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Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 OR Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 OR Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

Maybe the most important counsel a commentator on this week’s lectionary texts can offer to whoever hopes to preach them is to keep reading (I’m sure there’s a proverb about this somewhere, but darned if I can come up with one). The lectionary I consulted began with the text from Job, followed by excerpts from the 34th Psalm, and the combination left me, quite honestly, flabbergasted.

I know it’s just a story, and one with parallels in ancient Near Eastern pagan myths at that. I also know that the ending (chapter 42) is not altogether in keeping with the richly nuanced theology of the rest of the text. But taken at face value, I find those last verses of Job just a bit troubling.

I want to say to God, “OK, lemme see if I got this right. After you give Job – who to say the least had seen more than his share of abject suffering – a thorough dressing down about your respective places in the cosmic scheme, he says, ‘O, wow! I had no idea. I shoulda just kept my mouth shut. Sorry, God.’

“And then, after he prays for the friends who had added so much insult to his injury, you give him ‘twice as much as he had before.’ That’s twice the livestock, twice the servants, twice the children, plus a bunch of money and jewelry. And he lives another one hundred and forty years to enjoy it, which ostensibly makes everything pretty much all right!

“Are you serious? What the heck am I supposed to do with that? Do you really expect me to preach it?” Read more


Recreating Eaarth

Proper 24: Year C

Jeremiah 31:27-34

“There is…no inconsistency between creation and salvation”–so says St. Athanasius, the 4th Century Bishop of Alexandria.  Athanasius was trying to articulate how it was that God could become incarnate in human flesh–a mind boggling reality as much in our day as it was in his.  For him, the turning of the human will against God had not only resulted in a loss of communion, but also a kind of de-creation.  As Athanasius put it, “Man who was created in God’s image…was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone.” Christ, being God’s Word present and active in creation from the beginning, had to come in human form so that he could re-create the world and show humankind how to be human in the face of the “dehumanizing of mankind.”

I thought of Athanasius, of the mixing of creation and salvation, when I read Jeremiah 31:27-34 in our lectionary for this Sunday.  Here we have the people of God, Judah and Israel, very much in a state of de-creation–broken down, overthrown, destroyed.  But against this, God is promising that the “days are surely coming…when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.”  This seed isn’t for the same kind of humanity, the kind that turned and turned again against the grain of the universe.  Instead this new humanity, saved and recreated, will have the laws of God on their heart–the ways of acting rightly in the world will be a part of their very nature. Read more


The Deep Hope of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34.

What is the new covenant that God has made in Christ and what does it mean for our life in Christ today? This question is an essential one raised by today’s Old Testament text.  The ways in which Christians have answered this question through the centuries have often led to anti-Semitic attitudes and oppression of the Jews.  The gist of the reasoning has been that the Jews screwed up and God had to start over from scratch and now the Christians are the people on whom the blessing of God rests (and, of course, the Jews are outsiders, heretics and the ones who had Jesus crucified, and thus worthy of having all manner of violence inflicted upon them).

Is this really the sort of God, covenant and people that Jeremiah is proclaiming here?  I hope not, but let’s look a little deeper.  Gerhard Lohfink, in his classic work Does God Need the Church?: Toward a Theology of the People of God sheds some light on this passage:

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