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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’


Galatians 2:15-21God’s Mercy

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvationIn short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly.

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings.

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.


A re-post from September 19, 2011.

Images from: http://www.biblechef.com/Indexes/Artifacts/JewishTorahSheet.html

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Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

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Luke 5:17-26: Seek Consolation – Paralysis

Monday, December 18, 2017

Carl Bloch: Jesus Heals the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethzatha (Bethesda)

When fear paralyzes us, how do we react? Do we listen for the words whispered in our ears? Get up and start walking.

When worry saps our strength, why do we shoulder blame that is not ours? Do we turn to the one who can handle all our apprehension? Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.

When fear paralyzes us, how do we react? Do we believe the healing words of Christ who says: Get up and start walking.

When anxiety steals our serenity, who among us turns to the Creator for help? Who better to do the impossible? Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.

When darkness overcomes us, what light do we find? Who else but Jesus the Christ? Get up and start walking. Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.

When trouble assails us and shatters our calm, do we have the faith to rise, to take up the circumstances that have held us away from God, and to go home.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we find healing for all that paralyzes us.

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Psalm 18:22-23: Cornerstone – Part II

Thursday, March 2, 2017shall-become-the-cornerstone

When we fear that our world is too ugly, too violent, too deceitful and cruel, we must remember the inversion the ancients understood.

The stone which the builders rejected as worthless
    turned out to be the most important of all.

This was done by the Lord;
    what a wonderful sight it is! (GNT)

When we are defeated, turned away, rejected or abandoned, we must remember to rely on the Creator for sustaining the life we have been gifted.

The very rock that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone!

This has come from Adonai,
and in our eyes it is amazing. (CJB)

When we lose hope, feel lifeless, have no energy to struggle back from loss, we must remember to trust the Holy Spirit who heals, guides and abides.

Thank you for responding to me;
    you’ve truly become my salvation!
The stone the masons discarded as flawed
    is now the capstone!
This is God’s work. (MSG)

When frustration overcomes us, anxiety freezes us, or fear seizes us when we see cataclysm looming, we must remember to call on God, the Creator of all.

When we reflect on Psalm 118 we find a prayer for thanksgiving in victory; and we discover that our defeats are the cornerstones of new life. 

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Ezekiel 46Offerings

Saturday, February 4, 2017balt9f

I am struck by several things as I read this chapter in isolation from the rest of the text: in Ezekiel’s vision of the New Jerusalem, the faithful make offerings each morning, the princes are to provide for their sons from their own resources rather than the resources of the people, and the temple offerings are cooked in the temple kitchens to prevent the risk of transmitting holiness to the people

Commentaries give us important information that puts the writing of this priest-in-exile in context for us.  Ezekiel, as we can see by his calling the secular celebrant prince rather than king, is clear about the importance of cultic authority over the secular.  (Barton and Mulliman 562)  The downside of this is, of course, that priests – be they Levites, Zadokites or princes – serve as intermediaries for the people . . . keeping God’s holiness apart and reserved for the specially anointed.

We live in the Messianic Age, a time at which our high priest has come to walk among us as one of us.  This priest, Christ, has torn down the temple to rebuild it in three days.  He grants access to all who seek authentic intimacy with God.  He comes to break down the barriers between God and man . . . and to transmit holiness to the people. 

As we rise each morning, we – like the Levites, the Zadokites and the princes before us – run the risk of allowing the demands of everyday life to erode this intimacy with God.  As we attend to our needs and wants, we run the risk of entering into a mechanical relationship with God – one in which we fulfill a requirement but leave our hearts and minds elsewhere.  Meeting deadlines, replenishing resources, tending to a million little tasks each day are activities which are necessary but which must be kept in proper perspective.  For there is no joy that lasts but for the joy we know in loving God with body, mind and soul.

When we commit to praying at regular times each day, as we might if we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we find that we have opportunities to offer both our anxieties and gifts of the previous day back to God. If we able to lay to rest all our worries and anxieties of that present day, we need not carry them into the next.  Children, grandchildren, friends, family, house chores, car chores, appointments, work . . . all of these we are better able to see as gifts from God, as this is what they truly are.  And all of our anxieties and worries about these gifts, we offer back along with our best attempts to do the best we are able in each circumstance.

Offerings . . . burnt sacrifices from our lives . . . these we offer to God each day.  Yet what our gracious and loving God truly desires is our clear and open hearts, hearts that are broken and dispirited and are ready to know true and lasting joy, hearts ready to take him in, ready to make a home for the Spirit.

Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me.  Holocausts and sin offering you do not require; so I said: “Here I am”; your commands for me are written in the scroll.  Psalm 40:7-8.

Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me; to the obedient I will show the salvation of God.  Psalm 50:23.

For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.  My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.  Psalm 51:18-19.

For God remembers your every offering, graciously accepts your holocaust, grants what is in your heart, fulfills your every plan.  Psalm 20:5-5.  Amen.

Blessings on all today.    

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 562. Print.

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 29, 2009.

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1 John 4:17-18: Do Not Fear – Part X

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre: The Adoration of the Shepherds

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre: The Adoration of the Shepherds

John reminds us that the one sure antidote against fear is love.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (NASB)

John tells us that the power of love overcomes the power of evil, always.

There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. (GNT)

John reminds us that all love that emanates from God has the power to heal and transform.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (MSG)

John tells us that as we grow in love and in Christ, we no longer are a harbor of fear.

Today, as we reflect on our fears, we might ask ourselves, “In this new year, how might we make ourselves ready to grow in love?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the confidence God’s words bring to us, “There is no room in love for fear”.

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Jeremiah: Do Not Fear – Part IV

Michael Dudash: Birth of the King

Michael Dudash: Birth of the King

Christmas Thursday, December 29, 2016

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that we need not be afraid even in the long and wearying times of violence and war.

“Do not be afraid of [the nations], for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)

“For behold, I will save you from afar and your offspring from the land of their captivity. And Jacob will return and will be quiet and at ease, and no one will make him afraid”. (Jeremiah 30:10)

“Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him,” declares the Lord, “for I am with you to save you and deliver you from his hand”. (Jeremiah 42:11)

“Now so that your heart does not grow faint, and you are not afraid at the report that will be heard in the land – for the report will come one year, and after that another report in another year, and violence will be in the land with ruler against ruler”. (Jeremiah 51:46)

Centuries after Jeremiah gives us these words, God continues to be our deliverer, our savior, and our ruler against the kings and powers that threaten our very existence. God tells us, through Jeremiah, that we cannot fear the atrocities we witness and we cannot cower in the face of annihilating forces that wipe out peoples and cultures for God continues to walk and live among us. The child Jesus is the new ruler who governs us for more than an earthly time of war. The child Jesus invites us into a new, inverted, eternal kingdom where the marginalized are the center of the universe.

Today we might ask, “Where do we put the fear that takes hold of us when we witness chaos and carnage? How do we calm our anxiety when we experience outrageous acts against nature and the peoples created by God? When we listen to the voice of Jeremiah, we find that our fears dwindle, and we remember that God’s promise is already with us leading, guiding, saving.

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the many ways God says to us, “Do not fear. I am here with you always”.

 

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Luke 21:14-15: Remember

Wednesday, November 30, 2016getty_rm_photo_of_finger_with_string

Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. (NABRE)

This advice goes against the grain of modern society. Smartphones bring an Internet of knowledge to our fingertips; they also bring false reports and charlatans.

Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. (MSG)

Our egos want to depend on data provided by polls and surveys; and these data may lead to inaccurate conclusions and foolish decisions.

Make up your minds ahead of time not to worry about how you will defend yourselves, because I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to refute or contradict what you say. (GNT)

Power and fame, accolades and wealth bring false confidence; and none of these protect us as does the wisdom of Jesus. None of these can save as does the Living God.

So make up your minds not to worry, rehearsing your defense beforehand; for I myself will give you an eloquence and a wisdom that no adversary will be able to resist or refute. (CJB)

Anxiety brings us false worry. Faith in the wisdom of the Spirit brings us hope. Anger affirms false power. Love brings us the eternal peace of Christ.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore varying translations of these verses, we find new reason to reason to remember the wisdom and promise of Christ.

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Luke 21:5-11: Watch Out

botticelli_sleeping_apostles_2_small

Botticelli: Sleeping Apostles

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jesus said, “Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m the One,’ or, ‘The end is near.’ Don’t fall for any of that. When you hear of wars and uprisings, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history and no sign of the end.” (MSG)

When we weigh Jesus’ words with intention, we find that they speak to us today.

Jesus said, “Watch out; don’t be fooled. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t follow them. Don’t be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen first, but they do not mean that the end is near.” (GNT)

When we allow Jesus’ words to rest in us, we discover that they have specific meaning for us now.

 And Jesus said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” (NASB)

When we look for answers in days of peril, we are always answered, never abandoned.

Jesus answered, “Watch out! Don’t be fooled! For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time has come!’ Don’t go after them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, don’t panic. For these things must happen first, but the end will not follow immediately.” (CJB)

What does Jesus advise in times of trial? We must witness, watch and wait. We must not be fooled or mislead. We must not worry; we must put aside anxiety. When one comes among us claiming to have all the answers, we must be careful. When one comes among us claiming that the end is near, we must reject fear. These are soft words for hard times. Clear instructions for days of confusion. Loving reminders that we are not alone, that we are cherished, that we are loved. All we need do is . . . witness, watch, and wait.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we hear Jesus’ voice, we feel God’s presence, we are healed by the Spirit’s love.

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