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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Promised Land, "Oh, No!"

Daily Readings
Psalm 67 + Numbers 14 + Deuteronomy 7 + Matthew 23

Verse for the Day
• Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations…. Deuteronomy 7:9

Daily Text Numbers 14:1-4, 26-34, 39-45

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the LORD bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" 4So they said to one another, "Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt." 26And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 27How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they complain against me. 28Say to them, "As I live," says the LORD, "I will do to you the very things I heard you say: 29your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, 30not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31But your little ones, who you said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised. 32But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure." 39When Moses told these words to all the Israelites, the people mourned greatly. 40They rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, "Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned." 41But Moses said, "Why do you continue to transgress the command of the LORD? That will not succeed. 42Do not go up, for the LORD is not with you; do not let yourselves be struck down before your enemies. 43For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will confront you there, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you." 44But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, even though the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, had not left the camp. 45Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them, pursuing them as far as Hormah.

The Promised Land, “Oh, no!”
“Once upon a time twin boys were conceived. It wasn’t long before they discovered one another. They enjoyed the company and soon they were romping and playing together, laughing and rejoicing in their good fortune. How lucky to have been conceived and to live in such an accommodating world. In their more reflective moments the miracle of it all fascinated them. It was possible to imagine a harder environment, but here the temperature was exactly right, every need seemed to have been anticipated even before they could think of it. And the regular throb of life that surrounded them seemed to echo their own heartbeats. ‘Blessed be the mother who gave us life and each other,’ said one in an ecstatic moment. The other wondered.

“At first they didn’t notice the attached cord that nurtured them constantly, nor the fact that they were changing. The changes were fascinating and they kicked and wrestled with increasing strength and enthusiasm. And one shouted out, ‘all praise to the mother who sustains us with her life-giving blood.’ But the other said, ‘what it all means is that we are getting old and soon we must face birth.’

“They talked a lot about birth after that. They realized that all who had gone before had gone that way. ‘But there must be life after birth,’ said one. ‘It could be a more glorious life than ever we could imagine.’ ’How could that be?’ cried the other. ‘We will have to give up the life-sustaining cord—leave this world. I don’t believe there is such a thing as mother! It’s a figment of your imagination; you need to believe in a mother, so you do.’
’But if there is no mother, how do you explain the world—and us—and provision for our lives?’

“Gradually despair gripped the second brother. ‘We are conceived,’ he muttered. ‘We lead a meaningless life in this world, then birth—the end. It’s all absurd.’
‘I can’t believe that,’ said the first brother. ‘I just know that there is a mother and that there is more to life than we have felt or can imagine.’ ‘Has anyone ever come back from birth? Have you ever seen your mother? Has she ever talked to you?’

“There was no time to resolve the question, for suddenly the whole world tightened around them. While the first brother struggled to get his eyes open for the first time, the second desperately clutched his life-supporting cord.” Charles Wilson

On DeathAnne Killigrew

Tell me thou safest end of all our woe,
Wretched mortals do avoid thee so:
Thou gentle drier o’th’afflicted’s tears,
Thou noble ender of the coward’s fears;
Thou sweet repose to lovers’ sad despair,
Thou calm’t ambitions rough tempestuous care.
If in regard of bliss thou wert a curse,
And then the joys of Paradise art worse;
Yet after man from his first station fell,
And God from Eden Adam did expel,
Thou wert no more an evil, but relief;
The balm and cure to every human grief:
Through thee (what man had forfeited before)
He now enjoys, and ne’er can lose it more.
No subtle serpents in the grave betray.
Worms on the body there, not soul do prey;
No vice there tempts, no terrors there affright,
No cozening sin affords a false delight:
No vain contentions do that peace annoy,
No fierce alarms break the lasting joy.

Ah since from thee so many blessings flow,
Such real good as life can never know;
Come when thou wilt, in thy affrighting’st dress,
Thy shape shall never make thy welcome less.
Thou mayst to joy, but ne’er to fear give birth,
Thou best, as well as certain’st thing on Earth.
Fly thee? May travellers then fly their rest,
And hungry infants fly the proferred breast.
No, those that faint and tremble at thy name,
Fly from their good on a mistaken fame.
Thus childish fear did Israel of old
From plenty and the Promised Land withhold;
They fancied giants, and refused to go,
When Canaan did with milk and honey flow.


Blogger Norm said...

Joshua and Caleb were the only men greater than 20 years old to enter Canaan. The entire 1st Exodus generation, which murmured against God in the wilderness and refused to take the land, died off, except for Moses and the 2 faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb (who were the only 2 who wanted to proceed into the promised land... the others were afraid)
Jesus is the true Joshua: it’s the same name, actually, in Hebrew and Greek. He is the one who leads the people of God into their true promised land. This is referred to in Hebrews, Chaps 3 & 4. [N. T. Wright]

9:22 AM  

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