Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on October 25. 2009

Here are the passages for October 25th, 2009, the Thirtieth 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 42:1-6, 10-17
  • We've finally gotten to the end of the book of Job, and if ever a story in the Bible seemed to end with the words “and they lived happily ever after,” this would seem to be it. But we're never really told why Job's wealth was restored to him by God. Is it because Job repented of ever having doubted God's goodness? If that's the case, why should Job, who certainly never doubted it before all this started, have had to go through these sufferings in the first place? Indeed, the book just glosses over the fact that Job's children from the beginning of the story are still dead. It's not like Job's new children are replacements for Job's original children. Or are they?  That is to say, for the purpose of the story, are we actually intended to see the "new" children as essentially replacements for the "old" ones?
  • In fact, I'm left wondering what message we're supposed to learn from having read this book. Are we to learn that we should have faith in God, no matter what happens to us? Should we take comfort from Job's story, acknowledging that bad things happen to good people? Looking just at the book of Job on its own, are we left to see God as arbitrary, visiting good and bad on people as God sees fit? 
  • I also wonder if, perhaps, some important part of the story of Job is obscured by the fact that we've missed large parts of the book, not covered by the lectionary.
Psalm 34:1-8 (19-22)
  • The Revised Common Lectionary allows churches the option of reading--or not reading--the verses in parentheses.
Hebrews 7:23-28
  • Although I don't want to belabor the issue of Jesus as high priest (and, indeed, David Scholer's lecture on this subject is quite extensive), it is clearly one of the main themes of the book of Hebrews, and so we need to spend some time unpacking it, in order to understand what the author is writing about.  This is especially important in Christian denominations which do not continue to have a priestly office, but even denominations that do have priests, such as the Episcopal church, are thousands of years removed from the culture in which the author of Hebrews is writing, and we have somewhat different ideas of what a priest does today than what a Jewish priest did back in the first century. 
  • In particular, the author of Hebrews has a lot to say about the notion of sacrifice.  A priest was said to stand in for the whole people, and to make sacrifices on their behalf.  It is at this point in particular that the author's notion of Jesus as a priest becomes most significant.  Whatever Jesus did on the cross, he did as a sacrifice for the people of God, and the author of Hebrews is quick to point out that this one sacrifice was for all time, forever altering the notion of what earthly priests are to do for God's people.  This is why some denominations don't have priests any more, but the author of Hebrews may not necessarily be suggesting that the role of priest be forever abolished.  The emphasis here is that priests no longer need to make sacrifices on behalf of God's people, because this has already been done for us, in a far more perfect and permanent way, through Jesus Christ.  We'll see even more about this concept in next week's reading.
Mark 10:46-52
  • One of the things about Jesus that made him famous among first century Jews was that he performed several miraculous healings, as related in stories throughout the gospels.  Some people sought Jesus from far away, while others were practically in Jesus' path as he and his disciples traveled.  Several are like Bartimaeus who, when learning that Jesus was nearby, took advantage of the opportunity, and would not be kept from approaching Jesus merely because others disapproved of the scene they were making when they cried out for help.  I don't often hear this expressed in public readings of the Biblical text, but there's no question that, if we were to see this story playing out, it would be filled with lots of dramatic action.  People are pushing into each other left and right following Jesus in a large crowd, when a man shouts out from the distance.  He's a blind man, dirty from begging on the streets for who knows how long.  Then, as today, people tend to want to keep their distance from such people, and ignore them when they try to make their presence known.
  • For those of us who know the story well, it is no longer a surprise that Jesus stops to pay attention to Bartimaeus' pleas for help.  But how often do we find ourselves in this kind of situation today, and do nothing?
  • I find an interesting pattern in these stories of healing.  Although it is certainly perceived by the other people in the stories, and also by Christians today, that Jesus in particular was a healer, Jesus never seems to say “I am healing you,” but rather he generally says something along the lines of “your faith has healed you,” or perhaps "your sins are forgiven."  It is the person's faith and/or the forgiveness of sins, and not so much Jesus himself, that is said to be the active agent in the healing.  I'll be the first to admit to skepticism of many of the “faith healers” that often make the news today, but perhaps we can learn something from Jesus' attitude in these stories. 

1 comment:

Viola Larson said...

Confession, I have not been reading with you through Job, but up because I cannot sleep I read the Job text. I am wondering if verses 5 & 6 might be part of the clue. Job has been faithful while just knowing about the Lord. Now he knows him in a personal sense. He sees the Lord.

And like Peter and all of those who come to God he repents understanding so much more the awesomeness of the Lord.