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Posts Tagged ‘God turns harm to good’


Isaiah 11: On that day . . .

Thursday, December 8, 2022lion and lamb

“Isaiah wrote during a period of upheaval and general unrest, as the Assyrian Empire was expanding and the northern kingdom of Israel facing decline and imminent disaster. Judah [in the south] was also vulnerable, although her destruction was ultimately to come at the hands of a later power, Babylonia . . . Isaiah’s primary ministry was to the people of Judah, who were failing to live according to the requirements of God’s law. But he prophesied judgment not only upon Judah but also upon Israel and the surrounding nations. On the other hand, Isaiah delivered a stirring message of repentance and salvation for any who would turn to God. (Zondervan 1051)

In reading today’s Noontime we see that only a stump or remnant of David’s dynasty will remain, and this remnant will be in exile; but from this stump will rise the Messiah, the saver of all peoples. Also in today’s reading we hear that the word of God will first be lost on those originally chosen, and will then find more fertile soil in the gentile nations.  This is a story of disaster giving bloom to fruit – of rejection giving birth to glory. It is the story of Jesus’ coming and interaction with humankind.  Harm will be turned to good.  Hate will convert to love. Rejection will be overridden by restoration. All that has sought to divide will itself be conquered. All that has been self-seeking will capitulate to union. Emmanuel – God among us – will rule.  Emmanuel – God amidst us – will save.

isaiah 11v1We can take comfort from these words when we find ourselves in situations that seem irredeemable. We can also find consolation for the times when we feel devastating loss. God is constantly looking to restore all that is good. God is consistent in his love and in his insistence in love being the only power which ultimately survives the chaos of our existence. The message is clear: On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.  On that day, the Lord shall again take it in hand to reclaim the remnant of his people . . .

We often think of the day of Christ’s coming as some distant time in the next life, but as we recently reflected on God’s power to control all time for all good, we realize that that day may be today or any day.  That day is the day that God wills.  As members of God’s body we come together in the hope that each day may be that day, that all days may be days when we clearly feel and see Emmanuel among us.

spirit1Rather than put our hopes in a distant day when things may come right, when hard hearts may eventually be softened, let us place our hope in this day.  And let us petition our God that each day may be that day. Let us ready ourselves each morning for his coming. Let us walk with him through each day. And each evening as we lay our heads on pillows to slip into sleep, let us thank him that this day has – in some way or other – been that day. 


ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1051. Print.

A favorite from November 7, 2009.

Images from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/446208275554802357/ and http://hiswordinpictures.blogspot.com/2013/11/isaiah-111.html and https://thelonghaulwithisaiah.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/79-the-sevenfold-spirit-of-god-isaiah-112/

 

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James 5:7-9: Early and Late Rains

An early spring rain on a window

An early spring rain on a window

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

James speaks to three groups of people in these verses, and all three groups will want to hear his words.

James speaks to those who judge others and speak out against them. If we find ourselves participating in gossip we will want to take care. Even our grumbling is a kind of separation and violence.

A fruitful summer rain

A fruitful summer rain

James also speaks to those who assume that they are in charge of their own plans and future. If we have crafted hopes and dreams with little input from God, we will want to turn back to God. Our arrogance and pride harm our loved ones as much as it harms us.

James finally speaks to those who amass treasure at the expense of others. If we come to understand that our fear for self separates us from God we will want to change our ways. We must soften our hearts and unbend our necks and consider what kinds of wealth we amass at the expense of others. We can hoard much more than silver and gold, and we do well to examine our own stockpiles.

A late and frosty winter rain

A late and frosty winter rain

James reminds us that with God . . . it is never too late to repent. Through God, all harm turns to good. In God, patience and persistence are the work of the Spirit. James advises us that the righteous will eventually flourish, whether the rains that bring the substance for blooming arrive early, on time or even late into our lives.

Tomorrow, patience in suffering.


Images from: http://sacredtouches.com/tag/window-pane/

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James 4:11-12: Honoring the Message

Friday, October 21, 2022stone-heart

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk.

And this is the Law that Jesus bring to us, The Law of Love. No matter what we hear or see, we must continue to do as Jesus does. Speak well of others, even when we find it difficult to do so.

You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it.

And this is the message that the Spirit creates in us. No matter how deeply we feel the injustices of the world, we are to witness, watch and wait on the Spirit.

God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

And this is James’ message to us. Not that our lives are predestined and predetermined, but that our lives are integral parts of God’s marvelous plan for creation. No matter the harm we experience, God will turn all injury, maltreatment and sorrow to goodness. No matter the darkness, Jesus brings light sufficient to pierce it. No matter the appearance of our individual and collective lives, the Spirit has only healing and transformation in mind for our hearts of stone. Jesus shows us how to soften our hearts and unbend our stiff necks in order to hear God’s message. Let us honor this message today.

When we compare varying versions of these two verses and listen for the words of the Spirit, we allow God’s message to visit us today. 


Image from: http://girltomom.com/nature/hearts-in-nature

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James 2:5-7: The Down-and-Out

Friday, October 7, 2022peace-in-christ

When we listen to the Gospel closely we know that for God all things are possible. When read the familiar histories of the Old Testament with care we know that with God all harm is turned to good. When we live in the truth of God as James calls us to do we know that in God life is always lived as inversion. James speaks to us again today.

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently?

When we rest in God we do not fear the unknown.

He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.

When we play in God we do not shrink from trouble.

And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind?

When we pray with God we will always find our way home in peace.

Jesus-Comforting-Large-650x280Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

When we live in the Spirit we will act as God acts – always offering peace for war, always raising prayer for hatred and always remembering to love in the face of evil. When we live in Christ we will always live in inversion.


Image from: http://pastorgeorgeramblings.blogspot.com/2014/02/may-peace-of-christ-be-with-you.html

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James 1:16-18: Rivers of Light

Saturday, October 1, 2022rivers of light

This first chapter of James’ letter contains beautiful imagery. This man who knew Jesus so well reminds us that in our hectic, chattering world we must work to stay on the path of Christ.

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course.

James repeats that every good thing in our lives comes from God.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.

James likens God’s gifts to a flowing, sustaining ribbon of goodness that nourishes and sustains.

The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.

James reminds us that in God there is no darkness at all. There is only goodness, and truth and mercy.

There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.

James tells us again that God comes to us in a very tangible way in the person of Jesus.

God brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

And it is Jesus who longs to love our sadness into joy. It is Jesus who wants to heal where there is pain and wounded-ness. It is Jesus who shares eternal life with us in the Father and in the Spirit.

And so my dear friends, James says, do not be thrown off course by the tragedies that stalk you. Remember that Christ is an ever-present, ever-giving, ever-transforming force that cannot be quenched. Remember that in order to maintain a balanced view you must ask loudly, and you must expect patiently that with God all things are possible. With God, all obstacles become gifts and all harm is turned to good. With God . . . there is always a river of light to lead, and guard and guide. We have only to be open to its presence. 

Tomorrow, what makes us wise?


Use the scripture link to reflect on other versions of these verses, and to open the possibilities of Christ’s great river of light.

Image from: http://www.adverblog.com/2012/07/23/rivers-of-light-in-colombia/

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1 Samuel 2Doom versus Reward

Jan Victors: Hannah

Jan Victors: Hannah

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

We have reflected on how our dry bones can be called to new life through God’s goodness and care. Today we remember a favorite from February 23, 2008. 

We spent time reflecting on this chapter before but we often look at the story of Hannah, her dedication and perseverance through her barrenness, and the reward she received – not only the child Samuel, who was destined to be the last of the Israelite judges who anointed both Saul and David as kings, but three more sons and two daughters (verse 21). We have seen how Hannah endured her trials by waiting actively . . . by watching and witnessing. We have read the verses ourselves, and we have heard them read out from the pulpit, but today we notice something new. The story of Hannah’s devotion to God and her life of witness is interwoven with the threads of another story: Eli and corruption in holy places. We find this dichotomy when we read carefully.

Today’s reflection brings us to these questions: can we see that so often in our lives the reward we receive rises from doom? Can we see that God turns all bad to good when we allow God to intervene in our lives? Can we remain faithful in the face of transgressions in our lives? Can we speak courageously to Yahweh with our petitions for the hopeless places and people in our lives? Can we love those who harm us?  an we live among the corrosion and still persevere in our fidelity to God? Do we believe that when we bring open and ready hearts to God, that God will make all things new?

Eli is held directly responsible for the actions of his sons. The HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY points out that the accuracy of the prophecy of the doom of the house of Eli as predicted in 2:34 is a sign that Yahweh keeps all promises. Eli’s two sons will die on the same day (1 Kings 13:3). Although this is a story of suffering, it is good news for us, for just as Yahweh keeps the promise of reward for Hannah and doom for Eli, so too does God keep the promise to all to walk among us as a good shepherd. (Mays 247)

The books of Samuel give the account of a people coming of age and so it is a bumpy narrative; sacred people and places are corrupted by human willfulness and waywardness . . . yet all is not lost.  These books contain the interwoven stories of injustice and mercy, corruption and love, willfulness and endurance, curse and blessing, doom and reward.  We do not have to look very far beyond ourselves to find the Elis and the Hannahs around us.  We do not have to wonder how to rise out of doom to reach our reward.  This is our human story: joy, healing and redemption rising from corruption, deceit and doom.  It is laid open for us today.


Image from: http://findfruit.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 247. Print.

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Mark 1:14-34: The Beginning

Abbot Handerson Thayer: Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist

Abbot Handerson Thayer: Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

We have spent a number of days reflecting on the Gospel of Mark and today we remember the struggle of darkness and light that Jesus endures as he brings freedom, light and the good news to the faithful. Today we see how Jesus began.

We are accustomed to associating the words in the beginning with the opening words of Genesis of the soaring Gospel of John; today we see it and hear it in connection with the shortest and possibly the most powerful of the Gospels. Mark recounts that Jesus began his ministry when John the Baptizer was executed, when he saw that God’s plan was ready for the Good News, when he knew that fulfillment of God’s promise was at hand . . . through him.

In Luke’s Gospel we are told of how the people attending a service where Jesus proclaims God’s promise fulfilled in himself rose up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed away through the midst of them and went away.  Luke 4:29-30

Many of us may have decided that the world is too crazy and too volatile to try to bring the message of hope to cranky and churlish people; yet these Gospels both record that after Jesus escaped this ugly mob, he went out among the people and immediately cured a “demoniac” in Capernaum.  He then healed Simon’s mother and finally . . . at sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him.  (Luke 4:40When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  The whole town was gathered at his door.  He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove our many demons, not permitting them to speak because he knew them.  (Mark 1:32-34)

We today are grateful that Jesus does not give up in the beginning when he was rejected by the rabble.

And so we pray . . .

We today are grateful that God never turns away from us when we have gone astray. 

We today are grateful that the Spirit always resides in us to bring comfort as we confront our hectic days.

We today are grateful that Jesus is constantly beside us to rescue us from the coming whirlwind. 

We today are grateful that from the beginning there is a plan, and that this plan is good and solid . . . even though we cannot fully comprehend its height, and breadth and depth. 

We today are grateful that from the beginning there is a plan, and that this plan is authentic and beautiful . . . even though we cannot fully comprehend its present, past or future.

We today are grateful that from the beginning there is a plan, and that this plan is, and was and always will be . . . one which turns all harm to good, all darkness to light, all anger to peace, all deception to fidelity, all fear to trust, and all hatred to love . . . if we only allow it. 

Amen.


A favorite from September 11, 2010.

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/john-the-baptist/

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The Four Gospels: Theophilusbible-1

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

In the next days of our Lenten pilgrimage as we near the celebration of the Easter miracle, we will focus on the New Testament with its words of joy that call us to newness. Today we take time to compare varying versions of verses as we listen for the voice that speaks within. If possible, we will look for a quiet place and time in which we can look at the opening verses of each Gospel.  And we will listen for God’s wisdom, ask for God’s grace, and rest in God’s mercy.

Matthew 1 begins with: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. When we consider why Matthew was calling his largely Jewish audience to Jesus’ lineage, we may begin to understand the importance of our own heritage, the influence of our tribe and its traditions, and the opportunities for division that unity in Christ might bridge.

Mark 1 begins in this way. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thinking about this story that was written quite close to the resurrection event, we may begin to comprehend the fear and awe that gripped these first followers of Christ, the same fear and awe that take hold of us today, and the prospect that Christ heals all wounds when we open ourselves to his care.

Luke 1 begins in another manner: Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the vents that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word handed down to them to us, I too have decided after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. Contemplating these words, we might also consider how our own story of our life in Christ might begin, how it might play out, and how it might conclude. We might also consider how we live out Christ’s message each day as we play and work and pray.

John 1 begins with its soaring, beautiful language that carries us on a journey we cannot forget or put aside: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Meditating on these concepts, we might allow ourselves to be called into newness, to be open to restoration and to forgive others as we are forgiven.

Today we think, we contemplate, we consider and we meditate on the story of Jesus. Let us also act in Christ’s name to heal a world that longs for peace and mercy. When we click on the scripture links we open a world of hope where before there was no possibility. We enter into a world of fidelity where before there was only betrayal. And we allow Christ to create goodness and light out of harm where before there was only darkness and evil. Let us, like Theophilus, enter into our relationship as a beloved friend of God. And let us allow God to bring us the Easter promise in a full and meaningful way so that we might realize the certainty of the teachings we have received, so that we might pass on the goodness that God has in store for each of us.


For more information on ideas for Luke’s use of the name Theophilus, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/t/theophilus.htm

Image from: https://defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com/

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Judges 16: The Strength of Samson

Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Peter Paul Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Then Delilah said to Samson, “How can you say that you love me when you do not confide in me?”

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. Words of love can manipulate and destroy as well us build up and restore.

So he took her completely into his confidence and told her, “No razor has touched my head, for I have been consecrated to God from my mother’s womb”.

In this well-told Old Testament story we see how trust and betrayal both tug on the body, mind and soul.  Acts of deceit become preludes to acts of greatness when God is central to our lives.

Delilah had Samson sleep in her lap, and called for a man who shaved off his seven locks or hair. Then she began to mistreat him, for his strength had left him.

In this familiar Old Testament story we see how intimacy and revenge are dichotomous sisters in our modern lives. But always, as in this story, malice is superseded by God’s love.

Samson cried out to the Lord and said, “Oh Lord God, remember me! Strengthen me, O God.

In any array of negative emotion we call on God for strength; and so our fear, anger, and desire for revenge become hope, mercy and love.

Jesus reminds us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. In this often-told New Testament story we see how words of love can build up and restore. As we journey toward season of Lent and the Easter promise, let us reflect on the actions and words of Samson, Delilah and Jesus. Let us determine the source of our strength; and let us determine who we choose to follow and why.


Image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Samson_and_Delilah_by_Rubens,_1609.jpg

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