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, September 16, 2006

God's Purposes: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 18 with poem by Arthur Campbell Ainger, Purpose

Daily Readings
Sirach 7, I Kings 22, II Chronicles 18, Jeremiah 20

Daily Text: II Chronicles 18

God’s Purposes
Jehoshaphat, one of the Lord’s own has built his defenses against Israel in chapter 17, but in II Chronicles 18, he as formed a marriage alliance with Ahab of Israel, perhaps the most rebellious and evil of all the kings of the northern kingdom. Why he would do such a thing is unanswered, but it brings later disaster upon Judah. In this recital the spotlight is really on Micaiah son of Imlah. He is prophet of the Lord requested by Jehoshaphat and assented to by Ahab, though unwillingly. Micaiah, once he gives his true prophecy in opposition to 400 court prophets of Ahab, is slapped by Zedekiah, one of those court prophets and in a nasty undertone is challenged to decide which way the Lord’s spirit passes from Zedekiah to Micaiah. In like manner Micaiah makes a response that he, Zedekiah will find his answer in the inner chamber when he goes to hide. This is either another prophecy predicting that Zedekiah will learn of his own false words or a rude riposte that when he farts in the bathroom he will discover the value of the spirit within him!

The LORD’S care for Jehoshaphat is borne out in an intriguing recital from the midst of the battle with Syria. At same time Ahab is ignominously and anonymously slain.

Purpose
Arthur Campbell Ainger
1841-1919

God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

From utmost east to utmost west,
Wherever foot hath trod,
By the mouth of many messengers
Goes forth the voice of God;
Geve ear to me, ye continents, ye isles,
Give ear to me,
That the earth may be filled with the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

All we can do is nothing worth
Unless God blesses the deed;
Vainly we hope for the harvest tide
Till God gives life to the seed;
Yet nearer and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.
The Hymnal 1982, The Episcopal Church, 534

Collect for the Day
Like an ant on a stick both ends of which are burning, I go to and fro without knowing what to do and in great despair. Like the inescapable shadow which follows me, the dead weight of sin haunts me. Graciously look upon me. Thy love is my refuge.

[286:124:420 Prayer from India]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Matter of Identification: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 19 with poem by John Oxenham, Hearts Courageous

Daily Readings
Sirach 6, I Kings 21, II Chronicles 19, Jeremiah 19

Daily Text: II Chronicles 19

Matter of Identification
Hanani’s challenge to Jehoshaphat’s foray with Ahab rings down through the centuries to the present: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?” It is a matter of identification, not necessarily association. He identified Ahab’s interests with his own (cf. 18:3) and the LORD was far from sympathetic. So II Chronicles 19 opens with Jehoshaphat being rebuked. Far from allowing himself to be undercut in his service to the LORD by his previous failure, he moves immediately to continue his teaching work throughout Judah, Benjamin and in Ephraim where he had jurisdiction. Putting the past behind him and moving forward into a godly future was no small matter. He continually brought the people back to following their ancestral God. He also appointed judges in the cities of the realm including Jerusalem the capital, calling on them to let their work reflect the teaching of the LORD. At every point he charges them with being open and accountable before the God of Judah.

Hearts Courageous
John Oxenham

1852-1941

Foes in plenty we shall meet,
Hearts courageous scorn defeat,
So we press with eager feet
Up, and On.

Ever onward to the fight,
Ever upward to the Light,
Ever true to God and Right,--
Up!—and On!
407:1129

Collect for the Day
From that which we fear, O Lord, make us fearless.
O bounteous One, assist us with your aid.
Drive far the malevolent, the foeman.

May the atmosphere we breathe
breathe fearlessness into us:
fearlessness on earth
and fearlessness in heaven!
May fearlessness guard us
behind and before!
May fearlessness surround us
above and below!
May we be without fear
of friend and foe!
May we be without fear
of the known and the unknown!
May we be without fear
by night and by day!
Let all the world be my friend!

[286:283:858 from India]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jehoshaphat: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 17 with poem by Walt Whitman, The Necessity of Religion

Daily Readings
Sirach 5, I Kings 19, II Chronicles 17, Jeremiah 18

Daily Text: II Chronicles 17

Jehoshaphat
Jehoshaphat by his third year of reigning, as recorded in II Chronicles 17, had organized a team of officials, Levites and priests to go throughout the nation and teach the Torah. This was an unusual commitment to the Lord of his fathers. It is likely that he was co-regent with Asa for those first three years, being really free to implement his vision for leadership only after his father’s death. He is also credited with tearing down the high places. Fascinatingly, the Chronicler often claims this, for example with Asa in his early reign, only to note almost immediately that he fails to destroy the high places. These contradictions within the text are obviously meant to stand. There is no hiding or prevaricating. Obviously, multiple views are possible without the same compulsive connections that are present in contemporary writing. Perhaps though he tore down many of the high places some continued to stand and used actively. A man is who he is and even though the Chronicler has an agenda of seeing the Lord as one who blesses the faithful and holding accountable the faithless, he does not spare his primary figures, usually the kings. Jehoshaphat is one of his special figures in that he is given more space than almost any one else. And his faithfulness, like that of Asa, early in his reign, is made very plain. He saw its necessity.

The Necessity of Religion
from “Starting From Paumanok”
Walt Whitman,
1819-1892

I say the whole earth, and all the stars in the sky, are for Religion’s sake.

I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough;
None has ever yet adored or worship’d half enough;
None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how certain the future is.
I say that the real and permanent grandeur of These States must be their Religion;
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur:
(Nor character, nor life worthy the name, without Religion;
Nor land, nor man or woman, without Religion.)
407:1149

Collect for the Day
Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie—
Dust unto dust—
The calm sweet earth that mothers all who die
As all men must;

Mourn not your captured comrades who must dwell—
Too strong to strive—
Each in his own steel-bound coffin of a cell, buried alive;
But rather mourn the apathetic throng—
The coward and the meek—
Who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak.

[477:239:29]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Joyful Acclamation: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 15 With poem by Philip Doddridge, O Happy Day

Daily Readings
Sirach 3:30-4:31, I Kings 18, II Chronicles 15, Jeremiah 17

Daily Text: II Chronicles 15

This Joyful Acclamation
There is in II Chronicles 15 a celebration of the words of Azariah son of Oded by Asa King of Judah that provides one of the great commitment ceremonies of all time. Not only the King, but the people commit themselves to the LORD God in perpetuity. They get a little carried away both in celebration and in the carrying out of their intent for they determine to put to death anyone who does not conform with the national covenant to seek God. In fact, here it is that Asa removes the Queen Mother for pagan ritual. If we, however, focus only on the excess and fail to see the integrity of their devotion, we miss the significance of this celebration, this joyful acclamation “for they had sworn with all their heart, and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them….(15:15).

O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice
Philip Doddridge

It’s done, the great transaction’s done!
I am my Lord’s and he is mine;
He drew me and I followed on,
charmed to confess the voice divine.
Now rest, my long-divided heart,
fixed on this blissful center, rest.
Here have I found a nobler part;
here heavenly pleasures fill my breast.

from United Methodist Hymnal 1989, no. 391,
based on II Chronicles 15:15
522:173

Collect for the Day
O Thou Supreme! most secret and most present, most beautiful and strong! What shall I say, my God, my Life, my Holy Joy? What shall any man say when he speaks of Thee?

[286:2 St. Augustine, 354-430]

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rest For Ten Years: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 14 with poem by Huw Menai, In Our Time

Daily Readings
Sirach 3:1-29, I Kings 17, II Chronicles 14, Jeremiah 16

Daily Text: II Chronicles 14

Rest For Ten Years
Is there anything so remarkable, to those of us who have not embraced the military ethic, as the historical evidence for the continuous attack of one nation state upon another? Stretching back into an infinity of time, this behavior continues today as incessantly as ever. In II Chronicles 14 there is this amazing declaration “In his days the land had rest for ten years.” Ten years! Ten years free of war, not free of preparing for war, but ten years free of actual defending or attacking. Asa was at least cognizant that “the land is still ours because we have sought the LORD our God; we have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side” (14:7) Imagine that. One wonders whether others of the people of Israel and Judah would not have discovered the same thing if they had sought the LORD with their whole heart? Then instead of having this image of a God who pursued war we might have had an image of a God who pursued peace. For surely the God of the Christian testament reveals himself as one who desires peace, no matter how bloodthirsty His followers.

Ethiopia has a million men in arms against Judah’s 580,000. Once again the numbers seem suspect, however, the ratios are a clear 2:1. And the LORD gives the victory. The idea in 14:13 that the entire army is killed is exaggerated [524:390]. The Hebrew says simply that they were crushed so that recovery was not possible.

In Our Time
Huw Menai
contemporary Welsh miner

No holy pointer, no unchanging Light
Where Evil wars with Virtue, foul with fair,
Dusk with the dawn—a world of black and white
Mixing itself into a grey despair?

When shall this strife between the Nations cease?…
During our pilgrimage this side the tomb
Life shall be storm, the world shall know not peace
Until within all hearts Christ finds a home!
407:1797

Collect for the Day
God send that there may be an end at last; God send that there may be peace again. God in heaven send us peace.

[476:228 Diary of Hartich Sierk, a peasant (1628)]

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Covenant of Salt: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 13 with poem by Arthur Hugh Clough, With Whom is No Variableness, Neither Shadow of Turning

Daily Readings
Sirach 2, I Kings 16, II Chronicles 13, Jeremiah 15

Daily Text: II Chronicles 13

Covenant of Salt
The fascination of II Chronicles 13 lies in the speech given by Abijah of Judah on the occasion of his battle with twice as many forces of Israel arrayed, as we find out subsequently, both before, and unknown to him, behind his troops. In the oration he cites God’s covenant of salt with David and his successors. Such a covenant was a metaphor for permanence [524:380] and was used to nullify Jeroboam’s legitimacy as a monarch over Israel. Like dropping leaflets on Iraq inviting the people not to fight, this oracular piece warns the soldiers of Israel not to fight against ‘the God of their ancestors’, the God they have abandoned. Judah has not abandoned their God, and therefore, Israel cannot succeed against Judah. In fact, she does not, even though she outnumbers and out marshalls the troops of Abijah. The Chronicler says that God defeated Jereboam and all Israel. Again the Chronicler emphasizes God’s faithfulness, even when the players are less than admirable.

With Whom is No Variableness, Neither Shadow of Turning
Arthur Hugh Clough

It fortifies my soul to know
That though I perish, truth is so;
That, howsoe’er I stray and range,
Whate’er I do, Thou dost not change.
I steadier step when I recall
That, if I slip, Thou dost not fall.
505:190

Collect for the Day
Look upon us and hear us, O Lord our God; and assist those endeavours to please thee which thou thyself hast granted to us; as thou hast given the first act of will, so give the completion of the work; grant that we may be able to finish what thou hast granted us to wish to begin; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[286:380]