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Zechariah 10The New Order

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Written on February 17 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Golden Calf – Exodus

The teraphim are household idols, used for divination but incapable of true healing, redemption, comfort or transformation.  Those who have relied on wealth and influence will no longer hold power; change is in the wind.  Those who have been led by false shepherds will be visited by the true king; a rout by a new king’s soldiers is predicted.  Those who have wandered aimlessly, searching for the true shepherd will be brought back; the exiled will return home; the faithful will be rewarded.

In the Old Testament readings at Mass this week we hear again the story of Noah.  God sees how wicked man has become and he regrets having created him.  Later he promises to never destroy his creatures again.  In the New Testament readings we have seen the supreme patience of Jesus as he continually instructs his followers in the ways of the New Kingdom, the New Covenant, and the New Promise.  There is a New Order . . . yet they struggle to understand.  He even rebukes Peter (Mark 8:27-33) and scolds the others for not understanding his feeding of thousands from a few fish and loaves (Mark 8:14-21).  These humans God has created seem to believe more in their teraphim than in their God.  And we are so like all of these people.

So we pray . . .

Lord God in heaven, Lord God on earth, Lord God within us, Lord God among us, open our eyes that we might see your new order as you opened the eyes of the blind beggar in yesterday’s Gospel (Mark 8:22-26).  Open our minds and hearts so that we might better hear your call to newness.  Open our lives to you so that we might better understand the new order of your world.  Teach us to cease lusting after money and goods.  Instruct us in your new way.  School us in the ways of the gentle heart and eager mind.  Remind us to throw out our tiny household gods and rely firmly and only on you.  Visit us with your Spirit.  Continue to walk with us as Christ.  And harbor us who wander as wretched sheep in the safety of your enormous arms.  We ask this each day and every day . . . as we strive to remember who you are . . . and how much you love us.  Amen. 


A re-post from September 6, 2011.

Image from: http://www.perplexicon.net/2009/12/false-gods-and-theologians/

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Ecclesiastes 1: Seek Trust

Blaise Nicolas Le Sueur: Solomon Before the Ark of the Covenant

Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017

Vanity

This book was written not by Solomon as claimed, but by a writer who actually identifies himself “as a subject (4:13, 8:2, 9:14-16, 10:16-17 and 20), noting conditions of oppression (4:13), injustice (4:8, 5:8), and social upheaval (10:6-7).  The language . . . is a late form of biblical Hebrew, coming closest of any Old Testament book to post-biblical Mishnaic Hebrew.  The presence of Persian loan-words requires a date well after Israel’s release from exile in 539 B.C.E.  Fragments of the book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran community date to the mid-second century B.C.E.  Most scholars date the book’s composition between 300 and 200 B.C.E.”  (Meeks 986)  The Mishnah is a collection of oral literature of the early Hebrew people who appear to us as the first portion of the Torah.

We find the theme of this book laid out clearly in the first chapter: All is vanity that does not come from God.  It does not take any time at all for us to put this reading into the context of our own lives.  What does take some time is to determine what to do with this self-knowledge.

We have entered the season of Advent – an exciting, mysterious time in the liturgical calendar that we associate with a feeling of expectation – a time of promises and fulfillment.  We in the northern hemisphere also associate this time of year with the coming on of darkness and cold; while in the southern hemisphere, Advent is experienced as a time of lengthening days and rising temperatures.  I often think that the later is more apt.  Warmth, light, ease of days, promise . . . Christ.  The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that all else besides a life that acts in this promise is futile.  As followers of Christ, our example of living in hope is paramount for ourselves, for our community, and for the greater world.  We enact Christ when we put aside the vanity that we are all, and take on the understanding that The Promise is all.

As we move through this day and begin this week after spending a day or days of Thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth, we will want to pause to examine our spiritual bounty as well.  Just as we examine our relationships with family and friends, we will also want to examine our relationship with the Creator, the Redeemer and the Comforter.  We will want to unfold the miracle of this love so great that it overcomes all trials and injustices.  We will want to allow ourselves to step into that which is not in vain.  We will want to remember, we will want to trust, we will want to believe, we will want to hope.

We already know that there is nothing new under the sun . . . and so what we hope to experience is that which is new . . . that which is not in vain . . . and that which is worthy of every ounce of strength we have in body, mind and soul.

Like the audience of Ecclesiastes, we who have returned from exile will want to reunite in intimacy with our God and so we might try to spend more time this season with this book of wisdom, parsing out its verses to complement our days.  In this way, we might hope to be full of God’s wisdom rather than our own, we might hope to live in God’s love rather than our own, and we might hope to be Christ rather than an empty vanity of vanities.

To celebrate this Second Sunday of Advent, we join voices with this traditional hymn, O Come, O come, Emmanuel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtpJ4Q_Q-4 

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  

A Favorite from November 30, 2009.

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Joshua 11-12: Seek Integrity

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

James J. Tissot: The Seven Trumpets of Jericho

Survey

Today we have the opportunity to read about a promise review.  God has promised territory to a people who were enslaved.  God promises a place in which they might live, work, play, celebrate and worship.  God promises to remain with them, to guide them and to protect them.  They, in turn, promise to reverence this God only, to follow the Lord’s commandments only, and to teach their children and their children’s children to do the same.  We might take this opportunity to pause and to survey our own promises . . . the ones we make willingly, the ones we perhaps make grudgingly, the ones we keep and the ones we forget.  How and why do we make promises?  When and why do we keep them . . . or disregard them?  Do we ever pause to remember what promises we have made . . . and why?

We do not only receive the gifts of our talents and souls, we also are given the gift of time and space each morning when we rise.  What do we chose to do with these presents from our creator?  When we examine our lives – as we do frequently during our Lenten journey – what new territories do we find that we now occupy?  Which harassing and recalcitrant tyrants have we conquered through God’s grace and hand?  What have we taken in that is new to us?  How has this newness affected the other parts of our lives?  What can we expect from ourselves?  Do we see others differently than we saw them before as a result of our newness?

Jericho

It is always good to evaluate and assess because from this kind of exercise can come a deeper and better understanding of who we are – why we are – where we are going – and who we are meant to be.  When we take a scan of our actions we have to be honest and sometimes this can be brutal; but it is the only method of integrating what we say with what we do.  The act of self-scrutiny, when done in a healthy and open manner, is the only real method of determining if and how we have kept the promises we have made.  It is also the only real way to discovering if we are making the proper kinds of promises.  This kind of examination is the only real path to integration.  It is the only true response to the God who creates us lovingly and tends to us unceasingly.

What are the promises we have already made?  What promises are we about to enter into?  What promises do we dream about?

What promises have we kept?  What promises do we intend to keep?  What promises do we hope to take into the future?

Only an honest survey will tell us what we will need to know. Only an honesty survey will tell us if and how we value integrity.

For an interesting perspective of the story of Rahab and Joshua, click on the image of the Jericho street above, or visit: http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/bad-girls-of-the-bible-rahab/

Adapted from a Favorite written on February 25, 2010.

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1 Kings 20: Victory

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ahab is an unscrupulous leader who does anything to gain advantage, and today we watch him violate a ban on war – an action for which he will later pay with his life.  In Chapter 21 is the famous story of his seizure of Naboth’s vineyard.  In Chapter 22 he will die in battle.  Ben-hadad, one of several men of this name in the Old Testament, attacks Samaria several times, is victorious once, but more frequently suffers defeat.

Reading through the ups and downs of the fortunes of individual men, we see a picture that is much like our own lives. Things go well for a while among nations, and then they sour.  Leaders agree in principle to a concept, later they back away.  Promises once looked to for hopeful solutions to grave problems become lost in pride and greed.

We might become caught up in the drama and tragedy of lives spent so quickly and thoughtlessly. 

We might become despondent when we watch good ideas wither from neglect.

We might become pessimistic or even cynical when we see goodness overtaken by evil. 

We might become hopeless as we witness continual injustice.

This will happen when we see as humans see . . . and this will not happen when we see as God sees.

Thomas Matthews Rooke: Elijah Prophesises to Ahab and Jezebel their End

When we see as humans see, we take today’s story and see a series of military and political victories and losses.  When we see as God sees we are cognizant of the many lives caught up in the machine of battle in which leaders engage coolly, moving war equipment and troops as if they were pieces on a chessboard.

When we see as humans see, we regard each day as a series of battles to be fought and won: getting to work on time through traffic, battling with colleagues for agendas, making certain that our perspective is the one seen by friends or colleagues.

When we see as God sees, we regard each day as a gift through which we experience many interchanges with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.  We see the wisdom in coming to consensus, of standing in solidarity, of witnessing to injustice and of handing over our problems to God.  These are the victories that nourish.  These are the victories that give life.

When we see as humans see, time and location are often stumbling blocks.  When we see as God sees, they are gifts to be received, shared and returned in gratitude to the one who gives us life.  These are the many small victories that build up as our treasure.  These are the victories that cannot be taken away, that cannot be reversed.  These are the victories that will last an eternity.

A Favorite from December 20, 2009.

For more images by Thomas Matthews Rooke of the Ahab, Jezebel, Naboth and ELijah stories, visit: https://artuk.org/discover/artists/rooke-thomas-matthews-18421942

To learn more about Ahab, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/a/ahab.htm 

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1 Samuel 17: The Way of Christ

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Caravaggio: David and Goliath

A Favorite from August 16, 2009.

This is a story we know well, and yet we might want to pause in order to spend time with a few details.

  • Battle armor and brave words do not protect Goliath from the truth of David’s one small stone. We might reflect that . . . bluster, barricades and weapons do not serve us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • While David’s oldest brothers go off to fight against the Philistines with Saul, David tends his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. We might reflect that . . . although our work may often seem insignificant, it is always on target when we obey God as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David leaves his flock with another shepherd when he takes roasted grain and cheeses to the battlefield for the troops. We might reflect that . . . even in the midst of our work, we must remember to shepherd those who follow us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David’s brothers are jealous not only of the bravery which stems from David’s special relationship with Yahweh but also because David comes to Saul’s attention for the question he repeatedly asks: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should insult the armies of the living king?” We might reflect that . . . we are often the target of jealousy when we are faithful and courageous as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David says with confidence to Saul: “The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine”. We might reflect that . . . we too, may place our hope in God’s promises as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David rejects Saul’s unwieldy warrior garments and tools so that he might take up and use the tools he knows best: smooth stones and his slingshot. We might reflect that . . . rather than arms and physical strength, our petitions of intercession on behalf of our enemies are our most powerful weapons as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David answers the enemy’s challenge with these famous words: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of armies of Israel that you have insulted . . . All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands”. We might reflect that . . . when the crowd jeers and when we appear to be defeated, we too serve as an example of how God saves and restores as we travel along The Way of Christ.  When we rise after apparent defeat, we are justified by God as we travel along The Way of Christ.

This is an old and familiar story against a backdrop of violence, yet it holds simple and valuable lessons for us today.  They are . . .

  • we must believe the story we have heard,
  • we must hope in the promise we have been given, and
  • we must enact love in the world as a sign that . . .
  • we travel along The Way of Christ.

In so doing, the many false and boasting Goliaths who confront us will fall permanently as we journey along The Way of Christ.

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Matthew 28:8-15: Fearful Yet Overjoyed

Monday, April 24, 2017

William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Holy Women at the Tomb

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 two, Easter Monday, we heard Matthew’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb. Today we focus on a few details that bring this story alive. First, we choose a translation that speaks to us most clearly, and then we reflect. Today’s verses are from the USCCB site. (This link also contains an audio version.) We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed . . .

Who among us has not felt this clash of emotions at cataclysmic times in our lives? We are full of joyful anticipation, and at the same time a sense of foreboding. Newness and change confront us, offering both hope and anxiety. Jesus has died, is lying in the tomb and yet his body is not there. Matthew records other details that we do well to spend time with today.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Who among us does not need these reassuring words when we find ourselves in dark days? Everyone we have trusted in the past has fallen away in this new present. Every sturdy stone we use to cross the river of the unknown has disappeared. Jesus seems to be present to us, yet is he? Why does he ask us to meet him in Galilee? Why does he not repair all that wounds us here and now? Can we continue to believe all of his promises if we are not physically with him? Matthew gives us another detail to ponder as we reflect on the future that lies ahead.

“And if this [bribe] gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

Mikołaj Haberschrack: The Three Marys at the Tomb

Who among us has not come up against deceit among families, friends and colleagues? Trust seems a rare quality. Truth is warping into alternative realities. Honesty is now self-serving and the common good suffers. Generosity gives way to narcissism. Fidelity is fleeting. Hope is inane. Love insincere. And yet . . .

As we consider the accounting that Matthew gives us of Easter morning at the tomb, we now have another newness we had not anticipated, a newness born out of joyful apprehension, a newness rising from the ashes of old fears and doubts, a newness promised by the one who keeps all promises.

Today we spend time with Matthew’s story of the women at the tomb, and all that followed in the confusing chaos of suspicion threaded through with deep trust and abiding love. As we read this account today, let us see if we are able to move beyond our fears for the world, with the joyful hope of these women.

For an interesting look at the identity of the women at the tomb, visit: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/how-many-women-visited-the-tomb-of-jesus/

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Matthew 11: A Message of Healing

Third Sunday of Advent, December 11, 2016

Guercino: Saint John the Baptist in Prison Visited by Salome

Guercino: Saint John the Baptist in Prison Visited by Salomé

John the Baptist was imprisoned and when he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” (MSG) This week we are given an opportunity to give our own testimony.

When we read these ancient verses we tend to leave them in the past where they were first spoken and written, forgetting that Christ still lives among us to heal and bless. Just as Jesus spoke to John’s disciples, he speaks to each of us today.

Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:

The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.

“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!” (MSG)

Like John’s disciples, we may stand in disbelief, wanting evidence, weighing the promise against the reality of the moment. So Jesus continues.

“Go back and tell John what you are hearing and seeing: the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean,[a] the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor. How happy are those who have no doubts about me!” (GNT)

Like John’s disciples, we watch Jesus’ face, suspecting that his words are only words, hoping that his words bring the healing and grace we so need individually and collectively. So Jesus asks us a question.

Tell me, what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes indeed, but you saw much more than a prophet. (GNT)

Today we have the opportunity to consider what we have witnessed. We have the opportunity to consider what we believe. And we have the opportunity to act on this belief.

The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed! (MSG)

On this third Sunday in Advent when we celebrate the joy of God’s message, let us decide to believe in the healing message of Christ.

When we explore differing translations of these verses, we discover a message of restoration and compassion that we have been longing to hear. When we take in the meaning of these verses, we open ourselves to the healing and redemption Jesus promises.

For interesting information on the sale of this painting through Sotheby’s, read THE ECONOMIST article, “Schemers and Squinters,” by clicking on the image or visiting: http://www.economist.com/node/12917657

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1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part II

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cornelis de Vos: KIng David handing the Scepter to Solomon

Cornelis de Vos: King David handing the Scepter to Solomon

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . . 

As we move from childhood to maturity, we take on commitments and we either fulfill or turn away from promises. As we seize control of as many facets of our lives as possible, we also strive for success as the world around us identifies it. And somewhere in the blur of activity and struggle, they is always the chance that we might move away from the core of who and what we are.

In the story of David and Solomon we find two men, and the women who surround them, scrabble to come out on top and in front, surrounded by security, relaxing into comfort. The details of David’s anointing and rise, his battles with both his enemies and King Saul he has pledged to serve, are all benchmarks in David’s life. So are his interactions with Michal and Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan. David’s son Solomon must also struggle against heavy odds to survive into adulthood and to assume his father’s seat of power; but later he succumbs to the wishes of others and the lure of success and fame. Details of a temple are laid out and even include specifics about music, vessels and decorations. Life at court attracts both those who support and those who tear down what once was full of hope.

How do we arrive at the peak of power in our lives? What do we store up for the journey ahead and what do we jettison? What do we tend to and what do we ignore? Does our relationship with God grow or diminish? Have we found wisdom that nourishes and serenity that heals . . . and do these gifts from God even matter to us?

Today we take time to examine our lives to see how or if we have followed God’s lead in the living of our hours on earth, and to examine the kind of kingdom we have been building. We consider what we have set aside as having great value and what we have cast off as holding us down. And we discover, in the many relationships and encounters we have experienced, that both our storehouse and the debris we leave behind reveal a great deal about who and what we have become.

The two books of Chronicles have four major portions: a genealogy of our leaders beginning with Abraham (1 Chronicles 1-9), a description of the monarchy under David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 9 – 2 Chronicles 9), the divided kingdom (2 Chronicles 10-18), and the period from Hezekiah to the Babylonian exile (2 Chronicles 19-36). This story of divine promise interwoven with human commitment and infidelity tell a story that we might see reflected in our own personal sacred history. This story is worthy of our time over the next few days.

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Isaiah 54: Vindication


Isaiah 54: Vindication

Friday, November 27, 2015The-Tent

Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities.

With this beautiful image of a heart that is willing to expand as it meets its creator, Isaiah asks us to contemplate the enormity, eternity, and healing power of God’s love for us.

From Princeton WordNet at wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn the definition of vindication: 1) the act of vindicating or defending against criticism or censure etc.; “friends provided a vindication of his position”, 2) defense: the justification for some act or belief; “he offered a persuasive defense of the theory”.  We read these words and realize that we may not have allowed ourselves to be defended by God when we see those who work against us fail at their unhealthy schemes.  In our effort to wipe any thought of revenge from our minds, we have missed out on the gift of God’s affirming action.  This is something to think about.

We are always hearing words of comfort from our God.  Fear not, you shall not be put to shame.  (Verse 4) In justice shall you be established, far from the fear of oppression, where destruction cannot come near you.  (Verse 14) No weapon fashioned against you shall prevail; every tongue you shall prove false that launches an accusation against you.  This is the lot of the servant of the Lord.  (Verse 17) 

We pause over verses 7 & 8:  For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back.  In a burst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord your redeemer.  We reflect on how Yahweh is so often described as a jealous God, wanting our full and total dedication to his truth.  We also recall the prophecy of Hosea when he cries in anguish over his wife’s infidelity and lack of respect for herself and others.  We understand the burst of wrath, the hidden face . . . and also the tenderness of true love which endures all things without accepting abuse.

isaiah 54We spend time meditating on verse 10:  Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord who has mercy on you.

God is good. God keeps promises . . . even when we do not.  When we have stood to affirm God’s goodness with full-throated song . . . we must allow ourselves to be vindicated.  For this indication is a hymn of praise to God and his wondrous, awesome power.

Adapted from a reflection written on November 27, 2008.

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