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, January 23, 2006

Misreading Grace

Daily Readings
Psalm 25 Genesis 22 Isaiah 22 Acts 20

Daily Text: Isaiah 22

Misreading Grace
‘Interests’ are often shortsighted and egoistic aims both for individuals and for nations. Surely that was true in this case. The nation is devastated in 701 by Sennacherib. He boasted that he had destroyed 46 towns [470:183], but when he laid siege to Jerusalem, Hezekiah surrendered and the city was spared. This was the occasion for the celebration addressed by the prophet! He begs that they ignore him while he weeps for the people.
He prophecies in the second prophecy that their day will come, and presumably this is to be 587 when Nebuchadnezzar razes the city. There will come a time when Judah is completely exposed. The people had trusted to weapons found in the city armory rather than upon God. There was nothing really to celebrate. God called for weeping and mourning and instead these folk were celebrating with the short-sighted maxim “Let us eat, drink, for tomorrow we die: Sure enough, the LORD promises that you will not be forgiven this iniquitous celebrating of your lives while your compatriots have died. Your death will be sure. In some ways the steward Shebna takes on the representative character of the whole. Here is a man who comes in from somewhere else, hunts for a prominent tomb acting as if he has family roots that go back in the city for untold years! He will be destroyed and presumably this refers to all of those celebrating whom he represents here. God will whirl him (them) around and throw him like a ball into a wide, and presumably enemy land.
On that day Eliakim, a very responsible steward will take his place. He has an impressive genealogy and his entire family, presumably again representing the people, relies on him to such a degree that even though God establishes him with authority and security, he will fall under the weight of impossible expectations.

Pigeon Man
Robert Cording

In retrospect, it all seems so
Unlikely, how, every Easter, he’d come again,
The pigeon man from Rhode Island,
In his old truck full of wooden cages. Gathered

Once already, we’d gather again,
Outside the church on the common. I’d like to
Remember blue skies and sunny Easter hats,
But a whited-out sun and a hem of clouds is closer

Probably to the truth. Or a rain.
I can recall the strange mixture of our spirits
High on resurrection hymns, yet dampened by
Nagging reminders—Jim’s young wife dying of cancer

And their two boys who would be
Motherless in a month; a divorce of two members
Loved by everyone; a suicide bombing in Jerusalem;
And soldiers occupying the church at Bethlehem.

Looking back, no year seems free
Of grief and suffering, of one sadness or another. Still,
There were the pigeons. And perhaps a little wind
Passing its spirit along the crowns of the common’s maples

As the pigeon man opened the cages
And sent his flock into the gray sky. They went up as one,
Tumblers, rollers, and tipplers, dozens of them,
Turning higher and higher in tight spirals, the undersides

Of their wings refracting whatever light
There was when they spun all at once. They climbed
Straight up above the high school and church,
Above the houses on the green, then caught a wind

And rode it east, out past Putnam
And across the French River, toward Providence,
Becoming a slow-pulsing dot against the cloud cover.
Some of us clapped, some just watched as the flock

Seemed to disappear through a portal
In the clouds, emptiness and fullness held together
For the moment. Then the pigeon man
Gave his tacit nod and climbed into his truck,

Driving home, I guess, to await his flock.
Impassive as he was, he must have loved the thrill of
Watching his birds fly off and come back,
Just as we looked forward yearly to his coming,

To the pigeons which must have suggested,
Whether we believed or not, and even if we knew
The movement in the opposite direction was far
More common, that grief could suddenly turn to grace.
Image, Winter 2005-2006,# 48, p. 94

Collect for the Day
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, deal graciously with us in our grief. Surround us with your love, that we may not be overwhelmed by our loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP, 494, from the Burial Rite]

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