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, August 17, 2006

Embedded Hope

Daily Readings
Psalm 89:19-52, II Samuel 15:13-16:14, Joel 2:1-27, Hebrews 12

Daily Text: Joel 2:1-27

Hope Embedded
Joel 2 is a second poem or hymn describing a locust invasion in this prophecy. Is it a second description of the same infestation? Apparently not, for it is somewhat different, even though there are common expressions in both descriptions. Also in 2:25 there is a phrase referring to more than one year of loss.

Is the Day of the LORD one of these infestations or are the infestations metaphors for the Day of the LORD? In chapter 2:14 there is reference to the LORD’s relenting if the people will repent. If he relents one might assume that the Day of the LORD has not yet been fulfilled. It may be yet to come. In that case it does not come during Joel’s prophecy for the sense of 2:18ff. is that the people do repent and the LORD does relent and blesses them with plenty. Not only that he goes on to bless them spiritually in 2:28ff. That reference becomes the background for the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

The power of horror and the power of beauty in Joel’s lines give us some of the most passionate poetry in all of Holy Scripture. Images are drawn so graphically that the reader can visualize and feel them as if they are part of his/her own experience.

The God Israel identifies so closely with the people that he worries about how the nations will see their trial. And once their repentance is clear he promises never again to put them to shame. This reminds us of the promise to Noah, but it also suggests that the prophecy has not been fulfilled, for the Jews, the people of God have repeatedly been shamed before the world, the holocaust being the most contemporary version of that humiliation. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. was certainly another of these wasted times for God’s people. What can one say of this? The prophet was wrong? God was wrong? Or can we state that his vision was true in the making, but has fallen short in the long span of history? We could also resort to calling this apocalyptic material and refer it all to some indefinite future. Would this not be begging the question? It seems more realistic to say that it has not been fulfilled as written, but the hope embedded within it is good for the long years of the future.

Hebrew Melody
G. R. Smith

Sound, sound an alarm! let your clarions resound
Till God’s holy mountain shall echo around;
Blow the trumpet in Zion! his wrath to record,
And tremble, oh earth! In the day of the Lord.

A day of thick darkness, of gloom and of shower,
Like clouds on the crest of the mountain which lower,
For the mighty in battle, the proud and the strong,
To quench all thy glories, are hast’ning along.

Around them are flames, and behind them despair,
In vain is resistance, in vain is the prayer,
Before them the garden of Eden they find,
Desolation and terror are blackening behind.

Like the blast of the desert their chariots shall sweep
On whirlwinds, which frown o’er the wide dashing deep,
And the pride of Judea their horses shall tame,
With their hoofs of destruction, and nostrils of flame.

Oh! bright shine their arms, as the Gentiles press on,
From Acra, and Carmel, and Mount Lebanon,
And their chariots and horsemen shall scatter dismay
On the hosts led against them in battle array.

Oh! where is the strength of the mighty in war,
If the face of Jehovah be veiled from afar?
Jerusalem, vanquished Jerusalem, mourn!
When, alas! shall the light of thy glory return?

Collect for the Day
Remember us, gracious God, when we cannot see your way and purpose, and renew in us the joy of your kingdom of light and life. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

[476:826:89 Psalm prayer]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Paradigm for Disaster: Bible Comment on Joel 1 with story by A. Taylor, A Riddle for a Locust

Daily Readings
Psalm 89:1-18 II Samuel 14:34-15:12 Joel 1 Hebrews 11

Daily Text: Joel 1

Paradigm for Disaster
While some commentators have suggested Joel’s four part description of the locust as developmental stages, biological research does not bear this out, at least not with any finite accuracy. Better to think in terms of different locust behaviors seen in such a plague. However, one writes of it, the reality must be horrible. The loss of all agricultural viability throughout a region would bring down upon the inhabitants an end to hope, an end to religious life dependent upon sacrifices, an end to leisure, an end to joy. Combine with it drought and the outlook is grim indeed. So terrible is it that Joel sees it as a paradigm for the Day of the Lord, the very definition of all that is frightening.

A Riddle for a Locust
A. Taylor

A curious Algerian tale relates how Satan looked at the world God had created and said he could have done better. God heard him and gave him the power to endow with life whatever he might create. As Satan wandered about, he saw a noble animal proudly lifting its graceful head in a meadow. “I shall take this horse’s head,” said he, and ordered a servant to carry it to hell. Farther on, the gentle eye of an elephant caught his fancy. He admired the long, curving horns of a herd of antelopes as they were running in a ravine. When he saw a bull fighting a lion, he chose the bull’s neck and the lion’s breast. “What more do I need he said to himself, and meeting a camel, he took its strong thighs, and then, the splendid legs of an ostrich. “What do I need now?” he said, and sought out the scorpion in the hot stones of the desert. From it he took its stomach. “Shall the creature of my making be damned to crawl on the earth? No! I wish it to have the wings of an eagle.” And he shot an arrow at the king of birds and took its wings. “Now to work,” said Satan. He spent a long time fitting these bits of animals together. Some were too clumsy, others were too small. He filed and sawed, cut and patched so diligently that at the end of the hundred years granted him only a tiny creature lay in his hands. He blew on it and gave it life. “Well, what have you said God. “There is the result of my skill,” Said Satan. “Is that then your handiwork? O Satan! As a sign of your weakness may this creature multiply on earth and teach men that there is no God but God.” Satan departed in confusion, and since then locusts have flourished in Arabian lands.

Collect for the Day
We humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of thy Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen