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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


Mark 1 -3A Reason to Believe

Tuesday, February 20, 2019

Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and when we study these opening Chapters we discover that they provide the perfect resource for us when we have had a bad day, an awful week, a cataclysmic month, or a horrendous span in our lives.  In these simple stories we will find the courage to continue an arduous journey; we will find hope that will impel us forward through tragedy.  We will even find the strength to help others who journey alongside us. Mark shows us a typical series of days in the life of Jesus in such a way that we might see ourselves putting aside our worldly worries to follow him.  Mark, with his quick-moving, thriller Gospel, gives us a reason to believe.

John the Baptist serves as a precursor or herald for the Messiah who follows him.  Our troubles and woes often announce themselves as well.  We feel a frisson of fear, a foreshadowing of something not fully revealed.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these forebodings are not our ultimate end.  Our end is rescue and redemption.  John baptizes the one who saves us all and Jesus unites with us in our own baptism.

The Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for forty days where he lives among wild beasts, is tempted by Satan and is ministered to by angels.  We too are driven into the barren wastes where we also met with devils and angels.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these dead places are not our last stop – even though they may seem to be at the time.  Jesus relies on the Father and unites with us in our own sufferings and temptations.

Jesus begins his ministry.  He cures many.  He gathers a following.  He chooses steadfast friends from the countless who follow him.  He is hounded by those who envy his relationship with God and the people.  We too step into the world to reveal our gifts and to allow God to act through us.  We too encounter obstacles to the Call we feel.  We too are harassed by those who cannot abide our closeness with God.  When we follow Jesus we know that there is no one, no idea, no thought, no thing that can separate us from God.  God never strays; it is we who have the choice to abandon or to abide.  Just as Jesus turns always to the Father so do we.  Jesus unites with us in the struggle.

Jesus steps into dangerous territory and his family and friends caution him, they even question his work.  We have seen the look of disappointment on the faces of others who misunderstand our steadfastness, who feel betrayed by our fidelity to the Gospel.  We know the sensation of rejection when those we love can no longer abide with us in the Spirit.  Jesus invites us to be one with him in the sacrifice we make in our own Gospel journey.  Jesus bonds with us as his sisters and brothers; he holds us close.  Jesus becomes one with us and takes up our too-heavy cross.

These opening stories in the Gospel of Mark draw us into Jesus’ story just as a good cinematographer hooks us in the opening shots of a film.  Jesus moves from friend to foe, from those who love him to those to hate him; and he always keeps his eye on the Father.  Jesus accompanies us in our own story; and he helps us to be mindful of the Spirit.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we do well to read these opening Chapters of the Gospel of Mark for he tells us all and he tells us quickly.  Mark celebrates Jesus even as he foretells his awful end.  Mark holds no punches, sweetens no madness, and obscures no ugliness.  Mark shows us all.  Mark’s story gives us hope when tragedy strikes.  Mark’s story gives us courage when cataclysm hits.  Mark’s story helps us to prepare for the journey.  Mark’s story gives us a reason to believe this amazing Christ.


A re-post from February 20, 2012.

Image from: http://www.atotheword.com/2011/04/05/jesus-man-born-blind-for-works-of-god-to-manifest-in-him/

For more on the Gospel of Mark, see the Mark – “I Am” page on this blog. 

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TitusSlaves for Christ

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today’s Noontime offering is a personal reflection on Paul’s Letter to Titus, a brief epistle in which we find valuable advice on bringing disparate voices together.  It was this letter that united many in the formation of churches for Christ in the first century.  If we savor the wisdom we find here, we may still find unity through this short letter two thousand years after its writing.

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Paul speaks of rebuking fellow Christians and I believe that when Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers (Matthew 21, Mark 11 and John 2) he was acting in this way of rebuking those who refuse to hear.  Jesus extends that advice to his apostles whom he sends like sheep among wolves in Matthew 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9 when he says that when they enter a town where the people do not return the peace they are offered, these disciples are to shake the very dust of the town from their feet.  We also hear Jesus lament the fact that he is rejected by his hometown of Capernaum in Matthew 11 and in Luke 10 he laments the lack of faith displayed by the inhabitants Bethsaida and Chorazin, saying that the Sodomites will fare better than these people in God’s eye.  Scary stuff . . . and for this reason I am reluctant to separate myself from those who demonstrate a lack of faith . . . with me, hope dies slowly.

And so we pray that our acts of hope and our endless intercessory prayers for these reluctant travelers will reach God’s ears.  We must constantly communicate with God – and always with a smile – that a plan that does not allow for the conversion of sinners will be a plan with holes in it.  We must be as persistent as the widow in Luke 18 who rails against the unfair judge when it comes to those who distort God’s love in a perverse homage to self rather than to the will of God.  We understand that we must keep ourselves safe from this kind of corruption . . . but we do not give up . . . we continue to ask for transformation . . . our own as well as that of those who choose to do harm to us, ourselves and others.  We cannot abandon someone with whom we have spent a portion of our journey . . . even though that person demonstrates clearly that they wish to take a fork in the road that puts distance between us.  So these people we will continue to hold in prayer . . . in the expectation that God’s will – and not ours – be done.

The Persistent Widow

How do we maintain this kind of dichotomy?  We turn back to Paul who offers Titus . . . and us . . . the solution.  He says that we are to tell the people that . . . They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful of ourselves and hating one another.  Eventually we will all put aside this hateful world to choose the peaceable kingdom which God offers so patiently each day.

Like Paul, let us all be slaves to Christ, slaves to this Law of Love which keeps vigil, which hopes for good, and which sends endless petitions rising to God like incense for the transformation of the world, the transformation of others as well as for ourselves . . . that we all may one day find union with one another and with Christ.


Images from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml and http://www.free-stories.net/children-bible-stories/new-testament-stories/parable-of-the-persistent-widow.html

For more on Paul’s Letter to Titus, see the Titus – Church as Community page on this blog.

For a wonderful way to experience the cities Jesus and Paul knew, visit:  www.bibleplaces.com

A re-post from February 16, 2019. 

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, February 15, 2019

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . God preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . God withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . God saves the unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . God holds in check the water drops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . God nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In God’s hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . God spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from Fenruary 15, 2019.

Image from: http://jesus-photos-pictures.blogspot.com/2010/11/god-holding-world-in-his-hands-photos.html 

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Luke 11:37-54Unmarked Graves

Friday, December 4, 2019

The Pharisees Question Jesus

Jesus warns his listeners, Woe to you!  – and he also warns us – that we might fulfill the letter of the law and completely miss its spirit.  Jesus describes for the Pharisees and others – and he describes for us – what it means to be his true disciples.  Jesus tells the dinner guests – and he tells us – how to avoid becoming unmarked graves that people walk over without even realizing.

Jesus also speaks to those who know the law inside and out; he challenges the lawyers and scribes and points out how they block entrance to the kingdom by their obtuseness and their stubborn inflexibility.  He also warns all that we are judged by what we do and what we do not do.

Commentary tells us that here Jesus delineates six woes and we might take the opportunity to examine ourselves today.

Do we worry about our outward appearance and cleanliness and neglect our true selves, our souls?

Do we speak with piety and yet rebuke the marginalized and broken?

Do we make a show of our tithing and do nothing for the poor?

Do we seek honor and fame while we isolate and segregate those we see as unworthy?

Do we overly obfuscate and complicate the simple law of love that Jesus gives us and steer others away from the true Way?

Do we attempt to supersede the Holy Spirit by encouraging others to worship us rather than God?

With Jesus’ words we see the easy pitfalls that line the pathway of our journey.  We will want to look for the small and subtle ways in which we complicate the simple instruction to love one another.  We will want to gather around ourselves like pilgrims who openly share the difficulties of the road; and we will want to move away from those who lie in wait to catch others in something they might say.

The Scribes and Pharisees Hear Jesus

Today’s picture is one we will want to keep with us for a while before we leave the Christmas season because it gives us insight into how to best deal with the kind of envy and greed that both lures and surprises us.  In the Christ Child, we have just been given the dual gifts of hope and light; we have received these as tools we might use to conquer the narrowness we see today in the scribes, the Pharisees and even ourselves.  These are the instruments we will use to avoid embroiled arguments, byzantine squabbles and superficial bickering.  The presence of the Christ in each moment of our lives is all that saves each of us from becoming the unmarked grave of a life lived . . . and lost.

And so let us pray as St. Paul prayed with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:12): Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world . . . with the simplicity and sincerity of God, [and] not by human wisdom but by the grace of God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 4, 2012.

Images from: http://allsaintswritersblock.wordpress.com/about/ and http://possessthevision.wordpress.com/seeking-jesus/passing-from-the-way-and-into-the-truth/jesus-is-victorious-over-an-evil-establishment/

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1 Samuel 24Escape

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rembrandt: Saul and David

Several weeks ago, we reflected on celebrating escape from something or someone who would have brought us great ruin or harm.  Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the opportunity to examine how Jesus is able to escape the traps laid for him by those who hated him.  Today we take a look at a small portion of the story of David, the young man who is designated as King of Israel by Samuel but who waits his turn as leader of God’s chosen people by resisting the temptation to fight against Saul.  David does not deny that he has been chosen King, nor does he murder Saul in order to take what is his; rather, he abides in God’s will and God’s time . . . and he takes the routes of escape that God offers while he actively waits on the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Today we read the story of how God saved his imperfect yet faithful servant and we are no less than David.

Today we read the story of how David relied on his God’s constancy . . . and he did not allow fear to turn him toward revenge or cowardice.

In yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) we read the story of how Jesus confronted prejudice and hatred and we do well to follow his example.

In yesterday’s Gospel we were given a road map for how to escape manipulation and scheming.  We must rely on God always, remain faithful to the covenant God shares with us, and always act in love and for love of God.  In this way we will always know escape from anything danger or evil that hopes to overtake us.

And so we pray . . .

When the call to do God’s work pulls us into alien and dangerous territory, we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own.

When the hand of God heals us and then sends us out to do God’s work, we must rely on God’s fidelity and nurture our own.

When the voice of God urges us to work in fields are that unfamiliar to us and that sap our energy, we must rely on God’s strength and conserve our own.

When the heart of God sends us to work with those who would do us harm, we must rely on God’s love and hope for redemption.   Amen.


A re-post from October 17, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.aaroneberline.com/blog/tag/david/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/378.html

 

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Galatians 2:15-21God’s Mercy

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvationIn short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly.

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings.

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.


A re-post from September 19, 2011.

Images from: http://www.biblechef.com/Indexes/Artifacts/JewishTorahSheet.html

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Isaiah 51When We Feel Abandoned

Saturday, October 20, 2018

These are the first words that greeted me this morning in my email inbox.  They are from the Richard Rohr site to which I subscribe and currently Rohr is sending messages from his newest book, BREATHING UNDER WATER.  The title – and the meditation message below – speaks to anyone who has suffered deeply . . . and to anyone who longs to suffer well.

“Only people who have suffered in some way can save one anotherexactly as the Twelve Step program discovered. Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure. Only those who have tried to breathe under water know how important breathing really is, and will never take it for granted again. They are the ones who do not take shipwreck or drowning lightly, who can name “healing” correctly, who know what they are being saved from, and who develop the patience and humility to ask the right questions of God and of themselves.

“You see, only the survivors know the full terror of the passage, the arms that held them through it all, and the power of the obstacles that were overcome. Those who have passed over eventually find a much bigger world of endurance, meaning, hope, self-esteem, deeper and true desire, but most especially, a bottomless pool of love both within and without”.

From BREATHING UNDER WATER: SPIRITUALITY AND THE TWELVE STEPS, pp. 123,124,125 http://cacradicalgrace.org/resources/breathing-under-water

Here we have clear instructions for what to do when we are deeply troubled, for when we believe that we do not fully understand God’s plan, for when we may even feel abandoned by God.

Listen to me . . . we are instructed.  I will help you to breathe under water.  I will sustain you in a world that feels foreign to you.

Look to the rock from which you are hewn . . . God says to us.  You are made in my image.  I love you dearly.  I will never leave you.

Be attentive to me . . . God calls out to us.  I exist through all time and space as do you.  I speak to you now.  I am telling you that you will never fail.

Raise your eyes to the heavens and look at the earth below . . . we are challenged.  Choose life or death.  Choose your own plan or mine. 

Fear not the reproach of others . . . we are cautioned.  Their opinion means nothing in the light of eternity.  Follow the law rather than the whimsical judgment of those who chase after power, status and reputation.

Awake, awake, put on strength . . . God urges us.  I know that you are weary but my burden is light and my shoulders are broad.  I carry many but I long to carry you.

Hear me, you who know justice, you who have my teaching in your heart . . . God does not waver, God does not give up.  I, it is I who comfort you.  I am the Lord you God.  I have put my words into your mouth.  I have shielded you in the shadow of my hand.  I stretched out the heavens; I laid the foundations of the earth.  I am here to rescue you.

So when we are fear-filled, we must remember to ask for the grace, patience, and wisdom to discern God’s hand in all that happens around us.  When we feel abandoned, we must keep the arms of Jesus wrapped round us.  When it seems that all is hopeless, we must abide in the faith that God the Father knows all and keeps his promises.  When we are deeply troubled, we must ask intercession for those who have harmed us and done us damage.  When we feel utterly alone, we rest in the understanding and solace of the Holy Spirit.  And when we are healed . . . we turn to others to pass along the wonder of God’s love.


A re-post from September 17, 2011.

Images from http://www.flippersmack.com/ and http://recdive.com/2010/07/29/the-wonders-of-scuba-diving/

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, October 19, 2018

Written on February 10, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . he preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . he withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . he saves the  unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . He holds in check the waterdrops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . He nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In his hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . He spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from September 16, 2011.

Image from: http://moderncountry.blogspot.com/2011/07/image-via-foundryshow-today-my-heart.html 

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Luke 9:1-9God in Their Midst

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Written on February 20 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us that we are not to throw pearls before swine.  We are too precious to throw ourselves away or to allow ourselves to be used up in senseless waste.  We walk a fine line between helping others and being abused, between loving those who hate us and enabling those who would use us.  Today’s Noontime, and similar descriptions of these words of Jesus in Mark 6:10-11, Matthew 10:12-14, tell us that we are not meant to be doormats.  We are to extend God’s peace to others and tell the good news of freedom brought by Christ.  If we are rebuffed, we are to shake their dust from our feet in testimony . . . and move on.  We are to journey on, witnessing, ministering, hoping, and enacting Christ – even to the point of suffering and death.  This death in Christ is not pointless as some would have us think; rather, this dying to Christ causes our enemies to wonder – just as Herod does with Jesus – about our origin, our goal and our mission.  If we live our lives as Jesus instructs the twelve today, our enemies may reject us . . . but they will keep trying to see us.  They will keep trying to understand our motivation, our sustenance . . . and our joy.

Our lives of faith will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of strength and determination – even in the face of overwhelming odds – and this they will want to see and experience for themselves. 

Our lives of hope will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of serenity and peace – even in the face of overwhelming cruelty – and this they will want to see and feel for themselves.

Our lives of love will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of compassion and mercy – even in the face of overwhelming pain – and this they will want to see and live for themselves. 

Jesus sent the twelve, he sent the seventy, he sent the seventy-two, and he sends us . . . into the world to witness, to cure, to heal, to carry back those who hunger and thirst for the truth.  We are part of his mission.  We are part of his family.  And we will want to act in such a way that those who seek God will look to us and know . . . that through us, they have seen, and touched, and felt . . . the living presence of God in their midst.


A re-post from September 8, 2011.

Image from: http://freegiftfromgod.com/blog/2011/05/jesus-sends-out-the-twelve/

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