Sermon 11th October 2015

Trinity 19 2015 Pr 23 Job 23:1-9,16-17 Heb 4:12=16 Mark 10:17-31

Job is an interesting character.  He is affluent, influential and generally enjoying a good life.  He has all he could wish for and more. Suddenly it all goes. It begins with his goods and status and ends with his family.  Through all he remains faithful to God.  In the odd moment he has a moan but I think he should be allowed that. His friends come to see him to begin with but they don’t know what to say and their visits drop off. He becomes isolated, sitting in a pit wearing sackcloth and ashes, the attire of mourning and loss. He wants to remonstrate with God whom he sees as the author of his misfortune but he cannot find God wherever he looks.  His friends or companions are not much help.

We are bound to ask, as he does, what has brought his troubles about. In a later age the writer of the letter to the Hebrews has a go at answering and it is about the closeness of God to humanity.  In the marriage service the preface speaks of the marriage relationship being like that of Christ to his church, as close as it can be, skin to skin, below skin to below skin, one inside the other, “naked and laid bare”.

What Job knows about himself God knows already and before. Job is smitten by his conscience. You may have seen the broadcast the other week of J.B. Priestley’s play, ‘An Inspector Calls’.  A police inspector visits a family celebrating an engagement with the news that a young girl has been murdered.  They wonder what it has to do with them and he proceeds to tell them.  They have all, in one way or another, exploited the girl for their own gain or pleasure.  At the end of the play it transpires that the inspector does not really exist. It is probably the family’s collective conscience manifesting itself in their self-seeking and complacency. A murder does happen and it all comes home. 

The Letter to The Hebrews introduces us to this idea of a high priest. One who stands to represent God to the people and the people to God. What we do today has the same idea about it. One stands at the table of Christ, a servant to God and humanity at the point where consciences open up under the scrutiny of God in the intimate act of eating and remembering. The high priest of Hebrews is the Christ of God showing us God and God us. Being God and human. Standing where heaven and earth meet, where all that we think might be valuable is stripped away.

Mark records one of those moments when Jesus reminds his hearers of what they know already but prefer not to remember, the uncomfortableness of being weighed down by the accretions of life.  The challenge for us is in Job who remained faithful. Jesus goes on to remind his hearers of something else.  It is without their power to change things.  It is only in their submission to God that life may change.

Today’s world sees much struggle for what humans value and the result is bitter conflict and horrible death. Be it in the halls of democracy or the theatres of battle it is the same.  “… many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

© Frank Wright 2015

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