27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 22), Year B

Job 1:1, 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

It is really hard to remain blameless and upright and full of integrity.

Or so we are told.

Both of us have had periods in our lives where we worked hard to be blameless and upright and full of integrity. And when that didn't work out we both worked hard to at least APPEAR blameless and upright and full of integrity. In that process (looking in the rear-view mirror) we can see we were working toward the acceptance and approval of others and we were WORKING toward the External acceptance and approval of God. When all of that didn't work out we have finally found some ways to accept the reality of being flawed humans who are (even in all our humanness) loved and forgiven and accepted by God.

In this week's readings we see folks who are struggling with these issues and ideals of perfection and flaws. We see folks struggling with what it means to follow the rules. And we see folks struggling with what it means when following the rules does not suddenly create a life free from suffering.

Job is a classic story. The story and troubles of Job get quoted by people who have never even read the story in the bible. Most folks know his story - trouble upon trouble is heaped upon him and in his misery and his confusion, he remains faithful to God. And there really never is a good answer to why Job suffers the way that he does. Good things happen and bad things happen, and still there is God. Being upright and full of integrity didn't serve Job particularly well...at least it didn't keep him from suffering. But that is not to say that turning his back on God would serve him better. Life is hard that way. All of Job's good works could not move God from what God would do. What motivated Job's faithfulness? Is it possible that his motivation was really the source of his troubles? That seems a lesson learned the hard way (and aren't the best all learned the hard way?).

In Psalm 26 we find someone who is so confident in God and in his ability to be faithful to God and he is asking for the type of tests Job was put through. And something we wonder is whether anyone is capable of really trusting God's power until they have been through a time of trial, a time when they seemed to be experiencing one tragedy after another, when they have truly had to rely on the fabric of God's love as their only cover.

In the passages from Hebrews the writer is describing and admiring the perfection of Jesus and the cosmic work of salvation that came in and through Jesus, and specifically through Jesus' suffering. It is no wonder, when reading outtakes like this, that much of mainline Christianity has regarded Jesus' suffering as some of his most important work...and somehow that got skewed over time as an endorsement of a certain level of pain and suffering to achieve salvation. But in total, Hebrews encourages covenant faithfulness in God, following Jesus' example even in persecution. And at the time it was written, Christians were really struggling to shape there identity and to be accepted. These words were written to people facing very real persecution - persecution because of their desire to be faithful followers in Jesus' example. We wonder what we are really called to suffer today, and whether perhaps the act of trying to be righteous for the purpose of finding love and acceptance that is already ours doesn't sometimes create more suffering than peace.

And in Mark we see a conversation between Jesus, the Pharisees, the disciples of Jesus, and Moses (sort of). They are talking about divorce and adultery. This is another in a string of situations where Jesus is taking the questions of behavior and rule-following and elevating them to the ultimate level (remember poking your eye out and cutting your hand off?). When the Pharisees were trying to catch Jesus in a trap by asking him about a question of adherence to religious law, convention, and culture he responded by reminding them that what they were looking at was also a spiritual question. They were asking what was Permissible and Jesus was telling them what it took to be Blameless. Next, Jesus is scooping up children that the disciples would keep from him. Children by nature are better able to see true good (until they achieve some age...we're still investigating when that begins and ends in our house) and true evil as opposed to the permissive space that the Pharisees were examining. Have you ever felt like a child could see right through a situation?

We've been reading a LOT about Works and Grace over the past few weeks. This weeks readings have us reflecting and remembering that we are beloved and it is from that place that we can reach out into the world and BE.

How hard to you work to be blameless, upright and full of integrity? How is that working for you?
What does it mean for you to be flawed? How do you value yourself as a flawed human?
What are the benefits of knowing your flaws?

Grace-filled and loving God -
Spirit, Breath and Presence...
Help us to settle into our own imperfection
and to understand the gift
that is in that settled space
and then to turn that gift loose
to Love others
without Condition
or Judgment.

© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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