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Nehemiah 10: The Agreement

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How many times do we stumble after we agree to live out Christ’s Law of Love? Yet God forgives us because God loves us still.

Richard Rohr, OFM, writes, “Grace is the Divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually detected as such, and often undesired. Grace cannot be understood by any ledger of merits and demerits. It cannot be held to any patterns of buying, losing, earning, achieving, or manipulating, which is where, unfortunately, most of us live our lives. Grace is, quite literally, ‘for the taking’. It is God eternally giving away God – for nothing, except the giving itself. Quite simply, to experience grace you must stop all counting!” (Rohr 145)

In today’s Noontime we hear the familiar words of the ancient Covenant Israel agreed to live out. In Nehemiah 10 we see the listing of all those who again agree to live the Law of Moses: priests, Levites, leaders, musicians, workers. Yet, history tells us their story of continual union, lapse, separation and return. It is the same tale we all live for we are creatures of God.

Jesus arrives to bring this law to all those both in and beyond the nation of Israel. This new Law of Love surprises many. Awes multitudes. Disappoints some. Today we have this same returning we see in Nehemiah 10 of the hopeless finding new hope, the broken encountering healing, and the abandoned entering a new home.

Once we stop counting, we find ourselves more open to the grace showered upon us. When we stop accumulating, we find ourselves more aware of the love that embodies us. On the day we stop judging, we find ourselves eager to enter the new covenant of the new law. Let us rejoice with those who sign the new agreement that is old, the new covenant that is eternal, the new Law that is our everlasting rescue.

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

For a resource of verses on love, click on the image above or visit: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/debbie-mcdaniel/50-verses-of-love-to-cover-any-shade-of-grey.html

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Nehemiah 9:12: Pillar and Cloud – A Reprise

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In this chapter of the Nehemiah story, the people returning from exile have seen the great light of God’s persistent love for them. They recall the promise of this love, and they vow to act for and through it.

With a column of cloud you led [your people] by day, and by night with a column of fire to light the way of their journey, the way in which they must travel.

This ancient image of God leading and protecting, guiding and guarding, is one we modern humans can keep close and cherish.  It relieves us of the burden that comes with thinking that we are in charge.  It soothes us with the knowing that God is present, attentive and alert each morning as we rise into the day and each evening as we retreat into the night.

God says: I love to watch over you as you sleep.  I love to nudge you into my way each day of your journey.  I love to protect you.  I love to travel with you.  There is no danger that I fear.  There is no obstacle I cannot overcome.  There is no challenge too great.  There is no prayer too small.  It is my greatest desire to bring you into union with my Word.  It is my delight to see you treading with prayer on the Way I have set before you.  You are the dearest child of my heart.  Do not fear this day.  Sleep well this night.  I am as gentle as the vapor of the clouds and as fierce as the flames of the fire tornado.  And I am with you always . . . even to the end of time.

Our God appears to us as a vulnerable child who needs protection and guidance from his earthly parents; and yet it is the grown and matured man who heals, protects and guides us, his adopted sisters and brothers.  Jesus lives a life that is both kind and just, and his actions are a clear demonstration of God’s love for each of us.  We must learn to trust this marvelous, mysterious love.

Enter the word trust in the blog search bar and examine how, and who, and what, and why we trust.

For a reflection on Nehemiah 9, visit the  Confession  post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/12/30/confession/

The cloud image above is from the Pinch of Grace blog that is no longer active. 

For a BBC video of a rare fire tornado in Brazil in August of 2010, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11086299

A Favorite from July 15, 2013.

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Nehemiah 7: Families of Return

Thursday, October 19, 2017

M. Teichart: Return of Captive Israel

How can we assess the measure of joy as the peoples returned to a fortified city with the Temple that housed the presence of the Lord? Millennia later, we have no video or sound recordings, but we do have the listing of the clans who returned from exile jubilant and grateful. And we have their story recorded in Scripture.

God inspired me to assemble the people and their leaders and officials and to check their family records. I located the records of those who had first returned from captivity, and this is the information I found.

What do we find when we examine these verses? What do we find when we examine our own fidelity to God?

Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own hometown. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners.

After making drastic changes in our lives in order to survive, are we willing to return to the living God who brings us out of dark deserts of our lives to sustain us daily?

This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile, clans of Temple workers who returned from exile, Clans of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile. many people who contributed to help pay the cost of restoring the Temple, 42,360 in all.

After great schism, are we eager to count ourselves among the families of return?

The priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the Temple workers—all the people of Israel—settled in the towns and cities of Judah.

After great sorrow, are we open to the promise of the Covenant of Love that promises healing and transformation?

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Nehemiah 3: Organization

Saturday, October 14, 2017

When we spend time with the Genesis creation account, we so often move quickly through the opening verses to get to the heart of the story: God creating light, the dome in the sky, the stars and planets, the creatures of air, water and land, and then human life. Today we witness the organization that Nehemiah brings to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and Temple after destruction and exile. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

We have the opportunity today to sit with these two verses and with the third chapter of the Nehemiah story to reflect on how God moves in our lives in small and great ways. And we have the opportunity to open ourselves to the story of how God brings order out of chaos in our lives. What strategies for organization might we use as we open ourselves to the gift of God’s passionate insistence in nurturing and sustaining us?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he surveys the damage and assesses the work to be done? Do we panic in fear or do we place that fear in God’s enormous, open hands?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he recognizes the work ahead? Do we offer our daily lives to a pattern of prayer and work in the Spirit?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that nobles will not put their shoulders to the work? Do we repair gates to re-set the appropriate boundaries in our days and nights?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that the gardens have fallen into ruin? Do we prepare and consume healthy food to tend to the body?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that the watchtowers are gone? Do we set a prayer, reflection or meditation life to sustain the spirit?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that the artificial pool needs repair? Do we interact with others in wise and healthy places and times to nurture and renew the mind?

Each morning when we awake, the wind of God sweeps over us to see what organization our day might need so that we might live in God’s space and time. Each noontime the wind of God sweeps over us to untangle our plans that have gone awry. Each evening the wind of God sweeps over us to lay to rest all the anxieties we have carried into our homes. Each night the wind of God sweeps over us to remind us that all the ways our plans have gone astray are in truth opportunities to put ourselves into God’s all-seeing organization rather than our own.

Tomorrow, thwarting hostile plots.

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Ezra 2: The List


Ezra 2: The List

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A number of years ago, popular Christmas gifts were publications entitled THE BOOK OF . . . LISTS. We might fill in that blank. With the advent of small computers, calculation of enormous amounts of material became possible and perhaps it is for that reason that these books became popular. Lists of cars, lists of famous people, lists of diseases, lists of favorite vacation spots. Lists of lists.

Today’s citation is an enumeration of returned exiles, those who followed Ezra and Nehemiah back home to a ruined Jerusalem with the pledge to recover and rebuild a city, a temple a nation, and a people. We have an opportunity to reflect on what sort of list we might compile ourselves. We can reflect on what kinds of lists we consult or value. We also have a chance to think about what type of list we might search to find our names. What does all of this listing mean? And where do we encounter ourselves?

The Israelite people hoped to recover much that had been lost. They journeyed through dangerous land to familiar place that no longer existed as they had left it. All they had earned and amassed was gone. All they valued was desecrated. All they had thought they stood for no longer mattered and so this loyal remnant returned to a sacred place to restore a relationship they thought lost. But as always, with our loving God who is full of surprise, they discover that the God of former glory had not abandoned them. This generous God still lived in them. This loving God still nurtured them. This living God still sustained them.

And so as we construct our lists of tasks to complete, people to invite, and goals to meet, let us remember that in truth there are no lists with God. There is only an immense, embracing, nourishing and sustaining presence who numbers all of us without effort and loves each of us with a willing heart.

To read about some of the world’s most intriguing lists, click on the image above or visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11123049/The-worlds-most-intriguing-lists.html

 

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Reg Cartwright image for open exh

Image by Reg Cartwright from Ann Carter’s book for children, BIRDS, BEASTS AND FISHES: A SELECTION OF ANIMAL POEMS

Job 12:7-10: Ask the Beasts

Monday, October 2, 2017

The pace of modern Western life can move us along life’s path too quickly. And so we might ask the beasts how they live so simply.

Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom. All of them know that the Lord’s hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power. (GNT)

Current global events cause us to lose sleep. And so we might ask the birds of the air how they live so faithfully.

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and the birds of the air, and they shall tell thee. Speak to the earth, and it shall answer thee: and the fishes of the sea shall tell. Who is ignorant that the hand of the Lord hath made all these things? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the spirit of all flesh of man. (CJB)

Science drives us always into new frontiers that call for new balance in out thinking. And so we God’s creatures how they live so fully.

But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand— Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature? Isn’t this all just common sense, as common as the sense of taste? Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom, that you have to grow old before you understand life? (MSG)

The pace of Western modern life can move us along life’s path too quickly. And so we might ask all of creation how to muster the hope we need for each new day . . . and we allow God’s creatures to instruct us.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore varying translations of these verses, we find common sense in the lives of the beasts of the land and sea, and the birds of the air. To learn more about Ann Carter’s book, click on the image above or visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6188005-birds-beasts-and-fishes

 

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Sirach 27:30-28:7: Limitless 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Jan Van Hemessen: The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Once we begin to enact our own shepherd parable, we will want to keep in constant touch with the healer, guide and protector who calls us. We will need to put aside our negative thoughts and emotions. And we will need to be open to the positive flow of goodness the Shepherd bestows on us.

From last Sunday’s readings (24th Sunday in Ordinary time) we find words of wisdom. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The sins we commit are our many or few big and little separations from God more than a list of specific immoralities. Could anyone refuse mercy to another and expect healing from the LORD? Fortunately for us, the Shepherd forgives endlessly and so we too must practice giving the gift of forgiveness to those who harm us. Sirach describes how we must step away from our dual, black-and-white perspective to open ourselves to the broad, generous arms and heart of the Shepherd.

Claude Vignon: Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells his disciples – and he tells us today – that we must forgive endlessly, just as we are forgiven. “I say to you, not seven times seven but seventy-seven times”. Scholars tell us the number 7 is special in scriptural context. It’s special meaning implies a sense of completion or even perfection. Knowing this, we might ask, how much is seventy-seven times, and who among us counts each word of forgiveness as we dole it out to others? Far better, Jesus tells us, when we listen to the lesson of the unforgiving servant, that we forgive others endlessly from our hearts.

Today we reflect on these verses and gather strength to live out our shepherding parable with forgiveness that is more than seven times seven. With forgiveness that is an infinite seventy-seven times.

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John 8:1-11: Contemplating God’s Mercy

Sunday, August 27, 2017

“God is a riverbed of mercy that underlies all the flotsam and jetsam that flows over it and soon passes away. It is vast, silent, restful, and resourceful, and it receives and also releases all the comings and goings. It is awareness itself (as opposed to judgement), and awareness is not the same as ‘thinking’. It refuses to be pulled into the emotional and mental tugs-of-war that form most of human life. To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation”. (Rohr 187)

Richard Rohr, OFM, tells us that if there is one characteristic to assign to God, it is mercy. This life-giving quality of forgiveness, fidelity, and love is God’s signature characteristic. Rohr quotes St. Teresa of Ávila from her book THE INTERIOR CASTLE. “The soul is spacious, plentiful, and its amplitude is impossible to exaggerate . . . the sun her radiates to every part . . . and nothing can diminish its beauty”. Rohr continues, “This is your soul. It is God-in-you. This is your True Self”. (Rohr 187)

Pope Francis tells us that THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY in his signature work published in 2016.  He, like Rohr and St. Teresa, reminds us that in order to understand and experience mercy, we must first acknowledge that we are in need of mercy ourselves. Just as Jesus forgives the condemned woman in John 8, God wants to forgive each of us. Just as Jesus does not reproach the woman in John 8, God refuses to reproach each of us. Just as Jesus contemplates the possibility that God’s kingdom is now, God gives us the gift of mercy and insists that the kingdom is here.

“We live in a society that encourages us to discard the habit of recognizing and assuming our responsibilities: It is always others who make mistakes. It is always others who are immoral. It’s always someone else’s fault, never our own”. (Pope Francis, 2)

We live in a place and time when blame and fault are assigned, credit is taken, and deep divisions grow. We live in a place and time when mercy and love are needed, stories are believed, and bridges are built over deep chasms. St. Teresa, Rohr and Pope Francis tell us that God is a riverbed of mercy. They remind us that God’s generosity and love have no bounds. Once we begin to contemplate God as seen through the actions of Jesus, we know all of this to be true. Once we allow God’s Spirit to enter our lives, we allow ourselves to slide into the mighty flow of mercy that washes away all that separates us.

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

Pope Francis, THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli

 

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Connecting at Noon


Romans 8:38-39

August 2017ClockClipArtNoon

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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