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 30, 2006

He Ordered His Ways: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 27 with poem by Thomas Washbourne, Humility

Daily Readings
Sirach 18:30-19:30, II Kings 13, II Chronicles 27, Jeremiah 32

Daily Text: II Chronicles 27

He Ordered His Ways
II Chronicles 27 is noted for its record of a faithful king, finally, the first to be buried with the kings since Jehoshaphat over 100 years earlier. It is also may be noted that this is one the shortest, if not the shortest, record of any king in the Chronicles. Was it because he was good or because he was not at all charismatic? The people and even his son, Ahaz, did not follow him in his orthodoxy; they continued the corrupt patterns set by his father. Certainly goodness, per se, does not create followers, headlines or manifold columns of text! Greatness and goodness are not synonomous. Almost everything one would want said about oneself what was said about this man. ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. He did not invade the temple. He built solid defenses within and without Jerusalem. He prevailed in his one great war with Syria, though for some reason the Chronicler doesn’t mention the Syro-Ephramitic wars that probably began before his demise. He ordered his ways before the LORD, that is, he set his heart on God.’ And yet, he was not one of Judah’s great ones. In fact, it might be a good idea to mention his name, Jotham, son of Uzziah the king. It may be that the humble person stays humble and is not puffed by himself or his contemporaries. Jesus, son of Sirach, says it this way:
“My child, perform your tasks with humility;
then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.
The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself;
so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.”
For great is the might of the Lord;
but by the humble he is glorified” (3.17-20).
We can conclude that Jotham did not find favor in the eyes of men. It depends on what one wants from life. We must choose.

Humility
Thomas Washbourne

1606-1687

Though Heaven be high, the gate is low,
And he that comes in there must bow:
The lofty looks shall ne’er
Have entrance there.

O God! since Thou delight’st to rest
In the humble contrite breast,
First make me so to be,
Then dwell with me.
407:1299


Collect for the Day
My Lord, I have nothing to do in this world, but to seek and serve thee; I have nothing to do with a heart and its affections, but to breathe after thee; I have nothing to do with my tongue and pen, but to speak to thee, and for thee, and to publish thy glory and thy will.

[286:87:260 Richard Baxter, 1615-1691]

Friday, September 29, 2006

Seasons of Joy: Bible Comment on Zechariah 8 with poem by Thomas Curtis Clark, Zechariah, The Prophet Of The Restoration

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Daily Readings
Psalm 103, Genesis 28:10-17, Zechariah 8, Revelation 12:7-12

Daily Text: Zechariah 8

Seasons of Joy
Zechariah 8 continues the theme of the prophet’s final essay in what is sometimes called I Zechariah. The LORD’s jealousy brought wrath on the people and the land, but such jealousy is obviously borne in love and the love continues until now He is ready to do a new thing. He is ready to return to Judah and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. The population will again become large with elders sitting in public places and children playing unrestricted in the streets. The present remnant, that people listening to Zechariah, should strengthen their hands for the work of rebuilding. Once wages were unavailable, security was negligible and the people’s unity was limited, but no more. Peace shall be sown, agriculture shall flourish, the people’s possessions shall increase. Judah may once have been a curse in the mouth of the nations, but it shall now become a blessing in the experience of the same nations. In the same way that I visited wrath on your ancestors, I will visit good on you, says the LORD.

To answer your question, Bethel, about the fast of the fifth month, let me say, says the LORD, that the fasts of that month as well as those of the fourth, seventh and tenth months shall all be seasons of joy, cheerful festivals for the house of Judah, and you are to embrace loyally both truth and peace. It will be your experience that people will come from all over the world to go with you to worship the LORD. Ten men for every one of you will come. You will again become the center of life in my world.

Zechariah, The Prophet Of The Restoration
Thomas Curtis Clark

I will return to Zion, saith the Lord;
And I will dwell in Jerusalem,
Which shall be called “The faithful city.”
And her mountain, “The holy mountain”;
And her people, and the people of Judah,
Shall be my people, and I their God.

Thus spake Jehovah,
Who had been indignant over Zion
And had been aroused towrath over her.

Exult, greatly, O Zion!
Lo, your king comes to you,
Humble and riding upon an ass;
And his domination shall be from sea to sea.

Thus spake Jehovah,
Who remembered no more
His enmity toward Jerusalem.

And it shall come to pass that the nations
Which warred against Jerusalem
Shall go up to her mountain
To worship the King, the Lord of hosts;
And all shall say, “Holy to the Lord.”

Thus spake Jehovah,
Who had forgotten his wrath
And had restored his people
To Jerusalem and to Judah.
377:682

Collect for the Day
Eternal God,
you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order
the ministries of angels and mortals.
Grant that as your holy angels stand before you in heaven,
so at your command
they may help and defend us here on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

[476:424:Saint Michael and All Angels]

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Corruptible: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 24 with poem by Charles William Stubbs, Conscience and Future Judgment

Daily Readings
Sirach 17, II Kings 12, II Chronicles 24, Jeremiah 31

Daily Text: II Chronicles 24

Corruptible
Joash could have been one of the greatest of all of the Davidic kings. He had as a fearful deterrent the evil Athaliah, his grandmother, and the marvelous godly example of his mentor, Jehoiada, the high priest. By and large he did what was right, while Jehoiadah lived and held influence over him. The reality is that he was somewhat weak listening to the voices closest to him. When Jehoiadah lived no longer, those voices changed radically.

Zechariah, Jehoiadah’s son, and perhaps the companion of Joash in his early years, attempted to step into the shoes of his father. He called Joash to account, in one of the most startling passages of II Chronicles 24, but to no avail. For his pains the king commanded that he be stoned to death in the outer court of the temple itself. With his dying breath, Zechariah, calls out, “May the LORD see and avenge.” Sad figure this Joash, reminding us of Herod with John the Baptist! Is this another example of a weak person or simply the corruption that almost always accompanies political power? Hard to say, but worth observing in our selves and in our contemporaries.

Conscience and Future Judgment
Charles William Stubbs
1845-1912

I sat alone with my conscience
In a place where time had ceased,
And we talked of my former living
In the land where the years increased,
And I felt I should have to answer
The question it put to me,
And to face the answer and question
Through all eternity.

The ghost of forgotten actions
Came floating before my sight,
And things that I thought were dead things
Were alive with a terrible might;
And the vision of all my past life
Was an awful thing to face,
Alone with my conscience sitting
In that solemn silent place

And I know of the future Judgment,
How dreadful soe’er it be,
To sit alone with my conscience
Will be judgment enough for me.
407:194

Collect for the Day
God our consoler and redeemer, save your people coerced and made captive by the powers of evil, and bring us into the way of freedom and liberty prepared by the sacrifice of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.

[476:901:142 Psalm prayer]

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Coup d'Etat: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 23 with poem by Jean Baptiste Racine, from Athalie

Daily Readings
Sirach 16, II Kings 11, II Chronicles 23, Jeremiah 30

Daily Text: II Chronicles 23

Coup d’État
Athaliah has put to death all of her own male grandchildren to establish her six year reign. Life may not have had the same political and cultural value as life does today, with the exception of the practice of abortion (over 40,000,000 in 40 years of U.S. practice), but for a grandmother to put to death her own is a haunting matter in any age. Joash, of course, being the unintended exception. In II Chronicles 23, Jehoiada the high priest is very purposeful in his arrangement of the coup d’état that overthrows Athaliah and places the seven-year-old Joash on the throne. It must not go unnoticed that it is the Davidic line, the Davidic throne, the rightful heir to God’s promises that is being set forth here. All through Jewish history right down to the advent of Jesus, this ancestral promise is maintained and fostered. Even the Church, which has shown no love or consideration for matters Jewish through subsequent history, emphasizes Jesus rightful role as Messiah and King. He is of David’s line.

from Athalie
Jean Baptiste Racine


Jehoiada.
Is Judah’s rightful sovereign,
The last of hapless Ahaziah’s line,
Who, as ye know, the name of Joash bore.
All the land, like yourselves, hath sorrowed o’er
This flower so fragile and so soon cut down,
Supposing his dead brothers’ fate his own.
He was indeed with a disloyal knife
Pierced as were they, but from the seat of life
God turned the stroke, kept his faint spark alive,
And vouchsafed that Jehosheba contrive
To cheat the assassins’ eyes, bear him away
All bloody in her arms, and from that day
Conceal him in the Temple with his nurse,
I being sole sharer in this theft of hers.

Joash.
Alas, how can I ever pay my debt
For such long kindness and for love so great!

Jehoiada.
‘Gainst future years this gratitude store up.
(To the others) Behold ye, then, your king, your only hope.
My pains preserved him until now for you;
Servants of God, the rest is yours to do!
The murderous woman born of Jezebel
Shall soon discover Joash liveth still
And come again to plunge him in death’s gloom.
Although she knows him not, she seeks his doom
Already. Holy priests, now doth it rest
On you to thwart her rage and end at last
Your country’s shameful slavry, vengeance take
For your princes dead, restore the Law, and make
Judah and Benjamin both own their king.
Truly, it is a great and perilous thing
To attack upon her throne a haughty queen,
Who ‘neath her standard sees a host of men,
Fierce strangers and unfaithful Jews besides:
But ‘tis the Lord who strengthens me and guides.
Consider: In this child doth Israel live;
E’en now God’s wrath makes Athaliah grieve;
E’en now I muster you, despite her care.
She thinks us without arms and helpless here.
Let us crown Joash and proclaim him crowned,
At once; then, soldiers of our prince new-found,
March, calling on Him who giveth victory,
And waking slothful hearts to loyalty,
Within her very palace seek our foe.
And where is any heart sunk in so low
And vile a sleep that, seeing us come thus,
‘Twill not be moved to rally unto us:
A king whom God in his own Temple reared,
Aaron’s successor and his priests revered
Leading the sons of Levi forth to war,
And wielded by their hands, that sacred are,
The arms which David offered to the Lord?
God will send terror on our foes abhorred.
In heathen gore shrink not from bathing; strike
Both Tyrians and Hebrews down alike.
Are ye not from those Levites, famed erewhile,
Descended who, when to the god of Nile
Inconstant Israel in the desert bowed
With sinful worship, in apostate blood
Hallowed their hands, though slaying their dearest kin,
And, by this noble deed, for you did win
The honour, given to none else, to serve
The altars of the Lord? --But I observe
That ye already burn to follow me.
Swear first, then, on this sacred Book you see,
Unto the king whom Heaven this day gives back
To you again, that ye will for his sake
Live, fight, and die.
526:382

Collect for the Day
O God, the God of all righteousness, mercy, and love: Give us all grace and strength to conceive and execute whatever may be for thine honour and the welfare of the nation; that we may become at last , through the merits and intercession of our common Redeemer, a great and a happy because a wise and understanding people; to thy honour and glory.

[286:202 Lord Salisbury, 1830-1903]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Heart of the Fast: Bible Comment on Zechariah 7 with poem by Robert Herrick, To Keep A True Lent

Daily Readings
Sirach 15, II Kings 10, Zechariah 7, Jeremiah 35

Daily Text: Zechariah 7

Heart of the Fast
Bethel had been a traditional center of religious life in Israel both before and after the divided monarchy. Obviously, the leadership there is still concerned. There is a question, a pertinent one. We have fasted for almost seventy years mourning the loss of Jerusalem and the temple. Should we continue this ritual fast since Jerusalem and the temple are being rebuilt? Priest and prophet are being addressed and we are reading a response from one of the prophets, Haggai may well be one other addressed. Zechariah 7 turns out to be an integrated historical response to that question [528:296]. While the prophets had called prior to the exile for true repentance, the people had responded with a ritual fast, ignoring its real requirements. So, suggests Zechariah, you were fasting to please yourselves much as you eat to please yourselves! True justice and mercy were completely ignored. Kindness? What’s that? Avoid oppression? Who me? The heart of the fast was never observed. The people plugged their ears and turned a cold and stubborn shoulder toward YHWH and the result had been the wrath of God.. He scattered them throughout the nations, travel ceased, the land was left desolate, indeed the people ‘despised the pleasant land, having no faith in YHWH’s promise’ [Ps. 106:24].

To Keep A True Lent
Robert Herrick
1591-1674

Is this a Fast, to keep
The larder lean,
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour?

No: ‘tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin:
And that’s to keep thy Lent.
407:1359


Collect for the Day
God of infinite mercy and forgiveness, by the cross and resurrection of Jesus your Son, wash away our sins and deliver us from our infirmities of body and spirit, that we may live with him his risen life, to the praise and glory of your holy name.

[476:843:103 Psalm prayer]

Monday, September 25, 2006

Counselor in Wickedness: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 22 with poem by Jean Baptiste Racine, Athalie

Daily Readings
Psalm 44, II Kings 9, II Chronicles 22, Jeremiah 29

Daily Text: II Chronicles 22

Counselor in Wickedness
Some say that Ahab is the focus of II Chronicles 22. The reality is that Athaliah, Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, is the primary character. She was her son’s counselor in wickedness when he was king, and when he died, she tried to kill all his male progeny to leave the way clear for reigning herself as the Queen Mother. She did so for six years with all of the machinations that she had learned from her mother and father. It was a low moment for Judah. But one of Ahaziah’s daughters, wife to the high priest, foiled Athaliah’s intentions.

from Athalie
Jean Baptiste Racine

Athaliah
Each of you lend me an attentive ear.
I would not call to mind the past, nor would
I give account unto you for the blood
That I have shed. What I have done was what,
O Abner, seemed to me the things I ought
To do. I take not for my judge this folk.
Whate’er of me their insolence hath spoke,
Heaven itself hath vindicated me.
My power, established so triumphantly,
Spread Athaliah’s fame to both the seas.
Through me Jerusalem is lapped in peace.
Jordan the roving Arab doth no more
Behold; nor the Philistine, as of your
Under your kings, with endless raids lay waste
Its banks. The Syrian monarch hath addressed
Me as the queen his sister. And e’en he
Who over threw my house so traitorously,
And meant to visit upon me as well
The doom that on its other members fell,
Jehu, fierce Jehu, in Samaria quails,
Whom a strong neighbour everywhere assails,
That I have roused against this murderer.
Therefore am I left sovereign mistress here.
I tasted undisturbed the fruits of all
My statecraft, when a care most sharp to gall
Came to me some days since to check the stream
Of my good fortune. A dream (why should a dream
Trouble me?” all my heart with fear imbues.
I shun it ever, yet it still pursues.
‘Twas in the depths of night’s dark mystery.
My mother Jezebel appeared to me,
Richly adorned, as on the day she died.
Misfortune had abated not her pride.
She even wore that borrowed brightness still
That she would spread upon her face erewhile
To cover o’er the ravages of time.
”Tremble,” she said, “O worthy daughter mine!
The Jews’ cruel God against thee doth prevail,
I grieve for thee, that thou must fall was well
As I, my child, into his fearful hands.”
These words of horror ending, as one bends
Above a bed, her shadow seemed to stoop
Towards me; and I stretched out mine arms with hope
To clasp her, but I found only a dire
Mass of bones, mangled flesh, and limbs with mire
Befouled, and tattered rags all soaked in gore,
Which the devouring dogs contended o’er.
ABNER.
Great God!
ATHALIAH
Then, after being thus dismayed,
I saw the vision of a young boy, clad
In a bright robe such as one seeth worn
By Jewish priests. My spirit was reborn
At sight of him; but when, forgetting care,
His sweet charm and his noble, modest air
I was admiring, suddenly I felt
A murderous blade, which to the very hilt
The traitor buried in my heart. to you
Perhaps from chance appeareth to ensue.
This strange conjunction of things so diverse.
I myself, ashamed sometimes of my fears,
Have deemed they were from brain-sick vapours sprung.
But now my soul, while still that memory clung,
Hath twice in sleep the same cruel vision seen.
Twice before my sad eyes hath risen again
The same child, who would always pierce my breast.
Worn with such horrors hounding me, at last
I went forth to seek aid of Baal through prayer
Before his shrine, hoping for comfort there.
Yet how are moral spirits ruled by dread!
Into the Temple of the Jews instead
An impulse drove my steps. Thoughts I conceived
Of pacifying their God; for I believed
Gifts would allay his anger, and he could,
Whoe’er he be, grow kindlier thus of mood.
Baal’s pontiff, pardon thou my cowardice!
I entered. Halted was the sacrifice;
The people fled; the high priest wrathfully
Came towards me. Then, while yet he spake to me,
That very child (O terror, O surprise!)
I saw, who threatens me, just as mine eyes
In fearful dreams beheld him—the same mien
And the same linen stole, his carriage, look, e’en
His every feature: ‘twas himself I viewed.
I have seen him! By the high priest’s side he stood,
But soon was removed thence, to disappear.
That is the thing which makes me tarry here;
And touching it, with both of you I fain
Would speak in consultation. What doth mean,
Mattan, a wonder so incredible?
526:341

Collect for the Day
God of hosts, be present with those who suffer for no fault of their own: the broken victims of war, oppression, indifference, and neglect. May we see in their sufferings the wounds of Christ, and share with them in his gift of new life. We ask this in his name.

[476:762:44 Psalm prayer]

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Shades of Cain: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 21 with poem by Christina Rossetti, Eve

Daily Readings
Sirach 13:25-14:27, II Kings 8, II Chronicles 21, Jeremiah 28

Daily Text: II Chronicles 21

Shades of Cain
The first of three evil rulers in Judah, Jehoram murders his six younger brothers upon his accession to the throne, treacherously attacks Edom, who allies herself with Libnah and successfully rebels. Shades of Cain! His tainted persononality reputedly comes from his marriage to Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel and Ahab. He reverses the righteous behavior of his ancestors and establishing high places begins to corrupt the people. At his death no one regrets his passing and he is not buried in the tomb of the kings. The people can always have the last word!

A singular note is the letter from Elijah. Normally, a prophet in Israel, Elijah writes Jehoram condemning him and cursing his house and his person. Both become reality. It is interesting that the curses that come from the LORD are usually noted at a later point in time, that is, even if the prophecy is given with a note of immediacy, its fulfillment often follows after an interval that may or may not seem appropriate. But follow it almost always does.

Eve
Christina Rossetti

‘While I sit at the door,
Sick to gaze within,
Mine eye weepeth sore
For sorrow and sin:
As a tree my sin stands
To darken all lands;
Death is the fruit it bore.

‘How have Eden bowers grown
Without Adam to bend them!
How have Eden flowers blown,
Squandering their sweet breath,
Without me to tend them!
The Tree of Life was ours,
Tree twelvefold-fruited,
Most lofty tree that flowers,
Most deeply rooted:
I chose the Tree of Death.

‘Hadst thou but said me nay,
Adam, my brother,
I might have pined away;
I, but none other:
God might have let thee stay
Safe in our garden
By putting me away
Beyond all pardon.

‘I, Eve, sad mother
Of all who must live,
I, not another,
Plucked bitterest fruit to give
My friend, husband, lover.
O wanton eyes run over;
Who but I should grieve?—
Cain hath slain his brother:
Of all who must die mother,
Miserable Eve!’

Thus she sat weeping,
Thus Eve our mother,
Where one lay sleeping
Slain by his brother.
Greatest and least
Each piteous beast
To hear her voice
Forgot his joys
And set aside his feast.
The mouse paused in his walk
And dropped his wheaten stalk;
Grave cattle wagged their heads
In rumination;
The eagle gave a cry
From his cloud station:
Larks on thyme beds
Forbore to mount or sing;
Bees drooped upon the wing;
The raven perched on high
Forgot his ration;
The conies in their rock,
A feeble nation,
Quaked sympathetical;
The mocking-bird left off to mock;
Hugh camels knelt as if
In deprecation;
The kind hart’s tears were falling;
Chattered the wistful stork;
Dove-voices with a dying fall
Cooed desolation
Answering grief by grief.
Only the serpent in the dust,
Wriggling and crawling,
Grinned an evil grin, and thrust
His tongue out with its fork.
395:47

Collect for the Day
We give you thanks,
yes, more than thanks, O Lord our God,
the Father of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ,
for all your goodness
at all times and in all places,
because you have shielded, rescued, helped,
and guided us all the days of our lives,
and brought us to this hour.

We pray and beseech you, merciful God,
to grant in your goodness
that we may spend this holy day
and all the time of our lives without sin,
in fullness of joy, health, safety, holiness,
and reverence of you.

But all envy, fall fear, all temptation,
all the influence of Satan,
all the snares of the wicked,
O Lord, drive away from us,
and from your Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Bestow upon us, O Lord, what is good and meet.
Whatever sin we commit in thought, word or deed,
in your goodness and mercy
be pleased to pardon.

Leave us not, O Lord, while we hope in you;
nor lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one and from his works
through the grace, mercy and love
of your Only-Begotten Son.

Through whom and with whom be glory and power to you,
in your most holy, good and life-giving Spirit,
now, henceforth, and for ever more.
Amen.

[489:57:March 6]