It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

From Hopelessness to Hope, Reflection on Romans 4:18-22

Yes, God chooses us. Yes, God chooses a lot of unlikely people. Abraham and Sarah, for example. They were old, really old--100 and 90--when God told them that they were going to have multitudes of descendants. 

But, notice that Abraham and Sarah didn't just sit idly by waiting for the future to fall on them. Because of their faith, they were able to respond rightfully.

These great ancestors of ours lived in a way that demonstrated that they really believed that God delivers on promises.

(Caveat: those of you who have read ahead know that Abraham and Sarah sometimes slipped up.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Who gets to join us? Reflection on Romans 4:13-17

Much of Paul's writing is informed by his need to address an important concern on the Christian church of his time: Can a non-Jew become a Christian? Here, in this letter to the Romans, he reminds them that, after all, Abraham himself was not Jewish at the time that God chose him to be our great ancestor. Paul makes an explicit distinction between Abraham's faith and someone's following religious instruction.

The modern Christian church, as has the church throughout history, continues to wrestle with the question of who is eligible to be included in our faith community.

Who is to be included? "We are," Paul says to his fellows Jews, "because we are descendants of Abraham and God promised inclusion to all of his descendants."

Then Paul adds, "But, remember this: God chose Abraham before the world had even heard of Moses. Abraham couldn't follow the law of Moses before Moses brought it down from the mountain. God's choice was not made because Abraham followed the Jewish law, and it still isn't."

God's promise rests on grace.

Lectio Divina: Psalm 22:23-24

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Going Public, Going Wide, Reflection on Psalm 22:23-31

Psalm 22 begins in despair, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It lifts up complaints of mistreatment and mockery and threats. And, intertwined with these laments, are words of remembrance of what God has done and a call to God to do more.

Verse 22 begins with "Save me" but then shifts to "You have rescued me."

How do rescued people respond?

Thank God and make those thanks public. Give thanks in the middle of the congregation.

Those people present there at that place will hear of God's work. And not only them. All of the families of the earth will know what God has done and what God can do. People living now and people to come.

Whose praise of the Lord have you heard? Who has heard your praise of the Lord?

Lectio Divina: Psalm 22:23-27

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Covenant with Abraham and Sarah and their descendants, Reflection on Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

This passage parallels last week's reading from Genesis. God chooses to make an everlasting covenant with specific individuals. Yet, this covenant extends to their descendants. The Lord reminds Abram (soon to be Abraham) that those descendants include a multitude of nations.

God further says to (now) Abraham, "These descendants are coming to come through your wife Sarah."

Remember these are very old people.

We may not be sure why Abraham and Sarah were chosen, but they were.

How difficult is it for Christians to accept and understand that Jews and Muslims are fellow descendants from Abraham?

How easy is it for us to give up on promises because they have been long deferred?

How are we responding to God's gift of covenant; are we blameless?

Lectio Divina: I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you (Genesis 17:7).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Prescribed Burning, Reflection on Mark 8:34-38

As I think about how I need to adapt my life to fit this teaching of Jesus, I am reminded of the practice of prescribed burning. 

Here's two quotations (the first by Tess Tescher,; the second by Alan J. Long, University of Flordia Cooperative Extension Service,(
Prescribed burning is a useful tool for maintaining and restoring diversity in our native grasslands. Buildups of dead plant litter can be a fire hazard, lessen the biodiversity of the area, and aid in the establishment of invader species.
Reasons We Burn: Reduction of Hazardous Fuels; Altering Vegatative Communities; Improving Wildlife and Livestock Habitat; Controlling Pest Problems; Improving Access
Surely, we can metaphorize prescribed burning in some way that will demonstrate our need for Lent practices.

Lectio Divina: Mark 8:35-36. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Plain Teaching, a Reflection on Mark 8:31-33

Jesus was rejected in his hometown (6:1-6) but continued his teaching, called disciples, gave them authority to heal (6:7-13). He fed 5,000, walked on water, and healed the sick (7:30-56). Although some of the religious folks were offended by his ways, some foreigners accepted him readily (7:1-37). He fed another 4,000, which did not impress everybody, and cured a blind man (8:1-26).

When he asked Peter, "Who do you say I am?", Peter replied, "You are the Messiah" (8:27-30).

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must endure great suffering and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, be put to death and rise up three days later (8:31).

The title of Son of Man may be an allusion to the vision of one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven, the one who was to be given dominion over all nations forever, (Daniel 7:13-14).

Early Christians had to reconcile the suffering and death of this man with the acceptance of him as Messiah. How could one chosen by God suffer the kind of death that he did? Mark's gospel helped them with this theological problem. Jesus said the suffering was inevitable and part of God's plan. (See The Gospel According to Mark, by Morna Hooker, for more on this).

At this point he spoke plainly--not in parables. He intended for them to get it. Peter grasped the message but did not approve of it. Jesus rebuked him strongly (8:32-33).

How hard would it have been for them to continue to follow Jesus after they had heard this news?

Some Christians throughout history have read into this passage a necessity for all Christians to suffer. Was Jesus telling Peter what the Messiah had to go through, or was he preparing him for what all Christians would have to bear? In either interpretation, we can remember throughout the Scripture, God has stood by those who are suffering.

Lectio Divina: Mark 8:33.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Saving the Unrighteous, Reflection on 1 Peter 3:18-22

 "You may be suffering," this letter tells us (verses 8-17), "but, remember, Christ also suffered."

We are in Lent, that Christian season pointed toward crucifixion--and toward Easter.

"Christ suffered for sins once for all--my sins, their sins. The righteous suffer for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God" (verse 18).

How does your congregation live differently from the folks around you that are not part of any faith community? What suffering by the righteous have you witnessed? What suffering was done for the unrighteous? Why am I equating church membership with righteousness, anyway?

"Christ was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (verse 18). The physical death of Jesus was not the end of him or his work. Rather, his resurrection demonstrated God's purpose and power to save.(thanks to Allen & Williamson, once again.)

"Christ suffered for the righteous and the unrighteous. He made a proclamation to those who in former times did not obey." (verse 19). God's purpose in Christ is not restricted to Christians alone. God wants to save sinners who didn't pay attention earlier.

What do we do with this idea? Are we to believe--and behave as if we believed--that just as God of Israel wanted to save non-Jewish Gentiles, that this God wants to save non-Christians? Again, why am I equating righteousness with belonging to the same faith that I do?

"Our baptism is a reminder of the ark," (verse 20-21). During Lent, I often read Bread and Wine, Plough Press. Here is what Will Willimon has to say about baptism:
His message is not the simple one of the Baptist, "Be clean." Jesus' word is more painful--"Be killed." The washing of this prophetic baptism is not cheap....That day at the Jordan, knee deep in cold water, with old John drenching him, the Anointed One began his journey down the via crusis. His baptism intimated where he would finally end. His whole life was caught up in this single sign. Our baptism does the same.
The chief biblical analogy for baptism is not the water that washes but the flood that drowns. Discipleship is more than turning over a new leaf. It is more fitful and disorderly than gradual moral formation. Nothing less than death, often painful, lifelong death will do.

Lectio Divina: 1 Peter 3:18

Saturday, February 21, 2015

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul, Reflection on Psalm 25:1-10

Psalm 24 sings of the entrance of the place of worship. Psalm 25 is the song of the worshiper. 

Teach me what I need to know about you. Teach me what I need to know about what I am supposed to do. Forgive me for my failures.

Remember me not for what I have done, but according to what you are, according to your steadfast love.

Lectio Divina: Psalm 25:8-10

Friday, February 20, 2015

Do-Over, Reflection on Genesis 9:8-17

God had given them everything, and they had messed up. Noah and his family have been given a new start. In the verses preceding this week's lection, God has told Noah what is to be expected of human beings.

Now, God announced to Noah, "I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: No more floods to destroy the earth."

But not just those on the ark. God expands the promise to every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

As we travel through Lent, let us try to remember two things:
God's covenant is everlasting.
God's covenant is with all people on the earth.
The sign of the covenant is the rainbow. The New Interpreters' Study Bible reminds us that the Hebrew word is simply bow which in the rest of the Old Testament always refers to a weapon. "Thus the divine instrument of war and death, perhaps recalling the flood, is laid aside in the clouds and becomes the sign of the peace and life assured in the covenant."

As we travel through Lent, let us consider what weapon we need to lay aside.

Lectio Divina: Psalm 25:6-7

1 comment:

Crimson Rambler said...
what weapon we need to lay aside...yes. That'll do me, for a Lenten exercise -- thanks, friend!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Demons and Angels, Reflection on Mark 1:9-15

Why do we observe Lent? 

Remember, Jesus went to the wilderness because the Spirit drove him there. 

What is the wilderness for us? In scripture, it is a place of threat and a place where God's presence is manifest and a place where the hungry are fed and the thirsty are given water.

This gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Lent overlaps a little the lectionary reading for the Baptism of the Lord (January 11, this year) which was Mark 1:4-ll.

As earlier we focused on the baptism, this week we are reflecting on the tempting. In their Preaching the Gospel without Blaming the Jews, Ronald J. Allen & Clark M. Williamson, remind us that even those of us who do not accept Satan as a personal being are faced with temptations. They suggest that we think about the forces in the world such as racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and addictions, that resist God's aim for us to experience love and justice.

During our forty days of Lent, we will be challenged by those demonic forces. And, in our wilderness, we also will be tended by angels. As Allen & Williamson put it,
On the one hand, this narrative assures the reader that, just as God sustained Jesus, so God continues to sustain the community when its witness brings it eyeball to eyeball with evil.
Lectio Divina: Psalm 25:4-5

1 comment:

Larry said...
Isn't it interesting how Jesus surfs the waves on baptism right onto the wilderness beach? Many mythologies demonstrate such a rite of passage for a hero. It's also interesting that we never make much of the "angels" who tend to Jesus....We focus on the devil alone. Maybe the half empty glass syndrome?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Treasures, a Reflection on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Jesus did say, "Beware of practicing your piety before others," but he didn't end it there. He has a because clause: Don't do it just so they will notice. That is, he is not advocating secrecy but rather warning them against hypocrisy.
Give to charity because someone needs help not to show off.  Remember that your prayers are directed to God, not to impress somebody. Fast in secret rather than in public.
Jesus assumes that they will give liberally and ungrudgingly (see Deuteronomy 15:10-11), that they will pray often (perhaps three times a day, see Daniel 6:10, and that they would fast (see Joel 1:14;  also see Isaiah 58 to see that fasting was not restricted to food).

What Jesus is cautioning them about is confusion of goals. You're doing the things that you ought to be doing, and remember why you are doing them. You will be rewarded, but not necessarily in an immediate, public way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Evangelism Checklist, a reflection on 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10

[On] Ash Wednesday, we need to think about how Paul described the life of a Christian missionary. "Here's how we commended ourselves to you: great endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger."

That is, servants of God will go through a lot as they reach out to people who are themselves going through a lot.

Then Paul offers a checklist that is still useful for us as we invite people into our Christian community: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech.

After reading Paul's description of evangelism, does your congregation have any repenting to do?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Worship Resources for Women's History Month

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women offers a series of sermon preparation notes and resources written by Rev. Hyemin Na that follow the lectionary texts for March and all arise from the wider theme of hearing God’s word from the experiences of women’s stories and proclaiming the call to live out the gospel.

Return, a reflection on Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 and Psalm 51:1-17

As we prepare for Lent, we read this message (warning?) from Joel: Sound the alarm. The day of the Lord is coming, a day of darkness and gloom. (Read Joel 1:1-2:11). Yet, even in the face of our deserved judgment, the Lord continues to beckon, "Return to me."

As Christians travel through Lent, let us heed Joel's reminder: Rend your hearts and not your clothing. What do we need to give up (or to take up) that is our way of fasting, weeping, and mourning?

Keep reading.

In verse 13, we see the familiar doxology of God's mercy (Exodus 34:5-7). Again, Joel says, "Sound the alarm," and adds:

Sanctify a fast.
Call a solemn assembly.
Gather the whole congregation including the old people and the very young.
 In verse 17, he reminds us that our lives demonstrate what we really believe about God. There's an old cliche' that your life is a sermon that you are preaching everyday. What if it is true?

Psalm 51 is one of only seven penitential psalms. I'm wondering why only seven. How often do we need words to express our recognition that we need to be forgiven?
Here's the first seven verses:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Interestingly enough for me, as I am reflecting on this psalm, I'm also doing the weekly laundry. Those clothes really were dirty, and they really did need cleaning. Soon, they will be presentable for wear once again. The metaphor fails though because the washing I am doing to the clothes will remove only the surface stains.

Although most of the other penitential psalms are communal prayers, this psalm is expressed as an individual cry, Have mercy on me, blot out my transgressions, wash me, and purify me.

And I can ask this of God because mercy is what God is like, because mercy befits God's faithfulness, because God is abundantly compassionate.

Sometimes, we need reminders that we are sinning. And, sometimes, we are so burdened by our sins that we need reminders that God is compassionate.

We can pray Psalm 51 when we recognize that we need forgiveness, that we want forgiveness:
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Responding to Change and Summons, 2 Kings 2:1-12; Ps 50:1-6

On Transfiguration Sunday, we are contemplating what it's like to be the one who will assume responsibility for carrying on the necessary task.

Elisha said, "I'm not ready to let you go. Stay here with me."

The way he puts it is to repeat, "I won't abandon you."

The other prophets tried to help Elisha. Elijah tried to help him. Yet, Elisha is still not ready to let Elijah go.

What really is his objection?

Even when he is told that the Lord has ordained this move, Elisha objects. He continues to delay the departure. They travel from Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan. Breuggemann points out that they are moving into the wilderness.

Think about an earlier crossing of the Jordan--Moses couldn't go, but Joshua led the people across.

Elisha is bereaved.

Think about Peter and James and John. In the gospel text this week, they have witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. They soon will face his death. They will be bereaved.
After the ascension, they will continue to lead their people.

Elisha asked for a double share of Elijah's spirit. Elijah reminded him that the Spirit is God's to share. Let us continue to pray for God's spirit to light on us as we face loss and challenge.

How hard is it for a disciple to move on and to let go?

Psalm 50:1-6

God comes to our attention in many ways. Sometimes, God appears in our lives in silence, as happened to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13). And, sometimes, God appears with great drama, as in Psalm 50:
    Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
    Our God comes and does not keep silence,
    before him is a devouring fire,
    and a mighty tempest all around him.

Sometimes, God comes to comfort us. Sometimes, God comes to call us to action. And, sometimes, God comes to judge.
    He calls to the heavens above
    and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
    "Gather to me my faithful ones,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"
    The heavens declare his righteousness,
     for God himself is judge.

Think about God as fire and judge as you remember how a chariot of fire and horses separated Elijah and Elisha as Elijah ascended. Think about what Peter and James and John witnessed.

Lectio Divina: Psalm 50:6

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Now They Know, Reflection on Mark 9:2-9; Let light shine out of darkness, Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9
Peter, James, and John were helped in their understanding of who Jesus was by the events on the mountaintop. They witnessed a change in Jesus' body. They saw him clothed in white as was the Divine One described by Daniel (7:9). And they saw Moses and Elijah, great figures in the history of their people, both who had spoken the word of the Lord.

The first reading this week, 2 Kings 2:1-12 depicts the departure of Elijah. John H. Hayes, in Preaching through the Christian Year B, suggests reading Exodus 24 and 34 to see how Mark's version of the Transfiguration is patterned on Moses' experiences of God on Mt. Sinai.
Then a cloud overshadowed them. And from the cloud came a voice.
What Jesus has known (1:11) is now told to these disciples: The voice tells them, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" 

And what he first tells them is not to tell anybody else until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Fred Craddock in Preaching through the Christian Year B, explains this command: They may have heard that Jesus is the Son, the Beloved, but they haven't yet heard everything they need to know to be effective disciples. They are not yet ready to be witnesses nor are their audiences yet read to hear it.

Off on a tangent: Look back at Exodus 19:16-20 that tells of the appearance of a thick cloud on a mountain and the voice of the Lord; also Exodus 24:12-18, Moses and Aaron go up the mountain, the glory of the Lord appears in the cloud, then Moses enters the cloud. Other references to the cloud as a symbol of the divine presence include Numbers 14:10; Ezekiel 1:4; Daniel 7:13-14; Mark 13:26; 14:2. (Thank you once more, Allen & Williamson, for your Preaching the Gospels.)

Sing (or, at least read) these two hymns about the Transfiguration: 258, "O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair" and 260, "Christ, upon the Mountain Peak," The United Methodist Hymnal.

All the elements of Mark's account are there: the six days of waiting, the cloud, the glory, the voice, the descent from the mountain. Moses' face shone due to his experience in the presence of God. Exodus also describes the making of the tent of meeting. 

2 Corinthians 4:3-6
The three disciples have accompanied Jesus to the mountaintop. There, they witnessed something that terrified them.

The gospel reports of the transfiguration tell us that the disciples saw something very different from what they had been able to see before. I've always understood that to mean that the appearance of Jesus changed. As Mark says, "He was transfigured...and his clothes became dazzling white."

But, what about us? We've heard about Jesus. We know about the crucifixion and we know about the resurrection. Is transfiguration interesting only as an historical event that happened to some other people at some other time in some other place?

Paul was writing to the early church, the post-transfiguration, post-crucifixion, post-resurrection church: Those other apostles have been misleading you. They have thrown a veil over the true gospel. The light that has enabled us to see is the light that will enable you to see. That light comes in the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The light was there for the Corinthians, but they had allowed themselves to be blinded by the false apostles.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Additions to Daniel: Susanna and Bel the Dragon

Another addition to the book of Daniel (chapter 13) is Susanna

Two men of authority allow themselves to be overcome by lust of the beautiful Susanna. They sneak into her garden to watch her bathe. Giving into their lust, they approach her, telling her if she objects, then they will accuse her of committing adultery with a young man. She reflects, "I am trapped. If I agree then I have sinned against the Lord. If I refuse, it will mean death."  So, she objects, calls out for help. They have her arrested, saying they saw her engaging in adultery with a young man.

At her trial, the two elders testify against her. She prays to God for help. The Lord heard her and sent Daniel to help. He interview the two men separately asking each one a detail about what they had seen, "Under what kind of tree were they being intimate?" They named different trees thus proving they were lying.

Susanna was spared; the false accusers were executed.

Bel the Dragon is considered Daniel chapter 14. In it, Daniel proves that the Babylonian idol is a false god. He kills a great dragon that they revere. When he is thrown in a lion's den, God sends him help. All who had tried to harm Daniel are themselves executed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Prayer of Azariah (Addition to Daniel)

In the book of Daniel,  the transition from throwing them in the fiery furnace to their survival is abrupt and inexplicable. Here's the missing portion that can be inserted between Daniel 3: 23 and 3:24.

Azariah (Abednego) prays to God admitting that all the disaster that had overtaken Jerusalem was well deserved, a true judgment brought on them because of their sins, "We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept the or done what you have commanded us for our own good." Yet, Azariah asks God for mercy, "Remember the promises you have made to multiply Abraham's descendants. There aren't many of us left now." Interesting argument--which of God's promises will be kept?

These three men in the furnace are contrite. Flames will get your attention. Another problem--they can't get to the temple, so they must have an alternative procedure for approach to the Lord. They try praying where they are.

Although the flames leaped almost as tall as a football field, the fire did not touch them.

With one voice, the three men praised and glorified and blessed God, whose mercy endures forever.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Letter of Jeremiah

Scholars think this letter of Jeremiah purporting to be sent to the exiles in Babylon is neither a letter nor written by Jeremiah, but dated sometime after the exile.

As in Sirach, the exiles deserve their punishment. Jeremiah (I'm using that name rather than keep saying "the author of this manuscript") warns them that when they get to Babylon, they will see many people worshipping many false gods.  He counsels, "Don't be misled by these images made by people. They may be gold, but that gold has to be shined. They may have feet, but they can't walk. People may be offering sacrifices to them, but their priests use those gifts for themselves."

Still timely is the reminder that anything we can make for ourselves is finally an idol, a substitution for the true God.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Baruch 4-5

Wisdom, given to Israel by God, is the book of the commandments, the law that lives forever. Wisdom speaks to the people, "You brought on your destruction yourself by your sins. May others learn from your example."

Wisdom wants to help Israel, "The one who brought these calamities upon you is the one who will deliver you. Your neighbors that saw your capture will soon see God deliver your salvation."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Baruch 1-3

The book of Baruch is set during the time of the Babylonian invasion, the destruction of the temple and the taking of its treasures, time of capturing the king, other nobles, and people of the land, taking them into exile. The words are addressed to these exiles.

The letter encourages them with assertions that the Lord will continue to give strength and light to the people during their separation from home and temple. The letter contains words of judgment, that the people by their own actions had brought on their calamities. Yet, even though, they deserved what had happened, they may turn to the Lord for forgiveness and deliverance.

Following the prayer is a poem that praises Wisdom.

The original readers of this book could use its prayers and descriptions of wisdom to help face the difficult circumstances of their own lives. So can we.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sirach 50-51

The final name on the list of men to be honored is the high priest Simon, son of Onias. According to the notes of The New Interpreters Study Bible, he probably held the office at the time of Ben Sira. Simon is honored for his work in repairing the temple and his leading worship there.

The book of Sirach ends with a prayer of gratitude to the Lord, a hymn of praise modeled on Psalm 136, and a poem on wisdom. Closing verses: "Draw near to me, you who are uneducated, and lodge in the house of instruction.....See with your own eyes that I have labored but little and found for myself much serenity....Hear but a little of my instruction, and through me you will acquire silver and gold. May your soul rejoice in God's mercy, and may you never be ashamed to praise him. Do your work in good time, and in his own time God will give you your reward."

Tomorrow we read the first three chapters of Baruch. If your Bible does not include the Apocrypha, go to

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sirach 47-49

The hymn to their ancestors continue. Nathan gets a sentence for prophesying David, who then gets a very positive description, "As far apart is fat set from the offering of well-being is he set apart from the Israelites." I looked this up in Exodus 29:10-14 and Leviticus 4:8-13. Further, David is commended for his poetry, his contributions to worship, and his many, mighty deeds, including wiping out the Philistines (no mention of his fighting on their side at one time, (1 Samuel 27). In any case, we are told that the Lord took away his sins.

The next famous men, Solomon and his sons, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, committed sins. The prophets Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, and Isaiah tried to get the people to hear what the Lord wanted them to do.

Also perceived favorably is a king, Josiah.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sirach 44-46

Let us now sing the praises of famous men. The Lord apportioned to them great glory. Some ruled their kingdoms with valor; some gave counsel because they were intelligent. Hymns to ancestors: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Phineas, Joshua and Caleb, the Judges.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sirach 42-43

Much of Ben Sira's counsel still seems valuable; e.g., Be honest in all financial matters and keep written records. However, his paranoia about women and his attitude toward slavery pop up again in Chapter 42.

Chapter 43 is a paean to God, who has made everything we see and knows everything we do.
Who has seen the Lord? Who can describe the Holy One?
Many things greater than these lie hidden,
for I have seen but few of the works of the Most High.
For the Lord has made all things,
and to the godly has given wisdom.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sirach 38-41

Be grateful to physicians.

Directions for mourning.

All occupations are necessary for the community. Rather disturbing discourse about who is capable of understanding any matters outside their particular occupation.

A somewhat contradictory section in chapter 39: A proclamation that everything the Lord does is good is followed by a recognition that hard work, anger, envy, trouble, fear of death, fury, and strife exists for everyone.

Bribery and injustice will end. Friends and family are more important to your well-being than prosperity.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sirach 35-37

Be generous with your gifts to the Lord--as repayment not as a bribe.

The Lord will punish the unmerciful and insolent.

Some friends are friends only in name. All counselors praise the counsel they give, but some give counsel in their own interest. Don't consult a miser about generosity, the merciless about kindness, or an idler about work. Rather, consult with a godly person, one who is like-minded with yourself, who will grieve with you if you fail. But, above all, pray to the Most High to direct your way in truth.

As I have noted that parts of this book of wisdom don't fit our times very well, I can also note that many parts are very applicable to us now; e.g. this excerpt from Sirach 37,
27 My child, test yourself during your life. See what's bad for you, and don't give in to it. 28 All things aren't beneficial to everybody, and all things aren't pleasing to every person. and don't be unrestrained with food. 29 Don't be greedy for every delicacy, 30 Eating a lot of food will make one sick, and gluttony will lead to nausea. 31 Many have died because of gluttony, but those who are on guard against it will prolong life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sirach 32-34

Some of the counsel offered still seems timely; for example, When you're in charge of an event, take care of the necessary tasks; You older guys can speak--but not too much; You younger guys, you can speak only if asked and not too much for you either; for all of you, Don't overstay at a party.

More wisdom that seems applicable to our time: A sensible person listens to thoughtful suggestions; Don't make the same mistake twice; Pay attention to the law; and Think before you speak.

Advice that may have fit their time but not ours is a section on how to treat your slaves so as to get the most work out of them. Further, the rules change when there's only one slave:
31 If you have but one slave, treat him like yourself, because you have bought him with blood. If you have but one slave, treat him like a brother, for you will need him as you need your life. 32 If you ill-treat him, and he leaves you and runs away, 33 which way will you go to seek him?
My cynical interpretation: Kindness can be beneficial.

Quotes from chapter 34:
17 Happy is the soul that fears the Lord! 18 To whom does he look? And who is his support?
24 Like one who kills a son before his father's eyes is the person who offers a sacrifice from the property of the poor. 25 The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; whoever deprives them of it is a murderer. 26 To take away a neighbor's living is to commit murder; 27 to deprive an employee of wages is to shed blood.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sirach 29-31

Be generous when your neighbor is in need. Be quick to repay their generosity.

Be content with little or much.

Sira gives advice on raising children that doesn't suit our times very well.