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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’


John 8:31-59: Seeing God in the Stones We Want to Throw  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Written on September 27, 2007 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Earlier this week we were looking at how much we trust or do not trust God when he calls us to wade into the quagmire of the world.  Today in John we see Jesus speaking with “those Jews who believed in him” about knowing the truth . . . and how this knowledge will set them free.  They answer that the truth they know, the Law they know, comes from Abraham – who also waded into an unknown land with an unknown idea, a truth that was new for his time – that there is one true God . . . and that this one true God will set them free.  These believing Jews question Jesus, hear his words, and do not comprehend them.  They are so literal!  Jesus explains, coaches, encourages, tells the truth – but in the end, they picked up stones to throw at him.  How often do I do this?

In MAGNIFICAT today there is a meditation from John Henry Newman.  He writes: A religious mind is ever marveling, and irreligious men laugh and scoff at it because it marvels.  A religious mind is ever looking out of itself, is ever pondering God’s words, is ever “looking into” them with the angels, is ever realizing to itself him on whom it depends, and who is the center of all truth and good.  Carnal and proud minds are contented with self; they like to remain at home; when they hear the mysteries, they have no devout curiosity to go and see the great sight, though it be ever so little out of their way; and when it actually falls in their path, they stumble at it.

So I am thinking about this and I am realizing that Abraham was called out of his comfort zone and was given the opportunity to see into God’s mystery.  He entered into this mystery because he had spiritual curiosity.  He responded yes to God’s call, knowing that this response would cause him to leave the protection of what he knew . . . but that he would also experience something too wonderful to describe or understand – a covenant with his Maker.

Jesus also answers yes to God’s call.  He becomes human and wades into humanity  . . . taking great risk, but knowing that he need rely on the Father.  And he says this so clearly to these believing Jews . . . yet they miss it.  They turn away from the mystery – indeed they stumble over it as they pick up the stones they are about to hurl.

Today we ponder God’s words, and I like to think that the angels are peeking over our shoulders as we do so.  We delve into footnotes, dig out old notes, listen in the silence for the Word to hum in us as a tone hums in a tuning fork.  And if we are patient, we hear the reply to our questions, we feel taken into an embrace which protects yet gives liberty, we feel set free.

May we never pick up stones to hurl.  May we never act in such a way that Jesus hides and moves out of the temple area.  May we never be contented with self.  May we transform our proud selves with the mystery of our God and our creation.  May we always have spiritual curiosity.  And when we stumble, may we take the time to truly look at what we stumble over.  For there will be our God.

 Amen.


A re-post from September 11, 2010.

Image from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/soraya1-450pix1.jpg

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 27 September 2007: 367. Print.

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Numbers 34The Lovely Paradox

Monday, September 3, 2018

We have tackled this theme before: The importance of knowing our appropriate limits.  We have reflected on the subtle ways in which vanity creeps into our lives, allowing us to believe that we do not need God or worse . . . that God does not exist at all.  We already know that if we are not prudent, humble and watchful, arrogance will make a stealthy entrance into our lives.  We preen a bit too much when we are complemented.  We allow ourselves to forget that it is God who creates us and fills us with the talents we so easily take for granted.  When we know our limits – and when we know God’s beneficence – we keep well away from the subtle snares of pride.

We may puzzle a bit over why the Lord is so particular about dividing the tribes into designated territories, and if so then we will want to recall that the land from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates is part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18.  The Lord understands that unless demarcations are made we humans will constantly squabble over control.  The Lord also knows that once we relinquish ourselves to God’s boundaries, we learn to rely on God rather than ourselves.   

We may object to this laying out of lines and the designation of supervisors.  We may believe that God does not really understand what it feels like to be in our shoes.  We may think that our burdens are too heavy, our challenges to great.  We may even think that God does not understand us, and in this we would be incorrect.

For the lovely paradox is this . . .

When we learn to rely on God alone for everything we are and do, we will find it easier to remain within the human limits that define us.

When we learn to thank God for all that we have and all that we are, we will find it easier to empty ourselves so that God might enter.

When we learn to ask God for help in everything we do, we will find it easier to overcome the obstacles in our path.

In doing all of this, we hand ourselves over to God.

In doing all of this, we find our own divinity . . . and this is the lovely paradox.

A re-post from Wednesday, August 3, 2011.


Image from: http://midwestpoet.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/stones/ 

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Hebrews 10:30-39: Trials Well Borne

Friday, May 11, 2018

James Tissot: The Mess of Pottage – Jacob and Esau

This reflection continues thoughts posed in the Revenge and Forgiveness post from September 9, 2012.

Obadiah, one of the Minor Prophets, offers us ideas we will want to examine further.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE we discover themes. We learn that Obadiah’s  name means “servant of Yahweh,” and many scholars believe that his brief prophecy was written between 586 and 553 B.C.E. We know that Obadiah does not specify that his prophecy is meant for any particular king or event; yet he indicates that a major calamity has occurred in Judah and that the Edomites have capitalized on this event.  In general, scholars believe that there was a post-exilic setback for the Israelites, and most believe it to be the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. They also remind us that Edom itself fell to this same empire in 553 B.C.E.  All of this sets up a story of intense tribalism, payback, and retaliation. We look a little further.

Who are the Edomites and where is their land? These people descended from Esau, the son of Issac, who was cheated of his heritage by his brother Jacob and his mother. Obadiah writes to the people of Judah (the descendants of Jacob) condemning the Edomites for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah.  He also rails against the people for their sins of arrogance and indifference toward God.  So this prophecy harkens back to the conflict between these two brothers.  Judah feels that the hostility shown to them when they are at a low point by the people of Edom is cruel and unjustified.  Edom’s arrogance was founded in its nearly impregnable mountain strongholds where the Edomites safeguarded their wealth (gained from trade) in rock vaults.  Obadiah teaches that God is sovereign over all nations. (Zondervan 1464-1465)

James Tissot: The Meeting of Esau and Jacob

So much of what we read here reminds us of the story we live each day; our modern world is occupied with ancient themes: indifference to a higher authority, arrogance of the ego, injustice of systems and structures, and the use of cruelty as a fair means to any end. The rivalries in this prophecy echo the petty rivalries we set up early in life and, as we grow older, carefully nurture.

Turning to today’s reading, we see these familiar words in verse 18: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”. Yet, despite our recognition of the truth these words bring to us, we need more urging. The prophet, knows that despite enlightenment we will have setbacks, and so he lays them out for us to examine in ourselves: the malignant hope for revenge, the overpowering force of hubris, the willingness to use any means to achieve our ends, the animal-instinctive fear of others. Obadiah asks us examine the suffering of our daily experience as we reflect on his prophecy.

As New Testament believers, we want to be poised for Jesus’ coming into our lives and receptive to the Spirit that lives among us. Feeling Christ’s call to our highest goodness, we might look at Hebrews 11 and determine to follow the example of the faithful lived by the Patriarchs: Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and the Judges . . . “all these . . . approved by the testimony of faith”.  We might look to these people as models of how and what we are to do, how and why we are to overcome our lust for revenge, how and why we are to practice love.  When we study their individual stories, we see that these ancestors do not lead perfect lives; but they strive for that perfection in their loyalty to Yahweh.  They listen, they obey, and they bear their trials well.

In the name of Jesus, let us call out our best selves to serve God, to fulfill his hope in us.  Let us be good and loyal servants who want nothing more than to discern our mission and to complete it well.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the one who dwells among us to lead us, to heal us, to restore us, to be one with us.

Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 27, 2007.

Read the brief prophecy of Obadiah and compare varying translations to better understand our tendency to seek revenge . . . and our need to rely on God’s wisdom rather than our own.  


ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464-1465. Print.

Visit the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/obadiah-outrageous-hope/  or the Revenge and Forgiveness page at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/09/revenge-and-forgiveness/

 

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Jeremiah 32A Pledge of Land

Monday, September 12, 2016ffs-sunset-pinkclouds-Jeremiah32

A Favorite from August 29, 2010. 

God made a promise to Abraham to bring him descendants, renown and a land in which his progeny might be secure.  In return, Abraham and his descendants were to obey God, worship him only, and keep to him always.  Today we read about a time when the Promised Land is breaking into factions and falling into hostile hands.  The covenant into which the chosen had entered has come undone; the descendants of Abraham have been taken into exile to be scattered by the four winds.  All looks bleak and yet, God tells Jeremiah, redemption, healing, transformation and restoration are all possible. Indeed, all of this is at hand.  This is how much God loves us.

Some few of us prefer the solitary life but most humans look for security in a landholding either individually or as part of a group.  Private homes, rented and purchased apartments, communes, even tent cities of the homeless indicate this common yearning to have a place we call home and in which we might be secure.  Many of us go home for a holiday.  We look toward the end of a day when we might go home to kick off the worries of work to rejuvenate for the next morning.  The people who had once known the protection and security of the pillar of fire and smoke in the desert now suffer the insecurity of not knowing where they will lay their head at night.  They are vulnerable to the whims of capricious captors.  The siege works have arrived at the city to breach it; the city will be handed over to the Chaldeans who are attacking it, amid sword, famine, and pestilence. 

And what does God reply when his people ask to be rescued from these hopeless circumstances?  Is anything impossible to me?

It is true that in the next portion of this story the people are handed over to their attackers as a consequence of their having abandoned the terms of their covenant with God.  It is true that in this story God puts Israel out of sight for the incense they burned to Baal and the libations they poured to strange gods.  It is also true that even as God promises to hand over the corrupt ones to the king of Babylon he also will gather the lost together from all lands to which they were banished.  He will bring them back to the same place to settle them in safety.   The Lord God says, they shall be my people and I will be their God.  One heart and one way I will give them that they may hold me in awe always, to their own good and that of their children after them.  I will make them an eternal covenant, never cease doing good to them; into their hearts I will put an overpowering love of me, that they may never depart from me.  I will take delight in doing good to them: I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Perhaps the soul yearns for the security of a firm relationship with God just as the mind yearns for a pledge of land through which to be secure.  Imagine what a world it might be if we sought the security of the pledge of the heart . . . rather than a pledge of land.

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1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part I

Friday, May 20, 2016family-tree-blue-hearts

Hiding or revealing our shared and individual past . . . 

The two books of Chronicles have four major portions: a genealogy of our leaders beginning with Abraham (1 Chronicles 1-9), a description of the monarchy under David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 9 – 2 Chronicles 9), the divided kingdom (2 Chronicles 10-18), and the period from Hezekiah to the Babylonian exile (2 Chronicles 19-36). This story of divine promise interwoven with human commitment and infidelity tell a story that we might see reflected in our own personal sacred history. This story is worthy of our time over the next few days.

What is that we prize? What stories are we happy to share from our own family tree? What do we want to hide in secret storerooms that others might not discover as the dark roots of our closeted past? What facts have we withheld from friends and colleagues? Do we really believe that God has no power – or no desire –  to pierce the shell we have carefully constructed around all that we want to keep hidden? And why do we feel compelled to dent segments of our story? Perhaps because we know that modern society both praises and criticizes those who step out of a norm; we ourselves may even participate in this two-edged response to others with both scorn and tribute. We may praise those who stand up and stand out at the same time as we disapprove of them for moving outside of the norms we create.

Today we take time to scan local, national or international news to find stories of our shared human story . . . and then to consider what we hide and what we reveal about ourselves in the opinions we hold and the stances we take.

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Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

The Lazarus in scripture whom we perhaps know well is the brother of Martha and Mary whom Jesus’ raises from the tomb in a prefiguring of his own resurrection. Today’s Lazarus is not this friend of Jesus but rather a poor man named covered with sores, [who] had been dumped on [a rich man’s] doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

In death we see the reversal of their stations; the rich man suffers in hell while Lazarus finds himself in the lap of the patriarch Abraham. This inversion of status is one we might easily predict if we only read the Gospel with care. Jesus is constantly reminding us that the first will be last and the last first. And yet we easily – and frequently happily – ignore this teaching.

We make our Lenten journey to our Easter home and today’s words from Luke ask us to consider our station in the eternal world with more care than we examine our position and status in this world. In the hubbub and noise of modern society we are easily caught up in gaining, storing, achieving and making a mark. Yet here we see that we are wise to focus instead on nurturing, tending, healing and transforming ourselves and – with the gift of the Spirit – making Christ visible in a greedy and foggy world.

As we think about our status in God’s eternal kingdom, let us examine more closely how we bring this Gospel message into our temporal lives and how we share this message with others. Let us be more attentive to the little ordinary moments in each day that we ignore and so easily bypass. And rather than work so hard at ignoring the people and events that bring us discomfort, let us work instead to bring the beauty of God’s kingdom into fullness today.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Tomorrow, rejecting the cornerstone.

 

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James 2: Faith and Wisdom – Part IV

Tuesday, October 13, 2015faithblocks

From the Book of Wisdom 7:7-11: I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things came to me in her company, and countless riches to hand.

God’s wisdom is greater than silver or gold, more treasured than gems, beauty, or health. Prudence, prayer, and daily orientation to God’s ways bring us to God’s love.

Both Abraham and Rahab recognize that faith must be lived and not merely thought; they see that with care and practice we learn to act with God’s wisdom. They understand that through faith interwoven with works we receive God’s countless riches to hand.

Today we conclude the second chapter of James’ letter with a prayer as we reflect on how God’s wisdom becomes evident . . . through the interweaving of our offering of faith and works. And so we pray.

Faith-and-worksDear Lord, we will have to remember that our goal is not to be powerful or popular as the world so often tells us. Continue to remind us that our goal must be to act as you act, with mercy, humility and compassion. Continue to share your presence with us and keep us always close to you. Help us to integrate with you through our daily practice of prayer and works. And continue to shower on us your countless riches of love. Amen.

 

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James 2:21-26: Faith and Wisdom – Part III

Monday, October 12, 2015

Murillo: Abraham Receiving the Angels

Murillo: Abraham Receiving the Angels

Certainly none of us set out to become a corpse in this life; yet James challenges us with two examples of how one man and one woman fuse together works and faith to discover disciple wisdom.

Abraham, our first patriarch who responded to God’s call to move himself and all he possessed to a new, unknown location. In faith Abraham responded to God’s call. Click here to follow the link to learn more about Abraham as we reflect on how we might likewise use works to accompany our faith.

Van Dyck: Abraham and Isaac

Van Dyck: Abraham and Isaac

Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

Tissot: The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies

Tissot: The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies

Rahab is an interesting woman and as a member of Jesus’ family tree she may hold particular interest for us. When we explore her life we give ourselves the opportunity to discover who and what she was, but who and what we are as well. Explore her story here or by clicking on the images.

Rahab the Harlot, Artist Unknown

Rahab the Harlot, Artist Unknown

The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

James tells us today about wisdom engendered by a fusion of faith and works. Tomorrow we take a look at taming the tongue.

For more about Women in the Bible, click on the image of Rahab by an unknown artist and explore using the search bar.  Read her story in Joshua 2.

 

 

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part Vlighthouse

Saturday, September 19, 2015

If we cannot believe in restoration after the desert, let us at least begin by asking God to strengthen our gift of faith. Just as a mariner trusts that the lighthouse will guide ships past rocky shores, let us trust the Gospel story of Jesus. The writer of the letter to Hebrews shows us the way. From Hebrews 11.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

If we do not have confidence, let us ask God for this gift of sureness.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

If we do not have understanding, let us ask God for the gift of wisdom.

hebrews_1xIt was by this faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.

If we do not have fidelity, let us ask God for the gift of certainty.

And even when Abraham reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.

If we do not see or believe in God’s promise in our lives, let us ask God for the gift of hope.

For Abraham was looking for a city with eternal foundations, a city whose architect and builder was God.

If we do not feel or comprehend God’s power in our lives, let us ask God for the gift of fortitude. And let us pray.

Nat geo lighthouse in stormGood and loving God, your fidelity lives in us although we may not perceive it. Being your creatures we are made of love for love; yet we might not believe this. Breathe new life into those who are discouraged or unbelieving. Bring new strength to those who falter. And shower us with your hope and encouragement so that we might come to fully know, and feel and understand that your only wish for us is our restoration in and for you. We ask this in Jesus’ name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

Tomorrow, laying a foundation for restoration . . . 

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