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Posts Tagged ‘God’s goodness’


John 12: This is Why

Sunday, September 23, 2018

That was why the crowd met him—because they heard that he had performed this miracle. 

What do we do when we hear of God’s goodness? Do we dismiss it as coincidence or synchronicity? Do we praise God and give thanks for God’s goodness? Our world discounts the mystical and marvelous when a scientific basis cannot be found for the miracles with which God blesses us every day. If we are in the crowd, do we follow Jesus or turn away to continue with the work and play we have already planned for the day?

Jesus says: A grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. 

What do we do when we hear these words? Do we shrink from the understanding that each of us must die so that we are born for eternity? Do we welcome the unknown and follow Jesus in faith and deed? Our contemporary societies struggle with creating unity as we focus on our differences rather than our common substance and goal. If we are in the crowd, are we willing to follow Jesus when we know that our world we control must become the world God envisions for us?

Then a voice spoke from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.” The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

What do we do when we witness God’s presence in our lives? Do we hold this wondrous gift to ourselves? Do we share this good news for all the world to hear? Do we maintain our spirituality in esoteric, cerebral rites full of rules and limitations? Do we allow Christ’s passion for the poor, suffering, and marginalized to possess us fully and open us to amazing possibility? If we are in the crowd, can we say why we follow Christ? Can we say why we ask for transformation? Can we say why we turn to God in both crisis and joy? If we cannot, let us spend time with this reading today.

When we compare varying translations of John 12, we open the door to God’s voice, and heart to God’s creation.


Image from: http://www.gregorydickowonline.com/the-promises-of-god/

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Psalm 71: Prayer in Time of Old Age

An elderly King David

Saturday, August 4, 2018

We continue to reflect on our present circumstances and the feeling that our resources are low. Feeling as though we are on a journey without end, we remember this Favorite from March 28, 2008.

Who among us does not wish to be rescued from the power of the wicked or the clutches of the violent?  Who among us does not fear being cast aside, forsaken or abandoned in old age?  Who among us does not hold hope for the best outcome, even if only a little, during a prolonged period of lingering assault?  Who among us does not long for revival, regeneration, restoration, renewal, and comfort?  Who among us does not await justice and stillness after a lifetime of struggle?

No matter our age or situation, we can all find at least one verse in this beautiful prayer that gives voice to the desires of our in-most heart of hearts, to the word God speaks.  Do I hold fast to the hope that Promises will be fulfilled to me . . . for me . . . by me?

I will proclaim your goodness, yours alone.

You have taught me ever since I was young,
    and I still tell of your wonderful acts.
Now that I am old and my hair is gray,
    
do not abandon me, O God!
Be with me while I proclaim your power and might
    to all generations to come.


Image from: http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2006/09/september_30th_.html

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Leviticus 24:1-9The Sanctuary Light and the Showbread

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jesus as the Light of the World is a familiar theme to Christians which is celebrated during the Advent season.   In the Jerusalem Temple the sanctuary light served as a symbol of the presence of Yahweh and so it was important that the oil be clear – this purity ensured the burning of the lamp.  The Showbread was prepared with a particular recipe and laid out in a special fashion with frankincense; it was eaten only by the Temple priests.  Both the bread and the light served to remind the Israelites of their perpetual covenant with Yahweh.

In his homily this morning Bishop Newman referred to the habit we humans have of taking and saving photographs as we try to capture particular moments in our lives.  The custom of making scrapbooks or yearbooks to commemorate events is something we do as we conserve for later recall the goodness of certain moments or periods in our lives.  The Bishop suggested that we would do well to make spiritual scrapbooks of our lives that would serve to remind us of the goodness of God; and he asked that we reflect on today’s Psalm (103) in an intentional way: The Lord is kind and merciful . . . O, my soul, forget not all his benefits . . . he heals all ills . . . he redeems life from destruction . . . he is slow to anger and abounding in kindness . . . he does not always chide . . . he does not keep wrath forever . . . he does not requite us with our crimes . . . he crowns us with kindness and compassion.  Reading this litany of God’s goodness reminds us of Paul’s anthem to love in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind . . .

Light and Eucharist – both serve as Jesus’ constant presence to us.  When we enter the church today, we find the sanctuary light burning faithfully to represent the presence of the Eucharistic bread of Christ himself.  Many religious rites call for the use of incense.  Our Judeo-Christian culture brings us these signs of God’s presence and of the presence of his eternal covenant promise to us.  We need to keep these multi-sensory symbols in mind as pages of our spiritual scrapbook.  In this way, we may find it easier to be and do good as God is and does good.  We may be able to curb our anger and be more comfortable with treating others kindly and compassionately.  We may be better able to cease judging and chiding others for their faults and crimes.

By remembering in this special way that God is Light and Sustenance, we crown others with kindness and compassion even as our loving and eternal God crowns us.  And so we pray: Good and kind God, As the Sanctuary Light and the Showbread reminded the Israelites of your fidelity and promise, let today’s sanctuary light and the Eucharistic bread remind us that . . . as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is your kindness toward those who love you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/edfu/photos

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Numbers 21:4-9: The Bronze Serpent

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives – Charles Le Brun: The Brazen Serpent

On this Tuesday before Palm Sunday, we spend time with the morning’s first liturgical reading, and today we explore a story we often hear during the Lenten season when we are called to make reparations.  In today’s Noontime, we see people who have tired of living a life of bare survival in the desert with only manna to eat.  They complain as they long for the milk and honey that Yahweh has promised.  Serpents appear and begin to bite them and so Moses intercedes. The Old Testament image of God is so different from the compassionate image in the New Testament; but today we examine the similarity between the disease and the cure.  The bronze serpent made by Moses heals those bitten by the living serpents. And so we ask . . .

Do we too often steer ourselves away from an obstacle when the cure lies in our willingness to enter God’s plan? Do we fear too much and trust too little? Are we as stiff-necked as the people we observe today? Do we complain too much? Do we ask too little? Do we understand God’s mystery, goodness and grace?

Adapted from a reflection written on August 15, 2007.

Visit the Worn Out reflection on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/12/03/worn-out/

Image from: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-brazen-serpent-188732  

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The Bristol Psalter: The Capture of David by the Philistines

Psalm 56: When I Fear

Second Sunday of Lent, February 25, 2018

David wrote this psalm when the Philistines in Gath captured him. These verses, especially when we compare varying versions, have much to teach us about how to react to our fears. From THE MESSAGE version, verses 2 and 3.

Not a day goes by
    but somebody beats me up;
They make it their duty
    to beat me up.

When I get really afraid
    I come to you in trust.
I’m proud to praise God;
    fearless now, I trust in God. (MSG)

We may or may not live in circumstances that call for these words. If we do not, we count ourselves as blessed; but if fear does not govern our days and nights, we offer these words for those who gather in hiding places.

My enemies make trouble for me all day long;
    they are always thinking up some way to hurt me!
They gather in hiding places
    and watch everything I do,
    hoping to kill me. (GNT)

With New Testament thinking, we focus on the first line in this stanza as we pray for our enemies, knowing that their anger has locked them in a prison of hate.

Because of their crime, they cannot escape;
in anger, God, strike down the peoples.
You have kept count of my wanderings;
store my tears in your water-skin —
aren’t they already recorded in your book? (CJB)

Stepping into the protective presence of the Lord, we rejoice with verses 9 to 11, knowing that nothing of this world is lasting, and no one in this world can destroy the soul.

This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid.
    What can a mere mortal do to me? (NRSV)

Remembering God’s goodness, we sing verses 12 and 13. We recall our promises to God, and we consider what we might return to God as a sign that we are willing to give our fear over to the One who knows our world best.

O God, I will offer you what I have promised;
    I will give you my offering of thanksgiving,
because you have rescued me from death
    and kept me from defeat.
And so I walk in the presence of God,
    in the light that shines on the living. (GNT)

On this second Sunday of Lent, we remember that this psalm came to us out of David’s anguish in Gath. We remember that God abides with David through this and other catastrophes. And we consider how we might rejoice as we allow God to transform all our fear into delight.

For commentary on David in Gath, visit: http://www.keyway.ca/htm2005/20051212.htm 

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/379780181051624727/ 

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Psalm 16: Seek Confidence

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trust

When we begin to trust God, we grow in confidence. When we grow in confidence, we are better able to trust God.

You, Lord, are all I have,
    and you give me all I need;
    my future is in your hands.
How wonderful are your gifts to me;
    how good they are!

This is a beautiful prayer of Trust in God’s love for us – for his safekeeping of us. I like the metaphor of the Cup. It may refer to our daily drinking from the chalice of Christ’s sacrifice for us; or it may refer to our own willingness to offer our lives back to God as a blessing in the Cup of Our Lives.

God says: You have every reason to doubt my existence; but know that I move in you as the Spirit of goodness, justice, truth and mercy.

And so I am thankful and glad,
    and I feel completely secure,
because you protect me from the power of death.
I have served you faithfully,
    and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.

God says: You have every reason to believe in me. I have created a world in which you have freedom of choice and the promise of my strength and guidance.

I praise the Lord, because God guides me,
    and in the night my conscience warns me.

I am always aware of the Lord’s presence;
    God is near, and nothing can shake me.

God says: When you read these verses today, rely on my deep and constant love for you.

You will show me the path that leads to life;
    your presence fills me with joy
    and brings me pleasure forever.

God says: Each time you recite these verses, my Spirit rises in you as it calls you to join me in the great mystery I have planned for us.

Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    all the good things I have come from you.”

God says: You have every reason to doubt me. You have every reason to believe in me. Today I call on the Spirit within you. Today I call you to place your trust in me. Today I ask you choose to grow and live in my love, mercy and confidence.

Adapted from a reflection written on July 1, 2007.

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Judges 1: Cycles of Love

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: The Women of Amphissa

We know that Judges is the book in the Old Testament that takes us from the time following the death of Joshua through several hundred years of leaders, or judges, who include Gideon, Deborah and Samson, to the time of Jesse, father of David.  It delineates the story of a people struggling to understand themselves and one another, a people who constantly cycle through a loop of straying, repenting, returning, and forgetting.  The last verse of the book speaks about the attitude of the people regarding not only their civic relationship with one another, but also their spiritual relationship with God.  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.  We reflected on this idea several days ago, saying that this is a sentiment we might apply to our contemporary times as we watch events unfold over which we have little and no control. It seems that in all ages we humans . . . do what we think best.  We also see God’s reaction to human waywardness: God allows the weeds to grow up with the wheat.

A number of years ago I came across a painting in the National Gallery’s Pompeii exhibit. It showed maenads, those who stir themselves to frenzy with wine and orgy, and who sink so low that they tear apart their own children.  They are the famous Bacchae of Dionysus, the distraught female followers of this god of wine who exacts revenge on any woman who will not submit to his will.  This Dionysus is the antithesis of the God of Israel.  This pagan god takes what he wants for his own satisfaction, and his followers are too exhausted to see the truth of his and their existence.

We are constantly faced with a choice in our lives because God grants us the freedom to follow or to strike out on our own, to enact love or to deaden our senses with the wine of self-pleasure and self-gratification.

The painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadea entitled The Women of Amphissa shows the exhausted maenads as they awaken the morning after a night of mad running through the hillsides in rapacious, orgiastic delight.  We can see their numbness to the light and to life.  The local townswomen protect them and arrange for them to be returned home unharmed; but the damage has already been done, and they remain powerless, forever in the grip of Dionysus.  They cannot escape from his cruel delight in watching them destroy others.  They have no God who loves them enough to sacrifice himself in redemption of their souls.  There is no Christ who refuses to leave his faithful to do what they think best.

Our God . . . the God of Israel . . . the one God of all of us here is not a God who holds us bound by the secrets or the dark debauchery that surround us.  Our God does not destroy with threats, but rather calls us to grow amid the weeds through faith in God’s own hope and love.  Ours is the God who forgives many times and constantly.  Our God welcomes those who witness and turn to goodness.  Our God does not chain us, does not bind us, does not force us into relationships, and does not take revenge.  Our God brings light, and truth and redemption.  And this God asks us to behave in like manner.  God sets us free to search for God’s goodness with our whole heart and our whole soul, to love or to turn away.  Our God is always hoping that when we do what we think best, we will respond in joyful hope to the call of light and truth and authentic, unencumbered love.

Adapted from a reflection written at the close of 2008. 

For more on the Bacchae, Dionysus and the playwirght Euripides, visit : http://www.mythography.com/myth/glimpse-of-a-greek-god-dionysus-in-the-bacchae-of-euripides/

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John 1:1-18: Divine Energy

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

Here is a bit of advice from Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell. “You can . . . reread the prologue to John’s gospel, and every time you see the term ‘Word’ or Logos, substitute Relationship or Blueprint, instead, and it will really help you get the message . . . This exact model of relationship is then intended to be passed on to us in what Jesus calls the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is the relationship between Father and the Son. It is this relationship itself that is gratuitously given to us! Or better, we are included inside this love. Wow. This is salvation in one wonderful snapshot”. (Rohr and Morrell 186)

Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.

If we might take this in, we realize that it is almost too wonderful to believe, and yet, it is the reality in and by that, we are called to live. We might have some fears about how we are to surrender to this divine energy. So Rohr and Morrell continue.

God was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.

“This same relationship shows itself in other myriad forms, such as endless animals and wildflowers, mountains and trees, every cultural attempt at art and science and medicine, all positive street theatre, and every movement of renewal. Every one of these manifestations expresses this endless desire to express new forms of life and externalized love. All things good, true, and beautiful are baptized in the one, same Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows herself as the central and healing power of absolute newness and healing in our relationship with everything else”. (Rohr and Morrell 186)

No one has ever seen God,
        not so much as a glimpse.
    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
        who exists at the very heart of the Father,
        has made him plain as day.

This divine energy wants all that is good for us. This divine energy brings all that is holy together in us so that goodness might overcome the darkness. This divine energy will never give up, and will never give in. This divine energy is God’s enormous and all-encompassing love as seen in the creator, the redeemer and the healer. This divine energy lives and loves in us.

When we compare varying translation of John’s prologue, we open ourselves to the divine energy of the Trinity. Tomorrow, everything is holy now.

For photos of Arizona sunsets in the southwest USA that echo divine energy, click on the image above and reflect on the divine energy of creation, or visit: http://www.arizona-leisure.com/arizona-pictures.html 

Rohr, Richard with Mike Morrell. THE DIVINE DANCE: THE TRINITY AND YOUR TRANSFORMATION. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016. Print. 

 

 

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1 Corinthians 12: Trinity as Diversity

El Greco: The Holy Trinity

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell, bring us a vision of the Trinity that may surprise us. “One of the most wonderful things I find in this naming of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is its affirmation that there is an intrinsic plurality to goodness . . . Goodness isn’t sameness. Goodness, to be goodness, needs contrast and tension, not perfect uniformity. If Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God yet clearly different, and we embrace this differentiation, resisting the temptation to blend them into some kind of amorphous blob, then there are at least three shapes to pure goodness”. (Rohr and Morrell 61)

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served.  

Today we examine a thesis that God’s nature is diverse by intention and not accident. When we explore varying versions of these words, we open ourselves to the possibility of this diversity in God. Tomorrow, God’s diversity in us.

Rohr, Richard with Mike Morrell. THE DIVINE DANCE: THE TRINITY AND YOUR TRANSFORMATION. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016. Print. 

 

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