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Posts Tagged ‘the kingdom’


Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part VI

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Finding the Servant

James Tissot: David Dances Before the Ark

In 2 Samuel we continue to learn how God finds the faithful servant . . . and how we might become a constant follower of Christ. In this Book we find more vibrant lessons for living.

If we look at the Books of Samuel more closely, and the vivid characters who tell their stories so well, we see clear lessons for living.

How do we react when goodness and evil enter our lives? Do we recognize God’s hand when our lives go well? Do we blame others when our lives are difficult? How much do we credit God? How much credit to give ourselves?

The Ark of the Covenant returns to Jerusalem. Are we willing to leap for joy as David does? (2 Samuel 4)

We experience success in work and at home. Are we willing to thank God in prayer as David does? (2 Samuel 7)

William Brassey Hole: The Sorrow of King David

We stumble and stray. Where do we turn for guidance and pardon? (2 Samuel 11-12)

God searches for a faithful servant and finds a dedicated follower in the flawed leader of Israel. God works with a corrupt and immoral political and religious structure. God guides and protects the faithful followers of the Word. God walks among us as one of us. Today we spend a bit of time with 2 Samuel as we find our place in God’s kingdom of the faithful.

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

Tomorrow, praying with David, a faithful servant.

When we examine these verses using the scripture link, we discover the faithful servant in each of us.

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Order: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

The Tenth Day of Christmas, January 3, 2018

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gives to me ten lords a-leaping.

Many of us are familiar with The Ten Commandments that Yahweh gives to Moses, but how often do we pause to think of the fact the God, through Moses, not only gives us a simple set of rules to follow, but that he explains the effect these rules will have on our lives. God sees our authenticity by the way we live, and by the way we do or do not say, “Yes,” in response to God’s call. Today the old Christmas carol poses these questions to us: do we see the Gospel stories as a fulfillment of God’s hope in the covenant God establishes with us in the promise of the Ten Commandments?

This part of the Exodus story is bracketed by two convergent episodes: the provision of quail, manna and water by God to the Israelites, and the planning and building of a desert temple-tent for Yahweh by the Israelites. We see actions by both God and the Chosen People that speak of their desire to live in a covenant relationship. And the actual agreement, along with its explanations and implications, lies between these two actions in chapters 20 to 24.

The Holy Spirit

God takes the Israelites out of bondage – just as Jesus later does for all when he comes to live among us and to institute the Kingdom (in Luke 4:14-30). With the giving of the commandments, God foresees the struggle of the people in the desert. God’s preservation and protection of these people bring to God not only fame, glory and praise, but also an arrogant, contemptuous rejection by us. So too does Jesus arrive among God’s people to fulfill the Mosaic Law, to provide and protect us, and then to suffer at our hands; yet ultimately, God the Father and God the Son both offer their compassion and mercy to us when we are wayward. All that is required of us is that we repent of our past transgressions and then respond to the call. Just as God sent an angel to guard the Israelites and bring them to the place God had in mind for them (23: 20-33), so too does Jesus send the Holy Spirit to dwell with us after Jesus’ resurrection – to guide and protect, and to lead us to the holy place he has prepared for us. Of course, later in Chapter 32 of Exodus, the people tire of waiting for Moses to descend Mt. Sinai, so they create and worship the Golden Calf. Moses returns, breaks the tablets and loses his patience. The people repent, agree to do as Yahweh asks and Yahweh restores the tablets. A familiar story that we repeat today – we only need to read and compare history and current events. And it is no wonder that we stray – no wonder that the Israelites strayed. When we look at chapters 20 to 24 of Exodus, we see the social implications of the Mosaic Law. We might pay special attention to some of the verses that hold ideas difficult to take, verses that call for us to respect ourselves and one another: 22:15, 23:1, 22: 1-3, 22: 20, 21:35-36.

So on this day when we continue our celebration of God’s truest gift of love, we take a few moments to recollect our experiences in covenant relationships with others. We might mediate for a bit on how we might remain faithful to the one central covenant in our lives. And we might decide how best to renew that covenant each day with our Creator.

Adapted from a reflection on The Ten Commandments written February 14, 2007.

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Gifts . . . freely given

Jean Restout: The Paraclete

The Seventh Day of Christmas, December 31, 2017

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.  

Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of God. These seven gifts freely given by the Spirit reside with us – whether we know it or not, and whether we believe it or not. When we least expect it, the Spirit rises to provide us with the tools we need for the circumstances we experience.

Wisdom comes to us with patience and with waiting on the LORD. When we reflect on the persons who hold wisdom, we realize that they listen more than they speak, praise more than they berate, and love more than they disparage. These gifted ones share their wisdom with us, and we do well to share God’s wisdom with others.

Understanding is more than comprehending, more than accepting, and more than believing. Understanding pierces darkness, brings lights, nurtures love in others and enacts love in all. When we practice understanding, we receive more than we expect, and more than we can hold. Understanding grows wherever it resides.

Counsel allows each of us to respond to God’s call no matter how challenging, no matter how awkward, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. Counsel converts fear into courage. Counsel transforms hatred into love. Those who are open to God’s counsel are better able to see The Way of Christ and to follow.

Fortitude brings us the strength to do what needs to be done when few others will do it. Fortitude brings us the resolution to endure suffering, and to allow God’s hand to convert our suffering into joy. When we allow God’s fortitude to support us in difficult times, we remember Psalm 126: they go out weeping and return rejoicing.

Knowledge of the LORD brings us the foundation on which to stand as we enact the work God calls us to do in this world that struggles to be Kingdom here and now. This gift, perhaps more than any other, allows us to speak and act with authority as Jesus does. Knowledge instructs our decisions, lives in our words, and guides our actions. Knowledge informs our sense of justice and mercy, brings order out of confusion, and love out of hate.

Piety is not a saccharine, duty-bound quality of sweetness; rather, it is love bolstered by God’s power, fidelity strengthened by God’s steadfastness, and hope empowered by God’s promise. Piety is faithful because it makes the choice to persist in God’s love and to believe in God’s covenant. Piety does more than just show up. Piety acts with compassion and patience; and piety is unshakable.

Fear of God is not the experience of anxiety or alarm; it is instead love of God for God’s sake. It demonstrates respect, seeks to worship, and shares joy in the experience of God. One who fears the LORD, stands in awe of God’s goodness and is eager to share the Good News of our rescue from pain and worry.

These seven gifts are more than words. They are tangible forces in our lives. They are stones with which we lay the foundation for our relationship with God. Those who would be wise, are also understanding. Those who give counsel also provide fortitude. Those with knowledge and piety live in awe of God who loves us into creation, and who abides with us even beyond the end of time. On this eve of a new year, we do well to open ourselves to these gifts freely given.

Isaiah 11 describes the Spirit’s gifts as does Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12.

To learn more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, visit: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/gifts-holy-spirit/

 

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Torah: Law and Covenant

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

The Fifth Day of Christmas, December 29, 2017

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five gold rings.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Our origins and beginnings, God’s redemption and deliverance, our holiness and worship, service and work, God’s law and covenant with the people. The first five books of the Old Testament are five gold rings that we might wear on our fingers as we remember how God has acted in our lives, and has called us to a holy way of life.

We might take time today to read stories of creation and the patriarchs whose lives bring us vivid examples of how we might – or might not – respond to God’s call. On the other hand, we might want to explore the exodus story that we re-live during Lent and Eastertide each year. Some of us might be interested in the minutiae of the law or in the early Temple rites. Finally, we may want to explore the Christian perspective of these ancient Jewish scriptures because for Christians, “the Pentateuch portrays the pilgrim people waiting for the full realization of the kingdom of God.”

No matter our perspective, no matter our circumstances, these five golden rings bring us a foundation and a vision for the kingdom we know is already among us.

For more about the Torah, or Pentateuch, visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-written-law-torah or http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?src=_intros/pentateuch-intro.htm

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Proverbs 12: If You Love Learning

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The school in which I teach has a front portico with seven columns as a direct, overt message that we seek knowledge. (See Proverbs 9.) The school motto is: Veritatem prosequimur – Pursue truth. For an institution of learning, the image of Wisdom building her house is apt. Today we explore several verses from Chapter 12 as we reflect on the value of taking advice.

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
    how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Acceptance of a valid critique is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp,
    but life rooted in God stands firm.

Building our spiritual house on Christ is a sign of our confidence in The Word.

The words of the wicked kill;
    the speech of the upright saves.

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble;
    the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

Sharing The Word with others is an invitation to the Spirit.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;
    the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

Living The Word brings us fortitude rather than fear.

Evil scheming distorts the schemer;
    peace-planning brings joy to the planner.

No evil can overwhelm a good person,
    but the wicked have their hands full of it.

Living as Jesus teaches is a sign of courage rather than submission.

Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge;
    talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

Sharing The Word in the Spirit is a sign that the Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is now.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that a love of learning is essential for workers in the Kingdom.

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Proverbs 10: Honesty, Discipline and Expansion

Sunday, July 30, 2017

God won’t starve an honest soul,
    but God frustrates the appetites of the wicked.

Sloth makes you poor;
    diligence brings wealth.

The writers of Proverbs focus on practical advice that speaks of life honestly.

Make hay while the sun shines—that’s smart;
    go fishing during harvest—that’s stupid.

Blessings accrue on a good and honest life,
    but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.

These verses point to truisms that make us smile.

Honesty lives confident and carefree,
    but Shifty is sure to be exposed.

An evasive eye is a sign of trouble ahead,
    but an open, face-to-face meeting results in peace.

These words remind us that discipline paves the way of a happy life.

The road to life is a disciplined life;
    ignore correction and you’re lost for good.

 Liars secretly hoard hatred;
    fools openly spread slander.

We remember that balance and compromise are basic elements of discipline.

The more talk, the less truth;
    the wise measure their words.

The speech of a good person is worth waiting for;
    the blabber of the wicked is worthless.

We reflect on our acts of kindness and realize that they return to us a hundred-fold.

God’s blessing makes life rich;
    nothing we do can improve on God.

The nightmares of the wicked come true;
    what the good people desire, they get.

When we are patient, forgiving, and open, we arrive at seeing the reality of the Kingdom.

When the storm is over, there’s nothing left of the wicked;
    good people, firm on their rock foundation, aren’t even fazed.

The aspirations of good people end in celebration;
    the ambitions of bad people crash.

When we are faithful, hope-filled and loving, we join others who look for the expansion of the Kingdom.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore different translations of these verses, we begin to see that honesty and discipline bring about the expansion of the Kingdom.

 

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Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part III

Tuesday, February 21, 2017be-perfect-like-god-matthew-5-verse-48-1

Today we hear Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount. He asks us to live generously, he challenges us to love our enemies, and he reminds us that we are already members of his kingdom.

In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

We linger with the thought that God lives toward us, not only giving us breath but also nurturing and sustaining us, moving into our every bone and tissue.

You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (GNT)

We pause to reflect that God calls us to Christ’s presence in us, flourishing into the light of Christ, blooming into the healing presence of the Spirit.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NRSV)

james-1-4We react to God’s request that we grow up, that we mature in Christ, that we reconcile in the Spirit, and that we transform in the Creator. This is the perfection that God asks of us. Not that live a life free or error, but that we offer to God the flowering of the potential and trust placed in us at our conception.

The Apostle James tells us that when we persist in Christ, we begin to understand what God asks of us when he asks for our perfection.

Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:4 (GNT)

When we compare varying versions of Matthew 5:48, we begin to understand what it is that God asks of us, and how we might grow up, how we might be perfect in Christ.

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Matthew 18:19-20: Again, I say to you . . .

Thursday, February 9, 2017church-meeting-w_scripture

We might smile when we read the simple words, “Again, I say to you . . .” Whether we are parents, teachers, friends or colleagues, it is likely we have had to repeat ourselves in the hope of being understood. God does the same for us.

Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (NRSV)

We might give thanks for the simple gift that Jesus gives us in this promise of his presence when we gather in God’s name.

And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them. (GNT)

We might remember to gather with those who live in the Spirit when we are troubled or spent.

To repeat, I tell you that if two of you here on earth agree about anything people ask, it will be for them from my Father in heaven. For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them. (CJB)

We might invite others to join us as we petition heaven for justice, mercy and peace.

Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there. (MSG)

And as we gather to pray, we might encourage one another to pray for our enemies, for those who refuse to look for unity or build peace, and for those who hope to bring an end to the Kingdom.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we open ourselves to God’s promise that Christ is with us always, and that when we gather to petition God, the Spirit remains in us – bringing us new life. This Christ tells us again and again. 

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Matthew 9:1-8: Gossipy Whispering

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mathieu Ignace van Bree: Christ Heals the Paralytic

Mathieu Ignace van Bree: Christ Heals the Paralytic

Too often when we come into contact with those among us who suffer physical or mental differences, we turn away in alarm or surprise. Or worse, we give in to the temptation to whisper about someone’s condition without realizing that our behavior is clearly visible. Our gossipy whispering is audible.

Jesus teaches us a difficult lesson today.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’?” 

We know that in ancient times – and still in some cultures today – afflictions are seen as divine punishment for sin. Jesus forgives with the authority given him by the Creator.

Jesus teaches us how to measure our compassion today.

“Get up. Take your bed and go home”.

In our hearts and minds we are grateful when we do not suffer, grateful when we walk in bounty. We also know that God’s grace blesses us with the gifts that make it possible for us to earn a living, to afford a roof, food and clothing. Although in many societies we believe that everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity, we also must know that not everyone is equally endowed.

Jesus teaches us how to heal today.

And the man did it. The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.

In a world that is strangely topsy-turvy, we know that we are responsible for our response to God’s call more than we are responsible for our fame, wealth or power. Jesus calls us to put aside our gossipy whispering and invite those among us who are paralyzed in any way to join us. Jesus invites all to come together with whatever gifts we have to build the infinite and boundless kingdom.

Jesus teaches us about goodness today.

When we use the scripture link above and the drop-down menus to explore other translations of this story, we hear God’s call as healing and compassionate kingdom-builders.

To learn more about Jesus’ miracles, click on the image above or visit: http://iconsandimagery.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html  

Tomorrow, withering the fig tree. 

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