Sermons  SSLR  Illustrations  Lenten Resources  News  Devos  Newsletter  Clergy.net  Churchmail  Children  Bulletins  Search


kirshalom.gif united-on.gif

Sermon & Lectionary Resources           Year A   Year B   Year C   Occasional   Seasonal


Join our FREE Illustrations Newsletter: Privacy Policy
Introduction To The Scripture For Ordinary 27 - Year B
Job 1:1,2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

The following material was written by the Rev. John Shearman (jlss@sympatico.ca) of the United Church of Canada. John has structured his offerings so that the first portion can be used as a bulletin insert, while the second portion provides a more in depth 'introduction to the scripture'.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SCRIPTURE	
Ordinary Twenty-Seven (Proper 22) B


JOB 1:1; 2:1-10       This long poetic work comes from a large body of
"wisdom literature"only some of which was included in the Hebrew
scriptures.  Job is unusual in that it deals with a single theological
issue: the problem of suffering. 

In this excerpt, the stage is set for the testing of Job's faith.  Satan (a
Hebrew word meaning "the Accuser") acts like a prosecutor in God's heavenly
court in a trial to see whether or not Job will deny his trust in God as a
result of continual suffering.


PSALM 26                   This psalm is a fitting accompaniment to the
lesson from Job.  It protests the innocence of faithfulness of an
individual worshipper.  Integrity is the operative word throughout as he or
she pleads for God's vindication.


HEBREWS 1:1-4;2:5-12       Few passages in  the New Testament contains a
higher expression of Christology defining the true role of Jesus Christ in
the Christian tradition.  Ch. 1:1-4 summarizes the basic message of the
gospels.  Ch. 2:5-12 gives us a clear definition of God's plan in coming 
among us in Jesus: to bring us to the glorious presence of God.


MARK 10:2-16.              Jesus voiced his profound concern for stable family 
life and for children.  In Roman society, marriage had one purpose - to provide
a legal heir who would inherit a man's property.  In Jewish society, men
could divorce their wives for any reason, but wives had no such right
without their husband's consent.  In vv.10-12, Jesus put women on an equal
footing. 

The setting of the two subjects in sequence is surely not by chance.  It is
fully evident in our day as in Jesus' time that women and children suffer
most when love dies and marriage is dissolved by divorce.  Modern society
is moving inexorably to separate what is meant by civil and religious
marriage.  The distinction is between a civil contract and a covenant made
as an act of worship in which God participates.

************

JOB 1:1; 2:1-10   The Book of Job is one of the treasures of the Hebrew
Scriptures.  This long poetic work comes from a large body of "wisdom
literature"only some of which was included in the our Bible.  It is
probable that the present literary work is dependent a much older story.
This present version has been interpreted by some scholars as analogous to
the suffering of Israel during the Babylonian exile.  Others have seen the
prologue and epilogue as an independent story for which the poetic dialogue
(3:1 - 42:16) was separately composed.

Job is unusual from most Hebrew scriptures in that it deals with a single
theological issue: the problem of suffering.  It is designed as a drama in
which the prelude is contained in chs. 1 & 2 and epilogue in ch. 42:7-17.
Between these is a series of dialogues in which Job argues with three
friends with great intensity.  He contends that he is suffering unjustly
while they insist that his suffering is caused by sin, known or unknown.
Then, in chs. 32-37, a younger accuser enters the debate berating Job for
his intransigence.  Finally, God answers Job's complaint with a series of
rhetorical questions to which there can be no response.  Job admits his
ignorance, but the issue remains an unresolved mystery. 

The discussion deals with three aspects of the problem of suffering:  Why
do people suffer and what are its origins?  Is there such a thing as
innocent suffering?  What am I to do when I am suffering?  The first two
questions do not have a satisfactory answer.  The last may involve an
encounter with God, which only provides an indirect, existential answer,
but also tests one's faith to the limit.

In this excerpt, the stage is set for the testing of Job's faith. Satan (a
Hebrew word meaning "the Accuser") acts like a prosecutor in God's heavenly
court in a trial to see whether or not Job will deny his trust in God as a
result of continual suffering.

However we may wish to deal with the problem of suffering, perhaps the more
poignant issue is the theology of the anthropocentric universe that lies
behind the problem as the Book of Job portrays it.  This theology follows
the late 6th century BCE Priestly Document separating creation from deity.
One finds it first in Genesis 1, followed by many psalms and much of the
Wisdom literature.  Koheleth or Ecclesiastes may be the exception in our
scriptures.  A comment by a radical thinker on this issue, Bishop John
Selby Spong, challenges this theology as recently expressed in his weekly
e-mail newsletter available through Agora Media or Beliefnet.com at 
www.beliefnet.com
       
Spong's view is that theism is only one theology - and a late one at that -
to be found in scriptures.  By buying into theism, that we are "a little
lower than the angels," we have turned the universe into our playground,
free to the most aggressive and always available for our domination as
God's surrogates.  So we can do as we will with the natural resources, all
non-human species and God's gifts of air, climate and every ecosystem.  We
are now beginning to see the consequences of such misconceptions as
environmental disaster awaits those who pursue such practices.

To restore the balance in creation, we must redefine our theology, its
definition of God and our relationship to God.  We may have misread our
scriptures, Spong claims, and should now begin to search the Bible anew for
a different, more appropriate and yet valid definition of God.

Could the source of human suffering be in ourselves?  As the cartoon
character Pogo once said, "We have seen the enemy and it is ourselves."


PSALM 26   This psalm is a fitting accompaniment to the lesson from Job. 
It protests the innocence of faithfulness of an individual worshiper.
Integrity is the operative word throughout as he or she pleads for God's
vindication.

The word *t“m* (pronounced "tome") translated *integrity* is used
relatively little and usually late in the Hebrew scriptures, most often in
the Psalms and Proverbs.  It speaks of innocence, completeness or
perfection.  The psalm itself is similar in tone to Pss. 3-5, 7 and 17. 
All are laments of individuals, but also closely associated with the post-
exilic temple liturgy (vss. 6-8,12).

At first, the psalm appears to be a private appeal to Yahweh by a worshiper
pleading innocence and faithfulness, not once but again and again.  The
specific situation is so general that it could be used by anyone seeking
acquittal from guilt of a very personal nature or to consorting with
evildoers, especially those who make a business of crime.  One things of
the exorbitant funerals celebrated for senior members of the Mafia.  As
such the psalm could be used by any individual or a group come to declare
their innocence in a liturgical setting.  It has been suggested that vss.6-
7 should be relocated after vs.12 because they appear to refer to
processions that circle an altar, as described in 1 Kings 18:26 and Ps.
118:27.


HEBREWS 1:1-4;2:5-12   Few passages in the New Testament contains a higher
expression of Christology defining the role of Jesus Christ in the
Christian tradition.  Ch. 1:1-4 summarizes the basic message of the
gospels: the incarnation, life on earth, death, resurrection and ascension
of the Son of God.  Ch. 2:5-12 gives us a clear definition of God's plan in
coming among us in Jesus: to bring us to the glorious presence of God.

There is an intentionality about the Letter to the Hebrews which sets it
apart from other so-called epistles.  The author and the exact date of its
composition remain unknown although there are illusions to it in Clement of
Rome's letter to the Corinthians written before the end of the 1st century
CE.  Presumably Clement knew but did not say who the author was. 
Authorship did not become important until Jerome assigned it to Paul and
the Latin Vulgate so identified it for 1000 years.

Two significant factors cancel that possibility: the style is totally
different from Paul's and the writer refers to having received the gospel
directly from those who heard Jesus (2:3).  It is not really a letter at
all, but much more like an essay designed to convince Jewish Christians,
probably those in the Diaspora, of the supremacy of Christ over the
Levitical priesthood associated with the temple.  This could be a clue that
the date of its composition was just before or just after the destruction
of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE.

The issue of the supremacy of Christ stated in these passages also forms
the general theme of the whole essay.  Neither angels, the law of Moses, or
Aaron and the old order of the priesthood could match or surpass what God
has done for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  The elements of temple
worship are very much in the author's mind as are contemporary concepts of
angels, those heavenly agents of God's will and purpose on earth and
courtiers in heaven.  It is not necessary for modern humans to worship as
did the Jews of that time or accept the traditional concepts of angels in
order to understand the message: Nothing supercedes Jesus Christ in
bringing God's purpose to fulfillment.  On the other hand, the figure of
Christ suffering as a pioneer of faith or exemplar of the Suffering Servant
of Isaiah comes to the fore (2:10-12).  This same image reappears most
vividly in chs. 11:1-12:11.


MARK 10:2-16   Jesus here voiced his profound concern for stable family
life and for children.  In Roman society, marriage had one purpose - to
provide a legal heir who would inherit a man's property.  In Jewish
society, men could divorce their wives for any reason, but wives had no
such right without their husband's consent.  In vv.10-12, Jesus put women
on an equal footing. 

The setting of the two subjects in sequence is surely not by chance.  It is
fully evident in our day as in Jesus' time that women and children suffer
most when love dies and marriage is dissolved by divorce.  Modern society
is moving inexorably to separate what is meant by civil and religious
marriage.  The distinction is between a civil contract which can be
negotiated away and a spiritual covenant made as an act of worship in which
God participates.

But how does one deal with this passage at a time when the ratio of divorce
to marriage is 1:2?   Many people in every congregation and many in the
order of ministry have been through the painful experience of grieving for
a broken marriage.  Many of the more traditional church folk are irate that
in many legal jurisdictions marriage is no longer considered an exclusively
heterosexual relationship.

These anomalies appear to deny the very words of Jesus himself in vss.6-9.
As one who has experienced a frequently stressed but deepening relationship
with my spouse of more than 52 years, I personally would have difficulty
preaching on this passage.

*The Complete Gospels: Scholars Annotated Version* (Robert J. Miller, ed.,
Polebridge Press, 1992) has a helpful comment.  The Pharisees had malice in
their hearts as they put their question to Jesus.  He responded by jousting
with them, using his own scriptural quotations to counter theirs.  He gave
precedence to the opening chapters of Genesis over the Mosaic tradition
from Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  In a subsequent and private conversation with the
disciples, he did not forbid divorce so much as remarriage.

That may not be a very satisfactory solution for the modern age.  Perhaps
it would be best for us to acknowledge our sinfulness and failure in
creating lasting relationships for whatever reason.  There are many
different reasons why divorce may be the best of bad options.  Roman
Catholicism adopts another attitude that tends toward casuistry.  Absolute
divorce is forbidden but a marriage may be annulled when it can be shown
that a true marriage did not exist according to the appropriate doctrine 
of the church.  A marriage deemed to be non-Christian in the eyes of the
church, however, may be granted an absolute divorce.  For most mainline
Protestant churches, divorce can still present tricky questions which does
not have an easy or logical religious solution.  As the influence of
churches in society declines, marriage and divorce may best be left to the
civil authorities to deal with while the churches concentrate on the
spiritual and covenantal aspects in both premarital and post-marital
counseling.
     
                         
copyright  - Comments by Rev. John Shearman and page by Richard J. Fairchild, 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these resources.



Further information on this ministry and the history of "Sermons & Sermon - Lectionary Resources" can be found at our Site FAQ.  This site is now associated with christianglobe.com

Spirit Networks
1045 King Crescent
Golden, British Columbia
V0A 1H2

SCRIPTURAL INDEX

sslr-sm