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Monday, November 9, 2020

2 Samuel 11 and 12 and Psalm 51

Sin and Parable – Part II

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

The story is a famous one: David succumbs to human lust and he takes something which belongs to another. When Bathsheba conceives, he tries to trick her husband Uriah into a scenario in which the king’s child can be passed off as Uriah’s. When Uriah’s purity and faithfulness to Yahweh get in the way, David arranges the murder of this good and loyal man. A terrible tale. Nathan brings David the parable of a man who steals a beloved object from another. David at first is angry, then admits his guilt and expresses regret and grief for the damage he has done.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Lust, Adultery, Murder. These are all acts of selfishness, of obliqueness, of anger. There is nothing direct here, nothing open or honest. These acts take place in shadow and in deep places. There is no light. There is no truth.

Let us consider the sins we have committed either actively or by leaving undone an action we have been called to complete. Let us consider how these commissions and omissions separate us from all that we are meant to be and do.  And let us consider what these sins have  to say about who we are.

Let us consider how many parables Jesus teaches us with his words. Let us consider how many parables Jesus teaches us with his actions. And let us consider how many parables our own lives teach.

Visit one of the Gospels and choose a parable that Jesus teaches us. Spend time with it today reflecting on how we might teach others through our actions rather than our words.

Tomorrow we consider the sacrifice God asks of us.


Adapted from a reflection written on February 13, 2008.

Image from: https://www.theleidencollection.com/artwork/david-and-uriah/

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As we continue to struggle with a world-wide pandemic, we consider what hatred and fear, union and love can do.

Monday, October 26, 2020

o-PEOPLE-YELLING-facebook[1]John 15:18

The World’s Hatred

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.

Jesus warns his disciples that hatred might be worn as a badge of honor in the divine world of inversion. The prophet Samuel heard the same words from Yahweh when the people clamored for a worldly king: Grant the people’s every request.  It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.  (1 Samuel 8:7)

God says: Sometimes you behave like small, spoiled children, asking for everything you see, wishing to control all situations so that you might feel powerful. When you behave in this way you are missing sight of the beautiful gift I give you: the freedom to do as you like, the freedom to be and do good. You sometimes ask for too much, for more than you really need, and so I do not like to grant those wishes. Sometimes you ask for something you think will be a boon to you when I see that it will actually be harmful, and so I do not like to send you those people or possessions. Sometimes you do not ask at all and this saddens me for I have much to share. My servant Samuel and my son Jesus point out to you a perspective you may have trouble seeing. When you bear my light into a darkened world there will be those who are jealous. Let me deal with their envy. When you speak my truth to a world in crisis there will be those who will shout you down. Let me whisper into your ear what it is you are to do and say. When you act in my name and perform miracles for my scattered and frightened sheep you will be abused and perhaps brought to your knees. Remain in me for I am with you most especially at these times. Allow me to turn the tide and calm the storm. The loathing and anger that strikes you when you act in my name is really aimed at me. Duck your head just a little, bow down just a bit . . . so that I might shelter you . . . and bear the full force of the world’s hatred.

Enter the word witness in the blog search bar and reflect on the many ways we witness for God in a turbulent and chaotic world.


For an interesting perspective by Roger Covin, Ph.D., about how we cannot be liked by everyone, click on the image above or go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/roger-covin/scared-of-being-rejected_b_2753558.html

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Bridle_bit_by_Fjallira[1]Psalm 32:9-10

Bit and Bridle

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

The Jerusalem Bible translation of these two verses gives us another, interesting perspective:  Do not be like senseless horse or mule that need bit and bridle to curb their spirit (to let you get near them). Many torments await the wicked, but grace enfolds the one who trusts in Yahweh.

The palmist reminds us that the message is clear. We have a simple choice to make: bit and bridle or grace and love. Those who choose the wide way that leads to destruction will be comfortable in the present time but ultimately experience much pain and grief. Those who choose the narrow way that Christ shows to us will suffer in the present time but quickly come to know full and timeless peace.

God says: To survive in the world you have developed habits and behaviors that shut others down, that close others out, or that frighten others away. This may protect you for a time but in the end you will be even more vulnerable and frightened than you were when you began to act this way. To survive eternity you must know the way of grace and love. You do not want to be hindered by bit or bridle. You do not want eternal torment but rather, you seek my enfolding arms, my loving protection, and my unending serenity. Put aside your anger and distrust. Put on your wedding garment of love and hope, and come to the feast today.

We can receive no invitation that is more simple or more clear. God creates us not for the bit and bridle but for the grace and light and love that is our true potential.

Click on the verse link above and explore how other translations report what the psalmist has to tell us.


Image from: http://comefillyourcup.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/bridle-that-tongue/

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Sirach 18:14-29: Prudence and Self-Control

Friday, August 23, 2019

Luca Giordano: Allegory of Prudence

These are the tools we need to use rather than judgment and anger if we wish to enter into the presence of the Lord.  This is what he asks of us:  To act with compassion when we see injustice, when we experience cruelty, when we see the unity of the kingdom divided by jealousy, greed, division and the desire to control.  These verses hold many kernels of wisdom, as we always find when reading the words of Jesus ben Sirach.

The morning New Testament reading today is from Romans 2: By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation of the last judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.

The MAGNIFICAT intercessions seem fitting:

God of peace, make peace among those at war.

God of justice, make right what we have made wrong.

God of goodness, make holy what we have turned to our own selfish ends.

Amen.


Written on April 22, 2008  and posted today as  a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/luca-giordano-allegory-of-prudence

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.22 (2008): 129-130. Print.  

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Jeremiah 47Coping With the Philistines

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Capture of the Ark by the Philistines

Jeremiah’s title is Prophet of the Nations and in chapters 46 to 51 we read the Oracles to the Nations.  In this portion of his prophecy, Jeremiah describes the coming judgment of Yahweh.  “Why Philistia is included at all in the list of enemies is not clear . . . What is certain is that the attack ultimately comes from warrior YHWH . . . The poem provides no clear reason for the attack, but it ends with “the song of the sword”.  In a poignant personification of YHWH’s weapon, an unidentified speaker begs the sword to be still but recognizes that the sword is unable to countermand YHWH’s plans for it”.  (Barton 523)

This commentary points out in the previous page that today we have an aversion to “the theological themes of vengeance, anger and retribution” (522); yet these images are meant to call Israel back to Yahweh, and to lay out a kind of case here in which God’s justice is seen for what it is. . . the natural playing out of the covenant conditions.

A few weeks ago we looked at Ezekiel’s song of the harvesting sword which held out a similar promise to the faithful: God’s justice is swift, God’s love is healing.   Today the object of this “Justice Sword” is the Philistines, a tribe of people whose history is intertwined with that of the Hebrew tribes.  More can be read about them at: http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/P/PHILISTINES/   Several weeks ago we read about the Philistines’ dilemma with the Ark of the Covenant which they had taken from the Jewish people (1 Samuel 6).  They believed that once they had physical control of this “magic” box that they could manipulate God and have him wait on them.  This, they found out, is not how God operates, and so they looked for a quick and clever way to return the Ark – the presence of God whom they did not understand.

Philistines Entering the Levant

Today we look at the prophecy Jeremiah pronounces for this Philistine people . . . and it is bleak.  When we take in all that is predicted, we realize that there is only one way to interact with Philistines: We must call on God alone for guidance and protection, and as New Testament people we will want to intercede for the Philistines in our own lives.  We will want to consider how the old covenant with Moses as mediator is fulfilled and superseded by the new covenant with Christ, the new mediator.  And so we will want to ask Christ to redeem and heal the modern Philistines . . . and the many faithful that they injure.  As we consider the implications of all of this for us today, let us pray . . .

Just and Merciful God, You know that we live side by side with those who do not revere you, and with those who believe they revere you when they do not.  Help us to step away from our anxieties and fears when we come up against the Philistines in our lives.  Teach us to take our large and small problems to you, and to trust in you alone to find the best solutions.  Encourage us as we look for ways to be faithful to you.  Help us to persevere as we place all hope in you alone.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, the New Mediator of your eternal covenant with the faithful.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 3, 2011.

Images from: http://www.goodsalt.com/details/pppas0162.html

 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 522-523. Print.

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2 Samuel 16Making Mistakes

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Michelangelo: David

Written on January 30 and posted today as a Favorite . . . 

Today we see a part of the story of David that might be difficult to understand if we view life as a series of good decisions.  When we view life as it really is, however – as series of decisions we make both bad and good – we have less anxiety and fear, we experience more hope and serenity.  I heard a radio preacher recently say: When you live your life in the Spirit, you can’t make a mistake.  “This is incorrect”, we might say to ourselves.  “How can a good life have bad decisions in it?  How can a life of flawed decisions be good?”  If this is our thinking, we have forgotten something and it is this : If we are living in the Spirit, we will have arrived at understanding how God operates; we will fully comprehend that God turns all harm to good.  So whether we err accidentally or whether we mean to inflict harm in any way, God will use these flawed acts to work in his favor for – God turns all harm to good.  And this is part of the story we see today.

David has been a good leader and faithful to God, but he has also sinned and erred.  What sets David apart is the way in which he reacts when others urge him to take revenge.  When he was younger, his soldiers encouraged him to murder the sleeping Saul when he had the opportunity.  David instead makes it obvious that he has breached the enemy’s lines and yet has not taken a life where he could.  David lives in the Spirit.  David later becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and plots her husband’s death; he confesses this sin when confronted by Nathan and sings a beautiful lament of repentance that we still sing today during the Lenten season (Psalm 51).  Even though he has erred, David lives in the Spirit.

David does not use his good standing with God to ignore what he has done; instead he confesses and atones.  He lives his life in the Spirit and does not try to avoid culpability for his actions or gain immunity so that he might do whatever he likes.  Rather, David praises and obeys God.  Living in the Spirit has become part of who he is and what he does.

Today we read of some of the intrigue that mounted as David aged and the time came for one of his sons to rule Israel.  The sibling rivalry, the palace intrigue, and the political plotting are fascinating to see but what is most interesting is the way we see David living in the Spirit.  In verse 10 he speaks the wisdom we can all use today: What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?  Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?” 

We can read commentary to sort through who is aligned with whom, who is against whom, but today we have the opportunity to see another way to step away from revenge, anger and violence and move toward hope and serenity.  We see another opportunity to step away from fear and anxiety and move toward peace and unity.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must study, we must seek, we must be patient, and we must be persistent in living lives directed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must witness, we must watch, we must wait, and we must insist on living lives governed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  When we believe this, the fretfulness and panic drop away . . . for we have focused our lives on God, we have learned to trust in God, we have begun to love like God . . . and we know that God will turn all harm to good.  We will not worry or fret for we, like David, will reply to a challenge . . . Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?”  We will be truly living in and of the Spirit.


A re-post from August 26, 2011.

Images from: http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/ and http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/

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Mark 15:29-32Wrath and Justification 

Friday, May 25, 2018

As we explore the ways in which Jesus is the resurrection, we consider what we might do with our anger and our desire for revenge. 

We looked at Mark 15 a little more than a year ago to reflect on the power we will find in offering our sacrifices for others and holding tightly to our trust in God.  Today we see Jesus execute the greatest act of mankind: he hangs in pain from a cross while the crowds jeer at him and use his very acts of mercy as taunts against him.  This reminds me of MAGNIFICAT’s Evening Prayer from Isaiah 53: Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. 

By his wounds we all are healed. 

This is a tremendous act of self sacrifice and one that we will likely never have to make, again from MAGNIFICAT: Not all opposition to faithful Christian belief and life comes from the violent.  Many voices, loud and subtle, argue against the idealism of the Gospel.  Resisting the familiar, popular values and viewpoints which would undermine our discipleship can cause as much pain as enduring the more dramatic forms of persecution. 

Jeremiah 18:20: Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.

The Wrath of God.  We see it in the Old Testament narratives and in the Psalms so often.  The calling down of God’s power against the wicked, the petition for annihilation of our enemies . . . and all of this ugliness turns to justification with the singular sacrifice made by Christ.  All of the anger and fear are transformed through Christ into love.  In his final moments, Christ does not feel his mother’s comforting caress upon his face.  There is no warm bed, clean sheets or clothes.  There is grinding, relentless pain . . . and the jeers from the crowd, from the people he has come to save.  But Christ is held by hands that are great enough and powerful enough to hold and comfort us all . . . the hands of God.

The MAGNIFICAT Evening Intercessions are apt.

To the God who delivered Jesus from death through resurrection, we pray: O God, hear our prayer.

For those who hate goodness and good people: grant them conversion of heart.  O God, hear our prayer.

For those who suffer for their goodness: grant them strength to persevere.  O God, hear our prayer.

For those who have died for their fidelity to the Gospel: grant them eternal life.  O God, hear our prayer.

And we might add . . .

For ourselves, as we struggle to move away from wrath and revenge, may we move toward resurrection and light.  O God, hear our prayer.

For our enemies, as they harbor fear and live for the thrill of pain, may they come to know the comfort of authentic love and passion.  O God, hear our prayer.

For our loved ones, as they accompany us in our pilgrimage, may they always find protection and guidance in you who have loved us so well.  O God, hear our prayer.

2 Samuel 2:6: May the Lord be kind and faithful to us. 

And may we be kind and faithful to Christ as we see him in all of God’s creation.  May we move from God’s wrath to justification.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.12 (2009). Print.  

A favorite from March 12, 2009.


Image from: https://beyondtheborderlinepersonality.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/until-theres-nothing-left-self-sacrifice/

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2 Samuel 14 & 15: Deceit – Part II

Alexandre Cabanel: Thamar

Thursday, November 9, 2017

We see Absalom set himself up as heir to a throne he will not inherit.  We see him strip away all that is holy from his life.  Reading ahead, we see him die a ridiculous death, hanging by his hair from a terebinth tree while one of David’s soldiers runs him through with a spear.  Absalom plots for years to murder his brother for the rape of their sister, Tamar.  Absalom relies on the very human resources of power, looks and cleverness to win for him the vengeful goals he lays out for himself.  It is clear that Absalom does not consult God as he enters into and executes his plans.

Absalom was a prince of a powerful nation.  It was written that: In all of Israel not a man could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  (14:25)  But what had become of his soul?  How had the events of his childhood so shaped him to produce such anger?  Why were the gifts he had received from a loving God not enough to please him?  What was it that made him always want more?

Upon his return from exile, Absalom falls to the ground at his father’s feet when he is pardoned.  He then stands, and leaves the palace to set his newest grab for power into motion.  He employs deceit to win friends and enemies alike rather than obedience to God as his game plan.  He relies on his influence and charm . . . and for awhile these tools prove a powerful arsenal; but in the end they are not enough.  In the end, Absalom . . . the master deceiver . . . is himself deceived.  He returns from Geshur and continues to weave the labyrinth of his life with chariots, horses and henchmen all the while forgetting that . . . the proper response to pardon is a grateful heart.  Let us learn a lesson from Absalom’s ruin.

For more information about the people and places in this reflection, visit yesterday’s post, Deceit – Part I. 

A Favorite from November 21, 2008.

 

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Lamentations 2:19-22Rising Uplight in dark

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Book of Lamentations is dark and moody, full of wrath and anger.  The coming of Christ is the only antidote against such deep grief.  Our own petition for goodness and wholeness brings us into union with this Messiah,  Christ.  Each day, each night we have the choice before us.  We can either try to solve the problems that confront us on our own, or we can Rise up, shrill in the night to beat against heaven’s gate, asking God for mercy and justice for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our enemies.  This is what best combats the ugliness we read about today.

In order that we not consumed by this ugly anger that would compel us into further depths, we might look at the opposite of rage-filled thinking. We take on a thinking that rejects rumor, derision, the stirring up of hate and falsehood.  Psalm 101:1-7 is part of the Morning Prayer in MAGNIFICAT today.  The citation before the prayer follows:  Every day offers a choice: what sort of reading, what sort of TV, what sort of conversation, what sort of friends will we choose to welcome into our home? And so we sing with the psalmist: My song is about loyalty and justice, and I sing it to you, O Lord.

Another citation from the Morning Prayer is Philippians 4:8Whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

shining-in-the-darknessWe know the world is made of diverse creatures and creations that bring us sorrow and joy, diverse conditions that create havoc and love.  In order to dispel the dark clouds of today’s lamentation, we might continue.

Whatever is evil, whatever is deceitful, whatever is lie . . . rise up, shrill in the night against the darkness.

Whatever is good, whatever is holy, whatever unites and calls home . . . rise up grateful, in praise of the light.

Whatever is Christ, whatever is spirit, whatever is life-giving . . . rise up joyful, singing with expectation of God’s mercy and justice.    

In all circumstances, dark or light, rise up singing with the Lord. 

My song is about loyalty and justice, and I sing it to you, O Lord.

Adapted from a Favorite written on February 24, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 24 February 2009. Print.

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