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Posts Tagged ‘courage’


Acts 6 & 7: God’s Yardstick – Stephen

God’s Grace and Energy

Paolo Uccello: Stoning of St Stephen

Monday, January 30, 2023

We may or may not know the story of Stephen, the martyr stoned for acting with and speaking about the healing power of Christ. Once the full impact of this story settles on us, we might hope that the Spirit not inspire us. We might wish to shed the power of God’s wisdom rather than ask that it dwell within. It is likely that the trials are not as severe as Stephen’s; yet gossip in the home or workplace can break the spirit just as stones break bones. Severe illness, economic and natural disasters, slander, bullying and fear can bring an end to life. Stephen’s reaction to his enemies gives us a measuring stick for our own actions.

If we look only quickly at these chapters, we might at first believe that the lives of all true Christians must come to a frightening end. When we look more closely to find clues in the details, we uncover what it means to live a life brimming with God’s grace and energy. No matter our persecution, no matter the place or time of our trial, Stephen’s yardstick serves as a stark measure of God’s love in our lives.

6:7: The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.

When we experience God’s presence, we can expect envy and anger from others. Like Stephen, we must persist in gentleness and honesty.

6:8: Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. 

When we witness God’s presence, we can expect dishonesty and deceit from others. Like Stephen, we must persist in courage and hope.

6:11: In secret [Stephen’s enemies] bribed men to lie [against him].

When we live in God’s presence, we can expect fear and anger from others. Like Stephen, we must persist in patience and love.

When we meet obstacles brought on by avarice, resentment and rage, we might consider the power we find in gentleness, honesty, patience, courage, hope and love. These traits will appear weak to the foolish, but in reality they are manifestations of God’s grace and energy, God’s enduring and healing love.

If we do not have time to spend with Chapters 6 and 7 of Acts, we might focus on Acts 6:8-10 and 7:54-59.

Tomorrow, the Gospel writers.


Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196.jpg

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Esther 3 (and B): Preamble – Part I

Friday, December 23, 2022queen-esther

We have visited the story of Esther frequently in our Noontime journey and this Christmas as pause to spend some time in Chapter 3. Because of various redactions, different Bibles have divided this story with both numbered and lettered parts but today we are looking at both Chapter 3 and B, the story about the letter of King Ahasuerus that decrees death to the Jewish people on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar. When we read the entire account, we know how the king finds out that Queen Esther is Jewish. We know how Esther and her uncle Mordecai intercede with God and king for the preservation of the Jewish people. And we know what becomes of the envious Haman and his family. This may be an unusual story to consider in the last week of Advent, but when we pause we see a connection with the Christmas Story: signs of God’s grace coming to a nation through people who are easily overlooked in a world that focuses on the supremacy and authority of powerful men. Today’s stories are about the surprising influence of the most vulnerable among us: a baby, and a woman.

While we are not in any way suggesting that Esther is the equivalent of the Christ child, we may want to consider the parallel these stories offer as analogous to our own feelings of defenselessness. And we may want to take direction from both Esther and Jesus as we watch them obey the Father who created them. These stories show us that the human life is best lived in search of and in preparation for our divinity. They show us that fidelity, simplicity, honesty and courage are essential to one who seeks to arrive at the potential God breathed into each of us at our creation.

Spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to a new coming.

Tomorrow, God’s sign is simplicity.


Image from: http://growing4life.net/lessons-from-esther/queen-esther/

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

 

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Isaiah 35:1-10: The Holy Road

Monday, December 5, 2022freephoto_feetwalking_pixabay

Daily headlines may lead us into thinking that we have no reason for hope in the future. Isaiah tells us that we would be mistaken. Isaiah gives us reason to enter into Advent hope, promise and joy.

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower . . .

All peoples and places where terror and pain rule will celebrate Christ’s healing rescue.

Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart!

All injury and harm that is meant to destroy will transform sorrow into joy with the Spirit’s comforting presence.

God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs.

All evil and darkness that whips up angry and anxiety will become tools for transformation with God’s renewing power.

Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song.

Jesus healed hundreds and fed thousands when he walked among us; Christ continues to restore and sustain.

desert-flowerSprings of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain.

The Spirit brings about the impossible; the Creator fulfills all promise.

There will be a highway called the Holy Road. No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road.

Jesus has shown us The Way in which we are to walk – with the marginalized rather than the powerful, with the abandoned rather than the famous and beautiful, with the abandoned rather than the familiar.

It’s impossible to get lost on this road. Not even fools can get lost on it. No lions on this road, no dangerous wild animals – nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.

temple_hera_roadThe Way is the Narrow Gate that stands before us. When we trust in God the door to this way opens to us. When we follow Christ the narrow gate opens wide. When we have faith in God the Holy Road opens at our feet . . . inviting us to move forward into a future full of hope, promise and joy.

The people God has ransomed will come back on this road. They’ll sing as they make their way home . . . welcomed with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.


Reflect on the idea of repairing what we have rather than buying new. For an interesting perspective, read about why Patagonia ™ wanted its customers to stay away from its stores on Black Friday in the USA, a day dedicated to in-store and online shopping. Visit: http://www.patagonia.com/us/home OR http://www.techinsider.io/patagonias-well-worn-campaign-2015-11 OR http://fortune.com/2015/09/14/rose-marcario-patagonia/

For information on ancient Roman roads, visit: http://www.biblewalks.com/info/RomanRoads.html#Introduction

To visit an interesting blog, click on the desert flower image or go to: http://reverendmom.blogspot.com/2010/12/least-likely.html  

Images from: http://www.shalominthewilderness.com/2014_07_01_archive.html and http://reverendmom.blogspot.com/2010/12/least-likely.html

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Isaiah 40: Beyond Self

Michaelangelo: The Creation of Adam

Michelangelo: The Creation of Adam – detail

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Isaiah again today, and it is the chapter which begins the second half of the prophecy – often referred to as the Book of Consolation. The words remind us also of chapters 38 through 42 of Job when God speaks to his loyal yet questioning servant.

Like Job, we also may have questions for the creator of the universe, questions about his plan for us, his plan for others, questions about how God expects so many diverse elements can possibly come together in peaceful union. Today’s citation tells us that we need not fret about how God’s plan will be accomplished. It tells us that if we place our hope in God, all that is inscrutable will be made plain to us.  Isaiah asks: Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Was it not foretold you form the beginning?  Have you not understood? 

Our spirit is captured in human vessels, struggling to break free, to soar above the ugly parts of this life; and yet in all of our struggle for release we forget that we have already been ransomed, as we spent time reflecting yesterday. Do you not know or have you not heard?  The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. Today’s words are a reminder that we are not meant to struggle alone.

When we present to God daily our list of petitions that beg for miracles . . . God does not faint or grow weary.

When we are confounded by the duplicity and complexity if darkness . . . God’s knowledge is beyond scrutiny.

In all of our turmoil, all of our tears, all of our anxiety . . . God gives strength to the fainting.

In the darkest hours, in the deepest mourning, in the depths of despair . . . God makes vigor abound.

Wherever we are wrung out, exhausted, at wit’s end, beyond recovery and when we stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. 

There is always joy beyond our imaginings. There is always strength beyond our human power. This is what makes us divine . . . in that we acknowledge this divinity and allow ourselves to be drawn to it. Once we step out of self, empty self, and allow God in, then we too have knowledge beyond scrutiny, strength beyond fainting, and joy beyond tears.


Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_of_Adam

A Favorite from July 3, 2009.

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Matthew 10:1-15: Our Commission 

Tissot: Exhortation to the Disciples

James Tissot: Exhortation to the Disciples

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 29, 2022

We are a week away from Pentecost Sunday and so we take time to review our Eastertide Noontimes to consider God’s wisdom in each of us as we look for the answer to these questions: What does Jesus have in mind for us this Eastertide? How does Jesus expect us to bring compassion to the world? And, where will we find the wisdom, courage and strength to do so?

A foundational theme in Jesus’ work and words is the importance of inclusion. We see him interact with women, tax collectors, Pharisees and lost souls. He walks among the clean and unclean alike; he ministers to the deaf and blind as well as the comfortable and well-off. Today and tomorrow we reflect on where and when we might step into the mission God extends to us. Do we move out and away from the community in which we are planted or do we remain and look for new windows of opportunity to enact our commission? As we prepare for our newest assignment in this important work, we do well to remember Jesus’ words.

Go to the lost sheep . . .

Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons . . .

Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give . . .

Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it and stay there . . .

As you enter a house, wish it peace . . .

If the house is worthy l let your peace come upon it . . .

If not, let your peace return to you . . .


Use the scripture link above to search other versions of these verses . . . and allow God to reveal to you the commission he has in mind for your work. Enter the word Pentecost into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: 

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Matthew 9:32-34: Healing our Muteness

Click on this image to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Click on this image to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Friday, May 27, 2022

“Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, despite his ardent nationalism. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out…” (Holocaust Encyclopedia www.ushmn.org) Read Niemöller’s sermon, and then consider . . .

God says: The Pharisees accused my son of using the power of the prince of demons to heal muteness in one of my sheep. Do not allow your ears to be closed to my word in you. Do not allow your fear to cripple my voice in you. Speak when I ask you to tell my good news. Be still when I ask you to wait for my word to flow through you. Take courage. When you live in me you will never die. When you offer your voice in my name you are one with me. 

Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemöller

Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum site and reflect on the power of human silence and human speech. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007391 Remember that there are those in our world who deny the fact that this human carnage took place . . . and then consider how and where and when we want to lend our voices to God’s cause.

To learn more about Martin Niemöller, click on his image to the left or visit:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414633/Martin-Niemoller

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Matthew 9:1-8: Taking Up Our Bedtake up your bed

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 22, 2021

They brought to him a paralytic lying on a bed . . .

Jesus says: Take courage . . . Get up . . . pick up your bed and go home . . .

God says: Each little incident that paralyzes you with fear is not from me. I only bring you love. Each enormous obstacle that looms before you is not from me. I only bring you hope. When you are paralyzed with fear, reach for me. When you are knocked off your feet, take up the bed of sorrow onto which you have fallen, and come home.

When we give ourselves over to fear we let go of God’s hand. When we languish in our sorrow and remain on our paralytic bed we reject the offer of newness God brings. If depression or anxiety overwhelm us we must seek professional guidance and help. God wants to convert the paralysis in our lives to loving acts of kindness, mercy and justice.

 


Image from: https://www.wordonfire.org/articles/fellows/pick-up-your-mat/

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Matthew 8:23-27: Stilling the Storm

James Seward: Peace, be Still

James Seward: Peace! Be Still!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

We say: Lord, we are perishing!

Jesus says: Why are you afraid?

God says: You and I have spoken about the storms of life so frequently – nearly every day – yet still I am willing to hear you again cry out for my help. And I am willing to give my help to you. I know that the circumstances of the world frighten you; yet I ask for your patience and courage. I know that the troubles of the world alarm you; yet I ask for your perseverance and fidelity. I know that the anxieties of the world panic you; yet I ask for your mercy and kindness. I know that the injustices of the world anger you; yet I ask for your confidence and love. When I calm the storm I calm you. When I ask for stillness I ask for your open heart. When I ask for love I ask for your full and abiding presence in me. Practice this when you are not distressed and you will see how natural this becomes in the way you interact with others. And you will find that a new peace and tranquility abide within. You will find that the approaching storm will roll over you to leave you unscathed. And you will have stilled the storm within.


For a musical reflection on Peace! Be Stillby Seward, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DSYtYdjsbA

Find your former self in Seward’s painting . . . look for your new self in Christ.

For a reflection on fear, click on the image above or visit: http://www.shellyduffer.com/tag/jesus-calms-the-storm/

Enter the word storm into the blog search bar, think about how we react to crisis or strife, and decide to hand over the storm within to the one who calms all storms.

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Matthew 5:5: The MeekPsalm-37-11

Easter Monday, April 18, 2022

On this Easter Monday we continue our reflection on the Beatitudes as we re-focus our attention on God’s priorities rather than our own.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. (Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount)

Perhaps patience is the quality we most need if we are to be humble servants. Patience in our understanding that we are not in charge. Patience in our knowing that it is God’s wisdom and grace that answers our deepest questions. Patience in allowing God’s fidelity and mercy to invade all that we do. Patience in both giving and accepting God’s healing love. Psalm 27 reminds us what we gain when we are able to wait. These verses bring into focus what it is we inherit, and why the land in which the Spirit dwells is worth our offering of meekness.

Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear . . .

On this Easter Monday we celebrate God’s strength . . .

Though war arise against me, I shall be confident . . .

We celebrate God’s hope . . .

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . .

We celebrate God’s gift of eternal life and love . . .  

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage . . .

We celebrate God’s gift of promise . . .

Yes, wait for the Lord . . .

We celebrate God’s gift of persistence.

2012042151empty_tombWhen our quiet strength rises from God we have no need to boast or strut. When our simple humility follows the example of Christ we have no need to exclude or divide. When our genuine meekness grows in the Spirit of God we have no need to hate or avenge. Let us wait on the Lord, let us give thanks for God’s presence, and let us celebrate the patience we inherit that offers us the gift of God’s meekness.

Using the scripture links, explore different versions of these verses and give thanks for our inheritance of meekness.

Tomorrow, the merciful. 


Images from: http://eagleviews.org/2011/10/14/they-say-he-said/ and http://flowers-kid.com/easter-empty-tomb-images.htm

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