, grudges, retaliation do not help the one who offends me.  They merely confirm the breach between us.  Bridge-building is costly, as the cross demonstrates, but the people stranded on both banks are all freed by the bridge.

These prayers and thoughts are adapted from yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT, and as always, when I think about bridge-building, I am aware that there is a difference – although small – between pardoning behavior and allowing abuse to continue.  There is a reality that exists in bridge-building that comes into being when we empower people – they are freed from a former unhealthy behavior that has stunted growth and dried up life.  When we enable people to continue in an unhealthy behavior, we become part of the problem.  When we gently confront people, we set into place the pillars of the bridge.

When we allow Christ to show us what tool to use next, what material to bring out of storage for use as the struts and cables of the bridge, we begin to make links, we will see that we are building a bride that will last for all time.  We will also see that it is a bridge of and to salvation.

This work does not happen without physical and spiritual exertion; but when we have the Master as our project planner, the work becomes less arduous and less frightening.

When we find ourselves stranded in a small, backwater oases, looking through the burning sun in the day and the cold darkness of night . . . waiting for something to appear on the horizon . . . we will know that it is time for bridge-building.  Let as ask the Master Planner to intercede for us . . . now . . . today . . . and all days.


Adapted from a Favorite written on March 18, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.17 (2009). Print.

Image from: http://www.cepolina.com/photos.asp?V=Rotorua_bridge_mist_water&S=Rotorua&A=all and http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147290-d149576-r125773547-Mount_Isabel_de_Torres-Puerto_Plata_Dominican_Republic.html

For more thoughts on intercession for our enemies see The Jesus Bridge page on this blog: https://thenoontimes.com/the-jesus-bridge/

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Numbers 14:11-38: The Lord’s Sentence

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tissot: The Grapes of Canaan – The scouts return from the Promised Land

Written on April 22, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In the Old Testament God measures out rewards and punishments and today’s reading is an example of this kind of relationship that humans have with the creator.  This is a story about trust, fidelity and awe (or fear) of the Lord.  Jesus and the New Testament tell us a broader story, one of forgiveness, compassion and love.

I do not believe that God really means to strike down his own people in this episode; rather, I believe that he gives his creatures the opportunity to enter into dialog with him and to speak on their own behalf.  What I like most about this story is first, the way that Moses steps up and speaks frankly with God and second, the way God responds in fairness.  It is easy to see that fidelity and trust are paramount in God’s kingdom.  These are qualities that bring Caleb and Joshua to the Promised Land.  They are also qualities that bring serenity to us today if we can only believe that God provides all that we will need in life.  And this is the sentence he delivers to each of us . . . God always gives us guarantee of mercy, forgiveness and love.


A re-post from March 13, 2012.

For more on the Book of Numbers, visit the Numbers – Arrangement of the Tribes page on The Book of Our Life tab on this blog.  Tomorrow we will reflect on the Israelite’s’ Unsuccessful Invasion.

Caleb and Joshua are interesting players in today’s story and for more information about this pair we might go to http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Story-of-Joshua-and-Caleb&id=19374

Visit The Stones Cry Out site to take a walk through the Bible.  Click on the link or the image above or go to: http://thestonescryout.com/the_bible/walk_through_the_bible

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2 Samuel 2: Abner

First Sunday of Lent, March 10, 2019

Abner

Written on March 5, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Abner was Saul’s general – a courageous and loyal man.  He found himself serving Saul at the time that the power and prestige of the House of Saul was waning while that of the House of David was waxing.  After Saul’s death, Abner and David reconcile, but one of Saul’s remaining sons, Ishbaal, trumps up charges about Abner and Rizpah (one of Saul’s concubines).  We see peace and unity again threatened by plotting and division.  Abner is murdered, David laments.  We can see what happens to Ishbaal in the next chapter, but what we see here is an ever-resent theme in the human drama: Humans always seem to succumb to envy and greed.

What do I do when I meet the Abners, Ishbaals, Joabs, Davids and Sauls in my life?  What do I do when presented with the possibility of union with people from whom I have (with good cause) previously kept my distance?  How do I know if an enemy heart has been converted?  How do I respond to the hand offered in peace?  How do I know if that hand is truly offered in peace?  We do not have the human answers to these questions; but we know what we must do.  We must trust God.

From today’s morning prayers and readings:

Isaiah 40:1: Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . .

Isaiah 49:13: The Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.

Psalm 103: The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.

Psalm 145: The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.  The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

We have no way of reading human hearts and minds.  We can rely on our gut reactions to people and circumstances, we can imagine what someone may be thinking or doing . . . but we cannot know for certainty what occurs deep within someone else’s mind, heart and soul.  That is for God to know . . . that is for God to handle.

David and Abner

In today’s reading, David asks that the Lord requite the evildoers in accordance with the sin committed.  This is an Old Testament response.  We are New Testament people, so how do we respond to acts of betrayal?  By moving into intercessory prayer for those who have done us harm, by relying on the goodness and mercy and justice of our God, by asking for this mercy and justice for ourselves and for our enemies.

The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  

We are God’s word as adopted brothers and sisters of Christ.  We are God’s works in this world where we have been planted.  How do we respond to the Abners, Joabs and Ishbaals in our lives?


For more on this story click on the images above or go to: http://patty-patcards.blogspot.com/2010/12/people-multiple-choice-in-what-city-did.html and http://sharingknowledge.org/wb/pages/bible-studies/history-of-the-characters-of-the-bible/king-david.php#wb_section_423

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.5 (2008). Print.  

A re-post from March 10, 2012.

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Ezekiel 18: A New Heart and a New Spirit

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Written on December 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Jacob Willemsz de Wet: Workers in the Vineyard

The prophet Ezekiel foreshadows the story Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 about the vineyard owner who pays the same wage to the worker who has worked for but an hour as he does to the one who has worked all day.  We are cautioned by both prophet and Messiah not to complain about God’s generosity – we may one day hope to benefit from this abundance.

The prophet also foretells the story Jesus describes in Luke 15 who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go in search of the one that is lost.  We are told by both prophet and Savior that we are as precious to God as that one sheep.  This story is told as an illustration of God’s determination to call us – we may one day have need of this persistence.

Ezekiel tells the people in exile that they must move beyond these old proverbs and customs of believing that the sins of one generation are visited upon another.  He foresees what Jesus tells, that there will be a Messianic Age when we are released from the old and given a new heart and a new spirit – this spirit is forgiveness – this heart is love.

This is wonderful news!  Yet, it brings with it a reality that we may not want to hear.   With this newness comes the responsibility to return and repent.  We cannot expect that the good we have done will somehow outweigh the bad; yet we have the certain knowledge that all Ezekiel has foretold is true.  God will persist in calling out to us as we wander lost and alone.  And God has a heart large enough to repair any damage that has been done either by us or to us – for we have this promise from the prophet Ezekiel that we see fulfilled in our brother the Christ.  Jesus has died yet lives.  Jesus returns for us . . . so that we might live.  The Spirit abides with us . . . and brings us this new heart . . . this new spirit . . . as a gift from God.  All we need do is reach out our hands, and open our hearts.

 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.  Return and live!


A re-post from December 16, 2011. 

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/jacobwillemszdewetdasm11.jpg and http://www.ideachampions.com/heart/archives/quotes/index.shtml

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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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1 Corinthians 1:10-17: Groups and Slogans

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Church in Corinth must have been a cantankerous lot.  In this citation we hear Paul’s words of exhortation that we all follow Christ rather than divide ourselves into petty groups.  I like Jesus’ admonition to us in the Gospel of Matthew: When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your father who sees in secret will repay you.  In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  (6:6-8)

We have the false idea that we may do anything in order to save ourselves . . .  when the inverse is actually true . . . we can do nothing to save ourselves . . . and we best become selves by emptying out the self to make room for God . . . the all.

We believe erroneously that our secret thoughts have no effect on the world . . . but they do, because our thoughts form our actions.

We must allow ourselves to be searched by God, as the psalmist sings in Psalm 139: Oh God, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar.

Temple of Apollo in Corinth

Paul wrote to the contentious group in Corinth, telling them that the Spirit moves best when there is a diversity of voices and obedience to the Law of Love.  We too might remember this as we go about our work and our play with those who would follow those other than Christ.

And so we pray:  Help us to listen to one another, to help one another, to witness to your Oneness in us.  Help us to see one another, to empathize with one another, to act as Christ in all circumstances.  Help us to be guided by one another, to find union with one another, to see that only when we bridge differences will we truly be the One you seek.  Amen. 


A re-post from December 8, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.tourismnewsinfo.com/corinth-famous-city-in-greece-with-amazing-view-of-coastal-archaeological-site-and-village-of-ancient-corinth/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrocorinth

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