Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Readings for Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This Sunday is celebrated in many denominations around the world as “World Communion Sunday”. While not all churches will celebrate, this event should help Christians everywhere understand that Christ’s Church should be (to use the fourfold creedal description) One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic.

This week we begin a new series of readings in Job and Hebrews and Jesus comments on the abuse of women.

Job 1:1, 2:1-10 – The story of a man who is not even Jewish and doesn’t live in Israel. Some scholars feel that chapters 1 and 2 and chapter 47:7-17 were later additions to a much older story (Job 3-47:6) of suffering and God’s part in it. Notice some of the ironic elements of the opening chapters: Satan is just another angel walking around in the court of God; God gives permission for the deaths of Job’s children; and Job’s wife’s black humor when she tells him that he should just “curse God and die”.

Psalm 26 – This Psalm could be from the mouth of Job. The Psalmist is besieged by an enemy (vs. 9-10), has lived a life in love and devotion to God (vs. 3-8), and desires God to save him (vs. 1-2, 11-12).

Genesis 2:18-24 – The human that God has created need a “suitable companion” or “helper as a partner”. This helper is not to be a subordinate to be dominated but an equal companion to help cultivate and populate the earth. Animals are created and named but none are suitable. God then creates from the one human two people, male and female. Verse 25 adds that they were naked and not ashamed. Why is humanity so ashamed of nakedness?

Psalm 8 – The Psalmist celebrates God’s good creation and humanity’s place within it. When we look at the stars, the sun, and the moon we realize just how insignificant we are in the glorious creation. Yet, God has given us top billing (dominion, rule, stewardship) in that creation, or at least over the creation that we call earth. At one time we equated dominion with domination and we have not been good stewards: garbage all over dry land and the ocean and waterways; species that have be made extinct or are near extinction because of our actions; polluted air; radioactive contamination; multi and super resistant viruses; to name just a few. Have we placed humanity in the role of god over God’s creation?

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 – The verses in chapter one may be the essential statement on Jesus being God and at the same time being God’s Son. “This Son is the perfect reflection of God and is the exact imprint of God’s very being.” If we look at Jesus we should see God. If the God we imagine and follow doesn't look like Jesus then perhaps we need to reevaluate the God we believe in. In the second portion of the reading, the writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8. Then Jesus becomes human not to continue human domination of creation but to “taste death for everyone.” It is through Jesus’ death that we have salvation. It is difficult in this reading to discern that God didn't order Jesus’ death or decree his death. But God knew that in becoming human, God, in Jesus, would be put to death by humanity. It is that act of giving himself over to our system of death, Jesus gives us salvation from sin and death. It is a fine, but extremely important distinction.

Mark 10:2-16 – This must be the worst text that could come up on World Communion Sunday, especially the first half. The second section, verses 13-16, in which Jesus takes children into his arms and blesses them might be the better choice on WCS. Remember though, these are not the clean well dressed children that we see in church each week. Think of the snotty nosed, dirt and mud encrusted children of Mumbai or Sao Paulo or any slum of the world today. These are the children that the Kingdom of God belongs to; the lowest on the hierarchy of value in Jesus’ day.

Now back to the first section on divorce. Jesus says that divorce was allowed because humanity is sinful. He is also commenting on how women were abused by the system of divorce in his day. Any MAN could divorce his wife for whatever reason (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). The woman was kicked out and left destitute. She could either become a beggar or a prostitute or resign herself to slow death. Jesus says that this is wrong and sinful. To use the law to exclude people from full participation in society (remember women were just above children on the hierarchical totem pole) is sinful. For many centuries the church used the words of Jesus here to abuse women by telling them they must stay in destructive, violent, abusive families. To use Jesus’ words (instead of the law) to exclude people from full participation in society (abused women often withdraw from all other helpful relationship due to shame) is sinful. What are the sexual politics that exclude people from full participation in society and other relationships today?

I always have to wrestle with the texts that go against my assumptions, comfort zone, or feeling. I often lose to God. How is your wrestling match going?

May the Lord Bless you always!!!

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