Sacrifice of Fools

 The congregation survived another Sunday of listening to my drone on as their substitute pastor.  We read through and I talked about Ecclesiastes 5 which begins with the author of Ecclesiastes warning people against making “the sacrifice of fools.”  Despite the image that first pops into one’s mind, it has nothing to do with either stone altars or the U.S. Congress, though it does bring to mind the old joke which runs, “what’s a hundred U.S. Congressmen on the bottom of the ocean?  A good start.”  Actually, I think the joke was about lawyers, but given that around 90 percent or more of the U.S. Congress is made up of lawyers, it still works—and probably explains a lot.
Instead, the “sacrifice of fools” has to do with making promises and not keeping them.  So, okay, maybe it does have to do with Congress.  Or at least politicians.  It also, in the mind of the author of Ecclesiastes, has to do with people prattling on, talking to God and in some way “bothering him” by talking too much.
One gains from these verses in Ecclesiastes 5 that the author views God as someone distant and unapproachable. To quote from R.B.Y. Scott (author of the Anchor Bible Commentary on Ecclesiastes), the author of Ecclesiastes sees God as “a rather mysterious, inscrutable Being whose existence must be presupposed as that which determines the life and fate of man, in a world man cannot change, and where all his efforts and values are rendered meaningless.”  God is in heaven, you are on earth, in other words.  God doesn’t want to be bothered by the likes of you and your petty problems seems to the author’s attitude and belief.
Of course, this is inconsistent with what we see elsewhere in the Bible, where we are encouraged to approach God, to bring our requests before him; this is a God who cares about the pettiest of issues: he has bothered to count to the hair on your head and he notices when sparrows fall. The universe is huge, but he cares about even the hair on your head.  The Pentateuch is full of lists of people both in genealogies as well as those involved in making things for the temple, or other activities.  If you ever wondered why all those lists of names exist in the Bible, it is to remind us, counter to the author of Ecclesiastes, just how important individuals and their activities are to God.
So go ahead, talk to Go about what is bothering you, no matter how petty it seems.  My children will call me and talk to me about the inanest things imaginable sometimes regarding their lunch or something cute their pet cat did or wondering what I thought about what just happened in the latest episode of Doctor Who.  I don’t mind.  They’re my children.  I love them.  I like hearing from them.  I like listening to them.  God’s the same way with us.
I am convinced that the way Tevye talked to God in Fiddler on the Roof is the best example of prayer I’ve ever seen in a movie or play and a good example for how to go about talking to God.