New Revised Standard Version
Job 1:1; 2:1-10: This Sunday we are introduced to one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. The story of Job's suffering has become the universal story of suffering. Job's friend try to figure out why he is suffering and ultimately blame it on sin in his life. (Isn't that an easy route to take). Even 21st century readers like to envision Job's “questioning” God as a problem. Yet the text is much more layered than either of these views. Philip Yancey gives an intriguing idea. He sees this book as a retelling of the Genesis story. If people are in paradise and have all their needs and desires ultimately met – will they remain in relationship with God? If people are stripped of all – will they remain in relationship with God? There is no guarantee that either state will bring us to God or send us away. We pray for grace.
Psalm 26: This Psalm is a fitting response to the O.T. reading in Job. The Psalmist is a person of integrity; a true “Psalm 1” character who does not keep company with evildoers. He counts on God to protect, and not to judge him because of this integrity. What motivates the writer to do this? “Because your steadfast love is before my eyes”.
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12: God's ultimate revelation is not by angels or prophets, but by his son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will reveal what God is like. This was done, not by Christ dictating a letter to us, but by coming to live on earth as one of us. Jesus identities with us in our suffering and death because He too has suffered, and died as one of us. He sees us as his brothers and sisters. We might not understand all of these, but we daily strive to see Jesus.
Mark 10:2-16: Jesus' detractors come with another trick question. John (Jesus' cousin) had just been beheaded for denouncing King Herod's marital arrangements. Maybe Jesus can be forced to make a pronouncement that will get him in trouble with the civil authorities as well. Jesus takes the question to a deeper level. Yes, divorce is permitted. But God's original intention was that a whole new entity be created - “one flesh”. It's only because of our hard hearts this new entity does not always last. Ultimately Jesus will do something even more radical – he will show the way to move from hard hearts to soft hearts. To become “new creations” in Christ. To have a new kind of community and family; where all men and women will be loved, and all children welcome and safe.
Scripture Summary for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost - Year B (Oct 14)
Job 23:1-9, 16-17: Eliphaz, Job's friend, tells him that his suffering is a result of his own sin. Here Job takes his case right to God. Job goes looking for God, with his briefcase full of his arguments in his own defence. Surely God will not dismiss him; but will be convinced by Job's pleadings. But Job cannot find God – he feels that he is in darkness and he is terrified.
Psalm 22: 1-15: King David's famous Psalm is one that is used each Good Friday. This is the psalm that Jesus quoted when he was in his deepest agony. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The writer outlines not just his physical anguish, but also his mental torment. He pleads with God to stand by him as he goes through this severe trial. “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help”.
Hebrews 4:12-16: Today's text begins with an ode to the power of Scripture. It is like a sword that can cut through the intentions and thoughts of our hearts, showing true motivations and deepest longings. If this seems a bit scary, we can remind ourselves that the word of God can give us great insights about ourselves. More important, we are told that Jesus is ready to strengthen and comfort us when this knowledge overwhelms us. He can do this because he too has lived a human life and understands our weaknesses. We can therefore approach him with boldness, assured of his grace and mercy.
Mark 10:17-31: In today's reading Jesus is again approached with a question. Last week it was a “test” question. This week the questioner seems sincere. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” A good question. Again, like last week, Jesus sends the person back to Scripture to find the answer. The man has kept all the commandments, yet he is still not sure. Jesus zeros in on the one area of his life that remains unexamined. Jesus invites him to sell all his possessions and to follow Him. This story has a sad ending – the man goes away sorrowful, for he is very rich. This is a difficult passage for 1st and 21st century Christians.
Scripture Summary for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost – Year B (Oct 21)
Job 38:1-7, 34-41: Job has been searching for the reason for his suffering. He now receives what his heart has desired; an answer from God. Yet, it is not the answer that Job expects. Rather than explicitly telling Job why he has been suffering, He invites Job to ponder all for natural forces that he does not understand. The beginning of the cosmos. Rain patterns. Food for the wild beasts. The human brain. If Job cannot understand these natural phenomena, how can he possibly understand the spiritual mysteries that undergird all of creation. God remains faithful, however, in the midst of all Job's ponderings, and in ours as well.
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c: This Psalm echoes the creation of the cosmos in Genesis. With thankfulness the writer praises God for light, for water, for the earth, for all God's creatures; animals or birds. God creates, but God also sustains his creation. This gives the Psalmist a reason for praise and thanksgiving. .
Hebrews 5:1-10: God has given Jesus the title of great high priest. Jewish high priests offered sacrifices for the sins of all people by sacrificing lambs. Jesus himself has become the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. This High Priest has given the final once-for-all sacrifice. By his obedience and suffering he has opened up the way of forgiveness for all.
Mark 10:35-45: The Zebedee brothers want Jesus to choose them to be his “right hand” men when He rules in glory. Like Job, they are speaking of what they do not understand. With terrible irony they are asking for privilege, when Jesus is talking about his coming suffering and death. His glory would soon be manifested most clearly through his death on a cross. Unknown thieves would be on his left and right hand. Yet ultimately both James and John will become Jesus' faithful witnesses, sharing in the spreading of the gospel and paying the price of discipleship through exile and death.
Scripture Summary for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost – Year B (October 28)
Job 42:1-6, 10-17: The concluding chapter in the book of Job brings the story full circle. Job acknowledges that he does not understand either the workings of the universe or God's mysterious ways as well as he thought he did. He is humble enough to admit this. God restores his fortunes and invites him to pray for his friends who totally misunderstood God's ways as well. By their pride and presumption they added to Job's pain and suffering. The universal story of pain and suffering will not be answered until the 2nd Job arrives on the earth. He will share earth's suffering and ultimately bear all the sin of the world
Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22: This is a Psalm of blessing and praise. The psalmist starts this song as as solo. “I will bless the Lord at all times”. By verse 3 he is inviting others into the chorus. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together”. He is still a realist “many are the afflictions of the righteous”, but is confident of God's rescue and care. These verses would be good ones to use as your daily meditation throughout the week. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him”.
Hebrews 7: 23-28: Jesus is fully human, but is also fully divine. Therefore his calling as the great high priest is doubly effective. He understands our weaknesses and pain because he has experienced them. Yet as the divine son of God he is everlastingly available to pray on our behalf. Whenever we approach God, it is because of Jesus that we are saved and made new.
Mark 10:46-52: It is Jesus' last major stop before he arrives in Jerusalem. The sightless man Bartimaeus, (who is filled with insight), shouts out to Jesus for mercy. He is rebuked by the crowds. Jesus calls out to him and the crowds now change their tune. “It's your lucky day” they say. Jesus then asks Bartimaeus the same question that he asked James and John last week: “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus' questions always show us what is truly in our hearts. Bart's wishes were every bit as big as James' and John's were. Mercy to him did not mean a few pennies as a handout. No; his desire was big. “Let me receive my sight”.