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Posts Tagged ‘covenant’


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Deuteronomy 7: Blessings of Obedience

Count_blessings6[1]This is one of those portions of the Old Testament that we humans can distort to fit our own agenda; we might take it to mean that God shows partiality, or that some of us are somehow above others of us.  I do not believe this to be so, and careful reading of good commentary tells us otherwise.   The message we might better take away from today’s Noontime is this: Israel has a special function to serve in God’s plan – that of bringing other nations out of the darkness of pagan worship and into the light of mercy, justice and hope which the Living God brings to all.  From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (Mays 198-199): “God has chosen Israel, not because of any special worthiness on its part, but out of God’s personal attachment based on divine love and the promises made to the ancestors (vv. 7-8).  The Exodus experience reveals that God’s essential character promises covenant loyalty over uncountable generations (vv. 8-9).  However, the integrity of God’s character also threatens individual retribution for those who are apostate (v. 10).  A further motive for wiping out Canaanite religion is offered by the promise of fertility for family, field, and flock (vv. 13-14), an especially appropriate counter to Baal’s claims to bestow fertility.  Obedience also leads to good health.  The plagues of the Exodus tradition will be reserved for enemies (v. 15)”.

When we consider this, we understand that rather than giving his chosen people an exemption from acting in God’s name, God is expecting his faithful to behave as he himself does: with justice and compassion, bringing hope, and acting in love.  This is the thinking we hear from Jesus in Luke 12:48: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. 

Like Israel, the faithful are in a special covenant relationship with God.

Like Israel, the faithful are called to act in obedience to God’s call.

Like Israel, the faithful are graced with God’s countless blessing.

Like Israel, the faithful have not earned a “special worthiness” . . . yet are loved deeply and dearly by the Living God.


Image from: http://somewhereincraftland.blogspot.com/2011/01/count-your-blessing-subway-art.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 198-199. Print.

Written on October 31, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Deuteronomy 1: God’s Guidance

guide[1]In this last book of the Torah, we find a reiteration of the covenant relationship between God and his creatures as mediated by the man Moses.  His aim, as we read in commentary, is to enforce with the Israelites “the Lord’s claim to their obedience, loyalty and love”.  (Senior 187)  What we see here is God establishing a firm relationship with his people; much as a parent devotes care to strong enforcement of family values with a toddler . . . knowing that the teenage and young adult years – and even the years that carry us into maturity – will be difficult ones.  God wants to leave nothing to chance where his creatures are concerned.

In verse 10 we see reference to the fact that these tribes are so multiplied they are as numerous as the stars in the sky.  And we remember the promise made to Abraham that even in their advanced years he and Sarah would be the vehicles through which God would create a people dear to him.  This is followed with a plan laid out by God for gaining the territory promised to Abraham and his family.  Scouts are chosen to reconnoiter the land.   This is when they discover that the people are stronger and taller and they have become fainthearted.  They begin to lose courage.  Moses reminds them of the countless times God saved them from death in the hostile desert . . . and we begin to see the purpose of all their wanderings and suffering.

Of course, these people disobey – as do we – and in this Old Testament story we hear how God punishes them for their lack of faith.  Moses reminds them that they have disobeyed and struck out on their own.  As observed above, God disciplines the child nation, calling them to himself with reminders that he has been faithful to them despite their rebellion.

There is no doubt that we are sustained by God’s love and intervention as we muddle through our days.  God continues to provide resting places, to shepherd us with a pillar of smoke, to guard us with a column of fire.  It is easy to become lost, distracted, anxious or discouraged and so as we put our heads to pillows this evening we might reflect on the story we have read today and look at our lives through the filter on this exodus story of God’s people.  And we might ask ourselves how we react when we lose courage . . . how we see our wanderings through the hostile desert.

What is our relationship with God like?  Do we rely on God at all times or only when we need help?

How do we celebrate God’s goodness?  Do we rejoice with others and share the good news that we are well-loved?

What is our belief system?  Are we ready . . . and are we willing to give over to God our obedience, our loyalty and our love?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.187. Print.

Tomorrow, more on Deuteronomy.

Image from: http://restministries.com/2011/09/22/devotion-counting-on-gods-guidance-each-day/

First written on July 24, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Haggai 2:3-5: Glory

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory?  And how do you see it now?

As remnant people we are reminded of our glorious past and our glorious future; and we are called to join with God in creating a glorious present.

But now take courage . . .

We are reminded of God’s presence in each little thing that goes well in a day.  And we can also remind ourselves that God is present with us even when things do not go well and we become frustrated with our lack of success.

For I am with you, says the Lord of hosts. 

In the end, when we abide with God – as he abides with us – we strive to fulfill our covenant relationship when we remember to go to God with our worries and woes, when we give our anxieties and fears to the one who can resolve them best.

And my spirit continues in your midst; do not fear!

This is a gift we are given.  This is a gift we do well to treasure.  It is the gift of glory.


Written on October 15, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Isaiah 55: An Invitation to Grace

Saturday, June 8, 2019

All you who are thirsty, come to the waters . . .

We are told in the story of the Revelation (7:16) that those who thirst will find true water which quenches forever.

I will renew you with the everlasting covenant . . .

We are told by the prophets Jeremiah (23:4) and Ezekiel (34:16) that the true Shepherd has promised to bring all of his sheep home from all the places to which the false shepherds have scattered them so that none of them shall be missing.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near . . .

We are told in the Gospels to knock, ask, and seek (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9) while the bridegroom lives among us (Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19, Luke 5:34, John 3:29).

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord . . .

We are told in the first letter to the Corinthians (13:1) that our childish ways are not the childlike ways in which God asks us to walk; and in Ephesians (2:2) that the ways of the world are not God’s ways.

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

We are told in Ezekiel (37:27) that God will dwell among his people; and we are told by Jesus in the Gospel of John (10:34-38) that he was sent among us to call his faithful home, and that these faithful live in him just as he lives in the father.

Yes, in joy you shall depart, in peace you shall be brought back . . .

We are told in Jeremiah (29:11) and throughout the Psalms, but especially in 126, that God has plans in mind for us which are plans for joy rather than sorrow.

This shall be the Lord’s renown, an everlasting imperishable sign . . .

We are told in the Gospel of John (4:10) that God offers us the gift of everlasting life, of true water which quenches forever.

All of scripture is Christ, is God’s word to us, God’s expression of love to us.  And all of this scripture cries out to us that we are invited to the feast of the bridegroom as the beloved bride.  In the album Speechless by Steven Curtis Chapman there is a song entitled The Invitation which tells us all we need to hear about the love the father holds for us. It reminds us that we are bride to a constant, faithful, ardent lover, the true prince of peace who leaves nothing lacking, who will not rest until he holds us closely.  This is our invitation to blessing.  This is our invitation to beatitude.  This is our invitation to grace.  This is our invitation to love.


A re-post from May 25, 2012.

Images from: http://www.parisianevents.com/parisianparty/what-to-wear-to-a-wedding-in-france/ and http://matttullos.com/grace-is-on-a-family-tree/

To listen to Steven Curtis Chapman sing “The Invitation” click here.   

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Joshua 23: A Final Plea

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Jericho

It is clear that Joshua understands his people when we read today’s Noontime scripture.  He has brought them from the edge of the wilderness into the fertile land that God has promised them.  He has led their troops, solved their squabbles, and he has kept them faithful to God as they live side by side with pagan peoples.  He has one final plea.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, a time for reflection and introspection. Today we have an opportunity to consider that we stand before Joshua, a man who knows our story. Let us listen well.

Strive hard to observe and carry out all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, not straying from it in any way or mingling with these nations while they survive among you.  We might recall here the parable of the weeds growing among the wheat in Matthew 13:24-30 that we considered in our Continued Progress NoontimeGod does not call us to wipe out all who oppose or stifle us; rather, God asks that we learn to grow amid those who would pull us from our steady progress toward God.  Joshua calls likewise to us today, encouraging us to follow the voice of God, to grow in wisdom.  When we allow God’s wisdom to counsel us rather than succumb to our own petty fears and whims, we will have responded to this final plea.

At your approach you have driven our large and small nations, and to this day no one has withstood you.  One of you puts to flight a thousand because it is the Lord, your God, himself who fights for you, as he promised you.  We so quickly take credit for our successes and blame God for our failures.  It seems we cannot withstand the truth of our own existence.  When we remember the so many big and little triumphs of our lives in the light of God’s goodness instead of the brightness of our own effort, all anxiety, resentment and envy melt away.  We cease to compare our circumstances to those of others; we see our lives for what they are: a continuing response to – or a willful turning away from – God’s call.  Joshua asks us today to consider the origin of our security and achievement; and he reminds us that God alone governs all.  When we admit that God’s strength and fidelity are gifts we receive without even asking, we will have demonstrated our own willingness to respond to this final plea.

If you ever abandon God and ally yourselves with the remnant of these [pagan] nations while they survive among you, by intermarrying and intermingling with them, know for certain that . . . they will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes.  Joshua worries, of course, that his people will disappear into the societies that surround and live side by side with them.  He knows how easily we can be convinced that daily prayer and faithful worship have little effect upon us.  He understands our weaknesses because he has managed the in-fighting and back-stabbing that happens when people come together in a common cause.  He also understands our strengths because he has led a stiff-necked and cantankerous people successfully by following God’s counsel rather than the shallow wisdom of oracles; he has deferred to God’s plans and put away his own.  Joshua recalls the covenant they have agreed upon with God and that it invokes reward or doom; he reminds his people that God always keeps his promises. When we willingly turn away from the siren call of the idols that clutter our lives, we will give witness to our own commitment to God, and we will have answered this final plea.

This chapter closes with a description of God’s Wrath and before we become frightened by these images let us remember that Christ comes to fulfill the Old Testament Covenant and to replace it with a new Law of Love.  When we remember that the God of wrath we see described here is actually the God of Love that Christ shows us . . . we will have little trouble – and much reward – when we respond to Joshua’s final plea.


Adapted from a reflection posted on December 11, 2011.

Image from: http://www.biblebios.com/joshua/joshua.htm

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Hebrews 8A Superior Covenant

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Written on February 1, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Yesterday we spent some time reflecting on God, the Lover.  Today we read about The Superior Covenant.  In Christ we have the offering of the only vow that really matters.  Jesus lives a life of integrity – which we see through the matching of his words and actions – that the promise of the Creator is true and valid.  God vows to protect, defend, forgive and love us.  This vow has an eternal life and cannot be broken.

We look for a reflection of this kind of constancy and authenticity in others and we are often disappointed.  Promises are given and broken.  Vows are spoken and then abandoned without much thinking of the distant consequences.  Immediate pleasures obtained take precedence over commitment and nurturing.  Too often we encounter – both in ourselves and in others – quick solutions that do not last, superficial thinking that takes the place of measured consideration, and artless worship that cannot stand the tests of life.  If we expect to weather storms, we must make preparations: take in stores, shore up our shelter, and make contingency and fall-back plans when events around us whirl out of control.

What are the resources we gather into our stockpile?  What are the edifices we build in which to shelter?  What are the plans we make to avoid pain?  Do we hoard what we find or do we share?  Do we hover in life with a narrow way of thinking and a small band of compatriots or do we seek to ever widen the circle by inviting in those we think are our enemies?  Do we see suffering as something to be evaded at all costs or do we see it as the portal to a life of transformed beauty?

What are the promises we make?  What are the promises we keep?  What are our expectations?

The answers to all these questions are more simple, more beautiful and more challenging than we can imagine; yet the rewards are abundant and the joy transcending.

The answers, the vows and the kept promises are all found in a life lived as the Christ asks.  When we rely on a stockpile of faith we have stored by acting in the belief that God is in charge, the supply is never-ending.  Our stores will never run dry – much like the widow in 2 Kings 4 who finds that the oil blessed by the prophet Elisha never reaches bottom.

When we become like the sparrow and the swallow in Psalm 84, we build nests and find protection when we nestle near and beneath the altar of our sacrifices to God, when we construct a temple for the in-dwelling of the Spirit.  Christ quickly steps into this temple which we build in ourselves, and it is this Christ – this presence of God – that we carry with us everywhere.  He is our constant companion and protection in our pilgrimage.

When we step into the discomfort of our pain to offer it for love of friends and enemies alike, we are transformed by this salvific love which redeems not only others but ourselves.

These are the promises we make.  These are the vows that we keep when we enter this Superior Covenant with our creator.  This is how we weather the storms of life.  This is how we find greatest joy . . . in the believing . . . in the hoping . . . in the knowing that this love is eternal, redemptive and beyond anything we might imagine.  This promise of presence and joy are not only awaited in the next life; they are present in the here and now.  We have only to step forward – into our discomfort and anxiety – at the call.

When we enter into this most excellent of promises . . . we enter into our life with Christ and his guarantee that he is constant, that he is transformative, and that his love is the peace we seek.

The promise here is not that life will be smooth or that problems will fall away from us quickly and without pain.  The promise of Christ is that when the storms present themselves, as they surely will, we will have the means, the vision and the strength . . . in Christ . . . to weather the tempest.


A re-post from January 27, 2012.

Image from: http://faithandheritage.com/2011/08/the-importance-of-lineage-in-god%E2%80%99s-covenant/ 

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Leviticus 24:1-9The Sanctuary Light and the Showbread

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jesus as the Light of the World is a familiar theme to Christians which is celebrated during the Advent season.   In the Jerusalem Temple the sanctuary light served as a symbol of the presence of Yahweh and so it was important that the oil be clear – this purity ensured the burning of the lamp.  The Showbread was prepared with a particular recipe and laid out in a special fashion with frankincense; it was eaten only by the Temple priests.  Both the bread and the light served to remind the Israelites of their perpetual covenant with Yahweh.

In his homily this morning Bishop Newman referred to the habit we humans have of taking and saving photographs as we try to capture particular moments in our lives.  The custom of making scrapbooks or yearbooks to commemorate events is something we do as we conserve for later recall the goodness of certain moments or periods in our lives.  The Bishop suggested that we would do well to make spiritual scrapbooks of our lives that would serve to remind us of the goodness of God; and he asked that we reflect on today’s Psalm (103) in an intentional way: The Lord is kind and merciful . . . O, my soul, forget not all his benefits . . . he heals all ills . . . he redeems life from destruction . . . he is slow to anger and abounding in kindness . . . he does not always chide . . . he does not keep wrath forever . . . he does not requite us with our crimes . . . he crowns us with kindness and compassion.  Reading this litany of God’s goodness reminds us of Paul’s anthem to love in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind . . .

Light and Eucharist – both serve as Jesus’ constant presence to us.  When we enter the church today, we find the sanctuary light burning faithfully to represent the presence of the Eucharistic bread of Christ himself.  Many religious rites call for the use of incense.  Our Judeo-Christian culture brings us these signs of God’s presence and of the presence of his eternal covenant promise to us.  We need to keep these multi-sensory symbols in mind as pages of our spiritual scrapbook.  In this way, we may find it easier to be and do good as God is and does good.  We may be able to curb our anger and be more comfortable with treating others kindly and compassionately.  We may be better able to cease judging and chiding others for their faults and crimes.

By remembering in this special way that God is Light and Sustenance, we crown others with kindness and compassion even as our loving and eternal God crowns us.  And so we pray: Good and kind God, As the Sanctuary Light and the Showbread reminded the Israelites of your fidelity and promise, let today’s sanctuary light and the Eucharistic bread remind us that . . . as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is your kindness toward those who love you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/edfu/photos

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Jeremiah 31:31-34: Certainty

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018

This week as we near Palm Sunday, we spend time with each morning’s first reading for daily liturgy. Today we explore our hearts as we look at our commitment to our covenant with God.

We ask . . . Do I feel present to others in God’s love? How do I act on the promises I have made to God? How does God interact with me? How do I interact with others – both those who follow Christ and those who do not? Am I aware of The Law written within? And if not, what do I do to open myself to the Spirit?

Visit The Certainty of God’s Covenant reflection on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/01/18/jeremiah-3135-37-the-certainty-of-gods-covenant/

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/401664860493772170/ 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part IV

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurent de La Hyre:
Job Restored to Prosperity

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides and keeps promises.  This choice to believe or doubt is entirely up to us; and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.

THE MESSAGE translation of Job 40 begins with words from God, “I run the universe”. After we struggle with Job through his long story of loss and pain, we understand that although he – and we – long for specific answers to our specific questions, we must be content to rely on God’s goodness and love for us. We must be content to depend on God’s gift of hope and covenant. And we must be content to trust God’s steadfastness and mercy.

How do we do this? We have a model in Job whose fidelity through deep travail brings us a pearl of wisdom that we might employ to see our worries and anxieties through a lens of patience. Job’s persistence, as he journeys through the obstacle course of woe visited on him by Satan, gives us new eyes to refocus our own worldview.

When we spend time with Job 40, we have a fresh appreciation of his steadfastness; and we have a transformative moment to argue with the Almighty that opens us to the possibility of resurrection.

Today we use the scripture links and drop-down menus to help us argue with the Almighty. 

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