“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine, your anointing oils
are fragrant, your name is perfume poured out; Therefore the maidens love you. Draw me after
you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will exult and rejoice in
you; We will extol your love more than wine; Rightly do they love you.”
– Song of Solomon 1:1-4
When I was ordained as a priest, I promised myself two things: that I would put the text into the people,
and that I would put the people back into the text. It is my intention to keep that promise to you.
Sirach is one of fourteen inter-testamental period books that appear in the Greek Septuagint, but not
in the original Hebrew canon. It reads much like the book of Proverbs with no real
systematic structure but has a numerous amount of nuggets that can enhance the Christian life.
Reading this book has been an absolute joy for me, because it’s basically a synopsis of the history
and values of the Hebrew people; and specifically, in the 44th chapter through the 49th chapters,
it details the history of the great heroes of the Hebrew people beginning with Abraham and
concluding with Josiah and the minor prophets. More specifically for me the study of the book,
particularly the 44th chapter, allowed me the opportunity to blend my two greatest academic
loves: the study of theology and that of American history.
Beginning in verse one of the 44th chapter it
“Let us now sing the praises of famous men, Our ancestors in their generations. The Lord
apportioned to them great glory, His majesty from the beginning.”
Initially reading that opening statement I thought for sure that we could certainly parallel the structure
of this Hebraic history narrative with that of our own American history, as we have our own
famous men and ancestors that God used to build our nation.
“There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valor;
[We can proclaim George Washington]
Those who gave counsel because they were intelligent; Those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
[James Madison and Thomas Jefferson]
Those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; They
were wise in the words of instruction;
Those who composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing;
[Francis Scott Key]
Rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes
[That captures all of the Southern Gentry. Sweet tea, pressed suits in 90 degree weather
and 90% humidity and absolutely no sweat of the brow.]
All these were honored in their generation, and were the pride of their times. Some of them
have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise.”
[In light of current issues it might be fair to mention Generals Beauregard, Robert E. Lee,
and Stonewall Jackson.]
This is a pretty fair synopsis of our historical ancestors in line with the text of our passage.
Don’t you think? But, to every good thing there is always a “but” isn’t there?
Verse 8 says:
“but of others there is no memory; They have perished as though they had never existed;
They have become as though they had never been born, They and their children.”
In preparing for this article over the past few weeks, I have taken more and more interest in
the founding church members names engraved on the stone wall that resides in the threshold
between the Narthex and the Nave at my current church and their possible origins, knowing that
with the prominence of this church, there is a high probability that many of the names on that
engraved tablet have less than six degrees of separation from many of the names we just listed. My
rector has less than six degrees of separation from Francis Scott Key, as Key was one of the founders
of Virginia Theological Seminary, of which the rector is an alumnus.
Being a historian, the thought was not lost on me that because of the probable close ties and
ancestry with these famous men, that some in this congregation may have a favorable view of the
many Confederate statues that occupy numerous public spaces; particularly in the South, and dare
Now before some of the readers get bent out of shape and stop reading, pump your brakes a little
bit and stay with me. As a priest I have no skin in the game as to right or wrong on this issue. Like
most things in life, the situation is nuanced isn’t it? I know that Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson never
owned a single slave.
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