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

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Improprieties: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 23 with poem from the Koran, Concerning Usury

Daily Readings
Proverbs 5, Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 23, Matthew 28

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 23

One way of seeing the text of Deuteronomy 23 is to envision three sets of improprieties:
• those that prevent admission to the Assembly of the LORD, whether these are sacral or political or both
• those to be avoided when encamped against an enemy, and
• those generally prohibited.

Eunuch’s, bastards, Ammonites, and Moabites find themselves completely excluded from membership (citizenship) in Israel according to Deuteronomy 23, while Edomites and Egyptians may be included after living within Israel for three generations.

Siege conditions bring up new circumstances and arguably three of them are delineated in vss. 9-16. All of them assume that the LORD is present to fight for them, and his presence requires a kind of holy living that is unique to Israel. On two counts the conditions have to do with purity issues, nocturnal emissions and daily bodily functions. The third is built upon Israel’s own deliverance from slavery and on it is the expectation that if and when slaves escape from the besieged city and give themselves up to Israel’s army, they are to be given permanent asylum within Israel without their being re-enslaved.

Finally, prostitution, charging interest on charitable loans, postponing vows to the LORD and harvesting your neighbors crops are warned against. You may eat of your neighbor’s grapes and corn as you pass through his field, but you may not take anything away. Amazing really the variety of improprieties mentioned. They do not fall within parallel categories, that is some are religious matters, others are political and finally there are social and economic prohibitions and rights that must be observed. Part of the reason for the mixture is that Israel’s God participates in all of life. There are no strong>mproprieties or prohibited areas for the LORD.

Concerning Usury
The Koran

To him who is of kin to thee give his due
and to the poor and to the wayfarer:
this will be best for those
who seek the face of God:
and with them it shall be well.

Whatever ye put out at usury
to increase it with the substance of others
shall have no increase from God:
but whatever ye shall give in alms
as seeking the face of God
shall be doubled to you.

Collect for the Day
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP:826:35 For the Poor and the Neglected]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Integrity: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 22 with poem by Howard Arnold Walter, I Would Be True

Daily Readings
Proverbs 4, Numbers 29, Deuteronomy 22, Matthew 27

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 22

In this mix of laws in Deuteronomy 22, those concerning sexual offenses quickly dominate the chapter. They follow the rules governing the treatment of your neighbor’s animals and goods and the prohibitions against mixing a variety of animals and materials. Those regulations concerning the treatment of a neighbor’s animals and goods are reminiscent of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’

The sexual issues range from blame-casting by a husband who does not like his wife after he marries her, to adultery, rape, seduction and transvestite behavior. Again, the concern is for integrity in Israel, as opposed to following the practices of the Canaanites and other local peoples.

I Would Be True
Howard Arnold Walter

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend of all—the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving, and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.

I would be learning, day by day, the lessons
My heavenly Father gives me in his Word;
I would be quick to hear his lightest whisper,
And prompt and glad to do the things I’ve heard.

Collect for the Day
Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins,
Kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For thou alone art my King and my Lord. [286:4:5 St. Dimitrii of Rostov, 17th century]

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bloodguilt: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 21 with poem by Elizabeth Cheney, There is a Man on the Cross

Daily Readings
Proverbs 3, Numbers 28, Deuteronomy 21, Matthew 26

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 21

In each of these cases in Deuteronomy 21 instruction is given on how to prevent bloodguilt, how to keep the covenant intact that the people might rest secure within the promise of their possession, and all within the favor of their God. When an unknown person murders another, someone must take the responsibility for receiving absolution, and the someone was a cadre of elders from the closest town. The individual must treat a captive wife, a firstborn son, or a rebellious, disobedient child in specific ways in order to keep intact the divine covenant with Israel. Individuals were responsible for the whole community and the whole community for individuals. Even one accursed could affect the covenant and the community. The covenant broken brought Israel to her knees and to equality on the playing field of all humanity. St. Paul in Galatians 3:13 makes this point about the accursed Jesus. But when through the resurrection he was shown the favor of YHWH, then he and all like him—is there anyone who is not—were accursed no longer. Absolution became available to all, bloodguilt could be absolved.

There is a Man on the Cross
Elizabeth Cheney

Whenever there is silence around me
By day or by night—
I am startled by a cry.
It came down from the cross—
The first time I heard it.
I went out and searched—
And found a man in the throes of crucifixion,
And I said, “I will take you down,”
And I tried to take the nails out of his feet.
But he said, “Let them be
For I cannot be taken down
Until every man, every woman, and every child
Come together to take me down.’
And I said, “But I cannot hear you cry.
What can I do?”
And he said, “Go about the world—
Tell everyone that you meet—
There is a man on the cross.”

Collect for the Day
Blessed be thy name, O Jesu, son of the most high God; blessed be the sorrow thou sufferedst when thy holy hands and feet were nailed to the tree; and blessed thy love when, the fullness of pain accomplished, thou didst give thy soul into the hands of the Father; so by thy cross and precious blood redeeming all the world, all longing souls departed and the numberless unborn; who now livest and reignest in the glory of the eternal Trinity, God for ever and ever. [286:143:484 Eric Milner-White, 1884-1964]

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Trust: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 20 with poem by Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib

Daily Readings
Proverbs 2, Numbers 26, Deuteronomy 20, Matthew 24

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 20

One theological requirement underlay the practices spoken of in Deuteronomy 20. While conscription into the military was evidently universal, fighting was not. Several exemptions were stated
• Exemption from a military battle to complete the building of a house
• Exemption from a battle to see to fruition the planting of a vineyard
• Exemption from a battle to marry a wife and to consummate that marriage
God willed his people to possess the land and that possession inevitably required military exercise. However, since God himself would lead the charge and win the victory for Israel,every individual was not critical to the success of the venture. Therefore, the matters above trumped the need for risking life and limb. The theological requirement was trust. Have that and all would be well; fail in that and all would be lost. There was no need for fear.

The Destruction of Sennacherib
George Gordon, Lord Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming with purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostrils all wide,
But through them there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider, distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broken in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

Collect for the Day
From that which we fear, O Lord, make us fearless.
O bounteous One, assist us with your aid.
Drive far the malevolent, the foeman.

May the atmosphere we breathe
Breathe fearlessness into us:
fearlessness on earth
and fearlessness in heaven!
May fearlessness guard us
behind and before!
May fearlessness surround us
above and below!
May we be without fear
of friend and foe!
May we be without fear
of the known and the unknown!
May we be without fear
by night and by day!
Let all the world be my friend!
[286283:858 from Raimundo Panikkar’s collection The Vedic Experience]