Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on October 11, 2009

Here are the passages for October 11th, 2009, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). All lectionary links are to the NRSV via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead.

Job 23:1-9, 16-17
  • The lectionary skips over the statements made by Job's friends earlier in this book, and picks up with Job's response.  Although the section with Job's friends is a rather long section, the very length would indicate that these statements are kind of important.  Why do you think the lectionary skips that part?
  • Since we've skipped hearing what Job's friends have to say, we do miss their less than helpful suggestions that Job must have done something wrong to cause his recent sufferings, so although Job does strike me as coming off just a little self-righteous in this passage, does reading his protestations of innocence in the light of those comments change your impression of this passage?  What about God's description of Job in the passage we read last week, which at least does indicate that Job's sufferings aren't in any way related to wrongdoing by Job?
  • Perhaps the more important element in this passage, and certainly something that I expect many sermons will preach about, is the anguish that Job feels, as he himself looks for some reason that these things have happened to him.  We see this kind of response all the time in the world today, as so many terrible things happen, without apparent rhyme or reason.  While this passage doesn't provide any answers for suffering, it does at least give us the reassurance that this situation is not a new one, and that many generations of humanity before us have had to wrestle with these same questions.
Psalm 22:1-15

Hebrews 4:12-16
  • What does the author of Hebrews mean when writing about “the word of God”?  We use that term about Scripture, including this passage, but the person writing Hebrews almost certainly had no idea that this letter would become Scripture when it was being written.  What other kinds of “word of God” might have been in the author's mind?
  • Was does it mean to think of Jesus as a “high priest”?
  • Just a quick reminder that I'm following (and linking to) a series of lessons on Hebrews given in 2001 by the late Dr. David M. Scholer over at Transforming Seminarian.
Mark 10:17-31
  • This is a very well-known passage.  There is a popular legend in some churches that says that, when Jesus talks about a camel going through the eye of a needle, he's talking about some narrow gateway into Jerusalem, intended only for humans, and too tight for a larger animal, such as a camel to fit through, although if you crammed the camel in really tight, maybe it could be done.  There is absolutely no evidence for this theory.  Jesus really does seem to be talking about the impossible act of fitting a normal sized camel through a normal sized eye of a normal sized needle.  Even acknowledging that needles back then were different than they are now, the implications remain exactly the same: Jesus is talking about an impossible act, that only through God becomes possible, just as he specifically says in verse 27.  Slacktivst offers one possibility as to why people may try to argue that Jesus was referencing something less impossible, and his thoughts are worth consideration.  (If you want sermon illustration fodder, this old SNL gag is pretty relevant, too)
  • One other thing may be worth comment: the rich young man claims to have kept all the commandments since his youth.  You may have noticed that the commandments Jesus cites are very similar to parts of the Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus chapter 20, and again in Deuteronomy chapter 5.  For some reason, Jesus adds “do not defraud” to this list.  In fact, this is the only one of the commandments in Jesus' list that doesn't show up in either of those two passages.  Why do you think Jesus mentions it?
  • Since the passage is about a "rich" man, it's worth noting that God's command to take care of the poor is extremely common throughout Scripture.  If the young man was as devout as he claims, he would have to be aware of this.  Yet he seems unable to part with his wealth.  We do not read of the man trying to talk about the good that he has done with his money, as many rich philanthropists of our day might do.  Why doesn't the man at least try to make such a claim?  What might this say to those of us with wealth today?  And just how much does one have to have to be considered “wealthy” anyway?

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