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Walking in agreement

Chapter 49

Good Monday Morning to this week 49 of 2022

The second candle to the second advent which is purple, stands for faith.
Because it serves as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey.

Walk” and “walking” are the Bible’s most frequently used metaphors for two related concepts. Depending upon the translation, they are used most used to indicate interaction with another and making progress toward a destination. Somewhat related but used to a lesser extent, “walk” or “walking” indicates the passage of time as a person continues in a chosen direction of life and lifestyle. 

Psalm 119:45: And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.

A pilgrim is a person on the move, traveling from one place to another. It is usually used in a religious sense of one who may have no settled habitation but knows where he is going. 

Scores of similar descriptions are scattered throughout the Bible. They provide a composite picture of the wide variety of the facets a spiritual journey. Since  Amos 3.3 shows that two cannot walk together unless they agree, a person walking with God illustrates that the two are in agreement.

I wish you a good spiritual journey this week and a good start to all you do.

Philemon

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A Vision of Peace

Chapter 48

Good Monday Morning to this week 48 of 2022

Amid the pain and violence of our world, we hold fast to this hope.
Carolyn Arends

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:14

In 2003, journalist Chris Hedges set out to determine whether there have been any sustained periods of peace on the human record. Defining war as any “active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives,” he reviewed 3,400 years of history and discovered just 268 war-free years. In other words, approximately 92 percent of recorded history is marked by active conflict.

Of course, the people of ancient Israel did not need a journalist to tell them that human existence is plagued by wars and rumors of wars. They had plenty of firsthand, trauma-inducing experiences with conflict, violence, and oppression. What they did need was a prophet who could provide them with a vision of peace. Isaiah brought them—and us—just such a vision. All the nations come streaming together to the mountain of God. That’s where they discover that the supposed dichotomy between peace and justice has been false all along. The Lord brings peace through justice.

And then watch what happens when humans find themselves in the presence of the Prince of Peace: The swords and spears they’ve brought to the mountain—weapons they’ve long assumed were necessary to their survival—seem suddenly out of place. The people lay down their arms.

Isaiah is not naive. He has seen the brutality that can and does characterize the human condition. But he’s also caught a glimpse of the verdant, vibrant, peace-infused future the Prince of Peace has planned for his creation. It’s the sort of vision that gives a weary prophet hope—a vision about the sort of prince who will one day cause angels to exclaim, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

Wishing you a good start to this new week of the 1st Advent

Philemon



Poor Man’s Pain

Chapter 47

Good Monday Morning to this new week 47 of 2022

Coming home this song popped up in my random song list. It immediately caught my attention. An incredible voice, but also an urgency in the text. So often thinking of social justice and social care – it sure was down that line.

Bravery can take many forms. For Danielle Ponder it took the shape of a leap of faith: leaving her successful day job working in the public defender’s office in her hometown of Rochester to devote herself full-time to sharing her powerful voice with the world. 

In 1982 Willie Simmons was sentenced to life for stealing $9. HIs story and many like his inspired this song by Danielle Ponder.

[Verse 1]
Did the crime pay more than time
Time and time, and time again?
Land of laws for the darker man
Freedom comes too slow
I could give up if my soul wasn’t with me
I could give up if the blood wasn’t in me
I’m pressing on, one day I’ll see the sun

Chorus]
I’m calling out to the heart of this land
Who’s gonna listen to a poor man’s pain?
And I’m reaching out, reaching out again
To anyone with the will to understand

[Verse 2]
Lonely nights and longer days
Count them down but they never fade
Hard to find who I used to be
I hold tight to what’s left of me
Cold are the days where the world doеsn’t see me
Cold are the nights whеre nobody needs me
Won’t be long, I’m coming home, ooh

[Chorus]
I’m calling out to the heart of this land
Who’s gonna listen to a poor man’s pain?
And I’m reaching out, reaching out again
To anyone who will see me as I am

[Outro]
Freedom, won’t you call out my name?
Freedom, won’t you call out my name?
Freedom, won’t you call out my name?
I am a man just like you, ha
I bleed the blood that you do
Well, I’m a man just like you, hey
I bleed the blood that you do
Yeah, freedom, oh yeah
Oh, freedom, oh yeah

To all out there that suffer incredible injustice . To those that
get a song and to those that don’t get a song and aren’t seen or heard.

Lord have mercy!

Philemon

Danielle Ponder – “Poor Man’s Pain” – Tiny Desk Contest 2020
https://youtu.be/KQDO-Lvo2_Y



Ghosting

Chapter 46

Good morning to this new week 46 of 2022

Last weekend we were reminded of some amazing stories of prophets. Lots of emphasis was on their worst and not their best moments. In new terms it sometimes seems as if they were ghosting …

Ghosting the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone usually without explanation by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages.

Moses

Moses, having killed the Egyptian guard did a disappearing act to Midian. Pharaoh heard about the killing and Moses thought it provident to become a missing person. This might be described as ‘crime flight’.

Elijah

Elijah, too did the disappearing act after he had won the great victory over the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel when, as told Queen Jezebel put a price on his head. He too thought it was a good idea to become a missing person, although he’d just called down fire from heaven to prove God’s power and disprove any power of Baal. This might be described as ‘fear flight’.

Jonah

Jonah did the disappearing act rather than go and confront the people of Ninevah about their impending destruction unless they repented. He jumped board ship to become a missing person where he eventually ended up inside a great fish, and was vomited out and went preaching. This might be described as ‘conviction flight’.

Prodigal Son

Jesus told the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15. This young man asked for his inheritance and disappeared to a far country where he lost the lot, but became a missing person to his family. When he came to his senses and returned, to his surprise a great party was organised, but his elder brother was not a little miffed as he’d never been given a similar celebration. This might be described as ‘family flight’.

Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul too did a disappearing act. In his letter to the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 2 verses 16-23) he disappeared for three years, during which the Lord communed with him. No one is quite sure how this worked out, for as a missing person he might have lived a hermit-type of existence, or found some other situation. What we do know is that “after this period”, Paul led what became the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. This might be described as ‘divine flight’.

In the United Kingdom around 600 people will have got up this morning, decided to walk out the front door and simply disappear. While many of those people who go missing later return, or eventually get in touch with family.

How many of us ghost God? How many of us never communicate with Him when we are in the good times? How many of us never communicate with Him when the going gets bad? Or when the state of our lives when nothing is going on? How many of us ignore God altogether? God speaks. He speaks to his people, and sometimes we can be so preoccupied that we miss it. So, I’ve got a couple of challenges for us today when God is trying to communicate with His people. Here’s the first challenge: Don’t ghost God. Don’t be the kind of person that just blows off the text or doesn’t return the phone calls when God is reaching out to us and God is trying to get our attention because in the Old Testament, God often tries to get the attention of his people through a prophet. 

And most of all, don’t skip the still, Small Voice of God after the wind, the fire and the earthquake.

Wishing a great start to this new week!

Philemon

Seeing is Believing

Chapter 45

Good Monday Morning to this week 45 of 2022

And they saw God …. Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel Exodus 24. 10

A few passages out of of Seeing is Believing. On the Relative Priority of Visual and Verbal Perception of the Divine by George Savran

What the form was which the elders saw, we are not told; but as it had “feet,” it was probably a human form. It may have been hazy, indefinite, “too dazzling bright for mortal eye” to rest upon. But it was a true “vision of God” – and, as Keil says, “a foretaste of the blessedness of the sight of God in eternity.” There was under his feet, as it were, a paved work of a sapphire stone. Pulpit Commentary

In comparing the modes of perception of the divine in the Bible, one finds a clear preference for hearing the word of God. The idea of seeing God in a variety of different manifestations is noticeably present, but is generally seen as less important perception.

However, in a number of cases where seeing and hearing are both present, seeing is presented as the preferable mode. 

Balaam first hears from God twice in night auditions, but seeing the angel of the Lord in a daytime manifestation brings home the message to him in a way that the spoken word did not. In a somewhat different fashion, Job’s ideas about seeing God are contrasted with the attitude of the friends toward direct revelation. This distinction points to the significance of the superiority of seeing God to hearing. Job’s statement here is not intended to describe a vision of God, but rather an appreciation of the perspective of the divine.

And when the Bible does distinguish clearly between visual and verbal perception of the divine, it seeks to indicate something about the nature of the encounter itself. Most biblical texts describe a dynamic tension between seeing and hearing, the two modes combining to complement and complete one another. In narrative texts, for example, Laban’s hearing and seeing YHWH is implored to incline his ear and  open his eyes. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that YHWH has both heard his prayer and seen his tears and will therefore grant him longevity. In poetic texts, seeing and hearing are often parallel, with no preference for one over the other.

When Moses says to YHWH “Show me your Presence,” he is asking for a glimpse of the divine essence in a clear physical sense. YHWH’s response, agreeing to reveal his back but not his front, emphasises this physical aspect, even if the words “face” and “back” are read as metaphors for direct and indirect views of the divine.

YHWH’s emphasis on covering Moses with his “palm” when he passes by gives the clear impression that a physical revelation is expected. But when the revelation actually comes in Exodus 34, what is emphasised is YHWH’s character as reflected in the aspects of divine behaviour described in 34:6-7—merciful, full of compassion, holding out the threat of punishment for a few generations, and the possibility of for-giveness for a thousand. 

Job is both similar and different. He too asks to see God, not so much to know the shape and size of divinity, but to vindicate himself in his claim of innocence. He wants God to appear in court, as it were,to answer Job to his face and to vindicate him once and for all, as he has been contending all along. However, what Job sees in the end is a deity who functions outside the normative rules of morality which the world of wisdom literature has come to accept. YHWH as revealed in the whirlwind speeches turns out to have a much broader conception of the organisation of the cosmos, a deity who is not defined simply by the usual conventions of divine manifestation or by those humannotions of morality and covenant which make the world a comprehen-sible place. This deity is wilder, much less constrained by conventional notions of morality, a god whose canons of behaviour in creation are farfrom anything Job could previously imagine. 

Seeing God in Job 42:5 means not that God is the object of Job’s gaze, but that the divine provides a subjective lens through which to see the world. For Job, seeing God means seeing the world through the eyes of God.

While the fact that seeing precedes hearing in these narratives may besimply a result of narrative sequencing, it creates the impression that the visual element serves as an introduction to the divine word. In certain cases it may well be a reflex of the personification representation of the Deity. Like a human visitor who appears on the scene before he speaks, he is apprehended first by sight.

Wishing you a blessed week of experiencing God in many senses!

Philemon 

Love Begins at Home

Chapter 44

Good Monday Morning to this week 44 of 2022

A bit overwhelmed by the circumstances, stress and turmoil around me, I decide to keep it short and simple this morning. Here is a beautiful short speech by Mother Teresa – on receiving the Nobel Prize in 1979.

Love Begins at Home 

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty. How much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.”

Wishing you all a good start to this new week.

Philemon

Re-enchantment

Chapter 43

Good Monday Morning to this week 43 of 2022

Now therefore, we do not know a person by the body, and if we have known the Messiah in the body, from now on we do not even know him so. All that is in the Messiah is therefore the New Creation; the old order has passed away to such. 2. Corinthians 5: 16-27 Aramic plain English

The Gospel is an enchanted story — hence our need for imagination. But it’s not just a story. We love redemption stories because we were created to inhabit such a story. It is enchanted, but it is real, this story Jesus is writing as He makes all things new and invites us to see the world with new eyes

Christianity is both a myth and a fact. It’s unique, it’s the true myth. C.S. Lewis.

‘Everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of 500 years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world and we do not.’ Indeed, a great many theorists have argued that the defining feature of modernity is that people no longer believe in spirits, myths or magic. C. Taylor 2008

Madeleine L’Engle, (our patron saint of Wondern Awe). She writes in A Circle of Quiet ,

“Our children… have a passionate need for the dimension of transcendence, mysticism, way-outness. We’re not offering it to them legitimately. The tendency of the churches to be relevant and more-secular-than-thou does not answer our need for the transcendent. As George Tyrrell wrote about a hundred years ago, “If a [man’s] craving for the mysterious, the wonderful, the supernatural, be not fed on true religion, it will feed itself on the garbage of any superstition that is offered to it.”

As the famous Chesterton quote points out, we know there are dragons, so the fairy tale does not create the fear of big bad things. Rather the fairy tale structure gives the thread that leads through the battle with the dragon and leads to the hope of returning home safely. And this is a hope that does not disappoint because this hope is true and trustworthy.

Is it not the basic formula what Romans 5 lays out for us?

And not only this, but we also boast in tribulations, realising that tribulation brings forth endurance, and endurance brings forth character, and character brings forth hope. And the hope of God never makes us ashamed because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us.

Wishing you an re-enchanted week!

Philemon


Mayday

Mayday in the sacred shadow

Chapter 42

Good Monday Morning to this week 42 of 2022

But he was pierced for your transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Finding the power of the sacred, not despite suffering, but in the midst of it. Through this alchemy, grief moves us from sorrow for what we’ve lost to gratitude for what remains. Fear of life’s fragility is transformed to the joy of living fully, with openness. And even despair becomes the ground of resilient faith – not just an opiate for our pain, but a profound commitment to life as it is. Miriam Greenspan

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Wishing you a blessed week, as you find strength in the sacred shadow of resilient faith.

Philemon

Our place in the story

Chapter 41

Good Monday Morning to this week 41 of 2022

Place is fundamental to human existence. However, we have lost the very human sense of place in today’s postmodern and globalised world.

It is rootlessness and not meaninglessness that characterises the current crisis. There are no meanings apart from roots. Walter Brueggemann

Place is a spiritual phenomenon, integral to our relationship with God in Christ. We often have had a tendency to separate the spiritual from the physical, earthly, and spatial. Even those of us who deny this separation have not consistently worked toward an affirmation of place and place-making. This, I would suggest, is what Bartholomew challenges us to do.
A few thoughts from finding our place in the Biblical story by Craig B. Bartholomew

Where is your and my place in this story?

When God set out to redeem his creation, his ultimate purpose was that what he had once created good should be utterly restored, that the whole cosmos should once again live and thrive under his beneficent rule.

From the beginning God’s people are to be “missionary.” They are chosen to be a channel of blessing to others. But in order to be a missionary people they have to be formed to be like the promise they carry.

If our lives are to be shaped by the story of Scripture, we need to understand two things well: the biblical story is a compelling unity on which we may depend, and each of us has a place within that story.

John’s vision in Revelation, indeed, in the whole New Testament, does not depict salvation as an escape from earth into a spiritualized heaven where human souls dwell forever. Instead, John is shown (and shows us in turn) that salvation is the restoration of God’s creation on a new earth. In this restored world, the redeemed of God will live.

The way we understand human life depends on what conception we have of the human story.

The world of the Bible is our world, and its story of redemption is also our story. This story is waiting for an ending—in part because we ourselves have a role to play before all is concluded. We must therefore pay attention to the continuing biblical story of redemption.

These quotes from C. Bartholomew encourage us to recover a sense of place and articulate a hopeful Christian vision of placemaking in today’s world.

Wishing you a good start to this new week as you keep seeking to find your place in the story!

Philemon







Cruel Optimism vs Contentment

Chapter 40

Good Monday Morning to this week 40 of 2022

Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?
Hebrews 13:5-6 / The Message

A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. Lauren Berlant addresses what desire really means from a personal perspective and how it is interconnected with our optimism and attachments. She affirms that desire should be tied to things that indeed bolster one’s flourishing rather than impeding it. The assertion is an inquiry into how humans view the present as something to overcome for our desires to be achieved. Further she affirms that life should be lived on life’s terms, thus to appreciate the beauty of the present we should not let attachments and hope distract us.

Is the sheep better that has two or three mountains to graze on than a little bee that feeds on dew or manna, and lives upon what falls every morning from the storehouses of heaven, clouds, and providence? Can a man quench his thirst better out of a river than a full urn; or drink better from the fountain which is finely paved with marble, than when it wells over the green turf? J. Taylor

There is a fable told about a king’s garden in which the trees and all the flowers began to make complaint. The oak was sad because it did not bear flowers; the rosebush was sad because it did not bear fruit; the vine was sad because it had to cling to the wall and could cast no shadow. “I am not the least use in the world,” said the oak. “I might as well die, since I yield no fruit,” said the rosebush. “What good can I do?” said the vine. Then the king saw a little pansy, which held up its glad, fresh face, while all the rest were sad. And the king said, “What makes you so glad when all the rest pine and are so sad? I thought,” said the pansy, “that you wanted me here because you planted me, and so I made up my mind that I would try and be the best little pansy that could be.” Let us all try to do our best in the little spot where God’s hand has placed us.

What a beautiful example for all of us is the resolution of the old lady who, from a crabbed and anxious body, became quite the opposite! When asked what had induced the change, she replied, “To tell you the truth, I have been all my life striving for a contented mind, and finally concluded to sit down contented without it.”

Wishing you a week full of contentment!

Philemon