Scripture Introductions

Pentecost 18 October 4. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
Again, we have choices! One strand is of innocence and injustice, with the opening scenes of Job. The other is of humanity, male and female. (You may want to skip anything in parentheses.) The first reading, from the third grouping of books in the Hebrew Bible, (Tanakh), introduces us to the heavenly court, where God is confronted by the "Satan," the disrupter or tempter, not the Devil of later stories. (He plays somewhat the same role as Raven in Native tales, who is a trickster but with no connection with evil or punishment.) Unfortunately, almost all Chapter One is skipped, so we miss the parallelism of the introduction. Satan has appeared, and God (showing a definite lack of omniscience) asks where he has been (much in the style of a parent of a child). Satan is not impressed with humanity, and God asks about Job, at least one good example. But, says Satan, he is well rewarded for his goodness [2]. So God allows Satan to take away all Job's wealth. We pick up the drama as Satan returns to the heavenly court, and has a parallel conversation with God. The inherent injustice of the encounter, in which Job is little more than a pawn, may illustrate that "bad things happen to good people," a direct challenge to the belief that all will go well with us if we are good and faithful. Let's listen, as Job's world begins to crumble, in: Job 1:1; 2:1-10 (You may want to keep your acclaim until after the Gospel reading, or use traditional words, or say something like: May we experience God's presence even in the midst of trials. Amen.) or We turn to the first book in Tanakh ("TNK:" Torah, "Law/Teaching," Nevi'im, "Prophets," and Kethuvim, "Writings") and hear the story of the divine creation of Woman! This is from the second, though older, cosmogony (story of Creation). In the first, though more recent, account, the creation of Woman, as a separate step, is not necessary, since God has created male and female in God's own image. (The account in Chapter 1 with the reference to God's image is from priestly hands in the 5th Century BC/BCE. Today's reading is from a Judah or southern tradition from the 9th Century. God is more an artisan who carves creatures than the ruler who speaks creation into being. ) So, in an almost rollicking story, male humanity is formed from the dust of the earth. Then comes the challenge of finding an appropriate companion, or, traditionally, "help-mete". [3] (The suggested passage ends at verse 24, but I like to include the next verse about them being innocently naked - not necessarily unaware, but unashamed!) And God experiments, as follows, in: Genesis 2:18-24 May we understand that God created us to be in relationship with one another, Amen
Psalm 26 is a response to the Job reading. or Psalm 8 praises humanity, or "Man," which tends to have masculine overtones.
The Epistle speaks to us of humanity, but as found in Jesus Christ, uniting the highest humanity with the most present divinity. (If we have just read Psalm 8, we may hear echoes of the sense of majesty. But the focus is on the "Son of Man, (The Human One)" if you will. ) Let us listen closely, as the author explains: Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 May we consider the majesty of the Child of God, and his humble and human links. Amen.
The Gospel passage can be a challenge. We hear that Pharisees tried to challenge Jesus, and Jesus' words become another challenge on another level. There are two sets of verses, one about divorce, the other about children. In the former, it sounds to some as if Jesus is laying down the law and forbidding divorce. To others, it sounds as if he is saying that a woman must not be cast out to fend for herself. To others, again, the whole section is questioned, as if it came from the church struggling with the question of divorce rather than from Jesus, himself. The account of him explaining his riposte in detail to his disciples, in particular, can sound as if the writer were trying to shore up the credibility of the disciples! On the other hand, the account of Jesus focusing on children echoes with the kind of challenge that Jesus threw at his followers as well as the authorities! He is taking the least powerful, least protected, and least appreciated in society and making them the heart of the message he embodies and conveys. What links the passages may be Jesus respect for the powerless, voiceless and victimized. Let us rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let us listen closely for the Good News for us in: ) Mark 10:2-16 May we clasp the message to us, of Jesus demonstrating love for the young and the vulnerable, and may we rejoice in His love. It is appropriate to respond with thanks and praise.
  1. With thanks to CAM.
  2. This exchange highlights the challenge of the book of Job to reconsider and reject the idea of sickness and disaster being punishment for our sins.
  3. Pardon me going for an archaic word, intended, I understand, to emphasize that Eve is a helper specially suitable for "Man." Finally, after the long search, an appropriate colleague!
(Comments to Stew at