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Posts Tagged ‘conversion’


Monday, March 8, 2021

imagesCAIS5TV1baby feet in handsAmos 3

First Word

In 3:6, Amos states an important belief of ancient theologians, that God causes all events, even disasters. (Mays 650) In the light of the New Testament, we see God as a forgiving parent, a source of infinite compassion, a God who delivers justice, who pulls good out of harm, who loves us so dearly that he allows us to make decisions . . . even though they may have disastrous results.

God says: When humans first began to believe in my existence, they saw the world as a dual entity in which people, places, ideas and dreams were either good or bad. There was very little room for fringe thinking because life was so fragile and survival so difficult. Methods, practices and customs that helped the species to survive were regarded as sacrosanct. Your ancestors often shunned or even executed innovators and those who understood the wide and long view. You have evolved and now some of you understand what Jesus means when he speaks of the common good. You comprehend the importance of forgiving enemies.  And some of you live the life he models for you. I know that some among you still live with the words from ancient days. You scramble to make your world safe by performing practices with no heart. You believe that a checklist of good deeds saves you when it is really my loving care that restores what you have lost. Rather than lose patience with yourself or with any of these lost children, come to me. Call the fearful ones to me through your actions and words. Resist the temptation to believe that I bring about disaster for those who do not follow The Way. Believe that my heart is big enough to love the cruelest among you, persistent enough to convert the most heinous among you, and durable enough to outwait the most cruel and stubborn among you. The ivory apartments will be ruined through the actions of those who build them. The horns of the altar will break through the corruption the church leaders allow. And the many rooms of the wicked will be no more through the actions or inactions of their own lives. The wicked may escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of cot . . . but they will flee into my relentless, loving arms. This is my First Word that comes to you through my prophet Amos.

When we become inpatient with God’s plan as it unfolds before our eyes and into our lives, we must remember this First Word that Amos brings to us today.

Tomorrow, Second Word.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 650. Print.

For an interesting post about being still to hear God’s word at www.hisinfinitegrace.com, click on the image above, or go to: http://hisinfinitegrace.com/2012/10/30/be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god-2/

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Saturday, March 6, 2021

ash-wednesday-usa[1]Amos 1

Receptive

Today we stand on the threshold of a great opportunity, an opportunity to shed all that we dislike about ourselves, an opportunity to return fully to the promise God sends to the world through us. We have taken up the prophecy of Amos as our first Lenten lesson plan and today we re-visit an old theme: we ask for the courage to open our hearts and minds and souls to the possibility of newness, we ask for the strength to be receptive to God’s announced gift of regeneration.

God calls to us through Amos just as he called to the faithful millennia ago.  nd what is the message we hear today? Where are we to go to do the work of self-conversion and kingdom building? Amos tells us simply: We are to look to our own homes, communities, work, worship and play places . . . we are to begin . . . and then we are to take this newness in which we find ourselves into all we do, think and say. Social injustice and religious arrogance: these are the two devils we are to combat. We must invert these two ideas (as Jesus always does when he stands us on our heads – calling us to the margins rather than to the comfortable middle) to social justice and to religious humility. They are the standard bearers we are to carry each day as we step out of our homes and into the world.  hey are the same standards we carry into our evenings as we return home to rest and rebuild.


To learn more about the places named in Amos 1, click on the following words and consider . . . Do we live in these places?  If so, what do we do to change ourselves . . . so that the world might also change? Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom and Ammon.

mage from: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/ash-wednesday

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Monday, January 25, 2021

In these days when we continue to recover from social, political, medical, and emotional turmoil, we look to this longest chapter in Scripture for guidance. Today, joy follows mourning.

9-teth[1]Psalm 119:65-72

Teth

Teach me your wisdom and knowledge . . . It was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your laws . . .

In this ninth strophe we near the middle of Psalm 119 and here the psalmist reaches out to God, asking for wisdom and knowledge specifically, promising to adhere to the Law of loving one another that Yahweh has written on our hearts. The psalmist expresses a truth we all know but often do not want to admit: we learn life’s lessons best when we are under siege or overwhelmed, and it is from this suffering that God calls forth joy.

God says: I tell you frequently so of this you may be certain: I am with you always, I see your joys and sorrows, and I bring all manner of goodness out of the great harm that some of you plot. So put away any plans of deception and come to the truth. Honesty, authenticity, integrity and love will heal any rift. In my plan and in my time, my love transforms even the darkest of hearts. You may believe my goodness to be hidden . . . but it lives forever in your hearts.

Rather than curse our painful circumstances, let us enter into God’s plan of inversion and allow our sorrow to lead us to the one who can heal the deepest of wounds. Let us allow God to love us infinitely and unconditionally.

When the Lord restored our fortunes we thought we were dreaming. Our mouths were filled with laughter; our tongues sang for joy . . . Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, with return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.  (Psalm 126)

Tomorrow, the letter Yodh.


For more information on the letter Teth and how it represents inversion and concealed good, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/tet.htm or http://www.hebrewtoday.com/content/hebrew-alphabet-letter-tet-%D7%98

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Acts 16:5: Growth


First Sunday of Advent

068[1]November 29, 2020

Acts 16:5

Growth

So the church grew stronger and stronger in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

We continue our journey through a world-wide pandemic. We continue our struggle with inequity and fear. We continue our search for justice and peace. Today we rejoice despite our struggle because we know that light and truth are with us. We know that once we place our anxiety in God’s hands, the way is clear. 

The beginning of a new year brings an obvious opportunity to begin again. We have rituals that help us to remember this: a crystal ball slides down a pole as millions watch in a digital world, old calendars are replaced with new in countless homes and offices, toasts are drunk, benchmarks are celebrated; yet do we empower change and growth in our lives or do we enable destructive, predictable and unchanging behaviors?

The cycle of nature in which we experience disintegration followed by the possibility of regeneration models for us a way in which to live. After the falling apart there is always the chance to come together. The keys are to remain open to the possibility, to encourage growth, and to look for the newness with open minds rather than heavy hearts.

After the storm there is the calm.

After the winter there is the spring.

After the destruction there is the rebuilding.

After the night there is the dawn.

After the exile there is restoration.

Our wounded-ness becomes healing when we grow with newness. Our closed-ness becomes resurrection when we believe with determination. Our humanity becomes divine when we love with vulnerability. As we stand on the threshold of a new liturgical year, we have again the opportunity to experience conversion of the heart, to turn our stubborn pride into endurance, our anger into healing passion, and our anxiety into enduring love. Let us welcome this invitation to new growth as warmly as we welcome the Christ Child, Jesus.

We remember that the fledgling church began in smallness and insignificance. If there is time today, read more about the origen of Christianity in Acts.


Image from: http://frontierdreams.blogspot.com/2011/11/rhythm-in-our-home-first-sunday-in.html

Adapted from a reflection written on January 2, 2009.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Hosea 10:11-15: Time to Seek the Lord

morning-dew-fresh-christ-manna-1024x768[1]Ephraim . . . Judah . . . sons of Jacob . . . tribes of Israel . . . northern and southern kingdoms.  Paganism . . . a Covenant relationship with the one true God . . . Infidelity . . . Constancy . . . Pleasure . . . Joy.  Exile . . . Return . . . Repentance . . . Restoration . . . Turmoil . . . Order . . . Chaos . . . Light.

We have seen these words . . . heard these themes . . . so many times . . . yet eye has not seen . . . ear has not heard . . . what God has in mind for us. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Hosea follows the will of God and marries the harlot Gomer.  His hope is that she will reform.  She does not.  He calls her to love . . . she turns away.  He persists . . . she will return . . . one day . . .

The offenses of Israel are grave and great, almost too much to bear.  And so we look to the end of the story to peek at the outcome.  Looking at the last lines of Hosea’s prophecy:  I will heal their defection; I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.  I will be like the dew of Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.  His splendor shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.  Again they shall dwell in the shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.  Ephraim!  What more has he to do with idols?  I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.  “I am like a verdant cypress tree” – Because of me you bear fruit!  Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.  Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.  (14:5-10)

Lily Five[1]Dear Jesus,

We stumble so frequently yet we turn and return.

We seek your path,

We call on your wisdom, we ask for prudence, courage, fortitude, patience.

We know your ways and your statutes.  We know that you await us.

We see these things, we hear these words, we rely on your constancy and your promise.

We look for the harvest, we look for the shade in the noonday sun.

We seek conversion and transformation.

We seek the Lord.

 Amen.


1 Corinthians 2:9: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard by Marty Haugen video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRyOS0nZr7s

For more thoughts on seeking, go to the God Time page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/god-time/

Images from: http://www.agodman.com/blog/enjoying-the-dew-and-the-manna-from-the-lord-to-be-revived-every-morning/ and http://theverticall.blogspot.com/2010/06/dew-to-israel.html

Written on January 31, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hosea 6: The Broken-Hearted

Thursday, June 6, 2019

We frequently look at this prophecy written by one betrayed in the most intimate of ways.  We will need this lesson because in our lives we will often find suffering at the hands of those we trust.  This prophet speaks to us from the depths of sorrow in authenticity about his own intense suffering as a result of the infidelity of his wife, the harlot Gomer.

Chapter 6 begins with a verse that stands out to us because it speaks to our broken-ness as people: broken covenants, broken vows, broken oaths, broken words, broken spirits, broken hearts.  But the beauty of this prophecy and of this first verse is this: for as much as we are broken, we might heal others . . . and in so carrying and living out Christ’s message, we might ourselves be healed.

In the morning reading in Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, we find an important reading: Mark 3:13-19.  Jesus has cured many people of their physical broken-ness and now the throngs are pressing in upon him in such a way that He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.  This is where we come into the story.  Jesus ascends a mountain – usually a sign of moving toward God in scripture – and then he calls forth those whom he wanted.  And these came to him.  He appoints them as apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  Among these twelve is the Iscariot . . . Judas.  Even God allows betrayers to enter his camp, knowing that they will break his heart.

What an amazing God is this who comes to live among us to suffer as we do; yet this is exactly the good news that we have yearned to hear.  How will our broken hearts be mended?  How will broken oaths be healed and broken friendships fixed?  We step forward, called out of the crowd as apostles, to be sent into the world with God’s authority to drive out demons and to heal.  And how do we obtain this authority?  By participating – with Christ – in his suffering and death upon the cross.  This is what Hosea comes to understand through his own agony as he watches his wife dangle herself before any man who will take her.  This is what we can understand as we suffer at the hands of those we thought we knew . . . those in whom we trusted . . . those with whom we shared our inmost thoughts, desires and fears.

When we look at some of the images in Hosea 6 we see the depth of betrayal.  Verse 4: Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.  Verse 9: As brigands ambush a man, so do bands of priests slay on the way to Shechem, committing monstrous crimes. 

And so we pray that broken hearts be healed, that we become messengers of the good news that Christ has come to heal.  We ask for the gift of willingness to enter God’s vineyard, that we allow our suffering to be converted into the authority of an apostle . . . so that we might in turn drive out demons in Christ’s name.

Good and gracious God the Creator, God the Saver, God the Holy Spirit that lives within us:  Keep us close to you in all we suffer that we might be with you as your apostles.  Teach us your way of love that we might go forth as your apostles.  Continue to speak to us of your story that we might preach it as your apostles.  Grant us the patience to rest in your word that it might give us authority as your apostles.  Give us the power to drive out and away all the demons that settle into us without our knowing.  We ask this in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 23, 2012.

Image from: http://www.officialpsds.com/Glass-Shatered-From-A-Broken-Heart-PSD59964.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Rewritten from May 3, 2009 Noontime Reflection. 

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Deuteronomy 31:24-30: Alive Among You

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

We have spent the past few days looking at how the Israelites struggle to remain faithful to Yahweh, the Living God who led them from slavery to freedom, from the desert to a land of promise.  We can see ourselves in these stiff-necked people as we turn to and away from God as the season suits us.  We read the story of how an unassailable enemy eventually falls once the Israelites turn themselves over to Yahweh’s ways.  And we can see ourselves being delivered from adversaries we once thought unbeatable.  The Israelites are such simple and predictable people that Moses knows they will fall away from the covenant they have entered into; and so he tries to prepare them for the days when they will yield to temptation. We too, know that we will be lured by the many attractions the world holds for us . . . and so in our Lenten journey we may want to spend a bit of time reflecting on how to best cleave to the promises we make to this amazing God who persists in loving us into goodness.

Take this scroll of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord, your God, that there it may be a witness against you.  The Law of the New Covenant, the New Testament, is not complicated.  It is brief, universal and compelling: Love one another as I have loved you.  Perhaps this weekend we can write out a simple promise to love God by loving others – even and especially our enemies – and put it in a special place that we will see each day as a reminder . . . a witness to ourselves.  A new ark of a new promise made in a new hope of conversion.

I already know how rebellious and stiff-necked you will beAnd the Living God loves us despite these faults.

Even now, while I am alive among you, you have been rebels against the LordAnd the Living God who loves us so fiercely has returned as the Christ to save us.

Assemble all your tribal elders and your officials before me, that I may speak these words for them to hear, and so may call heaven and earth to witness against you.  Perhaps we can gather our family or a group of trusted friends and agree together to turn ourselves toward the goal of living the law of love.  Perhaps we can support one another in our hope of softening our stiff necks, in our Lenten journey of conversion.

We are blessed to have the Lord always among us each day, all day.  As New Testament people we experience Eucharist with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the abiding protection and love of the Living God.  Let us take a moment today to think about the passage we make from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, the passage that we call Lent.  And let us pause to give thanks to the God who loves us so well . . . and who is always alive among us.


A re-post from March 16, 2012. 

If you are able, spend some time today with the  A Journey of Return – Repentance reflection on this blog.  Tomorrow we will ponder the words of Moses’ prayer: The Song of Moses

For more on The Ark of the Covenant click the image above or go to: http://bible-blog.org/what-is-the-significance-of-the-ark-of-the-covenant.php

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Mark 14:66-72A False and Dangerous Road

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Paraphrasing from the commentary in the BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA: Ssimultaneously, Master and disciple move through a process.  With an intentional gradation, the story presents us with Peter’s triple denial as he completes Jesus’ prediction to the letter (Mark 14:30).  Mark reminds us that when we rely on self alone we journey down a false and dangerous road.  (LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA 1537) I am wondering . . . why we insist on being so willful when God stands ready to help us at every turn.

This very night, before the cock crows three times, you will betray me. It still amazes me that Jesus is such a constant companion to us who do worse than ignore him, to us who contradict and even reject him.  I am still surprised at the enormity of Jesus’ patience that he abides with us beyond our disagreement with him; he remains to suffer the buffeting blows we deliver with our lack of faith, love and understanding.  It still startles me each time I read this passage to know that the patient and persevering Christ suffers intensely for us while all the while we cannot summon the courage to allow him to protect us and to take us in.

Even though I should have to die with you I would not deny you.

Tissot: Second Denial of St. Peter

Human fear is a powerful motivator.  Fear of starving keeps us working.  Fear of being alone keeps us seeking.  Fear of failure keeps us struggling.  Our hubris somehow blots out all reality; our envy blinds us to the outcomes that are easy predictions to others.  This is a dark and dangerous road on which to journey, this path we take when we deny, refute and reject salvation.

You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.

How many times in a day are we asked to stand on principle, to tell truth, to fill an omission that another intentionally commits?  How many times do we step up, come forward, stand in solidarity to witness in humility and love?

I neither know nor understand what you are talking about. 

Rembrandt: The Apostle Peter Denies Christ

This story should always be told in complement with the ending from John 21 when the resurrected Jesus thrice asks Peter if he loves him and Peter replies: You know all things.  You know that I do.  This joyful ending to a horrible story reminds us that the Master and disciple move in tandem toward an inevitable end.  This wonderful turning at the end of John’s Gospel shows what we yearn to know.  God brings goodness out of harm, God keeps promises, God always offers multiple opportunities of conversion, God wants to lead us away from the false and dangerous road of deceit, subterfuge, and lies.  God wants us to choose life over death, light over dark, goodness over evil, service over power, humility over fame, the marginalized over the in-crowd.

Do you love me more than these?

Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Feed my lambs.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Tend my sheep.

Do you love me?

Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.

Feed my sheep . . . Follow me.


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

A re-post from December 2, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.fineartprintsondemand.com/artists/rembrandt/apostle_peter_denies_christ.htm and http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html and http://www.eons.com/photos/group/catholics-50-3/photo/709583-Peter-Denies-Jesus-three-times/jesus—lent-passion-easter

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John 4: The Samaritan Woman and the Official with the Ailing Son

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Henry Siemiradski: Christ and the Samaritan Woman

There is so much about these stories to interest us.  There is so much here that Jesus teaches us.  There is so much for us to experience and pass on . . . if we only take the time to look.

The Samaritan Woman in today’s Noontime comes alone at mid-day to Jacob’s Well in the town of Sychar.  Her delayed arrival indicates that she is a late riser and therefore does not live like other women in the community.  Perhaps she is shunned by the other orthodox, early rising women.  We do not know.

What we do know is that this woman approaches a man, Jesus, resting by the well and they speak.  Jesus tells her more than anyone passing through town can know. The woman recognizes that he is special, she believes him to be a prophet, and she slips easily into a redemptive conversation.  After Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah – something he rarely does in the Gospels – and sends her back to her life as a changed woman, she converts others to such an extent that at the town’s request he remains with them for two days.  The result is that far more believed because of his word.

Jan Vermeyen: Wedding Feast at Cana

This second part of this chapter is the story of the official whose son who is cured without Jesus physically touching him. The miracle takes place in Cana, the town where, according to this Gospel, Jesus began his public ministry at the wedding feast where he changed jars of water for ritual cleansing into jars of superb wine. Perhaps this official knew about Jesus from the stories circulating after the miracle at the wedding feast.  Perhaps this is why the official sought out this healing man in search of a cure for his ailing son.  Again, we do not know.

But here is something that we do know . . . in one long elliptical circling journey of physical and spiritual healing, Jesus shows us two stories that speak of the good news of the Messiah’s coming.  Through his words and actions Jesus retells the story of creation, and foreshadows the cycle of redemption and healing in our own lives. In one powerful, long, sweeping arc Jesus moves from north to south to north again; and in his path he leaves a wake of people whose spirits and bodies are touched, healed and transformed. The central episode of the calling and conversion of the Samaritan woman takes place at a well, not a cistern of stagnant water. It happens in the full light of day rather than in the crepuscular light of dawn or dusk, so that all can be revealed to her – and to us – through Christ. All is healed when she commits an act of faith and returns to her people to tell them of this unusual man. This outcast and unorthodox woman becomes an immediate apostle for Christ as she calls the townspeople to this well of now living water, Jesus himself.  And together they create an immediate temple around him, a place of nourishment, cleansing, healing and redemption.

Detail: Christ and the Samaritan Woman

Like the woman at the well, the official realizes that his son was healed at the exact moment Jesus spoke the curing words: So he and all his household believed. The official makes an act of faith in the moment he realizes that he and his son have been touched by something wonderfully special and different, and so he too, becomes an apostle for Christ.

These stories tell us about how Jesus brings both the powerful official and the outcast woman into the temple.  These stories offer us a window into our own lives.  These stories are our own story of call and answer, conversion and healing, rescue and ransom.  They are stories of our own resurrection.

We watch Jesus in this chapter reap these unbelieving souls, convert them, and send them back into the world to continue the harvest. For there is much to gather and the workers are scarce. And just as these diverse followers of Christ make huge, risky changes in their lives, just as they go abroad to tell the good news, so too can we reap the message from our lives and then use it to bring life to others . . . if we only take the time to look.


A re-post from February 15, 2012. 

Images from: http://www.catholicjournal.us/monsignorialmusings/tag/reconciliation and http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.1.Mary_of_Nazareth.htm

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