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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Never Forget: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 15 with poem by William Shakespeare, Not Thine Own

The Feast of St. Mark

Daily Readings
Isaiah 52:7-10, Numbers 21:1-22:2, Deuteronomy 15, Mark 16:15-20

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 15

Never Forget
Remission of debt, manumission of slaves and the transmission of blessing into sacrifice makes up the content of the Deuteronomic text in Deuteronomy 15. The debt is predicated on the Sabbath year for on that year all fields were to be allowed to rest, that is, no crops were to be planted. So, if the peasant had found himself in crisis and had to borrow, the coming of the Sabbath year would be enough to sink him, for in addition to having his fields idle, he had continuing debt payment! The remission of debt addressed this social issue by sacral means. The debt was at least to be remitted during the Sabbath year and probably completely remitted for all time. In the process the continuance of peasant landholdings was made more possible. “This sermon (vss. 3-11) is a summons to meet the poor at all times with an open hand and an open heart. It is the appeal to the heart which is characteristic” (496:106). That appeal is brought home in vs. 11.

The manumission of slaves is based on Israel’s own redemption by God when he brought them out of slavery in Egypt. ‘Never forget’ is the watchword. ‘Never forget’ that you were once a slave! And, naturally, it is an extension of the principle in the last paragraph. If a poor man or woman, landholders, had to sell themselves into slavery because of debt, they deserved another chance. And when they were freed, they were to be freed with sufficient bounty to make their second chance feasible. The lofty and beautiful conception here is that while there are the poor always, wealth should continuously be circulated to make possible both liberty and community-wide economic self-sufficiency. Everyone had a right to such economic self-sufficiency, not just the well-off. And the foundation of this is the recognition that all sufficiency comes from the LORD God.

Not Thine Own
from “Measure for Measure,” Act I, sc. I
William Shakespeare,

Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper as to waste
Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee.
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touched
But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends
The smallest scruple of her excellence
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and use.

Collect for the Day
Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you withour substance, and remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, thorugh Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[BCP:827:38 For the Right Use of God’s Gifts]


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