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Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 29, 2020

John 13:30: And It Was Night

Modern Jerusalem at Night

Modern Jerusalem at Nightfall

We have believed a promise pledged in total honesty.  We have believed in the integrity and authenticity of a vow given freely and openly.  We have relied on a belief to such an extent that we have become completely open ourselves, fearless and yet completely vulnerable.

And then . . . it was night.

We have acted in full confidence of words we took as truth.  We have followed one who cured and healed and called us out of ourselves.  We have stood up, we have owned problems, we have held off naysayers, we have remained faithful through narrow gates.

And then . . . it was night.

We have followed the one who spoke truth.  We have forsworn easy living and have taken the road less travelled.  We have emptied ourselves, built bridges, entered into the work of the kingdom; we have stood at the foot of the cross.

And then . . . it was night.

img0486-2[1]All that we once held closely and shared openly as eternal truth appears to have vanished so easily and so quickly.  What did we miss?  How did we arrive at this darkness?

The black emptiness that grips the heart feels everlasting and we are frozen in this spot and time, waiting for the night to lift, hoping that the promise has not faded.  And yet each time we draw aside the curtain to catch a glimpse of the world as it is we see only the night.

Karl Heinrich Bloch: The Burial of Christ

Karl Heinrich Bloch: The Burial of Christ

Our bodies somehow function yet our thoughts freeze with incomprehension; we feel strangely locked in time as we follow the quiet, little procession to the waiting tomb where we will bury the last of our hopes.  How can something we thought so immense become so small?  Why can we so easily carry this body to its resting place?  Where is the shoulder that bears the heavy yoke?

How is it that this night can be so dark?

It is night yet tucked inside us we feel the fluttering of something that will not give up; some small memory of a healing touch and word persists.  The night feels heavy, intense and infinite and yet we know that there is the promise of the moon below the horizon.  We light candles and hang lanterns in imitation of the stars we know spangle the night sky that is veiled from our view by low-slung clouds.

This night is so intense.

jersalem wall at nightAnd yet as we scan the darkness again we feel the small fluttering of the promise take wing for a passing moment.  Perhaps the intensity of our waiting has opened some small door to the light.  Perhaps the words and touch given in pledge still hold their truth.  Perhaps the light beyond the lowering clouds will at last break through.  Perhaps . . . but for now we roll the stone across the entrance to the tomb and we wait in the darkness.  Perhaps . . . but for now . . . it is the night.


A re-post from March 29, 2013. 

To reflect with the poem Dark Night of the Soul by the 16th Century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, go to: http://josvg.home.xs4all.nl/cits/lm/stjohn01.html

Images from: http://www.imb.org/main/downloads/page.asp?StoryID=9460&LanguageID=1709 and http://www.khaces.com/jerusalen-de-noche/1143388 and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/burial-of-jesus-christ-carl-heinrich-bloch.html?product=shower-curtain and http://velvl.blogspot.com/

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Isaiah 36-39: Crucial Link

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Climbing Snap Link

Climbing Snap Link

Commentary informs us that although these few chapters may appear to be a tangential appendix to the prophecy of Isaiah, they in fact turn out to be “a crucial link for the survival of the Isaiah tradition and its extraordinary development”.  This portion of Isaiah binds the prophecy to the original Deuteronomic Tradition – an interpretation developed in the north rather than in Jerusalem – and it focuses more on the Mosaic covenant than the Davidic dynasty and promise.  We can see how this split in thinking might have accompanied the physical rift between the northern and southern tribes.  Judah and Israel had their differences; they focused on separate symbols, developed divergent theories, and went their separate ways.  This small, apparently insignificant addition to Isaiah, which at first glance might be overlooked, does in fact give us a message we will want to hear: Salvation is universal, salvation pertains to the Gentile peoples as well as to the Jews, salvation is ours.  (Senior RG 294)

We have centuries of theory, worship and belief to mine when we open scripture and today is no exception.  In today’s Noontime we are called to look at not just a crucial link in tradition but in ourselves as well.  We are asked: What do we know?  How do we know it?  What do we believe?  Why do we believe it? What do we do to enact our belief?  How do we retain our own crucial link?

Once we begin to examine our traditions and the relationships we value, we will need to further examine what feeds and sustains us.  How do we nourish our spiritual selves?  Where do we look for sturdy places to attach our hearts to something safe and secure?  Whom do we trust as we develop our value set? 

Inevitably in each human life we come to a point of self-recognition.  Some of us manage to stay away from the bright mirror of ourselves as we journey.  Others of us seem to beat ourselves with every small flaw we glimpse in our reflection from the sharp glass of life. Inescapably – sooner or later – we are confronted with what we have forged.  We see what we have done with the gifts we have been given.  We understand that we are us and God is God . . . and that our link to God is crucial.  Our attachment to God must be full and final.  Our love of God must supersede all else . . . just as Christ’s love for us overcomes and overpowers all that would draw us into our narcissistic staring at our imagined self-image.

And so we make this our Christmas prayer today . . .

As New Testament people we believe that our salvation comes to us through Christ.  Isaiah predicts this guarantee.  Jesus fulfills this prediction.

As New Testament followers we understand that the darkness will always be pierced by the light.  Isaiah foretells this.  Christ fulfills this foretelling.

As New Testament disciples we know that the work of those who carry a belief in Jesus as savior will never be easy.  Isaiah forewarns us of this.  Jesus explains this to us.

As New Testament Children of God we cling to this crucial link who is Christ, God Among Us, Emmanuel, the Light in the Darkness, the Promise of all for all.  Isaiah tells us of the immense love which forms this crucial link.  Jesus comes to assure us of God’s love for each of his children.  Jesus binds us to himself and to the Father forever . . . so let us take hold of this crucial bond and clasp it to our hearts forever.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on December 8, 2012. 

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Hebrews 8A Superior Covenant

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Written on February 1, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Yesterday we spent some time reflecting on God, the Lover.  Today we read about The Superior Covenant.  In Christ we have the offering of the only vow that really matters.  Jesus lives a life of integrity – which we see through the matching of his words and actions – that the promise of the Creator is true and valid.  God vows to protect, defend, forgive and love us.  This vow has an eternal life and cannot be broken.

We look for a reflection of this kind of constancy and authenticity in others and we are often disappointed.  Promises are given and broken.  Vows are spoken and then abandoned without much thinking of the distant consequences.  Immediate pleasures obtained take precedence over commitment and nurturing.  Too often we encounter – both in ourselves and in others – quick solutions that do not last, superficial thinking that takes the place of measured consideration, and artless worship that cannot stand the tests of life.  If we expect to weather storms, we must make preparations: take in stores, shore up our shelter, and make contingency and fall-back plans when events around us whirl out of control.

What are the resources we gather into our stockpile?  What are the edifices we build in which to shelter?  What are the plans we make to avoid pain?  Do we hoard what we find or do we share?  Do we hover in life with a narrow way of thinking and a small band of compatriots or do we seek to ever widen the circle by inviting in those we think are our enemies?  Do we see suffering as something to be evaded at all costs or do we see it as the portal to a life of transformed beauty?

What are the promises we make?  What are the promises we keep?  What are our expectations?

The answers to all these questions are more simple, more beautiful and more challenging than we can imagine; yet the rewards are abundant and the joy transcending.

The answers, the vows and the kept promises are all found in a life lived as the Christ asks.  When we rely on a stockpile of faith we have stored by acting in the belief that God is in charge, the supply is never-ending.  Our stores will never run dry – much like the widow in 2 Kings 4 who finds that the oil blessed by the prophet Elisha never reaches bottom.

When we become like the sparrow and the swallow in Psalm 84, we build nests and find protection when we nestle near and beneath the altar of our sacrifices to God, when we construct a temple for the in-dwelling of the Spirit.  Christ quickly steps into this temple which we build in ourselves, and it is this Christ – this presence of God – that we carry with us everywhere.  He is our constant companion and protection in our pilgrimage.

When we step into the discomfort of our pain to offer it for love of friends and enemies alike, we are transformed by this salvific love which redeems not only others but ourselves.

These are the promises we make.  These are the vows that we keep when we enter this Superior Covenant with our creator.  This is how we weather the storms of life.  This is how we find greatest joy . . . in the believing . . . in the hoping . . . in the knowing that this love is eternal, redemptive and beyond anything we might imagine.  This promise of presence and joy are not only awaited in the next life; they are present in the here and now.  We have only to step forward – into our discomfort and anxiety – at the call.

When we enter into this most excellent of promises . . . we enter into our life with Christ and his guarantee that he is constant, that he is transformative, and that his love is the peace we seek.

The promise here is not that life will be smooth or that problems will fall away from us quickly and without pain.  The promise of Christ is that when the storms present themselves, as they surely will, we will have the means, the vision and the strength . . . in Christ . . . to weather the tempest.


A re-post from January 27, 2012.

Image from: http://faithandheritage.com/2011/08/the-importance-of-lineage-in-god%E2%80%99s-covenant/ 

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Numbers 4Definition

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We all know people who want to follow blindly; they do not want the responsibility of defining their work or of finding creative solutions to complex problems.  Their world is a construct of simple yes/no options with all questions answered by thumbing through regulations until the proper – and appropriate – solution is found.  Roles are defined by strict standards; rules are enforced without deference to circumstance.

We also know people who do not want to follow; they ignore or even shun any structure which holds them accountable.  Their world is built of elegant faerie castles with convoluted passageways and hidden places where the secrets that govern decisions are stored but rarely used.  The definition of role is determined each day by personal whim, and rules are changed according to some mysterious set of guidelines.

In today’s Noontime we find a set of duties laid out for the Levite priests that were meant to keep the covenant promise with God intact . . . and were also intended to prepare the people for the desert trek toward the Promised Land.  Regimentation and obedience are needed when the pressures of life become overwhelming.  In dire circumstances the standard rules may not apply and normal roles may change.  Flexibility will have to be matched by fidelity.  Creativity must be balanced by sensibility.  In order to survive the desert winds as we journey from oasis to oasis, we will have to balance carefully on the tightrope between passion and prudence.  This will only happen well when we understand our role as Children of God.  It can only happen with serenity when we understand our responsibility as Children of the Kingdom.  It can only happen in joy when we understand our definition as Children of Love.

It is not enough to follow blindly in the kingdom; we are called to develop an informed conscience so that our decisions flow from the Gospel Tenets.  Nor is it sufficient to hide passively or to strike out entirely on our own; we are called to act in accord with the Gospel Teachings that require us to love God and others before self.

When we act in accord with who God calls us to be then we have no need to hide; nor do we have a need to control.  When we act in accord with who we are – God’s children created in love to love others and to be loved – then the thin tightrope of the desert journey becomes a simple path.

And so we pray . . . Good and gracious God, you established the Levite priests to help your faithful make the arid journey safely to their promise.  You guide and protect us today just as you lead and guarded the Hebrew people through the Sinai.  Help us to better recognize what you require of us.  Help us to better appreciate who we are.  Help us to better value one another as we journey always to you.  And help us to better understand that we define ourselves best when we begin that definition with you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 20, 2011.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tightrope_walking

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Leviticus 24:1-9The Sanctuary Light and the Showbread

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jesus as the Light of the World is a familiar theme to Christians which is celebrated during the Advent season.   In the Jerusalem Temple the sanctuary light served as a symbol of the presence of Yahweh and so it was important that the oil be clear – this purity ensured the burning of the lamp.  The Showbread was prepared with a particular recipe and laid out in a special fashion with frankincense; it was eaten only by the Temple priests.  Both the bread and the light served to remind the Israelites of their perpetual covenant with Yahweh.

In his homily this morning Bishop Newman referred to the habit we humans have of taking and saving photographs as we try to capture particular moments in our lives.  The custom of making scrapbooks or yearbooks to commemorate events is something we do as we conserve for later recall the goodness of certain moments or periods in our lives.  The Bishop suggested that we would do well to make spiritual scrapbooks of our lives that would serve to remind us of the goodness of God; and he asked that we reflect on today’s Psalm (103) in an intentional way: The Lord is kind and merciful . . . O, my soul, forget not all his benefits . . . he heals all ills . . . he redeems life from destruction . . . he is slow to anger and abounding in kindness . . . he does not always chide . . . he does not keep wrath forever . . . he does not requite us with our crimes . . . he crowns us with kindness and compassion.  Reading this litany of God’s goodness reminds us of Paul’s anthem to love in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind . . .

Light and Eucharist – both serve as Jesus’ constant presence to us.  When we enter the church today, we find the sanctuary light burning faithfully to represent the presence of the Eucharistic bread of Christ himself.  Many religious rites call for the use of incense.  Our Judeo-Christian culture brings us these signs of God’s presence and of the presence of his eternal covenant promise to us.  We need to keep these multi-sensory symbols in mind as pages of our spiritual scrapbook.  In this way, we may find it easier to be and do good as God is and does good.  We may be able to curb our anger and be more comfortable with treating others kindly and compassionately.  We may be better able to cease judging and chiding others for their faults and crimes.

By remembering in this special way that God is Light and Sustenance, we crown others with kindness and compassion even as our loving and eternal God crowns us.  And so we pray: Good and kind God, As the Sanctuary Light and the Showbread reminded the Israelites of your fidelity and promise, let today’s sanctuary light and the Eucharistic bread remind us that . . . as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is your kindness toward those who love you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/edfu/photos

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Nehemiah 2: Finding Our Way

Friday, May 18, 2018

Yesterday we explored the idea of Jesus as The Way. Today we reflect on the difficulties we encounter as we move through our own passage of life.

We frequently explore the idea of restoration in our Noontimes, and today we re-visit the story of Ezra and Nehemiah who secured permission for the people of Israel to return to Jerusalem to rebuild all they had lost. Nehemiah enters into the story with us.

One day four months later, when Emperor Artaxerxes was dining, I took the wine to him. He had never seen me look sad before, so he asked, “Why are you looking so sad? You aren’t sick, so it must be that you’re unhappy.” I was startled and answered, “May Your Majesty live forever! How can I keep from looking sad when the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Later, after obtaining letters of safe travel, Nehemiah and the Israelite journey to their homeland with a military escort as a safeguard. We can imagine the level of anxiety as this faithful remnant wondered what conditions they would actually find.

I went on to Jerusalem, and for three days I did not tell anyone what God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem. Then in the middle of the night I got up and went out, taking a few of my companions with me. The only animal we took was the donkey that I rode on. It was still night as I left the city through the Valley Gate on the west and went south past Dragon’s Fountain to the Rubbish Gate. As I went, I inspected the broken walls of the city and the gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then on the east side of the city I went north to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. The donkey I was riding could not find any path through the rubble, so I went down into Kidron Valley and rode along, looking at the wall. Then I returned the way I had come and went back into the city through the Valley Gate.

A century and a half after his people left their city in sorrow, Nehemiah returns with the faithful to begin anew. As we read this story, the details prompt memories of our own times of calamity, distress, evaluation, renewal and restoration. We recall the emotional journey as grief gives way to release, and our tears of pain become tears of joy. Nehemiah’s conversion becomes our own as he scouts out possibilities while reckoning with reality.

Later the priest Ezra takes the faithful through a similar process. While Nehemiah rebuilds the city, walls and Temple, Ezra renews the soul of this people. Some of the actions he takes exclude others from the promise of God’s covenant, but despite this exclusion, we see this Old Testament leader as steadfast, and in full understanding of the power and importance of the Spirit. In the transformative leadership of these two men, we see the possibility of redemption, and a foreshadowing of the savior to come.

We may want to shrink from the challenges of life, but we must then recognize that our passage is not about safe harbors and static circumstances; rather, it is about change, process, and promise. The skills we learn as we traverse this lifespan are essential if we hope to walk in The Way of our lives to come. We cannot know the twists and turns of our journey, nor can we predict its hills and valleys; but what we can envisage is the ever-present guidance of God, the steady wisdom of Christ, and the constant, healing love of the Spirit.


Tomorrow, vine and branches.

Explore more reflections on Nehemiah, Ezra, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem on this blog by using the search bar.  

Images from: https://spiritualityhealth.com/blogs/real-love-with-eve/2014/09/24/eve-hogan-winding-path-relationships and http://iwallpapers.free.fr/picture.php?/12653/category/Californie

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Genesis 17:3-9: Leaving The Comfort of Ur

Ur of the Chaldees

Thursday, March 22, 2018

On this Thursday before Palm Sunday, we remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.

In Chapter 12 of Genesis, we hear God’s call to Abram: Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s home, and go to a land that I am going to show you. I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing.

Today we ask ourselves if we are willing to leave all that we know in order to move toward an unseen promise. Do we have faith that God truly calls us as God called Abram? Do we believe in the hope of God’s covenant? Do we share God’s Spirit with open and giving hearts? In today’s Noontime reading, we move further into Abram’s story and we rest in the verses that tell us how and why Abram becomes Abraham. We hear the familiar words describing how and why Sarai becomes Sarah. And we ask . . .

Are we willing to step forward into the unknown as we follow God’s call? Do we anticipate the joy of the journey as we discover new places, times and peoples? Do we act with Christ’s mercy? Do we live in Christ’s joy? And like Sarah and Abraham, are we willing to leave the comfort of Ur?

For information on the city of Ur, visit: https://www.britannica.com/place/Ur

Click on the image of Ur, or visit Antiquity NOW at: https://antiquitynow.org/tag/ur/

Visit the Resting in the Promise post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2013/12/22/resting-in-the-promise/

Or enter the word Covenant into the blog search bar.

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2 Corinthians 4:17-5:3: Not Settling for Less

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Over the last month we have sung a hymn in time of national struggle, we have argued with the Almighty, gone beyond human limits, reflected on narcissism and considered what we might learn from the story of Esther. Today we settle into these verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without God’s unfolding grace.

In the midst of turmoil, there is the promise of renewal.

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.

Despite the pain that feels eternal, hope rises with the promise of restoration.

The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

Although our fears bring us insurmountable anxiety, we have the assurance of transformation.

God puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

In all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all joys, God’s grace remains. Once we recognize this, we never settle for less.

When we compare this translation of today’s reading with others, and when we weigh our troubles with the promise of the covenant, we know that each day God’s grace brings us more than meets the eye.

Image from: https://fastpraygive.org/a-renewal/ 

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Nehemiah 12: 27-43: Dedication

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bible Encyclopedia: Dedication of the Temple

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah bring us the chronicle of returning exiled Jews who threw themselves into the work of rebuilding the protective walls of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple itself. These books relate the Jewish people’s fidelity to the Torah (The Law) and an authentic Jewish life lived in faithful adherence to their covenant with Yahweh.

Today we consider our own agreement with our Creator.

Why do we forget how much we have promised to reform once we see ourselves out of danger? Why do we work so hard to amend our ways only to fall back into the same temptations, addictions and games? Why do we, like the Jewish people who return to their old rituals after the Babylonian captivity, ardently promise to repent and repay? Why do we work diligently to reform and then, like the Jewish nation, slip back into familiar, unfaithful habits?

Because this world is a treacherous, alluring, clever place, and the only way we can hope to walk through it and still remain faithful to the covenant promise is to be in constant contact with the Creator God, the Ransomer Christ, and the Indwelling Holy Spirit. We read about the faithful followers of Yahweh who rediscover the relics of a life for which they had hoped, but which they suspected they would never live again. They have escaped bondage and now they gather to celebrate, to dedicate, to promise once again to abide by the covenant promise.

May we, like this faithful band of people, re-gather, re-collect, re-dedicate, and re-commit ourselves to a life centered around service to the New Torah – service to the Gospel – service to Christ.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 2, 2007.

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