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Deuteronomy 5:15: Our God

Friday, September 16, 2016sabbatday

The writer of Deuteronomy records Moses’ words faithfully.

Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and God, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why God, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. (MSG: The Message)

Through Moses, God calls us to rest in the Lord each Sabbath day.

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that I, the Lord your God, rescued you by my great power and strength. That is why I command you to observe the Sabbath. (GNT: Good News Translation)

Through his prophet, the Lord reminds us that we were once slaves, rescued by God.

Remember that thou also didst serve in Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out from thence with a strong hand, and a stretched out arm. Therefore hath he commanded thee that thou shouldst observe the sabbath day. (DRA: Douay-Rheims)

Through the voice of scripture, the Lord calls us to rescue others just as we are rescued.

And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and that Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence with a powerful hand and with a stretched-out arm; therefore Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee to observe the sabbath day. (Darby: Darby Translation)

Through the work of Christ among us, through the consolation and power of the Spirit, the Lord Our God asks that we show mercy to all, as the Lord has shown mercy to us.

You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore Adonai your God has ordered you to keep the day of Shabbat. (CJB: Complete Jewish Bible)

When we refrain from gossiping we free others from the personality we have set in stone with our unkind words. We make room for growth in ourselves and others.

When we speak for those who have no voice we free others from the curse of invisibility. We nurture hope in the darkness.

When we include those excluded by others we open our lives – and the lives of all – to the outrageous possibilities engendered by God’s healing love. We embody mercy and compassion.

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. (NRSV: New Revised Standard Version)

God, Adonai, Jehovah, the Living One, this is whom we find when we compare varying translations of this verse. God’s wisdom, Jesus’ strength, the Spirit’s compassion, these are gifts we receive and share when we consider how enormous is the love of Our God.  

As we consider these verses, we might listen to Chris Tomlin’s HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBD18rsVJHk 

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Psalm 23Shepherding

Thursday, April 21, 2016psalm23_1024

A Favorite from April 10, 2011.

I attended a memorial service yesterday preceded by a celebration of the life of the deceased.  These things are never easy.  Part of the service was the comforting 23rd Psalm, the Old Testament reading was from Proverbs 3 (wisdom as a feminine force) and the New Testament was John 14 (Do not let your hearts be troubled . . . I am going to prepare a place for you.)  Scripture has the power to heal . . . if we allow it.

I am struck by how often we turn to the divine seeking solace – expecting the comfort and wisdom of the words to be instant much like our meals in the microwave, our movies on demand, and our relationships which must fulfill some purpose for us in order to be profitable.  The sermon today was given by Bishop Newman and he spoke of his time as pastor at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen when he asked a sound engineer to find the places in the immense building that did not receive sound well.  He referred to these places as “dead areas” and he asked us to think of the dead places in our lives that were like the deadness of Lazarus which we had heard in today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45).  He asked us to think of the “little deaths” we experience: addictions that govern us, work losses that discourage us, damage to relationships, troubles in a marriage that gnaw at us; and he asked us to think of how we resolved these problems or how we stirred ourselves to address these dead places.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives . . .

As he spoke, I thought of the dead zones in my life, and I thought about the opportunities I have been given for resurrection and redemption.  Surely we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever . . .

We must be persistent and fearless in our pursuit of God’s understanding and in our practice of God’s love.  I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . .

We must be courageous and creative in our determination to resolve the problems that create dead zones in our lives.  Your rod and staff comfort me . . .

We must always take all problems with our enemies to God, remembering that God alone can deal with betrayal and deceit.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . .

We must remember that God constantly seeks new ways to love us and to bolster us on our journey.  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows . . .

We cannot hear God through the cacophony of our days.  We must make a quiet place where we might allow rest and restoration because he makes me lie down in green pastures . . .

We must look for our imperfections, confess them, and ask God to heal them for God is more powerful than any force we know, even death.  He called the dead Lazarus from the tomb, and so he calls us to come to him for healing.  The extent of our “deadness” or the number of the “little deaths” in our lives is unimportant.  God is more powerful, and more loving, and more present than we have imagined.  The Lord is my shepherd . . .

I love Marty Haugen’s version of this Psalm from the GATHER hymnal which we so often sing, and which I use as an opening prayer in my classes during this time of year: Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life . . .

Let us rejoice that God is among us always to comfort, to heal, to restore, to transform and to redeem.   And let us open ourselves more to God’s wise and merciful shepherding.

Listen to the Marty Haugen setting of the 23rd Psalm at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L55J02iTGjM   

Tomorrow, crossing the Jordan.

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Psalm 27: Fearless Trust

ark

A rendering of the Ark of the Covenant

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016

The followers of Yahweh erected a tent to house the ark they created to hold their tangible remnants of their relationship with the Lord: stone tablets holding God’s ten pronouncements of the Mosaic Law, manna provided by the Lord during the Hebrews’ desert wanderings, and the staff that Aaron used to mystify Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt whom the enslaved people of God escaped. The Israelites replaced the tent with a glorious Temple to house the ark, sacred scrolls of God’s word to them. More than once this Temple was overrun, brought down, and reduced to rubble and a single, solemn wall of prayer. Today followers of Christ carry this tent, this Temple within; and it is in this sacred interior space that we find courage, hope, strength, faith, persistence, peace and joy. As we move through Eastertide, we bolster ourselves for the journey ahead as we continue our pilgrimage.

The New American Bible gives a wonderful title to these verses: A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God. We might benefit from the grace of this special prayer if we reflect carefully on its words as we pray them.

moses tabernacle

A depiction of the Moses Tent


When we are anxious or troubled, we recall . . .

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will never be afraid.

When we are overwhelmed and distraught, we remind one another . . .  

Even if a whole army surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,
    I will still trust God.

When we are lost or abandoned, we remember . . .

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the Lord’s house all my life,
    to marvel there at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

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A model of the Jerusalem Temple

When all seems lost and dark, we remind one another . . .

In times of trouble God will shelter me;
    God will keep me safe in the Lord’s Temple
    and make me secure on a high rock.

When we are alone or bereft, we call out . . .

So I will triumph over my enemies around me.

    With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple;
    I will sing, I will praise the Lord.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
    Be merciful and answer me!

When we falter, we encourage one another . . .

When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalme today

The Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem today (The Wailing Wall)

When the world closes in and we find no exit from sorrow, we pray . . .

 Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do,
    and lead me along a safe path,
    because I have many enemies.

Don’t abandon me to my enemies,
    who attack me with lies and threats.

 When we are rescued, we rejoice . . .

I know that I will live to see

      the Lord‘s goodness in this present life.

Trust in the Lord.
    Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord.

woman-praying-darkWhen this present life seems as though there is no evidence of God’s presence, let us remember Christ’s temple of light and peace that we carry within.

Psalm 27, one of my favorites, has been set to music by many. As we pray today we might listen to the Shane and Shane rendition at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndZsEDuCVAQ or a version by James Block: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJDF6z2EuPQ

If there is time in the next several hours, enter the word TEMPLE into the blog search bar and consider how God’s plan has brought us from enslavement through the desert to a solid place where we rejoice . . . and yet remains with us when great loss or great sorrow overtake us. It is God’s abiding love that brings us this fearless trust in the temple of God that remains within. When we reflect on these images or listen to these or other audios as we pray, we allow this fearless trust in God to rest in us today. Wishing all of you peace and joy on this day and all days.

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Choir-Medieval-Ladies

Jan Van Eyck: Heavenly Choirs (detail)

Philippians 4:4-7: Celebrate!

Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2015

Gaudete Sunday

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

If only we might celebrate that the Light of the World is among us in this way. If only we might live our lives as a demonstration of our belief that the Healer of all walks with us. If only we might call others to rejoice that the Rescuer from fear, anxiety and desperation lives in us.

waitsDon’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Visit the links below and explore other renditions of this ancient celebration of the coming of Christ. Send the link of your favorite performance to family and friends and encourage them to celebrate with you!

Aúna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbKWk6RzaiM

Choir of Clare College Cambridge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1NgHonWNE0

Prima Luce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFtppysEl-k

The King’s Singers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KSxg9Ij5r8 

Libera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=447ZTXdDODQ 

To learn about Medieval Music, click on the musicians image or visit: http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-music/waits.htm 

vaneyck_lamgods_engelen

Jan Van Eyck: Heavenly Choirs

 

 

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James 4:4-6: God’s Jealous Love

Sunday, October 18, 2015jealous love

You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way.

When James speaks of God’s jealousy, he is not describing God as an envious lover; rather, James describes the limitless, deep, abiding love that God has for each of us.

And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find.

There is a striking difference between envy and jealousy and in Old Testament references to God we often find images of God as a jealous lover. For a deeper explanation about what this means and how it has impact on our lives, we can go to: https://bible.org/seriespage/21-jealous-god, or http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/hey-jealousy Today, James asks us to consider just what God’s love for us looks like, and how we allow that love to temper our lives.

In his song THROUGH ALL OF IT, Colton Dixon describes how God has accompanied him through all the turmoil life presents. The lyrics begin: There are days I’ve taken more than I can give, and there are choices that I made that I wouldn’t make again. I’ve had my share of laughter, of tears and troubled times. This has been the story of my life . . . and you have been my God through all of it.

Today, let us give ourselves the gift of time to consider the nature of God’s “jealous love” and how this love might change us. We might listen to Dixon’s lyrics and music at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnuGXvO_l8w

Tomorrow, a solution to turmoil.

 

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Matthew 9:1-8: Taking Up Our Bedtake up your bed

May 16, 2015

They brought to him a paralytic lying on a bed . . .

Jesus says: Take courage . . . Get up . . . pick up your bed and go home . . .

God says: Each little incident that paralyzes you with fear is not from me. I only bring you love. Each enormous obstacle that looms before you is not from me. I only bring you hope. When you are paralyzed with fear, reach for me. When you are knocked off your feet, take up the bed of sorrow onto which you have fallen, and come home.

When we give ourselves over to fear we let go of God’s hand. When we languish in our sorrow and remain on our paralytic bed we reject the offer of newness God brings. If depression or anxiety overwhelm us we must seek professional guidance and help. God wants to convert the paralysis in our lives to loving acts of kindness, mercy and justice.

To join Bill and Gloria Gaither in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3gK7f_tMW

Join in their song . . . and allow peace to visit with you today as we take up our beds and go home.

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Matthew 8:23-27: Stilling the Storm

James Seward: Peace, be Still

James Seward: Peace! Be Still!

May 15, 2015

We say: Lord, we are perishing!

Jesus says: Why are you afraid?

God says: You and I have spoken about the storms of life so frequently – nearly every day – yet still I am willing to hear you again cry out for my help. And I am willing to give my help to you. I know that the circumstances of the world frighten you; yet I ask for your patience and courage. I know that the troubles of the world alarm you; yet I ask for your perseverance and fidelity. I know that the anxieties of the world panic you; yet I ask for your mercy and kindness. I know that the injustices of the world anger you; yet I ask for your confidence and love. When I calm the storm I calm you. When I ask for stillness I ask for your open heart. When I ask for love I ask for your full and abiding presence in me. Practice this when you are not distressed and you will see how natural this becomes in the way you interact with others. And you will find that a new peace and tranquility abide within. You will find that the approaching storm will roll over you to leave you unscathed. And you will have stilled the storm within.

For a musical reflection on Peace! Be Stillby Seward, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DSYtYdjsbA

Find your former self in Seward’s painting . . . look for your new self in Christ.

For a reflection on fear, click on the image above or visit: http://www.shellyduffer.com/tag/jesus-calms-the-storm/

Enter the word storm into the blog search bar, think about how we react to crisis or strife, and decide to hand over the storm within to the one who calms all storms.

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Psalm 51: Miserere

Fra Angelico: Deposition from the Cross (detail)

Fra Angelico: Deposition from the Cross (detail)

Fourth Sunday of Lent: March 15, 2015

The most famous of the lament psalms, often said during the Lenten season, is also called The Miserere and is frequently set to music.

This week in our study of James we are focusing on Chapter 2 in which James brings home the message that words without action are dead, empty, and barren.  Words with action are life, fullness and fruit bearing.  This is the sacrifice our God requires of us.  God does not look for our burnt offerings of first and best fruits. Nor does God delight in our willfulness; rather, God rejoices at our acknowledgment of our broken-heartedness and waywardness. And God certainly rejoices in our homecoming, wishing nothing more than to be with us fully and totally.  In this relationship therefore, we can set aside no room saved for our own littleness of for tiny pettiness.  We are created for bigness, for greatness. This is perhaps why we are always seeking something more than what we have and more than what we are.

In today’s Gospel (John 3:14-21), Jesus describes to Nicodemus just how much God loves the world. Today we might make the best of this opportunity to turn to God to offer our lament or miserere. Psalm 51 is more than an internal and personal act of contrition; this prayer is a statement of our commitment to change and our willingness to witness to what this change has done for us.

Francesco Scarlatti: Miserere mei Deus

Francesco Scarlatti: Miserere mei Deus

And so we pray . . .  Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.  I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners might return to you . . . Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise. 

 Lord, sustain us . . . Lord, open our lips . . . that we may show you our contrition . . . that we may sing our intentional and sincere miserere . . . that we may proclaim your praise.  Accept our offering of brokenness . . . and bring us home to you. 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 11, 2010.

For a music link, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA88AS6Wy_4 

Our next Lenten days we will take us on a journey through Psalms.

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nativity-of-christThird Sunday of Advent

December 14, 2014

Joy and 

Ecclesiastes 5:17-19

Vanity

We continue our reflection on joy in the Books of Wisdom and for the next few days we spend time with Ecclesiastes, verses that focus on the purpose and value of human life. Joy in merit, material wealth, pleasure of every kind evades the human race when chased. The mystery is that truly fulfilling and lasting joy comes upon us when we least expect it – and when we find ourselves in the most trying of circumstances. If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter joy, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. Or visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com. Today joy surprises us when we find ourselves overwhelmed by the world’s vanities.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is often remembered for its opening words: Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! Through centuries we humans have sought the mystery of joy and continue to find that try joy arrives with most impact in times of sorrow or loss. We are constantly learning that we cannot earn joy; rather, joy finds us when we most need and appreciate it.

Ecclesiastes 5:17-19: Here is what I see as good: It is appropriate to eat and drink and prosper from all the toil one toils at under the sun during the limited days of life God gives us; for this is our lot. Those to whom God gives riches and property, and grants power to partake of them, so that they receive their lot and find joy in the fruits of their toil: This is a gift from God. For they will hardly dwell on the shortness of life, because God lets them busy themselves with the joy of their heart.

joyCompare the MESSAGE version of this passage at the scripture link above that begins with verse 13: Here’s a piece of bad luck I’ve seen happen: A man hoards far more wealth than is good for him and then loses it all in a bad business deal. He fathered a child but hasn’t a cent left to give him. He arrived naked from the womb of his mother; he’ll leave in the same condition—with nothing. This is bad luck, for sure—naked he came, naked he went. So what was the point of working for a salary of smoke? Continue reading and allow the Word to resonate within until the mystery of finding joy in misery rather than in our stockpiled treasures begins to speak in our hearts. Consider that all joy is a gift from God, shows us God’s presence, and lifts, sustains and renews us . . . without our even asking.

In some Christian traditions, the Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. Enter the word Gaudete into the blog search bar and reflect on the nourishing joy that comes from God to renew and sustain us in the darkest of days. Find out more about Gaudete Sunday at this link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06394b.htm

While reflecting, listen to the Medieval Latin Carol Gaudete arranged by Michael McGlynn and sung by ANÚNA posted on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbKWk6RzaiM  As the ancient words resonate, allow them to awaken joy within . . . Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary! The light, the truth, the healer, the Word is among us. 

This week, let us look for joy in a controversial issue that consumes our local or global world. It may be a topic that reverberates through the global community or it may be a problem that you share with a few friends, family members or neighbors. No matter the range or depth of this concern, turn it over in light of the week’s Noontime readings and allow the joy that is hidden in great darkness to spring upon you.

Visit the ANÚNA site at: http://www.anuna.ie/

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

For the lyrics to the carol Gaudete and another music video, click on the Nativity image above or visit: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2012/12/gaudetechristus-est-natus/ 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.781. Print.   

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