Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘idols’


Joshua 23: A Final Plea

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Jericho

It is clear that Joshua understands his people when we read today’s Noontime scripture.  He has brought them from the edge of the wilderness into the fertile land that God has promised them.  He has led their troops, solved their squabbles, and he has kept them faithful to God as they live side by side with pagan peoples.  He has one final plea.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, a time for reflection and introspection. Today we have an opportunity to consider that we stand before Joshua, a man who knows our story. Let us listen well.

Strive hard to observe and carry out all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, not straying from it in any way or mingling with these nations while they survive among you.  We might recall here the parable of the weeds growing among the wheat in Matthew 13:24-30 that we considered in our Continued Progress NoontimeGod does not call us to wipe out all who oppose or stifle us; rather, God asks that we learn to grow amid those who would pull us from our steady progress toward God.  Joshua calls likewise to us today, encouraging us to follow the voice of God, to grow in wisdom.  When we allow God’s wisdom to counsel us rather than succumb to our own petty fears and whims, we will have responded to this final plea.

At your approach you have driven our large and small nations, and to this day no one has withstood you.  One of you puts to flight a thousand because it is the Lord, your God, himself who fights for you, as he promised you.  We so quickly take credit for our successes and blame God for our failures.  It seems we cannot withstand the truth of our own existence.  When we remember the so many big and little triumphs of our lives in the light of God’s goodness instead of the brightness of our own effort, all anxiety, resentment and envy melt away.  We cease to compare our circumstances to those of others; we see our lives for what they are: a continuing response to – or a willful turning away from – God’s call.  Joshua asks us today to consider the origin of our security and achievement; and he reminds us that God alone governs all.  When we admit that God’s strength and fidelity are gifts we receive without even asking, we will have demonstrated our own willingness to respond to this final plea.

If you ever abandon God and ally yourselves with the remnant of these [pagan] nations while they survive among you, by intermarrying and intermingling with them, know for certain that . . . they will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes.  Joshua worries, of course, that his people will disappear into the societies that surround and live side by side with them.  He knows how easily we can be convinced that daily prayer and faithful worship have little effect upon us.  He understands our weaknesses because he has managed the in-fighting and back-stabbing that happens when people come together in a common cause.  He also understands our strengths because he has led a stiff-necked and cantankerous people successfully by following God’s counsel rather than the shallow wisdom of oracles; he has deferred to God’s plans and put away his own.  Joshua recalls the covenant they have agreed upon with God and that it invokes reward or doom; he reminds his people that God always keeps his promises. When we willingly turn away from the siren call of the idols that clutter our lives, we will give witness to our own commitment to God, and we will have answered this final plea.

This chapter closes with a description of God’s Wrath and before we become frightened by these images let us remember that Christ comes to fulfill the Old Testament Covenant and to replace it with a new Law of Love.  When we remember that the God of wrath we see described here is actually the God of Love that Christ shows us . . . we will have little trouble – and much reward – when we respond to Joshua’s final plea.


Adapted from a reflection posted on December 11, 2011.

Image from: http://www.biblebios.com/joshua/joshua.htm

Read Full Post »


1 John 4The Spirit of Truth

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Casting out fear, recognizing the anti-Christ, remembering that we are God’s little children, loving because we are first loved by God.  John, Peter and Paul all try to convey to the faithful the importance of remembering Jesus’ message that we follow those who live in the Spirit rather than against it.  They warn Christ’s flock about the cleverness of the darkness; they tell us that our journey through a life of narrow gates will be a refining experience that will sharpen our perception so that we better discern real truth from falsehood and deception.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of  life that God has promised to those who love him.   (James 1:12

Peter, the foundation on which Christ builds his Church on earth, describes the subtle way that darkness will intrude on our thinking, and he reminds us of the surety of the consequences for succumbing to that darkness.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Paul tells the Thessalonians – and us – that we must stay away from even the fringes of evil; its power to deceive it is far too potent for us to combat.  Iniquity often disguises itself as goodness and we may be taken in and taken over before we even recognize that something ugly  has dressed itself up as a radiant goodness.  Paul tells us to . . .

Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace,sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.(1 Thessalonians 5:21-24)

Today we spend time with the Beloved Apostle as he too warns us that our faith is a powerful guardian against malevolence.  In his beautiful letters that describe the ineffable experience he has as Christ’s companion, John calls us to a faith in God that will overcome the dark enemy . . . for whatever is born of God conquers the world.  John writes these things to us who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that we may that we have eternal life.  And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the request made of him. 

This is the spirit of truth we are asked to seek and identify.

This is the Spirit of truth we are called to follow.

This is the Spirit of Truth we are invited to live.

May we answer this call, this invitation, this voice of God.  And may we follow this voice willingly for it brings us to our only sanctuary against the false teachers who roam the world dressed up in glorious garments that have the appearance of goodness and light . . . but which are in reality woven of the glittering deceit of dishonesty and fraud.


A re-post from November 17, 2011.

Image from: http://extraordinarylivingbydrscotty.blogspot.com/2011/09/running-from-hell.html 

Read Full Post »


Zechariah 10The New Order

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Written on February 17 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Golden Calf – Exodus

The teraphim are household idols, used for divination but incapable of true healing, redemption, comfort or transformation.  Those who have relied on wealth and influence will no longer hold power; change is in the wind.  Those who have been led by false shepherds will be visited by the true king; a rout by a new king’s soldiers is predicted.  Those who have wandered aimlessly, searching for the true shepherd will be brought back; the exiled will return home; the faithful will be rewarded.

In the Old Testament readings at Mass this week we hear again the story of Noah.  God sees how wicked man has become and he regrets having created him.  Later he promises to never destroy his creatures again.  In the New Testament readings we have seen the supreme patience of Jesus as he continually instructs his followers in the ways of the New Kingdom, the New Covenant, and the New Promise.  There is a New Order . . . yet they struggle to understand.  He even rebukes Peter (Mark 8:27-33) and scolds the others for not understanding his feeding of thousands from a few fish and loaves (Mark 8:14-21).  These humans God has created seem to believe more in their teraphim than in their God.  And we are so like all of these people.

So we pray . . .

Lord God in heaven, Lord God on earth, Lord God within us, Lord God among us, open our eyes that we might see your new order as you opened the eyes of the blind beggar in yesterday’s Gospel (Mark 8:22-26).  Open our minds and hearts so that we might better hear your call to newness.  Open our lives to you so that we might better understand the new order of your world.  Teach us to cease lusting after money and goods.  Instruct us in your new way.  School us in the ways of the gentle heart and eager mind.  Remind us to throw out our tiny household gods and rely firmly and only on you.  Visit us with your Spirit.  Continue to walk with us as Christ.  And harbor us who wander as wretched sheep in the safety of your enormous arms.  We ask this each day and every day . . . as we strive to remember who you are . . . and how much you love us.  Amen. 


A re-post from September 6, 2011.

Image from: http://www.perplexicon.net/2009/12/false-gods-and-theologians/

Read Full Post »


Hosea 4Open to Newness

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A re-post from August 1, 2011.

We will need to look at notes in order to understand the references in today’s Noontime and the following information is from THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE.  Ephraim (note verse 17) was the tribal area that remained in the northern kingdom of Israel after the Assyrian invasion.  The wood and wand (note verse 12) refer to any carved idol or utensil used in the practice of divination.  Ritual prostitution practiced in Canaanite shrines was introduced into sanctuaries dedicated to Yahweh (note verse 14).  Gilgal here (note verse 15) is in reference to a sanctuary in the north in Bethel where there was an association of cult prophets (2 Kings 2 and 4:38); it is not a reference to Gilgal in the south where Joshua sets up memorial standing stones (Joshua 4).  Finally, the priests are in for heavy criticism because they are seen as the ones who lead the people away from God as they set up a schism between genuine and cult prophets.  All of this information helps to clarify the link between the prophet Hosea’s deep sorrow over his wife Gomer’s prostitution of herself and the descent of the nation of Israel into this same harlotry.  Hosea sees the individual and collective return to idolatry as a seal of the fate of the nation and its people.  They are all caught up in the coming whirlwind of disaster.  (Senior 1112-1113)

The psalmist reminds us that: The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths but speak not; they have ears but see not; they have ears but hear not; no breath is in their mouths.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all those who trust in them.  (Psalm 135:15-18)  If only we humans might remember that in the end . . . these little gods cannot forgive us, save us, redeem us or love us as God does.

We have reflected during our Noontimes that little gods creep into our lives without notice and it is in this way that we become unwitting collaborators in the creation of an illusion; today we look at how a nation of people who have been blessed by God turn away from God’s goodness.   The children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes http://deoxy.org/emperors.htm from the Hans Christian Anderson collection is an apt allegory not only for Hosea’s society but for our society today.  We have only to determine if we number among the adults who have ceased to think for themselves . . . or if we are the astonished child who announces: The emperor is naked!  Like the child, Hosea cries out to the people of Israel.  And like the child, our prophets of today cry out against the obtuse among us.

When we become frustrated with a herd mentality that drives idiotically toward the precipice or when we give up all hope that the small voice of truth might be heard above the clamor of a self-deceiving crowd, we must turn away from our little gods of anxiety and desperation and turn to God, for it is God who best understands what is to be disbelieved and dispossessed.  And it is God who knows well how to convert the darkness of despair into the beauty of joy, for it is in the darkness that God plants the seeds of new life.

And so we pray . . . Good and forgiving God, remind us that we have only to be open to a newness that you will bring out of the ignorance and despair we witness today.  Show us the newness born of the dark that is your compassionate healing and eternal transformation.  Amen.  


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1112-1113. Print.   

Images from: http://thefigureofspeechprod.info/coming-soon.html and http://blogs.attask.com/blog/strategic-project-management/the-emperors-new-clothes

Read Full Post »


Isaiah 44: Chasing Ashes

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cyrus the Great

Founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus inherited a small kingdom and expanded it to include what we know today as Iran and much of Turkey.  He captured Babylon in 539 B.C.E. and although he did not worship the God of Israel, he proved to be “a beneficent king who allowed captive people to return to their homelands and restore their places of worship”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 669). We cannot know his motivation for allowing the Jewish people to return home after exile, but we do know that Cyrus II – the Anointed of the Lord who becomes the Liberator of Israel – believed in Marduk, the mythological god of Babylon.  As many have commented, we can never anticipate the wisdom or plans of God.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Many times I wonder how God has chosen the agents who do God’s work: stumble-bum leaders, hard-edged colleagues, the apparent liberal who leans toward conservatism, and the seemingly empty-headed support personnel who deliver wisdom during crisis.  I have learned to be on the lookout for God’s anointed even as I try to steer clear of false idols; and I wonder about my own fidelity to God and my success as his agent.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Isaiah warns us against replacing God with idols that bring us no help and cause us too much maintenance work.  Smiths and carpenters do not reflect, nor have the intelligence and sense to see that the bits of iron and wood they fashion into idols are no god at all . . . Half the wood was burned in the fire, and on its embers I baked bread and roasted meant which I ate. Shall I then make an idol of the rest, or worship a block of wood?  Like these smiths and carpenters, we daily set up little gods to worship when we worry about our next meal, the clothes we will wear to the gym or pool, the roof on the house or the brakes on the car that need repair, our position at work, the fussy chair of the civic committee on which we serve.  When we set aside our prayer time with God because we want to fret about these worries, we have surrendered to our little gods.  He is chasing ashes, a thing that cannot save itself when the flame consumes it . . .

Volcanic ash cloud

We might wonder as we reflect on today’s Noontime how it is that God has so much patience with us when we turn to the inanimate to fuss and cajole the objects in our surroundings into pleasing us.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much forgiveness with us each time we return to him that he continues to encourage us and grace us with his presence.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much imagination that God will use a believer in a pagan god as the anointed one to help the faithful return from an exile their own corruption gained for them.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much compassion for each of us that despite our times of coldness and our turnings away, God continues to heal, restore, redeem and save us.

We might wonder how it is that God loves us eternally and wishes to be with us forever . . . despite the countless times we leave God to chase after ashes.

Volcanic ash

We might wonder . . . and yet God is the one who pours out water on the thirsty ground, knits us his offspring in the womb, pours out his spirit on us, and lays blessings on our descendents. 

We might wonder, yet we need not . . . for God chases after us . . . even as we chase after the ashes of our own folly.


For more information on Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) who appears at the end of Isaiah 44, go to this site and also follow the link to farsinet.   http://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 669. Print.

Images from: https://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/  and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 24, 2011.

Read Full Post »


Psalm 24Universal God

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Commentary will tell us that this psalm was likely written to accompany a procession with the Ark around the Temple precinct, or even through the city or countryside.  When we look at these verses closely, we see that they contain a list of qualities that describe God’s people: the clean of hand, the pure of heart, those who are not devoted to idols and who do not lie.  God’s power and goodness are affirmed; God is seen as the designer and initiator of creation.  With this song the people celebrate the glory of God and the goodness that resides in his creation . . . the earth.  They also confirm the values God’s faithful will want to espouse: purity and integrity. 

Scripture begins with the creation story we have heard so often that we may move through it too quickly.  When Genesis 1 is read with care, and when it is compared to other creation stories, we will want to join in the singing of this hymn to God who is so much different and so much more wonderful than any other god.

Ancient Mesopotamia was rife with creation stories and many of them elevated a particular god to supremacy over other gods.  This would be done in order to establish superiority of a god’s followers or cult; it would also give prestige to a particular temple, city or town.  These myths frequently gave simple explications for the complexity of nature.  A god generally called a mound of earth out of darkness and water, set up rites and rituals and often deified elements of nature such as the moon, sun or the earth itself.  Some stories describe epic battles between various gods, and humans lack any dignity or purpose other than to serve as a kind of slave.  So we might want to look at what makes the Judeo-Christian creation story different from the rest.  “The Genesis account rejects the central motif of pagan religion: the deification of nature.  Interestingly, it does not seek to elevate Yahweh over other gods.  Indeed, in the seven day creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3) Yahweh is not named . . . Even Genesis 2-3 provides no sense that Yahweh needed to establish his supremacy over other deities.  There is no conquest of other gods or monsters, and no shrine or city is said to be the place from which God began the creation process.  No sacred object is mentioned.  The God of Genesis 1 is indeed the universal God”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 5)

The God of Genesis 1 is our compassionate God who calls order out of chaos, goodness out of evil, light out of the dark.  This universal God wants to celebrate with us and about us. This universal God wants to heal us, transform us, save and redeem us.  This God calls us to purity and honesty, integrity and truth.  This God created the earth and all her goodness for us.  This God does not enslave us but suffers and dies for us.  This God is one we call Father, Brother and Spirit of Love . . . for this God loves us beyond all measure.

Let us join in this hymn of praise to God . . .

The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who live there . . .

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 5. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 7, 2011.

Read Full Post »


1 Maccabees 15Scoundrels

A shekel minted in 111-110 BCE

A shekel minted in 111-110 BCE

 Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Favorite from September 10, 2009.

The players: Scoundrels, ethnarchs, mercenaries, troops, high priests, kings, consuls, the people.

The locations: Sampsames, Delos, Myndos, Sparta, Rome, Cyprus, Joppa, Gazara.

The stakes: Taxes, coinage, control, weapons, debts, honor, the temple, the citadel, a gold shield weighing a thousand minas (a unit of money worth 60 shekels).

The motivations: Saving harmless, seeking haven, granting pardon, exacting revenge, survival, domination.

These are elements of today’s reading which took place just prior to the birth of Christ.  We can unplug these names of ancient people and places to replace contemporary ones and yet the stakes and motivations have not changed in the millennia that have passed; human beings are, after all, creatures who struggle to survive and to maintain equilibrium and comfort levels.  We never want to be off-balance or surprised.  We want to be in control of our surroundings.  We want to think that we have perfect understanding and skill in all we think, do and say.  When this equilibrium is upset, we become anxious; and this anxiety leads to fear . . . which has the potential to send us into devolution rather than evolution.

When mercenaries enter our lives we come undone in the sense that we begin to look for ways to solve our new and crushing problems from our own skill sets.  In our urgency we forget to go to God and when this happens and our lives take on the characteristics we see in the activity we read about today.

When scoundrels enter our lives they are so clever at hiding their manipulations that we begin to blame ourselves for all that seems wrong.  In our confusion we forget that the one true measuring stick is Christ.  When we doubt ourselves, we need only look to this word of God as a model.

When taxes or control or debt or temples or citadels become our idols we fail ourselves and we allow these temporal entities to separate us from God.

When saving ourselves at all costs becomes our chief motivator we have lost our identity, for as children of God we need only have concern for our spiritual health.  Once we tend to the life of our spirit, all else falls into place.

Let us be on the lookout for the scoundrels in our lives and when they appear, let us turn to the one true source that never fails us – the source that created us, sustains, protects and guides us.  Let us turn to our God for only this one has the stamina, the capacity and the will to endure for eternity.  All else vanishes into dust.

Read Full Post »


Hosea 10: Wormwoodwormwood

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Like wormwood in a plowed field . . .

Israel splits from Judah and sets up a new capital in Bethel to rival the city of Jerusalem but in this temple Jeroboam placed a golden calf. All of this mocks the beautiful covenant established between Yahweh and the faithful but, as the people will discover when the Assyrians invade, it is impossible to replace Yahweh’s fidelity and love with a mere golden calf. We might well ask what the followers of this idol were thinking when they centered their lives on the false hope of an inanimate statue. And when we do, we also ask ourselves where we might find golden calves in our own lives.

Hosea predicts ruin and destruction for the followers of the calf. He points out the ways and places that wickedness, perversity and falsehood are cultivated in this false spirituality. He also describes the folly of relying on the power of chariots and warriors and the turmoil of the tribes when superior forces overrun their cities.

Hosea reminds his readers that they are called to sow justice but instead of reaping fruitful crops the bitter wormwood plant which, because of its bitterness, cannot serve as fodder or animals or birds. In the hope of reaping rich harvest, those who are lured by false promises and false gods will instead gather in the bitterness they themselves have sown.

Golden bull sclupture on grey glass

Hosea asks each of us to examine what it is we sow, and what it is we hope to harvest. Is it fertile and bountiful goodness, or the bitter fruit of wormwood? Only we can know.

To learn more about wormwood and how we use this herb today, click on the plant’s image above or visit: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/w/wormwo37.html 

Read Full Post »


herrods_temple

The Ezekiel Temple

Ezekiel 8: The Mystery of the Temple

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throughout this reading the Spirit continues to ask us as we encounter the world: Have you seen enough yet? How do we reply, and how do we react?

We might turn away in fear or disgust when our fellow human beings behave in abominable ways; yet how does this witness to the love of God that is somehow present everywhere at every time?

We might collapse in anxiety or denial when our friends and neighbors behave brutally toward us and others; yet how does this move us into solidarity with those who suffer so horribly?

We might despair in pain and sorrow when our loved ones betray or abandon us; yet how does this enact God’s love in a world looking for peace and serenity?

Ezekiel describes vividly how the Temple is desecrated with obscenity, greed, and idol-worship; yet who is this angry God we hear described in verse 18? Can this be the same God of hope and peace and love who comes to walk among us with mercy? What happens to this holy dwelling place and how are we to see God’s presence amid the rubble and ruin of what was once beauty and light?

Despite the deep corruption we see today, God abides in this place and with this people. Despite the brutality we read about today, God persists in converting harm into blessing. And despite the horror that we witness today, God pardons, heals and calls. This is the mystery of God’s sacred place and time: it is a temple of a healing, transforming, persisting, loving force that cannot be denied. This temple is a living essence that struggles to remain and grow within each of us. And life in this living temple is a mystery that we are invited to enter.

Do you see what the elders are doing here in the dark, each one before his favorite god-picture? 

Who are our little gods and how do we express God in our everyday actions and voice? Do we operate in the dark or in the open light? When and where and how do we see the Mystery of God’s love amid the abominations of the world? And do we plan to accept the invitation that this mystery of sacred space and time has laid before us?

For a study on the Ezekiel temple, click on the image above or visit: http://israelmybeloved.com/the-ezekiel-temple/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: