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2 Samuel 6: Michal

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tissot: Michal Despises David

Yesterday we spent time with the opening portion of this chapter; today we focus on the rest of the story.  Just as we are given an opportunity to see the realities of life in the story of Uzzah, we are given the chance to see our own reality in the story of Michal.

It has been noted that Michal is the only woman in scripture described as loving a man who does not love her in return.  As with many women in scripture she is used by a pawn. In this case it is her father and husband who exploit Michal . . . the two men closest to her . . . the two men charged with her protection.  Again as a child I saw her circumstances as out of her own control and I saw her life as one of deepest betrayal.  As with the tale of Uzzah, we turn to commentary to ask why in 1 Samuel 19 to find that David and Michal had pagan statues in their household and we might nod smugly and knowingly and comment that perhaps she suffered for bringing idol-worship into her home.  If we spend time reading the scattered fragments of Michal’s story we pull together the threads of her life.  As a child I saw her as a victim; as an adult I understand that there are far too many circumstances beyond Michal’s control and I watch as she sees all her dreams melt away into nothing.  I begin to understand how her passion becomes loathing.

As we grow in God’s love begin to understand that with mercy there are no bounds; we see that justice is best delivered in God’s time and according to God’s plan; we know that love carries with it the dark potential to become great hatred unless it is founded in God.  As with the story of Uzzah yesterday, we see that life defies description.  Again we learn that what looks correct may not always be correct.  And we feel the full force of the lesson that we cannot make events occur nor can we prevent circumstances from overtaking us.  We can rest only in the surety that God is in us, that we are in God, and that our relationship with God is the only eternal and permanent promise that matters.

Uzzah, Michal and David teach us much.  Their stories might embolden or frighten us.  Their circumstances may cheer us or depress us.  Their lives may dissolve or transform us.  But in all of this, as we examine the lives of Uzzah, Michal and David . . . we have much to think about today.


A re-post from October 15, 2012.

Image from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/717.html

To learn more about Michal and to put her story together, go to: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/michal-bible or http://www.alabaster-jars.com/biblewomen-m.html or http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/Women-Of-The-Bible/a/021511-CW-Michal.htm

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2 Samuel 6: Part I: Uzzah

Monday, November 4, 2019

In several places, this chapter calls us to pause for reflection: We watch as Uzzah is struck down by the Lord, and we witness the turning of Michal’s love for her husband David turn to hatred.  Commentary will guide us through these puzzles but we are left with the lingering thought that there are always many ways to read the story of David.

We know that David’s life is full of ups and downs – just like our own.  We know that David feels the call of God and the call of the world – just like our own.  And we know that David is both strong and vulnerable – just as are we.  We might learn something about ourselves once we spend time with this story today.

Scholars explain the punishment of Uzzah saying that he had become too familiar with the ark since it had remained in his father’s house for some time.  Others say that he did not trust the Lord to rescue his own dwelling place, the Ark.  Some say that we must learn from this incident that we are to never question the clear authority of God.  And yet others say that we are to learn that we must practice acting in due time, listening for God’s call, and living in God’s plan.

I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that it may have been possible that Uzzah had misunderstood God.  Perhaps he thought God asked him to reach out to steady the ark when in fact he had said that Uzzah ought not touch the cart.  In my child’s mind the world was black and white: we do what our elders tell us and all goes well.  In my adult life I know that life is much more complicated than this.  As we grown in God we learn that obeying rules does not keep us safe.  We discover that life does not follow guidelines and that it defies logic.  We understand that we must be grateful for all that goes well; we know that there are no guarantees; and we see that the innocent will often suffer unjustly.  We come to understand that rules and laws do not save us . . . that God is the only safety net we can trust.

David and Uzzah teach us all of this today when we allow this story to speak to us.


A re-post from October 14, 2012.

For more on Uzzah, click on the image above or go to: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/death-and-the-dance-david-uzzah-and-the-ark-robert-leroe-sermon-on-gods-holiness-48196.asp and http://www.lookingfortigger.com/2012/06/12/the-uzzah-incident/

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2 Thessalonians 3:1-4: Prayer

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Prayer is God’s gift.  Prayer is covenant.  Prayer is communion.  We experience a universal call to prayer.  Prayer is individual.  It is collective.  Prayer is powerful.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, the mysteries of our faith are revealed to us.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, we are called to petition in outrageous hope.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, we may choose to love all – our friends and our enemies.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, all things are possible.

Let us pray . . . unceasingly . . .


Written on October 15, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.setonparish.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=25

For more reflection, visit the Scripture as Prayer page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/scripture-as-prayer/

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Jeremiah 19: The Potter’s Flask

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Written on February 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It will make their ears tingle when they hear about the bloodshed of the innocent!  The Valley of Ben-hinnom will become the Valley of Slaughter.  The city will be an object of amazement and derision.  Passers-by will catch their breath at the wounds they see.  And a flask will be shattered like the lives of these people.  There will be so much death that there will be no place for burial.  This because they have stiffened their necks and have not obeyed my words. 

Jeremiah has visited Topheth, a town whose name could be pronounced with the vowels of the Hebrew word for shame.  “This was due to the practice of there of sacrificing children as burnt offerings to Baal and Molech in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa. 30:33;  Jer. 7:31, 32; 19:6, 11-14; cf. 32:35).  Kings Ahaz and Manasseh of Judah are reported to have offered their sons in the Valley of Hinnom (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6).  King Josiah attempted to put a stop to the practice by defiling the altar of Topheth (2 Kings 23:10) but it was revived after his death”.  (Achetemier 1162)

When Jeremiah returns to Jerusalem and denounces not only this practice but the corruption in Jerusalem as well,  he is beaten and placed in stocks by orders of a temple priest and administrator, Pashhur.  “The prophet’s response was to rename the priest ‘Terror on every side’ (v. 3; cf. 6:25, where this phrase describes the people’s response to an invasion from the north, and 20:10, where is describes Jeremiah’s response to his enemies’ actions).  This name symbolizes the fact that Pashhur will be a ‘terror’ both to himself and to his friends: they and the whole land will suffer death, plundering and exile at the hands of the Babylonians (vv. 4-6).  The assertion that Pashhur has misled his friends (v. 6b) is the key to his condemnation.  His reaction to Jeremiah’s message was based on a partisan political position, supported, of course, by an appropriate religious ideology.  From his own standpoint Jeremiah was convinced that this position would lead to disaster”.  (HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, 561)

This is grime reading and yet it is the kind of persecution that takes place constantly in our world.  Sometimes is happens an ocean away . . . today I am thinking of the people of Egypt.  It also happens right under our noses . . . today I also think about someone dear to me who is persecuted for speaking up.  No matter when this kind of harassment takes place, the effect the bully wishes to create – silence – is void, and in time an opposite result occurs – the truth always comes out in the end. 

My parents continually reminded all five of us that this is one of the surest things we can count on and we read it here in Jeremiah.  This prophet was eventually taken away to Egypt by Jewish authorities who fled before the waves of invaders from the north.  His prophecy unfolds before their eyes, and still they revile him.  In the end, although there is no written evidence of this, Jeremiah is murdered in exile.

The sins in Topheth and the crimes of Pashhur continue today, but we must not allow this fact to sap us of our courage or energy.  We must remind ourselves and one another that the truth always comes out in the end.  So what are we called to do?  We must learn to faithfully witness to these crimes, to humbly pray for ourselves and our enemies, and to joyfully participate in the redemptive love that sets all injustice right in God’s time and in God’s way, lest we too be shattered like the potter’s flask . . .  beyond repair.


A re-post from September 15, 2011.

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1162. Print. 

Image from: http://pottery.about.com/od/stepbystepprojects/ig/Mug-Project-Photo-Gallery/Pottery-Flask.htm

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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John 7:1-30: Our Unbelief

Friday, March 11, 2016 

James Tissot: The Pharisees Question Jesus

James Tissot: The Pharisees Question Jesus

Today’s Gospel reminds us that if we have the idea that our road to Easter will be a smooth one, we will want to think again. In this portion of John’s story, he describes an interchange between Jesus and those closest to him.

Jesus’ brothers said, “Why don’t you leave here and go up to the Feast so your disciples can get a good look at the works you do? If you’re serious about what you are doing, come out in the open and show the world.” His brothers were pushing him like this because they didn’t believe in him either.

We ask ourselves, “How does Jesus respond?”

Jesus came back at them, “Don’t crowd me. This isn’t my time. It’s your time—it’s always your time; you have nothing to lose. You go ahead, go up to the Feast. Don’t wait for me. It’s not the right time for me.”

We wonder, “And then what happened?”

He said this and stayed on in Galilee. But later, after his family had gone up to the Feast, he also went. But he kept out of the way, careful not to draw attention to himself. The Jews were already out looking for him, asking around, “Where is that man?”

And what if this exchange takes place between us and Jesus?” we ask.

With the Feast already half over, Jesus showed up in the Temple, teaching. The Jews were impressed, but puzzled: “How does he know so much without being schooled?”

“We surely believe Jesus,” we say to one another, “especially when we see him in the Temple”.

Jesus said, “I didn’t make this up. What I teach comes from the One who sent me. Anyone who wants to do his will can test this teaching and know whether it’s from God or whether I’m making it up. A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn’t tamper with reality. It was Moses, wasn’t it, who gave you God’s Law? But none of you are living it. So why are you trying to kill me?”

This stings a bit, and as the crowd surges toward Jesus, we must make a decision to join, defend, or walk away.

The crowd says, “You’re crazy! Who’s trying to kill you? You’re demon-possessed.”

We listen to continued exchanges between Jesus and the differing factions in the crowd and we realize that some of these doubters have a genuine curiosity about Jesus while others are jealous and angry.

They were looking for a way to arrest him, but not a hand was laid on him because it wasn’t yet God’s time. Many from the crowd committed themselves in faith to him, saying, “Will the Messiah, when he comes, provide better or more convincing evidence than this?”

Today we remind ourselves . . . we must make a decision to join, defend, or walk away as we continue our Lenten journey to our Easter home.

To read this entire story using different translations, use the scripture link above. 

We examine our belief, our unbelief, and the dangers and gifts it holds, we continue our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “God’s generosity is sometimes not fair,” let us think instead, “When we put away the past and follow God’s example of enormous generosity, we are better able to welcome the lost back home into the kingdom . . . and to give thanks for our own part in God’s great rejoicing”. 

Tomorrow, division.

 

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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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1 Peter 5: At the Right Timetime-widescreen-high-definition-wallpaper-for-desktop-background-download-free

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2015

Yesterday we considered the ancient words of the timeless covenant we share with God. Today we consider the words of Peter, a pastor who knows both this covenant and God’s people well.

All of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people . . .

As we move through the coming hours, as we strive to be just plain, let us remove all judgment and anxiety from our thoughts.

Be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; God will promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; God is most careful with you . . .

As we move though the coming days, as we hope to put away airs and place ourselves in God’s strong hand, let us remove all recrimination and revenge from our actions.

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up . . .

devil is a lionAs we move though the coming weeks, as we remember to keep a cool head when all around us seem to be losing theirs, let us work at remaining always in Christ.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world . . .

As we move though the coming months, as we work to remain always one in the Spirit, let us remind one another that we are not alone.

So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. 

As we move though the coming year, as we struggle to put our suffering in its proper place and proportion, let us unite with neighbors and enemies and remember that God will move us forward . . . in God’s best and most promising time.

These verses are from THE MESSAGE. Use the scripture link above to compare these verses with other versions, and discover God’s intimate message of continued Easter joy. 

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Luke 2:1-3images[1]

Each to His Own Town

So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.

A universal enrollment of those living in the Roman Empire is unknown outside the New Testament, and there are further difficulties in pegging the year of Christ’s birth to a specific year; yet this lack of tidy detail has not hampered the story of the Christ Child.  Scholars tell us that “It is not by chance that Luke relates the birth of Jesus to the time of Caesar Augustus: the real savior (11) and peace-bearer (14; see also 19, 38) is the child born in Bethlehem.  The great emperor is simply God’s agent (like the Persian king Cyrus in Is 44, 28-45, 1) who provides the occasion for God’s purpose to be accomplished”.  (Senior 101)  The story of this child born in obscure beginnings still reverberates throughout the world today.

God says: Why do you struggle to pin Jesus’ birth to a specific point in your calculation of time when he is eternal in my own time?  These are details you need not chase but I understand that there are those among you who crave the feeling of comfort this exactness brings to you.  Expand your horizon beyond your small place and strike out to enroll yourselves in your own town which is my own heart.  As you journey, remember that the greatest among you are the least, and the least among you are the greatest.  Has my own presence among you in the person of Jesus not told you so?  Has my own Spirit not abided with you to comfort you and to remind you of my constant presence in your lives?  Each of you is precious to me for each of you is my own sweet child.  Always remember . . .

I-give-you-my-heart-e1297118791257[1]The detail of life obscures and fogs our thinking.  The big picture draws us away from the many tiny indicators of God’s presence.  Somewhere between the large and small is where truth lies and the truth is this: Each of us is a child of God; each of us is precious to God; and each of us makes a pilgrimage to the place we hold as our own.  Let us pray that this place is God’s own heart.

To learn more about the difficulty in determining the exact year of Christ’s birth, go to: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/what-year-was-jesus-born-the-answer-may-surprise-you or http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/jesus-birth-year-wrong-pope-article-1.1205825

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.101. Print.   

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