Dear blog readers,
I’m off to the Sierra Nevada in Spain with my brother to enjoy some clmbing for the next few days. I doubt if I’ll have access to a computer, so probably there will be no more daily material until Tuesday of next week. I’m always grateful for your interest and comments and hope the interruption of service won’t put you off!
This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Job Is Humbled and Satisfied
42Then Job answered the Lord:
2 ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.”
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’
7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.8Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.’9So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
Job’s Fortunes Are Restored Twofold
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.11Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money* and a gold ring.12The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.13He also had seven sons and three daughters.14He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.15In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.16After this Job lived for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations.17And Job died, old and full of days.
Today we get the end of the great drama invented by an anonymous Jewish author who should be ranked with the greatest writers of the ancient world. His purpose has been to take the traditional religious pieties of his people and expose them to a devastating examination: that God blesses the righteous and brings down the unrighteous; that God always answers the prayers of good people; that God is like a super-human and can therefore be judged by human minds; these and many more pieties beloved then and now, have been shredded by the incidents and arguments of this play. At the end we are given a vision of a God who is intimately involved with his creation, yet as creator, utterly beyond human understanding.
The ending underlines the message. Job says that when when he stood in judgement on God he had been ignorant: he knew of Him by the ‘hearing of the ear’, that is, through religious tradition, but now God has let himself be ‘seen’ , that is, He has revealed himself to Job in a moment of grace; and although He has shown that Job’s judgements were utterly inadequate, He has affirmed the rightness of his stubborn faith in God’s goodness. In contrast, the pious comforters who advised Job to abandon his uncomfortable questions are condemned and made to seek Job’s prayers for their pardon. The play ends with Job restored to health and happiness but he and the reader know that life is less just and God less comprehensible, albeit more marvellous, than they had imagined.
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
This apparently trivial incident is seen by the author as a sign of the future when faith in Jesus Messiah will spread to the non-Jewish peoples of the world. He applies Jesus’ words about the seed to this transformation: the single seed, Jesus’ human life, falls into the earth and dies, but it bears fruit in the faith of people all round the world. The life risked, the life poured out in love, the life apparently snuffed out, is the creative life which transforms the earth. This wisdom is at the heart of Christian faith: those who trust in Jesus receive this life as the very life of God given for them; while they are also encouraged to make of their own lives a similar offering, for love of others and of God. To have faith is to live in a profound sharing of life that the worldly wise will never understand. The ways of God are stranger than even Job could know.Jesus’ words are very precise: “whoever loves me must follow me”-no mushy love withut commitment!-“where I am there will be my servant also”-that is, the servant will share Jesus’ suffering and death as s/he will also share his eternal life.