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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’


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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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Galatians 3:1-14

thebible-jesus-disciples-20130321Our Experience of Christ – Part I

Who has bewitched you?

We might ask ourselves this question a thousand times during the day and the answer is always the same.  It is our doubt, our lack of faith that clouds our vision.  Paul reminds us that our justification, or our salvation, comes “not through the law or works of the law but by faith in Christ and in his death . . . The gift of God’s spirit to the Galatians came from the Gospel received in faith, not from doing what the law enjoins”.  (Senior 297)  Paul appeals to our experience of Christ both in our daily lives and as we meet him in scripture, and he reminds us that while we might come close to Christ by observing the law, it is through faith that we are blessed and redeemed.  This was promised to Abraham and now – Paul reminds us – it is promised to the gentiles.

These new Christians in Galatia to whom Paul writes were former pagans and they were being encouraged by other missionaries to observe all Jewish law along with Christ’s law of love.  This even included circumcision. (Senior 293)  Having descended from the Celts who had invaded western and central Asia Minor three hundred years prior, the Galatians had little experience in discerning and living a relationship with one true creator who loves his creatures so much that he is willing to die for them.  We might find ourselves to be much like these Galatians.

 Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.293,297. Print.

First written on April 23, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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The Third Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2013

Hebrews-6-19[1]

Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6

Resting in the Promise

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality.  He is not lenient.  And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates.  If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ . . . for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light.  Christ himself exhorts us Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid.  We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand.  On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof.  Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham –   begin a kingdom of millions?  Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations?  Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek?  Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; his very goodness and honesty force him to keep his covenant with his people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words of hope we can never hear too often.  This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

In this Advent season when we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God among us, let us rest in this promise . . . let us acknowledge that when all is dark and appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear we must be still  . . . so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .

Adapted from a reflection written on December 11, 2008.

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Monday, November 26, 2012 – 2 Maccabees 9 – Giving Up & Giving In

We might eliminate a good deal of treachery and betrayal from our lives if we first find a way of doing all things through, and for, and with God alone . . . for God alone guarantees an honorable path for living.  God alone assures us a life spent in eternal serenity.  God alone makes promises that are fully and truly kept. 

These are the closing words from Saturday’s Noontime when we reflected on Chapter 8 of 2 Maccabees.  Today we look at The Punishment and Death of Antiochus: the stories of Antiochus’ illness and death.  Verses 8 – 11: Thus, he who previously, in his superhuman presumption, thought he could command the waves of the sea, and imagined he could weigh the mountaintops in his scales, was now thrown to the ground and had to be carried on a litter, clearly manifesting to all the power of God . . . Shortly before, he had thought that he could reach the stars of heaven, and now, no one could endure to transport the man because of his intolerable stench.  At last, broken in spirit, he began to give up his excessive arrogance, and to gain some understanding, under the scourge of God, for he was racked with pain unceasingly. 

After suffering the torment of his pain, he capitulates to the will of God.  He vows to restore all that he has ruined, and even vows that he will convert to Judaism.  This is a story of a fearsome ruler who surrenders to an even more fearsome Old Testament Yahweh, a God who is relentless in delivering justice.   The story ends sadly, with Yahweh apparently deaf to this sinner’s petitions for mercy.  So this murderer and blasphemer, after extreme sufferings, such as he had inflicted on others, died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 

We have no way on knowing how this man is ultimately judged by his maker.  In the context of the times he was seen as one who sinned so greatly that he became a lost soul, succumbing to the temptation of sin.  This is a man who would have done well by listening to the words of Psalm 36: Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of the heart.  There is no fear of God before his eyes.  He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt.  In his mouth are mischief and deceit.  All wisdom is gone.  He plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed.  He has set his foot on evil ways, he clings to what is evil. 

The psalmist does not try to solve the riddle of evil into which souls enter when they begin to love lies and deception; nor may we for these are the inscrutable ways of Yahweh.  Instead, we might look at this man and ourselves with New Testament eyes, and we might continue with Psalm 36 as we sing to God: To both man and beast you give protection.  O Lord, how precious is your love.  My God, the sons of men find refuge in the shelter of your wings.  They feast on the riches of your house; they drink from the stream of your delight.  In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.

Superhuman presumption, excessive arrogance . . . a broken spirit, a believer in love.  Nicanor and Antiochus . . . Paul and Abraham.  Those who trust only power and self . . . those who trust only God.

Even if – and perhaps especially when – the path directly before us is shrouded in mystery, we are given a clear direction by the source of all life itself so that we might orient our journey.  When we suffer from a broken spirit, we will want to see this sorrow as what it is . . . a giving up of presumption and arrogance . . . and a giving in to goodness and light.

Written on November 26, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

For an interesting post about journeying, click on the image above or go to: http://journeyintomidlife.com/contact.htm

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