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

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

God Stumbles: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 14 with poem by Johann W. von Goethe, As a Man Soweth

Daily Readings
Psalm 87 Judges 10:1-16 Ezekiel 14 Tobit 8

Daily Text: Ezekiel 14

God Stumbles
The growth of acceptance of Babylonian and probably Egyptian pagan idolatrous religious beliefs among the exilic community extends even into its leadership. Outwardly, pious and faithful to YHWH, they are inwardly embracing these new beliefs. In the 21st century American Church we have seen a similar move as cultural mores influence our thinking. Legion are those who no longer see Jesus as ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ but simply as one way among many. The prophet articulates that ‘they place their iniquity as a stumbling block before them’ (vss. 3, 4, 7). It is their own doing and God stumbles over it!

It is risky, the prophet is saying, to come with such explosive inner idolatrousness to inquire of God through His own prophet! The risk was real then; it is real today. God responds in two ways. Should he allow them to consult in this fashion? He concludes initially that ‘yes’ he should, but ultimately he will cut them off from the house of Israel. They are coming worried about what is happening in Jerusalem, but they themselves will also be lost.

In the second and final segment of Ezekiel 14, the figures of Noah, Daniel and Job, non-Israelites all, are used as examples of fathers that, though righteous themselves, would not be able to protect their unrighteous children from destruction. This would be true in any of the four catastrophes of famine, wild animals, military invasion and pestilence that will be coming upon Jerusalem. Behind these towering paternal paradigms of Noah, Daniel and Job are real fathers among the exilic community, fathers who have loved children in Jerusalem and fathers who will likewise be unable to protect their children [500:219]. Most of those children will die, but the survivors who reach the exilic community will demonstrate by their wickedness why God has had to act to bring about the destruction of the faithless community in Judah. Thus, in verse 23, God painfully justifies his own desperate actions in what was the holy city.

As a Man Soweth
Johann W. von Goethe
1749-1832

We must not hope to be mowers,
And to gather the ripe gold ears,
Unless we have first been sowers
And watered the furrows with tears.

It is not just as we take it,
This mystical world of ours,
Life’s field will yield as we make it
A harvest of thorns or of flowers.
407:858

Collect for the Day
God of eternal light, open our eyes to the vision of your holy city coming down from heaven; make our hearts sensitive to your presence, and our wills eager to join in the comfort and healing you bring to all the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. [476:821:87 Psalm prayer]

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