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joySaturday, October 23, 2021

Leviticus 9

Joy and Ministry

From time to time we will visit scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a number of ways. If you wish to explore other stories in which joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Leviticus.

Whenever we practice formal religious rites, experience God in nature, or find God among family and friends, we will always find ministers of joy. In today’s story we read about joy experienced by God’s people who wander in the desert looking for the promise of safety and security. We watch as Moses designates priests who will act as intermediaries for the faithful, and we wonder if we ourselves might be priests to one another. We examine our willingness in being conduits of joy to the world. And we reflect on our own capacity for joy.

Reubens; Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Peter Paul Reubens: Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Wherever we find the God of joy, we will also find those willing to tell how they have been redeemed by God’s love. In today’s story from this book of laws and restrictions, we ponder on the freeing power of joy and its ability to overcome all obstacles. We consider how we find joy in other places, times and people and how joy is always present – although often hidden – in times of deepest sorrow; and we reflect on how we might reveal the healing presence of joy to ourselves and one another.

desert tentHowever we find joy like that described in today’s story about these ancient people in the celebration of life and thanksgiving, we will be moved to open the windows and doors of surprise for ourselves and one another. We remember how we long for joy in times of sadness or exile. We recall how the burning presence of joy can heal and save. And we determine to bring the loving salve of God’s joy into the narrowest places of our lives each day.

And so we pray . . .

Let us call on God’s living presence in any hour of despair or pain.

Let us offer up to God any arid landscape we experience today.

Let us minister to one another with shouts of great celebration as we recognize God’s desire to bring joy to even the tiniest moments of our lives. 

And let us revel in the loving surprise of God’s joy and presence and like the faithful we read about today, let us cheer loudly as we fall down in great bows of delighted reverence for God. 

Amen.


For more about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

Reubens image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacrifice_of_the_Old_Covenant_Rubens.jpg

Temple image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shemini_(parsha)

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Moses TentMonday, September 20 , 2021

Psalm 15

Refusing Panic

Who may dwell in the Lord’s tent or upon the Lord’s holy mountain?

Jeremiah has spoken to God’s people just as God has asked, and for his fidelity and suffering, he is abused and mocked.  The remnant remain and believe. The faithful know that sooner or later, Jeremiah will be silenced, but God’s word, spoken honestly and carefully, will never die. God’s truth lives forever and cannot be extinguished.

Jesus comes to live among us to heal and redeem, and for his compassion and mercy he is rejected and crucified. The remnant remain watchful and hopeful. The faithful know that here and now Christ continues to walk and live among us. God may be placed out of mind but God is present and cannot be denied. The Spirit is indwelling and cannot be extinguished.

A number of months ago we visited with Psalm 15 and we return today as we prepare for Jeremiah’s journey to Egypt – a place where the Hebrew people once sought refuge and became chained by slavery. A place from which the Twelve Tribes made their exodus with Moses to be delivered in their promised land. A place that served as refuge for the Christ family following Herod’s plot to murder the infant Jesus. Today we reflect on Psalm 15 and remind ourselves that when we stand steadfast in Christ, we must be prepared to reject anxiety. We must be ready to shun our fear. We must be willing to refuse any sense of panic.

Who may dwell in the Lord’s tent or upon the Lord’s holy mountain?

God says: I am well aware of the sacrifices you make for me. I see that you put your desires and sometimes your needs to the side as you take up my cause and deliver my words. Like my prophet Jeremiah you even place yourself at risk when you speak and act as I have asked. Know that I see all of your big and small losses. Understand that I see how you suffer. Believe that I place my hope in you and that you may place all your hope in me. I am goodness and goodness never fails. I am compassion and compassion always heals. I am love and love never abandons. Love always accompanies, always saves, always redeems, always transforms, always brings home. If you must be carried off to Egypt, know that I go with you. And know that I will also bring you home.

Today, spend time with this short psalm, and consider not if we may dwell in the Lord’s tent or on God’s holy mountain, consider how we can dwell anywhere else.

Walk without blame, do what is right, speak truth from the heart, do not slander, defame, or harm your neighbor, disdain the wicked, honor those who love God, keep your promises at all cost, accept no bribe . . . for whoever acts like this shall never be shaken. 


For another reflection on Fearlessness, enter the word in tot he blog search bar and reflect on the importance of trusting God, of rejecting panic, and of remaining as remnant that is never shaken.

Image from: http://thepraiseandworshipconnection.blogspot.com/2013_08_01_archive.html

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Wednesday, August 19, 2021

Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

James Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

Jeremiah 25:1-14

Seventy Years 

Can we imagine a seventy-year exile from all that we know? Can we picture seven times seventy years, or a four-hundred-ninety year banishment from all that we have come to love?

Jeremiah reframes for the Israelites – and for us – the cautions laid out by Yahweh with Moses on the desert mountain.

Turn back, each of you, from your evil way and from your evil deeds . . .

Then you shall remain in the land the Lord gave to you of old . . .

Do not follow strange gods to serve and adore them . . .

Jeremiah’s Yahweh speaks of punishment to be delivered in subsequent verses and this clashes with our understanding of the Lord as a forgiving parent who remains with us through every difficulty, even the difficulties we bring on ourselves. We struggle to comprehend why the innocent suffer and why God does not intervene to eradicate every injustice.  And then we recall that we are created in love as God’s image in this world. We remember that we are part of God’s plan of salvation. We remember that our own hands and feet, our minds and lips are God’s in a world crying out for healing. We read these lines from thousands of years ago to recognize our role in God’s plan. When we discover injustice, we are called to act. When we see suffering, we are asked to intervene. When we find sickness, we are called to heal. Wherever we discern the crumbling walls of God’s kingdom, we are commissioned to love with, and for and in Christ.

Jesus tells us: Then the king will say . . . Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in;  naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me”. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?  And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Individually and collectively we have the power in Christ to build the kingdom in this time and space. Alone and together we have the power in the Spirit to cure and heal. On our own and in solidarity we have the power through God to repair and build. Let us determine to give the years of our exile over to Christ for in so doing we live in the Spirit, and we transform ourselves and the world as we call forth the kingdom with God.


Enter the word captivity into the blog search bar and explore where or how we create our own exile from God, and what we might do to allow our separation to transform us.

For Bible study outlines, click on the image above or go to: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/category/old-testament-bible-study/page/37/ 

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jeremiah1Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Jeremiah 15

The Grasp of the Violent

The Lord said to me: Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me, my heart would not turn toward these people.

Conditions have reached a dreadful pitch. God’s people have gone so far astray that no one is listening to anyone. They ignore God’s words of warning delivered through Jeremiah and now their very existence is in the hands of the wicked. The Lord tells Jeremiah that he has done with words. Even from the wisest of prophets.

Then who will guide and protect God’s faithful remnant who suffer because they have obeyed God’s word?

Who will pity you, Jerusalem, who will console you?

Jeremiah sees no reason for his existence and delivers his plaint to the Lord, a plaint that many peoples of the world might lift to God today.

Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!  Tell me, Lord, have I not served you . . . I did not sit celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; under the weight of your hand I sat alone . . . why is my pain continuous, my wounds incurable . . .?

Then from the ferocious maelstrom, God says: If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece . . . I am with you to deliver you. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.  Listen to my prophet Jeremiah for he brings you words of wisdom, words of life, words that will break the fist of the vile, wicked and violent.  

Enter the word remnant into the blog search bar and consider how each of us might bring forth precious acts rather than return violence for violence.


For more information about the prophets Moses and Samuel visit: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/m/moses.htm and http://biblehub.net/searchdictionary.php?q=samuel 

For another reflection on Jeremiah 15, enter the words God’s Words into the blog search bar and explore.

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Monday, June 8, 2020

the bread of lifeNumbers 11

A Prayer for the Discontented

The Hebrew people have escaped slavery and tyranny.  They have followed Moses out of bondage and moved toward freedom and promise.  When the journey becomes too long and too arduous they grumble and complain.  They who had been hopeful and even joyful at the prospect of change and newness are now disgruntled, unhappy and even resentful.  They complain to Moses who does what all faithful do . . . he takes his problem to God where all solutions lie.

We see a reprise of this story later in the New Testament.  As the kingdom work begins to build, Jesus assembles seventy-two disciples to go out into the world when the harvest is plenty but the workers few.  (Luke 10)  Still later when the fledgling Church begins to form, the disciples add to their ranks in order that they accomplish the work they see before them because it would not be right to neglect the ministry of the word of God. (Acts 6)  The work becomes arduous, even difficult, and so the apostles ask for help.

Jesus tells us that we are to knock at the door we wish might open to us.  He reminds us that we are to seek so that we might find.  (Luke 9 and Matthew 7)  We are never left alone to deal with our stumbling blocks and in fact these obstacles become doorways and windows onto our best potential as creatures of God.  They are reminders that God is always present, always abiding.  These “problems” in our lives are actually openings to a deeper relationship with God.

As we journey through life we often find ourselves needing more than manna; we discover that the taste of the daily quail has somehow soured and rather than sustain us these birds have now become the root of our discontentment.  We are tempted to ask for more than manna and quail and we do not see that this further complicates our problems.  We do not see that we must ask God to show us solutions to our problems that lead us to grow and mature in Christ.  So, rather than carry our burdens on our own, let us tell God that some of our load is too much to carry, and when we do we will find that from the depths of his descent into darkness Jesus returns to free us from all that enslaves us.  Jesus arrives to carry us forward.  Jesus abides with us always, just as has been promised, to bring us to our best selves. 

When find that we have begun to settle into our discontentment as a kind of familiar unhappiness, let us ask ourselves these questions.  What do we seek more than the manna we receive daily?  Are we willing to open ourselves so that our too-heavy load might actually be an answer to a prayer that is shared in God’s light?  Are we willing to give up the habit of our discontentment for the promise of freedom offered by God?

And let us pray . . .

Kind and loving God, you sustain us through all turmoil even though we may not see you.

Just and merciful God, you transform our suffering even though we may fail to call on you.

Patient and wonderful God, you allow us to grumble and complain even when we need to celebrate with you.

Loving and generous God, show us how our discontentment may lead us back to you.  Amen.


Image from: http://www.newbeginningscctampa.org/Bread_of_Life.html

Adapted from a reflection written on April 23, 2011.

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Sunday, June 7, 2020

concordpastorNumbers 11

The Discontent of the People

Everyone is complaining in today’s Noontime, both prophet and people.

I cannot carry this all by myself . . .

Would that we might have what we used to have when we were slaves . . .

God hears these cries for help and he responds . . . but his response is tailored to the petitioner and the petition.  God hears that although the people are being sustained by the manna, they hunger for more.  God also hears the weariness and frustration in Moses’ voice.

What does God do?  As always, God acts.  And God acts in accordance with a plan that offers us more than we can actually see from where we stand.

First, God asks that Moses assemble 70 elders in order that some of the Spirit he has bestowed on Moses be transferred to his chosen helpers.  Second, God sends quail to add to the people’s diet.  This caring and compassionate God answers all petitions . . . but there are further lessons to be learned.

We see Moses intercede for his people and we see how he learns and benefits from his interactions with God.  This humble and open man is rewarded with the chance to share his burden.  In this way, the Spirit moves among many and lightens the heavy load.

On the other hand, the meat – which lured the people from the camp – becomes loathsome to the people.  They come to see this “gift” with which they have sated themselves for what it is: a symbol of their faithlessness and their rejection of God’s gift of grace.   We all know the saying: Be careful what you ask for.  In today’s story, the people at first are happy with the remedy they have sought . . . more meat has arrived.  Later they see their thinking as an example of how they have focused on the obstacle as a problem to be removed rather than as an opportunity to draw closer to God.  (Mays 173)

Sometimes we, like the Hebrews, also present our own solutions to God rather than petition for God’s help that will also best suit our personal growth.  Sometimes we, like the Hebrews, ask for more than the manna God sends us.  Sometimes we, like the Hebrews, forget that we grow best when we grow in God’s plan rather than in spite of God’s plan.  We, like the Hebrews, have become accustomed to being discontent . . . and forget to celebrate God’s providence that constantly sustains us.

Tomorrow, manna becomes the Bread of Life in Christ . . .


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 173. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 23, 2011.

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Exodus 32: The Golden Calf

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Golden Calf

Even as a child I was impressed with how quickly Aaron slid from one role to another: loyal brother, facilitator of the making of the Golden Calf, loyal brother once again.  He appears to get by unscathed and I remember thinking that he must not be very bright, and this is why God let him off so easily.

Some scholars say that Aaron went along with the crowd because it would have been impossible to go against the unhappy throng.  Others point out that Aaron presents an argument we hear often even today; You know how prone the people are to evil.  They said to me, “Make us a god to be our leader; as for Moses . . . we do not know what has happened to him”.  He further argues, “They gave [the gold jewelry] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out”.  I was amazed, when I first heard this story, that there seemed to be no consequence.  Yet Aaron rallies, aligns himself with Moses and the others who want to stand with him rather than against him, and he escapes the violent death that awaits those who remain against Moses.  A coup takes place, blood is spilled, the Hebrews muddle on through the desert.

I am thinking of the many golden calves I have seen erupt from the fires of anger and jealous, fear and anxiety.  I am also thinking of how many times I have been asked if I am for or against and how I have answered.  I am also thinking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:30, Mark 9:40 or Luke 11:23: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does gather with me scatters.  And I am grateful for God’s generous mercy.

As a child I knew I lived in the black and white world my parents had created for our family.  In that world the most frequent – and most dreaded – punishment for infractions of rules was the dreaded three word sentence, “We will talk”.  Sometimes we waited days or even weeks until Dad or Mother would nod and say, “Now”.  We would have worried and gnawed over all of the arguments we might present for our innocence and we had thrown out all that were false.  We ended up with the unvarnished truth.  During the waiting time we would have sorted through the varied outcomes of the impending conversation.  And in the end we were so eager to unload our conscience and to confess to our waywardness that we provided our own best castigation.  We came to see that we had been wrong.  We admitted openly how we had strayed. And we were anxious to enter into and complete any penalty we were to suffer.  It was a wonderful form of coming to terms with what it was we had done, why we had done it, and how we ought to be dealt with.  My husband and I used similar strategies with our own children when golden calves appeared in our home and we met with the same success in raising ethical, thoughtful, merciful children.  God’s generosity and mercy cannot be outdone.  God’s love and patience cannot be matched.  And for this we ought to give thanks.

Each time I see the adulation that surrounds a golden calf in my family, community or workplace, I pray for the kind of patience my parents taught us.  I ask God to bring me wisdom, good timing, and the fortitude to witness to falsehood in a way that will be effective.  And I pray for the good counsel and right thinking of the Holy Spirit.  When I allow God’s waiting time to pass, I find I have more success than if I lunge forward on my first impulse with my first reaction.

The people we read about today become unhappy about their circumstances and so they create an immediate world of superficial happiness as they revel and play around an idol of their own making.  They quickly learn that there is a price to pay for self-centered thinking . . . and that golden calves often leave us standing against our God.


a re-post from October 28, 2012.

Image from: http://abwbibleperiod8.wikispaces.com/Ch8A+The+Golden+Calf

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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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Deuteronomy 32: The Song of Moses

Second Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019

Moses

Yesterday we considered our Lenten Journey and how we might create for ourselves and our loved ones a physical sign of this promise of fidelity to the Living God who is Alive Among Us. Today we spend time with Moses’ words as he calls the Israelites to conversion and urges them to consider a change of heart and habit.  Moses calls his people, and he calls us, to a love that will endure forever. He calls us to love as God loves.

From commentary: In the style of the great prophets, the speaker is often God himself.  The whole song is a poetic sermon, having for its theme God’s benefits to Israel (vv 1-14) and Israel’s ingratitude and idolatry in turning to the gods of the pagans, which sins will be punished by the pagans themselves (vv 15-29); in turn, the foolish pride of the pagans will be punished, and the Lord’s honor will be vindicated (vv 30-43).  (Senior 222)

Who are these gods of the pagans to whom we turn?  Our obsession with immediate and empty gratification?  Our desire to put ourselves first and others last?

Jesus reminds us that in the Kingdom the world is turned on its head. The meek will inherit, the first will be last, what is empty will be full.

Where do we see our own foolish pride?   In the pumping up of self?  In the building of self rather than the building of Kingdom?

Jesus lays out for us the life and work of his disciples so that we might see that we are to act in servant leadership with salvific love. 

How is this foolish life punished?  The unwise are destined to become enslaved by the chains they put on others.  The reckless eventually find themselves enveloped in the same dangerous plots they weave for others.

Jesus shows us that forgiveness and compassion are the tools he uses to engender a love that endures forever and cannot be outdone. 

Moses makes a final appeal to the people, asking that they take to heart all the warning.  Let us too, take up the counsel to root out our foolish pride and banish false gods.  Let us climb our own Mount Hor to see the Promised Land from a distance . . . and then let us ask the Living God for safe passage in this journey of conversion of the heart.


A re-post from March 19, 2012. Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.222. Print.   

For more on The Song of Moses click on the image above or go to: http://www.revelation-today.com/song1.htm

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