Wisdom from the book of Sirach

holy wisdom

Holy Wisdom

The author of the Wisdom of Sirach is Jesus ben Sirach who was a Jewish scribe writing

somewhere around 200 to 174 before the time of our Lord. The book was written in Hebrew but no copies of the original exist. Only Greek copies. The 39 Articles of Religion, a Reformed Anglican confession of faith, gives us a list of books that,

“(as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…”

This list of books includes the Wisdom of Sirach sometimes referred to by its older name Ecclesiasticus. Honestly, this is one of my favourite books to read from as it offers clear, straight forward advice grounded in the revelation of God. Richard Baxter wrote, “A Christian Directory,” in which he offers sage Christian advice. I consider this book in the same vain, it is a support to religion, but not of Divine inspiration.

All quotations are taken from the text of the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint aka The Orthodox Study Bible.

Grace

“My son, accomplish your works with gentlness, And you will be loved by people the Lord accepts. The greater you are, the more humble you must be, And you will find grace before the Lord.” 3.17-18 SAAS

“A man without grace is like a story told at the wrong time; It will continue on the lips of the ignorant.” 20.19 SAAS

“There is an astute man who is a teacher of many, But is useless to his own soul. A man who devises words craftily will be hated. This man will go hungry, For grace was not given to him from the Lord, Because he is destitute of all wisdom.” 37.19-21 SAAS

The Incarnation

“To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed? And who has come to know her great deeds? There is one who is wise and is feared exceedingly. He who sits upon His throne. The Lord Himself created wisdom. He saw and numbered her And poured her out on all His works.” 1.5-7 SAAS

Humility

“If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, And the Lord will supply it to you. For the feat of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and instruction, And His good pleasure is faith and gentleness. Do not disobey the fear of the Lord, And do not come to Him with a divided heart. Do not be a hypocrite in the sight of men, And be careful with your lips. Do not exalt yourself, lest you fall And bring dishonor to your soul. The Lord shall reveal your secrets, And in the midst of the assembly He will strike you down, Because you did not come in the fear of the Lord, And your heart was full of deceit.” 1.23-27 SAAS

“The greater you are, the more humble you must be, And you will find grace before the Lord.” 3.18 SAAS

“Forgive wrong done you by your neighbor; Then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” 28.2 SAAS

“The prayer of a humble man passes through the clouds, And he will not be comforted until it reaches the Lord;” 35.17 SAAS

Praise and Glory to God

“Fill Zion with the celebration of Your divine virtue And Your people with Your glory. Give testimony to what You created in the beginning And raise up the prophecies spoken in Your name.” 36.13-14 SAAS

“The Lord did not enable His saints To describe all His wonders, Which the Lord Almighty established That the universe might be established in His glory. He traced out the abyss and the human heart And understands their craftiness; For the Most High possesses all knowledge And sees into the signs of an age.” 42.17-18 SAAS

Prayer

“O Lord, Father and Master of my life,
Do not leave me to their counsel,
Nor let me fall because of them.
Who will set whips over my thoughts
And the discipline of wisdom over my heart,

So they may not spare me in my  errors,

Nor neglect me in my sins?
Lest my mistakes be multiplied
And my sins abound,
Then I would not fall before my adversaries,

And my enemy would not rejoice over me.

O Lord, Father and the God of my life,
do not give me haughty eyes,
But turn me away from evil desire.
Do not let gluttony or lust overcome me,
Nor give me up to a shameless sou.” 23.1-6 SAAS

Yours in the Lord,

jm

The Life of God in the Soul of Man

lifeofgodsoulofman

Some quotes to entice you.

Correct orthodox or religious opinion is not true religion: 

“…I must regret that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means ;  some placing it in the Understanding, in Orthodox Notions and Opinions, and all the account they can give of their Religion, is that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have join’d themselves to one of those many Sects whereunto Christendom is most unhappily divided .”

Works are not true religion:

“Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances, if they live peaceably with their Neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of Worship, frequenting the Church, or their Closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the Poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves.”

Emotional responses are not true religion:

“Others again put all Religion in the affections, in rapturous heats, and ecstatic devotion, and all they aim at, is to pray with passion, and think of Heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind, and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian Graces.”

True religion is:

“…Religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it, will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it.  They know by experience that true Religion is an Union of the Soul with God, a real participation of the Divine Nature, the very Image of God drawn upon the Soul, or in the Apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us.  Briefly, I know not how the nature of Religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it a Divine Life ;  and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first how it is called a Life, and then how it is termed Divine.”

True religion is based in a relationship:

AGAIN, Religion may be designed by the name of Life, because it is an inward, free, and self-moving principle, and those who have made progress in it, are not acted only by external Motives, driven merely by threatenings, nor bribed by promises, nor constrain’d by Laws ;  but are powerfully inclined to that which is good, and delight in the performance of it :  The love which a Pious man carries to God, and goodness, is not so much by virtue of a Command enjoining him so to do, as by a new Nature instructing and prompting him to it ;  nor doth he pay his devotions, as an unavoidable tribute only to appease the Divine Justice, or quiet his clamorous Conscience ;  but those Religious exercises are the proper emanations of the divine life, the natural employments of the new-born Soul.

He prays and gives thanks, and repents, not only because these things are commanded, but rather because he is sensible of his wants, and of the Divine goodness, and of the folly and misery of a sinful life ;  his charity is not forced, nor his alms extorted from him, his love makes him willing to give ;  and though there were no outward obligation, his heart would devise liberal things.  Injustice or intemperance, and all other vices, are as contrary to his temper, and constitution, as the basest actions are to the most generous spirit, and impudence and scurrility to those who are naturally modest :  so that I may well say with St. JohnWhosoever is born of God doth not commit sin :  for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. Though holy and religious persons do much eye the Law of God, and have a great regard unto it, yet is it not so much the sanction of the Law, as its reasonableness, and purity and goodness which doth prevail with them ;  they account it excellent and desirable in its self, and that in keeping of it there is great reward :  and that Divine Love wherewith they are acted, makes them become a Law unto themselves.”

To read the work it can be found online at: https://www.anglican.net/works/henry-scougal-the-life-of-god-in-the-soul-of-man-1677/

The Presence of Christ’s Body in the Lord’s Supper

stainglass

Holy Trinity Anglican Church

John Calvin summaries, “our souls are fed by the flesh and blood of Christ in the same way that bread and wine keep and sustain physical life. For the analogy of the sign applies only if souls find their nourishment in Christ—which cannot happen unless Christ truly grows into one with us, and refreshes us by the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood.

Even though it seems unbelievable that Christ’s flesh, separated from us by such great distance, penetrates to us, so that it becomes our food, let us remember how far the secret power of the Holy Spirit towers above all our senses, and how foolish it is to wish to measure His immeasureableness by our measure. What, then our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive: that the Spirit truly unites things separated in space.

Now, that sacred partaking of His flesh and blood, by which Christ pours His life into us, as if it penetrated into our bones and marrow, He also testifies and seals in the Supper—not by presenting a vain and empty sign, but by manifesting there the effectiveness of His Spirit to fulfil what He promises. And truly He offers and shows the reality there signified to all who sit at that spiritual banquet, although it is received with benefit by believers alone, who accept such great generosity with true faith and gratefulness of heart.

In this manner the Apostle said, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16; order changed). There is no reason for anyone to object that this is a figurative expression by which the name of the thing signified is given to the sign. I indeed admit that the breaking of bread is a symbol; it is not the thing itself. But, having admitted this, we shall nevertheless duly infer that by the showing of the symbol the thing itself is also shown. For unless a man means to call God a deceiver, he would never dare assert that an empty symbol is set forth by Him. Therefore, if the Lord truly represents the participation in His body through the breaking of bread, there ought not to be the least doubt that He truly presents and shows His body. And the godly ought by all means to keep this rule: whenever they see symbols appointed by the Lord, to think and be persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is surely present there. For why should the Lord put in your hand the symbol of His body, except to assure you of a true participation in it? But if it is true that a visible sign is given us to seal the gift of a thing invisible, when we have received the symbol of the body, let us no less surely trust that the body itself is also given to us.

IV Sunday in Lent

Daylight Savings Time ended this morning meaning we lost an hour of sleep. I skipped the 8am Book of Common Prayer service and attended the 10:30 Book of Alternative Services choral worship service instead and, even though I began my Christian life in the Anglican Church, I had forgotten the differences. The BCP service is a quiet and solemn affair with the emphasis being placed on our unworthiness to approach the Lord’s Table but, because of Jesus Christ, we may approach trusting in His grace and mercy. The BAS service is much more lively. A choir enhances the auditory experience and lifts the soul. A believer approaches the Lord’s Table with a glad heart knowing that Christ has paid a price for his salvation and we approach rejoicing in that knowledge.

The readings for this mornings Holy Eucharist where as follows:

Numbers 21
4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Psalm 107
107 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.

Psalm 107
17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
19 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

Ephesians 2
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

I’ve never really thought about the use of a lectionary in the past but I can see it being a useful tool, one that weaves scripture together, creating a theological theme. One aspect I really enjoyed but forgot about was the reading of the Holy Gospel where the Gospel is carried above the readers head into the middle of the congregation. The Gospel was read among the people. I can’t speak for others but I found this striking.

One of the highlights of this mornings worship service was The Glory of These Forty Days, a 6th century hymn that lacked the “I” or “me” emphasis found in most modern hymns today. It was nice just to sing about scriptural topics. We also sang Newton’s “Amazing Grace” and Toplay’s “Rock of Ages.”

The glory of these forty days

1. The glory of these forty days
we celebrate with songs of praise,
for Christ, through whom all things were made,
himself has fasted and has prayed.

2. Alone and fasting Moses saw
the loving God who gave the law,
and to Elijah, fasting, came
the steeds and chariots of flame.

3. So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
delivered from the lions’ might,
and John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became
the herald of Messiah’s name.

4. Then grant us, Lord, like them to be
full oft in fast and prayer with thee;
our spirits strengthen with thy grace,
and give us joy to see thy face.

5. O Father, Son and Spirit blest,
to thee be every prayer addressed,
who art in threefold name adored,
from age to age, the only Lord.

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Rev. Mark

Rev. Mark preached a sermon about doing the hard things in life including believing and trusting in Christ for salvation. I have to admit the shorter sermons are refreshing. Services run over an hour and the sermons are 15 minutes or less – I enjoy how Rev. Mark gets to the point.  The lectionary readings were the basis of his sermon, that  we must believe in Jesus Christ and His promises made to us. We must trust in Christ’s mercy.

As we partook of the Bread and Wine the “Agnus Dei” or “Lamb of God” was sung by the choir. The “Agnus Dei” is drawn from John 1:29 which reads, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” and is used in many liturgical services including Lutheran.

The text in Latin is:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

translated as:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Happy listening.

Yours in the Lord,

jm