Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

Readings for Proper 22 (27) Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

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Proper 22B/Ordinary 27B/Pentecost 8 October, 2006 Textweek

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit

On first reading, the readings this morning appear to be quite diverse and I wonder if that’s because they consist of some overloaded concepts; they carry some baggage: the suffering of Job - why do bad things happen to good people - and the question of divorce; and when we see that diversity and think how does all this fit together, it provides us with a reminder that scripture requires the same contemplative process that prayer requires. It’s a different process to our normal reading.

The focus in today’s excerpt from the book of Job is echoed in the psalm. In Job 2, verse 3, it says, ‘he still persists in his integrity’; Psalm 26, verse 1 says, ‘I have walked in my integrity’. ‘Integrity’ gives us some sense of maybe where these readings are seeking to draw us. The reading from Job is further illuminated I think, if we just change the address that is contained in verse 3: ‘The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” “Have you considered my son Jesus? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity although you incited me against him to destroy him for no reason.’

The Book of Job – what we’ve got at the moment is two extracts, one from the very beginning, that’s the first line and then we go straight into chapter two. Between that line from the first chapter and chapter two, Job is put to the test and loses everything, that is everything outside of himself: he loses his children and he loses all his material wealth and possessions. Now in the reading from chapter two, we read of another test: he loses his health and the outward sign that we hear in chapter 2, verse 7, the outward sign is loathsome sores. And this would indicate to all that Job is cursed by God, a sinner, one who is out of integrity.

Now into this narrative between God, Satan and Job comes the voice of Job’s wife. In verse 7 she says: ‘Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God and die.’ Job’s wife echoes the energy of Eve; she provides an alternative perspective to that which Job has adopted in relation to God, just as Eve provides an alternative voice in the garden of Genesis. And this connection provides an icon for us to more fully appreciate the dialogue that we have in the gospel reading. Adam represents that which is created from God, humanity that is born of the divine; Eve represents that which created from the image of God, that which is grounded in creation.

Now the flat-earth theologians who developed a theology of marriage from the more primal creation mythologies determined a set of laws that supported the socio-political structures of the time. It was, and some would argue is, a man’s world. But Mark, witnessing the revelation of the divine in the life and word of Christ, opens up the whole question, he brings to light a deeper integrity that scripture seeks to reveal. Quite deliberately Mark brings together two quite unrelated teachings of Jesus: the pharisaic question of divorce and therefore by implication marriage, and then the image of children as the ones to who the Kingdom of God belongs. In the Eastern culture of the time children were non-persons, they were invisible, they were silent; like women, they were the possessions of men. In ancient societies and even today, marriage laws were a method of providing both control and protection for women who could not own property, those who had no power to determine their own futures. And the gospel reading is not teaching about marriage and divorce - we can forget the Family-First theology - Mark addresses the true primal relationship of all humanity: the integrity of the strong and the weak, the integrity of the powerful and the powerless, and every, every human relationship is an opportunity for us to experience that integrity – male-female, male-male, female-female, parent-child; any and every relationship is an opportunity for us to find and to experience integrity. The icon of Adam and Eve, Job and his wife, male and female, husband and wife, Christ and the church, these are all icons of illustration rather than of definition.

In a man’s world, the integrity of husband and wife in marriage is the integrity of the strong with the weak, and so it is illustrative of the integrity between creator and creature, the integrity that is there between the divine and the human. Paul, in the extract we have today from Hebrews, underlines some of the parameters within which we might seek and might strive for integrity. In the first part of the Hebrews reading, chapter 1, verses 1-4, ‘we see in Christ the reflection of God’s glory, we see the exact imprint of the divine being, we see in Christ the sustainer of all through the power of the divine word, we see the purification of sins’. The second part of that reading from Hebrews from chapter 2, we see in humanity, in ourselves, ‘creatures lower than angels, yet crowned with glory and honour, given divine power’, a divine power so that all is given for our realisation and that which we do not yet see is made visible in Christ, and what is made visible in Christ, is our reality.

As we come together to contemplate life in Christ, we seek integrity, one with each other, one with every other. We seek integrity, for our primal relationship is that we are one body, loved into being by the divine.

The Lord be with you.
Peter Humphris