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Exodus 34The Richness of God

Sunday, November 11, 2018

When Moses sees the people worshiping a golden calf they have fashioned for themselves (Exodus 32:19) he smashes the tablets containing the Ten Commandments in a fit of wrath.  In today’s Noontime we read of the renewal of these tablets.  Even in the face of a willful turning away, God shows his chosen people kindness and mercy.  And God shows us this same gentleness and compassion today.

Murillo: The Good Shepherd

Today’s readings are centered on God as the Good Shepherd, the patient night-watcher, the constant day-herder, the wise and loving one who knows us from the womb until our last breath.

Paul writes to the Colossians (3:12-14) and to us: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 

Moses describes God as merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin.  Moses also speaks of how God chastises us – all the while loving us as a loving parent wishing the best for his child.

The Psalm in the Morning Prayer today is Psalm 36:6-10 and it reminds us of the depth and breadth of God’s love.  It also reminds us that God will be painfully truthful with us in order that we also grow in mercy and goodness and truth and justice and light: Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven; your truth to the skies.  Your justice is like God’s mountain, your judgments like the deep. To both man and beast you give protection, O Lord, how precious is your love.  My God, the sons of men find refuge in the shelter of your wings.  They feast on the riches of your house; they drink from the stream of your delight.  In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.

The MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection (Cameron 132-133) helps us to understand why we gather to celebrate Eucharist as often as possible: Through the mystery of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, God has destroyed death forever by transforming it from the end of our story to a passageway into eternal life.  In the Eucharistic feast, we taste the promise of the fulfilled.  It is in and with and through Christ that come we come to know the fullness of God’s love, that he gives his own child so that we might live.  Such is the richness of God.  Such is his gift of light and life to us.

Toward the end of exodus 34 we read about how Moses’ face is so transformed into light that he puts a veil over his face.  God’s radiance is reflected in Moses’ face . . . all of this goodness is nearly too much to bear.

The MAGNIFICAT Morning Intercessions help us to make the connection between God’s feeding of the Hebrews in the desert with God’s abiding love for us in the 21st century.  They let us know that God’s eternal message of peace that made Moses’ face radiant in joy is the same message God has for us today.  When we cry out in sorrow . . . God nourishes us.  When we wander in the darkness . . . God brings us the gift of eternal life.

God feeds us with the finest wheat: our Lord Jesus Christ, source of our life.  And so we pray . . .

You feed us at the table of your word: nourish the thoughts of our heart.

You feed us with the bread of life: grant that we may live in the spirit of self-giving love.

You feed us with the pledge of eternal life: grant that we may receive our daily bread with gratitude.

God of life, you invite all peoples to the feast of life in your kingdom.  Forgive us when, in our foolishness, we refuse your invitation to pursue other interests, and bring us back to your table that we may continue to grow in the life of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord for ever.  Amen.

God is the Good Shepherd of all creation; he is the patient night-watcher and the constant day-herder.  God is the wise and loving one who knows us from the womb until our last breath.  God nourishes and feeds; he rescues and saves.  God calls us always to himself.  For God is rich in kindness and mercy, quick to forgive, slow to anger . . . always calling us home.


A re-post from October 9, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection and Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9 October 2011: 251. Print.

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/river-200×15011.jpg and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/sunset-over-wears-valley-tennessee-mountain-art-reid-callaway.html

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Ezra 3:3Despite Fear

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Several years ago we looked at the third chapter of Ezra to explore the options we have when we return from exile or a place of great sadness.  We read about how these chastened people return to a place that had once been special to them.  We see how they gather themselves after tragedy to find joy once more.  We understand that they come together in celebration to restore what was lost . . . despite their great fear.

Fear is clearly an obstacle but it also a strong motivator.  It can paralyze us and keep us from moving forward; it can also propel us into action without our knowing precisely where we are going or how we will get there.  We each know the sensation that stops us in our tracks when fear grips the heart and churns the stomach.  We also know the feeling of wild horror that urges us to escape and even run away when fear sends us into the blindness of panic.  Today we watch a people full of fear gather themselves to return to something they know to be sacred.  These people can show us how to return to what we once loved . . . even when we believe it to be lost forever.

They return from exile; they examine how and what they need to change; they thank God for their deliverance; they move forward with and in God.

They gather themselves; they take a head count; they take inventory together; they agree to a plan; they move forward with and in God.

They follow through with their plan; they rely on one another; they leave no one behind; they celebrate success; they move forward with and in God.

They who had been taken into exile now return cautiously; and they move forward with and in God.

They who had known only mourning are weighed down by pain; still they move forward with and in God.

They who wept for their loss yearn for new hope and restoration . . . and so they move forward with and in God.

They who know nothing but darkness look for peace and reunion . . . and so they move forward with and in God.

When we are bereft of all that once was familiar, when we have been carried away to a place that is alien, when we tremble with the coldness of a fear that strangles us, we – like the people we read about today – turn to God and the sureness of his mercy.  We call on this compassionate God to remove the bitter panic that grips us.  We ask this kind and gentle God to restore our confidence and joy.  And we follow this God – no matter where he leads – through the chill of the dark night to the warmth of a new presence and serenity . . . and we ask this despite all our fear.


A re-post from October 8, 2011.

Images from: http://www.greatjewishmusic.com/Moods/Serenity.htm

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Isaiah 26Lament and Divine Response

Friday, November 9, 2018

Paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY: An extensive song of lamentation is followed by an assurance that judgment of the nations will be complete, and that the answers to prayers of Israel’s past will be answered.  It expresses hope for a time of peace and for restoration.  “Within this portrayal is a remarkable affirmation that ‘your dead will rise’ and that divine light will fall on the darkness of the realm of the shades of Sheol . . . The language is a hyperbolic expression of confidence that God will restore the nation of Israel [and] . . . leaves open the other possibilities for later readers who contemplate a more explicit conception of the restoration of the dead with the religious beliefs of Judaism and Christianity”.  (Mays 509)

These words are particularly poignant as yesterday our family and friends formally marked the arrival and death of a little one.  As individuals and as a community we raised our lament to the heavens; and just as surely we received our response.  The words from Isaiah today bring us what we yearn to hear.

He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down . . .

No amount of wealth or power can protect us from the natural course of life which is to die in order that we rise again in full and eternal life.

The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level . . .

Those who seek refuge in God alone when the storm of life descends on them will always find a secure sanctuary against the darkness; and they will rise again to join others in full and eternal life.

My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you . . .

Sinking into our loss, we cry out in our pain as the darkness descends; yet within us the Spirit kindles fresh hope and we know that we will rise again in full and eternal life.

O Lord, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done . . .

Turning to the source of our being and looking to the goal of our journey we keep our eyes and hearts fixed on the One who alone calls us forward into full and eternal life.

Salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth . . .

Recognizing that we are powerless, we turn to God, the source of goodness and mercy and light, knowing that we will rise again in full and eternal life.

But your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise; awake and sing you who lie in the dust . . .

We call out to our loved ones to join us, knowing that we will rise again in full and eternal life.

For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth . . .

God answers our wail of lament.  With swift and unswerving fidelity our God reaches down to pull us up out of the darkness . . . to bring us into the light of his full and eternal life.

Let us leave the darkness behind, let us drink in the newness of God’s morning dew . . . and let us abide in the light that fulfills in us the promises of God’s full and eternal life.  Amen.


A re-post from October 7, 2011.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 509. Print. 

Images from: http://luminousinspiration.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/nothing-else/

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Matthew 25-26: Jesus Heals

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

We are reminded by these simple verses that just as Jesus touches the people in this reading he also touches us . . . daily.  He knows our sorrows and pain . . . and so when we are open to his touch . . . he heals the greatest and smallest ache.  When we suffer too deeply to even call on him for help . . . he abides to await our awakening to him.  And when we are yet too anxious about the difficulties of life to even formulate our petitions to God . . . Jesus soothes us and eases our way.

The MAGNIFICAT Monday Morning and Evening Prayers are centered on Psalms 84 and 94 and they are apt for today’s NoontimeThey speak to the human need to know that God acts in our lives and that God’s promises are real.  They assure us that we are best healed when we travel lightly . . . and when we seek God persistently.

Prayer before Psalm 84: Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. (Mark 6:8)  We are a pilgrim people, journeying through the varied landscapes of life, on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Let us travel light, unburdened by useless baggage – material or spiritual – and sing this pilgrim psalm to the God who has given us such a glorious goal in life. 

Prayer before Psalm 94: God does not withdraw his mercy, nor permit even one of his promises to fail.  (Sirach 47:22)  Uncertainty is an ever-present reality to the Christian believer. Is God really there?  Is he really interested?  Can he really hear prayers? Does he really act in today’s world?  Does he still keep his promises even now?  The Psalmist faced the same questions with a courageous, “Yes”!

God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.  (Acts 2:39)

With faith in God who keeps all promises, let us pray. We place our trust in you!

For those who do not believe in God: grant them the gift of faith.  We place our trust in you!

For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ: grant them the gift of faith. We place our trust in you!

For those who do not trust in your love or your promises: grant them the gift of faith. We place our trust in you!

Amen. 


A re-post from October 5, 2011. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.10 (2011): 57-68. Print.

Image from: http://revphil2011.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/

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Ezekiel 44Access and Worship

Monday, November 6, 2018

This chapter of Ezekiel’s prophecy goes into meticulous detail about who is admitted into the Temple and how.  There is no doubt that entering into God’s presence is special.  Nor is there any doubt that the Jewish people will see to it that this strict code is obeyed.  The closed gate is reserved for God himself; only the prince may sit down in it to eat his meal in the presence of the Lord.  He must enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and leave by the same way.  How fortunate we are – as New Testament people – to have the freedom to enter the Temple at all times.  How blessed we are to be temples that the Lord God loves to visit.  How wonderful the gift of God’s Spirit that settles into us to take up residence in the temple of self that we prepare.

Paul has much to tell us about our temple union with Christ.  From his first letter to the Corinthians (3:16-17; 6:19): Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. 

Paul also writes to the Ephesians (2:21-22) that in Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. 

There is no doubt that once Christ has entered the Temple Ezekiel so carefully describes, we are admitted with him.  As Christ’s adopted sisters and brothers, we have been bought at a great price, we are pearls of immense value, and we are welcomed in the sanctuary of the Lord . . . the arms of Christ.

Let us remember this as we pray . . .

Holy and sacred God, you want us to be with you fully in eternity; give us the patience to persevere in our journey with you.

Good and generous God, you forgive us endlessly for our many faults and errors; give us the love to forgive all those who have done us harm.

Constant and abiding God, you accompany us now in our sorrows and our joy; give us the faith to follow you wherever you ask us to go.

We welcome you into the humble temple of self that we have prepared for you.  Take up residence there and guide us in our passage to you.  Grant us eternal access to your wisdom and grace; keep us close to you and call us to worship you in thanksgiving.  For your goodness and compassion are abundant.  Your presence and kindness are healing.  Your love and counsel are comforting.  Be with us now and always.  Amen.


Images from: http://www.theimpactpodcast.com/tip033-resting-in-the-arms-of-god/ 

A re-post from October 4, 2011.

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Psalm 16Song of Trust and Security in God

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer (Cameron 369): “When seen in the light of Easter joy, our sins can weigh us down with discouragement.  Yet God’s love does not deal in punishment as human vengeance does.  God’s love disciplines and prunes us in order to free us – sometimes a painful process – so that we might not die like a withered branch but live and bear much fruit in the risen Christ”. 

And from today’s Gospel which is John 15:12-17: It was not you who chose me I but who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  This I command you: love one another.

We know how difficult change is yet we cannot avoid it for it is inevitable.  We know how difficult life is; in one way or another we experience pain and sorrow daily.  Because life is never free of suffering we might use this kind of pruning to find our best selves.  We know that we exist for a purpose and that purpose is to find our skill set as kingdom builders.  Perhaps we have the idea that we wish to design the architecture in this new kingdom when what God needs from us is that we serve as caretakers of the needy.  Or maybe we hope to serve in some significant organizational role when instead God needs us as harvesters.   Rather than focus on the specifics of our work or on the obstacles to attaining what we wish to attain, we might best focus on God alone instead, for only in God do we find a sheltering place that is secure, permanent and healing.

We do not chose God, God chooses us.  In this we can be secure; this we can trust.  God loves us through the pain of life and not in spite of it.  Let us look beyond our immediate sorrows and desires to see where the boundary lines have fallen.  Let us examine our circumstances to find that we are in pleasant places with a goodly heritage. 

If we are troubled about the pruning that is taking place in our lives today, we may want to turn to God to ask him for the strength to trust God as we ought.  Let us turn to this Psalm to pray . . .

I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.  Amen.


A re-post from October 1, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 27.5 (2011): 369. Print. 

Images from: http://christians-in-recovery.org/wp/2011/06/14/general-recovery/never-forsaken/

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Pray Without Ceasing

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

I have come from my son’s house after spending the afternoon with their four-year old while he and his wife visit funeral homes to make plans for a service that will honor the life of their infant daughter.  Sophie died too quickly a few days ago.  And in all of the wrenching grief, there is prayer.

We sit at a meal together as night closes in.  A friend visits bearing fresh fruit and vegetables.  We laugh over small things, finding comfort in one another’s presence.  The deep sadness is just out of sight but still with us.  And in all of this quiet pain, there is prayer.

It is not the will of God that we suffer.  It is the will of God that we rejoice in spite of the pain, knowing that life here is only temporary.

It is not the will of God that we sink into darkness.  It is the will of God that we rise with him into the light, knowing that life in Christ is never-ending.

Pain cannot be erased, but with patient prayer and unswerving reliance on God it blooms into a rejoicing beyond any happiness we can imagine.  It brings firmness out of the smelting fire.  It brings purity out of the crucible.  It brings a holy presence into a place where only sadness was previously felt.  It brings a knowing that we are eternal and that we will meet again in newness despite any separation this earth can visit on us.

It is through pain that we find our true selves.  It is in pain that we kneel before God in petition.  It is after pain that we rise again in the crystalline newness of our life in Christ.

For all of these reasons . . . we must pray without ceasing.


A re-post from September 30, 2011.

Image from: http://www.holytrinitynewrochelle.org/prayer.html

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Luke 11:5-13: Prayer


Luke 11:5-13Prayer

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Prayer is at the center of human petition.  Cries of anguish rise from the human throat.  Cries of pain rise from the human heart.  In today’s Noontime Jesus teaches us why we should petition the Father.  And he teaches us how.  Jesus reminds us that prayer is always answered.  And he promises that we will all have answers for our questions . . . when we seek.

We ask for change . . . Jesus is the change we seek.

We ask for peace . . . Jesus is the peace we crave.

We ask for mercy . . . Jesus is the mercy that heals.

We ask for an end to sorrow . . . Jesus is new life that restores.

Ask and you will receive . . . we are impatient with God’s time and space.

Seek and you will find . . . we want to be in control rather then become one with God’s timelessness.

Knock and the door will be opened to you . . . we want to know all the answers before we step forward in faith.

How much more will the Father in heaven give . . . ? God gives us life always and endlessly.

Our human eyes want to see God, and so we do . . . each day in the many small goodnesses that happen in and to us.

Our human hearts want to experience God, and so we do . . . each day in the multitude of prayers we offer and receive.

Our human hands want to touch God, and so we do . . . each day in the many small acts of compassion and healing that we perform.

May we be in constant prayer.  May we live in mercy.  May we know peace.


A re-post from September 29, 2011. 

Image from: http://www.blackburn.anglican.org/more_info.asp?current_id=245

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A re-post from September 26, 2011. 

Our baby granddaughter arrived yesterday.  She fluttered into life . . . and then as quickly as she was with us, she was gone.  Holding her lifeless body, the shell she occupied in pre-natal months for a too short passage on this earth, I knew she was no longer there.  But just as surely, I felt her hovering over our shoulders, telling us that all was well . . . even as we struggled to feel her presence.  Even as we struggled to find shelter in the storm.

Psalm 91Finding Shelter

Monday, October 29, 2018

This psalm has been set to music and is often sung at funerals.  We can see why.

This prayer is intoned by pilgrims who travel to spiritual places.  We can read why.

The psalmist tells us that our journey is never smooth; it wends its way among disasters and calamities.  We have experienced this.

The psalmist reminds us that there is only one shelter from these storms.  This we believe when we find shelter after we have been left alone, been abandoned or betrayed.

The Lord commands his angels about you to guard you in your way . . .

Today is the Feast Day of Guardian Angels and the Mass readings recount to us the first time angels are mentioned in scripture: Thus says the Lord: “See, I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and bring you to place I have prepared.  (Exodus 23:20Today God speaks to us to say: Look, I have sent my special messenger to you to assure that you do not lose your way, to protect you from the terrors you will live, to bring you to the sheltered place beneath my wings – these wings that raise you up above the cauldron of life. 

We have reflected before about God’s messengers who come to us when we most need help.  We might spend some time today meditating again on the way these miraculous creatures work in and with us.  They may be evanescent beings who inhabit another plane and who spend their existence doing God’s biding.  They may be friends who abide with us during trials.  They may be strangers who flicker through our lives to heal and save.  And they are there even though we may be totally unaware of them; but they accompany us everywhere at all times.

When we feel as though we are falling into a bottomless chasm, when we want to celebrate a new joy that arrives, when we move through an ordinary day in an ordinary way . . . we will always be accompanied by our angels.  And let us remind one another to take the hand of the guardian angel God has sent to accompany us on our journey.  This angel knows us best of all.  This angel guides and protects.  This angel leads us to the one shelter that is never shaken, that lasts for all time . . . the shelter of our God.

A postscript to Sophie, whom I held for a little while . . .

Your name means wisdom . . . visit us often;

Your little face is beautiful . . .  smile on us daily;

Your grace is eternal . . . come running to meet us when we see you again in the fullness of God’s time;

You are our special messenger . . . may we always remember your significance. 

We love you . . . and we know that you love us, too.  Amen.


This reflection was written on  October 2, 2009 and is posted as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://babymichaelsjourney.blogspot.com/2010/04/michaelss-sand-angels.html 

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