May 17, 2020, Jeremiah 21:8-14 – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

You can find Jeremiah 21:8-14 here –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+21%3A8-14&version=NRSV

IV.
When we left off the other day, I asked you to consider two questions –
1. How do we handle disappointment with God?
2. How do we know what in a Scripture passage is time/place specific and what should be universalized as we understand our lives lived as God’s people?

It would be great for us to talk with one another about how these questions strike us, how comfortable or uncomfortable with them we are, and how we respond to them. As we ask such questions in the presence of one another, and respond to them honestly, we all have opportunities to become maturing disciples of Jesus and discover ways to live more fully in the Kingdom he ushered in. Often, is not in answering questions but in living with the questions that we come nearer becoming the people God calls us to be. Do you think that might be part of what it means to “trust God”?

V.
Was the King disappointed with the Prophet’s response to his inquiry?

It seems clear he had an answer in the mind he was hoping for and do you think expected? Past history for him provided examples of God coming to the rescue of the nation, so why not once again?

But not this time.

Why? Had things gone too far? Had they moved too far away from living as God’s people? But still, they had failed in the past and God came to their rescue.

VI.
For me, there is no easy answer. At least not one that ties up such things in a nice little package that we can take out every time life doesn’t go our way, open the package and say, “See, this explains it all.”

That being said, maybe there is something of a way to move forward. After the Prophet said the rescue the King wanted (maybe expected) was not coming, then he told the King,

To the house of the king of Judah say: Hear the word of the Lord, O house of David! Thus says the Lord: Execute justice in the morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed, or else my wrath will go forth like fire, and burn, with no one to quench it, because of your evil doings. – (Jeremiah 21:11-12)

Is Jeremiah saying, “You know how the Lord wants you to live, you know what the Lord calls you to do – Go Do It!”

Do we keep trusting The Lord even in our disappointments? Do we keep moving toward the Kingdom The Lord establishes?

Some days, it’s hard. Very hard.

What would you do?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 17, 2020, Jeremiah 21:8-14 – ISSL Reflections

I.
The words we hear from the Prophet Jeremiah this week are set up by the inquiry King Zedekiah sends to the Jeremiah,

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malchiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, saying, “Please inquire of the Lord on our behalf, for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon is making war against us; perhaps the Lord will perform a wonderful deed for us, as he has often done, and will make him withdraw from us.” Jeremiah 21:1-2

If it’s true as I have heard before that most questions have the answer – or expected answer – held within the question, is it too much to see what the King wanted to hear? Or maybe even expected to hear?

What answer did the King receive?

As you spend time with this passage notice not only the answers that Jeremiah give, but also the different parties to whom he directs the Lord’s answers.

II.
Jeremiah 21:8-14 (New Revised Standard Version)

And to this people you shall say: Thus says the Lord: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Those who stay in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but those who go out and surrender to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have their lives as a prize of war. For I have set my face against this city for evil and not for good, says the Lord: it shall be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.

To the house of the king of Judah say: Hear the word of the Lord, O house of David! Thus says the Lord:

Execute justice in the morning,
and deliver from the hand of the oppressor
anyone who has been robbed,
or else my wrath will go forth like fire,
and burn, with no one to quench it,
because of your evil doings.

See, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
O rock of the plain,
says the Lord;
you who say, “Who can come down against us,
or who can enter our places of refuge?”

I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings,
says the Lord;
I will kindle a fire in its forest,
and it shall devour all that is around it.

III.
As we begin our reflections on this passage, I can’t help but wonder about two things.

First, how do we handle disappointment with God?

Does that sound irreligious to you? Or maybe you think it borders on the blasphemous?

But have there been times when you expected one thing of God, or God’s people, and an entirely different thing came about? Something you thought was wrong to happen? Especially to happen to you?

When God’s people disappoint us, do we sometimes blame not just the people but God for that?

Second, as we hear Jeremiah speak of the “disaster” awaiting the nation, what aspects of this are worthy of us applying to situations today? Said in another way, how do we know what in a passage such as this is time/place specific and what should be universalized as we understand our lives lived as God’s people?

Would you give that some thought, before we get back together?

We’ll talk,

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 10, 2020, Zechariah 8:1-8, 11-17 – Post 3 – ISSL Reflections

This week’s Scripture passage –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Zechariah+8%3A1-8%2C+11-17&version=NRSV

VIII.
Do the words of the Prophet offer you hope? Encouragement? A vision of a place, a home to get back to?

IX.
How does the prophet describe where the people are?

How does he describe where The Lord of Hosts wants them?

How does he describe what The Lord of Hosts wants for them?

How does he describe how The Lord of Hosts wants them to live?

X.
How do we take the instructions on how the people are to live?

Is it for the future restoration, redemption, return to the Kingdom, the coming of a New Kingdom, or maybe even the present time and place they find themselves in?

Do we wait for Kingdom living or do we live there now?

And, more to the point, perhaps, how do we begin to live there now?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 10, 2020, Zechariah 8:1-8, 11-17 – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

This week’s Scripture passage –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Zechariah+8%3A1-8%2C+11-17&version=NRSV

IV.
These words were first heard and later read in a world far distant from our own.

The passage as we find it in our Scriptures was selected to be read for this coming Sunday several years ago by the editors of this lesson series.

Yet …

Do the words have any contemporary ring for you?

V.
How does the Prophet speak to you in our “shelter-in-place,” “keep your distance,” and world in which the common place has been so disrupted.

Can you hear him speaking to people who long to go back to a world that was familiar and comfortable for them? A world from which they had been separated? Maybe we could even say, a world that was torn from them?

VII
Do the words of the Prophet (that he reports come from the Lord of Hosts), give you any reason for hope in your world today?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 10, 2020, Zechariah 8:1-8, 11-17 – ISSL Reflections

I.
Zechariah tells us, “The word of the Lord of hosts came to me saying …”

Where is the Prophet Zechariah? The Lord of Hosts? The people who are receiving this Word?

First, read the passage through slowly and with an openness to hearing and seeing what the Prophet hears and see, what the Lord of Hosts hears and sees, and what the people hear and see.

Enter the passage for a moment, at least, and live in that time and place

II.
Zechariah 8:1-8, 11-17 (New Revised Standard Version)

The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.

But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. Just as you have been a cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.

For thus says the Lord of hosts: Just as I purposed to bring disaster upon you, when your ancestors provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts, so again I have purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; do not be afraid. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.

III.
What sounds and looks familiar to you? What do you identify with in these ancient words written for a people very distant to us in time and place?

Why not read the passage again with an eye and ear to notice the familiar and for what seems very near to you?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 3, 2020, Zephaniah 3:14-20 – Post 3 – ISSL Reflections

VII.
Before we end our time with Zephaniah, let’s notice what he says about homecoming.

“… The Lord, your God, is in your midst …
… I will remove disaster …
… I will save the lame …
… [I will] gather the outcast …
… I will bring you home …
…. I [will] gather you …
… when I restore your fortunes ..,. “

Restoration, returning to Zion, is a theme in many of the prophets.

How many times can you recall the lame, the outcast, the despised being included in this homecoming, this reclaiming of Zion?

I suspect you will find it is often mentioned in the prophets, in the Torah, and in the Gospel.

VIII.
This passage began with the invitation for the people to “Sing … shout … Rejoice and exult.”

Then we told,

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.”

This homecoming finds the people rejoicing and God rejoicing and singing with them.

It seems to me this kind of time “when [God] restores your fortunes” must extend far beyond material fortunes.

How does it strike you?

Take time today to envision the time and place Zephaniah calls – Home.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 3, 2020, Zephaniah 3:14-20 – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

V.
The Prophet tells us to –

“Sing … shout … rejoice and exult with all your heart” (Zephaniah 3:14)

For what?

Isn’t there some object or precipitant for our rejoicing?

Read over this passage and pay attention for what Zephaniah tells us is worthy of our singing, shouting and rejoicing.

VI.
What do you notice?

Judgements taken away? Enemies turned away?

Certainly that would be reason enough to rejoice?

But are they the primary thing, the foundation for the singing and rejoicing?

Is there more? Maybe even something “deeper”?

What do you notice?

What gives you cause to sing, shout, rejoice and exult even today?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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May 3, 2020, Zephaniah 3:14-20 – ISSL Reflections

I.
This week we turn our thoughts to the Prophet Zephaniah and the closing words of his prophecy.

He starts with harsh words for the nation and a few sentences before the passage we focus on this week he tells the people,

Therefore wait for me, says the Lord,
for the day when I arise as a witness.
At that time I will change the speech of the peoples
to a pure speech,
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord
and serve him with one accord.
(Zephaniah 3:8a, 9)

It is perhaps when the “wait” is over that these words of Zephaniah can be heard with their full force and the confidence that the “wait” is over.

II.
Zephaniah 3:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version)

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.

I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.

III.
Did you hear, fully hear, the shout of the Prophet?

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart ….

Take the Prophet’s direction to “Sing … rejoice and exult …” as you read and reread the passage and notice what he asks the people to sing about.

What do you find? Are you encouraged to sing and rejoice?

IV.
While Zephaniah speaks of the day the “wait” is over, his words come to them while they are still waiting. And maybe they don’t even know what they are waiting for. They may feel trapped, discouraged, disillusioned, even think God has abandoned them.

Is it easy to hear “wait” when you are in a time of darkness?

Can you even hear the word “wait”?

What do you need to give you hope in such a time? Would Zephaniah’s call to sing and rejoice be heard by you?
How do you prepare yourself to hear the word of hope when it seems a hopeless time?

Listen to Zephaniah today and see if his words open to you hope and light?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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April 26, 2020, Isaiah 61:8-11; 62:2-4a – Post 3 – ISSL Reflections

IX.
This week we have looked at the images Isaiah uses to help us see and enter God’s Kingdom.

As we close our week with Isaiah, let’s look again at the passage in Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62:2-4 (New Revised Standard Version)

The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.

X.
Notice that the prophet tells us God’s people will no longer be called forsaken or desolate and that the Lord “delights in you.”

All that is certainly reason to rejoice, but I wonder what are we to make of –

and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.

We all have names.

For some the name we are called by changes as we age, and might even change based on where we are. Are we called by different names at work or at home or even at other places? Do different sets of friends know us by different names or nicknames?

But the name Isaiah references is special.

It is the name God gives us and calls us by.

It wouldn’t take long for us to notice there are a number of times in Scripture individuals are renamed by God. That renaming may often marks a new phase in their lives or calls to attention something of their character that might not have been previously noticed.

God names you and me. God calls to us by the name he gives us and by that calling I wonder if God might not be forming us into the person God would have us be.

What do you hear? What is God naming you? My Child? Beloved?

By whatever name God is calling you, trust that it is the name that gives you life and firmly places you in God’s family.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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April 26, 2020, Isaiah 61:8-11; 62:2-4a – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

VI.
On the last post I asked you to pay attention to the image/metaphor in the Isaiah passages that grabbed your attention the most, the primary image that stayed with you after reading the passages.

I hope you spent time with the passages and noticed what grabbed your attention.

If not, please take time to do that today.

VII.
When we come to Scripture, most of us bring a lot with us. It’s natural and can’t be otherwise. We bring what we have been told about Scripture, what we have heard preached and taught and notions from a thousand different voices.

All that forms a lens (maybe many lens) through which we see, hear and understand Scripture.

What if sometimes we could quiet some of those voices and let Scripture speak to us afresh?

VIII.
When I ask you to notice, pay attention, to the image that grabs you the most, that’s what I hope happens.

You listen to Isaiah, you pay attention to the prophet, and notice the world he is painting before you.

And then enter that world for a moment. What do you see? What do you hear? Would you want to live in that world? Or, are you uncomfortable there?

So, quiet yourself, still yourself, let go of the many voices that constantly seek your attention, and when you are still, look to Isaiah and ask him to show you the vision he has of God’s world.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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