The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24, 21 October 2018

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b


Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 9:9-16

Hebrews 5:1-10
St. Mark 10:35-45

Background: The Names of God

We know God especially in the unpronounceable name YHWH, which is corrupted into “Jehovah” taking the consonants of YHWH and the vowels of Adonai and mixing them together. There are other appellations of which we ought to be aware as well: “El” (God), “Eloah” (God), “Elohim” (Gods), “Shaddai” (Almighty), “Ehyeh” (I will be), and “Tzevaot” (of hosts). We also know of “Jah” an abbreviated form that appears in the psalms, “Adonai” (my Lords) which was spoken as a substitution for YHWH.

Track One:

First Reading: Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

[“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods cling together?

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God,
and wander about for lack of food?”]

In order to understand the poetic devices that the poet uses to describe God’s voice and answer to Job’s complaint, one ought to go back to the third chapter of Joband there listen to Job’s argument against God, and to see the themes of darkness described there. The initial image in our reading is the whirlwind, although the Hebrew word actually should be translated as “storm”. When we understand the direction of God’s argument it seems a much better word. God takes up the theme of darkness first used by Job, “who is this who darkens counsel?” Job’s death wish is confronted by God, who puts Job in his place. We are taken to the beginnings of creation, and we are asked with Job, “Were you there?” In the poem there are contrasting images of darkness and light – an answer to Job’s argument.

There pericope is split into three parts, with the middlemost part being elided from the liturgical reading. For sheer joy and beauty, you ought to read the missing lines. They have a broad approach to all of creation from the separation of land from water (the victory of God over the chaos of the Sea) to the waters the gush forth from the womb at birth. This is not just a creation for men, but for women and all of God’s creatures as well.

The third part of the poem is optional, but I recommend that you use it. It frames the poem in an understanding of wisdom, not just the knowledge of creation, but the Wisdom that emanates from God. It is God who places Wisdom in the midst of creation. In addition, we are treated to various aspects of creation, weather, the earth itself, animals – all of these are brought to Job’s attention.

Finally, and this is not related to any explication of the text, other than one artist’s depiction of the Job poem, please visit this pagewhere you can see William Blake’s various illustrations of the text.

Breaking open Job:
  1. Where do you see God in creation?
  2. Where do you see God’s wisdom in your own life?
  3. How does God calm your fears?

Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b Benedic, anima mea

     Bless the Lord, O my soul; *
Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
you are clothed with majesty and splendor.
     You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak *
and spread out the heavens like a curtain.
     You lay the beams of your chambers in the waters above; *
you make the clouds your chariot;
you ride on the wings of the wind.
     You make the winds your messengers *
and flames of fire your servants.
     You have set the earth upon its foundations, *
so that it never shall move at any time.
     You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle; *
the waters stood higher than the mountains.
     At your rebuke they fled; *
at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.
     They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath, *
to the places you had appointed for them.
     You set the limits that they should not pass; *
they shall not again cover the earth.
25    Lord, how manifold are your works! *
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

The task that the poet sets for himself in this psalm is similar to that of the poet in Job who gives God’s voice over to a description of creation. Here it is not God’s voice but a human voice that calls us all to see what God has done in creation. In the phrase, “you are clothed with majesty and splendor”, a Hebrew vocabulary is used that normally describes earthly regalia, that is now made up of heavenly and earthly elements. God is depicted as being a part of various actions, wrapping, stretching out, setting, making, walking, covering, speaking. Verse three is confusing only if we forget the firmament which separates the waters above the earth from those that are below.  Verse six describes the earth vs. the water – not a flood story – but a recounting of the primeval battle with chaos seen in the waters. Like Job we are bidden to see Wisdom in God’s creation, full of God’s works and creatures.

Breaking open Psalm 104:
  1. How do you picture God in your mind?
  2. What is your favorite depiction of God?
  3. How do you picture God’s Wisdom?


Track 2:

Track Two:

First Reading: Isaiah 53:4-12

Surely, he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

In Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece (see above) we have two visions of Jesus. In the resurrection panels we have Jesus as light, but in the crucifixion panels we see Jesus much in the same way that Third Isaiah saw the Servant who suffers. In the previous chapter, Isaiah describes the Servant in difficult terms, 

Even as many were amazed at him—
so marred were his features,
beyond that of mortals
his appearance, beyond that of human beings.”

In chapter 53 and in today’s reading he continues that description. We see the servant as an ordinary and unimpressive person – we think that he is being pressed by God. Go up to Track One and read the Job readings over the past weeks to see similar images. The servant, unlike his neighbors, is faithful to YHWH, and yet it is he who takes on the affliction that comes with not following God. The amazement that people have in seeing him is the realization that he was really the righteous one. Finally, we begin to see the true intent, “When you make his life an offering for sin”, an ‘asham, a temple offering that compensates for sin. 

Breaking open Isaiah:
  1. What are the defining descriptions of the Suffering Servant?
  2. Whom have you seen as suffering servants?
  3. How are you a suffering servant?

Psalm 91:9-16 Qui habitat

     Because you have made the Lord your refuge, *
and the Most High your habitation,
10    There shall no evil happen to you, *
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
11    For he shall give his angels charge over you, *
to keep you in all your ways.
12    They shall bear you in their hands, *
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13    You shall tread upon the lion and adder; *
you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.
14    Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.
15    He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.
16    With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.

One commentator has named this psalm an “amulet psalm” in that it describes the various protections offered by God to those who follow God. It is odd that the framers of the lectionary chose to offer only a partial offering from this psalm that enumerates God’s protections. Verse ten talks about a “dwelling”, while the Hebrew describes a more archaic scene, “a tent”. We see a glimpse back to a more nomadic time, perhaps a poetic conceit, but one drawn out of a people’s history. Various dangers are described – the rocky roadways, lions, vipers, and adders (oh, my!). The satisfaction that God offers to those whom God protects is depicted as a satisfaction that comes when one’s thirst is satisfied.

Breaking open Psalm 91:
  1. What protections do you seek from God?
  2. What dangers do you observe in life?
  3. How do you protect others?

Second Reading: Hebrews 5:1-10

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

This is a lectio continuafrom last Sunday’s second reading. The author continues his depiction of Jesus as the Great High Priest, and reminds that priests are chosen from the ordinary in life, and so Jesus is appointed as well. Jesus is described in two quotes, the first from Psalm 2:7– a Son, and the second from Psalm 110:4– a priest. The identification is complete with priestly acts, especially the prayers executed with “loud cries and tears.” This is not a priest who is separate from us, but rather one who shares not only in our humanity, but in our suffering as well. Melchizedek is the “king of righteousness” the king of Salem and priest of El Elyon (God Most High). We first meet him in Genesis 14where he greets Abram with bread and wine (thus the Christian connection and interpretation of this text) and blesses Abram. Thus, the author of Hebrews connects Jesus to the ancient priesthood and the patriarchal story.
and to lift up. It is so subtle that we may miss it, this invitation to be Christ-like.

Breaking open Hebrews:
  1. What do you think are a priest’s duties?
  2. How does Jesus embody these duties?
  3. What is priestly about your life?

The Gospel: St. Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

I think that is important to understand the immediate context of this pericope, the verses preceding it:

“They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentileswho will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.’”Saint Mark 10:32-34.

When we enter into today’s reading, James and John leap from Jesus third passion prediction to a request for status and favor. They were “on the way”, in other words, they are proceeding to Jerusalem, the place of judgment. Mark is clear to denote their fear, “and those who followed were afraid.” Apparently, their fear was not so great as to block their hubris. But it is not just James and John who have aspirations – it is all the disciples, “Teacher, we want.”Jesus tests their resolve in the face and midst of his own clear resolve. Was their request unrealistic? In both Matthew 19:28and Luke 22:30(both from Q) Jesus shares an image of shared oversight. Mark, however goes in a different direction. The glory that they anticipate can only been seen accompanied by suffering, death and resurrection. The other disciples are upset at the two for asking for something that they thought they might share in. Jesus sees the culture in which the operate, “You know that among the Gentiles.” The kingdom which Jesus hopes to usher in is of a different sort, “(I) came not to be served but to serve.” The status of the ancient world is turned upside down.

Breaking open the Gospel: 
  1. How do you feel about James and John’s question?
  2. Have you ever wanted to ask it?
  3. What has Jesus really called you to do?

Central Idea and Image:              The Suffering Servant

First Exploration:                          Hebrews’ depiction of the appointed ordinary man, Jesus, as the high priest.

Second Exploration:                     Priestly duties

Third Exploration:                        The Image of the suffering servant as an expansion of the priestly duties

Fourth Exploration:                      Can we follow?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday: 

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2018, Michael T. Hiller


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