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, December 30, 2006

Tithes and Offerings: Malachi 2:17-3:15 with poem by Henry C. Spear, Calling For God

Daily Readings
Isaiah 65, I Maccabees 15, Malachi 2:17-3:15, Luke 23

Daily Text: Malachi 2:2:17-3:15

Tithes and Offerings
The message of the prophet comes out in startling clarity in Malachi 2:17-3:15. You have continually turned aside from my ways. The appropriate response is to return to my ways. How can you do that? By bringing the full tithe and offerings into my house, for you have been robbing me by withholding them. And if you will bring them to my storehouse, I will bless you with more than you could wish for, so much so that the nations will call you the land of delight. This seems to be much more than a promise of agricultural plenty, but also of spiritual bounty. We can take note or we can continue withholding! It is a very practical response. It probably doesn’t matter where we begin our full commitment, as long as we begin it somewhere. In time growing integrity will lead to full commitment in every area of our life. Doing so in the economic arena is probably the simplest and easiest area of all to turn over to God.

Calling For God
Henry C. Spear
Where is the God of Justice? Malachi 2:17

God made the world both beautiful and good.
Then turned it over to His children fair,
A place to work and play in brotherhood,
To love and grow and blessings vast to share.
But what a mess man has made of God’s gift!
How selfishness and hate have marred the plan!
The human race bewilderedly adrift,
The image of the God all blurred in man.
Why doesn’t God assert His sovereign rights?
And make His subjects live as He desires?
His plan is seen as Jesus Christ invites
Devotion to the service love inspires.
God came to earth through Jesus Christ that is true,
He’ll only come again through me and you.

Collect for the Day
Helper of the helpless, comfort of the afflicted may your servants who stand in the midst of evil find strength in the knowledge of your presence, and praise you for the wonders of your love; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

[476:742:Psalm 31 Psalm prayer]

Friday, December 29, 2006

Connections: Malachi 2:1-16 with poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, Whoever grasps

Daily Readings
Isaiah 64, I Maccabees 14, Malachi 2:1-16, Luke 22

Daily Text: Malachi 2:1-16

The covenant with Levi is highlighted in Malachi 2:1-16. For in it is set the expectation that the priest will instruct young and old, to model reverence for the Name, to guard knowledge, and to live in integrity and right living. The problems are several: the priests say the words, but do not mean and certainly do not live them. For these reasons God will curse their blessings, that is, contradict even their most sacred pronouncements.

Verses 10-12 set the expectation for loyalty within the religious family of Judah, but not only is that not forthcoming, these priests do not even keep faith within their own personal families. Their wives are sent away, and God hates sending away. When this occurs there is little chance of raising one’s children in the godly life. In reality loss of integrity in any part of one’s life leads to that loss in every other part. All of life is connected; all spirit is connected.

Whoever grasps
Rainer Maria Rilke

Whoever grasps the thousand contradictions of his life,
pulls them together into a single image, that man, joyful
and thankful, drives the rioters out of the palace,
becomes celebratory in a different way, and you are the guest
whom he receives on the quiet evenings.

You are the second person in his solitude,
the tranquil hub of his talking with himself;
and every circle he draws around you
lifts him out of time on those compass legs.

Collect for the Day
Gracious God, in times of sorrow and depression, when hope itself seems lost, help us to remember the transforming power of your steadfast love and to give thanks for that new life we cannot now imagine. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

[476:812:Psalm 79 Psalm prayer]

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Certain Readiness: Malachi 1 with poem by Thomas Curtis Clark, Malachi, The Messenger

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Daily Readings
Psalm 124, I Maccabees 13, Malachi 1, Matthew 2:13-18

Daily Text: Malachi 1

A Certain Readiness
Malachi is often thought of as a continuation of the emphases of the second part of Zechariah (chs. 9-14). Each employs the unusual heading of ‘oracle’, a message or burden of the Lord’s imminent coming to judge the world, and the whole world does seem to be in mind. Malachi 1 clearly picks up on this theme as he deals with priests who are offering blemished animals as sacrifices and thus despising and defiling the Lord’s name. Malachi then goes on to claim in verse 11 that in other nations across the world the name of the Lord is celebrated as they are about to offer a pure offering, a fragrant one for His name. The use of the impassive suggests a certain readiness, rather than completion of said offerings (cf. 529:230). This use of the impassive may be understood in view of Malachi’s soon-coming intervention by the Lord. The LORD has been clear about his love for Israel, and his openness to love for the other nations. This is more clearly worked out in the Christian testament, but prefigured here.

Malachi, The Messenger
Thomas Curtis Clark

Of Judah and her treachery he spake
The messenger of God. On tables vile
Her priests made tainted offerings
And every law of truth and good they brake.
To foreign gods they turned, and pagan vice
Was seen among the people whom God loved.
But there would come a messenger with wrath
Upon his lips. Their heartless sacrifice
Should burn as by a grim refiner’s fire.
And they should be redeemed! And God would bless.
No longer would he curse their offerings,
But as father give them food. His ire
At last should pass, and he, the mighty God,
Would smite the spoilers from his sacred sod.

Collect for the Day
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[BCP:238 The Holy Innocents]

Sunday, December 24, 2006

His Own Associate: Zechariah 13 with poem by Elizabeth Cheney, There is a Man on the Cross

Daily Readings
Psalm 45, I Maccabees 10, Zechariah 13, Luke 20

Daily Text: Zechariah 13

His Own Associate
God demands the removal of both idols and false prophets in Zechariah 13. Even their parents will accuse them of lying and will pierce or stab them at home. Obviously, their unpopularity has spread for they face questions about their own integrity at home and abroad. As their parents accuse, they lie to protect themselves claiming neither prophetic status nor prophetic interest. They leave the customary prophet’s clothing at home and claim to be simple farmers. When asked about the marks of self-flagellation on their body that are indicative of the ecstatic prophet, they promulgate the falsehood that these bruises or scars were received in the house of friends. How this helps is unknown, for such bruising would suggest homosexual activity and certainly they would not try to ‘protect’ themselves with such a claim. Whether or not their protective words actually protected them, we know that they were dissembling.

In the passage, verses 7-9, we have a poem that suggests that God slays, or allows to be slain, his own associate, one who stands next to him. This is far more remarkable than the portion against false prophets, for this shepherd seems to be one of a true calling, even associated with God himself. And once he is slain, the people scatter and two-thirds of them end up dead themselves. The remaining third are brought through as if by fire in a testing mode, and these become the people of God. This image of shepherd seems to have influenced Jesus mightily for he uses it often [Baldwin 529:198]. “The very fact that the passage is to a degree enigmatic is an invitation to meditate on it, and there are indications that it influenced the thinking of Jesus more than any other shepherd passage in the Old Testament (cf. John 10, with its repeated emphasis on the shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, and on the scattering of the sheep).

There is a Man on the Cross
Elizabeth Cheney

Whenever there is silence around me
By day or by night—
I am startled by a cry.
It came down from the cross—
The first time I heard it.
I went out and searched—
And found a man in the throes of crucifixion,
And I said, “I will take you down,”
And I tried to take the nails out of his feet.
But he said, “Let them be
For I cannot be taken down
Until every man, every woman, and every child
Come together to take me down.”
And I said, “But I cannot hear you cry.
What can I do?”
And he said, “Go about the world—
Tell everyone that you meet—
There is a man on the cross.”

Collect for the Day
Gracious God, your love unites heaven an earth in a new festival of gladness. Lift our spirits to learn the way of joy that leads us to your banquet hall, where all is golden with praise. We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord.

[476:763:Psalm 45 Psalm prayer]