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, March 04, 2006

Kissing Calves: Bible Commentary on Hosea 13 with poem by T.S. Eliot, from Murder in the Cathedral

Daily Readings
Job 22 Exodus 10:1-27 Hosea 13 II Thessalonians 1

Daily Text: Hosea 13

Kissing Calves
We might entertain Hosea 13 as a dialogue within the mind of God. Through Hosea’s words God alternatively describes Ephraim’s fault and the response he should make.

Fault: Once a power in Israel, Ephraim, the largest of the ten tribes of Israel, and son of Joseph, has weakened himself through Baal worship, including human sacrifice and submission to the work of human hands. He stoops to kissing calves!

Response: I am the only real god you know, Ephraim, because I am the only true God, and though I sustained you in the Exodus, I will destroy you through the Exile as an essential part of your salvation—strange as that may seem.

Fault: Rather than store up good deeds, Ephraim has bound up iniquity and that is leading him to folly.

Response: Shall I ransom him anyway? No, I refuse to entertain compassion. Let Samaria bear her rightful guilt and be destroyed by the sword.

from Murder in the Cathedral
T. S. Eliot

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

Collect for the Day
O God, sovereign Lord over all creation, without whom all purposes are futile, grant me today the assistance of your Spirit. In all the surprises and changes of life, may I fix my heart upon you, so that your eternal purposes may be fixed in me. In the name of Jesus, who came to make your eternal purpose clear. Amen. [479:58]

Friday, March 03, 2006

Character of Deceit: Bible Comment on Hosea 12 with poem by Theodosia Garrison, Stains

Daily Readings
Job 21 Exodus 9 Hosea 11:12-12:14 I Thessalonians 5

Daily Text: Hosea 11:12-12:14

Character of Deceit
Hosea 12 focuses on the deceit that characterizes Israel. From birth Jacob was the Supplanter. True enough he strove with God at Bethel and gained God’s blessing, but that was long past and it is now high time that the nation known as Jacob/Israel/Ephraim returns to God. Love and justice need be held fast, while waiting continually upon the Lord. Instead Ephraim is a trader, a mere Canaanite, using false balances, and at the same claiming innocence. It is as if his wealth is proof of his sterling character!

The LORD disagrees. He would prefer to remember Jacob during the Exodus and would rather Ephraim still lived in tents, instead of expensive houses, honoring that covenant. Down the centuries God has spoken through the prophets casting visions and bringing discipline and accountability, for Israel has committed iniquity in town and temple, Gilead and Gilgal.

Once upon a time Jacob fled from his brother Esau to Aram and there guarded sheep to acquire his wives. Likewise God, through the agency of the prophet Moses, guarded Israel to gain a faithful people. Jacob achieved his wives, but as a people he has disappointed the Lord so bitterly that the Lord will allow his crimes to fall upon his own head punishing him for his insulting deceitfulness against the divine.

Theodosia Garrison

The three ghosts on the lonesome road,
Spake each to one another,
“Whence came that stain about your mouth
No lifted hand may cover?”
“From eating of forbidden fruit,
Brother, my brother.”

The three ghosts on the sunless road
Spake each to one another,
“Whence came that red burn on your foot
No dust or ash may cover?”
“I stamped a neighbor’s hearth-flame out,
Brother, my brother.”

The three ghosts on the windless road
Spake each to one another,
“Whence came that blood upon your hand
No other hand may cover?”
“From breaking of a woman’s heart,
Brother, my brother.”

“Yet on the earth clean men we walked,
Glutton and Thief and Lover;
White flesh and fair it hid our stains
That no man might discover.”
“Naked the soul goes up to God,
Brother, my brother.”

Collect for the Day
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [BCP:218:First Sunday in Lent]

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Love of a Father: Bible Commentary on Hosea 11:1-11 with a poem by Robert Browning, The All-Loving

Daily Readings
Job 20 Exodus 7:25-8:32 Hosea 11:1-11 I Thessalonians 4

Daily Text: Hosea 11:1-11

The Love of a Father
Love may not be the central theme of Holy Scripture, but it is of Hosea 11:1-11. Buried here in this strange little book about the love of a man for his unfaithful wife and the children she has borne him, is the full blown expression of the love of YHWH for Israel expressed as the love of a father for his child. The images are those common in every parents experience—teaching a child to walk, picking her up when she falls and kissing her bubu’s, nestling his cheek against your own, feeding him. This homey experience is all reproduced as part of God’s love for Ephraim.

The sadness in the piece is that the ‘child’ wants nothing to do with the father. He is bent on finding another guide, another god, one whose existence is not even sure, but illusory and false. This ‘child’ rescued by the God-father from slavery and oppression makes the inevitable choice to return to that state, and God will not prevent him.

Loving father though he may be, God’s otherness is clearly maintained. He is deeply angry with this ‘child’ for his waywardness, but he chooses not to execute his anger. He is not at the mercy of his feelings, though he has them. He is God and no mortal. “The central feature to the understanding of God in the Hebrew Bible is divine superiority to nature” [478:357]. He cries out in agony as he watches Ephraim move towards his own destruction, but he promises not to destroy completely this sinful prodigy. While his very being recoils, his ‘compassion grows warm and tender.’ Later, in the New Testament, on ‘the cross, God himself pays the penalty for man’s sin and satisfies his own justice’ [482:56]. Such a father! Here he allows accountability, but when suffering exile causes Ephraim to once again pursue ‘after the Lord,’ he welcomes them back, returning them to their homes and to the Lord’s land.

The All-Loving
Robert Browning

So the All-Great were the All-Loving too—
So, through the thunder comes a human voice
Saying, “O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself.
Thou hast no power nor may’st conceive of mine,
But love I gave thee, with myself to love,
And thou must love me who have died for thee!”

Collect for the Day
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [BCP 216:Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Double Iniquity: Bible Commentary on Hosea 10 with poem from the Bhagavad Gita, Give Me Your Whole Heart

Daily Readings
Job 19 Exodus 7:1-24 Hosea 10 I Thessalonians 3

Daily Text: Hosea 10

Double Iniquity
Hosea 10 draws a scene of Israel willingly being trained to live in obedience while in the wilderness, and as a result the Lord led her into his own land. Once established there, the former slave peoples prospered with grain and the fruit of the vine until that very prosperity led them astray to build pillars and calves of idolatry as well as altars unto the LORD. Since they have developed false or double hearts, the LORD will destroy both.

In addition rather than serve the LORD as king, they, at Gibeah, anointed Saul as their king and rejected God’s kingship in the process. There their sin began in Saul’s annointing as well as an earlier sin of the Levite against his own concubine. Such double iniquity has continued and will be punished by God and their enemies. Samaria’s king has become a figurehead, a king who is no king. Fearing neither the LORD or trusting their weakling kings, the people will suffer the wrath of God. They could turn around sow righteousness and reap love, but, in fact, they will not. On some fine morning the king will be cut off and the nation’s life will be ended.

Give Me Your Whole Heart
From “The Bhagavad Gitâ”

Give me your whole heart,
Love and adore me,
Worship me always,
Bow to me only,
And you shall find me:
This is my promise
Who love you dearly.
Lay down all duties
In me, your refuge.
Fear no longer,
For I will save you
From sin and from bondage.
From the Sanskrit, 5th to 2nd
centuries B. C.,
tr. By Swami Prabhavananda
and Christopher Isherwood

Collect for the Day
Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with free hearts those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
[BCP 228:Proper 2]

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Ticket to Oblivion:Bible Commentary on Hosea 9 with text from William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida

Daily Readings
Job 18 Exodus 6:2-30 Hosea 9 I Thessalonians 2

Daily Text: Hosea 9

A Ticket to Oblivion
Three issues inform Hosea 9: a reverse exodus, the day of reckoning, and the fate of wanderers. The first is a notable theme in Hosea’s message. Israel has forfeited her right to be known by the Lord, and has no reason for further celebration. Even those celebration rituals that she observes will do no more than feed her belly—they will be worthless spiritually for they will be like mourner’s bread. Ritually mourners are unclean and may not sacrifice to YHWH. Therefore, what they eat is also unclean. Israel’s fate is to be removed from the Lord’s land and sent back to Egypt. It is a reversal of the Exodus, a ticket to oblivion.

The day of reckoning angers Israel to such a degree that she turns on Hosea in such a hostile fashion that he finds it necessary to name her problem and reassert his role as God’s sentinel or watchman. He goes on to state that Israel is profoundly deranged as was the Levite who dismembered his concubine at Gibeah many years previously. As Hosea remembers this so will God remember. Their iniquity and their punishment is sure.

The third issue is a long view of God’s initial discovery of Israel like new fruit in a wilderness. They were his first born, the first crop of the season in the first season of bearing. But even these first ancestors betrayed God in the wilderness with Moses at Baal-peor and made themselves detestable to God. The result will be extinction as a political entity. They will stop reproducing and even those children born will be taken from them. God will depart from them and theirs will be a woeful condition. Once an oasis in a desert of nations, Israel will end in a slaughter. So hopeless is Hosea 9:14 that when he asks the Lord to give them something all he can come up with is that the birth of innocent ones will be prevented and newborns will die early at dry breasts. God has come to hate them and they will be driven from his house. No notion of hating the sin and loving the sinner here. Both sin and sinner are hated because they cannot be separated. God will totally reject them and they will become wanderers among the very nations they courted as allies. How very true this has become!

from Troilus and Cressida, III. iii. 165
William Shakespeare

What’s past, and what’s to come, is strew’d
with husks
And formless ruin of oblivion.

Collect for the Day
Father, hear the prayer we offer,
Not for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength that we may ever
Live our lives courageously

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our guide;
Through endeavor, failure, danger,
Be for ever at our side.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Incapable of Innocence:Biblical Commentary on Hosea 8 with poem by T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

Daily Readings
Job 17:3-16 Exodus 5:1-6:1 Hosea 8 I Thessalonians 1

Daily Text: Hosea 8

Incapable of Innocence
Israel’s cry for recognition in Hosea 8:2 is pathetic, for her behavior has not matched her words for generations. Relationship requires deeds over time, not panicked prayers in a foxhole. She has lost her uniqueness, says Hosea, by pursuing recognition among the nations—first by having a king, then naming that king without reference to God’s choice for her. God as king has become a lost concept and with her own identity swallowed by alien cultures and gods she has become a useless vessel incapable of innocence. What an indictment! Even offerings on the altars of God have become no more than ‘religious picnics,’ Hosea 8:13 [Myers, 482:46]. The search for national and cultural acceptance has led to political, religious and spiritual irrelevance.

from The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Collect for the Day
Almighty God, who is able to make all things new and to restore life anew every morning, help me never to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the constant renewing of my mind. Through the Spirit of Christ. Amen. [479:108]

Sunday, February 26, 2006

In the Face of God: Biblical Commentary on Hosea 6:11b-7:16 with Poem by J. R. Perkins, The Back of God

Daily Readings
Job 16:1-17:2 Exodus 4 Hosea 6:11b-7:16 Song of Solomon 8

Daily Text: Hosea 6:11b-7:16

In the Face of God
The sermon found in Hosea 6:11b-7:16 is filled with images and illustrations. The major ones are of the baker and his fire, the half-baked cake, the inevitable results of chaos, the silly dove and God’s memory. Two of the images, the inevitable results of chaos and God’s memory will be explored here.

Israel’s corruption is so flagrant that safety has disappeared as an expectation of life. The people, especially the rulers, act as thieves from within the government and the nation, while the people are continually attacked by bandits who steal, rape and presumably burn almost at will. This chaos reveals the falsity of Ephraim’s life, of Israel’s failure to serve her God with integrity. They do not even see their own fault, strange as that may seem, but God does.

In the matter of God’s memory is one of the most striking images in the prophecy of Hosea. It is an accepted point of theology that no one can see the face of God and live. There have been a few exceptions, all noteworthy ones, Abraham, Moses, etc. So even though corrupted Israel may not see the face of God, her misdeeds live before the face of God! Because he loves them he sees their most terrible repudiations of God’s self continually. The implication is that the very matters that God cannot abide are the ones brought forcibly home in his presence. In Christian theology it took the substitutionary atonement of God in Christ to remove these abominations from before him.

The Back of God
J. R. Perkins
I prayed to see the face of God,
Illumined by the central suns
Turning in their ancient track;
But what I saw was not His face at all—
I saw His bent figure on a windy hill,
Carrying a double load upon His back.

Collect for the Day
Ever-loving God, who came into the world clothed in our garment of flesh and who willingly gave yourself to the cross, clothe us in you own Spirit, that persons will recognize you in us and receive your great gift of love. In the name of Jesus, your greatest gift. Amen. [479:47]