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Isaiah 24 – 27Elusive Antagonists

Monday, October 8, 2018

Written on February 25 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Scripture persistently warns us about how to live, whom to follow, and what traps lie ahead to ensnare us.  All we have to do is to pay a bit of attention.

Each of us has our personal impediments to the progress of the soul.  All of us must come face to face with ourselves and the lives we have lived.  Our antagonists are sometimes in our faces, but more frequently they slip in among our friends and loved ones to betray us in our inmost heart.  Those who oppose us openly are easily identifiable; the more dangerous enemies, Isaiah warns, are those who come in the guise of goodness – and for this reason the Lord turns the world upside down . . . to see who shakes out, and who has learned the skills needed by the faithful.

If we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, given shelter to the homeless and taken in the lost, we have been putting ourselves through our lessons well.

If we have mourned the dead, tended to the sick, ministered to the imprisoned and entered into the vineyard to do God’s work, we have becomes accustomed to living in mercy and compassion.

If we have witnessed to evil, rebuked our companions, atoned for our sins and made changes in our lives, we know how to live in God’s vineyard . . . and we will put our heads down, go indoors, and await the passing of the dreadful singing of the harvesting sword.

We ought not fear the obstacles we constantly stumble against for they are lesson plans that refine us.  If we have answered God’s call and accepted our work as remnant toiling in God’s vineyard, then we need not fear the coming of the day as we see it here . . . for with God all things are possible.  God will turn all that is evil to an end that is goodness, and we will know peace out of chaos, justice out of ruin, humility out of pride, love out of envy, and joy out of sorrow.  Our elusive antagonists who have hounded our heels and sent chills of fear through our bones will have honed our skills at kingdom building and as remnant . . . and we will find to our amazement, that we will have readied ourselves for the work of God’s eternal city.


A re-post from September 5, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.annerobertson.com/2009/04/naboths-vineyard.html

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

mary-and-elizabeth[1]Luke 1

The Encounter

In the first chapter of Luke we witness a series of encounters: the immaculate as she encounters the one who is in the presence of God, two cousins carrying new life, two cousins as yet unborn, and the quiet drama of God’s word coming to live among God’s people.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might see them so.

We plan to meet friends for lunch.  We arrange our lives to gather for an important occasion.  We enter dates on calendars and electronic schedulers.  We commit to union with others.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might make them so.

We are surprised when we meet a friend from days lived long past.  We chance upon a relative we have not seen since a funeral years ago.  We find ourselves waiting in queue with a former colleague we have not thought of in the years since we shared a workplace.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might make them so.

We bump into strangers in our daily interactions.  We exchange currency and salutations with people we barely perceive.  We pump gas and load purchases next to people we may never see again.  We rent vacation apartments and share cups and plates with hundreds whom we will never meet. We travel in airplanes, trains, buses and taxis and brush against thousands or even millions.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might make them so.

We might imagine a life in which we anticipate joy as we meet new people and encounter new ways of thinking.  We might picture a life in which conflicts are expressed openly with respect rather than obliquely with silent aggression.  We might read Luke 1 and see a girl who steps into danger, fully knowing and fully accepting the challenge that lies before her . . . saying with full and open heart, My soul magnifies the Lord.

All encounters are holy.  Would that we might see them so.

Prophet and Redeemer meet before the world is aware of their existence.

Two women clasp one another as they kiss cheeks.

A harbinger arrives, announcing good news that we often choose to disbelieve.

God comes to earth to walk among his people.

Trust in God.  Hope with God.  Love for God.

Believing that the impossible might be made possible.

All of these encounters are revealed to us today.

All of these options stand before the people we read about today.

All of these possibilities lie beneath the encounters presented to us today.

Let us imagine a life in which each time we look up, we greet the other with warm trust, exuberant hope, and authentic love.  Let us picture a world in which we greet and listen to one another with genuine respect.  Let us see ourselves stepping forward honestly with hand extended in faithful friendship.  Let us imagine the possibilities that lie beneath our encounters, and let us pray . . .

All encounters are holy.  Would that we might believe them so.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 22, 2009.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Munizÿaba Cave, Entrance PitThe Subtle Slide into Darkness

Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the way of sinners,

Nor sit in the company of scoffers.

Our first steps into darkness are so often imperceptible; the first encounters are brief and even tangential to our lives; later we find ourselves standing around the office water cooler or coffee pot; and finally we become a member of the group who gossip, criticize and deceive.

Rather, the faithful delight is in the law of the Lord, and on that law they meditate day and night. 

When we remain in God and filter all of our actions and words through the Law of Love incarnated in Jesus, we see the subtle slide from its beginning.

God says: I know how much you like to be a part of the crowd; I too, like to be in the company of others. I also know how gentle is the beginning slope of the slide into darkness . . . and how steep is this same slope once the light begins to wane.  Abide with me, re-read the words spoken by Jesus, allow the Spirit to dwell in you . . . and you will see where these secret slides are hidden. 

It is possible to find friends who enact God’s compassion, who critique with kindness and who speak truth gently.  Enter the word friend in the blog search bar and reflect on what our relationships say about our image of God.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012 – Sirach 36:18-27 – Choosing Associates

He calls from the heavens and the earth from above to witness the judgment of his people.  “Gather before me my loyal followers, those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice”.  Let the heavens declare the righteous cause; for God himself is judge.  Psalm 50:4-6

The mark of a solid associate is one who will sacrifice self in order to seal the covenant promise with God.  We are not called to submit to abuse, but rather . . . to witness to that which is indifferent, self-serving, deceitful.  We are asked to build bridges to one another, to be open to one another, to form community with one another in trust, fidelity and prudent stewardship of ourselves and our resources.  To do this well, it is best to choose associates who are open, worthy of trust, and who witness to the values brought to us by Jesus in his Gospel story.  At the same time as we gather those around us who think in like manner, we are also called to be open to the possibility that redemption and salvation nearly always comes through sacrifice, through suffering – particularly when this pain is offered for the conversion of those who have harmed us.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week from THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SUMMERTIME by Phyllis Tickle is useful as night falls and we turn toward home.  Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Trusting in God to speak to us in the hushed depths of our hearts empowers us to wait in quiet and in patience until God speaks the words we must hear.  We also know that Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart.  There is no fear before God in his eyes.  He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt.  In his mouth are mischief and deceit.  All wisdom is gone.  He plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed.  He has set his foot on evil ways, he clings to what is evil.  Your love, Lord, reached to heaven; your truth to the skies.  Your justice is like is like God’s mountain, your judgment like the deep.  (Psalm 36). 

When we find ourselves in deep water, it is best to become a diver . . .

Whether we are the sinner or the victim, God knows the path to our heart.  Whether we are betrayer or betrayed, God knows the words that will call us home.  When we find ourselves in deep water, it is best to become a diver . . . to explore our own depths, calling on God to reveal his truth to us in a way that we can take it in.

I believe that many of us shrink from our deepest consciousness and that this is evidenced in our addictions to too much television, too much internet, too much food, too much narcissism.  So often I hear the phrase, “I just don’t want to go there”.  But no matter how much we avoid our own path of conversion, God will seek us out.  Jesus ben Sirach instructs us that a deceitful character causes grief, but an experienced man may turn the tables on him.  For my part, when confronted with deceit, I find it best to rely on God’s judgment and wisdom . . . he has far more experience than I.  On God’s wisdom I wait.  For God’s patience I pray.  In God’s love I trust.  Amen.

Written on September 07, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, February 27, 2012 – 2 Maccabees 4 – Hellenization

Girl Friends

The definition of Hellenization in conjunction with scripture refers to the time when the Jewish people were lured into imitating the Greeks who placed much importance on transacting business in the gymnasium.  When Jews entered this place were nudity was the norm, circumcision suddenly took on new meaning.  This outward sign of fidelity to Yahweh sometimes became a stumbling block to transacting business and some Jewish men went to the extreme of enduring a painful surgical reversal of this mark of Abraham in order to hide this mark from others.  The important point for us today is this: how do we allow ourselves to become Hellenized?  What small places in our lives that have been places of constancy to God become inconvenient?  What small steps entice us to give up God in small ways?  What small detours become major deviations from the truth?

Not long ago I asked some of the girls we teach what they do when they feel embarrassed by “doing what is right” when they are with friends rather than going along with the crowd?  They looked at me in an odd way and then said: “Those people would not be my friends”.  How simple.  How true. 

In today’s reading we read about laws put in force and also abolished.  We read about intrigue and sedition, the lure of power and money, about violence and deceit.  This is a bloody time in Jewish history which we have visited often.  We usually come away with the same truth: When we find ourselves embroiled in schemes and complex schemes . . . the only way out is to revert to simple truths that bring true satisfaction and joy.  We remember that we find our power in our willingness to empty self and listen for God’s voice.  We recall that we find our strength in our eagerness to put aside any personal agenda so that we might listen for God’s agenda.  When we reflect and turn to God in this way, the tension, the anxiety, and the pain that had been paralyzing us begin to melt away. 

When we have a sense that we have entered into our own Hellenization, it is time to assess and re-evaluate.  When the world intrudes and asks us to forfeit our intimacy with God, we know for certain that these will be the first small steps away from God rather than steps toward God.  When this happens, we know what we must do . . . and we remember the simple statement: Those people would not be my friends.

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