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Posts Tagged ‘God’s plan’


Romans 9: Children of the Promise – Part I

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on June 3, 2010.

In this chapter of Romans, Paul puzzles over the lack of faith in the Christ story among the Jewish people.  They are clearly chosen by God to convey the message of freedom and salvation to the world and in fact, one of their own is the Messiah; yet they reject the message of hope and promise that Jesus offers. This is also the message that Paul proclaims anew.

In the previous chapter (Romans 8), Paul reminds us that faith is the belief in things not seen; hope is the exercise of expecting something that is greater and better than we think likely (8:24-25).  He reminds all of us that the Holy Spirit is at work in and among us, and that we must be open to God’s plan rather than forwarding our own.  Now he puzzles over the lack of expectation and fidelity in those who have had the advantage of the special status; he finds it strange that the very people and tradition that have engendered the message now turn against it.

Do we see this same contradiction in our own age? Do we see it in ourselves? If not, we might be content to muddle forward as always. If so, we have a clear choice before us. Do we blame God for the failings and lacks in society? Or do we examine ourselves, and then rely on God as we take action?

Paul answers some of his, and our, questions in verses 14 to 16: What then are we to say?  Is there injustice on the part of God?  Of course not . . . it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. 

We are part of God’s great design and are called to take part in the redemption of the world.

Shall we say, then, that God is unjust? Not at all . . . So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s mercy. (GNT)

We are God’s precious children, and are asked to demonstrate the same mercy that God shows us.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! . . .  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (NASB)

We are the receivers of God’s great promise. Let us accept this gift graciously, and act with God’s justice for all.

Tomorrow, more of Paul’s thinking. How does it affect all that we do?

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Jeremiah 17:5-10: In Every Season

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We are blessed with a God-given identity and we take our concerns to God the Creator. With gratitude, we trust in God.

I will bless the person
who puts his trust in me.
He is like a tree growing near a stream
and sending out roots to the water.
It is not afraid when hot weather comes,
because its leaves stay green;
it has no worries when there is no rain;
it keeps on bearing fruit. (GNT)

We are accompanied by our brother Jesus and we follow the clearly marked Way our brother Christ sets out for us. In hope, we follow the signs of Christ’s love.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit. (NRSV)

We are consoled by the Spirit who lives within us and we allow the presence of God to mend all that is broken. With love, we rest in this Spirit.

Blessed is the man who trusts in Adonai;
Adonai will be his security.
He will be like a tree planted near water;
it spreads out its roots by the river;
it does not notice when heat comes;
and its foliage is luxuriant;
it is not anxious in a year of drought
but keeps on yielding fruit. (CJB)

Can we imagine a life when all that we say and all we do is measured in the loving ways of God? Can we envision a kingdom in which the poor take precedence and the marginalized rise up? Can we foresee the effects of God’s compassion, power and tenderness?

After a long drought, the desert blooms in Arizona, U.S.A.

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
    the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
    putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
    never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
    bearing fresh fruit every season. (MSG)

Can we believe that we are part of God’s great plan? Can we rely on God’s wisdom, grace and peace? Can we be certain that we are loved and behave as if we accept this truth?

When we compare various translations of these verses, we begin to discover that we are blessed, that we are loved, and that we are created to bear fruit in every season – even in the deserts of our lives.

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1 Samuel 25: The Inverted Kingdom – Part VI

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ernst Josephson: David and Saul

Ernst Josephson: David and Saul

Today and tomorrow we remember this Favorite from October of 2007 as we explore how the story of David, Saul, Nabal and Abigail presage the coming of Christ’s inverted kingdom.

Reading closely, we see that Saul fears David because he sees how closely David follows God. This obedience threatens King Saul and even stirs envy. He knows that despite the favor God has shown him, he struggles to obey.

For his part, David refuses to kill Saul, even when he has been presented with opportunities to do so. David understands that God has anointed both men as present and future king. He also understands that God’s plan is the ultimate plan and, unlike Saul, David does not succumb to the sin of “pride of self”. David understands that his authority comes from God, not from his own cleverness, good works or talent.

This interplay infuriates Saul who attacks David and then ostracizes him.  In the ensuing battles, David repeatedly spares Saul’s life – which angers Saul even further.  We might see these same dynamics playing out in our own lives. If so, let us see where we stand and who we are. The loyal and vulnerable David or the troubled, envious Saul?

Joseph Schonmann: David and Abigail

Joseph Schonmann: David and Abigail

In today’s story, we read about Abigail, an intelligent, reverent, patient woman, married to an alcoholic. She does not succumb to the twisted world of co-dependence and she understands that she is powerless in the face of certain “givens” of ancient times. She has little influence in the affairs of her husband; yet she lives her invisible life in a visible way. She must take sustenance from her confidence in God, act in a way that does not enrage an already angry master, and she must address injustice as best she can. Throughout this ordeal, we see that she continues to rely on God.

We also see the loyalty of Abigail’s servants.  Knowing of the struggle between Saul and David, they realize that their entire household is naked against the band of David’s rebels. They are also keenly aware that their master is wealthy but a drunkard; and that his churlishness has placed them in a dangerous situation.  They go to Abigail who takes action in a calm, quiet and respectful manner.  She wins their safety, and then waits until the morning when her husband is sober to let him know what she has done . . . that she has saved them.  The hand of God acts to seal their safety as we see the results of Nabal’s courage.

As we reflect on these ancient tales and see the lessons of inversion – where the strong are weak and the weak are strong – and we anticipate their unfolding in the New Testament story of Jesus of Nazareth.

Tomorrow, the inversion that Jesus teaches.

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Ephesians 3:2-6: Do Not Fear – Part XIV

Monday, January 9, 2017

file-saint_paul_writing_his_epistles-_by_valentin_de_boulogne

Valentin de Boulogne: Saint Paul Writing his Epistles

Although we have closed Christmastide we pause to spend a few moments with some of Paul’s words to the Ephesians about the secret plan of God, the mystery of Christ, the Word who arrives to live among us. These words remind us why we have nothing to fear.

The following verses are from THE MESSAGE translation. When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare other versions, God’s plan begins to clarify for us.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and us – that he is imprisoned because of his belief in Christ; yet he appears to have no fear of his impending punishment.

This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you’re familiar with the part I was given in God’s plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and us – that he is confined because of his belief in Christ; yet he appears to have no fear of his approaching trial.

As you read over what I have written to you, you’ll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God’s Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and us – because of his belief in Christ, that he has nothing to fear in this world.

The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and he tells us – that because of our belief in Christ, we have nothing to fear in this world. Paul tells us that we need only step into the Christmas gift of grace, peace, joy and hope. And he tells us that when we witness to this gift, we begin to act with and in Christ in our world.

Wishing each of you in the Noontime circle a New Year filled with Christ’s grace and peace, joy and hope.

Tomorrow, recognizing Christ.

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1 Samuel 13: The Heat of Self-Knowledge – Part I

Monday, October 17, 2016

Benjamin west: Saul and the Witch of Endor

Benjamin West: Saul and the Witch of Endor

As the political season heats up in the U.S., we consider this important story from one of our oldest scriptures.

This is the portion of the Samuel story in which we watch Saul move away from God to begin his long slide into darkness.  This downward movement happens because he presumes to know best.  Saul takes action on his own without waiting for Samuel, who is designated by God as the judge/leader, to offer sacrifice before battle.  Although his son Jonathan and the rest of Saul’s troops have immediate success, Saul himself is eventually lost.  He becomes paranoid about his fear of David (1 Samuel 18) and forces David to flee the court (1 Samuel 19).  He allows his fears to overtake him as when he orders the priest of Nob to be slaughtered (1 Samuel 22) and continues his frenetic search for David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23).  In his panic he consults with a seer in Endor (1 Samuel 28); and finally he meets his dreadful end (1 Samuel 31) along with his beloved son Jonathon.  This is a sad ending for a man who had shown such promise but who, in the end, did not trust God.  Today we see the beginning of Saul’s long and terrible journey into the dark.  Unwilling to admit his errors or to seek pardon, Saul gives himself over to the fantastical thinking that he knows better than God . . . that he can do without God.  He sees his troops slithering away before the battle and, thinking that he will keep them from leaving, he steps in to intervene – countering God’s plan.

Today we reflect on Saul’s story and examine our motivations to see if the fire of self-knowledge threatens to consume us. Tomorrow, the fire of battle. Do our conflicts help us to know ourselves better? Or do they send us further into deception and denial? 

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Luke 1: God’s Yardstick – Elizabeth

In God’s Wisdom and Time

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jacques Blanchard: The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist and the Infant Jesus

Jacques Blanchard: The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist and the Infant Jesus

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

All four Gospels tell us the story of John the Baptist who goes before Jesus to announce the good news of God’s coming to the faithful but it is in Luke’s telling that we hear about John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah. Today we spend time reflecting on the power of God to do the impossible, the fidelity of God remaining with the faithful, and the love of God who guides, consoles, rescues and transforms.

Using the scripture link, we read different versions of this story that weaves the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, John and Jesus into a fabric that serves as a mantle to protect us from the winds of time and place. We allow the power of these verses to bring us the wisdom of God’s time, God’s space, and God’s plan. We allow the understanding of God’s yardstick in the life of Elizabeth to bring us the quiet peace and radiant joy of the Christmas season. And we determine to bring this wisdom and peace to bear in our own lives.

To better understand the story of Elizabeth, visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.4.Elizabeth.htm 

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Job 19Suffering and Rejoicing Well

Eberhar Waechter: Grieving Job and his friends

Eberhar Waechter: Grieving Job and his friends

Thursday, November 26, 2015: Thanksgivng Day in the USA

As we consider terrorist events that flood before us, and as we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving in the USA, let us re-visit this Favorite post and consider how we might suffer and rejoice well.

The Book of Job is the first in the wisdom portion of scripture and it may be one of our favorites for its honesty and persistence with which this innocent man speaks.  Job has been wronged by Satan, yet retains faith and hope in God.  He asks the questions we all ask; he makes the observations we all make: why do the wicked seem to skate through life without suffering, and why do the innocent suffer?  Each of us has endured hardship as Job does at one time or another; and for this reason his words are so valuable.  Job sinks into the lowest of depths with his despair . . . yet he soars with great hope and divine love.  This is the gift of his story . . . that he both suffers and rejoices well.

How long will you vex my soul?  At times the suffering is too great, too heavy.

I cry for help; there is no redress.  In our own lives, and in the lives of others, there are moments that ask too much of human strength and endurance.

My brethren have withdrawn from me, and my friends are wholly estranged.  At times we are utterly alone, with no sheltering place, no healing balm.

All my intimate friends hold me in horror; those whom I love have turned against me!  In the human experience, there is no greater punishment than isolation.

Why do you hound me as though you were divine, and insatiably prey on me?  At times we are so low that we descend into pits we did not know existed . . . and this is when we know that something new is arriving.

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s shall behold him.  Job understands that it is impossible for us to comprehend the depth, the width, the height or the timelessness of God.  Job – although not content with the mystery of his innocent suffering – accepts that from where he stands he cannot see or know the limitlessness of God or the complexity of his plan.  Job reminds us that each of us suffers.  Each of us stands accused at times when we are innocent.  Since this is so . . . the rest of his story is also true . . . we will be vindicated.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation about the Blessed Mother and her willingness to suffer as an innocent for the good of God’s economy: She neither regretted the past nor wished for the future – she accepted wholeheartedly the magnificent present.  She had found one beautiful pearl, and all she had she gave in order to buy it.  (Mother Marie des Douleurs)

So let us follow the example of Job and the example of Mary.  They understood that they, by entering into the mystery of suffering, were sharing in a sacred gift offered by the God who loves us so much . . . that he offers us his own divinity.

Let us enter into today without looking back in anger or looking forward in despair.

Let us gather all that we have and all that we are to make this one purchase . . . the gift of transformative union where . . . through suffering, we enter into the world of God’s joy.

A favorite from March 25, 2009. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.3 (2009). Print.  

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Psalm 146: The Abundant Helper

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, salvation life.

God’s generosity cannot be outdone; God’s love cannot be overcome.

Mere humans don’t have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them.

God’s hope is eternal; God’s fidelity is everlasting.

God always does what he says – he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry.

Jesus heals the broken and comforts the abandoned.

God frees prisoners – he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen.

Jesus calls each of us to pardon as we are pardoned.

God loves good people, protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked.

The Spirit dwells within each of us, making a place for God’s abundant help to rescue, reconcile and redeem . . . so that we too might take part in God’s great plan of salvation.

generosity_of_god_smallWhen we use the scripture link to explore other versions of Psalm 146, we discover God’s abundant help. We discover God’s great plan for salvation life.

Click on the images to discover more about “Accessing God’s Willing Generosity,” and other thoughts on God’s abundant help. 

 

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James 5:7-11: A Prayer for Patience

Friday, October 30, 2015patience1

We have considered the difficulty of blooming in early or late rains. We have pondered the mercy we find in God’s Law of Love, and we have reflected on the importance of patience in our lives as we learn to live out mercy and humility in an authentic way. Ultimately, each of us and all of us are called. Each of us and all of us are gathered in. Each of us and all of us are offered the gift of transformation. But first we must learn and exercise the practice of patience.

It is easy to define patience as a virtue and still easier to see impatience in others. Patience as a concept can be diminished to a simple exercise that we practice once in a while when there is no great demand placed on us. The more difficult task is to act continually with a patience that is not bitter or nostalgic; and it is a challenge for many of us to operate from humility, to trust God without question.

When asked to place our lives in God’s hands, we must be ready to humbly ourselves before God’s plan, to trust God in both simple and grave matters, and to obey God’s call with a grateful and happy heart. This is no small request. And so we pray.

heart-shaped-bible-pageLoyal and healing God, lead us in simple obedience of your well-devised plan.

Powerful and eternal God, guide us in trusting you alone above all else.

Humble and tender God, help us to persevere in patient living with you.

We thank you for coming to us as our human brother, Jesus. We are grateful for the abiding consolation of your Spirit. And we rest in the assurance that the humility and patience that Jesus shows us is The Way we ourselves must follow. May we today and all days live and act in patience. Amen.

 

 

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