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, June 10, 2006

God's Veto: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 11 with poem by Thomas Curtis Clark, Ezekiel, Prophet of the Exile

Daily Readings
Psalm 84, Judges 6, Ezekiel 11, Tobit 5:1-6:1a

Daily Text: Ezekiel 11

“God’s Veto”
The crux of Ezekiel 11 is that of the Council of Officials, 25 men that meet under the joint presidency of Jaazanaiah son of Azzur and Pelataiah son of Benaiah. This Council has evidently been given the authority by the Babylonians to govern the city, and they have obviously done so with pride and treachery. They consider themselves to be the ‘meat in the pot, ’ that is, the pride of Israel, for meat was virtually non-existent in the besieged city. They needed no new housing because they were arrogating to themselves the property of the exiles (vs. 14 [502:203]) and possibly taking housing from their compatriots (500:160), as well, slaying them to make it available (3,6). The LORD twists their bragging parable into a new parable saying that those slain at their hands were the dead meat in the pot of the city. Their legislating might be for them a source of pride and pleasure, but God through the vision to Ezekiel, who has again been translocated to view the Council and all its members, men known to him, will bring their iniquitous and wicked counsel (vs. 2) to nought, through what Horst has dubbed, God’s Veto [503:139].

While Ezekiel looks on, prophecying what God has told him to say, Pelatiah expires in the middle of the Council! So terrible is this result that Ezekiel comes unglued, terrified at the result of God’s action through him (vs. 13). It is obvious from the text that Pelatiah actually died during a meeting of the Council. Ezekiel’s report of this to the exiles must have been later confirmed by official messenger. It brings together the metaphysical and the historical in a strange, amazing way. Ezekiel is obviously undone by it, to such an extent that God responds to him in a long section in our record (vss. 14-21) that is not a part of the vision proper. But Ezekiel needed God’s reassurance and he gets it. It is a promise that even though the Council has written off the exiles, it is the exiles who will in time become the possessors of the city and the country. It is the exiles who will once again be given the heart of God and who will be God’s people.

In the final section (22-25) the vision ends with the cherubim and the glory of the LORD leaving the city. Greenberg [502:200] wrote, “No temple was destroyed—so was the common belief in the ancient Near East—unless its god had abandoned it, whether reluctantly under coercion of a higher decree…or in anger because of the offenses of the worshipers….” As the glory of the LORD departs, Ezekiel is transported back to the river Chebar where he reports all that he has seen to the exiles there.

Ezekiel, Prophet of the Exile
Thomas Curtis Clark

And Jehovah spake unto Ezekiel:
I have set Jerusalem among the nations,
And she has rejected mine ordinances,
And is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah;
She is a useless vine.
Behold, I shall make her a desolation
And a reproach
Among the nations round about her.

Israel, my people, will not hearken;
They are a rebellious house.
I will bring a sword upon her
And will destroy her high places;
And her false prophets shall be slain.
For I am Jehovah.

Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia;
Tyre, that dwellest at the entry of the sea;
I will bring terrible nations upon them
And they shall bring them down to the pit.

Pharaoh of Eypt,
The monster in the midst of the rivers,
Hath said, I am god.
His land will I give unto Babylon;
And all the nations shall know
That I am Jehovah.

And Jehovah spake unto Ezekiel:
Yet will I leave a remnant of my people;
And they shall take away the abominations
From Jerusalem and Israel;
And I will give them a new heart.

I will search for my sheep
And I will bring them into their own land;
And I will feed them with good pasture.
My tabernacle shall be with them
And I will be their God;
And they shall be my people.
And all the nations shall know
That I am Jehovah.

Collect for the Day
God of pilgrims, teach us to recognize your dwelling-place in the love, generosity, and support of those with whom we share our journey, and help us to worship you in our response to those who need our care; for all the world is your temple and every human heart is a sign of your presence, made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
[476:818:84 Psalm prayer]

Friday, June 09, 2006

Never Again: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 10 with poem by Aldous Huxley, The Burning Wheel

Daily Readings
Sirach 18:1-29, Judges 5, Ezekiel 10, Tobit 4

Daily Text: Ezekiel 10

Never Again
Here the scribe fires the city with coals taken from the wheelworks of the visions we saw in chapter one. But the issue to be focussed upon is not the conflagration, but one might say the ‘putting out of the fire.’ For the fire of God, the glory of God, the presence of God is departing, and here in Ezekiel 10 it is described while in Ezekiel 9:3 it was only noted. From the time of Moses following the giving of the Torah and the building of the Ark of the Covenant, the glory or presence of the LORD had dwelled in the holy of holies (cf. Exodus 25:8). Now the glory of the LORD departs never to rest in the sanctuary again. There will be a Second Temple built by Herod, but never again will the Divine Presence reside in this place, never again will the tablets of stone be present, never again will death and life live within the confines of human construction. The next habitation of God in created form will be the incarnation itself in the person of Jesus.

The Burning Wheel
Aldous Huxley

Wearied of its own turning,
Distressed with its own busy restlessness,
Yearning to draw the circumferent pain—
The rim that is dizzy with speed—
To the motionless centre, there to rest,
The wheel must strain through agony
On agony contracting, returning
Into the core of steel.
And at last the wheel has rest, is still,
Shrunk to an adamant core:
Fulfilling its will in fixity.
But the yearning atoms, as they grind
Closer and closer, more and more
Fiercely together, beget
A flaming fire upward leaping,
Billowing out in a burning,
Passionate, fierce desire to find
The infinite calm of the mother’s breast.
And there the flame is a Christ-child sleeping,
Bright, tenderly radiant;
All bitterness lost in the infinite
Peace of the mother’s bosom.
But death comes creeping in a tide
Of slow oblivion, till the flame in fear
Wakes from the sleep of its quiet brightness
And burns with a darkening passion and pain,
Lest, all forgetting in quiet, it perish.
And as it burns and anguishes it quickens,
Begetting once again the wheel that yearns—
Sick with its speed—for the terrible stillness
Of the adamant core and the steel-hard chain.
And so once more
Shall the wheel revolve till its anguish cease
In the iron anguish of fixity;
Till once again
Flame billows out to infinity,
Sinking to a sleep of brightness
In that vast oblivious peace.

Collect for the Day
Make me remember, O God, that every day is your gift and ought to be used according to thy command, through Jesus Christ our Lord. [475:256:533]

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What Really Happened: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 9 with poem by A. M. Sullivan, Psalm Against the Darkness

Daily Readings
Psalm 82, Judges 4, Ezekiel 9, Tobit 3

Daily Text: Ezekiel 9

What Really Happened
Historically, Ezekiel 9 has nothing to do with the destruction of Jerusalem. But according to Ezekiel, this is what really happened. This is the metaphysical reality, a glimpse at the heart of the matter [503:130]. Six executioners were sent from the LORD accompanied by a scribe. The scribe was to put a mark (the Hebrew letter tau) on the forehead of every person in Jerusalem who grieved the sin and abominations of the people. Everyone else was to be slaughtered. In this way, limits were set on the destruction by the avenging LORD himself. The slaughter began with the 70 elders near the entrance of the temple (cf. 8:7-12). It did not stop until only those with the protective marks on their forehead were left alive. But perhaps more telling than the slaughter commanded of the Lord’s executioners, was the recital in verse 3. “…the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the Cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house.’

Psalm Against the Darkness
A.M. Sullivan


What shall we fear, son, now that the stars go down and silence is chilling the breath to a
pattern of frost?
Stalactites glisten from caverns of night for the grief of the world is hardened again into
Cankers of malice are boring their icy augers deep in the bosoms of men, and the hooves
of the four horsemen are heard on the roofs of the brain.
What is this prescience of doom, this stalk of evil that sucks the sap of the spirit, and
spreads the pollen of anger?
Some witch is abroad in the world, paroled for an hour of mischief to scatter her cockle in
furrows of greed.
We have taken the earth in our stride, but the boot is crusted in clay, and the cleat has
bruised the dream bogged low in the darkness.
Heads downward, we count the treadmill steps to the sky in a litany mixed wit a
laugh and wordy bluster of braggarts.

Standing on the rim of the world we beat hollow drums in our breasts, we shout into
caverns a challenge of God.
Nimble are we in the centuries to alter our skin, our tongue and our shrine, but never the
bloody oblation as Abraham also remembered.
Peace, peace, we cry, till our voice is shrilled to a paean, but the map men wrangle by
mountain and river.
Knowledge we gather as a conquering host, and pile the loot of the years in bins of oak
and of marble, but wisdom we cannot bequeath.
The heat of blood is the same as the night it spilled on the lichened rocks in a world too
small for the fingers of Cain.

Which is more difficult, son, to save the world, or end it swift in a vacuum, sans mark or
memory of men?
What is the goal of the centaur whose fingers have changed the wine of Cana to gall, who
sold his art to Magus and fouled the steps of the temple?
What shall we fear too much? Hate’s guarantee of our doom? Love’s indestructible
dawn? The half-god who stumbles on pride cannot end his world by the wishing.
A finger rising from conscience and shadowing the sun shall mark the hour with less than
His praise, yet curve a rainbow high over Golgotha.
The finger has written again on the curved deception of blue, and the words are
the old, old cry of “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

There are two majorities, son, though you ask me no question. The nameless dead, the
unborn legions of time, but we are the thin minority, the living, who hold God’s
sceptre of light.

Collect for the Day
Strength of the weak, Defender of the needy, Rescuer of the poor, deliver us form the power of wickedness, that we may rejoice in your justice now and forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:816:82 Psalm prayer]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Abomination: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 8 with poem by T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock

Daily Readings
Psalm 81, Judges 3:7-31, Ezekiel 8, Tobit 2

Daily Text: Ezekiel 8

An abomination is ‘whatever would profane the People of God by taking away their consecrated character’ [503:123]. In Ezekiel 8 the motivation for these abominations is to drive the LORD from his sanctuary (vs. 6), and in this chapter the abominations recorded all take place within the Jerusalem temple. Closer inspection reveals a number of violations against the person of God. the intent in relationship with YHWH is that those who love and honor him have an immediate experience of his presence. anything that degrades or overlays that possibility is idolatry. Here there are
• Synchretistic elements from other religions
• Political overtones in the Egyptian and Babylonian cult worship
• Worship of the creature rather than the Creator
• Deliberate disobedience

In our own time these violations occur routinely and are no less an abomination before our Lord Jesus Christ.
• Liturgy that calls attention to itself rather than to God
• Posturing that makes human concerns a focus, e.g., fetishes, eulogies, inclusiveness, separateness
• Political and nationalistic praises quite common during elections and on national holidays, eg., national hymns, patriotic songs, flag observance
• Celebrations of a programmatic nature that may include fundraisers, recognition of people, events, passage of time, buildings, congregational meetings, announcements, etcetera.
• Styles of leadership that call attention to the liturgist rather than the LORD

Anything that interferes with the immediate realization of the presence of God in our lives and our communal worship may itself be idolatrous.

Choruses from “The Rock”
T. S. Eliot

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O Perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
Of world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

I journeyed to London, to the timekept City,
Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.
There I was told: we have too many churches,
And too few chop-houses. There I was told:
Let the vicars retire, men do not need the Church
In the place where they work, but where they spend their Sundays.
In the City, we need no bells:
Let them waken the suburbs.
I journeyed to the suburbs, and there I was told:
We toil for six days, on the seventh we must motor
To Hindhead, or Maidenhead.
If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers.
In industrial districts, there I was told
Of economic laws.
In the pleasant countryside, there it seemed
That the country now is only fit for picnics.
And the Church does not seem to be wanted
In country or in suburbs; and in the town
Only for important weddings.

Collect for the Day
Father, forgive our foolish ways, and feed us always with that living bread which is given for the life of the world, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:815:81 Psalm prayer]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The End Has Come: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 7 with poem by John Oxenham, Dies Irae--Dies Pacis

Daily Readings
Psalm 80, Judges 2:6-3:6, Ezekiel 7, Tobit 1

Daily Text: Ezekiel 7

The End Has Come
Eichrodt (503) asserts that this poem, which has many lost elements, is still one of great beauty and power. The theme, ‘The End Has Come,’ is introduced in Ezekiel 7 in two short stanzas 1-4 and 5-9 each ending with a statement that out of judgement will come knowledge that the Lord has acted. One final longer stanza incorporates five elements. The failure of dependence upon commerce, 12-13, the military, 14-18, and wealth, 19-21 are three of them. As a result even the temple, the treasured place of God, will be profaned, 22-25, and finally, the leadership ordained by God will also fail utterly, 26-27.

The end has come not only for Israel, however, but it has been meted out on the whole earth. Israel is not treated any differently from any other nation. She no longer has a special place in the economy of God and she has brought this great disaster upon herself by her own abominations. In the end she shall know that ‘I am the Lord.’ What a tragic way to discover who rules Israel and the world!

Dies Irae—Dies Pacis
John Oxenham

“Only through Me!”….The clear, high call comes pealing,
Above the thunders of the battle-plain;--
“Only through Me can Life’s red wounds find healing;
Only through Me shall Earth have peace again.

“Only through me!….Love’s Might, all might transcending,
Alone can draw the poison-fangs of Hate.
Yours the beginning!—Mine a nobler ending,--
Peace upon Earth, and Man regenerate!

“Only through Me can come the great awaking;
Wrong cannot right the wrongs that Wrong hath done;
Only through Me, all other gods forsaking,
Can ye attain the heights that must be won.

“Only through Me shall Victory be sounded;
Only through Me can Right wield righteous sword;
Only through Me shall Peace be surely founded;
Only through Me….Then bid Me to the Board!”

Can we not rise to such great height of glory?
Shall this vast sorrow spend itself in vain?
Shall future ages tell the woeful story,--
“Christ by His own was crucified again”?

Collect for the Day
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ, our good shepherd; you have led us to the kingdom of your Father’s love. Forgive our careless indifference to your loving care for all your creatures, and remake us in the likeness of your new and risen life. We ask this in your name. [476:814:80 Psalm prayer]

Monday, June 05, 2006

Clap Your Hands and Stamp Your Foot: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 6 with poem by John Newton, In Evil Long I Took Delight

Daily Readings
Psalm 77, Judges 1:1-2:5, Ezekiel 6, James 5

Daily Text: Ezekiel 6

Clap Your Hands and Stamp Your Foot
Ezekiel 6 calls for the prophet to ‘Clap your hands and stamp your foot.’ No! This is not an ancient clogging exhibition. It is a sort of advertising, however, a way to draw public attention to Israel’s vile behavior and the terrible reality that God would expend his fury on them.

In the middle section of the chapter there is recognition that some of those fleeing the high places would live to see exile and live to recognize their wrong doing and the righteousness of the Lord’s position. This is a new element in Ezekiel’s prophecy, but one that will be seen again later.

In Evil Long I Took Delight
John Newton


In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp’d my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix’d His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look:
It seem’d to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own’d the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help’d to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!
--A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may’st live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now is fill’d,
That I should such a life destroy,--
Yet live by Him I kill’d!

Collect for the Day
God of saving power, remember us in times of sorrow and despair. Redeem us with your strength and guide us through the wilderness. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. [476:805:77 Psalm prayer]

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Special Relationship: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 5 with poem by Margaret Sackville, To One Who Denies the Possibility of a Permanent Peace

Daily Readings
Psalm 76, Joshua 24, Ezekiel 5, James 4

Daily Text: Ezekiel 5

The Special Relationship
Jerusalem is the navel of the universe by the hand of God, but there is no reason to celebrate, for God has decreed its destruction. 587 B.C. is the date of the final defeat and exile of the population. The house of Israel has become more rebellious than the surrounding nations and her punishment will be correspondingly severe. Vss. 5-17 are the explanation offered for the signs enacted by Ezekiel. The city will be under siege, will endure famine to the extent that cannibalism will occur. One third will die from that siege, another third by the sword and the final third will be scattered across the earth.
At issue in Ezekiel 5 is the special relationship Israel has enjoyed with YHWH. She has prided herself and rested on it without honoring it. God has expected her to share with the nations. That is the responsibility that accompanies the gift. She has ignored that responsibility to her peril. The Church will likewise do so. (Cf. 503:91)

To One Who Denies the Possibility
Of a Permanent Peace
Margaret Sackville

Old friend, I greet you! you are still the same:
You poisoned Socrates, you crucified
Christ, you have persecuted, mocked, denied,
Rejected God and cursed Him—in God’s name.
You gave monotonously to the flame
All those (whom now you honor) when the new
Truth stung their lips—for fear it might be true;
Then reaped where they ahd sown and felt no shame.
Familiar voice, old adversary—hail!
Yesterday’s fools are now your gods. Behold!
The generations pass and we can wait.
You slandered Shelley, Florence Nightingale;
Now a new splendor quivers in the cold
Gray shadows overhead; still you are late.

Collect for the Day
Judge eternal, love is the government of your holy city and the indictment of the proud. We give thanks for the great salvation you have revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:804:76 Psalm prayer]