“Greeting a neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning will be viewed as a curse.” (Proverbs 27.14 CEB)
Every few days I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I read through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus). Here’s the latest batch of gleanings.
Have you been seated at a magnificent table? Don’t be greedy as you sit there, and don’t say, ‘Look how much food there is!’ Remember, a greedy eye is a bad thing. … Don’t reach out your hand for whatever you see, and don’t crowd your dinner companion by reaching into the same bowl. Put yourself in your companion’s place, and be considerate in everything. (Sirach 31.12-13a,14-15)
If taken in moderation, wine makes people’s lives better. What’s life to those who don’t have wine? It was created from the beginning to bring merriment. The right amount of wine consumed at the right time makes for a joyful heart and a light spirit. Too much wine drunk in the midst of strife and conflict makes for a bitter spirit. (Sirach 31.27-29)
A well-advised person won’t overlook an intelligent thought; the stranger and the arrogant won’t cower out of fear. (Sirach 32.18)
Don’t overburden a person made of flesh, and don’t do anything without exercising good judgment. (Sirach 33.30b)
Those who pay attention to dreams are just like people who grasp at a shadow or pursue the wind. … Unless the Most High sends a dream by means of a visitation, don’t pay any attention to it. Dreams have misled many, and those who have placed hope in them have fallen. (Sirach 34.1-2,6-7)
Every few days now I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I make my way through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus). Here’s the next installment. Enjoy.
Don’t praise people for their beautiful looks, and don’t despise people for their appearance. (Sirach 11.2)
Don’t find fault before you investigate … Don’t answer before you listen … (Sirach 11.7a,8a)
… don’t be busy with many things; if you multiply pursuits, you won’t be held guiltless. (Sirach 11.10)
There is nothing good for those who continue to do evil or for those who don’t freely offer charity. (Sirach 12.3)
Rich people inflict injury, but then act as if they’re the ones who have been wronged; the poor suffer injury, but they’re the ones who must apologize. (Sirach 13.3)
NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Dec. 9). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: Get Your Rear in Gear. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.
To consider what it means to devote our back side to God.
• The truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advice, doesn’t stand on the road of sinners, and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful. Instead of doing those things, these persons love the Lord’s Instruction, and they recite God’s Instruction day and night! (Psalm 1.1-2)
• Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. He taught them, saying: “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. …” (Matthew 5.1-3)
• … Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.” The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” (Luke 10.38-42)
• … God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2.4b-7)
• As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne, just as I emerged victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3.21)
Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.
1. How do you spend most of your waking hours: sitting or standing?
2. Tell us about your favorite chair. What makes it your favorite?
3. If an alien from outer space came and closely observed your life, and reported what you seem to most consistently enjoy doing every day when you’re sitting down, what would the report say?
These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.
1. Consider the contrast of Mary and Martha in Luke 10.38-42. What is the main point of this story?
2. Notice the tense in Ephesians 2.4-7b. The saved are seated in the heavens with Christ. The point?
3. Look at all of the preceding texts. Can you see that all of the references to “sitting” have this in common: sitting says something about our “identity” and our “identification with others?” Explain.
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.
1. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in just trying to sit quietly before the Lord?
2. We all are susceptible to influence by those with whom we choose to “sit.” How has your experiences of “sitting with the disrespectful” affected you, to your detriment (Ps. 1.1)?
3. Have you ever thought of our experience in heaven as “sitting?” What does Christ’s promise that “those who emerge victorious” will sit with him on his throne do for your spirit (Rev. 3.21)?
4. A fellow Christian asks you for your help in developing within them “a spirit that sits with the Lord.” What practical advice might you share with them?
Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. (Philippians 2.4)
# 24. Don’t shift responsibility and blame. We are all familiar with the drill: Somebody at fault will try to minimise his or her responsibility by blaming someone else – quite often the wronged party. Thus the main characteristics of this exercise in rudeness are obfuscation and unfairness. …
… I simply cannot conceive of any circumstances in our own daily lives when it would be appropriate or advantageous to be rude or boorish. The powerful combination of self-respect and respect for others should make it almost impossible for us to choose incivility, if we manage to remain clearheaded even in challenging situations.
But what if we are dealing with somebody whom we don’t respect or who says or does something we believe to be wrong? The answer is simple: let’s not lose sight of our own standards of behavior, of our own rules of engagement. It is possible to be civil and true to one’s beliefs at the same time.
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni (St. Martin’s Press, 2002); pp. 152,157
# 23. Respect the environment and be gentle to animals. … When we speak of a decline in civility, we usually refer to a crisis regarding established forms of concern, respect, and deference. As we do so, we tend to ignore new forms that take the place of old ones. Maybe the number of youngsters holding onto their bus seats while pregnant women and elderly gentlemen are precariously swaying in the aisle is on the rise. But then so, I believe, is the number of those who treat members of racial minorities with genuine respect. I am not saying that the advances in new civility should make us forget what we are losing. … What I am suggesting is that we don’t forget that the decline is not cutting across-the-board. It may be hard to believe, but in certain areas of our everyday behavior we are becoming more civil rather than less. A shining example of new civility is the remarkably serious commitment to the cause of the environment on the part of an extraordinary number of people from all walks of life.
An age-old component of humanity’s relationship with nature is fear: nature is dangerous, so we must defend ourselves from it. Over the past several decades, this traditional attitude has been eclipsed, at least partially, by one of concern. The new attitude is: nature is in danger, so we must defend it from ourselves. … we think that we are much more of a threat to nature than nature is to us. Only two or three generations ago it was commonplace to describe progress as the subjugation of nature by man. Today we are more likely to think of progress as freeing nature from the lethal embrace of a recklessly wasteful and polluting humanity. …
In the wake of the ecological revolution, it is impossible to be civil without an active concern for the health of our badly wounded planet.
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni (St. Martin’s Press, 2002); pp.146-147,148