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Posts Tagged ‘do not be afraid’


Ezekiel 21:12-22Song of the Sword

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Written on January 5 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Much of this prophecy is full of dramatic images, and this one of the Lord wiping one hand against the other in dismissal is striking.  It tells us that we ought not doubt God’s power to save.  In the New Testament, Jesus brings to us God’s amazing power to heal.  What we see in the old as castigating and just, we see in the new as compassionate and merciful.

Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

This puts me in mind of today’s Gospel, Mark 6:45-52, in which Jesus comes to calm the storm which tosses the apostles in their fishing boat.  He meant to pass by them.  As a child I always imagined how Jesus moves quietly in our lives calming storms that are too much for us to take.  They were . . . terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  Even as the storm abates, it is all too much for us, and we remain frightened.  And Jesus cannot move past us without reassuring us.  He speaks with us rather than to us.  We are his dearly loved sisters and brothers.

Earlier in Ezekiel (Chapter 9) we have read and reflected on how those are saved from the slaughter who are marked with “the sign of thau,” the cross that designates them as one of the faithful.  We receive this cross on our forehead at baptism and are grateful for it when the sword begins its indiscriminate work.  This mark is not a free pass to do as we like, certainly; rather, it is a reminder to us of how we are to act.  Neither is this to say that the unbaptized are not equally valued in God’s eye and equally redeemed by Jesus.  What Ezekiel reminds us of today is this:  God’s word is certain, God’s promise is sure; we are to call out for help as do the apostles in the storm, and this God we love and who loves us will let us know God’s presence.

When the harvesting sword begins to sing, we will remember to turn to God who is our source and our goal, our north star and our protection.  When God wipes one hand against another in a gesture of dismissal, let us not be afraid, for . . . at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” 


A re-post from November 2, 2011.

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Isaiah 66:18-24God Sets a Sign

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Witten on March 4 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

For I know their works and their thoughts . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God sees all; there are no secrets.  Just a few days ago we heard the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke telling us that what is whispered in the dark will come to light.  It is impossible to hide from God for God is omniscient and all-knowing.

And I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is all powerful; he can do all things.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Jesus tells us that what is impossible with men is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26)  It is impossible to conquer God who is omnipotent and eternal.

And they shall come and shall see my glory . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is awesome; in the Old Testament we are told to fear, or to stand in awe of God for this reason.  Jesus tells us that once we walk in God’s way, nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20) that his glory is our glory. This is the measure of God’s might and love. It is impossible for God to be or do evil for our compassionate God is goodness itself.

And I will set a sign among them.

Isaiah reminds us that God knows the faithful just as the faithful know God.  Jesus tells the Father that he has come to gather in those faithful.  When we bear witness to evil, we also bear the sign of God on our foreheads.  It is impossible for God to forget or neglect us for God is love itself.

Isaiah lived at a time of deep and corrosive corruption and he understood the damage this kind of erosion has on people.  He warned against the decay and fire that envelops those who neglect God’s way.  His words continue to instruct us today.  Jesus too, teaches us the lessons we need to know in order to be numbered in those who know and recognize God with ease.

St. Paul writes to the people of Philippi (4:8) one of the simplest yet truest and most beautiful descriptions of Christian living.  Once we take these words in and own them, we have no need to fear the dire consequences we see in Isaiah today.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  If we can say that we seek truth, purity, and beauty, if we act in honor and justice, if we live grace-filled days . . . we need not fear the harvester’s sword.

God has set a sign among us.  That sign is Christ.  We need not fear Isaiah’s predictions when we respond to God’s call as St. Paul urges.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . . this is excellence . . . this is worthy of praise . . . this is worthy of our time . . . this is God among us . . . this is Christ.  Amen.


A re-post from August 18, 2011.

Image from: http://omgzi.blogspot.com/2010/10/ichthys-sign-of-fish.html

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Isaiah 43Promises of Redemption and Restoration

Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Favorite from February 21, 2008. 

We sing this hymn so often that these words of Isaiah are familiar to us . . . and they are so beautiful.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

Dear God in Heaven, we so many times feel so alone or abandoned.  We think we have done what you have asked, but somehow things just are not working out.  We feel as though we are sinking to the bottom of the sea.

When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.

Dear God on Earth, we so many times know that we are called and, wanting to be good servants, we want to obey but we are frightened or anxious.  We feel as though we are burning alive.

When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.

Dear God who dwells within, we so many times feel so apart from you as we do the work you have asked of us.  We feel isolated and misunderstood.  We want to come home to you.

I give . . . your ransom because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you.

Dear God who made us, we wander here on earth and long for the serenity and beauty of your Holy City on a Hill.  We want to hear you clearly, we want to see you distinctly.  We long to be with you.

I will say to the north; Give them up! and to the south: Hold not back!  Bring back my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth: Everyone who is named as mine, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  Lead out the people who are blind though they have eyes, who are deaf though they have ears.

Dear God who is tender, kind and loving, we are many times afraid to stand when you say stand, to sit when you say sit, to be still when you say be still, to speak when you say speak.  We want to trust.  We want to be authentic.  We want to embody integrity.

Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right, that one may hear and say, “It is true!”  You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I. 

Dear God who is glorious, awesome, and all-knowing, we do not know how to begin, we do not know where to go.

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland rivers.  Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people who I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.

Dear God who walks among us, you have shown us The Way, the Truth and the Light.  We will follow you.  We will enter the desert to meet you . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will sojourn among the jackals and the ostriches . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will walk beside the humble . . . for we know that is where you are.

Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

Amen.

Find the hymn “Be Not Afraid” by John Michael Talbot, with video clips from the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI49peWG2d0 

David Haas’ hymn “You Are Mine” is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgm9lkTNQmc 

Image from: https://rickandlindareed.com/2014/12/12/do-not-be-afraid/ 

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Isaiah 41:13: Your Right Hand

God’s left hand waits for our right hand . . .

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I am the Lord, your God, who gasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you”.

How often do we take our hands for granted? How much of our life do we hold in our hands?

I am the Lord your God;
I strengthen you and tell you,
“Do not be afraid; I will help you.” (GNT)

Do we believe that God’s hands manage the details of our lives? Do we see God’s hands at work in the broad horizon of our days and nights?

For I, Adonai, your God,
say to you, as I hold your right hand,
‘Have no fear; I will help you. (CJB)

Dylan Pierce: Child and Man

Can we say with hope that God brings all harm to good? Can we relinquish our fear and pride long enough to place ourselves in God’s hands?

I, your God,
have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, “Don’t panic.
I’m right here to help you.” (MSG)

Can we remain faithful to God’s goodness and rely on God’s wisdom? Can we open ourselves to God’s grace and follow where God leads as God takes us by our right hand?

When we compare varying versions of this verse, we open our hands to God, and give ourselves over to God’s goodness.

 

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John 6:16-21Walking on Water – A Reprise

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

 A Favorite from May 23, 2008.

Back in January we looked at chapter 6 of John and reflected on his Bread of Life Discourse.  Today we are drawn back to this chapter, but now to the incident that is sandwiched between the act of the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus’ explanation of the Eucharist . . . Jesus walks on the water.

I am thinking of a painting I saw by Henry Tanner when it was on exhibit at the BMA . . . and I go in search of it.  The waters in this painting are calm, one the apostles stands toward the front of the boat . . . Jesus approaches from the left.

The painting is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having.  They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see.  They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand.  They are fishing alone when the storm rises up and they fear for their lives . . . then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

 Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions.  Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped . . . and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision.  We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify . . . and so we go back to bailing.  I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence.  Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday.  Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows . . . and something beckons just off behind our shoulder.  We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be . . . we hear nothing that the ear recognizes . . . and we go back to phone calls, emails, messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the grass not mown, the laundry not washed.  We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time.  Jesus is.  Jesus was.  Jesus will be.  In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working . . . we must pause to look and to listen.  We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see . . . because . . .

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Tomorrow, seeking Jesus. 

For more on Henry Tanner, visit: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Ossawa-Tanner 

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Mark 6:45-52: Stepping Into Surprise

Po_vodam

Ivan Aivazovsky: Jesus Walks on Water

Tuesday, December 2, 2015

Yesterday we reflected with Matthew on our willingness to step out of the little boat of our lives when Jesus approaches us across the water. Today we visit Mark, who tells his story in clipped, precise sentences, but curiously includes this verse: He meant to pass them by.  What might Mark be asking us to consider with these simple words?

When we find ourselves in turmoil we may feel as though Jesus has us passed by. When we cannot find our way out of darkness, we might believe that God has chosen to ignore us. When we look for healing that never comes, we may wonder where the Spirit has chosen to settle. In all of these feelings of abandonment we will be mistaken for God is always with us.

Seeing the apostles’ distress, Jesus climbs into the boat with them and says: Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!  Then Mark reminds us that even though they had witnessed his division of the loaves and fish for thousands of people: They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.  Jesus does not condemn his closet friends and apostles when he sees they do not understand; but rather he steps into the boat to calm their fears.

Matthew (14:22-33) begins his recollection of this event by borrowing from Mark and then adds one of his special stories about Peter, the man who becomes the cornerstone of the church.  Matthew affords us the opportunity to – like Peter – step out of the boat to walk toward the shimmering vision.  He offers us the chance to step out of safety into the turbulent sea of life.  He reminds us that when the waters begin to swamp the vessel, we may want to do the surprising . . . step into the uproar rather than hide quaking in the gunwales of the ship.

Advent is a time of praying, reflecting, preparing to step out into the turmoil.  It is a time to put aside fears to tend to the truly eternal: time spent in pondering The Word in the form of scripture, thanksgiving shown for miracles already received and yet to be received; fidelity and constancy as the foundation of our lives . . . courage and fidelity leading us to serenity and trust in God.  When we feel our boat rocking, rather than allowing our fear to take us over, we are heartened when we truly hear today’s story.

So let us pray:  Advent is a time of wonder.  Advent is a time of surprises.  Advent is a time of being open to newness and outrageous possibilities.  Advent is a time to step out of the boat in faith to walk – unbelievably and impossibly – on a surface which ought not support us.  Let us walk away from fear . . . toward the one who does not let us fall. 

During the storms, Jesus is really quite near, moved with compassion when he sees our suffering.  Rather than cry out anxiously from our hiding place, let us step out of our little craft and out of our old habits.  Let us step into something new . . . a freedom of complete trust in the hand of our maker . . . the hand that is always extended to meet us.  Let us step into the surprise.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 6, 2008.

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John 6:16-21: Walking on Water

Monday, November 30, 2015

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

I am thinking of a painting by Henry Tanner in which the waters are calm, one of the apostles stands toward the front of the boat, and Jesus approaches from the left.

The image is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having.  They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see.  They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand.  They are fishing alone when the storm rises and they fear for their lives. Then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions.  Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped, and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision.  We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify so we go back to bailing.  I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence.  Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday.  Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows yet something beckons just off behind our shoulder.  We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be. We hear nothing that the ear recognizes, and so we go back to phone calls, emails and other messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the grass not mown, the laundry not washed.  We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time.  Jesus is.  Jesus was.  Jesus will be.  In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working we must pause to look and listen.  We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see because . . .

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

For more of Tanner’s work, visit: http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tanner/tanner_main.html

Adapted from a reflection written on May 23, 2008.

 

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