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, November 19, 2006

Wind and Fire: II Esdras 8:19b-9:25 with poem by Abu-al-'ala'al-Ma'arri, Bill of Sale

Daily Readings
Psalm 140, Esther 4, Addition C, II Esdras 8:19b-9:25, Revelation 7

Daily Text: II Esdras 8:19b-9:25

Wind and Fire
As a note in the superscription to Ezra’s confession, we read “before he was taken up.” This is the first reference in II Esdras to Ezra’s translation without going through death. The regard with which the man is held compares with that of Enoch and Elijah, the two men in the Hebrew Scriptures that were taken up to the presence of the divine without dying.

The confession itself is radically beautiful. It lists among a number of divine attributes the ability on command to change angels to ‘wind and fire’, and not surprisingly, asks God to forgive the sins of the wicked even without their cooperation. It is the mercy of God for which Ezra pleads. His insistence about the tragedy of sinful man’s demise through the judgment which is to come never wavers throughout these three visions, and we must confess, neither does God’s commitment to free will and righteous behavior. Ezra may not love the creation as much as God, but the author is not terribly convincing on that score. Ezra declares that the goodness of God will be fully recognized when he has mercy on those for whom there is no store of good works. Fascinating that this is exactly the claim made by Jesus and his followers. God so loved the world that he died for humankind even while they were in their sin and rebellion against him. No store of good works is needed, only faith in the work completed by Jesus. But that faith continues to be required.

The righteous in II Esdras, however, will be saved on the basis of their good works or their faith. Both are desirable.

Bill of Sale
Abu-al-‘Alā’ al-Ma’arri
Translated from the Arabic by George Wightman and Abdullah al-Udhari

God help us, we have sold our souls, all that was best,
To an enterprise in the hands of the Receiver.
We’ve no dividends, or rights, for the price we paid.
Yet should our wills choose between this corrupt business
And a paradise to come, rest assured they’d want

The world we have now.

Collect for the Day
Save us, Lord, from all terror and oppression; strengthen us to maintain the cause of the poor, that justice may roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

[476:899:140 Psalm prayer]


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