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Posts Tagged ‘tragedy’


Judges 10 & 11: Jepthah’s Vow

Easter Friday, April 26, 2019

John Everett Millais: Jepthah

A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

We have sinned against you; we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.

Did not the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Midianites oppress you?  I saved you from their grasp and still you forsook me and worshiped other gods.  I will save you no more.  Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen; let them save you now that you are in distress.

We have sinned.  Do to us whatever you please.  Only save us this day.

The Lord grieved over the misery of Israel. 

This dialog between the Creator and the created takes place countless times not only in scripture but in our contemporary lives.  We stray from God’s goodness and protection, we become enslaved to some small and ugly god, we cry out for help, and God rescues us.  We know this cycle and we wait for the predictable sequence to take place in today’s story but something different happens here.  “For the first time, Israel actually repents (10:10, 15-16), but God does not, as at other times, raise up a deliverer in response to Israel’s cry for help.  The Gileadite elders appoint Jepthah their leader (11:4-11) and only later does God confirm their choice (11:29)”.   (Mays 233)

A number of circumstances make Jepthah’ story memorable.  He had lived in exile from his tribe having been cast out by jealous half-brothers but he is called forward because of his military acumen and success in battles.  As the Gileadite leader he tries diplomacy before war but is unsuccessful.  Full of God’s spirit he leads his soldiers into combat, vowing that if they are victorious he will sacrifice the first person who comes to greet him on his return home.  When his young daughter, his only child, runs out to meet him he is desolate but follows through with his vow.  We cringe at the tragic ending and we search for meaning.  Human sacrifice was not an accepted Hebrew custom and was, in fact, condemned (Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 12:31); yet here is this story that goes against all custom, and we are given no context.  We grieve along with this long-ago family and we wonder how and why they and we will manage.  And so we remember . . .

The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many times we sink below what we thought to be our limit, and so we remember in our sorrow . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many schemes take us further than we had intended to go, and so we remember in our disbelief . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many friends betray us even as Judas betrayed Jesus, and so we remember in our heartache . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many good intentions lived for our own satisfaction drive us past blatant warning signs, and so we remember in our incomprehension . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

Too many well-meant promises lead us down a path we had not meant to trod, and so we remember in our mourning . . . The Lord grieved over the misery.

In yesterday’s Gospel from John (20:11-18) we hear again that Mary Magdalene did not recognize Christ who sought to console her . . . she turned around, saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.  When he speaks, she suddenly comprehends that he was with her during her grief.  He had never really disappeared. It is her own perception that had fails her.

We will struggle with today’s story just as we struggle with the heartbreaking events of our lives.  We must remember that when we feel the most bereft we are closest to God.  When we feel the most empty we are vessels waiting to be filled by the Spirit.  And when it seems that all have deserted us and that everything we hold dear is lost, Christ draws us forward away from the horror.  We have only to take the offered hand and follow.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 233. Print.

Image from: http://hoocher.com/John_Everett_Millais/John_Everett_Millais.htm 

For more on the meaning of these stories, see the Judges – The Cycle page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/judges-the-cycle/

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John 6:22-24: Seeking Jesus

Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016ps_34_10

We must always be prepared for the surprise of God’s goodness when tragedy encircles us. We must always be open to God’s gift of healing when trauma haunts us. We must always be willing to accept God’s gift of mercy when anxiety overtakes us. We must always be seeking a more intimate relationship with God, for this is what God seeks in us.

Yesterday we reflected On John 6 with Henry Tanner’s painting The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water. Today we reflect on the verses that follow that story, and we watch as those who seek Jesus use any available means to pursue the healing, prophetic presence of God among them. We explore the depth of our relationship with God, the breadth of our love for God, and the infinity of peace that comes with our seeking.

18cloudcult091010A Krista Tippet interview with Craig Minowa and the band Cloud Cult explores how we seek, what we seek, and how this seeking affects us. To listen to the podcast, visit the On Being site: http://www.onbeing.org/program/craig-minowa-music-and-the-ritual-of-performance/8584

For an NPR story on Minowa and Cloud Cult, visit: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/06/173518074/cloud-cults-love-channels-a-life-tested-by-loss

Tomorrow, Eucharist.

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Cana-Wedding-Village-ancient-Holy-Land-pictureWednesday, July 30, 2014

Ruth 1:19-22

Return to Bethlehem

As we have mentioned earlier this week, the people in this story are part of Jesus’ family tree, and as always with Scripture, we see God in the daily living of these ordinary lives lived in an extraordinary way. The message is clear if we might only look and listen: if something is bound to happen, no one can intervene, and if something is not going to take place, no one can cause it to take place . . . except God. God is in charge.

I like this story because it shows the proper covenant relationship between God the creator and us, God’s creatures. God is always present; it is we who struggle to perceive this presence. When we pause to reflect and to look more closely, we might watch God take action through people who respond to God’s call. In this way then, we can say that we mediate God’s actions.

This story shows how tragedy can be transformed by allowing God’s love to move through us, and allowing God’s love to be actualized through us. Are we not constantly surprised by the inverted way in which God works in our lives?

Jeff Cavins writes, “The story of Ruth is almost a story of Judges in reverse: she is a woman from a pagan nation whose people were hostile to Israel (it was Moabite women who seduced Israel to worship Baal at Peor, and Moab’s king Balak who summoned Baalam to curse Israel back in Numbers 22-25). But Ruth forsakes the gods of Moab to faithfully serve Yahweh. That chapter 4 recognizes Ruth as an ancestress of David, and that Matthew includes her in the genealogy of Jesus helps us remember that God’s ultimate plan was to include all nations in His family. Ruth is in many ways what Israel was called to be.”

Today’s citation is early in Ruth’s story and follows the famous “Whither thou goest” line in verses 16 and 17. The women return to Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest, a harvest which plays an important part in the story that is unfolding. The town celebrates this return as do we.

Recalling that women without men held little value in these ancient times, we can only stand in awe of Ruth and Naomi’s courage in the face of tragedy. We can only hope to see these ordinary lives as extraordinary models for us to follow. We can only believe that God works with us through our own tragedies and joys . . . so let us be open to God’s word in us today.

Jeff Cavins, Sarah Christmeyer and Tim Gray, THE GREAT ADVENTURE: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BIBLE. Ascension Press, 2007.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 14, 2007.

 

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