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

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Second Pentecost: Acts 4:1-31 with poem by Richard Chenevix Trench, Prayer

Daily Readings
Psalm 2, Genesis 4, Isaiah 10:1-4, 5:11-24, Acts 4:1-31

Daily Text: Acts 4:1-31

A Second Pentecost
The resurrection becomes the issue immediately In Acts 4. The leaders don’t want to recognize this, but what can they do? Produce a body? The apostles have already demonstrated evidence of the power of God—speaking in tongues, healing, quoting from Scripture.
All of these things add up to irrefutable evidence, tying the hands of the would-be persecutors, and keeping them from being able to do more than threaten. Klausner [549:104] is quoted as saying:
This was the first mistake which the Jewish leaders made with regard to the new sect. And this mistake was fatal. There was probably no need to arrest the Nazarenes, thus calling attention to them and making them ‘martyrs.’ But once arrested, they should not have been freed so quickly. The arrest and release increased the number of believers; for these events showed on the one hand that the new sect was a power which the authorities feared enough to persecute, and on the other hand they proved that there was no danger in being a disciple of Jesus (he, of course, being the one who had saved them from the hand of their persecutors!)

Peter and John, once threatened and released, go immediately to their friends and report. What a privilege to have such a body of friends with whom to associate and share the dangers. The group’s response is to pray and ask for boldness to keep on speaking and God’s response is to send the Holy Spirit again, as on the day of Pentecost, and to fill them with the boldness they were requesting. Such explicit answers to prayer!

Richard Chenevix Trench

Lord, what a change within us one short hour
Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make!
What heavy burdens from our bosoms take,
What parched grounds refresh as with a shower!
We kneel, and all around us seems to lower;
We rise, and all, the distant and the near,
Stands forth in sunny outline brave and clear;
We kneel, how weak! We rise, how full of power!
Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong
Or others, that we are not always strong,
That we are ever overborne with care,
That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
And joy and strength and courage are with Thee!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Second Moses: Acts 3 with poem by John Newton, I Knew Not What I Did

Daily Readings
Psalm 3 Genesis 3 Isaiah 4:2-5:10 Acts 3

Daily Text: Acts 3

A Second Moses
An extension of the power of God on Pentecost is the healing of the lame man in Acts 3 at the Gate Beautiful, more properly called the Nicanor Gate [549:83]. The healing is offered rather than the alms requested.

Cornelius a Lapide tells us how Thomas Aquinas called upon Pope Innocent II once when the latter was counting a large sum of money. “You see, Thomas,” said the Pope, “the Church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none’.” “True, holy father,” said Thomas, “and neither can she now say, ‘Arise and walk’ [549:84].

This healing occurs in the Name of Jesus. Peter explains more completely to the people after he and John have been to their prayers. This same man in whose name the lame man is healed, is the Author of life, whom they and their leaders put to death!. Paradox for sure, but God did not allow it remain a paradox, he restores Jesus to life, and Peter claims, it is this man, the Author of life, who has brought the lame man to perfect health. I suspect, included in that ‘perfect health’ is a restored relationship with the Author of life, himself, restored by “the faith that is through Jesus”[Acts 3:16].

Peter is generous with the crowd for though he charges them with Jesus’ rejection, he allows that they rejected him in ignorance, not understanding that he was the prophet foretold by Moses, a veritable second Moses. Now, however, seeing this continuing power of Jesus through the healing, they are no longer ignorant, but knowledgeable of the significance of this man for Israel and for them. He cinches this with references to the suffering servant of Isaiah 52-53. He goes on to say that continuing in their ignorance will confirm that they will be rooted out of the people of God, but by repenting they can not only confirm their place among the people of God, but receive the blessings offered by God to his own.

I Knew Not What I DidJohn Newton

Alas! I knew not what I did,
But now m tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I my Lord have slain.

A second look He gave, which said:
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom shed;
I die, that thou mayest live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live through Him I killed.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Reversal of Babel: Acts 2 with poem by Charles Wesley, O Thou Who Camest From Above

Daily Readings
Psalm 2, Genesis 2:4-25, Isaiah 2:22-4:1, Acts 2

Daily Text: Acts 2

A Reversal of Babel
On this day of Pentecost the apostles were gathered in one place. The reference seems to be the twelve, cf. 1:26. However, the 120 of 1:15 could conceivably be intended. There is no reference to the upper room in Acts 2, and the most likely place of meeting was the temple. J.G. Davies reckons that the speaking in legitimate languages, understood by the thousands hearing the disciples speaking in ‘tongues,’ was a reversal of Babel, that event when no one understood another (549:64) The sound of the rushing mighty wind might just have been wind. This author recalls a Pentecost liturgy when a wind, so great that the occupants of the building wondered whether it could stand, occurred as this reading from Acts 2 began and subsided with the completion of this one reading! Unfortunately, the other marks of this early Pentecost did not accompany the great wind. But of fear and awe there was aplenty.

Peter’s sermon explaining the significance of this event brought over 3000 of the hearers to their knees in repentance on that marvelous day. The significance of it all was that the power of God was present not only for the filling of the Holy Spirit within the lives of the gathered believers, but it was present also for the conversion of the gathered unbelievers. The question ever since is whether or not this power is present for us today in like fashion. Those of Pentecostal persuasion would say, ‘yes,’ and there is ample historical data to warrant their claims. Like the Mosaic covenant of Deuteronomy 29, this act of God is for those of all time, according to Peter in Acts 2:39. God indeed wills that all miscommunication and disharmony be resolved by and in his presence, and that all sing the praises of the name of God.

O Thou Who Camest From Above
Charles Wesley

O Thou who camest from above
The pure celestial fire to impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart!

There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze;
And trembling to its source return
In humble prayer and fervent praise.

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
To work, and speak, and thk for Thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up Thy gift in me.

Ready for all Thy perfect will,
My acts of faith and love repeat,
Till death Thy endless mercies seal,
And make the sacrifice complete.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Completing the Resurrection: Acts 1 with poem by James Joyce, The Ballad of Joking Jesus

Daily Readings
Psalm 1, Genesis 1:1-2:3, Isaiah 2:1-21, Acts 1

Daily Text: Acts 1

Completing the Resurrection
Volume II of Luke’s writings begin in Acts 1 with the appearances of Jesus in to the apostles and other believers in the forty days following the resurrection. He gives them instructions about being filled with the Holy Spirit and their immediate response is related to the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny as a world power. Is this the occasion for the coming of the Kingdom of God in time, space and political reality? No, says Jesus. It is not. That piece of reality is not yours or mine to predict, at least in terms of time and space. That is completely and solely within the Father’s prerogative, under his authority. No, this is for you to receive the power to become effective witnesses to what I have preached and done while with you.

He then leaves them rather peremptorily, shrouded in cloud and mystery, attested to by angels. This cloud is not unlike that of the Mount of Transfiguration or the Tabernacle in Moses’ day, and the temple in Solomon’s time. It is not about pre-Copernican metaphysics. It is about completing the resurrection, alive, present and in a new plane of existence, that of the Father.

The Ballad of Joking Jesus
James Joyce

--I’m the queerest young fellow that you ever heard.
My mother’s a jew, my father’s a bird.
With Joseph the joiner I cannot agree,
So here’s to disciples and Calvary.

--If anyone thinks that I amn’t divine
He’ll get no free drinks when I’m making the wine
But have to drink water and wish it were plain
That I make when the wine becomes water again.

--Goodbye, now, goodbye. Write down all I said
And tell Tom, Dick and Harry I rose from the dead.
What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly
And Olivet’s breezy…Goodbye, now, goodbye.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Book of Remembrance: Malachi 3:16-4:6 with poem by George Herbert, Easter Wings

Daily Readings
Isaiah 66, I Maccabees 16, Malachi 3:16-4:6, Luke 24

Daily Text: Malachi 3:16-4:6

Book of Remembrance
The difference between the revering ones and the wicked ones is in their service to the LORD, not in their intrinsic goodness. However, the outcomes are going to be as different as their patterns of relationship and service to the name of the holy one. When the prophet speaks God’s message in Malachi 3:16-4:6, those that revere the name of the LORD respond immediately and note is taken in the presence of God with the formation of a Book of Remembrance. The ‘wicked’ evidently ignore the message. They will not be able to ignore judgment day, however. How true that will be for each of us.

Easter Wings
George Herbert

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did begin:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Most thin.
With thee
Le me combine,
And feel this day thy victory:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Collect for the Day
Helper and Defender of Israel, rescue the peoples of the world from destructive anger, and set us free to love and serve each other in the peace of Christ our Lord.

[476:884:Psalm 124 Psalm prayer]

Day of the Lord: Zechariah 14 with poem by Edward Wight, How Do I Know?

The Feast of St. Stephen

Daily Readings
Psalm 31, I Maccabees 12, Zechariah 14, Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-60

Daily Text: Zechariah 14

Day of the Lord
Zechariah 14 discloses the climax of the LORD’s intervention in human affairs on the eschatological Day of the LORD. This intervention will require that the LORD will establish Jerusalem as his capital and that from it he will reign over the world. Here he attacks the nations with plague, with psychological attacks and with Jerusalem’s own defense. Once he has established himself as supreme, the nations will come yearly to worship him in Jerusalem. This is the conclusion to his promises throughout redemption history to make Israel chief among the nations. His own oneness, or integrity, will be established, presumably for all time.

How Do I Know?
Edward Wight

How do I know, you ask, that in the end
God’s power will conquer all, and through
Eternity His love prove master of
Our souls? Need I have proof?
I tell you, sir, between a world of chaos
And a world where God works on
Through moments men call time there lies a choice,
And I choose God.

Collect for the Day
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

[BCP:237 Saint Stephen]