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paths 12Easter Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Matthew 13:1-11

So Many Paths – Part II

How many ways are there to live a life? How many paths of wisdom lead to God? How many times are we called to modify, change or persevere in our chosen journey? Only a close and intimate conversation with God will bring us the answers we seek.

Some journeys look impossible. They are full of traps, and barren of sustenance. We become exhausted just thinking of how we might prepare to travel such a pathway. The heights are dizzying. The precipices terrifying. We begin our journey with downcast eyes and laden heart. We are too frightened to think about the future. When this happens, let us consider that the stony way may be more difficult but that Christ will be all the more present for God knows the treacheries that lurk along the way. The Spirit knows full well that we will tire, that we will seek refuge in a hostile land. And let us consider that when we journey with God, there are always tools available – although we may not see them.

Some seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil . . . it withered for lack of roots.

path 14Some of us travel with blessings abundant. We have few fears, light hearts, and a song in our soul. Yet there is a danger hiding here that we begin to think that we alone are responsible for our good fortune. When this happens, let us be certain to spend time with God each day. Let us give thanks for the abundance of God’s grace. And let us celebrate and share the blessings God has bestowed on us.

Some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

paths 7

Sometimes our journey is a déjà vu of experiences. We know the subtle changes before they take place. We anticipate the loops and curls and we struggle to untangle a series of events that feel all too familiar. We fight to orient ourselves. We wonder how we might move forward rather than spend endless time moving back and forth. When this happens, let us remember to turn to Christ with our questions and fears. Let us consider that God always provides refuge in any storm. And let us celebrate the goodness and love of God.

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to us in parables?”

 

paths 10

Some journeys are shrouded in mystery; we find it impossible to see ahead. Even when we plan well, when we spend time with God, when we do all that God asks of us . . . nothing seems to work until . . . we finally realize that trust is the only necessary commodity we need take on our journey. When this happens, we understand how and where to find peace. We begin to understand that serenity cannot be earned. We see the wisdom of allowing ourselves to fall into Christ’s arms rather than flail against our journey for a lifetime.

Jesus said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted”.

And so we pray: Good and gracious God, we trust you with all that we have and all that we are.

Kind and gentle Jesus, we follow you when we cannot see and cannot hear.

Abiding and faithful Spirit, we lean on you, we rely on you, we look to you for all that we need. Amen.


Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part III

Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

 

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

sparks of fireWisdom 3:1-9

A Prayer for Fallen Sparks

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead . . . but they are in peace . . . They shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble . . . they shall judge nations and rule over peoples . . . and the Lord shall be their King forever . . . because grace and mercy and care are with God’s holy ones.

We near the end of our journey through Psalm 119, and today we pause to reflect and consider the insights and wisdom God reveals to us through the written word. We have come to understand that God is too great and too good to describe and therefore we dart about, looking for a time and place to ignite the smallest bit of kindling so that our small spark of life might not be extinguished. In the coming week, we move through the ending stanzas of this psalm and a certain simplicity and intelligence settles over us.  As we find new understanding, we pray.

Knowing that we are always in God’s hands although we may not feel God’s presence we pray: Providential God, speak to us in a way that we might hear you.

Knowing that God’s Word lives in and around us although we may not comprehend it, we pray: Consoling God, reveal yourself to us in a way that we might see you.

Knowing that God’s fidelity saves us although we may not believe it, we pray: Faithful God, abide with us in a way that we might sense you.

Knowing that God’s love redeems us although we may not trust it, we pray: Redemptive God, hold and rescue us in a way that we might feel you.

Knowing that God’s grace and mercy are present to and in us although we may not believe it, we pray: Gracious God, continue to wrap us in your kindness and beauty although we may not thank you.

Knowing that we are fallen sparks, little life forces that dart to and fro, seeking origin and end, looking for wisdom and security, we pray:  Loving God, although we may not believe that you sacrifice all in order to transform us, bring us insight and serenity so that we might rest eternally in you.  Amen.   

Tomorrow, we near the end of Psalm 119 . . . Qoph.


Image from: http://www.torange.us/Fashion-and-beauty/fireworks/sparks-of-fire-25690.html

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

new-heart[1]Psalm 32:11

Upright Hearts

Rejoice in Yahweh, exult, you virtuous, shout for joy, all upright hearts.

In Jewish tradition, the heart is the center of human spirit, thought and emotion.  It is the heart that gives rise to action. (PSALMS 31)

God says: When you live in me you will find yourself rejoicing no matter your circumstances for you will understand that I turn all harm to good, you will comprehend that the faithful need not fight because I fight for them, and you will know that I guide and protect you always. If you live in a world of denial, deceit and betrayal you will find it difficult to trust your loved ones. You will feel most comfortable inhabiting a world of forces that control and are controlled. You will seek others who prefer a lie to truth. The upright heart cannot bear the darkness. The honest heart seeks light and truth and good. Come to me, all you who shout continually for joy just knowing that I am with you. Come to me this day, no matter your circumstance. For we have much to do. We have much to celebrate.

For a week of days we have explored Psalm 32; we have scanned its verses and parsed its words as we look for the deeper meaning that remains with us once we close the pages of the Bible. We have allowed the Word to seep into our sinews, to strengthen our bones, and to bring new life to a tired spirit. Let us return to the first verse, and read again these treasured words of instruction that bring us remission, grace and wisdom. Let us take in these words that renew the spirit, and then let us rise in action.

Happy the one whose fault is forgiven . . .


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 31. Print.

Image from: http://www.pbwu.org/w/p/daily-encouraging-word-a-new-heart-and-a-new-spirit/

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Bridle_bit_by_Fjallira[1]Psalm 32:9-10

Bit and Bridle

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

The Jerusalem Bible translation of these two verses gives us another, interesting perspective:  Do not be like senseless horse or mule that need bit and bridle to curb their spirit (to let you get near them). Many torments await the wicked, but grace enfolds the one who trusts in Yahweh.

The palmist reminds us that the message is clear. We have a simple choice to make: bit and bridle or grace and love. Those who choose the wide way that leads to destruction will be comfortable in the present time but ultimately experience much pain and grief. Those who choose the narrow way that Christ shows to us will suffer in the present time but quickly come to know full and timeless peace.

God says: To survive in the world you have developed habits and behaviors that shut others down, that close others out, or that frighten others away. This may protect you for a time but in the end you will be even more vulnerable and frightened than you were when you began to act this way. To survive eternity you must know the way of grace and love. You do not want to be hindered by bit or bridle. You do not want eternal torment but rather, you seek my enfolding arms, my loving protection, and my unending serenity. Put aside your anger and distrust. Put on your wedding garment of love and hope, and come to the feast today.

We can receive no invitation that is more simple or more clear. God creates us not for the bit and bridle but for the grace and light and love that is our true potential.

Click on the verse link above and explore how other translations report what the psalmist has to tell us.


Image from: http://comefillyourcup.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/bridle-that-tongue/

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Saturday, October 17, 2020Grace_wordle[1]Psalm 32

Overwhelmed by Grace

The second of the penitential psalms “is a joyous testimony of gratitude for God’s gift of forgiveness for those who confess their sins and follow the law of God. Instead of constantly pondering their sins, believers acknowledge their wretchedness before God and accept forgiveness and reconciliation. Their torment ceases, and a new person is born, overwhelmed by grace, confidence, and a sense of obedience.

“In praying the psalm, we can focus not only on the happiness resulting from the forgiveness of particular sin, but also on the more profound happiness obtained by the complete victory given us by God in Christ over sin in all forms”.  (Psalms 86)

We too often emphasize all that is wrong with the world, our community, our colleagues and even our friends, family and self. Today’s reading invites us to accept the knowledge that we are not perfect, to ask forgiveness for the times we have wronged self and others, to graciously accept the pardon we receive, and to allow God’s grace, joy and peace to bring us profound happiness. This deep and lasting contentment is the gift of complete victory we are free to reject or receive.

And so we pray . . .

Forgiving and unifying God, we lay all our imperfections in your hands.

Grant us this day the complete victory of your love as we come to you in truth.

Give us the confidence we need to believe that your love has the power to bring joy out of suffering.

Inspire in us such love for you that our obedience is a source of delight rather than a burden to shoulder.

Move in us a spirit of reconciliation that surmounts all fears, calms all anxieties, and heals all wounds.

Bring us your profound happiness that heals, binds, unifies and transforms.

Grant us your lasting gift of overwhelming grace that seeps into the bone, calms the heart, and warms the troubled soul. 

We ask this as we ask all things through  your son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 86. Print.

For a sermon on Grace: The Verb, click on the image above or go to: http://ssje.org/ssje/2010/03/09/grace-the-verb-br-mark-brown/

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Friday, October 9, 2020

grow-in-grace-2-peter-3-18[1]

2 Peter 3:17-18

The Error of the Unprincipled

Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability.  But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.

In our effort to find and remain in a comfortable spot, we accommodate the unprincipled; we drift form those habits and people that help us maintain equanimity. We can reverse all of this by rooting ourselves more deeply in God’s grace, and by growing in our knowledge of God.

God says: You may be puzzled by the words of my servant Peter but he is really quite clear. The faithful grow in their knowledge of me through prayer and worship. When you try to do all things on your own life becomes too stressful, too sad, too terrifying. When you trust in me, when you speak to me each day, when you worship me, when you pray with others who also believe in me you will feel yourselves growing in strength and balance. You do not have to fight against the unprincipled. All you need do is to witness . . . to watch . . . to pray . . . and to wait.

The single most important antidote to anxiety and fear is intimacy with God. We gain this understanding and closeness by seeking God each day in specific ways: by reading and studying scripture, by finding others who also seek to know God more fully, by praying unceasingly, and by uniting in solidarity with others who also believe.  We gain balance and serenity by anchoring ourselves in God’s gift of grace. There is no force, no person and no evil that cannot be overcome or undone by the patient, persistent and joyful prayer of those who seek to know God intimately or of those who plant themselves firmly in God’s grace. The error of the unprincipled is that they root themselves in comfort, they scoff at the idea that grace has the power to bring balance into their lives, and they believe in themselves . . . more than they believe in God.

Enter the words witness watch and pray, or the faithful need not fight into the blog search box and reflect on Peter’s advice to us.


Image from: http://www.soulshepherding.org/?attachment_id=5703

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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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