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 16, 2005

God First

Daily Readings
Song of Solomon 1 + I Samuel 20 + Judith 15:12-16:25 +Hebrews 13

Quote of the Day
“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:3

Daily Text: I Samuel 20:1-5, 24, 27, 30-31, 41-42
David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, "What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?" 2He said to him, "Far from it! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!" 3But David also swore, "Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.' But truly, as the LORD lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death." 4Then Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you say, I will do for you." 5David said to Jonathan, "Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening.
24 So David hid himself in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat. 27But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David's place was empty. And Saul said to his son Jonathan, "Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast, either yesterday or today?" 30Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die." 41As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. 42Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.'" He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.

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

God First
It becomes very clear that Saul will take David’s life and why he will do so. David threatens the kingship. His own son will not inherit unless David is no longer, and the infuriating truth is that Jonathan is in league with the man who can take the throne from him. Saul is completely beyond himself. How could his own son betray himself as well as his father?

But Jonathan and David have a covenant. Jonathan understands very well that David will take his place. He also understands perfectly that YHWH would have it so, and this covenant, the one with Israel is the one he confirms with David. Their love, though strained through this threatening time, is reaffirmed and reinforced by Jonathan’s impeccable behavior toward David and David’s reassuring love toward Jonathan. Family ties are complicated and emotions run hot as Jonathan through David makes his choice for YHWH over his own father.

It is ever thus. Jesus predicts that sons will hate their fathers [Luke 14:25-33] as they choose to become his disciple. It is for you and for me a continuing challenge. ‘God first’ will always have the potential to muck up the expectations held within families and among friends. God give us the love, the wisdom and the foresight of Jonathan as we make our decisions for God.

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

Seek Ye First
Matthew 6:33
Karen Lafferty

Seek ye first
The kingdom of God
And its righteousness,
And all these things
Shall be added unto you;
Allelu, alleluia!
The Hymnal 1982:711

(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 15, 2005

Divine Protection

Daily Readings
Psalm 106:19-48 + I Samuel 18:28-19:24 + Judith 14:19-15:11 + Hebrews 12

Quote of the Day
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1, 2

Daily Text: I Samuel 18:28; 19:1-2, 9-10, 18-19, 23-24
28But when Saul realized that the LORD was with David, and that Saul's daughter Michal loved him,
19
Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul's son Jonathan took great delight in David. 2Jonathan told David, "My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. 9Then an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. 10Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.
18 Now David fled and escaped; he came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. He and Samuel went and settled at Naioth. 19Saul was told, "David is at Naioth in Ramah." 23He went there, toward Naioth in Ramah; and the spirit of God came upon him. As he was going, he fell into a prophetic frenzy, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24He too stripped off his clothes, and he too fell into a frenzy before Samuel. He lay naked all that day and all that night. Therefore it is said, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"

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

Divine Protection
God works to protect David by weaving a net of love around him, the love of Jonathan and Michal, Saul’s children, and then the protection of Samuel. All three are loyal to David and not first of all to Saul. But beyond these three there is the implication that the people are also loving and protecting David.

Saul has an evil spirit come upon him and in its grip tries and fails to spear David. With David’s continued rise to glory through battle, Saul, though promising Jonathan not to take David’s life, seemingly cannot control his own jealousy and fear. But we are assured that God is moving in history through these two figures. When YHWH withdrew his spirit from Saul, he left open the possibility of another, less benign spirit taking over. Hertzberg [433:162] suggests that Saul sees through the eyes of the evil spirit the designs of God for David and his own demise. At any rate, David flees to Samuel and they go to a community of prophets in Ramah. Saul’s pursues him there, sending three groups of emissaries all of whom are overtaken by a prophetic frenzy. Finally, Saul comes himself and he also is taken by the frenzy. Then people ask a second time [cf. 10:11] is Saul also among the prophets? The first time this remark was made, Saul was on the rise and it was complimentary. This time Saul’s star is setting and it is derogatory. It may well imply that Samuel is there, David is there and now Saul is there! It may also indicate great amusement among the people! It looks like everyone in Israel of importance is ending up in that strange God-driven monastic community in Ramah. But it also points up the inescapable influence of the LORD in the history of his people.

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

Saul
G. M. Bell

Abstracted and alone sat Saul the king,
The mighty king of warlike Israel;
Dark shadows o’er his spirit went and came,
And fearful thoughts of dread futurity.
His lofty eye scowled indignation round,
And furious passion wrinkled up his brow;
Anon a gleam of peace shot through his soul,
And he was calm; but soon more solemn thoughts,
Like thunder-laden clouds, enshroud his mind,
And troubled looks denote no love of God.
The minstrel now is called—a fair-haired boy,
Who oft had soothed, by his entrancing notes,
The soul of mighty Saul. A noble boy
In look and mien, whom God had early blessed,
And brought from Bethlem’s plains, a shepherd-boy.
To reign, the future king of Israel.
At bidding of proud Saul he struck his harp,
And sung with joy of God’s unceasing love,
Who saved him from the bear and lion’s paw,
And from the spear of giant Philistine;
Who victory to Israel gave, and sent
Confusion and defeat on all her foes.
He sang of Judah’s bondage, and the way
God led them through the desert’s pathless waste,--
Of Egypt’s plagues, and sad discomfiture.
But deep and louder grew the thrilling strain,
When of the patriarchal chief he sang, whence should arise
The promised Lord of glory,--Sion’s King,--
………………………………………………………………
Saul heard entranced, till mention of a king
Stirred in his soul most hideous jealousy.
The prophet’s words, “God hath rejected thee,
And hath thy kingdom to thy neighbor given,”
Rose like some dismal spectre on his sight.
The plaudits of the crowd, :Saul hath thousands
But David tens of thousands nobly slain,”
Inflamed his mind with horrible revenge.
He saw the words inscribed on every side,
And heard the acclamations loud arise,
Re-echoed by innumerable crowds.
His wild imagination figures up
A regal throne, on which the youth is placed,
The shepherd-boy transformed a lordly king!
Upon his fair and sunny brow a crown
Is set, refulgent with the brightest gems;
Thousands in his presence wait obsequious,
And tens of thousands cry, exulting,
“King David, live for ever!” Starting up,
alarmed, incensed, and full of deadly hate,
the jealous Saul a javelin seized and flung,
with murd’rous aim, at God’s anointed one;
but mercy interposed, and turned its point
‘Gainst the insensate wall. The youth escaped
Like bird from fowler’s snare, uninjured but amazed,
And praising God Most High, while Saul alone
Stood, stung with disappointment and despair.
411:164

(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 14, 2005

Invidious Jealousy

Daily Readings
Psalm 106:1-18 + I Samuel 17:55-18:27 + Judith 14 + Hebrews 11

Quote of the Day
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Daily Text: I Samuel 18:1-4, 20-27
When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. 3Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 20Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David. Saul was told, and the thing pleased him. 21Saul thought, "Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." Therefore Saul said to David a second time, "You shall now be my son-in-law." 22Saul commanded his servants, "Speak to David in private and say, 'See, the king is delighted with you, and all his servants love you; now then, become the king's son-in-law.'" 23So Saul's servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, "Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?" 24The servants of Saul told him, "This is what David said." 25Then Saul said, "Thus shall you say to David, 'The king desires no marriage present except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged on the king's enemies.'" Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. 26When his servants told David these words, David was well pleased to be the king's son-in-law. Before the time had expired, 27David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king's son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife.

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

Invidious Jealousy
David takes the court and the country by storm. He is loved by Saul’s son and daughter Jonathan and Michal, by the court servants, the army and the people. He has captured their admiration and Saul is jealous. When he discovers Michal’s love for David he is pleased. Saul reasons that he should not take the life of such a popular leader, but if he can send him often enough to battle the Philistines, they should take care of ending his ever more prominent career. Shades of Uriah the Hittite [II Samuel 11;14]! So from leading a small band of soldiers, Saul promotes him to a leader of a thousand, and promises him his daughter if he can pay a bride price of 100 Philistine foreskins! That should prove dangerous enough to stop him for the risk was great! David, unaware of Saul’s jealousy responds to the challenge and brings the evidence of 100 Philistines killed and becomes son-in-law to the king. From shepherd boy to a royal marriage in a matter of months, David became the golden boy, but without realizing it he had made a most dangerous enemy, far more dangerous than the Philistines—the king himself.

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

From Davideis, Book III
Abraham Cowley
Michal her modest flames sought to conceal,
But love even th’art to hide it does reveal.
Her soft unpracticed eyes betrayed the theft,
Love passed through them, and there such footsteps left.
She blushed when he approached, and when he spoke,
And suddenly her wandering answers broke,
At his names sound, and when she heard him praised,
With concerned haste her thoughtful looks she raised.
Uncalled-for sighs oft from her bosom flew,
And Adriel’s active friend she abruptly grew.
Oft when the court’s gay youth stood waiting by,
She strove to act a cold indifferency;
In vain she acted so constrained a part,
For thousand nameless things disclosed her heart.
On th’other side David with silent pain
Did in respectful bounds his fires contain.
His humble fear t’offend, and trembling awe,
Imposed on him a no less rigorous law
Than modesty on her, and though he strove
To make her see’t, he durst not tell his love.
To tell it first the timorous youth made choice
Of music’s bolder and more active voice
And thus beneath her window, did he touch
His faithful lyre; the words and numbers such,
As did well worth my memory appear,
And may perhaps deserve your princely ear.

Awake, awake my Lyre,
And tell thy silent master’s humble tale,
In sounds that may prevail;
Sounds that gentle thoughts inspire,
Though so exalted she
And I so lowly be,
Tell her such different notes make all thy harmony.

Hark, how the strings awake,
And though the moving hand approach not near,
Themselves with awful fear,
A kind of numerous trembling make.
Now all thy forces try,
Now all thy charms apply,
Revenge upon her ear the conquests of her eye.

Weak Lyre! thy virtue sure
Is useless here, since thou art only found
To cure, but not to wound,
And she to wound, but not to cure.
Too weak, too, wilt thou prove
My passion to remove,
Physic to other ills, thou’rt nourishment to Love.

Sleep, sleep again, my Lyre;
For thou canst never tell my humble tale,
In sounds that will prevail,
Nor gentle thoughts in her inspire;
All thy vain mirth lay by,
Bid thy strings silent lie,
Sleep, sleep again, my Lyre, and let thy master die.

She heard all this, and the prevailing sound
Touched with delightful pain her tender wound.
395:201

(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 13, 2005

Obstacles to Faith

Daily Readings
Psalm 105:23-45 + I Samuel 17:1-54 + Judith 13 +Hebrews 10

Quote of the Day
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Daily Text: I Samuel 17:4-7, 17-18, 22-49
4And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 17Jesse said to his son David, "Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; 18also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them." 22David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. 24All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid. 25The Israelites said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. The king will greatly enrich the man who kills him, and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel." 26David said to the men who stood by him, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" 27The people answered him in the same way, "So shall it be done for the man who kills him." 28His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David. He said, "Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle." 29David said, "What have I done now? It was only a question." 30He turned away from him toward another and spoke in the same way; and the people answered him again as before.
31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. 32David said to Saul, "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 33Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth." 34But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God." 37David said, "The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine." So Saul said to David, "Go, and may the LORD be with you!" 38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul's sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them." So David removed them.
40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. 41The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field." 45But David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."
48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

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

Obstacles to Faith
There are so many textual questions in this chapter that they alone could hold our attention for some time. They include Saul’s not knowing David, the reference in II Samuel 21:19 which says that Elnathan killed Goliath, and obvious seams, eg. at verse 12, that point to interweaving of different textual traditions, and these suggestions do not by any means pick up all of the questions here. However, the tradition that comes to us via the editors of I Samuel have an overall integrity that remain convincing. David was always known as a man of valor and faith. That this passage reflects that seems faithful to his reputation. Given that, we may confidently trust that he faced such a situation and did so roughly in the way it has come down to us.

Obstacles face every one in the path of life. On this day David faced several. First, was the size, training, equipment and ferocity of the giant of Gath. Undoubtedly, David had never seen anyone like this giant of a man before. Who would have? Second, Eliab, his elder brother, was put out that David was present at the standoff, and critical of his freedom to move around and inquire of others the nature of the threat and the possibility of preferment for the one who engaged the Philistine champion. Anyone who has ever faced the anger of another family member knows how daunting that can be. It obviously wasn’t going to be a telling obstacle for David, who casually ignored Eliab, suggested that it was just a question that he was asking and then went on doing what he wanted. Third, once taken before Saul, the king, he was evaluated by Saul as being one with no training, and too few years to be effective. Such personal evaluation would stop most of us from doing what we felt was the call of God. Indeed, isn’t such a call validated by the affirmation of others rather than by their disapproval? Fourth, once Saul assented to the idea that here was a man, young as he was, who had the willingness and the confidence to fight this Philistine challenger, he tried to suit David up in his own armor. That wasn’t a very good idea, as was soon apparent, but perhaps there simply wasn’t any other metal armor available in the army of Israel. At any rate, the armor itself was so unsuited to David’s size that it and the lack of it became an obstacle. Finally, Goliath’s disdain for the stripling youth would have stopped most of us dead in our tracks, if none of the previously named obstacles had.

How should we treat the obstacles that face us when we attempt to respond to something to which we know the LORD is calling us? David was able to step around each of them and continue to move forward. That is not always available to us, or if available, seems unwise. Frequently, the organization or church to which we belong simply says ‘No.’ What is the option? Leave it? Obviously, that option is available, but it may be one we are not open to. Part of David’s success is that within the day he overcame all of his obstacles and moved ahead. Hesitation is often the greatest obstacle of all.

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

David and Goliath
P. Hately Waddell
This bit lilt o’ his ain till David’s Praise,
Whan he fought again Goliath,
Stan’s like a to-fa’ till the Psalms
[Quo’ the LXX]

Sma’ was I, amang brether o’ mine;
An’ the bairn was I, i’ my faither’s ha’;
My faither’s fe I was hirdin:
My han’s, they wrought the organ fine;
An’ my fingers, wi’ thairms, the harp an’ a’
They war girdin.

An’ what was ‘t tell’d the Lord o’ me?
The Lord himself, he hearken’d till me;
An’ his rinner he sent, an’ he cried me awa—
Cried me awa frae my faither’s fe;
An’ wi’ chrystin olyle o’ his ain an’ a’,
He chrystit me:
Brether o’ mine, they war brave an’ braw;
An’ the Lord o’ them wad have nought ava’.

Furth gaed I, till fecht wi’ the frem;
Syne by his eidols he swure at me:
Bot that swrud o’ his ain, I claught it frae him’
An’ I sned his head frae his shouthirs trim;
An’ the skaith an’ the scorn I carried it a’,
Frae the folk o’ Israel, hame wi’ me!
395:199

(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 12, 2005

Holy Spirit

Daily Readings
Psalm 105:1-22 + I Samuel 15:34-16:23 + Judith 12 + Hebrews 9

Quote of the Day
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24

Daily Text: I Samuel 16:11-18, 21, 23

11Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one." 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
14 Now the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15And Saul's servants said to him, "See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skillful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better." 17So Saul said to his servants, "Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me." 18One of the young men answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him." 21And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 23And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

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

Holy Spirit
There are two traditions reflected in this passage, the oldest having to do with David coming to court as a musician and the armor bearer for the king. The other tradition is that of David’s annointing to be king by Samuel. Neither is known to the other. The first mentioned may have been from court materials describing Saul’s kingship, the second from Davidic materials. The next chapter, 17, has David coming to visit the army and at one point being fitted into Saul’s armor as if he had never seen it, and had no knowledge of it, simply discovering that it was too big! Not only that, but he seems to be unknown to Saul in chapter 17. Assuming both traditions to be acceptable, it would seem that the David and Goliath story preceded in time his coming to court as Saul’s musician and armor-bearer

The chief elements in chapter 16 are those of the annointing of David (and Saul) and the coming (and going) of the Spirit of God—in Christian terms, the Holy Spirit. Saul was anointed and was given the spirit of God (ch. 10), but now he not only loses the spirit of the LORD, but an evil spirit rushes in. Here’s where David comes in. He is recommended because he is “a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him” vss. 18, 19! Saul doesn’t know the background, but we do, for we know that Samuel has anointed him to be the next king and that in some way, the spirit of LORD’s coming to him is related to the spirit’s departing from Saul. The Spirit of the LORD continues to direct Israel. He has not, and will not abandon his people, although the ones through whom he works may change.

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

The Call of DavidJohn Henry Newman
1801-1890

…and the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him for this is he.”—I Samuel xvi.12

Latest born of Jesse’s race,
Wonder lights thy bashful face,
While the prophet’s gifted oil
Seals thee for a path of toil.
We, thy angels circling round thee,
Ne’er shall find thee as we found thee,
When thy faith first brought us near,
In thy lion-fight severe.

Go! and mid thy flocks awhile
At thy doom of greatness smile;
Bold to bear God’s heaviest load,
Dimly guessing of the road,--
Rocky road, and scarce ascended,
Though thy foot be angel-tended!

Twofold praise thou shalt attain
In royal court and battle-plain:
Then come heart-ache, care, distress,
Blighted hope and loneliness,
Wounds from friend, and gifts from foe,
Dizzied faith, and guilt and woe,
Loftiest aims by earth defiled,
Gleams of wisdom, sin-beguiled,
Sated power’s tyrannic mood,
Counsels shared with men of blood.
Sad success, parental tears,
And a dreary gift of years.

Strange that guileless face and form,
To lavish on the scarring storm!
Yet we take thee in thy blindness,
And we buffet thee in kindness;
Little chary of thy fame,--
Dust unborn may bless or blame,--
But we mould thee for the root
Of man’s promised healing Fruit,
And we mould thee hence to rise
As our brother in the skies.
411:159

(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 11, 2005

Tragedy

Daily Readings
Psalm 104 + I Samuel 15:1-33 + Judith 11 + Hebrews 8

Quote of the Day
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 8:10

Daily Text: I Samuel 16:1-3, 7-26
The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." 2Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." 7But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen any of these." 11Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one." 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
14 Now the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15And Saul's servants said to him, "See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skillful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better." 17So Saul said to his servants, "Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me." 18One of the young men answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him." 19So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, "Send me your son David who is with the sheep." 20Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." 23And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

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

Tragedy
This is the demise of Saul; everything after this is anti-climactic for Saul. He is charged with carrying out an old command of Moses’ in Exodus 17:14, that Amalek be utterly destroyed. Before Saul gets back north to his home, the LORD tells Samuel of Saul’s failure. It is in the night and Samuel is both angry at Saul and grieved for him. He cries out to the LORD all night on Saul’s behalf to no avail. Saul has rejected YHWH’s commands and he has in turn rejected Saul as king. By the time Samuel meets up with Saul who detours to build a monument to himself in Carmel, he has accepted God’s decision and he betrays no sympathy for Saul. In fact, he learns first hand what God has already told him in the night, and presumably his anger towards Saul takes over. Nothing that Saul says makes any difference. Obviously, Saul does not believe he has committed an unpardonable sin for he confesses that he has sinned and asks for pardon to no avail. The most he gets from Samuel is an agreement to help him save face, and yet when Samuel goes with him to sacrifice, Samuel discovers Agag, the king, still alive and previously undeclared. He kills Agag himself in a macabre ritual at the sacrificial site in Gilgal.

There is no way to put a mediating face on this tragedy. Brueggeman [430] goes sailing off into sympathy for Saul who is piously trying, in his words, to balance theology and real politic, against an angry conservative Samuel and a God even more unreconstructed. Nonsense. It is true that once God rejects Saul there is no going back, but Samuel continues to grieve [cf. 15: 35, 16:1]. One way to sympathize with Saul and hold him accountable at the same time is simply to accept that this role was beyond his capability.
We do serve a God who is always willing to forgive, but that same God always holds us accountable for the acts requiring forgiveness. Saul made his choices and he lost not only a dynasty (13:13, 14), but his own hold on kingship. The LORD is looking for ‘a man after his own heart’[13:14]. He continues to look for men, women and children who reflect his own sensibilities.

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

from Renascence
Conclusion
Edna St. Vincent Millay

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,--
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.
407:891

(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 10, 2005

Like the Judges of Old

Daily Readings
Psalm 103 + I Samuel 14 + Judith 10 + Hebrews 7

Quote of the Day
As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13, 14

Daily Text: I Samuel 14:6, 12, 13, 23-30, 41, 45, 47
6Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will act for us; for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few." 12The men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer, saying, "Come up to us, and we will show you something." Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Come up after me; for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel." 13Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer following after him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer, coming after him, killed them. 23So the LORD gave Israel the victory that day. The battle passed beyond Beth-aven, and the troops with Saul numbered altogether about ten thousand men. The battle spread out over the hill country of Ephraim.
24 Now Saul committed a very rash act on that day. He had laid an oath on the troops, saying, "Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies." So none of the troops tasted food. 25All the troops came upon a honeycomb; and there was honey on the ground. 26When the troops came upon the honeycomb, the honey was dripping out; but they did not put their hands to their mouths, for they feared the oath. 27But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the troops with the oath; so he extended the staff that was in his hand, and dipped the tip of it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes brightened. 28Then one of the soldiers said, "Your father strictly charged the troops with an oath, saying, 'Cursed be anyone who eats food this day.' And so the troops are faint." 29Then Jonathan said, "My father has troubled the land; see how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. 30How much better if today the troops had eaten freely of the spoil taken from their enemies; for now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great." 41Then Saul said, "O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If this guilt is in me or in my son Jonathan, O LORD God of Israel, give Urim; but if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim." And Jonathan and Saul were indicated by the lot, but the people were cleared. 45Then the people said to Saul, "Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great victory in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground; for he has worked with God today." So the people ransomed Jonathan, and he did not die.
47 When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side--against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines; wherever he turned he routed them.

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

Like the Judges of Old
Like the judges of old, Jonathan intuits the ways of God, and makes his moves in synchrony with God’s ways. On this day he becomes the point person in a successful battle with the Philistines that results in their being driven from the hills of Ephraim back to the plains of their normal occupation. From that day Saul is in control of the hill country.

Saul, on the other hand, pious though he appears to be, is not in synchrony with God. Rather, he appears to be in synchrony with what he thinks a king should be. So going into battle he makes a rash vow that no one is to eat until evening after he is avenged on his enemies. This gets him and Israel into trouble. His men are weakened, the Philistines, though defeated, are able to escape, his son sees and articulates his foolishness, and ultimately his son is condemned and then ransomed by the army over his own word. Whether he is glad or not to have his son spared, he, Saul, ends up looking and being weak and foolish. The text has turned sour on Saul. His record is tarnished. He may be tall and handsome, but he comes out of the record as impulsive, vain and without adequate insight into the ways of God. From this time forth his own son, loved and cherished by the people, always looks better than his father. How many times in the future does he act contrary to his father’s wishes to protect his father from serious error?

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

God Give Us Men
Josiah Gilbert Holland

God give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill’;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
404:121

(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.