Friday, July 27, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 25-26 and Acts 13:1-25

Sirach 25 – “There are three things my soul delights in, and which are delightful to God and to men: concord between brothers, friendship between neighbors, and a wife and husband who live happily together” (25:1-2).

The three things his “soul hates” are a “poor man swollen with pride, a rich man who is a liar and an adulterous old man who has no sense” (25:3-4).

The old should rejoice in their experience and wisdom.

And then come what are called “numerical proverbs”: he lists mostly what he has already said in various chapters.

On women: “I would sooner keep house with a lion or a dragon that keep house with a spiteful wife” (25:16).

“Bad temper, insolence and shame hold sway where the wife supports the husband” (25:22).

“Sin began with a woman, and thanks to her we all must die” (25:24). What lame thinking – doesn’t seem wise to me!

Sirach 26 – On the happiness of those with “really good wives” (26:1): “[R]ich or poor, they will be glad of heart, cheerful of face, whatever the season” (26:4).

He goes back to the “three things [his] heart dreads, and a fourth which terrifies [him]” (26:5): “slander by a . . .town, the gathering of a mob, and a false accusation” (26:6) The fourth thing is “a woman jealous of a woman” (26:7). Things valued in women – her grace, accomplishment, silence, modesty, chastity, goodness and beauty.

Acts 13:1-25 – The church at Antioch had recognized prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (raised with Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. During worship one day, of which fasting had been a part, they felt the Holy Spirit calling them to send Saul and Barnabas to a particular task. They went to Seleucia and Cyprus (Barnabas’ home). John was with them too.

They go to Salamis (on Cyprus) to the synagogues first. The travel the whole island and in Paphos they meet a Jewish magician (Bar-jesus), an attendant of proconsul Sergius Paulus (very intelligent). Paul reprimands Magos for trying to “twist. . .the straightforward ways of the Lord” (13:10) and he strikes him blind. The proconsul is converted.

They then go to Perga (S. Anatolia) – John returns to Jerusalem – and then to Antioch in Pisidia: Paul is asked to address congregation. He talks about their origins. Then, from David, he jumps the Jesus. “To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Savior, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel” (13:24).

Acts 13:26-52 - He tells of Jesus’ death and resurrection. “[I]t is through him that forgiveness of your sins is proclaimed. Through him justification from all sins which the Law of Moses was unable to justify is offered to every believer” (13:38-39). Then he cites Habbakuk, warning them not to “mock” his message. God is “doing something in your own days” and it is hard for people to accept.

I think this last note is very insightful. I can only imagine what it must have been like for early Christians to be telling Jews that the living God who had nurtured them for so long and given them a narrative and a tradition so important to them was now acting again in history, but in a way that changed the direction they had thought so unmovable. I think that today as ever, our God is a living God. It is utter foolishness to assume that God has sent his last prophet or spoken his last revelatory word to man. I believe he will come again – himself? through prophets? -- to move us forward toward a closer unity of the religious narrative, weaving the separate threads of divine intervention together through prophets who can speak to man through the haze of disbelief, unwarranted certainty and doubt.

The success of Paul and Barnabas raises hackles in some who finally convince some of the more influential members of the synagogue to expel them from their territory. They go to Iconium.

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