Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on October 18, 2009

Here are the passages for October 18th, 2009, the Twenty-Ninth 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.  (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Job 38:1-7 (34-41)
  • The Revised Common Lectionary allows churches the option of reading--or not reading--the verses in parentheses.
  • To tell the truth, I find Job to be a very hard book to read.  I find it hard, not so much because of the intense suffering that Job goes through, but rather because of the image of God I’m left with after reading this passage.  It is impossible for me to read this text and think of God as saying anything other than “I can do what I want, because I’m God, and if you don’t like it, well then that’s just tough.”  This is a very different image of God than the caring Father that I see through much of my Christian experience.  Do you read this passage in a different way?  
  • How do you reconcile this image of God with the other, more sympathetic, images of God found elsewhere in Scripture?
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c

Hebrews 5:1-10
  • I mentioned the image of Jesus as high priest last week.  This week’s reading gives us a little more detail on what it is to be a high priest, and specifically how Jesus fits the role.  How does this image match up with your own experience of Jesus?
  • A couple of weeks ago, I commented on how the author of Hebrews used the Psalms to make certain points about Jesus.  This happens again in verses 5 and 6, which cite Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4 respectively.  We have the benefit of looking at these Old Testament passages from the perspective of the revelation of Jesus Christ.  The original audience of these texts, having lived hundreds of years before Jesus’ earthly ministry, did not have this perspective. How would they have understood these texts?  Take a look at those passages in the Psalms, with the other verses before and after them (the web site linked above makes this easy).  Would it be reasonable to expect someone living before the time of Jesus have read (or, more likely, heard) these passages as referring to a prophecy not yet fulfilled?  Or might it have meant something else to them entirely?
Mark 10:35-45
  • It’s hard to read this passage and not think of James and John as a couple of power-grabbers, ready to latch on to Jesus’ fame for their own purposes.  The other disciples seemed to feel this way, too, but let’s look at that for a moment.  Why would disciples of Jesus make such a request?  Do we do the same today, perhaps without even realizing it?
  • What do you make of Jesus’ response to James and John?  Rather than just saying “no,” he asks them a question.  Although the exact meaning of the question can be debated, we can generally understand that Jesus is asking if James and John will be able to handle sharing in Jesus’ suffering.  It seems as if Jesus is saying that that, if they can pass this test, he’ll grant their request.  But then, after James and John say that they will indeed be able to share in these sufferings, Jesus says that he can’t grant their request anyway.  Doesn’t that seem a little mean-spirited?  Why wouldn’t Jesus just have said “no, I can’t grant your request” in the first place, rather than asking if they can handle the sufferings?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think in the book of Job, Job asks the unanswerable question of life and faith, "Why?" I think that in reponse God makes clear that the answer is beyond Job. Is that being mean or just truthful? Even Job in chapter 42 realizes that he was arrogant to think he had the answers that God somehow missed. In some ways the book of Job is about human arrogance. The universe should run in ways that suit my perspective and experiences and God should come around to my way of thinking. After all with my vast experience and knowledge of the world and what is right and wrong, obviously I have all the answers! In Job, God sets Job and us straight. The final answer to the deepr questions of life is God himself and where we don't udnerstand is where faith comes in. I believe that the Bible never gives a clear answer to the question of "Why?" In the New Testament Jesus himself points to himself as the life, the truth and the way."