Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 23, Year B
October 10, 2021
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Job is in great distress. Not only is he suffering physically and mentally, he is also in a state of spiritual crisis. He imagines that if he could confront God, he might be able to reason with God or to argue logically his way back into what he perceives to be God’s favor. He imagines that he would be able to make his world right again by his own efforts. But God seems to have made Himself absent from Job. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” Job has entered a dark night of the soul where his usual efforts at prayer fail him. Job asks now only to be covered in darkness.
When the world overwhelms us and we find ourselves at the end of our rope, physically exhausted, mentally spent and spiritually bereft, do we trust in our own efforts? Or can we allow ourselves to sink into the dark mystery of God and let Him minister to us?
In the full green of ordinary time, where we find ourselves on the Church calendar at this point, we encounter this Psalm that we more closely associate with Holy Week and Good Friday. We can hear Jesus’ heart-wrenching cry of abandonment – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We too know what it is like to be so abandoned. We too know what it is like to be surrounded by despair and the enemies which threaten our tranquility and serenity. But we too are connected to a people whom God delivered…to ancestors who trusted in God and were saved.
In the midst of all the chaos and turmoil of life, can you connect to the faith of your fathers and mothers which has been passed down to you? They trusted in God to deliver them. Can you?
Grace and Mercy – two offerings from God to help us in time of need. We are encouraged to approach God boldly with outstretched hands to receive these gifts. “We pray that your grace may always precede and follow us that we may continually be given to good works.” This prayer from our Collect of the Day places us authentically before God with Christ by our side. Jesus is the Word of God. He is living and active and able to reveal us before God as we truly are. He does not do so as one who does not understand our trials, because He has faced them Himself. He stands with us before the One who sees us as we really are.
Jesus is the Word of God and He is revealed in Scripture which is also the Word of God. If you want to connect with the living and active Word of God who stands with you, Scripture should be part of your daily Rule of Life. Do you read Scripture every day?
In this Gospel story, Jesus meets a man who wants to know the requirements for eternal life. Jesus starts by suggesting adherence to those six commandments which concern themselves with loving one’s neighbors as one’s self – with living authentically in community. When the man tries to justify himself, instead of becoming impatient and irritated with him, Jesus looks at him and truly loves him. Jesus then goes after the one thing that prevents this man from completely loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength – his wealth and worldly possessions. Unless God can become more important than the thing that is most important to this man, he does not stand a chance.
Do you see Jesus looking at you and really loving you? What prevents you from being in authentic relationship with God? What keeps you from loving God with your complete self? What is the most important thing to you that might stand between you and God?
Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.