Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category


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/

Read Full Post »


John 16: Persecution Predicted

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 

Joy on stone . . .

We have never been told that apostleship is easy.  It has never been said that discipleship is easily lived.  What we have been told, and what has been said is this: your mourning will turn into joy, your reward will be great.

In this chapter Jesus speaks frankly, honestly and openly with his friends.  He assures them that once he goes their life will become difficult.  He reminds them that this is God’s plan and that once he, Jesus, has made his Exodus, the Holy Spirit will come to live with them – to continue to guide, protect and encourage them.

The apostles – and we – stumble through his meaning.  What is this little while of which Jesus speaks?  Jesus tells them that they must begin to petition the Father in Jesus’ name.  And suddenly these followers of the Christ begin to focus on the coming event: The Resurrection which Jesus predicts.  Suddenly, because they are familiar with all of the predictions made in their Testament of Torah, Wisdom and Prophets, they begin to understand that persecution must follow because Jesus is God.

In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.

If we are sailing easily through life’s storms, we must be ignoring some of our assignments.  If we are never challenged by the headlines, by our friends, by our dear ones, we must not be living in the now.  When we hear our thinking going toward “making nice”, “not wanting to upset anyone”, “ignoring something until it goes away or someone else takes care of it”, then we know that we are still stumbling through the meaning of the Christ’s words which he speaks to us today in Chapter 16 of John.

We must not be disheartened when we meet stiff necks, hard hearts, personal agendas.  We must call upon Christ to bring us hope, call upon the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, call upon the Father to bolster our faith that all harm will be turned to good . . . and we must step fully into the arena of life.

And so we pray . . .

Jesus, God, Holy Comforter, we know that you will never lead us falsely, yet we fear the coming storm.  We doubt our own ability to follow you.  We know that you are always with us, yet your presence is sometimes difficult to feel.  We doubt our own steadfastness.  We know that your words are true, because you are Truth.  We know that your words are loving, because you are Love.  We know that the darkness is shattered by your presence, because you are Light.  Bolster us with confidence, send us courage, because we know of the persecution of this world . . . and we also know that you have already conquered this world.  We ought not to fear, but we are human.  Send us your strength.  Teach us how to find joy in the stony path of life. Remind us that joy will come of our mourning.  Amen. 


First written on June 11, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

For a reflection on living in joy click on the image above or go to: http://www.writtencreations.com/blog/2012/05/30/living-in-joy/

Read Full Post »


Pentecost

Micah 6:8: Loving, Just and Wise

Monday, June 10, 2019

A re-post of thoughts from Pentecost Sunday 2012.

You have been told what is good . . .

Yet we endlessly seek the opinion of others about what we are to do and say.

This is what the Lord requires of you . . .

There is no need to ever be in doubt about what we are to do or what we are to say if we can only place our head and heart into the hands of the Holy Spirit.

Do what is right . . .

When we look for excuses that pardon our actions and words, we know that we are moving in the wrong direction.

Love goodness . . .

When we find ourselves splitting hairs to win arguments, we know that we are loving the darkness.

Walk humbly with God . . .

When our feeling are hurt because we are not noticed enough for our accomplishments, we know that pride is ruling our words and actions.

As we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit in our lives this Pentecost Sunday, let us remember these words from Isaiah 30:20-21The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you will see your Teacher, while from behind a voice shall sound in your ears; “This is the way; walk in it,” when you turn to the right or to the left”. 

As we celebrate the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts this Pentecost Sunday, let us remember these words from Matthew 10:16-20When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say for it will not be you speaking but the spirit of your Father speaking through you, Mark 13:11: When you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit.

If when we ponder what is loving, what is just and what is wise, we come up with no answers, we have only to turn ourselves over and to open ourselves up to the Spirit, for it is in this Spirit that we find our God.  It is in this Spirit that we find ourselves. It is in this Spirit that we will know what to say and what to do.

It is the same Spirit that comes to abide with us that we hear about today . . . on this day after Pentecost Sunday.


Written on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2012 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://orderofcenturions.org/documents/whitsunday.html

Read Full Post »


Hosea 6: The Broken-Hearted

Thursday, June 6, 2019

We frequently look at this prophecy written by one betrayed in the most intimate of ways.  We will need this lesson because in our lives we will often find suffering at the hands of those we trust.  This prophet speaks to us from the depths of sorrow in authenticity about his own intense suffering as a result of the infidelity of his wife, the harlot Gomer.

Chapter 6 begins with a verse that stands out to us because it speaks to our broken-ness as people: broken covenants, broken vows, broken oaths, broken words, broken spirits, broken hearts.  But the beauty of this prophecy and of this first verse is this: for as much as we are broken, we might heal others . . . and in so carrying and living out Christ’s message, we might ourselves be healed.

In the morning reading in Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, we find an important reading: Mark 3:13-19.  Jesus has cured many people of their physical broken-ness and now the throngs are pressing in upon him in such a way that He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.  This is where we come into the story.  Jesus ascends a mountain – usually a sign of moving toward God in scripture – and then he calls forth those whom he wanted.  And these came to him.  He appoints them as apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  Among these twelve is the Iscariot . . . Judas.  Even God allows betrayers to enter his camp, knowing that they will break his heart.

What an amazing God is this who comes to live among us to suffer as we do; yet this is exactly the good news that we have yearned to hear.  How will our broken hearts be mended?  How will broken oaths be healed and broken friendships fixed?  We step forward, called out of the crowd as apostles, to be sent into the world with God’s authority to drive out demons and to heal.  And how do we obtain this authority?  By participating – with Christ – in his suffering and death upon the cross.  This is what Hosea comes to understand through his own agony as he watches his wife dangle herself before any man who will take her.  This is what we can understand as we suffer at the hands of those we thought we knew . . . those in whom we trusted . . . those with whom we shared our inmost thoughts, desires and fears.

When we look at some of the images in Hosea 6 we see the depth of betrayal.  Verse 4: Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.  Verse 9: As brigands ambush a man, so do bands of priests slay on the way to Shechem, committing monstrous crimes. 

And so we pray that broken hearts be healed, that we become messengers of the good news that Christ has come to heal.  We ask for the gift of willingness to enter God’s vineyard, that we allow our suffering to be converted into the authority of an apostle . . . so that we might in turn drive out demons in Christ’s name.

Good and gracious God the Creator, God the Saver, God the Holy Spirit that lives within us:  Keep us close to you in all we suffer that we might be with you as your apostles.  Teach us your way of love that we might go forth as your apostles.  Continue to speak to us of your story that we might preach it as your apostles.  Grant us the patience to rest in your word that it might give us authority as your apostles.  Give us the power to drive out and away all the demons that settle into us without our knowing.  We ask this in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 23, 2012.

Image from: http://www.officialpsds.com/Glass-Shatered-From-A-Broken-Heart-PSD59964.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Rewritten from May 3, 2009 Noontime Reflection. 

Read Full Post »


Esther 5:9-14: Retribution

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Esther

I love this story for its crystalline message: The measure that we measure with is measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38).  We need to hear this story today because lately we have been reflecting on convolutions and betrayals big and small, on expiatory sacrifices, on our complaints, on making a proper response to the call we hear from God, and on forming the alliances we will need to see us through our journey in this life.  All of these themes are present in the story of Esther . . . and they can weigh heavily on us in this season when we want to participate in Easter joy.

Often we are exhausted from the many lessons of discipleship which we must learn.  Often we grow weary of hearing the message that only God can pass judgment and exact retribution.  Often we spend ourselves down to the bottom of our resources keeping up with both listening for the call and by managing our human desire to ask for revenge.  Often our personal well runs dry after we drink from it more times than we replenish it.

Today offers us an opportunity to fill the well, to re-stock the granary, to rest a bit and to recoup.  There are many psalms and stories in scripture in which humans petition retribution and violent revenge on their enemies who appear to skate through life unscathed by the wreckage they leave in their wake.  What today’s story tells us is this:  These enemies drown in their own wake. 

Yes, we reply, we hear this . . . but when will we see it . . . and why does it happen . . . and how do we survive?

We can never visit this story often enough.  We help ourselves if we read it several times a year because it has so much to offer and speaks to the basic human desire to judge and to enact our own retribution.  Various Bibles order the inserts differently and the introductory commentary and the accompanying footnotes will explain the reasons for the jumbled structure of this book which ought to be important to each of.  It is through this story that we are reminded of how our enemies fall.  It is through this story that we remember that we doom ourselves by not answering the call we hear.  It is through this story that we can assure ourselves that our reward will be certain, definite . . . and will flow from our own hands.  It is also from this story we learn that our own actions wash back on us if we enter into the world of envy, fear, obsession and hate.

Rembrandt: Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther

Today we read about how Haman is content and happy with the plot he is weaving.  We see how he flatters himself and gets lost in his own distorted view of life.  We cannot miss how Haman’s friends and wife misdirect him.  These are such important lessons for us to read.  We cannot hear them enough.  These are lessons we must see and live because . . . in the living of these events, we become more like God.  We respond to the call of our potential.  We enter Christ’s Mystical Body.  This is how we survive.

And so we pray:  Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we are weary from learning the lessons of life: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we tire from seeking and waiting and searching: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we become lost in the webs we and others weave: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we are exhausted from living on the edge:  Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

Amen. 


A re-post from May 21, 2012 .

Images from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/rembrandt/haman-begging-esther-for-mercy and http://christianrep.com/blog/2010/08/08/let-your-life-speak/

Read Full Post »


Mark 6:30-33: Return of the Disciples

Seventh Sunday of Easter, June 2, 2019

The Gospel of Mark is intense and to the point – and this citation is no exception.  Today we reflect on the return of the disciples to Jesus after they had been sent forth with his Word to heal and free the oppressed and suffering.  Looking at this chapter as a whole, we read of how Jesus appears on the world stage, preaching in synagogues on Sabbaths, answering the many questions put to him, and also challenging his listeners with questions of his own.  He makes a circuit of the villages.  He sends forth the twelve in twos, giving them power over unclean spirits, instructing them to take nothing for their journey but their trust in the Lord.  He schools them in how they are to enter a house and offer peace – and that if this peace comes back to them they are to shake the dust of this place from their sandals and move on.

Sandwiched between the departure and return of these disciples, we have the story of how John the Baptist is executed to serve the silly jealousy of a corrupt family.  This serves as a clear instruction to us, Jesus’ 21st Century apostles, that while following the Master is a glorious and rewarding journey, it is a path hemmed in by dangers of all kinds.  Following the return of these workers, we see Jesus feed five thousand followers from five loaves and two fish.  Then Jesus walks on water and performs other miracles.  This is a chapter packed with energy and wonder.

This is what I like most about Mark, his clean presentation of the lightning bolt effect Jesus has had on our physical and spiritual worlds.  There is so much going on that when we to pause to meditate on just a few verses we see well beyond the words . . . we understand stories recorded in our collective experience.  Who among us has not at some time done something we never thought possible?  Who has not reached the safety of a refuge after a rewarding but difficult day of working in God’s vineyard to collapse into the sureness of God’s love?  Who has not desired to draw apart for a little while and found that the very people we were escaping have met us on the shore?

Today we reflect on how these disciples blunder along behind Jesus, are sent by him and return to him in awe of the sign of Christ’s love for them . . . the gift of healing they have been given to share.  We see them pile into their fishing crafts to withdraw and rest in a desert place . . . to be met by a mass of people who have anticipated their landing and who have hurried to meet them.  These people hunger for the words of life which Jesus offers them, and so these weary apostles gird themselves, put off their own search for quiet and peace, and do as Jesus tells them.  They trust in their Teacher.  Their rest will have to happen later.

And so we pause to pray, we who seek to draw apart a while into the desert and rest, but who are met by the mass of demands of our life of apostleship:

Jesus, friend of all, we return to you weary from the life of work which we have done in your name: Give us refuge and strength.

Jesus, master of all, we return to you with the fruits of our journey, the signs of our love for you: Give us food and drink.

Jesus, lover of all, we follow you into the next life where we wish to dwell in the house of the Lord: Give us insight and compassion.

Jesus, brother of all, we bring ourselves to you, a gift given and now returned: Give us peace and joy. 

Amen.


A re-post from May 19, 2012.

Image from: http://www.gil-bailie.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

Read Full Post »


Psalm 15: Fearlessness

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Whoever acts like this will not be shaken.

Again today we hear the theme of standing firm in faith and refusing to succumb to panic.  Most of the errors we commit we commit in fear – fear of discovery, fear of not surviving, fear of loss, fear of pain.  If we wish to live as Jesus does, we must learn to place all of our terrors in his capable hands.  This frees us to do the work we are called to do as we build the kingdom.

This psalm is brief yet it contains an easy litany we might repeat when our vision is fogged.

Walk without blame . . .

Do what is right . . .

Speak truth from the heart . . .

Do not slander another . . .

Do no harm . . .

Do not defame . . .

Stay away from the wicked . . .

Remain with those who stand in awe of the Lord . . .

Keep all promises despite the cost . . .

Lend no money at interest . . .

Accept no bribes against the innocent . . .

This is a short but demanding list, and it requires that we place all of our trust and hope in God.  It asks us to be fearless in Christ.  When we feel our energy ebbing, when our resources are low, we might turn back to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians to pray them as we read Psalm 15 . . .

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Test everything.  Hold onto what is good.

Do not be shaken out of your minds or alarmed.  Let no one deceive you in any way.  Stand firm and hold fast to the true traditions that you were taught.

And may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. 

Amen. 


A re-post from May 18, 2012.

For more on 2 Thessalonians see the Lawlessness page on this blog.

Image from: http://www.aliveinthefire.com/2010/11/focus-forward-friday-be-fearless.html

Read Full Post »


Luke 20:20-26: Mercy

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gustave Dore: Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount

In today’s Noontime we listen to Jesus as he gives us a homily and we watch as Jesus puts himself at great risk by speaking to and about the power structure that governs his society.  Much like Moses, Jesus descends from the summit to gather his leadership; Jesus draws together his apostles and disciples.  Moses leads the former slaves to a promise; Jesus aligns himself with the disadvantaged, and speaks aloud the message of hope and rescue that he brings from God.  And it is this way that he forms his kingdom from the rejected and deprived.

The keystone of Jesus’ sermon is in the difficult teaching which many of his followers cannot accept: that he requires us to change our behavior.  Rather than launch weapons and force at our enemies, rather than gather up allies to join us in the shunning or destruction of one who crosses us in any way; we are called by Jesus to love our enemies into goodness.  In this sermon Jesus expands upon the Law as presented to and then by Moses.  Whereas the Old Law focuses on the rules of the Sinai covenant that unite the Hebrew people to hold them together, apart from the world, the New Law asks that we now focus on building our capacity to tolerate, accept and even advocate for the destitute . . . and those who harm us.  We are asked to see that these are the people who make up this new kingdom . . . these wounded and ousted people are our neighbors . . . these people are us.

God does not return like behavior, curse for curse, blow for blow.  He does not walk away when frustrated.  He does not turn away in disgust.  He does not curse us in anger.  He does not plot in hiding.  Rather, in spite of the fact that we reject him in that we refuse to love our enemies, he loves us all the same.  He waits infinitely and patiently for us to return to him.

Jesus knows how difficult all of this is for us; yet he lays down before us the thorniest challenge we will ever meet.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same.  If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners and get back the same amount.  But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

And so we that God show us mercy . . . and that God show us how to act in mercy ourselves.

Lord, grant us mercy.  Mercy in the face of ugliness.  Mercy against cruelty.  Mercy before deception.  Mercy rather than retribution.  Mercy after all.  Mercy before for all.  Mercy for all.  Mercy in all.  Mercy in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 13, 2012.

Image from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/manifesto/0_preface.htm

Read Full Post »


2 Chronicles 25: With A Whole Heart

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Commentary points out to us that king Amaziah is faithful to Yahweh and wins a campaign against Edom because of his fidelity; later he is the victim of assassination.  The Chronicler feels compelled to explain this good king’s reversal of fortune and explains it this way in verse two: He did what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, though not wholeheartedly. 

We can never know the truth of the detail in the story of Amaziah; however, what we can do is to take to heart the warning of the writer that in all things we must be faithful . . . with a full and open heart.  Because God has created us and knows us so well, there is no point in trying to skirt issues or in attempting to hide parts of our history.  God knows all.

Psalm 139 is often cited as one in which the Psalmist expresses this idea of intimacy with God.

Lord, you have probed me, you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.

Nothing escapes God, not even our inmost thoughts.

My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.

Nothing escapes God, not even the experiences we try to keep secret.

Even when a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all.

Nothing escapes God, not even any hidden meaning behind our words.

If I ascend to the heavens you are there; if I lie down in Sheol you are there, too. 

Nothing escapes God, not even our dreams and fears.

If I fly with the wings of dawn and light beyond the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.

Nothing escapes God, not even our attempts to strike out on our own when we have planned our flight to the last detail.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.

Nothing escapes God, not the origin of our faults, not the origin of our gifts.

And perhaps this is why God loves us so.  God knows us as well as he  knows himself.  And we are created in God’s image to abide with him in eternity for eternity.   Is it possible to be so well loved?

A conspiracy forms against Amaziah; he flees but is pursued and hunted down.   How does his story speak to us today?   The Chronicler tells us that Amaziah’s heart is not true.  The Psalmist tells us that God reads our inmost being.  When we feel compelled to run, it is better to stay and remain in the Lord.  When we feel too ashamed to face a new day, we must rise and turn to the Lord.  When we feel too frightened to step into the world, we must take courage and trust the Lord.  When we feel too discouraged to open a new door, we must stay and hope in the Lord.  When we feel too angry to interact with those around us, we must stay and love the Lord . . . with a heart that is open, and honest, and full . . . and true.

Amen.


A re-post from May 8, 2012.

Images from: https://pastorcarolmora.wordpress.com/category/1/page/2/ and http://www.robstill.com/a-wholehearted-worshiping-community/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: