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, May 13, 2006

Song of Moses: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 32 with poem by Emily Dickinson, It Always Felt to Me

Daily Readings
Proverbs 14, Joshua 3, Deuteronomy 32, II Corinthians 9

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 32

Song of Moses
The Song of Moses is an expression of the great Name of God. That is what Moses says he is setting out to sing and that is what he does. Whether he broaches the subject of the just and faithful God, details his five-fold redemptive activity (6b-14), makes his indictments against Israel and her enemies or mounts the vindication of God’s people for God’s own sake, the Name of God is beautifully exalted. While Deuteronomy 32 assumes that Israel will abandon the God who made him and laugh scornfully at God who loves her, this same YHWH, this same steadfastly loving God will ultimately vindicate his own. The God that claimed his name as ‘I will be what I will be’ in Exodus 3:14 brings his name into the present tense in Deuteronomy 32:39 as ‘I, even I, am He.’ There is no other beside Him. In Exodus He had yet to cut the covenant; now it not only has been ‘cut,’ but the Lord has delivered on it and the people are on the threshold of entering the covenanted land. This is indeed a faithful God , let us sing his praises ourselves for His sake.

It Always Felt to Me
Emily Dickinson

It always felt to me—a wrong
To that Old Moses—done—
To let him see—the Canaan-
Without the entering—

And tho’ in soberer moments—
No Moses there can be
I’m satisfied—the Romance
In point of injury—

Surpasses sharper stated—
Of Stephen—or of Paul-
For these—were only put to death—
While God’s adroiter will

On Moses—seemed to fasten
With tantalizing Play
As Boy—should deal with lesser Boy—
To prove ability.

The fault—was doubtless Israel’s—
Myself—had banned the Tribes—
And ushered Grand Old Moses
In Pentateuchal Robes

Upon the Broad Possession
‘Twas little—But titled Him—to see-
Old Man on Nebo! Late as this—
My justice bleeds—for Thee!
Collect for the Day
Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who shares His wisdom with those who revere Him. [471:697]

Friday, May 12, 2006

Crossing Over: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 31 with poem by Alice Lucas, Faith

Daily Readings
Proverbs 13, Joshua 2, Deuteronomy 31, II Corinthians 8

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 31

Crossing Over
Transition is one way of introducing the theme of ‘Crossing Over’ for surely it was that, but not in a literal way. That is, Deuteronomy 31 does begin with the final change in leadership between Moses and Joshua, but more to the point ‘crossing over’ had to do with simply another step in God’s great promise to Israel. The LORD was crossing over before them. It was He that would give them confidence, the victory, the hope for the future. Joshua was ‘crossing over’ as their nominal head. The people were crossing over to their inheritance. Moses was not crossing over in the literal sense. He was crossing over to his ancestors, his life lived, his leadership drawing to a close.

God and Moses knew that the people were going to betray their Leader, their covenant, their own first love. Was God’s foreknowledge responsible for determining the people’s failure? This theological conundrum has often been resolved by admitting that He gave the people the freedom to obey or disobey, and his foreknowledge did not limit or predestine the choice. The Jews always accepted this, that is, they did until the holocaust, when many could not bring themselves to forgive a God who could foreknow and not intervene.

In the final verses, Moses is instructed to write a song as witness. The people are called into assembly and told that the words of this book, Deuteronomy, will be placed in the Ark alongside the Law, and these written missives along with Moses’s song, heaven and earth are alike witnesses to the faithfulness of YHWH. Here in this placement of Deuteronomy alongside the tablets is the beginning of a process that has led to the canon of Scripture for the Jews, and also for the Christians. It has become for us a powerful witness to the steadfast love of God.

Alice Lucas

And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed. Deuteronomy, xxxi, 8.
My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.—Exodus, xxxiii,14

Of all Thy gifts the best.
On us Thy needy people, sore distress’d,
Sore travel worn, and stained with sin and woe,
Of all Thy gifts the best.

Then shall we find, amid life’s toilsome quest,
The peace of God, from which all blessings flow.
Then shall no evil fears our souls molest.

Faith, faith in Thee, faith that, where’er we go,
Thy presence goes with us, and gives us rest
That is in heaven above, on earth below,
Of all Thy gifts the best!

Collect for the Day
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me so to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
You name be praised.
[286:162:538 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written while awaiting execution in a Nazi prison]

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 30 with poem by Francis Quarles, Deuteronomy 30.19

Daily Readings
Proverbs 12, Joshua 1, Deuteronomy 30, II Corinthians 7

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 30

Choose Life
Even should the people be scattered to the ends of the earth, returning to the LORD will create the context for His responding to them. Seven times in verses 1-10 the word shuv, return, is used. This is not the repentance of the prophets, who begged the people to repent before they lost everything. This return assumes that they have already lost everything and are coming back from a far away ‘place,’ a place outside of God’s presence. The rabbi’s taught that “When a person seeks to purify himself, he receives help in doing so” [498:739], that is, God prepares the way within them. And the core of that way will be through internalizing, perhaps even memorizing the Torah. According to Christensen, ‘Moses taught the Torah to the people by heart—in oral recitation, as a “musical” experience (498:743). It is very near to them (Romans 10:6-9) in their mouth and in their heart (Jeremiah 31:33).

These offerings of obedience leading to blessing and life, on the one hand, and disobedience leading to cursing and death on the other are reiterated in the third segment of Deuteronomy 30, verses 15-20. Moses is very clear, ‘Choose life.’ It is the only thing that makes sense. It still is.

Deuteronomy 30.19
Francis Quarles

The world’s a floor, whose swelling heaps retain
The mingled wages of the ploughman’s toil;
The world’s a heap, whose yet unwinnowed grain
Is lodged with chaff and buried in her soil;
All things are mixed, the useful with the vain;
The good with bad, the noble with the vile;
The world’s an ark, wherein things pure and gross
Present their lossfull gain, and gainfull loss;
Where every dram of gold contains a pound of dross.

This furnished ark presents the greedy view
With all that earth can give, or Heaven can add;
Here, lasting joys; here, pleasures hourly new,
And hourly fading, may be wished and had:
All points of honor, counterfeit and true,
Salute thy soul, and wealth both good and bad:
Here mayst thou open wide the two-leaved door
Of all thy wishes, to receive that store
Which being empty most, does overflow the more.

Come then, my soul, approach this royal Bourse,
And see what wares our great Exchange retains;
Come, come; here’s that shall make a firm divorce
Betwixt thy wants and thee, if want complains;
No need to sin in council with thy purse,
Here’s nothing good shall cost more price then pains:
But O my soul, take heed; if thou rely
Upon thy faithless Optics, thou wilt buy
Too blind a bargain: know, fools only trade by th’ eye.

The worldly wisdom fo the foolish man
Is like a sieve, that does alone retain
The grosser substance of the worthless bran:
But thou, my soul, let thy brave thoughts disdain
So coarse a purchase; O be thou a fan
To purge the chaff,and keep the winnowed grain:
Make clean thy thoughts, and dress thy mixed desires,
Thou art Heaven’s tasker; and thy God requires
The purest of thy floor, as well as of thy fires.

Let grace conduct thee to the paths of peace,
And wisdom bless thy soul’s unblemished ways;
No matter then, how short or long’s the lease,
Whose date determines thy self-numbered days:
No need to care for wealth’s or fame’s increase,
Nor Mars his palm, nor high Apollo’s bays.
Lord, if thy gracious bounty please to fill
The floor of my desires, and teach me skill
To dress and choose the corn, take those the chaff that will.

Collect for the Day
O gracious Father, who opens your hand and fills all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let your Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show your loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what you give, that men and women everywhere may give you thanks; through Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP:828:42]