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Posts Tagged ‘God’s love’


Lamentations: In the Darkness

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Keeping each of you in prayer while I am away from electronics. Holding you in prayer at noon each day.

We gather our worn flesh and our broken bones. We take one last look around us at the weariness, poverty and darkness in which we find ourselves . . . and we prepare for restoration.

Just when we believe that we escape all that terrifies us, we learn again that life holds no guarantee. Just when we believe that we escape our worries and anxieties, we learn again that eternal life is a promise on which we can rely.

When we use the scripture link and commentary to explore this book, we discover that there is no guarantee that we will not suffer; but there is a guarantee that the light of God’s love will overcome the darkness to bring us new life. 

 

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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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Judges 6: Gideon’s Call

James Tissot: The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We have spent several days with this Old Testament Book in which we watch the Israelites enter into a cycle: neglect of their covenant with God, the worship of idols, repentance, a petition to God for help, God’s generous response, silence as God waits for the people to respond. God always sends a hero to save the faithful – and this particular hero is Gideon.

We find the following when we read commentary.

  • God asks Joshua, in the book preceding Judges, to lead the people into the Promised Land and he does.
  • God asks the people to wipe out those who worship pagan idols but they do not; and this sows the seed of future problems.
  • Prior to God’s intercession in the life of the faithful, the people are forced to run away from invading armies and literally “head for the hills” when these invaders arrived with chariots.
  • Once the people share a loving relationship with God, they have a rock of refuge, a bulwark of safety.
  • When the people neglect their relationship with God, the cycle of idol worship begins anew.
  • God always has a hero in mind.
  • God’s silence is the space we are given to respond to God’s deep and abiding love.

God calls Gideon while he is in the middle of his work, and Gideon, like many of those called, has many questions. He wants to understand why and how should go about the work God has in mind. God answers, as God always does, “I will be with you, do not worry.” Gideon praises and worships God when he realizes what is happening, that he will be an instrument of redemption in the people’s cycle of sin and repentance.

Like Gideon, we are likewise fearful in our response to God. We know what we are asked to do; yet frequently we are too frightened to step out of our comfort zone. In the end, however, no find that no other course of action is worth taking.

The story of Gideon also demonstrates for us that silence can be entirely appropriate when it is patient, loving, merciful, and just. A silence that waits, that whispers to the beloved, that calls the beloved back to the covenant, is a silence that heals.

So like Gideon, let us sit beneath our terebinth and call on God. For God will surely answer.

Adapted from a Noontime written on January 31, 2007.

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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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Lamentations 2:19-22Rising Uplight in dark

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Book of Lamentations is dark and moody, full of wrath and anger.  The coming of Christ is the only antidote against such deep grief.  Our own petition for goodness and wholeness brings us into union with this Messiah,  Christ.  Each day, each night we have the choice before us.  We can either try to solve the problems that confront us on our own, or we can Rise up, shrill in the night to beat against heaven’s gate, asking God for mercy and justice for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our enemies.  This is what best combats the ugliness we read about today.

In order that we not consumed by this ugly anger that would compel us into further depths, we might look at the opposite of rage-filled thinking. We take on a thinking that rejects rumor, derision, the stirring up of hate and falsehood.  Psalm 101:1-7 is part of the Morning Prayer in MAGNIFICAT today.  The citation before the prayer follows:  Every day offers a choice: what sort of reading, what sort of TV, what sort of conversation, what sort of friends will we choose to welcome into our home? And so we sing with the psalmist: My song is about loyalty and justice, and I sing it to you, O Lord.

Another citation from the Morning Prayer is Philippians 4:8Whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

shining-in-the-darknessWe know the world is made of diverse creatures and creations that bring us sorrow and joy, diverse conditions that create havoc and love.  In order to dispel the dark clouds of today’s lamentation, we might continue.

Whatever is evil, whatever is deceitful, whatever is lie . . . rise up, shrill in the night against the darkness.

Whatever is good, whatever is holy, whatever unites and calls home . . . rise up grateful, in praise of the light.

Whatever is Christ, whatever is spirit, whatever is life-giving . . . rise up joyful, singing with expectation of God’s mercy and justice.    

In all circumstances, dark or light, rise up singing with the Lord. 

My song is about loyalty and justice, and I sing it to you, O Lord.

Adapted from a Favorite written on February 24, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 24 February 2009. Print.

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Sirach 34:16: Our Rock of Safety

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

We have spent time with Peter to explore the concept of salvific suffering. We have thought again about the good shepherds who lead us and who serve as our places of refuge, our rocks of safety. In the wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach, we know that the world will send us in search of shelters so that we might rest, sanctuaries so that we might heal and recover from the anguish of the world.

The Lord watches over those who love him; he is their strong protection and firm support. He shelters them from the heat, shades them from the noonday sun, and keeps them from stumbling and falling. (GNT)

Standing in awe of the Lord’s goodness and mercy, we find lodging under of the shadow of the rock.

Whoever fear the Lord are afraid of nothing
    and are never discouraged, for he is their hope. (NABRE)

Planting ourselves in the foundation of God’s wisdom and grace, we seek security in the hope of God’s patience.

Those who fear the Lord will not be timid,
    or play the coward, for he is their hope. (NRSV)

Growing in the goodness of God’s love, we remain always in the power of God’s fidelity.

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him,
    a mighty protection and strong support,
a shelter from the hot wind and a shade from noonday sun,
    a guard against stumbling and a defense against falling. (RSVCE)

A defense against the elements, a harbor in the storms of life, an open heart for the downcast, respite for the discouraged. God fulfills our needs as we move through life. God brings blossoms to the deserts as we pause to re-nourish and restore. God saves. God heals. God transforms. There is no greater rock than this rock of God’s safety.

When we compare varying versions of this verse, we discover the depth and breadth, the height and width of God’s infinite love and compassion.

We find images of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains when we click on the image above.

To further explore God’s profound love for us, enter the word rock into the blog search bar and explore. 

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Acts 10:28-47: Hearing the Good News

Peter and Cornelius

Thursday, May 4, 2017

God is the creator of both space and time. God is in charge. God creates humans in God’s image. God loves all of creation. God creates us in, for and through love. God loves us very much. This is good news indeed.

Today we read about Peter’s meeting with Cornelius, a Roman centurion living in Caesarea, Palestine. Today we focus not on the fact that this well-positioned, powerful man turns away from paganism to live in Christ; rather, we reflect on God’s desire to break down walls between nations and philosophies. Today we watch Peter put aside his Jewish restrictions and prejudices in order to meet, speak with, and even seek union with a man who represents repression to the Jewish nation. And finally, we focus on God’s desire for union and community with each of us . . . with all of us . . . and not an elite few.

We meditate on Peter’s words in verse 28: God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.

Can we imagine a world in which our enemies become our close associates?

We spend time with Cornelius’ account of hearing God’s words in verse 31: Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 

Can we imagine a world in which we heed God’s message of healing and love?

We remember Peter’s understanding of God’s love in verses 34-35: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 

Can we imagine a world in which we are both recipients and vehicles of God’s miracles?

Like Peter and Cornelius, once we hear God’s words and understand their meaning, we also come to know these truths: We are witnesses to the loving action of God in our lives, we are called to minister to all of God’s people, and we are the vessels of God’s Holy Spirit in the world.

This is marvelous news indeed. These are wonderful truths undeniably. This is Good New we want to both receive and share.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore this sermon, we allow ourselves to share the Good News that the Holy Spirit is with us. 

Tomorrow, Peter’s fifth sermon following Pentecost.

 

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1 Timothy 1:8-10: Hardship for the Gospelmainslide-come-and-see

Second Sunday of Lent, March 12, 2017

There are many days in our lives when we are too exhausted to hear that discipleship is difficult. We want to hear that someone sees our plight, that we are standing on firm ground, and that help is at hand. This is what Timothy tells us today. There is a source of renewal and strength, and this source is God.

Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

There is one who knows the mountains and valleys of our lives, and this one is the Creator. There is one who walks through pain and joy with us, and this one is Christ Jesus. There is one who lives in despair and hope with us, and this one is the Spirit.

God saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to God’s own design and the grace bestowed on us in Chris Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

God says: I see that you are frightened and cannot see how you can possibly survive your present circumstances; but I assure you that the difficulties you encounter are opportunities for you to work with me. The anxiety and fear you experience are windows of grace for you. And the fear and despair you feel are part of the holy design in which you are taking part. Always remember that you are special to me. You are the apple of my eye, the center of my essence. I will go to the furthest length and the deepest depth to redeem and save you. The hardship you suffer now reflects the grace and joy I find in your persistence in following me. I will never forget you. I will love you always.

As part of our Lenten commitment to follow Christ’s lead, we spend time with this Scripture today and we discover that much greater than our works is the grace of God. Much greater than the hardship we suffer, are the loving heart and hands of God.

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Sirach 15:15-20: Your Own Choice

Wednesday, February 22, 2017free-will-problem

We have reflected on Jesus’s admonition that we leave vengeance and judgment in God’s hands; and we have spent time exploring Jesus’ call that we love our enemies. Today we ponder words from Sirach. Words that remind us of the gift of free will we each hold in our hands, and hearts and minds.

If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

We may want to make someone else responsible for our decisions; but when we are honest, we know that we are free to reject or to choose God.

God has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

We may believe that we live in isolation, living invisibly, doing as we please and avoiding consequences; but when we are truthful we know that we are free to be open or closed to Christ.

Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.

We may believe that we are the source of our own intelligence and good fortune, reaping the rewards of a life well lived; but when we are candid we know that we are free to accept or refuse the healing of the Spirit.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord; God is mighty in power and sees everything; God’s eyes are on those who love the LORD, and God knows every human action.

There is no greater source of understanding than God. There is no greater heart of love than Jesus.

God has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and God has not given anyone permission to sin.

There is no greater power to heal than the Spirit. Let us rejoice that we live in the gift of God’s mercy, and that we have been given the freedom to make a choice of our own.

When we compare these verses with THE GOOD NEWS translation, we gain clarity and focus, discernment and wisdom. We find that we really do possess the gift of making our own choices.

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