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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


Nehemiah 10: The Agreement

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How many times do we stumble after we agree to live out Christ’s Law of Love? Yet God forgives us because God loves us still.

Richard Rohr, OFM, writes, “Grace is the Divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually detected as such, and often undesired. Grace cannot be understood by any ledger of merits and demerits. It cannot be held to any patterns of buying, losing, earning, achieving, or manipulating, which is where, unfortunately, most of us live our lives. Grace is, quite literally, ‘for the taking’. It is God eternally giving away God – for nothing, except the giving itself. Quite simply, to experience grace you must stop all counting!” (Rohr 145)

In today’s Noontime we hear the familiar words of the ancient Covenant Israel agreed to live out. In Nehemiah 10 we see the listing of all those who again agree to live the Law of Moses: priests, Levites, leaders, musicians, workers. Yet, history tells us their story of continual union, lapse, separation and return. It is the same tale we all live for we are creatures of God.

Jesus arrives to bring this law to all those both in and beyond the nation of Israel. This new Law of Love surprises many. Awes multitudes. Disappoints some. Today we have this same returning we see in Nehemiah 10 of the hopeless finding new hope, the broken encountering healing, and the abandoned entering a new home.

Once we stop counting, we find ourselves more open to the grace showered upon us. When we stop accumulating, we find ourselves more aware of the love that embodies us. On the day we stop judging, we find ourselves eager to enter the new covenant of the new law. Let us rejoice with those who sign the new agreement that is old, the new covenant that is eternal, the new Law that is our everlasting rescue.

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

For a resource of verses on love, click on the image above or visit: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/debbie-mcdaniel/50-verses-of-love-to-cover-any-shade-of-grey.html

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Nehemiah 1 and 2: Arrival in Jerusalem

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jerusalem wall today

Yesterday we reflected on Nehemiah’s exit from captivity and his arrival in Jerusalem. Today we pause to explore how Nehemiah begins the Lord’s restoration.

  • When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he rests three days before he set[s] out at night with only a few other men. Three days . . . a few other men . . . apparent ruin, death and destruction . . . three days . . . restoration. Jesus fulfills the promise of restoration three days after his death.
  • Nehemiah had not spoken to anyone of his total plan for Jerusalem. He goes at night to investigate and when he does, the ruin is so complete that he has to dismount and continue on foot because there is too much rubble for his horse to traverse. He speaks to the magistrates and others of his plan and they reply: Let us be up and building!  Those who have been left behind amid the bleak destruction respond to God’s call of hope which arrives with the administrator, Nehemiah.  This is our season of Hope.
  • The hopeful are ridiculed and mocked by the aggressors; yet they maintain their newly found energy to rebuild. Nehemiah responds to the jeering: It is the God of Heaven who will grant us success. We, his servants, shall set about the rebuilding.  They put their trust where it belongs . . . in God.

In a season that anticipates a time of Light and Hope, Restoration and Rebuilding, Turning and Returning to God, we have the opportunity to practice boldness in Christ Jesus. Let us respond to our Call together with the love of the Holy Spirit; and let us place our Trust in the one who most deserves that confidence, in God alone.

For with God all things are possible . . . even the gathering of the dispersed remnant from the farthest corners of the earth . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name.  For with God all things are possible . . . even resurrection after devastating and annihilating ruin . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name. 

For with God all things are possible . . . even the fulfillment of all of those dreams which seem so crazily and utterly hopeless . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name. 

For with God all things are possible . . . for this is the season of Hope.  Amen.

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Ezekiel 4Inevitability

Friday, October 6, 2017

Michelangelo: Ezekiel

Today’s post is a reprise from December 24, 2011. We have an opportunity to consider the possibility of recovering from calamity, an opportunity to accept the gift of Christ, God Among Us. Let us imagine that we are about to celebrate the gift of the Nativity. And let us be grateful for God’s greatest gift of self for God’s generosity, love and goodness are inevitable. 

There is a certain inevitability about Ezekiel’s prophecy.  He is certain that his predictions will come to pass.  From our place in history centuries later, we can easily see that what seemed impossible for Judah and Jerusalem does indeed take place.  Their fortified city is besieged and destroyed; their powerful and comfortable leaders are killed or deported.  Why did anyone doubt Ezekiel and the other prophets?  They reported what they saw in the present and what they saw to come.  They were accurate, so why did anyone have reservation about their words?   Most likely it was because the naysayers had too much invested in the corrupt system.  We might learn a lesson from all of this.

There is a certain inevitability about Jesus’ story.  He comes to tell us that he is Emmanuel – God Among Us From our place in human history we can read about the miracles he performed.  We can also number the times that impossibilities take place in our own lives.  Jesus tells us that he will be destroyed and yet rise again in new life.  He tells us that he has come to take us with him on this amazing journey as his well-loved sisters and brothers.  Jesus tells us what the Creator has asked him to report to us: that we are free, liberated from anything that holds us to the material world in which we live.  This freedom includes freedom from anxiety and stress.  Why do we cling to our old and familiar discomfort when there is a newness offered to us without cost?  Why do we behave as those who heard but ignored Ezekiel’s words?  Do we doubt what Jesus has told us?  What are the reservations we have about his words or his actions?  On this eve when we celebrate his coming into the world as a vulnerable baby, why do we continue to ask for additional proofs and for further assurance that he will complete his promise to bring us to the new life he experiences?  Why do we hang on to our fears and reject the possibility of joy?

Gerard Van Honthurst: The Nativity

So on this Christmas Eve, as we await midnight in order to join in praise of God’s goodness to us, we have this to ponder about our own acceptance of what we have heard and what we have seen.  What is it about Jesus’ story we do not believe?  What are the further proofs we demand before we accept the prophecy of his coming as true?  Who has lured us away from the one true story of redemption and the promise it holds for all?  How have we become like those who hear but so not listen?  When will we tire of hiding behind subterfuge, of supporting corrupt systems and people?  Why do we persist in being as blind as the inhabitants of Jerusalem to whom Ezekiel spoke?

Let us reflect on God’s gift of inevitability as we pray . . .

Tomorrow is the feast of Christ’s birth . . . the feast of the birth of newness in each of us.

Tomorrow is the celebration of a new-found freedom . . . the celebration of our release from fear and anxiety.

Tomorrow is the commemoration of the arrival of hope and God’s promise . . . the commemoration of God’s coming to dwell among us. 

God’s love is inevitable.  Let us cease our resistance.  Let us rejoice in this good news and be glad.  Amen.

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Colossians 3:12-14: Chosen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We may well want to consider how we react to the news that we are chosen loved ones.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Do we step ahead quickly to shove our way forward in response to God’s call? Or do we tend to those along the margins who cannot find a way into the unifying force of God’s hope?

Bear with one another . . .

Do we follow Christ in fits and starts? Or do we move constantly and slowly forward, always remaining faithful in reflection of God’s fidelity?

If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other . . .

Do we greet one another with greed or compassion? Anger or mercy? Chaos or peace?

Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Do we welcome the stranger, speak out against injustice, console the sorrowful, and heal the sick?

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Do we work for reconciliation? Do we open our eyes, ears, hearts, hands and minds? Do we act as if we are chosen in God’s humble love?

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find that being chosen is more than we have first thought.

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John 1: In the Beginning

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (NRSV)

No matter how often we read these words they bring us new beauty.

Footnotes tell us that the writer lays out the themes that develop as the Gospel continues: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, the pre-existence of Jesus, the incarnate Logos who is God’s revelation and the expression of God’s love for us.  When we think of the stories we hear and read in this Gospel, we know for a certainty that God is calling us to be diverse, to tend to that diversity and to place our hope in this diversity – because it is in this diversity that the Spirit manifests itself best.

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one. (MSG)

God calls us to intimacy, and Jesus calls out this same petition in his brief life.  God asks us to commune with one another in a way we think impossible, and we can only do this if we rely on Wisdom.  This morning’s first reading was from Wisdom 3:1-12, The Hidden Counsels of God on Suffering.  Looking at verse four of that reading we are reminded that our hope is what makes us immortal.  This hidden counsel of God manifests itself in Jesus, the world’s only true hope.

In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. (GNT)

Jesus, the Suffering Servant, comes to us to serve – not to be served.  And so must we serve rather than be served.  No one has ever seen God except through Jesus Christ, the apostle John tells us; yet God speaks to each of us through Jesus.  It is fitting that Jesus represents this hope of God. It is correct that we awake and rise each day to look to Jesus. It is right that we act and live in hope, for it is this hope that makes us immortal.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 20, 2007.

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Sirach 24:12-14: Taking Root

Cedars of Lebanon

Saturday, September 2, 2017

In the book of Sirach we find practical wisdom that opens God’s heart and mind to us. These verses give us the opportunity to imagine God in creation. These words invite us to strike deep into the soil of fidelity, to reach our arms upward in hope, and to abide in love.

I struck root among the glorious people,
    in the portion of the Lord.

Just as the Creator takes up residence with the faithful to dwell and remain among them, so might we thrust down deep roots to rest in God’s presence.

Like a cedar in Lebanon I grew tall,
    like a cypress on Mount Hermon.

Just as Jesus lifts us up in the hope of God’s promise, so might we offer our days and nights to God who is willing to share all with us.

I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi,
    like rosebushes in Jericho.

Just as the Spirit abides in us to heal and console, so might we share God’s generosity and compassion with all.

Like a fair olive tree in the field,
    like a plane tree beside water I grew tall.

Olives ready for harvest in the Holy Land

We might look to the cedar, the cypress, the palm and the rose to observe how God graces nature with strength and beauty. We might look to the olive tree to observe how God nurtures, heals and sustains. We might look to the plane or sycamore tree that filters the air we breathe in gratitude for God’s quiet and persistent attention to our needs. We might do all of this so that we might take root in the depths of God’s open and healing mind and heart.

To explore the place names in these verses, click on the images and links above or visit Bible Places, a pictorial library of Bible lands at: http://www.bibleplaces.com/

The plane is also known as sycamore, buttonwood, buttonball or whitewood tree. See the Britannica at: https://www.britannica.com/plant/plane-tree

For more information on how these trees filter pollution from our environment, and to learn more about “City Trees”, visit: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/07/world/citytree-urban-pollution/index.html

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Ezekiel 37: Deliverance and Reunion

Friday, September 1, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 14, 2010.

Today we read about the dry bones brought to life out of the dust of nothingness . . . about Israel and Judah reuniting in the metaphor of the two sticks . . . and the promise to us of deliverance and reunion.

Oh my people!  I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord.  I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer Mini-Reflection: Because we have been forgiven, we know the way of forgiveness; because we have been healed, we know the way of healing; because we have known God, we know the way of God.  The gifts given to us are gifts for us to give.  This introduces Psalm 86:11-17, and James 2:12-13.  The citations are worth reading.

Today we celebrate the life of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan, who was held at Auschwitz and died on this date in 1941 when he took the place of another who was condemned to death.  Kolbe acts on the hope expressed by the image in Ezekiel today, he follows Christ’s request that we refrain from judging and condemning, and he pardons those who enslave and murder their fellow countrymen.  Kolbe knew – and we know – that God promises rebirth, new life, reunion and new life to each of us.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Ezekiel uses a story of desiccated bones and broken pieces of wood to prophesy our future.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.

Let us think of all that troubles and divides us, and hand it over to God.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Let us think of all that breaks us and brings harm, and hand our anger over to God.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Let us think of all that pains us and is sorrowful, and hand the sadness over to God.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord. 

Oh my people!  I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord.  I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 14.8 (2010). Print.  

 

 

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1 Samuel 17: The Way of Christ

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Caravaggio: David and Goliath

A Favorite from August 16, 2009.

This is a story we know well, and yet we might want to pause in order to spend time with a few details.

  • Battle armor and brave words do not protect Goliath from the truth of David’s one small stone. We might reflect that . . . bluster, barricades and weapons do not serve us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • While David’s oldest brothers go off to fight against the Philistines with Saul, David tends his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. We might reflect that . . . although our work may often seem insignificant, it is always on target when we obey God as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David leaves his flock with another shepherd when he takes roasted grain and cheeses to the battlefield for the troops. We might reflect that . . . even in the midst of our work, we must remember to shepherd those who follow us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David’s brothers are jealous not only of the bravery which stems from David’s special relationship with Yahweh but also because David comes to Saul’s attention for the question he repeatedly asks: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should insult the armies of the living king?” We might reflect that . . . we are often the target of jealousy when we are faithful and courageous as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David says with confidence to Saul: “The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine”. We might reflect that . . . we too, may place our hope in God’s promises as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David rejects Saul’s unwieldy warrior garments and tools so that he might take up and use the tools he knows best: smooth stones and his slingshot. We might reflect that . . . rather than arms and physical strength, our petitions of intercession on behalf of our enemies are our most powerful weapons as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David answers the enemy’s challenge with these famous words: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of armies of Israel that you have insulted . . . All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands”. We might reflect that . . . when the crowd jeers and when we appear to be defeated, we too serve as an example of how God saves and restores as we travel along The Way of Christ.  When we rise after apparent defeat, we are justified by God as we travel along The Way of Christ.

This is an old and familiar story against a backdrop of violence, yet it holds simple and valuable lessons for us today.  They are . . .

  • we must believe the story we have heard,
  • we must hope in the promise we have been given, and
  • we must enact love in the world as a sign that . . .
  • we travel along The Way of Christ.

In so doing, the many false and boasting Goliaths who confront us will fall permanently as we journey along The Way of Christ.

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Proverbs 6:12-35 and 7: Something Nasty

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God is perfectly aware that not all creatures understand the goodness and generosity of creation’s gift. Having that in mind, the writer of Proverbs reminds us that the riffraff and rascals who plot and scheme will always – in God’s time and in God’s economy – wind up suffering the consequences of the chaos they plot against others. In a literary context, we refer to this as irony, the end of the twisting plot twisting back on the antagonist. We often believe that in reality the outcome is different: he who plots and schemes becomes rich and powerful; she who plots against the innocent escapes destiny’s karma.

Riffraff and rascals
    talk out of both sides of their mouths.
They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
    they cross their fingers behind their backs.

If we live in a timeline of the physical world, we might see ourselves as correct in thinking that the spiritual world holds out false hope. When we live in God’s eternal time, we find that we have misunderstood God’s plan for the kingdom. When we ignore God’s time and plan, we find that we have become like the riffraff and rascals we deplore. We have given in to something nasty. We will have rejected the advice of Proverbs that the final total smashup will arrive at our door, and we will become the hypocrites who cross our fingers behind our backs.

Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
    always stirring up trouble.
Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
    a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.

In the following verses, we hear about human actions that induce God’s ire; these items are laid out clearly. Various translations present differing translations but this interesting list is always the same, a litany of easy signs that we might look for in our own daily actions.

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that kill innocent people,
  • A mind that thinks up wicked plans.
  • Feet that hurry off to do evil.
  • A witness who tells one lie after another.
  • And someone who stirs up trouble among friends.

As Easter People, we share the Good News Jesus brings to creation that God’s merciful patience and generosity are always waiting in hope to redeem us. God’s persistence and wisdom are always presenting in faith new lessons for us to learn. God’s justice and consolation are always bringing us new opportunities to love as God loves.

The final verses of this chapter reprise the hazards of adultery and we might wonder why the writer brings this theme to us again. Besides the obvious danger of wanton men and women, might we also need be wary of addiction to lusting after power, wealth and fame? Might we need another practical warning to steer clear of riffraff and rascals lest we becomes one of those who ignore God’s call away from something nasty?

Even so, when the dust settles, we find that despite our recalcitrance, despite our rejection of truth, despite our haughtiness and ego-driven behavior, God’s compassion is awaiting us with Christ’s open and holy love. We are invited today to become one with that sacred heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to find different versions of these verses, we explore God’s transparent plan for our good, and the good of all creation.  

The original definition of hypocrite is “actor”. (See Merriam-Webster at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/hypocrite-meaning-origin) For interesting thoughts on hypocrisy, click the image of masks above. 

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