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2 Kings 6Trusting the Lord

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A favorite written on January 25 and posted today . . .

Why should I trust in the Lord any longer?

There are so many times we hear these words from the lips of one who is deep in grief.  There are many times when we think or say these words ourselves.  The answer to the ageless questions is simple:  God does not create calamity and chaos; rather, God calls us to peace and unity.  It is up to us to respond, and to take all our problems to God, both the small and the large.

The scene depicted here today is both beautiful and dreadful; a miracle is juxtaposed with severe famine.  Elisha finds himself in danger because he accurately predicted all that takes place.  The irony and inversion we see here echo in our own lives: good things happen in the midst of great suffering, faithful servants are vindicated after intense persecution, hope outlives desperation.  Today’s accounting might be an older version of our own lives.

Why should we trust the Lord any longer?

We have reaped mercy when we thought there was no compassion.

We have known peace at a time when we thought there was only turmoil.

We experience joy just when we believe all is lost.

Why should we trust the Lord any longer?

There is no God who saves as the Living God saves.

There is no God who redeems as Christ Jesus redeems.

There is no God who loves as the Spirit loves.

And so we pray . . .

Ever present and all-knowing God, you wait patiently and allow us to wander from you, yet you always call us home.  You forgive our anger and calm our fear.  You remind us that you are with us always, even in the midst of horror.  You allow us and even encourage us to grow in you.  Why do we trust you, Lord?  Because there is no place else to go where we are so well protected, so well refreshed, or so well loved.  We thank you, God, for abiding with us always.  We thank you, God, for bring us your peace.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 28, 2011.

Image from: http://perkettprsuasion.com/2011/04/07/define-trust-not-so-easy-is-it/ 

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1 Kings 17Moving On

Monday, July 9, 2018

Il Guercino: Elijah Fed by Ravens

So the Lord said, move on . . .

This two-part story reminds us that God provides for those who are willing to follow him; and it also tells us that we cannot snuggle into the comfort of a refuge we know well.  Our true security rests not in the safe harbors we find in life . . . but in our relationships and in the trust we place in God.  This is the message we find in the verse that bridges the two parts of today’s Noontime. 

The prophet Elijah has reason to fear Ahab.  The king’s wife Jezebel has made it plain that her goal is to rid the kingdom of prophets and this is the likely reason that Elijah hides as the Lord bids him after he delivers his fearsome prophecy to King Ahab.  Concealing himself in the Wadi Cherith, he survives with water from the stream and food brought to him by ravens.  All seems safe and well . . . until God calls him to Zarepthath of Sidon.  Rather than hold onto the security he has found in the wadi, Elijah moves on – as God asks – to help first a widow and then later her son.  Elijah not only improves the lot of this impoverished little family to make the world a more humane place, he also allows himself to know God more intimately . . . he moves out of his safety zone to bring life to those who barely eke out a living.

So the Lord said, move on . . .

Bernardo Strozzi: Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta

Each of us has known times when we would rather remain wrapped in our sanctuary, blocking out the horror of a cruel world so that we might live happily and blindly.  Oh how much easier, we say to ourselves, to remain in well-known territory in order to stay away from the uncomfortable parts of life.  Yet when God calls, we must move on.

We may have experienced for a time the desperation of not knowing where we will find the food to feed our families.  Perhaps we have suffered the misery of working with a colleague who has condemned us or of going home to a loved one who has rejected us.  Maybe we have crept to the edge of life itself thinking it better to bring all to an end.  These are the times when a kind look, a warm smile or a gentle touch heals the wounded heart.  This is when a few understanding words that acknowledge pain without censure bring the sweetest balm of all . . . the healing hand of one who has moved out from a safe harbor to bring others safely home.

We may say that not all of us can be Elijah for we cannot resuscitate life.  In truth, this does not matter.  God knows the prophet, God knows the widow, and God knows each of us.  This alone is enough for us to take courage, it is enough for us to move on.


Images from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/730.html and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bernardo_Strozzi_-_Prophet_Elijah_and_the_Widow_of_Sarepta_-_WGA21919.jpg 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 18, 2011.

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Acts 5:1-11The End of the Wicked

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Goya: Witch’s Sabbath

“The sin of Ananais and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community.  Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the Holy Spirit (3.9), i.e., they accepted an honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it”.  (Senior 191)  Thinking through this story gives us the opportunity to reflect on the concept of honor: what it is, how it is rightly and wrongly earned, why we bestow it on others, and what we do with an award accorded to us.

We might immediately think of warriors who risk life itself as they defend people, property or concepts.  Medals are given – sometimes posthumously – to those who give of themselves at great personal cost.  Some of these heroes deny that they have done anything above or beyond what another would have done.  We spectators know differently and so we honor those who think of themselves last at such great physical, psychological, and personal expense.

As in today’s example, we might honor philanthropists, those among us who are gifted with an abundance of talent or goods either directly earned or inherited.  Many humanitarians give anonymously in order to better share what they have.  Some have strict guidelines a petitioner must follow in order to win an award.  Still others give loudly and with fanfare.  In any or all of these cases, we give accolades and recognition to those who share their wealth.

There are also those among us who give at great personal and spiritual price.  These holy warriors have no money and little talent for physical defense; yet they are as important as any other kind of hero and they too must be honored.  We all know holy people who either boldly or quietly prayed themselves and many others into God’s hands.  Their value is greater than rubies or pearls for the battle they wage is with the greatest and darkest of powers.  Saints whose names form the litanies we pray are obvious spiritual heroes; but there are many of these holy ones among us . . . and we rely on them more than we know.  We must recognize them as easily as we do the heroes of war and wealth.

In today’s story we find lots to think about: How Ananais and Sapphira think they can deceive God himself, how the community first admires this couple and then is stunned at the immediate consequences of their deceitful actions.  Perhaps God is setting an early example of what it means to live in Christ-like community: honesty, integrity, trust and fidelity are hallmarks of a truly unified yet diverse group.  Lies only fool those who create them for the truth is always revealed . . . sometimes immediately . . . always with certainty.

We all know people who accept credit where it is not due.  We may have seen these people of the lie come unraveled . . . or we may believe that these people live long, blameless lives without just compensation for the pain they cause.  We need not worry about these deceivers as today’s story tells us.  We need only fix ourselves on maintaining our own purity of purpose as we move through each day.   We will take solace from the often-sung Psalm 73 as we pray . . . Truly God is good to those who are pure of heart.  But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen; because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked: for they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound; in the misfortunes of others they have to share; they are not afflicted as other are; therefore they wear pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak . . . When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me; until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked . . . Oh how suddenly them come to destruction . . . Like a dream when one awakes; O Lord, when you arise you make their image vanish.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.191. Print. 


Image from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2015/11/07/goyas-pinturas-negras/ 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 8, 2011.

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Isaiah 36Strategy

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sennacherib and his troops play a central role in today’s reading; these several sites may have something you will want to know: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/article_index/s/sennacherib,_king_of_assyria.aspx

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/701sennach.html

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/534613/Sennacherib

Sennacherib

Isaiah 36 is the introductory chapter of an appendix inserted into Isaiah’s prophecy (and it parallels the account we can also find in 2 Kings 18).  When we read these verses carefully, we discover that this is more than an historical account.  It is also the story of fear and trust, loss and gain, rebellion against the Lord or obedience to him.  It is the story of failing and successful strategies.

In today’s Noontime, taunts are delivered to those inside the besieged city and if we read beyond this chapter – or if we recall the telling of this story from Kings – we will see that God never abandons the faithful.  We will also see that God has ways of resolving conflict that are far more creative, and far more meaningful, than any solutions we might devise.  Our only task – our only successful strategy – is to trust and follow God.

On what do you base this confidence of yours?  Do you think mere words substitute for might and strategy in war?

The commander ridicules his opponents for thinking that words alone will frighten his troops; he mocks them for their belief in an unseen God.  But he has also miscalculated.  Placing his confidence in military supremacy and acumen, he teases those guarding the city walls.  Perhaps the true reason for his jeering is that he knows that none of his gods can be stirred to help him.  He has conquered whole regions through the strength of his warriors, but perhaps he fears that he cannot conquer these people who believe in the authority of Yahweh and who have been saved so many times by this Living God.  He has heard about the God who saves the Israelites, but he has not personally experienced Yahweh’s awesome power.  Perhaps he cannot fathom a God who serves his people in such a faithful way.  He will soon have a lesson in obedience and trust.

On what do we base this confidence of ours?  Do we think mere words substitute for might and strategy in living?

As followers of Christ we know that words alone do not make us disciples; we must act in Christ and not rely on personal strength or a store of information.  James reminds us that we are to be doers of the word and not sayers only (James 1:22).  Thus, the strategies of the Christian fold into one plan: Love one another as Christ has shown us – do not judge, do not seek revenge, pray for all . . . even our enemies.

The ultimate end of the Israelite story is one all of us know and it teaches us the lesson that reliance on God when in danger is important but that ultimately we cannot succumb to corrupt and easy living.  We must be persistent in maintaining an honest relationship with God.  We must adhere to this new Law of Love rather than multiple empty rules that foster rote worship rather than genuine communion.

On what do we base this confidence of ours?  Do we think mere words substitute for might and strategy in living?

We base our confidence on God.  We substitute nothing for an authentic relationship with God and we publicly display this relationship daily in the way we treat others.  The only strategy we employ . . . is to hone true to God’s plan like a homing bird headed for home.


Image from: http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Rel302/Sennacherib.htm 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 5, 2011.

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Psalm 16: Seek Confidence

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trust

When we begin to trust God, we grow in confidence. When we grow in confidence, we are better able to trust God.

You, Lord, are all I have,
    and you give me all I need;
    my future is in your hands.
How wonderful are your gifts to me;
    how good they are!

This is a beautiful prayer of Trust in God’s love for us – for his safekeeping of us. I like the metaphor of the Cup. It may refer to our daily drinking from the chalice of Christ’s sacrifice for us; or it may refer to our own willingness to offer our lives back to God as a blessing in the Cup of Our Lives.

God says: You have every reason to doubt my existence; but know that I move in you as the Spirit of goodness, justice, truth and mercy.

And so I am thankful and glad,
    and I feel completely secure,
because you protect me from the power of death.
I have served you faithfully,
    and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.

God says: You have every reason to believe in me. I have created a world in which you have freedom of choice and the promise of my strength and guidance.

I praise the Lord, because God guides me,
    and in the night my conscience warns me.

I am always aware of the Lord’s presence;
    God is near, and nothing can shake me.

God says: When you read these verses today, rely on my deep and constant love for you.

You will show me the path that leads to life;
    your presence fills me with joy
    and brings me pleasure forever.

God says: Each time you recite these verses, my Spirit rises in you as it calls you to join me in the great mystery I have planned for us.

Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    all the good things I have come from you.”

God says: You have every reason to doubt me. You have every reason to believe in me. Today I call on the Spirit within you. Today I call you to place your trust in me. Today I ask you choose to grow and live in my love, mercy and confidence.

Adapted from a reflection written on July 1, 2007.

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The Wisdom Tree

Proverbs 28Seek Prudence

Friday, November 17, 2017

So many wise thoughts.

The wicked are more frightened than the good.

Security happens through prudence rather than force.

Wealth is a deluge that wipes out everything rather than nourish as does a constant rain.

Happiness lies in true integrity; truth to self is a worthy companion and leads to wisdom.

Happiness lies in seeking justice through the law, rather than force.

Gluttony is an excess of nourishment and has outcomes other than physical obesity.

Take advantage of people if you like but in the end someone will distribute all that you have saved to those who have nothing.

When we pray outside of the God’s law of love, we actually pray to the darkness.

Those who seduce the innocent are constructing their own gibbet, while the innocent will be rescued.

Self-importance is false value; everyone else sees the self-conjurer behind the façade (or the wizard behind the curtain).

We all know when incompetent people are in charge . . . even the incompetents themselves.

We might as well admit our faults; they will be pointed out to us anyway.

Happiness lies in softening our hearts.

People know evil when they see it.

Being idle is a dangerous pastime.

Happiness lies in being worthy of trust; not in money or possessions.

Happiness lies in total commitment and fidelity to the law.

Greed is its own terrible all-consuming end.

Happiness lies in knowing when and how to rebuke a brother or sister with love rather than seeking a relationship through flattery.

Happiness lies in seeking and receiving wisdom.

Happiness lies in following the way of the just, even when evil reigns.

When we seek wisdom, we find it in all that is good.

Adapted from a Favorite written on November 4, 2007.

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Nehemiah 9:12: Pillar and Cloud – A Reprise

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In this chapter of the Nehemiah story, the people returning from exile have seen the great light of God’s persistent love for them. They recall the promise of this love, and they vow to act for and through it.

With a column of cloud you led [your people] by day, and by night with a column of fire to light the way of their journey, the way in which they must travel.

This ancient image of God leading and protecting, guiding and guarding, is one we modern humans can keep close and cherish.  It relieves us of the burden that comes with thinking that we are in charge.  It soothes us with the knowing that God is present, attentive and alert each morning as we rise into the day and each evening as we retreat into the night.

God says: I love to watch over you as you sleep.  I love to nudge you into my way each day of your journey.  I love to protect you.  I love to travel with you.  There is no danger that I fear.  There is no obstacle I cannot overcome.  There is no challenge too great.  There is no prayer too small.  It is my greatest desire to bring you into union with my Word.  It is my delight to see you treading with prayer on the Way I have set before you.  You are the dearest child of my heart.  Do not fear this day.  Sleep well this night.  I am as gentle as the vapor of the clouds and as fierce as the flames of the fire tornado.  And I am with you always . . . even to the end of time.

Our God appears to us as a vulnerable child who needs protection and guidance from his earthly parents; and yet it is the grown and matured man who heals, protects and guides us, his adopted sisters and brothers.  Jesus lives a life that is both kind and just, and his actions are a clear demonstration of God’s love for each of us.  We must learn to trust this marvelous, mysterious love.

Enter the word trust in the blog search bar and examine how, and who, and what, and why we trust.

For a reflection on Nehemiah 9, visit the  Confession  post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/12/30/confession/

The cloud image above is from the Pinch of Grace blog that is no longer active. 

For a BBC video of a rare fire tornado in Brazil in August of 2010, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11086299

A Favorite from July 15, 2013.

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Judges 14 and 15: Philistines

Saturday, June 24, 2017 

Alexandre Cabanel: Samson and Delilah

A few days ago we reflected on the story of Samson and Delilah; today’s we consider our lack of understanding that God frequently uses surprising people and circumstances to bring God’s plan to fruition.  In Samson’s early life, we read that he wants to marry a young woman who was not a member of one of the seven non-Israelite tribes with whom the people of Israel were permitted by their Law to marry.  Looking at verse 4, we see that Samson’s desire to marry this young woman is upsetting to his parents – as it would be to a believing Jew – yet it will be used as part of God’s plan to save the faithful.  Now his father and mother did not know that this had been brought about by the Lord, who was providing an opportunity against the Philistines; for at that time they had dominion over Israel.  This story, therefore, today tells us something important which is . . . we never know how or when God will use unexpected people and circumstances in our lives to bring about his plan.  Sometimes we must marry a Philistine. 

The long story of Samson tells us about how people will want to control divinity rather than learn how to be a part of it.  We see in the unraveling of these plots to harness Samson that these people misunderstand how God works.  In the end, the wicked will fall by their own hand, and any harm they have leveled against the faithful will be used for good, but – and this is so important – with the consequences they had planned for others falling on them.

If we are patient, we begin to understand how Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman plays out not only in Samson’s life but in the life of the community as well.  What happens to this woman, what happens to her family, and how Samson arrives at being one of a series of Israelite Judges is a story that unfolds in a string of twisting, unpredictable events.  All of this leads to the saving of a people, a nation, and a way of living that God has marked as special.  These ironies and turnings are not a jumble of calamities; rather, they are God’s plan to open us to eventual results that no one dreams possible . . . except for God and those who believe and trust in God.  Today we see that God makes the impossible possible.

Both this story of the young Samson, and the story of his relationship with Delilah are the same metaphor: Samson poses a riddle and is betrayed by someone whom he loves and trusts; the resulting reprisals end in Samson displaying his trust in God alone.  Even though he may possess the strength of a thousand, only God saves him; he cannot save himself.  Eventually with his death in Gaza, Samson kills more Philistines in one final act than he ever did in his lifetime.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009.

Tomorrow, the Philistines in our lives.

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1 Peter 2:4-9: A Living Stone

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

Today Peter says to us,

Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable.

We reflect on the times we have rejected the Word that has come to us through the voices and actions of others; and we remember the times we are rejected when we struggle to bring light to darkness.

God says,

I chose a valuable stone,
    which I am placing as the cornerstone in Zion;
    and whoever believes in him will never be disappointed.

We examine the strength of our faith in Christ as the Living Stone, the foundation of the new temple in which each of us is invited to join Christ as living stones raising thanks to God.

Isaiah foretells and Peter repeats,

This is the stone that will make people stumble,
    the rock that will make them fall.

We explore the depth of our hope, the strength of our love, the authenticity of our trust and the clarity of our minds as we give our hearts over as Living Stones for Christ.

Peter reminds us,

They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.

As we reflect, we open ourselves to the reality that our stumblings are tumbles into Christ’s arms. Our shortcomings are windows into the New Temple of Living Stones. And our failings are invitations to join Christ as the cornerstone in our new lives of peace.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore thee verses, we recognize the Word and we become more willing to tumble into Christ’s ample, healing and loving heart.

For  better understanding of the city of Zion and what it might represent, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/z/zion.htm 

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