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Friday, September 11, 2020

Amos[1]Amos 5

An Exhortation to Return to God

Chapter 5 of Amos, a prophecy that speaks in particular to the wealthy who oppress the poor to store up more riches than they will ever need, reminds all of us that we must tend to our relationships with God, one another and self for if we do not . . . we become too enmeshed in regret, stubbornness, and an intractable pigheadedness about asking and giving pardon. God will deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all peoples in a manner far better than any we might devise. Hear ye this word, Amos intones, seek ye me and ye shall live, sayeth the Lord. 

We are reminded of the effectiveness of Amos’ word to us even today when we read Hebrews 4:12-13. This word of God which Amos conveys is living and effective, sharper than any spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is concealed from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of God to whom we must render an account. Amos calls us to spend time reflecting on what this rendering might look like, what these secrets may be, and how this Word might separate or unite us.

The word cleave is an interesting one in the English language – it holds opposite definitions of bringing together and breaking apart. From a web source we have the double definition.

  • separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument; “cleave the bone”.
  • make by cutting into; “The water is going to cleave a channel into the rock”.
  • cling: come or be in close contact with; stick or hold together and resist separation; “The dress clings to her body”; “The label stuck to the box”; “The sushi rice grains cohere”.
    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

This then, is the word of God that can both frighten and comfort us.  Woe to them that desire the day of the Lord!  To what end is it for you? This is Amos’ warning and it can either send us away from God or it can draw us closer still. It is our attitude about the worth of our relationships that makes all of the difference.  It is our decision about how we see this idea of cleaving with and to or cleaving asunder and into parts that makes the difference in our lives.  And it is this exhortation that we hear today.


Adapted from a reflection written on August 17, 2010.

Image from: http://trivialdevotion.blogspot.com/2011/09/amos-midlife-calling.html

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Jeremiah32-17[1]

Jeremiah 32

A Pledge of Land

In a time of pandemic and social unrest, we return to a favorite reflection.

God made a promise to Abraham to bring him descendants, renown and a land in which his progeny might be secure. In return, Abraham and his descendants were to obey God, worship him only, and keep to him always. Today we read about a time when the Promised Land is breaking into factions and falling into hostile hands. The covenant into which the chosen had entered has come undone; the descendants of Abraham have been taken into exile to be scattered by the four winds. All looks bleak and yet, God tells Jeremiah, redemption, healing, transformation and restoration are all possible. Indeed, they are at hand. This is how much God loves us.

In a time of pandemic and social unrest, we have s promise to remember.

Some few of us prefer the solitary life but most humans look for security in a landholding either individually or as part of a group. Private homes, rented and purchased apartments, communes, even tent cities of the homeless indicate this common yearning to have a place we call home and in which we might be secure. Many of us go home for a holiday. We look toward the end of a day when we might go home to kick off the worries of work to rejuvenate for the next morning. The people who had once known the protection and security of the pillar of fire and smoke in the desert now suffer the insecurity of not knowing where they will lay their head at night.  hey are vulnerable to the whims of capricious captors. The siegeworks have arrived at the city to breach it; the city will be handed over to the Chaldeans who are attacking it, amid sword, famine, and pestilence. 

In a time of pandemic and social unrest, we reconsider the idea of home and security. And we remebr thata many in our world have neither. Yet, God abides.

And what does God reply when the faithful who ask to be rescued from these hopeless circumstances?  Is anything impossible to me?

It is true that in the next portion of this story the people are handed over of to their attackers as a consequence of their having abandoned the terms of their covenant with God. It is true that in this story God puts Israel out of sight for the incense they burned to Baal and the libations they poured to strange gods. It is also true that even as God promises to hand over the corrupt ones to the king of Babylon he also will gather the lost together from all lands to which they were banished.  He will bring them back to the same place to settle them in safety. The Lord God says, they shall be my people and I will be their God. One heart and one way I will give them that they may hold me in awe always, to their own good and that of their children after them. I will make them an eternal covenant, never cease doing good to them; into their hearts I will put an overpowering love of me, that they may never depart from me. I will take delight in doing good to them: I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

In a time of pandemic and social unrest, we hold these words close to our hearts.

Perhaps the soul yearns for the security of a firm relationship with God just as the mind years for a pledge of land through which to be secure. Imagine what a world it might be if we sought the security of the pledge of the heart rather than a pledge of land. Imagine what a world it might be if we helped one another to find this security.

In a time of pandemic and social unrest, we return to the transforming wisdom and saving grace of God.


Written on August 29, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image above from: http://godsdailyblessings.blogspot.com/2011/07/jeremiah-3217-nothing-is-too-hard-for.html

For an audio version of Jeremiah 32 with sound effects, click on the image below or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9n7_7vJ5fM 

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Jeremiah_33_3[1]Jeremiah 33

Promise

We visit the book of Jeremiah often in our Noontime reflections; it is a rich and complex prophecy. Jeremiah is so frank, honest, and open about his suffering. Chapter 33 is particularly lovely and holds much promise about healing after punishment.

This prophecy might prove difficult for those among us who are addicted to turmoil and conflict or to the control of others and our surroundings. Jeremiah speaks of reliance on God who loves dearly and intensely, tenderly and passionately. Through Jeremiah, God announces a desire for our own personal freedom so that we might freely choose to be in relationship with God. Whether we suffer or celebrate, God wants to dance in intimacy with us.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. This quiet instruction from God speaks of the closeness and confidence of our relationship. We have only to ask. God will answer. Like the faithful spouse.

Verse 9: Then Jerusalem shall be my joy, my praise, my glory, before all the nations of the earth, as they hear of all the good I will do among them.  They shall be in fear and trembling over all the peaceful benefits I will give her. The prophecy of Jeremiah is not only a faithful prediction of what will happen to King Zedekiah, to the city of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Israel, it is a foretelling of the Christ story and it is the story of our own ransom and redemption.

God wants only freedom for us so that we might have the option to choose to love and follow. Christ arrives to bring us this freedom from slavery and darkness. The Holy Spirit abides with us constantly, whispering this promise to us repeatedly.

When we seek freedom from all that haunts us, we only need turn to a forgiving and loving God. This is where real and lasting love lies. This is where eternal sustenance and strength lie. And this is where the undying and sure promise of God’s presence and movement in our lives will always lie. This is the freedom God willingly gives. God’s promise to us is this great. God’s love for us is this persistent and ever-lasting.


Adapted from reflections written on January 1, 2007 and April 28, 2010.

Image from: http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?m=201208

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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Planets_wallpapers_117[1]

Proverbs 8

Wisdom and Creation

We have ample opportunity to listen to wise words; yet we seem to go our own way – thinking that we know better. Wisdom has been with us since creation; yet we ignore her when we need her most.

Wisdom has much to offer: Straight words, prudence, knowledge and discretion, instruction that is more valuable than gold, silver, or jewels. Wisdom loves those who seek her. Wisdom is strength, righteousness and justice. Wisdom calls out to those who have ears to hear . . .

And now my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord; but those who miss me injure themselves; and all who hate me love death. 

In today’s Gospel (John 6:30-35) the people ask Jesus to give them a sign so that they may believe. I am astounded . . . and yet, do I not do they same? The people in today’s reading walk with Jesus, they shake the same dust from their clothes that also powders Jesus’ feet and face, they experience miracles at Jesus’ hands . . . and yet they ask for a sign that they might believe.

Wisdom offers her ample generosity . . . yet we ask for more. Or worse still, we decide that we know better.

Wisdom has been with God since the creation. She has dwelt with God from the beginning and she will be with God through the infinity of God’s time and through the enormity of God’s space. Why do we ask for a sign . . . when the sign lives within us? Why do we ask for wisdom . . . when wisdom has dwelt with us from our inception?


Adapted from a reflection written on May 10, 2011.

Image from: http://wakpaper.com/id164616/earth-from-space-wallpaper-1600×1200-pixel.html 

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Proverbs 4 proverbs-4-18-550x320[1]

The Supreme Guide

We have spent time over the last two weeks reflecting on how one might rely on Wisdom when confronted with the conflict between good and evil, the shadowy line between willingness and willfulness. Today we are given a manual with which to navigate the difficulties of life. This manual describes Wisdom, the Supreme Guide.

On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on straightforward paths.

Hold fast to instruction, never let her go; keep her, for she is your life.

With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life.

Put away from you dishonest talk, deceitful speech put far from you.

Let your eyes look straight ahead and your glance be directly forward.

Survey the path at your feet, and let all your ways be sure.

Turn neither to the right nor to left, keep your foot from evil.

When we find ourselves hiding information from others, when we dart sideways glances at one another, when we enter into relationships by holding ourselves away from any true commitment, when God is at the end of the list of friends whose advice we seek, we can turn again to this manual for living. We can take these verses into our hearts.

To my words, be attentive, to my sayings incline your ear; let them not slip out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them, to one’s whole being they are health. 


Adapted from a reflection written on July 25, 2009.

To send the ecard above, click on the image or go to: http://m.crosscards.com/cards/scripture-cards/proverbs-4-18.html

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

wisdom-2[1]Proverbs 1

The Value of Wisdom

In the first chapter of Proverbs we find many references to knowledge as the source of wisdom and of how fools turn away from knowledge.  The last verses even describe God as one who mocks the foolish. In truth we know that we mock ourselves, we mock our creation as a Child of God, we mock the very image of God when we turn away from knowledge and understanding.

For as Isaiah reminds us (55:11), God’s word does not return empty.  My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will.  Jesus shows us this in his every act and word.

I am thinking about the hope that we hold and enact each time we step into our work day, each time we discipline ourselves, each time we enact the word we hear each morning on our rising from our creator.

In Proverbs 1 we see: words of intelligence, just and honest, knowledge and discretion, hearing and learning, wisdom and instruction . . . this is God’s Word to us.

In Proverbs 1:13 and 15 . . . All kinds of precious wealth shall we gain, we shall fill our houses with booty . . . My child, walk not in the way with them . . .

In verses 20 to 33 Wisdom warns us of the danger of rejecting her works. As we read these words we are reminded of the Gospels where we see Jesus, God’s Wisdom, rejected so many times because he did not conform to the culture of the corrupt hierarchy, because he called the comfortable to make room for the poor, because he turned the contemporary society on its head. He still turns us on our own heads today.  Each time we feel uncomfortable we know that we are called to take a look at ourselves, to listen to Wisdom, to live patiently and hopefully, to follow the Way Christ shows us. We are called to be Christ to others. We are called to express God’s Word to others to the best of our potential. We are called to share and enact the hope God has planted  in us.

And so we pray . . .

Dearest Lord, when you send us your wisdom, also send us your infinite patience for we humans are impatient. When you extend your hand, we wish to take it. Make your hand visible to us for we humans have eyes but we do not see. When you call to us, make our hearts open to your voice for we humans have ears but do not hear. When you send us Your Holy Spirit, also send the courage and fortitude that we will need to enact your Word each day. For we humans love you dearly and wish to do your will. We wish to send your Word back to you rather than allow it to return to you empty. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on November 29, 2007.

Image from: http://jasonmin.wordpress.com/

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Sirach 22Fool or Friend

friends[1]This book of wisdom is full of wonderful, universal sayings that last though the ages; and Chapter 22 is no exception.  As we near the end of another year, we often spend time thinking about our relationships, from our most intimate to our most casual.  Yesterday we considered how and why we forge and maintain relationships.  Today we continue that introspection and we examine the friendships and the value-structure we build.

When we interact with others . . .

Do we take the time, do we practice diligence in reviewing what we say before we say it?  Can we look at ourselves through the filter of today’s reading which describes both the foolish and the true friend to place ourselves somewhere along this continuum?  Do we find ourselves among those who let friendship come and go like dry leaves before a wind or like small stones lying on an open height [that] will not remain when the wind blows?  Or can we say that we work at being a true and constant friend, demanding much of ourselves as we struggle to walk that fine line between openness to reconciliation and refusal to enable abuse?

Fools and friends. We are surrounded by all kinds of people and we are engulfed in all sorts of circumstances.  We ourselves are sometimes the fool, sometimes the friend. As we move through a global pandemic, we likely have images of fools and friends who both encourage and infuriate us. Foolishness and friendship at times blur into one another. At other times they are starkly different. When our vision is clouded by too much input and too little truth, we have a true, authentic, and constant Friend. Let us resolve to always look for reconciliation where there are rifts. Let us draw healthy boundaries that discourage abuse. Let us walk in the way shown to us by Jesus. Let us leave behind the habits of a fool and take up the mantle of a true friend.

And let us pray . . .

God creator, when you formed us out of the universe, you had in mind that we would look to you for wisdom and that we would commit to the work of befriending not only the faithful who walk with you but those who linger on the margins as well. Teach us to move away from the tempting life of doing nothing in order that we avoid error. Guard us from the impulsive life of speaking and acting before we think. Grant us the strength to risk even a bit of ourselves just as you have risked all you have in your relationship with us. Move us out of any spiritual sluggishness, and energize us with your Spirit. For our part, we will put aside our willingness to suffer fools lightly or to behave as fools ourselves. We will observe the careful lines between these worlds of fools and friends as we remain open to the reconciliation you ask all of us to seek. As we prepare to enter into a new season and a new cycle of our lives, we pledge this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 


First written on December 28, 2010; re-written and posted today as  a Favorite.

For another reflection about Friendship: The Space Between, click on the image above or go to: http://camryndarkstone.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/real-friends/

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Sirach 22Fool or Friend

220px-RWS_Tarot_00_Fool[1]This chapter opens with some marvelous images of those who are lazy: The sluggard is like a stone in the mud; everyone hisses at his disgrace.  The sluggard is like a lump of dung; whoever touches him wipes his hand.  Images of people I have known through my life move before me in a motion picture of stories I had forgotten.  They are awakened today as I read about unruly children, a hussy, fools – teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot, or like disturbing a man in the depths of sleep.  Still further on we are admonished to steer clear of brutes and stupid men, people with timid resolve.

Then we arrive at a wonderful didactic piece on friendship in which we are asked to remember that a contemptuous insult, a confidence broken, or a treacherous attack will drive away any friend.  And before flames burst forth an oven smokes; so does abuse come before bloodshed.  A final warning about the importance of friendship closes this song: From him who brings harm to his friend all will stand aloof who hear of it.  But this anthem to friendship seems to me to hinge upon verse 21: Should you draw a sword against a friend, fear not, you can be reconciled. 

Finally we read a simple prayer: Who will set a guard over my mouth and upon my lips an effective seal, that I may not fall through them, that my tongue might not destroy me?  This last verse of Sirach 22 is an effective morning prayer that any one of us might want to intone as we rise.  Who among us has not regretted words that were said in haste or without having undergone serious thought before leaving our lips?

As we consider Fools and Friends, we remind ourselves that the links we create with others and the manner in which we interact with others tell the world about our relationship with God.  We pause in our reflection to consider our relationships with others, including God.  We take some time over the next twenty-four hours to discover something old and something new about ourselves.  We consider what kind of fool we have been, what sort of friendship we nurture, and how much room we make for God in the bonds we forge in life.


To investigate how and why others forge relationships, go to the Blogroll in the column to the right on this blog and choose a link.  As we explore, we have the opportunity to discern something new and something old about ourselves; we are offered the opportunity to define the fools and friends in our lives, and what they have to tell us about ourselves. Tomorrow, Part II of Fool or Friend.

Image from: http://thefoolsquest.blogspot.com/

First written on December 28, 2008; re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Michelangelo: Creation

Michelangelo: Creation of Adam

Psalms 7 to 18

Life, Death, Divinity, Humanity

This reflection was written upon the death of a friend’s father and is shared today as a Favorite. 

Much of life is lived in a confusion of fear and thanksgiving and we find a jumble of these emotions in Psalms 7 though 18.  Looking at just the New American Bible titles of these poems gives us a series of jubilant prayers mixed with sorrow-filled ones.  It is in this way that these poems bring us a faultless reflection of life.

The fusion of worlds present in the human made in the image of God is a dichotomy which we can either unite our id, ego and superego . . . or it can split us into child and adult separated by a chasm of fear.  Fear of what?  Fear of suffering.  Fear of humiliation.  Fear of loss.  Fear of abandonment.  Fear of loneliness.  Fear of knowing that we err.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of death.  And when I think of this litany of pain, I realize that each of these woes is accompanied by a restorative.  Joy in celebration.  Joy in exaltation.  Joy in gain.  Joy in companionship.  Joy in intimacy.  Joy in knowing that we are doing the right thing.  Joy in perfect, trust-filled union with another.  Joy in life.  Our fear-filled humanity struggles with our covenant-honoring divinity.

Psalm 8 brings us dichotomous images announced in the title: Divine Majesty and Human Dignity We find more in the psalm: earth and heaven, babes and foes, enemy and avenger.  The verses that tell all that we really need to know:  What are humans that you [God] are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.  You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet . . . O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!

What a wonderful God we have who loves us to the extent that he creates us, visits with us, loves and comforts us, feeds, houses and clothes us, heals and tends to us, listens to us, blesses us . . . always . . . with constancy . . . with fidelity . . . with dignity . . . with patience . . . through eternity.

We often feel closer in death to the ones we love than we did when these dear ones were yet in this life.  These loved ones speak to us constantly now that the physical distances of this world no longer separate us.  They bring us the very real presence of the next world with their constant visitation.  We cannot see them because of the limiting time and space of this globe but still their existence is real.

Teilhard de Chardin 2We are human.  We are divine.  And we feel the constant struggle of reconciling these two worlds of self.  A human death brings us up short because we are forced to consider if we believe that we are created as gift.  We pause to think again about the Resurrection, the forgiveness of sin, life everlasting.  We cannot help but reflect on how we have treated this departed one: with the dignity deserved no matter the situation?  With the witness of divine majesty?  Did we salute the gift of this person while they were still in this life?  Did we honor this person while still with us as well as we will honor them in death?

The ones we love who have died linger among us.  We love that much.  They still laugh when we laugh, cry when we cry.  We cannot see them with the eyes of this world, or hear them with these ears.  But they are here with us nonetheless.  As we are with them.  They hold us close.  They have not disappeared.  Their presence is still felt . . . and it will be . . . forever and ever.  Amen.


Adapted from the May 31, 2008 Noontime.

For more information about Teilhard de Chardin, click on his image above or go to: http://teilharddechardin.org/

Image of the creation of Adam from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_of_Adam

For other reflections on eternal love and human vulnerability, enter those words into the blog search bar and explore.

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