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, July 29, 2006

Singers: Bible Comment on I Chronicles 6 with poem by Christopher Smart, A Song to David

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 15, I Samuel 28, I Chronicles 6, Romans 16

Daily Text: I Chronicles 6

The text of I Chronicles six varies, for some translations include the first fifteen verses within chapter five. Those verses detail a priestly genealogy that has for centuries been accepted as a high priestly list. However, there is little internal evidence that these are all high priests, rather they seem to be a referring to an Aaronic genealogy that extends down into the Persian period in the 400’s. It is one of the most extensive lists of Levite priests in Scripture, but it is not composed exclusively of high priests.

The second section of chapter six begins also with Levi, but this time details Levites not descendants of Aaron. Rather they are descendants of Gershom, Kohath and Merari, in David’s time; Asaph, Heman and Ethan. These are the singers, the ones responsible for music in the temple. According to 6:31 David appointed them; theirs was not an order that extended back to the times of Moses. Aaron’s sons continued to be the priests offering sacrifices and caring for the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, but alongside of them came these Levites whose roles were clearly defined as encompassing liturgy and worship, song and praise. They brought to life the worshipful service of the faithful in Israel. Like Aaron’s descendants they were assigned lands to support them, and these lands are detailed in the final section of the chapter from verses 54-81.

The singer’s names are on many of the Psalms as in 78, 88 and 89. What would we do without the musicians among us in every age?

from A Song to David
Christopher Smart

Glorious the sun in mid career;
Glorious th’ assembled fires appear;
Glorious the comet’s train:
Glorious the trumpet and alarm;
Glorious th’ almighty stretch’d-out arm;
Glorious th’ enraptur’d main:

Glorious the northern lights astream;
Glorious the song, when God’s the theme
Glorious the thunder’s roar:
Glorious hosanna from the den;
Glorious the catholic amen;
Glorious the martyr’s gore:

Glorious—more glorious is the crown
Of Him that brought salvation down
By meekness, call’d thy Son;
Thou that stupendous truth believ’d,
And now the matchless deed’s achiev’d,
Determined, Dared, and Done.

Collect for the Day
Accept our prayers, most merciful Father, through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and your Holy Spirit, belong glory and honour, worship and praise, now and for ever.

[476:649:from The Consecration of the Priest]

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tribal Integrity: Bible Comment on I Chronicles 5 with poem by Richard Lee Gallienne, War

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 14, I Samuel 27, I Chronicles 5, Romans15

Daily Text: I Chronicles 5

Tribal Integrity
The Transjordan tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh have their genealogies recorded in I Chronicles 5. Amazing really, for Reuben was supposed to have been dropped from the genealogy for his sin of defiling his father’s bed. But here is a record of his tribe’s people and activities down to the exile. This is a very different point of view than the one given by the Deuteronomist. Going beyond Reuben we find that Gad and Manasseh join with Reuben, evidently periodically to fight common enemies. Verses 18-22 recall a battle against the Hagrites, ‘an Arab tribe, descendants of Hagar’ [520:27]. These tribes of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh are treated by the Chronicler as Israelite tribes still expected to serve YHWH, for when they do not he disciplines them and they are finally subdued by Tiglath-pileser of Assyria and removed into captivity.

The unexpected matter reported in this genealogical record is that these tribes continue to have tribal integrity and function with each other for defense even within the structure of the Davidic monarchy. It is not so strange that what is recorded in some detail is that old human preoccupation—war.

Richard Lee Gallienne

I abhor,
And yet how sweet
The sound along the marching street
Of drum and fife; and I forget
Wet eyes of widows, and forget
Broken old mothers, and the whole
Dark butchery without a soul.

Without a soul—save this bright drink
Of heady music, sweet as hell;
And even my peace-abiding feet
Go marching with the marching street
For yonder goes the fife,
And what care I for human life!

The tears fill my astonished eyes
And my full heart is like to break,
And yet ‘tis all embannered lies,
A dream those little drummers make.

Oh, it is wickedness to clothe
Yon hideous, grinning thing that stalks
Hidden in music, like a queen
That in a garden of glory walks,
Till good men love the thing they loathe.

Art, thou hast many infamies,
But not an infamy like this—
Oh, snap the fife and still the drum,
And show the monster as she is.


Collect for the Day
O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:677:For Peace]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jabez: Bible Comment on I Chronicles 4

Daily Readings
Psalm 54, I Samuel 26, I Chronicles 4, Romans 14

Daily Text: I Chronicles 4

I Chronicles 4 in our genealogical saga brings together the tribes of Judah and Simeon. Long associated geographically and politically, Judah may have absorbed the smaller Simeon into its population. However, the genealogy makes the point that not all of Simeon was absorbed. At least 500 men attacked the Amalekites and settle in their land on Mount Seir, and surviving the exile remained in the land right up until the time the Chronicler assembled this genealogy. Knoppers makes the point that the exile may have affected Judah far more than some of the other tribes for there is biblical and material evidence that the land was never completely emptied [515:370]. The Deuteronomist suggests that the tribes were consolidated under the monarchy and essentially disappeared, but the Chronicler is presenting a different point of view. He is suggesting that they continued to be distinctive within the structure of the monarchy.

There has been much interest in the short reference to Jabez in vss. 9 and 10. Ironically, the translation could be read that “Jabez was heavier than his brothers…” rather than ‘honored more than his brothers’. This translation would then explain his name and why his mother gave him a name that means she ‘bore him in pain.’ This would also explain why he petitions God to deliver him from the implications of his name. Accepting this suggestion one might also assume that ‘enlarging his borders’ had nothing at all to do with greater responsibility, but rather some deliverance from the disrespect of his brothers and perhaps others. Either way, it is fascinating that the Chronicler interlards his genealogy with these salty recollections of some of his references, and theological truths, in this case, the importance of prayer [515:346]. This surely was fascinating to those of his own day.



Collect for the Day
God of mercy, hear our prayer and come to our aid, that from the rising of the sun to its setting we may offer you a pure sacrifice of praise, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:774:54 Psalm prayer]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lists on Purpose: Bible Comment on I Chronicles 3 with poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 13, I Samuel 25, I Chronicles 3, Romans 13

Daily Text: I Chronicles 3

Lists on Purpose
Genealogies are created for a purpose. The question is in the identification of that purpose. This one has produced a bumper crop of suggestions from Davidic ascendancy to the idea that it supports messianic claims. In fact, the Davidic claims foundered with the fall of Jerusalem in 587, and yet this genealogy goes into the return from exile, that is, down to about 350 B.C. Knoppers [515:333ff] makes the assertion that the primary role for this fascinating account of the royal line was simply to spell out its vitality. There is only one reference to the great events of those 600-700 years, and that is the minor reference to Jeconiah the captive in vs. 17, alluding to the Babylonian captivity. Overwhelmingly, however, there is little distinction between the sons of David and those at the end of the genealogy, the sons of Elioenai. This dynasty simply persisted and in so doing became the great dynasty of the Jewish people. Whether such a point serves its restoration hopes, gives the priests and Levites additional cachet to assert their authority or points to Messianic dreams is a moot point. None of these lines of thinking are developed, but that the Davidic line persists is abundantly clear.

There are some fascinating details in I Chronicles 3. The immediate sons of David up until those by Bathsheba are each firstborn by the mother mentioned, with Ammon presumably being the firstborn of all those firstborns. That is, only Bathsheba has more than one son listed in this genealogy of David’s offspring. A second little known fact is that Solomon is the fourth son of Bathsheba and David! We didn’t know that before. Nathan is older than Solomon in this list and Luke, in contradistinction from Matthew, brings Jesus’ line through Nathan (cf. Luke 3:31; Matthew 1:6) rather than Solomon. One wonders why. In verses 5-9 two sons are listed twice: Elishama and Eliphelet. It may be that the first son in each of these cases died and a later was named for him [520:17], or these may simply reflect scribal errors. Selections of names to be included almost always reflect lines of succession for the kings of Judah. There is a marriage of strategic political importance included (vs. 2), there are wives of foreign extraction, there is a reference reflecting movement of the capitol to Jerusalem, but all is carefully and economically presented, not to simply magnify the Davidic line, but to reflect its flexibility and most of all its persistence.

from Jubilate Agno
Christopher Smart

For man is between the pinchers while his soul is shaping and purifying.
For the English are the seed of Abraham and work up to him by Joab,
David, and Naphtali. God be gracious to us this day. General Fast
March 14th 1760.
For the Romans and the English are one people the children of the
brave man who died at the altar praying for his posterity, whose
death was the type of our Saviour’s.
For the Welsh are the children of Mephibosheth and Ziba with
mixture of David in the Jones’s.
For the Scotch are the children of Doeg with a mixture of Cush the
Benjamite, whence their innate antipathy to the English.
For the Irish are the children of Shimei and Cush with a mixture of
something lower—the Lord raise them!
For the French are Moabites even the children of Lot.
For the Dutch are the children of Gog.
For the Poles are the children of Magog.
For the Italians are the children of Samuel and are the same as the
For the Spaniards are the children of Abishai Joab’s brother, hence is
the goodwill between the two nations.
For the Portuguese are the children of Ammon—God be gracious to
Lisbon and send good angels amongst them!
For the Hottentots are the children of Gog, with a Black mixture.
For the Russians are the children of Ishmael.
For the Turks are the children of Esau, which is Edom.
For the Wallachians are the children of Huz. God be gracious to
Elizabeth Hughes, as she was.
For the Germans are the children of the Philistines even the seed of
For the Prussians are the children of Goliah—but the present, whom
God bless this hour, is a Campbell of the seed of Phinees.
For the Hanoverians are Hittites of the seed of Uriah. God save the
For the Hessians are Philistines with a mixture of Judah.
For the Saxons are Benjamites, men of great subtlety and Marshal Saxe
was direct from Benjamin.
For the Danes are of the children of Zabulon.
For the Venetians are the children of Mark and Romans.
For the Swiss are Philistines of a particular family. God be gracious to
Jonathan Tyers his family and to all the people at Vaux Hall.
For the Sardinians are of the seed of David—The Lord forward the
Reformation amongst the good seed first.
For the Mogol’s people are the children of Phut.
For the old Greeks and the Italians are one people, which are blessed in
the gift of music by reason of the song of Hannah and the care of
Samuel with regard to divine melody.
For the Germans and the Dutch are the children of the Goths and
Vandals who did a good in destruction of books written by heathen
Free Thinkers against God.
For there are Americans of the children of Toi.
For the Laplanders are the children of Gomer.


Collect for the Day
Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage. May we prove ourselves a people mindful of your generosity and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honourable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil course of action. Make us who came from many nations with many different languages a united people. Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom that there may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful; and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:678:For the Nation]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Patterns: Bible Comment on I Chronicles 2 with poem by Alicia Ostriker, The Story of Abraham

Daily Readings
Wisdom of Solomon 12, I Samuel 23:1-28, I Chronicles 2:3-55, Romans 11

Daily Text: I Chronicles 2:3-55

The genealogies of Scripture bore our contemporaries, yet it was not always so. “According to Plato, when Socrates asked the famous sophist Hippias, ‘What are the subjects that the Spartans gladly hear from you?’ Hippias replied:
They listen with the greatest pleasure to the genealogies of their heroes and men, to the settlement of tribes, and how cities were founded of old and, in a word, to everything concerning antiquarian knowledge. (Plato, Hipp. mai. 285d) [515:245].

One’s family determined many of the possibilities an individual possessed in the ancient world. Being the son of the ‘right’ parents guaranteed nothing, but it made possible many things. The Romans and the Greeks are examples of societies consumed by interest in genealogies. All Mediterranean peoples were more interested than we.

The genealogies are of two kinds, segmented and linear. Segmented genealogies relate more than one member of a single ancestor to each other, while a linear genealogy follows a line of descent from one ancestor to a particular descendent through several generations. Whether establishing Jesus’ connections to David, Judah and Abraham in Matthew 1, or the sons of Noah to Adam, the first man, in I Chronicles 1, this pattern of genealogical work establishes historical and family connections.

In I Chronicles 2 we have a segmented genealogy that expands Judah’s descendants leading to David. For the Chronicler, Judah was the pre-eminent ancestor among the twelve sons of Jacob. From the beginning, from Adam to Seth, we can see the Chronicler making choices. Seth is Adam’s third son and the only one mentioned because the Chronicler is intent on a story related to the promise of God for a people. It is Seth, as it is Shem, one of Noah’s three sons, that leads to Abraham and David, and as Christians, we would say, Jesus.

The Story of Abraham
Alicia Ostriker

I started by reading the banner headline
The way you read the big print at the eye doctor’s.
No problem. Very good.
One line down it said PACK UP,
The smaller print said: I am going
To bless them as long as they obey me.
Otherwise there may be
Certain repercussions. The even smaller
Print explained how we needed
A memorable logo for our organization
And he had just the ticket, a mark of absolute
Distinction, it would only hurt for a minute.
The print kept getting smaller and blurrier,
The instructions more bizarre.
Hold on, I interrupted. I’d like to check
Some of this out with my wife.
FORGET IT. It said they preferred
Not to use strongarm techniques. It said


Collect for the Day
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[BCP 815:3:For the Human Family]

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Better Than a Map: Bible Comment on I Chronicles 1 with poem by Madeleine L'Engle, Charlotte Rebecca Jones, 22nd August, 1969

Daily Readings
Psalm 52, I Samuel 22, I Chronicles 1:1-2:2, Romans 10

Daily Text: I Chronicles 1:1-2:2

Better Than a Map
The genealogies are spare, but in terms of great genealogies of world literature, I Chronicles 1 is one of the finest. The chronicler makes no attempt to highlight any person,Adam, Noah, Abram, Ishmael, Isaac or Israel. Their names are given without comment. The author moves deftly to set not only the sons of Israel before us, but also to define their relationship with each of the nations of then known world from the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. This is a compact and telling recital, perhaps better than a map for defining relational bloodlines and a geographical image of the world (cf. Knoppers 515:294).

Charlotte Rebecca Jones,
22nd August, 1969
Madeleine L’Engle

When the time comes it is always unexpected
And amiracle. Charlotte,
Caught in the violence of creation,
Thrust into life, disconnected
From her bearer, arrived, scarlet,
Shouting. There is no explanation

For the tearing violence of a birth.
The Lord himself, when the Word first was spoken,
Took fistfuls of formless chaos, wrested
Sky, sea, and our familiar earth
From naught. So nothingness by Love was broken
And it was good. And then God rested.

He calls his creatures each to take his part
In this great cosmic heave of love and birth,
Sharing the mighty act of his creation.
We understand this only with the heart,
With pain and joy and pure celestial mirth.
The miracle of Charlotte needs no explanation.


Collect for the Day
God of the oppressed, we pray for all those who suffer injustice at the hands of cruel and indifferent rulers, especially for the innocent victims of war. Give them strength and patience, and hasten the day when the kingdoms of this world will own the perfect law of love, made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:772:52 Psalm prayer]