Week of Proper 20: Wednesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Bypass Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia (So Non-Muslims Will Not Enter Mecca)

Image Source = Saicome

Legalism Versus Compassion

SEPTEMBER 27, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Ezra 9:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At the time of the evening offering I ended my self-affliction; still in my torn garment and robe, I got down on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, and said,

O my God, I am too ashamed and mortified to lift my face to You, O my God, for our iniquities are overwhelming and our guilt has grown high as heaven.  From the time of our fathers to this very day we have been deep in guilt.  Because of our iniquities, we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to foreign kings, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to humiliation, as is now the case.

But now, for a short while, there has been a reprieve from the LORD our God, who has granted us a surviving remnant and given us a stake in His holy place; our God has restored the luster of our eyes and furnished us with a little sustenance in our bondage.  For bondsmen we are, though even in our bondage God has not forsaken us, but has disposed the king of Persia favorably toward us, to furnish us with sustenance and to raise again the House of our God, repairing its ruins and giving us a hold in Judah and Jerusalem….


Canticle 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19, followed by the Trinitarian formula:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land;

deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise,

and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light,

and kings to the brightness of our dawning.

Your gates will always be open;

by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord,

The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land,

ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,

and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day;

by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light,

and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

or this:

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

3 God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

4 Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

6 Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

7 As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

9 Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.


Luke 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I suppose that the planners of this lectionary paired the Ezra and Luke readings with the intention that the reader would focus on depending on God and giving thanks for divine patience in the face of protracted human disobedience.  Following that plan is not my intention today.

I do not like the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah books, for they are too nationalistic and prone to whitewashing for my comfort.  In contrast, the books of Samuel and Kings are brutally honest. There we read about the sins of King David, for example.  And there we learn of a civil war between the forces of Saul (and his successor) and those of David.  But there is no civil war after Saul’s death, at least in Chronicles.

And then there is the matter of intermarriage in the Book of Ezra.  This is why Ezra is beside himself.  And, after the reading ends, the expulsion of Gentile wives and children ensues.  This is a profoundly disturbing episode in the Bible, and the Book of Ezra presents it in a positive light.

Maybe my current preoccupation with the importance of family, due in part to my awareness of my family and the fragility of some of members thereof, accounts primarily for the extent of my objection to the episode from Ezra.  Yet I have long been uncomfortable with this text, and I refuse to think that I must believe certain ugly ideas because somebody who wrote part of the Bible espoused them.  Compassion, as I have written before on the blog, is the trump card.  And, if we cannot show compassion for our relatives, for whom can we do this?

In other words, what about the feelings and needs of the expelled wives and children?

Do not misunderstand me.  I grasp the concept that family ought to be where one hands down the faith.  If ever I leave my bachelorhood behind, I will seek a woman with spiritual values similar to my own.  But God loves Jews and Gentiles, people like “us” and people different from “us,” domestic-born and foreign-born–all alike.  Jesus, our Lord, cut through pure-impure distinctions during his ministry, making enemies along the way.  I seek to follow in his footsteps, not those of Ezra.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.



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