Posts Tagged ‘inversion’

Tobit 14Knowing and Believing

Monday, October 1, 2018


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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Isaiah 10: Social Injustice

Thursday, January 26, 2017 social-injustice

As we conclude our look at God’s inverted kingdom, we consider a Favorite from June 10, 2009, and we reflect on how Jesus might deal with the social injustice we find in our societies.

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the ax. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew (7:3) and Luke (13:24), most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

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Jeremiah 52: The Inverted Kingdom – Part XIII

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jewish captives with camel and baggage on their way into exile. Detail of the Assyrian conquest of the Jewish fortified town of Lachish (battle 701 BCE) Part of a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Niniveh, Mesopotamia (Iraq)

Jewish captives with camel and baggage on their way into exile. Detail of the Assyrian conquest of the Jewish fortified town of Lachish (battle 701 BCE) Part of a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Niniveh, Mesopotamia (Iraq)


Thus was Judah exiled from her land . . .

In this last Chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy, we see the capture of mind, soul and body that results from enduring neglect and refusal to do what God asks of us.  And we understand that we cannot sustain life when we practice this kind of internal death. We may want to renew ourselves with solutions we think palatable and we may believe that we know the best way to bring goodness out of evil, but we are children playing at being grown up when we prefer our ways to God’s.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer included a canticle from Isaiah (35:2-4, 8-10):  [The faithful] will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.  Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.  A highway will be there, called the holy way; no one unclean may pass over it.  No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met on it.  It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.  Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

We have a simple lesson here about how to live in a world that constantly runs counter to what the Lord asks of us.  The people of Judah are vanquished, their leaders captured, their possessions taken.  They become disenfranchised from all that identifies them.  They are slaves to another culture.  This capture is seen as something bleak and stark, a life without promise; but Isaiah reminds them that – as with all things involving the Living God – what appears to be loss is gain, and what seems to be gain is loss.  It is precisely when all that we have and know is taken from us that we are given the opportunity to turn to the font of life.  When we are and have little or nothing, there is only God.

Isaiah tells us that in this new life into which we have stepped  there is not darkness but rather light.  God will announce himself with reversals; and a Way will open up before us that we will only see once we have replaced our pride with humility and our desire to be independent from God with a desire to be one with him.  Nothing can threaten us when we walk along this Way for it is holy, and once we throw off the values that the darkness of the world has to offer, we will be holy, too.  Our step will be quick, our burden light for we will be carried by God.  We will also understand that we have a journey to make, a journey of redemption itself.

We, the ransomed, travel not toward the very one who has ransomed us . . . but with him.  During Advent and the Christmastide we heard Isaiah’s prophecy read out in which the prophet announces The One who is The Way.  We have revisited the results of capture and the road beyond that imprisonment. Today we Christ followers know our savior’s name as Jesus.  The ancient Judeans could only dream about Christ’s coming.  How fortunate are we to travel this highway with him.

Tomorrow, beyond the highway of capture.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 4, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.6 (2011). Print.

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