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

Friday, July 08, 2005

Changing of the Guard

Daily Readings
Psalm 101 + I Samuel 12 + Judith 8 + Hebrews 5

Quote of the Day
Do not try to bind the purposes of the LORD our God; for God is not like a human being, to be threatened, or like a mere mortal, to be won over by pleading. Judith 8:16

Daily Text:
I Samuel 12:5-7, 14-18, 22-23
5He said to them, "The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand." And they said, "He is witness."
6 Samuel said to the people, "The LORD is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of the land of Egypt. 7Now therefore take your stand, so that I may enter into judgment with you before the LORD, and I will declare to you all the saving deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and for your ancestors. 14If you will fear the LORD and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well; 15but if you will not heed the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.
16 Now therefore take your stand and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes. 17Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the LORD, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that the wickedness that you have done in the sight of the LORD is great in demanding a king for yourselves." 18So Samuel called upon the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. 22For the LORD will not cast away his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. 23Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Changing of the Guard
Samuel is not leaving, but in this address he recognizes the finality of the transition from covenental theology to monarchy. Something of this transition was faced by the U. S. colonies, thirteen of them, governed individually until the constitution was ratified. After that the long slow processes of change marked the end of an era and of possibilities. So it was in Israel. Samuel makes a case for his own role and that of other judges before him. He forces the people to witness that he has not personally profited. All the while Saul is in the background and one does not have to imagine too wildly to realize that he is impatient with all of this. After all he has battles to fight and wealth to accumulate and newfound authority to exercise. The passing the guard may be a sentimental journey for Samuel, but for Saul it is an irksome requirement.

Not only that in the process Samuel scores many points against the new monarchy forcing the people to realize that it is intrinsically a rejection of God. But even in that, covenant theology is to remain foremost and the king as institution is unimportant to theology. Here Samuel re-imagines faithfulness to the God of Israel within the hated monarchical structure. To bring the point home he calls for thunder and rain in a season of harvest when rain never came. “Like snow in summer” rain never came in harvest (Proverbs 26:1), but that day it did and it served to heighten Samuel’s power and YHWH’s power in the eyes of the people, and they feared them both. New king maybe, but Samuel served them notice that he was the one with the open channel to God Almighty.

Finally, Samuel recommits himself as pastor, priest and prophet. “’Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way” [vs. 23]. All is changed; you have a king, but never fear, I will continue to be with you as a resource with the God of Israel. And so he was, and so were the subsequent prophets who continued to point out the futility of monarchy, of central government, all the way into exile, and back. Who was the one to rescue them when saving was needed? Only YHWH.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

The Thing We Long For
From “Longings”
James Russell Lowell

The thing we long for, that we are
For one transcendent moment,
Before the Present poor and bare
Can make its sneering comment.
404:234

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

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