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

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Foil for Faith

Daily Readings
Psalm 96 + I Samuel 7:3-17 + Judith 3 + Mark 16

Quote of the Day
As they entered the tomb, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.” Mark 16:5, 6

Daily Text: I Samuel 7:3, 4, 8-10, 12, 15-17
3 Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the LORD, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." 4So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the LORD only. 8The people of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines." 9So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD; Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. 10As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the LORD thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. 12Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." 15Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. 17Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the LORD.

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

Foil for Faith
Note that Samuel, like Moses and Joshua, calls the people to worship the LORD solely. He is well within that tradition, that of a faithful follower of YHWH. How easy it is to recognize one like him. How confusing it is to recognize one who fudges here and there. But the people knew him as they knew Moses and Joshua. When threatened they requested that he pray for them. They were never confident that God would listen to them directly. Maybe it is always so that the people have a hard time with the life of faith. To trust that we can petition the LORD and expect that he will answer without being coerced or manipulated, but simply out of love for us is beyond most of us. [Following Brueggeman 430:51] Petition is the heart of prayer [from Barth] and Samuel leads the people in this exercise of faith that is the heart of true religion. Having repented and acknowledged the sovereignty of the LORD, the people have placed themselves in right relationship with their God. This entire passage is more theology than history. It is about relationship with the One God, rather than political reality with the Philistines. In this passage the Philistines are foils for faith, trust and divine response. How often we have prayed for rain and the clouds and thunder roll and we, thankful, still wonder about coincidence. Perhaps it can be no other way, but biblical religion sees the thunder as the hand of God and deliverance from the Philistines as the consequence of faith. Simple, simplistic, unreasonable, inconsistent, but it is to that posture that the biblical record always nudges us. We pray in faith and we accept the outcome as the work of God. Scandalous it may be, unreasonable it surely is, but it is the posture of faith. And it leads to right relationship with God without whom our lives and our world will forever be chaotic, lost and unredeemed.

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

Faith
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I shall believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good to me;
And, though I weep because those sails are battered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered,
“I trust in Thee.”

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I shall believe it is an all-wise Love
Which has refused those things for which I yearn;
And though, at times, I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive;
I shall believe the heights for which I strive,
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And, though I groan and tremble with my crosses,
I yet shall see, through my severest losses,
The greater gain.

I will not doubt; well anchored in the faith,
Like some stanch ship, my soul braves every gale,
So strong its courage that it will not fail
To breast the mighty, unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry when body parts with spirit,
“I do not doubt,” so listening worlds may hear it
with my last breath.
427:176

(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.

SHEER JOY
Ralph Spaulding Cushman

Oh the sheer joy of it!
Living with Thee,
God of the universe,
Lord of a tree,
Maker of mountains,
Lover of me!

Oh the sheer joy of it!
Breathing thy air;
Morning is dawning,
Gone every care,
All the world’s singing,
“God’s everywhere.”

Oh the sheer joy of it!
Walking with Thee,
Out on the hilltop,
Down by the sea,
Life is so wonderful,
Life is so free.

Oh the sheer joy of it!
Working with God,
Running His errands,
Waiting His nod,
Building His heaven,
On common sod.

Oh the sheer joy of it!
Ever to be
Living in glory,
Living with Thee,
Lord of tomorrow,
Lover of me!
427:209

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