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Posts Tagged ‘covenant promise’


Nehemiah 12: 27-43: Dedication

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bible Encyclopedia: Dedication of the Temple

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah bring us the chronicle of returning exiled Jews who threw themselves into the work of rebuilding the protective walls of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple itself. These books relate the Jewish people’s fidelity to the Torah (The Law) and an authentic Jewish life lived in faithful adherence to their covenant with Yahweh.

Today we consider our own agreement with our Creator.

Why do we forget how much we have promised to reform once we see ourselves out of danger? Why do we work so hard to amend our ways only to fall back into the same temptations, addictions and games? Why do we, like the Jewish people who return to their old rituals after the Babylonian captivity, ardently promise to repent and repay? Why do we work diligently to reform and then, like the Jewish nation, slip back into familiar, unfaithful habits?

Because this world is a treacherous, alluring, clever place, and the only way we can hope to walk through it and still remain faithful to the covenant promise is to be in constant contact with the Creator God, the Ransomer Christ, and the Indwelling Holy Spirit. We read about the faithful followers of Yahweh who rediscover the relics of a life for which they had hoped, but which they suspected they would never live again. They have escaped bondage and now they gather to celebrate, to dedicate, to promise once again to abide by the covenant promise.

May we, like this faithful band of people, re-gather, re-collect, re-dedicate, and re-commit ourselves to a life centered around service to the New Torah – service to the Gospel – service to Christ.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 2, 2007.

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Nehemiah 1 and 2: Rebuilding Walls

The Damascus Gate by night in Jerusalem

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We visit with Nehemiah several times a year and each time we rediscover the themes of covenant, restoration, and rebuilding.  Today’s reading takes us to the beginning of the restoration of Jerusalem after the northern invasion and the Babylonian exile.  This book was written in about 430 B.C.E. and as it begins, we see Nehemiah, the Jewish man who serves as Cupbearer to the foreign king.  Footnotes tell us this means that he was an important official who was allowed to come into the presence of not only the king but the queen as well.  This would suggest that he was a eunuch but there is no evidence to support that fact.  What we do understand is that he was highly placed in this foreign administration and we can guess, when we see his skills displayed throughout this story that he rose to that position through his skill.  But there is an important element to this story. Nehemiah prayed constantly, and this praying kept him connected intimately with his creator.  Nehemiah called on God continually for direction, and God gave direction to this good and loyal servant.

As the story begins, news arrives with several Jewish men who have just come from Judah, from Jerusalem.  The news is not good; but filled with courage and a love of his God, Nehemiah responds to his creator’s call and so it is with a mixture of trepidation and courage that he goes to the king. As we read, we find several interesting points.

  • Today’s reading begins in the month of Chislev – the same month in which we will later see (in the year 165 B.C.E.) the celebration of the re-dedication of the temple which we were reading and reflecting about some days ago. We too are in the month of Chislev, and the celebration of Hannukah was just completed this week. The Festival of Light – the season of a small shaft of light piercing the intense darkness.
  • Should you prove faithless, I will scatter you among the nations; but should you return to me and carefully keep my commandments, even though your outcasts have been driven to the farthest corner of the world, I will gather them from there, and bring them back to the place which I have chosen as the dwelling place for my name. This is the covenant promise which Jesus fulfills four centuries later and which he continues to fulfill for us each day.
  • Nehemiah not only asks permission to visit his former city, he also asks for soldiers, protection, and permission to fell trees with which to rebuild the city and gates, and a house for himself. He does not do things by half-measures; he is totally and truly dedicated to God in temperance, patience, endurance and perseverance.

Tomorrow, arriving in Jerusalem.

Adapted from a Favorite written during Advent, on December 15, 2007

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Esther 10 and F: Thanksgiving – Part IV

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rembrandt: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Rembrandt: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Mordecai’s Dream Fulfilled

A Favorite from October 6, 2007. To read the epilogue (Esther F), consult the New American Bible (NABRE) using the scripture link above. 

We must remember that God is always loyal to the covenant promise, and we need not expect anything less than perfection from God because with God all things are possible.  As Mordecai says in today’s reading when he realizes that the outrageous hope of which he dreamt has actually been fulfilled, This is the work of God.  Mordecai recognizes God’s effort to convert harm to good.  He sees that not a single detail has been left unfulfilled.  He recognizes the meaning of the symbols of the spring, the light, and the dragons which had previously been unclear to him.  He sees what God has arranged, and what man has plotted.  He recognizes that God has saved his people and delivered us from all these evils.  He now understands that God worked signs and great wonders which we were too frightened to see and appreciate as we ran the gauntlet of obstacles laid out by ourselves and others in anticipation of our fall.  Mordecai now feels the full impact of his rescue and reparation.  He has let the reality of the outcome of his innocent suffering come into focus.  He now sees fully that the horrific end which his enemies had plotted is not his and Esther’s – for it is not the Jewish people who hang from the gallows but instead, those who ordered the gallows built.  Not only has God saved, God has at the same time turned evil into good, passed judgment and handed out consequences.

Tomorrow, thanksgiving for rescue. 

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Luke 2Our Story – Part Ishooting star

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Our story is told through the whole of scripture as the story of Christ. Today we reflect on the traces of this story that we find in our own lives from the first words of Genesis . . . In the beginning . . . to the last words of Revelation . . . The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.  What has been our beginning? What do our lives reveal?

From the Torah and narratives, through the books of wisdom and prophets, and finally with the gospels, letters and final oracles, we read the story of Jesus who is predicted and promised, and who comes to fulfill that covenant promise.  What is our prediction? What potential of hope has God placed within us? What is the promise our lives disclose?

The scripture stories fit together, notching closely as a mosaic to form the Mystical Body of Christ. What sort of image of God do we speak to the world with our lives? How do the stories we play out speak of our relationship with God?

Christ’s story can be our own not in that we live perfect lives as Jesus did, but in that we strive for this perfect love that Jesus teaches us daily.  Today, we look at the words that begin his story as a human . . . In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled . . . and we take the opportunity to consider once again how our own story might begin . . . In those days a war erupted between . . . In those days there was great political, economic and social unrest . . . In those days peace had come upon the land . . . In those days there was much to celebrate . . . We might enumerate our family lineage as Matthew does in his Gospel.  We might wade immediately into our story as Mark does; or we might allow poetry to take over as does John . . . In the beginning was The Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   Our own New Testament might begin . . . In the beginning there was Fury . . . there was Peace . . . there was Confusion . . . there was Joy.

Today we spend time reflecting on the introduction of our story. The introduction of our hope. The introduction of the love we bring to the world as our response to God’s call.

Tomorrow, our stories of obstacles and rejections.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 21, 2010.

 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Martin-Luther-King-Pic-21Jeremiah 22

Do What Is Right

Listen to the word of the Lord . . .

Do what is right and just . . .

Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor . . .

Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow . . .

Do not shed innocent blood . . .

With hindsight we can see where the chosen people miss-stepped. We can easily judge and say that we would have listened to God’s voice to avoid falling into the subtle trap of following little gods rather than the one Living God.

With understanding we can see how the chosen people miscalculated. We can quickly recognize the corruption that pervaded their religious and civic institutions.

With honesty we can see our own slide into first accepting and later following the way that is wide and dishonest rather than the narrow way that is difficult and authentic.

do-what-you-feel-is-rightMany people will pass by this city and ask one another: “Why has the Lord done this to so great a city?”

And the answer will be: “Because they have deserted their covenant with the Lord, their God, by worshiping and serving strange gods”.

What strange little gods do we allow to filter into our decisions? What small little gods rule our days and nights? What insignificant little gods threaten our peaceful relationship with God?

How do we do what is good and right and just?

We take time today to pause and reflect.

For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, go to: http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086#synopsis and http://www.biography.com/people/eleanor-roosevelt-9463366 

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Jeremiah 21

Oracles and Kings

19th Century English School: Blind Zedekiah, Last King of Judah, Before Nebuchadnezzar

19th Century English School: Blind Zedekiah, Last King of Judah, Before Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon

Many of us dislike hearing bad news; most of us hate delivering an unwanted message or information. We ask for input and then complain about the information we receive. “Consider the source,” my dad used to say, “and then take it to God”.

In today’s reading from Jeremiah we enter into the portion of his prophecy in which he brings us God’s word regarding the line of David, those who followed on the heels of greatness to lose the covenant gift given by God. The prophet speaks of the work of justice which must be done in this world in order to experience the next world well; we are to be about the work of advocacy for the poor, the down-trodden and those on the margins of life. This is clear. Verse 12: Each morning dispense justice, rescue the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor. When we continue reading, we see the consequence that Jeremiah foretells if we do not rise to answer our call.

The Gospel describes how Jesus’ disciples struggle to understand the true meaning of discipleship; they are no longer “of this world” just as Jesus is not of this world. Jesus asks that his disciples be “consecrated in truth” – consecrated in the word. There is no greater life to which a human might aspire than to stand in solidarity with those who suffer innocently. And Jeremiah calls to King, High Priest and commoner alike.

We are all Kings of the house of Judah; each of us is the High Priest; we also the adopted siblings of Christ. We are all called to abide by our covenant promises just as God abides with us. We are all called to dispense justice, to deliver hope in a real and immediate way, to advocate for those who have no voice. We are all called to consecration in the truth of the word of God just as the women and men who traveled with Jesus were. We are all called to be of the other world while still living in this world. We are all called to listen to the oracles of the Kings . . . and to respond.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 23, 2007.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

promisesAmos 9:13-15

Keeping Promises

The prophet Amos was particularly insistent about the Covenant promises the Jewish people did not keep, especially regarding issues of social injustice.  We have spent a number of days reflecting on this prophecy and we have seen the conciseness and force with which this fiercely independent prophet calls us to observing the importance of keeping our Covenant Promise with God. Amos reminds us of what is most important in life: the return to out true nature as loving children who trust in God alone when we find ourselves suffering acutely.   We are accustomed to thinking of Social Injustice in the wide and sweeping scale of one people against another; but injustice also takes place on a personal level of an individual against another, or one small group against another.  There are many times in our lives when we have been involved in unjust relationships . . . either as an aggressor or as the innocent . . . and this calls us re-evaluate the promises we keep, with whom, and why.  So as we approach the Fourth Sunday in Lent, let us pause to evaluate.

God always keeps promises . . . do we keep our promises to God, to others, and to ourselves?  What do we do with the Gift of Promise God places in us?

Adapted from a reflection written on March 27, 2008.

To view a trailer with an interesting presentation of God’s promises produced by Worship House Media, go to: http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/18865/Promises

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Thursday, March 29, 2012 – Sirach 7 – Public and Private Life

Several days ago we reflected on the meaning of our public image in the Book of Daniel; today with Sirach we might spend time with how this compares to our private life.  The Irish culture holds an image of a man who is a street angel but a house devil . . . pleasant and amiable – even lovable – to his neighbors . . . while beating his wife and children behind closed doors.  How many of us harbor devils inside that we do not show to the world?  How do these devils slip into our lives without our knowing?

We are advised by Jesus ben Sirach to bring our public and private lives into line with our covenant promise with Yahweh. 

In this book of wisdom, we are cautioned that we must be humble in our dealings with one another; we ought not seek out the high places at the table.  We are warned to refrain from seeking work as a judge unless we have the strength to root out crime; otherwise we succumb to corruption and mar our integrity.  We ought not flaunt our wisdom, our power, our wealth, our specialness in any way . . . for our pride will be our undoing.  This is how humility arrives. 

We are also advised to steer clear of situations the catechism refers to as near occasions of sin: those times when we ourselves do not sin but come dangerously close to slipping over the precipice into evil.  Standing by wordless as we watch malevolence occur without offering witness to injustice is not the way of the Lord. When we lack courage, we only need to look to God for strength.  This is how fortitude arrives.

We ought to pray in earnest and not hurry through prayer as this leaves room for a false sense of independence from God.  We humble ourselves appropriately when we come before the Lord and so we ought to enter into prayerfulness with deliberation and patience so that we might all the better hear the word of God.  This is how wisdom arrives.

In private and in our family life, we need to continue to live with thoughtfulness, with intention.  Treating servants well – or the people we meet in the mall, in the supermarket, in the gas station – leads us to treating all well.  Honoring elders, respecting the living, remembering the dead.  This is how piety arrives. 

Refrain from bartering for friends.  Mourn with those who mourn.  Steer clear of those who do not.  Visit the sick.  This is how compassion arrives.

When we eliminate fear and pain from our lives by blocking them out and riding over these powerful emotions, we also eliminate important opportunities for learning the ways of God.  We erase the opportunities for God to guide and protect us.  When we petition God and thank him for his bounty, we indicate our understanding that we are his creatures.  This is how faith arrives. 

When we balance our inner self with our outer self, we clear away the dark corners where house devils might lurk.  Integrity finds a comfortable dwelling place within . . . and chases away these devils to make room for angels.  This is how hope arrives.

When we bring into focus our whole mind, our whole heart, our whole body and our whole soul to celebrate our union with God, we enter into his divinity.  This is why the words of Jesus ben Sirach are so important to us today.  With all your strength, love your Creator . . . for this is how love arrives. 

To review the Noontime reflection on Public Life go to: https://thenoontimes.wordpress.com/2012/3/23/

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Sunday, August 21, 2011 – Joshua 24 – The Witness Stone

Today we read about a rite that takes place in Shechem under an oak in the sanctuary of the Lord.  Joshua sets up a standing stone as a witness to all that takes place that day. 

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: I brought you out of a land in which you were asked to serve other gods.  And we reply: We remember well how we were taken in by the false promise of immediate satisfaction . . . and how the Lord saved us from an empty life.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: I led you out of the desert and saved you from those who would see an end of you.  And we reply: We remember well how we hungered for real sustenance and how we were frightened by those who wanted to put an end to us . . . and how the Lord redeemed us with his own life.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: I gave you land which you had not tilled and cities which you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.  And we reply: We remember well how you rescued us from privation and provided all for us . . . and how the Spirit continues to abide with us and comfort us.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: Love the Lord and serve him completely.  If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  And we reply: We will renew this promise with you.

Joshua says to us as he said to his own people: You may not be able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.  And we reply as the people replied: We will still serve the Lord.

Joshua says to us as he said to his own people: You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the Lord.  And we reply as the people replied: We are, indeed!

And Joshua says . . . This stone shall be our witness, for it has heard all the words which the Lord spoke to us. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, we were told that you would not forgive us our transgressions and yet you not only forgive them, you come to walk with us as one of us.  We hear that you are a jealous God and yet we see that your love is tender and nourishing.  We know that you are holy and yet your endless generosity in sharing your life with us amazing to us.  

Like Joshua’s people who affirm their covenant promise to you beneath the oak in the sanctuary at Shechem, we declare today that you are the one, the only, the Living God who loves us more dearly than we can imagine.  In our littleness we cling to you.  In our waywardness we look to you.  In our fear we hope in you. 

We ask that you call us back when we stray from you.  Keep us always close to you so that we might serve you.

We ask that you bind us to you.  Keep us always close to you so that we might serve you.

We ask that you never let us go.  Keep us always close to you so that we might serve you.

We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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