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Posts Tagged ‘obedience’


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ezekiel 12: While they are looking on . . .

NaysayersBeatsMysapceHeader2[1]In today’s Noontime we are reminded that we do not have to fight against the obstacles in life’s journey that loom so large.  It tells us that when barriers to freedom are gigantic and overwhelming we cannot struggle against them.  It says to us that we must turn to God in trust and obedience.  We must do as Jesus does even while the naysayers are looking on. 

Going into exile was an embarrassment to the “chosen” people.  They who had always been miraculously protected by Yahweh now found themselves going into captivity at the hands of the very pagans whom they had previously conquered in battle.  The Israelites have discovered that while they fought against the barbarian outside of the city walls, it was the enemy within that doomed them.  Corruption and deceit in their own community had decayed their society to the foundation.  There is no other outcome to expect than the one they are living . . . they are to pack their baggage in full view of the enemy, and then they are to dig their way through the broken walls of the city to march into captivity.  And all of this while the unbelievers are looking on.

So many times we find ourselves living among rebellious people, and we sometimes cannot even tell if we have become one with the idol worshipers.  We feel as though the world has gone mad and we are one of the few sane ones who remain.  In our Noontime journey we have reflected on how to weather the whirlwind when we see and hear it approaching; today we reflect on how to journey faithfully into captivity . . . while the world is looking on.

There is a remnant left by Yahweh: Yet I will leave a few of them to escape the sword, famine and pestilence so that they may tell of all their abominations among the nations to which they will come; thus they shall know that I am the Lord.  This just yet merciful God is always willing, and indeed eager to give his people another door to salvation, another opportunity to return.  God will vindicate us even in the darkest and most painful of times even while those who deny us are looking on.

There are occasions when it seems as though we alone are able to see what others cannot.  Circumstances and events speak loudly to us while they only whisper to those around us or speak not at all. The prophecy we hear and see and then repeat for others falls on stubborn ears.  The world mocks those who live simply so that others may live.  Society denies truth so that deception might reign.  Many favor the apparent security of tangible comfort while few remain faithful to the Spirit who is willing to abide while those who wish us gone are looking on.

Ezekiel describes a vision today that seems a long way off and yet is present in the Spirit within.  Ezekiel says that in a distant time to come there shall no longer be any false visions or deceitful divinations and yet this word is fulfilled by Christ in us today.  Ezekiel tells us of a future in which none of God’s words will be delayed any longer and yet this future lives in us today because God loves us so . . . even while the naysayers are looking on.

Let us spend time with this prophecy today.  And let us see that, despite the naysayers, Ezekiel’s vision lives in us in this present moment through the promise, the rescue and the love of God.


To read more about weathering the storms on our journey, type the word whirlwind into the search box on this blog. 

The opening paragraphs of today’s Noontime were written on August 12, 2010.  Today’s post is an amplification of that reflection.  

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Deuteronomy 7: Blessings of Obedience

Count_blessings6[1]This is one of those portions of the Old Testament that we humans can distort to fit our own agenda; we might take it to mean that God shows partiality, or that some of us are somehow above others of us.  I do not believe this to be so, and careful reading of good commentary tells us otherwise.   The message we might better take away from today’s Noontime is this: Israel has a special function to serve in God’s plan – that of bringing other nations out of the darkness of pagan worship and into the light of mercy, justice and hope which the Living God brings to all.  From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (Mays 198-199): “God has chosen Israel, not because of any special worthiness on its part, but out of God’s personal attachment based on divine love and the promises made to the ancestors (vv. 7-8).  The Exodus experience reveals that God’s essential character promises covenant loyalty over uncountable generations (vv. 8-9).  However, the integrity of God’s character also threatens individual retribution for those who are apostate (v. 10).  A further motive for wiping out Canaanite religion is offered by the promise of fertility for family, field, and flock (vv. 13-14), an especially appropriate counter to Baal’s claims to bestow fertility.  Obedience also leads to good health.  The plagues of the Exodus tradition will be reserved for enemies (v. 15)”.

When we consider this, we understand that rather than giving his chosen people an exemption from acting in God’s name, God is expecting his faithful to behave as he himself does: with justice and compassion, bringing hope, and acting in love.  This is the thinking we hear from Jesus in Luke 12:48: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. 

Like Israel, the faithful are in a special covenant relationship with God.

Like Israel, the faithful are called to act in obedience to God’s call.

Like Israel, the faithful are graced with God’s countless blessing.

Like Israel, the faithful have not earned a “special worthiness” . . . yet are loved deeply and dearly by the Living God.


Image from: http://somewhereincraftland.blogspot.com/2011/01/count-your-blessing-subway-art.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 198-199. Print.

Written on October 31, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Deuteronomy 1: God’s Guidance

guide[1]In this last book of the Torah, we find a reiteration of the covenant relationship between God and his creatures as mediated by the man Moses.  His aim, as we read in commentary, is to enforce with the Israelites “the Lord’s claim to their obedience, loyalty and love”.  (Senior 187)  What we see here is God establishing a firm relationship with his people; much as a parent devotes care to strong enforcement of family values with a toddler . . . knowing that the teenage and young adult years – and even the years that carry us into maturity – will be difficult ones.  God wants to leave nothing to chance where his creatures are concerned.

In verse 10 we see reference to the fact that these tribes are so multiplied they are as numerous as the stars in the sky.  And we remember the promise made to Abraham that even in their advanced years he and Sarah would be the vehicles through which God would create a people dear to him.  This is followed with a plan laid out by God for gaining the territory promised to Abraham and his family.  Scouts are chosen to reconnoiter the land.   This is when they discover that the people are stronger and taller and they have become fainthearted.  They begin to lose courage.  Moses reminds them of the countless times God saved them from death in the hostile desert . . . and we begin to see the purpose of all their wanderings and suffering.

Of course, these people disobey – as do we – and in this Old Testament story we hear how God punishes them for their lack of faith.  Moses reminds them that they have disobeyed and struck out on their own.  As observed above, God disciplines the child nation, calling them to himself with reminders that he has been faithful to them despite their rebellion.

There is no doubt that we are sustained by God’s love and intervention as we muddle through our days.  God continues to provide resting places, to shepherd us with a pillar of smoke, to guard us with a column of fire.  It is easy to become lost, distracted, anxious or discouraged and so as we put our heads to pillows this evening we might reflect on the story we have read today and look at our lives through the filter on this exodus story of God’s people.  And we might ask ourselves how we react when we lose courage . . . how we see our wanderings through the hostile desert.

What is our relationship with God like?  Do we rely on God at all times or only when we need help?

How do we celebrate God’s goodness?  Do we rejoice with others and share the good news that we are well-loved?

What is our belief system?  Are we ready . . . and are we willing to give over to God our obedience, our loyalty and our love?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.187. Print.

Tomorrow, more on Deuteronomy.

Image from: http://restministries.com/2011/09/22/devotion-counting-on-gods-guidance-each-day/

First written on July 24, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Daniel 10: God’s Mission

Saturday, December 21, 2019

This is a portion of the story of the bright, young Jewish man, Daniel, who goes in to exile with the Jewish nation.  He continues to follow God’s will in the new and alien land; and God never lets him down.  Rather, God cares for Daniel – and his companions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Chapter 3) even the fires of a great furnace.  This prophecy is full of wonderful stories we heard as children.  It is full of mysterious visions that explain our future.  It is full of the promise of the present . . . and we have much we might learn about humble obedience when called . . .

Stand up, for my mission now is to you . . .

When we hear these words we, like Daniel, struggle to understand what God has in mind for us and how we might do God’s will.

From the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard . . .

When we understand that God has chosen us for a mission, we will likely fear that is too difficult and too impossible for us.

Fear not beloved, you are safe; take courage and be strong . . .

When we believe that God is with us, there is nothing we cannot do when God asks . . .


Written on November 18, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://bongodogblog.com/tag/shadrach-meshach-and-abednego/

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Philippians 2:1-11: Unity and Humility

Friday, December 13, 2019

Complete my joy by being of the same mind . . .

If Christ – who is God – can humble himself in order to bring about good, cannot we humble ourselves, and can we not obey God’s call to us?  And what miracles might we experience once we do?

In Chapter 14 of Acts we read an account of how Paul and Barnabas are mistaken for pagan gods when they are able to cure a crippled man.  When this gift of healing which God gives them is made known, “some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds.  They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered round him, he got up and entered the city”.  Even a stoning and apparent death do not stop Paul.  He is of the same mind as Christ.

As we spend time reflecting on Paul’s words and his actions, we have the opportunity to gauge our own humility before God, and our own desire for unity with Christ no matter the cost.  Are we willing to be of the same mind as Christ?

From the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer: Psalm 116:12 – How can I repay the Lord for God’s goodness to me? 

The attitude of thankfulness is central to Christian spirituality.  The debt of gratitude we owe for God’s faithful love can be repaid only in a two-sided coin: turning to God in thanksgiving and doing for others what has been done for us.  (Mini-reflection)

Be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:15-17)

The Christology expressed here is paramount to our understanding of who Christ is and how we might expect ourselves to be in him as he is in us.  At the root of his divinity is his readiness to humble himself and to obey God . . . even to the point of death.  Are we willing to be of the same mind as Christ?

Notes tell us that the hymn Paul cites in likely one that was sung by the early Christians; and we can understand how this song may have served to inspire the fledgling church as she struggled to survive.  We too, might use these words when we find ourselves floundering.  He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

When we are humble enough . . . and when we obey enough . . . then we can say we are in unity with Christ.  And when we can say this, we will be in that spot where serenity overcomes anxiety, and where love overcomes fear.


A re-post from USA Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2012.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.10 (2010). Print.  

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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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Deuteronomy 28How Big is God?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Written on February 10, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

“So we go to our religious services and make sure we read the latest popular inspirational books and attend all kinds of psychological wellness retreats and conferences.  And we come away feeling good.  But without the willingness to be spiritually challenged, we cannot and will not change.  Without the will to give up whatever is asked of us in order to meet a bigger God, we find that our understanding and experience of the Divine cannot and will not grow.  Try taking that to your prayer and meditation time, and see what happens”.

This citation is from a book that I am reading by Paul Coutinho, S.J. entitled HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?  It is challenging and humorous at the same time and I highly recommend it.  I am smiling as often as I frown.

Today’s Noontime is about the black and white consequences of our obedience.  We may pretend that we follow God . . . or we may truly follow God.  The Old Testament view is that when we do what we are called to do we will prosper physically; when we fail to do what God asks, we suffer.  The Book of Job, however, tells us that this black and white view of the world does not fully serve us because our reality tells us that too frequently the innocent suffer through no fault of their own.  This is a challenge that Coutinho opens to us today: Is it not a very small God who punishes people for misdeeds?  Is it not a very large God who forgives, calls and is infinitely patient?

In the prologue of his book Coutinho writes: “I invite you now to ask yourself: Am I looking to meet a big God, a God without limits?  Do I have the will to experience the Divine – in all its wondrous and infinite possibilities?  He explains that we might begin where Ignatius Loyola began: “by questioning our lives, questioning the world around us, questioning our relationships, questioning our family life, questioning our work, and questioning our passions.  Let’s also question our relationship with God”. 

This is what the Hebrew people confront in today’s Noontime reading:  Everything they do, everything they are has been thrown into question.  At first reading we see this to be a bad thing – they suffer and question.  On second thought we might see this as a good thing . . . they have been given the opportunity to know their God better.  They have the chance to see . . . how big is their God?


A re-post from February 8, 2012.

Image from: http://storagenerve.com/2009/09/17/cloud-the-quest-for-standards/cloud-question-mark-cloud-computing/

Paul Coutinho, S.J., HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD? Loyola Press.  Watch Paul Coutinho at: http://www.mycatholicvoice.com/media/i8icLh   and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U

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1 Samuel 6No Strange God

Friday, December 7, 2018

Written on January 12 and posted today as a  Favorite . . .

This is a portion of the Ark story we might find interesting.  In earlier chapters, the Philistines have taken the Ark, hoping to benefit from what they believe to be its extraordinary power.  What they do not understand is that the Ark is not an object of magic or superstition to be used as they wish.  What it does hold is this: Aaron’s staff which bloomed as a sign of God’s presence when the Hebrews were captive in Egypt, manna that sustained them in the desert as they journeyed toward the land promised to them by God, and the tablets of commandments given them by God through Moses.  It is not the Ark which now sustains the Israelites in battle as they struggle to maintain their identity in a world that wishes to eliminate them, it is God himself.  And this is something the Philistines do not understand.  Things have gone badly for them since they seized the Ark in a raid and now they wonder how to best dispose of it.

We enter the story today and watch as they determine what to do.  There are wonderful lessons to be learned from all of this.

First, God does not exist in some inanimate object.  God is within and without because God is everywhere.  We cannot hide from God, nor can we sort of summon God and put him away when we do and do not want him present.  Because God is everywhere, we need never fear that we are alone; and we must work to form our best relationship with God.

Second, we cannot somehow seize, steal or borrow someone else’s successful relationship with God.  We cannot pretend with God, nor can we fake anything with God.  Because God is authentic, it is impossible to form a false bond with him; and our best connection will be one that is open, honest, and humble.

Third, we cannot manipulate God in any way.  We cannot bargain, control or wheedle our way into God’s goodness, nor can we avoid God in any way.  Because God is omnipotent, it is impossible to out-maneuver God; and the best way to interact with him is with frankness and readiness to do God’s will.

There is, no doubt, much we might say about this reading; but the simple message is this: Our honesty, authenticity, security and humility are key to a healthy relationship with God.

In today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer mini-reflection we read: Now and then, God’s people of old needed to be reminded of the care with which his love had surrounded and protected them.  Now and then we do too!  This introduces a canticle from Deuteronomy 32:3-7, 10-12.  You may want to read it today.  It concludes . . . The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him.

The Philistines do not understand the true source of Israel’s power.  Believing it to come from a magic box, they do not comprehend that true power and authority comes from an honest, authentic and humble relationship with God.  We hold this in our hands and feet each day.  Our power comes from the way we act out our relationship with God.  Let us pray for the grace to accept this gift, for the meekness to allow God to work within us, and the serenity that comes from knowing that we are secure in God who has no strange gods with him.


A re-post from November 4, 2011.

Images from: http://areureallyawake.wordpress.com/tag/gods-love/page/2/ and http://www.mishkanministries.org/theark.php 

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 12.1 (2011): Print.  

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Isaiah 36Strategy

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sennacherib and his troops play a central role in today’s reading; these several sites may have something you will want to know: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/article_index/s/sennacherib,_king_of_assyria.aspx

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/701sennach.html

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/534613/Sennacherib

Sennacherib

Isaiah 36 is the introductory chapter of an appendix inserted into Isaiah’s prophecy (and it parallels the account we can also find in 2 Kings 18).  When we read these verses carefully, we discover that this is more than an historical account.  It is also the story of fear and trust, loss and gain, rebellion against the Lord or obedience to him.  It is the story of failing and successful strategies.

In today’s Noontime, taunts are delivered to those inside the besieged city and if we read beyond this chapter – or if we recall the telling of this story from Kings – we will see that God never abandons the faithful.  We will also see that God has ways of resolving conflict that are far more creative, and far more meaningful, than any solutions we might devise.  Our only task – our only successful strategy – is to trust and follow God.

On what do you base this confidence of yours?  Do you think mere words substitute for might and strategy in war?

The commander ridicules his opponents for thinking that words alone will frighten his troops; he mocks them for their belief in an unseen God.  But he has also miscalculated.  Placing his confidence in military supremacy and acumen, he teases those guarding the city walls.  Perhaps the true reason for his jeering is that he knows that none of his gods can be stirred to help him.  He has conquered whole regions through the strength of his warriors, but perhaps he fears that he cannot conquer these people who believe in the authority of Yahweh and who have been saved so many times by this Living God.  He has heard about the God who saves the Israelites, but he has not personally experienced Yahweh’s awesome power.  Perhaps he cannot fathom a God who serves his people in such a faithful way.  He will soon have a lesson in obedience and trust.

On what do we base this confidence of ours?  Do we think mere words substitute for might and strategy in living?

As followers of Christ we know that words alone do not make us disciples; we must act in Christ and not rely on personal strength or a store of information.  James reminds us that we are to be doers of the word and not sayers only (James 1:22).  Thus, the strategies of the Christian fold into one plan: Love one another as Christ has shown us – do not judge, do not seek revenge, pray for all . . . even our enemies.

The ultimate end of the Israelite story is one all of us know and it teaches us the lesson that reliance on God when in danger is important but that ultimately we cannot succumb to corrupt and easy living.  We must be persistent in maintaining an honest relationship with God.  We must adhere to this new Law of Love rather than multiple empty rules that foster rote worship rather than genuine communion.

On what do we base this confidence of ours?  Do we think mere words substitute for might and strategy in living?

We base our confidence on God.  We substitute nothing for an authentic relationship with God and we publicly display this relationship daily in the way we treat others.  The only strategy we employ . . . is to hone true to God’s plan like a homing bird headed for home.


Image from: http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Rel302/Sennacherib.htm 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 5, 2011.

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