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1 Samuel 24Escape

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rembrandt: Saul and David

Several weeks ago, we reflected on celebrating escape from something or someone who would have brought us great ruin or harm.  Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the opportunity to examine how Jesus is able to escape the traps laid for him by those who hated him.  Today we take a look at a small portion of the story of David, the young man who is designated as King of Israel by Samuel but who waits his turn as leader of God’s chosen people by resisting the temptation to fight against Saul.  David does not deny that he has been chosen King, nor does he murder Saul in order to take what is his; rather, he abides in God’s will and God’s time . . . and he takes the routes of escape that God offers while he actively waits on the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Today we read the story of how God saved his imperfect yet faithful servant and we are no less than David.

Today we read the story of how David relied on his God’s constancy . . . and he did not allow fear to turn him toward revenge or cowardice.

In yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) we read the story of how Jesus confronted prejudice and hatred and we do well to follow his example.

In yesterday’s Gospel we were given a road map for how to escape manipulation and scheming.  We must rely on God always, remain faithful to the covenant God shares with us, and always act in love and for love of God.  In this way we will always know escape from anything danger or evil that hopes to overtake us.

And so we pray . . .

When the call to do God’s work pulls us into alien and dangerous territory, we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own.

When the hand of God heals us and then sends us out to do God’s work, we must rely on God’s fidelity and nurture our own.

When the voice of God urges us to work in fields are that unfamiliar to us and that sap our energy, we must rely on God’s strength and conserve our own.

When the heart of God sends us to work with those who would do us harm, we must rely on God’s love and hope for redemption.   Amen.


A re-post from October 17, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.aaroneberline.com/blog/tag/david/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/378.html

 

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Galatians 2:15-21God’s Mercy

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvationIn short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly.

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings.

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.


A re-post from September 19, 2011.

Images from: http://www.biblechef.com/Indexes/Artifacts/JewishTorahSheet.html

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, October 19, 2018

Written on February 10, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . he preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . he withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . he saves the  unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . He holds in check the waterdrops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . He nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In his hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . He spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from September 16, 2011.

Image from: http://moderncountry.blogspot.com/2011/07/image-via-foundryshow-today-my-heart.html 

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Matthew 9:18-26The Tassels on our Cloaks

Saturday, October 13, 2018

In this reading we have a clear sense of the kind of excitement Jesus creates and the energy that moves through him.  We see this healing power as something beyond our own selves, something we see or watch  and even thrill in but never expect to experience much less wield on our own.  Too many times we regard miracles as myth or fantasy, stories that people pass along to one another like little worry dolls that lessen anxiety.  And too often we close our eyes to the miracles that happen before us or worse, we declaim them as the result of science or coincidence.  We miss the powerful and life-changing truth brought home to us in today’s Noontime: Miracles happen to and for and in us every day . . . and they have the power to heal others – not only ourselves – as they pass through us.

In this portion of Matthew’s Gospel we see Jesus immersed in a throng of people.  Some of them are merely curious about this Jewish teacher; others distrust him and look for tidbits of information to sell to his enemies.  And still others are desperate for Jesus’ healing touch like the woman suffering hemorrhages or the synagogue official.  They believe so honestly and deeply that they dare to approach him with their request.  Mark’s version of this same story elucidates for us (5:21-43).  The woman suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all she had searching for a cure.  She reaches to touch only the tassel of Jesus’ cloak, and Jesus is aware that the power has gone out of him.  A miracle has taken place.  When she is called forth, the woman approaches in fear and trembling, and Jesus explains: Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.  Commentary tells us that Mosaic Law prescribed tassels to be worn on the corners of cloaks as reminders of fidelity to that law and we might wonder: Is it possible that a single touch of the tassel dangling from Jesus’ cloak is enough to heal this woman?  Can it be that her belief in the possibility of a miracle opens her to receive the power emanating from Christ?  Might we be as open to this possibility . . . or are we more doubting than believing?

The official Jairus also puts aside his fear to ask Jesus’ help.  He dares to approach the man condemned by many in his community on the chance that his daughter might be brought back to him.  Do not be afraid, Jesus says when word arrives that the child has died.  Just have faith.  Do we dare to go against the pressures of society to believe that there is more to healing than science?  Do we have the courage to publicly ask help of the one who is so powerful that even the tassel on his cloak transmits this incredible curing gift?  Might we be as bold in our belief . . . or are we more fearful than fearless?

The intertwined stories of this high official and the Canaanite woman speak to us clearly . . . but we must be as open and as bold as these two believers.  From the highest to the humblest . . . we are all so valued by Jesus that he will heal us.  From the strongest to the weakest . . . we are all so precious to Jesus that the simple touch of his cloak will heal us.  From the prominent to the insignificant . . . we are all so loved by Jesus that he wants to bring us back from the death of disbelief to a life in faith with him.  And how marvelous it might be if rather than hoard up these special favors . . . we might share them with others as signs of our belief . . . as tassels on our cloaks.

And so we pray . . .

Powerful yet tender Jesus, we know that our lives are intertwined with yours like the warp and weft of the interlocking threads in your miraculous cloak.  We ask boldly yet humbly for the marvelous, life-giving and sustaining gift of your miracles.  Help us to knit these miracles so powerfully into our lives that our own cloaks emanate your healing touch.  Remind us to wear these miracles you grant us like tassels on our cloaks so that we might share the good news that each of us is free to reach out to you each day, and that you are eager to come into our homes and hearts.   

Keep us ever open . . . keep us constantly bold . . . and remain with us always as we struggle to believe in you.  Amen. 


A re-post from September 10, 2011.

Images from: http://pastorfergus.wordpress.com/

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Luke 9:1-9God in Their Midst

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Written on February 20 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us that we are not to throw pearls before swine.  We are too precious to throw ourselves away or to allow ourselves to be used up in senseless waste.  We walk a fine line between helping others and being abused, between loving those who hate us and enabling those who would use us.  Today’s Noontime, and similar descriptions of these words of Jesus in Mark 6:10-11, Matthew 10:12-14, tell us that we are not meant to be doormats.  We are to extend God’s peace to others and tell the good news of freedom brought by Christ.  If we are rebuffed, we are to shake their dust from our feet in testimony . . . and move on.  We are to journey on, witnessing, ministering, hoping, and enacting Christ – even to the point of suffering and death.  This death in Christ is not pointless as some would have us think; rather, this dying to Christ causes our enemies to wonder – just as Herod does with Jesus – about our origin, our goal and our mission.  If we live our lives as Jesus instructs the twelve today, our enemies may reject us . . . but they will keep trying to see us.  They will keep trying to understand our motivation, our sustenance . . . and our joy.

Our lives of faith will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of strength and determination – even in the face of overwhelming odds – and this they will want to see and experience for themselves. 

Our lives of hope will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of serenity and peace – even in the face of overwhelming cruelty – and this they will want to see and feel for themselves.

Our lives of love will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of compassion and mercy – even in the face of overwhelming pain – and this they will want to see and live for themselves. 

Jesus sent the twelve, he sent the seventy, he sent the seventy-two, and he sends us . . . into the world to witness, to cure, to heal, to carry back those who hunger and thirst for the truth.  We are part of his mission.  We are part of his family.  And we will want to act in such a way that those who seek God will look to us and know . . . that through us, they have seen, and touched, and felt . . . the living presence of God in their midst.


A re-post from September 8, 2011.

Image from: http://freegiftfromgod.com/blog/2011/05/jesus-sends-out-the-twelve/

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Tobit 14Knowing and Believing

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tobit

Written on March 21 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

For I know and believe that whatever God has said will be fulfilled and will come true; not a single word of the prophecies will fail.

As I read this verse I wonder again why it is that we refuse to believe the prophets among us.  It is a sign of faith to believe that for which we have no absolute evidence but I am interested in the wording of this verse.  Tobit says that he not only believes in the word of God through these prophecies but he knows them to be true.  Perhaps this is because of the wonders God has worked in his life . . . the wonders that arrive after much suffering.

Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1) that faith rests not in man’s wisdom but in God’s power We know that this means we cannot earn faith in any way.  It is given freely by God as a gift and in fact God uses the foolish of the world to instruct the wise – if the wise will listen.  God chooses the lowly to inform the exalted – if the strong have time for the lowly.  The weak instruct the strong and the fearful speak to the fearless – if the strong and fearless do not steam roller those who hesitate.  Our ears must be open and willing to receive the message from God when it arrives.  And God’s message is always about inversion so it makes sense – in God’s time and way – that the joy of faith will come through suffering.  This is significant.  It is the answer to the continual questions we say we cannot answer.  The answers are right before us . . . they are swirling about our ears . . . we must choose to examine them and heed them.

Tobit has met and overcome huge obstacles in his life not by patiently waiting out his suffering in blind obedience as we said yesterday.  Rather, Tobit actively waits for the revelation God will ultimately provide.  Tobit trusts and knows that this information will arrive.  Which it does . . . along with a great reward.

In this last chapter of Tobit we find verses useful to us but only after we have read the entire story of healing and blessing.  Only after we have waded through the pain will we be able to fully comprehend and feel the joy Tobit feels.  Only then will we know, as Tobit knows, the power of God.

God will again have mercy on them, and God will bring them back . . . and they will rebuild in splendor . . . they will return from exile . . . and the whole world will be converted and worship God in truth.  We may read these verses and think that Tobit has allowed his imagination to get the best of him when he makes such a positive projection into the future based on such a bleak past, and we would be wrong.  If we believe that Tobit is too hopeful, we must read the story for as many times as it takes for us to see our own lives through the paradigm we are presented here.  And then we will have one more task . . .

So now, my children, I command you, serve God faithfully and do what is pleasing in his sight.  Your children are also to be commanded to do what is right and to give alms, and to be mindful of God and to bless his name at all times with sincerity and with all their strength. 

Only in this way will we too, know and believe that what God promises God will complete.  Only then will we know and believe that God’s prophecies will not fail.


A re-post from August 29, 2011.

Image from: http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2009/06/21/calvin-on-the-self-authentication-of-scripture/ 

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2 Kings 4:1-7Deep Trust

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Written on March 20 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

A reflection I read recently pointed out that genuine faith is not blind obedience; rather it is a deep trust in the revealed Christ.  When we receive the Gospel story as coming from God – and not just as a narrative from one of Jesus’ followers – we will naturally raise our limbs to the light to welcome the Spirit into our hearts, and we will put down deep roots in the conviction that God can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Once we allow ourselves to risk believing that God’s love precludes deceit, overcomes all pain, and converts all suffering, we begin to feel the growth of an enduring and unshakable trust deep within.

The widow who complains to Elisha in today’s Noontime acts in faith – not blindly in obedience, but actively trusting, certain that God will fulfill her needs through the prophet.  “Bring me another vessel,” she says to her son; yet when none arrives and when the oil stops, there is enough oil for her to eliminate her debt and feed her children.  God provides.

From Jeremiah 17:7-8: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. 

From Psalm 1:1-3: Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.  Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.

Job 18:16 describes the wicked man as one whose roots dry up below and branches wither above.

Maxfield Parrish: Riverbank in Autumn

Ezekiel 47:12 describes the fruit trees that will grow by the banks of the river that flows from the new, restored temple: Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail.  Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.  Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. 

Sirach 11:20-21: Hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it, grow old while doing your task.  Admire not how sinners live, but trust in the Lord and wait for his light.

The desert is a dry and barren place yet even in the arid terrain there is life – for God is everywhere.   The widow in today’s story understands this fact.  She has so little that she and her children will perish.  Elisha speaks to her and through this prophet God works a miracle that rescues her not only for that one day, but for all of her days.  The widow allows her life and the lives of her children to be transformed, not merely changed.  She stays close to God, the living water.  She puts down deep, trusting roots.  She shelters her children beneath the leaves that spring forth in a dry season.

God provides . . . even, and especially, in the desert.  God transforms . . . even, and especially, when we feel that all is lost.   God reveals himself . . . even, and especially, when we are at our lowest point.

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer Mini-reflection: God is very 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 of Lent where Christ reveals himself. 


A re-post from August 28, 2011.

Images from: http://frankordaz.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-easter.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 19 March 2011. Print.

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John 1:12-13: A Child of God

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

God tells the faithful, “I am who I am”. Jesus says to us: “I am the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Resurrection, the Life, the Way, and Truth. I am the great Vine to your Branches”. Today we begin a series of posts on who we are to God. We open with an adapted reprise of a Favorite posted on August 3, 2012.

But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. 

For a long time I have reflected on the idea of how God determines who receives the gift of faith and who does not.  I have had conversations with God in which I ask why it is that some of us are so stiff-necked and others of us have the gift of patience.  I trust God’s plan, I believe that we are created to be God’s children, and here in the Gospel of John, in one simple sentence, we are enlightened.  I will have to refer to this citation when the questions rise again to pull me from the core of my belief.

Believing in Jesus as the Word, as Resurrected, as brother – this is what makes us children of God.  Through him, with him, in him, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is infinite pre-existence.  Jesus is all of creations’ eternal future. Jesus is the Incarnation – the word and thought and touch of God amidst us.  Jesus is an offering, a gift freely given by a loving and passionate God . . . a God who loves us so deeply and so endlessly . . . that God brings God’s self to us without our even asking.

When we act in child-like trust rather than childish petulance, we experience the faith of one who is sister and brother to Christ. When we act in outrageous hope that the Father loves each of us more than we can imagine, we experience the bond we have with Jesus. When we act in compassion and mercy toward those we love and those who do us harm, we experience the Holy Spirit’s healing, truth, and transformation.

We are all the Children of God.

What a wondrous God is this.

The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten. (THE MESSAGE)

Relying on God as a trusting child does, we pray Psalm 25 as we close our day. When we repeat the antiphon, Teach me your ways, O Lordwe place ourselves in God’s enormous, loving, life-giving hands. 

Tomorrow, we are branches.


When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that we have gathered at the Father’s knee, we are cradled in the Mother’s arms, we are EACH and ALL blessed by the Holy Spirit as precious and valued children of God.

Enter the words Children of God in to the blog search bar and explore more posts. 

Images from: http://wouldyouliketosingasong.blogspot.com/2013/01/practicing-i-am-child-of-god.html and https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/500000-afghan-children-affected-by-drought-unicef/articleshow/63893237.cms 

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Romans 10: Disobedient and Contentious People

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

With this Favorite from November 17, 2010, we take a final look at Jesus as the Life we wish to live.

Paul explains here that faith has a way of saving us in a way that the Mosaic Law does not . . . and never will.  It is impossible to reach heaven or to be one with God if we live a life full of checklists that attend to the duties prescribed by a structure.  It is equally impossible to not be saved if we live our lives in Christ . . . if we live a life of acting according the Law of Love . . . even when this Law puts us in danger.

Footnotes explain the references to Old Testament verses, and they also remind us that to speak as Paul does here – or to tell and enact the Gospel story as Paul reminds us we are asked to do – often put us in danger.

In the first century, and in certain parts of the world today, being Christian brings exclusion from the wider society and even the death penalty.  We will need to rely on Christ once we respond to the call to tell the story of salvation.

Among many cliques and groups both now and in Paul’s day, living a life of faith brings scorn and derision.  We will need to rely on Christ once we commit to living a life of fidelity to Jesus’ Way.

In families, work places, schools, and any places where we humans gather, living a life of merciful justice and open trust brings ridicule and disdain.  We will need to rely on Christ once we live as fully in him as he asks.

Paul warns us about all of this today.  The easy, comfortable life spent in and for itself must fall away.  The disciplined life of service that we are called to live is not appealing to rebellious and difficult people. And so we have this clear choice before us: to opt for contention and disobedience, or to choose freedom and salvation in Christ.


Image from: http://lwccyork.com/blog/series/this-is-the-way-of-jesus/ 

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