This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
The Lord Answers Job
38Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings* shouted for joy?
8 ‘Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,
11 and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?
12 ‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,
13 so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and it is dyed* like a garment.
15 Light is withheld from the wicked, and their uplifted arm is broken.
16 ‘Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
At last Job has his wish: God heeds his demand and begins to provide an answer which is a series of devastating questions exposing the necessary limits of Job’s human understanding. We can only wonder at the art of the author of this drama: he has prepared his readers for the moment when God will respond and doesn’t let them down. He gives to the Creator a marvellous rough ironical voice along with an intimate appreciation of his universe and its creatures.
God’s questions are not simply a put down-“How can a mere creature understand the task of a creator?”-but a revelation of that task and of the creator’s care for his/her creatures. Job has complained of lack of justice-he, a good man, has been let own by God-but now he is asked if can even begin to appreciate the intricate structures and balances which determine the nature of the universe.
Of course the author is playing games with the reader: after all, it is the author’s human wisdom which is creating this extraordinary image of the creator! So, we may say that human faith, intelligence and art combine to invent a picture of God that we find not merely convincing but devastating. Indeed the words written down convey much but they also succeed in pointing beyond themselves, beyond human understanding and beyond the created universe, to one who cannot be described but only worshipped.
So every time I think that I have a cast-iron case against God, I should hear myself being asked, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began?” or “have you entered into the springs of the sea?”, not in order to rule my questions out of court but precisely to treat them seriously, as in a court, by the personal testimony of my divine adversary. This is God’s tribute to questioning faith: that s/he comes to answer it.
<!– 45 –>The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.47So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place* and our nation.’49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all!50You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’51He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation,52and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.53So from that day on they planned to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
The age-old cynicism of power is well-portrayed here in the remark of Caiaphas, that it’s expedient for one man to die for the people, rather than for the nation’s interest to be compromised. This has been used by tyrants and democratic leaders alike to justify unlawful arrests, tortures. show trials and surreptitious murders throughout history. President Obama judged it right that one man, Osuma Bin Laden, should die for the people of the USA. This weekend some moslem thugs have judged it right that individuals who had nothing to do with the offence should die for Islam’s easily- offended honour. Jesus Messiah takes his place in the long list of those whose deaths have been considered expedient by the powers-that-be. But the gospel writer’s irony tells us that this victim did indeed die willingly for the good of his people and not only for them, but for all the scattered children of God. The One who brings God’s disturbing goodness into the life of the world, will refuse to betray that goodness and will continue to pour it out even in death. It is then that God will have to answer an even greater queston than that posed by his servant Job, namely the one posed by his crucified servant Jesus: is this really your goodness or only mine? Is this the way to death or life?