Year B — Proper 22 (The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Commentary for October 7, 2012
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings

Job 1:1, 2:1-10
“There once was a man down in Uz,
   who lived a good life, just because.
He never cursed God, though his wife sure did prod;
   A just man, he, if ever there was!”

Psalm 26
On most days, I don’t think I’m quite brave enough to pray v.2 from this psalm. 

Asking for God to test me, try me, and prove me (isn’t there an old gospel song that goes something like that?) sounds like a dangerous thing to do. Look where it got Job! (see above)

Haughty spirit aside, v.3 is a wonderful prayer thought to keep in front of us: “Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.”

I believe that’s the key: it is God’s faithfulness that we watch — and that we just keep heading toward.

Genesis 2:18-24
“No, I don’t think that’s gonna do it for me!”

Can you imagine the seemingly endless refrain, as God paraded one creature after another before the man in the garden, searching for a “helper as his partner.” (v.18)

Bird — no. Goat — no. Elephant — no. Baboon — definitely not!

But when God decided to whip up a woman — well, then God got the man’s attention! Now, I don’t want to get too patriarchal or sexist here, but there is something about this whole “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” thing that clearly brings a little snap, crackle, and pop to the man’s morning!

What a wonderful creation human love — in all its forms — truly is. Gift of God, grace upon grace. And behold, it was very good!

Psalm 8
Babies and bulwarks are among the images that I don’t get right away when I read the NRSV of v.2.

I admit I had to check the definition of “bulwark” just to be sure I had it straight. From dictionary.com

a wall of earth or other material built for defense; a rampart; any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance; any person or thing giving strong support or encouragement in time of need, danger, or doubt”

Okay, so I get that God is a bulwark, and builds bulwarks in our lives, and generally brings on the bulwark just when we need it most. But, what do the mouths of babes and infants have to do with God founding a bulwark in order to silence God’s enemies?

Unless it’s such a fundamentally obvious thing that God will protect us that even babes and infants know it down deep in their souls — which is why, perhaps, they’re never afraid to cry when they need a little help?

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

For the writer of Hebrews, Jesus is simply “above all.” 

There are no powers of heaven, nor is there anything on earth that even comes close to being what Jesus is and doing what Jesus does. 

Fine. Punto. 結束. Diwedd. The End. -30-

Mark 10:2-16
Men, women, divorce, adultery. It’s all a little mind-boggling trying to get at what Jesus really wants to say here.

I know the literalist arguments built from this text that have bound many a miserable marriage partner in difficult and untoward situations. I am also fully in favor of marriage partners doing everything they can to hang in there when times are tough.

But I have seen with my own eyes — and counseled from my very own pastoral couch — couples that simply needed to let it go, dissolve a marriage, and move on. It happens.

The best news is that the grace of God is present and available in even the most difficult situations. And I think it is no accident that we have another “child story” to salve the wounds of the marital dissolution discourse here.

Even a hellish union can produce the marvelously grace-filled gift of a child. With God, nothing is impossible.

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

“As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus . . .”
Almost every Saturday afternoon, I listen to the opera on the Public Radio station. Don’t be so surprised. I like opera. Not as much as I like Lynard Skynard or ZZ Top, but I like Opera.
Well, okay, I don’t. 
Not really, but I like the idea of liking opera. Deep down inside, I feel like I ought to like opera, that a well-educated person should like opera, and so . . . on Saturday afternoon’s I listen to opera.
This is kind of like the theory my wife used in trying to feed our two sons liver and broccoli. She thought if she put it in front of them often enough eventually they would walk in the house one day and say, “Gee Mom, what’s for supper? I could sure go for some liver and broccoli right about now.”
Anyway, I listen to opera in the vague hope that someday, somehow, I’ll start to like it and then I can count myself as a genuinely educated and cultured person. Every once in a great while I find myself kind of liking a piece, nodding my head and humming along and I think,  “Gee, I’m starting to like this opera stuff after all.”
But then I realized that the opera pieces I like are the ones they used as soundtracks for the Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd cartoons I watched as a child — and I’m back to square one. It’s not music appreciation; it’s just nostalgia for my childhood.  I’m still listening, and I’m still hoping, but I’m 58. I don’t think this plan is working.
“As it is, we do not see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus . . .”
Many people in our world today are seeking Spiritual Enlightenment. In recent public opinion polls, more people are willing to claim being “spiritual,” than are willing to say that they are “religious.” Some people go looking for “spirituality,” the way I have gone looking for “culture and sophistication,” and with about the same level of success.
People explore the latest prayer techniques and different churches and praise bands and labyrinth walks and Alpha Bible Studies and the Wild Women of the Bible Weekends and Seeking Your Inner Child Men’s Drum Circle Sweat Lodge and I don’t know what all.
And whatever it is they think they’re looking for, if it isn’t where they are, well, it must it over the hill or around the corner or in the next place they look or the next.
“As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus . . .”
The author of the book of Hebrews is, in this text, dealing with the fact that while the biblical witness is that God is in charge of the world; when we look around us, it is difficult to see the evidence that God (or God’s angels, “them”) is actually in charge of much of anything.
As one of my unbelieving college professors put it, “If God is really in charge, he, she or it is doing a lousy job.” War, drugs, disease, natural disaster, economic collapse, starvation: need I go on? Does this look like “everything in subjection. . .” to God?
And let’s be honest with one another. The church, the place those of us gathered here have traditionally looked for hope and meaning is in a confused place right now. 
In almost all denominational families it is a time of change and uncertainty and discomfort.  Arguments about sexuality and theology and worship and decline fill all our churches. It is a time when people are searching for what a prayer in the Lutheran Funeral Service calls a “sure and certain hope.”
The little word “yet,” is vital to understanding not only this text, but also the promise of the Gospel to us at times like these. “As it is, we do not yet see . . .” As much as we yearn for and look for and yes, do battle for, certainty and security, the Bible constantly reminds us of what Luther referred to as the “hiddenness of God.” It is sometimes referred to as the “already-but-not-yet” Kingdom of God.
As we look around the world for God, God is often difficult to see, difficult to pin down. And sometimes, just when we think we have the holy in our hands, it slips away as we realize we were mistaken; as I was when I thought I liked opera but it turned out to be cartoons I liked.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that we are to look to Jesus to see what God is doing in the world. We are to look particularly at the fact that Jesus gave up his place at the right hand of God to become human like us. “Who for a little while became lower than the angels,” the text says. And that as a result of this coming into humanity with us, Jesus suffered and died and “tasted death for everyone.”
“….we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus. . . .” is the promise that in Jesus all we hope for and all we need is present.  
In the community of faith we see Jesus in the midst of a world where God is often heard to find.  We hear Christ’s voice in the readings and hymns and songs and liturgies and sermons. We see our Lord’s face in the faces around us; we feel the divine touch in the touch of another’s hand at the passing of the peace.  Most of all we see and feel and receive Christ in the meal, in the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus.  “We do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus . . .”
And we are called to go out into the world and help it to see and hear and feel Jesus too.  There is a post-communion prayer from the United Methodist service of Holy Communion that goes something like this, “Just as this bread and cup have been Christ for us; send us out to be Christ for the world.” 
Amen and amen.

5 thoughts on “Year B — Proper 22 (The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

  1. Well, KT, we love what we do…what can we say? I can't tell you how Delmer does it, but he has a gift. I will have to take the credit/blame for the limerick. I don't know why it struck me that way, but we just sort of "go with the flow" here at the Lab!

  2. Diwedd?? The End?? A Bubba who knows some Welsh?? I've always enjoyed this blogspot (its the first one I turn to every week), but now…. wow.Seriously, thank you for your thoughtful, humourous takes on the readings and your exceptional sermons.

  3. Paul…as my secret idol, Eeyore, would say: "Thanks for noticing!" I have a curious hobby for picking up odd bits of multiple languages, though I'm fluent in very few. Just seemed a good way to put the period on God's work in Christ!

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