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Living the Word

Turned Upside-Down
By Verna J. Dozier
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In September the ordered world of Proverbs and James is read against the cross of Mark’s world. Walter Brueggemann reminds us of Karl Marx’s dictum, "The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class."

Who benefited by our pious simplistic characterizations of the Hebrew scriptures as law and the New Testament as grace? How did reading Proverbs and not the Prophets prepare us so easily to turn the symbol of the authorities’ answer to those who defied them into a symbol of the devotional life that posed no threat to the authorities? September’s meditations will bring a chill to "whatever is, is right."

October 9
What Is God Like?

Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Job, afflicted by God and harassed by his friends, is still laboring under the old delusion that God is reasonable: "Oh, that I knew where I might find him." Job would come to God’s dwelling and lay his case before God. He is certain an upright person could reason with God and be acquitted.

God is like an honest judge.

Job’s agony is fittingly reflected in Psalm 22, mirror of the woes of the rejected and engraved on our hearts as the cry from the cross.

But in Mark’s gospel Jesus adds another dimension to the right way to respond to this all-powerful God. A rich man offered his credentials for finding favor with God. He had kept all the commandments from the days of his youth. Jesus told him he lacked one thing. Sell all he has, give the money to the poor, and come and follow him. The man was shocked, as indeed Job would have been, as indeed all of us who strive to impress God on our own terms would be.

Jesus responded to his shocked disciples with a venture into humor, which, if the Twelve got it, the church has missed almost completely because we have been unwilling to see a love of money excluding a love for God. What kind of God demands that we choose between them?

Hebrews presents us with a God whose word is fearsome, "sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow...before him no creature is [this One] we all must render an account."

Perhaps we need to live into that image of God before we can fully appreciate the vision of the great high priest of Hebrews. We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. The old gospel hymn well expressed the feeling:

"Can we find a friend so faithful/Who will all our sorrows share?/Jesus knows our every weakness—/Take it to the Lord in prayer."

VERNA J. DOZIER is an educator and lay theologian in Washington, D.C. She is the author of The Dream of God: A Call to Return (Cowley Publications) and The Authority of the Laity (The Alban Institute).

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From Sojourners Online, copyright 1994 Sojourners, July 1994, Vol. 23, No. 6.

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