Archive for the ‘Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Yoke

Image in the Public Domain


JULY 16, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 45:1-2 (3-13), 14-22 (LBW) or Psalm 119:137-144 (LW)

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:25-30


God of glory, Father of love, peace comes from you alone. 

Send us as peacemakers and witnesses to your kingdom,

and fill our hearts with joy in your promises of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25


Grant, Lord, that the course of this world

may be so governed by your direction

that your Church may rejoice

in serving you in godly peace and quietness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 68


Zechariah 9:9-12 depicts a future scene, in which the Messiah, an ideal king, approaches Jerusalem at the culmination of history–the Day of the LORD.  This is the scene Jesus reenacted during his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, without being a regnant type of Messiah.

The image of YHWH as king exists in the assigned readings from Psalms.

In Romans 7:15-25a we read St. Paul the Apostle’s confession of his struggles with sins.  We may all relate to those struggles.

My tour of the readings brings me to Matthew 11:25-30 and the topic of yokes.

Literally, a yoke was a wooden frame, loops of ropes, or a rod with loops of rope, depending on the purpose.  (See Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; and Jeremiah 28:10.)  A yoke fit over the neck of a draft animal or the necks of draft animals.  Alternatively, a captive or a slave wore a yoke.  (See Jeremiah 28:10; 1 Kings 12:9; 2 Chronicles 10:4; and 1 Timothy 6:1).  Also, a yoked pair of oxen was a yoke.  (See 1 Samuel 11:7; 1 Kings 19:21; Luke 14:19).

Metaphorically, a yoke had a variety of meanings, depending on the circumstances.  It often symbolized servitude and subjection.  Forced labor was an unjust yoke (1 Kings 11:28; 12:11, 14).  Slavery was a yoke (Sirach 33:27).  Hardship was a yoke (Lamentations 3:27; Sirach 40:1).  The oppression and humiliation of one nation by another was the yoke of bondage (Jeremiah 27:8; 28:4; Hosea 11:7; Deuteronomy 28:48; and Isaiah 47:6).  To break out of subjugation or slavery was to break the yoke (Jeremiah 28:2; Isaiah 9:4; 14:25).  God promised to break the yoke of Egypt in Ezekiel 30:18.  To break away from God was to break God’s yoke (Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5; Sirach 51:39).  Sin was also a yoke (Lamentations 1:14).

The yokes of God and Christ carry positive connotations.  The yoke of obedience to God is easy.  It is also the opposite of the yoke of subordination and subjugation.  This positive yoke is the yoke in Matthew 11:28-30.  It is the yoke St. Paul the Apostle wore (Philippians 4:3).  It is the yoke in Psalm 119:137-144.

Draw near to me, you who are untaught, 

and lodge in my school.

Why do you say you are lacking in these things,

and why are your souls very thirsty?

I opened my mouth and said,

Get these things for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under the yoke,

and let your souls receive instruction;

it is to be found close by.

See with your eyes that I have labored little

and found for myself much rest.

Get instruction with a large sum of silver

and you will gain by it much gold.

May your soul rejoice in his mercy,

and may you not be put to shame when you praise him.

Do your work before the appointed time,

and in God’s time he will give you your reward.

–Sirach 51:23-30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

You, O reader, will serve somebody or something.  That is not in question.  Whom or what you will serve is a germane question.  Why not serve God, the greatest king?  In so doing, you will find your best possible state of being.  The path may be difficult–ask St. Paul the Apostle, for example–but it will be the best path for you.









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Week of Proper 3: Saturday, Year 1   4 comments

Above:  Christ as Emperor, from Ravenna, Italy

Do We Want to Hear What Divine Wisdom Teaches?

JUNE 3, 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.


Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 51:13-22 (Revised English Bible):

When I was still young, before I set off on my travels,

in my prayers I asked openly for wisdom.

In the forecourt of the sanctuary I laid claim to her,

and I shall seek her to the end.

From the first blossom to the ripening of the grape

she has been the delight of my heart.

From my youth my steps have followed her without swerving.

I had hardly begun to listen when I was rewarded,

and I gained for myself much instruction.

I made progress in my studies;

all glory to God who gives me wisdom!

I determined to practice what I had learnt;

I pursued goodness, and shall never regret it.

With all my might I strove for wisdom

and was scrupulous in whatever I did.

I spread out my hands to Heaven above,

deploring my shortcomings;

I set my heart on possessing wisdom,

and my keeping myself pure I found her.

With her I gained understanding from the first;

therefore I shall never be at a loss.

Because I passionately yearned to discover her,

a noble possession was mine:

as a reward the Lord gave me eloquence,

and with it I shall praise him.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 11:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

They came once more to Jerusalem.  As he was walking in the temple court the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to him and said,

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you authority to act in this way?

Jesus said to them,

I also have a question for you, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?  Answer me.

This set them arguing among themselves:

What shall we say?  If we say, ‘From God,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’  Shall we say, ‘From men?’

–but they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was in fact a prophet.  So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said to them,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.


The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Experience confirms in my mind that using lectionaries is the best way to study the Bible.  Reading more than one section of scripture helps the process of finding links and common themes.  Sometimes one reads a group of lessons and finds no overall message, but, as in the case of these lections, a composite moral emerges.  Here it is:  Human traditions to not restrict the wisdom of God.  If we truly seek divine wisdom, we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that God will tell us we are terribly mistaken.

Let us begin with Mark 11:27-33.

The Temple at Jerusalem was the headquarters of a religious system that exploited poor people by preying on their desires to be holy.  It was also the seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire.  This is a very important point to understand.  The setting of this lection is one of the days leading up to the annual celebration of the Passover, the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  They did this each year in occupied Jerusalem, and the nerve center of activity was the Temple.  There was no separation of Temple and state, so Jesus’ activities placed him at risk of what happened to him at the end of the week:  the crucifixion.  By standing against the Temple system and collaboration with Rome, our Lord and Savior put himself in the line of fire from the imperium.

For some reason (I do not know why.), I did not understand this point until my early adulthood.

Many professional religious people derived both livelihood and social status from this Temple system.  They perceived Jesus as a threat, which he was, and reacted defensively.  If they had sought wisdom, they would have been open to learning that they were mistaken.  If they had received wisdom, they would have recognized their secret faults.  But they did none of this.  Instead, they challenged Jesus and attempted to entrap him in his own words.

Jesus was smarter then they, however.  So, when they asked him by what he authority he acted, he demonstrated his authority by turning the tables on his questioners.  Instead of playing their game, he made them play his game.  He asked them an awkward question:  By whose authority did the late John the Baptist act?  Many people regarded the forerunner as a prophet (which he was), but these professional religious people disagreed.  Recognizing their difficult situation, which the text of Mark 11:27-33 describes well, they opted for a diplomatic, know-nothing reply.  And Jesus refused to answer their query verbally.

He had, however, answered them by the way he handled them.  Jesus was still a force with which to reckon.  Those with authority do not need to speak of it much, for it is obvious.  They carry themselves with authority, and that is enough.  So beware of those who speak incessantly about their power and authority; they are probably insecure in both.

Ben Sira wrote of his quest for wisdom.  He pursued wisdom, attempted to live what he had learned, and gave all glory to God.  He had no regrets.  Psalm 19 contains one of my favorite lines of scripture:

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Sometimes these judgments say that we are wrong, that we need to repent.  Many people misunderstand the meaning of “repent.”  It means far more than apologizing to someone (such as God) or lamenting one’s sins.  Actually, to repent is turn around, change one’s mind, and to be transformed.  Even the possibility of transformation can prove terrifying, but it is way to deeper spiritual life in God, or just to spiritual life in God.  So, when Gods says we are wrong, may we repent, not become defensive.

Now, for the rest of the story.  The Romans ended the Temple and the Temple system by force in 70 C.E., when they destroyed Jerusalem.


Published Originally as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 7, 2010