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1 Kings 19God is in the Whisper of the Wind

Monday, February 11, 2019

Elijah’s Cave

Written on February 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Elijah has just served as God’s instrument in the destruction of the gods of Baal.  Jezebel and Ahab are furious with him and they seek revenge in the most ruthless of ways . . . and Elijah knows this.  As we read Jezebel’s words at the opening of the chapter we can see that she throws her entire existence into seeking the end of Elijah.  The prophet, exhausted, pleads to his God for his own end.  He is drained.  He has done as God has asked, and now he feels empty.  But even as he seeks escape, Elijah turns to God . . . and God sustains him with cakes and water.  Elijah rests and sleeps in the shade offered by a desert broom tree.  An angel of God abides with him.  The angel bids him to rise and go and so he walks for forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai where Yahweh spoke to Moses.  And there Elijah curls into a cave to await his end.  But the unexpected happens.  Yahweh does speak to this tired prophet . . . not in the fierce and thrusting wind, not in the powerful and destructive earthquake, not in the consuming and searing fire.  The Lord speaks in the tiny whispering wind, and he brings news of restoration and legacy.  His words bring hope.

We must still our over-active lives; find a space of quiet in our hyper-speed days.  We must each day seek out a broom tree in the desert whose roots sink deep into the earth to find the rivers that flow beneath the sun-baked and wind-blown dryness.  We must find daily sanctuary in a small cave on God’s holy mountain of our busy world.  That is where we are fed, that is where we will tune ourselves to the voice that speaks in the whisper of the wind, the voice that speaks within, the voice that calls us to unity with the creator and creation.


A re-post from February 11, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.elijahscave.org/

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Amos 1 and 2Prosperity

Friday, January 25, 2019

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Prophet Amos

We all wish for prosperity.  We hope for fulfillment of dreams.  Yet we are also are too often willing to relax into success too soon and too quickly.  We sign up and sign on . . . without examining the source and the reason for easy wealth.  Amos warns against this kind of affluence which comes at the expense of others.  What makes us happy may, in fact, be damaging others.  What fills our plate and our purse may come to us through harm to others or to God’s creation.  When fame and money roll in unabated, we need to summons the courage to be honest about the origin and the nature of this success for the only sort of achievement that truly lasts and truly saves . . . comes to us through the heart . . . from our God.  This is what Amos’ audience does not want to hear.

During the past two or so years of Noontimes we have turned often to this brief but powerful prophecy spoken by a herdsman and aimed at the newly successful wealthy class of the northern kingdom of Israel.  The ten northern tribes had separated themselves from the two southern tribes of Judah to establish their own temple center away from Jerusalem . . . in order that they might collect their own taxes to do with as they liked.  Their wealth was largely earned on the backs of the poor.  This is what Amos calls into the open and for his effort he is expelled from Bethel where he has been preaching.  He returns to his pastoral life after speaking the words that God calls him to speak.

Amos’ words were more than officials could bear (Senior 1126) and so he was sent away for asking them to examine their individual and collective conscience.  He was silenced at that time but his words come to us today to ask the same questions.

What do our actions express about our belief in justice?  Do we relax into a life that brings easy gain?  Are we silent when we ought to speak truth to power?  Do we act with integrity, trying to match words and deeds?

The Lord will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem raise his voice.  Yet when Christ speaks, we see that this Lion of Judah has become the Lamb of God, pardoning in mercy, acting in compassion.

Amos asks us to take inventory and to pass judgment on our own prosperity. It is hollow?  Or does it flow from and in Christ?  Do we climb over others to snatch what we think is ours?  Or do we imitate the Lamb to live a prudent and compassionate life?  Do our words match our gestures?  Do we act humbly, judge wisely, love deeply and truly?

These are the questions Amos raises as he begins his prophecy.  How do we answer them today?


A re-post from January 25, 2012.

Image from: http://www.breviary.net/martyrology/mart03/mart0331.htm

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1126. Print.   

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Habakkuk 1:2-4The Prophet’s Complaint

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Prophet Habakkuk

We visited with the prophet Habakkuk twice last year and today we open again to . . .

How long, O Lord?  I cry for help but you do not listen!

Prophets are not a happy people.  They see and foresee.  They remember and they know.  They remind us and for the most part we do not listen.

Prophets are about waiting, listening and witnessing.  They hear, they taste, and they feel.  They bring God’s word to us and for the most part we do not want to hear.

Prophets are blessed.  They have an intimate relationship with God.  God trusts them with his word.  Prophets know that they have no choice but to speak the word they hear for if they do not, they perish eternally.

Prophets are among us today just as vibrantly and as importantly as they were when Israel suffered through her separation and exile.  We cannot exist without them although many times we think we might like to silence them.

What part of my life do I live as a prophet?  Do I speak what God wants me to speak or is it my ego which speaks?

Do I shun the prophet within me?  Do I shun the prophet I see in the face of a friend?

Unless I want to live by a code of perverted justice, I must let the prophets around me speak to me and I must listen.

Unless I want to live a life with no fire, I must listen to the prophet within.

Habakkuk’s Canticle at the end of Chapter 3 tells us how to live in right relationship with God . . . and we might use these words as a daily prayer.

For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, thought the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disperse from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.  God, my strength, he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go sit upon the heights.

Amen.


A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010/12/holy-prophet-habakkuk.html

For more on the prophet Habakkuk click the image above or go to:  http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010/12/holy-prophet-habakkuk.html

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Jeremiah 45Weary from Groaning

Monday, January 21, 2019

From Psalm 6, we hear a plaint from one who is weary from groaning, whose life has become a living hell.

A scribe

Do not reprove me in your anger, Lord, nor punish me in your wrath.  Have pity on me for I am weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are trembling.  In utter terror is my soul – and you, Lord, how long . . . ?  Turn, Lord, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.  For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol? I am weary from sighing; all night long my tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.  My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because all of my foes.  (Psalm 6:1-7)

In the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY Sheol is described as a biblical term for the netherworld and even, in Isaiah 5:14, a reference to a power that can destroy the living.  Sheol is another word for Hades; it is a place where departed spirits live (Proverbs 9:18).  It may also be the deepest depths of the earth (Deuteronomy 32:22 and Amos 9:2) where there is no light, no joy, and no hope.  (Achetemeier 1011)  In Sheol there is only darkness and terror; and some of us have been there . . . and back.

How do we humans climb out of the miry cistern in which we sometimes find ourselves?  What do we do to calm inner terror even though we manage to dry outward tears?  How is it possible for us to experience the happiness and warmth of a life lived in faith when all possibility of rescue seems gone?  What do we do to stop the chattering of trembling bones and chase away our too many foes?  How do we sleep on a bed that is drenched from our weeping?

Jeremiah is a Book we will want to open when we find ourselves overcome with grief.  His prophecy is one that speaks to those who have visited the depths of despair or who are even beyond the place where all hope is abandoned.  Today we are told that Jeremiah’s words were recorded by his secretary Baruch and we might wonder why the prophet wishes to terrify us.  When we reflect further we know that Jeremiah’s real message is not fear; rather, it is this: with God there is hope for the hopeless, there is gain for those who have lost all, there is rescue for the weary, and there is planting where before there was only uprooting  . . .

Jeremiah’s life and prophecy, we are told, require “us to face up more directly to the impediments and barriers along the way than to bask in the complete light at the end of the way . . . God intends prophecy to guide us through the path of human, emotional reactions, not round about them.  If we transfer this approach into New Testament thought, Jesus is ‘the way and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14,6) – therefore, as much the way through human life as its destination, as much the truth that gradually emerges along the way forward as its definitive statement, as much life in its stages of growth as it is life bearing fruit t harvest (Mt 4,26-29) . . . Jeremiah does not allow us to detour round a difficulty.  Persons gifted with keen, sensitive emotions, and thoroughly involved in their work and message, do not normally avoid the excesses of these virtues!  They plunge straight ahead”.  (Senior RG 305-306)

Jeremiah speaks his words to us today through his faithful secretary Baruch.  When we feel ourselves sinking into the profundity of his muddy cistern, when our bed is drenched from our weeping, when we are weary from all of our groaning . . . let us plunge straight ahead and move toward God, singing as the psalmist sings:

Away from me, all who do evil!  The Lord has heard my weeping.  The Lord has heard my prayer; the Lord takes up my plea.  My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.  (Psalm 6:8-10)


A re-post from Monday, January 21, 2012.

Images from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+6%3A8-10&version=GNT;NRSV;CJB;MSG and http://www.alljewishlinks.com/steps-to-becoming-a-jewish-scribe/

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1011. Print.  

For more on the Book of Jeremiah see the page on this blog: Jeremiah – Person and Mesage

For more information on Jewish scribes, click the images above or go to: http://www.mmiweb.org.uk/gcsere/revision/judaism/people/importantpeople.html or http://www.alljewishlinks.com/steps-to-becoming-a-jewish-scribe/

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Amos 5:18-20: Seek Impoverishment

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Being Open in Mourning

The prophet Amos left his sheep and fig trees to speak God’s word to the faithful and unfaithful alike.  These words came at a time of prosperity, when his prognostications were easily and readily jeered by those who enjoyed luxury at the expense of the poor.  From our 21st century perspective, we can see that his audience would have done well to listen better to this simple yet eloquent man.  His sober, ardent proclamation is concise, pointed and brief . . . but carrying a deeply important message for the part of the Gospel which is eagerly forgotten by many.  It is not enough to be kind, in the New Kingdom.  We are called to be just as well.

It is easy to look at foreign countries in civil war, at the poor in our own city streets and point to the places where justice cannot flourish or even get a foothold.  What is more difficult is to look to our own lives to find the pockets of impoverishment and injustice there.  When have we walked away from a situation in which we should have given voice to God’s word?  When have we reacted in an anger that stirs the pot rather than in patience which opens doors for communication?  When have we avoided?  When have we harassed?  When have we neglected?  When have we manipulated?

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.  Psalm 72 calls on God to make his justice clear to those who yearn for it.

Justice shall flower . . .

May God rule . . . 

God shall rescue the poor . . .

God shall have pity on the lowly . . .

The lives of the poor God shall save . . .

We ought not to shrink from God in our poverty of spirit, for it is the poor in spirit whom God touches quickly, heals surely, abides with eternally.  We ought not shrink from confessing our lacks, from asking for our needs, for expressing our heart’s desire.  Let us offer up our impoverishment daily.

May God remember your every offering, graciously accept your holocaust, grant what is in your heart, fulfill your every plan.  (Psalm 20:4-5)

Amos reminds us when he speaks of the woes that God knows the content of our hearts.  There is nowhere we can hide our secrets.  So when we mourn, let us open our hearts fully to the God who created us.  It is with this small action that we will be healed.  It is with this openness that we best love God.  It is through this honesty that we bring about the justice that the prophet Amos yearns to witness.  Let us take our offerings of our own accord, let us seek impoverishment, and let us place them on the altar of our life.

To learn more about the prophet and his prophecy, click on the image of the shepherd above or visit: http://www.catholiclane.com/amos-the-lion-of-gods-salvation/ 

Adapted from a reflection written on December 3, 2008.

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Psalm 126: We Thought We Were Dreaming

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! (Psalm 126:1-2)

When we find ourselves delivered from captivity or exile, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Isaiah.

You will leave Babylon with joy;
    you will be led out of the city in peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into singing,
    and the trees will shout for joy. (Isaiah 55:10-12)

When we find ourselves recovering from loss or pain, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Jeremiah.

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. (Jeremiah 31:8)

When we find ourselves delivered from loneliness or grief, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Ezekiel.

Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.  I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. (Ezekiel 29:13-14)

When we find ourselves delivered from catastrophe or disaster, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Joel.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:13)

When we find ourselves delivered from anger or fear, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Zechariah.

Therefore this is what the Lord says: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,” declares the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 1:16)

When we find ourselves delivered from hunger or thirst, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we return to Psalm 126.

Those who wept as they went out carrying the seed
    will come back singing for joy,
    as they bring in the harvest. (Psalm 126:6)

When we find ourselves delivered through the goodness and grace of God, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we return to Psalm 126.

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! (Psalm 126:1-2)

 

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Malachi 3: Refiningmalachi_3-10

March 7, 2015

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

In several weeks we will witness again Christ’s passion and death. Let us prepare the temple of our hearts with God’s written Word. Today we choose a chapter and book in the Bible that we have never explored before. As we read, we allow the Spirit to open our ears to God’s words.

My messenger is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. My messenger will sit refining and purifying.

In several weeks we will experience again the Easter miracle. Let us prepare our hearts and minds with the refining fire of Christ’s presence, the Living Word.  Today we compose a prayer of thanksgiving to the Living God for all that heals and sustains us each day. As we write, we allow the Spirit to open our hearts to God’s living presence.

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

In several weeks we will experience again the phenomenon of Pentecost. Let us prepare ourselves to receive the Spirit in this special way. Today we spend time with someone who is suffering to allow the refining fire of God’s love to transform all mourning into joy.

For more on Malachi’s imagery of a smelter’s fire of a fuller’s lye, enter the word refiner into the blog search bar and explore.  

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Habakkuk 2:3-4: The Delayimpatienceordivineanticipationb1

March 6, 2015

In this Lenten season we witness to the presence of Christ in our daily routine. In this time of introspection we welcome the Spirit into the temple of our hearts. In this time of healing and re-making we thank God for the gifts of grace and mercy and patience. In this time of transformation we come to understand the essence of our Lenten delay.

If it delays, wait for it . . .

Like small children, we want all our woes and anxieties resolved within seconds of their borning; like small children we must learn that waiting in joyful anticipation brings the gift of wisdom.

It will surely come . . .

Like energetic teenagers, we easily slip into the thinking that the multiverse holds us at its center; like energetic teenagers we reluctantly admit that our way is not always God’s way.

It will not be late . . .

Like impatient adults, we ask the world to move at our singular command; like impatient adults we come to see that the common good is more valuable in God’s eyes than our individual desire.

The rash one has no integrity . . .

In our Lenten journey we come to understand – if we are open – that God is present in misery just as in joy.

But the just one, because of faith, will live . . .

In our Lenten passage we come to know – if we are open – that God’s delay is part of God’s plan.

As we move through this second full week of Lent, let us take all of our impatience and anxiety, all of our anger and frustration to the one who mends and heals all wounds. And let us – like Jesus – make a willing sacrifice of our waiting as we anticipate in joyful hope God’s fulfillment of our great delay.

Enter the word Habakkuk into the blog search bar to explore other reflections on the wisdom brought to us through the words of this prophet.

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Jonah 3:1-3: Setting Out for Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

March 5, 2015

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you”. So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding.

Nineveh was the capital of the ancient empire of Assyria and it is thought that the word derives from the name Nin, a pagan god closely associated with the Greek god Hercules. Legend tells us that this settlement was begun on the banks of the Tigris River by the ancient leader and king Ninus, or Nimrod. Today the city’s ruins are located opposite Mosul, but at its apogee this enormous metropolis was the largest in the world. As early as the year 1800 B.C.E. the city was the center for the worship of Ishtar, goddess of love, war, sexuality and fertility. In 612 B.C.E. it was sacked by an alliance of Assyria’s former subject nations. We have a great deal to learn from Nineveh.

At the time of Jonah’s ministry (785-775 B.C.E.), Nineveh was a thriving cultural, social and political hub of enormous importance. We can well imagine the prophet’s hesitancy to preach God’s word in this environment; but at this time “Assyria had suffered military reverses, diplomatic setbacks, famine and domestic uprisings”. In addition, two eclipses had taken place in 784 and in 763 B.C. E. It is likely that all this prepared the Ninevites for a foreign prophet who suddenly appeared to bring them news of how they might make a positive change. (Zondervan 1469) Although reluctant, Jonah does as God asks of him and he sets out on the road to Nineveh. We have a great deal to learn from Jonah.

When challenged by corrupt Pharisees, Jesus says: This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29-30)

Spend time with this story of Jonah and with Jesus’ words as recorded by both Luke and Matthew (12:38-45), and consider the meaning of these verses in our own lives. When we reflect on where our own Nineveh might lie and on who brings us our greatest challenge, let us also consider if we, like the reluctant Jonah, might make ready. Let us consider if we might rely fully on God. Let us decide to put aside our fears and anxieties as we carry the word of God. And let us, like Jonah, set out for the city of Nineveh.

Assyrian Wall Carving of Horses and Grooms

Assyrian Wall Carving of Horses and Grooms

For news about the condition and status of ancient Nineveh today, click on the carving image above or visit: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/tragedy-militants-bomb-2700-year-old-nineveh-wall-iraq-002632 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1469. Print.

For more on Nineveh, the wicked city, visit: http://www.mpumc.org/uploads/file/nineveh.pdf or use the other web links above. 

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