Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Choice of Violence

Ben Sira, in the book sometimes known as Ecclesiasticus, says this about the freedom of choice:
Do not say, 'The Lord was responsible for my sinning,'
for he does not do what he hates.
Do not say, 'It was he who led me astray,'
for he has no use for a sinner.
The Lord hates all that is foul,
and no one who fears him will love it either.
He himself made human beings in the beginning,
and then left them free to make their own decisions.
If you choose, you will keep the commandments
and so be faithful to his will.
He has set fire and water before you;
put out your hand to whichever you prefer.
A human being has life and death before him;
whichever he prefers will be given him.
He never commanded anyone to be godless,
he has given no one permission to sin.
~Sirach 15: 11-17, 20

Violence has no excuse when human imagination and creativity can find alternatives. God's healing power is upon the wounded of Boston.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Humility by Sirach

The lessons from Ben Sira in the Book of Sirach always perk up my thought processes. One reading of a verse is never enough. Here's part of his advice on humility.
Do not try to understand things that are too difficult for you
or try to discover what is beyond your powers.
Concentrate on what has been assigned to you,
you have no need to worry over mysteries.
Do not meddle with matters that are beyond you;
what you have been taught already exceeds the scope of the human mind.
For many have been misled by their own notions,
wicked presumption having warped their judgement.
~Sirach 3:21-24,

On first reading, the passage feels all wrong and reminds me of days gone by when a man would say to a woman, "Don't you worry your pretty, little head about that, darlin'." Then I remember that Ben Sira was writing for young Jewish men in his classes and trying to give them advice for living.

One way to read this is...what you have in front of you to do is certainly enough to keep your mind busy. Your thoughts don't need to be distracted by "mysteries" (gossip, things happening in other departments, concepts you don't understand). Know your position; concentrate on your position and its concerns. Do not presume to know everything. Be humble; don't jump in until you have more information.

When are you misled by your own notions? Have you ever meddled with matters beyond you? What are your thoughts?

Blessings on your day!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Time to Transform

Happy Easter, my friends!

Are you ready for transformation? Can you release whatever is holding you back, let it die? Can you let your divine potential shine?
 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  ~Isaiah 43:19
Are you ready?

Gracious God,
Set us free from a past that we cannot change;
Open to us a future in which we can be changed; and
Grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image
~Good Friday Service, United Church of Chapel Hill

Blessings on your day!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Introduction to the Book of Sirach

After several years of silence in this blog space, I'm rising out of the mist again to share with you excerpts from a book of the Biblical Apocrypha. As a former Roman Catholic, I grew up with the Apocrypha as part of Scripture, but when I moved to the Protestant side of the aisle, I lost track of these fascinating writings. I'm learning that most Protestants, including UU Christians, are unfamiliar with this text.

My Christian Fellowship is now reading and reflecting on Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach, or the Book of Sirach, or The Instruction of Ben Sira. As you see, it has many names due to its creation in Hebrew and subsequent translation to Greek and Latin. The writing and the advice of this book have caught my attention, and I felt a strong call to share it with you.

Ben Sira, the author, has been described as a scribe, that is, a Jewish teacher of the Law. Scribes were known to study the Torah and re-interpret it for the general public. Ben Sira was considered to be a wise and perceptive teacher who established a school, and his book of wisdom was read and widely used as a handbook in educational settings. He wrote between 200 and 180 BCE.

Later, in 132 BCE, his grandson (unnamed) translated the text into Greek and admits bringing some of his own stamp to the text since "...the fact is that there is no equivalent for things originally written in Hebrew when it is a question of translating them into another language;" (Sirach Foreward:21-22) Good to remember in any day and age. The grandson also says he undertook this project "for the benefit of those too who, domiciled abroad, wish to study, to reform their behavior, and to live as the Law requires." (Sirach Forward: 34-35)

What strikes me most as I read Sirach is the ability of the author to use a variety of literary forms to present the core wisdom of the Law of Moses and Proverbs, a combination that he refers to as "the fear of the Lord". The phrase "the fear of the Lord" refers not only to the Old Testament scripture, but also to the underlying principles of daily living. I prefer a suggested alternate translation "the awe of the Lord", but the thought is the same. Live with a healthy respect for the divine power and creativity that contains mysterious, unknown elements.

Sirach gives us the answer to the questions, "So what does life look like under the Law of Moses? How should I act?" He provides examples, poems, stories and experiences to show us how to live.

So moving forward, I'm going to drop some pearls from the Wisdom of Sirach onto this blog. Let's see what we both learn.

For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction,
and what pleases him is faithfulness and gentleness. (Sirach 1:27-28)