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Posts Tagged ‘new life’


Luke 23:50-56Burial

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the two words Jesus says frequently to us: Follow me . . .

Today we take a look at what we are invited to do as a first step in the resurrection process.  We are invited to our own burial.

Van der Weyden: Descent from the Cross

Scripture – and in particular the New Testament story of Jesus – is full of inversion.  We see many paradoxes in Jesus’ words and actions: We must give up all we have in order to gain the world, those who are broken are strong, leaders are those who serve, we must be willing to die if we want to live.  What appears to be incongruous results in a reality we had not anticipated.

What looks like death is life itself.

I tell you the truth, Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John (12:24), unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

What looks like burial is life itself.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark (4:30-32)It is the smallest you plant in the ground; yet when planted it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches the birds of the air can perch in its shade. 

What looks like the end is really the beginning. 

The wallpaper image on my computer is the painting Descent from the Cross by Rogier Van der Weyden; I keep it there to remind me of Jesus’ words to us about life, death, and resurrection.  Each time I log on and see the image, I am reminded that we are always in the process of a necessary burial – the first step toward resurrection.  With that image in my mind, it is easier to remember that anything I do in the material world is a reflection of my belief in the spiritual world. As I travel about my digital universe, I carry with me the constant reminder that it is the spiritual world we seek rather than the material.

I am the resurrection and the life, Jesus says to Martha (John 11:25-27).  He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? he asks.

Martha replies: Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.

As we reflect on the verses in today’s Noontime and as we look at the expressions on the faces painted on the Van der Weyden canvas, let us take in what we have been told.  It is what those who loved Jesus well are about to fully understand as they lower his body from the cross.  It is the elemental truth that . . . Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

What looks like sorrow will soon be joy.  

The first step toward that joy is our eagerness to unfold the paradox Jesus has given us.  It is our willingness to submit to burial in the life of this world.  It is the full knowing that, like the kernel of wheat, we cannot live until we go into the soil . . . to burst forth again in the new life of Christ.


A re-post from September 1, 2011.

Image from: http://eastofthemoonwestofthesun.blogspot.com/2011/04/day-95-holy-saturday-preparation-for.html 

Further information about the Van der Weyden painting can be found at the following sites or sites of your choosing.  You may want to share some with us.  A good description of the symbolism represented in the characters we see. http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/197

A beautiful slide show through which the viewer can zoom in to see the detail in the cloth, even the tears glistening on cheeks.  http://www.slidingtime.be/ The show is a link from this blog.  http://writingwithoutpaper.blogspot.com/2010/04/rogier-van-der-weydens-descent-from.html

This link gives us more insight into the painting.  http://blogs.artinfo.com/secrethistoryofart/2011/05/06/inside-the-masterpiece-van-der-weydens-descent-from-the-cross/

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Job 29:18-20The Phoenix

Thursday, March 30, 2017

We have looked at Job frequently during our Noontimes, and this is good . . . because this book holds so much wisdom.  Today we reflect on the opportunity we have each day to rise like a mythical phoenix from the ashes of yesterday.

During this time when we anticipate the celebration of Resurrection, New Hope, and New Life, it is also a time to celebrate the quality of mercy which creates new life from old.  We learn so much more deeply when we are strained to a limit.  We remember the lesson so much better when we have felt the panic of knowing that we have skated too close to the edge of the ice.  We know, feel and can give compassion with so much more integrity when we have received it from someone.  When we have been at the end of a rope or at the bottom of a pit and we have received a healing and helping hand. This is when our character is forged.  This is how we draw close to who we can be.  This is how we become genuine.

The goal of suffering well is to allow the conversion of our pain to a healing, compassionate response, and to offer this new-found empathy to those who follow.  We become the experienced ear, the honest voice, the curing hand.  And when we think about it, we realize that this is the only way that suffering can make any sense.

So today and all days, let us remember that each morning we are given an awesome gift as we open our eyes and rise to greet the new day. We are given again the opportunity to rise from our own ashes.

A Favorite from March 31, 2008.

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Psalm 18:22-23: Cornerstone – Part II

Thursday, March 2, 2017shall-become-the-cornerstone

When we fear that our world is too ugly, too violent, too deceitful and cruel, we must remember the inversion the ancients understood.

The stone which the builders rejected as worthless
    turned out to be the most important of all.

This was done by the Lord;
    what a wonderful sight it is! (GNT)

When we are defeated, turned away, rejected or abandoned, we must remember to rely on the Creator for sustaining the life we have been gifted.

The very rock that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone!

This has come from Adonai,
and in our eyes it is amazing. (CJB)

When we lose hope, feel lifeless, have no energy to struggle back from loss, we must remember to trust the Holy Spirit who heals, guides and abides.

Thank you for responding to me;
    you’ve truly become my salvation!
The stone the masons discarded as flawed
    is now the capstone!
This is God’s work. (MSG)

When frustration overcomes us, anxiety freezes us, or fear seizes us when we see cataclysm looming, we must remember to call on God, the Creator of all.

When we reflect on Psalm 118 we find a prayer for thanksgiving in victory; and we discover that our defeats are the cornerstones of new life. 

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Ephesians 4:17-24: The Empty-headed, Mindless Crowd

Tuesday, April 19, 2016zombieLove2

These are interesting words from Paul to the people of Ephesus; and they serve us today as we move through another political season. Use the scripture link to compare THE MESSAGE version cited here with another translation to see if perhaps different words speak to you.

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

Paul warns the Ephesians and he warns us that the life we fashion for ourselves is much less interesting, much less challenging, and much less loving than the life God has in mind for us.

That’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

What does it mean to take a new way of living? How might we better enact Jesus’ Law of Love as we move through our days? How do we deal with the challenges that greet us when we cast off unhealthy living? Why do we cling to the empty-headed, mindless crowd?

Tomorrow, making a clean break.

 

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Acts 5:17-42: Obeying God

Wednesday, April 13, 2016obeygodnotman

And the Apostles said in reply: We must obey God rather than men . . .

Do we see Jesus’ Apostles as only the twelve who followed him? Do we believe that Jesus’ followers were men alone? Can we stretch beyond any narrowness to believe that we number among Jesus’ Apostles today? Are we willing to stand during difficult times to say . . . we must obey God rather than men . . .?

When we read these verses in their varying translations, how do they speak to us of Jesus’ remarkable gift of resurrection? What do they reveal to us about God’s generous promises? And why do they call us – or perhaps not call us – to become one with the Spirit that wants to heal a troubled world? When we use the scripture link to explore this story of the Apostles who carry out miracles in Jesus’ name well after his death, we find new life and new energy to carry out the Gospel in all we say and do. When we allow God’s goodness to settle into our bones, we find new courage and new patience to smile in the face of adversity.

A video presentation of Acts 5:17-42 may be of interest. While we may not be in accord with all the speaker tells us, we are invited to reflect on this story of the importance of obeying God. Click on the image above or go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MiSr5yx9nA

 

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

jeremiah 15Jeremiah 1

Persecution

Jeremiah’s prophecy is complex; it consists of judgment oracles, narratives about his life, and sermons. Throughout all of this his voice brings not only a constant warning but also a certain consolation to those who are willing to suffer. To the faithful remnant he says what we long to hear: that we are loved, that God’s name is written on our hearts, and that we are called. He speaks to anyone eager to find the truth embedded in each of us, the truth that is God.

Jeremiah speaks to the experience of persecution and this is a theme that resonates with all human beings for all of us at one time or at many times – either justly or unjustly – are persecuted. We all know what it feels like to be left out, looked over, betrayed, and even punished for what we believe is truth. Ultimately, only God can let us know if we are living an honest life; and God does this frequently. Only God can indicate to us that our suffering has been either self-pitying and pointless or redemptive and fruitful. We all suffer. But do we suffer well? God tells us about the truth of our suffering by pointing out to us the fruits of our labor. And God does this gently . . . by telling us that we are wonderfully made . . . and that we need not fear. God tells us that there is hope.

From the HARPERCOLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE (Meeks 1113): Here indeed was a prophet who combined elegance of form with the ethical and redemptive content of the “word of the Lord”. And perhaps more than anyone in his time, Jeremiah provided the means by which a despairing people could hope for a new future.

Reading the first chapter of this profound prophecy is an invitation to new life and to hope, an invitation to join Christ in the kind of suffering that saves souls and that transforms itself and us into a joy-filled gift. We are invited into this redemptive mystery that is God’s love.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .

You are mine. You are special. I have a particular job in mind for you.

And before you were born I consecrated you . . .

Because you are mine you are holy. You are my temple. I want to dwell within you.

I appointed you a prophet to the nations . . .

You have words to say and gestures to make in my Name.

Then I said – Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child . . .

We reply in fear to this awesome task, believing falsely that we are not up to the journey that lies before us.

But the Lord said to me – Do not say “I am only a child’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you . . .

You are my gift to the world . . . my gift of joy. I see a wonderful potential in you . . . for you are designed in love by me . . . to love me in all places and times and peoples . . . you are made to put away fear . . . in yourself and in others . . .

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you . . .

Until the end of time . . . Amen.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 1113. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, January 16, 2009.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

hamikdash21[1]Haggai 2:15-19

Promise of Immediate Blessings

This is good news!  Commentary tells us that we should read this citation along with Chapter 1: The Exhortation to Rebuild the Temple. After the destruction and capture and exile by the Babylonians, the Jewish people were finally allowed to return in groups to Judah, but they had a good deal of trouble in rebuilding their temple and themselves. We can read about this in Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Samaritans in the northern part of the former Jewish territory who had intermingled with non-Jews have become the enemies of Jews returning to their home in the southern region of Judah.  These Samaritans now block the way home for the returning exiles.  In a time of return from deportation when we might imagine a new joy rising from the hearts of the Israelites, it is instead corruption and idol worship that they experience.  In a time when physical and emotional fatigue from the return journey sap the strength of God’s people, they are called to dig deep into their inner selves to find the energy to rebuild.  Yet despite the energy they expend in their struggle to return to their Jerusalem home, the faithful find the wherewithal to rebuild.  They rely on their custom of maintaining contact with Yahweh through exile. They are an exhausted people who return from the north and yet here the prophet Haggai entreats the people to rebuild what was lost and he promises that there will be immediate joy.  We might feel tired just thinking of the turmoil, disappointment and suffering they experience.  We also might feel their hope, animation and sense of fulfillment.

This is a story that inspires.

Some of this prophecy (in particular the portion of chapter 2 just before today’s reading) takes the form of a “torah” or instruction given by a priest and so it carries particular significance. We are reminded that we are nothing if not first thought and then created by God. We are exhorted to re-build the old temple and to rebuild ourselves.  We are reminded that God will fill us with the persistence and fortitude to answer this call.  We are told that there is one to come who will shepherd his sheep in their return to an old home in a new spirit.

We have just closed Eastertide, two months of celebration when we experience the intimate presence of the resurrected Christ who arrives as fulfillment of all the prophets have predicted.  He is the new temple, and we are the building blocks.  He is the promise, and we are the beneficiaries.  He is the blessing, and we are the blessed.  As we return from our own personal exiles, may we live up to this promise.  And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious Lord, you have called us back from our time of exile.  You have offered us transformation and new life.  You have filled us with new energy and new strength.  May we live up to the potential we embody.  May we learn to be true, living stones in your temple.  And may we experience the joy of your immediate blessing.  Amen. 

Adapted from a Noontime first written on May 17, 2007.

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