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Posts Tagged ‘grace’


Sunday. August 16, 2020

peace-it-does-not-mean-to-be-in-a-place-where-there-is-no-noise-trouble-or-hard-work[1]Mark 8:34-38

The Forfeited Life

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  What gain, then, is it for anyone to win the whole world and forfeit his life?  And indeed what can a man offer for his life?  For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”.

Discipleship, inversion, angels, and trust in God: these are the themes we have visited this week.  Today Mark reminds us that in order to follow Christ we must look for goodness in reversals; we must welcome God’s message and the messengers themselves for they bring us God’s presence.  And we must rely on God for all that we are and all that we have, for God accompanies us always and everywhere.

God says: I know that I am most visible to you when you are ill, frightened or broken-hearted.  I understand this for I created you and I created the world, and I understand the hold that the world can have on you.  I know that you welcome me when I come to you in a version of myself that matches your expectation and that I startle you when I arrive in a way that makes you uncomfortable.  I understand your reluctance to open your arms to me for I created you and I created the world. I understand that you rely more on your senses than you do on me.  Yet still I ask that follow me for I created you and I created the world.  I rejoice each morning with you when you turn to me in prayer.  I sing with you at noon when you remember me and call my name.  I celebrate with you each evening when you return to me in thanksgiving . . . for I created you and I created the world.  And I ask that you forfeit all for me so that you might know my peace . . . the peace that the world cannot give.  

Discipleship is hard-earned and well-worn. Inversion can be anticipated and yet still surprising. God’s angels are constantly with us yet they frequently go unseen. Trust in God brings a new way of life and a guarantee of eternal peace. Let us thank God for the grace and blessings bestowed on us this day and all days.


Image from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/48765608435979800/ 

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Monday, January 13, 2013

Deuteronomy 9: Unmerited Success

God's_Grace_2[1]In today’s Noontime we examine when and where we see God.  We take time to reflect on how and why we praise God.  We consider our perception of who and what God is.  We have the opportunity to thank God for our unmerited success.

If we take these verses in a literal, one-dimensional way God comes off as a sometimes petulant, occasionally petty and sulking God.  If we put them in the context of the New Testament – and if we can refrain from the temptation to moralize – we allow ourselves to accept God’s gifts of faith, hope, and unconditional love.  We will find ourselves rooted and flourishing in God’s grace.

An excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Saturday meditation gives us a compass to use on our pilgrimage.  He writes:

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being “saved.” Moralism leads you back to “navel-gazing,” and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.

Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate
. . . Seeing God in All Things
(CD, DVD, MP3)

If we read the Noontime selection today and complement ourselves for having behaved well, for having turned our eyes away from the golden calf, if we love the chant three times over, It is because of my merits that the Lord has brought me to possess the land, then we have lost our way.   If we delight in believing that these verses show us a strict set of rules to follow so that we will never suffer, we have misunderstood all of scripture.  If we believe that God loves only those who obey his rules and join his club, we do not know God at all.

Picture1God abides with us when we follow and when we stray.  It is when we lose our way that God comes after us persistently to bring us back to the fold.

God protects us when we take risks in Kingdom-building.  It is when we teeter on the edge of safety that God patiently strengthens the bonds we have forged in relationship with God.

God guides us as we wade into the world to engage fully in discipleship.  It is when we are most lured and confused by the material world that God speaks steadily to us.

And so we pray:

Generous and loving God, Remind us that you are so immense that your love encompasses all, even those of us who stray.

Giving and powerful God, Tell us again that you will never abandon us, never reject us, always love us.   Tell us that we have nothing to fear as we follow you.

Great and gentle God, Clarify for us each day your message of inclusion, universality, and transformation.  Remind us that we must not exclude anyone from your message.

Gracious and singular God, Continue to send us your amazing, incalculable, and precious gift of unmerited success.  And help us to remember to thank you.  Amen.


This week . . . more on Deuteronomy

Image from: http://prayitoff.blogspot.com/2011/03/pray-it-off-31711-actual-grace-just-ask.html

For more information on this fourth book of the Torah, see the Deuteronomy – Laws page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/deuteronomy-laws/

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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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Romans 5:1-8: Develop Patience

Friday, December 2, 2016patience-trust-faith

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NSRV)

Avoiding sorrow, we forfeit an opportunity to grow in God’s love.

Rejecting obstacles, we lose our intimacy with Christ.

Refusing to see that goodness overcomes harm, we reject the healing touch of the Spirit.

Surviving through faith, we receive hope.

Living in Christ, we experience peace and grace.

Handing ourselves over to God’s offer of love, we grow in endurance.

Resting in grief, we blossom in grace to develop patience that carries us home.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we come to see that adversity trains us in the development of patience, a patience that will serve us in our journey home. For another reflection on Patienceclick on the image above or visit: https://www.worldslastchance.com/biblical-christian-beliefs/patience-of-the-saints.html 

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Romans 5:1-8: Throw Open the Doors

Thursday, December 1, 2016lock-heart

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (MSG)

If only we might look at faith as our willingness to throw open the doors of our heart. In this way we convert doubt to steadfastness.

If only me might persist I loving our enemies to see that God loves each and all. In this way we convert walls to bridges.

If only we might relax into God’s love long enough to understand that God already lives in our hearts. In this way we convert fear to grace.

If only we might perceive God’s grace and stand tall to shout out God’s glory. In this way we convert hatred to love.

God says: When you fear the wide open spaces of my grace and glory, I become a small, petty god in your eyes. It is no wonder that you do not trust me. When you reject my love to replace it with fear, I become a mean, manipulating god who preys on brave hearts. It is no wonder you discard me. When you open your hearts, when you persist in loving your enemies, when you allow my strength to bolster you and to carry your woes, I become the enormous, infinite Living God who is loving all harm into good, all evil into love. Remain in me, no matter your circumstances.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, today we give all fear, anger and doubt to you. We pledge to throw open the doors of our hearts to your presence, and to resist closing them again to your love. Amen.

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Romans 5The Difficulty of Love

Sunday, May 29, 2016Authentic-love-graphic

A Favorite from August 10, 2010.

It is in this chapter of Romans that we receive our greatest challenge of all challenges: Only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps even for a good person one might even find the courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 

We read today one of the great paradoxes of Christian living – that we receive the gifts of faith, hope, love, grace, peace and life eternal when we are willing to die to self with Christ, so that we might rise again in new life.  We are reminded that none of our transgressions can turn God away.  Our creator is always waiting to comfort us, save us and free us from all that makes us unhappy.  It is we who forget this as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians 4:6-7: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

romans-5-8Commentary tells us that here we see the law and sin in proper relationship to one another – only through the sacrifice of Jesus.  We may well wonder how we view our own transgressions against God, self and neighbor in light of this good news.  Do we shrink from examining our conscience, afraid of what we might find to confess?  Do we eagerly give ourselves over to recollection and self-questioning in order that we more fully understand our proper relationship with God through his Spirit? If the former, we take consolation from today’s Noontime that reassures us that no human can surprise God with sin.  If the latter, we do not hesitate to quiet ourselves within so that we might fully understand and believe that God wants nothing more than to love us . . . and be loved in return.

The difficulty with genuine and authentic love is this . . . that it imitates Christ.  It is willing to die to self even for enemies, because genuine and authentic love knows that through Christ there is always the opportunity to transform.  Through Christ we are each called to rise and live again.  In this way through Christ, our hearts and minds are guarded in Christ Jesus.  We can find no better champion than Christ.  We can find no better protector than Christ.  We can find no better lover than Christ.  For it is Christ who makes all difficult things possible . . . through his abundant and difficult love.

For another reflection on authentic love, click on the heart image above or visit: http://www.newhopeladies.com/?p=486

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Matthew 1: God’s Yardstick – Joseph

Chagrined But Noble

John Everett Millais: Christ in the House of His Parents - The Carpenter's Shop

John Everett Millais: Christ in the House of His Parents – The Carpenter’s Shop

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We continue to see God’s yardstick in the New Testament.

The measure that Joseph presents to us might appear as an obstacle more than a help. We look more closely at the story of Jesus’ family.

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

The yardstick that Joseph presents rises from his relationship with God, and gives us ground in which we can also rise and flourish.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.”

The yardstick that Joseph offers is a generous and loving request for joy.

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream.

When Joseph is dismayed and disappointed he relies not on fear but on the gifts of decency, grace and goodness God has given to him. Joseph relies on the gift that all humanity possesses if we only care to open it . . . the gift of our own nobility.

Explore more of the Gospel of Matthew to learn more about Jesus’ earthly father, or visit: http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/p/josephprofile.htm

Tomorrow, John the Baptist.

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James 1-4: A Prayer to Resolve Turmoil

Tuesday, October 20, 2015peace-key-703x201

No matter the constraint, no matter the barriers to resolution, there is always a path to find peace when we live in Christ, James tells us. We have seen, in the last few days as we have spent time with the opening chapters of James’ letter, the steps for resolution are not complicated when we live in the Spirit. We see today when we reflect on all that James has shared with us, there is always a way forward with God. And so we pray.

Faith and works together will bring us wisdom . . . good and gracious God, bring us your wisdom. Remind us to rely on what we learn from you rather than our intelligence.

Good works bear good fruit . . . generous and faithful God, bring us your grace. Remind us that apples do not grow on vines and berries do not grow on trees.

Wars and quarrels are of our own making and not God’s . . . peaceful and sustaining God, bring us your serenity. Remind us that with you all things are possible.

God’s love is persistent, patient, strong and at the same time gentle . . . loving and courageous God, bring us your meekness. Remind us that humility can achieve more than all earthly power, fame and glory.

No matter the problem, there is always a solution . . . life-giving and eternal God, bring us your fortitude. Remind us that your love for us will never die.

Amen.

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Genesis 1:9-31: The Mystery of IncarnationNativity_450x259

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Richard Rohr, OFM in his June 5, 2015 tells us: “If incarnation is the big thing, then Christmas is bigger than Easter (which it actually is in most Western Christian countries). If God became a human being, then it’s good to be human and incarnation is already redemption. Francis and the Franciscans were the first to popularize Christmas. For the first 1,000 years of the church, there was greater celebration and emphasis on Easter. For Francis, if the Incarnation was true, then Easter took care of itself. Resurrection is simply incarnation coming to its logical conclusion: we are returning to our original union with God. If God is already in everything, then everything is unto glory! Much of the early church did not have trouble with what many would now call universal salvation (apocatastasis, as in Acts 3:21). We are all saved by infinite love and mercy anyway. ‘God alone is good’ (Mark 10:18), so there’s no point in distinguishing degrees of worthiness. Everything in creation merely participates in God’s infinite goodness, and our job is to trust and allow that as much as possible.

“As Matthew Fox said, we made a terrible mistake by starting with ‘original sin’ (a phrase not in the Bible); we absolutely must begin with original blessing. ‘God created it, and it was good’ is stated six times in a row in our Creation story (Genesis 1:9-31), ending with ‘indeed it was very good!’ But, up to the present time, most of Christianity concentrated on what went wrong with our original goodness . . .

“The Franciscan starting point is not sin; our starting point is Divine Incarnation itself. So our ending point is inevitable and predictable: resurrection. God will lead all things to their glorious conclusion, despite the crucifixions in between. Jesus is the standing icon of the entire spiritual journey from start to finish: divine conception, ordinary life, moments of enlightenment (such as his baptism, Peter’s confession, and Jesus’ transfiguration), works of love and healing, rejection, death, resurrection, and ascension. That is not just Jesus; it is true for all of us.”

Richard Rohr, OFM, Adapted from an unpublished talk and posted on June 5, 2015 at: https://cac.org/richard-rohr/daily-meditations

Christ is present in all of creation. Christ is present in each of us. This is the mystery of incarnation. We know that God creates the universe and the microverse out of great love and deep compassion. We know that Christ comes to walk among us as salvation and redemption. We know that the Spirit abides with us to console and heal. This we know and yet it is mystery when we wonder . . . how is it that God loves us this deeply and this well? And how is it that we fail to trust this great love?

To read a commentary about the mystery of the incarnation, click on the image above or visit: http://www.catholica.com.au/ianstake/023_it_print.php 

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