Readings for 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 10/14/12:
Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31
Job 23:1-9, 16-17:
- "Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might even come to his dwelling." Where do you look for God? Where do you seek out God and how, when you want to give God a piece of your mind?
- "Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me." I am always surprised by how many people feel like they can't be honest with God and bring their real emotions to God. I remember the manual for chaplaincy at the hospital in my first appointment, which encouraged clergy, "don't try to defend God. She can defend herself." I remembered being dazzled by feminine God imagery in a small town, and totally on board with the advice. God is God. God can take our anger and questioning. I suspect it is even part of our healthy relationship with God. Job felt comfortable in this.
- Compare vs. 8-9 with Psalm 139.
- We've been told Job is righteous, but that he is so sure of his righteousness amazes me. Are you righteous? Are you sure of it?
- "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" These words, which open the Psalm, are found on Jesus' lips on the cross. Some say he was reciting the Psalm, to comfort others. People don't like to think about Jesus feeling forsaken by God. But I think it is ok to believe Jesus felt alone in that moment - because despite his feelings, he had faith enough to follow through with what he believed was God's call for him.
- Surely, we've all felt forsaken by God sometimes. Alone. Finding "no rest" as the Psalmist describes. The scene the Psalmist describes is one of fear and desperation to feel God's presence. Have you experienced this? When? How? Did you find God present there?
- "The word of God is living and active" - and yet sometimes we try to make it stand still in time and space, not allowing it to speak to us in new ways, not allowing it to make us be living and active as well!
- "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" - That's some powerful imagery. The Word of God is often used as a sharp sword, but usually, unfortunately, as a weapon that hurts and causes pain. Here, the author describes a sword that pierces us in a different way - a sword that - gets to the point, so to speak - and sees and judges our hearts. What does the Word of God have to say about your heart?
- The high priest imagery in Hebrews doesn't speak to me really. What do you make of it?
- What does speak to me: "not . . . unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but . . . in every respect tested as we are, yet without sin." Some theologians in church history emphasized the "immutability of God" - that God is not changeable. But, that doesn't sound very compassionate either. The author here describes a Christ who is moved by our sufferings, walking with us, and living as an example to us.
- "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" I think this is the question many ask at the beginning of their faith journey: "What do I have to do to get into heaven?" basically. We're very result-driven, humans. We want to know what to do to get the result we want.
- "you lack one thing;" What thing does Jesus mean? We know the following words connect, but what exactly would he say the man is lacking? Treasure in heaven?
- "Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor" - Why do we take Jesus' words so literally in other places, but not here? I'm afraid the answer is: we'd rather not.
- camel/eye/needle imagery - hyperbole, or straight-talk? Chris Haslam's comments and clippings on this text have transformed my understanding of the whole passage.
- The disciples think with Jesus' standards, things sound hopeless. But Jesus reminds us - again - of grace: "for mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
- Peter sounds a little resentful, like Jesus is preaching to the choir, or maybe he just needs some words of encouragement. Either way, Jesus promises that what has been given up to follow him hasn't gone unnoticed.
- Folk singer Hugh Blumenfeld has a great song connected to this text called "Camel Filters." A couple verses:
'Cause he writes his name in gold
He's got towers and plazas named for him
We won't miss him when he's cold
He's got boats and trains and cars and planes
Wants a space shuttle with a phone
He can go anywhere anytime he likes
Except I believe he'll have a tough time
Getting through the eye of the needle...
Now maybe Jesus was the son of God
And maybe the prophet of the people
Maybe he was just a working man
Who would not be bought by the devil
But what he said he said quite clear
No need for the good priest here
Even the butt of your cigarette
Will not clear the eye of the needle