Monday, September 12, 2016

12 September 2016
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Gird up your loins like a man;
I will question you, and you declare to me. Job 40:6-7 (NRSV)
Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. Acts 15:37-40 (NRSV)
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:4-8 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. In today’s lectionary reading God continues to respond to Job. Most commentators consider vs.6 and following to be the Lord speaking. However, some allow for the possibility that vs.8 and 10-14 constitute another challenge by Job to the Lord’s authority. In this case Job would be challenging God to reveal His essence by bringing down the proud-presumably his friends who continue to falsely accuse him. Only then will Job acknowledge God’s true power. In vs.15-24 God ignores Job’s demands, reminding him He alone has power and authority over all creation.         
            If this second interpretation is correct, we can certainly identify with Job’s frustration. Remember, he has lost all his possessions, lost all his children, his body is covered with boils and sores and his wife is encouraging him to curse God and die. Job has lived with integrity and yet his friends, claiming to understand how God works, refuse to accept his innocence and continue to urge him to admit to sins he did not commit. Job has absolutely no idea what is happening to him or why. We can easily imagine him demanding God pour out his anger on those who actually deserve His punishment. Only then he will acknowledge God’s power and justice.
             And then there’s verse 8: “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you even condemn me that you may be justified?” (Italics mine). Would God really accuse Job falsely just to make Himself look good? Is God really allowing this just to make some cosmic point? If this seems harsh, remember-God does not see things the way we see them. These are not casual questions-they demand careful thought. Job will come around and be restored; his friends will be exposed; but God never does fully explain Himself.
            Anger figures in the Acts passage as well. After Paul and Barnabus decided to set out on the second missionary journey they argued over whether or not to take John Mark. Barnabus favored restoring Mark; Paul would have none of it. Luke tells us their “disagreement became so sharp they parted company” (15:39). Eventually Paul and Mark were reconciled, but, given the close relationship Paul and Barnabus had developed the situation must have been heated indeed.
            Our Gospel lesson also addresses anger, sort of. Judas Iscariot becomes indignant when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. Judas wanted the money for the poor (or does he; John tells us Judas was, in fact, a thief). Jesus says the poor will always be with them but He will not. These words may be hard to understand but I think they have to do with honoring Jesus with a simple act of kindness. Remember, Judas was a thief. He was paying lip service to the mission but Mary was demonstrating love for Our Lord. Judas’ anger represents those who care more for outward appearance (and getting their own way). Jesus reminds us once again love is the greater law.
            So there you have it. Three anger events. It seems to me the common thread is a focus on self-I haven’t done anything to deserve this; I was betrayed and I won’t let it happen again; I want those things for myself.  When you have your next anger event, take a few seconds to see if you fall into one of these categories-self-justification, betrayal, envy. Or some combination. Or none. But just taking the time to think about it will help you deal with it. Anger and frustration are a part of life. We do not need to hide these feelings from God-He has heard it all before and, besides, He already knows. Let God be God. Let Him turn your anger into something better.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG 

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