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, July 07, 2005

Corruption and Power

Daily Readings
Psalm 100 + I Samuel 10:27b-11:15 + Judith 7 + Hebrews 4

Quote of the Day
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Hebrews 4:12, 13

Daily Text: I Samuel 11:5-9, 12-13
5 Now Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen; and Saul said, "What is the matter with the people, that they are weeping?" So they told him the message from the inhabitants of Jabesh. 6And the spirit of God came upon Saul in power when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. 7He took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by messengers, saying, "Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!" Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one. 8When he mustered them at Bezek, those from Israel were three hundred thousand, and those from Judah seventy thousand. 9They said to the messengers who had come, "Thus shall you say to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead: 'Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance.'" When the messengers came and told the inhabitants of Jabesh, they rejoiced.
12 The people said to Samuel, "Who is it that said, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Give them to us so that we may put them to death." 13But Saul said, "No one shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has brought deliverance to Israel."

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

Corruption and Power
Anointed and declared publicly to be king, Saul, in the manner of the judges goes back to his occupation, farming, until one day he hears of the plight of Jabesh-Gilead. In a manner reminiscent of the Levite of Ephraim in Judges 19, Saul in a fit of passion cuts up a yoke of oxen and sends the pieces to each of the twelve tribes to bring them to him at Bezek to defend the besieged city. It was this act that finally united all Israel behind Saul. He was chosen by God, anointed by Samuel, picked by lot from the tribe of Benjamin, but it took a war, a common effort, to unite all Israel behind his kingship. The nature of nationhood is defense, and unfortunately, all to often offense. Either way, war is more natural than peace, warmaking than commerce. Justice and mercy flee before the wrath of such focussed anger. In this case it may have been justified, but it is the nature of war and warmaking, to forget God and rely on arms. In this case, that did not occur. Saul knew that God had given him the victory, and when there were those who wanted to use his victory as a vehicle to punish his detractors, he demurred. Such humility did not last long. Perhaps by the very nature of power, it cannot.

For centuries YHWH had directed God’s people to avoid this path of centralized government, and the people finally would have none of it. It is a rule of biblical proportions that one can evaluate effectively the leadership of a group, be that nation, community or congregation by the leader’s observance of the ‘rules of God.’ Samuel in I Samuel 10:25 writes a book of guidelines for the king. That book we do not have, but we have the one it was based upon—Torah. Those rules may include public claims to serve God, but it is rather easy to evaluate whether that ruler actually does. Does he/she pursue peace rather than war? Support of the poor and helpless rather than the wealthy and powerful? Does this leader foster unity or polarization? Can the leader be trusted to insist on integrity or does this one allow corruption to flourish. Is the leader sensitive to all the people or in service to a few? Is coercion the tool of choice to maintain power or is there a willingness to become vulnerable in order to gain a true mandate for ruling? Does the leader respect foreign lives as much as those of homefolks, i.e., are all seen to be created in the image of God? Does the leader base policy on national interests or the interests of all concerned? Is mercy the hallmark of the leader or does one observe an implacable scorn for the rights of others? Does the leader foster liberty or work assiduously to curtail the freedom of others? Saul would have passed many of these torah concepts with flying colors at this the first test of his leadership. Unfortunately, his record slides precipitously downward thereafter.

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

No Nation Liveth Unto Itself
Author Unknown

Voices are crying from the dust of Tyre,
From Baalbec and the stones of Babylon:
“We raised our pillars upon self-desire,
And perished from the large gaze of the sun..”

Eternity was on the pyramid,
And immortality on Greece and Rome;
But in them all the ancient traitor hid,
And so they tottered like unstable foam.

There was no substance in their soaring hopes;
The voice of Thebes is now a desert cry;
A spider bars the road with filmy ropes
Where once the feet of Carthage thundered by.

A bittern booms where once fair Helen laughed;
A thistle nods where once the Forum poured;
A lizard lifts and listens on a shaft,
Where once of old the Colosseum roared.

No house can stand, no kingdom can endure
Built on the crumbling rock of self-desire;
Nothing is living stone, nothing is sure,
That is not whitened in the social fire.
407:1812

(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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