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Posts Tagged ‘redemption’


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Gilgal Refaim: The Stonehenge of the Middle East

Gilgal Refaim: The Stonehenge of the Middle East

Amos 5:1-9

Third Word

As Amos delivers his third and final word, he gives his listeners specific examples of the behavior and attitudes he warns against. Bethel, an important city in the days of Judges, became a chief sanctuary under Jeroboam I when he set up a golden calf. We know from excavations that the city was later destroyed by the AssyriansGilgal, was first visited by Joshua and the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan River. It was visited by the prophet Samuel and became a rallying point for Saul’s troops in their battles against the Philistines. It was in Gilgal that Saul was affirmed king, and it was from here that the kingship was taken away. This city of Elijah and Elisha becomes the site of a corrupt, sacrificial cult. The Beer-sheba plain was a place of ample winter pasturage and was suited for a semi-nomadic life and so it served as the principal homestead of Israel’s patriarchs. The city of Beer-sheba likely served as an administrative center during David’s monarchy; but the Negev was lost to the Edomites. Modern excavators have found evidence of cultic worship altars that were likely profaned during the reign of King Josiah who centralized worship in Jerusalem. (Achtemeier 111, 115-116, 379)

God says: The images of corruption need not frighten you; Amos only brings them into view because they are stark symbols of how far apart we might grow. And they are also reminders of how much I love my children. No chasm is too wide for me to cross in order that I might rescue you. No valley is too deep for me to plumb that I might redeem you. Bring your worries and fears to me – both big and little. And I will give you rest. This is the third word that comes to you through my prophet Amos.

Amos presents these images as a window to a possibility the inhabitants of Bethel, Gilgal and Beer-sheba did not anticipate. Our loving God presents them as an opening to transformation.


Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 111, 115-116, 379. Print.

For more on Gilgal Refaim, click the image or go to: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread609169/pg1

For more on Amos 5, visit: http://biblehub.com/amos/5-5.htm

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Carl Bloch: Denying Satan

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Amos 1-4

A Prayer to Hear God’s Word

Amos lived in the southern kingdom but prophesied in the north; his oracles began in the oral tradition and were recorded in written form much later. His harshest words are aimed at the cult worship in Bethel. Amos delivers “a broadside against all the festivals of Israel . . . His point is not that all ritual is bad, but that it is not of the essence of religion.  For Amos, the essence of religion is social justice.  If ritual furthers justice, well and good, but too often it does not . . . When the festival was over, they would go back to cheating in the market place . . . Amos insisted that all this was self-delusion.  God would not overlook the injustice of the society because of the sound of the harps, and the Assyrians would rudely shatter the naïve belief that God would protect Israel no matter what”. (Senior RG 364-365)

As we complete three weeks of Lent and continue our journey through this season of quiet and reflection, we remember the familiar Gospel of the devil tempting Jesus, attempting to lure him with the promise of gifts he already possesses.  (Matthew 4:1-11) We too, are tempted to turn over the gifts we already possess for the illusion of an offer that does not exist. In God’s kingdom, power lies in our readiness to be humble, life exists in our willingness to die for one another, and peace rests in our preparedness to act on the Word of God.

And so, at a time for introspection and honesty, together we pray.

That we might step up to the responsibility of discipleship: Lord, hear our prayer.

That we might share the Good News of God’s love for us: Christ, hear our prayer.

That we might act in mercy, kindness, goodness, and forgiveness: Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

That we might embrace God’s gifts of freedom, transformation and redemption: Lord, hear our prayer.

We understand the importance of hearing God’s word, and so we ask all of this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


For a Noontime reflection on the temptation of Christ, see The Temptations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-temptations/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 364-365. Print.   

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Cows of Bashan and Mount Hermon

Cows of Bashan and Mount Hermon

Amos 4

Second Word

Amos delivers God’s word to the priests in Bethel for a year and when he is rejected he returns to his shepherding work. He speaks to the Israel nation about their lack of fidelity. And he reminds us of how we can turn back to God and the covenant once we discover that we have again fallen under the spell of the pagan gods of fame, money, influence and power. Amos reminds us that there is always redemption. Restoration is always possible.

God says: In this time of Lent I call you to examine your conscience and you perform this scrutiny well. You are aware of all that you do when you allow yourself to be honest. You know where and how to return to me when you allow yourself a bit of quiet and a dose of truth. So put your worries and fears aside for your renovation already lies within you. Your recovery from all that plagues you is already in your body, mind and soul. All that needs happen is that you note what you do, that you put aside your pagan gods, and that you turn and return to me. Uprightness lives in you through me. Do what you must to nourish the integrity that dwells in you. This is the Second Word that comes from me through my prophet Amos.

In our modern society we are not much different from our ancient ancestors despite our science and technology; the very real temptation to become Cows of Bashan is as keen and alluring today as it was millennia ago; yet we know that life is more than we see before us.  And so we still yearn for union.  We still seek wisdom and peace.  We are still vessels of the Spirit that creates us. God still dwells within . . . waiting to transform and rescue us.

Tomorrow, Third Word.


For information about Bashan, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bibleplaces.com/golanheights.htm

For another Noontime reflection on Amos 4:1-2, enter the words The Cows of Bashan into the blog search bar and explore.

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Monday, March 8, 2021

imagesCAIS5TV1baby feet in handsAmos 3

First Word

In 3:6, Amos states an important belief of ancient theologians, that God causes all events, even disasters. (Mays 650) In the light of the New Testament, we see God as a forgiving parent, a source of infinite compassion, a God who delivers justice, who pulls good out of harm, who loves us so dearly that he allows us to make decisions . . . even though they may have disastrous results.

God says: When humans first began to believe in my existence, they saw the world as a dual entity in which people, places, ideas and dreams were either good or bad. There was very little room for fringe thinking because life was so fragile and survival so difficult. Methods, practices and customs that helped the species to survive were regarded as sacrosanct. Your ancestors often shunned or even executed innovators and those who understood the wide and long view. You have evolved and now some of you understand what Jesus means when he speaks of the common good. You comprehend the importance of forgiving enemies.  And some of you live the life he models for you. I know that some among you still live with the words from ancient days. You scramble to make your world safe by performing practices with no heart. You believe that a checklist of good deeds saves you when it is really my loving care that restores what you have lost. Rather than lose patience with yourself or with any of these lost children, come to me. Call the fearful ones to me through your actions and words. Resist the temptation to believe that I bring about disaster for those who do not follow The Way. Believe that my heart is big enough to love the cruelest among you, persistent enough to convert the most heinous among you, and durable enough to outwait the most cruel and stubborn among you. The ivory apartments will be ruined through the actions of those who build them. The horns of the altar will break through the corruption the church leaders allow. And the many rooms of the wicked will be no more through the actions or inactions of their own lives. The wicked may escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of cot . . . but they will flee into my relentless, loving arms. This is my First Word that comes to you through my prophet Amos.

When we become inpatient with God’s plan as it unfolds before our eyes and into our lives, we must remember this First Word that Amos brings to us today.

Tomorrow, Second Word.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 650. Print.

For an interesting post about being still to hear God’s word at www.hisinfinitegrace.com, click on the image above, or go to: http://hisinfinitegrace.com/2012/10/30/be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god-2/

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Nature_heart_by_beyond__my__dreams[1]Psalm 119

A Love Letter – Part II

God comes to us through old words in new times to assure, to counsel and to transform. Let us reflect on the wisdom, blessing and consolation of God’s message of love to each of us.

Kaph: The Power to Actualize Potential – We are constantly called to fulfill the potential God plants in us at our inception.  Lamedh: Aspiration, Contemplation of the Heart – We contemplate the goodness of God’s own heart. Mem: Fountain of Wisdom – We rely on God’s wisdom as source and foundation of understanding, counsel and guidance. Nun: The Messiah – Jesus comes to serve as light in an unforgiving darkness and we are called to bring that same light to a world that waits and watches. Samekh: The Endless Cycle – Christ is beginning and end, Alpha and Omega, source and summit for all.  We are called by the Spirit to join in all of creation’s response to God’s call.

Ayin: God’s Providence – We are always in God’s hands. Pe: Communication, Revelation of God’s Word – God is constantly revealing the Word to us. Sadhe: Faith – God’s fidelity saves us. Qoph: Redemption of Fallen Sparks – God’s love redeems us. Resh: Clarity – God’s grace and mercy are present to us. Shin:  The Eternal Flame – God’s Law of Love is infinite and all-encompassing. Taw: The Seal of Creation – Through our creation God marks us forever with the mark of Love.

Let us be open to God’s invitation to include us in creation, and let us give thanks for a love that is so great that we are forgiven, so encompassing that all are included, and so generous enough that we are loved. Tomorrow, Part III of God’s Letter to us.


Image from: http://beyond–my–dreams.deviantart.com/art/Natural-heart-78274140

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

the-letter-shin[1]Psalm 119:161-168

Shin

My heart reveres only your word . . . I rejoice at your promise . . . Your teaching I love . . . Seven times a day I praise you . . . Lovers of your teaching have much peace . . . for them there is no stumbling block . . . I look for your salvation . . . I fulfill your commands . . . I observe your decrees . . . I love them very much . . . All my ways are before you.

In this penultimate strophe the psalmist has finally arrived at deep understanding of what it means to follow the Law.  It is not a stringent adherence to a long and complicated set of requirements.

God says: There is really only one law. Many of you have created layers and contingencies for yourselves but all of your regulations do nothing if they do not build my kingdom. All of your small rules and overbearing stances do nothing if they are not respectful of each human condition. Your fears create worlds I do not intend. Your desire to control only antagonizes others and sends them away from me. There is only one law and it is this: Love one another as I have loved you – love your enemies as well as you love your friends – ask me to intercede for those who harm you. Your joy at finding me in this one law will be evident to all so rather than preach with your lips . . . spread the good news with your thoughts and actions. This will engender in you an eternal fire that overcomes all obstacles, a perpetual passion of love and peace that can never be extinguished.

Our interpretation of God’s law is an invention of our fears and fantasies if it does not call us to forgive one another as God forgives us. Our ideas about Jesus’ teaching are an invention of our egos if they do not urge us to redeem one another as Jesus redeems us. Our beliefs about how to live out God’s precepts are false if they do not move us into action with the Spirit.

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?  How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord your God with your all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”.  He replied to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live”.  (Luke 10:25-28)

We look for peace. We seek life eternal. We want all obstacles in our lives to fall away.  A true and deep understanding of God’s love of all – even our enemies – brings us the serenity and union with God that we long for.

When Christ asks us how we read God’s law . . . what do we answer?  How do we act?

Tomorrow, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Taw.


To understand more about the letter Shin and how it represents both the flame that is evident and the flame stored in embers, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/shin.htm

Image from: http://www.heb4you.com/hebrew-alephbet/21th-letter-of-the-hebrew-alphabet.html 

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

sparks of fireWisdom 3:1-9

A Prayer for Fallen Sparks

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead . . . but they are in peace . . . They shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble . . . they shall judge nations and rule over peoples . . . and the Lord shall be their King forever . . . because grace and mercy and care are with God’s holy ones.

We near the end of our journey through Psalm 119, and today we pause to reflect and consider the insights and wisdom God reveals to us through the written word. We have come to understand that God is too great and too good to describe and therefore we dart about, looking for a time and place to ignite the smallest bit of kindling so that our small spark of life might not be extinguished. In the coming week, we move through the ending stanzas of this psalm and a certain simplicity and intelligence settles over us.  As we find new understanding, we pray.

Knowing that we are always in God’s hands although we may not feel God’s presence we pray: Providential God, speak to us in a way that we might hear you.

Knowing that God’s Word lives in and around us although we may not comprehend it, we pray: Consoling God, reveal yourself to us in a way that we might see you.

Knowing that God’s fidelity saves us although we may not believe it, we pray: Faithful God, abide with us in a way that we might sense you.

Knowing that God’s love redeems us although we may not trust it, we pray: Redemptive God, hold and rescue us in a way that we might feel you.

Knowing that God’s grace and mercy are present to and in us although we may not believe it, we pray: Gracious God, continue to wrap us in your kindness and beauty although we may not thank you.

Knowing that we are fallen sparks, little life forces that dart to and fro, seeking origin and end, looking for wisdom and security, we pray:  Loving God, although we may not believe that you sacrifice all in order to transform us, bring us insight and serenity so that we might rest eternally in you.  Amen.   

Tomorrow, we near the end of Psalm 119 . . . Qoph.


Image from: http://www.torange.us/Fashion-and-beauty/fireworks/sparks-of-fire-25690.html

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Saturday, February 6, 2021

sparks of fireWisdom 3:1-9

Fallen Sparks

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before people, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in God shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and God’s care is with the elect.

As we near the end of Psalm 119 and drink in the message, we begin to understand the wisdom brought to us in sacred Scripture; we experience more fully God’s grace and mercy; and we begin to understand God’s deep and abiding love for even the smallest of the fallen sparks of life.

Nun: The Messiah – Jesus comes to serve as light in an unforgiving darkness and so are we called to bring that same light to a world that waits and watches.  This is God’s promise: Christ will always rescue us.

Samekh: The Endless Cycle – Like this circular letter, Christ is beginning and end, Alpha and Omega, source and summit for all.  We are called by the Spirit to join in all of creation’s response to God’s call.

Ayin: God’s Providence – We are always in God’s hands although we may not feel it.

Pe: Communication, Revelation of God’s Word – God is constantly revealing the Word to us although we may not comprehend it.

Sadhe: Faith – God’s fidelity saves us although we may not believe it.

Tomorrow, A Prayer for God’s grace and mercy . . . a Prayer for Fallen Sparks.


For an understanding of why this reading is often heard at funerals, go to: http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/funeral-lectionary-wisdom-31-9/

Image from: http://www.torange.us/Fashion-and-beauty/fireworks/sparks-of-fire-25690.html

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Friday, November 13, 2020

holding-lamb[1]2 Samuel 11 and 12 and Psalm 51

Sin and Parable

Conclusion

We humans often reject the opportunities life presents to us through which we might reflect on how sin affects us, for sin affects us all. We are a bit more quick to take a second look at other people’s sin than we are our own. This may be because we do not have a balanced perspective. It may be that we are too easily overcome by guilt. Or we may believe that redemption only comes to those who live a life without fault. For all of these reasons we benefit from taking an honest, open look at ourselves.

When do we elbow past crowds or shove past social and moral parameters to gain someone or some thing we want? When do we kill the spirit or soul, the body or mind of another without even caring?

We humans are so much better at learning from the stories we hear about others; we do not seem capable of looking at ourselves squarely, openly, willingly or honestly. It is for this reason that Nathan wisely tells his king a story about a shepherd who nourishes a ewe lamb and holds her to his heart. We may be too afraid to look at our own lives. We may be too comfortable in our easy ways. Or we may believe that we have all the answers to all the world’s problems. For all of these reasons we benefit from reading the parables we see in the faces of others who interact with us each day.

When do we turn away from the truth we see in the face of another when we want someone or some thing more than we are willing to admit? When do we open our eyes and ears, our minds and ourselves to our actions and the hurting or healing they commit?

This sin of wanting what is not ours is all too common. We know and respect David too well to ignore him. The surging after a desired object is too present in our lives to say we do not recognize it. There are too many ewe lambs of others that we hold close to our own hearts.

The parable of Nathan is a story that each of us can see in our own lives. We know and believe that we too, have erred. Let us take the time today to reflect on Psalm 51 to re-experience what we have learned. Let us store in our memories today the emotions we feel when we read 2 Samuel 11 and 12. Let us reflect carefully on David’s sin and allow Nathan’s words to pierce the false armor with which we have protected ourselves.

And when the day is done, let us consider the sins we commit, the parables our lives tell, and the courage we will need to allow our wanderings to become lessons of reflection for ourselves and others.


Image from: http://multiplythemessage.com/the-lord-is-my-shepherd/

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