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Ezekiel 4Inevitability

Friday, October 6, 2017

Michelangelo: Ezekiel

Today’s post is a reprise from December 24, 2011. We have an opportunity to consider the possibility of recovering from calamity, an opportunity to accept the gift of Christ, God Among Us. Let us imagine that we are about to celebrate the gift of the Nativity. And let us be grateful for God’s greatest gift of self for God’s generosity, love and goodness are inevitable. 

There is a certain inevitability about Ezekiel’s prophecy.  He is certain that his predictions will come to pass.  From our place in history centuries later, we can easily see that what seemed impossible for Judah and Jerusalem does indeed take place.  Their fortified city is besieged and destroyed; their powerful and comfortable leaders are killed or deported.  Why did anyone doubt Ezekiel and the other prophets?  They reported what they saw in the present and what they saw to come.  They were accurate, so why did anyone have reservation about their words?   Most likely it was because the naysayers had too much invested in the corrupt system.  We might learn a lesson from all of this.

There is a certain inevitability about Jesus’ story.  He comes to tell us that he is Emmanuel – God Among Us From our place in human history we can read about the miracles he performed.  We can also number the times that impossibilities take place in our own lives.  Jesus tells us that he will be destroyed and yet rise again in new life.  He tells us that he has come to take us with him on this amazing journey as his well-loved sisters and brothers.  Jesus tells us what the Creator has asked him to report to us: that we are free, liberated from anything that holds us to the material world in which we live.  This freedom includes freedom from anxiety and stress.  Why do we cling to our old and familiar discomfort when there is a newness offered to us without cost?  Why do we behave as those who heard but ignored Ezekiel’s words?  Do we doubt what Jesus has told us?  What are the reservations we have about his words or his actions?  On this eve when we celebrate his coming into the world as a vulnerable baby, why do we continue to ask for additional proofs and for further assurance that he will complete his promise to bring us to the new life he experiences?  Why do we hang on to our fears and reject the possibility of joy?

Gerard Van Honthurst: The Nativity

So on this Christmas Eve, as we await midnight in order to join in praise of God’s goodness to us, we have this to ponder about our own acceptance of what we have heard and what we have seen.  What is it about Jesus’ story we do not believe?  What are the further proofs we demand before we accept the prophecy of his coming as true?  Who has lured us away from the one true story of redemption and the promise it holds for all?  How have we become like those who hear but so not listen?  When will we tire of hiding behind subterfuge, of supporting corrupt systems and people?  Why do we persist in being as blind as the inhabitants of Jerusalem to whom Ezekiel spoke?

Let us reflect on God’s gift of inevitability as we pray . . .

Tomorrow is the feast of Christ’s birth . . . the feast of the birth of newness in each of us.

Tomorrow is the celebration of a new-found freedom . . . the celebration of our release from fear and anxiety.

Tomorrow is the commemoration of the arrival of hope and God’s promise . . . the commemoration of God’s coming to dwell among us. 

God’s love is inevitable.  Let us cease our resistance.  Let us rejoice in this good news and be glad.  Amen.

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Genesis 8:13: Behold the Renewal

morgan_bible_1250

Noah Scenes (1250) illumination from the Morgan Library Biblical Picture Book Courtesy Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In this final week of Advent, let us decide to make our hopes tangible, our dreams a prayer for our reality, our faith unwavering and our love secure. Let us cleave to the Creator, follow the Redeemer and rest in the Spirit. This week let us give one another the gift of preparing for the very real promise of eternity.

The Creator is always tending to our lives in small and great ways.

The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. (NASB)

The Spirit is constantly abiding with us to heal and renew.

When Noah was 601 years old, on the first day of the first month, the water was gone. Noah removed the covering of the boat, looked around, and saw that the ground was getting dry. (GNT)

The hope of Christ lives in us from the beginning of time.

By the first day of the first month of the 601st year the water had dried up from off the earth; so Noach removed the covering of the ark and looked; and, yes, the surface of the ground was dry. (CJB)

God reassures us that we are never abandoned or alone.

In the six-hundred-first year of Noah’s life, on the first day of the first month, the flood had dried up. Noah opened the hatch of the ship and saw dry ground. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the Earth was completely dry. (MSG)

Behold, God brings life and rebirth to each of us, forever.

When we reflect on varying translations of the Noah story, we find assurance that we are never alone.

For more information on the Morgan Bible, click on the image above or visit: http://richardmcbee.com/writings/jewish-art-before-1945/item/noah-the-dove-and-the-raven

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Psalm 30: Thanksgiving – Part VII

Sunday, October 2, 2016 giving-thanks-for-your-life

Adapted from a Favorite written at the beginning of a new year, January 3, 2009.

Thanksgiving for Deliverance

When we are in the valleys of life it is difficult to feel the hope of regeneration; so when we feel the sense of relief after delivery we will want to dwell in that sensation of rebirth for a while . . . and we will want to give thanks.

When days are dark we try to remember that liberation from anxiety and a sense of uselessness too often overtakes us, and then we remember that release is what the Savior comes to give us with an open and eager heart.

When days are bright and we revel in the ease with which challenges are met and overcome, we might focus on a keen awareness of those moments, taking into our consciousness the swell and ebb of those feelings. In this way we will know how to petition God when the sky grows dark.

We do not want to become complacent.

We concentrate on verses 7 to 11 and we know that we have lived too many days of assumed ease.  We have put our heads on pillows too many nights without saying Thank you, I love you.  We have forgotten to fully appreciate the one who always saves.  We know this now; and so we will make a conscious effort to put all things into perspective before falling to sleep . . . no matter the worry or crush of the day. Verses 12 and 13:

You changed my mourning into dancing;

          you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.

With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.

          O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

Amen.

This might be our bedtime prayer for the year . . . and perhaps for years to come.

 

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Ezekiel 19Allegorylions

Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2015

Commentary tells us that the meaning of these two allegories has been lost but that scholars believe the two young cubs in the first refer to princes who were deported to Egypt and to Babylon (likely Jehoahaz and Zedekiah), and that the mother vine represents Judah.  Ezekiel already knows that Jerusalem has been destroyed and perhaps he writes these two metaphors in order to convey the trauma of the event.  We will never know; yet what we do know is this: Even though this prophet writes of a nation whose roots have been destroyed forever, yet he holds out hope for a new arising, for a rebirth, for restoration, for another coming.  In 37:24-28 he tells us: My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.  They shall live on the land which I gave to my servant Jacob . . . I will make them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

If we choose, we might write our own allegory, describing how and why we elect to follow this God who promises much and who never forgets his promises.

God’s dwelling has been made among us, just as he has promised.

In this season of joy, let us celebrate his coming.

The shoot from the stalk of Jesse has come to shepherd us.

In this season of hope, let us rise to walk with this God.

A covenant of peace has been made with us.

In this season of peace, let us share the good news of this coming and this covenant.

God’s Law of Love is written on our foreheads and on our hearts.

In this season of love, let us share this love with others – especially those who do us harm. 

We have our God, and we are God’s people.

In this season of possibility, let us dare to be one with this God. 

And may Christ’s peace and joy and love be upon us all.  Amen.

For notes on Ezekiel 19 click on the image above, or visit: http://www.lorisreflections.com/god-lessons/friday-revelation-lament-israel/

A Favorite from December 12, 2009.

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Deuteronomy 4:32-40: Anything So Great

Luca Rossetti da Orta: Holy Trinity

Luca Rossetti da Orta: Holy Trinity

Saturday, May 30, 2015

This week we have reflected on our relationship with the Spirit, the lessons Jesus teaches us, and our response to God’s call; tomorrow we look forward to the celebration of this trinity of love. We remember some of Moses’ words as he calls his people to new life.

Ask now of the days of old, before our time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever  happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god ever venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?  

We ask ourselves these same questions. Have we ever encountered anything so great as this promise fulfilled of rebirth and transformation? Have our little gods of comfort and pleasure brought us the measure of joy as the healing of the Spirit?

We might see the world as a place of evil and corruption, or we might see it as a place of possibility and hope. As we prepare to celebrate the miracle of the Trinity, let us count the blessings God has generously given, let us determine to live as Christ has asked us, and let us remember the saving power of the Spirit. For there has never been, and never will be, anything as great as these three in one.

Use the scripture link above to compare versions of these verses, and consider if we have ever experienced anything so great as this promise, this miracle, this trinity of love.

Click on the image to learn more about the feast of the Trinity.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015stumbling blocks

Ezekiel 3:17-27

The Prophet as Watchman: Receiving Grace through our Stumbling Blocks

We receive the gift of understanding once we agree to study the stumbling blocks in our path. This understanding will transform our lives and the lives of others as we rejoice in the stoning we have received.  Others will see that we rise again, once the stoners retreat.  Others will see that we have survived the stoning and that we have lived to pick up those stones hurled as killing missiles.  They will see that we study those stones and that we have been blessed with the gift of reading the transforming message of each stone . . . because we respond to the call of the prophet, because we recognize that we are Sentinel People, and because we become prophets ourselves.

Ezekiel foresaw this Kingdom of prophets.  He foresaw that there would be a time when God would walk among us, would be one of us, would show us the way to turn and return to the God we had abandoned.  Ezekiel fore heard the trumpet blast of our response to God.

And so we pray . . .

Let us rejoice and be glad each time we stumble over something which strikes at our hearts.

Let us announce this gladness as the watchman Ezekiel announces the Coming of Christ.

Let us study the stumbling blocks in our path as we journey in the new Kingdom.

Let us examine the stones which the stoners throw, and read their unique messages for us.

Let us open our hearts and minds and souls to the God who created us.

Let us hope for the transformation of all of God’s people.

Let us trust that we are upheld as we work our way along the obstacle-strewn path toward home.

Let us be sentinel people, People of the Watch, calling out that the Kingdom is now.

Let us be prophets who announce that the Messiah is already among us.

Let us love ourselves and one another . . . for the Christ is in our midst . . . for the Kingdom is now.

 Let us be a Sentinel People, announcing the Kingdom of God.

Amen.

Tomorrow, giving thanks for our stumbling blocks.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 19, 2008.

 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – Isaiah 65:16b-25 – Renewal

For the hardships of the past shall be forgotten . . . none shall hurt or destroy . . .

We have been following a constant theme lately of rebirth, renovation, second chances and renewal.  Perhaps there are former enemies standing outside our hearts . . . waiting for the perfect moment to re-enter.

We never know how our words, gestures and actions will affect others or even ourselves.  It is always difficult to weigh out prudence, generosity, forgiveness, and compassion without moving into the unhealthy territories of inconsistency, leniency and abuse.  We want to build bridges to our former enemies, not give in to any damaging demands.  We want to empower our former foes and call them to conversion rather than enable them. In all of this we must remember, as we have so recently seen in the Noontimes, that God is in charge.  Our job is to make the petitions, to pray intercessory prayers, and to study The Word as we find him in scripture so that we will know what to say when former enemies come calling.

Sometimes we are the betrayer; sometimes we are the betrayed.  In both cases it is the Holy Spirit who brings us the gifts to discern Christ’s movement in our lives.  Working in and through our minds and bodies, Jesus tells us the words to say when we must go to someone we have wronged to make amends.  Jesus also tells us the words with which to reply when one who at one time betrayed us now sits at beside us asking for mercy. 

Through daily prayer, scripture study, and active witnessing we receive in abundance the wisdom we will need when former enemies show up on our doorstep.  When we pray in Christ, meditate on The Word, and witness with Christ, we form solidarity with him and with the rest of the faithful members of his Mystical Body that is stronger than any deceit or evil.  These holy ones unite in legions to buoy one another up, to carry one another over, to bring one another through.

When it is time for the New Creation, we will need to know how to act and what to say to those with whom we find ourselves seated at Christ’s table.  Today is a good time to begin our rehearsal in healthy fence mending through, with and in Christ.

Written on November 10, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, September 19, 2011 – Galatians 2:15-21 – God’s Mercy

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvation.  In short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly. 

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings. 

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.

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