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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Precious Stone of Trust

Daily Readings
Psalm 32 Genesis 27 Isaiah 28 Acts 25

Daily Text: Isaiah 28

The Precious Stone of Trust
Complex-seeming, chapter 28 could be reduced to some simple, and for the reader of the Hebrew scriptures, familiar themes. Beginning with charges of unrighteous behavior against Ephraim, that is, Samaria, the prophet promises in vss. 5 & 6 that YHWH will become a garland of glory on the heads of that remnant that follows him. He will give them a spirit of justice and the courage to defend the city. Following, he turns to Jerusalem and condemns them for the same drunken, gluttonous and untrusting behavior that he used to condemn Samaria in vss. 1-4. They evidently liked it when he condemned the Northern nation, but the religious leaders of the Southern nation mock Isaiah in vs. 9 &10 when he turns to them. Their mockery consists of drunken chanting of syllables used to teach the very young. Isaiah responds to say that God will indeed teach them with simple phrases in an alien tongue, ostensibly Assyrian! He tried to teach them his way, that of rest and repose, and they simply didn’t learn it. Now they will, for they will be taken by the enemy (vs. 13).
In vss. 14-22 Isaiah then proposes one of the most imaginative and forthright of his prophecies. The rulers of Israel, and one does not have to posit a different set of leaders from vss. 7, 8, simply an expanded set, are deluding themselves when they believe that their agreement with Egypt to defend them against Assyria will work. Rather they are relying on false hopes, sheltering themselves with lies. YHWH responds to say that he will lay a cornerstone in Zion, a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone and that stone will be unvarnished trust in YHWH. In laying the stone he will test its trueness with a plumbline, a plumbline of justice and righteousness, that is, outward justice and inward integrity. Such wholeness will confirm the rightness of trust or faith in God, and at the same time will demonstrate the falseness of trust in Egypt’s power to save. On the one hand, God offers himself as trustworthy and on the other he punishes those who do not behave as if he were. So God is both saviour and destroyer, teacher and disciplinarian, mentor and menace.
Finally, Isaiah give us a parable in vss. 23-29. In it he compares God to a provident farmer, one who does everything needed: preparing, planting, tending, harvesting and nourishing or redeeming. Implications suggest that preparing may include discipling as well as disciplining, planting may differ from one seed and season to another, tending varies on the need, harvesting requires differing techniques, and using the results will nourish himself, his family and his guests. Note that the parable may be interpreted to cover all of the text of the preceding passage. Complete trust, that is all that is required.

The Day’s Demand
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.

Collect for the Day
Lord, we are not so arrogant as to pretend
that the trial of our lives
does not reveal our flaws.
We know ourselves,
in this moment of prayer,
to have failed ourselves and others,
the ones we love and the stranger,
again and again.
We know how often
we did not bring to the surface of our lives
the hidden goodness within.
Where we have achieved, O Lord,
we are proud of ourselves
and grateful to You;
where we have failed,
we ask forgiveness.
Remember how exposed we are
to the chances and terrors of life.
We were afraid.
We sometimes chose to fail.
And we ask:
Turn our thoughts from the hurt to its remedy.
Free us of the torments of guilt.

Forgiven, O Lord, help us to forgive others;
Failing, help us to understand failure;
Renewed and encouraged, help us to be like
those who came before us:
human. Sinners sometimes, yet a blessing.


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