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2 Samuel 6: Part I: Uzzah

Monday, November 4, 2019

In several places, this chapter calls us to pause for reflection: We watch as Uzzah is struck down by the Lord, and we witness the turning of Michal’s love for her husband David turn to hatred.  Commentary will guide us through these puzzles but we are left with the lingering thought that there are always many ways to read the story of David.

We know that David’s life is full of ups and downs – just like our own.  We know that David feels the call of God and the call of the world – just like our own.  And we know that David is both strong and vulnerable – just as are we.  We might learn something about ourselves once we spend time with this story today.

Scholars explain the punishment of Uzzah saying that he had become too familiar with the ark since it had remained in his father’s house for some time.  Others say that he did not trust the Lord to rescue his own dwelling place, the Ark.  Some say that we must learn from this incident that we are to never question the clear authority of God.  And yet others say that we are to learn that we must practice acting in due time, listening for God’s call, and living in God’s plan.

I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that it may have been possible that Uzzah had misunderstood God.  Perhaps he thought God asked him to reach out to steady the ark when in fact he had said that Uzzah ought not touch the cart.  In my child’s mind the world was black and white: we do what our elders tell us and all goes well.  In my adult life I know that life is much more complicated than this.  As we grown in God we learn that obeying rules does not keep us safe.  We discover that life does not follow guidelines and that it defies logic.  We understand that we must be grateful for all that goes well; we know that there are no guarantees; and we see that the innocent will often suffer unjustly.  We come to understand that rules and laws do not save us . . . that God is the only safety net we can trust.

David and Uzzah teach us all of this today when we allow this story to speak to us.


A re-post from October 14, 2012.

For more on Uzzah, click on the image above or go to: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/death-and-the-dance-david-uzzah-and-the-ark-robert-leroe-sermon-on-gods-holiness-48196.asp and http://www.lookingfortigger.com/2012/06/12/the-uzzah-incident/

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Luke 10:1-24: Serpents and Scorpions

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In the past few days at daily Mass we have been reading from the tenth Chapter of Luke’s Gospel; we have witnessed the sending forth of disciples by Jesus, and we have heard his words of counsel to these followers of The Way.  These words are not only for those who accompanied Christ in his journey; they are words for Christ’s twenty-first century followers.  They are words for us.

“I rely on you,” Jesus says to them . . . and to us: The harvest is abundant but the workers are few . . .

“The work will be dangerous,” Jesus tells them . . . and us: I am sending you like lambs among wolves . . .

“My followers must rely on the message of freedom and hope that I have given them to carry into the world,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us:  Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals . . .

“You must not be deterred,” he says . . . and neither must we: Greet no one along the way . . .

“It is imperative to always operate from a perspective of peace,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us: Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household”.

“You are to remain focused on your work,” he says to them . . . and to us: Do not move around from one house to another . . .

“You will not be able to convert all who hear the message of salvation which you carry,” . . . and neither will we: Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, “The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shale off against you”.

Jesus warns his followers, “The rejection you will surely experience is your badge of honor,” . . . and it is to be ours: Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

Jesus tells them, “You carry the Living Word with you” . . . and Jesus tells us: Whoever listens to you listens to me.

Jesus reminds his disciples, “I will protect you as you move about in this most dangerous of worlds,” . . . and Jesus also reminds us: Behold I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.

We humans worry about our physical safety more than we do our spiritual welfare.  We have this backwards.

We creatures of God spend great amounts of time and talent and energy amassing power and wealth rather than storing up treasures that are impervious to rot and decay.  We have this upside down.

We children of God turn to false, exterior gods too often rather than to the Living God who has given us life and who dwells within. We have this inside out.

As we read the work that Jesus has outlined we see that it is not a complicated plan he has in mind; but it is the reversal of that we have come to understand as powerful and lasting.  It is the inversion of the world as we experience it. And it is the only way to live cheek by jowl with the evil that we know exists.  Jesus does not promise to remove all obstacles from our path; rather he promises that our journey is the one that leads to honest happiness. He does not swear that he will make the way easy and smooth; rather, he swears that he will accompany us through the narrow gates of our passage.  Christ does not guarantee that we will find peace once we complete a prescribed checklist of tasks; rather, he guarantees that when we follow him we will experience a serenity that is everlasting.

We must not fear the snakes and scorpions we encounter as we step into our journey; rather, we must trust God’s message that even snakes and scorpions are subject to our will . . . when we follow this simple plan.


A re-post from October 6, 2012.

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Matthew 14:3-12: The Death of John the Baptist

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Henri Regnault: Salomé

Confident and startling, sulky and sultry, alluring and fear-inspiring, dappled with light and yet somehow dark, gifted with beauty and talent . . . yet drawn to revenge and self-interest. As we read these verses that tell us of the death of John the Baptist, and as we look at this beautiful yet horrifying painting of Salomé we might ask ourselves where we stand in this story.  We cannot take our eyes from the platter and knife.  Has she already washed them clean or is she holding them in anticipation?  Has she known that Herod is in the mood to grant wishes this evening or does she plant the seed of the idea somehow days in advance?  Does she choreograph her dance to play on the king’s drunken frame of mind?

Plotters lie in wait for years if need be; those who seek vengeance have infinite patience and determination.  They use any means and they go to any lengths to achieve their purpose.

What do we say to Salomé if anything?  What do we do in this moment of terrible waiting?  Do we speak or do we remain silent in fear?  Are we distressed as is the king?  Do we encourage Salomé as does Herodias? Do we gloat?  Do we smile?  Do we turn away?  Do we cry?

Prompted by her mother . . .

How and what do we enact in peace?

Because of his oaths and the guests who were present . . .

Why do we allow society’s pressures to squeeze us into places of no return?

Give me here on a platter . . .

What terrible requests do we make of God in our moments of anger and fear?  What petitions do we lay before him?  Does our whispering instigate devious plans or do we speak and work for peace and reconciliation at all cost?

Let us spend some time today with Salomé and wonder who we are and where we stand.  And let us consider what it is we might ask for on shinning bright platters.


A re-post from September 8, 2012.

To read more about Henri Regnault and his work, click on the image above or go to:  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/16.95

 Image from: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/16.95

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Matthew 13:1-50: The Parable Discourse

Friday, September 27, 2019

Mustard Seed

If we can find the time this evening or this weekend, we will want to leaf through the first portions of the 13th chapter of Matthew and reflect.  The Gospel writer is careful to record Christ’s words; he preserves them for us so many centuries after they were first spoken.

An essay in THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE makes three points about this portion of Matthew’s Jesus Story.  First, we must seek meaning in these verses and when we do, we will be rewarded with the wisdom and grace of Spirit’s presence.  Second, we must always be confident in God’s promise and providence brought to us by Jesus.  And third, leaders of all kinds will have to struggle with the gray world of often opposing forces.  The past and present will be linked only when we seek and trust God.

“Parables are the trademark of Jesus . . . [T]hese pointed stories both reveal and veil the mystery of the Kingdom. Unless the listener is willing to probe beneath the surface of the parables, the true meaning of Jesus’ words will escape them . . . [T]rue followers of Jesus are to put aside everything and be fully committed to the compelling beauty of God’s reign.

“Many of the parables in Matthew’s Gospel have obvious moral messages . . . The parable of the weeds sown among the wheat explanation makes the point that the church, like the world itself, is a mix of good and evil.  The disciples should not be discouraged by this but be confident that God’s grace will triumph at the end of time and evil will be punished . . .

“The conclusion of the parable discourse seems almost to be a signature of the Gospel writer . . . Bridging past and present in an open and respectful manner is one the greatest challenges of religious leadership”.  (Senior RG 397)

And so we wait. We search.  We question.  We doubt.  We struggle.  We turn to and rely on God.  We enter willingly into both the mystery and the revelation . . . for the more we know the more we question.

The Parable Discourse is a lesson on how to meet difficulty.  It is a graced interchange and dialog with our God.  And it is an open door that invites us to enter the world of Jesus.  May we be confident enough and bold enough to accept this invitation.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 397. Print.  

A re-post from September 7, 2012.

Image from: http://notesfromthepastorsoffice.com/2011/07/23/sermon-fodder-why-is-the-parable-discourse-matthew-13-even-more-important-than-it-appears/

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Luke 15:1-32: Coming to Our Senses

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Living in an era that signals change in many of our beliefs, we look for a call that brings us to our senses. Like a small child throwing a temper tantrum, we open eyes swollen from crying to see the reality of our anger, and we come to our senses. Like a partner who walks away from commitments, we witness to the destruction our egocentric actions leave in their wake, and we come to our senses. Like leaders who see their reflection in the unexpected mirror of events spiraling beyond their feeble predictions, we pause, take stock, and with hope . . . we come to our senses. The danger is, of course, that our rampage will take us beyond a place from which we cannot return, a demolition from which we cannot recover. The stories we hear in Luke 15 bring us courage as we come to our senses.

James Tissot: The Lost Drachma

The shepherd goes out in search of the one lost sheep. Christ continues to search for us no matter how deeply we burrow into our self-satisfaction. Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep.

The woman finds lost coins after putting aside her daily tasks. The Spirit abides with us despite our thinking that we are alone. Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I have lost.

The loving father forgives the prodigal son. The Creator is more generous than we can imagine. Rejoice with me because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

Luke recalls Jesus’ stories of loss and return, of deep sorrow and unbounding joy, of profound envy and immeasurable. The pivotal elements in each of these parables are dual: the central figures come to their senses, and the plentiful, compassionate, and generous love of the Creator has no limit.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

When we open our eyes and ears each morning to headlines that unsettle and even disturb us, let us come to our senses and turn to our tender God as we go out into the world.

When we pause in our day to orient ourselves in the rush of information and demands, let us come to our senses as we rely on our courageous Christ to show us the way.

When we return to the quiet of our hearts at the end of our day, let us come to our senses and give over all our pains and sorrows to our healing Spirit who binds all wounds and heals all scars.

Rejoice with me because we have drifted with the winds of the time and now we are found; we have been lost and now are found; we have been dead and now are in full and abundant life again.


For a skit to reenact the parable of the lost sheep, click on the image or go to: https://skitguys.com/scripts/parable-of-the-lost-sheep

Click on the Tissot image for a lesson in compassion, or visit: https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/spirituality/lost-coin-lesson-compassion-42186

Click on the Murillo image for more on finding new life with the returning son, or go to: https://www.thesacredpage.com/2010/03/prodigal-son-new-life-and-sacramental.html

For more reflections on these parables, enter the words The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, or The Prodigal Son in to the blog search bar and explore. 

 

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Mark 9:24: Belief and Unbelief

September 1, 2019

This summer I participated with a group of women who explored their ideas about the enormity of God’s generosity. In a culminating session, we shared our thoughts on faith.

What do I believe? I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth . . .

As a child, I struggled to understand why Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart when he changed the ruler’s mind about letting Moses’ people go (Exodus 8:15). I still spend time as an adult remembering this story and I always end with the same two thoughts. 1) Life is a mystery, and 2) ancient and modern times consistently remind us that we are not in charge.

When suffering happens, we remember that God turns all harm to good. We remember the story of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, and we open our hearts to the Spirit. We forgive those who transgress against us and remember that . . . life is a mystery and we are not in charge.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died and was buried . . .  

In Mark 9:24, a man whose son likely suffers from epilepsy encounters Jesus and asks for a cure for his child. When Jesus asks if he believes the boy will be healed, the father cries out “I believe; help my unbelief!” When we read another translation of this same verse, we hear again the boy’s father, “I believe. Help me with my doubts!” The world around us asks us to doubt much of what we hear with our own ears and much of what we see with our own eyes. We, like the boy’s father, might call to the Christ, “I do trust — help my lack of trust!” Or we might admit our human limits: “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”

Jesus is counter-cultural and lives on the edges of society and we can see that when we follow Christ’s example, we may find ourselves in opposition to family, colleagues and friends.  Our beliefs will surely be shaken. Our unbeliefs may grow. As we discover the complexities of our world, we understand that dual thinking will not serve us and so we learn that we will have to find a way to live with our beliefs and unbeliefs in constant competition with one another. And we will ask ourselves, what carries us forward? What halts our journey? What do we believe and how intensely do we believe it?

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting . . .

The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit brings us comfort and joy when we need them most. The Spirit heals all wounds, and as we pass along the stories of these healings, we rejoice in God’s care and love, we celebrate Jesus’ presence and mercy in each moment of our lives. We encourage one another to show compassion to all, especially our enemies. We remind one another to keep hold of the gift of faith that God so generously bestows on us. And we collectively remember . . . Life is a great and wondrous mystery. We are not in charge and this is good. We believe in God the creator, Jesus the redeemer and their Holy Spirit the healer. This is what we hold in hope and faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us: (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.

In faith, we believe. In hope, we forgive, and in love we are healed and live again. This is what I believe.


Image from: https://images.app.goo.gl/3RRqtXN6H9QxAc1q6

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Psalm 32:11: Trueness of the Heart

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all you who are true of heart. 

Being true of heart is difficult, but once begun . . . it is a practice we cannot give up.

God says: I come to walk among you in truth – a very special truth.  It is the truth that will set you free.  Once you begin to live in me and in this truth, you will feel uncomfortable living any other way . . . because you will living in The Way.

May you find the true stepping-stones of The Way with greater ease and a lighter, freer heart.

Spend some time with The Narrow Gate reflection at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-narrow-gate/


A re-post from July 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.antarasdiary.com/photography-lovely-hearts/

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Psalm 34:7: Archangel

Monday, July 29, 2019

Psalm 34:7The Angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, and he will deliver them. 

Michael

The angels are God’s messengers and envoys.  The Archangels are Michael the Defender, Gabriel the Announcer, Raphael the Healer, and Lucifer the Beautiful One.  Even among these special creatures we see both a willingness and an aversion to obedience.

God says: As special and as beautiful as the angels are, they do not compare to the radiance of the human race.  I do not make them in my image.  Only you, my beloved ones, have such privilege.  My angels are constantly with you, guiding, protecting, communicating.  Each of you has a special guardian of your own.  There are also fleets of swift-winged creatures who come and go constantly with messages for you. 

Gabriel

I do not want you to be fearful.  I do not want you to feel alone and so I send them among you . . . even as I am among you.  Do not be afraid.  I am with you.  My angels are with you.  You are already delivered from the dark ones who would pull you into their world.  Sleep well.  Rise well.  Go into the day tomorrow with a smile.

Raphael

Wishing you peaceful days and happy nights.  May Michael defend you, Gabriel announce God’s word to you, Raphael heal you . . . and Lucifer stay far away from you.  All this God does that you might be well.

For more on the Archangels click on the images, or go to: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2011-09-29


A re-post from July 8, 2012.

Images from: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2011-09-29 and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/9_29_michael21.jpg 

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Romans 8:38-39

July 2019ClockClipArtNoon

For the next several days there will be no Noontimes posts but I will continue to pray with you each day at noon and record thoughts in an old-fashioned paper journal to share later.  In place of receiving a daily post, you may want to explore ideas on the Connecting at Noontime page offered in the hope that you find a suggestion to feed the soul and strengthen your bond with and in Christ.

Our spiritual life is always about Call and Response God creates and calls us.  We listen, and then return God’s word.  This blog is one small way for us to listen, to seek, to discern, to come together, to puzzle through and to respond in full voice to God’s mysterious and beautiful invitation to life in the Spirit.  It is our daily visit with God that nourishes and sustains us.  It is our persistent connecting with the one who created us that reminds us of who and why we are.  It is our constant hope and our fervent prayer that buoy us up when the road is difficult.  And it is Christ’s love for each of us that keeps us on The Narrow Way.  Thank you for taking part in our Noontimes journey.  We are creatures meant to travel together and, like Paul writing to the Romans, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord. 

sundial-3New posts will return later this month.  In the meantime, may you each know and experience Christ’s peace.  May you seek and discover God’s Wisdom.  And may you be fortified in the Love and Counsel of the Spirit.  I hold each of you in prayer as always.  S

 

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