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Friday, January 3, 2020

1 John 5: Victory

reclaiming_gods_hope[1]For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We are so often told – and we so often forget – that once we place ourselves in God’s hands we need not struggle.  From the first books of the Torah to the final words of Revelation we hear this message and yet we fight with and against the world.

Sometimes we fear one another.  We hoard money, goods, guns, plots and any object or idea we believe keeps us special . . . and this is sad because we are already special.

Sometimes we fear the past or the future.  We look over our shoulders constantly or peer into the coming days looking for clues about how we should act and decide . . . and this is so senseless because these preoccupations takes us away from the holy present.

Sometimes we fear God.  We look for full comprehension or we want total control; we deny, cajole, and make bargains . . . and this is so little of us because as John tells us today: The surest victory over the world comes not from our actions or thoughts but through our faith in God.

I write these things to you so that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.  And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything in accordance with his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked of him is ours. 

John cannot speak more plainly to us.  In his Gospel he tells us quite clearly that Jesus is the unique Son of God.  He reminds us that salvation comes through our belief in the Son.  He explains that “Jesus is not the victim of human injustice even though those who killed him were evil people.  Jesus chose to offer his life for others so that they could see God’s love revealed on the cross.  When we see God’s love on the cross, we are reminded that God identifies with the lowly, suffering people of the world by joining with them”. And finally, John’s Gospel describes for us how mutual love and unity express God’s love.  (Senior RG 450-451)   All of this is explained to us and yet our fears overcome our faith; we allow the turmoil of the world to overcome us; we forget that victory comes through our faith in the story that we witness through John and the other apostles.

John tells in his writings that he has witnessed all that he recounts – we are not reading a second, third or fourth-hand accounting.  In his first letter, John intertwines the very real with the ideal and we may become confused with this fusion of two perspectives; yet in is this dance between two opposites and the synthesis they present, John describes a world of universal acceptance and love that we seek.

Jesus tells us endlessly that God’s simple commandment to us is his call to love.  We struggle with this for we do not see it in the world we occupy.

John tells us endlessly that Jesus’ simple commandment to love comes directly from God the creator.  We struggle with this and we let doubt and fear and a desire to control our world to take us over.

As we begin a new year in our western calendar, let us decide to put aside our anxieties about the world.  Let us spend time reflecting with John, a man who accompanied Christ – God Among Us.  And let us place all our fears and hopes in the hands of a God who loves us deeply and always . . . for it is in that place alone that we experience victory that conquers the world.


A re-post from December 31, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 450-451. Print.   

For more on the First Letter of John, visit the 1 John – Testimony page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/1-john-testimony/

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Exodus 23:1-9: We are God’s Dwelling Place

Saturday, November 30, 2019

You shall not repeat a false report.

Do not join the wicked in putting your hand, as an unjust witness, to anyone.  Neither shall you allege the example of the many for an excuse for doing wrong.

Nor shall you  . . . side with the many in perverting justice.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or ass going astray, see to it that it is returned to him.

When you notice the ass of one who hates you lying prostrate under its burden . . . help him to raise it.

You shall not deny one of your needy fellow-men his rights in a lawsuit.

You shall keep away from anything dishonest.

You shall not put the innocent or just to death . . . You shall not acquit a guilty man.

Never take a bribe.  Bribes blind even the most clear-sighted and twist the words even of the just.

You shall not oppress an alien . . . since you were once aliens yourselves.

If we might only heed these oh so old words . . . there would be oh so much less strife among us!

Paul reminds us that Christ fulfills this old Mosaic Law, telling us that he even comes to supersede it. He also reminds us that we are significant members of God’s family.

You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the capstone.  Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:19-22)

John of Patmos has a vision of the New Earth and the New Jerusalem in which he reports a loud voice from the throne saying: Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God].  (Revelation 21:3)

Jesus is not God’s Plan B.  He does not arrive to live among us as an afterthought or as a fixative for something that has gone wrong.  He has always been and will always be the thought and action of God among us . . . The Word.  It was always intended that we live peaceably side by side, helping one another with our troubles, lifting one another to new levels of spiritual maturity, coaxing, exhorting and encouraging one another over the hurdles we encounter in our journey.  Yet even as we are a collective, we also have the individual responsibility to see to our own growth, to gather around us friends who live by the Mosaic and Christian codes, to rebuke one another, to listen to one another, and to love one another.  We might look back from our twenty-first century vantage point to see the pieces fall into place.  We can see that from the earliest stages of our development as peoples, God was abiding with us.  We can also see that he abides with us still.  Let us praise God!  Let us sweep the floors clean . . . renew the old and new rules . . . and welcome him into the dwelling place of our hearts.


Written on November 9, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://wau.org/resources/article/re_gods_dwelling_place/ and http://life-in-a-jiffy.blogspot.com/2011/06/nature-hearts.html

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Ezekiel 39:25-29: Restoration After Hiatus

Monday, October 21, 2019

Govert Flink: Issac Blessing Jacob

When we look at the life of Jacob we might be tempted to look at the story of his deeds or accomplishments: his early toying with deceit, his growing ability to focus persistently on a goal, his fathering of twelve sons who lead the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  When we look more closely we see that rather than a rising and falling arc of “doings” what we really find is a string of actions that are separated by pauses.  What Jacob has mastered is not so much the “doing” of life but the thoughtful hiatus.

In the story of Jacob we see that are many periods of hiatus in which he is separated from all he loves by either his own actions or the events that swirl around him.  When we reflect a bit more on Jacob, we might also see how and if and whether we experience hiatus in our own lives.  Today’s Noontime calls us to reflect on the goal we all have in mind when we are in a state of hiatus.  We yearn for the reunion, the curing, the re-construction, the bridging, the healing . . . the restoration.

We know that the lands and fortunes of the tribes of Jacob are indeed restored . . . and then lost again.  The people wander away from the lesson they thought they had learned during exile.  Their hubris and their lack of willingness to listen to and for the voice within gets in their way, they become easily distracted, and wander into the wilderness again to lose what they had regained.  Fortunately for humans, God forgives endlessly.  The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this.

When we experience hiatus well we have the opportunity to learn much about ourselves.

We come to know that the Lord is our God, before whom no other god may stand.  These other gods may be our desire for wealth, looks, fashion, friends, prestige, life style, addiction – anything which separates us from God.

We experience the New Law of Love, the Law of the Beatitudes which Jesus brought us on the Mount (Matthew) and on the Plain (Luke).

We become people who do not fear poverty, illness or rejection suffered as the result of Kingdom Building and Kingdom Living.

We become light and salt and yeast to the world.  We are to be brothers and sisters together shouting with joy that God is good.

We become to be harvesters who go forth weeping to return singing.

We become people who are Jesus in a world which is not.

We become people who wait for, and hope for, and work for Restoration.

And this is the Restoration which awaited the tribes of Jacob.  It is the same restoration which comes to all those who wait actively, seek patiently, and witness persistently.

This is a Way worth following.  It is a Life worth living.

Amen.


To explore how hiatus figures in Jacob’s life and in our own, go to the A Journey Hiatus in the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/a-journey-of-transformation/a-journey-hiatus/

Image from: https://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/jesus-who-do-you-think-you-are-1-abraham-isaac-and-jacob

First written on October 6, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Psalm 30:6: At night there are tears, but joy comes with the dawn.  

The darkness of night seems to magnify our fears; demons multiply when shadows fall.  The morning light dispels our aches, pains and fears.  If only we might live constantly in those moments of first light.

God says: I understand why you fear the darkness; it is where the wicked spend their time.  I appreciate how much you love the light and how hard you work to bring light into the darkness.  Jesus comes to you each day in both obvious and subtle ways to replenish and nourish the energy that drains as you struggle with your dark hours.  My Spirit abides with you endlessly to lift you when you are down, to animate you when you are discouraged.  I defend, protect, call and unite you.  The darkness is empty and hollow . . . and has no power over you. Live in me and you will have the light with you always.  With me joy abides. In me the Spirit lives.  For me Jesus saves.  Come . . . and remain in me.

It is possible to live in the light even though we are surrounded by darkness.

For more reflections about dispelling the dark, type the word Light in the blog search box and see where the light leads you.  Click on the image above to read a story about two brothers and the lesson that the “first light” brought to them. 


A re-post from August 30, 2012.

Image from: http://nandini-j.blogspot.com/2012/01/two-brothers-chinese-story-on-respect.html

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John 16: Persecution Predicted

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 

Joy on stone . . .

We have never been told that apostleship is easy.  It has never been said that discipleship is easily lived.  What we have been told, and what has been said is this: your mourning will turn into joy, your reward will be great.

In this chapter Jesus speaks frankly, honestly and openly with his friends.  He assures them that once he goes their life will become difficult.  He reminds them that this is God’s plan and that once he, Jesus, has made his Exodus, the Holy Spirit will come to live with them – to continue to guide, protect and encourage them.

The apostles – and we – stumble through his meaning.  What is this little while of which Jesus speaks?  Jesus tells them that they must begin to petition the Father in Jesus’ name.  And suddenly these followers of the Christ begin to focus on the coming event: The Resurrection which Jesus predicts.  Suddenly, because they are familiar with all of the predictions made in their Testament of Torah, Wisdom and Prophets, they begin to understand that persecution must follow because Jesus is God.

In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.

If we are sailing easily through life’s storms, we must be ignoring some of our assignments.  If we are never challenged by the headlines, by our friends, by our dear ones, we must not be living in the now.  When we hear our thinking going toward “making nice”, “not wanting to upset anyone”, “ignoring something until it goes away or someone else takes care of it”, then we know that we are still stumbling through the meaning of the Christ’s words which he speaks to us today in Chapter 16 of John.

We must not be disheartened when we meet stiff necks, hard hearts, personal agendas.  We must call upon Christ to bring us hope, call upon the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, call upon the Father to bolster our faith that all harm will be turned to good . . . and we must step fully into the arena of life.

And so we pray . . .

Jesus, God, Holy Comforter, we know that you will never lead us falsely, yet we fear the coming storm.  We doubt our own ability to follow you.  We know that you are always with us, yet your presence is sometimes difficult to feel.  We doubt our own steadfastness.  We know that your words are true, because you are Truth.  We know that your words are loving, because you are Love.  We know that the darkness is shattered by your presence, because you are Light.  Bolster us with confidence, send us courage, because we know of the persecution of this world . . . and we also know that you have already conquered this world.  We ought not to fear, but we are human.  Send us your strength.  Teach us how to find joy in the stony path of life. Remind us that joy will come of our mourning.  Amen. 


First written on June 11, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

For a reflection on living in joy click on the image above or go to: http://www.writtencreations.com/blog/2012/05/30/living-in-joy/

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Luke 20:20-26: Mercy

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gustave Dore: Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount

In today’s Noontime we listen to Jesus as he gives us a homily and we watch as Jesus puts himself at great risk by speaking to and about the power structure that governs his society.  Much like Moses, Jesus descends from the summit to gather his leadership; Jesus draws together his apostles and disciples.  Moses leads the former slaves to a promise; Jesus aligns himself with the disadvantaged, and speaks aloud the message of hope and rescue that he brings from God.  And it is this way that he forms his kingdom from the rejected and deprived.

The keystone of Jesus’ sermon is in the difficult teaching which many of his followers cannot accept: that he requires us to change our behavior.  Rather than launch weapons and force at our enemies, rather than gather up allies to join us in the shunning or destruction of one who crosses us in any way; we are called by Jesus to love our enemies into goodness.  In this sermon Jesus expands upon the Law as presented to and then by Moses.  Whereas the Old Law focuses on the rules of the Sinai covenant that unite the Hebrew people to hold them together, apart from the world, the New Law asks that we now focus on building our capacity to tolerate, accept and even advocate for the destitute . . . and those who harm us.  We are asked to see that these are the people who make up this new kingdom . . . these wounded and ousted people are our neighbors . . . these people are us.

God does not return like behavior, curse for curse, blow for blow.  He does not walk away when frustrated.  He does not turn away in disgust.  He does not curse us in anger.  He does not plot in hiding.  Rather, in spite of the fact that we reject him in that we refuse to love our enemies, he loves us all the same.  He waits infinitely and patiently for us to return to him.

Jesus knows how difficult all of this is for us; yet he lays down before us the thorniest challenge we will ever meet.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same.  If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners and get back the same amount.  But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

And so we that God show us mercy . . . and that God show us how to act in mercy ourselves.

Lord, grant us mercy.  Mercy in the face of ugliness.  Mercy against cruelty.  Mercy before deception.  Mercy rather than retribution.  Mercy after all.  Mercy before for all.  Mercy for all.  Mercy in all.  Mercy in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 13, 2012.

Image from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/manifesto/0_preface.htm

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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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