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Philippians 4:4-14: God’s Yardstick – Paul

Whatever is Truetruth

Saturday, January 28, 2023

We continue to look for God’s yardstick in the New Testament.

Paul writes his story of the good news in his letters to Christian communities he establishes, and in the acts of love recorded in Acts of the Apostles. What does he tell us about the measure with which God measures?

Paul urges the followers of Christ to celebrate always . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 

Paul asks that we share Christ’s goodness with all we meet and in all we do and say . . .

Let your gentle spirit be known to all.

Paul urges the followers of Christ to rely on prayer . . .

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer.

Paul reminds us to put our petitions in the creator’s hands . . .

Let your requests be made known to God.

Paul advises us to focus only on Christ . . .

Guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul gives a yardstick that is strong, concise, simple and elegant . . .

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

When we explore Paul’s letters we find a consistent, clear message. This is a yardstick we will want to use. It is a yardstick we will want to share with others.

Tomorrow, James.


Image from: http://www.viralnovelty.net/wake-know-truth/

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Daniel 13: God’s Yardstick – Susanna

When Goodness attracts Evil

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Thursday, January 12, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Today’s Noontime is a beautiful but difficult story.  An innocent, virtuous woman is wrongly accused; and an innocent yet wise child reveals lust and deceit.  Goodness wins in the end; evil slithers away to return another day.

The idea that Susanna’s virtue is the reason for her trial is a frightening thought. Her parents took care, the story tells us, to bring her up in the ways of Yahweh. And this was what stirred the lascivious men.

What does Susanna do when accused? To whom does she turn? What does she say in her defense?

Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly . . . “Oh, eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me”.  As the story continues, we see that the evil elders – whom the people had trusted – are done in by their own web of lies. The story unfolds as the child Daniel cries out: Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” . . . The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. 

UK Parliament - John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

UK Parliament – John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

The end of this story is immediately satisfying. Unfortunately for us, situations like these in our own lives may endure many days or months or years before the lies against us are revealed; yet revealed they will be for God’s goodness and truth always overcome darkness. The measuring stick that Susanna uses, and that we must use, is to follow Yahweh, the creator who molds us from star dust for the purpose of love alone.

Our task, as followers of Christ, is to faithfully and persistently petition God, to fall back into the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to model ourselves after Jesus, and to continue to hope in the covenant promise that we are eternally forgiven and saved. We might remind ourselves of the gifts we receive when we use God’s yardstick at the troubling times in our lives. The message of Daniel is clear:  When goodness attracts evil – as it surely will – the faithful need not fight; they need only rely on God, and never allow themselves to be separated in any way from their God who measures life in so loving a way. And so we pray . . .

The gift of persistence calls us to rely on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of faith asks us to place our petitions in God’s hands.

The gift of hope in the person of Jesus shows us how to offer love on behalf of our enemies.

The gift of life itself asks us to allow goodness and truth to conquer lust, lies and deceit. Amen.


A favorite from Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Enter the name Susanna in the blog search bar for more reflections about this woman.

Images from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663722 and http://www.parliament.uk/about/art-in-parliament/global/print/?art=3245

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIIsolarsystem

A Prayer in Response to God’s Gift of Delight

Thursday, December 29, 2022

We near the end of a cycle of days and weeks and months that we designate as a year. Soon we will celebrate the past twelve months in which we have known great sorrow and great joy. As we consider all that we have seen and heard, felt and believed, let us give thanks for the gift of delight itself, the gentle pleasure that rises from honest relationships and open minds. Just as God delights in us, let us delight in God.

For the gift of winter cold that draws us together as we look for shelter and welcome friends and strangers from the wind. Let us treasure each winter hardship just as God treasures each of us. The infinite iterations of flakes on frosted windows can remind us that just as God creates each of these beautiful designs, so does God create each of us with our own unique features, joys and anxieties.

snowflake2For the gift of drawing in, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of spring that reminds us that new life always rises from the old. In springtime exuberance we open our hearts to the possibilities of our own resurrection. We remember that God always brings goodness out of harm, love out of hatred, generosity out of what is meant to be cruel, and love out of gestures of hatred and shame. The tiniest of plants and creatures burst forth in a rush to celebrate God’s goodness. Giant stars and the multiverse expand to open great hearts for God’s enormous love.

wisdom-at-creationFor the gift of burgeoning hope, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of summer that brings us into the energy of God’s passion and mercy. In the fullness of summer heat, we remember that with God all things are possible. With God all miracles bring new life and new meaning. With God resurrection is more than an idea or hope. Burgeoning crops, teeming waters, rain and sun drench us with God’s abundance and generosity. God calls us to match this zeal with the stores of understanding and courage we lay aside for the difficult times ahead.

KY-Breaks-Interstate-Park-river-sceneFor the gifts of kindness and goodness, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of autumn when we harvest the fortitude, perseverance, fidelity and truth that God has shared with us. We remember that nothing of this world is meant to take the place of God. We recall the great delight God has expressed in our willingness to be open to others just as Jesus is open with us. We respond with compassion and an ardent desire to heal broken relationships and people. We return this gift with our own desire to heal and advocate.

fall-leafFor the gifts of forgiveness and restoration, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

In all seasons of this year to come, we unite in a new thankfulness for God’s love, a new willingness to live as Jesus does, and a new urgency to heal and console just like the Holy Spirit. May we find the energy and determination to live in such a way that all those who encounter us will know that we delight in God’s own delight in us. Amen.


For a reflection on a full measure of joy, click on the snowflakes or visit: http://fullmeasureofjoy.com/?p=4253 

For a reflection on God’s wisdom in creation, click on the plant shoot or visit: http://elcmthoreb.org/2013/07/12/gods-wisdom-in-creation-this-week-at-elc/

For a reflection on seeing God’s creation, click on the river image or visit: http://www.seeingcreation.com/2012/nature-photography/natures-dictionary/

For a reflection on seeking God, click on the image of the leaf or visit: http://nancyaruegg.com/category/seeking-god/ 

 

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Philippians 4:1-9: Joy and Peace

Monday, December 26, 2022

Carl Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child (detail)

Carl Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child (detail)

Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! 

St. Paul establishes this first community in Europe on his second missionary journey sometime around the year 50 and though his subsequent travels, he reminds the Philippians that . . .

Your kindness should be known to all, the Lord is near.

He sends the Philippians advice which we might take today . . .

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

While in Philippi, he converts a wealthy business woman, his jailer and the jailer’s family, and he later writes to this community to remind them of what is truly important . . .

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . .

This letter was written while Paul was imprisoned elsewhere, perhaps Rome, Caesarea or Corinth; but wherever the prison, he continues to exhort his fellow Christ followers in Philippi to . . .

Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child

Carl von Marr: Adoration of the Christ Child

During this Christmastide, may you all know the Joy of Christ’s Hope, and may you all rest in his Serene Peace . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! 


A favorite from December 26, 2007.

Images from: https://www.jsonline.com/story/entertainment/arts/2017/12/25/carl-von-marrs-adoration-depicts-virgin-mary-different-light/968413001/ 

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Judges 17: As We Are – Part III

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2022

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_adoration_of_the_Shepherds

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Shepherds

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on the gift of life that comes to us in the innocence of a child.

As we are . . . We come to the crèche to adore as the lowly shepherds came. The poorest, the marginalized, the abandoned and neglected. We bring our worries and anxieties . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the stable as the Magi came. The wise, the enlightened, the privileged and comfortable. We bring our hopes and our fears . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the Christ child as people for millennia have come. The troubled, the peaceful, the miserable, the joyful. We bring our dreams and plans . . . just as we are.

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_Adoration_of_the_Kings

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Magi

As we are . . . We come to Christ as our families and colleagues, our friends and enemies come. We come to Christ’s beauty and innocence and we are either closed or open. We come to life in Christ, and Christ accepts us . . . just as we are. We give thanks for God’s great generosity today.


To listen to the Radiolab podcast on Normalcy today to consider how the norms we adopt open or close us to hear God’s voice, visit: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91693-new-normal/

To reflect on how we come to the Christ child this Advent, click on the images above and study Maíno’s paintings in detail The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Magior visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/adoration-of-the-shepherds/103e1807-2917-4906-87ce-71a3a027f37e?searchid=f9f31297-8ba6-6a71-c8f9-8e467d5eb988 and https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-adoration-of-the-magi/3f1f4d63-0476-4ac0-904f-776713defe78?searchid=9245f6a4-fab5-7ba0-23b9-1181d542b32c 

 

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Galatians: Watchful Fidelity

Monday, November 28, 2022galatians-mclellan

A Favorite from November 30, 2008.

This epistle, along with Romans and 2 Corinthians, was written to re-state the Gospel story which had been perverted by Pharisaic emissaries to their communities.  The Galatians were most likely descendents of Celts who had invaded western and central Asia Minor in the third century B.C.E. near modern Ankara, Turkey today.  (Senior 293)

After reading these verses, we understand the importance of fidelity, for it is faithfulness that gives birth to true Christian charity, love that is so enduring it is extended to our enemies. It is this love that brings us true spiritual liberation, a freedom that makes it possible for us to be truly and totally open to Christ. This is the invitation we all receive at our baptism, and it is this invitation that continues to be open to us.

Paul is exasperated with his friends. Oh stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you have heard? Are you so stupid?  (3:1-2)  He may well be exasperated with us today.

steadfastness-vs-instability-5-728Paul asks these converts to remain steadfast in their belief and to turn aside from those ideas which subvert the truth. Realize then that it is those who have faith who are the children of Abraham.  (3:7) Paul knows how easy it is for us to be turned by old customs and long-held beliefs. He asks that we take these beliefs and magnify them in the way we have been taught by Christ.

You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth? (5:7) We might ask ourselves this question when family, friends or associates try to convince us with logic and “group think” of something we know to be counter to Christ. We might also ask ourselves this question when formal structures refuse to listen to an idea which blooms from the heart. We will want to read this letter when our faith in the risen Christ is challenged. This is when we will need to hear again . . .

Fruits of the SpiritThe fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit let us allow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.

Spiritual freedom comes when we are faithful and watchful. As we begin the Advent season this week, let us resolve to put aside behaviors that inhibit a free and open union with Christ. Let us decide to watch for his coming. And let us allow ourselves to be transformed by the living Christ. The reward for all of this patience and endurance is beyond imagining. For when we empty self to allow Christ in, when we give up all to obey, we do not lose ourselves, we gain something far greater. True Life. Eternal Life. Life with and in Christ.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.293. Print. http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Galatians&ch=

For another post on the Book of Galatians, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/galatians-magnanimity/

Images from: http://www.slideshare.net/toprank414/steadfastness-vs-instability and http://sincerelysarad.com/july-memory-verse-fruits-spirit/

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Wisdom 11:2-5: Special Providence in Exodus

First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2022exodus-gods-and-kings-review-biblical-epic-plagued-with-flaws-jpeg-198729

The Book of Wisdom prepares us for Advent, our time of Exodus from darkness into the light of truth, hope and love. God is always with us, guiding and protecting; yet in a special way God accompanies us closely when we move out of a place of comfort where our unhealthy behaviors are enabled into a place of health, where we work on our rough edges. When we make this kind of transition from being prisoners of a habit to being free to hear the surprising new behavior God has in mind for us, we place ourselves at risk. We take a leap of faith, believing that as we shed our old safety net, God will place an even better one beneath us. When we journey from a state of slavery to a state of freedom, we are accompanied by the pillar of smoke by day, the column of fire by night. God provides for his faithful in a very special way as they make themselves vulnerable for his sake.

And so we pray . . .

They journeyed through the uninhabited desert, and in solitude they pitched their tents . . .

When we feel most alone we are most attended. When we suffer we walk in the company of God’s angels . . . for we are especially loved and kept by God.

They withstood enemies and took vengeance on their foes . . .

The faithful do not need to fight; rather we need only witness to the story of God’s coming among us. The rest we leave in the hands of God who turns all harm to good.

When they thirsted, they called upon you . . .

When we are in misery, anxiety, fear of any kind there is only one place to turn. To God.

And water was given them from sheer rock . . .

Then we are to expect the unexpected, the inverse, the surprising, the paradox.

Assuagement for their thirst from the hard stone . . .

gods providenceWe are precious in God’s eyes, made in God’s image.  We are stones of a living temple to be rejected by those who build upon the sand, but placed upon a strong foundation by the one who endures.

For by the things through which their foes were punished they in their need were benefited. 

We will know how to interact with our foes when we look to their suffering rather than our own. We can expect God’s guidance and protection as we work to become God’s disciples. And so we pray.

Good and watchful God, 

We enter into our exodus journey to you. We know that you will not allow a foot to be dashed upon a stone. We believe that you will not desert us. We trust that you sustain us from your goodness. We believe that you teach us through our many trials. We ask your continued patience with us when we doubt, your continued love for us when we err, your continued hope for us when we falter. We who are made in your image strike out from a foreign land of enslavement to move homeward in freedom. Call us constantly back to you when we stray. Keep us close by you. Always. Amen.


Images from: https://www.perfectbrilliantstillness.org/what-is-page-3/hand-holding-planet-earth-crop-and-darken/ and https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/exodus-understanding-one-of-the-bibles-major-themes

A favorite from December 2, 2008.

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Matthew 18:1-5The Greatest in the Kingdom

first shall be last

James Tissot: The First Shall Be Last

Friday, November 18, 2022

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 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. 

Image from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4518

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James 1:16-18: Rivers of Light

Saturday, October 1, 2022rivers of light

This first chapter of James’ letter contains beautiful imagery. This man who knew Jesus so well reminds us that in our hectic, chattering world we must work to stay on the path of Christ.

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course.

James repeats that every good thing in our lives comes from God.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.

James likens God’s gifts to a flowing, sustaining ribbon of goodness that nourishes and sustains.

The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.

James reminds us that in God there is no darkness at all. There is only goodness, and truth and mercy.

There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.

James tells us again that God comes to us in a very tangible way in the person of Jesus.

God brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

And it is Jesus who longs to love our sadness into joy. It is Jesus who wants to heal where there is pain and wounded-ness. It is Jesus who shares eternal life with us in the Father and in the Spirit.

And so my dear friends, James says, do not be thrown off course by the tragedies that stalk you. Remember that Christ is an ever-present, ever-giving, ever-transforming force that cannot be quenched. Remember that in order to maintain a balanced view you must ask loudly, and you must expect patiently that with God all things are possible. With God, all obstacles become gifts and all harm is turned to good. With God . . . there is always a river of light to lead, and guard and guide. We have only to be open to its presence. 

Tomorrow, what makes us wise?


Use the scripture link to reflect on other versions of these verses, and to open the possibilities of Christ’s great river of light.

Image from: http://www.adverblog.com/2012/07/23/rivers-of-light-in-colombia/

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