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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’


Matthew 21: Clarification

Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Fig Tree

A re-post from February 28, 2012. On this Palm Sunday, we look for clarification and transformation. 

The parables and narrative in this chapter give us a perspective of Jesus’ life and works alongside those of Israel.  We see him enter Jerusalem – the Old Jerusalem which is to be replaced by the New – we see him cleanse the temple – the Old Temple which is to be replaced by the New – we see his authority questioned – as it is at the Second Coming – and we read parables and stories of vineyards, workers and fig trees that depict the unfaithful nation of Israel – the Old Israel which is now . . . us.

The content of this chapter is a microcosm of Jesus’ life: parables and action, identification as King, identification as sacrificial victim.  The juxtaposition of the various elements in this chapter further emphasize for us that we have a clear choice before us: to live by the principles declared and here clarified by Christ or to choose our own way, to be faithful to the principles demonstrated by Christ or to live a life if infidelity.  We are always free to choose.

In this chapter of Jesus’ life he seeks to clarify for us how we might live.  We may be a lazy and unproductive fig tree, cursed by its creator.  We may be a bountiful vineyard yielding fruit for the harvest.  We may be envious neighbors who murder the owner’s son in the hopes of taking that which is not ours.  We may be unscrupulous in our daily shepherding of resources.  We may demonstrate peaceful resistance to all that colludes and deceives.  We many choose to make a profit from the sacred acts of others.  We may join Christ in rebuking those who sell what God gives as gift.  We may be the learned who plot against truth because it takes away our power to manipulate.  We may be life.  We may be conduit of goodness.  We may rage or conspire against the kingdom.  We may join in the work of building kingdom.

The choice is clear; and Jesus makes this choice even clearer in the event that we have doubted his authenticity.  If we ask for clarification we have only to turn to this chapter to see what is before us.  Do we hide and conspire or do we reveal and build?

We see Jesus declare and clarify himself today in these stories and in these actions.  What do our stories and gestures declare and clarify about us?


Image from: http://remnantbride.com/blog/?p=508 

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Joshua 12: Conquered Kings

Thursday, April 4, 2019. 

A re-post from Holy Week 2012. 

Ancient Canaanites

I sometimes wonder what life was really like for leaders in the ancient world.  It was such a violent and predatory place and much time and energy were spent merely surviving.  This is still true for many in our modern world in which focus on survival is necessary in order to see the next day’s dawning.  In today’s Noontime we read a roll call of the vanquished along with a description of the division of conquered lands.  Conquest is marked by neat categories; there is no evidence of the horrific jumbled chaos that is war. These verses make the telling of this list so orderly and so tidy that we might think that Joshua and his men performed this work without much personal cost or effort.  We would be wrong.

This territory had belonged to the Hittites, the Amorites, Canaanites and others.  A series of city-states falls, their kings are vanquished: Jericho, Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, and more.  With a quick reading it might appear the subjugated are nameless, faceless peoples.  If this is our impression, again we would be wrong.

This kind of struggle never comes without a cost, and it comes as part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 15.  He was to have descendants that numbered as stars in the night sky, and these descendants were to inhabit a land that would be delivered with the help of God.

The twelve tribes use violence as they take over the mountains and foothills, deserts, slopes and rivers of this promised place.  Several thousand years later, Jesus arrives to tell his people that this way of violence is over, that now they are to deliver another cheek to an attacker rather than another blow.  He brings the strange message that rather than pray for our friends alone, we are to intercede for our enemies.  We can see how bizarre this thinking must have seemed to a people who had won what they had through the spilling of blood.  We can see how the message will seem strange to us today.

Our question on this Holy Wednesday is this . . . As we go through our days, moving toward the promises made to us by God, do we take care with how we move and why . . . and do we use Old Testament ways or New Testament thinking . . . do we resort to the weapons of violence, or do we use the tools of peace?


For more information on the many tribes cited in Genesis and Joshua, go to:http://biblos.com/ and search the dictionary, encyclopedia, atlas or other resources on this site.  

Image from: http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com 

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Ezekiel 2:5-7: Among Thorns and Scorpions

Monday, April 1, 2019

A number of months ago we looked at Ezekiel 2 and focused on the image of the scroll.  Today as we watch Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem we look at just a few of the verses.   From the Jerusalem Bible: The[y] are defiant and obstinate; I am sending them to you to say, “The Lord Yahweh says this”.  Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them.  And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them, do not be afraid when they say, “There are thorns all around you scorpions under you”.  There is no need to be afraid either of their words or of their looks, for they are a set of rebels.  You must deliver my words to them whether they listen or not, for they are a set of rebels.  Jesus knows that he is about to settle into the thorns; he is aware that scorpions lie in wait; yet he goes willingly to do as the Father asks.

In today’s reading from Philippians (2:6-11) Paul describes for us Jesus’ manner before God.  Perhaps when we spend some time reflecting on these verses we will be better able to do as God asks.  We know that this obedience will lead us from time to time to sit among thorns and be surrounded by scorpions; yet we obey as Jesus obeys, knowing that we are led and loved by God.

And so we pray . . .

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped . . .

If Christ himself does not try to supersede the creator, why do we?

If Christ himself does as the Father asks, why cannot we?

He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness . . .

If Christ empties himself so that the Spirit may enter, why cannot we?

If Christ enslaves himself to the will of God, how might we?

Found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross . . .

If Christ humbles himself and bows to the creator, when can we?

If Christ obeys unto death, even death on a cross, when do we?

Because of this, God greatly exalted him.

If Christ settles into thorns to sit among the scorpions, why don’t we?

If Christ calls us to follow . . . even into the thorns and among the scorpions, why don’t we?

What do we fear . . . when we know that we are led and loved by God?

Let us place our cloaks on the ground to make a passage way for Christ.  Let us take up the fronds of palm to wave them in joy.  And let us follow the one who leads and loves so well . . . even knowing that we go among the thorns and the scorpions.  Amen.


A re-post from April 1, 2012.

Scorpion image from: http://bioveteria.com/antivenom/scorpion-antivenom/

For another way to look at scripture, click on the thorn image above or visit: http://thewordin365.wordpress.com/tag/thorns/

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Matthew 17:1-8: Transfigured

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raphael: The Transfiguration

I love this story because it is so indicative of how we humans behave.  When we see something beautiful we want to capture it.  When we feel something exhilarating we want it to possess it.  When we witness something powerful we want to hold it forever.  Peter, James and John see Jesus transformed, radiating brilliance.

In Mark’s version (9:2-8) and in Luke’s story (9:28-36) we hear again about the brilliance of the whiteness, the flashing of light, God’s voice booming out that he is pleased with Jesus.  We understand that Jesus holds a conversation with Elijah and Moses about his own exodus to come.  Mark tells us that the apostles were frightened.  The apostles suggest to Jesus that they erect tents; Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  Luke adds about Peter: He did not know what he was saying.  So many times when we witness a miracle we do not comprehend what is really happening.  Our perspective is too narrow, our view too limited.  We want to hold and keep the present beyond its purpose.  We fear the future and regret the past.  The present, we tell ourselves, is something we can control.  And so we try to hold on to a transfiguration that is meant to be a transition to something new.  We trust what we know . . . and we fear what we do not.

I am amazed that God continues to accompany us when we are so tiny beside his greatness, so stingy beside his mercy, and so self-centered beside his generosity.  I am thinking of a prayer I have just read in Phyllis Tickle’s THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME (255): Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.  Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I might be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul”.  We want so much to draw out our happiness so that it might last forever.  We yearn to capture serenity and hold it fast.  We wish that sadness and loss were experiences we did not have to suffer; and when transfiguration comes we want to remain in it . . . not noticing that once we have been transformed we must go forth to transform the world.

As we approach Holy Week and the miracle of Easter when Jesus suffered, died and rose again to bring us the gift of eternal life, let us follow Jesus along with James and Peter and John to the top of our own high mountain to experience the vision of dazzling whiteness and the gift of transfiguration; and let us celebrate.  How glad and how grateful we must be that Jesus did not follow the suggestion of his friends and remain on the mountain forever in a state of bliss.  How blessed and how graced are we that Jesus abides with us each day calling us to our own transfiguration.  How good and how gracious is our God that he visits us – his little children – constantly and faithfully . . . to grant us miracles in our sorrow, light in our darkness, and peace in all our adversity.


A re-post from March 28, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.3pipe.net/2011/01/giovanni-bellini-st-francis-in-desert.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

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Ezekiel 18: A New Heart and a New Spirit

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Written on December 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Jacob Willemsz de Wet: Workers in the Vineyard

The prophet Ezekiel foreshadows the story Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 about the vineyard owner who pays the same wage to the worker who has worked for but an hour as he does to the one who has worked all day.  We are cautioned by both prophet and Messiah not to complain about God’s generosity – we may one day hope to benefit from this abundance.

The prophet also foretells the story Jesus describes in Luke 15 who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go in search of the one that is lost.  We are told by both prophet and Savior that we are as precious to God as that one sheep.  This story is told as an illustration of God’s determination to call us – we may one day have need of this persistence.

Ezekiel tells the people in exile that they must move beyond these old proverbs and customs of believing that the sins of one generation are visited upon another.  He foresees what Jesus tells, that there will be a Messianic Age when we are released from the old and given a new heart and a new spirit – this spirit is forgiveness – this heart is love.

This is wonderful news!  Yet, it brings with it a reality that we may not want to hear.   With this newness comes the responsibility to return and repent.  We cannot expect that the good we have done will somehow outweigh the bad; yet we have the certain knowledge that all Ezekiel has foretold is true.  God will persist in calling out to us as we wander lost and alone.  And God has a heart large enough to repair any damage that has been done either by us or to us – for we have this promise from the prophet Ezekiel that we see fulfilled in our brother the Christ.  Jesus has died yet lives.  Jesus returns for us . . . so that we might live.  The Spirit abides with us . . . and brings us this new heart . . . this new spirit . . . as a gift from God.  All we need do is reach out our hands, and open our hearts.

 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.  Return and live!


A re-post from December 16, 2011. 

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/jacobwillemszdewetdasm11.jpg and http://www.ideachampions.com/heart/archives/quotes/index.shtml

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Luke 4:16-30: The Brow of the Hill

Friday, March 8. 2019

Jesus

Today we remind ourselves that Jesus was rejected in his hometown and this ought to help us feel better about our failures both perceived and real.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed through the midst of them and went away.  I am reading this and thinking that Jesus lives most of his life on the brow of the hill, at danger of being hurled down headlong.  We know how Jesus died and so we understand that finally the jealousy, anger and fear took over enough people to drown out the voices of the faithful followers.  We also know, because we have read the story and heard it told to us each Eastertide, that death did not put an end to Jesus and his kingdom; rather, it birthed a movement and a way of being that swept the world and changed human history forever.  We need to remember all of this when we find ourselves on the brow of the hill outside our own hometown or any place else.  We need to remember that what we first perceive as an end will become a beginning through Christ.  We need to remember that what we fear becomes our joy through Christ.  We need to remember that nothing can obliterate us and God restores and saves.  We need to remember that God turns all harm to good.  We need to remind ourselves that when we live and move in the Spirit we are infinite and eternal.  We need to remind ourselves that when we pray and act in the Spirit, nothing is impossible.  He passed through the midst of them and went away.

What did Jesus do or say that angered those who had known him from birth?  A few days ago we heard the Isaiah 61:1-2a reading that Jesus found and read from the scroll.  The spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . there are those who resent good things happening to other people.  He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to the prisoners, and a day of vindication by our God . . . there are those who want to be the only giver of goodness, the only advocate for peace.  There are those who want to control even the goodness of God.

The Isaiah reading continues: I rejoice heartily in the Lord . . . and so must we even in the face of disappointment.  My God is the joy of my soul . . . and so we turn to him when we are rejected and scorned.  He has clothed me with a robe of salvation . . . God will leave the ninety-nine safe and secure to seek for and save the one lost sheep.  He has wrapped me in a mantel of justice . . . God will right wrongs and mend brokenness in God’s time and place.

The people in the synagogue were all filled with fury . . . we have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ Advent into our lives with impatience and resentment.  At the same time we have the opportunity to welcome him into our lives even when we know that following Jesus is difficult work.

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing . . . we do not have to wait for some distant and unknown day to celebrate God’s saving power; rather we can proclaim our joy today and every day.  We can willing follow Christ even to the brow of the hill secure in the knowledge that although we fear being hurled headlong down the precipice Jesus stands with us to lead us through the midst of them . . . to lead us to eternal safety and joy.


For an insightful blog posting on the Luke reading in today’s Noontime, click the Jesus image above and follow the link.  For a site that has information about films about Jesus, click on the image below.

1977 film: Jesus of Nazareth

A re-post from December 13, 2011.

Images from: http://fralfonse.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html and http://biblefilms.blogspot.com/2010/11/comparison-jesus-gospel-manifesto.html

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Mark 3: Unhardened Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand and he is immediately criticized for working on the sabbath.  The Pharisees have, in fact, been watching Jesus; they are waiting for him to slip up, to break one of the many rules the old law has laid upon the people.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure [the man] on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Jesus not only heals the man, he delivers a quick homily with both his actions and words: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save the life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”.  Jesus does not allow his fear or anger to overtake him.  He chooses instead to speak and act with compassion.  He does what is good despite the evil that would prevent him.

When we read this story carefully we understand why Jesus then withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.  We live in a world of easily hardened hearts and for that reason we understand why a large number of people [followed Jesus] from Galilee and from Judea.  We also understand why Jesus warns those he has healed not to make him known.  He knows that he has come to soften hardened hearts.  He understands the Father’s plan and bows to it.  He heals, he counsels, he goes about his work knowing that he embodies a loving God . . . and knowing that his presence stirs up envy and hate.  He knows that his actions ripple into the darkness and disturb those whose hearts are stony.

Jesus appoints the Twelve and charges them with delivering the story of good news and in so doing he sends a wave of his own love into the world to soften the hardness he sees.  He appoints each of us as well.  He returns home where the streets are so crowded that his relatives are so fearful of the hardened Pharisees and scribes that they proclaim: He is out of his mind.   But Jesus moves forward and calls out those who accuse him of drawing his power from the devil himself.  He presents a simple yet effective response and then he warns all that they are in danger of committing a most egregious offense against the Spirit.  His accusers blunder on, hardening their hearts still more; Jesus moves forward as well, calling them to redemption.

When we place ourselves in the thick of these intense stories from Mark’s Gospel, we see that our own lives echo the events on the written page.  We too have been accused unjustly.  We too have been the unjust accusers.   We have both hardened our own hearts and watched with sadness as others harden themselves against us.

In our search for comfort and joy we fall prey to darkness from time to time on our journey.  We succumb to anxiety, impatience, anger, fear and sorrow.  We may let these experiences harden our hearts . . . or we may expect God’s ransom and healing.  We may look for desolation . . . or we may anticipate God’s love.  Psalm 95 is the perfect prayer for us when we feel a certain coldness begin to settle into our hearts.  And for that reason we pray . . .

Just and gentle God, send us the patience we need to hear your word and act in it.  Fortify us in your love.

Good and gracious God, guide us with the wisdom we seek and hope for in you.  Counsel us in your fidelity.

Compassionate and wonderful God, forgive us our endless errors and wanderings.  Call us back to you.


A re-post from February 18, 2012.

For a beautiful music video of Psalm 95 click here, or go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7IryEV4F2c&feature=related

Images of hearts in nature are from: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/nature/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature.html

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Psalm 119:9-16With All Our Heart

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Imagine the love we will spawn when each of us is able to honestly say to God . . . I love you with all my heart . . .

Imagine the fortitude we will engender when each of us is able to truthfully say to God . . . I have sought you with all my heart . . .

Imagine the humility we will experience when each of us is able to openly say to God . . . let me not stray from your commands . . .

Imagine the trust we will feel when each of us is able to solemnly say to God . . . I treasure your promise in my heart . . .

Imagine the joy we will sense when each of us will enthusiastically say to God . . .  I rejoiced to do your will . . .

Imagine the goodness we will produce when each of us is able to earnestly say to God . . . I will ponder all your precepts and consider your paths . . .

Imagine the patience we will personify when each of us is able to sincerely say to God . . . I take delight in your statutes . . .

Imagine the fidelity we will embody when each of us is able to fully say to God . . . I will not forget your word . . .

Jesus teaches with authority and the crowds are amazed at his wisdom. Matthew 7:28-29. 

Jesus does not seek to control those who follow him.  Indeed, he is moved with compassion for them.  Mark 6:34.

Those who know Jesus do not stray far from him.  Crowds of people come to him, and as is his custom, he teaches them.  Mark 10:1

He teaches in their synagogues and everyone praises him. Luke 4:15

He enters Nazareth where he is well-known yet the people are furious.  They drive him out of their town.  Luke 4:29

Jesus tells us that he does nothing on his own but does all through the Father who has sent him; he teaches what the Father has taught him.  John 8:28 

Jesus heals many; he transforms the harsh circumstances of life.  Those who wish Jesus gone plot against him.  Matthew 12:14

When Jesus stands before the High Priest on the night he is accused he reminds all of us that he does nothing in secret but comes to us openly.  John 18:20

We are never given the guarantee that life will be without suffering.  We are never told that each day will end in happiness.  We are never fed with lies or pampered with pretense.

We are always protected by God who turns all harm directed against us into good.  We are always lead by Jesus who brings the love of the Father into flesh.  We are always accompanied by the Spirit who celebrates our very existence.

God surrounds us continually and constantly with heart images to remind us of how much he loves us.  Once we rely on God alone for our internal peace and the will to do as he asks, we will experience true security, honesty and openness not only with God but with all those with whom we interact.  God shows us his kingdom each day, yet we are so occupied saving ourselves that we do not see.  God sends us his love each day, yet we are so overwhelmed with the minutiae of the life we have created for ourselves that we do not hear.  God’s love is planted in us each day, yet our worry and anxiety is so intense that we do not feel.  Imagine if we could put the world aside for a time each day . . . to say the simple words to God that we often say to others . . .

Imagine the kingdom we will build with God when each of us is able to boldly say to our creator . . . I love you with all my heart . . .


 To read more about the human heart and hearts we find in nature, click on the images and follow the links. 

Images from: http://muslima61.hubpages.com/hub/The-Beautiful-Heart-Appearances-Can-Be-Deceiving

A re-post from February 5, 2012.

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Acts 13:44-52Address to the Gentiles

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Yesterday we reflected on Paul’s Summary story of God’s constancy in his love for his people.    God keeps his promises.  God has good things in mind for his creation.  God loves us more than we can imagine.

We first spent time with this portion of Acts on May 29, 2008 and we revisit that reflection today as a Favorite . . .

Because many of those Paul addressed in the synagogue refused to hear the story of Jesus, Paul took his message to the gentile nations.  Many have ears but do not hear, eyes but do not see.  I am thinking about how we humans form community . . . and how we also create obstacles to the formation of community.  We conjure up sides, form alliances, close ranks and lock steps to keep out those who do not comply.  We have the choice in this life to follow Mean Girl Queens and Playground Bullies which ultimately means that we must succumb to threats and insinuations.  We also have the option to stand on Gospel Values . . . which means that we must work to become constant disciples of Jesus.  And it also means that we must put down our old familiar weapons of separation to take up the arms of unity and peace.

The prophecy of Daniel and the story of Esther are worth remembering because they are where we learn that . . . the faithful need not fight, they only need to refuse to comply with anything which causes them to abandon their God.  This is the same message that Jesus brings to us; this is how the kingdom becomes universal.  This is how the Spirit abides and how the Gospel message spreads – through conflict resolved, through obstacles overcome, through pain endured, through reparations made and forgiveness granted.  Where do we go for solace and comfort when we must squeeze ourselves through these Narrow Gate ExperiencesHow do we mature spiritually?  How do we find and maintain the serenity we say we seek? Paul tells this in Pisidia who will hear him, and he tells us today . . .

When we suffer for Christ, we know that we have been chosen . . . we also know that we are loved.

When we live in the Spirit, we know that we live in God . . . and we also know that we live in love.

When we call on God, we know that we are heard . . . and we also know that we are rescued.

I am looking at the morning prayers and petitions from MAGNIFICAT.

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him; he is their mighty shield and strong support, a shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun, a guard against stumbling, a help against falling.  (Sirach 34:16)

You are a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in distress; shelter from the rain, shade from the heat. (Isaiah 25:4)

With confidence in the God who hears our prayers and protects us, let us pray:  To our words give ear, O Lord.

You shield us from harm: teach us to protect goodness in ourselves and in others.  To our words give ear, O Lord.

You guard us against stumbling and help us against falling: strengthen our reliance on you in every temptation.  To our words give ear, O Lord.

You are the shelter of all those who are in need: make us a shelter to all who call upon our help. To our words give ear, O Lord.

O God of glory, you are our shelter against the burning heat of the day and the storms of life.  Help us when we stumble, catch us when we fall, and guide our steps firmly in faith toward the promise of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


A re-post from January 8, 2012.

Images from: http://www.davincisartandcoffee.com/Metal/cross/Heart/default.asp and http://northwaystudents.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/wide-gate-vs-narrow-gate/ 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 29.5 (2008): 392-393. Print.  

For a reflection on the Book of Daniel on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/daniel-god-calls-the-faithful-and-faithless/

For thoughts on Esther see: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

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