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Living the Word

Get It Straight
By Peter B. Price
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Let’s get it straight: Living God’s way in the world is not for the faint-hearted. Our readings in the next few weeks challenge our discipleship, calling to its very foundations. We are invited to face our prejudice, to analyze our motives for doing good, to reflect on our seemingly endless capacity for conflict, to observe our desire for status, as well as our murmuring and moaning against God when the least thing upsets our way of doing things. And as they say in the movies, "We’re the good guys!"

Most of us suffer from spiritual blindness. Bartimaeus, who was blind, called out to Jesus, but before Jesus could restore his sight he had to find out if that is what Bartimaeus wanted— "What do you want me to do for you?" "That I may receive my sight," he replied. Let’s get it straight: What do you want me to do for you? is the same question Jesus asks of us.

October 12
It's God's Fault!
Psalm 22:1-15; Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

"God has undermined my courage....I am plunged back into obscurity by him," complains Job (23:16-17). The psalmist offers a prayer full of rage and complaints against God, accusing God of forsaking, betraying, and failing to help. Bereft, he reveals the physical impact of grief and sense of despair, and finally accuses God of "laying me down in the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15). Such a sense of being lost to God is experienced by many, and one survivor of Auschwitz recalls how he fasted in the camp in order to shame God.

Most of us find such rage and anger against God hard to express. It rarely, if ever, forms part of our worship, except in the rather ersatz form of the repeated psalm. We are scandalized by such boldness against God; we are often too timid to tell it as it is, fearing some kind of divine thunderbolt because we have dared to challenge God. We need someone to interpret for us.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts readers, "We must hold firm to our profession of faith" (Hebrews 4:14). Such words fall on deaf ears unless they are connected to the reality of suffering. We should hold on to our faith, with all its rage, despair, and confusion; fear of mockery (Psalm 22:7); and sense of futility (Mark 10:28) because "Jesus the Son of not incapable of feeling our weakness with us, but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as we ourselves...apart from sin" (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Jesus is the interpreter of our pain, and challenges our comforts. As the "Word made flesh" (John 1:14), Jesus reveals our schizophrenia and "seeks out the place where soul is divided from spirit or joints from marrow" (Hebrews 4:12). Warning of the danger of riches, Jesus offers the companionship of community (Mark 10:21-22). Jesus invites us from the addictions of consumerism: to renounce the security of home, relationships, and property. By offering a new order of Jubilee, a time of re-distributive justice, he makes possible a world where "first will be last, and the last first" (Mark 10:31).

Reflection and Action

When have you experienced the despair of Job, or the anger of the psalmist? How did you express it? Where have you discovered Jesus as interpreter of your pain, offering the solace of others and the challenge to live in the spirit of Jubilee?

PETER B. PRICE is general secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, an Anglican mission agency based in London, and practices—with his wife, Dee—a ministry of hospitality. Reflections on the complete, three-year lectionary cycle can be found in the resource Living the Word, available from Sojourners Resource Center (1-800-714-7474).

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