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Psalm 73:23-28: Staying Close

Saturday, August 11, 2018

When we are beleaguered or alone, we remember that God is always with us.

Yet I always stay close to you,
    and you hold me by the hand.
You guide me with your instruction
    and at the end you will receive me with honor.
What else do I have in heaven but you?
    Since I have you, what else could I want on earth?
My mind and my body may grow weak,
    but God is my strength;
    he is all I ever need. (GNT)

When we struggle against odds and obstacles that we fear are greater than our strength, we remember that Christ always show us The Way.

Nevertheless I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me with honor.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (NRSV)

When we are overcome with anxiety or grief, we remember that the Spirit heals all wounds and transforms all loss.

When I was beleaguered and bitter,
    totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
    in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
    but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
    and then you bless me.

You’re all I want in heaven!
    You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
    God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
    Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
    oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do! (MSG)

When we are overcome, we rely on God’s strength. When we experience injustice, we recall God’s righteousness. When we suffer deep betrayal, we trust in the healing of the Spirit. In all circumstances, in all days and at all times, we remain close to God.


For a reflection on Psalm 73, visit The Trial of the Just post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2013/04/24/the-trial-of-the-just/

Images from: http://bernidymet.com/5-steps-closer-to-god-taking-step-3/ and https://blog.spiritvoyage.com/mantra-for-feeling-close-to-god-mere-ram/ 


Ephesians 1:11-12: Choosing

Friday, August 10, 2018

As a rising high school senior, I quizzed my teachers and parents about the concept of predestination with the typical questions.

If God has everyone’s life planned out, can we really decide anything for ourselves? If God is so good, why do bad things happen – especially to good people? If God is all-powerful, omniscient and all-knowing, how can we say that our lives are not predestined?

My parents listened to my reasoned arguments and reminded me that because God is patient, understanding, merciful and just, God gives us the opportunity to choose good. My teachers allowed me to explore existential thinking, reminding me all the while that we have the opportunity to be a part of the struggle for goodness over evil. We are offered the chance to participate in society’s positive evolution. We have received the gift of life to do with as we will.

Over time, I came to understand that each day we rise with new prospects for goodness. By noontime, we find occasions to ask forgiveness and to forgive. Each evening we find fresh doorways to old problems. As I move through life, I re-discover and re-experience both the magnitude of God’s love, and the enormity of God’s call and promise. What wondrous gift is the gift of life. What a treasure is the relationship God seeks to establish with us. What fierce abiding. What outrageous hope. What passionate love.

When I read these words to the Ephesians today, I no longer ask the questions I asked as a youngster. Rather, I wonder how God has such patience with my slowness. I marvel at how willing God is to forgive and forgive again. And I am grateful for the gift God gives me to choose goodness over harm each day I live.


When we use the scripture link and menus to explore other translations of these verses, we find the clarity and wisdom to choose well.

Image from: https://www.tammistepersonal.ee/blogi/moeldes-noortele-kuhu-edasi 


Esther C: 14-16: Esther’s Gift of Prayer

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Thursday, August 9, 2018

In exile, alone, and confronted with great danger, Esther turns to God for help. In so doing, she leaves a timeless legacy. Yesterday we considered the message others read in our lives. Today we consider the legacy that we, following the example of this young, defenseless woman

Then [Esther] prayed to the LORD, the God if Israel, saying: “My LORD, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forefathers that you, O LORD, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among all ancestors, as a lasting heritage, and that you fulfilled all your promises to them”.

We may want to use Esther’s words when we are alone or abandoned, when we have no one to turn to, and no place to go . . . Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.

We may want to use her words when we remember the promise of heritage and wonder how we have arrived at an unexpected place . . . I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forefathers that you, O LORD, chose Israel from among all peoples.

We may want to recall, as Esther does, that . . . God alone is King of all.

We may want to remember, as Esther does, that . . . God fulfills all promises.

Esther’s prayer evokes our past, foresees our future, and reinforces our present. Her words serve us in times of trial and pain. Her story encourages steadfastness and hope. Her legacy is one of courage in the face of hatred, expectation in the presence of desperation, and fidelity as the antidote to evil. Esther’s bravery is a gift to us today. We will want to hold it close, remember it well; and redeem ourselves and others as we pray these words with her.


To learn more about the story of Esther, and why some translations include chapter letters as well as numbers, enter her name in to the blog search bar and explore. Or refer to: http://www.usccb.org/bible/esther/0 

Today’s scripture link contains only the NABRE (New American Bible revised Edition)

For a child’s version of this story, visit: http://www.dltk-kids.com/world/jewish/purim/esther_story.htm 

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/candy2155/queen-esther/


Malachi 2:6-7: What We Teach

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The prophet Malachi is known for his exhortation to put aside “spiritual degradation, religious perversions, social injustices, and unfaithfulness to the Covenant”. (Britannica online) Malachi recalls the fidelity and courage of the early Hebrew priests and people who first entered their covenant with God.

They taught what was right, not what was wrong.

How do we spend our time and energy today? What do we teach through the living of our lives? What is the fruit of our labor? As we review the local, national, and international news, how do we commit to bringing the world together rather than tearing it apart?

They lived in harmony with the Lord; they not only did what was right themselves, but they also helped many others to stop doing evil.

How do we apply our talents and gifts today? What do we achieve through the Spirit’s gifts of creativity, mercy and justice? As we interact with family, friends, and colleagues, how do we build bridges and tear down walls?

It is the duty of priests to teach the true knowledge of God. People should go to them to learn my will, because they are the messengers of the Lord Almighty.

How do we share the hope and love God sends to us each day? What do our words and actions communicate to the world about our own ideas of inclusion rather than exclusion? What do they say about our willingness to gather in those on the margins and those left behind? As we enact the priesthood ordained by Christ, how do we reflect God’s image, and engender the healing action of the Spirit?

Each day we have openings to learn God’s wisdom from our failures and successes. The lessons God gives us are our interactions with others; they bring us opportunities to expand our knowledge, and to explore the promise of God’s hope. Each day we have new endings and new beginnings as we learn to teach with each gesture, each movement, each encounter with Christ.

What do we teach each day? We have only to look into the eyes of others to discover the answer.


For more information on prophecy, see the Britannica online article on the minor prophets at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/The-first-six-minor-prophets#ref961890

When we compare other versions of these words, we find new lessons from God.

For more reflections on this prophecy, enter the word Malachi into the blog search bar and explore. 

Image from: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/teaching-more-than-meets-eye 


Job 12:7-10: Wisdom of Earth, Sky, and Sea

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Why has the state of Hawaii banned the use of some sunscreens?

Even birds and animals have much they could teach you.

We are surrounded with wisdom . . . if only we might see.

Ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom.

We are immersed in knowledge . . . if only we might hear.

All of the creatures know that the Lord‘s hand made them.

We are one with all of creation . . . if only we might learn.

It is God who directs the lives of the creatures.

How might we protect endangered species while nurturing human life?

We are made in the image and likeness of the one who creates all goodness . . . if only we might unite with all, even those with who we differ greatly.

Everyone’s life is in God’s power.

We are called in the divinity of Christ . . . if only we might heal.

Birds and animals have much they could teach us.

How might we make it possible for millions of creatures to co-exist?

We are complete in the confidence of the Spirit . . . if only we might love.

We must ask the creatures of earth, sky, and sea for their wisdom.


When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare other translations with these GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION, we learn much from the creatures of the earth, sea and sky. 

Images from: https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/nature/hawaii-just-banned-some-types-sunscreen-protect-coral-reefs and https://greentumble.com/poaching-endangered-species/ and http://www.takepart.com/photos/endangered-species-then-now/bald-eagle-delisted-recovered

 


1 Timothy 3: 16: The Mystery of Devotion

Monday, August 6, 2018

The GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION of this verse proclaims,

No one can deny how great is the secret of our religion:

He appeared in human form,
    was shown to be right by the Spirit,
    and was seen by angels.
He was preached among the nations,
    was believed in throughout the world,
    and was taken up to heaven.

This secret is one we are called to share with those who have ears to hear, and hands and hearts to act.

The NEW REVISED STANDARD translation announces,

Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:

He was revealed in flesh,
    vindicated in spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
    believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.

This mystery is one we will want to proclaim to those who have lost hope, who feel abandoned, or have gone astray.

THE MESSAGE translation of Timothy’s words declares,

This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough:

He appeared in a human body,
    was proved right by the invisible Spirit,
was seen by angels.
He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples,
    believed in all over the world,
taken up into heavenly glory.

This gift is one we will want to affirm to all – especially our enemies – for it is God’s gift of life that inspires devotion, asserts Christ’s love, and confirms the Spirit’s transforming mercy.


When we compare varying translations of this verse, we begin to experience the mystery, secret, and promise of this great gift. 

Images from: https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/wisdom/article/krishna-jesus-and-the-path-of-devotion and http://www.chrisrochephotographer.co.uk/project/devotion/

 


Job 38-42: Dialog with God

Job with his friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar

Sunday, August 5, 2018

We have visited with this portion of Job before during our Noontime reflections and we have spent time thinking about the presence and work of Satan, about arguing with the Almighty, Restoration brought about when living a life of impossible hopes.  Today we might pause to think about how blessings arrive in our lives . . . sometimes with people or events which bring us unexpected problems . . . and how these experiences often bring us unexpected outcomes.

In looking for something more, I turned to THE ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE and find that, of course, the Babylonians had their own culture and literature dealing with suffering.  One Akkadian text from approximately 1000 B.C.E. called The Babylonian Theodicy is a dialog between a sufferer and his friend who present questions much like Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar do with Job.  Much of the dialog has to do with the mysterious ways of the gods (page 776).  Another text entitled A Man and His God, is found on a broken tablet and is a lament of a young man suffering from a terrible disease.  This man recognizes and concedes his guilt, unlike Job who is an innocent sufferer.  There is much here to indicate that these ancient cultures spent time thinking and reflecting on the causes of suffering (770).

Ancient Hittite texts often depict their gods as weak and impotent in the face of natural disasters.  And they are sometimes seen as dependent as, for example, in a story about the storm god Telepinu who fell asleep under a tree and forgot to make it rain!  The other gods could not locate him until at last a tiny bee awakened him with a sting, and then a goddess of magic and a local priest intervened on behalf of those who were starving because of the drought (page 784).  All of this is fun and interesting . . . but lacking the depth and theology of the story of Job.

And so we might ask: What does Job tell us today in our modern and fast moving world when we struggle to dialog with God?

Many advances in technology have been made; much information has been stored in databases, and yet we are not much nearer to understanding the beauty and mystery of God.  I asked my granddaughter today what God is if God is not magic.  She answered immediately and without wavering – and with much conviction for one so little – God is miracle.

This is what Job knows.  This is what Job understands.  This is what Job trusts.  This is where Job finds power.  And this is what makes Job important for us today because when we are in the depths of misery and pain, there is nothing more we need than God’s power, joy and life that we experience in our suffering. Moving through the past, and moving beyond our present ordeal, we find solace in our pain, courage in our fear, comfort in our anxiety, hope in our desperation, and newness in our life.  When we most seek relief and restoration we might pray with these chapters from Job today.

We cannot expect a life free of suffering.  Indeed, life so often is suffering.  But what we can expect, and what we can receive is God’s grace, Christ’s touch, the Holy Spirit’s comfort.  And we can expect that joy will rise from our pain when we struggle to dialog with God.


Adapted from a Favorite written on July 29, 2008.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 770. 776 & 784. Print.

Image from: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/jw-meeting-workbook/april-2016-mwb/meeting-schedule-apr4-10/job-bible-false-accusations/


Psalm 71: Prayer in Time of Old Age

An elderly King David

Saturday, August 4, 2018

We continue to reflect on our present circumstances and the feeling that our resources are low. Feeling as though we are on a journey without end, we remember this Favorite from March 28, 2008.

Who among us does not wish to be rescued from the power of the wicked or the clutches of the violent?  Who among us does not fear being cast aside, forsaken or abandoned in old age?  Who among us does not hold hope for the best outcome, even if only a little, during a prolonged period of lingering assault?  Who among us does not long for revival, regeneration, restoration, renewal, and comfort?  Who among us does not await justice and stillness after a lifetime of struggle?

No matter our age or situation, we can all find at least one verse in this beautiful prayer that gives voice to the desires of our in-most heart of hearts, to the word God speaks.  Do I hold fast to the hope that Promises will be fulfilled to me . . . for me . . . by me?

I will proclaim your goodness, yours alone.

You have taught me ever since I was young,
    and I still tell of your wonderful acts.
Now that I am old and my hair is gray,
    
do not abandon me, O God!
Be with me while I proclaim your power and might
    to all generations to come.


Image from: http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2006/09/september_30th_.html


Isaiah 54:1: Breaking into Song

Friday, August 3, 2018

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that when days are dark we break into pieces, but despite bad news, there is a day when we will break into song.

Jerusalem, you have been like a childless woman,
    but now you can sing and shout for joy.
Now you will have more children
    than a woman whose husband never left her.

In ancient days, a woman without a husband or children was pitied. Here Isaiah paints a picture of one who lives in dire settings; however, Isaiah tells us that regardless of her negative environment, the barren and abandoned one has reason to sing.

God says: It is difficult for you to believe that my creation is more vast than your mind can comprehend; and because this is the case, the inversion Isaiah describes is incomprehensible to you. When your fears are deepest, know that I am with you in the darkness. When your anxieties overtake you, know that I am with you in your pain. When courage dies, know that I am hope beyond all anticipation. When love is absent, know that I am love enough to heal the darkest of evils. When faith abandons you, know that I am steadfastness itself. When you feel alone, betrayed or adrift, I am with you still. For every evil, there is a counter-love and it is the Spirit. For every deceit, there is a counter-truth and it is Jesus. For every time the universe seems to fall into pieces, there is a union that pulls all goodness together . . . and that goodness is me. Remain in me as I remain in you; and break into song with me.


For more reflections on the words of the prophet Isaiah, enter his name into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: https://es.pngtree.com/freepng/melodious-singing_699058.html

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