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Ezekiel 43: God’s Glory Returns

archway-roman-ruins-tyre-lebanon_12240_600x450

National Geographic: Ruins of Roman Archway in Tyre, Lebanon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a counterbalance to the description of the downfall of Tyre on which we have reflected before, today we have a description of the temple in the New Jerusalem. What we see described here is God living with all of the Israelites forever. The man leading the prophet through this beautiful scenario says: Describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangements, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of detailed descriptions of the place and the people who make up this new city where God dwells forever with his people. It was meant to both instruct and to bring comfort to those who lived in exile with this prophet. The footnotes in the NAB point out that in the new Israel the temple is free, even physically, from civil jurisdiction – moving away from the habit of corrupt kings like Ahaz and Manasseh who treated it as a private chapel for pagan rites.

Jerusalem _ Old City Walls _ Noam Chen_IMOT

Noam Chen: Old City of  Jerusalem

When Jesus arrived on the scene hundreds of years later as the true Messiah, he upset much of this separatist and purist thinking. It was for his openness and universality that he was hunted down, condemned and put to death.  Because his new Law of Love fulfilled and superseded the old Law of Moses, he and his apostles were hounded out of towns and executed. Even in the early Christian church we see the struggle with this idea of openness and universality with the first Council which convened in Jerusalem to determine the importance of circumcision as a requirement for church membership. After discussion, and when the dust settles, we read in Acts that circumcision was not determined necessary.  God’s church is open to Gentile and Jew, slave or free, woman or man – to all those who will be faithful to the Covenant first established with Adam and Eve.

This is how we see the New Temple and the New Jerusalem as revealed by Ezekiel millennia ago. This place of worship where God dwells is where we live even today . . . if we might only choose to open our eyes and ears to it. This prophet was painting a picture of radiance for his exiled peope, and they must have taken heart at the memories these words stirred of how it is to gather together as Yahweh’s faithful to repent, to petition, to give thanks, to worship.

As Easter people who believe in the Resurrected Jesus, we too, can relax into these images and make them our own. We can carry them into the world with us each day as we encounter and then counter the darkness that wishes to prevail. We can arm ourselves with these pictures of the universal gathering of all of God’s People . . . the Faithful to the Covenant . . . the Hopeful in all things hopeless . . . the Truthful in all relationships . . . the Struggling with the cares of this world . . . the Freed who have escaped the chains of doubt and anxiety. For we are Easter people who live the Resurrection even now. For God’s Glory has returned in us . . . in our willingness to serve . . . our willingness to be vulnerable . . . our willingness to witness . . . our willingness to be Christ and Light and Truth to a world struggling to be free of the darkness.

This is God’s Plan. This is God’s Design. This is God’s Law.

Amen.  Alleluia!

A Favorite from April 13, 2008.

For a Noontime reflection on Tyre, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/18/tyre/ 

For more National Geographic images of Lebanon, click on the image above. 

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2 Chronicles 34Serving the Lord

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Leonaert Bramer: The Scribe Shaphan Reading the Book of the Law to King Josiah

Leonaert Bramer: The Scribe Shaphan Reading the Book of the Law to King Josiah

A Favorite from October 10, 2009.

Several years ago we looked at a portion of this chapter in which we see the story of a leader and a people who come back to Yahweh, back to a life of honesty and integrity.  Here is the brief reflection.

2 Chronicles 34:14 to the end – This is where the young king Josiah ushers in reforms after the corruption which causes the Jewish kingdom to be invaded.  They find the book of the law left with them by Moses and this young king realizes how derelict he and his people have been.  He tries to make reparations and is rewarded with a new covenant.

We might think about how we try to balance making reparations without enabling people to continue bad behavior.  It is such a tight-wire walk.

The tight-wire is the razor’s edge we call living a life in Christ.  Nepotism, a coveting of power, and a desire to live life as we see best rather than as God sees, always leads to downfall.  Downfall often leads to exile.  Return from exile is a gift sometimes granted by God; and we ought not miss the opportunity it brings us to reform, transform and restore.

Josiah cleanses the temple.  He and the people weep as they hear the law read out which ought to govern their lives; they acknowledge that they have strayed.  They work faithfully to restore the structures of the temple that housed the God who chose to live with them.  They put aside their desire for comfort, they turn away from a life in which they idolized themselves, and they renew their covenant agreement with God.

The tight-wire walk re-commences, and a people once lost in themselves returns to serve the Lord.

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1 Kings 8Dedication

Wednesday, May 18,2016

Jerusalem: Olivier Pichat

Jerusalem: Olivier Pichat

In this chapter of 1 Kings we see the beautiful temple built by Solomon dedicated to God.  We read Solomon’s prayer, said in the presence of the whole community of Israel.  And we see a king and a people commit themselves to living a life as their God would have them live it: in accordance with the terms of the covenant first struck with Abraham.  We might want to reflect today on how we dedicate ourselves to God, and to the terms of the covenant into which we ourselves have entered.

As he begins his prayer, Solomon intones, Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of kindness with your servants who are faithful to you with your whole heart.  Later he prays, May your eyes watch day and night over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place.  Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place.  Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.

The beautiful part of this story arrives with the New Testament when God’s people become the temple through Christ, the priest and intercessor, and when we fully realize the magnitude and depth of God’s compassion and mercy, his willingness – even eagerness – to forgive our waywardness.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.   If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2And from the mini-reflection: In the house of Jesus’ Father, the temple, there were many courts and rooms provided for the use of different groups of people in their desire to enter God’s presence and worship him in the place where he dwelt.  According to John’s Gospel, which we read during Easter, Jesus is the new and eternal Temple where God dwells among us.  In his heart, opened to all peoples on the cross, there is a place for everyone who seeks God.

Have we fully dedicated our lives to the service of God?  Have we established the rituals and the offerings?  Do we intone our own prayer morning, noon and night?  If we say we are dedicated and committed, to what, to whom, why, how, when and where?  If we cannot answer these questions quickly and with certainty, we may want to look again at the care with which Solomon and his people build and dedicate a place to a God who is goodness itself, a God who loves and saves.  If we answer these questions quickly and surely, let us take this moment in this present Easter season to re-dedicate ourselves to this gracious and marvelous God.

From the Magnificat Morning Intercessions:

You are in our midst; your name we bear: make us a fit dwelling place for your love.

You have made us temples of your Spirit: cleanse our hearts and make of them a house of prayer.

You have chosen us as your resting place for ever: grant us peace in your presence.

Amen.

A favorite from April 30, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 30.4 (2010). Print.  

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Judges 5: God’s Yardstick – Deborah

Canticle of Fidelity

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah the Prophetess

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The book of Judges is the part of the Bible saga where we see a fledgling nation forming.  The twelve tribes have survived the rigors of their years of desert wanderings, following the pillar of fire and smoke which protects them.  Joshua has led them into the land promised to them and they have secured a foothold where a kingdom will be established.  A series of judges, or heroes, will rise up to gather the people to remind them that Yahweh has promised land, kingdom and blessing . . . and that they, God’s people, owe their creator fidelity, loyalty and obedience.  This is the covenant they have entered into.

The context for these stories is “Holy War” and close reading of Judges, in which so much war is waged, tells us that we are called to cooperate with God’s plan and providence rather than serve our own small agendas. The whole point of this part of the story is to stay the course, but it must be God’s course and not our own.  The forces of darkness cannot stand up to the perseverance, the innocence and the trust of the faithful.  Deborah does this well.

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

In the preceding chapter we see this prophetess sitting under her palm tree delivering just decisions to the people.  We also see Jael, wife of Heber, lure the enemy Sisera into her tent to kill him with a tent peg to the temple.  Jael kills this enemy because Yahweh has ordained it as spoken through Deborah; and we find that these tribes fight off the pagan peoples any way they can; always consulting with Yahweh before going into battle.  In these ancient times, the struggle to survive dominated all aspects of life and we see a good deal of brutal interaction.  Yet is our interaction any less brutal today?

Deborah judges the tribes during the period of time which coincides with political unrest following the death of Ramses II in Egypt.  The time of transition proves difficult for these people who struggle not only against the pagan nations that surround  them, but also with conflict among the tribes.  David will unite these people into a true political and spiritual kingdom, and hoos son Solomon will erect a Temple which speaks to the fame of this people and their God.

Deborah leads well because she listenes well when she speaks with God each day and it is against this voice, this measuring stick that she measures her own life. We will want to follow her example of fidelity as we struggle against the violence that surrounds us.

Adapted from a reflection written on November 18, 2007.

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Ezekiel 19Allegorylions

Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2015

Commentary tells us that the meaning of these two allegories has been lost but that scholars believe the two young cubs in the first refer to princes who were deported to Egypt and to Babylon (likely Jehoahaz and Zedekiah), and that the mother vine represents Judah.  Ezekiel already knows that Jerusalem has been destroyed and perhaps he writes these two metaphors in order to convey the trauma of the event.  We will never know; yet what we do know is this: Even though this prophet writes of a nation whose roots have been destroyed forever, yet he holds out hope for a new arising, for a rebirth, for restoration, for another coming.  In 37:24-28 he tells us: My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.  They shall live on the land which I gave to my servant Jacob . . . I will make them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

If we choose, we might write our own allegory, describing how and why we elect to follow this God who promises much and who never forgets his promises.

God’s dwelling has been made among us, just as he has promised.

In this season of joy, let us celebrate his coming.

The shoot from the stalk of Jesse has come to shepherd us.

In this season of hope, let us rise to walk with this God.

A covenant of peace has been made with us.

In this season of peace, let us share the good news of this coming and this covenant.

God’s Law of Love is written on our foreheads and on our hearts.

In this season of love, let us share this love with others – especially those who do us harm. 

We have our God, and we are God’s people.

In this season of possibility, let us dare to be one with this God. 

And may Christ’s peace and joy and love be upon us all.  Amen.

For notes on Ezekiel 19 click on the image above, or visit: http://www.lorisreflections.com/god-lessons/friday-revelation-lament-israel/

A Favorite from December 12, 2009.

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Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6: Resting in the Promise

Friday, December 4, 2015147975.hebrews (1)

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality.  He is not lenient.  And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates.  If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ . . . for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light.  Christ himself exhorts us Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid.  We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand.  On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof.  Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham –   begin a kingdom of millions?  Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations?  Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek?  Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; his very goodness and honesty force him to keep his covenant with his people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words we can never hear too often.  This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

We must rest in this promise . . . that when all is dark . . . when all appears to be lost . . . when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear . . . we must be still so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .

A Favorite from December 11, 2008.

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Baruch 2: The Road to Destruction or Redemption – Part I

Tuesday, November 24, 2015road to destruction

The apocryphal book of Baruch tells us how to live in exile; and in particular Chapter 2 gives us an important, two-fold message.  It reminds us that God always fulfills promises, and it also gives us an outline of how we might make our way back to the covenant we have chosen to abandon.

In Chapters 16 to 18 of Revelation we come upon something that reminds us of the infinite forgiveness and mercy of God.  We see once again that in God all things are possible.  We have understood the importance of being faithful in small ways to God.  We have understood that closed, exclusive groups which stultify possibility and potential, darkness which hides and subsumes potential, and silence which conceals and enables deceit . . . will never conquer openness which spawns universal communion, light which calls forth authentic life lead in integrity, and praise of God which magnifies truth and joy.

Light_at_the_End_of_the_RoadIn the end, God’s will of universal openness and light leads to jubilation.  The dark world which opposes this truth germinates in envy and ends in destruction.  And those who work so hard at building up a closed empire of self rather than an open kingdom of all, bring about their own  destruction at their own hands.  We see this countless times.  What is the allure of the darkness and deceit that is so tempting?  It is the same siren call of Satan to Adam and Eve in Eden, You will be like gods . . .

There is something about the road to perdition that answers our human need to control.  There is something about this broad highway leading to the wide gate that brings comfort to those who travel it in their closed special groups.  The aching longing to be the bride who is rescued and loved by the steadfast, powerful groom is universal.  Yet we insist on filling this yearning with superficial, finite relationships which ironically do not satisfy . . . and which ultimately destroy.  We must respond to the summons of the road and choose redemption rather than perdition.

Tomorrow, Part II.

Adapted from a favorite from November 8, 2008.

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1 Peter 5: At the Right Timetime-widescreen-high-definition-wallpaper-for-desktop-background-download-free

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2015

Yesterday we considered the ancient words of the timeless covenant we share with God. Today we consider the words of Peter, a pastor who knows both this covenant and God’s people well.

All of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people . . .

As we move through the coming hours, as we strive to be just plain, let us remove all judgment and anxiety from our thoughts.

Be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; God will promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; God is most careful with you . . .

As we move though the coming days, as we hope to put away airs and place ourselves in God’s strong hand, let us remove all recrimination and revenge from our actions.

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up . . .

devil is a lionAs we move though the coming weeks, as we remember to keep a cool head when all around us seem to be losing theirs, let us work at remaining always in Christ.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world . . .

As we move though the coming months, as we work to remain always one in the Spirit, let us remind one another that we are not alone.

So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. 

As we move though the coming year, as we struggle to put our suffering in its proper place and proportion, let us unite with neighbors and enemies and remember that God will move us forward . . . in God’s best and most promising time.

These verses are from THE MESSAGE. Use the scripture link above to compare these verses with other versions, and discover God’s intimate message of continued Easter joy. 

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joyThursday, November 6, 2014

Leviticus 9

Joy and Ministry

From time to time we will visit scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a number of ways. If you wish to explore other stories in which joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Leviticus.

Whenever we practice formal religious rites, experience God in nature, or find God among family and friends, we will always find ministers of joy. In today’s story we read about joy experienced by God’s people who wander in the desert looking for the promise of safety and security. We watch as Moses designates priests who will act as intermediaries for the faithful, and we wonder if we ourselves might be priests to one another. We examine our willingness in being conduits of joy to the world. And we reflect on our own capacity for joy.

Reubens; Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Reubens; Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Wherever we find the God of joy, we will also find those willing to tell how they have been redeemed by God’s love. In today’s story from this book of laws and restrictions, we ponder on the freeing power of joy and its ability to overcome all obstacles. We consider how we find joy in other places, times and people and how joy is always present – although often hidden – in times of deepest sorrow; and we reflect on how we might reveal the healing presence of joy to ourselves and one another.

desert tentHowever we find joy like that described in today’s story about these ancient people in the celebration of life and thanksgiving, we will be moved to open the windows and doors of surprise for ourselves and one another. We remember how we long for joy in times of sadness or exile. We recall how the burning presence of joy can heal and save. And we determine to bring the loving salve of God’s joy into the narrowest places of our lives each day.

And so we pray . . .

Let us call on God’s living presence in any hour of despair or pain.

Let us offer up to God any arid landscape we experience today.

Let us minister to one another with shouts of great celebration as we recognize God’s desire to bring joy to even the tiniest moments of our lives. 

And let us revel in the loving surprise of God’s joy and presence and like the faithful we read about today, let us cheer loudly as we fall down in great bows of delighted reverence for God. 

Amen.

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

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