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

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tzitzit

Daily Readings
Psalm 68 + Numbers 15 + Deuteronomy 8 + Matthew 24

Verse for the Day
• Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the LORD your God disciplines you. Deuteronomy 8:5

Daily Text Numbers 15:26-40
26All the congregation of the Israelites shall be forgiven, as well as the aliens residing among them, because the whole people were involved in the error. 27An individual who sins unintentionally shall present a female goat a year old for a sin offering. 28And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the one who commits an error, when it is unintentional, to make atonement for the person, who then shall be forgiven. 29For both the native among the Israelites and the alien residing among them--you shall have the same law for anyone who acts in error.
30 But whoever acts high-handedly, whether a native or an alien, affronts the LORD, and shall be cut off from among the people. 31Because of having despised the word of the LORD and broken his commandment, such a person shall be utterly cut off and bear the guilt. 32When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. 34They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp." 36The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
37 The LORD said to Moses: 38Speak to the Israelites, and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner. 39You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and not follow the lust of your own heart and your own eyes. 40So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and you shall be holy to your God.

Tzitzit
Sins of omission and commission are clearly spelled out in this passage both for the congregation and for the individual. And for the sins of omission, that is, inadvertent sin, there is immediate recourse to forgiveness. But the defiant, the image is of one who shakes his fist (NRSV, high-handedly), this sinner is to be punished, cut off from his people; this seems to be a way of saying ‘put to death.’ There is an illustration given of a man who was found collecting wood on the Sabbath. This is a deliberate disobedience, for not only was work proscribed on the Sabbath so were fires and food preparation, both of which he was ostensibly intending. It was a rare occurrence, this sin, so rare the people were unsure how to deal with it. They knew the law (Exodus 35:2, 3), but there may have been a question about how to carry it out. The upshot was stoning. But The key here seems to be the man’s defiance, his rejection of God and God’s law. The rabbis later identified the man as Zelophehad (Cf. Numbers 27:1).

As a means of reminding the people about their duty to obey the teachings of the Law, God gave them the law of fringes, the tzitzit or prayer shawl. This was to be worn always with the fringes exposed as a constant reminder that one was a child of God and required to follow the commandments. This prayer shawl is a direct forerunner of the Christian fringed stole worn by priests, deacons and ministers. Christians are not required to fulfill the 613 laws of the Torah, but for us to find ways to remind ourselves that we are children of God and to reflect that always is not such a bad idea.

Judgement and Mercy
From “The Devil to Pay”
Dorothy L. Sayers

All things God can do, but this thing He will not:
Unbind the chain of cause and consequence,
Or speed time’s arrow backward. When man chose
To know like God, he also chose to be
Judged by God’s values. Adam sinned, indeed,
And with him all mankind; and for that sin
God wrought a nobler virtue out for Adam,
And with him, all mankind. No soul can ‘scape
That universal kinship and remain
Human—no man; not even God made man.
He, when He hung upon the fatal tree,
Felt all the passion of the world pierce through Him,
Nor shirked one moment of the ineluctable
Load of the years; but from the griefs of time
Wrought out the splendour of His eternity.
There is no waste with God; He cancels nothing
But redeems all.
407:117

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