30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 24), Year B

Job 42.1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34.1-8
Hebrews 7.23-28
Mark 10. 46-52


Verbal. Non-verbal. Direct. Indirect.

In one way or another we get our messages across. And most of the time, we do not communicate in just one form and none of us communicate in a vacuum. For example, IF WE BEGAN TO TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS YOU MIGHT ASSUME WE ARE 'yelling' THESE WORDS. But why? Well, because you have a historical experience that tells you ALL CAPITALS means excitement or louder voice or some such thing.

When you are talking with someone, you hear the actual words, you hear the way the words are being said, you hear the excitement or boredom or anger or interest in their voice, you often can see the accompanying facial expressions or other body postures that are involved.

Context is often important too. If standing in the shade of a tree on a pleasant fall afternoon your friend says, "please get me some water" you might assume they want a glass of water to drink. And if the same friend said the same thing while standing next to a burning car, you might assume something different.

And when you meet someone new, there is often a period (sometimes short and sometimes long) when you have to learn a bit about their habits or style of communication before you feel like you can really count on good, solid, healthy communication with that person.

This week's scriptures give us some good examples of different forms of communication to learn from.

In this final installment from the story of Job, Job gets to speak again. Remember that so far we heard of Job's great life, the discussion between God and the Tempter, how Job's life gets really difficult, how Job's wife and friends search to find fault with Job's life or with God (fault MUST lie somewhere, right?), Job's direct inquisition of God, God's fairly direct (yet indirect) response to Job, and then we get this last bit where Job realizes he had stepped out of his bounds and should not have questioned God the way he did. If this were a movie, we imagine Job would be holding his hat in his hands and looking at the ground as he said, "God, I am sorry. I forgot the cardinal rule--someone is in charge and it is not me." Job had yelled out to God not really expecting that he was directly communicating with God....at least he was not expecting a direct answer, and God communicated Directly back to Job, and Job realized that his approach to communicating with God did not show the appropriate respect it should have--and he repented. Hmmm....Job was able to find his humble place in the Creation and he realized that God wasn't beyond direct communication, and his life got better again....we wonder if that means anything.

The Psalmist is praising the Lord and along the way, making some statements about being in direct relationship. Beginning with praise continually in the speaker's mouth, inviting others to join the exaltation, seeking the Lord and being answered, this is a person who is engaged in some sort of regular dialogue - communication - with God. And this person is pretty sure that there is deliverance in that dialogue.

In Hebrews, our writer is probably drawing on what a Jewish community would understand about the priesthood and along the way making some metaphorical statements about Jesus priesthood. Of particular interest to us in our reading is this notion of the priestly role of intercessor. Now, there is a lot of mixed trinitarian opinion about how God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit interact with one another and with creation, but our writer is suggesting that Jesus is the ultimately priestly intercessor, and that his single sacrifice in dying on a cross is enough sacrifice for all of us for the rest of time - no need to sustain blood sacrifices while the priests are praying on behalf of the people. Now we've all learned about some risks of triangulated communication - but perhaps with Jesus as our intercessor, it really has more to do with how we relate to the trinity as we pray for things. Do we need one part of the trinity to be more "approachable" or easier to talk with?

Finally, in Mark's gospel, we see another healing act of Jesus. Entering Jericho, Jesus encounters a man at some distance yelling for Jesus to have mercy on him. The man is blind. Jesus sends his disciples over to get the man and Jesus asks him - what do you really want? And the man answers that he wants his sight restored. Jesus tells him that by his faith he has been healed. Now, perhaps it was not clear at a distance what the man might "want" in asking for mercy. But we also wonder - what is Jesus teaching about naming needs. How many times do you mutter something like God, help me instead of speaking very specifically - God, I need sleep. Help me to relax into a sleep that will restore my patience for the work that is ahead of me. Or Jesus, I am afraid that I cannot deliver on the promises I have made to other people. Help me find the strength to approach them with honesty and discuss what I can and cannot realistically do right now. Big difference, eh?

The very basis of our faith is a covenant between God and creation. Covenant is about relationship. It's not a simple promise, it is two parties turning time and time again toward one another. We suppose, deep down, that requires that we show up in relationship - that we communicate. That we listen actively, seek understanding, name our feelings, state our needs, test our understanding once again, and test consensus. It's what we're called to do and how we're called to be - communicators.

How do you communicate with God? with Jesus? with the Spirit?
How is your communication with others different from that? Should it be?
Is communication hard? Why? or Why not? When? With whom?

Here I am.
Today, I want to engage with you.
I want to share with you
my day and my joy and my fear
and my wonder and my anger
and my laughter and my tears.
I want to show up.
Hear me and open my ears
so that I hear and listen
to the cadence of your voice
in my life.

© 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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