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Posts Tagged ‘darkness’


Matthew 5:4 and Luke 6:21: Mourningmourning angel

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount)

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. (Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain)

God says: When you sink into deepest grief, remember me – for I am with you. When you believe you will never smile again, remain in me – for I live in you. When the darkness is so dense that the light of hope struggles to pierce it, call on me – for I am that light that no darkness can hold back. The prophets foretold and my son retells you that your mourning will become dancing. The psalmist reminds you that those who go out weeping as they carry seed to sow will also return with triumphant sheaves of joy.

As part of our Beatitudes thanksgiving, let us consider how we might bring the gift of presence to someone who mourns the loss of a person, employment, or a lifestyle.

nilmdts_logo1Find out more about the NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep) organization, a group of photographers whose mission is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture. Visit: https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/

Tomorrow, hunger and thirst.


Image from: http://galleryhip.com/mourning.html

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mini-nativity-kate-cosgroveFriday, January 21, 2022

Joy and Resurrection

Luke

We are invited into a disciple’s intimacy with Christ. Jesus offers friendship that is personal, immediate and joyful. Today we consider how God’s amazing generosity continues to sustain us.

Luke’s Gospel has many calls to joy and the first arise from Jesus’ arrival among us.

The Christmas Invitation Luke 2:10: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people”.

God’s messenger reminds us that we need not be afraid for we are always accompanied by joy . . . even when we might not perceive it.

Reward  Luke 6:22-23: Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.

joyIn his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we will find joy in the darkest of places . . . even when we do not welcome the darkness.

Repentance  Luke 15:3-7: So Jesus told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

In his Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus reminds us that great joy can arrive after great error . . . even if we believe this is not so.

tomb-2Resurrection  Luke 24:41-42: While his disciples still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, Jesus said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of a broiled fish; and he took it and ate it before them.

When he returns after death, Jesus continues to feed his people . . . even when we do not recognize him.

Luke reminds us that Jesus comes not only to heal and sustain us in this world but forever. This is good news indeed, and today we consider how we might share and celebrate this news with great joy.


If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Images from: http://fineartamerica.com/art/all/nativity/all and http://kentwoodchristianchurch.com/easter-sermon-2011-the-tomb

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main_joy_0Monday, December 13, 2021

Joy and 

Ecclesiastes 8:14-15

Compensation

We continue our reflection on joy in the Books of Wisdom and for the next few days we spend time with Ecclesiastes, verses that focus on the purpose and value of human life. Joy in merit, material wealth, pleasure of every kind evades the human race when chased. The mystery is that truly fulfilling and lasting joy comes upon us when we least expect it – and when we find ourselves in the most trying of circumstances. If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter joy, 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. Today we wonder why joy appears to accompany the wicked rather than the just.

It is so very difficult to be joy-filled when our world is falling apart. When cataclysm strikes, the faithful bend forward into the Lord, relying on God’s strength, wisdom, courage and stamina. And yet, the wisdom imparted to us today says precisely that when we cannot understand the complexities of our universe, we move forward as best we can . . . and we rely on God’s joy that somehow arrives even in the darkness. This is the message of this third week in Advent: when it is darkest, God is nearest.

joyVerse 8:15: Therefore I praised joy, because there is nothing better for mortals under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be joyful; this will accompany them in their toil through the limited days of life God gives them under the sun.

Compare the MESSAGE version of this passage at the scripture link above that includes verse 14: Here’s something that happens all the time and makes no sense at all: Good people get what’s coming to the wicked, and bad people get what’s coming to the good. I tell you, this makes no sense. It’s smoke. So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time – the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time – compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth.

God says: This advice sounds like the hedonistic refrain to “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die!” But it is not. Read these verses in the context of the whole and you will find that they speak to the human condition. It is true that many times it appears that the wicked receive the gifts meant for the faithful. It is also true that dreadful things happen to good people. What is also true is that the plan of the universe is quite complex. And it is also true that I know every step you take, every wakeful moment of the night that you pass, every injustice you suffer. Remember that I am with you in those dark times just as I am in the happy ones, and that joy accompanies you always although you may not discern it.

Spend some time today remembering the times when you have been treated unfairly. Jot down a few words on a piece of paper that describe the dark feelings you experienced. This may be a simple list like: alone, betrayed, misunderstood, attacked, and so on. On the reverse side of this paper, write the word JOY. In this way we ask God to convert our sorrow into joy. Seek professional help for feelings of depression or suicide. Gather friends around you who will treat you with the care God wants to lavish on you. Place your JOY petition in your Bible, in a prayer-book, or in a special prayer basket set aside as a cradle for your sorrow. Imagine the Christ child arriving to sleep in this crib . . . and give all your anxiety to him.

At noon each day, the petitions of The Noontimes readers are remembered in prayer. May God’s serenity guide you, may the Christ child’s humility sustain you, and may the peace of the Spirit dwell within you at this very special time of year. Amen.


For interesting ways to handle stress, to find a balance in life, to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and to find joy in living, click on the image above, or go to the Complete Health News site at: http://www.completehealthnews.com/interesting-ways-to-find-joy-life/

Image from: http://www.completehealthnews.com/interesting-ways-to-find-joy-life/

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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artworks-000017516576-lw5fu1-cropTuesday, May 25, 2021

Psalm 19:2-4

Day and Night

The heavens proclaim the glory of God

And the firmament shows forth the work of God’s hands.

Day unto day takes up the story

And night unto night makes know the message.

No speech, no word, no voice is heard

Yet their span extends through all the earth,

Their words to the utmost bounds of the world.

This spring we have reflected on the importance of preaching God’s Word with every small and great act in our lives. We have pondered the Lesson of the Fig Tree and the worth of even the smallest of sparrows. We have spent time examining our experience of Christ and we have compared the ideal with the real. Today we arrive at understanding that each day and each night are filled with God’s grace even when we cannot see or feel it. We have arrived at believing that just as the firmament extols God’s goodness . . . so must we. No speech is necessary. No word need be uttered. We have only to spend each waking moment doing God’s work. We have only to put our slumber into God’s trustworthy hands for it is in this way that we enter into God’s eternal goodness.

Is this what the Apostle John has seen and heard? Is this the goodness we seek? Is this the gift we have already been freely given?

Tomorrow, a prayer for our days and nights.


Visit the scripture link above and read the versions of this citation that have been pre-selected. Choose another version and ponder how the firmament speaks without words. 

Image from: https://soundcloud.com/handbook/sunrise

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Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 29, 2020

John 13:30: And It Was Night

Modern Jerusalem at Night

Modern Jerusalem at Nightfall

We have believed a promise pledged in total honesty.  We have believed in the integrity and authenticity of a vow given freely and openly.  We have relied on a belief to such an extent that we have become completely open ourselves, fearless and yet completely vulnerable.

And then . . . it was night.

We have acted in full confidence of words we took as truth.  We have followed one who cured and healed and called us out of ourselves.  We have stood up, we have owned problems, we have held off naysayers, we have remained faithful through narrow gates.

And then . . . it was night.

We have followed the one who spoke truth.  We have forsworn easy living and have taken the road less travelled.  We have emptied ourselves, built bridges, entered into the work of the kingdom; we have stood at the foot of the cross.

And then . . . it was night.

img0486-2[1]All that we once held closely and shared openly as eternal truth appears to have vanished so easily and so quickly.  What did we miss?  How did we arrive at this darkness?

The black emptiness that grips the heart feels everlasting and we are frozen in this spot and time, waiting for the night to lift, hoping that the promise has not faded.  And yet each time we draw aside the curtain to catch a glimpse of the world as it is we see only the night.

Karl Heinrich Bloch: The Burial of Christ

Karl Heinrich Bloch: The Burial of Christ

Our bodies somehow function yet our thoughts freeze with incomprehension; we feel strangely locked in time as we follow the quiet, little procession to the waiting tomb where we will bury the last of our hopes.  How can something we thought so immense become so small?  Why can we so easily carry this body to its resting place?  Where is the shoulder that bears the heavy yoke?

How is it that this night can be so dark?

It is night yet tucked inside us we feel the fluttering of something that will not give up; some small memory of a healing touch and word persists.  The night feels heavy, intense and infinite and yet we know that there is the promise of the moon below the horizon.  We light candles and hang lanterns in imitation of the stars we know spangle the night sky that is veiled from our view by low-slung clouds.

This night is so intense.

jersalem wall at nightAnd yet as we scan the darkness again we feel the small fluttering of the promise take wing for a passing moment.  Perhaps the intensity of our waiting has opened some small door to the light.  Perhaps the words and touch given in pledge still hold their truth.  Perhaps the light beyond the lowering clouds will at last break through.  Perhaps . . . but for now we roll the stone across the entrance to the tomb and we wait in the darkness.  Perhaps . . . but for now . . . it is the night.


A re-post from March 29, 2013. 

To reflect with the poem Dark Night of the Soul by the 16th Century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, go to: http://josvg.home.xs4all.nl/cits/lm/stjohn01.html

Images from: http://www.imb.org/main/downloads/page.asp?StoryID=9460&LanguageID=1709 and http://www.khaces.com/jerusalen-de-noche/1143388 and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/burial-of-jesus-christ-carl-heinrich-bloch.html?product=shower-curtain and http://velvl.blogspot.com/

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

John 13:21-30: Betrayal

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Often during our Noontimes we have explored the theme of infidelity and the effects it has upon our intimate relationships and our collective experience as a people of God.  We have spent time thinking about how an act of betrayal never has a single secret effect.  We have prayed for those who deceive and harm us.  We have pondered how to handle an act of betrayal when it slices through our lives.  Today we see God himself allow each of us to make a choice for freedom and life or slavery and death.  Judas has become a slave to an idea which leaves his soul open to darkness.  Jesus allows him to proceed along the path he has chosen: What you are going to do, do quickly.  Yesterday we reflected on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Today we explore John 13 more closely.

Today’s citation comes from the portion of John’s Gospel often called The Book of Glory; Chapters 13 to 20 tell the story of the passion, death and transformation of Jesus.  Here he has just delivered his discourse on the relationship he has with the Father – one of deepest intimacy.  And he has just told his followers – his followers of that evening and his followers today – that the same intimacy is open to each of us, that God yearns to hold us and to possess us more than anything we can imagine from our human experience.  Yet this citation begins with: Jesus was deeply troubled . . .

Able to read our inmost thoughts, Jesus understands that Judas is disappointed, disgruntled, and about to act on his envy and anger.  Judas Iscariot, despite so much time spent with the Master, is unable to enter into this intimacy offered.  And so he strikes at that which he cannot experience.

Jesus dipped a morsel and handed it to Judas . . . extending an ultimate invitation . . . knowing that it and he will be rejected; for after Judas took the morsel . . . Satan entered him. 

Who and what are Satan?  I believe that this force of negativity cleverly appeals to the narcissistic child in each of us; and I believe that it is present always.  Only through our fidelity to God and the light . . . do we evade that which relishes the night.  The risen Christ offers this invitation to unity constantly.  How do we respond?

Jesus shares a last meal with a man who believes that he operates in secret and who has likely convinced himself that his actions are for some greater good.  Judas’ actions will set a course of events into motion which cannot be recalled.  The calculus has been set much earlier than this through a series of moments of discontent, of wounded pride, of self-importance.  Judas resists the call to goodness and falls to the darkness.

So he took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

In an understatement of fact, the writer John tells us all we need to know about betrayal and the evil on which it feeds.  Envy, willfulness, desire for control of self and others, attendance to our own needs at the expense of others . . . these are signs that lead only to darkness.  And it was night.  Goodness, mercy, kindness, gentleness, prudence, courage, openness, perseverance . . . these are the signs that lead to light and life.

Heavenly Father, keep us always open to Christ, your Word among us.  Count us among your faithful.  Create in us a spirit that will always recognize you and welcome you . . . even in the most surprising places and unexpected people. 

Today we receive you; we receive your word.  Keep us ever mindful of your love for us.  Call us always to the light that is you.  Amen.


Written on January 27, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/bar_cvggo_taking.html

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Psalm 71:17-20: Deep Places

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Psalm 71:17-20You have shown me great troubles and adversities; but you will restore my life and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth.

The deep places are dark and lonely.  Jeremiah speaks of the terror of the miry cistern.  Many are lost in the dark places; yet that is precisely where many are found.

God says: I understand the terror you feel when darkness pulls you down.  Jeremiah speaks my words to you when he says, “Obey the Lord and all will go well with you, your life will be spared”.  It may appear that obedience to me is a capitulation of self but it is rather a coming to fullness, a burgeoning into fruit which is good.  Your troubles and worries will melt away when you bring them to me.  They are too great for you to carry.  Bring your burdens to me, and I will give you rest.

Let us give our yoke to God today . . . nothing is too heavy for God to bear.

Investigate and reflect on the prophecy of Jeremiah on the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/jeremiah-person-and-message/


Image from: http://risingmoonastrology.blogspot.com/2012/03/moon-into-scorpio-deep-places.html

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Isaiah 26Lament and Divine Response

Friday, November 9, 2018

Paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY: An extensive song of lamentation is followed by an assurance that judgment of the nations will be complete, and that the answers to prayers of Israel’s past will be answered.  It expresses hope for a time of peace and for restoration.  “Within this portrayal is a remarkable affirmation that ‘your dead will rise’ and that divine light will fall on the darkness of the realm of the shades of Sheol . . . The language is a hyperbolic expression of confidence that God will restore the nation of Israel [and] . . . leaves open the other possibilities for later readers who contemplate a more explicit conception of the restoration of the dead with the religious beliefs of Judaism and Christianity”.  (Mays 509)

These words are particularly poignant as yesterday our family and friends formally marked the arrival and death of a little one.  As individuals and as a community we raised our lament to the heavens; and just as surely we received our response.  The words from Isaiah today bring us what we yearn to hear.

He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down . . .

No amount of wealth or power can protect us from the natural course of life which is to die in order that we rise again in full and eternal life.

The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level . . .

Those who seek refuge in God alone when the storm of life descends on them will always find a secure sanctuary against the darkness; and they will rise again to join others in full and eternal life.

My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you . . .

Sinking into our loss, we cry out in our pain as the darkness descends; yet within us the Spirit kindles fresh hope and we know that we will rise again in full and eternal life.

O Lord, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done . . .

Turning to the source of our being and looking to the goal of our journey we keep our eyes and hearts fixed on the One who alone calls us forward into full and eternal life.

Salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth . . .

Recognizing that we are powerless, we turn to God, the source of goodness and mercy and light, knowing that we will rise again in full and eternal life.

But your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise; awake and sing you who lie in the dust . . .

We call out to our loved ones to join us, knowing that we will rise again in full and eternal life.

For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth . . .

God answers our wail of lament.  With swift and unswerving fidelity our God reaches down to pull us up out of the darkness . . . to bring us into the light of his full and eternal life.

Let us leave the darkness behind, let us drink in the newness of God’s morning dew . . . and let us abide in the light that fulfills in us the promises of God’s full and eternal life.  Amen.


A re-post from October 7, 2011.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 509. Print. 

Images from: http://luminousinspiration.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/nothing-else/

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Luke 5:17-26: Seek Consolation – Paralysis

Monday, December 18, 2017

Carl Bloch: Jesus Heals the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethzatha (Bethesda)

When fear paralyzes us, how do we react? Do we listen for the words whispered in our ears? Get up and start walking.

When worry saps our strength, why do we shoulder blame that is not ours? Do we turn to the one who can handle all our apprehension? Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.

When fear paralyzes us, how do we react? Do we believe the healing words of Christ who says: Get up and start walking.

When anxiety steals our serenity, who among us turns to the Creator for help? Who better to do the impossible? Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.

When darkness overcomes us, what light do we find? Who else but Jesus the Christ? Get up and start walking. Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.

When trouble assails us and shatters our calm, do we have the faith to rise, to take up the circumstances that have held us away from God, and to go home.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we find healing for all that paralyzes us.

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