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Posts Tagged ‘plots and schemes’


Esther 9: Reversal – A Reprise

To learn more about the festival of Purim, click on this image or visit http://www.chabad.org

Monday, February 19, 2018

The jolly festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther). (www.chabad.org)

In our Old Testament thinking, we celebrate victory over plotters who schemed to annihilate us. In our New Testament thinking, we ask God to soften the hearts of our enemies. In our Old Testament thinking, we commemorate the destruction of those who would harm us.  In our New Testament thinking, we celebrate their transformation. In our Old Testament thinking, we rejoice with Purim in the month of Adar. In our New Testament thinking, we ask for God’s mercy each day.

We first reflected on this citation in June of 2013. Today, as we seek to soften our own hearts, we remember that just as reversal is always possible for our enemies, it is always possible for us. For this reason, we give thanks for our modern Purim.

Tomorrow, quiet patience and courage.

For a prayer, visit the Reversal post at https://thenoontimes.com/2013/06/10/reversal/

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Esther 3: Preamble – A Reprise

Sir John Everett Millais: Esther

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

At Christmas time several years ago, we reflected on Esther 3 as a preamble to the Jesus story. The coming of light. A voice asking for mercy. Justice amidst corruption. The presence of simplicity in a complicated world. Plots and schemes returning to haunt their authors.

As the story unfolds, we see our own modern headlines in the verses. Millennia later, what have we learned?

Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews—youngsters and old men, women and babies—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. 

We sift into groups that exclude. We gather words and weapons to assault “the other”. Millenia later, where do we invest our resources?

There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don’t fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else. Worse, they disregard the king’s laws. They’re an affront; the king shouldn’t put up with them. If it please the king, let orders be given that they be destroyed. I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll deposit 375 tons of silver in the royal bank to finance the operation.

We shrink from corruption. We turn away because we believe we have no power. Millennia later, how many Hamans stalk the innocent?

At the king’s command, the couriers took off; the order was also posted in the palace complex of Susa. The king and Haman sat back and had a drink while the city of Susa reeled from the news.

We gather in solidarity. We welcome and heal. Millennia later, what is our story?

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we open ourselves to seeing “the other”. 

Tomorrow, one small woman.

To read three posts on Esther 3, enter the word Preamble into the search bar and explore, or visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/12/25/esther-3-and-b-preamble-part-i/

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Esther 2: A Plot Discovered

Johannes Spilberg the Younger: The Feast of Esther

Monday, February 12, 2018

What do we do when we have possession of information about a harmful plot? This is the question posed by today’s reading. Esther comes to the attention of King Xerxes, and the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers—“Esther’s banquet.” He also granted a holiday to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.

Amidst this celebration, Mordecai reports a plot to assassinate the king not to the king directly, but through his cousin Esther. We might pause to ask ourselves what we do with information that comes to us that indicates danger to others or ourselves.

On this day, with Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the entrance, had it in for the king and were making plans to kill King Xerxes. But Mordecai learned of the plot and told Queen Esther, who then told King Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. When the thing was investigated and confirmed as true, the two men were hanged on a gallows. 

God says: When you stumble across a plot that threatens harm, bring your tension and worry to me, and listen for my counsel. Always remain faithful to a life of compassion, hope and mercy. Always forgive those who harm you while asking me to transform hardened hearts and stiff shoulders. Always be wary of associates who draw you into grumbling, hoping to bring you into the schemes they weave. Remember that Jesus instructed you to “render to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what belongs to God”. (Matthew 22:21) Remember to align yourself with me for I have great plans in mind for you.

It is tempting to complain about the corruption around us without acknowledging our part in a corrupt structure. It is comfortable to be silent while others wage war around us.

What do we do when we have possession of information about a plot that does harm? Today Esther and Mordecai give us insight. Today we reflect on the plots we discover. And we reflect on what we are to do.

Through the last several hundred years, numerous thinkers, writers, spiritual and political leaders have reminded us that evil grows quickly when good people remain silent. We may want to explore some of these quotes at: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/

To learn more about the dangers in reporting an assassination plot in ancient days, visit: http://thetorah.com/why-does-mordechai-not-report-the-assassination-plot-directly-to-ahasuerus/

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Esther: Received by the King

Ernest Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Saturday, February 10, 2018

We have learned from the story of Job that God interacts with us when we argue as easily as when we petition or praise. As we near the feast of Purim, we consider the story of Esther.

Notes and commentaries will help us unravel the confusion of the chapters in this book, and it will be a worthwhile task – for this story is one of the most uplifting in the Old Testament.  It reminds us of the fear all humans feel when they see a task looming before them which causes them to faint away.  It also reminds us of the surprising gentleness we will find in the heart of an awesome, fear-inspiring king.  And it finally reminds us of the courage we receive as grace when we place ourselves in the hands of this king.

Life is difficult.  It is threatening, it is sometimes over-powering.  Where do we go when we feel panic, anxiety, abandonment, a sense of uselessness or futility?  Like Esther, we discard our penitential garments and don our vestments of royal attire.  As adopted sisters and brothers of Christ, we take ourselves before our king, we lay our life in his hands, and we petition, even though we may faint away from the effort.

Spending time with this story we remember and reflect on some of its essential elements: we must respond when we are called (4:14), God saves us from the power of the wicked (C:29), those who plot our downfall end by suffering the punishment they would have inflicted on the faithful (6:8-11), hopeless situations can be reversed because with God all things are possible (9:1).

When terror looms before us on the narrow path we follow closely in this journey home, we might cry out like Mordecai: Do not spurn your portion, which you redeemed for yourself out of Egypt.  Hear my prayer; have pity on your inheritance and turn our sorrow into joy; thus we shall live to sing praise to your name, O Lord.  Do not silence those who praise you.  (C:9-10)

And like Esther: My Lord, our King, you alone are God.  Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.  (C:14-15)

To these prayers let us add our own . . . Amen!

Tomorrow, Mordecai’s Dream. 

The citations with the letter C indicate verses from the Greek additions. (Senior 536-537)

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.536-537. Print.   

Written on July 16, 2008.

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Proverbs 6:12-35 and 7: Something Nasty

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God is perfectly aware that not all creatures understand the goodness and generosity of creation’s gift. Having that in mind, the writer of Proverbs reminds us that the riffraff and rascals who plot and scheme will always – in God’s time and in God’s economy – wind up suffering the consequences of the chaos they plot against others. In a literary context, we refer to this as irony, the end of the twisting plot twisting back on the antagonist. We often believe that in reality the outcome is different: he who plots and schemes becomes rich and powerful; she who plots against the innocent escapes destiny’s karma.

Riffraff and rascals
    talk out of both sides of their mouths.
They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
    they cross their fingers behind their backs.

If we live in a timeline of the physical world, we might see ourselves as correct in thinking that the spiritual world holds out false hope. When we live in God’s eternal time, we find that we have misunderstood God’s plan for the kingdom. When we ignore God’s time and plan, we find that we have become like the riffraff and rascals we deplore. We have given in to something nasty. We will have rejected the advice of Proverbs that the final total smashup will arrive at our door, and we will become the hypocrites who cross our fingers behind our backs.

Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
    always stirring up trouble.
Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
    a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.

In the following verses, we hear about human actions that induce God’s ire; these items are laid out clearly. Various translations present differing translations but this interesting list is always the same, a litany of easy signs that we might look for in our own daily actions.

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that kill innocent people,
  • A mind that thinks up wicked plans.
  • Feet that hurry off to do evil.
  • A witness who tells one lie after another.
  • And someone who stirs up trouble among friends.

As Easter People, we share the Good News Jesus brings to creation that God’s merciful patience and generosity are always waiting in hope to redeem us. God’s persistence and wisdom are always presenting in faith new lessons for us to learn. God’s justice and consolation are always bringing us new opportunities to love as God loves.

The final verses of this chapter reprise the hazards of adultery and we might wonder why the writer brings this theme to us again. Besides the obvious danger of wanton men and women, might we also need be wary of addiction to lusting after power, wealth and fame? Might we need another practical warning to steer clear of riffraff and rascals lest we becomes one of those who ignore God’s call away from something nasty?

Even so, when the dust settles, we find that despite our recalcitrance, despite our rejection of truth, despite our haughtiness and ego-driven behavior, God’s compassion is awaiting us with Christ’s open and holy love. We are invited today to become one with that sacred heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to find different versions of these verses, we explore God’s transparent plan for our good, and the good of all creation.  

The original definition of hypocrite is “actor”. (See Merriam-Webster at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/hypocrite-meaning-origin) For interesting thoughts on hypocrisy, click the image of masks above. 

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Proverbs 1:8-19: Greed and Violence

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The writer of these verses is clear and explicit about the wiles of those who might entice us to lie in wait for the honest man or woman who sets our teeth on edge, or who stirs our yearning for some thing or some quality we do not have but want. The writer wants us to remain alert for those who delight in setting traps for the innocent in their search for wealth and power. The wily ones are always looking for new members to swell their ranks.

Walk not in the way with them . . . it may be difficult to see that actions appearing harmless can lead us to dark paths we want to avoid. And so we must be watchful.

These lie in wait for their own blood . . . it may be difficult to see that family, friends or colleagues engage in activities that lead too easily to the ways of violence. And so we must be prudent.

These set a trap for their own lives . . . it is worth more than we can say to step away from plots and schemes that bring down the innocent for our own gain. And so we must be faithful to God.

This is the fate of everyone greedy for loot . . . it is worth more than we can judge to live a life that is void of even the beginning stirrings of envy or greed. And so we must be compassionate and loving.

These are words meant to instruct and warn us. These are verses meant to steer us into The Way Jesus later lays out so clearly. Are these words we can trust? Can we put aside our anxieties when we realize that for millennia traps have been laid for the innocent? Can we hand over our anger to God even as we pray for our enemies? Might we quiet our fears and tame our anxieties while we wait in joyful anticipation of God’s justice? Might we step away from the violence that grows from our human greed, and follow The Way of Christ?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we discover new truth about the violence of greed and the holiness of the innocents who trust in God.

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Psalm 22: Spiritual Warfare – Part III

Thursday, October 27, 2016sword-of-the-spirit2

This Noontime is adapted from a Favorite written on November 11, 2008.

In spiritual warfare we need not connive, we need not plot.  We need only do what we know is right, understanding that we are graced by God.  We need to avoid thinking that we are in control, knowing that God’s plan is always better than our own.  We need to give over everything to God, believing that God turns all harm to good, even – and especially – the ultimate resolution of all conflict.

We are foot soldiers in spiritual warfare, and we know our orders.  We must be patient in our perseverance as we grow to become God’s harvest in God’s time.  We must speak, pray, study, witness, watch and wait.  We must be ready.  This is all that is required of us.  We do not know the hour or time of this warfare’s end; but we know the outcome.  This we have been promised.   This we have been told.  Let us pass the word along . . . that in the hour when we feel most abandoned, we are most accompanied.  That in the hour when we believe all is lost . . . all is truly found.

And so we pray.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned us? We have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. During the day we call to you, our God, but you do not answer; we call at night, but get no rest.

In the dark hours when we anticipate a resolution for our own plan, we worry that God has disappeared, or perhaps does not exist at all. In the burdensome days we keep watch for any sign that God is near.

It was God who brought us safely through birth, and when we were babies, God kept us safe. We have relied on God since the day we were born, and the LORD have always been our God.

Yet when we consider all that God has done for us, we cannot help but give voice to the hope that rests within, waiting to bloom into fullness.

Our strength is gone, gone like water spilled on the ground. All our bones can be seen. Our enemies look at us and stare.

And when we allow our faith to support us, we cannot help but rise from the ash of all we leave behind into a new dawn and new day, growing in newness.

We will tell our people what God have done; we will praise God in their assembly. We will praise God for all that God has have done. We will offer the sacrifices we have promised.

And when we respond with persistent love, we cannot help but take hold of the promise we already rest in, relying on God’s bounty, relying on God’s boldness, relying on God’s peace. Amen.

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Luke 11:47-54: A Prayer for This Generation

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jacob Jordeans: Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple

Jacob Jordeans: Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple

How terrible for you! You make fine tombs for the prophets—the very prophets your ancestors murdered.

Knowing that all generations falter in their hope to follow Christ, we pray for ourselves and for all who are willing to ask for hope in hopeless situations.

You yourselves admit, then, that you approve of what your ancestors did; they murdered the prophets, and you build their tombs.

Knowing that all generation murder prophets and bury them in white-washed tombs, we pray for ourselves and for all who honor life that comes from God.

How terrible for you teachers of the Law! You have kept the key that opens the door to the house of knowledge; you yourselves will not go in, and you stop those who are trying to go in!

Knowing that all generations hold the key of knowledge and use it for good and for ill, we pray for ourselves and all who continue to prophesize in the face of corruption.

So the people of this time will be punished for the murder of all the prophets killed since the creation of the world.

Knowing that all generations both bless and condemn the Spirit, we pray for ourselves and all who are willing to unravel plots and reveal those who freely deceive others.

When Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began trying to lay traps for him and catch him saying something wrong.

El Greco: The Purification of the Temple

El Greco: The Purification of the Temple

Knowing that all generations lay plots and lie in waiting to put an end to goodness, we pray for ourselves and all who dare to bring light to the world.

When Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to criticize him bitterly and ask him questions about many things.

Knowing that God’s enormous love is capable of healing all wounds, bridging all abysses, and restoring all peace, we pray for ourselves and for all who persist in carrying God’s love into the world.

Amen.

For more images of Jesus driving the money-lenders from the Temple, click on the image above or visit: http://www.artble.com/artists/el_greco/paintings/the_purification_of_the_temple

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proverbs 12-20Monday, December 8, 2014

Joy and Proverbs

Deceit

The Book of Proverbs is more than mere adages we repeat in moments of confusion or stress. They are universal metaphors that serve as anchors in a bewildering and sometimes tumultuous world. Many resources are available to understand these maxims and during this second week of Advent we will focus on the surprising power of the proverbs to reveal God’s truth to us.  If this week’s exploration of Proverbs calls you to search for more ways to encounter joy, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy even in deceit.

Each of us has experienced a time when joy has been difficult to find. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that the wickedness and deceit we see around us will ever dissipate; peace and serenity seem powerless against the forces of corruption and treachery. Betrayal, envy, slander, gossip, plots against the innocent and vulnerable, schemes against the marginalized and voiceless seem far more powerful than the power of humility, serenity and peace. But then we might be thinking that we must generate goodness from our own resources . . . and we will have forgotten that God alone can penetrate stony hearts, Christ alone is the path to resurrection, the Spirit alone abides through hate and calumny and fear

Verse 10:28: The hope of the just brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked perishes.

joyGod says: What is the justice I ask you to bring to the world? Is it a gargantuan task that saps every bit of energy you possess? Is it a complex plot with an infinite number of people and parts? No . . . the justice I ask you to bring is you witnessing. Stand with the marginalized and the innocent. The justice I ask you to enact is your voice. Speak when the Spirit asks you to speak. The justice I ask you to nurture is your outrageous hope that all things are possible in and through me for the hope of the just brings joy.

Verse 12:20: Deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, but those who counsel peace have joy.

God says: When you experience every kind of deceit, you need not hide or cower in the shadows. Step into the light of my goodness and live as you know you are called to live. When plots unfold before you, allow my peace to fill you. When schemes unravel around you, allow my serenity to guide you. When intrigue and conspiracy reign, step into my quiet stillness and know that I am with you. In this way you will experience joy . . . even in the cruelest of circumstances.

During this second week in Advent we will continue to share simple verses from Proverbs that bring joy to our hearts. Tomorrow, God’s joy is present even in the midst of evil.

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

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