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Posts Tagged ‘generosity’


Sirach 33:16-19: Gleaning

Monday, September 17, 2018

Written on March 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Francois Millet: The Gleaners

We keep our sorrows to ourselves, thinking that no one wants to hear what has gone wrong for us.  This is a mistake.  We are called to share sorrow and to accompany one another in this journey of discerning how to best word in God’s vineyard.  It does not matter how or when we come to this realization.  It only matters that we eventually arrive there.

Now I was last to keep vigil; I was like a gleaner following the grape-pickers; by the blessing of the Lord I arrived first, and like grape-pickers I filled my wine press.

By dwelling on our sorrows or by thinking that our lives are more pain-filled than anyone else’s we rob ourselves – and our companions in life’s journey – of the opportunity to experience Christ’s healing presence.  It does not matter if we feel we have little to offer, it only matters that we offer who we are to others in need.

Consider that I have not labored for myself alone, but for all who seek instruction. Hear me, you who are great among the people, and you leaders of the congregation, pay heed!

Patience, fidelity, generosity, trust in God . . . when I think of those who have taught me to climb out of sorrow and into joy, these are the qualities that make these teachers greater than any titled leader with power.  If we turn to the beginning of Sirach (2:1-6), we find more instruction.

My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.  Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.  Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous.  Accept what befalls you, and in times of humiliations be patient.  For gold is tested in fire, and those found acceptable in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him. 

We have frequently reflected in our Noontimes that the silversmith’s fire is essential to smelt out the detritus that makes us less bright and pure.  The prophet Malachi (3:1-3) reminds us that the refiner must remain constantly by the fire in order that it burn just hot enough to do its work without destroying the ore.  The life of those who choose to respond to God’s call is laden with many burdens . . . but these burdens convert to sweet justice when we lay all our complaints and pains before God.   We who come to God’s fields to glean what is left after the harvester passes by, engage in holy work for we lift up lost souls to God.  When we enter fully into this work to place the world’s sorrows in God’s capable hands, we – like the sadness we bear to God – are transformed by the smelter’s fire into bright, lovely and holy offerings . . .  and we become the delight we imagine.  So as we glean, let us imagine God’s joy well.


A re-post from August 17, 2011.

Image from: http://www.smithinet.com/Louvre/Louvre_art.html#gleaners 

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Nehemiah 5: Self-Interest

Monday, October 16, 2017

How does Nehemiah confront oppression in the process of rebuilding Jerusalem? When we examine this chapter of his story, we find that Nehemiah operates with transparency, honesty, and generosity.

When Nehemiah receives God’s call, he answers it in a very big way; he does not do things in half measures.  We see that he regards his work in re-building as his vocation and he does not take monetary re-payment for the work of the rebuilding.  Nor does he take credit for this amazing feat.  In contrast to his predecessors, he takes no reimbursement for his work in the rebuilding Jerusalem’s city walls and Temple.  He makes both the physical and financial outlay knowing that God will sustain him.  In this way, Nehemiah shows us how to understand our true relationship with our creator.

Nehemiah is an excellent administrator who prays constantly, and who is constantly guided by God.  He is neither self-serving nor glory seeking.  He understands that God does all, and is all. He speaks with God as his good friend and says: Keep in mind, O my God, in my favor all that I did for this people. 

Together with the priest, Ezra, Nehemiah creates a physical structure that enables the faithful to return to Yahweh.  He invites the Jewish people, magistrates and peoples from all nations to his table – something unusual for an observing Jew of his era – yet he listens for God’s voice and does whatever is asked of him to realize the work laid out by his God.  He rises over a foreign king, distant and local enemies, long-entrenched customs, gossip, and even the in-fighting raging around him in order to achieve this incredible goal of taking the rubble that surrounds him in order to participate in the making of God’s kingdom for both God and God’s people.

We, today, can be new Nehemiahs.  We can create around us structures that are collegial, safe, and predictable.  We can form relationships that are open, honest, and supportive.  We can refrain from nay-saying, gossip and destructive thinking.  We can seek solutions, listen more than we talk, think of self last, and remember that God does all and is all.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 23, 2007.

Tomorrow, praying with Nehemiah.

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Proverbs 28: Virtues

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

As we begin to close our journey through Proverbs, we reprise this Favorite from October 2009. We have explored our relationships with fools and friends, we have walked with the wise and accompanied fools who are whacked on the head. Watching Lady Wisdom build her house, we have learned that God’s heart asks for union with each of us. Exploring wise sayings of Solomon and others, we have understood that God allows us to lose and find our way. Knowing that God misses nothing and that each morning we are offered armloads of life, we continue to ask for the cure of God’s love and listen for Spirit that speaks to us within. 

Surety, Prudence, Integrity, Wisdom, Generosity, Truth, Justice

The wicked man flees although no one pursues him; but the just man, like a lion, feels sure of himself.

When we create monsters out of nothing we give in to our human fears.

If a land is rebellious, its princes will be many; but with a prudent man it knows security. 

Our rashness can divide us more than it unites us.

Better a poor man who walks in integrity than he who is crooked in his ways and rich.

Power and treasure appear to be safe havens; yet they crumble to corruption and cannot withstand the simplicity of truth and honesty.

He who rebukes a man gets more thanks in the end than one with a flattering tongue.

The truth always comes out in the end . . . and is precious.

Happy the man who is always on his guard; but he who hardens his heart will fall into evil.

Prudence is necessary; hardness is our downfall.

The greedy man stirs up disputes, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.

Generosity is a sign of a trusting heart.

He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is safe.

Patience and stillness bring their just rewards.

When the wicked gain pre-eminence, other men hide; but at their fall the just flourish. 

In the end, God alone is enough . . .

Words to live by; virtues to cherish; axioms to settle the mind; maxims to sooth the troubled heart.

When we compare translations of these verses, we allow God’s wisdom to enter our hearts. 

 

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Proverbs 22-24: The Cure

Friday, August 18, 2017

The cure for what ails us comes through the discipline to follow the rules laid out for us. The writers remind us of the basic tenets of good living. Later in the Gospel story, Jesus’ words and actions remind us that God’s wisdom is so often the reverse of our own.

It’s wrong, very wrong,
    to go along with injustice.

Whoever whitewashes the wicked
    gets a black mark in the history books,
But whoever exposes the wicked
    will be thanked and rewarded.

The practical precepts of Proverbs follow.

  1. Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor, and don’t use your position to crush the weak . . .
  2. Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads . . .
  3. Don’t gamble on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or hock your house against a lucky chance . . .
  4. Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines staked out long ago by your ancestors . . .
  5. Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired . . .
  6. When you go out to dinner with an influential person,mind your manners . . .
  7. Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; restrain yourself!
  8. Don’t accept a meal from a tightwad; don’t expect anything special . . .
  9. Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words . . .
  10. Don’t cheat orphans out of their property, for they have a powerful Advocate
    who will go to bat for them . . .
  11. Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge . . .
  12. Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones . . .
  13. Dear child, if you become wise, I’ll be one happy parent . . .
  14. Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels . . .
  15. Oh listen, dear child—become wise; point your life in the right direction. Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat . . .
  16. Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her . . .
  17. A loose woman can get you in deep trouble fast . . .
  18. Don’t judge wine by its label, or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor . . .
  19. Don’t envy bad people . . .
  20. It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation . . .
  21. It’s better to be wise than strong . . .
  22. Wise conversation is way over the head of fools . . .
  23. Fools incubate sin; cynics desecrate beauty . . .
  24. If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place . . .
  25. Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help . . .
  26. Knowledge and wisdom for your soul—get that and your future’s secured,
    your hope is on solid rock . . .
  27. Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them . . .
  28. Don’t laugh when your enemy falls; don’t crow over his collapse . . .
  29. Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked . . .
  30. Fear God, dear child—respect your leaders . . .

Heavy doses of humility and generosity bring us the cure that heals all that divides us from God and on another. When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the ingredients of the remedy that restores us.

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Isaiah 30:18-36: The Lord’s Favor

Friday, March 10, 2017iching_graphic

The Lord is waiting to show you favor . . .

During Lent we so often beat ourselves up, tossing around guilt in an effort to expiate our activity or inactivity in God’s plan.  In a Bible Concordance, the word favor is cited too often to analyze quickly but the enormity of the number of times we see its use tells us something about our creator.

The Lord is waiting to show you favor . . .

Those who give are so often wrapped in giving to others, they forget to be the recipient of gifts from others.

Those who advocate are so frequently caught up in the work of justice, they become accustomed to life always being a struggle.

Those who are frequent recipients of favor from God and others, they may take it as a given, as a requisite to measure the worth of a day, as an entitlement.

The Lord is waiting to show you favor . . .

Perhaps the favors we seek are before us at all times, and the miracle occurs when we truly open our eyes to see them.

Perhaps the words we long to hear are being said but are lost in the cacophony of life.

The Lord is waiting to show you favor . . . He will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you . . . No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or left.

There is a tag hanging on the doorknob of the workroom in my classroom that reads: When the student is ready, the master appears.  I first read this a number of years ago in the I Ching and was happy to find this tag in a shop while vacationing with my children and grandchildren at the ocean.  I love to put my hand on that door – the door behind which we store tests, make coffee, have quiet chats.

The Lord is waiting to show you favor . . .

Perhaps all we need to do during this Lenten season is to store away our tests, make coffee . . . and rest in the friendship of God and one another.

The Lord is waiting to show you favor . . .

A Favorite from February 26, 2009.

For more on the I Ching, visit: http://www.iging.com/intro/introduc.htm 

 

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Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part I

Sunday, February 19, 2017god-is-love1

For the next several days we will explore Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount. Today, what does Jesus tell us about the freedom we find when we stay clear of the temptation to seek revenge?

Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: “Don’t hit back at all”. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (MSG)

Jesus challenges us to live generously; yet what does this mean?

This is impossible, we say to ourselves as we hear his words. And a life lived in this way will never work. Who will protect me and my loved ones if I do not? How will I keep the bullies at bay? And how will I avoid being everyone’s doormat? This is impossible we repeat.  And then . . .

confucious-revenge-two-gravesGod says: I am quite aware that many of you see Jesus’ suggestion as an idealistic, and even ridiculous, plan for living. You see the Law of Freedom as a threat to your autonomy. You see the world viewed from this perspective of love – without defenses and using liberal amounts of revenge – as childish. But I say to you that it is childlike. I do not ask you to go into the world completely open to assault; rather, I ask that you use my enormous power, presence and love as a bulwark and as your rock of safety. I ask you to trust me more than you trust your own resources and your little powers. I also ask that you replace your bluster and bravado with my own call to love those who hate you and wish you harm. When you surrender to my Law of Freedom, you give up all pretense of power – and yet you will have more power than you ever imagined. When you remain in and with me, you need not build the walls you falsely believe will protect you. I ask that you put away your childish ways of dependence of self and replace them the childlike life of generosity and openness. I tell you that this new interaction with the world brings you a new freedom . . . and even a new authority, the authority of my love that surpasses all.

Jesus challenges us to live generously. Do we see ourselves as able to follow this call?

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Acts 17:26: Loving Others – Part VI

First Sunday of Advent

November 27, 2016hands-touching

As we enter the season of hope, we reflect on – and determine to act in – God’s call to love one another. 

From one human being God created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. (GNT)

We must never doubt that each of us is integral to God’s economy. Each of us is endowed with specific gifts that are essential to God’s plan. All of us – not matter how diverse – are loved and cherished by God.

From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live. (NRSV)

It may be difficult for some of us to accept the fact that all peoples are loved in the eyes of God; yet despite their many formal and informal religions, God asks only one commandment: that we respect and love one another.

The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. (MSG)

It may be difficult for some of us to accept the fact that both genders, male and female, are equal in the eyes of God. It may be even more difficult to accept that God loves those of mixed or ambiguous genders; yet despite our many creeds and goals, Christ asks that we follow him and do as he does: living the Law of Love.

And God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. (ESVUK)

It may be difficult for some of us to believe that the Spirit lives in each of us, creating a holy indwelling that we are meant to share. When we are asked to love one another, we are asked to love even those who do us harm. We are meant to return hatred with blessing, greed with generosity, and prejudice with charity. All the rest, we place in the hands of God.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we begin to see how difficult – and simple – it is, to love others as God does. 

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Proverbs 28: Virtues

Saturday, November 5, 2016proverbs-28

A Favorite from October 31, 2009.

Surety, Prudence, Integrity, Wisdom, Generosity, Truth, Justice

The wicked man flees although no one pursues him; but the just man, like a lion, feels sure of himself.

When we create monsters out of nothing we give in to our human fears.

If a land is rebellious, its princes will be many; but with a prudent man it knows security. 

Our rashness can divide us more than it unites us.

Better a poor man who walks in integrity than he who is crooked in his ways and rich.

Power and treasure appear to be safe havens; yet they crumble to corruption and cannot withstand the simplicity of truth and honesty.

He who rebukes a man gets more thanks in the end than one with a flattering tongue.

The truth always comes out in the end . . . and is precious.

virtueHappy the man who is always on his guard; but he who hardens his heart will fall into evil.

Prudence is necessary; hardness is our downfall.

The greedy man stirs up disputes, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.

Generosity is a sign of a trusting heart.

He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is safe.

Patience and stillness bring their just rewards.

When the wicked gain pre-eminence, other men hide; but at their fall the just flourish. 

In the end, God alone is enough . . .

Words to live by; virtues to cherish; axioms to settle the mind; and maxims to sooth the heart.

When we compare translations of these verses, we allow God’s wisdom to enter our hearts. 

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Matthew 5:17-19: Teaching on the Law, A Reprise

Wednesday, March 2, 2016Kingdom-of-God-570x379

Do we fully understand the depth of Jesus’ words? Do we fully open ourselves to Jesus’ transformation?

Jesus says: Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures—either God’s Law or the panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.

Do we fully understand that when we mock creation we mock ourselves? Do we fully open ourselves to the wonders of God’s universe?

Jesus says: Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.

God says: You work inordinate hours. You fret over the past and worry about the future. You wriggle through plans that you lay for yourselves. You create rules and parameters that you hope will keep you safe. The Law I speak about is simple indeed – it is the only law the actually keeps you safe. It is the Law of Love. The Law of forgiveness. The Law of generosity and kindness. The Law of healing and comfort. The Law of mercy. Rest in me. Bring your worries to me. Allow my Law of Love to reconcile, restore and rebuild. Allow yourself to step into my kingdom of love.

We continue our Lenten practice as we consider how we might bring others to God’s kingdom of love. Rather than thinking: “The dream of peace is an unreal and distant illusion,” let us think instead, “The dream of peace we hold is present in God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is now”.

For another post on these verses, go to:  https://thenoontimes.com/2012/04/06/teaching-on-the-law/

Tomorrow, Beelzebub.

 

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