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Posts Tagged ‘inversion’


Matthew 18:6-9: Stumbling Blocks

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Working with adolescents and teenagers, I take this verse of scripture seriously.  It is what calls me to stand before corruption, greed, lust for power, and self-aggrandizement.    It is what draws me to defend children within my family.  It is what calls me to speak to authority in the work place.  It is what calls me to my knees in my daily prayer before God.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked by others what gives me patience, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked what makes me fearless in the face of great adversity, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked how I am able to live around decay and dishonesty, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I asked why I hold myself and others to high standards, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

Jesus is clear; there is no ambiguity in his words.  Jesus is concise; Jesus does not feel the need to further explain his thinking – it ought to be obvious.  If we cannot and do not and will not defend and protect those who are the most vulnerable, what are we worth?

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

Commentary tells us that these little ones who believe in me refers to anyone who believes in Christ.  “It is not clear if they are missionaries (see 10:42), all disciples, recent converts, those of low social status, or those weak in faith”.  (Meeks, 1890)  I will keep this in mind as I struggle with adults who cast down stumbling blocks before children.  I will remember that as always with Jesus, the Gospel is about inversion.  I will remind myself that often the children are the adults and the adults are the children.  I will continue to learn at Jesus’ knee how I might remove the millstone from my neck or how it is better to enter eternal life maimed than not at all.  I will do without my eyes if I am better able to see Christ in those who do not believe.  I will live without a hand or foot if I have a clearer picture of what Jesus’ has in mind as my work.  And I will be well aware of the stumbling blocks I might be casting before others in my attempt to save “the children”.

Dear, and good, and wise Jesus, You called your dear ones to yourself.  Help us to see the frightened child in the adults who struggle with un-named alarms.  Help us to act in kindness and humility with all who suffer from anxiety.  And keep us always close to you, even as we wend our way through the stumbling blocks cast down by our own terrors and fears.  Amen.   


A re-post from October 25, 2011.

Images from: http://dkevinbrown.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/do-i-really-believe-the-bible/ and http://johncalvin09dev.blogspot.com/2009/11/devotional-using-scripture-quote-from.html and http://johncalvin09dev.blogspot.com/2009/11/devotional-using-scripture-quote-from.html

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print. 

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Job 2:11-13Great Suffering

Monday, November 5, 2018

Written on June 14 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

At first glance, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar seem to be Job’s intimate friends.  When they arrive and see that Job is greatly changed and greatly affected by his new circumstances, they do not accuse Job or offer him platitudes; rather, they join him in grief and abide with him in his great suffering.  Once we begin to read the speeches these three offer, we change our thinking.  They urge Job to confess the hidden sin which they believe is the root cause of his pain . . . even though Job has nothing to confess.  This is when we realize that these three acquaintances are not able to think much beyond their immediate world and code.  They cannot really accompany Job in his great pain.

This week, the first Mass readings have been taken from Second Corinthians and Paul has been reminding his sisters and brothers in Christ that for your sake [Christ] became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich (8:9) We are rich enough, according to this thinking, that we can afford to love even our enemies . . . and it is our willingness to enter into suffering with Christ that brings us this wealth.

In the Gospels this week, we have been reading a similar message from Matthew 5: Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn you back on one who wants to borrow . . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.  These are difficult reversals to understand, thorny inversions to believe . . . these are hard lessons to model and to live.  Yet they are the fabric of Christian life.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar do their best to comprehend and even help Job but they cannot really abide with him because they do not understand the underpinning creed that suffering through and with and in Christ brings about true and lasting serenity.  They do not realize that suffering is not always a curse . . . and that great suffering may even be a blessing from God.


A re-post from October 3, 2011.

Image from: http://calvarybiblefellowshipmass.org/2011/08/27/1-year-bible-reading-08-28-09-03-11/

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Tobit 14Knowing and Believing

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tobit

Written on March 21 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

For I know and believe that whatever God has said will be fulfilled and will come true; not a single word of the prophecies will fail.

As I read this verse I wonder again why it is that we refuse to believe the prophets among us.  It is a sign of faith to believe that for which we have no absolute evidence but I am interested in the wording of this verse.  Tobit says that he not only believes in the word of God through these prophecies but he knows them to be true.  Perhaps this is because of the wonders God has worked in his life . . . the wonders that arrive after much suffering.

Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1) that faith rests not in man’s wisdom but in God’s power We know that this means we cannot earn faith in any way.  It is given freely by God as a gift and in fact God uses the foolish of the world to instruct the wise – if the wise will listen.  God chooses the lowly to inform the exalted – if the strong have time for the lowly.  The weak instruct the strong and the fearful speak to the fearless – if the strong and fearless do not steam roller those who hesitate.  Our ears must be open and willing to receive the message from God when it arrives.  And God’s message is always about inversion so it makes sense – in God’s time and way – that the joy of faith will come through suffering.  This is significant.  It is the answer to the continual questions we say we cannot answer.  The answers are right before us . . . they are swirling about our ears . . . we must choose to examine them and heed them.

Tobit has met and overcome huge obstacles in his life not by patiently waiting out his suffering in blind obedience as we said yesterday.  Rather, Tobit actively waits for the revelation God will ultimately provide.  Tobit trusts and knows that this information will arrive.  Which it does . . . along with a great reward.

In this last chapter of Tobit we find verses useful to us but only after we have read the entire story of healing and blessing.  Only after we have waded through the pain will we be able to fully comprehend and feel the joy Tobit feels.  Only then will we know, as Tobit knows, the power of God.

God will again have mercy on them, and God will bring them back . . . and they will rebuild in splendor . . . they will return from exile . . . and the whole world will be converted and worship God in truth.  We may read these verses and think that Tobit has allowed his imagination to get the best of him when he makes such a positive projection into the future based on such a bleak past, and we would be wrong.  If we believe that Tobit is too hopeful, we must read the story for as many times as it takes for us to see our own lives through the paradigm we are presented here.  And then we will have one more task . . .

So now, my children, I command you, serve God faithfully and do what is pleasing in his sight.  Your children are also to be commanded to do what is right and to give alms, and to be mindful of God and to bless his name at all times with sincerity and with all their strength. 

Only in this way will we too, know and believe that what God promises God will complete.  Only then will we know and believe that God’s prophecies will not fail.


A re-post from August 29, 2011.

Image from: http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2009/06/21/calvin-on-the-self-authentication-of-scripture/ 

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Isaiah 54:1: Breaking into Song

Friday, August 3, 2018

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that when days are dark we break into pieces, but despite bad news, there is a day when we will break into song.

Jerusalem, you have been like a childless woman,
    but now you can sing and shout for joy.
Now you will have more children
    than a woman whose husband never left her.

In ancient days, a woman without a husband or children was pitied. Here Isaiah paints a picture of one who lives in dire settings; however, Isaiah tells us that regardless of her negative environment, the barren and abandoned one has reason to sing.

God says: It is difficult for you to believe that my creation is more vast than your mind can comprehend; and because this is the case, the inversion Isaiah describes is incomprehensible to you. When your fears are deepest, know that I am with you in the darkness. When your anxieties overtake you, know that I am with you in your pain. When courage dies, know that I am hope beyond all anticipation. When love is absent, know that I am love enough to heal the darkest of evils. When faith abandons you, know that I am steadfastness itself. When you feel alone, betrayed or adrift, I am with you still. For every evil, there is a counter-love and it is the Spirit. For every deceit, there is a counter-truth and it is Jesus. For every time the universe seems to fall into pieces, there is a union that pulls all goodness together . . . and that goodness is me. Remain in me as I remain in you; and break into song with me.


For more reflections on the words of the prophet Isaiah, enter his name into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: https://es.pngtree.com/freepng/melodious-singing_699058.html

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John 15:15: Fools and Friends

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jesus reminds us that he calls us his friends. To think we are otherwise is foolish.

I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father.

As we consider what it means to be a friend of Christ, we remember this Favorite written on November 1, 2009. Sirach 22

There are many verses in this chapter that to make us smile and at times laugh aloud. Jesus ben Sirach knows human nature well; and he understands the importance of true friendship in which even the action of drawing a sword against a friend can be undone.  Yet, in these verses there are gentle warnings: the rest of us stand aloof from those who harm friends, treachery can drive away any friend, prosperity can get in the way of friendship, insults cause great harm in close relationships.

Equally significant are the verses pertaining to fools and those addicted to laziness.  Who among us has not been a fool at one time or another, and who among us has not been damaged by a fool?  Sirach advises well when he writes: teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot, or disturbing a man in his sleep . . . speak seldom with the stupid man, be not the companion of a brute . . . neither can a timid resolve based on foolish plans withstand fear of any kind.

We find many examples of foolishness, laziness, brutishness; and we see the value of tending to friendships.  In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul plays with the ideas of foolishness and weakness in humans and in God.  We become weak and foolish as humans in order to become strong and wise with and in Christ.   We give over our worldly wisdom and strength in order that we might submit ourselves freely to God’s will and power.  This is the secret of inversion in Christianity; and it is a truth we sometimes find difficult.  In 1 Corinthians 3:18-23 we read:  Do not deceive yourselves.  If anyone of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “the Lord knows that their thoughts are futile”.  So then, no more boasting about men . . . all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 

Today we have something to ponder as we wind down into the evening, into prayer and into sleep.  What or who do we see as foolish?  What or who do we see as wise?  What or who do we see as strong?  What or who do we see as weak?  Do sincere friends abound?  Who and what do we suffer and why?

Sirach presents a stark contrast in this chapter as do our own lives.  Everywhere we look we see the lights and darks that present an ever-shifting world; but the one true place we will always find a steady foundation is the masonry bonded with wooden beams . . . not loosened by an earthquake . . .This foundation is Christ.

A resolve that is backed with prudent understanding is like the polished surface of a smooth wall.  This resolve is funded by Christ.

Small stones lying on an open height will not remain when the wind blows . . . so this is why we must stand on the rock of Christ.  All else is weak.

Neither can a resolve based on foolish plans withstand fear of any kind . . . and this is why we must place our friendship in Christ.  All else is foolish.

We consider our friendship with Christ as we pray Psalm 122, and repeat the antiphon, For the sake of my family and friends, I say it again: live in peace.

Tomorrow, becoming salt. 


For more reflections on friendship, enter the word friend into the blog search bar and explore.

For more on the friendship pyramid and the stages of friendship, click on the image from: https://humans.media/stages-of-friendship

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Luke 33:22-30: The Narrow Gate and the Great Reversal

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Siq Pathway into Petra, Jordan

We know this story so well! Jesus calls us to witness to injustice, but he does this by calling us to The Great Reversal.

He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.

When a bystander asks how many will be saved, Jesus replies – and he replies to us today when we wonder if our enemies will perish or thrive . . . “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires your total attention”. 

This was the wisdom my parents taught us. As we work for justice, we must let God worry about God’s business while we examine our willingness to bend. We move toward Jerusalem as we learn to fit ourselves through the narrow gate of The Way.

When Jesus’ followers protest that surely they will be on Jesus’ guest list, he reminds them – and us – that although they believe they have known him all their lives . . . “Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me”.

How do we come to know Jesus better so that we do not find ourselves out in the cold, watching as outsiders stream in from east, west, north, and south to sit down at the table of God’s kingdom? How do we conduct ourselves so that all the time we are not outside looking in—and wondering what happened?

This is the Great Reversal: the last in line is put at the head of the line, and the so-called first end up last.

The Monastery in Petra, Jordan

Jesus is telling us that the answers to our questions stands before us, but perhaps we cannot see his simple solution because we are too interested in the business of others. Perhaps we are so occupied with examining the faults of others that we close our eyes tightly against the clarity of Christ’s response. Jesus clearly tells us here that the invitation to the feast is the narrow gate that admits the last first and the first last. The entry to celebration is the slim door that asks us to behave differently, to examine ourselves to find what we must change in order to experience true joy.

With immense patience, Jesus teaches moves toward Jerusalem, teaching us what we need to know.

With profound wisdom, Jesus demonstrates The Great Reversal, urging us through the narrowest of doors.

With intense compassion, Jesus invites us to eternal peace, showing us The Way through the slenderest of gates.

Tomorrow, the eye of the needle.


When we compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with others, we discover the peace we seek . . . just beyond the narrow gate that is Christ.

To reflect on Matthew’s story of Jesus, the Rich Man, and the narrow gate, and to learn more about how to get through “the eye of the needle,” visit The Narrow Gate page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-narrow-gate/ 

Learn more about Petra at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra

Images from: http://kinsmanredeemer.com/articles/eye-needle and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra 

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Romans 5:1-2: Throw Open the Doors

Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018

On this Second Sunday of Easter, we rejoice in God’s goodness as we throw open the doors of our hearts to Christ.

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (MSG)

God always works through inversion, turning our thinking on its head in order to show us what we already know, to give us what we already have . . . the gift of eternal life.

He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!  (GNT)

God always works through fidelity, abiding with each of us as we work in the kingdom, giving us what we already have . . . the gift of steadfastness.

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. (NRSV)

God always works through invitation, calling each of us to live in the Spirit, to give us what we already have . . . the gift of God’s grace.

So, since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have shalom with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. Also through him and on the ground of our trust, we have gained access to this grace in which we stand; so let us boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory. (CJB)

God always works through determination, persisting with each of, giving us what we already have . . . the gift of God’s love.

On this Second Sunday of Easter, we throw open the doors of our hearts to God’s goodness, fidelity, and love, reveling in God’s justification.


When we compare differing translations of Paul’s advice to the Romans, we find ourselves eager to praise God as we throw open the doors of our hearts to God’s goodness.

Images from: http://tracyhurst.com/throw-open-the-doors/  and https://lauramadrigano.com/a-heart-wide-open/

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Matthew 1:1-17: Genealogy

Jesus’ Family Tree

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

As commentary explains the issue of genealogy, the purpose of Matthew’s inclusion of this long list of who begat whom serves to describe the fourteen generations in this listing, 14 being the numerical value of the letters in the name David.  I once heard an entire lecture on numerology and the Hebrew alphabet, concepts important to Matthew’s audience, the Jewish people at the time of Christ.  The salient point here is that Matthew was making the case that the man Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah who springs from David’s line.  Yet, despite this affirmation that emanated from their way of thinking, despite the many signs and fulfillments of Old Testament scriptures and the prophets, the people refused to accept the evidence before them. We might ask why; and the answer is . . . because they wanted to.

When Jesus came into his family, his town, his country, his culture, he upended many of the long-held tenets.  He came to set the world on fire, to cause discussion, to move the people out of their comfort zone.  He did this in his own time and he continues to do this with us today. He does this with an inversion that startles and even frightens us, but that also transforms us.

We might turn to Paul to better understand the genealogy we share with Jesus. Paul explains to the Galatians, and he explains to us . . . When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Family was important to my parents – both the generations before us and the generations to come. These cohorts formed a foundation on which Mother and Dad stood and from which they drew strength as they met the daily challenges of life. We need to practice standing and stretching. We need to practice patience and forgiveness.

Today we read of Jesus’ legitimacy.  Let us reflect on our own legitimacy as his adopted sisters and brothers.  Do we share his patience?  Do we share his love for those who curse us?  Do we share his love for doing God’s will?  Are we legitimate heirs of the redemption Jesus has given to us?

For more information on Jesus’s Family Tree, visit the PBS Frontline site at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/tree.html 

For details on this tree, for comparisons of Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies, visit: http://www.complete-bible-genealogy.com/genealogy_of_jesus.htm

Tomorrow, loving our enemies. 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 4, 2008.

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31: Consider the Call

Sunday, February 5, 20171corinthians1_31

We know that we are called by God to build the kingdom with deeds that come from an open heart.

Now remember what you were, my friends, when God called you. (GNT)

We are called to be the foolish who show the way to the world’s wise.

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. (NRSV)

We are called to be the weak who shame the strong.

Just look at yourselves, brothers — look at those whom God has called! Not many of you are wise by the world’s standards, not many wield power or boast noble birth. (CJB)

We are called to count for nothing to call those who count for something in this world.

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. (MSG)

We are called to be the lowly to call the powerful.

We are called to boast in God’s call to the inverted kingdom that Jesus comes to establish. Today we give thanks for this call.

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