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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

psalm 32Psalm 32

Time of Need

I kept it secret and my frame was wasted.

I groaned all the day long for night and day your hand was heavy upon me.

Indeed my strength was dried up by the summer’s heat.

We do not know but we can imagine that the prophet Jeremiah prayed the psalms from his prison cell or from the bottom of the miry cistern. Chains alone did not stop him from speaking. Scorn and mockery could not hold back the words he knew he must deliver and the actions he knew he must take. If he intoned Psalm 32 it may have been bitterly for he could not put an end to his punishment by acknowledging his sin or by recanting an evil act; or it may have been joyfully for he also knew that God was his only place of safety. Jeremiah, the innocent, bemoaned his reality as he suffered at the hands of corrupt and unjust leaders; but Jeremiah, the prophet, understood the message of hope in this prayer.

So let every good man pray to you in the time of need.

The floods of water may reach high but him they shall not reach.

You are my hiding place, O Lord; you save me from distress.

You surround me with cries of deliverance.

In our moment of stress, God replies through the voice of the psalmist.

I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you.

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you.

In our time of need, God speaks to us today.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just; exult all you upright of heart.

When the weight of the world is too much to balance, let us give our burden of despair to God, and be glad in the hope, and grace and love of the Lord.


Visit the Overwhelmed By Grace post on this blog by entering the words in the search bar.

Image from: http://loopyloo305.com/2012/12/16/psalm-32/

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

1corinthians15_58notinvain1 Corinthians 15

Toiling

While kings and civil leaders deny problems that yawn before the nation, the remnant continue to move through their days. While priests set up and maintain hierarchies that God does not intend, the remnant live in fidelity with their Creator. While prophets are scorned and their words thrown back at them, the remnant toil in their smallness that is great in God’s eyes.

By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace to me has not been ineffective.

Centuries after the fall of Israel and Judah the remnant still labor under corrupt leaders and priests, and the creator comes to walk among them as one of them. Generations after their exile and return the remnant witness to the resurrection of Christ. Years after the restoration of a temple and city the remnant live out the promise of redemption.

By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace to me has not been ineffective.

74249646.RrEVmmLE.QUEENSCUPCLINTONIAUNIFLORAP7120064In this year and in this hour the remnant still work in Christ to transform the reality in which they find themselves.

In this day and at this moment the remnant still labor in the Spirit to console a troubled world.

In this eternal time and in this infinite space the remnant still toil in God to bring forth the Kingdom.

This is a labor worth living for. This is work worth dying for. This is toiling that carries with it the gift of God’s grace. This is toiling that brings the immense and unimaginable gift of Christ’s love fully and truly given.


Spend some time today with 1 Corinthians 15 and reflect on its message for those who toil in unjust places under unjust leaders. If you want to spend time with a portion, consider: verses 1-11 The Gospel Teaching, verses 12-19 Results of Denial, verses 20-28 Christ the Firstfruits, verses 29-34 Practical Arguments, verses 35-58 The Resurrection Event. St Paul understand clearly both the frustration of living in world of turmoil, and the power of Christ’s love to mend, sustain and heal. He brings home to us today the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection for those who toil against injustice.

1 corinthians sunset

Images from: http://cccooperagency.wordpress.com/page/47/ and  http://www.pbase.com/jhiker/image/74249646 and http://hdw.eweb4.com/wallpapers/4520/

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

hands childressEzekiel 33:7-9

Saving Souls

We turn to the words of the prophet Ezekiel as we react to Jeremiah’s indictment of evil in the world. Yesterday we reflected on how God calls each of us to kingdom-building. Today we reflect on how this kingdom might come about.

If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die”, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.

Saint James tells us: If anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death. (James 5:19-20)

Saint Paul reminds the Romans and us: Love does no evil to the neighbor. (Romans 13:10)

God says: I see many of you undermining the kingdom; yet I see many more of you working to build it up. I want each of you to find her way, or his way to work for and with me. For many of you it is to speak aloud the words I send to you. For others it is to quietly and persistently implement the simple words of my Law of Love. For still others it is to make a loud and banging noise about injustice. And for yet others it is to untiringly appear wherever the wicked tear down vineyard walls to plant new vines again. This is not complicated. It is, in fact, simple. What is complicated is bringing all that you are and all that you have to bear on this one point: there is no greater kingdom than mine; there is no greater love than mine; there is no greater joy than mine . . . in you. Again I invite you to the tireless but rewarding work of the kingdom, for when you join me, you save your soul . . . and those of countless others.

Rather than hide in despair, we step into the light. Rather than wail in sorrow, we take up our task. Rather than gnash our teeth and beat our chests . . . we trust God, pray for those who need our intercession, and join all those whom God has called to the saving of souls.


Image from: http://christianstandard.com/2012/07/meeting-needs-saving-souls/

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Delacroix: Christ on the Sea of Galilee

Eugène Delacroix: Christ on the Sea of Galilee

Mark 4:37-41

A Great Calm

As we move through Jeremiah’s prophecy we may feel as though we are tossed by a violent squall, our little ship of life rolling up and down thundering waves. When we feel swamped, we panic. When lightning flashes, our spirit fades. Looking for a break in the cloud cover or searching for the slightest sign of sunlight from beyond the glowering clouds, we might feel as the apostles did when they called out: Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Our personal and public lives are jammed with the minutiae of a modern life. Newsfeeds, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the Blogosphere all fill our waking and sleeping thoughts whether consciously or subconsciously.  Friendly resources have become too much information, but turning off the inflow only serves to isolate us. And we are filling up. Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

We look for a leader who will solve the world’s problems. We look for the seer who might tell us how to maneuver the difficulties we see looming like the giant waves of the storm-tossed sea. We look for the teacher who will show us wisdom.

Jesus rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”

We look for the pill that will ease our tension. We look for the possession that will fulfill our need. We look for the status that will give us security.

The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

In struggling with the details we miss the bigger picture. In cutting down the saplings we miss the enormous trees. We upbraid ourselves and others for all that is lacking only to miss all that is there.

Here_Today-Gone_TomorrowThey were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”

Let us also be filled with awe at the impossible that God brings into our lives. Let us also be filled with wonder at the mystery and beauty of God’s love. Let us nourish the gift of faith we are given – no matter how small or struggling. When we flounder, let us sing out to the Teacher that we are perishing. When we are full of anxiety or fear, let us be ready to hear God’s word: Quiet! Be still! Why are you terrified? I am the one whom even the wind and the sea obey.

And let us be prepared for the great calm that will always follow the violent squall.


Enter the word storm into the blog search bar and reflect on the times that God has quieted the squalls of our lives.

Images from: http://www.wikiart.org/en/eugene-delacroix/christ-on-the-sea-of-galilee-1854 and http://the3rs.mlblogs.com/tag/dustin-pedroia/

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Friday, August 20, 2021

Jeremiah 25:15-38

The Coming StormThe Storm Unleashed

As children we might see the Old Testament as a land of dichotomy where God speaks lovingly to the faithful and spews anger at those who fall away. As children we thrive in an atmosphere of absolute rules and clear boundaries. As adults, reality tells us another story in which we humans are rarely entirely honest and open as we struggle to balance our individual needs and hope with those of our broader society and even the world.  As adults we know that sometimes good people do bad things; too frequently the innocent suffer.

The fire and brimstone God we see today is far from the forgiving father in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) . . . or perhaps we are seeing with our human eyes and feeling with our human heart rather than allowing our divinity to govern us. What if we were to allow the Spirit within to sing the song we read today?

God calls to each of us, urging us home to live a life of generosity and kindness.

phoenix haboobThe Lord roars from on high, from his holy dwelling he raises his voice; mightily he roars over the range, a shout like that of vintagers over the grapes.

God urges all of us to work in solidarity for those on the margins, asking us to include all rather than to exclude many.

To all who inhabit the earth to its very ends the uproar spreads; for the Lord has an indictment against the nations.

God warns us of the surety of our actions; we sow our own reaping, we gather as we sow.

God passes judgment upon all mankind: the godless shall be given to the sword, says the Lord.

God reminds us that as we forgive so are we forgiven and that the storm that appears to hover on the horizon is surely coming our way; our own actions cannot be denied in God’s reality.

Coming_Storm_by_SheriffMercury99A great storm is unleashed from the ends of the earth.

False shepherds find themselves in the barren desert of their own hearts that they have fed with the souls of the innocent.

Howl, you shepherds, and wail! Roll in the dust, leaders of the flock!

The goodness of God welcomes home those who fall away . . . if only they will turn to God. Those who determine to remain in their fallen way will understand that they bring about their own destruction.

The lion leaves his lair, and their land is made desolate by the sweeping sword . . . as a great storm is unleashed from the ends of the earth.

Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

Esteban Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

As children we are frightened by these images and we determine to be among the faithful who escape the storm. As adults we see that no one escapes and yet all escape. As adults we see that the great storm is already upon us . . . and yet quietly and persistently and lovingly . . . the forgiving father works among us, sheltering us from the lion, the sword and the storm.


Storm images from: http://thecomingcrisis.blogspot.com/2012/07/phoenix-haboob-enormous-dust-storm-2000.html and http://thecomingcrisis.blogspot.com/2012/07/phoenix-haboob-enormous-dust-storm-2000.html

Murillo image from: http://www.intofineart.com/htmlimg/image-62609.html

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Wednesday, August 19, 2021

Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

James Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

Jeremiah 25:1-14

Seventy Years 

Can we imagine a seventy-year exile from all that we know? Can we picture seven times seventy years, or a four-hundred-ninety year banishment from all that we have come to love?

Jeremiah reframes for the Israelites – and for us – the cautions laid out by Yahweh with Moses on the desert mountain.

Turn back, each of you, from your evil way and from your evil deeds . . .

Then you shall remain in the land the Lord gave to you of old . . .

Do not follow strange gods to serve and adore them . . .

Jeremiah’s Yahweh speaks of punishment to be delivered in subsequent verses and this clashes with our understanding of the Lord as a forgiving parent who remains with us through every difficulty, even the difficulties we bring on ourselves. We struggle to comprehend why the innocent suffer and why God does not intervene to eradicate every injustice.  And then we recall that we are created in love as God’s image in this world. We remember that we are part of God’s plan of salvation. We remember that our own hands and feet, our minds and lips are God’s in a world crying out for healing. We read these lines from thousands of years ago to recognize our role in God’s plan. When we discover injustice, we are called to act. When we see suffering, we are asked to intervene. When we find sickness, we are called to heal. Wherever we discern the crumbling walls of God’s kingdom, we are commissioned to love with, and for and in Christ.

Jesus tells us: Then the king will say . . . Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in;  naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me”. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?  And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Individually and collectively we have the power in Christ to build the kingdom in this time and space. Alone and together we have the power in the Spirit to cure and heal. On our own and in solidarity we have the power through God to repair and build. Let us determine to give the years of our exile over to Christ for in so doing we live in the Spirit, and we transform ourselves and the world as we call forth the kingdom with God.


Enter the word captivity into the blog search bar and explore where or how we create our own exile from God, and what we might do to allow our separation to transform us.

For Bible study outlines, click on the image above or go to: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/category/old-testament-bible-study/page/37/ 

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Camel in the Judean Wilderness

Camel in the Judean Wilderness

Matthew 23:23-26

Gnats and Camels

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.

It is too easy to judge others and forget to look in the mirror.

You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law; judgment and mercy and fidelity.

The words come to us quickly: I am too busy. I already know that. This is just the way I am. We cringe when we think we might have to change our perception of self.

Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

We fuss with details and avoid authentic conversion.

You cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.

We recognize our sense of entitlement but refuse to move forward in transformation.

Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus is clear. There are steps to be taken. Christ leads the way. There are changes to be made. Do we persist with a lifestyle that is comfortable and known but lacking in judgment, mercy and fidelity? Or do we choose a life of honesty and understanding?

Christ speaks to each of us today of gnats and camels. Christ speaks to us today of honesty and hypocrisy. Christ speaks to us of an opportunity to change. Let us spend some time today with Matthew 23 and look for the occasions we have wanted to strain gnats and swallow camels.


For a humorous post on How to Swallow a Camel with No Gnats, click on the image above or go to: http://www.waynestiles.com/how-to-swallow-a-camel-with-no-gnats/

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Friday, August 12, 2021

Martin-Luther-King-Pic-21Jeremiah 22

Do What Is Right

Listen to the word of the Lord . . .

Do what is right and just . . .

Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor . . .

Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow . . .

Do not shed innocent blood . . .

With hindsight we can see where the chosen people miss-stepped. We can easily judge and say that we would have listened to God’s voice to avoid falling into the subtle trap of following little gods rather than the one Living God.

With understanding we can see how the chosen people miscalculated. We can quickly recognize the corruption that pervaded their religious and civic institutions.

With honesty we can see our own slide into first accepting and later following the way that is wide and dishonest rather than the narrow way that is difficult and authentic.

do-what-you-feel-is-rightMany people will pass by this city and ask one another: “Why has the Lord done this to so great a city?”

And the answer will be: “Because they have deserted their covenant with the Lord, their God, by worshiping and serving strange gods”.

What strange little gods do we allow to filter into our decisions? What small little gods rule our days and nights? What insignificant little gods threaten our peaceful relationship with God?

How do we do what is good and right and just?

We take time today to pause and reflect.


For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, go to: http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086#synopsis and http://www.biography.com/people/eleanor-roosevelt-9463366 

Images from: http://www.stylegerms.com/martin-luther-king-jr-quotes/ and http://www.digitalmomblog.com/pinterest-daily-repin-do-what-feels-right/

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Jeremiah20.9Jeremiah 20

Interior Crisis

“Jeremiah accuses Yahweh of forcing him into a position where he is a laughingstock and an object of mockery (v.7); Yahweh is requiring him to deliver a message of doom that events of history have so far failed to confirm”. (Mays 561)

When we see doom arriving and announce its coming only to be laughed from the room, we know that we are prophesying. When we speak truth to friends or colleagues as God asks of us only to find those relationships severed, we know that we are prophets in our present world. When we caution loved ones about an impending disaster only to be mocked or ridiculed, we know that God is near. These experiences will easily give rise to an interior crisis in which we feel that we have been duped by God; and as the prophet Jeremiah says . . . I let myself be duped. It is when our hearts are broken that we are closest to God.  It is when our confidence is shaken that we have open ears for God’s word. And it is when we most feel like retreating from all that threatens us that we are asked to allow our interior crisis to bring new growth.

“The reaction of [Jeremiah’s] audience to [his] message of doom is stated somewhat more generally than in other complaints, but it fits the picture gained from earlier ones . . . they wish to eliminate him and his rival message from the nation’s future.” (Mays 561-562)

Our own circumstance may be dire as is Jeremiah’s – someone may or may not wish to eliminate us – but any time that we suffer rejection the sting is piercing. The pain of ridicule may last for years. The trauma of denunciation may endure for a lifetime. The effects of derision may color our world forever.  Yet, God accompanies us in our real or imagined isolation; Christ guides us as we navigate the road to new life; and the Spirit heals and consoles as we struggle for transformed wholeness.

You duped me, O Lord . . .

Rather than hear these words as a sign of failure, let us hear them as a signal of new life. Rather than struggle to keep ourselves from falling, let us decide to rise again in new life. Rather than turning away from our tormentors in anger or shame, let us step into our interior crisis with courage. And let us thank God for the gift of transformation.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 561. Print.

For a reflection and prayer on allowing ourselves to be duped by God, enter the words Being Duped by God and A Prayer for Those Willing to be Duped into the blog search bar.

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