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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Psalm 55: An Intimate Companion

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of Judas

It was you, my other self, my comrade and friend, you whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

For they will not mend their ways; they have no fear of God.  They strike out at friends and go back on their promises.  Softer than butter is their speech, but war is in their hearts.  Smoother than oil are their words, but they are sheathed swords. 

Treachery, deceit, mischief and evil.  Oppression and fraud.  Death.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest. 

Rocked with grief, his heart pounding, the psalmist retreats, full of fear, shuddering and trembling into himself.

Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert.

No one goes to the wasteland. Surely there will be no one to betray him there.

I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.

The horrible events that encircle the psalmist will not follow him to the wilderness.  Perhaps there he will be able to collect himself into prayer.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

On this Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper of the Lord, a meal in which he shares himself most closely with his most intimate friends.  And yet one of these has already made the decision to betray Jesus.

If my foe had viewed me with contempt, from that I could hide.  But it was you, my intimate friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Jesus faces his foe head on, sharing a meal with him on the evening before his death, handing a morsel of bread, of himself, to this close companion (Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:21-23, John 13:21-30).  The evangelist John closes his accounting of the exchange with these four word: And it was night.  Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

Jesus withdraws to the gardens on Gethsemane in prayer.  Jesus hands himself over to the plans of his creator.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

It is likely that each of us will suffer an act of betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Perhaps we have been the betrayer in a trusted relationship.  God does not promise that he will keep us from such deep deception but he comes to each of us in the person of Jesus to instruct us how we might act and how we might behave.  He remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to teach us wisdom.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest.  Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert. I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.  At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

And so we pray.

When trouble stalks us, let us retreat into the Lord.

When we suffer at the hands of an intimate friend, let us pray at dusk, at dawn and at noon.

When we believe that all is lost, let us remember that our prayer will be heard.

Amen.


This week we have been looking at the story of Jerusalem to see what the events of the city’s life might tell us about our own. Today we spend time reflecting on the effects of betrayal and how we might recover from both internal and external division.

Image from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/fyodor-bronnikov/the-head-of-judas-1874

For other reflections on Betrayal, enter the word in the blog search box and choose a Noontime. 

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Baruch 4:30-5:9: Captivity Ended

Monday, April 29, 2019

We continue with the theme of Captivity today – but here we see the epiphany of understanding.  We experience the surprise which always springs upon the faithful when they are low.  We live the promise of our God who loves us relentlessly, persistently yet gently.  God loves us to the extent that he is willing to wait and abide infinitely . . . while we find our way to his mercy, justice and joy.

5:7 –  God makes all things level.  He straightens all paths.  He awaits us at every turning of the road.

5:2 – God creates us, names us, calls us his own.  He yearns for the intimacy he has foreseen with us.

5:5 – God sends out the universal call.  He will not leave a single sheep unbidden.

5:7 – God has in mind for us a place of beauty.  He has brought forth life from the desert.  He also brings forth life from the desert of our lives.

Look to the east, Jerusalem!  Behold the joy that comes to you from God.

God has not forgotten a single hair on our heads.

God has felt each agonizing and joyful step of our journey.

And when we arrive . . . it is God who welcomes us home.

Even with its times of Captivity . . . the journey is joy.  The journey is our most intimate encounter with God.

May Christ’s presence and peace dwell within you.

May God’s Spirit and love abide with you forever.

And may you continue to celebrate your return from Captivity as one of God’s own, as one of God’s called, as one of God’s well-loved Easter Children.

Amen.


A re-post from April 14, 2012.

Image from: http://kneverkneverland.com/tag/destruction/

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Matthew 3:1-12: Hope in the Desert

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Favorite from September 5, 2007.

We hear more today about winnowing time and the importance of repentance.

It is interesting to look at this citation beside today’s Gospel of Luke 4:38-44.  There is a similar theme – Jesus tells us that he comes to proclaim to as many as possible the Good News that redemption is now available to anyone who has faith and is willing to feel sorrow.

Jesus retires to “a deserted place”.  John the Baptist “appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea”.

We tend to shy away from the many desert places in our lives, but it is in these deserts that we encounter God most intensely.  We ought not fear the emptiness or dryness because the nurturing goodness of God never leaves us alone or without hope.  We are never fully in the darkness for there is always a the light of Christ that cannot be held back.  From this morning’s prayer in MAGNIFICAT: The bright light of the risen, Jesus Christ, shines to all parts of the earth.  Let us walk in his light and follow in his way, that, reflecting his brightness, we may enlighten the eyes of the blind with faith and hope.

As People of Hope, let us intone this prayer together today.

Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 5,9 (2007). Print.  

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James 2:1: Favoritism


James 2:1: Favoritism

Friday, November 6, 2015

Palm Springs Desert

Palm Springs Desert

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?

How do we recognize our own prejudices? What do we do once we see our own pre-conceived ideas?

Nevada High Desert

Nevada High Desert

God says: I understand how difficult it is to remove the beam from our eyes when you are focused in the splinters in the eyes of others. I also understand how difficult it is for some of you to believe that I love your enemies as much as I love you . . . and you cannot understand how or why I ask you to intercede for those who harm you; but the cry of the victim is especially acute to me. The plea of one who has been wronged for the one who did them damage is at the core of kingdom building. How can we place living stones next to one another when these stones are at war? I want you to understand that while you are each unique and distinct, you are not really separate from one another. This is why favoritism cannot be present in your lives.  

Badlands Desert

Badlands Desert

God sees each of us with loving eyes. Jesus shepherds all of us home to the creator. The Spirit lives within calling us to unity. James asks is to put aside our desire to set ourselves apart from creation. Jesus calls us into the Creator’s beautiful garden.

Enter the word desert in the blog search bar and examine how these arid places surprise us with their sudden, surprising beauty. Reflect on our desert journeys, our desert refuges, and our desert prayers. 

Look for other blooming deserts in other continents and reflect on how God brings beauty out of drought in all corners of the world.  

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part IIIvalleyofdrybones-620x3101

Thursday, September 17, 2015

We are too often stunned by the miracle of God’s goodness. We are too seldom in awe of God’s greatness.

We are too quick to offer spontaneous judgments. We are too slow to nurture and sustain ourselves and others.

We too easily forget our own past and project our own future. We too stubbornly refuse to make allowances for others and too rarely walk in another’s shoes.

God has told us how we are to pray. Jesus has told us the words to use. The Spirit has accompanied us throughout our lives and still we look for more information or more excuses.

praying-handsLife is all too complicated. Life is all too simple. If we wish to rise from the dryness of the desert we know what to do. We are to take on the mantel of humility. We are to set aside time to spend with God both alone and in community. We are to love as Jesus loves, knowing that there is but one law that unites us. We are to allow the Spirit to guide and protect, instruct and restore. And we are to let God be God.

In this way we experience the rejuvenating dew of the desert morning that brings all impossibilities out of the darkness of doubt and into the light of probability and surety. And we rejoice as God gathers our dry bones so assemble them in the dance of restored life.

Enter the word restoration into the blog search bar and explore the idea of God’s renewal in us.  

Make an intentional effort over the next four weeks to keep the Sabbath holy. Plan activities with family and friends. Try to stay away from chores and closer to God. And allow yourself to experience the miracle of restoration out of dry bones.  

Tomorrow, what is it we seek?

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part IIwith-God

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

At the end of chapter 37 is the Oracle of the Two Sticks in which we understand that the two kingdoms will be re-united (something thought totally impossible) and the true Davidic king will reign eternally from Jerusalem – Jesus.  The chapters following this one describe the battle against Gog, again a dramatic description, and the end-of-time feast in the restored Jerusalem. In all, this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy tells the reader that what is thought impossible . . . is possible for God.  It tells us that God does not abandon us even when we abandon God.  It tells us that God loves us and God is constantly with us, even when we have turned away.

The most hopeless of cases have hope in them somewhere, but it takes an act of great love to resuscitate what has been lost.  God does this for us, and God calls us to do the same for one another.  When we move through a desert experience it is difficult to believe that God is with us; but this difficulty does not make God’s love more distant. Through the visions of Daniel and Ezekiel we see that with God all things are possible. It is possible to move toward our own conversion. It is possible to move away from the brittleness of the dry bones and toward the refreshing, renewing waters of restoration in the New Jerusalem.

There is a line from an old novena to St. Jude that I remember: When the difficult was too great to bear, Saint Jude somehow managed to see that it was lifted.  It was almost as if he had set the pattern for one of the branches of the armed services: “The difficult I shall take care of immediately; the impossible (in terms of human power) may take a little longer”.  Faith found that humility means power in the eyes of God.

Jesus saidAnd so we can petition God for forgiveness – which God freely gives. We can ask for restoration. And this God also gives.  We can come before God humbly as we stagger through the deserts of our lives, and we can ask that God grant us all that we believe to be impossible. And God will always answer.

In MAGNIFICAT on Saturday evening, there was a small reflection at the beginning of the Evening Prayer: God is present in the deserts of our lives.  It is in the desert that God revealed himself to Abraham.  It is in our dryness and desolation that God is often working the most marvelous transformations.  Let us rejoice in this blessed desert . . . where Christ reveals himself.  

As we tumble into our beds, perhaps weary at the end of a dry day full of impossibility, let us remember to pray for the impossible as the psalmist does in Psalm 63.

O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  For your love is better than life, my lips speak your praise.  So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy.  On my bed I remember you.  On you I muse through the night for you have been my help; in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.  My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.

 As we begin our days that promise impossibility, let us remember . . .

O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  Your love is better than life . . . My souls clings to you . . . your right hand holds me fast.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 26.1 (2008). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on February 1, 2008.

Tomorrow, praying for the impossible . . . 

 

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part Iwasted food

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Today’s verses for reflection are the famous “Dry Bones” of Ezekiel, the metaphor which describes the reunion of our own body and soul at our own resurrection.  This book is a panoply of images, for this prophet speaks in a variety of metaphors which, when examined, bring the understanding that the oasis mirages of the desert are possible.  Restoration after great tragedy can happen – not because of our own good works, but because of God’s infinite and ever-abiding compassion.

Several summers ago I had the gift of living in the Arizona desert for a week to witness the quiet but sudden blooming which happens after a rain.  Tiny delicate yet sturdy flowers pop up overnight after a scattering of dew . . . and then disappear again with the heavy noon sun.  The constant cycle of arrival and departure is fascinating.

So, too, are Ezekiel’s bones which clamber together to form full figures.  This dramatic imagery came to the Jewish people when they were well into their exile, well into the desert, without much hope or recourse to salvation . . . or so they thought.  When the prophet is asked if he thinks it possible that the desiccated bones might rise to take on flesh and function again, he wisely replies that only God can answer that question.  What follows is an interesting interplay in which Ezekiel is invited to take a part in this resurrection . . . which does occur quite dramatically. What was thought as lost has been found . . . and restored.  The people who had no temple, no visible home for Yahweh, had never been abandoned by their God as they had thought.  The dry bones rise, take on flesh, and live.

Take the time today to investigate the mission statement of wastED, “a community of chefs, farmers, fishermen, distributors, processors, producers, designers and retailers, working together to reconceive “waste” that occurs at every link in the food chain” at: http://wastedny.com/

Click on the image above for more of Chef Barber’s vision or visit: http://www.karenandandrew.com/2015/03/chef-dan-barbers-vision-to-slash-food-waste-transforms-blue-hill-into-wasted-through-march-31st/ 

And as you consider resurrection from desolation, you may want to read about chef Dan Barber who pulls together exquisite meals from food that would otherwise be thrown away. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/waste-not-want-not-eat-up

Tomorrow, oracles and more possibilities . . . 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 1, 2008.

 

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

cloud over the desertEzekiel 37

A Prayer from the Valley of Dry Bones

We remember that Yahweh led the Hebrews out of the desert, guiding them through the presence of a cloud, feeding them on manna, bringing them to a land and a legacy promised long ago.

Whether in an ocean, lake, river, stream or cloud, every drop of moisture is a treasure and just so are we, God’s children.  It is in the desert that we understand this most clearly and directly. It is on the plain of dry bones that we learn this lesson most fully and well.

The hand of the Lord came upon me . . .

Although we may not feel it, the Lord is with us always.

And led me out in the spirit of the Lord . . .

Although we may not see it, God is always guiding us.

And set me in the center of the plain . . .

Although we may not sense it, the Spirit is always consoling us.

Which was now filled with bones . . .

Although we may not trust it, the desert is where we find solace.

These flowers are called Scorpion Weed and bloom only once in several years . . . to bring new life to the desert.

These flowers are called Scorpion Weed and bloom only once in several years . . . to bring new life to the desert.

How dry they were!

Although we may not accept it, there is life where we see only death.

The Lord asks: “Can these bones come to life?

Although we may not believe it, serenity comes through suffering.

I answer: “You alone know that”.

Although we may not be certain of it, God brings good out of harm.

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.

Although we may not want to admit it . . . we must not run away from the desert . . . for it is the desert that we understand the miracle of dry bones rising to new life.  It is in the desert that we are surprised with new gifts.  It is in the desert that we experience the awesome power and love of God.

Come, let us go out to the desert so that we might meet the Lord.  Amen.

Reflect on your own Dry Bones experiences and the surprise God always has in store.  Think about how we might live in union with God’s creation and God’s plan while browsing more of the Most Amazing Photographs of 2011 at: http://tammymarierose.hubpages.com/hub/The-Most-Amazing-Photographs-of-the-World-Around-us-in-2011

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

oasisEzekiel 37

The Valley of Dry Bones – Part III

The second half of the “Dry Bones” chapter brings us the Oracle of the Two Sticks through which we understand that the splintered kingdoms will be re-united – an event thought totally unbelievable – and that the exile the people suffered was not God’s rejection of them. The chapters following this one describe the battle against Gog and the end-of-time feast in the restored Jerusalem. Thus does this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy tell the reader that what is thought impossible is possible for God; it tells us that God never abandons us even when we abandon God.  And it tells us that God loves us even when we believe ourselves to be rejected.

What does all of this mean for us?  Ezekiel reminds us that the most hopeless cases have hope in them somewhere, that God acts out of great love to resuscitate what has been lost, and that we are called to do for one another what God does for each of  us.  All things are possible, mirages become real, and sustenance revives us in the desert of our lives when we move toward conversion rather than away from it, when we move through the brittleness of the dry bones and the desert, toward the refreshing, renewing waters of the oasis God provides for us against all human odds.

There is a line in day eight of a St. Jude novena I used to pray:  When the difficult was too great to bear, Saint Jude somehow managed to see that it was lifted.  It was almost as if he had set the pattern for one of the branches of the armed services: “The difficult I shall take care of immediately; the impossible (in terms of human power) may take a little longer”.  Faith found that humility means power in the eyes of God.

ww_pada01[1]

Parry Dalea: This flower blooms in the Tucson desert in Southwestern USA from August to May

And so we humbly turn to God and ask that dry bones be resuscitated, that lost faith be restored, and that stifled hope be returned.  When we stagger under burdens and find ourselves in trackless sands, we must petition God in the knowledge that the impossible is possible knowing that God will always answer, dry bones will always rise, the desert will always bloom and the oasis will always appear.

As we rise to step into a new morning, perhaps still worried with a burden we could not shake, as we tumble into our beds at night, perhaps still weary at the end of a dry day full of impossibility, we must remember to pray for the impossible . . . for God always finds a way.

From Psalm 63: O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you, like a dry, weary, land without water . . . For your love is better than life, my lips speak your praise . . . On my bed I remember you . . . On you I muse through the night for you have been my help . . . My soul clings to you . . . your right hand holds me fast.  Amen.

Tomorrow, a prayer from the valley of dry bones.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 18, 2008.

To understand more about the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, why they represent hopes lost, and why it was thought impossible for them to unite, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/k/kingdom_of_israel.htm and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/k/kingdom_of_judah.htm

For more images of beautiful desert and mountain oases in unexpected places, click on the image above or go to: http://scribol.com/featured/desert-oasis/2257/9

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