Scripture Introductions

Pentecost 19 October 11. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
Our first reading is from the book of Job. The book challenges and debunks the idea that God rewards piety with health and earthly gifts, and vice versa, that God punishes sin with illness and misery, so that, logically, if one is ill, it must mean that that person has sinned [2]. . (In the Hebrew Bible, Job is among the "Writings," but in ours, it has been moved so that it follows books considered History. [3]) In the book, Job, for no apparent reason, is deprived of family, fortune and health. He sits in misery and grief, scratching himself in a vain search for relief. His wife berates him. His friends come to lecture him. Just before today's reading, one friend, (Eliphaz), has reminded Job of how puny we humans are, and of how little use to God. He invites Job to prostrate himself before God, adding, "God abases the proud, but saves the lowly. God delivers the innocent man; you will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands." Job replies in frustration, not knowing where to turn. Let's listen to his side of the story, in: Job 23:1-9, 16-17 We may add something like: May the Spirit help us understand that bad things happen, and be more understanding.
In the Psalm, the writer or singer launches into lament! [4] There are anguish and isolation. There have been scorn and abuse. The Psalmist's faith appears in the direct address to God. (Bashan, incidentally, is a rich pastoral and agricultural area East of the Sea of Galilee.) Let us.. Psalm 22:1-15
There is an alternate reading from Amos, Amos threatens divine reaction to the way the rich have hoarded resources, and the poor have become poorer. It is the very exploitation that will be used against the abusers! (The gate was the meeting place, where elders settled legal questions and rendered justice.) Amos, on God's behalf, calls for true justice for all, reminding us that a just God requires a just society and community. This message would have been a shock to those who had understood that punctilious worship would guarantee their safety and success. We may want to note that Amos is not talking of individual, but of systemic sin! Let us listen, as Amos thunders in God's name: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 We may add something like: May the Spirit help us listen, understand how political these words are, and respond. Amen.
The Psalm gives another view, different from that of Amos, emphasizing thanksgiving and celebration. But it is a prayerful request, rooted in the reality of want. Let us.. Psalm 90:12-17
The letter to the Hebrews invites us to shift our focus to God, and to Jesus' intercession on our behalf. The letter also challenges us to think of our faith as more than "warm and fuzzy", for the Word of God confronts and challenges at least as much as it comforts! Let us listen, as the author explains.. Hebrews 4:12-16 May we understand, trust, and rejoice. Amen.
In the Gospel, we see Jesus accosted by a well-to-do, fairly self-satisfied, religious young man. Jesus listens to him, and then challenges him (in the spirit of the Epistle reading!). This leads to Jesus challenging those who are well-off. Jesus' view repeats his warning that we cannot serve both God and money (Mammon). He states and repeats his concern that the rich, perhaps "we, rich,[5]" will have a hard time to enter the Kingdom. [6] 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 10:17-31 May we hear what the Spirit is saying to us, the Church. Amen.
  1. In the background is the thought of more than an individual's sin(s). There can be sins of communities, of societies and of cultures. If there is an imbalance, for example, between initiative and compassion, or between use and care, we may have a different form of sin. Without initiative, our society would lose energy; without compassion, the rich keep getting richer and the poor get poorer. In our modern world, along with such examples, we have ecological, "global warming" concerns with the same disproportion. Without picturing God sitting in judgment, we can see, and have seen, the hardship and upset caused by rampant and sanctioned greed. Joel, on God's behalf, calls to his compatriots and to us: "Wake up. Give Thanks, Take care, and share."
  2. I wish that this were linked with Jesus' denial of this view in John 9.
  3. Since the Torah is considered the most important group (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus), with the Prophets next (including Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings) and the Writings last and least, the trap of considering all books and even all verses of the same import is, at least partly, avoided.
  4. We will remember that Jesus, on the cross, is reported as quoting the first line.
  5. The contrast in Luke's "Blessed are you poor" may be shocking.
  6. I can't help but think of Jesus' reply to Peter as the equivalent of "come off it, Peter," rather than a divine proclamation! And the reference to hundred-fold rings hollow.
(Comments to Stew at