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friendsWednesday, June 23, 2021

1 Chronicles 19

Friendship

The story we read today is typical of human behavior. In my family, as in many, we referred to fair weather friends as those who enter into a relationship and then step away when problems arise. Some refer to this sort of false friends as coat-holders. There were times when my mother would say to us: “Watch out for so-and-so, she only wants to hold your coat”. Mother had amazing insight and she was always right about this kind of temporary friend who was in a relationship for a variety of reasons – none of which affirmed a genuine friendship. Beware of companions who bask in the attention merited by someone else, who seek intimacy not from authentic love but from a desire to know details that can be bartered for other delicious gossip, who fear life so much they become leeches to any source of power, who refuse to put God first before all.

Today we watch David as he makes a genuine offer of sympathy and friendship. It is true that this story follows a series of conquests made by the Israelites under David’s leadership and that this fact alone is enough to stir the embers of latent fear that David’s envoy comes to spy rather than to share grief. It is also true that the Ammonites disgrace the envoy (in the older Douay version it says that their clothes were cut so as to show their buttocks), and that in this ancient culture one returns insult for insult. But it is ultimately true that a gesture of openness and kindness displays an understanding that trust accompanied by prudence must be honored. Today’s coat-holders do not have either the capacity or the will to believe in a sincere gesture. We will never know which.

This story speaks to authenticity in relationships. It is a reminder that when we open ourselves to God’s daily surprises, we must treat God’s messengers for what they are: an opportunity to show ourselves, our God, and the others with whom we share life to see our version of God. For how we treat others is the way we treat God. It is also the way we expect God to treat us. That is the meaning behind The Golden Rule of treating others as we ourselves wish to be treated.

What does Christ tell his apostles to do when they go into a house and extend Christ’s peace? If it is rejected, this peace will return to us and we are to move on. We are even to shake the dust of such a place from our feet. If Christ’s peace is returned to us in fullness, we are to celebrate this union and praise God for the gift of companionship.

The Book of Sirach holds many wise poems that tell us how to know a friend when one approaches. True Friendship is described in 5:5-17. Choice of Friends is summed up in 9:10-16. Care in Choosing Friends is outlined in 11:29 to 12:18. Chapter 13 gives us Caution Regarding Associates. The Preservation of Friendship is found in 22:19-27 with a wonderful concluding prayer. Those who are Worthy of Praise, Wicked and Virtuous Women, and Dangers to Integrity and Friendship are delineated in Chapters 25, 26 and 27. Choice of Associates is re-visited in 36:18-27.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction . . . With these words, Jesus ben Sirach begins the closing canticle of his book of wisdom. He reminds us: work at your tasks in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward.

The Ammonites, the Arameans and the Israelites put false pride and self-pity before sincerity and understanding of God. We know this because we see them act in fear rather than generosity at the approach of a possible friend. We see them allow their apprehension to escalate into full-blown anxiety. And we see them act in cruelty and derision. These are not acts of sympathy or empathy. They are not acts of God. For God acts in mercy and in openness to all. God acts in friendship.


Image from: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/keep-smiling/images/9170913/title/great-true-friendship-screencap

Adapted from a reflection written on January 28, 2009.

For more information about the Ammonites, visit: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ammonite or https://biblehub.com/dictionary/a/ammonites.htm

For more information about the ancient Arameans, visit: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Arameans.html

For more on the Israelites, visit: https://biblehub.com/dictionary/i/israelites.htm

 

 

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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mark 13:32-37

Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow: The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow: The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Watch!

We began our exploration of Mark 13 reminding ourselves that we preach the Gospel with each action we perform each minute of each day. What does our life say about our awareness of the importance of watchfulness? Where do our feet take us as we live out the Word? What do our hands do as we move through our days? How carefully do our ears listen to our friends and companions? How honestly do we look others in the eye? How truthfully do we live out our understanding that all temples to self will fall, all teachers and prophets are not authentic, and all tribulations bring us closer to God? Why is it essential to understand that Christ is among us now?  What have we learned from the lesson of the fig tree?

Jesus tells us the Parable of the Ten Virgins:  Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him”.  Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out”. But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves”. And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, lord, open up for us”.  But he answered, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you”. Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

virgin with lampWe are presented with the choice to be foolish or prudent. We are free to decide if we will or will not carry a flask of oil to replenish the lamp of life we have been generously given.  We have ears to hear and eyes to see; yet we do not know the hour and we do not know the day when we will be called to an accounting. What Gospel are we preaching with the days of our lives?


For a fresh perspective on this parable, click on the Bible link above and read another of the preselected versions of this story or choose one of your own . . . and discover how Jesus’ words speak to us in a new way about the old theme of watchfulness

Images from: http://timdedeaux.com/category/prayer/ 

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Prudence

Michael Whelan: Prudence

Amos 5:7-17

First Woe

You shall not live in the houses you fashion for yourself. You shall not drink of the wine from your vineyard. You have taken bribes and oppressed the just. Therefore, the prudent one is silent at this time.

Today Amos announces the first of three woes and he is quite clear about the consequences that will befall those who allow themselves to slide into corrupt and evil ways.

God says: You hear today about wailing and crying. This need not take place. You read about destruction and loss. This need not happen. You see images of evil against good. This need not be so. Put down your arms. Cease your self-defense. This is how we put an end to mourning and lament. Celebrate what is good in each of you. Cease judging. Praise what you find to be positive in both yourself and others and begin with that. The smallest ounce of goodness is ample space for me to gain a foothold in your heart. This woe is taken from your shoulders when you turn and return to me.

As we watch our evening news we see interviews with family members of those who have been murdered who choose diverging paths. Some want to exact revenge. Others are willing to forgive, knowing that revenge eats holes only in those who exact a price.

As we watch the evening news we see nations striking out at one another, seizing assets, prevaricating and stirring discord. We may think we gain anonymity when we hide in a crowd of millions or even billions and say nothing about injustice, and yet . . . God knows how willing we are to live in and for all that Christ teaches us.

Today we consider the images Amos brings to us, we examine our hearts and minds, and we consider . . .

Tomorrow, the second woe of Amos.


Michael Whelan images at: http://www.michaelwhelan.com/shop/reproductions/all-reproductions/prudence-2/

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

gods-hands-holding-child[1]1 John 4:1-3

Belonging

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God.

The prophets and the apostles warn us about false spirits and false teachers and their warning is a universal call to be wary of those who come to us in the false disguise of God’s holy ones.  The world is full of those who are adept at deceiving the faithful, and they are often most successful in their deception when we are celebrating.

God says: I do not mean to frighten you; I only encourage you to be cautious when your guard is down.  Know that I am with you always and do not abandon you to the wolves.  But also know how cleverly the false ones costume themselves in sheep’s clothing.  They spend their time and energy looking for ways to gather in my sheep for themselves and yet they never win for I always save my sheep.  So do not fear . . . but be prudent and circumspect . . . and call on me always to save you.

God loves our innocence and trusting spirit.  We can rely on God to preserve us when we falter and to save us when we are beguiled by the false ones. This is why our daily contact with God is so important.  We belong to God and God alone.  Let us rejoice in our belonging.

Enter the word belonging in the blog search bar and examine how, and who, and what, and why you trust.


Image from: http://uncletreeshouse.com/

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Easter Friday, April 17, 2020

Isaiah 62:1-2: I will not be silent . . .

Edmunde Burke: 1729-1797

During this Eastertide we have celebrated our rescue from the depths.  We have praised God for the goodness and mercy shown to us.  We have spent time with the stories that so vividly tell us of God’s love for us.  Today we reflect on our response.  Do we sing out in gratitude . . . or do we remain silent?

We will always find imperfection in the relationships with our loved ones.  This one refuses to see common sense.  That one continues to repeat a cycle of failure.  Despite all of this . . . we must remember to ask God for more patience.  And we must not remain silent.

We will always find obstacles when we interact with our neighbors or our work colleagues.  This one is recalcitrant.  That one is toxic.  Despite all of this . . . we must remember to ask God for more wisdom.  And we must not remain silent.

We will always have a different perspective on life from members in our worship community, from those who actively lead us in civic life.  This one is deceitful.  That one is too simpering.  The other is too strident.  Still the other lacks compassion or common sense.  Despite all of this . . . we must remember to ask God for more prudence.  And we must not remain silent.

We will always suffer sorrow.  We will always experience strife.  No one is immune from life’s whimsical turnings.  Each of us will have need to call on God for clarity and support.  Each of us will need to heft some of our burden onto Christ’s broad shoulders.  There is a guarantee that each of us will want to hide in the hug of God’s embrace.  None of us is exempt from life’s brutal surprises.

God knows all before we dream it.  Christ walks with each of us although we might not believe it.  The Spirit dwells within us to abide with us through our sorrows and joys.  No one is immune from this promise.  No one is exempt from this truth.

We have experienced the transformation of Easter.  We are loved and protected by God; we are touched and held by Christ; and we are consoled and counseled by the Spirit.  So let us be patient.  Let us be wise.  Let us be prudent.  Let us be grateful.  Let us be loving.  And above all . . . let us tell the world about God’s immense care and love for us.   Let us never forget to tell this good news.  Let us always remember to give thanks . . . for we must never, not ever, remain silent.


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman who stood in support for the colonists in the American Revolution.

To read more about Burke, click on the image above or go to: http://www.padfield.com/1997/goodmen.html or http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/burke.html

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Hosea 10:11-15: Time to Seek the Lord

morning-dew-fresh-christ-manna-1024x768[1]Ephraim . . . Judah . . . sons of Jacob . . . tribes of Israel . . . northern and southern kingdoms.  Paganism . . . a Covenant relationship with the one true God . . . Infidelity . . . Constancy . . . Pleasure . . . Joy.  Exile . . . Return . . . Repentance . . . Restoration . . . Turmoil . . . Order . . . Chaos . . . Light.

We have seen these words . . . heard these themes . . . so many times . . . yet eye has not seen . . . ear has not heard . . . what God has in mind for us. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Hosea follows the will of God and marries the harlot Gomer.  His hope is that she will reform.  She does not.  He calls her to love . . . she turns away.  He persists . . . she will return . . . one day . . .

The offenses of Israel are grave and great, almost too much to bear.  And so we look to the end of the story to peek at the outcome.  Looking at the last lines of Hosea’s prophecy:  I will heal their defection; I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.  I will be like the dew of Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.  His splendor shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.  Again they shall dwell in the shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.  Ephraim!  What more has he to do with idols?  I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.  “I am like a verdant cypress tree” – Because of me you bear fruit!  Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.  Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.  (14:5-10)

Lily Five[1]Dear Jesus,

We stumble so frequently yet we turn and return.

We seek your path,

We call on your wisdom, we ask for prudence, courage, fortitude, patience.

We know your ways and your statutes.  We know that you await us.

We see these things, we hear these words, we rely on your constancy and your promise.

We look for the harvest, we look for the shade in the noonday sun.

We seek conversion and transformation.

We seek the Lord.

 Amen.


1 Corinthians 2:9: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard by Marty Haugen video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRyOS0nZr7s

For more thoughts on seeking, go to the God Time page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/god-time/

Images from: http://www.agodman.com/blog/enjoying-the-dew-and-the-manna-from-the-lord-to-be-revived-every-morning/ and http://theverticall.blogspot.com/2010/06/dew-to-israel.html

Written on January 31, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Psalm 18:26-27: With the faithful you show yourself faithful, O God; with the forthright you show yourself forthright.  With the pure you show yourself pure, but with the wicked you are wily.  

God is greater than any evil we encounter in our lives.  God is more forgiving than any compassion we may be shown.  God is more gentle, more kind, more persevering and forgiving than we can imagine.  God endures.  God does not give up or give in.

God says: Do you find it difficult to think of me as wily when I deal with the wicked?  I am prudent with them just as I ask you to be. I know that the wicked believe in themselves more than they believe in me.  I know that many of the wicked are fearful and so I call them to serenity just as I call you.  I have created all of humanity and my hope is that each of you will rise to the fidelity, the purity, the forthrightness and holiness that calls you.  When you meet the wicked and do not know how to handle them . . . call on me.  My wiliness is far greater than their evil.

The practices of the wicked lead us away from life eternal.

The practices of fidelity lead us to a life of purity.

The practice of forthrightness leads us to a life of honesty.

The practice of prudence leads us always back to God.


For some additional thoughts on Purity click on the image above or go to: http://acelebrationofwomen.org/2012/07/shirlee-hall-what-is-purity/

A re-post from August 29, 2012.

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Ezra 10:1-15: The People’s Response

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Jerusalem

Ezra and Nehemiah, priest and administrator, return from exile to rebuild Jerusalem after its fall and the nations’ exile.  In joy tinged with sadness they dig into the ruins of their past to re-discover their covenant with Yahweh and to and re-pledge their fidelity to him.  Yet in this bittersweet moment as they return from deportation, they continue to ignore God – even the leaders among them who are to serve as models.  We read the long list of their names further along in the chapter and we pause to reflect that we too, are among the guilty.

We remember that although the Old Testament response to their recognition of unfaithful ties with non-Jewish spouses and children was severance and abandonment, our New Testament response is one of openness and an invitation to reconciliation.  Today we might look at Ezra’s response to the original act of betrayal: for he was in mourning over the betrayal by the exiles.  A leader among them, Shecaniah, during his appeal to Ezra says: Yet even now there remains a hope for Israel . . . have courage and take action!  The action they take is to name the culpable . . . and to expel the innocent women and children from their presence.  This story has always troubled me, as does any total severance I encounter in my life.  There is something about it which does not match the Gospel story.

We know that there are times when even Jesus recommends that his missionaries shake dust from the feet to move out of hostile territory and on to new places.  We also know that only God can soften hearts, and can give the gifts of faith, hope and love of enemy.  Only God can unbend stiff necks and open closed eyes, ears and hearts.  Only God can send us the graced moments that make our relationships come alive for an eternity.  Yet, we also believe that we must always make ourselves available for the miracles God wishes to give us.  We must be open to the outrageous possibility that God can grant our hearts’ desires when we ask in Jesus’ name.  We must be willing to remain as constant as God has remained with us.  And we – the victims of abuse – must be willing to petition intercession and salvation for our abusers while maintaining a prudent, watchful and open stance with our enemies.  This must be our response . . . for it is the Christian response.

Many times in the Gospel we see Jesus defer to the Father and we hear the words and bind them to our minds and to our hearts: Do not be afraid.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Jesus’ response is to rely on the creator and it must be our response.  Just as Jesus trusts in God’s wisdom and plan, so must we.

It is easy to assign culpability to the blameless, faceless and nameless women and children in today’s reading who find themselves as destitute as these Jewish people themselves had several times been in their history – slaves in Egypt, exiles in Babylon.  Yet they show no compassion.  Christ has not yet walked among them to show them The Way.

I like to think that when confronted with difficult decisions like the ones we read about and think about today, that we will choose the Jesus Way, the Jesus Approach to the dilemma.  Our response, if we follow Jesus, must be as honest, prudent and open as his.  What is this response . . . ?  With prudence and with trust in God, let us welcome the guilty . . . for we are among them.  Let us forgive . . . for we are forgiven.  


A re-post from May 24, 2009.

Image from: http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/2009/12/23/fasting-as-a-prayer/

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2 Kings 21Wicked Kings 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Written on May 17, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It is easy to blame problems on wicked or ineffective leaders.  It is also easy to fault ourselves and to blame our own incapabilities or weaknesses.  To explain evil by blaming others or selves is a constant human occupation . . . yet it need not be so.  There is always an option open to us when confronted with insurmountable obstacles or “wicked kings” of any kind.  Our trouble is that when we find ourselves in the throes of conflict we cannot see the simplest of solutions, the solution which is always open to the faithful – calling on the power of God.

The faithful who find a path of serenity amidst the turmoil and deception that surrounds them practice a simple formula which we might examine: the faithful pray intercessory petitions for those who are wicked, they trust God with their woe and their joy, they practice prudence, temperance, compassion and mercy.

Scripture always brings us the same story: God’s desire to be with the creatures he has created, God’s yearning to be one with all, God’s willingness to sacrifice self to bring his faithful to intimate union with him.  Peace and justice will prevail when the faithful see and hear this Word of God.  Serenity is achieved when the Word is practiced, lived, and is made part of what we think, say and do.  God might choose to make all of us good instead of stubborn and stiff-necked; but if God were to do this, he would take away our own freedom to choose good over evil.  And God so loves us that he wants us to choose him . . . just as he has chosen us.

We need not fear wicked kings; rather, we must pray for their healing and conversion.  We must pray for their change of heart, for the unstiffening of their necks  . . . for it is in this way that we will find our own blessed center . . . our highest potential . . . our best self . . . the place where we are one with God.

Perhaps this is the gift of wicked kings . . . they bring us to our own best hope . . . to the Word . . . to God.


A re-post from September 13, 2011.

Image from: http://colombomusium.blogspot.com/2010/04/colombo-museum.html

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