Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, June 24th, 2018

There is so much going on around us.  As a nation, we are wrestling with the issues of immigration, asylum, justice, mercy, and compassion.  As a community, we are learning of a terrible fire that killed one person and hospitalized another.  As a congregation, we have many families in various stages of grief and many who are battling cancer or severe illness.

In the midst of all this turmoil, we come to the Bible readings for this upcoming Sunday, June 24th.  While we have the opportunity to commemorate St. John the Baptist, we will be using the Lectionary 12 readings during worship.

With all of these things in the background, plus whatever is happening in your life, what are the important ideas, themes, insights, and questions that pop into your mind as your read these passages?  I will share my thoughts below in italics.  I encourage you to use the comments section to tell me what reactions these readings (and my additional comments) provoke within you.

Job 38:1 - 11

 1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
 4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
 5 Who determined its measurements-- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone
 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
 8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?--
 9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,
 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,

 11 and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'? (Job 38:1-11 NRS)

God’s response to Job and his friends comes after approximately 35 chapters of debating the goodness and righteousness of God.  Job believes that he is be unjustly persecuted by God.  Some of Job’s friends are pushing him to confess the sin for which God is punishing him.  God’s invitation/demand for Job (and the others?) to “gird up your loins” means that he was asking him/them to tie up their long robe/tunic/garment, which often extended down near one’s ankles while walking or at leisure.  By “girding” the garment, the wearer would have more freedom of movement for labor or combat.  The rest of the passage can be summarized as God saying to Job, “Here’s who I am.  Who the heck are you?”

Psalm 107:1 - 3, 23 - 32

 1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble
 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

 23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;
 24 they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
 25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
 26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;
 27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end.
 28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;
 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
 31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Usually, the psalm serves as a response to the first reading.  On this day, however, the psalm seems to prepare us for the Mark 4 reading.  Other than the similarities to the claim that the Lord created the sea, this seems to point more to Jesus calming the storm than the Lord’s statement to Job.

2 Corinthians 6:1 - 13

 1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.
 2 For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,
 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,
 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;
 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,
 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;
 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;
 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
 11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.
 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.
 13 In return-- I speak as to children-- open wide your hearts also.

Paul points to the reception he has received from some among the Corinthians, which is similar to the negative reception he has received from other communities.  He is used to being welcomed with afflictions, beatings, and imprisonments.  And yet, he and his coworkers continue to pursue their callings and greet communities with open arms and hearts.  Paul declares that whatever hard feelings exist between the Corinthians and Paul (and, by extension, his coworkers) come from the Corinthians who are pushing back against Paul.

Mark 4:35 - 41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."
 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
 40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mar 4:35-41 NRS)

Those who are following Christ are still wrestling with just who Jesus is.  They have witnessed him heal illnesses and injuries as well as cast out demons.  But it appears that controlling nature is considered a step above these previous actions.

I remember a gentleman on a radio program broadcast in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area who proclaimed that all things could be healed by a declaration of “Peace, Be Still!” To be clear, he meant that each of us could claim this power of God, declare “Peace, Be Still!” at a problem, and the problem would go away.  It has yet to work for me.

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