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Wisdom: A Gift from God for the Discerning

Morning Prayer

A Meditation

In the ancient Jewish world, wisdom came from and returned to God. Wisdom certainly had much to do with knowledge and ability, and it included sayings like we have today that provide practical teachings: A stitch in time saves nine, for example. Wisdom provided ancient Jews with an understanding of our place in God’s created order; how to live a good life, which meant a godly life.

If Jesus had been a musty theologian, he wouldn’t have engaged the thousands of people who heard him preach and teach. He could have hung out with the religious communities that dotted the landscape in Israel, studying, praying, and talking only to each other. Rather, his message was one of good news about God’s providence and mercy, the call to repentance, and our salvation. Jesus’ teachings were wise, which made them compelling. Jesus pushed boundaries, but he also made sense. He understood, for example, what psychologists know now that forgiveness benefits the forgiver as well as the forgiven. Because of our human bondage to sin, we need to be forgiven over and over. Truth indeed sets you free. People in poverty actually do need help, and people who are sick must be ministered to, something patently obvious in the age of covid.

All of this Sunday’s readings are about wisdom. In the reading from Sirach, we learn that wisdom is ineffable and timeless. From the Wisdom of Solomon, we learn that wisdom vanquishes oppression and is the foundation of how we live together successfully and peacefully. In the gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus’ wisdom was evident at a young age and that this bounty of wisdom only grew as he matured and came of age through the grace of God.

When the young prince Solomon was asked by God for a gift that God might grant him, Solomon asked for wisdom. God did grant Solomon’s request, and down through the ages, wisdom is the most salient characteristic that he is timelessly known and honored for. When we ask ourselves when making a crucial decision, “What would Jesus do?”, we are typically asking what is the wisest thing we can do in terms of both righteousness and good outcome. When persons in recovery programs (and aren’t we all recovering from something) pray, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” wisdom is the crucial bulwark. Striving to practice wisdom is crucial to living with God and each other. Pray for and practice wisdom.

Pastor Neil

Sign of the Cross

Celebrant  We gather together, as we live, …

People        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant    Blessed be God.

 People         And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen.

 Celebrant    Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name.

People         Amen.

Opening Proclamation

Celebrant    Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy, which will come to all the people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.   (Luke 2:10, 11) The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Collect of the Day

Celebrant    O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Opening Dialogue

Celebrant   Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the almighty,

People         Just and true are your ways, O Sovereign of the nations.

 Celebrant   Who shall not revere and praise your name O Lord, for you alone are holy.

People         All nations shall come and worship in your presence for your just dealings have been revealed.

Celebrant    To the One who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb,

People         Be blessing and honor, glory, and might, forever and ever. Amen.

Confession

Celebrant    Now we shall turn our hearts and minds to God, praying for mercy.

People         If we claim to be sinless, we are self-deceived and strangers to the truth. If we confess our sins, God is just and may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every kind of wrong.

(silence for reflection)

Celebrant    Spirit of God, search our hearts. (pause) We must love one another for love is of God, and whoever loves is born of God and knows God. (pause) Spirit of God, search our hearts.

People         God of mercy, we have sinned against you and against others. We have sinned in what we have done, and in what we have failed to do. We are truly sorry. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ who died for our sins, forgive us all that is past and raise us to newness of life. Amen.

Celebrant   Almighty God, who pardons all who truly repent, forgive us our sins, strengthen us by the Holy Spirit, and keep us in life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

People                   Amen.

Steadfast Love

Celebrant    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: God’s mercies never come to an end.

People         They are new every morning; your faithfulness, O Lord is great.

Celebrant     You are all that I have, and therefore I will wait for you.

People         You, O Lord, are good to those who wait for you, to all who seek you.

Celebrant    It is good to wait in patience for the salvation of the Lord.

People         Glory to the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever. Amen.

 

A Reading from Sirach at the 24th Chapter   The Praise of Wisdom

Reader        A Reading from Sirach

Wisdom praises herself,
and tells of her glory in the midst of her people.
In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory:
‘I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
I dwelt in the highest heavens,
and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
Alone I compassed the vault of heaven
and traversed the depths of the abyss.
Over waves of the sea, over all the earth,
and over every people and nation I have held sway.
Among all these I sought a resting-place;
in whose territory should I abide?

‘Then the Creator of all things gave me a command,
and my Creator chose the place for my tent.
He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob,
and in Israel receive your inheritance.”
Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me,
and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.
In the holy tent, I ministered before him,
and so I was established in Zion.
Thus in the beloved city, he gave me a resting-place,
and in Jerusalem was my domain.
I took root in an honored people,
in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.

Reader        The Word of the Lord.

 People         Thanks be to God.

Reader        The Wisdom of Solomon proclaimed responsively

A holy people and blameless race

wisdom delivered from a nation of oppressors.

She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord,

and withstood dread kings with wonders and signs.  

She gave to holy people the reward of their labors;

she guided them along a marvelous way,

and became a shelter to them by day,

and a starry flame through the night.

She brought them over the Red Sea,

and led them through deep waters;

but she drowned their enemies,

and cast them up from the depths of the sea.

Therefore, the righteous plundered the ungodly;

they sang hymns, O Lord, to your holy name,

and praised with one accord your defending hand;

for wisdom opened the mouths of those who were mute,

and made the tongues of infants speak clearly.

 

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke, at the 2nd chapter

 Jesus increased in divine and human favor

 Celebrant    The holy gospel according to Luke

People         Glory to you, O Lord.

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Celebrant    The Gospel of the Lord.

People         Praise to you, Lord Christ.

 

Meditation                                                                                                                        Pastor Neil

 

Psalm 34 (said antiphonally)

I will bless the LORD at all times;

God’s praise shall continually be in my mouth.

 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;

let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt God’s name together.

I sought the LORD, and God answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to God, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear God and delivers them.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

 

On Behalf of The People of God

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,  praise him, and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests, and servants of the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous, praise him and highly exalt him forever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; praise him and highly exalt him forever.

In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord,  praise him and highly exalt him forever.

 

Glory to God    Gloria in Excelsis

Celebrant and People

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,

 we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, he rose again.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Suffrages

Celebrant       Show us your mercy, O Lord;
People             And grant us your salvation.

Celebrant       Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
People             Let your people sing with joy.

Celebrant      Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
People            For only in you can we live in safety.

Celebrant      Lord, keep this nation under your care;
People           And guide us in the way of justice and truth.


Celebrant      Let your way be known upon earth;
People           Your saving health among all nations.

Celebrant      Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
People           Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Celebrant      Create in us clean hearts, O God;
People           And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

Collects

Celebrant              Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, and may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Celebrant              Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Celebrant              O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The General Thanksgiving

Celebrant and People

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Celebrant  Let us bless the Lord.
People      Thanks be to God.

The Blessing

Celebrant             Sisters and brothers, we go out into the world in peace. We live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant    Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

People         Thanks be to God.

 

MORE ON THE ARTWORK ON THIS BULLETIN’S COVER

This painting is more a work of religious devotion than a work of great art, even though the painting’s execution is first-rate. We can see some of the artistic influences guiding Dutch painter Paulus Bor (c. 1601–1669), but they don’t fit together altogether seamlessly. Many things are going on here, but somewhat discordantly. Jesus is painted more as a little man rather than a child, resonating with the technique of icon painting from 150 years earlier. Then, the paintings of the scholars and their surrounding dark shadows reflect the work of Caravaggio, who painted a generation before Paulus Bor. Jesus seems otherworldly, while the scholars reflect the naturalism of the Renaissance painters to come. Jesus’ figure is devotional art, while the men are painted more realistically, which is where artistic styles were heading. The painting, whatever its successes, is neither one thing nor the other, but tries to straddle decades. There aren’t many paintings of this subject of Jesus’ sojourn in the Temple with the theological “doctors” there. Most of those paintings reflect that the discussion Jesus had with the Jewish religious doctors as one of contention, rather than as the gospel of Luke clearly indicates a conversation of mutual give and take in exploring matters of deep theology. The expressions on the doctors’ faces make each figure a small portrait, particularly the figure closest to Jesus, looking directly at him. Although Bor’s career was scantily documented, we know that he went to Rome in 1623 and that upon his return to his homeland a few years later, he received the prestigious commission to participate in the decoration of the (now destroyed) royal hunting palace of Honselaarsdijk. Most of his extant paintings are a series of single figure pictures and a few beautifully rendered still-lifes. They are refined and contemplative, painted for an educated Dutch elite. Bor painted only a few religious paintings. Coming from a wealthy family he probably did not need to paint for an income. This might explain his preference for subjects rarely painted by other artists, such as this painting of Jesus in the Temple. That Bor painted this event as a discussion rather than a conflict attested to his originality in interpreting the gospel story, unlike other painters who pictorialized this event—the only Bible verses that reflect the time between the birth narratives and Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of his public ministry.