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Bible Study: Proper 22 (B) – 2012
October 07, 2012
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
It has been said that the Book of Job is where the Bible runs off a cliff! The text probes the mystery of suffering, but ultimately yields no satisfactory answer. The great contribution of Job lies in its realistic assessment of the explanations that traditional theology often provides for suffering. Those traditions held that the recipient deserves suffering, that God wills it, that there is always a reason. This masterpiece of literature is in touch with a deep reality of the human experience – that sometimes suffering is inexplicable.
In our passage today, let’s focus on the response of Job’s wife. “Do you persist in your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). We anticipate that Job would say this, but he does not. In fact, we are in only the second chapter of the book and God has already been vindicated in his exchange with the Satan – Job does not curse God, just as God predicted. Job’s wife, however, has something to teach us. When faced with this tragedy that she cannot understand, she becomes angry and rages. This is an easy route to take; such feelings come to all us quite naturally. Job, however, does not follow her. Instead, he chooses to make the journey into his woundedness, wrestling with his hurt, wrestling with God, spending those days and nights in the ashes, facing the stark reality of his pain. Job, like Jesus, teaches us that we must be willing to enter into the dark mystery of suffering and our deepest wounds if we are to see them be transformed.
- Discuss Job’s response to his suffering vis-à-vis that of his wife.
- How might a journey into our deepest wounds and hurts allow God to transform them into something sacred and life giving?
This psalm presents a paradox – the same Creator who made things as wondrous as the moon and stars cares deeply about human beings. Carefully echoing the theology, themes and vocabulary of Genesis Chapter 1, this psalm underscores the juxtaposition of God’s majesty with human insignificance. The psalmist also wonders at the beauty and diversity of creation, while exhibiting a keen awareness of the relationship humanity has with other creatures. Like Genesis 1, the psalmist evokes the idea of “dominion” – “You give him mastery over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet” to describe the place of humanity in the created order – a concept that implies stewardship, care and concern. This psalm links the theme of human beings crowned with honor and glory with our responsibility to other creatures. As those made in the image and likeness of God, we are to act as the image and likeness of God (i.e., as God’s viceroys). This requires a attitude of stewardship, protection and attentiveness on our part, not exploitation, marginalization or abuse of the created order.
- Why did the psalmist link the idea of humanity having “mastery” over creation with the Lord’s name as being “glorious over all the earth” (v. 10)? What are the implications of this for Christian living?
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
The Epistle to the Hebrews is not really a letter but more of an extended sermon that seeks to make three points: Jesus is the word of God; Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross atones for sin; Jesus has special insight into the heavenly world of God (The Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 1249). In these opening verses, Jesus is recognized as the fullness of God’s communication, and the author of the epistle establishes a very “high” understanding of Jesus by noting Jesus’ heavenly seat, and superiority to the angels. For some time in Christian contemplation of Jesus, there has been a great emphasis on what is called “high Christology”, i.e., Jesus’ divine attributes. In more recent years, Jesus scholarship has reoriented the focus toward his humanity. Today’s text reminds us to remain aware of both: Jesus did indeed serve as the fullness of God’s communication to humanity, and in human form; but there is also the mystical, unknowable dimension of Jesus that is his divinity. This is a paradox to be contemplated.
The remaining verses are an interpretation of Jesus in light of Psalm 8. In Chapter One of Hebrews, Jesus was extolled because he is the son of God; here because he is a human being. We see quite clearly how the ancient writer is using the psalm to serve interpretative ends. The psalm is cast as a reference to Jesus, not humanity as a whole. But Jesus does stand in solidarity with human beings during the time when he was made “lower than the angels” (v. 9) because he shared the experience of death and because we all share the same Creator parent (v. 11). Even though Jesus is now enthroned in heavenly glory, he is still our brother (v.11).
- How do we, as Christians, understand Jesus as the definitive word of God in the context of our post-modern, pluralistic society?
- How do you interpret and contemplate the paradox that Jesus, the divine Messiah now gloriously enthroned in heaven is our “brother” who shares our humanity?
In the culture of Jesus, marriage was not primarily a joining of two people, but two families. And the ideal marriage partner was a man’s father’s brother’s daughter. Cousin marriages were and to some extent still remain the norm in Middle Eastern culture. A divorce then was a major family trauma, involving dynamics of honor and shame. Perhaps Jesus saw the pain and even violence that could result from rent families, and is here exhorting his audience to avoid such circumstances. The church has not taken Jesus’ teaching literally. In fact, this is one of a few direct, unambiguous teaching of Jesus that we do not follow. (Another, for example, is Jesus instruction not to swear oaths, see Matthew 5:33-37.) Contemporary pastoral theology views Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel as an ideal, but we accept that it is an ideal that will not always be reached, and we act with compassion toward those who divorce.
Jesus also teaches that one must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Some have interpreted this passage to mean that Jesus is saying that we must become simple in mind and obedient as children are. An alternative, more mature way of seeing this text is to recognize that children accept every moment with a sense of joy, wonder, innocence and trust in the goodness of life. They are deeply present in the moment, free from anxiety about the future, holding no regret about the past, basking in the peace and contentment of the moment. Perhaps Jesus is inviting his audience to a similar way of embracing the world – the place where his Father’s kingdom is to come.
- How do you interpret Jesus’ teaching regarding divorce?
- Discuss Jesus’ instruction that one must receive the kingdom of God like a child. What does this mean for a mature adult of the modern church?
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This page is available in: Español