Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Living Differently

Daily Readings
Proverbs 6 + Numbers 25 + Deuteronomy 18 + Galatians 6

Quote of the Day
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Galatians 6:7,8

Daily Text: Numbers 25:1-3

While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. 2These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel.

Living Differently
Chapter 25 picks up where chapter 21 left off with the people settling across the Jordan river from Jericho. The so-called Book of Balaam is an interlude occurring while the people are in residence in this place called Shittim in Transjordan (across the Jordan from what we call the West Bank, today.) While there they involve themselves with Moabite (1-5) and Midianite (6-18) women. It may be that both Moabites and Midianites worshipped Baal on the summit of Peor. Remembering the vision of Balaam that the sons and daughters of Jacob are a people apart, this involvement attacks that vision, that is God’s vision for his people. And the attack comes from within, whether it was trickery or not on the part of the Midianites (25:16) the men of Israel had to consent. Their sin was sexual involvement with the foreign women and evidently worship at the Baal shrine including participation in the pagan feasts. A plague began to spread quickly throughout the camp. Whether it was a disease picked up by this behavior with temple prostitutes or one sent by God, it began to decimate the people.

Phineas, grandson of Aaron, following Moses directions to hold the leaders of those who prostrated themselves before Baal responsible, went into the tent of one Zimri who boldly took a Midianite chieftains daughter, Cozri, into his tent for copulation, and killed them both. Evidently, they were in the middle of the act for he ran them through their private parts with his spear. Such measures seem cruel and bizarre to us, but to the Lord, everything he had brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to be was at stake. In another time and place Paul [I Corinthians 5] insisted that one who lived in immorality be warned and then cast out of the church and his purpose was exactly the same as Moses’-- purity within the body set apart. Even that seems barbarous today, but the resulting body is one that expects and practices no purity, no vision of separation. Is there any act that could lead any 21st century congregation to discipline members? Probably not, but the Roman Catholic Church and others are beginning to hold their clergy to a biblical standard, double-standard though it is. Without the public and legal effort, however, these institutions would not have acted.

from Choruses of the Rock, II
T. S. Eliot

Of all that was done in the past, you eat the fruit,
either rotten or ripe.
And the Church must be forever building, and always
decaying, and always being restored.
For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of God,
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.
And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he
stands alone on the other side of death,
But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and
ill that was done by those who have gone before you.
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in
humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts
as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.
The church must be forever building, for it is forever
decaying within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that
while there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of
adversity they will decry it.
417:113

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