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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 16
The Secret Messiah

Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

George Croly, a popular 19th-century English divine, wrote prolifically during his lifetime, but only one hymn outlives him. It contains a line pertinent to our reflection on this great poetic passage of the voice from the whirlwind, the Hebrew scripture for our meditation this week: "Stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art/and make me love thee as I ought to love."

God answers Job’s questions with questions of God’s own. The modern mind tends to resist this image of the Almighty God roaring out of the heavens at God’s pitiful creature and flees for its religious comfort from the God of the Old Testament to the sweet and gentle Jesus of the New. Hear, O people of God, the Lord thy God is one.

And the God of the whirlwind hears and heeds and responds in the most beautiful poetry.

What more do you want God to do? What do you think God wants you to do?

Job would understand the responsive psalm. God is the creator and sustainer of all things, but there is a right way to respond to this all-powerful God, and woe to those who don’t.

The gospel is the story of the disciples’ amazing response to Jesus’ announcement of his forthcoming passion and Jesus’ even more amazing description of the way of the new order.

For the third time, Jesus had told them what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem. In response, the two with Peter, the inner circle, the ones closest to him, make an audacious request for place and privileges. They were still very much into old order thinking.

The messianic secret that runs through Mark—Jesus constantly telling his followers not to reveal who he is—was the effort not to build on the old expectations that would be aroused by the use of the term "Messiah." The Messiah was the one who would restore the Davidic kingdom and make the Jews once more a world power. Jesus is still misunderstood today. We hear, "My kingdom is not of this world" as a designation of geography, not of a way of life.

Jesus called the disciples together and patiently explained what life would be like in the new order, the kingdom he would bring in. There is little evidence that the church—the churches—that the disciples left behind got it. There is little evidence that the church today has got it.

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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