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Jeremiah 16: Candor and Hope

Monday, November 25, 2019

We seek better things to come . . .

What are we to think of the words recorded here by the prophet Jeremiah?  A paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY, page 559, tells us:  This section contains reports of three symbolic actions, followed by an interpretation that puts them in the context of the Exile.  The prophet is to remain unmarried and childless since the upcoming warfare will be utterly destructive of families.  He is told not to participate in mourning rites because Yahweh intends to remove peace from the land that will undermine the normal mourning customs.  A third requirement of the prophet is that he not participate in festivities of any kind as all celebration will cease.  Following these admonitions is a justification for the punishment they are to receive, the cause is their apostasy.  So we see the domination of two concerns of the community in exile: to identify the cause of its present situation and to contemplate a more favorable future.

Suffering, as we know, is not necessarily castigation; sometimes the innocent suffer through no fault of their own because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.  What we can take away from today’s reading is the underlined thought above.  When we feel ourselves suffering in exile, two exercises are useful: first, reflecting on our behavior prior to exile to investigate the need to change as appropriate and second, anticipating a better future in active hope.  These are hallmark characteristics of the Christian.  Candid self assessments, the search for improvement, and petitioning God for better things to come.  Even . . . and especially . . . when things seem darkest . . . and without hope of any kind.

When we find ourselves in pain or in exile, suffering either innocently or as a consequence of our own actions, we may choose to become bitter, angry, resentful, and intent on making others suffer.  This does not align with the Law of Love as described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 when he writes that love does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

When we find ourselves in exile, it is best to regard the time as a period of retreat and reflection, going inward to hear the voice of truth, looking outward in expectation of the good news which will arrive.  As children of God, we benefit from knowing this good news even before it reaches us.  It is the news of our release.  The news of our freedom.  The news that we are created and held by one who loves us more than we can imagine.


Written on November 26, 2008, re-written and posted today.   To see how one community contemplates and moves toward a more favorable future, click on the image above or go to: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 559. Print.

Image from: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

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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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Matthew 2: Responding to God’s Call

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Corbert Gauthier: Father and Son

Corbert Gauthier: Father and Son

Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This was done to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Matthew 2:14-15)

The child Jesus holds a wooden beam, foreshadowing his coming crucifixion and sacrifice. Joseph leans into his work with the child, perhaps sensing the sacrifice that is to come. In responding to the angel of God, Joseph saves his small family from immediate death, and preserves Jesus for the journey ahead that leads not only to Calvary, but to eternal life for all. Today we reflect on the fact that we cannot know what is to come. It is for this reason all the more important that we rely on God’s counsel and love.

To learn more about this painting, click on the image. 

Over the next few weeks we will be away from easy internet access but we will be pausing to read scripture and to pray and reflect at noon, keeping those in The Noontime Circle in mid-day prayer. You may want to click on the Connecting at Noon page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/connecting-at-noon/ Or you may want to follow a series of brief posts that begins today, inspired by paintings of the life of Jesus Christ  that can be found at: http://www.jesus-story.net/painting_family.htm In these posts, we will have the opportunity to reflect on a scripture verse and an artist’s rendition of that event. Wishing you grace and love and peace in Christ Jesus.

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Monday, January 21, 2013 – 1 Chronicles 1-9 – Genealogies

Planting-a-Family-Tree-for-Parents-Day-–-iPhone-and-iPad-Genealogy-Apps[1]Past and future converging in the present.  Attempting to establish a legacy from the past that extends into the future.  Recording names in books that are passed down through generations.  Looking for links to what was.  Envisioning the future.  Living an intentional present.

We humans concern ourselves so much with time and we hold to our belief that it is a strict, tight line even when mathematics and physics tell us that it is anything but a flat presence consisting of a series of moments.  Time . . . God’s time . . . is eternal; yet we humans strive to pull it and push it until it snaps into an obedient straight plane . . . extending endlessly behind and in front of us.  I do not believe that God sees us or time in such a superficial way.

There is value in tracing our roots and recording our deeds.  These actions tell us who we are; they remind us of what we have done.  With hope we avoid the errors of this past.

There is value in laying plans, being stewards, husbanding resources, striding forward into an unknown future with confidence and a sense of mission.  Our faith accompanies us as we step into the mystery.

There is value in living an authentic present, seeking to move through our days with integrity, looking at our faults without condemning ourselves or others, being honest about our successes with humility.  In love we live each moment as it comes to us, pleading with God on behalf of our enemies, petitioning favors of God for all those we love, remembering all of God’s creation in our daily prayers.

Hubble Telescope: Two Galaxies Merging

Hubble Telescope: Two Galaxies Merging

I realize that when I pray I cannot help but think of time as linear when I remember with nostalgia my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who wait for me on the other side of the veil that separates the body from that place we refer to as the world of the deceased.  I also imagine the great-great-grandchildren I will never see in this life but whom I will know immediately when they rise to God.  Resisting the idea that time is a strict line of seconds that march into minutes, hours and years, I see myself in the immense, slowly whirling, spiraling strands of human beings God has created in his image.  I see us rising like incense in the night from the altar of our lives to bring a welcome aroma to the God who created us.  I see the embrace with which we cling to one another as we dance beneath the arms of the Spirit while she is winging us home.  I see us curling and binding with one another in an intimate union as we form the Mystical Body of this God-man walking among us.

Revelation tells us that there are many names written in the Book of Life.  The names of the faithful.  The names of the righteous.  The names of the just.  The names of the holy.  The names of those who endured.  The names of those who persevered.  The names of those who have come to understand and return God’s love.

So as we consider God’s plan and God’s time, we pray . . . Let us call one another’s names in hope as we rise together in prayer.  Let us call one another’s names in joy as we rise to meet our maker.  Let us call one another’s names in love . . . and leave no one behind.  Amen. 

This week we will examine the Second Book of Kings to see what this chronicler has to say to us . . . millennia after he first placed his words on papyrus. 

 For more information about merging galaxies as captured by the Hubble telescope, click on the image above or go to: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121019.html 

First written on December 5, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 23, 2012

Psalm 84  – God’s Court

Nesting Barn Swallows

Nesting Barn Swallows

Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. 

In this brief last week of Advent we have little time to reflect on the coming nativity of one who is the keystone of our existence.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, La Nochebuena or “The Good Night” as it is called in Spanish.  This year we can experience – if we allow ourselves – the quickness that is our lives in this brief one-day week that brings us to the celebration of Christmas.  If we have a mere twenty-four hours to prepare for this Good Night rather than the one hundred sixty-eight of a normal week, where do we spend that day?  How do we decide what to do and where to go?  How do we choose our companions?  And why does any of this matter?

Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. 

One of the messages we hear continually in the Gospel parables is the need to be prepared.  Jesus is forever reminding us of the importance of being good stewards of gifts God has given to us.  We are repeatedly asked to be prepared for our own exodus.  We are constantly told of the great value of the kingdom we are called to build with others.  We are always asked to remain close to God no matter the circumstance.  We might wonder why Jesus repeats this message so often and if so we need not look long for an answer.

As a sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, my home is by your altars, Lord of hosts, my King and my God!  Happy are those who dwell in your house!  They never cease to praise you.

We have no way of knowing our future no matter how hard we work at knowing.  We have no eyes to see images of our lives a generation forward.  We can only rely on God and God’s goodness to preserve and protect those who flock to him. 

As a sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, my home is by your altars . . .

Chipping Sparrow Nest with Eggs

Chipping Sparrow Nest with Eggs

It is impossible to live the past again even if we want to right wrongs we have committed, even if we hope to heal wounds or change our crooked ways.  We can only trust God and God’s mercy in forgiving all wrongs and transforming all transgressors.

As a sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, my home is by your altars . . .

We do not control our own destiny; we only control our reaction to the world and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  We can only step forward as we answer the call we hear from God in our hearts.  We can only prepare a place for God’s presence in our lives.  We can only build our nest under the plinth of God’s altar and settle our young in the safe haven of God’s court. 

Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. 

As Advent draws so quickly to a close, we might feel the crush of time to complete hundreds of worldly tasks but rather than spend our time fussing with the details of a life that is fleeting, let us rather decide to build our permanent home in a place that is eternally protected.  Let us choose to spend our time with The Living One who transcends all time and all wrongdoing.  Let us fix on a site for our nest under God’s altar.  Let us pledge to spend our last days of Advent preparing our minds and our hearts for the coming of The Christ Child.  And let us spend our last day in God’s court . . . rather than spend a thousand elsewhere.    

To learn more about swallows and where and how they nest, click on the image above or go to: http://www.petcaregt.com/blog/varieties-of-nest-sites-and-nests-in-swallows.html

To learn more about sparrows and where and how they nest, click on the image above or go to: http://smartisans.com/personal/ccam_6-1-2000_4-03pm.htm

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