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Posts Tagged ‘Paul’


Acts 13:44-52Address to the Gentiles

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A re-post from January 8, 2012.

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

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

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

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

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Luke 4:1-13The Test

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tissot: Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

As we begin a new year, let us prepare ourselves to be tested as Christ’s followers . . . and let us watch the Master as he interacts with Satan.  This reflection was written in January 2010 and is posted today as a Favorite . . .

Today we watch as Satan tests Jesus, hoping to tempt him into succumbing to his control.  We hear Jesus remind Satan that he cannot test God.  Even after his failure, Satan departed from him until an opportune time.  The devil never gives up . . . nor does God.

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (10:9), reminds us of this again.  In 2 Corinthians (2:9) he encourages us to be stalwart so that we might withstand our own test and temptation.  In 8:8 and 13:5 he recommends that we test our own spirit to see where it needs bolstering.  In Galatians 6:4 he again suggests that we test ourselves.  To the Thessalonians he says: Test everything.  Hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

St. James (1:12) lauds the holy one who can withstand the test. 

St. John in 4:1 of his first letter writes that we are to test false prophets and stray spirits to examine the origin and veracity of their authority.

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:16 when he reminds the devil that we are to refrain from testing God.  We are to obey the commandments, to do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.  In the Old Testament, this clinging to commandments and laws brought God’s protection and defense.  In the New Testament we realize that we are graced with God’s protection as a birthright; we receive uncounted blessings each day . . . even in the midst of suffering.

All of this testing of self and this refusal to test God takes a great deal of effort, and by the end of each day we may be fatigued from holding firm and maintaining our own appropriate behavior.  Spiritual exhaustion may accompany a life of trust in God, patience with his creatures, and perseverance in living a life of charity.  It is for this reason that we must refill the well and give ourselves permission to rejuvenate the spirit.  Perhaps when our nerves are frayed we ought to take this as a sign that we need to retreat from life for a bit.

When Jesus is tempted by Satan, he replies: One does not live by bread alone; worship the Lord your God and serve him only; and do not put the Lord your God to the test.

When we feel ready to explode, about to fall apart, or are just plain exhausted, we might repeat these words to ourselves and follow them with . . . if this is a test, dear Lord, give me the grace, the peace and the will to follow you, to know that you will convert all harm to good, and to know that we need trust only you. 

In this way, we may pass each test that comes our way.  


A we move through the opening days of a new year, we re-post this reflection from January 3, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4453/Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_J%C3%A9sus_tent%C3%A9_dans_le_d%C3%A9sert 

For more images of Jesus from the Brooklyn Museum, click on the image above or follow this link: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4453/Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_J%C3%A9sus_tent%C3%A9_dans_le_d%C3%A9sert

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Acts 20:25-38Resolutions

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A 1915 Postcard: New Year’s Resolutions

A new day dawns, a new year begins . . . we have before us a new opportunity for reconnection and rebirth.  In today’s Noontime we examine part of Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Miletus in which he lays out a kind of instruction manual for those whom he has brought into Christ’s infant church . . . and for whom he has great love.

As we begin a new year, we might resolve to take Paul’s admonitions seriously; we might decide to be faithful followers of the Gospel . . . and this may be more difficult than we first think.

I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be fearless in proclaiming the Good News to all we know.  In our secular world it is so easy to say nothing when others rant about how the poor are lazy, about how we need to take back America from the immigrants.  It is easy to remain silent in the face of such anger.  It is convenient to forget that most of us are not descended from indigenous peoples.

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be both watchful and loving, and let us determine to be in the world but not of it. In a presidential election year it will be easy to join a drumbeat of complaint.  It will be difficult to listen without judging.  It will be awkward to express a view that is contrary to the majority.

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to maintain healthy boundaries as we take care of ourselves even as we tend to the needs of others.  In a self-centered society we will often find ourselves alone when we advocate for the disenfranchised.  We will be at odds with conventional wisdom.  We will run counter to general opinions.  We will struggle with knowing which work is our own and which is not.

Miletus: Agora with public building

Be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be prudent and compassionate in all that we do in Jesus’ name.  In a time when a show of emotion is characterized as a weakness we will be against the tide.  In an era when the phrase “personal responsibility” is used to erase God’s call to heal the broken-hearted and help the marginalized, we will stand out as different and even bizarre.  We will be targets for people’s hatred.

In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be determined to live out the Gospel message in our support of the marginalized.  Let us acknowledge that the world will disparage who we are and what we do . . . and that Christ will be working right beside us.

When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to join others in prayer whenever and wherever possible to unite our voices and hearts in unison with the Creator.  Let us recognize that the work of Christ’s disciples is difficult at best . . . but amazingly rewarding and well worth our personal cost.

Paul reminds the faithful that Christ’s call will run counter to what is comfortable or popular; yet Christ’s message will be wonderfully simple and beautifully plain.  On this New Year’s Day let us remember the gift of Christmas as we resolve to both fashion and fulfill new resolutions that will ask much of us . . . but that will be well worth the sacrifice and even the pain.


A re-post from January 1, 2012.

Images from: http://www.allanbevere.com/2010/10/was-ephesians-circular-letter.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NewYearsResolution1915FirstPostcard.jpg 

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Acts 14Tenacity

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Iconium, Lystra, Antioch.  Jews, Gentiles.  Healings, beatings, curses, cures.  Zeus, Hermes, the Living God.  Hardships, celebrations.  Mythology, mysticism, illusion, reality.  In all of these places, with all of these people, in all of these philosophies and approaches, Paul and Barnabas journey together to deliver the good news that we are loved by the Living God.  I am exhausted just reading about their missionary journey as we watch these two faithful disciples of Christ persuade and teach, heal and call.  Despite the fact that they see much of their work undone, they continue to rejoice in the work they do as God’s servants asks of them.  They are an amazing – and successful – pair.  They bring many into the church.

Paul and Barnabas have much to teach us who are discouraged when small details of the day become looming obstacles.  They might show us that when we growl and complain about interrupted plans and schedules that we add to our own burden.  We see that they do not fall into the trap of thinking that the world is an unjust, corrupt and unfair place.  Rather than focus on the problems they navigate, they remain centered on doing God’s will.  These two friends have discovered that tenacity and companionship are antidotes for anger and dejection.  And they have learned that success comes most often and stays longest when they defer to God’s plan rather than their own.

Paul is a familiar figure to us but perhaps we can learn something more about Barnabas as he and Paul model how to best react when we see others dismantle the work we have lovingly delivered to God.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02300a.htm

Misunderstood by many, these two place their faith in God.  Rejected by the tradition in which they had been raised, they place their hope in Christ.  Quickly forgotten by the fledgling churches they have founded, they allow the forgiveness and healing of the Spirit to work through them.  Barnabas and Paul refuse to allow any failure to deter them.  They follow Christ . . . and they hold on.

And so we pray . . .

Faithful and abiding God,

We remember that you were the cornerstone that the builders rejected.

We believe that you walk with us in our journey just as you walked with the apostles in theirs.

We ask that you abide with us when the night grows darkest.

We know that you rejoice with us as we celebrate our little successes.

Lead us so that we remain faithful to you.

Guide us so that we remain hopeful in you.

Help us so that we react in love and not in anger when we see our work taken apart by others.

Grant us the gift of tenacity that you gave to Paul and Barnabas, on the days when we find our journey long, and our resources low. 

We ask all of this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.   


A re-post from September 20, 2011.

Image from: http://100reasonswhyilovemylord.blogspot.com/2011/05/reason-8-he-walks-with-me.html 

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Colossians 1:15-20Christ is Reality

Friday, July 6, 2018

Paul had not visited the town of Colossae but was invited to write a letter by Epaphras, the man  who established this Christian community.  False teachers abounded in those days even as they do now; and we understand that many false teachers connected Christ more with the universe or cosmos than with God.  They taught about angels and demons, “principalities and powers”; they were often connected with cults.  Paul makes a central point in the anthem we read today and he restates this position throughout his letter to the Colossians: “Such teachings are but ‘shadows’; Christ is ‘reality’.” (Senior 318)

Commentary will tell us that Paul likely used an early Christian hymn that was already known to the Colossians as a basis for these poetic verses.  This is a technique used by many teachers to connect the audience with the message and Paul has used these few lines well to explain the true nature of Christ.  Looking at this citation as a liturgical song, we can understand its power to draw the listener in . . . and we may find ourselves drawn in as well to the person Paul describes . . . the very real and human Jesus Christ . . . made in the image of the invisible God.    

There is so much ambient light in our modern world that it has become difficult to see the night sky.  This may be dangerous for us as we can easily imagine that we are the immenseness and that the sky does not exist.  As we sat on the lawn several evenings ago to watch the 4th of July fireworks, a small creature crawled onto my ankle . . . and for some reason I began to think about the odd juxtaposition of the immense and booming displays above us with the little kingdoms that exist beneath the earth.  Any gardener will tell us that there are worlds teeming beneath the grass and stones.  Many of us may hire out the grass cutting and weeds pulling and so we have lost track of these many, under-foot worlds . . . and this too, may be dangerous.  With all the comfort and convenience we buy, it is no wonder that we have made ourselves the gods and have ignored the micro and macro worlds.  We have convinced ourselves that we can do as we like . . . and that no consequences will follow our actions.  We know this to be dangerous thinking . . . we know this to be false teaching . . . we know this to be a world of shadows.

Christ is our reality.  Yes, we say, we know this well.  Yet . . . what do our interactions with one another say about this belief?  How do we demonstrate our understanding of the universe beneath us that we have paved over and walk on daily?  How do we show our respect for the skies above us and all they contain when we send heavy metals into the atmosphere without worrying?  How do we show God and one another that we understand the importance of water, the essence of life as we know it, when we daily misuse and pollute this precious resource?  How do we demonstrate that we are fully aware and even joyful that Christ lives in each of us just as we live in him?  How do we show God that we understand our proper alignment with all the components of creation, and that we appreciate the gift of life he has freely given to each of us?

I have heard people complain that God no longer holds meaning for them.  They have decided that God does not exist.  I have heard people complain that life is too difficult.  They have decided that because they cannot see the stars at night they do not exist.  I have heard people complain that life has little or no meaning.  They have decided that there are no worlds other than the small and narrow space in which they are living.  They have forgotten that we must set out anew each day to find Christ . . . for there is our reality. When the student is ready, the teacher appears . . .

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or the left.  (Isaiah 30:20-21)

The world we touch and taste, see, hear and smell is a shadow of what truly is.  Christ is the reality.  He lives in us most lovingly . . . let us live in him as if we mean it.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.318. Print.


Image from: http://classjtobias.wikispaces.com/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 6, 2011.

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Acts 18:9: Do Not Fear – Part VII

Sunday, New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017

Gerard de Laresse: Adoration of the Kings

Gerard de Laresse: Adoration of the Kings

We enter a new year, a time of replenishment and restoration. We look for a new message of transformed hope. A new sign of renovating freedom. We await a new pronouncement of the words we need to hear: Do not be afraid.

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; (NASB)

Saul, the persecutor of early Christ-followers, encounters the risen Christ and learned that his fears have no meaning in this kingdom of Jesus. He now believes the words: Do not be afraid.

One night Paul had a vision in which the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up. (GNT)

Saul the persecutor, blind for a time, trusts God’s plan as he shares the Good News that Christ’s new coming brings new hope and new meaning.

One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: “Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.” That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians. (MSG)

Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the Apostle, sharing the Good News that hope is alive, rebirth and transformation are possible, and fear is only for those who refuse to believe.

Centuries after Paul shares his news with anyone who will listen, he tells each of us that there is no reason for fear or division.

Today, as we reflect on the journey the magi make to worship the new king, we might ask ourselves, “What journey we are willing to make? And what are we willing to put aside in this new year as a sign that we refuse to surrender to fear?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the transformative power of God’s words to us, “Do not be afraid”.

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Acts 17: Uproar – Part I

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul causes uproar wherever he goes in the name of Christ.  He ruffles feathers.  He points out inconsistencies.  He speaks convincingly and with authority as one who has been on both sides of the argument. He inspires faith, hope and charity in some, jealousy in others.  As with the story of David, another of God’s imperfect leaders, we understand that those who serve as God’s vessels will always be envied.  This knowledge can discourage us from continuing in God’s service, or it can make us even more strongly bound to God.  The choice is always ours to make.

These readings continue the theme. Numbers 11:25-29, James 5:1-6, and Mark 9:38-48.

We are further advised that if resentment is a constant companion in our lives, we will never understand the mercy God wants to show us in this world and the next. Therefore, we will want to learn to live without bitterness. It is not the treasure we want to set aside: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather, store up treasures in heaven. And heaven’s treasures are mercy, kindness and love. Matthew 6:19-20 and 1 Peter 1:17-19.

Each gesture and each word we enact in the world is our definitive representation of God.  When we speak, or fail to speak, when we act, or fail to act, we bring God into our homes, our work and prayer places and our communities.  What do our words and gestures say about who we are?

And so we consider . . . Rather than foment division, we want to add to the world’s serenity. But what about the kind of uproar that Paul causes? How does this fit into God’s design?

Today and tomorrow we reflect on an idea proposed by biologist E.O. Wilson and consider how his proposals affront or enact God’s kingdom. Visit the Smithsonian magazine to read, Can the world really set aside half the planet for Wildlife?

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/can-world-really-set-aside-half-planet-wildlife-180952379/?no-ist

Tomorrow, God’s uproar.

Adapted from a favorite written in September 28, 2009.

 

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Romans 16:17-20: Warning to Troublemakers

Thursday, February 4, 2016f8a252c28d8359617d691b379d2404e5

In this political season in the U.S., Paul’s words are worthy of our reflection time.

Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

Paul’s letter to the Romans holds this little paragraph: a warning to the brethren who cause dissention and scandal contrary to the doctrine they have learned. Commentary suggests that Paul’s intent is to inoculate the growing community against the formation of factions that might lead to the fragmentation of the church.  In 1 Chronicles 28:20 David says to his son Solomon: Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; God won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch. God’s at your side until every last detail is completed for conducting the worship of God. 

And how do we worship the Lord? When do we gather to give thanks to God?

We hear that we must go about our work without fear of any kind.

We understand that our kingdom work is more important than any other.

We demonstrate our belief that God is with us always when we put aside the fear-mongering and scandal-peddling of troublemakers.

TakeHeartHandsLogoJohn shares Jesus’ words with us: These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

When we set ourselves to doing God’s work, we have no reason for apprehension or anxiety.

In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s yardstick in our world. Paul, David and Jesus offer us a clear image and method of measuring God’s presence and love in our lives.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 27, 2008.

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part VIfoundation-277x156

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How do we begin to build a strong foundation that will withstand the storms of life and be our constant restoration? Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth show us the way.

Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

What do we do once the foundation is laid? Can we expect the difficult part of our work to be complete? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us.

1 cor 3-1As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

How do we make certain we are doing the correct work? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that we must look to God for our assignments.

We each carried out our servant assignment. I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

What is the great reward we expect to have? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that we are each living stones in God’s living temple.

1cor3-16-17-temple-of-god-holy-building-1024x575You are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15)

Can we expect to find peace if we hide from the potential God has placed in us? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that the reward may seem like a punishment, but then God’s world is always about inversions.

 Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

lord is spiritWhat will our reward look like after our travail? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that our reward will be greater than any other we will know. Our reward is our life in Christ.

I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift—Paul, Apollos, Peter, the world, life, death, the present, the future—all of it is yours, and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Spend time with these verses today and compare varying versions. When we spend time with God in this way, God’s wisdom seeps into our bones. Christ’s peace settles into our hearts. And the Spirit binds us to God forever, bringing us restoration.

Tomorrow, words from the master builder, Jesus.

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