Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Psalm 62: A Prayer of Trust in God Alone

Thursday, March 30, 2023

As we prepare for the celebration of Easter, we return to some Christmastide meditations from 2011 and we reflect on how the Passion and Easter stories begin in a stable in Bethlehem. 

Yesterday we reflected on Psalm 62; today we pray as we reflect . . .

Trust God at all times, my people!   Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to voice all that we are as creatures of God.

God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to recall the temptations that lead us away from God.

They delight in lies; they bless with their mouths, and inwardly they curse. 

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to remember where we must focus our energies.

Though wealth increase, do not set your heart upon it.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to think about how power and kindness relate to one another.

Power belongs to God; so too, Lord does kindness,

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to see where we might find full and lasting peace.

My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to acknowledge the difficulty life presents to us.

How long will you set upon people, all of you beating them down, as though they were a sagging fence or a battering wall?

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to recognize our proper relationship with God and others.

Mortals are a mere breath, the powerful but an illusion; on a balance they rise; together they are lighter than air.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to tell God all that troubles us.

Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to call on God and to hear God’s words to us. Trust God at all times, my people!   Amen!

Image from: https://freerangestock.com/photos/139316/trust-concept-.html

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Mark 11:1-11: Jesus’ Entry into Our Lives

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Francisco de Zurbarán: The Adoration of the Shepherds

As we prepare for the celebration of Easter, we return to some Christmastide meditations from 2011 and we reflect on how the Passion and Easter stories begin in a stable in Bethlehem. 

In yesterday’s Noontime we considered how much we rush toward Christmas only to miss its deep promise and sure gift – the gift of Christ himself.  Today we continue our reflection . . .

The Noontime reading takes us to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem; the natural culmination of the Savior’s life lived in humble obedience to God, although we might not see it at first. We know that Jesus will be crucified and we shrink from that knowing, wondering how much or how little we have to do with Christ’s suffering. The people in today’s story follow Jesus into the town; Jesus goes to the Temple, enters and looks around. The gift has been given and now the promise is to be fulfilled. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . .

See, the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: say to daughter Zion, your savior comes!  Here is his reward with him.  They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, and you shall be called “Frequented,” a city that is not forsaken.  (Isaiah 62:11-12) The prophet Isaiah proclaims with joy the arrival of the remnant’s reward. We look for the meaning in this Feast of the Nativity; we look for solutions to big and little problems. Suddenly, the event is over. Or is it?

The mystery of Christ’s entry into our world and into Jerusalem is too much to take in. Why does our God love us this way? The beauty of Jesus’ coming into the world and into our lives is too much to believe. Why does our God abide with us always? How can we abide with this gift and promise now that God has made this entry into our lives?

And so we pray . . .

Good and constant God, You have proclaimed to the ends of the earth that our Savior comes . . . and still we complain.  You have announced glad tidings, peace, good news and salvation . . . and still we forget.  You have told us that we who have who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . and still we doubt.  You have loves us and brought us abundant joy and cause for great rejoicing . . . and still we rush on. 

Good and persistent God, Hold us closely, remind us of you strength often, speak to us always of your compassion, tell us again that we have not been abandoned, remind us that we are not forsaken, ask us to linger with you . . . hold us from rushing on.

Good and loving God, You have entered the world as a babe.  You redeem the world as a savior.  You love each of us more than we can understand.  Continue to bring us the mystery of your story.  Continue to enter into our lives each day.  Catch us and hold us always in your arms so that we might not move past you.  Enter fully into all we say and do . . . so that we do not rush on.  Amen. 

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Francisco_de_Zurbar%C3%A1n_-_The_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_-_WGA26058.jpg

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Mark 11:1-11: Jesus’ Entry into the World

Monday, March 27, 2023

Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo: Adoration of the Shepherds

As we prepare for the celebration of Easter, we return to some Christmastide meditations from 2011 and we reflect on how the Passion and Easter stories begin in a stable in Bethlehem. 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing . . . (Isaiah 9:1-2) The prophet Isaiah anticipates the joy that will come into the world with the birth of the Messiah. We anticipated the coming of the Christmas holiday, expending energy on little details and big decisions. Suddenly, the event is over. Or is it?

In a too-quick, on-to-the-next-thing world, Christmas ends suddenly. In North America, evergreen trees that a few hours ago decorated family rooms with a display of tended ornaments and artificial lights now lie bare at the curbside for recycling. Presents opened and exchanged are nestled into their new places in the hubbub of our lives. Objects stowed, family and friends greeted, back to work until the next holiday. We have waited and shopped and prepared in anticipation for weeks, and now we are tempted to rush on. When we do, we miss the gift and promise of Christmas.

Today’s Noontime takes us to another part of the Christmas story; although we might not see it at first. We find ourselves at the gates of Jerusalem about to enter with the Master.  He sends some of his followers into town in search of a colt he knows is tethered in a particular place. Strangely, the animal is lent; the disciples answered just as Jesus told them to do when bystanders questioned them. The colt is brought, people spread their cloaks on the road and raise leafy fronds as they sing: Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The gift has been given and now the promise is to be fulfilled. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . .

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!”  (Isaiah 52:7) The prophet Isaiah announces with joy the entry of the Messiah. We looked for the coming of the Christmas holiday, offering prayers for big and little petitions. Suddenly, the event is over. Or is it?

In a too-fast, we-are-so-connected world Christmas is over. Cranky relatives have been visited or called; old emotions and arguments boil to the surface to be put back into place. All as it should be until the next occasion. We have thought and reflected in anticipation for some time, and now we are eager to push on; yet if we push on too quickly we miss the true gift and the eternal promise of Jesus’ entry into our lives.

And so we pray . . .

Good and gentle God, you come into our lives as both a vulnerable child and a determined savior.  Help us to linger in this message.  Encourage us to slow down so that we can take your message in.  Abide with us as we sink into the mystery you bring to us of your eternal and always constant love.  We rest in you this day and this night . . . as we ponder the gift of your entry.  Amen. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_%28Murillo,_c.1668%29

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Ezekiel 4: The Inevitability of God’s Love

Fifth Sunday of Lent: March 26, 2023

James Tissot: Simon the Cyrenian Compelled to Carry the Cross with Jesus

There is an inexorable force which drives our existence. Some of us identify its scientific origin, others of us focus on its spiritual origin. Some of believe that God drives this science; others of us believe that synchronicity and evolution direct our existence. But no matter the origin of our thinking, and no matter our circumstances, we all see the predictable: those of us born into human flesh will come to a very human end. This is an inevitability we cannot avoid. This is the greatest gift ever offered. This is a promise none will want to doubt. Ezekiel’s audience turned away from his prophecy because they could not bear to hear the truth which they saw as terrible but which was, indeed, wonderful. Today when we hear the good news that we are loved beyond measure and that all our worries and woes can be put into God’s hands we will want to choose to trust God and the inevitability of God’s love?

Yesterday we reflected on the certainty of Ezekiel’s prophecy and how history tells us that his predictions held true.  We also made a connection between the unavoidability of this prophecy and the persistent nature of God’s promises to us, the unrelenting presence of God’s love for us as shown by the birth of the Christ. The ancient oracle foreshadows the promise kept.

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.  As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying out, Abba, Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.  (Galatians 4:4-7)

Whether we want to admit this fact or not, we are in intimate relationship with God.  This is something we cannot change.

Whether we feel God’s presence or we do not, we are in constant union with God. This is a concept we cannot reject.

Whether we feel God’s love for us or we do not, we are the center of God’s focus at all times. This is the reality we cannot rebuff.

God is so good, so generous and so overpowering that we cannot avoid closeness with him. God is so patient, so forgiving and so compassionate that he waits with us as we struggle against the fears and anxieties of the world. God is so caring, so tender, and so loving that he allows us to behave as we like as he continues to offer this gift of self to us. God has known us from our origin and God knows our path. And God waits. God persists. God loves. Inevitably.

Jerusalem fell and God’s people were taken into exile. This was predicted. This came to pass. This was inevitable. This we now know.

Jesus is among us to deliver us from all that pains us. This was predicted. This has come to pass. This too, is inevitable. This too, we can know.

As we enter the last week before Palm Sunday and Holy Week, let us consider God’s inevitable gift and promise. 

As we anticipate the miracle of Easter resurrection, let us rejoice and be glad. 

And as we draw nearer to the Good News of the Easter Story, let us act as if we believe in these good tidings. Let us give thanks for this wondrous and profound gift of God’s inevitable love.

An adapted re-posting of a reflection written on December 25, 2011.

Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/james-tissot/simon-the-cyrenian-compelled-to-carry-the-cross-with-jesus-simon-de-cyre-ne-contraint-de-porter

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Jeremiah 15:15-16: Remember Me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2023jeremiah5

Tomorrow we enter into the Lenten season and so as we prepare we strengthen our relationship with God. The prophet Jeremiah experienced the destruction of Israel’s beautiful relationship with Yahweh despite his intensity and persistence in warning of the coming fall. We might tap into that passion and persistence today. We might draw on the prophet’s faith, hope and love for God as he sees it in all.

You know where I am, God! Remember what I’m doing here!

   Take my side against my detractors.

When we feel as though no one listens . . . we speak as Jeremiah speaks.

Don’t stand back while they ruin me.
    Just look at the abuse I’m taking!

When we feel as though no one sees . . . we ask as Jeremiah asks.

I never joined the party crowd
    in their laughter and their fun.

When we feel as though no one acts in the Lord . . . we live as Jeremiah lives.

When your words showed up, I ate them—
    swallowed them whole. What a feast!
What delight I took in being yours,
    O God!

When we feel as though no one believes  . . . we love as Jeremiah loves.

And so we pray . . .

Remember me, Lord, remember who I am and where I am.

Remember me, Jesus, remember how I am and why I am.

Remember me, Holy Comforter, remember that I am . . . remember that I am . . .

Remember me, Lord, remember me! Amen.

To learn about the prophet Jeremiah, click on the image above or visit: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/464029/jewish/The-Prophet-Jeremiah.htm 

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Daniel 13: God’s Yardstick – Susanna

When Goodness attracts Evil

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Thursday, January 12, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Today’s Noontime is a beautiful but difficult story.  An innocent, virtuous woman is wrongly accused; and an innocent yet wise child reveals lust and deceit.  Goodness wins in the end; evil slithers away to return another day.

The idea that Susanna’s virtue is the reason for her trial is a frightening thought. Her parents took care, the story tells us, to bring her up in the ways of Yahweh. And this was what stirred the lascivious men.

What does Susanna do when accused? To whom does she turn? What does she say in her defense?

Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly . . . “Oh, eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me”.  As the story continues, we see that the evil elders – whom the people had trusted – are done in by their own web of lies. The story unfolds as the child Daniel cries out: Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” . . . The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. 

UK Parliament - John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

UK Parliament – John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

The end of this story is immediately satisfying. Unfortunately for us, situations like these in our own lives may endure many days or months or years before the lies against us are revealed; yet revealed they will be for God’s goodness and truth always overcome darkness. The measuring stick that Susanna uses, and that we must use, is to follow Yahweh, the creator who molds us from star dust for the purpose of love alone.

Our task, as followers of Christ, is to faithfully and persistently petition God, to fall back into the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to model ourselves after Jesus, and to continue to hope in the covenant promise that we are eternally forgiven and saved. We might remind ourselves of the gifts we receive when we use God’s yardstick at the troubling times in our lives. The message of Daniel is clear:  When goodness attracts evil – as it surely will – the faithful need not fight; they need only rely on God, and never allow themselves to be separated in any way from their God who measures life in so loving a way. And so we pray . . .

The gift of persistence calls us to rely on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of faith asks us to place our petitions in God’s hands.

The gift of hope in the person of Jesus shows us how to offer love on behalf of our enemies.

The gift of life itself asks us to allow goodness and truth to conquer lust, lies and deceit. Amen.

A favorite from Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Enter the name Susanna in the blog search bar for more reflections about this woman.

Images from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663722 and http://www.parliament.uk/about/art-in-parliament/global/print/?art=3245

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIIsolarsystem

A Prayer in Response to God’s Gift of Delight

Thursday, December 29, 2022

We near the end of a cycle of days and weeks and months that we designate as a year. Soon we will celebrate the past twelve months in which we have known great sorrow and great joy. As we consider all that we have seen and heard, felt and believed, let us give thanks for the gift of delight itself, the gentle pleasure that rises from honest relationships and open minds. Just as God delights in us, let us delight in God.

For the gift of winter cold that draws us together as we look for shelter and welcome friends and strangers from the wind. Let us treasure each winter hardship just as God treasures each of us. The infinite iterations of flakes on frosted windows can remind us that just as God creates each of these beautiful designs, so does God create each of us with our own unique features, joys and anxieties.

snowflake2For the gift of drawing in, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of spring that reminds us that new life always rises from the old. In springtime exuberance we open our hearts to the possibilities of our own resurrection. We remember that God always brings goodness out of harm, love out of hatred, generosity out of what is meant to be cruel, and love out of gestures of hatred and shame. The tiniest of plants and creatures burst forth in a rush to celebrate God’s goodness. Giant stars and the multiverse expand to open great hearts for God’s enormous love.

wisdom-at-creationFor the gift of burgeoning hope, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of summer that brings us into the energy of God’s passion and mercy. In the fullness of summer heat, we remember that with God all things are possible. With God all miracles bring new life and new meaning. With God resurrection is more than an idea or hope. Burgeoning crops, teeming waters, rain and sun drench us with God’s abundance and generosity. God calls us to match this zeal with the stores of understanding and courage we lay aside for the difficult times ahead.

KY-Breaks-Interstate-Park-river-sceneFor the gifts of kindness and goodness, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of autumn when we harvest the fortitude, perseverance, fidelity and truth that God has shared with us. We remember that nothing of this world is meant to take the place of God. We recall the great delight God has expressed in our willingness to be open to others just as Jesus is open with us. We respond with compassion and an ardent desire to heal broken relationships and people. We return this gift with our own desire to heal and advocate.

fall-leafFor the gifts of forgiveness and restoration, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

In all seasons of this year to come, we unite in a new thankfulness for God’s love, a new willingness to live as Jesus does, and a new urgency to heal and console just like the Holy Spirit. May we find the energy and determination to live in such a way that all those who encounter us will know that we delight in God’s own delight in us. Amen.

For a reflection on a full measure of joy, click on the snowflakes or visit: http://fullmeasureofjoy.com/?p=4253 

For a reflection on God’s wisdom in creation, click on the plant shoot or visit: http://elcmthoreb.org/2013/07/12/gods-wisdom-in-creation-this-week-at-elc/

For a reflection on seeing God’s creation, click on the river image or visit: http://www.seeingcreation.com/2012/nature-photography/natures-dictionary/

For a reflection on seeking God, click on the image of the leaf or visit: http://nancyaruegg.com/category/seeking-god/ 


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Matthew 21:23-27Authority Questioned

Monday, December 12, 2022

Tissot: Authority of Jesus Questioned

James Tissot: Authority of Jesus Questioned

I suppose it is natural that after we reflect on God as the lover and the most excellent promise he offers, it is appropriate to pause . . . that we might consider what authority supports these concepts.  Several times Paul advises that we test the spirit (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 8:8, 13:5, Galatians 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:21) to see that we are acting in accord with God’s will as opposed to having gone off on a private agenda of our own.  We are not testing God in these cases; rather, we examine our own understanding of what we believe to be God’s word to us.

John recommends that we test ourselves: Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.  (1 4:1)

But what we see in today’s reading is not an attempt on the part of the Pharisees and scribes to discover Jesus’ authenticity as the word of God. What we see is their desire to gain any information that might silence him, any words with which to catch him, to trip him up.

I love the way that Jesus’ replies to their cagey questions with questions of his own that go to the heart of their envy, greed and deception. He knows that they fear losing temple tax, power and recognition. Jesus does not answer their questions nor do they persist; because Jesus has made their dark motives evident through his own patient persevering dialog.

We ourselves are sometimes questioned by people who have ulterior motives and so we might think of these interrogations of Christ as his own demonstration of how to handle one’s self when under fire. This questioning or testing need not be a bad experience, if we remember to speak from the truth we have funded in ourselves through our endless search for God. For when we are questioned, we find; when we are interrogated, we have the opportunity to encounter God.

And so we pray: Heavenly Father, bring us the patience, the wisdom and the serenity to answer the questions put to us from those who test the authority on which we stand.  Help us to test ourselves to see if the spirit we follow is yours. Help us to seek Christ through scripture and through our daily conversations with you so that we will not be lacking when we are put to the test. We know that when we empty ourselves of our daily worries, we leave room for you to enter and act. 

When we are anxious, send us your peace.

When we are threatened, send us your peace.

When we are fearful, send us your peace.

When we stand alone, send us your peace.

When we are sorrowful, send us your peace.

When we are abandoned, send us your peace.

When we are questioned, send us your peace.

When we have found you, send us your peace that we might recognize you and sink into the serenity you have promised.


Images from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authority_of_Jesus_questioned and https://worthy-woman.com/2019/04/02/by-what-authority-do-we-act/

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Luke 21:12-19: Giving Testimonytestimony

Friday, December 2, 2022

They will seize and persecute you . . .

Not one of us asks for loss of freedom.

They will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons . . .

None of us wants public scandal or shame.

They will lead you before kings and governors in my name . . .

We do not like to think that politics or social pressure might suborn our thinking.

It wtestimony1ill lead to your testimony . . .

So when we suffer in Christ’s name we must respond in fidelity.

Remember . . . you are not to prepare your defense beforehand . . .

There is no defense against the world’s corruption and power.

I myself will give you wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute . . .

There is only one true wisdom that preserves and protects.

You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends . . .

we are the testimonyThere is only one powerful truth that guides and transforms.

They will put some of you to death . . .

There is only one life that is eternal.

You will be hated because of my name . . .

There is only one Spirit that brings life and light and love that are everlasting.

But not a hair on your head will be destroyed . . .

There is only one Christ Jesus who returns from death to heal, redeem and renew.

By your perseverance you will secure your lives . . .

There is only one God who is and was and will always be. Let us give our faithful testimony today. Amen.


Images from: http://www.fansshare.com/celebrities/testimony/ and https://livelyscribes14.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/the-testimony-of-jesus-the-life-of-testimony/ and https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/jesus-changed-everything-women/

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