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Posts Tagged ‘restoration’


Luke 18:1-8The Persistent Widow

Thursday, September 20, 2018

This has for a long time been one of my favorite stories.  Perhaps this is because it has to do with the importance of stamina, something I look for daily.   It is so easy to give up.  And it is so important to continue.

Yesterday I spent pilgrim time with friends renewing the soul and remembering what is accurately the most significant work of each day . . . breathing, living, and remaining in God.  The world so quickly distracts us, and we so easily are drawn away from the only path that can lead us to the tranquility we seek.  In the end, there is only God.

The persistent widow and the unjust judge . . . it is likely that this story has universal appeal because the figures represent archetypal images we see and hear each day.  We relish this story because on any given day we are either the judge or the widow and so we know these roles well.  When we are overwhelmed, cranky, and feeling our “underdog” status we lash out at others, trying to snatch what we perceive to be rightfully ours.  We are the unjust judge.  When we are tired but hopeful and we allow God to smooth away fatigue, we come to understand that we must become the persistent widow.  When we are wounded but determined, we come to know for certain that in the end, there is only God.

Elizabeth Seton

Yesterday’s pilgrimage was to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmittsburg, Maryland, a memorial to a woman with a remarkable story.  http://www.setonshrine.org/  Mother Seton was a familiar friend of both sorrow and joy and the details of her biography illustrate that she fully understood her role as a persistent widow.  Her life is a model for those who are determined to remain close to God knowing that although there will be sadness they will fail at nothing and they will never be alone.  Through the turmoil, strife, happiness, and joy of her journey, Elizabeth Seton recognized that in the end, there is only God.

My granddaughter likes a particular saying and recently I gave her a mug with its words printed in blues and purples: Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.  This granddaughter is wise beyond her years for one so young; she already knows how to be the persistent widow.  She understands the importance of doggedness, the need for perseverance, the sensibleness of diligence.   She – and her mother – believe that in the end, there is only God.  They believe, and try to act in the belief that, restoration and resurrection are God’s healing gift.  I thought of them a great deal on our pilgrimage yesterday.

I am convinced that fatigue is the devil’s companion and that our little demon doubts and anxieties weigh us down to exhaust us.  A cloud of anxiety descends and suddenly we find ourselves believing that there is nothing for us but sadness.  Our eyes become clouded and we act as if we are doomed to a life of sorrow when in reality we are creatures of joy.  Spiritual weariness will tell us that we are worth little and that we are alone.  It will take its toll and lead to inertia . . . and so we must keep moving forward in the journey, always seeking God, always asking for healing and rebirth.   We must ask for manna and feed ourselves, always thanking God.  We must “go away for a little while” as Jesus did, and find pilgrim companions who thirst as we thirst and who understand the importance of nourishing one another, always loving God.

I believe that in today’s parable the unjust judge recognizes God in the widow . . . and so he finds in her favor, hoping that no one will notice or remember what she has said.  I also believe that the persistent widow has nourished herself and bolstered her soul for the journey.  She has slacked her thirst and hunger with the manna of God’s goodness, she has rested awhile in the company of those who know and understand her plight.  In this way she has come to fully understand and to act in the belief . . .  that there is nothing but God.  She fully strengthens herself to once more go up against the enormous obstacle that blocks her path, not worrying about what others think of her, only knowing that . . . in the end, there is only God.


A re-post from August 20, 2011.

Images from: http://www.church-on-the-net.com/show-weekly.aspx?ID=105 and http://www.church-on-the-net.com/show-weekly.aspx?ID=105

Other links of interest about Elizabeth Seton: http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/seton.html

http://www.setonshrine.com/ 

 http://www.srcharitycinti.org/about/who_is_elizabeth.htm

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John 15:1-5: Branches

Thursday, June 14, 2018

We have examined scripture to reflect on the ways in which the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love in our identity in Christ exemplify our relationship with God in the Spirit. Jesus tells us who he is, reflecting Yahweh’s promise of “I Am Who I Am”. Today we continue to reflect on who we are, and on how we respond to God’s call for merciful justice in all of creation.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples”. (THE MESSAGE)

Rather than giving in to our fear that we might fall away from the Vine of Christ, we consider the beauty of union with all of creation.

Rather than seeking revenge for the injustices we suffer, we reflect on the wisdom of grafting ourselves to the healing truth of the abiding Spirit.

Rather than lamenting the evil that stalks societies, we contemplate the truth of pruning away all that separates us from the courage and patience of God.

Today we have the opportunity to produce fruit on the great vine of life. Today we rejoice in the gift of Christ’s vineyard. Today we come together in the Spirit of beauty, wisdom, truth, and love.

We pray Psalm 80and we consider God’s gifts of healing, restoration, and transformation while we repeat verses 8-10 as the antiphon, 

You brought a grapevine out of Egypt;
    you drove out other nations and planted it in their land.
You cleared a place for it to grow;
    its roots went deep, and it spread out over the whole land.
It covered the hills with its shade;
    its branches overshadowed the giant cedars.

 


To find more Vine and Branches posts on this blog, use these links.

The Vine and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/05/19/john-15-the-vine-and-branches/

Sawing Off Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/01/30/mark-322-30-sawing-off-branches/

Roots and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/02/07/roots-and-branches/

Grafting to the Vine: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/05/26/psalm-106-grafting-to-the-vine/

Enter the words, Vine or Branch into the blog search bar to explore other reflections.

When we compare other versions of these verses, we discover the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love of our relationship of Vine and Branches.

Image from: https://www.stpeterschurchchicago.org/cm/articles/vine-and-branches

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2 Corinthians 4:17-5:3: Not Settling for Less

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Over the last month we have sung a hymn in time of national struggle, we have argued with the Almighty, gone beyond human limits, reflected on narcissism and considered what we might learn from the story of Esther. Today we settle into these verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without God’s unfolding grace.

In the midst of turmoil, there is the promise of renewal.

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.

Despite the pain that feels eternal, hope rises with the promise of restoration.

The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

Although our fears bring us insurmountable anxiety, we have the assurance of transformation.

God puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

In all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all joys, God’s grace remains. Once we recognize this, we never settle for less.

When we compare this translation of today’s reading with others, and when we weigh our troubles with the promise of the covenant, we know that each day God’s grace brings us more than meets the eye.

Image from: https://fastpraygive.org/a-renewal/ 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part III

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fresco from the Cathedral of the Annunciation depicting Job and his friends.

Ought we to argue with God?  Absolutely.  Will we receive unusual and even vague answers?  Precisely.  Is this the path to wisdom and eventual serenity?  Without a doubt.  And this brings us to the point of this reading:  when we assume a proper relationship with God, all else falls into place.  When we turn to God only, when we believe in God only, when we act through God only, then we find the peace promised to us.

In the scope of the universe, we are quite small; but even in our smallness, each of us is important to God.  We never once hear the Maker say to Job, “I will get back to you in a minute after I finish dealing with a world war, genocide in a number of places, two hurricanes and an earthquake, along with an outbreak of a dread disease and thirteen governments gone bad with corruption”.  God does not put us aside or put us on hold.  God is attentive and present all through this story.  And what we see is God’s constancy, fidelity, and willingness to listen to Job’s complaint.  We can be assured that, like Job, we send our petitions upward. Like Job, we discover that God will hear us because God is always abiding.

When the whirlwind surrounds us, we remember that this is where God speaks most clearly. When the tempest envelops us, we summon the courage and openness to hear what God has to say. When terrors overpower us, we learn how to forbear, hope, and remain faithful to the promise that God and we hold together, the promise of rescue, healing and restoration.

Tomorrow, the end of Job’s story.

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Lamentations 1: Jerusalem Abandoned and Disgraced

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jerusalem: Old City Walls

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 15, 2008. 

Lamentations is a book written about the sixth century B.C.E., a time of reckoning for the Israelites who were taken into exile by the invading Babylonians.  These laments were composed by an eyewitness to the events involving the fall of Jerusalem, and they “combine a confession of sin, grief over the suffering and humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore”.  We have a “union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope”.  This shows how “Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”.  (NAB 1991, page 859)

We might look at Israel as ourselves and begin to translate a time in our own lives when we have suffered grief, submitted to the events around us, relied on God’s constancy, and have at last fallen back on the only thing which sustains us. An unquenchable hope in restoration.  This is how we survive personal ruin.

The words of this opening chapter evoke such deeply sad images.  We so often steer clear of the things that make us uncomfortable that we may be tempted to skim through them quickly, passing by the pictures they create with half-closed eyes.  We may also be tempted to remind ourselves that Zion deserved the treatment she received.  We may sink into the cozy feeling of smugness about our own good fortune.  We are so eager to run from suffering in any way that we may not have learned to suffer well, and by this, I mean that we may have forgotten that there is sanctity in suffering.  There is purification.  There is rescue.  There is restoration.  So rather than flit past the descriptions of loneliness and misery, we will want to pause . . . unite our own suffering with that of these people . . . with that of the people around us today . . . with that of Jesus . . . and become co-redeemers with Christ.

We do not need to sink into maudlin or bitter wailing.  We do not want to become false martyrs.  We do not glorify ourselves by seeking suffering. We need not fear our suffering as it comes to us.

Through our relationship with Christ, we find that that transformation accompanies suffering, and turns all pain toward goodness.  We participate in this conversion by listening for God’s faithful voice, waiting for Jesus’ healing touch, and sharing the spirit of sanctity that the Holy Spirit will settle over us as we progress in our pilgrim’s way.

We need not fear the loneliness, the misery, the shame, the grief, the persecution, the weeping, the groaning, the silence, the sadness that we read about today.  We can take it in, process it with our own grief , and give it over to God who converts all harm to good.  In this way, we will suffer well, we will not suffer alone, we survive, and we live well.

To visit the land of the Bible, click on the image or go to: http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/content/old-city-jerusalem 

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Ezekiel 34: Shepherds and Wisdom – A Reprise

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Julien Dupré: The Shepherd

Adapted from a reflection written on January 20, 2008, and explored last September. Today we explore again how scripture’s wisdom might help us discern the difference between true and false shepherds. 

Yesterday we explore the concept of the shepherd in Old Testament scriptures. Today we look at the books of wisdom to see what wisdom they hold for us as we look for a way to discern the difference between true and false shepherds.

In the Book of Psalms, the Holy Spirit brings us beautiful words of the comforting, guiding, protecting shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the divine shepherd.

Psalm 28 asks Yahweh to be our refuge and protection.

Psalm 78 describes the relationship we want to have with the good shepherd.

Psalm 80 asks the shepherd for restoration.

In the sapiential book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12, we hear that the words of wisdom are like the shepherd’s staff.

When we compare translations of these verses, we discover the qualities of the good shepherd. In hope we cleave to the shepherd who guides, who calms our fears, who gathers us in.

Tomorrow, prophets who shepherd us . . .

For more beautiful images of shepherds and their flocks, click on the image or visit the “Tending the Flock” post on the “Herding on the Web” blog. 

 

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John 14:26: Seek Trust – The Advocate

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jesus tells us that the Creator remains with us in the form of the Spirit.

The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. (GNT)

Jesus tells us that the Spirit abides in us through all our suffering and all our joy.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (NRSV)

Jesus tells us that although he is no longer visible to us in his original form, he is still with us through the hands and feet, words and healing of others.

But the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything; that is, he will remind you of everything I have said to you. (CJB)

Jesus tells us that the Creator’s wisdom resides in us in the form of God’s Spirit.

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. (MSG)

Jesus tells us that we have an advocate who brings healing and restoration, we have an advocate who promises justice and mercy, we have an advocate we can trust. Let us share this good news today in the way we live and love.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find that we have an advocate we can trust, the healing, transformative presence of God.

For a prayer based on this verse, see the Prayer for Understanding post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2014/03/15/prayer-for-understanding/

 

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Zephaniah 3:18-20: Seek Restoration

Nubian Museum: Shebitku’s Statue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The prophet Zephaniah wrote sometime between the years of 635 to 630 B.C.E.  His is a brief prophecy and its message is succinct: there is a day if universal judgment which will arrive surely . . .  and this judgment will be followed by restoration.  Earlier in this chapter he refers to the town of Cush saying that beyond the rivers of this town the scattered peoples will bring offerings.  Cush was located south of the upper cataracts of the Nile in the area referred to as Nubia.  It was a land of great wealth with commerce routes which brought to the Mediterranean materials such as gold and silver, cosmetics, balsam, incense, myrrh, ostrich eggs, and other wild animal products.  Jeremiah also refers to this place as a source of topaz.  Further, these people were from to time a powerful political force: the Nubian pharaoh Shebitku defeats the Assyrian Sennacherib in Israel in 701 B.C.E. – an astounding account recorded in 2 Kings.  (Zondervan 1519.)  Their power, however, seems to have collapsed after 671 B.C.E.

What does all of this signify?  The restoration this prophet foretells is universal.  It will be bestowed on even those who have been scattered as far off as Cush – even those who have been held captive by her alluring power and cosmopolitan life.

Sing, O Daughter Zion; shout aloud, O Israel!  Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  . . .  I will give you honor and praise among all the people of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your eyes.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1519. Print. For more about Cush, click on the map image, or visit: https://ancientpatriarchs.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/who-was-cush/ 

A Favorite from November 23, 2007.

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Job and his Friends

Job 42:12-17Full of Years

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Written on October 19, 2010. 

We can never hear enough the good news that we are restored.  This is what Jesus comes to tell us, this is the work of Christ who comes to revive, resuscitate, revalidate . . . and restore.  And we notice in today’s Noontime that the rewards received by Job after he struggles through the darkness are twice what he had before his trials began.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 12:35-38) is about girding our loins, lighting our lamps, and being like ready servants who await the return of the master.  When studying the Book of Revelation in our parish study group, we discovered that while the second coming is an event that most of us see in the distant future, it is truly something that is taking place nowAnd we must prepare for it.

Luke tells us: Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. 

We see that: The master is already among us and we must act and speak as if we believe he is present.

Luke tells us: [The master] will gird himself, have [the servants] recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.

We see that: The master has arrived and we must put aside our own agendas to allow him to wait on us as he sees best.

Luke tells us: And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. 

We see that: The master is already waiting upon us, even though we may feel that he is past arriving.  And what the master brings is restoration and an ample reward for those who stay and watch with him.

Job’s story is famous because through no fault of his own he loses all that he has; and this is a story that many of us live.

Our story is equally famous because as the faithful who tend our lamps, who prepare for the master, and who wait through the suffering and pain . . . we too, will be rewarded double-fold.  And no matter the amount of days we accumulate here on earth, we too, will live a life full of years.

 

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