Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Web site included’ Category


1 Kings 20: Victory

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ahab is an unscrupulous leader who does anything to gain advantage, and today we watch him violate a ban on war – an action for which he will later pay with his life.  In Chapter 21 is the famous story of his seizure of Naboth’s vineyard.  In Chapter 22 he will die in battle.  Ben-hadad, one of several men of this name in the Old Testament, attacks Samaria several times, is victorious once, but more frequently suffers defeat.

Reading through the ups and downs of the fortunes of individual men, we see a picture that is much like our own lives. Things go well for a while among nations, and then they sour.  Leaders agree in principle to a concept, later they back away.  Promises once looked to for hopeful solutions to grave problems become lost in pride and greed.

We might become caught up in the drama and tragedy of lives spent so quickly and thoughtlessly. 

We might become despondent when we watch good ideas wither from neglect.

We might become pessimistic or even cynical when we see goodness overtaken by evil. 

We might become hopeless as we witness continual injustice.

This will happen when we see as humans see . . . and this will not happen when we see as God sees.

Thomas Matthews Rooke: Elijah Prophesises to Ahab and Jezebel their End

When we see as humans see, we take today’s story and see a series of military and political victories and losses.  When we see as God sees we are cognizant of the many lives caught up in the machine of battle in which leaders engage coolly, moving war equipment and troops as if they were pieces on a chessboard.

When we see as humans see, we regard each day as a series of battles to be fought and won: getting to work on time through traffic, battling with colleagues for agendas, making certain that our perspective is the one seen by friends or colleagues.

When we see as God sees, we regard each day as a gift through which we experience many interchanges with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.  We see the wisdom in coming to consensus, of standing in solidarity, of witnessing to injustice and of handing over our problems to God.  These are the victories that nourish.  These are the victories that give life.

When we see as humans see, time and location are often stumbling blocks.  When we see as God sees, they are gifts to be received, shared and returned in gratitude to the one who gives us life.  These are the many small victories that build up as our treasure.  These are the victories that cannot be taken away, that cannot be reversed.  These are the victories that will last an eternity.

A Favorite from December 20, 2009.

For more images by Thomas Matthews Rooke of the Ahab, Jezebel, Naboth and ELijah stories, visit: https://artuk.org/discover/artists/rooke-thomas-matthews-18421942

To learn more about Ahab, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/a/ahab.htm 

Read Full Post »


Sirach 24:12-14: Taking Root

Cedars of Lebanon

Saturday, September 2, 2017

In the book of Sirach we find practical wisdom that opens God’s heart and mind to us. These verses give us the opportunity to imagine God in creation. These words invite us to strike deep into the soil of fidelity, to reach our arms upward in hope, and to abide in love.

I struck root among the glorious people,
    in the portion of the Lord.

Just as the Creator takes up residence with the faithful to dwell and remain among them, so might we thrust down deep roots to rest in God’s presence.

Like a cedar in Lebanon I grew tall,
    like a cypress on Mount Hermon.

Just as Jesus lifts us up in the hope of God’s promise, so might we offer our days and nights to God who is willing to share all with us.

I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi,
    like rosebushes in Jericho.

Just as the Spirit abides in us to heal and console, so might we share God’s generosity and compassion with all.

Like a fair olive tree in the field,
    like a plane tree beside water I grew tall.

Olives ready for harvest in the Holy Land

We might look to the cedar, the cypress, the palm and the rose to observe how God graces nature with strength and beauty. We might look to the olive tree to observe how God nurtures, heals and sustains. We might look to the plane or sycamore tree that filters the air we breathe in gratitude for God’s quiet and persistent attention to our needs. We might do all of this so that we might take root in the depths of God’s open and healing mind and heart.

To explore the place names in these verses, click on the images and links above or visit Bible Places, a pictorial library of Bible lands at: http://www.bibleplaces.com/

The plane is also known as sycamore, buttonwood, buttonball or whitewood tree. See the Britannica at: https://www.britannica.com/plant/plane-tree

For more information on how these trees filter pollution from our environment, and to learn more about “City Trees”, visit: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/07/world/citytree-urban-pollution/index.html

Read Full Post »


Proverbs 29: Seeing What We Are Doing

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NASA: The Americas at night

We have moved through Proverbs absorbing the wisdom God reveals to us; but have we allowed ourselves to open to the mystery of transformation? What have we learned? Do we fully acknowledge that God sees that all we are doing?

Stubbornness versus discipline, obfuscation versus clarity, stasis and status quo versus dynamism and change. These are dichotomies God opens for us to explore. Do we take advantage of God’s carefully laid lesson plan?

For people who hate discipline
    and only get more stubborn,
There’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break,
    but by then it’ll be too late to help them.

When we balk at the notion that God is in charge, we might remember that every obstacle is an opportunity to hone skills, and every closed door is an invitation to newness. We must ask ourselves to explore the unfamiliar and new rather than remain in the comfort of what we know. For God sees all that we are doing.

NASA: Asia at night

Today’s verses point out the value of honest friends versus the danger of flattering neighbors, and again we hear the warning against scheming, remembering that those who plot become the victims of their own plans. We recall God’s familiar call to soften our hearts and unstiffen our necks. Through all of this, do we remember that God sees all we are doing?

Evil people fall into their own traps;
    good people run the other way, glad to escape.

The good-hearted understand what it’s like to be poor;
    the hardhearted haven’t the faintest idea.

Sage versus cynic, cooperation versus sarcasm, gossip versus respect, and the irony of goodness against evil. In a black-and-white world of duality, we want simple answers but we also know the difficulty of seeing what we are doing.

Good people can’t stand the sight of deliberate evil;
    the wicked can’t stand the sight of well-chosen goodness.

NASA: Planet Earth

The world surrounding us is full of complex circumstances that challenge us to look for complex solutions. When we consider the mystery of God’s wisdom, we remember God’s loving providence. With time and study, we open ourselves to God’s compassionate correction. With time and care, we begin to welcome the knowing that God sees all we are doing. With time and love, we grow in our capacity to see for ourselves all that we are doing . . . while giving thanks that God sees all as well.

When we explore varying translations of these verses, we open the mystery of how we might see what we ourselves are doing.

For more NASA shots of earth, click on the images above and explore, or visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/earthday/gall_earth_night.html 

 

Read Full Post »


Judges 17: What we See as Best

Micah’s Idol

Friday, June 30, 2017

Everyone did what he thought best . . .

A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to an article about the “me generation” and she wrote in her message:  This is really important . . . make sure you click the link in it about
‘moralistic therapeutic deism’   http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/the-me-generation/?nl=opinion&emc=tyb1

I followed the link as she suggested and was not surprised to read that many of us have formulated a god that suits our needs rather than search for the God who is the Living God.  Today we read about a man and his mother who struggle to survive in those days when there was no king in Israel and everyone did what he thought best . . .

The HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY tells us something about this brief story. “The strange account begins abruptly with a theft, a curse, and the making of an idol.  From the outset Micah is presented negatively.  He steals a large sum of money from his own mother (eleven hundred pieces of silver is the amount each Philistine had promised Delilah, 16:5) and engages in apparent syncretistic religious practices . . . Although the exact function and nature of all of this ritual paraphernalia [the ephod, etc.] are obscure, there can be no little doubt that the piling up of these terms is meant as ironic disapproval.  The idol, after all, is made from stolen silver; and though Micah’s mother consecrates all of it to the Lord, she obviously keeps the larger portion”. (Mays 236)

From the article link sent by my friend: As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20050418/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion/index.html

As we read from Judges today – a Book that narrates for us the endless cycle of our turning away from God to pagan deities, of suffering and remorse, of repentance, atonement and forgiveness – we cannot help but see the connection with the kind of thinking outlined in the article from the CHRISTIAN POST.  We humans quickly devolve into self-serving creatures when left to our own design; and it is a miracle that our loving and generous God continues to forgive us for our lack of fidelity.

Despite the fact that centuries have passed since the writing of this simple, sad story, we are presented with data suggesting that we have not evolved much spiritually.  We live in those days when there is the rule of God’s kingdom still . . . everyone does what he thinks best.

Let us pray that we see our ways, and then mend what needs mending.

For more about Micah in JUDGES, visit: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/judges/judges-17.html 

Adapted from a reflection written on June 24, 2010.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 236. Print.

Read Full Post »


Judges 6: Gideon’s Call

James Tissot: The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We have spent several days with this Old Testament Book in which we watch the Israelites enter into a cycle: neglect of their covenant with God, the worship of idols, repentance, a petition to God for help, God’s generous response, silence as God waits for the people to respond. God always sends a hero to save the faithful – and this particular hero is Gideon.

We find the following when we read commentary.

  • God asks Joshua, in the book preceding Judges, to lead the people into the Promised Land and he does.
  • God asks the people to wipe out those who worship pagan idols but they do not; and this sows the seed of future problems.
  • Prior to God’s intercession in the life of the faithful, the people are forced to run away from invading armies and literally “head for the hills” when these invaders arrived with chariots.
  • Once the people share a loving relationship with God, they have a rock of refuge, a bulwark of safety.
  • When the people neglect their relationship with God, the cycle of idol worship begins anew.
  • God always has a hero in mind.
  • God’s silence is the space we are given to respond to God’s deep and abiding love.

God calls Gideon while he is in the middle of his work, and Gideon, like many of those called, has many questions. He wants to understand why and how should go about the work God has in mind. God answers, as God always does, “I will be with you, do not worry.” Gideon praises and worships God when he realizes what is happening, that he will be an instrument of redemption in the people’s cycle of sin and repentance.

Like Gideon, we are likewise fearful in our response to God. We know what we are asked to do; yet frequently we are too frightened to step out of our comfort zone. In the end, however, no find that no other course of action is worth taking.

The story of Gideon also demonstrates for us that silence can be entirely appropriate when it is patient, loving, merciful, and just. A silence that waits, that whispers to the beloved, that calls the beloved back to the covenant, is a silence that heals.

So like Gideon, let us sit beneath our terebinth and call on God. For God will surely answer.

Adapted from a Noontime written on January 31, 2007.

Read Full Post »


Judges 9: Abimelech

James Tissot: Abimelech Slays his Seventy Brothers

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

“The fable, one of two examples of that genre in the Bible (see also 2 Kings 14:9; 2 Chronicles 25:18), is strongly antimonarchical.  It illustrates both the folly of kingship (only the worst and least qualified aspire to it) and its dangers (it destroys those who place their reliance on it).  The bramble offers scant shade but is a prime cause of fire (v. 15).  A monarchy founded on murder can come to no good and inevitably will destroy those who support it.  Jotham’s call for the mutual destruction of Abimelech and the Shechemite leaders (v. 20) anticipates their fate”.  (Mays 232)

The Old Testament is full of brutal stories and in nearly all of them – if we can be patient and read far enough – we watch the antagonist implode on him or herself.  In God’s plan and in God’s way the faithful will always be vindicated.  Suffering will take place, violence will happen, but a remnant will remain and goodness will always rise from evil.  Our task is to keep our eyes on Christ who will lead us home.  Our work is to live in the Spirit, for in the Spirit we will struggle, but we will never fail.

James Tissot: Jotham is Saved

This week in Phyllis Tickle’s THE DIVINE HOURS: Prayers for Springtime, this is the prayer we read three times a day.  It is apt for today’s Noontime as we ask God to keep us safe from harm in our brutal and confusing world.  She writes in the first person singular, but when we change to the plural, we might pray it together. (Tickle 599)

Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 232. Print.

A Noontime from May 17, 2011.

 

Read Full Post »


Judges 3: Leading in Christ

James Tissot: Othniel

Monday, June 26, 2017

Adapted from a March 23, 2010 Favorite.

The judges in this book “were not magistrates, but military leaders sent by God to aid and to relieve his people in time of external danger.  They exercised their activities in the interval of time between the death of Joshua and the institution of the monarchy in Israel . . . The purpose of this book is to show that the fortunes of Israel depended upon the obedience or disobedience of the people to God’s law.  Whenever they rebelled against him, they were oppressed by pagan nations; when they repented, he raised up judges to deliver them”.  (NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, 217) today we look at the first three judges, Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar.

He raised up for them a savior . . . who rescued them.

James Tissot: Eglon Slain by Ehud

In today’s Gospel we read of an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Their savior stands before them, willing to sacrifice all in order that they believe, in order that they turn back to God to enter willingly into the sheepfold.  Jesus describes the relationship he has with the creator: The one who sent me is with me.  He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him”.  (John 8:29The Pharisees are envious and plot against him; yet many others . . . Because he spoke this way . . . came to believe in him.  (John 8:30

In the time of Judges, the faithful believed that when they went astray they would be punished by God.  In the Gospel of John, we see that when we stray we suffer the consequences that we measure out to other people.  When we isolate or judge wrongly, we suffer the consequence we had meant for another.  When we forgive and seek reunion, we experience the unity Christ offers.

The Pharisees think themselves above the Law because they adhere strictly to the code Moses handed to them; they do not comprehend the New Law of Freedom and Love that Jesus presents to them and which he lives out before them.  It is for this reason that Christ says to them: You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above.  You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world.  That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.  (John 8:23-24

James Tissot: Shamgar Son of Anath

As we assess where we stand and whether our actions portray our belief in a forgiving, loving creator, we take a moment to re-read stories of long ago heroes: three men who answered God’s call to deliver a nation.  We too, are called in every day ways to lead others to freedom – for in so doing, we free ourselves from the bonds of this world.

Like the judges we read about today, we are called in Christ to become leaders.  We are called to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, and to proclaim liberty to captives.   Like those bystanders who witnessed Jesus’ interchange with the Pharisees, let us come to believe in him, and let us act as if we do.

Read Full Post »


Judges 16Samson and Delilah

Peter Paul Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This is a familiar story to us – and when we open scripture to a comfortable place, we might look more closely, more intensely, to see if we are perhaps missing something because of the familiarity.

Samson was one of the series of Judges who protected and guided the Hebrew people before they asked for a king.  In this book we see the people of God continually repeat a cycle of dissent into separation from God . . . which causes loneliness and anguish followed by sorrow and repentance.  Yahweh always responds by forgiving and tending to his lost sheep.  There are periods of complacency and quiet when the people forget that God is central to their lives which separate the times of the judges whom God sends to lead the faithful.  Samson is one of the most famous.  We look at the following verses: 2 – And all the night they waited saying, “Tomorrow we plan to kill him”, verse 19 – Then she began to mistreat him, for his strength had left him, verse 28 – Samson cried out to the Lord and said,  “O Lord God, remember me!  Strengthen me, O God, this last time . . . let me die with the Philistines!”

Samson enters into a cycle familiar to all of us. He succumbs to Delilah and to the plot surrounding him.  He is human.  He fails.  He suffers.  He has hope.  He repents.  He makes reparation for his former action.  He is honored.  He brings the light of truth into the darkness of greed and corruption.  After closer reading, we see the cycle so familiar in our own lives. After closer reading, we do not understand the mystery of what happened more, but what we do understand is that no destruction or death can overcome the bright light of God’s goodness and mercy, and we are – we hope – a little more willing to see God’s goodness in our own lives..

From MAGNIFICAT today: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:5God is mystery.  The maker of the universe dwells in light inaccessible, so bright that it blinds the probing eye, the questioning mind.

For those who are powerless, that they may experience your power employed on their behalf. 

For those who have abandoned hope, that they may know your mercy.

For those who fail to see you in mystery, that they may come to feel your gentle love.

Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.4 (2008). Print.  

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 9, 2008. 

Read Full Post »


Revelation 3Superficiality, Fidelity, and Mediocrity   

Tuesday, May 30, 2017    

To the church in Sardis . . . I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead . . .

sardis

A Greek temple in Sardis

To the church in Philadelphia . . . You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name . . .

To the church in Laodicea . . . I know that you are neither hot or cold . . .

Today we read the greetings to three of the seven churches addressed by John in the last book of the Bible.  The seven represent the universal church.  Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea have something special to tell us.

Notes will inform us that Sardis was once a capital city and was noted for its immense wealth at the time of Croesus in the 6th century before Christ.  It had a fortress with the fame of being impregnable, yet it was taken by surprise by both Cyrus and Antiochus.  This church gives the appearance of being unassailable . . . but is warned to be on its guard.  Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete . . .

We will also learn that Philadelphia was rebuilt by the Emperor Tiberius in C.E. 17 after a different quake.  It may be for this reason that there are references to its royal nature.  Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come . . .

Laodicea IMG_5913 - Copy

Ruins in Laodicea

Laodicea was a wealthy industrial and commercial center eighty miles east of Ephesus that exported beautiful woolen garments.  It had a famous medical school and was known for an eye salve that could be purchased there and the people had so much money that they were able to rebuild after a devastating earthquake about sixty years after Christ.  And they did this with no outside help.  They were able to stand in their own and were beholding to no one.   For you say, “I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,” and yet you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see . . . (Senior 403-404)

ancient philadelphia

Ancient Philadelphia

Here we have the faithful church sandwiched between the complacent, self-satisfied, self-protecting churches.  As we contemplate this juxtaposition, we might ask ourselves where we stand today.  Are content with doing just enough?  Do we tend to appearance and neglect the inner self?  Are we bothered by poverty of all kinds, or do we brush it away where we cannot see it?  Do we even allow ourselves to see suffering in any way?  If we do, how do we react?  We can spend time in Revelation 2 and 3 and wonder how our preparations for a guest compare with how we prepare ourselves to receive Christ.  Now we focus on three churches that bring us a special window we might open into our own souls.  Are we superficial?  Are we content with mediocrity?  Do we follow Christ faithfully even though the journey of life has taken its toll?

Superficiality, Fidelity, or Mediocrity . . . how do we choose to live?  What is our guiding principal?  Whom do we follow?  Why and how do we do what we do?  The Book of Revelation announces what Christ expects.  Whoever has ears ought to hear what the spirit says to the churches. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.403-404. Print.  

For more images of a pilgrimage to the churches, click on the images of Sardis or Laodicea above, or visit: http://www.farnborough-kent-parish.org.uk/recent_turkey.html 

Adapted from a Favorite written on March 27, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: