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1 John 1: God’s Yardstick – The Gospel Writers

The Infinite Life of Christ

Duccio di Buoninsegna: Christ at the Sea of Galilee (detail from Episodes of Passion and Resurrection)

Duccio di Buoninsegna: Christ at the Sea of Galilee (detail from Episodes of Passion and Resurrection)

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

We hear eye-witness accounts from those who were there, from those who walked and talked, ate and lived with Jesus. Scholars believe that Mark most likely writes his Gospel for early followers, gentiles who faced persecution after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He explains a number of Jewish customs to his audience and only once refers to the Old Testament. Matthew, on the other hand, writes to Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah. Luke directly addresses Theophilus, someone of high position and wealth, and his message bolsters the story the early Christians told. John writes to non-Jewish believers, those who struggle with the conflict between philosophy and faith. And it is John who opens his first letter with words that ought to convince any who doubt the veracity of the Jesus story. (Zondervan 1356, 1620, 1663, 1718)

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. (1 John 1:1-2)

Not only do the Gospel writers give testimony to the truth they have lived, they ask that we pass this story along. They ask that we keep the Spirit in our hearts. They ask that we keep the Creator forever in our minds.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (1 John 1:3-4)

And Jesus says to his followers: “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29)

1-john-3-17-does-gods-love-abide-in-him1Those who lived the Gospel story have something to pass along to us. Those who read this story today have something to pass along to those who follow. When we spend time today with Gospel verses of our choosing or with one of John’s letters, we open the door to a deeper understanding of the yardstick of love that God hands to each of us so we might better measure the wealth of our lives, the infinite life of Christ we share with others.

Tomorrow, yearning. 


ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1356, 1620, 1663, 1718. Print.

Images from: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Christ-at-the-Sea-of-Galilee-Detail-from-Episodes-from-Christ-s-Passion-and-Resurrection-Posters_i12142445_.htm and 

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Daniel 13: God’s Yardstick – Susanna

When Goodness attracts Evil

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Thursday, January 12, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Today’s Noontime is a beautiful but difficult story.  An innocent, virtuous woman is wrongly accused; and an innocent yet wise child reveals lust and deceit.  Goodness wins in the end; evil slithers away to return another day.

The idea that Susanna’s virtue is the reason for her trial is a frightening thought. Her parents took care, the story tells us, to bring her up in the ways of Yahweh. And this was what stirred the lascivious men.

What does Susanna do when accused? To whom does she turn? What does she say in her defense?

Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly . . . “Oh, eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me”.  As the story continues, we see that the evil elders – whom the people had trusted – are done in by their own web of lies. The story unfolds as the child Daniel cries out: Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” . . . The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. 

UK Parliament - John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

UK Parliament – John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

The end of this story is immediately satisfying. Unfortunately for us, situations like these in our own lives may endure many days or months or years before the lies against us are revealed; yet revealed they will be for God’s goodness and truth always overcome darkness. The measuring stick that Susanna uses, and that we must use, is to follow Yahweh, the creator who molds us from star dust for the purpose of love alone.

Our task, as followers of Christ, is to faithfully and persistently petition God, to fall back into the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to model ourselves after Jesus, and to continue to hope in the covenant promise that we are eternally forgiven and saved. We might remind ourselves of the gifts we receive when we use God’s yardstick at the troubling times in our lives. The message of Daniel is clear:  When goodness attracts evil – as it surely will – the faithful need not fight; they need only rely on God, and never allow themselves to be separated in any way from their God who measures life in so loving a way. And so we pray . . .

The gift of persistence calls us to rely on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of faith asks us to place our petitions in God’s hands.

The gift of hope in the person of Jesus shows us how to offer love on behalf of our enemies.

The gift of life itself asks us to allow goodness and truth to conquer lust, lies and deceit. Amen.


A favorite from Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Enter the name Susanna in the blog search bar for more reflections about this woman.

Images from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663722 and http://www.parliament.uk/about/art-in-parliament/global/print/?art=3245

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Luke 2:1-7: God’s Yardstick – Anne

A Quiet Knowing

Monday, January 2, 2023Ann-Joachim-Mary-233x300

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Are we content to live in obscurity? Can we allow the world to both affirm and vilify the outcome of our lives? Can we patiently, carefully and kindly live out our days in such a way that we bring Christ’s peace into a physical, tangible force? Can we imagine the home that nurtured the woman who would bring light and life to the world? Are we willing to live in and reflect that world of truth and transformation?

There are no official scriptural references to the woman who bore and raised the mother of God. We rely on tradition and common sense to fill in the gaps and blanks in this part of the Nativity story, but it is not difficult to imagine the shame, fear and doubt that Mary’s news would have brought to her family and into her home. Yet, the well-loved story implies more than it tells us overtly. As we read these verses we consider this question: Where else but in a faith-filled, hopeful and loving home might a pregnant, unwed young woman in the first century C.E. find the courage to become the first apostle of Christ? Today we consider Anne’s yardstick that allowed her daughter’s amazing story to unfold, burgeon, and bring light into the darkness. Today we consider how we might pick up this measuring stick to see how well we nurture those around us in a world that asks for transformation.


To learn something about the tradition of Anne, Joachim and Mary, click on the image above or visit: https://slmedia.org/blog/the-feast-of-st-joachim-and-st-anne

Also visit the Encyclopedia Britannica at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint

Use this scripture link to explore the Nativity Story and to imagine the home of Mary in Nazareth. 

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIIsolarsystem

A Prayer in Response to God’s Gift of Delight

Thursday, December 29, 2022

We near the end of a cycle of days and weeks and months that we designate as a year. Soon we will celebrate the past twelve months in which we have known great sorrow and great joy. As we consider all that we have seen and heard, felt and believed, let us give thanks for the gift of delight itself, the gentle pleasure that rises from honest relationships and open minds. Just as God delights in us, let us delight in God.

For the gift of winter cold that draws us together as we look for shelter and welcome friends and strangers from the wind. Let us treasure each winter hardship just as God treasures each of us. The infinite iterations of flakes on frosted windows can remind us that just as God creates each of these beautiful designs, so does God create each of us with our own unique features, joys and anxieties.

snowflake2For the gift of drawing in, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of spring that reminds us that new life always rises from the old. In springtime exuberance we open our hearts to the possibilities of our own resurrection. We remember that God always brings goodness out of harm, love out of hatred, generosity out of what is meant to be cruel, and love out of gestures of hatred and shame. The tiniest of plants and creatures burst forth in a rush to celebrate God’s goodness. Giant stars and the multiverse expand to open great hearts for God’s enormous love.

wisdom-at-creationFor the gift of burgeoning hope, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of summer that brings us into the energy of God’s passion and mercy. In the fullness of summer heat, we remember that with God all things are possible. With God all miracles bring new life and new meaning. With God resurrection is more than an idea or hope. Burgeoning crops, teeming waters, rain and sun drench us with God’s abundance and generosity. God calls us to match this zeal with the stores of understanding and courage we lay aside for the difficult times ahead.

KY-Breaks-Interstate-Park-river-sceneFor the gifts of kindness and goodness, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of autumn when we harvest the fortitude, perseverance, fidelity and truth that God has shared with us. We remember that nothing of this world is meant to take the place of God. We recall the great delight God has expressed in our willingness to be open to others just as Jesus is open with us. We respond with compassion and an ardent desire to heal broken relationships and people. We return this gift with our own desire to heal and advocate.

fall-leafFor the gifts of forgiveness and restoration, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

In all seasons of this year to come, we unite in a new thankfulness for God’s love, a new willingness to live as Jesus does, and a new urgency to heal and console just like the Holy Spirit. May we find the energy and determination to live in such a way that all those who encounter us will know that we delight in God’s own delight in us. Amen.


For a reflection on a full measure of joy, click on the snowflakes or visit: http://fullmeasureofjoy.com/?p=4253 

For a reflection on God’s wisdom in creation, click on the plant shoot or visit: http://elcmthoreb.org/2013/07/12/gods-wisdom-in-creation-this-week-at-elc/

For a reflection on seeing God’s creation, click on the river image or visit: http://www.seeingcreation.com/2012/nature-photography/natures-dictionary/

For a reflection on seeking God, click on the image of the leaf or visit: http://nancyaruegg.com/category/seeking-god/ 

 

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James 1-4: A Prayer to Resolve Turmoil

Wednesday, October 19, 2022peace-key-703x201

No matter the constraint, no matter the barriers to resolution, there is always a path to find peace when we live in Christ, James tells us. We have seen, in the last few days as we have spent time with the opening chapters of James’ letter, the steps for resolution are not complicated when we live in the Spirit. We see today when we reflect on all that James has shared with us, there is always a way forward with God. And so we pray.

Faith and works together will bring us wisdom . . . good and gracious God, bring us your wisdom. Remind us to rely on what we learn from you rather than our intelligence.

Good works bear good fruit . . . generous and faithful God, bring us your grace. Remind us that apples do not grow on vines and berries do not grow on trees.

Wars and quarrels are of our own making and not God’s . . . peaceful and sustaining God, bring us your serenity. Remind us that with you all things are possible.

God’s love is persistent, patient, strong and at the same time gentle . . . loving and courageous God, bring us your meekness. Remind us that humility can achieve more than all earthly power, fame and glory.

No matter the problem, there is always a solution . . . life-giving and eternal God, bring us your fortitude. Remind us that your love for us will never die.

Amen.


For reflections on how to find peace in today’s world, click on the image above or visit: http://www.peacepoint.com/find-peace

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part IV

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Perhaps the reason we do not find serenity is that we do not ask for restoration. Today St. Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, reminds us that reunion with God is only a petition away. He is a follower of Christ because he answered God’s invitation to follow.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God . . .

Perhaps the reason we do not find peace is that we do not ask for strength.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me . . .

Perhaps the reason we do not find solace is that we do not ask forgiveness.

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man . . .

Perhaps the reason we do not experience love is that we have not shown mercy.

I have been mercifully treated . . .

Perhaps the reason we do not experience transformation is that we do not believe in restoration.

The grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ . . .

Today we spend time with the opening chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy and we ponder what our lives might be like if and when we seek strength, forgiveness and mercy. We reflect on the possibility of new life rising from the arid bones of our sorrow.

Tomorrow, finding faith . . . 


Use the scripture link to explore varying editions of 1 Timothy 1.

Image from: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/what-is-the-significance-of-the-valley-of-dry-bones-in-ezekiel.html

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

Thursday, September 15, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow, praying for the impossible . . . 


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

Adapted from a reflection written on February 1, 2008. 

Images from: https://olayemirichard.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/with-god-all-things-are-possible/

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st-mary-magdalene

Pietro Perugino: Mary Magdalene

John 20:1-18: Glory XII – Healing

Friday, July 29, 2022

Adapted from a reflection written on August 9, 2007 and posted today as a message about God’s glory, an experience offered to each of us.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

The love between Jesus and his disciples is palpable, and when Jesus speaks to the Magdalene in verse 20:16, it is clear that this man had a very human relationship with the friends who surround himself.  And it is this same relationship that is offered to us, a relationship of healing love, truth and light. This is why it is so important for us to surround ourselves with people who will nurture the growth of Jesus’ truth and light and life, people who speak with their ears and live with their hearts, people who touch one another in the manner that Christ touched his followers, people who heal.

Today’s lesson on Glory: As we explore the varying versions of the importance of Mary Magdalene in the life of Jesus and the early church, we find that this young woman calls to each of us today by her example of steadfast love and witness. 

We are all called to be healers to one another; and as adopted sisters and brothers of Christ we have the power to heal one another not only in a medical way but emotionally and spiritually as well.  When we listen for God’s Word to speak, when we exercise patience and persistence, when we live out our faith in God, our hope in Christ and our love in the Spirit, we meet Christ. We heal and we are healed.

And so we pray, as Mary Magdalene may have prayed . . .

Precious God, keep me mindful of this your promise, to set us prisoners free from all that binds us, to raise us to the great hope you have placed in us, to send your Spirit into our temples to abide with us forever.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


For more about Mary Magdalene, and for insight into her Gospel, click on the image or visit: https://parabola.org/2015/01/29/the-gospel-of-mary-magdalene/

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Matthew 9:27-31: Healing Blindness-A Reprise

Nicolas Columbel: Christ Healing the Blind

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Do you believe that I can do this?

We ask for help but too often doubt the hand that God offers.

Jesus says: Let it be done for you according to your faith.

God says: When my son says these words he is not threatening or punishing you for your waywardness; rather, he is calling you to union with him and with me. He is calling you to be one with us in the Spirit. He is saying that your blindness can involve more than your physical sight. Sometimes you are emotionally blind. You refuse to feel what others feel because it pains you too much. Sometimes you are mentally blind. You reject options and ideas that others offer because you are determined that your plan is better than any other. Allow my Spirit to live in you and your blindness will be healed. When you feel the pain and sorrow of others, you will also feel my joy in you when you help the least among you. When you panic because you may not be able to follow the plan that you have laid out for yourself, you will also celebrate the enormity of my love that comes to you when you make a way for others to join in your plans rather than dictating to them. Trust in me as I trust in you. Have faith in me even as I place my faith in you. Hope in my promise for it is true. I believe and know that you want to be one with me. Believe and know that I am in you this day and all days . . . healing your blindness.

Enter the word blindness into the blog search bar and examine the ways of human blindness.


Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healing_the_man_blind_from_birth

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