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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Psalm 55: An Intimate Companion

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of Judas

It was you, my other self, my comrade and friend, you whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

For they will not mend their ways; they have no fear of God.  They strike out at friends and go back on their promises.  Softer than butter is their speech, but war is in their hearts.  Smoother than oil are their words, but they are sheathed swords. 

Treachery, deceit, mischief and evil.  Oppression and fraud.  Death.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest. 

Rocked with grief, his heart pounding, the psalmist retreats, full of fear, shuddering and trembling into himself.

Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert.

No one goes to the wasteland. Surely there will be no one to betray him there.

I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.

The horrible events that encircle the psalmist will not follow him to the wilderness.  Perhaps there he will be able to collect himself into prayer.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

On this Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper of the Lord, a meal in which he shares himself most closely with his most intimate friends.  And yet one of these has already made the decision to betray Jesus.

If my foe had viewed me with contempt, from that I could hide.  But it was you, my intimate friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Jesus faces his foe head on, sharing a meal with him on the evening before his death, handing a morsel of bread, of himself, to this close companion (Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:21-23, John 13:21-30).  The evangelist John closes his accounting of the exchange with these four word: And it was night.  Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

Jesus withdraws to the gardens on Gethsemane in prayer.  Jesus hands himself over to the plans of his creator.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

It is likely that each of us will suffer an act of betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Perhaps we have been the betrayer in a trusted relationship.  God does not promise that he will keep us from such deep deception but he comes to each of us in the person of Jesus to instruct us how we might act and how we might behave.  He remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to teach us wisdom.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest.  Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert. I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.  At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

And so we pray.

When trouble stalks us, let us retreat into the Lord.

When we suffer at the hands of an intimate friend, let us pray at dusk, at dawn and at noon.

When we believe that all is lost, let us remember that our prayer will be heard.

Amen.


This week we have been looking at the story of Jerusalem to see what the events of the city’s life might tell us about our own. Today we spend time reflecting on the effects of betrayal and how we might recover from both internal and external division.

Image from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/fyodor-bronnikov/the-head-of-judas-1874

For other reflections on Betrayal, enter the word in the blog search box and choose a Noontime. 

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Acts 21A Prayer as We Go Up to Jerusalem

Walls of Jerusalem

Walls of Jerusalem

For the last few days we have explored the journey we make individually and collectively as we ascend to God’s holy place.  We have examined ourselves to see how and if and why we might want to go up to Jerusalem.  We have determined that the journey is arduous and requires much of us.  And we have decided to join others in this pilgrim march.

And so we pray . . .

Good and gracious God,

We know that we must all go up to Jerusalem to meet you despite and even through the conflict – because there is something in Jerusalem which is far better than anything we can imagine.  Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what you have ready for those who love you, St Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us this today; he gathers himself and the other disciples to go to meet you despite the strife which lies ahead.

We know that we must all go up to Jerusalem because we can do nothing else, we can take no other action, we can join no other cause that will bring us as much as you want to bring to us.  We must stay and stand . . . and shirk away from no cross.

We know that we must all go up to Jerusalem for that is where we meet you, God.  There are many directions from which to travel, many roads on which to journey, many people with whom to travel, but travel we must because it is the only destination worth seeking and the only road worth traveling.

We know that we must all up to Jerusalem in joy and anticipation for there is no greater delight, no greater happiness than the gladness that you have in mind for us.

As we move through Lent toward Palm Sunday to begin Holy Week when we celebrate your entrance into Jerusalem, we want to go up to Jerusalem for there is no other place to go, no other place we want to be.

Call us to you. Take us with you. Hold us close despite the trials of the journey . . . for we know that we must all go up to Jerusalem.  Amen.


Paul to the people of Corinth at: 1 Corinthians 2:9 

To learn more about Jerusalem, visit Victor’s Place blog and read the Up to Jerusalem post at: http://vhoagland.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/up-to-jerusalem-november-10/

For more Jerusalem photos, click on the image above or go to: http://www.jabberwocky.com/photo/israel/jerusalem.html

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Saturday, March 14, 2020

John 19:25-27: Vulnerable Women

station_ix[1]From THE FOUR LOVES by C. S. Lewis: To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully around the hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell”. 

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/3058-to-love-at-all-is-to-be-vulnerable-love-anything

These words give us something to ponder as we watch the women wait for the hour of death at the foot of the cross.  With them we can examine ourselves to see how and if and why we do or do not allow ourselves to be open or closed to love, open or closed to heaven, open or closed to a place of dark tragedy.

Matthew, Mark and Luke record that the women accompanying Christ and his friends stood at a distance as the hour of Jesus’ death drew near.  It is John who brings this group closer to the cross, closer to the agony, closer to the pain.  It is John who records how Jesus was certain to see to his mother’s welfare.  A woman alone in this society lived a dangerous life without provision and without protection.  Jesus does not allow this mother, who has offered her love unconditionally to him and to his followers, to be left to the mercy of the crowd.  This is one of his final acts as he exits this world to enter into the next.

From early on in all four Gospels we see women as important to Jesus. In Luke 8:1-3 we find women, many of them nameless, following Christ, cooking and washing for him and his disciples.  These women make themselves open to The Word.  They offer themselves as vulnerable vessels for The Word.  They became sowers and reapers, caretakers and nurturers.  They become builders of the Kingdom of God.  They allow themselves to be committed to something that many disbelieve.  They love.

Thinking about these women and considering where we might be standing in this crucifixion story, we pause to pray . . .

May we be faithful followers of Christ as were these Galilean women whom the Gospels describe.  May we be willing vessels, vulnerable to the love to which Jesus calls us.  May we dare to make ourselves open to the work God has in mind for us.  May we be willing temples wherein the Holy Spirit dwells. May we rejoice in the wisdom of the Creator, in the miracle of God’s hope, in the healing and restoration of God’s hand.  May we be present to everyone we meet today and all days . . . for we never know what miracles may be wrought, what hopes fulfilled, what love harvested . . . . if only we might be open and vulnerable.

Amen.


For a prayer At the Foot of the Cross, click on the image above or go to: http://lu10-38.blogspot.com/2007/02/station-ix-at-foot-of-cross.html

Written on Valentine’s Day 2008, re-written and posted today.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Hosea 10:11-15: Time to Seek the Lord

morning-dew-fresh-christ-manna-1024x768[1]Ephraim . . . Judah . . . sons of Jacob . . . tribes of Israel . . . northern and southern kingdoms.  Paganism . . . a Covenant relationship with the one true God . . . Infidelity . . . Constancy . . . Pleasure . . . Joy.  Exile . . . Return . . . Repentance . . . Restoration . . . Turmoil . . . Order . . . Chaos . . . Light.

We have seen these words . . . heard these themes . . . so many times . . . yet eye has not seen . . . ear has not heard . . . what God has in mind for us. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Hosea follows the will of God and marries the harlot Gomer.  His hope is that she will reform.  She does not.  He calls her to love . . . she turns away.  He persists . . . she will return . . . one day . . .

The offenses of Israel are grave and great, almost too much to bear.  And so we look to the end of the story to peek at the outcome.  Looking at the last lines of Hosea’s prophecy:  I will heal their defection; I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.  I will be like the dew of Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.  His splendor shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.  Again they shall dwell in the shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.  Ephraim!  What more has he to do with idols?  I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.  “I am like a verdant cypress tree” – Because of me you bear fruit!  Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.  Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.  (14:5-10)

Lily Five[1]Dear Jesus,

We stumble so frequently yet we turn and return.

We seek your path,

We call on your wisdom, we ask for prudence, courage, fortitude, patience.

We know your ways and your statutes.  We know that you await us.

We see these things, we hear these words, we rely on your constancy and your promise.

We look for the harvest, we look for the shade in the noonday sun.

We seek conversion and transformation.

We seek the Lord.

 Amen.


1 Corinthians 2:9: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard by Marty Haugen video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRyOS0nZr7s

For more thoughts on seeking, go to the God Time page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/god-time/

Images from: http://www.agodman.com/blog/enjoying-the-dew-and-the-manna-from-the-lord-to-be-revived-every-morning/ and http://theverticall.blogspot.com/2010/06/dew-to-israel.html

Written on January 31, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hosea 9Exile Without Worship

Francesco Hayez: Ephraim

Francesco Hayez: Ephraim

Chapter 9 of Hosea is a picture of the Jewish people and in particular Ephraim, the largest tribe in Israel and one of the first to be taken into exile where they cannot offer sacrifices. Over a period of several hundred years, Ephraim is divided and carted off north to Babylon and south to Egypt. Hosea sees the corruption and nepotism in the structure and so he calls for reform and as a priest himself, he sees the importance of honest and sincere worship and he understands how the absence of worship will impact the people when they are carried into exile.  Yet, Hosea also knows the promise of God’s enduring love and that although the people will stray God will not.  Hosea enacts this belief through his enduring love for Gomer, and he persists in worshiping his God . . . even in exile.

If we continue our Lenten journey with Hosea we will rise from the despair to encounter beautiful words of covenant and union.  And so, like Hosea we remain in faith.

If we linger over the imagery of marriage as the model of God’s relationship with each of us we will discover the courage and joy of hope.  And so, like Hosea we arise in hope.

If we plod along our own Jerusalem Road to follow the words of Hosea we will find secure refuge in our own relationship with God.  And so, like Hosea we abide in love.

Through the allegory of his marriage to Gomer, Hosea lightens our load so that we find the strength to respond to this call to a special, intense, fruitful and honest bond.  Just as Hosea persists in calling out to Gomer he also persists in reminding us of this message no matter how much and how often we ignore him.  And so Hosea speaks to us today.

We have separated ourselves from God and from one another in big and little ways. Hosea says that God waits with open arms. All we need do is repent and turn to God . . . and offer up our open and honest worship.


For more information about the man Ephraim, go to: http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/p131.htm

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim

First written on March 26, 2007. Re-written and posted yesterday and today as a Favorite.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Hosea 9: A Prayer of Return to God

lovehands[1]We have spent time with this prophet for much of the week and we have allowed ourselves to be open to a flood of emotions. When we consider the story of Hosea and Gomer we experience the depth and breadth of God’s patience, fidelity and love.  On this third Sunday in Lent we are invited to be frank about when and how we play Gomer to God’s Hosea.  We are also invited to consider the depth and breadth of Christ’s sacrifice; we are called to sink into the profundity and intensity of the Spirit’s consolation.  With God there is always an opportunity to return.

Israel becomes the harlot when she wanders from the covenant she had entered into with Yahweh. She oppresses the poor and adores idols; the mechanical offering of holocausts by her priests has become a false worship.  Israel’s prophets warn her of the consequences of her infidelity, but she continues to ignore these admonitions.  She leaves behind the gift of Exodus when Yahweh brought her out of captivity to a world of freedom.  She scoffs at the notion that a future exile will again enslave her.  And the longer she remains away from Yahweh, the more difficult – and useless – she sees the road of return.  And in her headlong desire to do precisely as she likes, she sends herself into her own loveless and dreadful exile.  If only she might return . . .

While Israel flirts with cataclysm and ignores all signs of warning, Yahweh abides and calls.  Yahweh hopes and prepares.  Yahweh waits and loves.

While Gomer gives herself to any who would have her in order to feel the quick rush of easy pleasure, Hosea abides and calls.  Hosea hopes and prepares. Hosea waits and loves.

Hosea sees this parallel and so must we.   And while Hosea aches for his lost love and yearns for Israel to return to her true role as Yahweh’s spouse, Yahweh waits for Israel to return.  And so does God call and wait on us today.

Picture1And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we forget to visit with you each day.  Renew in us a desire to be faithful to you. 

Good and constant God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we are easily lured away from you.  Renew in us a willingness to put aside the quick charms of a self-centered life. 

Good and tender God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we refuse to see the depths of your love.  Renew in us our understanding of your mercy, a willingness to persist through our doubt, and an eagerness to put everything aside for you. 

Good and ever-present God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we fail to return to you. Renew our strength, renew our courage, renew our faith, renew our hope, renew our love, and renew our all . . . so that we might return to you.

Amen.    


Image from: http://architectsofanewdawn.ning.com/group/returntolovepostshowdiscussion      

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020: Sirach 8 & 9Part III

A Prayer for Friends and Friendship

friendship013[1]The wisdom of Proverbs and Sirach may be dismissed as childish or old-fashioned, but this week we have seen the depth and breadth of their astuteness and their keen understanding of human nature.  Today we see these verses as a welcome counterpoint to the material world and its headlong rush to acquire all that is new; we strive to keep all things in balance: Spurn not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint yourself with their proverbs; from them you will acquire the training to serve you in the presence of princes.  Reject not the wisdom of the old ones which they have learned from their elders; from it you will obtain the knowledge how to answer in time of need. (Sirach 8:8-9)

In our modern age of hyper-communication we might draw into ourselves in fear as we hear constant news of conflict and violence.  We may be tempted to look at all that is wrong and forget to look for all that is right with the world.  Anxiety may outweigh optimism.  Fear may trump trust.  Self-protection and avoidance of vulnerability may outweigh our courage to enter into friendship with sincerity and integrity.  If this is so, and if the familiar stories in scripture do not inspire us, we will want to return to the wisdom captured by Jesus ben Sirach, for he has much to offer us.

And so we pray in gratefulness for our true friends and in thanksgiving for the presence of Christ in our lives . . .

Good and gracious God, I thank you for the true friendship you have shared with me in the person of my friends.  Keep me ever aware of their value.  Remind me to thank them often.  Guide me in returning their nurturing care of my humanity.  Help me to recognize their divinity, just as these true friends affirm my divinity when I reflect you to them.  Thank you for adopting me as your daughter.  Remind me often that I am a citizen of the next world rather than one of this.  Give me the patience to wait while the wine of relationships ages.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the friendship of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Let us give thanks today for the gift of friendship.


Image from: http://www.cherrybam.com/friendship-quotes.php

For more wisdom from this text, type the “Sirach” into the blog search box and choose a reflection.   

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sirach 51: Canticle of Thanksgiving

JIM-give-thanks[1]When we feel as though we are about to slip into the abyss, when it seems as though we have nowhere to turn, there is one place we can always find comfort.  No matter how many times we visit this book of wisdom written by Jesus ben Sirach it always feels new.  As we linger among these verses of the last chapter, we might pause to add the details of our own lives amidst the ancient words.  In so doing, we move from darkness into light, from our own timeline to God’s.  We may even end each phrase with the details of our own journey to God.  Again, we find that the faithful do not need to fight.  They must be willing to do one thing . . . to refuse to take any action that will separate them from their God . . . and be willing to wait for the harvest to arrive . . . in due season.

Dear God,

You have saved me from death, and kept my body from the pit . . .

You have delivered me, in your great mercy, from the scourge of a slanderous tongue, and from lips that went over to falsehood . . .

You have delivered me from deceiving lips and painters of lies, from the arrows of dishonest tongues . . .

I turned every way, but there was no one to help me, I looked for one to sustain me, but could find no one . . .

But then I remembered the Lord . . .

So I raised my voice from the very earth . . .

I called out . . .

“You are my champion . . .

“Do not abandon me . . .

“I will ever praise your name and be in constant prayer to you . . .

He preserved me in time of trouble . . .

I sought wisdom . . .

She came to me in her beauty . . .

My feet kept to the level path . . .

I became resolutely devoted to her . . .

My whole being was stirred as I learned about her . . .

And Wisdom replies:

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction.  How long will you be deprived of wisdom’s food, how long will you endure such bitter thirst? 

Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.

Let your spirits rejoice in the mercy of God, and be not ashamed to give him praise in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward.

And we respond: So be it!  Amen!


IMage from: http://www.thedesertreview.com/give-thanks/jim-give-thanks/

First written on November 3, 2008.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Psalms 105 & 106: Collective Stillness

stillness[1]Psalms of collective jubilation, collective lamentation, of collective recognition that we are human, of collective jubilation that we are forgiven and loved.  We hear a clamoring in these verses as the psalmist recites the many good things Yahweh has bestowed and also the many ways Yahweh’s people have strayed.  We might be overwhelmed by the goodness and mercy Yahweh displays as he repeatedly gathers in the lost, and heals the hungry, broken and sorrowful people.  There is almost too much going on in these psalms to take in all that Yahweh is and does.

The morning prayers in MAGNIFICAT today are all about being still . . . being patient . . . being calm amid the clatter . . . to listen to and receive the saving power of God.  (Cameron 123-125)

By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.  Isaiah 30:15b

The Lord . . . remembers forever his covenant, the pact imposed for a thousand generations. Psalm 105:8

The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.  Exodus 14:14

When they were few in number . . . he let no one oppress them.  Psalm 105:12&14

The kingdom of God is within you!  Luke 17:21

Save us, Lord, our God; gather us from among the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in praising you.  Psalm 106:47 

When we gather together in the great collective . . . we often lose the stillness.  When we remember the many times we have sinned, the many times we have forgiven and the many times we have been forgiven ourselves . . .  we may be overcome by the great difference that exists between our creator and ourselves.  Yet this originator brings us forth in his image, with his love . . . to be jubilant in the world he has created for us.  So that we might not become bogged down in our sorrow or anxiety, we must look for our collective celebration and joy.

It is often in the stillness that we best re-find our umbilical cord to our source.  This calm returns us to our genuine purpose . . . eternal joy and celebration with God.  Perhaps in our collective tumult we might also find a collective stillness and peace.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!  Let all the people say, Amen!  Hallelujah!  Psalm 106:48.


Image from: http://robertrabbin.com/blog/?p=1699

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.2 (2009): 123-125. Print.  

Written on February 9, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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