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

Friday, January 20, 2006

To Strike and To Heal

Daily Readings
Psalm 21 Genesis 19 Isaiah 19 Acts 17

Daily Text: Isaiah 19

To Strike and To Heal
There is a tantalizing reference in verse one to the Lord’s riding on a swift cloud that may be a reference to the swift messengers of the papyrus vessels in the opening verses of the previous chapter. But the LORD is no ambassador, he carries his own message, does his own work and fearsome indeed we see it is, for with him comes fear, confusion, and dissension. In the land of Egypt, the Nile dries up leaving the country without food, commerce or employment. The leadership dissolves as the LORD ‘pours in a spirit confusion.’ One of the remarkable highlights of this poem is the amazing detail, particularly reflected in verses 5-10. Whoever wrote this knew this country. Could Isaiah have traveled there in his youth?
Finally, in a powerful prose section, 16-25, the author pens five ‘On that day’ segments that take us back to the concept of the Day of the LORD.

On that day, trembling—fear
On that day, five cites will speak Hebrew—allegiance to the Lord of Hosts
On that day, an altar of the LORD–known to them, the LORD strikes and heals
On that day, a highway from Egypt to Assyria—worship together
On that day, Judah the equal of Egypt and Assyria—all three blessed.

The pattern here is discipline, repentance, forgiveness, renewal, and blessing. Arresting is the dual action taken by the LORD to both strike and heal. In the 21st century we don’t want to consider that ‘striking and healing’ must go hand in hand. We want healing without discipline for ourselves as well as for our children! Not possible. This is such a remarkable vision that it is unlikely that it has historical roots. Rather it is an eschatological projection of the Kingdom of God. This prophet’s vision soars. He takes historical nations and sees into the eternal beneficence of God. This is God’s will for the nations—that everyone will serve him and honor each other.

The Burden of Egypt
from Holy Flame
Georgia Harkness

Behold, Jehovah rideth on the storm
To come to Egypt, sunk in strife and sin.
Each smiteth each his brother: war’s alarm
Has put to flight all counsel, and within
The fertile meadows is dry, driven dust.
The Nile yields naught. Confusion takes its toll,
For wisdom dies, struck down by fear and lust,
And they that work for hire are grieved in soul.

But though destruction stalk, an altar to the Lord
Shall bring to men salvation in that day.
No longer need they smite with lifted sword
For enemies shall walk in one highway.
That nation shall be blessed whose inner light
Makes clear the pathway for God’s healing might.
377:636

Collect for the Day
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP, 815, 3 For the Human Family]

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