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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

Konstatin Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

Psalm 105:18-19

A Prayer for Those Sent Ahead

They shackled his feet with chains; collared his neck in iron, until his prediction came to pass, and the word of God proved him true.

There are times when we foresee events and predict outcomes well beyond the horizon of our friends and colleagues.  At those times we are tagged with various labels: over-reacting, anxious, conspiratorial, hysterical, and fantastical.  When we find this branding difficult to manage we might turn to the story of Joseph and consider that we also have been sent ahead, and that we too must wait endlessly and patiently until God proves us true.

God says: You have special eyes that see me in the marginalized and down-trodden.  You have a heart that finds me in all creatures and in all parts of my creation.  You have a mind that understands cause and effect, action – or lack of action – and consequence.  Be patient with those who fail to see you as one of my prophets.  Show mercy to those whose fear overcomes their sense of my presence within.  Come to me with your worries and remember that I see and know all.  And pray with me as you travel beyond the narrow minds of those who do not see as well as you do.

There is nothing more difficult than being maligned unjustly and wrongly yet this is often the work of those who are sent ahead.  It is essential for us to remain in constant contact with God.  And it is essential that we pray . . .

Dear God, I see the work before me and still I falter.  I see the slender path that leads me safely to you and still I feel blind.  I see the light of your truth and still I doubt.  Support me when I am weak.  Call me when I lose my way.  Keep me always in your loving heart as I struggle with being sent ahead for you.  Amen.


A re-post from July 19, 2013.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Konstantin_Flavitsky_001.jpg

For a reflection about Joseph and his service to God, enter word the word willingness in to the blog search bar and explore. 

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

EphraimHighlited[1]John 11

The Raising of Lazarus and the Retreat to Ephraim

We hear and read this story so many times.  It holds the brief verse, “Jesus wept”.  It tells a story which holds so much hope.  It is followed by the simple fact that “Many . . . believed in him.  But some of them went away to tell the Pharisees, and told them the things that Jesus had done . . . So from that day forth their plan was to put him to death”.

We realize that because of this, “Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but withdrew to the district near the desert, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with his disciples. . .”

We see that the chapter closes with these words, “the Pharisees had given orders that, if anyone knew where he was, he should report it, so that they might seize him”.

I am not thinking about the story in this chapter that we know so well, how Jesus calls Lazarus to stand erect and to come forth, which he does.  No, I am thinking about the aftermath of the story, about how the structure plotted against this man who came to release people from bondage and to heal.  When we peek into the next chapter we will see that the Sanhedrin also plans to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus.  They must project their own need to plot and conspire upon these two friends.  I want to focus on the hope-filled story of Lazarus; but I am thinking about how from time to time in my own life, I retreat with Jesus to Ephraim.

I finally came upon a reference to this small town in the HARPER COLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE.  In the footnote we are told that its location is uncertain, and we are referred to 2 Samuel 13:23 and 1 Maccabees 11:34.  It may be located near Bethel; it may be the town also known as Aphairema.  Perhaps it is appropriate that we have no clear name and no clear latitude and longitude for this place; because within each of us there is an Ephraim.  Each of us has a quiet place to which we retreat when we have tried to do something good or for which we know we will suffer. (Meeks)

Perhaps it is the instinct for survival in human beings that causes so much anger and jealousy.  Perhaps it is an inborn desire to lay out territory or to strive for fame and wealth.  The temple leaders did not like the fact that Jesus was drawing off revenue when believing Jews turned to him for what the priests could not provide.  We will never truly know what was in the hearts of the men who connived against Jesus rather than offer themselves to him as open, honest and sincere men of God.  We will never know if it was pride, fear, envy, or sloth, but what we do know is that Jesus went with his disciples to Ephraim to recover, to re-group, to regain before he began his pilgrimage into Jerusalem for the last Passover.

So let us come together when we mourn, let us gather to pray when we celebrate, let us set off to Ephraim to find respite with Jesus and the other disciples.  Let us retreat for a while to gather resources before stepping again on the path of the pilgrims who journey to Jerusalem to atone, to repair and to give thanks and celebrate.  Let us find refuge in Ephraim where we know there is safety in the Lord.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 13, 2007.

To read about The Tribe of Ephraim, click on the image above or go to: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tribe-of-ephraim.html

To read about Ephraim in scripture, go to: http://topicalbible.org/e/ephraim’s.htm

 

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

two-paths[2]Deuteronomy 30:15-20

The Choice before Us: A Prayer with Psalm 1

Israel has a choice to make. and each of us has this same choice.

Every morning when we wake and rise we greet the day and the Lord with evidence of our choice.  As we dress, as we eat, as we prepare to go into the world.  Every action we take is a sign to God of what he means to us.

As we go to school or enter work places and as we unlock doors and prepare for the day, we are an expression of God’s love for humanity and creation.

As we interact with colleagues and students we tell God what we think of our relationship with God and others.

As we write and administer assessments, evaluate work – that of others and our own – we use the measuring stick with which we will be measured.

As we end our work day to move back into our homes, we see God in the way we live, the people and things which have import for us.

As we bend on our knees or sit in our chair, or lie on our bed to recall the day, we see what treasure we have stored up in heaven to return to God.

We each have choices to make.  As Psalm 1 tells us, we are a forest of trees planted along the bank of the river that flows to the New Jerusalem.  We are to bear fruit many-fold according to our gifts.  We bear this fruit with great Hope.

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Blessed is the one who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Not so the wicked, not so; they are like the chaff which the wind drives away.  For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Dearest Lord, may we produce fruit in abundance for you in due season.  Not when we wish, but rather as best suits your plan for all of us . . . in your due season.  May we choose light when we rise, light as we go about our day, light as we tuck ourselves into hearth and home.  May we never stray from you, from your truth, from your Way.

Amen. 


To read the Robert Frost poem, The Path Not Taken that begins with the words: “Two paths diverged in a yellow wood”, go to: http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html

Adapted from a reflection written on October 11, 2007.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

menora-tekes-mica-2[1]Psalm 49

In Evil Days

This Psalm is full of advice about how we are to calm our fears, unburden our hearts and unbend our stiff necks.  It is a practical list of specific strategies for a universal audience . . . rich and poor alike!

My lips will speak words of wisdom.  My heart is full of insight.  How does the psalmist arrive at such understanding and perception?

I will turn my mind to a parable . . . Story telling is a popular pastime in a culture in which most of the population is uneducated and beyond their entertainment value, parables are used to instruct the illiterate using the technique of comparison to teach.  As we read, hear or form parables of our own the burden of our worries lifts.

With a harp I will solve my problems . . . Music soothes the soul, as we know, and the ancient Hebrew people understood this. The harp and flute were used in ancient cultures to both entertain and to quiet the soul.  Saul calls for David and his harp when he is troubled (1 Samuel 16:23).  There are at more than a dozen references to praising God with the harp in Scripture and here the psalmist calls for the use of its comforting tones.  As we sing to God and praise God’s wisdom and power and goodness the problems that besieged us begin to dissolve.

Why should I fear in evil days the malice of the foes who surround me, men who trust their wealth and boast of the vastness of their riches . . . Finally the psalmist tackles problems common to all humanity from the earliest stories in our culture to the present day: envy, greed, pride, an attitude of self-sufficiency, a desire to control.  As we come to realize that no one – not even the super-rich – can avoid the great equalizer, death, we find new energy and rise to new life.

But God will ransom me from the netherworld; he will take me to himself . . .  The Old Testament psalmist foretells the coming of Christ with his story of healing, restoration and resurrection.  The psalmist assures us that as we come to fully understand that God alone creates and God alone saves, nothing that takes place in evil days will be able to strip the promise of life eternal from us.

And so we pray . . .

Eternal and powerful God, open our hearts to receive your wisdom as we sing your praise with harp and flute.

Loving and healing Christ, open our minds to your parables that teach us how to flourish as we grow and blossom with your wisdom and insight.

Abiding and consoling Spirit, open our souls to your loving presence as we learn to abide only in you.

Amen.


To sooth the soul that struggles to survive evil days, watch a video produced for the King David Museum about how Harrari harps are made in the manner that David himself employed, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO5uA-IPV0E

For lessons about the harp and the flute by musicologist Rabbi David Louis and the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, watch the following videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4O301lbkiU and http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=gcTGsmnjwv8&NR=1 

Listen carefully to the story of Moses’ Flute and consider how we might uncomplicated our lives. 

To read about how ancient harps are made today, click on the image above or go to: http://harrariharps.com/

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Friday, June 19, 2020

955165_60482143-610x250[1]2 Corinthians 6:1-10

An Acceptable Time

“A series of seven rhetorically effective antitheses, contrasting negative external impressions with positive inner reality. Paul perceives his existence as a reflection of Jesus’ own and affirms an inner reversal that escapes outward observation.  The final two members illustrate two distinct kinds of paradox or apparent contradiction that are characteristic of apostolic experience”.  (Senior cf. 283)

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful . . . and so as disciples of Christ we must become accustomed to the world’s unbelief.

As unrecognized and yet acknowledged . . . and so as followers of Christ we must become comfortable with rejection.

As dying and behold we live . . . and so as members of the remnant we find that dying so that we might live a normal daily act.  

As chastised and yet not put to death . . . and so as apostles of the Living God we become accustomed to the scorn of others.

As sorrowful yet always rejoicing . . . and so as sisters and brothers of Christ who take up our cross daily we are assured that our mourning is turned into dancing.

As poor yet enriching many . . . and so as disciples sent into the world in twos we know that we need not take a purse or sandals for the journey.

As having nothing and yet possessing all things . . . and so as children of God we are gladdened by the knowledge that we lack for nothing when we hold only Christ, that we rise in new life when we forfeit the old, and that we are loved beyond imagining by the One who rescues us in an acceptable time.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  (Psalm 69:13)

For this and for all God’s goodness we give thanks as we sing of God’s loving fidelity, justice and mercy.   Amen.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.283. Print.

Image from: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

For more thoughts on God’s Acceptable Time click on the image above or go to: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

isa_55_10_11brd[1]2 Corinthians 4:7-15

A Prayer for Plotters and Schemers

We have spent time this week remembering that God turns harm into good, that God turns all plots on their heads, and that God is particularly close to the broken-hearted.  Rather than hate those who seek to harm us . . . let us pray for their conversion as we remember that . . .

We are afflicted in every way but not constrained . . .

Despite the pain and suffering we will survive when we remain in Christ.

We are perplexed but not driven to despair . . .

Despite the confusion and fog of oppression we will survive when we live in Christ.

We are persecuted but not abandoned . . .

Despite the trials and betrayals we will survive when we abide in Christ.

We are struck down but not destroyed . . .

Despite the plots and schemes of those who hate us we will survive when we pray in Christ.

We who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Despite death and loss we will survive when we love in Christ.

Through the prophet Isaiah (55:11) God tells us: My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will.

These words settle over us and give us a framework for our own prayer work in these quiet weeks as summer begins and we remind ourselves that despite any plot against us we are called to repair and heal ourselves and others.  We are called to receive the gift of ourselves from God.  We are asked to share our gifts with others and to send back to God this gift of self in our words and works.

So let us join one another in our journey and pledge to hear this story and truly take it in to make it a part of our being.  Let us receive it with a willing heart and return it to God in prayer and thanksgiving.  May God’s word return not void but rather full of our willing acceptance of the life offered by God . . . full of our loving acceptance of God’s will . . . full of our hope that the potential God places in us will be fulfilled according to his plan.

And so we pray for those who plot and scheme against us . . .

Good and patient God, lend us your patience.

Good and gentle God, send us your counsel and wisdom.

Good and gracious God, hold us in the eternal knowledge that you will bend all plots and schemes to your holy will.

Amen.


Image from: http://pics7.this-pic.com/key/isaiah%2055%206%2010

Adapted from a reflection written on February 12, 2008.

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Thursday, June 13, 2020

Jeremiah 12

Plots of Darkness

The prophecy of Jeremiah is a strong one and in chapter 12 we see the prophet exchanging frank words with the creator.  He enters into a dialog in which he tells God that he is unhappy because while he obeys God and abides in faithfulness the wicked prosper.  Jeremiah – the innocent lamb – works hard at doing as God asks yet he is surrounded and attacked by those who lay plots of darkness to bring about his end.  Jeremiah’s enemies, the people of Anathoth, are his own family and friends (Meeks 1136-1137) and the reason for their persecution of Jeremiah is unclear.  The point is that the prophet suffers at the hands of those who ought to be living in concord with him, and who ought to be joining him in performing good works to live in and with God.  We might find ourselves in similar situations today when those closest to us betray us, seek our end, and seem to prosper all the while.

Thomson: Anathoth

John Thomson: Anathoth

God’s response is typical of the Old Testament in that it has words of violence and revenge yet the seeds of optimism.  The New Testament, as we often remind ourselves during our Noontime reflections, is one of forgiveness and hope.  The idea of resurrection does not occur in Jewish sacred scripture until the second century before Christ in the book of Daniel, but here with Jeremiah’s second lament (the first is in chapter 11) we see the beginnings of Jesus’ message of freedom and restoration.  In verses 14 through 17 God speaks of having pity and of bringing back those who repent.  This is a clear indication that God’s hope and God’s power to restore know no bounds.  And it is a message to us today that we might try to strive for the same level of union with all . . . even those who have sought our end.

As Saint Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:11: Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them.  And we might add . . . and let God handle them.  As we have reflected often, the hardest work for any of us is this . . . to pray for those who have damaged us.  God expects us to ask for the impossible and we delight God when we seek intervention on behalf of those who do us harm because God knows that the dark depths of evil plots are beyond our skill level.  God wants to help us and so we pray . . .

Dearest God whose love knows no bounds, you are willing to seek, to call, to forgive and to heal.  You want to mend each of us in order that we might unite ourselves with you and with one another.  Bring us the gift of humility, the grace of peace, the steadfastness of faith, the passion of hope and the touch of your love.  Allow us to express our fears and doubts and anger with you.  Let us speak about the plots of darkness that frighten us and then . . . call us back . . . calm our hearts . . . restore our spirit . . . and carry us home with you.  Amen. 


Adapted from a Noontime written on September 1, 2009.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Ernest Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Esther 9 – Reversal

Yesterday we reflected on how God foils perfect plots . . . today we examine the turning point in the story of Esther and look for clues about how we might expect the same reversal of evil when we place ourselves fully in God’s hands.

As humans we too often see or experience the hunting down and destroying of either an innocent or someone we believe “deserves what she gets”.  Regardless of guilt or blamelessness, the brutal pack mentality of an attack on another human being is something to be avoided and we must work at turning others away from this ugly thinking.  We may have been a peripheral or integral part of a plot to bring someone down and if this is the case then we must go to that victim to ask forgiveness.  Association with those whose goal it is to establish an us against them mentality is dangerous for it sets us on a path that descends into darkness.  Escape from these associations can be difficult and is always permeated with its own special fear; yet it is imperative that we escape because – as we see repeatedly in scripture and in life – God will always, later or sooner, reverse the plots that schemers have conjured in dark corners on their well-worn couches.

When the day arrived on which the order decreed by the king was to be carried out . . . on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to become masters of them, the situation was reversed: the Jews became masters of their enemies.

King Ahasuerus allows a great violence to erupt against Haman and his family and this is not the sort of outcome that the New Testament faithful will want to see.  What Christ-followers will ask for is that light penetrate the darkness, that hard hearts be softened, and that stiff necks begin to bend.  And so we pray . . .

Just yet merciful God, you give us the opportunity to ask for our enemies’ conversion, grant us also the charity to intercede on their behalf.

Gentle and beautiful God, you make each one of us in your loving image, make also in each of us the patience to wait for reversal at your hand. 

Strong yet gentle God, you bless us with the capacity to forgive, bless us always with your constant guidance and care for without you we are too easily led into the darkness.

Wonderful and awesome God, you surprise us constantly with your merciful justice, help us to see that in each of our calamities we might anticipate your sweet reversal.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Spend some time with these characters and the scripture citations and study the characters in this story.  What more do we see in this story that we might apply to our own lives?

Tomorrow, what ditches are we digging?


A re-post from June 10, 2013. 

To learn more about the feast of Purim, visit: https://www.jhi.pl/en/blog/2019-03-18-purim-the-festival-of-lots

For another reflection on this story, go to the Esther – From Calamity to Rejoicing page on this blog at:  https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-historical-books/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

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Monday, June 8, 2020

the bread of lifeNumbers 11

A Prayer for the Discontented

The Hebrew people have escaped slavery and tyranny.  They have followed Moses out of bondage and moved toward freedom and promise.  When the journey becomes too long and too arduous they grumble and complain.  They who had been hopeful and even joyful at the prospect of change and newness are now disgruntled, unhappy and even resentful.  They complain to Moses who does what all faithful do . . . he takes his problem to God where all solutions lie.

We see a reprise of this story later in the New Testament.  As the kingdom work begins to build, Jesus assembles seventy-two disciples to go out into the world when the harvest is plenty but the workers few.  (Luke 10)  Still later when the fledgling Church begins to form, the disciples add to their ranks in order that they accomplish the work they see before them because it would not be right to neglect the ministry of the word of God. (Acts 6)  The work becomes arduous, even difficult, and so the apostles ask for help.

Jesus tells us that we are to knock at the door we wish might open to us.  He reminds us that we are to seek so that we might find.  (Luke 9 and Matthew 7)  We are never left alone to deal with our stumbling blocks and in fact these obstacles become doorways and windows onto our best potential as creatures of God.  They are reminders that God is always present, always abiding.  These “problems” in our lives are actually openings to a deeper relationship with God.

As we journey through life we often find ourselves needing more than manna; we discover that the taste of the daily quail has somehow soured and rather than sustain us these birds have now become the root of our discontentment.  We are tempted to ask for more than manna and quail and we do not see that this further complicates our problems.  We do not see that we must ask God to show us solutions to our problems that lead us to grow and mature in Christ.  So, rather than carry our burdens on our own, let us tell God that some of our load is too much to carry, and when we do we will find that from the depths of his descent into darkness Jesus returns to free us from all that enslaves us.  Jesus arrives to carry us forward.  Jesus abides with us always, just as has been promised, to bring us to our best selves. 

When find that we have begun to settle into our discontentment as a kind of familiar unhappiness, let us ask ourselves these questions.  What do we seek more than the manna we receive daily?  Are we willing to open ourselves so that our too-heavy load might actually be an answer to a prayer that is shared in God’s light?  Are we willing to give up the habit of our discontentment for the promise of freedom offered by God?

And let us pray . . .

Kind and loving God, you sustain us through all turmoil even though we may not see you.

Just and merciful God, you transform our suffering even though we may fail to call on you.

Patient and wonderful God, you allow us to grumble and complain even when we need to celebrate with you.

Loving and generous God, show us how our discontentment may lead us back to you.  Amen.


Image from: http://www.newbeginningscctampa.org/Bread_of_Life.html

Adapted from a reflection written on April 23, 2011.

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