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Posts Tagged ‘Christ as light’


Job 23: Bitter Complaint

Jan the Elder Lievens: Job

Friday, August 17, 2018

It is a good idea to visit the story of Job once in a while. This book of wisdom has so much to tell us beyond the casual glance. Who among us has not felt abandoned by God, or believed that life has asked too much of us? Job longs for an intimate conversation with God through which he might lay out his case and be acquitted forever by [his] judge.

Job knows that somewhere there is a reason for the injustice he suffers, and he is persistent in his quest. It seems that his fidelity does not serve him. His innocence goes unnoticed. His search for the almighty continues, and in this seeking we find seeds of hope.

If I go forward, he is not there;
    or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
    I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

The marvel of the New Testament story is that – as if in answer to Job’s bitter plaint – the God this wise man seeks comes to walk among us as one of us. The miracle of the resurrection brings us hope that Job lives in such a unique way. The promise of the Pentecost brings us healing and mercy in the person of the Spirit who dwells in us every moment and accompanies us in every location of our lives . . . forward, backward, to the right and to the left.

Job cries out,

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his dwelling!

Morgan Weistling: Walking with God

Today, in our world that broadcasts its pain on more than a billion and half television screens and nearly two billion smartphones in a non-stop cycle of violence, we might join Job in his sad moaning. The evidence seems to great for us to explain away or comprehend. Fidelity does not serve him, innocence counts for nothing; yet Job holds out hope . . . as we might also do when we remember the story of the Christ child. Light comes into the darkness. God’s love is manifest in the persona of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. yet . . .

I still rebel and complain against God;
    I cannot keep from groaning.
How I wish I knew where to find him,
    and knew how to go where he is.

Job had only the Old Testament promise of a coming Messiah. We have that Messiah’s presence today. Oh that we might remember this when we look forward, backward, to our right and our left as we continue our bitter complaint.


Tomorrow, Job 24, a violent world.

Images from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_(biblical_figure) and https://www.lordsart.com/wawigodbymow.html

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Isaiah 9:1-6: People of Light

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Jesus tells us, I am the light. (John 8:12)

John tells us, In [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus tells us, You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  (Matthew 5:14-15)

How do we bring light to a world that seems determined to live in darkness? We remember this Favorite written on October 19, 2007.

Isaiah tells us, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!

We sing these words in the advent season when Christmas nears.  Handel set them to music and surrounded them with soaring strands of notes to lift us up.

You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing . . .

We believe that Christ’s presence among us is a joy.  We believe that he has come to release us from bondage, to set us free from our exile of anxieties, addictions, and damaging behavior.

For a child is born to us, a son is given us . . .

We know these words in the marrow of our bones.  Jesus resides in each of us.  We are his adopted brothers and sisters.  He has come to redeem, to restore, to heal, to transform.

They call him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

We hear these words and somehow know them to be true, know them to be meant as a consolation, yet we fear that the reality we live in is more true than the one these words describe.

His dominion is vast and forever peaceful . . . both now and forever . . . 

Good and gracious God, you know that we walk in darkness and so you reach out your hands to us.  You know that we see the light but are often afraid of its fierce honesty.  Help us to meet the intensity of this light with our own courageous response to your Call.  Abide with us now and forever.  May your zeal and passion for us bring us fully into your light and bring us fully to life.  Bring us to your celebration. Amen.

Today as we pray Psalm 18, we repeat verse 29 as an antiphon: For you, Lord, give light to my lamp; my God brightens my darkness. 

Tomorrow, we are leaven for the world. 


Image from: https://www.democraciaejustica.org/galery/a-candle-loses-nothing-by-lighting-another-candle.html

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Isaiah 49:1-6: The Servant’s Mission

Holy Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the role of the servant in God’s plan for creation. Today we reflect on the servant’s mission.

I will also make you a light to the nations—
    so that all the world may be saved. (GNT)

When we wonder if our thoughts are one with God’s, we examine the source of our motivations. Do we forgive our enemies? Do we pray for those who harm us? Do we reach out to those who are broken-hearted?

I will give you as a light to the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (NRSV)

When we wonder if our words reflect God’s plan, we examine the foundation of our beliefs. Do we speak up when we see injustice? Do we rebuke ourselves and our loved ones when we go astray? Do we shelter the homeless and feed the hungry?

I will also make you a light to the nations,
so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth. (CJB)

When we wonder if our actions serve to build God’s kingdom, we examine the fruits born from our life’s work. Do we work to break down unjust structures? Do we work with others to ferret out corruption no matter where we find it? Do we work to create societies that give preference to the poor?

I’m setting you up as a light for the nations
    so that my salvation becomes global” (MSG)

When we wonder if we have the faith to persist in our mission, we ask God for strength. When we wonder if we have the hope to believe in God’s promises, we rely on Christ’s encouraging presence. When we wonder if we have the love to work for the transformation of the world, we rest in the Spirit who heals, counsels, and consoles. As we near the Easter Triduum, we move forward to continue the work of our mission as God’s servants.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the strength, confidence and mercy to move forward in our mission as disciples of Christ. 

Images from: http://lutheran-church-regina.com/blogs/post/sermon-january-12th-2014-isaiah-42 and http://www.turnbacktogod.com/pray-for-gods-servants/ 

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Isaiah 43Promises of Redemption and Restoration

Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Favorite from February 21, 2008. 

We sing this hymn so often that these words of Isaiah are familiar to us . . . and they are so beautiful.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

Dear God in Heaven, we so many times feel so alone or abandoned.  We think we have done what you have asked, but somehow things just are not working out.  We feel as though we are sinking to the bottom of the sea.

When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.

Dear God on Earth, we so many times know that we are called and, wanting to be good servants, we want to obey but we are frightened or anxious.  We feel as though we are burning alive.

When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.

Dear God who dwells within, we so many times feel so apart from you as we do the work you have asked of us.  We feel isolated and misunderstood.  We want to come home to you.

I give . . . your ransom because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you.

Dear God who made us, we wander here on earth and long for the serenity and beauty of your Holy City on a Hill.  We want to hear you clearly, we want to see you distinctly.  We long to be with you.

I will say to the north; Give them up! and to the south: Hold not back!  Bring back my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth: Everyone who is named as mine, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  Lead out the people who are blind though they have eyes, who are deaf though they have ears.

Dear God who is tender, kind and loving, we are many times afraid to stand when you say stand, to sit when you say sit, to be still when you say be still, to speak when you say speak.  We want to trust.  We want to be authentic.  We want to embody integrity.

Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right, that one may hear and say, “It is true!”  You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I. 

Dear God who is glorious, awesome, and all-knowing, we do not know how to begin, we do not know where to go.

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland rivers.  Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people who I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.

Dear God who walks among us, you have shown us The Way, the Truth and the Light.  We will follow you.  We will enter the desert to meet you . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will sojourn among the jackals and the ostriches . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will walk beside the humble . . . for we know that is where you are.

Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

Amen.

Find the hymn “Be Not Afraid” by John Michael Talbot, with video clips from the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI49peWG2d0 

David Haas’ hymn “You Are Mine” is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgm9lkTNQmc 

Image from: https://rickandlindareed.com/2014/12/12/do-not-be-afraid/ 

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Isaiah 10Social Injustice

 Thursday, June 2, 2016renewal

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the axe. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3 and Luke 13:24, most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.

A Favorite from June 10, 2009.

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Acts 17: Uproar – Part II

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 8, 2016

E.O. WIlson

E.O. Wilson

Unhealthy competition brings about a kind of chaos in the sound; it becomes impossible to find inner peace and community serenity. How then, can we see God’s presence in the work of Paul, a former persecutor of Jesus’ followers? How then do we understand the kind of uproar that Jesus’ life and words so often engender?

Each time we stand up for the marginalized, we bring about God’s uproar. When bridges are built over chaos and disarray, when wounds are healed, when differences reconciled, we enter in God’s uproar.  Once we look carefully at the tumult around us, we begin to realize that there is a fine difference the chaos of darkness with its attendant prejudices, the transformation of God’s uproar.

When we become doers of the word and not hearers only, as St. James tells us in his letter, we call people out of their comfort zones.  We cause God’s uproar.

When we ask questions about our own treasure trove, as Matthew and Peter suggest we do, we also ask others to think about the value of the wealth they have amassed.  We cause God’s uproar.

When we meet and overcome our own fears and do what others are afraid to do, we cause God’s uproar.

When we live in true charity with one another to pray for our enemies, when we refuse to conform to corruption, we cause God’s uproar.

When we insist on being open to possibilities without giving in to abuse, we cause God’s uproar.

When we tell of the marvels that God has wrought in our own lives, when we insist on reminding ourselves and others of Christ’s good news, we cause God’s uproar.

wild-map-640Like Paul, when we enter a town and begin to tell the marvelous news that we do not have to retain the chains that imprison our bodies, minds and souls, we can expect pandemonium.  It is up to us to examine the din and the tumult to discover its origin, and if the upheaval is God’s we only need persevere and hold tightly to our hope.  Sometimes, like Paul, we will move on to the next town or to the next situation; but always – even through the devastation of earthquakes and the violence of storms – we will be accompanied by Christ’s light . . . we will know that we have entered into God’s uproar . . . and that all will be well.

Adapted from a favorite written in September 28, 2009.

Consider God’s uproar and read the NY Times review of  Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by O.E. Wilson, biologist. Wilson is professor emeritus at Harvard and the winner of two Pulitzer prizes. Or consider the Audubon Society’s perspective at: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/september-october-2015/eo-wilson-wants-us-leave-half-earth

Visit the EO Wilson Foundation, click on the images above for more information, or watch a PBS episode on Wilson’s bold proposal at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/how-to-save-life-on-earth-according-to-e-o-wilson/ 

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John 8:12-20: Missing God

Monday, March 14, 2016 missing puzzle piece

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

If this is so, then why do we miss God when God accompanies us in joy and sorrow?

The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on”.

If this is our thinking then we miss God’s presence just as many religious leaders did in Jesus’ day, and as many do today.

Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me”.

If this is so, then we will want to move out of our narrowness and into the largeness of the one who creates us. If this is so, then we will want to dwell with Jesus’ words for a time, and allow them to sink into the marrow of our bones. If this is so, then we have much to forget and much to learn. If this is so, we want to offload all that constrains us and encourages us to judge; and we will want to open our hearts and minds and very selves to welcome this big and generous God.

Today we continue this week’s Lenten practice as we open ourselves to the enormity of God’s light and promise. Rather than thinking: “I will set all things right in God’s kingdom,” let us think instead, “I will strive each day to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness, mercy and love”.

workshops+puzzle+piecesWhen we use the scripture link to spend time with various versions of these verses, God becomes big enough to hold the multiverse. Watch a video by Paul Coutinho, S.J., “How Big Is Your God?” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U  Smile with images Fr. Paul creates in this brief video, and reflect on how we might be missing God’s generosity and enormity each day.

Tomorrow, dead end. 

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John: Naming OurselvesMislabeling-the-Word-of-God

March 28, 2015

In beautiful prose, the writer of John’s Gospel gives us many portals to name Christ, to understand the person of Jesus, and to model ourselves after this Word of God Among Us.  On this eve of Palm Sunday, as we prepare to enter the holiest of weeks in the liturgical calendar, let us take time to assess who Jesus is, how we convey to the world our own understanding of God in the person of Jesus, and how we intend to change in order that we become more like this saving servant.

Chapter 1: Word of God and Light of the World – What does it mean to be the Word of God? Do we enact God’s mercy and justice in our actions and words? How might we bring light to the world’s darkness? Do we look for hope, bring peace, and heal others?

Chapter 3: Spirit of God – God grants us eternal life. What do we store up for this eternity? Where does our treasure lie? Do we offer life or death to ourselves and others?

Chapters 4 – 9: Healer and Miracle Worker – How do we become the hands and feet of Christ? When do we allow God to work many small miracles for and through us? How often do we witness to injustice? When and why do we heal ourselves and others?

good shepherdChapter 10: The Good Shepherd: We have the prophets’ cry out against false shepherd and teachers. Do we number among them? Do we listen for the voice of Jesus the Shepherd? Do we put aside the world to follow the one true shepherd? When do we call others to follow in Christ’s Way?

Chapters 11-12: Restorer of Life – We cannot raise Lazarus from the dead but we can restore wounded hearts, ask and grant forgiveness, bridge gaps and mend fences. We are capable of bringing hope to the hopeless, mercy to the marginalized and love to the abandoned and brutalized. When and where do we grant these gifts we have been given by God?

Chapters 13 – 14: Advocate – It is easy to look away from problems and slip into denial. Who are our loved ones, associates, colleagues and friends? Do they call us to good or encourage us to hide in darkness?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChapters 15 – 17: Vine for our Branches – God gives us the choice to be life-takers or life-givers. What path do we choose and why? Are we willing to change course once we see that we need to change? Do we offer to God the apology saying that we are content in our comfort zone? Do we inflict discomfort on others or call them gently? What nourishment do we allow God to bring us and how do we pass this sacred sustenance along?

Chapters 18 – 20: Lamb of God – Humility is such a difficult quality to wear in our status and power-driven world and yet it is essential. Do we strive for the meekness that Jesus displays? Do we give more than we receive? What role does pride play in our lives? How do we handle our own sense of entitlement and that of others?

Chapter 21: Resurrection – There are no words to express the beauty of God’s desire to bring us to eternal happiness in the kingdom. What fidelity to do we show to the Gospel story in our actions and words? What narrative of resurrection do we live out? What promise of resurrection to we believe? And how do we witness to the miracles of resurrection we know God performs constantly in our own lives and in the lives of others?

empty tomb with sheet and lightWe are perhaps too accustomed to these images and if this is so, we must spend quiet time with them today. If we celebrate and enact these metaphors in our lives daily then let us rejoice in the Good News that is so familiar. In either case, let us spend time with these names and call ourselves followers of Christ as today we prepare for the Palm Sunday gift of Jesus as the very name of God.

Tomorrow, Christ in Us.

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flame RwandaPalm Sunday, April 13, 2014

Romans 8:11

Genocide

Last week the country of Rwanda commemorated the 20th anniversary of horrific genocide not with more invective speech but with forgiveness and reconciliation . . . and with a flame of remembrance.  As St. Paul reminds us, with God all impossibilities become possible. In Christ all hope becomes reality. In the Spirit all that was once dead comes to new life . . . in Christ.

The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.

And so we pray.

As we begin Holy Week, let us determine to change ourselves, to bring the light of change to the world, and to live always in the peace of the Living God who raises all death to new life.

As we enter Holy Week, let us consider how one million dead in Rwanda now rise in the reconciliation of enemies, now live in the acts of forgiveness offered by victims, and in the repentance felt by murderers.

As we move forward into Holy Week, let us pray that we always hear the voice of God. Let us pray that we always see Christ’s light in the darkness. And let us pray that we allow the Spirit to move us as we put the woes and words of the prophet Amos to work for the Gospel of the Christ. Amen.

Rwanda hopes to rise from the ashes of their brutal history to be the light of remembrance, the light of life for Africa and for the world. Now the cleanest and least corrupt country in Africa, Rwanda is hoping to become the Silicone Valley of their continent. Listen here at NPR: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/06/299708652/20-years-later-rwanda-hopes-to-be-a-light-for-the-world

rwanda victimFor more on finding grace and relying on faith after genocide, listen to an interview with the Reverend Celestin Musekura from National Public Radio. Let at: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/04/299054435/finding-peace-after-genocide

For a video story from Euronews describing Rwanda’s reconciliation village, go to: http://www.euronews.com/2014/04/05/rwanda-s-reconciliation-village-a-symbol-of-hope-20-years-after-the-genocide/

Or click on the image above to read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Daniel Flitton, and The Malay Mail Online.

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