Posts Tagged ‘change’

Monday, January 13, 2013

Deuteronomy 9: Unmerited Success

God's_Grace_2[1]In today’s Noontime we examine when and where we see God.  We take time to reflect on how and why we praise God.  We consider our perception of who and what God is.  We have the opportunity to thank God for our unmerited success.

If we take these verses in a literal, one-dimensional way God comes off as a sometimes petulant, occasionally petty and sulking God.  If we put them in the context of the New Testament – and if we can refrain from the temptation to moralize – we allow ourselves to accept God’s gifts of faith, hope, and unconditional love.  We will find ourselves rooted and flourishing in God’s grace.

An excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Saturday meditation gives us a compass to use on our pilgrimage.  He writes:

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being “saved.” Moralism leads you back to “navel-gazing,” and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.

Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate
. . . Seeing God in All Things
(CD, DVD, MP3)

If we read the Noontime selection today and complement ourselves for having behaved well, for having turned our eyes away from the golden calf, if we love the chant three times over, It is because of my merits that the Lord has brought me to possess the land, then we have lost our way.   If we delight in believing that these verses show us a strict set of rules to follow so that we will never suffer, we have misunderstood all of scripture.  If we believe that God loves only those who obey his rules and join his club, we do not know God at all.

Picture1God abides with us when we follow and when we stray.  It is when we lose our way that God comes after us persistently to bring us back to the fold.

God protects us when we take risks in Kingdom-building.  It is when we teeter on the edge of safety that God patiently strengthens the bonds we have forged in relationship with God.

God guides us as we wade into the world to engage fully in discipleship.  It is when we are most lured and confused by the material world that God speaks steadily to us.

And so we pray:

Generous and loving God, Remind us that you are so immense that your love encompasses all, even those of us who stray.

Giving and powerful God, Tell us again that you will never abandon us, never reject us, always love us.   Tell us that we have nothing to fear as we follow you.

Great and gentle God, Clarify for us each day your message of inclusion, universality, and transformation.  Remind us that we must not exclude anyone from your message.

Gracious and singular God, Continue to send us your amazing, incalculable, and precious gift of unmerited success.  And help us to remember to thank you.  Amen.

This week . . . more on Deuteronomy

Image from: http://prayitoff.blogspot.com/2011/03/pray-it-off-31711-actual-grace-just-ask.html

For more information on this fourth book of the Torah, see the Deuteronomy – Laws page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/deuteronomy-laws/

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Jeremiah 16: Candor and Hope

Monday, November 25, 2019

We seek better things to come . . .

What are we to think of the words recorded here by the prophet Jeremiah?  A paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY, page 559, tells us:  This section contains reports of three symbolic actions, followed by an interpretation that puts them in the context of the Exile.  The prophet is to remain unmarried and childless since the upcoming warfare will be utterly destructive of families.  He is told not to participate in mourning rites because Yahweh intends to remove peace from the land that will undermine the normal mourning customs.  A third requirement of the prophet is that he not participate in festivities of any kind as all celebration will cease.  Following these admonitions is a justification for the punishment they are to receive, the cause is their apostasy.  So we see the domination of two concerns of the community in exile: to identify the cause of its present situation and to contemplate a more favorable future.

Suffering, as we know, is not necessarily castigation; sometimes the innocent suffer through no fault of their own because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.  What we can take away from today’s reading is the underlined thought above.  When we feel ourselves suffering in exile, two exercises are useful: first, reflecting on our behavior prior to exile to investigate the need to change as appropriate and second, anticipating a better future in active hope.  These are hallmark characteristics of the Christian.  Candid self assessments, the search for improvement, and petitioning God for better things to come.  Even . . . and especially . . . when things seem darkest . . . and without hope of any kind.

When we find ourselves in pain or in exile, suffering either innocently or as a consequence of our own actions, we may choose to become bitter, angry, resentful, and intent on making others suffer.  This does not align with the Law of Love as described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 when he writes that love does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

When we find ourselves in exile, it is best to regard the time as a period of retreat and reflection, going inward to hear the voice of truth, looking outward in expectation of the good news which will arrive.  As children of God, we benefit from knowing this good news even before it reaches us.  It is the news of our release.  The news of our freedom.  The news that we are created and held by one who loves us more than we can imagine.

Written on November 26, 2008, re-written and posted today.   To see how one community contemplates and moves toward a more favorable future, click on the image above or go to: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 559. Print.

Image from: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

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Luke 15:1-32: Coming to Our Senses

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Living in an era that signals change in many of our beliefs, we look for a call that brings us to our senses. Like a small child throwing a temper tantrum, we open eyes swollen from crying to see the reality of our anger, and we come to our senses. Like a partner who walks away from commitments, we witness to the destruction our egocentric actions leave in their wake, and we come to our senses. Like leaders who see their reflection in the unexpected mirror of events spiraling beyond their feeble predictions, we pause, take stock, and with hope . . . we come to our senses. The danger is, of course, that our rampage will take us beyond a place from which we cannot return, a demolition from which we cannot recover. The stories we hear in Luke 15 bring us courage as we come to our senses.

James Tissot: The Lost Drachma

The shepherd goes out in search of the one lost sheep. Christ continues to search for us no matter how deeply we burrow into our self-satisfaction. Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep.

The woman finds lost coins after putting aside her daily tasks. The Spirit abides with us despite our thinking that we are alone. Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I have lost.

The loving father forgives the prodigal son. The Creator is more generous than we can imagine. Rejoice with me because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

Luke recalls Jesus’ stories of loss and return, of deep sorrow and unbounding joy, of profound envy and immeasurable. The pivotal elements in each of these parables are dual: the central figures come to their senses, and the plentiful, compassionate, and generous love of the Creator has no limit.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

When we open our eyes and ears each morning to headlines that unsettle and even disturb us, let us come to our senses and turn to our tender God as we go out into the world.

When we pause in our day to orient ourselves in the rush of information and demands, let us come to our senses as we rely on our courageous Christ to show us the way.

When we return to the quiet of our hearts at the end of our day, let us come to our senses and give over all our pains and sorrows to our healing Spirit who binds all wounds and heals all scars.

Rejoice with me because we have drifted with the winds of the time and now we are found; we have been lost and now are found; we have been dead and now are in full and abundant life again.

For a skit to reenact the parable of the lost sheep, click on the image or go to: https://skitguys.com/scripts/parable-of-the-lost-sheep

Click on the Tissot image for a lesson in compassion, or visit: https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/spirituality/lost-coin-lesson-compassion-42186

Click on the Murillo image for more on finding new life with the returning son, or go to: https://www.thesacredpage.com/2010/03/prodigal-son-new-life-and-sacramental.html

For more reflections on these parables, enter the words The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, or The Prodigal Son in to the blog search bar and explore. 


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Luke 11:5-13: Prayer

Luke 11:5-13Prayer

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Prayer is at the center of human petition.  Cries of anguish rise from the human throat.  Cries of pain rise from the human heart.  In today’s Noontime Jesus teaches us why we should petition the Father.  And he teaches us how.  Jesus reminds us that prayer is always answered.  And he promises that we will all have answers for our questions . . . when we seek.

We ask for change . . . Jesus is the change we seek.

We ask for peace . . . Jesus is the peace we crave.

We ask for mercy . . . Jesus is the mercy that heals.

We ask for an end to sorrow . . . Jesus is new life that restores.

Ask and you will receive . . . we are impatient with God’s time and space.

Seek and you will find . . . we want to be in control rather then become one with God’s timelessness.

Knock and the door will be opened to you . . . we want to know all the answers before we step forward in faith.

How much more will the Father in heaven give . . . ? God gives us life always and endlessly.

Our human eyes want to see God, and so we do . . . each day in the many small goodnesses that happen in and to us.

Our human hearts want to experience God, and so we do . . . each day in the multitude of prayers we offer and receive.

Our human hands want to touch God, and so we do . . . each day in the many small acts of compassion and healing that we perform.

May we be in constant prayer.  May we live in mercy.  May we know peace.

A re-post from September 29, 2011. 

Image from: http://www.blackburn.anglican.org/more_info.asp?current_id=245

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2 Corinthians 1Changing Plans

Sunday, September 2, 2018

If we want to live in relationship with others, we will find it necessary to change our plans; sometimes this is quite easy to do . . . at other times we suffer change at great cost.  Events occur not as we would wish them.  They often take on a life of their own.  In today’s reading we have the opportunity to examine a model for authentic accommodation in relationship with others.  When we make room for God in every connection we make with others, we have the guarantee of God’s simplicity, sincerity, and grace.  We can be confident that no matter the change required of us, we will flourish and thrive.

When we read Paul’s two letters to the church in Corinth, we see the importance of flexibility and constancy in all relationships.  While it is important to remain authentic and faithful, it is also essential to allow for some give and take as circumstances require.  As we read through these epistles, it is clear that there are some disagreements and differences of opinion that have the potential to create permanent rifts.  Important connections have been established and nurtured; breaches must be bridged.  Cleverly, or perhaps by God’s grace, Paul begins with himself.   “Since Paul’s own conduct will be under discussion here, he prefaces this section with a statement about his habitual behavior and attitude toward the community.  He protests his openness, single-mindedness, and conformity to God’s grace; he hopes that his relationship with them will be marked by mutual understanding and pride, which will constantly increase until it reaches its climax at the judgment”.  (Senior 277)  As we read the opening chapter of 2 Corinthians we understand that a change of plans has caused anxiety and upset.  Paul addresses the problem by beginning with himself . . . and by falling back on God.

Simplicity, sincerity, and the grace of God: These qualities are given to us by God the Father; these traits are modeled for us by Jesus; these virtues are renewed in us by the Spirit.

When we must change plans we must keep things simple.  Adding more jumble to an already stressed schedule does us and those we work and live with nothing but harm.

When we must change plans we must be honest.  It is important to take the time to examine motives and look for hidden agendas.  Any plan that is not genuine is not needed. Any plan that comes from deceit brings ruin.

When we must change plans we must do so with good will, considering the common benefit.  When a community must alter plans to please only one or two of its members, morale plummets and cooperation disappears.

Simplicity, sincerity, and the grace of God.  Paul outlines for us the opening step in bridging a rift between colleagues, friends or loved ones.  We begin with ourselves.  And we look for God’s plainness.  We look for God’s straightforwardness.  We look for God’s beauty.  We look for God’s blessing in all we say and do.

A re-post from August 2, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 277. Print.

Images from: http://www.masters-table.org/forinfo/Gods_beautyinthesky.htm 

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Acts 15: Control

Friday, May 6, 2016Jerusalem-Council

In this book which describes the birth of a community, we see how the followers of Christ dissent and argue, come together and unify. They are much like members of any community we might see today. In this reading, church members gather in an effort to both communicate and to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  We witness the concern for what some believe to be a lack of control and what to others appears as micro-management.  We can find ourselves at the office lunch table or coffee pot, at a family or neighborhood gathering to say the same things about our own society.  Who has control over what and why?  Where do we leave room for the Holy Spirit to speak?  Are we falling back on old rules, customs, habits and traditions?  Are we seeking change because we are bored or because it is needed?  Today’s reading can give us a good deal to ponder.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Tower of Babel

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Tower of Babel

In many churches, authority comes not only from the bishops and the hierarchy, but also from the people in the pews; yet sometimes the little voice is overridden by the bigger, more powerful one.  In a family, each generation’s voice must be heard if the large unit is to flourish and give life; yet sometimes the children, the tired and those who are marginalized are ignored.  God’s diversity not only allows for a variety of voices; it requires an array of choice. We have only to look to the story of the Tower of Babel to see why.  (Genesis 11) Humankind survives the great flood yet still has the impression that they are in charge, and so God sends an assortment of languages upon them, causing them to separate and diversify.

Those of us who teach the acquisition of language know that we teach far more than verbs and nouns; we teach a way of thinking and various modes of expression. We teach a way to step out of ourselves and into the shoes of another.  In God’s plan, this rainbow of sound and form is brought back from its prism of variety at the feast of the Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles who go out to tell the story of Christ.  The amazing part of the story is that people from differing lands understand what the apostles say.  The people were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?  Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?”  (Acts 2:7-8) This variety of people hears because the Holy Spirit speaks . . . and it is the presence of the Holy Spirit we must seek when we feel ourselves to be in a circumstance where control or passive aggression are being unjustly exercised – either by others or ourselves.

We might, when we find ourselves in these restricted places, intone the words of Psalm 133.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

It is good . . .

Even life for evermore . . .


Adapted from a favorite written on November 3, 2009.

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Isaiah 62: Building Upbride

Friday, April 15, 2016

Yesterday Isaiah gave us clear evidence that God can and will do the impossible in our lives. Today he tells us that God’s bounty promises more than we can imagine.

I will speak out to encourage Jerusalem;
I will not be silent until she is saved,
And her victory shines like a torch in the night.

Images of marriage, of building, and of sentinels watching for the coming of one who saves are all familiar to those who read scripture.  They will not be disappointed in today’s Noontime reading.

I will speak out . . . I will not be silent until she is saved . . . 

isaiah62I am thinking of the emotion we feel when we anticipate reunion with a loved one, when we enter into a new project or we feel the coming of change in our lives.  Sometimes we can smell or taste or even feel a shift in the air.  Sometimes these changes are good, sometimes not.  In either case, change will arrive and although we have little or no control of what takes place, we do have control of our own behavior and of our own reactions to change.  Isaiah here predicts something good in the offing.  The fulfillment of a promise made by God, a promise that is certain to be kept, a promise that builds up and does not take away, a promise that brings light rather than dark, hope rather than despair.

I will speak out . . . I will not be silent . . . And her victory shines like a torch in the night.

And so we pray . . .

O God of justice and of love, you care for your people in every time and place, despite our tendency to stray from you in foolishness.  Keep us in your care from morning until evening, that we may come to rest safely in the shadow of your all-powerful wings.  We ask through our lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.  Amen. 

Adapted from a reflection written on Wednesday, August 25, 2010.

Visit the I will not be silent post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2013/04/17/i-will-not-be-silent/

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Job 24: Assurances

Job 24: Assurances

Vladimir Borovikovsky: Job and his Friends

Vladimir Borovikovsky: Job and his Friends

March 9, 2015

We look for assurance in our families and friends, in the social networks we form, in the  constant checking of posts and messages.

We seek assurance in our homes and possessions, in the many small and large objects that falsely tell us all is well, in the thousand little chores that allow us to feel safe.

We pursue assurance with our accomplishments and awards, with our private and public lives, with our wealth of titles and medals. Today Job gives us a microscope through which to examine who and what and how we seek assurance in our lives.

In this third week of Lent we pause to consider what accomplishments we relish and why. We explore what changes we have made in our lives and how. We determine what assurances we seek and from whom. Let us also pause in the flurry of our day to read Job 24 and look for ourselves in this litany of those who find false and certain assurances.

For beautiful images connecting art and faith, click on the image above or visit: https://01varvara.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/vladimir-borovikovsky-job-and-his-friends-1810s/vladimir-borovikovsky-job-and-his-friends-1810s/ 

This week, words of wisdom. 

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Sea of Galilee

Holy Monday, April 14, 2014

John 7:1-9

Within Galilee

Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel to Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him.

We have begun our ascent to Jerusalem and so we gird ourselves for the arduous journey with its dreadful yet glorious end. We have heard the words and woes of Amos and so we understand that change must and will come upon us. We set our feet on the path we have chosen and we step forward with both dread and hope. What do we discover about ourselves and our world that we must change? We believe that we are well aware of the pitfalls we will meet.  We know that there are barriers that will stymie and frustrate us. We realize that if we hope to be made new we leave the refuge we have created for ourselves if we hope to travel up to Jerusalem. We recognize the hostile nature of the world we traverse and yet somehow we feel strangely safer once we commit to moving forward. Still, for a while we determine to remain where we feel safest while we prepare for our moment of boldness when we will allow ourselves to be open to rescue from our old way of living. And so for a time we remain in Galilee . . . while we prepare for our own conversion, change and resurrection

Second Jerusalem Temple

Second Jerusalem Temple

For another reflection about resting before our journey to Jerusalem, visit the Resting in Bethany post for Holy Monday 2013 on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2013/03/25/resting-in-bethany/

For more information about the location and nature of Galilee and Judea, go to: Galilee http://bibleatlas.org/galilee.htm and Judea http://bibleatlas.org/judea.htm

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