- The Revd Camellia Flanagan
Riches and faithfulness
Pentecost 21B Job 23:.1-9, 16-17, Hebrews 4: 12-16 Mark 10: 17-31
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
The word of God is not simply a collection of words from God, a vehicle for communicating ideas; it is living, life-changing and dynamic as it works in us. With the incisiveness of a surgeon’s knife, God’s Word reveals who we are and what we are not. It penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life. Nothing can be hidden from God. His Word discerns what is within us, both good and bad. And he loves us.
The demands of God’s Word require decisions. Can we not only listen to the Word, but also let it shape our lives? Even when we are unaware of his presence, God is there. When we try to hide from God, he sees us. We can have no secrets from God. It is comforting to realize that although God knows us intimately he still loves us.
This is something that Job knew one might say, he knew in his bones, but Job continues to question God in the portion of the Old Testament reading set for today, saying that his suffering would be more bearable, if only he knew why it was happening. If there was sin for which he could repent, he would. He knew about the wicked and the fact that they would be punished. He knew God could vindicate him if he so chose. In all his examples of the wicked in the world, his overriding desire was for God to clear his name, prove his righteousness, and explain why he was chosen to receive all this calamity.
Job tries to make his friends see that questions about God, life, and justice are not as simple as they assumed
If we declare loyalty to God, if we are genuinely committed to God, we can stand up to opposition and examination from any quarter, because we know that God loves us more than any friend or parent.
Judaism was not an easy religion. Divinely designed, it was the best religion, expressing true worship and devotion to God. The commandments, the rituals, and the prophets described God’s promises and revealed the way to forgiveness and salvation.
Christ came, the Messiah, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, conquering sin, shattering all the barriers to God, and freely providing eternal life to those who believe. This message was difficult for the Jewish people to accept. Although they had looked for the Messiah for centuries, they were entrenched in thinking and worshiping in traditional ways. Following this radical preacher from Nazareth seemed to repudiate their marvellous heritage and their profound Scriptures. With caution and questions they listened to the gospel stories of Jesus’ teachings.
The Epistle, the second reading today, is in the form of a sermon, although generally it is known as a letter to the Hebrews. We are not sure who wrote it, but whoever did, speaks of Timothy as “brother”. We do not know if he is a filial brother or a “Brother in Christ.” In any case it appears to have been written to second generation Hebrew Christians who may have been considering a return to traditional Judaism, and perhaps even struggling with the new faith. They may have been suffering persecution, socially and physically from other Jews and from the Romans.
The Christ whom they though would return to establish a kingdom had not yet come back and the people needed reassurance that Christianity was true and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and that He was completely sufficient for salvation.
To the Jews, the high priest was the highest religious authority in the land. He alone entered the Holy of Holies in the temple once a year to make atonement for the sins of the whole nation (Leviticus 16) The Hebrew people needed reassurance that Christ is superior to the priests, and that his priesthood is superior to their priesthood. This writing gives the assurance that like the high priest, Jesus mediates between God and humanity and as humanity’s representative; he gives the assurance of God’s forgiveness. Jesus has more authority than the Jewish high priest because he is truly God, as well as being truly human. Unlike the high priest who could go before God only once a year. Christ is always at God’s right hand, interceding for those who come to him.
We also have the assurance that he is always available to hear us when we pray and we can approach him with confidence.
This was the confidence that Job had, that in spite of everything, God loved him, even approximately 2000 years before Christ came and physically demonstrated that love by dying for the salvation of all.
In the Gospel reading we find God’s love again in the story of the rich young man who wants to know what to do.
His idea is to seek perfection. We find James and John with the similar goal. They are wanting what they think is best for them, the perfect life side by side with Jesus in positions of honour. As with the rich young man, Jesus does not criticise them for desiring the best for themselves, but he teaches them the two important things about Christian perfection. There is the path to it, the way of committed discipleship, then there is the becoming a servant like Jesus. Becoming a true servant or slave requires humility, and looks toward our perfection as human beings. It is a permanent and a complete about turn. It is not assuming a role, but completely becoming a servant, putting the other first, through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word working in us.
Jesus tells the young man to sell what he has and give it to the poor and the man goes away sad. Jesus looked at him and loved him. And this is surprising, because here we find that the failed person, the young man who couldn’t come up to the expectation Christ set, is the one looked at and loved.
In whatever situation we find ourselves, Job’s calamity, the Hebrew peoples’ lack of understanding or the Young man just wanting to be accepted, the Word of God reveals the loving nature of God giving us the assurance that he is always available to us, and we can approach him with confidence. The Word of God is living and life giving if we take it to heart and let the Spirit of God dwelling within us help us to understand just how much God truly loves us.