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, July 04, 2005

Wanting to Be Like Everyone Else

Daily Readings
Psalm 97 + I Samuel 8 + Judith 4 + Hebrews 1

Quote of the Day
He (God’s Son) is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:3a

Daily Text: I Samuel 8:4-20
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations." 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." Samuel prayed to the LORD, 7and the LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9Now then, listen to their voice; only--you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." 10So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." 19But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, "No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles."

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

Wanting to Be Like Everyone Else
Fascinating that the introduction to the demand for a king comes on the basis of a complaint about the perversion of justice seen in Samuel’s sons. Gideon’s sons, Eli’s sons and now Samuel’s do not follow in the path of their father’s. Because this is the basis of complaint we know that something else is behind the demand. Why? Because if the sons of priests and judges turn bad, what will make hereditary kingship good? No, the demand for a king is twofold. Visibly it is the desire to be like everyone else, and underneath there is most likely a grab for power--economic, political and social—on the part of already powerful leaders in Israel. It is difficult to consolidate power when there is no central governing force.

The desire to be like everyone else is an explicit rejection of YHWH, and his intention to create a people whose basis for living is love and justice. A monarchy is built on taking from some in the name of the common good, and giving to the powerful. This is not, of course, true only of monarchy, but of any centralized government. Don’t hesitate to see all of the ills spelled out by Samuel in democratic forms of centralized government.

The Church, like Israel, is called to be a people built on love and justice. What is there in the Church that we need to affirm and what is there in the Church that we should avoid? All of these questions are raised in I Samuel 8. YHWH agrees reluctantly to the move from decentralized power and worship of him alone, to centralized power and the consequent loss of the centrality of God. It has been coming, he recognizes, since this people left Egypt. Now, he is through fighting with them over it. Monarchy will not work for Israel, anymore than it does for anyone else, but they will have to learn that for themselves. Even God must stop being a parent at some point and this is the point.

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

Of Greatness in Teaching
A Prayer
Leslie Pinckney Hill

God, save our land from that unblessed sedateness
Which arrogates unto itself a greatness
Built of the rubble leavings of the past!
Now that our star-lit banners stream at last
On land, and in the air and on the sea
Beyond the reach of doubt, how great are we?

Not that the mightiest armament is ours
Will make us great, nor pacts to balance powers,
Not the bright treasure guarded under ground,
Nor the plump grain with which our fields abound,
Not trade, nor vast domain securely barred
Against assault, not cities all unscarred,
Not the strong tramp of armies marching back
Exultant from victorious attack,
Not pride that we are safe, while hallowed lands
Must perish, or find succor at our hands,
Not the vain cry blown down the heedless wind
That we alone of peoples have not sinned,--
These are but perishables, crumbled stories
Of an old world for which a new atones.
Never in these will any searching find
The greatness of the nations of mankind.

O grant us, rather, vision of the state
Whose citizens in dream and soul are great,
Whose ordinances bend with reverent awe
Before the categoric moral law.
Triumphant in the bitter fight to live,
Exalt our spirits grandly to forgive.
With matchless power to shackle every foe,
Give us the heart of wisdom to forego.

And this above all else vouchsafe—that we,
In blood-bought peace, may set our children free
From ancient self-delusions, greeds and hates
Whereby the crash of dynasties and states
Has written red the chronicles of time.
O let our children scale those heights sublime
Whither our feet have faltered. Let them see
How beautiful a land may come to be
When brotherhood is more than word or thought,
Being the substance of our living, wrought
Into the noblest ends our souls may reach,
And flowing in the stream of all we teach.

Beyond all empire then our eyes may scan
The coming Kingdom of the Son of Man,
Built of a dream, abiding, undefiled—
The glory of its throne, a little child.

407:1521

(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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