Old Testament Reading
Job 1:1, 2:1-10
There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the 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.” Then Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face. The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
The readings today are all about relationships. The reading from Job talks about Jobâ€™s relationship with God. It talks about Jobâ€™s relationship with his wife, his friends.
Hebrews is about our relationship with Jesus.
Markâ€™s reading is about our relationships with each other.
This week begins a four week span of readings from Job and as we read Job we have a space where we can wrestle with difficult questions. We are invited to acknowledge that there is pain in the world. There is pain in our communities. There is pain in our families. The book of Job, talks about that pain. Pain that sometimes seems to us to have no reason. We are invited to think about important questions like, if we believe that God is blessing us when good things happen, do we also believe God is punishing us when bad things happen? If the good prosper, does it mean that if you are poor, you are not good? And even more, why do we believe? Do we have faith in God only so He will bless us? Or do we have faith in God so He wonâ€™t sabotage what we are working to achieve on our own?
We wear T shirts and have bumper stickers and crosses on our walls and quote snippets of scripture and we know that the bible says multiple times, â€œDo not fearâ€ and we like easy to memorize sayings. I donâ€™t know about you but I prefer straight forward answers. Job does not give us that.
Does this actual conversation between God and satan take place exactly as it is told in the book of Job? Is it a story that is supposed to teach us something? We donâ€™t know. But we do know Job does not know what is going on behind the scenes. He has no idea why all these things happen to him. Jobâ€™s wife seems to be asking the question of what is the point of being blameless if it doesnâ€™t mean there will be blessings.
But we need to remember too, that in the midst of sad times, we also find Godâ€™s grace, sometimes in the most surprising ways. The thing that keeps hitting me is that those surprising things usually happen through people.
We are reading and discussing the book â€œHow Not To Save the Worldâ€ by Hosanna Wong on Wednesday nights and the chapter we read this week was all about how Her father was led to Jesus because first, someone opened the door. Second, there was a conversation. In that conversation the Holy Spirit brought about conversion and it changed Hosannaâ€™s fatherâ€™s life forever and he spent his life in ministry because of it, and Hosanna herself, as well. Because of that open door, many other people were ministered to and the person who opened that door never knew.
All relationships start that way donâ€™t they? Not necessarily opening an actual physical door, but being open where ever you might be, to a conversation with someone. Even the book of Job begins with a conversation. Beyond just conversation, I think it is worth mentioning that satan in this conversation sees Job. But God sees beyond the outside – He sees who Job is inside. God sees the inside.
Itâ€™s hard for us to really see who someone is without having conversations with them. And once we have opened that door, itâ€™s hard to ever see someone the same again. Because sometimes through conversations with each other, we begin to understand each other and know who we each are on the inside. It brings us understanding of why we are the way we are. That changes us both. It moves from conversation to relationship.
The Great Commission is for us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The quote from Hosannaâ€™s book that stuck with me this week? â€œWhy would anyone believe that the God we serve wants to know them if we donâ€™t even want to know them?
The book of Hebrews is all about explaining that Jesus is better. Jesus is better than the prophets of old. Jesus is better than angels. Hebrews 2:21 tells us â€œFor the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father, For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,â€ In Hebrews we are told that God SPOKE to us through His son. The Word. Conversation.
Now we all know that not all conversations lead to relationship. Some are not even meant for relationship. In Mark, some Pharisees had a conversation with Jesus. But their goal was not to know Him better. It was to trip Him up and He saw through their questions to who they were. They had hard hearts. They had no need of Him. They were holding their laws and their beliefs clutched so tightly that they missed out on a real and growing relationship with God. And maybe, that is the point that Mark is trying to make here. If we are not willing to open ourselves up to a relationship with God, we are missing out.
In the reading from Mark, Jesus says what God has joined together, let no one separate.
A relationship ending is sad and painful for us and for God, because we were created for community. We were created for communion with God and with each other. We are Jesusâ€™ brothers and sisters which makes us each otherâ€™s brothers and sisters and Jesus moved through barriers. He did not limit his conversations to the church leadership. He opened doors for all people, because He, being like God, saw past the outside, saw past the mistakes, saw past the clothes, the creed, and even who a person was at the time He met them. He saw who they could be. He saw their pain, their worries, their loneliness, and I think especially, their need. He knew something that the Pharisees did not. That we all have need of a savior, from the most pious to the most broken, to the tiniest children.
Even the disciples, who tried to stop the children from coming to Jesus, didnâ€™t understand. Jesus opens the door for everyone. Jesus IS the Word. Jesus is the conversation that brings us back into relationship with God.
Hebrews 1:2 said that His Son whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds, and John 1:1 says in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jesus IS the conversation that God has with us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the one who heals us and through Him, grace fills in that gap between us and God and brings us back into relationship with Him.
If we go back to those questions that weave through the book of Job and skip to the gospels and see who Jesus sought out to have conversations with, to heal, to feed, then our idea of what the word blessings means in the context of the bible is blown up. Because while Jesus came for all, rich, poor, religious, confused, we can read the beatitudes and see that when someone asks us how we are and we respond with something like â€œIâ€™m blessed!â€ we are probably not thinking in terms of what Jesus had to say about being blessed. Are we poor in spirit (needing a savior)? Are we mourning? Are we meek and thinking of others? Are we hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Are we merciful? Pure in heart? Peacemakers? Have we been persecuted for our faith?
Following Jesus is complicated sometimes, mostly because we complicate it. But it is also simple and we have the Holy Spirit to help us.
We serve a God who opens doors. We serve a God who loves conversations. We serve a God who wants a relationship with us and who desires us to be in relationship with each other.
No one gets through this life without having some things just happen. But Job teaches us that our faith in God is not dependent on what is going on in this world, yet our faith in God does help us learn how to respond to the things that go on, in the world, in our relationships with others, in our response to trials. We do not have to endure trials alone or without hope. We have our faith to hold onto. We have Jesus holding our hands. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us.
Hebrews teaches us that growing in relationship with Jesus is the better choice. Mark teaches us that God takes our relationships with each other seriously and that we are not to harden our hearts.
Love God. Love others. Amen? Amen!