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 18, 2006

Altar Fire: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 6:8-30 with poem by George Herbert, Aaron

Daily Readings
Job 34, Exodus 22:1-23:9, Leviticus 6:8-30, I Corinthians 12

Daily Text: Leviticus 6:8-30

Altar Fire
The care of the altar fire is an expansion of the instructions in chapter 1. That the priest is to vest in his best vestments to remove the ashes from the altar elevates this seemingly menial task to that of essential priestly ritual, not unlike the care given the unconsumed sacrament at the Christian altar. The perpetual nature of the fire on the altar is new information and its repetition gives it a significance not unlike that of the perpetual flame of the lamp in the holy place. God is providing not only for a continuing reminder of his presence, but a continual possibility for the sanctification of his people. The perpetual fire has served generations of Jewish preachers as a symbol of unquenchable devotion. Marvels were related concerning it. It came forth from God’s presence (9:24), and it burned continuously for 116 years, yet the thin copper sheathing of the altar never melted, and its wooden core was not charred” [185:783].

Verses 14-18 expand on chapter 2:11, detailing the eating of the meal offering as well as the sin and guilt offerings. It appears that the priest who offers the sacrifice is obligated to eat of it as part of the absolution of the ones making the offering, i.e., he participates intimately in their forgiveness.

George Herbert

Holiness on the head,
Light and perfections on the breast,
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aarons dressed.

Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest.
Poor priest thus am I dressed.

Only another head
I have, another heart and breast,
Another music, making live not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In him I am well dressed.

Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me even dead;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in him new dressed.

So holy in my head,
Perfect and light in my dear breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ, (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest)
Come people; Aaron’s dressed.

Collect for the Day
He who separates sacred from profane, may He pardon our sin; may he increase our descendants and prosperity as the sand, and as the stars at night. The day declines as the palm tree’s shade; I call to God who is good to me; the lookout says: ‘Morning will come though it still be night.’ Your righteousness towers like Mount Tabor; forgive my sins, and let them be as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Hear my prayer, revered and awesome God; grant redemption! In the twilight, in the waning of the day, or in the blackness of the night! [471:636].

Friday, March 17, 2006

Chatat and Asham: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 5:1-6:7 with a poem by Marguerite Wilkinson, Guilty

Daily Readings
Job 33:8-33, Exodus 20:22-21:36, Leviticus 5:1-6:7, I Corinthians 11

Daily Text: Leviticus 5:1-6:7

Chatat and Asham
Chatat here seems to be a transgression against the reputation or the rights of another whether deliberately or unwittingly, while Asham has to do with sin involving holy things of the LORD or breaking a commandment of the LORD, e.g., do not steal, and depriving another person of what is rightfully theirs. Both of the latter offend the LORD, but hurting a brother or a sister compounds that offense. So the Chatat requires a sacrifice according to your means for atonement and forgiveness, while Asham requires both restitution up to 20 % beyond the principle, and an expensive ram for the sacrifice. In this case the possible offense is so grave that no consideration is given the pecuniary circumstances of the offender.

In the case of Asham, Leviticus 5:14-6:7, the Haggadah makes observations. One is from Rabbi Jose: “See the blindness of him who robs or defrauds! For a trifling sum he is called sinner, liar, thief, defrauder. He must bring a costly asham and is forgiven only through confession and repentance. Moreover Scripture accounts him as having taken a life. Whose life? According to one opinion, that of his victim; according to another opinion, his own life. But the righteous, who are generous and give to others, are accounted as having acquired lives. They become like their Creator who revives the spirit of the lowly and oppressed” [185:779].

Marguerite Wilkinson


I never cut my neighbor’s throat;
My neighbor’s gold I never stole;
I never spoiled his house and land;
But God have mercy on my soul!

For I am haunted night and day
By all the deeds I have not done;
O unattempted loveliness!
O costly valor never won!

Collect for the Day
May we, together with the whole House of Israel, be mindful of the needs of others, sharing with them the fruits of our labor, helping to sustain them in body and soul. For all, may Your promise be fulfilled: “Then shall your light blaze forth like the dawn, and your wounds shall quickly heal; your righteousness shall walk before you, the glory of the Lord shall follow you.” [477:56 Kindling the Yom Kippur Lights]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

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Talkr: Letting blogs speak for themselves.

Chatat--Missing the Mark: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 4 with poem by John Byrom, Self-Righteousness

Daily Readings
Job 32:1-33:7 Exodus 20:12-21 Leviticus 4 I Corinthians 10

Daily Text: Leviticus 4

Chatat—Missing the Mark
Is it not fascinating that these people of God had expiation for unintended sins, but none for deliberate sins? Plaut [185:768] writes, “The law did not permit one to do a deliberate wrong and square the account with a sacrifice, ‘The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD’ (Proverbs 15:8).” Plaut goes on to quote from the Halachah [185:773] that one who committed deliberate sin could be purged only by persistant repentance, ‘observance of the Day of Atonement and the acceptance of punitive suffering, or by death.’

‘Chatat’ means sin offering with sin understood as ‘missing the mark.’ That definition makes most sense once one understands that it is an unwitting offense, e.g., the failure to report someone else’s sin or negligence in carrying out ritual requirements.

John Byrom


“He is a sinner,” you are pleased to say.
Then love him for the sake of Christ, I pray.
If on His gracious words you place your trust,--
Second his call; which if you will not do,
You’ll be the greater sinner of the two.

Collect for the Day
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of you Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[BCP:218 Second Sunday in Lent]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Zevach Shelamin--Sacrifice of Well-Being: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 3 with poem by John Quincy Adams, Send Forth, O God, Thy Light and Truth

Daily Readings
Job 31, Exodus 20:8-11, Leviticus 3, I Corinthians 9

Daily Text: Leviticus 3

Zevach Shelamin—Sacrifice of Well-Being
Festive is a good word, a good one to describe this sacrifice. This sacrifice institutes/institutionalizes gratitude and the thankful heart. There is provided a sacramental way to express one’s gratitude to a good God and to do so formally with one’s family and fellows. It also connects the sacrifice of well-being to the word ‘Shalom’ which sits at the heart of the sacrifice of well-being, Zevach Shelamin [185:765].

Send Forth, O God, Thy Light and Truth
John Quincy Adams

Send forth, O God, Thy light and truth,
And let them lead me still,
Undaunted, in the paths of right,
Up to Thy holy hill:
Then toThy altar will I spring,
And in my God rejoice;
And praise shall tune the trembling string,
And gratitude my voice.

O why, my soul, art thou cast down?
Within me why distressed?
Thy hopes the God of grace shall crown;
He yet shall make thee blessed:
To Him, my never-failing Friend,
I bow, and kiss the rod;
To Him shall thanks and praise ascend,
My Saviour and my God.

Collect for the Day
O God, great and wonderful,
who has created the heavens,
dwelling in the light and beauty thereof;
who has made the earth,
revealing thyself in every flower that opens;
let not mine eyes be blind to thee,
neither let mine heart be dead,
but teach me to praise thee,
even as the lark which offereth her song at daybreak
475:20:4 St. Isidore of Seville (560-636).

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Minchah--Grain Offering: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 2 with poem by Madeleine L'Engle, O Hilaritas

Daily Readings
Job 30, Exodus 20:1-7, Leviticus 2, I Corinthians 8

Daily Text: Leviticus 2

The Minchah—Grain Offering
The Minchah carries overtones for the Christian that strike very close to home. For us, the sacrifice of the mass is provision for the poor as well as those who could afford something more substantial. While the grain offering could be uncooked grain, it could also be baked, fried or pan cooked unleavened bread. Especially, that offering cooked on a griddle and broken into pieces reminds us of Eucharistic bread, and it too was a most holy portion to be consumed within the sacred precincts of the altar. Because the grain offering followed the pattern of animal sacrifice and was, in a sense, a substitute for it, the implications were there, as in Eucharistic sacrifice, of the offering of a life for a life.

The reference to the covenant of salt in vs. 13 has an ancient referent. In antiquity pacts were ratified by a formal meal. For the participants to take salt together was symbolic of seasoning their agreement for a palatable future. “The Bible therefore describes a solemn covenant as a covenant of salt” [185:763]. A fanciful midrash in the Haggadah understands the verse to mean ‘the covenant your God made about salt.’ “At creation, God separated the waters above the expanse of heaven from those below it (Gen. 1:7); and the waters relegated to the lower level grieved at being so far from God’s abode. So God comforted them with the promise that their briny oceans would one day provide the salt to be used on His altar” [185:764].

O Hilaritas
Madeleine L’Engle

According to Newton
the intrinsic property of matter on which weight depends is
But mass and weight vary according to gravity
(It is not a laughing matter).
On earth a mass of 6 kilograms has a weight of 6 kilograms.
On the moon a mass of 6 kilograms has a weight of 1 kilogram.
An object’s inertia (the force required to accelerate it)
depends entirely on its mass.
And so with me.
I depend entirely on a crumb of bread
a sip of wine;
it is the mass that matters
that makes matter.
In free fall, like the earth around the sun,
I am weightless
and so move only if I have mass.
Thanks be to the creator
who has given himself
that we may be.

Collect for the Day
Just as a grain of wheat must die in the earth in order to bring forth a rich harvest, so your Son died on the cross to bring a rich harvest of love. Just as the harvest of wheat must be ground into flour to make bread, so the suffering of your Son brings us the bread of life. Just as bread gives our bodies strength for our daily work, so the risen body of your Son gives us strength to obey your laws. [489:146 Thomas Münzer, c. 1490-1525]

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Olah--Burnt Offering: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 1 with anonymous poem, A Man Must Live

Daily Readings
Job 29 Exodus 19 Leviticus 1 I Corinthians 7

Daily Text: Leviticus 1

The Olah—Burnt Offering
This first of the Levitical rituals of sacrificial procedure concerns the Olah, which is the burnt offering or “what goes up.” The sacrifice is voluntary and is completely consumed by burning. The phrase “turn the whole into smoke” means ‘make sure it catches fire and is consumed’ [185:758]. The individual who offers this sacrifice does so as atonement for sin (vs. 4).

For us today ‘to make a sacrifice’ means to deprive ourselves of something we value, and unless it is absolutely necessary we do not do it. But for the ancients, a sacrifice was a religious rite offered to make something holy. It often marked both a solemn and joyous occasion [185:750].

“A Man Must Live”
Author Unknown

“A man must live!” We justify
Low shift and trick, to treason high;
A little vote for a little gold,
Or a whole Senate bought and sold,
With this self-evident reply—
“A man must live!”

But is it so? Pray tell me why
Life at such cost you have to buy.
In what religion were you told
A man must live?
There are times when a man must die!
There are times when a man will die!
Imagine for a battle-cry
From soldiers with a sword to hold,
From soldiers with a flag unfurled,
This coward’s whine, this liar’s lie,
“A man must live!”

The Saviour did not “live!”
He died!
But in his death was life—
Life for himself and all mankind!
He found his life by losing it!
And we, being crucified
Afresh with him, may find
Life in the cup of death,
And, drinking it,
Win life forever more.

Collect for the Day
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world, look upon us and have mercy upon us; thou who art thyself both victim and Priest, thyself both Reward and Redeemer, keep safe from all evil those whom thou hast redeemed, O Saviour of the world. [489:54 Irenaeus of Lyons, ca 130-200]

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Paean of Praise: Bible Commentary on Micah 7 with poem by James Thomson, Song

Daily Readings
Job 28 Exodus 18 Micah 7 I Corinthians 6

Daily Text: Micah 7

Paean of Praise
Reminding us of Elijah’s fear (I Kings 19:14) that the faithful have disappeared from the land, this passage in Micah 7 concludes that all have sinned and there is no one left but the prophet, though he intends to serve the LORD. The reality pointed to in this passage is that there is always a remnant, but never more than a remnant willing to serve the Lord. God alone is trustworthy. Trustworthy enough to restore Israel one day, whether this implies Samaria or Jerusalem. He will not only bring his people out into the light of his grace, but he will rebuild the city walls and even extend her boundaries.

In the concluding prayer the people pray to their God for evidence of his love, for marvelous works like those demonstrated when he brought them out in the Exodus from the land of Pharaoh. Marvelous acts that will cause the nations to ‘marvel,’ will shame them into obeisance, encourage them to themselves come to him and fulfill God’s intention that Israel will be a nation of priests to bring the other nations to YHWH. Finally, in a paean of praise, Micah ends in a hymn dedicated to the uniqueness of God, the One who pardons iniquity, passes over transgression, lets go of his anger, delights in showing clemency, and having compassion for his own. In all of this he literally destroys the confessed sins of his people by trodding them underfoot and casting them all into the depths of the sea. These final verses of Micah are a pointer to the love of God never surpassed before or after Micah. They create a network of understanding for John 3:16 and the sacrifice of Christ, for a loving God, whose love knows no bounds.

James Thomson


Let my voice ring out and over the earth,
Through all the grief and strife,
With a golden joy in a silver mirth:
Thank God for life!

Let my voice swell out through the great abyss
To the azure dome above,
With a chord of faith in the harp of bliss:
Thank God for Love!

Let my voice thrill out beneath and above,
The whole world through
O my Love and Life, O my Life and Love,
Thank God for you! 407:1036

Collect for the Day
Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King!
The heavens are not too high,
his praise may thither fly;
The earth is not too low,
his praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King!
[475:253:521 George Herbert (1593-1632)