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

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Free to Decide

Daily Readings
Psalm 102 + I Samuel 13 + Judith 9 + Hebrews 6

Quote of the Day
“For your strength does not depend on numbers, nor your might on the powerful. But you are the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope. Please, please, God of my father, God of the heritage of Israel, Lord of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of all your creation, hear my prayer! Judith 9:11, 12

Daily Text: I Samuel 13:3-15
3Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba; and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, "Let the Hebrews hear!" 4When all Israel heard that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines, the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal. 5The Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude; they came up and encamped at Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 6When the Israelites saw that they were in distress (for the troops were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns. 7Some Hebrews crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul. 9So Saul said, "Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being." And he offered the burnt offering. 10As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him. 11Samuel said, "What have you done?" Saul replied, "When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, 12I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favor of the LORD'; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering." 13Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you. The LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, 14but now your kingdom will not continue; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart; and the LORD has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."
15 And Samuel left and went on his way from Gilgal. The rest of the people followed Saul to join the army; they went up from Gilgal toward Gibeah of Benjamin. Saul counted the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.

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

Free to Decide
As a commander of forces Saul was being successful. Israel had come out to fight with him, however, that does not mean the Philistines were laying down their arms. To the contrary they were mustering all of their forces to force a showdown at Michmash. Saul was waiting for Samuel. The wait was to be seven days and seven days he waited. Samuel did not come and naturally the gathering troops, volunteers all, began to be the disappearing troops. We are not told that Saul knew he should wait anyway, but that is my assumption. Saul knew that he was not to make a sacrifice, play the priest, call down God’s blessing as Samuel was called to do. But rather than risk smaller numbers, Saul made his decision and a fateful decision it was. The whole story of Israel was that they could trust God to be with them as long as they obeyed. Jonathan remembers; Saul forgets. Unwritten is the litany of mistakes he has made, but his nature was to make poor decisions, unstable decisions as we shall see in chapter 14. The freedom given him in 10:7 is second nature already. Amazing really, how little time is required to live into newfound power. He is king and he expects God to favor his decisions. However, God does nothing automatically.

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

The Testing
Edwin Markham
1852-1940

When in the dim beginning of the years,
God mixed in man the raptures and the tears
And scattered through his brain the starry stuff,
He said, “Behold! yet this is not enough,
For I must test his spirit to make sure
That he can dare the Vision and endure.

“I will withdraw my Face,
Vail me in shadow for a certain space,
Leaving behind Me only a broken clue—
A crevice where the glory glimmers through,
Some whisper from the sky,
Some footprint in the road to track Me by.

“I will leave man to make the fateful guess,
Will leave him torn between the No and Yes,
Leave him unresting till he rests in Me,
Drawn upward by the choice that makes him free—
Leave him in tragic loneliness to choose,
With all in life to win or all to lose.”
407:187

(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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Unsought Ordination

Daily Readings
Psalm 99 + I Samuel 10:1-27a + Judith 6 + Hebrews 3

Quote of the Day
Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12-14

Daily Text: I Samuel 10:1, 6-7, 9-10, 17, 21-22
Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, "The LORD has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you ruler over his heritage: 6Then the spirit of the LORD will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. 7Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you.
9 As he turned away to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10When they were going from there to Gibeah, a band of prophets met him; and the spirit of God possessed him, and he fell into a prophetic frenzy along with them.
17 Samuel summoned the people to the LORD at Mizpah 21He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the family of the Matrites was taken by lot. Finally he brought the family of the Matrites near man by man, and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22So they inquired again of the LORD, "Did the man come here?" and the LORD said, "See, he has hidden himself among the baggage."

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

Unsought Ordination
There are two images for kingship in this passage. The first is that the LORD directs one like Samuel to name the person, set that one apart, equip him/her with freedom and fill with God’s spirit; the second is that the LORD directs this process through the casting of lots (as in the selection of Matthias to replace Judas.) Both of these processes were followed in the selection of Saul. Let us look at the details.
In each image the selection is actually the LORD’s doing, whether by direction, process or casting lots. Others are simply the LORD’s vehicles. Something about such ordination gives the person a changed character, one that is indissoluble. One side of that change is the reality of being chosen for such honor as kingship, or being a bishop or a pastor. The other side is a charism of the heart that makes one different, more ready to complete a humanly impossible task. Part of being is leader is having followers who are also prepared by having hearts touched by God (vs. 26). Finally, there is permission for the new leader to lead with freedom, to define the God-given task and pursue it with joy and vigor. The results of this empowerment quickly become apparent. Leaders follow one of two courses ultimately. They pursue with diligence the well-being of the people they are charged to lead, or they fall into the sickly trap of advancing their own privilege without concern for that of others.
Saul was annointed privately by Samuel and chosen publicly by lot. From the first moment he was the LORD’s annointed, but within a short period of time the prerogatives of kingship outweighed the responsibilities in his own eyes. How often we see that in rulers, bishops, priests, and executives.

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

On Saul and David
Francis Quarles

Sure, Saul as little looked to be a king,
As I: and David dreamed of such a thing,
As much as he; when both alike did keep
The one his father’s asses; t’other, sheep:
Saul must forsake his whip: And David flings
His crook aside; and they must both be kings:
Saul had no sword; and David, then, no spear;
These was none conquered, nor no conqueror there;
There was no sweat; there was no blood, to shed:
The unsought crown besought the wearer’s head;
There was no stratagem; no opposition;
No taking parts; no jealous competition:
There needs no art; there needs no sword to bring,
And place the crown, where God appoints the king.
395:195

(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.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

God So Loved the World

Daily Readings
Psalm 98 + I Samuel 9 + Judith 5 + Hebrews 2

Quote of the Day
As long as they did not sin against their God they prospered, for the God who hates iniquity is with them. Judith 5:17

Daily Text: I Samuel 9:15-17
15Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed to Samuel: 16"Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me." 17When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people."

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

God So Loved the World
The interplay between Saul and his servant, Saul and the females of the town, YHWH and Samuel, Samuel and Saul result in a delightful tale about the calling of Saul to be ruler, though the concept of ‘king’ is always in the background. There have been kings before in Israel, particularly east of the Jordan River, but they have not been considered kings of all Israel, but rather part of the tribal organization. We have seen a king before in Judges 9. Abimelech, a Manassite, declared himself king of Shechem and he evidently extended his rule over the Manassites and Ephraimites in the mountains around Shechem. Saul, however, was being considered as king of all Israel, though he would have to unite the various tribes to become that. But here, I Samuel 9, while kingship lurks in the background, it may be that he is only being addressed as a ruler to lead in a defensive conflict with the Philistines.

God speaks to Samuel and repeats a message reminiscent of that in Exodus 3:7,8. “He (Saul) shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me.” In Exodus 3, I compared the passage to John 3:16. It is God’s declaration of love and care for his people. Here, that same declaration is reaffirmed. God is motivated, not by his people’s recalcitrance or coerciveness, but by their need—he has observed their suffering, heard their outcry and he is going to do something about it through Saul, even though it means Saul will be king. The first commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind seems to be reciprocated faithfully and fully by Godself.

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

Heavenly Aid
from “The Faery Queen”
Edmund Spenser
1552-1599

And is there care in heaven? and is there love
In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,
That may compassion of their evils move?
There is: else much more wretched were the case
Of men than beasts. But oh! th’ exceeding grace
Of highest God that loves His creatures so,
And all His works with mercy doth embrace,
That blessèd angels He sends to and fro,
To serve to wicked men, to serve His wicked foe.

How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to succour us that succour want!
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!
They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
And all for love, and nothing for reward.
O! why should heavenly God to men have such regard?
407:248

(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.

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.

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