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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

cisternJeremiah 37

Jeremiah in the Dungeon

We have spent several weeks with Jeremiah as he exhorts, complains, and calls. He warns of the danger in presuming that the enemy has been conquered. And for his words of prediction, he is punished. Jeremiah brings truth to ears that know their own guilt. As we move through this chapter, let us pause at verse 9.

Do not deceive yourselves . . .

Jeremiah is on his way to tend to family business but he is detained and accused of deception. Jeremiah, the innocent, suffers; his accusers know that his words point out their own corruption, and they wish to silence him. Perhaps they believe that the prophet’s imprisonment will prove their innocence and his guilt. Let us reflect on verse 14.

Without listening . . .

King Zedekiah refuses to hear Jeremiah and when we read further into this prophecy, we will see what happens to each of these men. For now, let us spend a bit of time with verses 19 and 20.

Where are your own prophets now who prophesied to you that the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land?

From our own life experience, we know that liars perceive their lies – and the lies of their compatriots – as fact. For speaking truth to the structure, Jeremiah will soon be thrown into the cistern. The truth-sayer will be punished severely for speaking the words God sends to him. But lest we think that this prophet brings us only sadness, let us remember some of his earlier words: There will be a new covenant . . . one written on your hearts, not on stone . . . I have plans for your joy, not your woe . . .

The story of Jeremiah may be seen as a dreary one but perhaps it ought to be one of our favorites, for despite the pain and ruin his prophecy brings, Jeremiah does as God asks. And despite the suffering God’s words visit upon him, Jeremiah is ever faithful to his task, ever hopeful in the Lord, and ever loving of his people . . . even those who punish, exile and eventually murder him.

As we pause with Jeremiah today, we pray . . . May we never undergo such torture . . . but may we always be as true as this prophet is to his God.


Adapted from a reflection written on October 22, 2007.

Compare different versions of today’s Noontime by following the scripture link above. Choose other versions of the Bible by using the drop down menus. Sit with Jeremiah for a time today . . . and listen for God’s word.

Enter the name Zedekiah into the blog search bar and spend some time reflecting on the relationship between prophet and king.

To read an interesting post on Jeremiah 37-39 as the prophet journeys from prison to palace, click on the image above or visit: http://www.journeythroughthestory.com/2014/08/jeremiah-37-39.html

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Wednesday, August 19, 2021

Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

James Tissot: The Flight of the Prisoners

Jeremiah 25:1-14

Seventy Years 

Can we imagine a seventy-year exile from all that we know? Can we picture seven times seventy years, or a four-hundred-ninety year banishment from all that we have come to love?

Jeremiah reframes for the Israelites – and for us – the cautions laid out by Yahweh with Moses on the desert mountain.

Turn back, each of you, from your evil way and from your evil deeds . . .

Then you shall remain in the land the Lord gave to you of old . . .

Do not follow strange gods to serve and adore them . . .

Jeremiah’s Yahweh speaks of punishment to be delivered in subsequent verses and this clashes with our understanding of the Lord as a forgiving parent who remains with us through every difficulty, even the difficulties we bring on ourselves. We struggle to comprehend why the innocent suffer and why God does not intervene to eradicate every injustice.  And then we recall that we are created in love as God’s image in this world. We remember that we are part of God’s plan of salvation. We remember that our own hands and feet, our minds and lips are God’s in a world crying out for healing. We read these lines from thousands of years ago to recognize our role in God’s plan. When we discover injustice, we are called to act. When we see suffering, we are asked to intervene. When we find sickness, we are called to heal. Wherever we discern the crumbling walls of God’s kingdom, we are commissioned to love with, and for and in Christ.

Jesus tells us: Then the king will say . . . Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in;  naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me”. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?  And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Individually and collectively we have the power in Christ to build the kingdom in this time and space. Alone and together we have the power in the Spirit to cure and heal. On our own and in solidarity we have the power through God to repair and build. Let us determine to give the years of our exile over to Christ for in so doing we live in the Spirit, and we transform ourselves and the world as we call forth the kingdom with God.


Enter the word captivity into the blog search bar and explore where or how we create our own exile from God, and what we might do to allow our separation to transform us.

For Bible study outlines, click on the image above or go to: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/category/old-testament-bible-study/page/37/ 

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An Almond Tree

An Almond Tree

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Jeremiah 1 & 2

The Watching Tree

Footnotes tell us that the watching tree in verse 11 refers to the almond tree; “the first to bloom in the springtime as though it had not slept. The Hebrew name contains a play on words with ‘I am watching’.” The opening lines here tell us of Jeremiah’s office as prophet. We are given his credentials, so that we might hear and heed the words here offered, so that we might not be afraid, so that we might remember to turn to God in times of turmoil, and so that we might shun the false idols that offer themselves in place of God.

Jeremiah protests that he is too young to serve God as prophet but the Lord says to him: Have no fear . . . because I am with you to deliver you . . . It is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass . . . they will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.

These are words of warning to a people who had turned away from Yahweh and back to the Baal gods. They are also words of encouragement to us. History tells us that the oracles predicted here by Jeremiah unfolded as truth; therefore, the opening words of this prophecy can serve to comfort us as we struggle to understand our role as followers of Christ. God’s words through Jeremiah are meant to console us while we remain the watching trees that remind others of the hope Christ brings, of the trust we must place in God, and of the danger in worshiping false and feeble gods.

I remember the devotion of your youth, the Lord tells us, Sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of the harvest; should anyone presume to partake of them, evil would befall him, says the Lord. As watching trees, we must have our eyes and hearts open to those who would deceive us, we must announce with a flurry of white blossoming the advent of a time of renewal and rebirth so those who have strayed may yet return. And we need not have any fear about our work of watching, for with God all things are possible. God always delivers the faithful.

When storms destroy all that we hold sacred, there is yet hope.

When trials sap our courage, there is yet strength.

When betrayals blind us to the possibility of a love that knows no bounds, there is yet God.

When suffering swallows our days, there is a place to go and there is something to be done. We are called to be watching trees that announce the hope of the human race. We are created to be watching trees that trust only their maker. We come to fruition as watching trees that offer first fruits back to God and produce good fruit in due season.

We are called by our creator to witness as we watch and wait. When pain and sorrow take over, or in gladness and celebration, let us keep watch as if we have not slept, let us be the first to burst into flower and witness to the hint of spring. And while we wait on the Lord, let us offer our work to the God who made us, God who delivers us, and God who loves us.

No matter our circumstances, sorrow or joy, let us take up our task as watching trees and announce the goodness of God.


Adapted from a reflection written on June 12, 2010.

Image from: http://www.carrollcrossroads.com/blog/the-almond-tree

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Greg Olsen: Joseph, Mary, and Simeon with Jesus

Luke 2:21-40

A Pierced Heart

This is a verse which is my consolation as a parent and particularly as a mother: A sword shall pierce your own heart, so that the thoughts of many may be revealed. When one of my children is suffering through an injustice brought on by no fault of their own, I ask them to remember that there are times when we suffer so that evil and corruption will surface. This does not make the pain any less; it does, however, give us a place to put the pain.

I also love Simeon’s canticle, the prayer we pray as part of the Night Office in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a lovely way to be thinking as we put ourselves to bed at night. When I am restless during midnight hours, I re-pray this oration because it reminds me why we are here on earth: To know, love and to serve God.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;

Your word has been fulfilled:

My own eyes have seen the salvation

Which you have prepared in the sight of your people:

A light to reveal you to the nations

And the glory of your people Israel. 

The image of drifting into sleep having surrendered ourselves to God’s beneficent will is a calming one.

The image of God performing all deeds openly and honestly is a strengthening one.

The image of God keeping true to his agreement with us is a reassuring one.

The image of the Blessed Mother handing her child in confidence to the wise and holy Simeon is a moving one.

The image of Simeon rejoicing at the gift of holding in his arms the world’s salvation is a joyful one.

The image of God’s love for us being so intense, so enduring and so true that it pierces our hearts so that our very thoughts are revealed to us and to others is at once challenging and heartening. It is generous beyond our expectations. For we each hold the Christ child in our own arms.

What a generous and trusting mother is Mary that she allows her heart to be pierced for us. What an awesome and piercing love is Christ’s that he remains with us, and that he persists in taking us with him back to the Father. Knowing this, we might surely walk in peace, even though our hearts be pierced.

Tomorrow, the faithful Anna . . .


This reflection was first written on November 5, 2009.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Psams_8_3_4[1]Psalm 8:3-5

When We Consider

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man that you take thought of us, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than God, and you crown him with glory and majesty!

We spend far too much time comparing ourselves with others rather than measuring ourselves against our own potential. We pass too many hours lamenting what might have been or what we wish might be instead of giving thanks for all that we are. We lament loss as a deficit rather than leaning into the grief and growing through the suffering.  We struggle to be like gods without realizing that . . . we are already members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

God says: Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if I so clothe the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will I clothe you? Oh, you of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek my kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for I have chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke12:27-32)

Jesus enters the world as an infant in an obscure place of unremarked parents and yet Jesus is the one who supersedes all powers and principalities. With this inversion we cannot help but see that although our lives are brief in the scope of God’s time, we are precious and vital to God’s plan.

When we consider the gift of Jesus’ suffering and love . . . how can we not return so great a gift?


For a visual meditation of Psalm 8, click on the image above and look for the YouTube link, or go to: Psalm 8, A  visual meditation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erTSh-vhuxA

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Sunday, October 4, 2020hope mugSirach 39:16-35

A Reason for Your Hope

We pause in our study of 1 Peter and turn to the wisdom of Sirach. In verses 21, 25, 33 and 34 we begin to find clarity to a question that occurs to each of us throughout our lives: why is it that the wicked do not suffer? The answer always is: God has a plan, God has infinite time, God is infinitely good, God calls us to intimacy in the Spirit, and we must go to God in the proper way, in God’s way, and in God’s time.

It occurs to me that many people who appear to “have it made” are suffering in a way that they do not express. They likely view suffering as a sign of failure, just as those living in the days of the Old Testament believed. Unlike Peter in his letters to us, they do not understand that suffering is The Way.  Suffering shows our willingness to undergo the necessary discipline which we all must experience in order to reach the next place. Suffering brings us to a place – if we allow it – where we finally and fully meet God.

A friend recently pointed out to me that bullies are often grieving and likely do not know that they are suffering. Or if they know why they suffer they do not understand that they are experiencing an undergoing or that they are constantly accompanied by God. The angry, jealous, divisive life they set up for themselves as they isolate themselves from the rest of the world is a perpetuation of their dreadful pain rather than a healing, unifying, enduring, loving expression of God made visible among us.

So if we believe that God exists and if can manage to remain faithful to God, if we hope that all of us – even our enemies – attain holiness before and with God, if we remain reverent despite the apparent ability of the wicked to escape consequences, if we strive to love our enemies into goodness and purity . . . then we are true expressions of God here on earth. These are difficult tasks, but as Jesus ben Sirach tells us, there is no wiser path in life. And as Peter writes to us, Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Reflecting on the wisdom of Sirach and Peter we pray . . .

Gentle and loving God, keep us prudent but joyful. Let us wear our hope upon our sleeves as we open my arms to all. We  know that you are with us and that we need not fear for you are always walking with us. Keep us persistent, keep us loving, keep us always close to you as we do your will. Keep our ears sharp, our eyes keen, our actions pure, our thoughts holy. Keep our hands and feet and mouth in accord with your will. Let our patience endure, our hope be joy-filled, and our love be infinite. Trusting in your wisdom, prudence, and love, we pledge ourselves to you this day and in this way. Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on September 1, 2007.

Image from: http://pbcvoice.blogspot.com/2012/06/sharing-from-my-heart.html

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020obedience[1]1 Peter 1:13-16

Obedience

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . [and] be holy as he who called you is holy . . . for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy”.

Peter understands the importance of living in Christ’s holiness perhaps more than any other apostle. Peter both denied Christ and witnessed that Jesus is the son of the Living God. Peter understands the real cost and gift of suffering. Peter believes in the inheritance he holds in his hands, mind and spirit.  Peter comprehends the importance of living in Christ, and the insignificance of the many small problems with which we crowd our days.

God says: Listen to our brother Peter for he has great wisdom for you. Peter understands that real freedom can only be won through obedience to the goodness I have planted in you. Peter understands that straying from my Word is normal and that suffering is unpleasant and painful. Peter also understands that cleaving to my Word can go against your desire for independence . . . but that total and true independence can only be gained through your following in The Way of Christ. There is much more that Peter understands and that he wants to convey to you but for today . . . rest with the idea of obedience. And reflect on when and how and why you have felt most free. Like Peter you will find that the obedience he preaches releases you from the small, petty worries of your days. Like Peter, you will come to more fully understand how obedience releases you from all that constrains and frightens you.

Once we decide to trust God in both large and small matters we free ourselves from energy-sapping anxiety. This is what Peter means by girding our minds and living soberly in the moment. This is the holiness to which Peter calls each of us . . . in the name of Christ.

Tomorrow, Peter tells us about reverence . . .  


Image from: http://metropraise.blogspot.com/2012/09/obedience-is-better-than-sacrifice.html

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

saint-peter-1634[1]

Guido Reni: Saint Peter

1 Peter 2:21-24

How to Suffer

“Peter is the saint in the Gospels who is most like us, the closest to our humanity, and yet also very close to Christ.  We can always follow Peter.  He always leads us to Jesus, he unites us to Jesus, because he never permitted his own frailty to separate his heart from Christ, even when he denied him”.

Dom Mauro Giuseppe Lepori, O. Cist. (Cameron)

We have been exploring the prophecy of Amos, a difficult and sometimes abrasive lesson to hear; and an even more difficult message to enact. Yet this is precisely the example that Peter provides for us today. A man who leaves all to follow the one who is all.  A man who at first disbelieves the words he hears who eventually becomes so close to that Word that he gives even his life to live in eternal union with Christ. In this canticle from Peter’s first letter we find convincing evidence that we need to take the words of Amos to heart.  We find the consummate example of how to live authentically, how to witness and how to find the narrow yet sure path that leads to God.

Let us spend some time today with Peter’s words in the first of his letters. Let us consider how these words call us to dissect the prophecy of Amos. And let us turn all of our suffering over to Christ who best knows how and when and why we suffer.

Enter the word Peter into the blog search bar to find more reflections on how this simple man calls each of us to a greatness that lasts forever.


Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/guido-reni/saint-peter-1634

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 5.9 (2013): 76-77. Print.  

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Friday, May 15, 2020

SF_LOGO1[1]Sirach 21

A Prayer for Steadfastness

In our Easter journey we have been exploring the idea that discipleship brings hidden gifts along with its difficulties and suffering.  We have been examining figures in the Old and New Testaments to see what we can learn from well know stories.  And we have been praying together to discern how we might better see the cross of discipleship as gift rather than burden.  Today we pray for steadfastness.

When we ask for God’s wisdom in understanding how we have found ourselves in discomfort . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we open ourselves to hear what we may learn from our uneasiness . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we are humble enough to learn something about God and ourselves through our suffering . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we step forward to volunteer our lives in service of Christ in his kingdom-building . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we resolve to learn from the anxiety and pain we have experienced . . . we ask for steadfastness.

Jesus ben Sirach tells us that when we allow this steadfastness to permeate our lives, we will find ourselves among wise women and men rather than a troop of fools; and these wise ones will bolster us when we falter.  When we allow steadfastness to govern our lives, we will experience the joy of knowing that we are one with Christ.  This is the joy and gift of walking with Christ.  It is the gift of better knowing ourselves.  It is the gift of looking in a mirror openly and honestly without having to deceive ourselves about what we actually see.   It is the gift of our divinity in and through Christ.  And so for this gift of steadfastness we pray . . .

Dear Lord, you have planted in each of us our own gifts to share.  Help us to ready the soil of our lives, make us open to the life-giving rain of your wisdom.  Help us to be builders of your kingdom rather than hearers only of your Word.  Help us to listen, reflect and pray for your presence. Bring us the steadfastness and humility that we will need to nurture the growth of your Word in us so that we may offer these gifts back to you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Tomorrow, as we move toward Pentecost . . . Celebration in Assembly . . .


Image from: http://www.bgumc.net/?page_id=147

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