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Posts Tagged ‘faith’


Hebrews 11:1: The Dogwood Tree

Monday, June 17, 2019

Today’s Noontime is a reflection written for the dedication of a dogwood tree in the memory of Sophie Myers who was born and died on September 25, 2011.   It springs from the first verse of Hebrews 11.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I share with you today some thoughts about how the small and beautiful dogwood tree is a symbol of life and faith – a reminder that despite the fact that we cannot see or hear or smell or touch someone . . . she does, indeed, exist.

The dogwood tree is one of the smallest in the forest but just because it is small does not mean it is any less alive.  Older, taller, more substantial trees tower over her but it is the dogwood – even when quite young – that dresses nature with airy pastel blossoms. She brings beauty and lightness and hope to the otherwise darkened forest.  Despite her size, the dogwood tree is an integral part of the woods.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

My son Will reminded us on the day of Sophie’s funeral that the shortness of her life does not diminish her significance.  That shortness does not mean that we love her any less and in fact, her quick coming and going make her existence all the more powerful.  This brevity reminds us to tell and show the people we love that we do, indeed, love them.  This brevity calls us forward to live our own lives in the assurance and in the conviction that Sophie is here with us today despite the fact that we cannot see or touch her.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The urn that contains the earth-held remains of Sophia Josephine Myers is decorated with four dogwood flowers.  Each of these flowers has four petals that symbolize her family: Gabby, Will, Vivian . . . and Sophie.  On the prayer card created for Sophia’s funeral there is a photograph of one small, green dogwood leaf floating as it moves along the surface of a crystal clear stream.  A sunbeam glints off the rippling water.  One tiny droplet rides on the leaf and is carried downstream to an unknown destination.  We do not see the end . . . yet the journey takes place.  We do not know the moment of arrival . . . yet the arrival happens.  Of this we are assured.  Of this we are convicted.  This we know.  This we live . . . in faith.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Sophie died in her transit to this world and yet . . . still she lives.  We pause to reflect today – in faith – on what that might mean.  We pause to reflect today on the beauty and the power and the importance . . . of the Dogwood Tree.

Amen.


A re-post from June 3, 2012.

Image of dogwood flower from: http://www.ridgewoodcameraclub.org/steinmeyer.html

To discover how to create a garden as a living memory of a loved one click on the dogwood tree image above or go to: http://www.recover-from-grief.com/memorial-garden.html

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John 14: Being

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me?

I am thinking that this is God’s reply to me when I show up every morning with my same list of thanksgivings and petitions.  Of course God knows that I am grateful for the miracles he has sent to me which keep my hope burning.  Of course God knows the desires of my heart for the people I love and know well, for the people I do not know so well but who come onto my horizon, and even for the people with whom I am in conflict.  Of course God knows all, and yet still I persist because this is my way of showing constancy.  It is my way of sustaining faith in the fact that we are already saved and have only to follow in order to enter into Christ.  It is my way of maintaining the hope that all sheep will enter into the sheepfold.  It is also my way of loving God in others – this perseverance in seeking intercession.

The Last Supper Discourses begin in this chapter of John and they are – for me – the most beautiful part of this story.

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Any one of us who has worried, been anxious, angry or deeply sad will be able to turn to this verses and find consolation.  Any one of us who has mourned loss, who has celebrated joy, who has spent a lifetime searching for answers will find the portal to true understanding and experiencing God’s love.

I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I go you may also be.

Any one of us who has been abandoned, betrayed, cheated or cut off from something or someone we love will find peace in these words.  Any one of us who lied to another or who has intentionally deceived or hurt another, will also find forgiveness and assurance in these words.

Whoever has believed in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.

Any one of us who has drained themselves for the sake of others will find strength in these words.

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 

Any one of us who has trouble just being on any given day, just surviving any given day will find life in these words.

If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. 

We ought not shrink from giving thanks to or from petitioning the one who created us.  Let us go with open eyes, open minds and open hearts to the one who gives life in abundance that we may live in him.  This is what God expects.  It is what God asks . . . that we be in him . . . as he is in us.

Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me?


A re-post from May 10, 2012.

Images from: http://ipeace.us/profiles/blogs/about-gratitude and http://benison.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/the-creation-and-the-scripture-number-5/

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Sirach 7: Public and Private Life

Friday, March 29, 2019

Several days ago we reflected on the meaning of our public image in the Book of Daniel; today with Sirach we might spend time with how this compares to our private life.  The Irish culture holds an image of a man who is a street angel but a house devil . . . pleasant and amiable – even lovable – to his neighbors . . . while beating his wife and children behind closed doors.  How many of us harbor devils inside that we do not show to the world?  How do these devils slip into our lives without our knowing?

We are advised by Jesus ben Sirach to bring our public and private lives into line with our covenant promise with Yahweh.

In this book of wisdom, we are cautioned that we must be humble in our dealings with one another; we ought not seek out the high places at the table.  We are warned to refrain from seeking work as a judge unless we have the strength to root out crime; otherwise we succumb to corruption and mar our integrity.  We ought not flaunt our wisdom, our power, our wealth, our specialness in any way . . . for our pride will be our undoing.  This is how humility arrives.

We are also advised to steer clear of situations the catechism refers to as near occasions of sin: those times when we ourselves do not sin but come dangerously close to slipping over the precipice into evil.  Standing by wordless as we watch malevolence occur without offering witness to injustice is not the way of the Lord. When we lack courage, we only need to look to God for strength.  This is how fortitude arrives.

We ought to pray in earnest and not hurry through prayer as this leaves room for a false sense of independence from God.  We humble ourselves appropriately when we come before the Lord and so we ought to enter into prayerfulness with deliberation and patience so that we might all the better hear the word of God.  This is how wisdom arrives.

In private and in our family life, we need to continue to live with thoughtfulness, with intention.  Treating servants well – or the people we meet in the mall, in the supermarket, in the gas station – leads us to treating all well.  Honoring elders, respecting the living, remembering the dead.  This is how piety arrives.

Refrain from bartering for friends.  Mourn with those who mourn.  Steer clear of those who do not.  Visit the sick.  This is how compassion arrives.

When we eliminate fear and pain from our lives by blocking them out and riding over these powerful emotions, we also eliminate important opportunities for learning the ways of God.  We erase the opportunities for God to guide and protect us.  When we petition God and thank him for his bounty, we indicate our understanding that we are his creatures.  This is how faith arrives.

When we balance our inner self with our outer self, we clear away the dark corners where house devils might lurk.  Integrity finds a comfortable dwelling place within . . . and chases away these devils to make room for angels.  This is how hope arrives.

When we bring into focus our whole mind, our whole heart, our whole body and our whole soul to celebrate our union with God, we enter into his divinity.  This is why the words of Jesus ben Sirach are so important to us today.  With all your strength, love your Creator . . . for this is how love arrives.


A re-post from March 29, 2012.

Image from: http://sandeshavahini.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/the-heart-in-the-bible/

To review the Noontime reflection on Public Life go to: https://thenoontimes.wordpress.com/2012/3/23/

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, February 15, 2019

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

God abides with his faithful . . . God 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 . . . God 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 . . . God holds in check the water drops that filter in rain through mists.

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

God is powerful . . . In God’s hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . God 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 Fenruary 15, 2019.

Image from: http://jesus-photos-pictures.blogspot.com/2010/11/god-holding-world-in-his-hands-photos.html 

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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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