This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Paralympic Games start in London
Job 8:1-10, 20-22
Bildad Speaks: Job Should Repent
8Then Bildad the Shuhite answered:
2 ‘How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind?
3 Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty* pervert the right?
4 If your children sinned against him, he delivered them into the power of their transgression.
5 If you will seek God and make supplication to the Almighty,*
6 if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore to you your rightful place.
7 Though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.
8 ‘For inquire now of bygone generations, and consider what their ancestors have found;
9 for we are but of yesterday, and we know nothing, for our days on earth are but a shadow.
10 Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?
20 ‘See, God will not reject a blameless person, nor take the hand of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.’
This was one of the trick questions in my 1950’s Sunday School:
q: Who is the smallest man in the Bible?
a: Bildad the Shuhite (shoe-height)
Bildad meets Job’s complaint against God’s justice on the well trodden grounds that he’s simply being impatient. In time, God will restore him and bring down the wicked. There are two things wrong with this:
1. Even if it were true, why does Job have to be harmed at all?
2. It’s not true. Experience shows the many decent people have it hard all their lives. Just being born in Syria, for example, might be enough.
The dramatist who creates these scenes is very good at reproducing the sound of pious wisdom, a kind of grave, weary, middle -aged sound, which is full of respected cliches but lacks rigour.
In the face of misfortune, Job, and Jesus are rebels, insisting that human beings do not have to accept diminishment of life but can make it better. Last night at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in London Professor Stephen Hawking, himself suffering from quadriplegia, suggested we should look at the stars and not at our feet. (Yes, I know that actually we need sometimes to look at our feet in case we fall down a hole..) Every paralympic athlete is a rebel against the passive acceptance of dis-ease and dis-ability. Both Job and Jesus rebel in the name of God.
14 About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.15The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning,* when he has never been taught?’16Then Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.17Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.18Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
19 ‘Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?’20The crowd answered, ‘You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?’21Jesus answered them, ‘I performed one work, and all of you are astonished.22Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath.23If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath?24Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.’
Here Jesus enters into controversy because he has healed a man on the Sabbath day. He states that his teaching comes from God. How can he know that this is so? Only, surely by virtue of a relationship with the one he calls Father, and an assurance that this is not a delusion. There is a monstrous daring about Jesus’ assurance that makes it possible to understand those who doubted him. His “teaching” however is its own witness; for it’s not a philosophy but an active commitment to the flourishing of human beings. God, it seems, is this pure goodness for his children.
If religion gets in the way of God’s goodness, Jesus says ,then so much the worse for religion. Jesus is depicted as having a ferocious desire that all people should enjoy the “abundant life” which is God’s gift to them. Jesus does not wonder why God has allowed this man to be ill: he heals him reckoning that the healing gives glory to God.