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

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Intersection of Time and Eternity

Daily Readings
Psalm 5 Genesis 6 Isaiah 6 Acts 5

Daily Text: Isaiah 6

Intersection of Time and Eternity
Many are called, but few accept. Fewer are called who know the outcome to which their ministry leads. Isaiah is told. Your ministry extends until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and the land is utterly desolate, and until the LORD sends the people into exile. If only a tenth part remains that also will be eradicated. The text likens this last destruction to that of burning a stump after the tree has been felled. And finally there is a notion of hope, widely thought to have been added much later, indicating that even in a burned stump, new life is possible.
The call came in a vision of the LORD linked with the holy of holies and the temple. The link is composed of a vision of God in God’s holy place extending to the temple. The extension amounts only to the hem of his garment and that fills the temple, so great is the LORD. But it is this link that not only lends great power to this vision, but suggests a holy transcendence that reaches into time and creation. In the Christian vision, particularly that of the Eastern Orthodox, the rood screen separates chronos and kairos, the temporal from the eternal. Pass through the rood screen into the sanctuary and one stands in eternity where the sacrifice of Christ stands once for all in the redemption of humankind. It is that sort of vision we see in Isaiah 6. The LORD of the universe is seen at an intersection of the universal and the particular. It is a holy moment. Isaiah can do no other than say, “Here am I; send me.” Not that his freedom is abridged, but what would anyone say who is gazing on the LORD of the universe?

Where the Sun Ends
Peter Davison

“Eastward I go by force; but westward I go free.”—Thoreau: “Walking”

Mount. Leave your living to the wise.
Peel out, the highway’s for the sun.
Your eyes have pierced the state’s disguise,
Your journey has begun.

Shun shelter, offices, the maze
of striving. Genitals tell you true:
Children sing sweeter praise
than senators do.

What held you to the empty day,
the churlish functionary grind
where unclean lips beseech and bray
their sermons for the blind?

“A hissing tongue, a shuddering door,”
the prophets tell, the thrones attest.
Our hoarsened hymns ignite and roar,
our engines growl toward the West:

Here am I; send me.

Collect for the Day
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hand of Anger and Longing

The Feast of the Epiphany

Daily Readings
Isaiah 60:1-6, 9 Genesis 5 Isaiah 9:8-21; 5:25-30 Matthew 2:1-12

Daily Text: Isaiah 9:8-21; 5:25-30

Hand of Anger and Longing
The 9th chapter, verse 8 begins with an indictment of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who has been prideful and arrogant, and even God’s judgement does nothing to alter their attitude. It is accepted that Assyria, under Tiglath-pileser III will descend upon them out of the North. In chapter 5:25-30 we have a continuation of this prophecy, not all of which may be present, and which may be part of a later redaction or insertion by an editor. We see in this section that the Syrians are involved against the Northern Kingdom, perhaps as early as the 9th century, and still Israel does not see God’s loving hand at work disciplining them. When God sees that they still persist in their arrogance he whistles up a far nation, generally accepted to be Assyria. That far away nation falls on them in 733 B.C. Their army is portrayed as well-trained and efficient, moving quickly and attacking effectively so that they are completely overwhelmed with no possibility of rescue. The imagery of uniform, chariot and esprit d’corp is brilliantly laced with the roar of an attacking army confident of overpowering a weaker foe. “The light grows dark with clouds”, indeed.
One of the important issues illustrated here is the consistent, persistent attempt of the Lord to reach them. Four times we see repeated the words, “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” In that stretched out hand is both anger and longing.

Hugh Wilgus Ramsaur

Ah, what if Time forgot to light the stars,
Weary of viewing our long, senseless plight
Of greed and blundering death, and dawnless night
Sealed with a frozen doom our gaping scars!
Fantastic ice-crags loomed. Colossal spars
Stood fixed in writhing grandeur! Still and white,
A tortured phantom-sea where sound nor sight
Disturbed the avenging dark’s unfathomed bars.

And some lone Being lost from outer-space
Should aeons hence feel wonder to behold,
Written with chasmal runes, that a proud race
Could so have fallen; and deep in the mold
Of Conquest’s ruined dreams and shattered gold
Find, wrought in stone, an anguished, thorn-crowned face!

Collect for the Day
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [BCP, Epiphany]

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Seven Woes

Daily Readings
Psalm 4 Genesis 4 Isaiah 10:1-4a; 5:8-24 Acts 4

Daily Text: Isaiah 10:1-4a; 5:8-24

Seven Woes
Today’s reading and that of January 6, in particular, demonstrate the random way that prophecies were joined to scrolls as particular prophecies came to light. Scrolls were far from being as handy as a three ring binder. Since Barth, 10:1-4a has been considered the 1st of seven woes, the other six being in 5:8-24.
Seven woes. The 1st is against rulers who devise iniquitous laws. Prophecy and politics are inextricably intertwined throughout scripture. That prophets spoke out against crooked politics and politicians is what made them noteworthy. Presumably the priests also taught morality, but they did not speak out against the public evils of the day. If greed and power are the motivators for war abroad, as they most certainly almost always are in the case of aggressors, then injustice against the poor and the helpless is its counterpart at home. Example: Iraqi oil and the possibility of long term military bases in a secular state for the United States, and at home tax cuts for the wealthy and program cuts for the poor. The 2nd woe is aimed at those who absorb properties surrounding their own into large estates, leaving the original smallholders without house or field. This certainly could have been part of the iniquitous laws being promulgated within the first woe. The 3rd woe attacks a party-going elite who place pleasure, including music, feasts and wine, at the center of their daily existence. This would not be acceptable in a state governed by God. The 4th woe is pronounced against those leaders who are so exalted that they taunt even God, encouraging Him to hurry up and show them what he plans for Israel! They drag their iniquitous and pretentious behavior along behind like a heifer on a rope (New English Bible). The 5th woe is defined not philosophically, that is, by saying that good is evil and evil is good, but by doing away with all accepted public moral behavior and substituting abhorrent behavior in its place. Examples are found in our newspapers daily. The 6th woe is against those who pursue disastrous policies within the government—policies that are legal, though immoral-- and then have the temerity to call them wise. Ruin will be the inevitable result. The 7th woe is against those who count themselves heroic simply by the amount of wine they can consume. Drinking buddies are not usually interested in righteousness. And here the prophet excoriates those who drink and accept bribes to protect the guilty while ignoring the outcome for the innocent. What an amazingly astute description of life in every power-oriented society in all times and places. Any wonder that God feels the need to destroy his vineyard?

Man’s Inhumanity to Man
Robert Burns

Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And Man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn,--
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Collect for the Day
You give us prophets, holy God, to cry out for justice and mercy.
Open our ears to hear them, and to follow the truth they speak, lest we support injustice to secure our own well-being. Give prophets the fire of your Word, but love as well. Though they speak for you, may they know that they stand with us before you, and have no Messiah other than your Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. Amen.
Book of Common Worship, p. 819, #68

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wild Grapes

Daily Readings
Psalm 3 Genesis 3 Isaiah 4:2-5:7 Acts 3

Daily Text: Isaiah 4:2-5:7

Wild Grapes
The passage for the day of Jerusalem’s restoration in chapter 4 is thought by the scholars to have been a late addition to the Isaiah scroll, perhaps as late as the 3rd century. However, the editor of the scroll obviously saw its relationship to the whole. It follows the judgment passages of the opening chapters as well as the projection of Mount Zion as the source for God’s age of peace in chapter 2. Linking with this theme and serving as a preface for the love song of the vineyard, 4:2-6 projects an eschatalogical remnant in Jerusalem all of whom are holy—all of whom are recorded in the book of life, all of whom live under the banner of the famed pillar of cloud by day and the shining flame of fire from the days of the exodus by night, all living on a ‘pavilion’ canopied over by the very glory of God. The love song of the vineyard in chapter five both builds on this and becomes presently realistic, as well.
For the love song in chapter 5:1-7, both recapitulates the steadfast love of the LORD issuing out of the Mosaic covenant, and the incredible disappointment embraced by that same LORD as he sees his ‘beloved’ for what they are. He planted this promising vineyard through the Exodus and the settling of the Promised Land, expecting a faithful, fruitful, righteous people exemplifying to the entire world what being a people of God could mean. And what does he get? A people who are no different from any other people in the world! In his disappointment he appeals to Isaiah’s hearers to understand him, vss.3,4, When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” His judgement is swift uncompromising and unsentimental. The vineyard is destroyed. His people have produced wickedness, not righteousness.

Auguries of Innocence
William Blake

To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A dove house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

The soldier, armed with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is wroth more
Than all the gold on Africa’s shore.
One mite wrung from the lab’rour’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands:
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mocked in Age and Death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over Hell and Death.

He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and Moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licenced, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s winding sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye
Which was born in a night to perish in a night
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears and God is Light
To those poor souls who dwell in Night,
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of Day.

Collect for the Day
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen. [BCP:233:Proper 17, orig. from the Gelasian sacramentary, no. 1182]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Grinding the Face of the Poor

Daily Readings
Psalm 2 Genesis 2:4-25 Isaiah 2:22-4:1 Acts 2

Daily Text: Isaiah 2:22-4:1

Grinding the Face of the Poor
Evil yields oppression and temporarily a new ruling class, but evil always fosters corruption and finally chaos. With chaos all social norms eventually break down. Leadership goes, women live for themselves, war and the death of young men is not unusual. In the Lord’s judgement, children become the princes, rulers and oppressors of adults. The picture is that of a topsy turvy society.
The images of women in this passage are those of our own day, or so it would seem, but then so are all of the other images. The evolving of human behavior has not kept pace with our technical, medical and economic development. The prophet could pronounce his message to telling affect in our own day. As always in human history, the LORD deals with the ruling class, for they are the ones who devour the assets of the people as their ‘due’ for public service. They have taken the vineyards, probably the wine from the vineyard, and the belongings of the poor for spoils. It is seldom recognized that in the ancient world, wars were pursued to pay the army, that is, to keep the rulers in power. When there was no war to occupy the ruling class, they turned to the poor for their source of spoils. In 21st century America we cut programs to the poor to pay for war, while we cut the taxes of the rich to line the nests of those who rule. The end result will be that outlined in Isaiah’s prophecy.

from The People, Yes
Carl Sandburg

Who can make a poem of the depths of weariness
bringing meaning to those never in the depths?
Those who order what they please
when they choose to have it—
can they understand the many down under
who come home to their wives and children at night
and night after night as yet too brave and unbroken
to say, “I ache allover?”
How can a poem deal with production cost
and leave out definite misery paying
a permanent price in shattered health and early old age?
When will the efficiency engineers and the poets
get together on a program?
Will that be a cold day? will that be a special hour?
Will somebody be coocoo then?
And if so, who?
And what does the Christian Bible say?
And the Mohammedan Koran and Confucius and the Shintoists
and the Encyclicals of the Popes?
Will somebody be coocoo then?
And if so, who??

Collect for the Day
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP 826]

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Backside of Days

Daily Readings
Psalm 1 Genesis 1:1-2:3 Isaiah 2:1-21 Acts 1

Daily Text: Isaiah 2:1-21

The Backside of Days
If both prophecies within this chapter fall under the superscription of verse 1, the vision includes a source place for the LORD’s peace for the entire world, that is, Jerusalem, as well as a day of judgement for Judah and Jerusalem. The uniting theme is theologically important in that the LORD has, in his covenant with Israel, settled the outcome of history. The words in 2:2 “In days to come” might be more accurately translated, “On the backside of days.” That is, on the backside of days, at the end of days; history is seen by the prophet as a whole, i.e., something complete, settled, and determined by the LORD. There is no question, as history moves towards its consummation eschatalogically, peace will be achieved, but there will be a Day of the LORD, a day of judgement first.
This passage 2-5 is more or less word for word with Micah 4:1-3. Some scholars believe that neither Isaiah or Micah wrote this passage, but drew it into their prophecy as a critical theological balance for their words of judgement. Kaiser [469 52] ruminates about authorship resting with the Korahites, the Levitical guild of temple singers about the end of the fifth century. However, it seems more likely to this author that the passage was composed in reference to covenantal theology in the eighth century or earlier.

The Prophecy
Lon Woodrum

There’s a voice on the wind of the world
speaking dreams from the ancient books:
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks.

Have you heard the voice in the darkness,
coming up from the foggy past?
Do you hear, you winged warriors,
over the cyclonic blast
of motors, and the shriek of the bombs as they fall?
Did you hear it, you beautiful sons,
you dead of Caen and Tarawa,
as you fell in the flash of the guns?

You can hear it, earth, you can hear it
in the crackle of cities that burn,
in the lancing cry of the children,
in the silence of those who will never return.

There’s a voice on the wind of the world,
beating loud on the uttermost shore:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

There’s a voice on the wind of the world,
the voice long-crushed.
Woe to the waters, the dust and the cloud,
if the voice be hushed!

Collect for the Day
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
[BCP 815]

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Though your Sins are Like Scarlet

The Feast of the Holy Name

Daily Readings
Psalm 8 Exodus 34:1-8 Isaiah 1 Luke 2:15-21

Daily Text: Isaiah 1

Though your Sins are like Scarlet
If Isaiah’s prophecy begins in the year that King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1), then that may well have been 735 B.C., the year that Ahaz, son of Jotham, became king. Unlike his father and grandfather, Ahaz became known as an unfaithful king, an evil man. His was the actual reign that saw the prophecy of Isaiah. Like Jeremiah in chapter 44 in Egypt, the prophet queries why this people would be so masochistic as to live in rebellion against the Lord God and thereby receive punishment at his hand? Rebelliousness, however, starts out as the theme of Isaiah’s prophecy (vs. 2). Simply by grace Adonai preserves a righteous remnant in Jerusalem (vss. 8, 9).
Note three beautiful forerunner’s of Isaiah’s prophecy: 1) that Israel is considered a son by God, who is therefore his father, 2) survival is brought about by grace, and 3) participation by the remnant in God’s redemption requires a decision on their part. Amazing.

Beyond Knowledge
Alice Meynell

Into the rescued world newcomer,
The newly-dead stepped up, and cried,
“O what is that, sweeter than summer
Was to my heart before I died?
Sir (to an angel), what is yonder
More bright than the remembered skies,
A lovelier sight, a softer splendour
Than when the moon was wont to rise?
Surely no sinner wears such seeming
Even the Rescued World within?”
“O the success of His redeeming!
O child, it is a rescued sin!”

Collect for the Day
Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. [BCP 213]