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Posts Tagged ‘God’s presence’


Isaiah 55:8-9: A Duality of Ways

Parallel paths create a generous, merciful way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

As God’s creation, we reflect God’s image in a kaleidoscope of diversity. In an enormous mosaic, we compose a wonderfully diverse creator.

“My thoughts,” says the Lord, “are not like yours,
    and my ways are different from yours.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so high are my ways and thoughts above yours. (GNT)

As sisters and brothers of Christ, the Spirit calls us to unity in our wonderful variety. Despite the difficulty of the task, we must find a way to reconcile, to pardon, to accept forgiveness, and to remain open to transformation.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NRSV)

God says: Just as it is difficult for you to understand my deep generosity with all of creation, it is difficult for you to comprehend my plan and my way.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (CJB)

God says: Just as it is wonderful for you to revel in my presence, it is wonderful to live in your way even as you live in mine.

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think. (MSG)

God says: Rather than suffer as you work to follow in my way, allow the rain in your life to water the place where you are planted. Let my sustain presence work at growing the blossoms that wait within you. Ask the good seed I have planted in you to be harvest for the poor, the broken-hearted, and the hungry.  

Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
    and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
    not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
    they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. (Verses 10-11 MSG)

God says: Yes, my ways are not your ways but my essence is also yours. My feet, my hands, my lips and my ears are yours as well. My mind is yours. My heart is yours. My very being resides in you, waning in times of drought, flourishing in times of bounty. There is nothing you can do to fully deny me. There is nowhere you can go to hide from me. Each day when you rise, ask me to join me in the harvest of the day. I am already there. Each noontime when you pause in your busy day, invite me to sit with you. I am already there. Each evening when you retire, rest in me as I rest in you. Yes, I am already there. Although there is a duality in our ways, we walk together always. You are not empty-handed, for I am in your hands. Remember this always.

Tomorrow, the duality of justice.


When we compare varying versions of these verses, we open ourselves to the duality of our ways and God’s.

Image from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/parallel-paths.jpg

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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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Esther F: The River is Esther

Edward Armitage: The Feast of Esther

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It has been a week since Ash Wednesday when we began our Lenten journey of discovery, renewal, and transformation. We have had seven days to contemplate the state of our world and our personal circumstances. We have reflected on the violence in Esther’s world and in our own. Today, amidst bloodshed and reversals, and despite our fears, we find a way to give thanks.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai declare his praise for God’s providence. We too, might announce our acclaim.

Then Mordecai said: “This is the work of God. I recall the dream I had about these very things, and not a single detail has been left unfulfilled – the tiny spring that grew into a river, and there was light, and sun, and many waters”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai describe God’s river of compassion, and the river is Esther. We too, might affirm God’s love.

“The river is Esther, whom the king married and made queen”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai announce his gratitude for God’s power. We too, might proclaim our appreciation.

“The Lord saved his people and delivered us from all these evils. God worked signs and great wonders, such as have not occurred among the nations”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai assert his joy for God’s presence. We too, might broadcast to anyone who will listen our confidence that God also abides.

“Gathering together with joy and happiness before God, they shall celebrate these days on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month Adar throughout all future generations of his people Israel”.

With these apocryphal verses, we experience the river that is God’s power, fidelity, hope and mercy. And this river is Esther.

 Tomorrow,, Esther on the fringes of society.  

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The Gospels: Stories

The Book of Kells: The Four Gospels

The Fourth Day of Christmas, December 28, 2017

From snopes.com: “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is what most people take it to be: a secular song that celebrates the Christmas season with imagery of gifts and dancing and music. Some misinterpretations have crept into the English version over the years, though. For example, the fourth day’s gift is four “colly birds” (or “collie birds”), not four “calling birds.” (The word “colly” literally means “black as coal,” and thus “colly birds” would be blackbirds.)

No matter the color of the birds in these lyrics, most critics agree that the number four refers to the Four Gospels in The New Testament canon. The first Gospel, scholars generally agree, was written by Mark in the first century. Concise, quick-moving, written to a Roman audience, this book is described as: vivid and detailed, active and energetic, wondrous, and demonstrating power over devils. The Gospel of Matthew was also written in the first century but after Mark’s Gospel. A topical retelling of the Christ story, it holds less joy than other Gospels but shows itself as an official, didactic, story of rejection and even despondency. This Gospel is sometimes referred to as the Jewish Gospel. Along with the Book of Acts, Luke writes the third Gospel of prayer, and praise, women, the poor, and the outcast. This artistic Gospel is written before the fall of Jerusalem (70 C.E.) for gentiles and Greeks who were coming into the growing Christian community. The final Gospel was written after the fall of Jerusalem by John of Patmos; and he is also believed to be the writer of the Book of Revelation. This story is a celebration of feasts and testimony. Full of symbols, this highly spiritual Gospel brings God’s Incarnation into sharp reality.

Although these stories vary in detail, approach, style and focus, taken together they bring us a diverse and passionate accounting of Jesus as King (Mark), Jesus as Savior (Luke), Jesus as the Son of God (John), and of the Kingdom (Matthew) into which he invites each of us.

When we read the opening and closing verses of each Gospel, with an understanding of the writer’s audience, we begin to more fully realize God’s love for creation’s diversity, and the great variety in the stories that tell us of Emmanuel, God’s presence among us.

To learn more about each Gospel, click on the links or visit: www.biblehub.com

To learn more about what the Gospels are and are not, visit the PBS Frontline page on The Story of the Storyteller at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/gospels.html 

Snopes last updated December 23, 2015 https://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp

 

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1 John 5:14-21: Beloved

Tuesday, January 31, 2017beloved

When we worry that God does not hear us, we must remember John’s words.

We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that God hears us if we ask for anything that is according to God’s will. (GNT)

When we become anxious that our world makes less sense and feels more dangerous, we must return to John’s words.

And this is the boldness we have in God, that if we ask anything according to God’s will, God hears us. (NRSV)

When we are confronted with injustice in our homes and in our world, we must recall John’s words.

This is the confidence we have in God’s presence: if we ask anything that accords with God’s will, God hears us. (CJB)

When we believe that our world is moving away from God’s plan, we must rely on John’s words.

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in God’s presence, freely asking according to God’s will, sure that God is listening.  (MSG)

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we have less fear and we become less anxious. We also find the strength to remain in God’s presence rather than be drawn into the darkness of the world. And we will know quite well that are God’s beloved.

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Ezekiel 48:35: The Lord is Here – Part I

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Ezekiel (The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican)

Michelangelo: The Prophet Ezekiel (The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican)

We have looked at the book of Ezekiel perhaps a dozen times but today we focus on the last four words of this prophecy that describes the New Jerusalem in the New Kingdom:  The Lord is here.

Ezekiel’s prophecy tells us that there is hope after judgment.  The prophet, a priest who was carted away to Babylon with the early exiles, uses the sharp contrast between the destruction of the defiled earth-bound temple and the restoration of the purified divine temple – which we now understand through the New Testament story to be Jesus and then ultimately all of us as Jesus’ mystical body. Ezekiel also uses the beautiful imagery of the watchman calling in the darkness to announce the New Jerusalem, along with four visions and five parables.  His story is filled with symmetry, “hammering repetitions and . . . non-traditional prose”.  (ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 1213) And all of this he does to get our attention, and to bring us to focus on the last words of his prophecy: The Lord is Here.  And we ask: where?

In the flurry of international, national and local news, we might well wonder, where is the Lord? In the rush of heavy schedules, hectic days and anxious nights, we might well ask, where is the Lord? In our private and public lives, in our bodies, hearts and minds, we feel the worries and hopes of a waiting world, and we might well voice the question, where is the Lord? And in each circumstance, in every life, Ezekiel reminds us with his compelling verses, the Lord is here.

When we spend time with this prophecy today, we have the opportunity to feel the presence of God as we remember and reflect . . . we are Easter People . . . and the Lord is among us.

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 15, 2007. 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1312. Print.

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Romans 16:17-20: Warning to Troublemakers

Thursday, February 4, 2016f8a252c28d8359617d691b379d2404e5

In this political season in the U.S., Paul’s words are worthy of our reflection time.

Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

Paul’s letter to the Romans holds this little paragraph: a warning to the brethren who cause dissention and scandal contrary to the doctrine they have learned. Commentary suggests that Paul’s intent is to inoculate the growing community against the formation of factions that might lead to the fragmentation of the church.  In 1 Chronicles 28:20 David says to his son Solomon: Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; God won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch. God’s at your side until every last detail is completed for conducting the worship of God. 

And how do we worship the Lord? When do we gather to give thanks to God?

We hear that we must go about our work without fear of any kind.

We understand that our kingdom work is more important than any other.

We demonstrate our belief that God is with us always when we put aside the fear-mongering and scandal-peddling of troublemakers.

TakeHeartHandsLogoJohn shares Jesus’ words with us: These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

When we set ourselves to doing God’s work, we have no reason for apprehension or anxiety.

In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s yardstick in our world. Paul, David and Jesus offer us a clear image and method of measuring God’s presence and love in our lives.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 27, 2008.

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Isaiah 40:25-31: God’s Power

Wednesday, December 9, 2015isaiah-40-31

God does not tire and does not even pause to catch a breath, Isaiah tells us, and we are happy to hear this news.

God knows everything, inside and out, and we are grateful for God’s wisdom and presence.

God energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to those who drop out, and we celebrate God’s willingness to share energy and compassion.

Even young people tire and fall back, Isaiah continues; the young in their prime stumble and fall. And we rejoice in God’s perseverance and courage.

Those who wait upon God find fresh strength.   They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and do not tire, they walk and do not lag behind. And so we rest in God’s strength, fidelity, hope and love. Let us offer God’s gift of life to someone today who has fallen back, faded out, turned away or collapsed.

 

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Luke 24:1-12: Our Story – Part III, Resurrection Luke24-5-6

Monday, August 17, 2010

For the past two days we have reflected on the story of our lives. Today we remember the good news of Jesus’ story. 

We can never read this part of The Story too many times; the gift is too precious, the love too prized . . . and then he went home amazed at what had happened. 

We live in a world that is too casual about the miracles that happen before us constantly.  Medicine has advanced; yet not enough to please all our wishes.  We produce food in record amounts; yet millions go hungry each day.  Energy sources seem limitless; yet we pollute the world and kill God’s creatures – and ourselves – in our greed.  And still we refuse to be amazed at what had happened when we experience God’s goodness in our lives.

We go to the food market and there is an abundance; and we credit ourselves with the harvest.  We go to clothing stalls where too many varieties of the same shoe tempt us to buy; and we complain that there is nothing to wear.  We drive through neighborhoods with empty or underused homes; and we never seem to be able to house the homeless.  And still we refuse to be amazed at what had happened when we experience God’s generosity in our lives.

We are self-centered beings who have difficulty seeing beyond our noses.  We cry out for help when we need it, and casually put God as the last item on our agendas when times are good.  In the peace that follows conflict we gear up for more strife.  We become so accustomed to struggle that we forget to rejoice.  Former enemies sit down to speak peace and we are too impatient when a world leader speaks to us and pre-empts a football game or a favorite show.  A friend calls on the phone and we silently begrudge the time they ask of us because we have too much work to do.  And still we refuse to be amazed at what had happened when we experience God’s love in our lives.

God is a loving God and this we know because even though we ruin the environment with our lack of care, the trees continue to return to foliage each spring cycle, the waters have smaller “dead zones” when they are given the time to rejuvenate, the souls of the faithful departed enjoy eternal communion with God in the New Jerusalem.  And still we refuse to be amazed at what had happened when we experience God’s power in our lives.

We can never over-estimate the length and breadth and height and depth of God’s presence in our lives, especially when we contemplate this portion of The Story.  So let us today, like Peter, go home at the end of our day . . . let us thank God for all that we are and all that we have . . . let us be amazed at what has happened in our lives . . . and witness to the miracle and the joy of the resurrection which the savior has given as gift to each of us.  Amen.

A Favorite from  June 23, 2010.

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