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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


John 11The Death of Lazarus

Wednesday, August 24, 2016Lazarus

A Favorite from August 28, 2009.

This is a bittersweet story if we believe in the resurrection.  Each time I read it, I linger over verse 35: Jesus wept.  As a child I believed that the Christ wept because his good friend had died.  As I grew older I believed he mourned the fact that he knew he was calling this friend back from a beatific place.  Now when I read this verse it seems to me that Christ cries out of his humanity; he cries at the tragedy of our human fragility.  As I continue to grow I am guessing that I will have other perspectives, other reasons for Jesus’ tears.  This is what is so wonderful about the message of the Messiah: each time we read it, we come away with something new, something surprising, something healing.  This is why, I believe, God came to walk among us . . . so that we might number our sorrows with his.  When we cry out to God, he can honestly tell us that he experiences our pain.

There is another point which always intrigues me about this story.  Hard on its heels arrives the story of the plot to kill Jesus.  I am always struck with the vigor of the jealousy and venom of his enemies.  Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council and said, “What are we to do?  This man is performing miracles, many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the holy place and our nation”.  This narrative continues to verses 53 and 54: So from that day on they planned to put him to death.  Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews.  And this chapter ends with . . . Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. 

When I put myself into this story, I wonder where I would fall.  Am I among the Pharisees, the priests, the followers who report Jesus?  Am I one who succumbs to jealousy and revenge?  Am I one who believes and follows?  Do I understand that the “death” of Lazarus is really the initiation rite of his new life?  Am I willing to enter into the hope God offers us when he frees us in the person of Jesus?  Do I comprehend the joy I might experience when I unite with the Holy Spirit to carry the message of freedom to others?  Am I willing to accept surprise in my life?  Am I willing to hand myself over to a belief in something I cannot see?  Am I ready to accept a new way of living?

There is much newness to think about as we read this old story.  What appears to be death might actually be life.  What seems to the end of a story, may actually be the beginning.  What is apparently a handing over of self in obedience can be a surprising release into a full liberty of expression.  We will only know when we choose to follow.

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Isaiah 57:14-21: The Restless Sea

Monday, August 22, 2016restless seas

In days when political and civic leaders grapple with the realities of our common world, Isaiah reminds us that the wicked are always with us, obscuring truth, engendering deceit.

The wicked are storm-battered seas that can’t quiet down. The waves stir up garbage and mud. (THE MESSAGE)

In times when religious and community leaders struggle to bring light to a present darkness, Isaiah reminds us that evil relies on chaotic upheaval and unpredictable alliances.

Evil people are like the restless sea, whose waves never stop rolling in, bringing filth and muck. (GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)

In the hour of darkness when friends and family clash over how to move forward for the good of all, Isaiah tells us that God’s promise of healing and restoration is authentic.

But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud. (NRSV)

In the moment of fear and division when anxiety and confusion threaten our relationship with God, Isaiah tells us that there is one person, one person, one bond that calms all fear and quiets all anxiety. Isaiah reminds us that there is a voice that persists as it calls out: Let my people return to me. Remove every obstacle from their path! Build the road and make it ready!

Help and healing, humility and repentance, confidence and hope, eternal promise and love. Isaiah comforts us as he has done for millennia. Isaiah reminds us that God waits eternally for those who look to move from mourning to joy.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore various translations of these verses, we discover how we might all survive the restless seas.

Visit http://www.spiritualwarbiblestudies.com/index.php?topic=112.0 for a post exploring Isaiah 57:14-21. 

 

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behemoth

A depiction of the mythical Behemoth

Job 40: Fear

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chapter 40 of Job is sandwiched between the threat of Satan and the promise of restoration, bringing home to us the marvel of God’s immense love for us.

When we focus on 40:15 we see the Behemoth who sneezes, sending forth light flashes. Sparks fly from his mouth, his breath lights fires, his heart is hard as stone, the mighty fear him, nothing frightens him.  This monster – who later appears in Revelation – is drawn so vividly that we tremble before him.  What does he represent?  Perhaps he signifies all the fear we have ever felt about all things, both little and large.

We know that we must fight back the fear but the task is daunting.  When we spend time with Job we understand that when we allow God to be God, we enter into God’s love.

The Gospels tell us that when the Sea of Galilee is whipped by a storm, endangering the apostles in their tiny boat, we find Jesus walking on the water to calm both the turbulent waves and his followers.  Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid! (Matthew 14:22-36Mark 6:45-56John 6:16-24) Just as the apostles follow Christ, so must we.

In the New Testament letters, John writes eloquently in his soaring verses to tell of the awesome enormity of the love God brings to us, the same love to which God calls us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (1 John 1:1-4) Just as John encourages us to believe, so must we encourage one another.

When the behemoth of fear stalks us, waits at the next corner, rides home with us in the back seat of the car, springs from under the bed . . . we must turn to Christ and to his colossal, freely-given love.

So let us perfect this love which God plants in each of us.  Let us revel in it.  Let us share it, speak of it, spend time with it.

And let us pray: Let us put fear aside.

When loved ones betray or disappoint us . . . Let us put fear aside.

When we find the day too arduous and the night too long . . . Let us put fear aside.

When the behemoth springs from nowhere to instill us with foreboding . . . Let us put fear aside.

When we are anxious and tired and do not have the strength to summons the courage we so desperately seek . . . Let us put fear aside.

When we find ourselves separate from you . . . Let us put fear aside.

When we seek punishment instead of love . . . Let us put fear aside.

Amen. 

I there is time today, spend time with John’s letters, and let God’s awesome love chase away the behemoth of fear.

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 7, 2009.

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Ezekiel 12: Ridicule

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fake Dictionary, definition of the word bullying.

In Acts 26 we see that the people of Caesarea listening to Paul think him mad from too much learning!  Today we see that the prophet wars exacted a toll on those who spoke on God’s behalf.  The HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY tells us that in chaotic times such as those in the days of the exile, prophets often gave “conflicting messages concerning the way people should react and by predicting different courses for future events.  In times of prophetic conflict, people are likely to question prophetic authority, and prophets often respond to this situation by undergirding their own authority in various ways and by undermining the authority of their prophetic rivals”.  We see the conflict in Ezekiel 12 with false visions or deceitful divinations within the house of Israel.  This calls us to think about the false prophesies or divinations we may have witnessed or passed on.  How do we know a false prophet when we see one?

If we have never placed our faith in those who betray our trust, we might thank God. If we have suffered betrayal, we may become more circumspect in our interactions with others, and we may even discover that our actions become too cautious, too prudent. We must guard against giving in to any temptation to strike back, or to submitting to fear or paranoia. We must be willing to move forward in hope, ignoring any ridicule we suffer, doing the work we are meant to do.

Ridicule is a weapon used expertly by mean girls and bullies.  A recent survey gave us an interesting statistic: upwards of 68% of people who dislike their work do not dislike the actual task they have chosen or been given . . . they dislike the work place . . . because of bullying. We may naïvely believe that most people in most work places have equipped themselves with the necessary tools to defend themselves from haranguing and harassment.

In the U.S. this spring and summer we have seen bold examples of rude behavior and name-calling used to overpower others. This meanness is often described later as “a joke gone bad,” sarcasm or frank speech that is meant to counteract political correctness.

We might look for solutions to bullying but no matter the action we decide to take it is always good to remember to communicate our fears to God. If we do not know where to begin, we might find Psalm 42 helpful: Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.  My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of my God? . . . Deep is calling on deep, in the roar of the waters: your torrents and all your waves swept over me . . . With cries that pierce me to the heart, my enemies revile me, saying to me all day long “Where is your God?”  Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me?  Hope in God: I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

Where is your God?  Hope in God. We will praise God still.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?  . . .  Go to my brothers and your brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.  (John 20:15)

Where is your God?  Hope in God. We will praise God still.

When bullies approach, as they surely will, we must hope in God to defend us from ridicule. We must rely on God to show us the way to go. And we must praise God still.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 25, 2008.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we open our eyes and ears to God’s wisdom as God shows us how we might confront the ridicule we meet.

For a parent guide to combat bullying, click on the image above or visit: http://wpri.com/parent-resource-guide/bullying-prevention/ 

For an interesting article on workplace bullying, visit the Society for Human Resource Management at: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/1014-viewpoint-workplace-bullying.aspx

 

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Ezekiel 12:1-12: Eyes and Ears

Thursday, August 18, 2016listen

More than once in scripture we are counseled to keep eyes and ears open. The prophets encourage us, Wisdom Books advise us, and Jesus recommends to us that transformation begins with listening and watching. How then, can we go wrong by keeping our eyes and ears open?

Today’s reading also describes a symbolic preparation for exile. We are advised to do as the prophet has done – dig a hole in the wall so that we might escape under cover of darkness. All of this leads us to an examination of self.

What is in our baggage?

Our modern psychology has given us vocabulary we might use to describe the worries and anxieties we bundle and carry with us each day. Perhaps when we escape we might leave much of this behind and take instead our hopes and dreams.

Escape from what?

We become pigeon-holed by the world just as we pigeon-hole others. Perhaps we might escape this stunting habit and take up instead the loving behavior Jesus teaches us.

Why in the dark?

As small children we may fear the dark as we ask patient elders to turn on lights to ward off monsters. The darkness is the place where we decide to submit to fear or trust. As adults, we asked to step into the darkness of the future, knowing that the light of Christ is all we need to light our way. Perhaps we might allow the light of our discipleship to pierce the darkness for others.

Where are we to go and what are we to do?

The ancient patriarchs and their families placed all trust in God. Perhaps we too might step into radical trust and join in solidarity with others as we join Christ in his Way.

Who is the prince among us?

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that there is a prince among us who will shoulder his burden and set out in the darkness, going through a hole that he has dug in the wall, and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone. Perhaps we might open our ears and eyes to the words of Ezekiel as he foretells the kingdom of Christ. Perhaps we might hear and see the goodness of God amidst the darkness of the world. Perhaps . . .

Tomorrow, our rebelliousness.

 

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imam at Mass

Iman Sami Salem during Mass in Rome

Matthew 8:4: Tell No One

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Scholars speculate about Jesus’ request that those he cures tell no one about their healing. We find this request in a number of places in Matthew: 12:15-16, 16:20, 17:9 and we notice that neither Jesus nor Matthew rebuke the exuberance of those who receive Jesus’ gift. In the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY we find this statement: “[T]hough Jesus did not seek to attain ‘celebrity status’ for his miraculous powers, the effects of his works were simply too marvelous to be kept a secret”. (Meeks 881)

Perhaps we need to point this out to those who are our sports and entertainment icons. Celebrity is a gift to be treasured and used well.

monk and imam

Catholic monk welcomes Muslim worshipers in a church in Nice

Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. (Matthew 12:15-16) Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:20)

In the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary tells us that, “To this [Matthew] adds a full citation from the First Servant Song (Is 42, 1-4) . . . emphasizing the meekness of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, and foretelling the extension of his mission to the Gentiles”. (Senior 26)

Perhaps we need to point this out to those who would be our social or political leaders. Power is strongest when used in service to the poor and broken.  

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Others speculate that Jesus was waiting until a particular moment to reveal his true nature to the world. Again from the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary: “[O]nly in the light if Jesus’ resurrection can the meaning of his life and mission be truly understood; until then no testimony to the vision will lead people to faith”. (Senior 37)

Perhaps we need to point this out to our religious leaders. Influence is purest when used in the Spirit of the Living God.

And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)

muslims catholics procession

Muslim faithful walk behind a religious man as they attend Mass in tribute to slain priest

Jesus asks his closest followers to refrain from announcing his presence to the world. From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary: “Jesus acknowledges this identification [as messiah] but prohibits [the disciples] from making his messianic office known to avoid confusing it with ambiguous contemporary ideas on the nature of that office”. (Senior 81)

Perhaps we need to point this out to ourselves. Humility, sacrifice, and an authentic reverence for the Way that the Living God asks us to live. These are the marks of authentic leaders and followers. 

Our modern society and instant global communication have brought a new tension to our lives; but they have also brought a rapid means of connecting with others in a positive and healing way. We must look for constructive strategies to form solidarity with those who carry the good fruits of Christ’s story into the world. “Tell no one,” Jesus said in the beginning of the ministry. Now that his resurrection has begun the transformation of the world, we must not lose heart. Now we must tell everyone we know the Good News that Jesus is among us, calling each of us to a life of faith, hope, peace and love.

Reprepsentatives of the Muslim comunity go to Catholic Mass at Milan's Santa Maria

Representatives of the Muslim community go to Catholic Mass at Milan’s Santa Maria

Today, let us consider an act of solidarity we might make with others as we speak to our own entertainment, sports, political, social, and spiritual leaders and ask for lasting peace that transforms society.

After the shocking murder of an elderly Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, in France, the web brings us pictures and words of Muslims joining Christians in Catholic liturgies. For more on how these religious leaders work for solidarity in the name of peace, click on the images above or see: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36936658 or  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/muslims-pray-catholics-french-priest-murder-160731131924563.html 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. Print.   

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Matthew 9:27-31: The Blind

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Jesus: St. Saviour Church - Turkey

Jesus icon in St. Saviour Church: Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

The stories of Jesus’ healing are perhaps the most loved. They tell us in the modern era what we want and need to hear. Miracles happen. Outrageous hope is possible. Love changes everything. Faith, the cornerstone of discipleship, rises from our constant communication with God and brings reward greater than any power, wealth or fame. But to all of this goodness and compassion too many of us are too often blinded by the lures of the world that surrounds us. So great is God’s love for each of us that we are given the daily opportunity to choose Mammon or God. The blind men in today’s story choose God.

THE MESSAGE translation brings this familiar story home in a powerful way.

Two men cry follow Jesus and cry out to him, pleading for sight so they might more fully enter life. And so Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”

How often do we ask for God’s help? How often do we reply, “Why, yes, Master!”

St. Saviour Church - Chora, Istanbul, Turkey: Jesus heals Two Blind Men

St. Saviour Church: Jesus heals Two Blind Men

He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.

Do we believe that we become what we believe? Do we covet what others have or what others are?

It happened. They saw.

Does our worldly doubt overcome our spirit’s hope? Do we turn to God when we are in turmoil or fear? Do we blab the good news to others or hold it for ourselves? Do we ask for sight and wisdom only to ignore or abuse the gift once it is given? Do we decide that Jesus’ ancient words do not suit our modern world?

Become what you believe.

St. Saviour Church in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

St. Saviour Church in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey

We are so often blind to so much that takes place around us and this is not surprising since the world is a dichotomy of faith-inspiring creation and the frightening ugliness of evil. But we are created in God’s image, created to rise to the hope of God’s creation, created to sing in harmony with God’s Spirit. So rather than reject with cynicism the possibility of Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us share – as do these two cured men – the goodness and enormity of God’s love. When we find that we are blind . . . let us ask for Jesus’ healing . . . and let us celebrate the miracle of his love.

The image above is not the clearest but there are a number of lovely photographs in this post on the ParMieux Adventures blog at: http://parmieuxadventures.blogspot.com/2010/12/st-saviour-in-chora.html 

To learn more about this church, visit the Kiriye Camii (St. Saviour) page on the Sacred Destinations site: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-st-savior-in-chora-kariye 

Compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with others using the scripture link and the drop-down menus to see how Jesus speaks to us today through this story.

Tomorrow, why does Jesus ask these men to keep silent about the miracle of their healing.

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Mark 12:13-17: A Prayer for Paying Taxes and Tithes

Tuesday, August 2, 2016333-2016-tithes-or-taxes-300x292

Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Jesus is The Word of God, the light in the darkness, the rescuer of souls. In our conversations with Jesus, we might well ask the same question . . . must I pay attention to the institutions and systems put in place by humankind?

He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one.

Jesus is the Son of God, the Son of Man, the bringer of good news and redemption. In our prayer with God, we might well hear the same question . . . why do you complicate your life and what is it you are really asking of me?

“This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”

“Caesar,” they said.

Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is God’s.”

The Spirit lives in each of us, even those of us who appear to ignore the presence of the healing, living God. In our interactions with all of creation, we hear the same commandment . . . love me as you love yourself, love your neighbor and even your enemies as yourself, and live in my presence always. This is all I ask of you . . .

Their mouths hung open, speechless.

In our interactions with God the creator, God the Son and God the Spirit we hear a consistent message . . . we are in this world but not of it; we are made in God’s image and we are children of God; we made in and for love, love to be shared and not harbored, love that takes risks and does not shelter its own comfort, love that endures and withstands. When our mouths hang open at such outrageous hope, we pray.

Loving and forgiving God, we bring our little and big problems to you. Help us to see that you are all we need; give us patience and hope.

Generous and compassionate God, we bring our worries and anxieties to you. Guide us in understanding that you know and see all; send us your mercy and grace.

Courageous and outrageous God, we bring our fears and doubts to you. Heal us of our pettiness and deceit; bless us with fidelity and peace.

Timeless and limitless God, we bring our questions and confusion to you. Grant us your serenity and peace; transform us in your wisdom and love.

We hear Jesus’ words to render our taxes and tithes with common sense and generosity. Let us give over all that is of this world to this world, let us keep our eyes on Christ as our example of how we are to manage this world, and let us keep our hearts and minds always in the hands of God.

Amen.

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Matthew 7:47: Throwing Stones – Part V

Monday, August 1, 2016throwing stones

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Reflection on July 26, 2016 which is taken from his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life. (Rohr 60-61) Rohr, like Christ, calls us to fall upward in faith.

In the divine economy of grace, it is imperfection, sin, and failure that become the base metal and raw material for the redemption experience itself. Much of organized religion, however, tends to be peopled by folks who have a mania for some ideal order, which is never true, so they seldom are happy or content. This focus on perfection makes you anal retentive, to use Freud’s rude phrase, because you can never be happy with life as it is.

Rohr, like Christ, calls us to fall upward in compassion.

falling upwardReal life is filled with people who are disabled (if you live long enough, you too will inevitably be “disabled” in some way), people with mental illness, people who practice other customs or religions, and people who experience their sexuality differently than you do. Organized religion has not been known for its inclusiveness or for being very comfortable with diversity. Yet pluriformity, multiplicity, and diversity is the only world there is! It is rather amazing that we can miss, deny, or ignore what is in plain sight everywhere. Even in nature, we are confounded by wildness and seek to bring the “frontier,” farms, and gardens into uniformity.

Rohr, like Christ, calls us to fall upward in transformation.

Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. This is how divine love transforms us. If this is not true, what hope is there for any of us? We eventually discover that the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves. That is one reason I have valued and taught the Enneagram [1]. Like few other spiritual tools, it illustrates this transformative truth. Once you see that your “sin” and your gift are two sides of the same coin, you can never forget it.

Rohr, like Christ, calls us to fall upward in hope.

stepping-stones-2God seems to be about “turning” our loves around (in Greek,meta-noia), and using them toward the Great Love that is their true object. All lesser loves are training wheels, which are good in themselves, but still training wheels. Many of the healing stories in the New Testament are rather clear illustrations of this message and pattern. Jesus says this specifically of “the woman who was a sinner”: “Her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she could not have shown such great love” (Luke 7:47). It seems that her false attempts at love became the school and stepping-stones to “such great love.”

Rohr, like Christ, calls us to fall upward in love.

Rohr, like Christ, calls us to see that our throwing stones have become stepping stones along The Way.  

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 60-61.

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