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Holy Wednesday, March 31, 2021

good and faithful servantAmos 7-9

A Prayer for Faithful Servants

The prophet Amos has accompanied us on our Lenten journey over these past several weeks to bring us the Words of God, to force us to look at the Woes of the world, and to show us stark warnings through his Visions for the future.

Amos is often described as the angry prophet with no tolerance for the corrupt rich who subjugate the poor. This will also be our impression of him if we do not linger with the last images of his prophecy. We will miss the gift Amos brings to us if we do not stay for a while with these ending verses in which we see the beauty of Amos unfold, for it is in these final chapters that we experience his Messianic perspective and promise. It is here in the last pages of Amos’ prophecy that we understand the stories in the New Testament, and fully come to terms with what it means to be faithful servants of God.

And so we pray.

When we feel unimportant and are dwarfed by the colossal forces around us, we petition God as we say with Amos: How can we stand? We are so small!

And God replies: What do you see?

We remember the many times God has rescued us from sure destruction, and we reply: Evil will not reach or overtake us.

And God replies: I will raise you up!

We recall the occasions when only God was able to pull us together after we have been so battered that we can not imagine how we will ever be whole again, and together we ask: Will you wall up our breaches?

And God replies: I will raise your ruins!

We feel frustration and fear when we see all the good that we have built begin to crumble, and so together we ask: Will you rebuild us as in days of old?

And God replies: I will bring about your restoration!

We remember all the work we have done to build your Kingdom. We look into the future and fear for the work yet to be completed, and so together we ask: Who will rebuild and inhabit our ruined cities? Who will plant vineyards and drink the wine? Who will set out gardens and eat the fruits?

And God replies: I will plant you upon your own ground; never again shall you be plucked from the land I have given you. This is my promise. I have spoken. I am the Lord, your God.

And we reply: We who struggle to be your faithful servants thank you. We who strive to follow in the steps of Jesus rely on you alone. We who long to always live in the Spirit look to you for guidance as we say, Amen!

And God replies: Well done, my good and faithful servant.  (Matthew 25:21)


To purchase the plaque above, click on the image.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Amos 8:5-6

Prayer for Generosity

Jesus says: Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  (Matthew 7:3)

We experience the richness of God’s love when we spend time changing ourselves rather than attempting to change others. As we reflect on the call we hear from Amos to think about how greed might invade our lives, we pray.

We have diminished the ephah . . . let us remember to be generous as God has been generous to us. For all that we have and all that we are, we pray: thank you, Creator, for the gift of body, mind and soul.  

We will add to the shekel . . . let us remember to be honest as God has been honest. For all that we are given and all that we love, we pray: thank you, Jesus, for the gift of your trustworthiness and truth.

We will buy the lowly man for a pair of sandals . . . let us remember that generosity is nurtured when we trust in God alone. Thank you, Christ, for your sacrifice of self that we might live in you.

We will sell the refuse of the wheat harvest . . . let us remember that big-heartedness flourishes when we live in the Spirit. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the bounty and kindness you bring with your in-dwelling.

Jesus says:  Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Honesty, truth, trustworthiness, kindness, bounty, transformation, big-heartedness, sacrifice. These are the signs of God’s generosity in our lives.  These are the fruits by which we wish to be known. This is the richness we receive.  This is the richness we share with others when we live in God’s generosity. Amen.


Image from: https://lifepointaz.com/a-priority-of-generosity/

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Monday, March 22, 2021

Balthasar Van der Ast: Still LIfe with Basket of Fruit

Amos 8:1-3

Vision of the Fruit Basket

The time is ripe to have done with my people . . .

Locusts and fire are turned away when the prophet pleads the case against destruction.  The plumb line measures behavior and this time Amos is silent except to record what he sees. Amos dares to engage with the corrupt priest, Amaziah.  And now he brings us a vision of the fruit basket, the symbol of a life lived justly, honestly and lovingly, without corruption or deceit.

God says: My prophet Amos served the people well. Many did not heed his words. They relied instead on their influence and wealth, not understanding that all of this passes away under my hand. Do they care for the poor, the orphan and the widow? They do not. They tend to their comfort and power base. Do they believe that the devastation Amos predicts will fall upon them? They do not. They are immune to his words, they believe that the world’s woes are not theirs; and they believe Amos’ visions to be false. Do they heed my words as brought to them by my faithful prophet? Again the answer is no. 

Rather than mercy from those whom God has blessed with power, we see exploitation and cunning.

Rather than love from those whom God has blessed with intelligence, we see narrow-mindedness.

Rather than compassion from those whom God has blessed with fruitful lives, we see greed.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us consider what visions we have been sent . . .  and how we respond to them.

Tomorrow, Against Greed.

 


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Still_Life_with_Basket_of_Fruit_-_Balthasar_van_der_Ast_-_Google_Cultural_Institute.jpg

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Monday, March 1, 2021

1-Timothy-1-5-1024x819[1]1 Timothy 1:3-11

Our Interior Law

Part V

We can sometimes trick ourselves into believing that we act in accordance with God’s plan when all the while it is our own plan that subtly moves and guides us. It takes a great deal of honesty to plumb our own motivations.

God says: You and I have been thinking about the law that lives within you and how it governs your life. Do not be afraid to open your heart to a quiet self-inspection so that you might discover if you serve the interior law I have planted within you . . . or if you follow some law you have placed in your own heart. You will know if you act for and in me when you see that your work bears fruit through time. Paul tells you today about my instruction coming from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. These are the signs that you live in me and that you are guided by my interior law . . . rather than by some futile or temporal law.

A pure heart – a willingness to intervene with God on behalf of our enemies rather than seek revenge.

A good conscience – a willingness to hope eternally in the goodness of God’s plan rather than our own.

A sincere faith – a willingness to live eternally in God’s time rather than our own.

Let us spend a few minutes with these verses today to reflect on how we bring God’s interior law into our exterior life.


Image from: http://www.closerdaybyday.info/2011/09/1-timothy-1/

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Second Sunday of Advent

jwelcom[1]December 6, 2020

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Welcome

Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright by the land’s afflicted.

Isaiah shows us a vision of God’s Kingdom and of the world as it might be. We are welcome to paint our own images upon this enormous canvas of hope. The prophet describes a dominion the hunters live peacefully with their prey. A child plays near a venomous serpent; division, harm and ruin have come to an end. Our superficial system of judging and choosing no long functions. God’s justice sees what is in the heart and mind. Our empty gestures are seen for what they are, hollow hope, false hospitality and silly pandering. We forget that those who live on the margins are the closest to God’s heart. When we exclude the poorest among us we exclude Christ.

What might we do to welcome this vision of the kingdom in honesty? How might we welcome Christ as generously as he has welcomed us?

Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom

Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul speaks to an audience in conflict; his listeners and readers have allowed petty differences to divide them and they have openly ignored the beauty and wealth of God’s offer of this peaceable Kingdom. With clear reason Paul presents his cogent argument: God’s Kingdom is not a club with rules; rather, it is a state of being in which everyone speaks the Language of Love.

How might we examine our own actions and thoughts to root out our pettiness? How might we nurture our growth in God’s Law of Love?

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 

In the end there is one sure way to know if we are hearing, speaking and acting in God’s love: our personal yardstick is the fruit our labor bears. If we call on candor and patient waiting, we will quickly see how much we welcome the Christ in others and how much we exclude.

lion and lambDo we invite everyone to learn about Jesus by the way we live? Do we chase away lions and bears assuming that they do not belong in the Kingdom? Do we exclude adders and vipers because we cannot see their potential for change? Do we welcome only those who look and act and believe as we do?

On this Second Sunday of Advent we are welcomed by Christ – along with countless billions – to prepare for his arrival. Let us ready our hearts and our minds to receive the greatest gift of all time and space – the gift of an amazing Kingdom, the gift of unbelievable peace, the gift of Christ’s universal welcome.


Images from: http://users.elite.net/runner/jennifers/welcome1.htm and https://atsunnyside.blog/2019/01/14/edward-hicks-peaceable-kingdom-1833/ and http://www.abolitionist-society.com/

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Mark 4:26-29: God’s Harvest of Love

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Gospel of Mark is beautiful in its simplicity.  Because of its brevity, we may think of it as less weighty; yet here today we have an example of the depth of Mark.  His is the only Gospel which holds this simple parable.

In the Biblia de América, the footnotes tell us that the purpose of this allegory is to give emphasis to the important work of humanity, the grains of wheat.  The faithful are to proclaim the Word of God . . . while the success of this work depends solely on God.

This gives fresh importance to our mission.  We are seed.  We are planted.  To the best of our ability and as best we are able in our environment, we are to draw from our roots in order that we might send forth a blade . . . which in turn yields a grain.  In due season, this grain will ripen for the harvest.

This cannot be more simple.  It cannot be more clear.  It cannot be more important.

This mode of living – of becoming what we are meant to become while living closely with other blades that give forth grain in their own due season – requires obedience, perseverance and patience.  It also requires close communion with our creator, the master harvester.

We must exercise faith – in trusting that we will survive life among a variety of blades until the harvest time.

We must engender hope – in believing that we will produce grain in abundance.

We must enact love – in making room for all to reach the sun and to soak up whatever rain may fall.

Perhaps what makes this Gospel so intense is that it is likely the first written after the Resurrection, when the flame of the Pentecost and the inspiration of the Ascension were still fresh.  Perhaps its concise language and simplicity render its meaning unmistakable.  Mark delivers five parables in rapid succession in this chapter, and he succinctly describes the important work of the faithful sandwiched between other stories which are more familiar.  We might miss it unless we look for it; and yet here it is.  Millennia after they are written, these straightforward words have the power to fill us with wonder at how the direct message of love might change the human experience.  We are loved.  We are love.  All we need do is proclaim this story.

Harvesting in the Himalayas

In reading Mark, we are drawn into his passion.  It is the same passion with which we are created.  It is a simple, clear, uncomplicated story.  God yearns for companionship and he creates a race of people in his image.  These people are wooed, forgiven, blessed, sustained, forgiven again, and loved powerfully.  What are we asked to do in return?  To proclaim this love abroad, to transform the sunshine and the rain into a grain of wheat which the master will harvest, and to render to the creator his harvest of love.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Written on November 7, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Images from: http://www.frankossen.com/Barefoot%20amid%20the%20Himalayas.htm and http://jp.123rf.com/photo_14000685_wheat-blade-on-wooden-table.html and http://www.foodsubs.com/GrainWheat.html

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Matthew 12:24Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

God says: Put aside your fear about your earthly dying; do not store up things of the earth.  They are finite and do not last.  Each time you feel yourself breaking . . . or falling . . . or dying . . . you are preparing yourself to produce good fruit.  Each time you believe you are at an end . . . you are at a beginning, a beginning of a new, better, and transformed self.  Do not be afraid for I am with you in this as I am in all you do.

We are trained as children to steer clear of pain and this is understandable; yet pain will happen.  When it does, let us take ourselves to the author of life itself, and let us allow God to produce good fruit from our suffering.

To reflect more on the opportunities we might mistake for failures, type the word fruit into the blog search box and take a moment to reflect on how our brokenness can bear fruit when we welcome God into our daily living.


A re-post from August 13, 2012.

Image from: http://www.americasheartland.org/commodities/wheat.htm

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Colossians 1:1-14: Continued Progress

Saturday, December 29, 2018

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you . . .

In all of our anxiety we may forget to pray for one another . . . and we may forget that others pray for us.  Let us remember and give thanks for the prayer that binds us all in Christ. For wherever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20)

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones . . .

In all of our activity we may forget that faith in Christ Jesus has the power to transform . . . and the power to save.  Let us remember and give thanks for the gift of faith we share.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from there and it will move.   Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing so also is it among you . . .

In all of our frustration we may forget that despite the negative news and dire predictions Christ Jesus grows in us . . . and Christ Jesus strengthens us as we grow among the weeds. When the servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds the enemy has planted among the wheat?” he answered, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into the barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Egypt: A woman carries wheat

Paul knows how difficult it is to remain faithful to the Gospel and so he offers the Colossians – and us today – a Prayer of Thanksgiving for Continued Progress . . .

We ask that you be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . .

We wish you to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God . . .  

We ask that you be strengthened with every power, in accord with God’s glorious might . . .

We wish for you all endurance and patience . . .

With joy we give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. 

God delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Let us give thanks for God’s gift of fidelity, faith.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of endurance, patience.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of great strength, deliverance from the darkness and the weeds.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of our inheritance, God’s light that gathers us into the barn.

Let us give thanks for the holy ones in heaven. 

Let us give thanks for the prayer we both offer and receive. 

Let us give thanks for our continued progress in God’s love. 

At this harvest time of year, let us give thanks . . . Amen.

Glendening:Surrey Cornfield


A re-post from November 26, 2011.

Images from: http://www.faithandworship.com/Harvest_Thanksgiving_Resources_and_Prayers.htm and http://inhisfathershouse.wordpress.com/category/getting-real-not-religious/page/2/ and http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/category/egypt-ancient/page/2/ 

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2 Chronicles 1Our Requests

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Several days ago we reflected on David’s last words and what our own might be.  Today we look at what immediately follows.  Solomon’s request gives us hope for this people who have struggled against odds to be a nation of their own.  When we read the entire story we know how things end for Solomon; but rather than focus on hopes dashed by tragic defects, we might instead consider what we might ask of God if he were to say to us as he does to Solomon: Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

God actually appears to Solomon and this we might envy, wishing that God would approach us in human form to speak with us directly.  Yet, have we considered that God does this daily by appearing through others?  And when God does appear, what is it that we ask of him?  Do we ask for comfort and ease?  Something that brings us and others justice?  Do we look for some wide and sweeping gift like world peace, or good leaders?  Or do we ask for something small for each of us: freedom from fear of any kind, respect for others and for the planet? 

God actually appears to us every minute of every day – although we may not feel his presence he is there all the same.  Jesus lived among humans for a brief time and the resurrected Christ appeared to the twelve, to the seventy and seventy-two and to hundreds and thousands.  Jesus continues to appear to us each day and each night always asking us – just as he did for the blind, the lame, the sick and the sorrowful: What is that you want?   Jesus is constantly saying to us in both little ways and big ways – just as he did for those who accompanied him in his ministry – Do not be afraid, you have nothing to fear, I am with you. 

God wants to grant our heart’s desire.  God has plans of joy for us.  God loves us beyond measure.  God wants us to be happy.  God wants to bring us justice.  God holds us and cares for us constantly.  God’s Spirit has chosen to dwell within us just as God chose to live among the Israelites in the tent we read about today.  God exists and abides with us; we just want proof that he is actually where we want him to be . . . looking like someone we want him to look like . . . acting like someone we want him to act like . . . saying what we want him to say.  But this is not how God works.  Still . . .

Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

We constantly complain that we might be happier, more prosperous, better looking, and less cranky if only . . .   If only I had a better job, if only the church service were more interesting,  if only my family understood where I was coming from, if only the government would . . . if only.  Yet, when we honestly examine our lives we discover that we have most of what we have requested and often more besides – just like Solomon; but we have allowed ourselves to become so overwhelmed by what our culture demands of us – which often runs counter to what God asks of us – that we have not even noticed.  And so we add more if onlys” to our litany.

Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

God grants Solomon the gifts of wisdom and knowledge and more besides; God also gives Solomon riches, treasures and glory.   It is Solomon who struggles to handle all of this.  It is Solomon who becomes influenced by the world and who turns away from God . . . it is not God who ignores or abandons Solomon.

Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 

We may want to spend some reflection time today pondering what it is exactly that we want from God . . . and what it is exactly that we will do with these gifts – for God will surely grant our request.

We may also want to spend some time pondering how it is exactly that we will share these gifts, how it is exactly that we plan to remain close to God, how it is exactly that we will bear fruit back to this marvelous God who loves us so much that he says to us daily . . . Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 21, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.thesunblog.com/gourmetgal/2009/01/ and http://www.thesunblog.com/gourmetgal/2009/01/

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