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Posts Tagged ‘the first will be last’


Exodus 17In Our Midst

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Fear of abandonment is a horror that grips many and as a result lovers jilt one another so as not to be left by the other, parents abuse their children so as to not be disappointed, colleagues betray one another in order to keep a job, supervisors coerce workers in order to maintain complete control, friends disappear from relationships rather than work through conflict.  We can imagine how the kingdom might bloom if we were to fully comprehend one single fact . . . we are never alone . . . God is with us always and so there is no need to allow the terror of rejection to govern us.

Christ brings us a message of inversion, as we have said in many NoontimesHe tells us that what is up in our physical world is actually down in his.  The poor and the humble inherit, those who mourn rejoice, the hungry and thirsty are sated, and those who suffer persecution because of this belief reign.  When any of my siblings or I complained of an injustice – perceived or real – my mother would remind us easily and with a smile: The first will be last . . . the master is the servant. 

So if we are to live as if we believe in this first is last kingdom-building, we perceive abandonment as its inverted companion . . . union.  Christ is with us to remind us that the jilted are his special loves, the lost children his particular darlings, and the oppressed his best and closest friends.  In today’s Noontime, God shows the Hebrew people how much they are loved.  God tells them that they are not alone.  God reminds them that they are unique and chosen loved ones . . . yet they do not understand.  Across the millennia we hear their cry, see their pain, and we ask as the Hebrews did: Why do we suffer?  Why do things like this happen?  How are we to go on?  We are still God’s stiff-necked people.

Water springing from a rock, manna and quail in the desert: God knows that there are hidden gifts in hard, dry places;  God knows that manna gathers itself like dew in the desert morning;  God knows that great flocks of quail migrate over the wilderness and come to ground to rest; yet we persist in disbelief.  We continue to ask as the Hebrews ask: Is the Lord in our midst or not?   

In verses 8 through 13 we watch Joshua defeat the army of Amalek as long as Moses keeps his hands raised.  This story fascinated me as a child and I spent days lurking behind my brothers and sisters willing them to do things I wanted when I raised my hands to heaven.  God in great wisdom did not answer those requests . . . but God has answered many more as God accompanies me on my journey.

After the defeat of the Amalekites, the Lord says to Moses: Write this down in a document as something to be remembered, and recite it in the ears of Joshua.  In Old Testament language, the Lord tells the people that God will always be among them to defend them; God will not allow them to be wiped out.  God tells them that they are not alone, and that God will bring goodness out of evil . . . always.

We are never alone.  We are constantly loved.  We are rescued, comforted, healed and held . . . always and without fail.  There are no circumstances and no people we need ever fear.  The parched desert and the brutality of the Amalekites in our lives need not send us into panic because God is in our midst.

And so we too, can write this down . . . We have nothing to fear because the Lord will war against our enemies . . . throughout the centuries. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 26, 2011. 

Image from: http://gambolinman.blogspot.com/2007/10/southwest-usa-precious-water-abounds-in.html 

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Luke 33:22-30: The Narrow Gate and the Great Reversal

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Siq Pathway into Petra, Jordan

We know this story so well! Jesus calls us to witness to injustice, but he does this by calling us to The Great Reversal.

He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.

When a bystander asks how many will be saved, Jesus replies – and he replies to us today when we wonder if our enemies will perish or thrive . . . “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires your total attention”. 

This was the wisdom my parents taught us. As we work for justice, we must let God worry about God’s business while we examine our willingness to bend. We move toward Jerusalem as we learn to fit ourselves through the narrow gate of The Way.

When Jesus’ followers protest that surely they will be on Jesus’ guest list, he reminds them – and us – that although they believe they have known him all their lives . . . “Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me”.

How do we come to know Jesus better so that we do not find ourselves out in the cold, watching as outsiders stream in from east, west, north, and south to sit down at the table of God’s kingdom? How do we conduct ourselves so that all the time we are not outside looking in—and wondering what happened?

This is the Great Reversal: the last in line is put at the head of the line, and the so-called first end up last.

The Monastery in Petra, Jordan

Jesus is telling us that the answers to our questions stands before us, but perhaps we cannot see his simple solution because we are too interested in the business of others. Perhaps we are so occupied with examining the faults of others that we close our eyes tightly against the clarity of Christ’s response. Jesus clearly tells us here that the invitation to the feast is the narrow gate that admits the last first and the first last. The entry to celebration is the slim door that asks us to behave differently, to examine ourselves to find what we must change in order to experience true joy.

With immense patience, Jesus teaches moves toward Jerusalem, teaching us what we need to know.

With profound wisdom, Jesus demonstrates The Great Reversal, urging us through the narrowest of doors.

With intense compassion, Jesus invites us to eternal peace, showing us The Way through the slenderest of gates.

Tomorrow, the eye of the needle.


When we compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with others, we discover the peace we seek . . . just beyond the narrow gate that is Christ.

To reflect on Matthew’s story of Jesus, the Rich Man, and the narrow gate, and to learn more about how to get through “the eye of the needle,” visit The Narrow Gate page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-narrow-gate/ 

Learn more about Petra at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra

Images from: http://kinsmanredeemer.com/articles/eye-needle and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra 

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Matthew 18:1-5The Greatest in the Kingdom

first shall be last

Tissot: The First Shall Be Last

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Once more we read the stupefying mystery that the greatest will be least and the least, greatest.  For humans this is a difficult saying.  It runs counter to our sense of logic; it runs against our tendency to self-preserve, to survive.  Yet it is what we must hear.  Our proper relationship with God is to be child-like, not childish.  We are to go to our creator with our problems and our woes.  God, being merciful and just, will see to our needs and is open to discussing our wants.  We are to be humble.  We are to be like trusting children.

In Psalm 45 The Mighty One rides out to justify truth, humility and righteousness.  It was very likely composed as a song for a royal wedding because the imagery speaks to a proper, joyful and humble relationship.  We might pray this Psalm when we seek humility.  It reminds us that the faithful need not fight; they only need to stand and witness.  It reminds us that we must leave our accustomed comfort zone to seek another, better place. Today we spend time with this psalm and these verses from Matthew as we reflect on our relationship with God, our relationships with those we love, and our attitude about those we fear.

A favorite from January 8, 2008. 

 

 

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In this week when we give thanks for all that we are and all that we have, let us reflect on what it means to be first or last. 

Monday, November 19, 2012 – Mark 10:17-31 – Being Last

The rich man asks Jesus how he can gain admission to heaven.  Jesus answers plainly: Put aside all that you have . . . and follow me.  How simple.  How difficult.

Jesus calls each of us to put away all that enthralls us . . . for love of him.  This means that we put aside all that secures our identity, all that maintains our confidence . . . and trust solely in him.  This means that we learn to live in liminal space . . . because that is where heaven is.

Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.

For your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you.

I have not sat with the worthless, nor do I consort with the deceitful.

I have hated the company of evildoers; I will not sit down with the wicked.

I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord; that I may go in procession round your altar;

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

                                                                                          Psalm 26:2-7

I have learned an important lesson and have lately felt its echo come back to me as it reverberates through a lifetime.  Of our own will we can do nothing.  We best acknowledge this by letting go of all that secures us to life.  We best experience this by falling backward over what appears to be a precipice.  In the letting go of familiarity . . . in the floating . . . we feel God’s presence.  This is what happens when we put God first.  This is what we feel when we put ourselves last.

Jesus says:  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that it is for a rich man to enter heaven. 

And we reply:  But where are we to go?  What are we do?  How will we live?  Surely we will die!  We are only human!

And Jesus replies: With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God. 

Do we trust our maker to catch us when we fall?  Do we understand that his love is greater than all else?  Can we put God first . . . and ourselves last?

Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.  For your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you . . .

Let us go in procession around the Lord’s altar . . . Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving and recounting all [God’s] wonderful deeds . . . and let us trust him who loves us . . . him for whom all things are possible.  Let us be willing to go last in the altar procession as we sing our altar song.

Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.  For your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you . . .

First written on November 15, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To better understand our call to “fall” into Christ, please see: Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.  (Rohr 65)

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