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1 Kings 17Moving On

Monday, July 9, 2018

Il Guercino: Elijah Fed by Ravens

So the Lord said, move on . . .

This two-part story reminds us that God provides for those who are willing to follow him; and it also tells us that we cannot snuggle into the comfort of a refuge we know well.  Our true security rests not in the safe harbors we find in life . . . but in our relationships and in the trust we place in God.  This is the message we find in the verse that bridges the two parts of today’s Noontime. 

The prophet Elijah has reason to fear Ahab.  The king’s wife Jezebel has made it plain that her goal is to rid the kingdom of prophets and this is the likely reason that Elijah hides as the Lord bids him after he delivers his fearsome prophecy to King Ahab.  Concealing himself in the Wadi Cherith, he survives with water from the stream and food brought to him by ravens.  All seems safe and well . . . until God calls him to Zarepthath of Sidon.  Rather than hold onto the security he has found in the wadi, Elijah moves on – as God asks – to help first a widow and then later her son.  Elijah not only improves the lot of this impoverished little family to make the world a more humane place, he also allows himself to know God more intimately . . . he moves out of his safety zone to bring life to those who barely eke out a living.

So the Lord said, move on . . .

Bernardo Strozzi: Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta

Each of us has known times when we would rather remain wrapped in our sanctuary, blocking out the horror of a cruel world so that we might live happily and blindly.  Oh how much easier, we say to ourselves, to remain in well-known territory in order to stay away from the uncomfortable parts of life.  Yet when God calls, we must move on.

We may have experienced for a time the desperation of not knowing where we will find the food to feed our families.  Perhaps we have suffered the misery of working with a colleague who has condemned us or of going home to a loved one who has rejected us.  Maybe we have crept to the edge of life itself thinking it better to bring all to an end.  These are the times when a kind look, a warm smile or a gentle touch heals the wounded heart.  This is when a few understanding words that acknowledge pain without censure bring the sweetest balm of all . . . the healing hand of one who has moved out from a safe harbor to bring others safely home.

We may say that not all of us can be Elijah for we cannot resuscitate life.  In truth, this does not matter.  God knows the prophet, God knows the widow, and God knows each of us.  This alone is enough for us to take courage, it is enough for us to move on.


Images from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/730.html and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bernardo_Strozzi_-_Prophet_Elijah_and_the_Widow_of_Sarepta_-_WGA21919.jpg 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 18, 2011.

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Malachi 4:5-6: Behold the New Day

Friday, December 23, 2016

Duccio di Buoninsegna: The Prophet Malachi

Duccio di Buoninsegna: The Prophet Malachi

In this final week of Advent, let us decide to make our hopes tangible, our dreams a prayer for our reality, our faith unwavering and our love secure. Let us cleave to the Creator, follow the Redeemer and rest in the Spirit. This week let us give one another the gift of preparing for the very real promise of eternity.

The prophet Malachi communicates God’s words to us.

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse. (NASB)

Elijah was able to perform miracles just as Jesus did in his own day and even in this present time. Malachi advises that we might want to look forward in hope rather than backward in fear.

But also look ahead: I’m sending Elijah the prophet to clear the way for the Big Day of God—the decisive Judgment Day! He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. If they refuse, I’ll come and put the land under a curse. (MSG)

That day is great for some and dreadful for others. As followers of Christ we are convinced that God’s “greatness” is with us in every moment and in every place.  We are also convinced that Jesus searches for every last sheep, for every hard heart, for every broken soul.

A stained-glass window featuring the prophet Elijah, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire, England

A stained-glass window featuring the prophet Elijah, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire, England

Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers: lest I come, and strike the earth with anathema. (DRA)

And as followers of Christ, we are also convinced that the Spirit works to remove all anathema, to heal all destruction and to bring about complete transformation for all.

But before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes, I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; otherwise I would have to come and destroy your country. (GNT)

Malachi calls out to us across the millennia: Behold, Emmanuel is among you. Awake. Rise up. And Malachi asks that we give witness to the enormity of the gift we find in our hands, the gift of God’s infinite peace, Christ’s overflowing compassion, and the Spirit’s miraculous renewal.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we behold the enormity of God’s gift that we receive without asking.

N.B. Some versions of Malachi number this citation as 3:23-24.

For more about Malachi, the last of the minor prophets, or Elijah, the prophet who life is decribed in the Books of Kings, click on their names and/or images above.

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1 Kings 18: Deception – Part IV

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel

The Prophets of Baal

Today’s Noontime is a story we hear read out to us at least once during the liturgical cycle; it is the story of the people’s relationship with God that takes place during a time when Yahweh’s prophets were being persecuted.  It is also a time of high political intrigue when the kingdom brought together under David’s leadership has split in two.  Ahab, Jezebel, Obadiah, and Elijah find themselves caught up in the kind of turmoil that guarantees suffering.

Elijah, the only surviving prophet of Yahweh, appeals to the people, and allows God to work through him to remind the split nations that despite their petty squabbles God is in charge.  The prophets of Baal bring all of their power and influence to bear and still they cannot best Elijah and Yahweh.  This is a good story and it deserves enough reading that we can apply it to our own lives.

What or who might be the Baal prophets in our lives?  Who is it we believe more than God who created us and cares for us beyond all human capacity?  Who is it we follow more eagerly than Jesus who redeems and saves us daily?   And who is it we love more intensely than the Spirit who guides us and counsels us every minute of our day and night?

The humor with which Elijah pits the Baal gods and their prophets against Yahweh makes today’s reading entertaining and authentic.  We may want to look for the humor in our own struggle to survive the droughts and famines of our days.  And we may want to ask ourselves the same question that Elijah asks his audience:  How long will you straddle the issue?  If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him. 

Written on June 14, 2010.

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1 Kings 21: Deception – Part II

Thursday, June 9, 2016tota_vineyard-rows-russel

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

My mother’s quoting of Walter Scott’s words peppered our growing-up years. Her use of Scott’s poetic words was her method of teaching the lesson of Ahab and his temper tantrum.

Ahab wants something which someone else cherishes and does not wish to give up.  Ahab goes home, puts his face to the wall and refuses to eat.  His unfortunate wife, Jezebel, colludes with him to get the coveted vineyard from their neighbor, and if we read the entire story, we see what kind of an end these two come to.  They both pay a heavy price for their egregious crimes of trumping up false charges, conniving, lying, stealing, inciting a crowd to stone to death an innocent man. Naboth’s mistake or error is merely the cherishing of something that someone else wants.

We hear Yahweh’s words through the prophet Elijah in verse 20: You have given up yourself to do evil in the Lord’s sight.

Frederick Leighton: Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah

Frederick Leighton: Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah

Since my childhood, and because of the wisdom of my mother, my family has not worried about belonging to a particular group.  When my family opens our home party, all are welcome. Universal hospitality, bridge building to fringe groups, invitations to include all at the table have grown out of my mother’s teaching about Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel.

In this year of presidential politics in the U.S., we have become aware of many Naboths, many Ahabs and many Jezebels in the public eye. As we take in the daily news, we recall more words Mother and Dad recited from scripture: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  Ostracizing others says more about you than it does about the others.  There is really nothing that can be kept secret.  The truth always comes out in the end. I hope you can stand it when it hits you in the face.

What a wonderful gift we are given in the friends and neighbors God sends to us.  What a wonderful treasure is the vocation of building community to which we are called.  What a blessing to work, play and live beside people with whom we hold things in common, and people with whom we hold little in common. We learn more from our enemies than we do from the people with whom we feel most comfortable.  We are all God’s creatures, made in God’s image.  What do our daily actions say about the relationship we have with our Creator?  Do we turn away in anger when we covet something someone else has? When we open our hearts and homes, are all welcome?  Do we extend invitations with ulterior motives?  Do we interact with only a select few and bully others to bow to our wants? And when God asks us to invite the faithful to the table, whom are we willing to invite?

From a reflection written on June 1, 2008.

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Luke 9:8-36: Transfiguration

Second Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2016grymes violins

So many times we are called to Transfiguration.  So many times we are called to Exodus.  So many times we meet angels and prophets and yet do not respond.  We are so caught up in getting through the day, getting through the night, the week, the month, the year . . . the life.

So often we want to pause at a happy spot to set up a tent to house that moment and hold it.  So often we want to wrestle with time until it obeys us.  We live in the past . . . live in the future . . . live anywhere else but the present . . . re-living, un-living, projecting, transferring.

Jesus goes up to the mountain with two of his beloved apostles to speak with Elijah, Moses and his Father about the work that lies before him.  Of course he knows what was expected of him – down to the smallest detail – yet he listens to those who have gone before him. He listens to the wisdom of the ages. And he shares the experience with his friends.

violins of hopeJesus shares this wisdom and love with us as well.  He give to us the opportunity of transfiguration of self.  We are not held away from the gift of salvation; rather, we are invited to join Christ’s joy and glory.  So when the cloud descends upon us, and we hear the voice from the mist say: This is my Son, listen to him . . . may we have the courage, the wisdom, the light and the joy to do as we are bidden.  Because through this experience comes a true knowing of God, a true knowing of self.  With this comes an openness to the Word and the Truth and the Light.

In this Lenten journey, it is good to pause to reflect upon the possibilities offered to us through Transfiguration.

Adapted from a Favorite from December 11, 2007.

Looking for transfiguration, we begin a new Lenten practice this week. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

grymes bookTo learn more about how the Violins of Hope provide an opportunity for learning and reflection through restored instruments that survived the Holocaust, and to see how Cleveland’s MALTZ MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE offers opportunities of transfiguration, click on the images above or visit: http://www.violinsofhopecle.org/

To hear these violins in concert, go to a CBS video at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/violins-of-hope/  

Learn about the book Violins of Hope by James A. Grymes at: http://www.jamesagrymes.com/

Tomorrow, the Christ.

 

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Hosea 10False Heart, True Heart

Wednesday, December 23, 2015heart leaf on stone

A favorite from December 22, 2010.

False oaths, fake alliances, evil intrigues, any means to achieve an end: this is what Hosea sees in his community.  The kingdom of David has been divided in two.  Elijah, Elisha, and Amos have warned the people; Isaiah and Micah will add their prophetic words of warning.  Hosea finds himself seeing clearly the devastation that awaits this false-hearted people . . . but he is ignored.

Yet Hosea persists, telling us that we are people meant to worship God, we are meant to take the yoke upon fair neck, to thresh, to be harnessed by the plow of the true God with a true heart.  We are created to be workers in the vineyard, to sow justice and reap piety, we are meant to break new fields so that the rain of God’s justice might bring forth fruit.

Hosea warns that those who have sowed discord and wickedness will reap perversity and eat of the fruit of falsehood.  Turmoil will break out among those who have trusted their warriors and chariots rather than trusting God.  The fortresses carefully built against the needs of the world will be tumbled and ravaged; the false hearts who take advantage of the poor will be lost in the utter destruction.  Hosea does not surrender to the pressures around him, he endures.

Like Hosea, we might want God’s justice to be clearly visible in the present; we may want all of Hosea’s predictions about false hearts to materialize in an instant.  Those who seek a settling of scores may wish God’s integrity to rain down on those who sit on comfortable couches to contrive wicked plots.  They will want to see a world of integrity replace the world of falsehood they experience.  Yet this is the message of Advent: the one of true heart and true words, the one of promises kept and miracles revealed has come to live among us.  Advent tells us that the possibility of living a genuine life is here – now – this day.   We need only open our eyes to see.

CrossHeartLogo11-300x289If we are dissatisfied with the speed of God’s coming, or if we doubt that God is even here among us, we must look first to ourselves to begin kingdom-building.  We must examine our own hearts to see if we remain in truth no matter the social consequence.  We must cease the gossip, cease the controlling, cease the lusting after outcomes, fame, possessions, power and people.  We must amend our ability – and our willingness – to ignore reality.  We must change our hearts so that we do not succumb to the social pressure to acquire goods or supremacy.  We must nurture our desire to share, our yearning to heal, and our aspiration for peace.  We must ask God to transform the falsehood in our own hearts so that we might receive the goodness from his.  We must be open to the reality of Advent.

In this way – with endurance, with fidelity, and with honesty – the prophecy of Hosea will arrive fully.  And in this way the false hearts of the world will become the true heart of Christ.

 

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1 & 2 Kings: Some Left Over – Part III

Elijah Fed by Ravens

Elijah Fed by Ravens

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When we study the stories of Elijah and Elisha we find that with their miracles of sustenance for the marginalized there is always something left over. Their acts of mercy foreshadow Jesus’ acts of mercy in the New Testament.

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath: In 1 Kings 17 Elijah predicts a great drought. He moves east to rest, as God recommends, and rests near a stream where ravens bring him bread and meat. After a time the water dries up and so Elijah follows God’s voice as it counsels him to move to another place to stay with a particular widow. What follows when the prophet resides with her is a story that gives us counsel about what we might do when we find ourselves searching for solutions to problems that for us are enormous, but that for God are quite ordinary. When we use the scripture link to explore different versions of this story, for find that solutions to our own dilemmas appear – and we also find that when God provides, there is always something left over to share with others.

Aert de Gelder: Elisha and the Widow of the Prophet

Aert de Gelder: Elisha and the Widow of the Prophet

Elisha, the Widow’s Oil, and the Multiplication of Loaves: In 2 Kings 4 Elisha helps the widow of a God-fearing man whose creditors want to take his two children as slaves in payment for an unpaid debt. Miracles follow when Elisha follows God’s advice. Later in this chapter we see the renewal of life through resurrection, and transformation of a poisoned stew. More miracles follow in subsequent chapters and again, comparing varying versions of these stories using the scripture link brings us a fresh perspective of stories we may have heard many times. Ultimately, the message remains . . . when God provides, there is always something left over.

Tomorrow . . . Matthew’s story of the loaves and fish.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gerard Seghers: The Patient Job

Gerard Seghers: The Patient Job

Daniel 12:6

How Long?

How long shall it be to the end of these appalling things?

Exodus 10:3: Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me’.”

Exodus 10:7: Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?”

Exodus 16:28: Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my instructions?”

Numbers 14:11: The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn me? And how long will they not believe in me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?”

Joshua asks the men of Israel how long they will delay in moving into the Promised Land. (Joshua 18:3)

The priest Eli asks the barren Hannah how long she continue with her drunken babbling (1 Samuel 1:14) and the Lord asks Samuel how long he will grieve over the loss of Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1).

In 1 Kings 18:21 Elijah asks the people how long their will vacillate between the Living God Yahweh and the false gods of the Baals.

Job’s companion, Bildad, asks Job how long he will refuse to acknowledge his sin – which he, in fact, did not commit (Job 8:2). He asks how long Job will put off speaking truth (Job 18:2). To this, Job replies: How long will you torment me and crush me with lies? (Job 19:1)

In these Old Testament verses we read the words we ourselves use when we are overwhelmed. We hear the human and divine plea for understanding; and we feel the urgent desire for resolution in all that seems precarious and unjust. Let us gather our moments of plight and petition, and bring them to the one who holds the answer to our prayers of supplication.

Tomorrow . . . a response.

For an insightful reflection on the Book of Job, click on the image above or visit: http://soulation.org/breakfastreading/2011/03/a-different-look-at-the-man-from-uz.html

For more reflections on the words of this prophet, enter the words Daniel or Apocalypse into the blog search bar and explore.

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Friday, March 8, 2013 – Hosea 10 – False Heart, True Heart

heart-nature-mark-kazav[1]False oaths, fake alliances, evil intrigues, any means to achieve an end: this is what Hosea sees in his community.  The kingdom of David has been divided in two.  Elijah, Elisha, and Amos have warned the people; Isaiah and Micah will add their prophetic words of warning.  Hosea finds himself seeing clearly the devastation that awaits this false-hearted people.   He is ignored.

Yet . . . Hosea persists, telling us that we are people meant to worship God, meant to take the yoke upon fair neck, to thresh, to be harnessed by the plow of the true God with a true heart.  We are created to be workers in the vineyard, to sow justice and reap piety, we are meant to break new fields so that the rain of God’s justice might bring forth new fruit.

Hosea warns that those who have sown discord and wickedness will reap perversity and eat of the fruit of falsehood.  Turmoil will break out among those who have trusted their warriors and chariots rather than trusting God.  The fortresses carefully built against the needs of the world will be tumbled and ravaged; the false hearts who take advantage of the poor will be lost in the utter destruction.  Hosea predicts all of this and does not succumb to the darkness of the world.  He does not surrender to the pressures around him, he endures.

Like Hosea, we might want God’s justice to be clearly visible in the present; we may want all of Hosea’s predictions about false hearts to materialize in an instant.  Those who seek a settling of scores may wish God’s integrity to rain down on those who sit on comfortable couches to contrive wicked plots.  They will want to see a world of integrity replace the world of falsehood they experience.  Yet this is the message of Christ: God has sent one of true heart and true words, one of promises kept and miracles revealed.  God has sent Jesus to live among us.  Lent tells us that the possibility of living a genuine life is here – now – this day.   We need only turn to God and to open our eyes to see.

If we are dissatisfied with the speed of God’s coming or if we doubt that God is even here among us, we must look first to ourselves to begin kingdom-building.  We must examine our own hearts to see if we remain in truth no matter the social consequence.  We must cease the gossip, cease the controlling, and cease the lusting after outcomes, fame, possessions, power and people.  We must amend our ability – and our willingness – to ignore reality.  We must change our hearts so that we do not succumb to the social pressure to acquire goods, dominance or a sense of superiority.  We must nurture our desire to share, our yearning to heal, and our aspiration for peace.  We must ask God to transform the falsehood in our own hearts so that we might receive goodness from God.  We must be open to the reality of the Lenten message that all are welcome.  Welcome into Christ’s own, open heart.

With endurance, with fidelity, and with honesty the prophecy of Hosea will fully arrive.  And thus the false hearts of the world will become the true heart of Christ.

Let us ask for the coming of this kingdom.

First written on Wednesday, December 22, 2010.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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