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Thursday, May 21, 2020

universe[1]Galatians 5:7-12

Be Not Mislead

This Pauline citation is perfect for us to read when we come up against an obstacle that looks unmovable. It reminds us that with God, all things are possible. Paul is writing in reference to the split which nearly happens in the early church between two factions: those who want to require circumcision of men before entrance into the church and those who do not. A lively conversation takes place but the miracle of unification occurs and the church as Christ begins it remains intact and flourishes. We can read the details in ACTS.

I once heard miracles defined as the possibilities we dream that already exist but that cannot be seen with human eyes, cannot be heard with human ears, cannot be touched with human hands. In the documentary/fictional story What the Bleep Do We Know?, we are reminded to hope for our impossible petitions in a daily litany.  The creators of this film examine how we might adjust our perspective just slightly so that we might see as God sees because – as we know – with God all things are possible.

It is worth our while to sit with a good study Bible and a concordance to examine the many times we are told in scripture . . . With God, all things are possible.  The effects of these five simple words are healing.  The reality of this short sentence is more real than the world we imagine we live in.

Each time we repeat these words and believe them a layer of anxiety slips away.  Each time we witness to God’s impossible possibilities a new strength and boldness lifts our spirit.  Each time we admit to the quiet miracles that pepper our lives, a new patience and serenity infuse our bones.

We must give ourselves the gift of allowing the Easter reality of impossible possibilities to be our reality.  We must petition God each day with our list of impossible requests and ask that God consider them as our realityAnd we must not allow ourselves to be misled by the pessimism of the world for as we so well know from our daily Noontime with scripture . . . with God, all things are possible.

May all of our miracles that we ask of God come to fullness in our new impossible reality.


If you have two hours, click on this link and watch: What the Bleep Do We Know? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6G3-Zc9mtM  Critics comment that it misrepresents science and makes awkward connections between quantum physics and spirituality.  Others say that is an invitation to think in a new way.  In either case, this thinking is worth our reflection. 

To read about the surprising links scientists are finding in the universe, click on the image or visit: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1203420/space-universe-discovery-news-galaxy-astronomy-physics-lightyears 

Adapted from a Noontime written on May 2, 2007.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Gerbrand Van den EEckhout:Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the Priest Eli

Gerbrand Van den Eckhout: Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the Priest Eli

1 Samuel 1

Steadfastness in Hope: Miracles

As we continue to shelter in place in order to combat a pandemic, we remember the steadfastness of Hannah. 

Today we read the story of a woman who is well-loved . . . and well taunted, a woman who will not give up her hope for something new.  Previously in our Noontime journey we have examined the piety, constancy and fidelity of Hannah.  Today, as we continue to explore the quality of steadfastness, we look for surprises, joy and hope that mark Hannah’s journey, and we allow ourselves to be open to surprise, joy and hope even as we remain steadfast.  Several verses leap off the page to give us new meaning from familiar old words.

Verse 6:  Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren.  Knowing that a woman’s worth in ancient times was measured by her virginity as a maiden and her fertility as a woman, Peninnah, the second wife of Elkanah, is perhaps jealous of the double portions of love Hannah receives despite her barrenness.  Perhaps Peninnah is younger and more beautiful . . . and thinks herself deserving of something better.  We know many people who are Peninnahs to us and to others.  During this Eastertide, let us pray that the joy of life in Christ softens their hearts of stone.

Verse 15: I am an unhappy woman . . . I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord.  Hannah takes her burden to the proper place . . . to her creator who knows both her gifts and her plight better than any human.  We are all Hannah at one time or another in our homeward journey.  Sometimes we try to carry our burdens on our own; sometimes we share our woes with friends and counselors as we should.  We must also remember to take our problems daily to the one who has the best solutions. During this Eastertide, let us pray that our confidence in Christ softens our hearts of stone.

Verse 18:  She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downcast.  Hannah is first rebuked by the priest Eli who thinks that she is drunk as she prays.  Once he understands her misery, he blesses her and urges her to in peace, relying on the God of Israel to hear her request.  She exhibits immediate confidence and joy. We find consolation when we take our troubles to God.  May we encourage one another to bring their burdens to the Lord who heals and frees all from sadness.  During this Eastertide, let us pray that the hope of life in Christ opens our hearts of stone.

Verse 19: The Lord remembered her.  The Lord is mindful of his faithful handmaid for many years.  Hannah not only bears a son, Samuel, whom she dedicates to God; she also receives the gift of three more sons and two daughters.  This family is an ample witness to Hannah, to Peninnah, and to us that a steadfast, confident, joyful heart receives miracles beyond imagining.  During this Eastertide, let us pray that our life in Christ opens all hearts to the miracles God has in mind for us this day.

When we persist in our steadfastness we ultimately experience hope.  When we rest in our steadfastness we ultimately experience joy.  When we persevere in our steadfastness we ultimately experience surprise.  In this Eastertide, let us welcome God’s presence in our lives and remain steadfast.  Let us be open to the surprises, joy and miracles that await us.

Amen.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gerbrand_van_den_Eeckhout_-_Anna_toont_haar_zoon_Samu%C3%ABl_aan_de_priester_Eli.jpg

Adapted from the December 7, 2008 Noontime.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Judith 13: Slaying Holofernes

Judith teaches us about courage, fidelity, and divine providence.  She shows us clearly the strength of women, the power of faithfulness through duress, the results of steady, enduring, immutability . . . and the gift of God’s abiding presence.  Judith instructs us on the results of constancy and the privilege of discipleship.

In this particular chapter, we see Judith carry out the final stages of her plan . . . and I am always intrigued by the fact that none of Holofernes’ soldiers see anything suspicious about two women leaving the camp and the reason for this is that from the first night of her stay Judith makes it clear that she and her maid will go out to pray each evening.  For this reason their escape route is made through their accustomed daily commitment to God (12:5-9).

It is also clear that Holofernes’ principle error is seeing women as sexual objects.  The heart of Holofernes was in rapture over her, and his spirit was shaken.  He was burning with the desire to possess her, for he had been biding his time to seduce her from the day he saw her.  (12:16) Neither this man – nor anyone in his inner circle – sees the true significance of the presence of this quiet, beautiful, spiritual woman in their midst.  And they pay for this blindness with the loss of life and the loss of the campaign they have planned against the people of Bethulia.

What can we learn from this today?  How can we take this lesson into our own lives and honor it?  What is it about Judith’s conduct that speaks of her so well?

This story – when read from beginning to end – is full of unexpected twists.  And so is life.  This story – when we take the time to examine it more fully – can startle us and even repel us with its stark reality and violence.  And so can life.  This story – when reflected upon in the context of the coming of Christ – brings us the expectation of restoration, justice and joy.  And so does life.  This story brings us the gift of constancy, a gift we receive through our own discipleship.

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

What do we do against life’s twists and turns and ironies?  We remain constant, we abide with God, we fear less and we pray endlessly.  We empty ourselves of ego and pride . . . and we allow God to complete and fill us.  We act – just as Judith did – from a custom of constantly walking and praying with God.

Good, merciful and just Creator, we place ourselves in your hands each day at our rising.  We carry you with us throughout each day.  We return to you each evening just as we return to family, home and hearth.  Abide with us this day and all days, just as you accompanied Judith and her maid into the enemy’s camp.  Abide with us each evening as we walk out to the ravine to pray with you, just as Judith and her maid were accustomed to doing.  We seek you, just as Judith sought you.  We bring to you our worries and fears, just as these women did.  May we too remain constant to you in our prayers and in our actions.  May we too know the triumph and the peace which comes from abiding with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


If you have time to read more about Judith’s story and reflect on her importance in our lives today, enter her name in the search box on this blog and spend time with her.  Or open your Bible to this book and begin her story in Judith 8.  For background, and to better understand the context, begin reading from Chapter 1.   For an online commentary, click on the model of ancient Jerusalem above.

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/220px-cristofano_allori_0021.jpg and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/reconstruction_model_of_ancient_jerusalem_in_museum_of_david_castle1.jpg

First written on July 27, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

cr_julianSirach 10:19-30: Possibilities

Again from Julian of Norwich: “God intends our prayer and trust to be magnanimous.  If we do not trust as much as we pray, we do not honor God fully, and we place obstacles in our path.  This happens because we do not realize that God himself is in the ground of our praying.  Our very ability to pray is a gift of his loving grace.  We cannot ask for mercy and grace unless they have first been extended to us.  Sometimes, it seems after praying a long time that we have received no answer.  We should not let this disturb us.  God simply wishes us to wait for a more suitable time, or for more grace, or for a better gift.  Furthermore, just as we experience God drawing us to him, so should we pray that we will be drawn toward him.  It is not sufficient to do one without the other.  If we pray, but do not see that God is at work, we become dejected and downcast and so do him no honor.  And if after we see him at work, but do not pray, we do less than our duty.  But to see that he works, and to pray that he works, gives God worship and benefits us.  When we pray thus, we will think we have done nothing.  But if we do what we can, seeking mercy and grace, we shall discover in him all that is deficient in us”.

Today’s Noontime calls us to think about how we honor and glorify God in our lives, and how we honor and glorify one another.  Julian of Norwich reminds us that all will be well when all rests in God and when we take everything to God in prayer; for it is out of this meditation and prayer that our actions rise.  Today’s reading and the words from Julian of Norwich above ask that we go a step beyond our normal comfortable zone of thinking and doing. They ask us to risk, to trust, to believe, to hope and to love as Jesus loves.  They ask us to dream and imagine all the possibilities which are open to us . . . because once we enter into union with God all things are possible. Once we become meek as Jesus is meek, all things are possible.  Once we bring our weariness and brokenness to God all things are possible . . . and all will be well.

Tomorrow, healing . . .


First written on August 10, 2009.  Revised and posted today. 

Kirvan, John. All Will Be Well: Julian of Norwich. 2008. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2005. Print.

For more information about Julian of Norwich, click on the image above or go to the following links: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-constant-seeker-julian-of-norwich or http://aquariumofvulcan.blogspot.com/2012/05/julian-of-norwich.html or  http://campusministry.georgetown.edu/119652.html

To reflect on how God’s promises are always greater than our hopes, go to: http://www.discerninghearts.com/?p=1714

 

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Easter Friday, April 17, 2020

Isaiah 62:1-2: I will not be silent . . .

Edmunde Burke: 1729-1797

During this Eastertide we have celebrated our rescue from the depths.  We have praised God for the goodness and mercy shown to us.  We have spent time with the stories that so vividly tell us of God’s love for us.  Today we reflect on our response.  Do we sing out in gratitude . . . or do we remain silent?

We will always find imperfection in the relationships with our loved ones.  This one refuses to see common sense.  That one continues to repeat a cycle of failure.  Despite all of this . . . we must remember to ask God for more patience.  And we must not remain silent.

We will always find obstacles when we interact with our neighbors or our work colleagues.  This one is recalcitrant.  That one is toxic.  Despite all of this . . . we must remember to ask God for more wisdom.  And we must not remain silent.

We will always have a different perspective on life from members in our worship community, from those who actively lead us in civic life.  This one is deceitful.  That one is too simpering.  The other is too strident.  Still the other lacks compassion or common sense.  Despite all of this . . . we must remember to ask God for more prudence.  And we must not remain silent.

We will always suffer sorrow.  We will always experience strife.  No one is immune from life’s whimsical turnings.  Each of us will have need to call on God for clarity and support.  Each of us will need to heft some of our burden onto Christ’s broad shoulders.  There is a guarantee that each of us will want to hide in the hug of God’s embrace.  None of us is exempt from life’s brutal surprises.

God knows all before we dream it.  Christ walks with each of us although we might not believe it.  The Spirit dwells within us to abide with us through our sorrows and joys.  No one is immune from this promise.  No one is exempt from this truth.

We have experienced the transformation of Easter.  We are loved and protected by God; we are touched and held by Christ; and we are consoled and counseled by the Spirit.  So let us be patient.  Let us be wise.  Let us be prudent.  Let us be grateful.  Let us be loving.  And above all . . . let us tell the world about God’s immense care and love for us.   Let us never forget to tell this good news.  Let us always remember to give thanks . . . for we must never, not ever, remain silent.


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman who stood in support for the colonists in the American Revolution.

To read more about Burke, click on the image above or go to: http://www.padfield.com/1997/goodmen.html or http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/burke.html

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Easter Thursday, April 16, 2020

Exodus 16:15-20

Sharing in the Desert

mannaThis is the bread which the Lord has given you.

When we read the Exodus story we know its beginning, middle and end.  We linger over the portions that intrigue us and skim through the verses that no longer call us.  Believing that we know this story well, we forget to listen to each word.  We spend time today with just a few verses in this story of rescue and transformation.

Each one is to be given as much as he needs.

We worry over the details and fuss with constraints.  We calculate needs and risks.  We measure out, we store up, and we plan ahead.  We look back to what we left behind and we look forward to what is to come and we try to predict how much we will need for our journey, just as the Israelites did.

Some gathered a large and some gathered a small amount.

We arise each day to collect the manna of our labor, just as the Israelites did.  This work is sometimes arduous.  At other times the burden of toil seems lighter. We volunteer our time and talent to ease the lives of those who have less than we do.  We receive gifts of time and talent from others when we suffer.  We look to see if we have gathered as much as our neighbor.  We wonder if others work as hard as we do.  Still, we gather, just like the Israelites in the desert.

But when they measured it out by the omer, he who gathered a large amount did not have too much, and he who had gathered a small amount did not have too little.

We gauge pensions and look at payroll deductions.  We pay taxes and claim exemptions.  We struggle with what we render to authorities and what we render to God, always hoping that the promise of having enough is not false.  We trust in the Living God, just like the Israelites in the desert.

They so gathered that everyone had enough to eat.

We have a new measurement today that supersedes the omer yet still we measure.  We budget our resources and hope that catastrophe does not wipe us out.  We pace ourselves and look over our shoulders to see if the enemy is still behind.  We look forward and gauge the strength of any invader.  We fiddle with the details of our small economy and try to predict the future, just like the Israelites in the desert.

This is the bread which the Lord has given you.

When we read the Exodus story we know its beginning, middle and end.  We linger over the portions that intrigue us and skim through the verses that no longer call us.  Believing that we know this story well, we forget to listen to each word.  Let us spend time today with just a few verses in this story of rescue and transformation.

And let us give thanks to the Living God who teaches us how to share in the desert.

Tomorrow, I will not be silent . . .


A re-post from Easter 2013. 

Image from: http://lamont-uphill.blogspot.com/2010/11/swb-manna-for-desert.html

To convert a measurement to omers, go to: http://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/volume/bibomer.html

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Easter Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Luke 5:1-11

Coming Up With Nothing

fishermen[1]In Luke’s description of the calling of the apostles, we find the crowds pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God.  There are boats by the lake side and as Jesus steps into one of them he asks the fisherman, Peter, to put out into the water.  There, a short distance away, he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  When he finishes speaking, he asks Peter to put out in to deeper water in order to fish.  Peter replies: Master, we have worked hard all night and have come up with nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.  They catch a great number of fish, so many that the nets begin to tear.  Peter calls to his partners who come alongside to help them take in the catch.  There are so many fish that they were in danger of sinking.  Peter, James and John realize in that instant that the Messiah stands before them and also in that moment Jesus says to them – and to us: Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.  And when they came ashore . . . they left everything and followed him. 

Last week we closely examined the interchange between the risen Christ and his bewildered followers; today we look at Luke’s description of the apostles’ original call and find a foreshadowing of that later exchange and reunion beside the sea.  Perhaps it was this memory that called Peter and the others back to their nets and boats.  This we will never know; but what we do know is that Christ speaks and calls to us in the same way – especially when we are weary from having worked so hard for so long only to have our nets come up so empty.

This startling story is more than the words we see before us; it is an invitation to a full and fruitful life in the Spirit.  This familiar recounting is more than verses brought together by a writer two thousand years ago; it is an open door to salvation.  This Gospel is more than a sacred scripture; it is a guarantee from the risen Christ that when we find ourselves empty, alone, bewildered, overcome, bereft or betrayed that the best and most able of shepherds is with us as we steer our tiny vessel.

And so we pray to Jesus who first stepped into the boats of exhausted fishermen to transform them into fishers for the kingdom . . .

When we are terrified by all that surrounds us as we confront the pandemic and move forward in fear, live in us as we answer your call. 

When we are physically, emotionally and psychologically weary, be with us are you were with your loved and loving followers in your days on the Sea of Tiberias.

When we have come up with nothing, have seen our life’s work erased, have exhausted every bit of our creativity and energy, be with us are you were with those you touched and healed in Galilee.

When we leave everything to follow you, sacrificing comfort and ease, be with us as you were with the faithful who returned to you and gave all they had and all they were in order to be close to you.

When we are empty, when we are full, when we are exhausted, when we are filled with the Spirit, when we leave all that we know to trust your call, keep us close, keep us constant, keep us in your love. Amen.

Tomorrow, “We also will come with you . . . “


For a devotional on this same citation, click the image above or go to: http://goodfaithblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/luke-51-11-bible-study-devotion-what.html

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Good Friday, April 10, 2020

John 21:1-14

sea-of-galilee-2[1]A Prayer by the Sea of Tiberias

We have taken apart the story of the disciples and the transformation of their lives on the shore of the sea they fished so well and so long.  We have witnessed their first, uncertain steps as they learn to become fishers of God’s children rather than fishers of God’s creatures in the sea.  Just as these early followers return to what felt familiar and found it lacking, so too might we find our old habits and old haunts when we look for peace. The disciples teach us a valuable lesson across the millennia that Jesus is always present to us.  Even when we do not recognize him.  Even when we choose to ignore him.  When we look for what we thought is lost, the apostles tell us, we need not look far.  We need only call on God.

With this story from John, we see the gentle way in which Jesus brings his followers back to the work of kingdom-building.  When we place ourselves in their place and time, we also witness the risen Christ for he is always with us quietly to materialize just when we are most in need.  He allows us to make our own decisions; yet he willingly suggests where we might best cast our nets.  He sustains us when we are hungry and frightened, he carries us when we are beaten and spent, he loves us willingly, always and without restraint.

Like these humble apostles who find their hopes dashed and their faith shaken, we too might return to our former, familiar ways only to find them less comfortable and less successful than we remembered.

Like these weary apostles who are frightened and disoriented by their incomprehensible Easter experience, we too might be slow to recognize Jesus when he steps quietly into our lives.

Like these flawed but loving apostles who are tossed by the social, political and religious pressures that surround them, we too will see Christ in the most casual of places and find him at the most dire of times.

Jesus calls, Jesus suggests, Jesus invites, Jesus feeds, Jesus shares.  Jesus asks us to follow, always leaving the choice open to us.  Jesus asks us to listen, always leaving us the option to turn away.  Jesus asks us to share, always leaving us the opportunity to accept or reject his offer.

And so we pray.

Good and constant Lord, we have witnessed the Easter story and still we have our doubts.  Pull us back to you and hold us closely.

Good and patient Lord, we have seen the empty tomb and still we worry.  Hold us in your arms to keep us from falling away.

Good and loving Lord, we have eaten with you in an old, familiar place in a new, transforming way.  Keep us ever with you and never let us forget our encounter with you by the Sea of Tiberias.

We ask this in Jesus name.  Amen. 


A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

To read a blog journal of a visit to The Sea of Galilee/Tiberias, click on the image above and toggle through the entries, or begin the sea-line journey at: http://pauseforthought.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/a-simple-home-of-love-teaching-and-healing/  You may also be interested in other Holy Land entries on the Mountain Tops and Monday Mornings blog.

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Holy Tuesday, April 7, 2013

John 21:1-14

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

Looking for the Lord

Jesus continues to appear to his disciples, encouraging them to join him in the work of kingdom building.  Still mystified by how they will fulfill this mission, they return to the profession they know . . . to their boats, their nets, and the Sea of Tiberias.  It is here that we find Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons John and James, and two others.  They have been fishing all night . . . and they have caught nothing.

Dawn arrives and they must be wondering what they are to do next.

When they made the decision to follow Jesus they had left their work as fishermen behind them, not questioning how they would earn a living.  They had followed the Teacher for several years until that sudden ending when they had last gone up to Jerusalem for Passover.  Jesus has returned, risen, wounded, yet whole, and he has visited with them, shared bread with them, told them they need fear nothing.  He has given them his blessing and God’s peace; yet they are uncertain what to do next in this new life of following the risen Christ so they have turned to their former occupation; but this once familiar work is proving fruitless.

They must be questioning all that has happened to them in the last several years.

We, like the apostles, will find ourselves casting nets into familiar seas yet coming up empty.

We, like the disciples, will return to places and relationships we once took for granted searching for strength yet finding little.

We, like all of Christ’s followers, will encounter the Christ just when and where we least expect to find him.

Let us spend some time today watching and waiting in Easter joy.  Let us carry our worries and fears to the risen Christ.  And let us look for the risen Lord in every detail of all that we do in his name today and all days.

Today we examine our lives as Easter People.  Tomorrow, recognizing Jesus . . .


A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

For some interesting facts about the Sea of Galilee/Tiberias today, go to: http://apinchofsalt-sonnleitner.blogspot.com/2010/07/week-30-sea-of-galilee.html or  http://www.this-is-galilee.com/sea-of-galilee.html or http://www.seetheholyland.net/sea-of-galilee-article-israeloutside-jerusalem/  or http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/sea_of_galilee.html 

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