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Posts Tagged ‘persistence’


TitusSlaves for Christ

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today’s Noontime offering is a personal reflection on Paul’s Letter to Titus, a brief epistle in which we find valuable advice on bringing disparate voices together.  It was this letter that united many in the formation of churches for Christ in the first century.  If we savor the wisdom we find here, we may still find unity through this short letter two thousand years after its writing.

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Paul speaks of rebuking fellow Christians and I believe that when Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers (Matthew 21, Mark 11 and John 2) he was acting in this way of rebuking those who refuse to hear.  Jesus extends that advice to his apostles whom he sends like sheep among wolves in Matthew 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9 when he says that when they enter a town where the people do not return the peace they are offered, these disciples are to shake the very dust of the town from their feet.  We also hear Jesus lament the fact that he is rejected by his hometown of Capernaum in Matthew 11 and in Luke 10 he laments the lack of faith displayed by the inhabitants Bethsaida and Chorazin, saying that the Sodomites will fare better than these people in God’s eye.  Scary stuff . . . and for this reason I am reluctant to separate myself from those who demonstrate a lack of faith . . . with me, hope dies slowly.

And so we pray that our acts of hope and our endless intercessory prayers for these reluctant travelers will reach God’s ears.  We must constantly communicate with God – and always with a smile – that a plan that does not allow for the conversion of sinners will be a plan with holes in it.  We must be as persistent as the widow in Luke 18 who rails against the unfair judge when it comes to those who distort God’s love in a perverse homage to self rather than to the will of God.  We understand that we must keep ourselves safe from this kind of corruption . . . but we do not give up . . . we continue to ask for transformation . . . our own as well as that of those who choose to do harm to us, ourselves and others.  We cannot abandon someone with whom we have spent a portion of our journey . . . even though that person demonstrates clearly that they wish to take a fork in the road that puts distance between us.  So these people we will continue to hold in prayer . . . in the expectation that God’s will – and not ours – be done.

The Persistent Widow

How do we maintain this kind of dichotomy?  We turn back to Paul who offers Titus . . . and us . . . the solution.  He says that we are to tell the people that . . . They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful of ourselves and hating one another.  Eventually we will all put aside this hateful world to choose the peaceable kingdom which God offers so patiently each day.

Like Paul, let us all be slaves to Christ, slaves to this Law of Love which keeps vigil, which hopes for good, and which sends endless petitions rising to God like incense for the transformation of the world, the transformation of others as well as for ourselves . . . that we all may one day find union with one another and with Christ.


Images from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml and http://www.free-stories.net/children-bible-stories/new-testament-stories/parable-of-the-persistent-widow.html

For more on Paul’s Letter to Titus, see the Titus – Church as Community page on this blog.

For a wonderful way to experience the cities Jesus and Paul knew, visit:  www.bibleplaces.com

A re-post from February 16, 2019. 

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Jeremiah 39:1-14Remaining Among the People

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Soord: Lost Sheep

We have read about Jeremiah in the dungeon (Chapter 37) and Jeremiah in the miry cistern (Chapter 38); now we read about his capture . . . and that he remained among the people.  Just yesterday I spoke with a friend about her reluctance to do something that would cause her great pain.  I said that rather than focus on the suffering that an experience was bound to bring her, she might just want to focus on tending to God’s lost sheep.  This was something she said she could do.  I had heard the Jeremiah in her anticipate the lack of understanding she was about to meet.  I heard her fear of her own unpredictable emotions rising.  We spoke about patience, persistence and witnessing.  And we spoke about how we cannot control people or events, of how we can barely sometimes control ourselves.  Life brings us these difficult lessons to learn.  Life also brings us unmeasurable reward . . . if we only learn to remain among the people.

Yesterday’s Gospel reminded us of something we may want to carry with us everywhere and it is this: When we are fearful of something we must do we are likely relying on ourselves too much.  And we are likely forgetting to rely on God.  Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 12:8-12 that we need not worry about our circumstances – even when they are dire – if we remain in him, in God.  When we allow the Spirit to direct us, we cannot fail.  When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you at the moment what you should say.  Jesus may be remembering the words from Isaiah 30:21: From behind, a voice will sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or to the left.  Both the Old and New Testament remind us that when we live in the Spirit, we cannot falter.  When we remain with God’s people, we will not go wrong.  When we follow Christ, we may suffer but we will never be lost.

We are often reminded to witness, watch and wait on the Lord and so we pray from Psalm 5 in today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: It is you whom I invoke, O Lord.  In the morning you hear me; in the morning I offer you my prayer, watching and waiting.  You are no God who loves evil; no sinner is your guest.  The boastful shall not stand their ground before your face.  But I through the greatness of your love have access to your house.  I bow down before your holy temple, filled with awe.  All those you protect shall be glad and ring out their joy.  You shelter them; in you they rejoice, those who knew your name.  It is you who bless the just one, Lord: you surround the just one as with a shield. 

I asked my friend to see herself as a shepherd who gathers lambs to bring them into the fold at night.  I asked that she put all her worry into prayer. And I asked that she rely on God to bring goodness out of harm.

In the end, Jesus reminds us, God is all there is.  In the end, we do not want to wait on anyone or anything else.  In the end, all that is asked of us is that we witness, watch and wait.  Rather than succumb to the familiar fears that govern us poorly and use us badly, we will want to remember to gather ourselves and to gather lost sheep even as we remain among God’s people.  For it is in, and of and through Christ that we are saved and brought back to God.  It is in, and of and through the Spirit that we are consoled.  And it is in, and of and through God that we are made whole.  And in the end – when we can manage to remain with God’s people – we remember well that . . . God is all there is.


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.10 (2011): 239. Print. 

A re-post from October 16, 2011.

Image from: http://personalitydevelopmentbeyourbest.blogspot.com/2011/07/letter-from-lost-sheepif-lost-sheep.html

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Job: In Praise of Wisdom and Hope

Thursday, August 29, 2018

Before we leave the story of Job, we give ourselves the gift of time with this innocent sufferer who foreshadows the hope of the Messiah. Today we look at the story of “the hero . . . subjected to a divine test as a means of ascertaining whether or not he serves the deity without thinking about profiting from it.” (Barton and Muddiman 331) Just as Job enters into debate with his friends and the Lord, so do we have the invitation to deliberate with the Almighty the existential questions that plague us as humans.

Stylistically, this book presents us with a combination of poetry and prose. Does this signal our dual human yet divine essence? Does this tell us that we are called to live in the world but be not of it? Does this remind us that although we are mortal, we also live forever in Christ? The style certainly communicates the ideas that the innocent suffer. The beauty of the poetry may indicate our hope in the Spirit against the backdrop prose of our separation.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE, “[T]he reader knows from the outset that Job is suffering because of his righteousness (Job 1). Thus, when Job rails against his pain and contends that he has not deserved it (eg., ch. 31), the early reader – who had insider knowledge from the prelude – recognized that he spoke the truth. Unable to fall back on pat answers that were almost universally accepted at the time, readers were forced to wrestle with the question along with Job as they worked their way through the text to God’s final answer. The resultant new understanding of the meaning of suffering and the justice of God, contrary as it was to the conventional wisdom of the day, must have astonished them.” (Zondervan 732)

Wisdom and hope are the gifts Job brings us through his suffering, questioning, persistence and fidelity. Wisdom and hope are gifts of the Spirit of God. Wisdom and hope are embodied in the life of Christ who abides with us still. Today we give thanks for these matchless gifts. Today we share the good news that are recipients of such generous mercy. Today we praise God for the healing wisdom of the Spirit, and the lessons Job brings us of hope.


Images from https://chicago.suntimes.com/health/mind-over-body-new-book-tells-how-to-tap-into-wisdom-and-grow-with-age/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 732. Print.

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 331. Print.

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John 17: Two Worlds 

NASA: Spiral Galaxies in Collision

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 6, 2018

In September of 2017, Pope Francis reminded us: We are a people chosen for the truth, and our call has to be in truth. There can be no place for deceit, hypocrisy, or small-mindedness if we are . . . to bear fruit. (Cameron 422)

We have heard Christ’s message that the Creator calls each of us to live in both this world and the next. We have felt the Spirit’s urging to bear fruit in good season. Today, as we reflect on the challenge of living this dual life as if it were one, we explore words from Pope Francis as he unravels the mystery that is Christ, our human and divine brother.

“We all would like to count on a world with straightforward families and relationships, but we are part of this changing age, of this cultural crisis and, in the midst of it, in response to God’s continuing call . . . Even with [today’s] crisis, God still calls. It would be almost unrealistic to think that all of you heard the call of God in the midst of families sustained by a strong love and full of values such as generosity, compromise, fidelity, and patience; some, yes, but not all. Some families are like this, and I pray to God that there are many. But keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground means recognizing that our vocational experiences, the awakening of God’s call, brings us closer to what God’s Word already reveals”. (Cameron 422)

NASA: Space Hubble Telescope

Like Jesus, Francis asks us to cease making excuses for our unwillingness to sit at the banquet of life with those who hate or harm us. In the Spirit, Francis points out that few of us have perfect families, perfect circumstances or perfect relationships. Like the Creator, Francis calls us to something beyond our smallness, something greater than our fears. Francis urges us to maintain contact with God always so that the great vine of God’s love might sustain us through drought and nourish us through upheaval.

“Don’t think of an ideal situation, for this situation is the real one. God manifests his closeness and his election where he wills, in the land he wills, in whatever situation it is in, with its real contradictions, as he wills. He changes the course of events to call men and women in the frailty of their own personal and shared history”. (Cameron 422)

Rather than long for ideal circumstances that will likely never fall into place, Francis urges us to seize on the moment we now have. Rather than yearn for people to surround one another with a love they proscribe, Christ calls us to rest in the love of his ample arms. Rather than reason with us over the causes of contradictions that plague the world, the Spirit calls us to goodness despite our conditions. So rather than wait for the perfection of a world that does not exist, let us plant our feet firmly in our imperfect world, and ask God for the patience, courage, persistence, and clarity to live in the two worlds of our humanity and divinity.


When we use multiple translations of John 17 to study Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, we open our minds and hearts to better understanding what it means to live in two worlds.  

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 29.4 (2018): 421-423. Print. 

Explore the worlds of the universe with NASA and Hubble photographs by clicking on the images, or visiting: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140119.html and https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html

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Mark 10:46-52: Seek Consolation – Blindness

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

El Greco: Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

Like Bartimaeus, we call out to Christ when we find ourselves in search of consolation. “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

We might be startled to hear the response from Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus knows what Bartimaeus needs, but still he asks. Persistent in his petitioning, Bartimaeus was much like the persistent widow who constantly asks the corrupt judge for justice – which she ultimately receive. And like Bartimaeus, we too can receive new sight, fresh eyes, another lease on life.

God knows what we need and want, but we must ask. We are to be persistent. Asking puts us in proper relationship with God the Father who created us, with Christ who walks and lives in each of us, with the Holy Spirit who heals and comforts us. Our persistence is a sign of our act of faith – that we believe and will not waiver, our act of hope – that we know that with God all things are possible, and our act of love – that we understand and follow Jesus who prayed for his enemies. Because we are created in God’s image, we can forgive and heal our enemies with our intercessory prayer, just as Jesus did. We can abide with and inspire those who suffer as the Holy Spirit does. And we can be faithful to the covenant promises we have with God the Father, just as God the Father is.

Today we, like Bartimaeus, ask for clarity, fresh sight, new vision and understanding. Today we take consolation in our recovery from blindness.

When we compare varying versions of this story, we open ourselves to a new way of seeing all that we thought we knew. 

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Psalm 9: The Book of God’s Wonders

Monday, March 6, 2017psalms9_2-31

The MESSAGE version of this psalm speaks to us in our core. Anyone who has been wronged, anyone who has suffered injustice of any kind, anyone who looks for refuge in the storm of life will smile as they read these verses.

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.

What are the miracles of our relationship with God will we want to enter into the Book of God’s Wonders?

The day my enemies turned tail and ran, they stumbled on you and fell on their faces. You throw dirty players out of the game, wipe their names right off the roster. Enemies disappear from the sidelines, their reputation trashed, their names erased from the halls of fame.

We look for the patience to allow God’s plan to blossom and flourish.

God holds the high center, God sees and sets the world’s mess right. God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.

We pray for the hope we will need to remember God’s promise of safety, and we pray for the courage to knock at heaven’s door as Jesus tells us we must.

Sing your songs to Zion-dwelling God, tell God’s stories to everyone you meet: How God tracks down killers yet keeps an eye on us, registers every whimper and moan.

We pray for the fortitude to weather the storm, knowing that although the horizon is dark, God navigates our lives.

psalm-9_18Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.

We pray for the courage to thank God in public and to share the stories we list in the Book of God’s Wonders.

They’re trapped, those godless, in the very snares they set, their feet all tangled in the net they spread. They have no excuse; the way God works is well-known. The cunning machinery made by the wicked has maimed their own hands.

We remember to intercede for those who would harm us.

The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell. No longer will the poor be nameless—no more humiliation for the humble.

We ask for mercy for our enemies, and the grace to step away from the temptation to seek revenge.

Up, God! Aren’t you fed up with their empty strutting? Expose these grand pretensions! Shake them up, God! Show them how silly they look.

We ask God to steer us clear of all pretension. We ask that Christ lead us in the ways of the just. And we ask that the Holy Spirit abide in us forever, as we proclaim the wonders God has wrought for us.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of this Psalm, we discover that we have a great deal to record in The Book of God’s Wonders, and to share with all the world. 

 

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Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part III

Tuesday, February 21, 2017be-perfect-like-god-matthew-5-verse-48-1

Today we hear Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount. He asks us to live generously, he challenges us to love our enemies, and he reminds us that we are already members of his kingdom.

In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

We linger with the thought that God lives toward us, not only giving us breath but also nurturing and sustaining us, moving into our every bone and tissue.

You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (GNT)

We pause to reflect that God calls us to Christ’s presence in us, flourishing into the light of Christ, blooming into the healing presence of the Spirit.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NRSV)

james-1-4We react to God’s request that we grow up, that we mature in Christ, that we reconcile in the Spirit, and that we transform in the Creator. This is the perfection that God asks of us. Not that live a life free or error, but that we offer to God the flowering of the potential and trust placed in us at our conception.

The Apostle James tells us that when we persist in Christ, we begin to understand what God asks of us when he asks for our perfection.

Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:4 (GNT)

When we compare varying versions of Matthew 5:48, we begin to understand what it is that God asks of us, and how we might grow up, how we might be perfect in Christ.

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1 Corinthians 2:1-3: Polished Speeches

Tuesday, February 14, 2017isaiah-30-21

I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

In our present world we might well hesitate to speak or act for fear of abandonment or retribution. Paul and Isaiah give us words we need to hear.

God says: If you do not speak up for my little ones because you worry about finding the words for a polished speech, you go astray. When you live in me, my Holy Spirit will give you the words you will need. If you do not act in defense of the marginalized because you fear you do not have enough courage, you wander far from The Way. When you live in Christ, my Son will give you the strength and persistence to act as you know you must act. Rest in my Spirit and you are never without resource. Abide in Christ and you are never alone. Remain in me and you will never be without all that you need to see you through this day.

Isaiah says: If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.” (30:21)

When we compare various translations of these verses, we find the strength to persevere in the face of obstacles, and graceful words for our simple but polished speeches.

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Mark 3:22-30: Sawing Off Branches

Monday, January 30, 2017

From the Maestà of Duccio in Siena, Italy

From the Maestà of Duccio in Siena, Italy and private collections

Jesus is very clear: A constantly squabbling family disintegrates.

We might use these words in our individual and collective lives.

Jesus tells us: Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. 

We might take this warning to heart.

Jesus reminds us: There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.”

God says: I love you so intensely that I will do all that I must in order to have you near me; but if you persist in turning away my Spirit, you are creating a separation that you will not be able to bridge. I am always waiting for you, guiding you, protecting and advising you. Remain in me so that I might remain in you. Allow my Spirit to rest in you and to create a home in your heart. In this way, we will never be so far apart that you lose sight of me. Listen to my son, remain in my Spirit, and have hope always in me.

When we explore other translations of these verses, we open our understanding of God’s generosity, persistence and love.

For more on the Maestà of Duccio, click on the image above for two Khan Academy video lessons.

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