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Posts Tagged ‘promise’


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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Judges 17: The Tribes


Judges 17: The Tribes 

Thursday, June 22, 2017 

The link below will take us to a map of the Middle East at the time of the twelve tribes.  A number of sites might provide similar information, or we might find solid information in a good study Bible map; but no matter the resource, we have an opportunity today to explore our own tribal instincts.

http://www.drshirley.org/geog/geog08.html

It is interesting to see where these families of Jacob settled when they returned from Egypt to cross the Jordan into their promised land.  The Levites, being priests, have no territory; they have 48 cities designated to them.  Joseph’s family has two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim for his two sons.  The territory each clan is promised is based on the fertility of the land itself so large parcels are less fertile than the smaller ones.  Dan, we see, was never able to occupy the land his tribe was promised in the western portion of the region, so his followers scouted out a suitable city and took it by force.  Some say that this laid a foundation for this tribe’s failure in Judeo-Christian history; however, one thing we can notice is this: even when Israel has finished her desert wanderings and has come home to her promise, she struggles within. She yearns for a king who will bring justice and mercy and true peace to her existence. So might we also struggle once we have passed through a time of trial. So might we also come home from the desert to struggle when we settle into our promise.

From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, page 236.  “The concluding chapters of Judges sound a recurrent theme, ‘In those days there was no king in Israel’ (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) . . . ‘All the people did what was right in their own eyes’.  Neither judges nor deliverers appear in the concluding stories and, significantly, the threat to Israel is no longer external but internal.  Even when no foreign oppressor appears on the horizon, conditions do not improve, for Israel, left to its sinful ways, pursues a course that threatens its political and religious survival”.

Today we see that some of Jacob’s clan have yet to find their places in the promise alongside their brothers and sisters.  And we also see what action they take to rectify this situation.  We might ask ourselves what we would do in their place.

Tomorrow, Judges 17, reward in due season.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 236. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 16, 2009.

 

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1 Peter 1:3-9: A Living Hope

Third Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017

Peter Denies Christ
John 18

As we enter into the third week of Eastertide, we look to Peter, Jesus’ companion who denied knowing him (John 18); and who later pledged to the resurrected Christ that he would feed and love his sheep (John 21). We are those sheep and today we listen to Peter’s words.

What a God we have! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! 

As we move through our days and nights, this is good news. In our typically linear way of thinking, the past, present and future are separate entities that we cannot manipulate; yet Peter tells us that Jesus has changed the natural order of time. Past, present and future fuse into an eternal timelessness, an infinite oneness, an unending union. And we are invited to participate in this union.

The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime.

As we look at our lives and our surrounding circumstances, these are joyful words. In our consumption and status driven world, the powerful hold sway over the poor, sickness opposes good health, and death overcomes life; yet Peter reminds us of the many miracles that erase the demarcation between wholeness and weakness.

You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

James Tissot: Feed My Lambs
John 21

As we anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promise, the serenity of Jesus’ Good News, and perfect union with and in the healing of the Spirit, we find Peter’s words reassuring. In the rush of our days, we pause to reflect on the healing power of Peter’s testimony. From one who once renounced the Living God, we hear the miracle of his conversion. And we turn from our anxieties and fears to the assurance of this Living Hope.

The verses cited above are from THE MESSAGE. To compare these words with those in other translations, use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore Peter’s message of A Living Hope to us.

Tomorrow, the first of Peter’s sermons following Pentecost.

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Luke 24:36-48: Fulfilled

Thursday, April 27, 2017

tissot-the-communion-of-the-apostles-751x523

James Tissot: The Communion of the Apostles

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day five, Easter Thursday, we hear Luke’s account of what takes place when the Emmaus disciples return to Jerusalem. Once again, when we reflect on a few details, the story becomes vital to our understanding the mystery and miracle of Easter.

First, we choose a translation that speaks to us most clearly. Then we reflect. If we want to hear an audio version of today’s verses, visit the USCCB site. We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

In the MESSAGE translation, Cleopas and his companion went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

Can we imagine ourselves listening to our colleagues as they tell us that they have witnessed a miracle? Can we envision our conversation with family and friends as we hear about their incredible interaction with the risen Christ?

While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death.

Can we predict our reaction to the appearance of Christ among us? What do we say when we share a meal with him? Is our overwhelming emotion fear? Do suspicion and doubt take over? Do anxiety and disbelief crowd our hearts? And then we hear Jesus’ words.

“Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” 

How do we reply?

They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

We are startled to hear the Teacher ask: “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

Duccio di Buoninsegna: Christ Appears to the Disciples at the Table

If we persist in a thick-headed and slow-hearted reaction, we look for ways to unravel the fraud we suspect. If we are reluctant and discouraged, we listen and watch warily, looking for reasons to doubt. If we remain hopeful and determined, we open our minds and hearts as we prepare to love and be loved. We listen to Christ’s words. We accept the joyful newness that asks to change our thinking.

Jesus says,Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled. You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses”.

We cannot do this, we are thinking. We do not have the courage or the tools. This newness is all too new, and too incredible for belief. Until Christ tells us . . . “What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high”.

Christ predicts the arrival and in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christ offers a gift too amazing to believe. Christ proposes a life too wonderful, too mystifying, too marvelous to believe. And yet . . .

Christ stands in the midst of us, sharing our meals, attending to our fears and doubts. Christ has fulfilled the promise of redemption made by the Living God for millennia. The choice is ours to make. Do we turn inward in our doubt? Or do we open in newness to accept the fulfillment of the promise we are offered?

For other posts on the story of Emmaus, enter the word into the blog search bar and explore.

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