Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
Sunday, November 17th, 2019


The very gift of free will says something about God's capacity for love. God's plan for creation did not involve a forced conformity at the strings of a feared puppeteer, but, rather, the freedom to choose love. Though this seemingly flawed blueprint for humanity has let loose a Pandora's box of suffering, yet it has also allowed for the free response of the heart, that is, for humans to respond to God's love so fully and utterly that they indeed become that which God dreamed them to be in the first place. Suffering, then, is a given; sin is unavoidable, but passionate commitment to the God of love is a possibility for all. How wise of God, we might say, to give us the opportunity to love. How wise of God to expand our hearts through the trials and joys of our lives. How wise of God to love us into choosing to love. God had two options: to choose tyranny or foolishness--how wise of God to choose folly....

By bestowing free will, God also chose to be powerless in human affairs and to open the Divine Self to the affliction of the whole human comic-tragedy. Were God to have a heart, then, God would have allowed it to be shattered by humanity's cruelty, greed, hatred, deceitfulness, violence and pride. In giving free-will, God became vulnerable.

  1. In what ways do you experience yourself to be God's "special possession"?
  2. Have you ever thought of God as "broken-hearted," and, if so, how has this influenced your spirituality?
  3. What message would Malachi have for the world today, especially in terms of how we treat the "strangers" in our midst?
Greetings, Readers!

We are living in days of fire -- literal fires that scorch the land, destroying both trees and homes; gun fire that shatters lives with each speeding bullet; and political fire that divides the nation, pitting citizens against each other, fueling hatred and intolerance. Flames are all around us, causing havoc, distracting us from the plight of the desperate ones who sleep on our streets or who wait at our borders, sometimes separated from their loved ones or "warehoused" under deplorable conditions. Fire is everywhere it seems.

In portrait photography, if a subject is in direct sunlight, the only way to avoid "raccoon eyes" or unsightly shadows is to "overpower the sun" with on-camera flash. The light from the flash evens out the lighting, thus saving the portrait. In days of fire, we need an additional light source to combat the fury --not a camera flash, but a million sparks of light, joining together with passionate intensity. May we be those spark of light, strong enough to provide clarity and reveal Truth, and bright enough to spread love in a world filled with hatred.

Many Blessings!

"Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
 when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch,"
 says the LORD of hosts.
 "But for you who fear my name, there will arise
 the sun of justice with its healing rays."
Mal 3:19-20A

Who are the proud and the evildoers who will be reduced to stubble ? Though our first reading predicts their grim fate, taken out of context, the text fails to illumine the reader. The answer, however, is easily accessible. All we have to do is go back a few verses and we learn that "sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers" are among the ranks of the wicked, as well as those who defraud employees, cheat widows and orphans, turn aside the stranger, or fail to honor God's Name (Mal 3:5). There is also another category of the condemned: the priests who offer God "polluted food" and who have caused many to go astray because of their teachings (Mal 1 & 2).

Lest we too readily assume we stand with the righteous, it is good to pause and reflect on what is so displeasing to God. In the first place, there are those who dabble in magic, betray their spouses or habitually lie-- in other words, those who pass themselves off as being something they are not. The sorcerer displays powers that might convince others that s/he is semi-divine, while cheats and liars hide Truth from everyone around them. People in these categories lack authenticity and deliberately create illusions that hide their nefarious ways. They can be charming, charismatic, entertaining, seemingly loyal and loving, seemingly holy, and, yet, at core, they are rotten. Then there are those who underpay and overwork their employees, or who cheat the vulnerable or who close their doors against foreigners. The "wicked" here not only refers to individuals but to systems, policies and even nations that fail to alleviate the suffering of the poor, the stateless and refugees. As for those who have dishonored God's Name, their surface sin is to offer an imperfect sacrifice; their deeper sin is to break faith with God by turning away from the Law, forsaking integrity and righteousness for profanity.

We will be judged, then, according to what we have done and what we have failed to do, both in terms of our relationship with God and our human relationships. God speaks through the prophet Malachi, railing at both priests and people : "Children know their father, and servants fear their master; if, then, I am a father, where is the honor due to me? And if I am a master, where is the reverence due to me?" (Mal 1:6). What rings out in this text is the voice of the broken-hearted God whose people, refusing to act with justice, trample the poor to make a profit. The Good News, however, is that God will have compassion on those who fear the Lord and trust in the Name of the Holy One: "'And they shall be mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'my own special possession'" (Mal 3:17).

To be God's "special possession" is the goal of the spiritual journey. If we live with honor, integrity and compassion, we will know "the sun of justice with its healing rays" (Mal 3:20); however, if we turn our backs on the poor, we will become ashes under the soles of the just ones...
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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,