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Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’


John 15:15: Fools and Friends

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jesus reminds us that he calls us his friends. To think we are otherwise is foolish.

I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father.

As we consider what it means to be a friend of Christ, we remember this Favorite written on November 1, 2009. Sirach 22

There are many verses in this chapter that to make us smile and at times laugh aloud. Jesus ben Sirach knows human nature well; and he understands the importance of true friendship in which even the action of drawing a sword against a friend can be undone.  Yet, in these verses there are gentle warnings: the rest of us stand aloof from those who harm friends, treachery can drive away any friend, prosperity can get in the way of friendship, insults cause great harm in close relationships.

Equally significant are the verses pertaining to fools and those addicted to laziness.  Who among us has not been a fool at one time or another, and who among us has not been damaged by a fool?  Sirach advises well when he writes: teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot, or disturbing a man in his sleep . . . speak seldom with the stupid man, be not the companion of a brute . . . neither can a timid resolve based on foolish plans withstand fear of any kind.

We find many examples of foolishness, laziness, brutishness; and we see the value of tending to friendships.  In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul plays with the ideas of foolishness and weakness in humans and in God.  We become weak and foolish as humans in order to become strong and wise with and in Christ.   We give over our worldly wisdom and strength in order that we might submit ourselves freely to God’s will and power.  This is the secret of inversion in Christianity; and it is a truth we sometimes find difficult.  In 1 Corinthians 3:18-23 we read:  Do not deceive yourselves.  If anyone of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “the Lord knows that their thoughts are futile”.  So then, no more boasting about men . . . all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 

Today we have something to ponder as we wind down into the evening, into prayer and into sleep.  What or who do we see as foolish?  What or who do we see as wise?  What or who do we see as strong?  What or who do we see as weak?  Do sincere friends abound?  Who and what do we suffer and why?

Sirach presents a stark contrast in this chapter as do our own lives.  Everywhere we look we see the lights and darks that present an ever-shifting world; but the one true place we will always find a steady foundation is the masonry bonded with wooden beams . . . not loosened by an earthquake . . .This foundation is Christ.

A resolve that is backed with prudent understanding is like the polished surface of a smooth wall.  This resolve is funded by Christ.

Small stones lying on an open height will not remain when the wind blows . . . so this is why we must stand on the rock of Christ.  All else is weak.

Neither can a resolve based on foolish plans withstand fear of any kind . . . and this is why we must place our friendship in Christ.  All else is foolish.

We consider our friendship with Christ as we pray Psalm 122, and repeat the antiphon, For the sake of my family and friends, I say it again: live in peace.

Tomorrow, becoming salt. 


For more reflections on friendship, enter the word friend into the blog search bar and explore.

For more on the friendship pyramid and the stages of friendship, click on the image from: https://humans.media/stages-of-friendship

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John 15:1-5: Branches

Thursday, June 14, 2018

We have examined scripture to reflect on the ways in which the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love in our identity in Christ exemplify our relationship with God in the Spirit. Jesus tells us who he is, reflecting Yahweh’s promise of “I Am Who I Am”. Today we continue to reflect on who we are, and on how we respond to God’s call for merciful justice in all of creation.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples”. (THE MESSAGE)

Rather than giving in to our fear that we might fall away from the Vine of Christ, we consider the beauty of union with all of creation.

Rather than seeking revenge for the injustices we suffer, we reflect on the wisdom of grafting ourselves to the healing truth of the abiding Spirit.

Rather than lamenting the evil that stalks societies, we contemplate the truth of pruning away all that separates us from the courage and patience of God.

Today we have the opportunity to produce fruit on the great vine of life. Today we rejoice in the gift of Christ’s vineyard. Today we come together in the Spirit of beauty, wisdom, truth, and love.

We pray Psalm 80and we consider God’s gifts of healing, restoration, and transformation while we repeat verses 8-10 as the antiphon, 

You brought a grapevine out of Egypt;
    you drove out other nations and planted it in their land.
You cleared a place for it to grow;
    its roots went deep, and it spread out over the whole land.
It covered the hills with its shade;
    its branches overshadowed the giant cedars.

 


To find more Vine and Branches posts on this blog, use these links.

The Vine and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/05/19/john-15-the-vine-and-branches/

Sawing Off Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/01/30/mark-322-30-sawing-off-branches/

Roots and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/02/07/roots-and-branches/

Grafting to the Vine: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/05/26/psalm-106-grafting-to-the-vine/

Enter the words, Vine or Branch into the blog search bar to explore other reflections.

When we compare other versions of these verses, we discover the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love of our relationship of Vine and Branches.

Image from: https://www.stpeterschurchchicago.org/cm/articles/vine-and-branches

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Sirach 40: Joys and Miseries of Life

Monday, June 4, 2018

This reflection is adapted from one written August 8, 2007, and it reminds us that we benefit from exploring the human life of Jesus as we navigate the highs and lows of life.

The book of Sirach contains wonderfully easy-to-understand capsules of true wisdom intermixed with Old Testament ideas that Jesus the Messiah asks us to put aside.  Jesus Ben Sirach must have lived a full life in order to write all that he set down for us; and this chapter is no exception.  We examine verses 17 through 27 where he directly compares ways to measure our true success. Gold and silver make one’s way secure but better than either, sound judgment . . . The flute and the harp make sweet music, but better than either a voice that is true.

This chapter is sandwiched between two images of heaven, just as life is sandwiched between the two great transitions in life – our birth and our death. It follows one that describes the heaven we imagine and is followed by one that contemplates death.  This structure reminds us that all of us suffer, and all of us gain. All of us wonder about our origin and end. All of us wonder how we will survive all that destroys us, and how we will celebrate the joys that raise us up. But through all of this, Sirach reminds us that for those who worship false gods, the suffering will be worse while our gain will be as nothing.

All that comes from bribes or injustice will be wiped out,
    but loyalty remains forever.

Like Jesus, Sirach reminds us that all we accumulate vanishes while all we enact may live forever.

Wealth from injustice is like a flooding wadi,
    like a mighty stream with lightning and thunder,
Which, in its rising, rolls along the stones,
    but suddenly, once and for all, comes to an end.

Like Jesus, Sirach reminds us that all we do in anger destroys us while all we do in love is eternal.

The offshoot of violence will not flourish,
    for the root of the godless is on sheer rock.

Like Jesus, Sirach reminds us that all we hope in Christ comes to fruition and all we enact in love will endure.

But goodness, like eternity, will never be cut off,
    and righteousness endures forever.

Like Jesus, Sirach reminds us that all we live in Christ abides with us in our sorrow, and celebrates with us in our joy.

Explore the highs and lows in Jesus’ life by clicking on the category Life of Jesus in Art on this blog.


To learn more about how to find balance in life, click on the dancing flower girl image in this post or visit: https://findyourmiddleground.com/2014/01/08/the-highs-and-lows-of-life/ 

 

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Matthew 25:1-13: The Duality of Mercy

Friday, April 27, 2018

Phoebe Traquair: The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Some time ago, I heard a lecture concerning the difference between mercy and leniency that piqued my interest since the point of the lecture was that God uses tough love. God is always ready to forgive; God is always abiding. But we benefit most from this gift of loving kindness when we move toward redemption. We blossom with newness when we make reparations. We acknowledge God’s overarching authority when we agree to suffer well in God’s duality of mercy.

God is all merciful and compassionate, and God wants us to recognize and then work on our flaws. If we continually run away from our mistakes rather than fixing them, we reject the reason for our existence. When we refuse to repair the damage we have done, we avoid blooming into the potential God engendered in us at our inception. When we blame family, friends, colleagues and systems for our own unrepaired flaws, we miss the opportunity God wants for us to learn about the duality of mercy, mercy laced with a justice that saves even the most lost of souls.

As a child, I puzzled over the parable of The Ten Virgins, asking my mother why the five wise girls did not share lamp oil with others as we were taught to do in our large family. With wisdom-tinged sadness, Mother told me we usually learn life’s hardest lessons with the biggest bumps, and that, ultimately, it was God who understood our suffering best. Being locked out of the feast seemed an injustice to me, and yet as I grew I better understood the intelligence of Mother’s words. We learn most when we suffer. We learn deepest when we apologize. I began to picture God the party-giver flinging open the door to the feast to right a wrong, to invite the five foolish girls to enter after all. And perhaps this is what God does. But first, I now imagine as an adult, God insists that the five who scoffed at the prudent wisdom of those who prepared well must admit to their own selfishness in going to the feast unprepared. First, I now see as an adult, God moves us to look inward to see what needs repairing rather than outward to see whom we might blame. First, God says to them gently yet firmly, you must learn to trim the wick of your lamp. You must learn to conserve the resources I lend to you. First, you must open your heart to the duality of mercy.

Our roots go deeper and our branches reach higher when we examine ourselves with God’s merciful justice. Our lives have more meaning and our sharing is more authentic when we learn the lessons taught by God’s unprejudiced compassion. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, I still hear Mother saying. Yet the closed door at the feast feels so final and absolute, and so I continue to imagine another ending in which the door opens, the five apologize and amend their egocentric and imprudent ways, and the master invites everyone in to join in the feast.

Like the five foolish virgins, we must look to ourselves and make changes. Like the five wise virgins, we must continue in our prudence and wisdom despite the pressures of life. Like the many faithful seated at the Kingdom’s table, we must learn the language of God’s merciful justice in order to fully take part in the feast.


Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Ten_Virgins

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Jeremiah 20:10-13: Whispering 

Friday, March 23, 2018

On this Friday before Palm Sunday, we visit the first reading for today’s liturgy, and we reflect upon the difficulties of life when we believe our friends have betrayed us.

For I hear many whispering:
    “Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
    All my close friends
    are watching for me to stumble.

On this Friday before we re-live Christ’s deep passion for eternal life, and deep love for God’s people, we reflect upon the path that is open to us when we feel terror on every side.

But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
    therefore my persecutors will stumble,
    and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
    for they will not succeed.

On this Friday before we enter into the holiest of weeks, we reflect upon the wonders that God works in our lives . . . and we give thanks.

Sing to the Lord;
    praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
    from the hands of evildoers.

Visit the posts Desire and Terror, and Terror and Wisdom on this blog. https://thenoontimes.com/2012/05/09/desire-and-terror/ and https://thenoontimes.com/2012/03/04/terror-and-wisdom/

Image from: http://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2013/the-hearing-loss-whisper-game/

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Esther 10: Learning from Esther

Jean-François Portaels: Esther

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It is interesting that at the close of this story, we see Xerxes and Mordecai as heroes, while Esther – for whom the book is named – slips into the background. This is, of course, indicative of the ancient world in which society regarded women as possessions rather than full persons. We might then determine that the more important message is this: God loves the faithful so well and so endlessly, that salvation arrives in a time if crisis. In our contemporary era of unease, we hear this message gladly. This is good news for those who are beleaguered in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. This is redemption for those who work at transformation. This is deliverance for those who suffer.

Living in exile, Esther keeps her Jewish heritage secret. As a woman with little influence in her own life, Esther moves quietly through Xerxes’ court, maintaining a low profile. Mordecai’s petition for her assistance pulls Esther out of anonymity and moves her into a life that requires courage, patience and wisdom; and we watch as she relies on God for these qualities.

We have much to learn from this young woman who allowed herself to be led by the source that created and called her. When do we speak up? Why do we remain silent? We have much to explore in her story of quiet obedience and patient trust. When do we question? Why do we follow? We have much to share about the wisdom of this brave young woman.  When do we celebrate? Why do we rejoice? 

Today we ask . . . what have we learned from Esther?

Tomorrow, Mordecai’s dream . . . Esther is the river.  

For more on Esther, visit the Jewish Women’s Archive at: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/esther-bible 

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Ezekiel 34: Shepherds and Wisdom – A Reprise

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Julien Dupré: The Shepherd

Adapted from a reflection written on January 20, 2008, and explored last September. Today we explore again how scripture’s wisdom might help us discern the difference between true and false shepherds. 

Yesterday we explore the concept of the shepherd in Old Testament scriptures. Today we look at the books of wisdom to see what wisdom they hold for us as we look for a way to discern the difference between true and false shepherds.

In the Book of Psalms, the Holy Spirit brings us beautiful words of the comforting, guiding, protecting shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the divine shepherd.

Psalm 28 asks Yahweh to be our refuge and protection.

Psalm 78 describes the relationship we want to have with the good shepherd.

Psalm 80 asks the shepherd for restoration.

In the sapiential book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12, we hear that the words of wisdom are like the shepherd’s staff.

When we compare translations of these verses, we discover the qualities of the good shepherd. In hope we cleave to the shepherd who guides, who calms our fears, who gathers us in.

Tomorrow, prophets who shepherd us . . .

For more beautiful images of shepherds and their flocks, click on the image or visit the “Tending the Flock” post on the “Herding on the Web” blog. 

 

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2 Samuel 16: Adversaries

William Brassey: Hole: David Fleeing Jerusalem is Cursed by Shimei 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

We have journeyed through Christmastide. We have spent time with the magi and their gifts of wisdom, mystery and grace. Today we reflect on one of Jesus’ major messages: Loving our enemies.

Various translations present today’s story with varying titles; yet despite the words, the story of David’s patience, wisdom and forgiveness remains the same. David – who seeks forgiveness from Yahweh himself – understands the importance of mercy. David says that we need to allow our foes to curse us if that is the will of God, for who are we to stand in the way of God’s design?  When Shimei curses him, David says, Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. Later, in Chapter 19, Shimei returns to David and repents his cursing.  David forgives him.

What do we learn today? We never know when someone is on his or her conversion path, and to allow someone conversion of heart is correct, just, and God-like.

As we move forward into this new year, we will want to give thought to the benefit, the beauty and the grace we might find in allowing our adversaries to curse us.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore various versions of these verses, we discover the many gifts that come to us when we love our enemies. 

For an in-depth look at today’s story, visit: https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/what-about-reconciliation-a-lesson-from-shimei-and-king-david 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 4, 2008.

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Matthew 2:1-12Leaving by Another Road – A Reprise

Epiphany Sunday, January 7, 2018

Edward Burne-Jones: The Adoration of the Magi

With Christmastide ended, we find ourselves observing the official feast of Epiphany. What significance does this feast hold for us? To further explore, we return to a Noontime reflection on the wisdom of the Magi. We reflect on the wisdom they reveal, the wisdom of patience, willingness, and  openness . . . as they listen to God’s voice that speaks within. 

I love this portion of the Christmas story.  The wise men are so wise that they are able to read Herod’s secret intent.  Nothing can be hidden from the wise because they are so connected to the creator that they seem to have special insight.  What they really have is patience, serenity, and a finely tuned ear for God’s word.  And so the wise men left for their own country by another road.

I am thinking about the number of times I have averted disaster because that calm, strong voice within indicated that I was to stay put.  We notice that an attitude of patience and a willingness to obey always accompany the wise.  They do not appear to be brash or excitable.  They do not speak harshly, nor are they silenced.  Like the Persistent Widow, they know when to persevere in speaking God’s word.  And like the Three Magi, they know when to stand down and melt away into God’s protecting presence.

The wise know when to stand and witness . . . and when to leave quietly by another road.

A reflection from June 7, 2011.

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