As I was beginning to write about the Gospel passage I was listening to one of my all time favorite band songs “Eryri (Where Eagles Sing")” by Karl Jenkins and the Cory Band. You may enjoy it here: "Eryri" This video also has "Abide With Me".
Our scripture lessons for this coming Sunday are:
Job 23:1-9, 116-7 – Chapters 1 and 2 of Job are the setting for a great theological debate: Why do bad things happen to good people (Rabbi Harold Kushner became famous when he wrote a book with that title) and what is God’s role in those bad things? (The technical theological term for this problem is “theodicy”.) In Chapter 2 Job says that life is no long worth living. Beginning in Chapter 4 each of Job’s (so called) friends offer their explanation of why Job is suffering. Their take: Job sinned and God is correcting/punishing Job who in turn declares his innocence/righteousness. The friends then say even if Job doesn’t know what he did he should just repent. Of course, Job, who is an upright and blameless man, can’t do that. In our reading, and you should probably include 10-15, Job states that he want to go into God’s court and face his accuser (God or Satan?) for an explanation and to give his own testimony knowing that God will then find him innocent. Verses 8-9 states one problem for Job, “Where is God?”
Psalm 22:1-15 – Jesus spoke the first line of this psalm while dying on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It echoes the words of Job in the feeling that God is no longer present to the sufferer. On the one hand the psalmist affirms God’s holiness and all that God has done for Israel. On the other hand the psalmist is enduring many problems at the company of evildoers. Carefully read the entire Psalm 22 and pay attention to the back and forth nature of the psalmist’s words.
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 – Amos warns the rich that their behavior of not caring for the poor, needy, orphans, widows, and foreigners will bring Israel to ruin. Is the United States of America in need of listening to this prophet? How has the disparity between the wealthy and the poor brought division to our country? Last year’s 99% protests were supposed to highlight the problems but has anything changed? Just yesterday there was an article on the StarTribune highlighting this issue. You can read the story here: "Rich Poor Gap"
Psalm 90:12-17 – Verses 1 and 2 state God’s majesty and eternity. Verses 3-11 then state how people are suffering God’s wrath, “for all our days pass away under your wrath.” Our reading then asks God to show us, teach us, and work in us so that we might know the favor of God.
Hebrews 4:12-16 – Verses 12 and 13 states that the “word of God” is living and active. It pierces our hearts and know all about us. Is this “word of God” the Bible or Jesus or both? If it is the Bible, do we often think that it is static and that our understanding of it ended sometime in the past, say with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, or Wesley? Or is the Bible speaking new things to each generation such that each generation must struggle with their own understanding? Verses 14-16 introduce a prominent theme in Hebrews: Jesus as our Great High Priest who has been tested as we are and remained sin free. This theme will continue for the next three or four weeks.
Mark 10:17-31 – Another difficult reading especially for Americans. Even middle class Americans are wealthier than the majority of the world. (If your personal household annual income is $12,000 and you live alone you are wealthier then 88% of the world. Check your status here: GivingWhatWeCan.org) So, how do our “things”, our possessions, our money, keep us from following Jesus? The young rich man was upright and blameless and lived as God commanded. He would be a good candidate for any of our churches especially if he tithed . Yet Jesus says that he must give everything away to be able to follow him. Oh how we love to rationalize our way around that one. Even the usually clueless disciples recognize the problem. No one can do that. The disciples are the ones who have given up everything to follow: work, homes, and families. Jesus answers that God is able and that they will receive everything back (much like Job at the end of his story) AND eternal life.
Have a great week serving God and neighbor!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor