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Genesis 33: Reunion


Genesis 33: Reunion

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hendrick Ter Bruggen: Esau Selling His Birthright

In the past we have reflected on the story of how Jacob found himself in hiatus from all he knew – and how we find ourselves in that same place from time to time in our lives.  Often we wander – guessing at our true destiny, seeing glimpses of it now and then, wanting the end of the endless waiting to arrive.  We have also reflected on how Jacob came to realize that his place of exile from home had become dangerous.  He plots to outwit Laban, his father-in-law, and he manages to escape the wrath of Laban’s sons – but where does he go?  He returns home.  Re reunites with his brother Esau– whom he had deceived.  The story of Jacob until this point is one of God’s pruning of a valuable vine.  So too are we the branches of this same vine.  So too does the master of the vineyard prune us – his faithful.

Today we reflect on Jacob’s reunion with the brother he had deceived.  We can learn much about ourselves in this meeting of two who once loved and have been in hiatus.

As I read through these verses today I am so struck by how this relationship has changed during the brothers’ time apart.  The attitude of deception that characterized Jacob in Chapter 27 is gone and in fact Jacob begs Esau to accept his presence and his gifts in verse 10.  And look at what he says.  “No, I beg you!” said Jacob.  “If you will do me the favor, please accept this gift from me, since to come into your presence is for me like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly”.

Jacob – in receiving mercy from his brother rather than a wrath that would be justified – realizes and then admits aloud that he and Esau have a holy union.  They are meant to love one another and not deceive one another.  During their time apart, Jacob has come to understand that not only had he tried to deceive Esau when he sought to cheat him of his birthright . . . he had sought to deceive God himself.  He had sought to manipulate God’s plan.

Esau wants to accompany his brother home.  Jacob does not want to tax his family or his herds.  Esau offers guards to ensure the safety of his brother’s tribe.  Jacob declines.  The two bothers come to an agreement and eventually reunite.

Last year when we reflected on Jacob and the lessons he learned about being willing and faithful, this was the prayer that came to us that day.  I offer it again below.  May all of our waiting dreams and broken hearts find such sweet reunion as these two brothers with whom we reflect today.

Sweet and loving God, may I be ever-listening, ever-faithful, ever-willing to obey your plan.  I understand that you have something wonderful in mind for me and that from where I stand I cannot see as well as you and so sometimes I am a bit afraid of what will pop up next over my horizon.  May I refrain from manipulation and from being manipulated.  May I refrain from separating myself from you, may I return to you always when I am afraid, because I know that you are always with me.  Amen.   


Image from: http://www.pubhist.com/work/10288/hendrick-ter-brugghen/esau-selling-his-birthright

Written on October 17, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Leviticus 10:1-3: Closing the Distance

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

When I read the Book of Leviticus I marvel at how closely these early people monitored their physical, moral and spiritual lives.  I try to imagine living at a time when there was no FDA, no FDIC, no AMA, no Magisterium, and I begin to feel the need to formulate rules for everything.  Of course, once the rules are set we will want to enforce them.  And once we enforce them we will need to judge them.  This thinking, in spite of the fact that it seems liberating, has the effect of closing us down.  In today’s reading we see what happens when two people get too close to Yahweh in an unauthorized rite.  This is not the God of the New Testament who invites us in, who yearns to live in the temple of our souls.

Jesus arrived in the world to set us free.  He loosens the bonds of captives.  He releases us from addictions, ailments, anxieties and fears.  He invites us to open ourselves and to be as vulnerable to the world as he is himself.  He invites us to incorporate with him as Light to the world, Hope to the world, Love to the world.

In the chapters following today’s citation we might read about the early Hebrew thinking regarding childbirth, leprosy, personal un-cleanliness, atonement and scapegoating.  In the chapters previous we can find all we need to know about what foods to eat and not to eat.  Out of necessity for survival, this early Hebrew nation was regulated to the smallest detail – inviting narrowness and judgment.  Today, we who live in the Messianic times are free to explore God and to join in the constant renewal of creation.  We cannot forget that we have been freed from all that frightens us, and we must act as if we believe the Jesus who stood in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me

To bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To let the oppressed go free,

And to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. 

(Luke 4:18-19)

As twenty-first century Christians, we might proclaim the same to one another in Christ’s name.  Let us bring glad tidings to the poor, including those among us who are poor in spirit.  Let us abide with one another as we free those among us who are held captive by our fears.  Let us be light so that others who are blinded might have sight.  Let us witness to all kinds of oppression, whatever and wherever it may be.  And let us proclaim a time acceptable to the Lord.  Amen.


Written on October 7, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://www.danielharrell.com

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Psalm 131: Humble Trust in God

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

This is one of the shortest psalms in the Bible – only 3 verses – and yet its message is one of the most important.  We must trust God.  And if we truly do, we will have less anxiety, less fear, more hope, and more serenity.  This is so simple, and yet so difficult.

Jesus demonstrates his own filial boldness when he tells us, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.  (Mark 11:24)  He abides by the Father just as the Father abides by him and he reminds us to knock, seek and ask.  (Matthew 7:7-14)  Jesus believes that the promises he has been given will be fulfilled . . . and they are . . . but not without suffering.

We need not look to Jesus for our only inspiration to trust.  We also have the marvelous examples of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman. (Matthew 8:10 and 15:28)   Jesus himself remarks on the depth of their faith, and we can see their persistence.  The Catechism in paragraph 2613 reminds us to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith (my italics).  And this many of us do, but perhaps we leave out one important step.  A true prayer of faith is not only the words and the intent, but the true disposition of one’s heart to do the will of the Father.  (My italics again)  Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.  (CCC 2611)

Why do we not trust God enough to let go of our little and big worries?  Why do we doubt that God will do anything but what is good for us?  God is goodness itself and truth itself, and so God is incapable of doing anything but the best for us.  Perhaps we mull over conversations we have had with God which have not brought us precisely what we thought we deserved.  Maybe be believe that we have a better plan in mind.

As I watch my life and that of others, as I observe the sun and the stars and the moon and the seas, as I watch a flock of birds lift in unison, or trees bend before the force of a hurricane, I am stunned by how little I trust.  The simplest and greatest of God’s creation trust that all will be well better than I.  Perhaps I do not humble myself enough.  Perhaps I think I understand more than the birds or the planets or the flowers because I am a creature who has the power of reason and problem solving.  If this is so, I must turn to this simplest of psalms which holds so much truth.  And I must humble myself to believe that God has a far better plan for my life and the lives of those around me than I could ever devise.

Lord, I am not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with things that are too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child.  Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.  Israel, hope in the Lord, now and forever.  Amen.


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

Image from: http://www.mikepedersen.com/building-trust-online-to-maximize-your-business-growth/

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Ezekiel 39:25-29: Restoration After Hiatus

Monday, October 21, 2019

Govert Flink: Issac Blessing Jacob

When we look at the life of Jacob we might be tempted to look at the story of his deeds or accomplishments: his early toying with deceit, his growing ability to focus persistently on a goal, his fathering of twelve sons who lead the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  When we look more closely we see that rather than a rising and falling arc of “doings” what we really find is a string of actions that are separated by pauses.  What Jacob has mastered is not so much the “doing” of life but the thoughtful hiatus.

In the story of Jacob we see that are many periods of hiatus in which he is separated from all he loves by either his own actions or the events that swirl around him.  When we reflect a bit more on Jacob, we might also see how and if and whether we experience hiatus in our own lives.  Today’s Noontime calls us to reflect on the goal we all have in mind when we are in a state of hiatus.  We yearn for the reunion, the curing, the re-construction, the bridging, the healing . . . the restoration.

We know that the lands and fortunes of the tribes of Jacob are indeed restored . . . and then lost again.  The people wander away from the lesson they thought they had learned during exile.  Their hubris and their lack of willingness to listen to and for the voice within gets in their way, they become easily distracted, and wander into the wilderness again to lose what they had regained.  Fortunately for humans, God forgives endlessly.  The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this.

When we experience hiatus well we have the opportunity to learn much about ourselves.

We come to know that the Lord is our God, before whom no other god may stand.  These other gods may be our desire for wealth, looks, fashion, friends, prestige, life style, addiction – anything which separates us from God.

We experience the New Law of Love, the Law of the Beatitudes which Jesus brought us on the Mount (Matthew) and on the Plain (Luke).

We become people who do not fear poverty, illness or rejection suffered as the result of Kingdom Building and Kingdom Living.

We become light and salt and yeast to the world.  We are to be brothers and sisters together shouting with joy that God is good.

We become to be harvesters who go forth weeping to return singing.

We become people who are Jesus in a world which is not.

We become people who wait for, and hope for, and work for Restoration.

And this is the Restoration which awaited the tribes of Jacob.  It is the same restoration which comes to all those who wait actively, seek patiently, and witness persistently.

This is a Way worth following.  It is a Life worth living.

Amen.


To explore how hiatus figures in Jacob’s life and in our own, go to the A Journey Hiatus in the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/a-journey-of-transformation/a-journey-hiatus/

Image from: https://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/jesus-who-do-you-think-you-are-1-abraham-isaac-and-jacob

First written on October 6, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Denial


Mark 14:22-26: Denial

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Denial in the life of a Christian is not an option.

The very rock upon whom Jesus builds the Church – Peter – denies that he was a companion of Jesus.  This is actually a good thing for all of us who are Christ’s twenty first century apostles.  If such a one shows weak knees and nauseous stomach when called to witness . . . then so may we.  The glory of this story is that when the Resurrected Christ asks Peter: Do you love me?  (John 21), we see Peter rise to the challenge: Yes, Lord, you know that I do.  After this encounter with his resurrected teacher, Peter dedicates the rest of his life to the dangerous work asked of him by this Lord.  Can we not do the same, even at a cost to our reputation and our finances?  What do we fear?

It is so difficult to step out of the mold everyone expects and into the behavior our Lord calls from us.  It is so frightening to leave all comfortable habits behind and embark on a new, spiritual response to our Lord.  Yet it is such a privilege to witness to this Lord who loves us beyond all measure.

It is a gift to take up the cross we are given to move toward the light.  It is a gift to be called into the difficult work of conversion.  Yet each time we feel the queasiness, the headache, the dry mouth, the unwilling spirit, we might remember Peter.  Perhaps it also helps to remember that there is work to be done . . . and that not all are called . . . and that not all respond . . . even when given the second opportunity.  As a sign that we are Christians, we are to take heart as we heft the unwanted cross to our shoulders . . . and we are to encourage one another as we carry our burdens back to the Lord, who will then add them to the weight he already carries.

Denial in the life of a Christian is not an option.

And so we pray, Dear Lord . . .

Grant us the confidence we will need to lift our crosses and follow you.

Grant us the courage we will need to step out of our comfort zone when we follow you.

Grant us the understanding we will need to the value our suffering in a way that transforms us and others.

Grant us the stamina we will need to see the hope in your cross.

Grant us the love we will need to allow ourselves to be open to your guidance as we carry our crosses with you.

Amen.


Image from: http://ymiblogging.org/2012/05/odj-one-meal-one-body/

Written on September 23, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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1 Kings 2: Consolidation

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ferdinand Bol: David’s Dying Charge to Solomon

Today’s reading is full of violence and intrigue – not unlike the political and social landscape in which we constantly find ourselves.  People do not hide out much in the tent of the Lord these days, nor do they order heads to be severed from bodies in retribution; but we do indeed destroy reputations, we intimidate and threaten, we use ever kind of subtle and not so subtle violence to get what we want.  We usually do this without counting the cost to others; and we also forget to measure the ultimate cost to ourselves.

In this forgetting of self and others . . . we show our forgetfulness of God.

David leaves a kingdom and a way of life to his son, Solomon because he knows how difficult it is to maintain fidelity and remain in God.  David also knows how much God loves his people and how willing God is to forgive us our faults.  The aging father tries to pass along his understanding of “the measure” to his young son and when we read this entire story we see how much Solomon is able to retain; we find out how and if he prospers from his father’s final words.

Jesus makes the rules of his kingdom clear to us: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  There is only one true commandment – love God and love one another, even as I have loved you.  In this week’s scripture class we are asked to re-think the yardsticks we constantly use to make decisions about what we will say and what we will do.  Do we show partiality to a special group of people or to a special idea?  How do we perceive others?  How do we perceive ourselves?  How do our actions demonstrate our perception of God?

James calls us back to the realization that we do not see as God sees, and he reminds us that when we make judgments we so often are looking at the external and forgetting that Jesus lives in everyone we meet – even those people we do not like.  James tells us in 2:1-13 that when we show deference to those with money and power, we neglect those who are poor in worldly treasures and those who are poor in spirit.  We neglect those with whom Jesus chooses to reside, the physically, emotionally and spiritually marginalized.  Jesus calls the poor and the broken-hearted to himself in order that he might heal them.  These are the people for whom Jesus demonstrates compassion.  And so ought we.  Jesus calls the rich and powerful to an accounting.  He is moved to rebuke them for their lack of regard for his poor and broken-hearted.  And so ought we to be moved if we wish to bring about the kingdom.

Today we read of all the plotting and scheming that occur as the young King Solomon consolidates his kingdom.  He lives in treacherous times.  So do we.   And so we pray . . .

Dear Lord,

It is so very difficult to trust in you alone.  We so often forget that you are watching over us and accompanying us in our journey.  The world seems so very scary and in our human survival reaction to our fears, we forget to rely on you alone.  Help us to see as you see.  Help us to look past the external.  Help us to feel as you feel.  Move us with your compassion.  Grace us with the gift of your love.  Help us to free ourselves by acting in humility, mercy and forgiveness.  Help us to see that by freeing others we also free ourselves. And when we move to consolidate our forces from our feeble human weak places, remind us to come together with others in you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name as we give ourselves over to the power of the Holy Spirit who lives and moves in us, and who calls us to unity. 

Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 30, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on the story portrayed in the painting above, click on the image or go to: http://fourhandles.blogspot.com/2011/04/1-kings-23-davids-final-advise-to.html

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Obadiah: Revenge and Forgiveness

Sunday, September 29, 2019

French School, 17th Century: Salomé

More thoughts on Salomé who sought revenge . . . and who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

“We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, nor is the place of the book’s composition certain . . . Obadiah did not specify that his message came at the time of any specific king or event.  On the other hand Obadiah 11-14 indicates that a major calamity had struck Judah and that the Edomites had capitalized on Judah’s troubles to their own advantage . . . common sense and a broad consensus suggest that the calamity was in fact the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

“Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites (descendents of Esau), condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah, as well as for their arrogance and indifference toward God”.  (Zondervan 1464)

This is the kind of prophecy which makes us cringe as we understand that revenge is not something we want as part of our value complex.  Seeking vengeance is the kind of thinking my parents continually warned us against for it can never be good.  We were often reminded in our growing years that when we dig a grave for our enemy we ought to dig two: one for them and one for us.  “The truth will always come out in the end”, Dad would remind us. “Don’t worry about the other guy getting credit that is not due him, or the other guy getting away with things.  It’ll all come out in the end.  Just keep your eye on yourself and your God.  And let God handle the other guy”. Dad warned us that human depravity was too crooked and too frightening for us to correct; he knew from personal experience that only God can deal effectively with deep evil.  We humans – even when we are in the best of places and times – cannot conquer forces that have spent eons gathering strength in the dark.  It is far better, according to Dad, to go to the light and stay there.  “That way God can see you and pick you up on his way home”.

Mother always intoned her mantra of “Kill your enemies with kindness.  Pray for them and you will never be alone; because you can bet on it that when people are that naughty lots of people will be praying along with you.  Think of the message God will hear when all those voices join together”, she would remind us.   “Yes, I know you want to get back at them but just pray for them. They will need your prayers.  And besides, the results are better”. 

These simple lessons were either never delivered or they were lost on Salomé who asked for and received John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Yesterday we spent time reflecting on her portrait and we saw her sultry stare and sullen posture, arms draped around the killing knife and the platter that would deliver the head of her enemy.  Today we  see a similar likeness; she looks out at us in apparent satisfaction yet we know that revenge is not sweet.  It does not last and it does not satisfy.  It only brings about our own destruction and doom.  These are the truths spoken by Obadiah more than two millennia ago . . . and they are truths we can still use today.  We must wipe revenge from our hearts and replace it with forgiveness for the measure that we measure with is measured out to us.

And so we pray . . .

When we are most hurt by others, we must not strike back, we must forgive.

When we are most neglected by others, we must not plot their downfall, we must forgive.

When we are most abused by others, we must ask for their redemption and we must forgive.

When we are most abandoned by others, we must not treat them in like fashion, we must forgive.

When we are most damaged by others, we must not in turn inflict damage, we must forgive.

God forgives.  God restores.  God repairs.  God cures.  We are each called to do the same.  Amen.


A re-post from September 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20016/lot/55/

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

For more on the prophecy of Obadiah go to the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog.

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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Thursday, September 19, 2019

This is a powerful story about how King Ahab and his wife Jezebel collude with scoundrels to trump up charges against the good man Naboth in order to take a vineyard which they coveted.  It is dreadful in its deep deception; it is horrendous in its horrible depiction of the violent frenzy of a plotting, conniving perseverance of evil.  It is human interaction in its basest form.

The prophet Elijah responds to God’s call but fears for his life when Ahab and Jezebel conduct a campaign with the goal of annihilating all prophets who speak with God’s voice; and in Chapter 19 Elijah even tries to run from the whispering voice of Yahweh.  In Chapter 20 we see how Yahweh brings success to the Israelites and favors them in battle.  Then Ahab wants something which Naboth has, a lovely beautiful vineyard.  Jezebel and Ahab conspire to attain it . . . so the innocent Naboth must die.

Yahweh steps in and we watch as he vindicates the faithful. We also watch as he delivers punishing blows to the wicked ones.  Ahab repents, and Yahweh softens the sentence he is about to deliver.  Jezebel does not . . . and if we read a bit further we discover Jezebel’s evil end.

Dear God, protect me from family and friends who would lead me to destruction as Jezebel did.  Remind me that repentance heals the mind and soul.  Bring me contentment rather than envy, humility rather than pride, love rather than hatred, restoration rather than destruction, and reaping of blessings rather than an arid life of self-gratification.  Surround me with holy people, God-fearing people, people who do not hide the light of the lampstand, people who honor, as Naboth did, their ancestral heritage.

Keep us from pride which inverts to shame.  Keep us from anger which turns inward to become melancholy.  Keep us from deception which leads to delusion.  Keep us from coveting Naboth’s Vineyard. 

Bring us peace, bring us joy, bring us hope, bring us your Spirit.  Amen.


First written on September 7, 2007 , re-writtten and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://thedailychapter.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/

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Nehemiah 1: A Vocation for Building

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jerusalem: Stones at the Temple South Wall

We have visited with this book several times during our Noontime reflections and we know that it, along with the book of Ezra, describes the restoration time of the Jewish nation.  We know that Nehemiah was the administrator who is credited with the rebuilding of the temple and walls while his friend Ezra, the priest, rebuilt the religious traditions of the Jewish people.  Together these men led their community to recovery through work, prayer and a close connection with their God.  

The survivors of the captivity there in the province are in great distress and under reproach.

We constantly bump into people who are in great distress and under reproach.  There are times when we ourselves are the victim of abuse of one kind or another, times when we too, suffer greatly in that we are separated from some one, some thing or some tradition which used to comfort us and bring us peace.  When we find ourselves in exile . . . and we yearn for reconciliation . . . the best remedy for this affliction is to do as Nehemiah did: I prayed: O Lord, God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who preserve your covenant of mercy towards those who love you and keep your commandments, may your ear be attentive, may your eyes be open, to heed the prayer which I, your servant, now offer in your presence day and night for your servants the Israelites, confessing the sins which we of Israel have committed against you, I and my father’s house included.

This was Nehemiah’s vocation, that he call together a buffeted and distracted people to bring them home to Yahweh where they might be healed and restored.  It is our vocation as well, for as Christians we too are called to help in the gathering, fishing and harvesting work of God’s kingdom.  To this we are called.  For this we are made.  Let us pray with Nehemiah . . .

O Lord, may your ear be attentive to my prayer and that of your willing servants who revere your name.  Grant success to your servant this day . . . and all days.

Our vocation is to build and rebuild, to restore, to bring unity out of chaos, to bring light into the darkness, to bring hope to the desperate.  And we are never alone in this work.  We are constantly accompanied by the one who is the light, the hope, the joy of the world.  We ask this in Jesus’, name.  Amen.


Written on September 12, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Nehemiah and Ezra and the re-building of Jerusalem, go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

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