For Oct. 25, 2012: Proper 25, Year B

The Reading            Job 42:1-6, 10-17

When Job the righteous lost everything, his friends imputed this to his sin. In today’s reading Job, having angrily challenged God and heard God’s reply, acknowledges God’s sovereignty and recants his challenge. The reading omits the verses in which God scolds Job’s friends for misrepresenting God and bids them ask Job to pray for them. This is a God who can bear human anger—and a man who can live again and love after disaster.

 

The Response            Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22

 

The Epistle            Hebrews 7:23-28

The letter to the Hebrews continues to explain how and why Jesus is the ultimate high priest: resurrected, Jesus continues to intercede for us, and sinless Jesus was able to sacrifice himself once for all the sins of all of us. “The word of the oath” refers to the quotation from Psalm 110:4 in last week’s epistle reading:

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

 

The Gospel            Mark 10:46-52

 

Further thoughts

The scriptures for Proper 25 bear in large measure on seeing straight and speaking straight.

Job’s outburst at God earns Job an outburst in return—but Job is also called “my servant”, because he sees and responds to things in God that his well-meaning friends have missed. First, Job surmises that God is too big, too God, to be in the business of doling out gold coins only to the good kids and lumps of coal only to the bad kids, as humans tend to do; second, Job keeps talking to God even when it seems that God’s back is turned on Job; third, God Most High is also God Right Here, listening to Job’s grief and even his anger.

As for the blind beggar in the gospel, we know little of his past, except that people see him as someone who should be seen only at ground level and heard not at all, a nobody—calling him “Bartimaeus” is like saying that my name is “Ed’s kid”. But sightless Bartimaeus has insight that those around him miss: not only is this Jesus the Son of David, the Promised One of God, he is very much in the business of mercy for the marginalized—and so Bartimaeus tells it and yells it.

Job and Bartimaeus see and speak, but they also act and risk. Job prays for his unenlightened friends. That his fortunes are restored sounds a bit pat in the reading, but no child comes without begetting, which is an act of love and a bet on life itself—and Job and his wife raise fully ten more children, each so loved that the daughters receive inheritances alongside their brothers. Blind Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak, which is all his warmth and all his security: letting it fall where he can’t count on recovering it by touch is betting quite literally everything on Jesus’ mercy. Then, having received his sight—and, one senses, much more—he goes out into the world to follow Jesus.

The psalm praises, and the epistle to the Hebrews spells out, what it is that Job and Bartimaeus glimpse: a priest unlike any other that either Job or Bartimaeus would have known, an unprecedented sacrifice, and above and through these a God Most High who is also by God’s own preference nearer than my own heartbeat. This is Jesus who calls me to share the banquet of God’s love and reminds me urgently that the party has already started: the people to share it with are here and the time to share it is now.

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