Revised Common Lectionary: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31
Revised Common Lectionary: God Provides Manna, Exodus 16:1-18 (John 6:51)
The first passage of the Hebrew scriptures continues in the second half of the season after Pentecost in Wisdom Literature, and for much of October, in the book of Job. In this selection, Job is responding to one of his friends, who has called upon Job to get in right relationship with God. Job’s complaint is that God has been absent—it’s not Job’s fault their relationship seems to be nonexistent—and he calls for a fair trial, where he could lay out his case before God. The opening scenes with God in the book of Job take place in the heavenly courtroom, and the prosecutor, Satan, has laid charges against Job. Now, Job desires to plead his case, to share his defense, to appear before God the Judge, but Job cannot find God. He believes God can do anything, and is afraid of what God might do, but disappointed in what God seems to be choosing not to do—not answering Job in the way Job wants to be answered.
Psalm 22 is a song seeking God’s help. In the first eight verses, the psalmist pleads with God, feeling abandoned and forsaken. They know that God is the one their ancestors trusted long ago, the one who delivered the people from harm, but the psalmist has lost all hope. They see themselves as a worm, not even human, unworthy of love. They are scorned and mocked by others. But in verses 9-15, the psalmist asserts that God has been with them since they were born. God delivered them safely then, and they pray God will deliver them safely now, for there is no one else. The psalmist is dried up, they’ve poured everything out and there’s nothing left to give. They are in God’s hands now.
The prophet Amos cries against injustice in chapter 5. The prophet urges the people to turn to God for their lives, because they have not practiced justice. The leaders haven’t listened to God’s ways and have trampled on the poor for their own wealth and gain. God knows their sins—they cannot hide what they have done to the poor, it is public knowledge. However, God is warning them. If they seek God’s ways, turn back to God, and instead of trying to justify their actions transform their lives for justice, God will remember them and perhaps they can be spared from the consequences of their actions.
Psalm 90 is a song of prayer to God, a reminder that human being’s lives are short, and to God, they pass by quickly. The first part of the psalm reminds the people that their days will slip away, especially when they do not follow God’s ways. In verses 12-17, the psalmist asks God to help the people remember to count their days in wisdom. The psalmist pleads with God to answer, to turn back to the people with God’s faithful love, even if the people have not always been faithful. The psalm calls for God to bless the work of the hands of the people, that their good acts will be seen, and God’s kindness observed by others. The psalmist hopes that their lives will count for something beyond what they know.
The Epistle reading continues its series in Hebrews with 4:12-16. The word of God here is the Word that became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). Jesus is the one who knows our hearts and our intentions. Everything is exposed before God, nothing can be hidden. Jesus is our high priest, one who has lived as one of us, died as one of us, and through his experience, we know we can be reconciled to God.
Jesus encounters a rich man in Mark 10:17-31 who wishes to inherit eternal life. He asks Jesus what he must do, calling Jesus “Good Teacher,” but Jesus questions him, because no one is good but God alone—meaning that this man either recognizes and acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore honors Jesus’ authority—or is saying it out of flattery. Jesus responds with a list of commandments, but the man says he has kept all of them since his youth. Then Jesus, in looking at him, loves him. He sees something authentic and real, and also heartbreaking. He tells the rich man that he lacks one thing: he needs to go and sell everything that he has, give the money to the poor, and then he will have treasure in heaven. Then he can follow Jesus. But the man leaves, grieving. Jesus explains to the disciples how difficult it will be for those with wealth to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus repeats himself, and the disciples are perplexed, wondering how anyone can be saved, but Jesus says its only possible because of God. Peter then boldly insists that they’ve left everything to follow Jesus—as if he is uncertain Jesus has considered them and their sacrifices. Jesus assures them that they will receive all these things as part of the reign of God—possessions, family, and friends, but also persecutions—and eternal life to come. However, Jesus still warns that many are first will be last, and the last will be first. Many of the disciples would die for the faith, even after experiencing Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and the beginning of the early church. Many of them would lose what is important in this world, in order to gain what is important to God.
The Narrative Lectionary focuses on “God Provides Manna” in Exodus 16:1-18. The people of Israel escaped their oppression in Egypt, crossed the red sea, and made it to the wilderness. And almost immediately, they began complaining about how there was no food in the wilderness. They remembered the food back in Egypt, especially how they could eat their fill of bread. So God made it rain down bread, manna from heaven. God also provided quail in the evening. The Israelites didn’t know what to make of the manna, a white flaky thin bread, but God commanded them to collect only what they needed for the day for their household. No matter how much they collected, at the end, everyone had just the right amount for their daily needs.
In John 6:51, Jesus identifies himself as the bread that has come down from heaven—whoever consumes his life, abides in his love, will have eternal life. The bread he gave for the world was his flesh.
What is important to us is not always the same thing as what is important to God, and this is a hard lesson. What we think we need to live a satisfying life is not necessarily what God desires for us. God knows our basic needs—food, clothing, shelter, love, care—but we often convolute our needs with our desires for more possessions, more comfort, more safety and security. Those latter desires can often shield us from perceiving injustice in this world. The wealthier we are, living in more affluent, secure areas—we never have to see a person experiencing homelessness, never have to travel through food deserts, never have to wonder if our electricity will be shut off. Instead, what is important to God is our relationship with one another and with creation. When Peter insists that he and the other disciples have left everything to follow Jesus, Jesus reminds them of what they now have—they now have family through Christ in one another. They have houses and farms and fields—through the generosity of others who have shared their lives with them. The early church in Acts 2-4 shows how the early believers lived out the reign of God by meeting each other’s needs instead of looking to satisfy their own desires. However, this is a difficult lesson for us. Jesus looks at many of us in love, and watches many of us walk away in grief from the life Christ has offered, because we have many things that possess us.
Call to Worship (Psalm 146:1-2, 6)
Praise the Lord!
Let my whole being praise the Lord!
I will praise the Lord with all my life,
I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.
God is the maker of heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them.
God is faithful forever,
And reigns with justice and righteousness.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Gracious and Wondrous God, we confess that we never seem to have enough. We desire to have more. We pursue what we do not have because others have it and we want it. We push ourselves to extremes, ignoring the poor, the oppressed among us, those whose voices we have marginalized, in order to assure ourselves of worldly success, security, wealth, and notoriety. Forgive us for our foolish ways. Lead us in Your wisdom to pursue justice and righteousness. Guide us in Your way of generosity to a spirit of abundant love and care for those in need among us. Hold us to Your truth and help us repent where we have gone astray to the ways of the world, instead of following Your way, Your truth, and Your life, through Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us. It is in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Our cup runs over in the house of God. There is always more than enough for everyone, and just enough for our daily needs. When we love, care, and serve one another, we serve Christ. Know God’s ways, trust in God’s truth, and be assured that you are forgiven, loved, and restored. God and share the good news. Amen.
God of all seasons, we take notice of You in the colors upon the earth. From spring in the southern hemisphere to autumn in the northern hemisphere, You are doing something new. Seedtime and harvest, You are painting a great canvas in our world of beauty and life. Renew our hearts, O God, in the turning of the seasons. Remind us how short and precious life is, Creator of All, so that we might count our days with wise hearts. Help us to enjoy Your earth and to care for it. Whether we are preparing bulbs for slumber or tilling the earth for planting, bless our co-creating with You, Holy One, and grow something new in us. Help us to perceive that You are doing a new thing, sprouting forth and changing, dying and rising again, for all things return to You, O God, Giver of Life. Amen.