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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Profaned No Longer: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 38 with poem translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, The One God

Daily Readings
Psalm 102, I Samuel 8, Ezekiel 38, John 17

Daily Text: Ezekiel 38

Profaned No Longer
Who is Gog? Prince of the land of Magog. Where is Magog? Surely there must be an historical reference. Gog is the leader of a coalition of nations, many of them known. But even if a match can be made between Gog and a prince, between Magog and a nation there is no known tie to Israel. Surely there must be an historical reference.

The purposes of God in leading this prince to invade Israel are spelled out. The divine name that has been profaned will be profaned no longer. Gog will march on Israel, defenceless Israel, and be thrashed by earthquake, fire and storm. God will be God, not only to Israel, but before the nations of the world.

The One God
Ancient Egyptian hymn
;
Tr. by E. A. Wallis Budge

God is One and Alone, and there is none other with him.
God is the One, the One who has made all things.
God is a Spirit, a hidden Spirit, the Spirit of Spirits, the great Spirit of Egypt,
the divine Spirit.
God is from the beginning, and has existed from the beginning.
He is the primeval One, and existed when as yet nothing existed:
He existed when as yet there was nothing, and whatever is,
He made it after He was. He is the Father of Beginnings….
God is hidden, and no one hath perceived his form, no one hath fathomed his likeness,
He is hidden in respect of Gods and men, and is a mystery to his creatures.
God is the Truth…He is the King of Truth.
God is Life and man lives through him alone….
God is Father and Mother: the Father of fathers, and the Mother of mothers.
God begets, but He is not begotten….
He begets Himself, and gives birth to Himself: He makes, but is not made….
That which emanates from his heart is performed immediately, and when He has once
spoken, it actually comes to pass, and endures for ever and ever.
407:101

Collect for the Day
God of unchanging mercy, look with compassion upon all who suffer: the sick and the friendless, the homeless and the captive, the weary and the depressed. Be present to them in the power of your healing love; give them health, comfort, and hope; and bring them to share in the life of your risen Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. [476:841:102 Psalm prayer]

Friday, July 07, 2006

Boneyard: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 37 with poem by Edward Taylor, Meditation Twelve

Daily Readings
Psalm 101, I Samuel 7:3-17, Ezekiel 37, John 16

Daily Text: Ezekiel 37

Boneyard
Resurrection this is not. First, it is a vision. Second, it is a vision about bringing the nations of Israel and Judah back together from their common ‘grave’ in Babylon. This vision is entrained with chapter 36:22-38. Note that Ezekiel 37:14 quotes 36:27. God is going to bring about a new creation, however, for the nations of Israel and Judah are dead. The only life in the land of Israel is the life of the One God, and one should not say ‘only life.’ That life is the source of all life. Our source will breathe the breath of life into the boneyard of his people. But more than that he will give them divine governance through ‘David.’ Is this Messiah? Most likely. This new people, this reconstituted dead nation, will have divine assistance in abandoning their former apostasies and will be assigned a new covenant, one of peace and blessing and the eternal indwelling of the Holy One.

Meditation Twelve
Second Series
Edward Taylor

Dull. Dull indeed! What shall it e’er be thus?
And why? Are not thy promises, my Lord,
Rich, quickening things? How should my full cheeks
To find me thus? And those a lifeless word?
My heart is heedless: unconcerned hereat:
I find my spirits spiritless, and flat.


Thou courtst mine eyes in sparkling colors bright.
Most bright indeed, and soul enamoring,
With the most shining sun, whose beams did smite
Me with delightful smiles to make me spring.
Embellished knots of love assault my mind
Which still is dull, as if this sun ne’er shined.

David in all his gallantry now comes,
Bringing to tend thy shrine, his royal glory,
Rich prowess, prudence, victories, sweet songs,
And piety to pencil out thy story;
To draw my heart to thee in this brave shine
Of typic beams, most warm. But still I pine.

Shall not this lovely beauty, Lord, set out
In dazzling shining flashes ‘fore mine eye,
Enchant my heart, love’s golden mine, ‘til’t spout
Out streams of love refined that on thee lie?
Thy glory’s great: Thou David’s kingdom shalt
Enjoy for aye. I want and that’s my fault.

Spare me, my Lord, spare me, I greatly pray,
Let me thy gold pass through thy fire until
Thy fire refine, and take my filth away.
That I may shine like gold, and have my fill
Of love for thee; until my virginal
Chime out in changes sweet thy praises shall.

Wipe off my rust, Lord, with thy wisp me scour,
And make thy beams perch on my strings their blaze.
My tunes clothe with thy shine, and quavers pour
My cursing strings on, loaded with thy praise.
My fervent love with music in her hand
Shall then attend thyself, and thy command.
395:433

Collect for the Day
Loving God, help us to love what is truly perfect, so that we may neither speak what is evil nor do what is wrong. Then bring us to stand in your presence, to sing of your mercy and justice in the company of all your saints, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. [476:839:101 Psalm prayer]

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pure Grace: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 36 with poem by William Cowper, The Covenant

Daily Readings
Psalm 100, I Samuel 6:1-7:2, Ezekiel 36, John 15

Daily Text: Ezekiel 36

Pure Grace
There is a contrast between the destruction of Edom in chapter 35 and the restoration of the people of Israel in Ezekiel 36. That contrast is ‘contrary to all human calculation’ [503:489]. Israel failed her God absolutely, and God has judged her as falling short and exiled her from the land. However, rather than leave the land desolate, as he will do with Edom, in order to bring honor to God’s own name, YHWH will restore the mountains of Judah, will bring back his failed people and will indeed give them new hearts and a new spirit that they may serve the LORD in the land. Who could have predicted? This is an act of pure grace. Undeserving as the people of Israel were, their God was deserving of far more, and to make this point to Edom and the surrounding nations, Israel’s God shows the absolute nature of his power and promises through the prophet to bring them back to the land. And to repeat, it is not for the sake of the people of Israel, but for the sake of his own name; this is a sovereign choice. How easy it is to get this truth garbled! There is no health in us, except for the healing given freely by the LORD.

The Covenant
Ezekiel xxxvi:25-28
William Cowper
1731-1800

The Lord proclaims His grace abroad!
“Behold, I change your hearts of stone;
Each shall renounce his idol-god,
And serve, henceforth, the Lord alone.

“My grace, a flowing stream proceeds
To wash your filthiness away;
Ye shall abhor your former deeds,
And learn my statutes to obey.

“My truth the great design ensures,
I give myself away to you;
You shall be mine, I will be yours,
Your God unalterably true.

“Yet not unsought or unimplored,
The plenteous grace I shall confer;*
No—your whole hearts shall seek the Lord,
I’ll put a praying spirit there.

“From the first breath of life divine,
Down to the last expiring hour,
The gracious work shall all be mine,
Begun and ended in my power.”
411:417
*Ezekiel xxxvi:37

Collect for the Day
God our Father, you have created us as your people, and you sustain us withyour hand. Help us always to give you thanks, for you alone are worthy of thanksgiving and praise and honour, now and for ever. [476:838:100 Psalm prayer]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ancient Enmity: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 35 with poem by Joaquin Miller, In Men Whom Men Condemn

Daily Readings
Psalm 99, I Samuel 5, Ezekiel 35, John 14

Daily Text: Ezekiel 35

Ancient Enmity
Edom’s betrayal of Judah was so vicious that it was never forgotten. Survey Psalm 137:7 ff., to find an appreciation for this ancient enmity. It fed in both directions. But such enmity, such judgement, one of the other is condemned thoroughly by the LORD, in Ezekiel 35. There is a principle here: judge not that you be not judged. Romans 2 is very clear that this principle still obtains. In the very act of judging another, one becomes not only guilty, but somehow guilty of the identical sin in the eyes of God. Recognition of sin and condemnation of it in another are two different practices. Edom was open to the purview of God. One is reminded of the Collect for Purity (BCP 355), “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid….” It is as if one’s thoughts and ‘hidden’ deeds are thrown up on a screen for all to see, but in reality it is the Holy One who does the seeing.

In Men Whom Men Condemn
“Byron”
Joaquin Miller

1841-1913

In men whom men condemn as ill
I find so much of goodness still,
In men whom men pronounce divine
I find so much of sin and blot,
I do not dare to draw a line
Between the two, where God has not.
407:908

Collect for the Day
Lord our God, ruler of the universe, you love what is right. Lead us in your righteousness, that we my live to praise you, through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:837:99 Psalm prayer]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Covenant of Peace: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 34 with poem by Henry Constable, O Gracious Shepherd

Daily Readings
Psalm 98 I Samuel 4:16-22 Ezekiel 34 John 13

Daily Text: Ezekiel 34

Covenant of Peace
Three strophes make up this unitary prophecy: the first, the false shepherds, the second, the true shepherd and finally, the garden of peace. The David monarchy has in its own rapacious way, stripped the nation of its rights and its heritage. While not alone in sin, the officials are singled out for divine criticism. YHWH means to be the shepherd from this point on and bring the sheep back home, gathered from the various points of exile around the known world. Finally, in verse 23 the prophet begins a description of a covenant of peace, a garden of a place, led by God, assisted by David. Scholar’s dialogue about whether this is a messianic prophecy or an indication of a return of the legitimate dynasty, but whatever is meant, Ezekiel 34 signals here a new order of love and care, of beneficence and bounty. It is this new order that is signified by a new covenant, one that goes beyond the Levitical one. That one obviously has broken down with Jerusalem, and the people are ready for a renewed relationship with YHWH.

O Gracious Shepherd
Henry Constable

1562-1613

O gracious Shepherd! for Thy simple flock
By guileful goats to ravening wolves misled,
Who Thine own dear heart’s precious blood didst shed,
And lamb-like offered to the butcher’s block:
O gracious Shepherd! unremoving Rock
Of succour to all such as thither fled,
Respect one of Thy flock which followèd
These cursèd goats, and doth repentant knock,
To be with mercy taken to Thy fold.
I know Thy grace doth still for wanderers look;
I was a lost sheep once: dear Lord! behold,
And in compassion take me with Thy hook.
In one lost sheep new found, Thou dost rejoice;
Then know Thy sheep, which knows his Shepherd’s voice.
402:51

Collect for the Day
Lord God, we see your righteous rule in all your works, and we join our voices with the song of your whole creation in praising you, in and through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
[476:836:98 Psalm prayer]

Monday, July 03, 2006

Labels Don't Count: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 33 with poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, Ezekiel

Daily Readings
Psalm 97 I Samuel 3:1-4:1a Ezekiel 33 John 12

Daily Text: Ezekiel 33

Labels Don’t Count
Ezekiel 33 is complex. It begins with the sentinel theme that we saw in chapter 3. The sentinel is responsible for giving warning. If he does then the people’s response is on their own heads. If he does not, the people die, but the sentinel is held accountable. All very straightforward. And then there is the offer of God to respond to his people according to their own behavior. They evidently, having heard Ezekiel, have fallen into despair. But Ezekiel tells them that the label of ‘righteous’ or ‘sinner’ is accurate only if they live it out. That is, labels don’t count in the end; behavior, the way you live, does. Interesting that in the current day, preachers are back to preaching labels, and by labels I mean sacraments. If you’re baptized you are in like flint regardless of the way you live! Ezekiel and Jesus held out no such illusions.

At the end of the chapter we find two separate pieces: one, concerning survivors of the Fall of Jerusalem still living in the land and two, concerning the exiles in Babylon in proximity to Ezekiel. The survivors have an argument that allows them to claim the conquered land. Abraham was promised it and he was one man; why can’t we being many claim it, they boasted? Because, says the horrified Ezekiel, your lives are despicable, immoral and destined for punishment. The exiles, on the other hand, have had a change of heart. Whereas they had been opposing Ezekiel and his messages, now they are turning out in large numbers to listen to him. With one caveat, they too have their minds on how they can profit from the fall of Jerusalem. They are listening as one would to an entertainer; they are not taking his message to heart and living lives of obedience to the will of God as a consequence. God promises Ezekiel, in an aside, that soon they will know that a prophet resides among them, ”for justice comes—and come it will,” he promises.

In the middle of all of this is a report that Jerusalem has fallen. A survivor makes his way over a period of six months to the community of exiles on the River Chebar, and tells his tale. This commentor believes that the placement of this report is meant to signal a difference in the minds and hearts of the exiles. They move from disbelief, to fear. Then when the report does come and they understand that the prophet’s messages are true and that God is indeed the LORD, they begin listening, but distracted by the import of such news, they have new reasons for not changing their lives! Amazing how inured we can be to having our lives changed.

Ezekiel
John Greenleaf Whittier

1807-1892

They hear Thee not, O God! nor see;
Beneath Thy rod they mock at Thee;
The princes of our ancient line
Lie drunken with Assyrian wine;
The priests around Thy altar speak
The false words which their hearers seek;
And hymns which Chaldea’s wanton maids
Have sung in Dura’s idol-shades
Are with the Levites’ chant ascending,
With Zion’s holiest anthems blending!

On Israel’s bleeding bosom set,
The heathen heel is crushing yet;
The towers upon our holy hill
Echo Chaldean footsteps still.
Our wasted shrines,--who weeps for them?
Who mourneth for Jerusalem?
Who turneth from his gains away?
Whose knee with mine is bowed to pray?
Who, leaving feast and purpling cup,
Takes Zion’s lamentation up?

A sad and thoughtful youth, I went
With Israel’s early banishment;
And where the sullen Chebar crept,
The ritual of my fathers kept.
The water for the trench I drew,
The firstling of the flock I slew,
And, standing at the altar’s side,
I shared the Levites’ lingering pride,
That still amidst her mocking foes,
The smoke of Zion’s offering rose.

In sudden whirlwind, cloud and flame,
The Spirit of the Highest came!
Before mine eyes a vision passed,
A glory terrible and vast;
With dreadful eyes of living things,
And sounding sweep of angel-wings,
With circling light and sapphire throne,
And flame-like form of One thereon,
And voice of that dread Likeness sent
Down from the crystal firmament!

The burden of a prophet’s power
Fell on me in that fearful hour;
From off unutterable woes
The curtain of the future rose;
I saw far down the coming time
The fiery chastisement of crime;
With noise of mingling hosts, and jar
Of falling towers and shouts of war,
I saw the nations rise and fall,
Like fire-gleams on my tent’s white wall.

In dream and trance, I saw the slain
Of Egypt heaped like harvest grain.
I saw the walls of sea-born Tyre
Swept over by the spoiler’s fire;
And heard the low, expiring moan
Of Edom on his rocky throne;
And, woe is me! the wild lament
From Zion’s desolation sent;
And felt within my heart each blow
Which laid her holy places low.

In bonds and sorrow, day by day,
Before the pictured tile I lay;
And there, as in a mirror, saw
The coming of Assyria’s war;
Her swarthy lines of spearmen pass
Like locusts through Bethhoron’s grass;
I saw them draw their stormy hem
Of battle round Jerusalem;
And, listening, heard the Hebrew wail
Blend with the victor-trump of Baal!

Who trembled at my warning word?
Who owned the prophet of the Lord?
How mocked the rude, how scoffed the vile,
How stung the Levites’ smile,
As o’er my spirit, dark and slow,
The shadow crept of Israel’s woe,
As if the angel’s mournful roll
Had left its record on my soul,
And traced in lines of darkness there
The picture of its great despair!

Yet ever at the hour I feel
My lips in prophecy unseal.
Prince, priest and Levite gather near,
And Salem’s daughters haste to hear,
On Chebar’s waste and alien shore,
The harp of Judah swept once more.
They listen, as in Babel’s throng
The Chaldeans to the dancer’s song,
Or wild Sabbeka’s nightly play,
As careless and as vain as they.

***
And thus, O Prophet-bard of old,
Hast thou thy tale of sorrow told!
The same which earth’s unwelcome seers
Have felt in all succeeding years.
Sport of the changeful multitude,
Nor calmly heard nor understood,
Their song has seemed a trick of art,
Their warnings but the actor’s part.
With bonds, and scorn, and evil will,
The world requites its prophets still.

So was it when the Holy One
The garments of the flesh put on!
Men followed where the Highest led
For common gifts of daily bread,
And gross of ear, of vision dim,
Owned not the Godlike power of Him.
Vain as a dreamer’s words to them
His wail above Jerusalem,
And meaningless the watch He kept
Through which His weak disciples slept.

Yet shrink not thou, whoe’er thou art,
For God’s great purpose set apart,
Before whose far-discerning eyes,
The Future as the Present lies!
Beyond a narrow-bounded age
Stretches thy prophet-heritage,
Through Heaven’s vast spaces angel-trod.
And through the eternal years of God!
Thy audience, worlds!—all things to be
The witness of the Truth in thee!
395:429

Collect for the Day
Almighty God, your whole creation declares your glory. May we perceive you in all your works and live in the light of your righteousness, through him who is the light of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:835:97 Psalm prayer]

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Monster Slaying: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 32 with poem by Lewis Carroll, Jabberwocky

Daily Readings
Psalm 96 I Samuel 2 Ezekiel 32 John 11

Daily Text: Ezekiel 32

Monster Slaying
Leaders who muck about fouling their own nations as they preen themselves before a world-court are like the monster of Ezekiel 32. Such an allegory for the Pharoah has an uncanny application in the present. The source for the monster slaying is the ancient Babylonian tale of Marduk netting the chaos purveyor, the monster, in his hunting net and then killing him and cutting him in pieces [503:432]. Pharoah Hophra did not see himself as a monster, but as a noble lion, and presumably many of his people did too. But God saw through him to what he actually was and prophecied through Ezekiel his end. Here Israel, through Ezekiel, begins to harmonize their understanding of God as the One universal God and bespeak the way he deals with the nations. All nations will ultimately fear how God deals with the Pharoah, seeing in him their own untimely end.

But the reading goes further for God commands Ezekiel to send the Pharoah to Sheol and there we find new ground, for what may not have occurred historically will happen in Sheol. There is a high view of the sacrament of circumcision here. It is linked with having a good life, an honorable burial and a consequent position of respect in Sheol. Not so with Pharaoh and his men. They have been ‘executed’ by the sword and they go into outer darkness in Sheol sans respect, sans burial, sans place of honor. Verse 19 should probably be read following verse 20. The chief men in Sheol receive the Pharoah and sarcastically ask him ”Whom do you surpass in beauty?” Obviously, “No one” is the answer and he is consigned to lie without notice in the outer limits of the place. Here may be the beginnings of the concept of Hell as distinct from Sheol.

Ironically, when Pharoah sees the princes and hordes of other nations, Assyria, Elam, Meshech and Tubal, Edom, etcetera, he is consoled that he is not the only one to fail so utterly on earth as to be consigned to an unmentionable destiny in Sheol.

Jabberwocky
from Through the Looking-Glass, ch. 1
Lewis Carroll

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.
413:129:39

Collect for the Day
We worship you, God of glory, in the beauty of holiness, and we joyfully proclaim your just and righteous rule, established for all, through your Son Jesus Christ the Lord.
[476:834:96 Psalm prayer]