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Psalm 119:1-8: Aleph


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Over the next few weeks we will look closely at Psalm 119, the longest chapter in Scripture. In this time of pandemic, transition, and social and political unrest, we turn to this acrostic poem that brings us God’s beautiful message of love in groups of eight verses named for the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. 

Psalm 119:1-8

aleph[1]Aleph

Walk in the law . . .

Laws, precepts, testimonies, statutes, precepts, commandments, decrees, ordinances, the Way. So many words to express a concept so simple.

We are made in God’s image and so we are called to nourish God’s Law of Love within ourselves and in others. We are made as creatures of mercy and so we are called to nurture God’s Testimony of Mercy wherever and whenever we find it. We are made to love boldly and well and so let us move among both our friends and our enemies to serve as catalysts of God’s Way of Love for the world.

God says: Do not be overwhelmed when I call you to love as I do. I have placed seeds of love in each of you and I nourish them daily so that they might bloom in you. You are too often downcast at the obstacles you find before you, but I tell you that when you lift your eyes above these barriers you find me. When you love for my sake you bring a new eternal life into the world for me. When you endure as I do . . . you last forever as I do. 

We too often see our limitations rather than our promise.

Today we reflect on the first lesson in Psalm 119.  It is God’s simple request that we walk in the way the Lord shows to us.  Tomorrow, Beth.

Give thanks to the Lord who is good, God’s love endures forever . . . (Psalm 118:1)


To learn more about the Hebrew letter Aleph, click on the word or the image above, or go to: http://biblehub.com/topical/a/aleph.htm and http://alephjournal.wordpress.com/about/


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Mark 8:34-37

life of christ, the_t_nv[1]Fullness of Life

Deny Self, Take up the Cross, and Follow: These are very simple words but oh, so challenging to live. Bible commentary tells us how difficult it is to fully and absolutely follow Jesus.

This utterance of Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself . . . [This is] an expression of the ambivalence of life and its contrasting destiny.  Life seen as mere self-centered earthly experience and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.  (Senior 81)

An authentic life is rich indeed even, and perhaps especially, when it is lived in poverty and want.

A challenging life is one in which we are called to something that asks us to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone even, and perhaps especially, when we are called to confront our biggest fear.

A life of self-renunciation is not tragic and sad. It is a life lived fully because in this way we go beyond our humanity to experience our divinity.

A life spent in cross carrying brings us the tools we will need to fully and wholly enter into union with God.  It prepares us for the eternal.

Jesus is always about inversion and with these words today, recorded simply and faithfully by Mark, Jesus describes the straightforwardness of his life. If we wish to follow we must allow Christ to act with, in and through us. And when we do we will fully understand the words we read today.

To be human, we must allow the divinity planted in us by God to open us up to possibility. To be divine, we must allow our humanity made holy by Christ to transform us. To be both human and divine, we must allow ourselves to accept the gift offered by God, the opportunity to experience life in the fullest, the gift and opportunity we receive from the creator as God’s Christmas people.

We may regard the price of this gift as being too high for the human reach and yet . . . it is the true path to eternal life.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.81. Print.

Image from: http://covdevotions2010.blogspot.com/2010/04/day-95-philippians-23-4.html

Adapted from a reflection written on October 4, 2010.


Monday, January 11, 2021

Philippians 2:7-9

imagesCAXVU6SCFullness

He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Paul speaks frequently of emptying himself so that Christ may be every more present. Paul often refers to himself as a slave in Christ. Yesterday we celebrated the baptism of Jesus and marked the end of the Christmas season. Today let us spend time with the idea that this small child is both human and divine. Let us examine what Paul might mean when he uses the imagery of slavery. And let us reflect on just how much we are willing to empty ourselves so that we might too receive God’s fullness.

“This is my beloved Son,” we hear in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 3:13-17), “with whom I am well pleased.”  Humans look for affirmation from their elders; we strive to please those who brought us life. We can imagine that Jesus is no different in that the affirmation he receives on the bank of the Jordan brings him both satisfaction and a certain amount of fear. Yes, he has done well and the creator has confidence that Jesus will complete his exodus from our world. And yes, he knows that struggles lie ahead.

Today we remember that God’s world is always inverted as Paul reminds us so that when we are empty we are truly full. Knowing this, we might allow our own sadness or desolation to bring us God’s fullness. We might seek affirmation from the one who created us. We might call on Christ and ask that he carry us through life’s turmoil when we are overwhelmed.

We need not fear what we do not know. We need not shrink from the hollowing out of ourselves. We only need call on the one who is all, for it is in this calling we will find that all emptiness is filled, and it is in this calling that we come to understand what it means to be Christmas people.

Tomorrow, the Fullness of Life.


Image from: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2012/03/humility-humiliation-and-humanity-of.html


Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

Today, as we recall Jesus’ willingness to submerge himself in the goodness of the Spirit, we mark the end of the liturgical celebration of Christmas. As we begin to plan the life we will lead once we can safely emerge from our pandemic lockdown, let us consider how we will let the gift of God’s testimony wash over us. How will we allow this heavy cleansing to renew us? How will we once again greet estranged sisters and brothers? How will we continue to live as Christmas people who bring light to a darkened world?

We do well to consider the Lord’s own testimony to us about God’s love of all creation. 

1 John 5:11-12

Gerrit van Honthorst: Adoration of the Shepherds

God’s Testimony

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son does not have life. 

There is really no mystery about what God thinks of us. We are gifted with God’s presence in the child Jesus who grows into a man to sacrifice all for us. Jesus lives according to the Mosaic Law and then institutes a new law, the Law of Love. Through his living out for us this new law and through his sacrificial dying, Jesus brings us God’s testimony: life eternal.

There is really no struggle in finding union with God for God loves us dearly and constantly and already dwells in us. All we need do is acknowledge this presence. All we need do is allow ourselves to be children of God. All we need do is live this new Law of Love.

And so, we pray . . . Good and gracious God, we hear your testimony and still we doubt. Remind us that you are as gentle as the small child and as strong as the man who dies for all. Remind us that you dwell in each of us although we forget this too often. Remind us that with the birth of the child Jesus you offer us your testimony of light and love. Remind us that with your act of submission to baptism in the Spirit, you offer each of us the humility of this Jordan experience. Remind us that as we move closer to you we free ourselves to take up the invitation to become your Christmas people. Amen.  


Spend time with a study Bible and 1 John 5:5-13.  Read the commentary and decide how God’s Testimony calls us to be Christmas people.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gerard_van_Honthorst_001.jpg


Saturday, January 9, 2021

Leviticus 19:17-18

love one anotherAs Yourself

You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

From the first moment we become aware of God’s presence we come to know the depth of God’s love.  From the first moment we feel God’s presence we feel the breadth of God’s love.  From the first movement of God in our lives we learn that God asks much but also gives much.   

And with this knowing we understand that we must love others as ourselves for this is what it means to be Christmas people.


Enter the words love one another into the blog search bar and reflect on how God’s love calls us to be Christmas people.

Image from: http://deodate.wordpress.com/tag/love/


Friday, January 8, 2021

1 John 4:10

images[8]This is Love

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God loved us and sent God’s Son as expiation for our sins.

Jesus tells us that it is easy to love those who treat us well and difficult to love those who do us harm, and yet if we wish to emulate Christ we must learn to love our enemies. This is the love that the Apostle John saw at close range. It is the love that he describes in his Gospel and letters. It is a love that knows no bounds or limitations. It is a love that refreshes, renews, heals and restores. It is a love that changes us forever when we receive it and when we enact it.  This is the love that changes and transforms us . . . and this is what it means to be Christmas people.

Be merciful as God is merciful.  (Luke 6:32-36)


Image from: http://trystanowainhughes.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/prison-sunday/


Thursday, January 7, 2021

eyes[1]Song of Songs 3:6-7, 11

Come Forth

What is this coming up from the desert, like a column of smoke laden with myrrh, with frankincense, and with the perfume of every exotic dust? Daughters of Jerusalem, come forth . . .

We have waited for so long. We crane our necks and stand on tiptoe. We exhaust ourselves with preparation and waiting. And like a pillar of smoke bearing the scent of incense that delights and comforts us, our God comes into our view. With this first sighting, we quite suddenly realize that God has always been with us; we quite suddenly understand what it means to be Christmas people.

Daughters of Jerusalem, come forth . . . and see that the desert blooms in God’s presence.

Daughters of Jerusalem, come forth . . . and see that your God rises like a pillar of frankincense and myrrh.

Daughters of Jerusalem, come forth . . . and see that your God is among you.

Daughters of Jerusalem, come forth . . . the king is here . . .


To learn more about the frankincense and myrrh resins and how they were used in Biblical times, go to: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/botany/question283.htm

Image from: http://www.song-of-songs.net/illustrated/92.eyes/eyes.html 


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Epiphany: Feast of the Three Kings

Jan de Bray: The Adoration of the Magi

Jan de Bray: The Adoration of the Magi

Matthew 2:1-12

Radiant

Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold for the king of kings. Frankincense for the priest of priests. Myrrh for the death that is life, for the child who brings life eternal. This is our proof of God’s love. Knowing this truth, we live confidently now and forever. Living this truth, we become radiant in Christ.

This is the gift of being Christmas people.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.  (Isaiah 60:5-6)


the-magi[1]Click on Midian, Ephah and Sheba to learn more about these places. 

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jan_de_Bray_-_Adoration_of_the_Magi_-_WGA3114.jpg and http://bishoysblog.com/2011/01/08/the-magi/


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

1 John 3:19-23

confidenceConfidence in God

Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if [our] hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from God whatever we ask, because we keep God’s commandments and do what pleases God.

Where we condemn, God forgives. Where we exclude, God embraces. Where we shun, God loves. Let us remain in the truth God brings to us, live by the commandment of love Christ has shown to us, and live in the confidence the spirit has bestowed on us.

On this twelfth day of Christmas, enter the word Confidence into the blog search bar and consider how we might be confident in God as Christmas people.  


http://woman-with-a-mission.blogspot.com/2010/04/encouragement.html

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