Out in Scripture

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Proper 22), Year B

God comes to us in our flesh — on our terms — to draw us into right relation with one another and all of creation.

This week’s lectionary Bible passages: Job 1:1, 2:1-10 and Psalm 26 or Genesis 2:18-24 and Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

A conversation among the following scholars:

“Our world can be cold, vicious and alienating. It is a blessing when we find persons who both seek and are capable of mutual relationships. This contributes to God’s desire that we experience fullness of life.”—Michael Miller

“God is always God-with-us.”—Charles Allen

“These texts invite us, ultimately, to see our worth as human beings — loved and valued by God.”—Holly Hearon

Mark 10:2-16 has often been used against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) folk. Some readers claim that Jesus is defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. But here, Jesus is explicitly answering a question about how a husband should treat his wife (Mark 10:2). He emphasizes that when two people become one flesh, God is in that union. Because of that holy union, neither is free to treat the other as disposable property (Mark 10:9- 12). Children, as well, are not disposable property because God’s reign belongs first to the most vulnerable among us (Mark 9:14-15).

Furthermore, this is not the last word on relationships. Jesus won’t let us use Scripture to continue to use and misuse God’s children. Jesus says that the Scripture of his time is a response of God’s open heart to the hardened hearts of God’s people (Mark 10:5). God’s Word comes to us in our flesh and on our limited terms. God works among us through our limited ways. No Scripture passage is the last word. We have to search Scripture for signs of the open community to which God is drawing us. Moses knew that. Jesus knew that, and so did other rabbis. But many of us have forgotten it.

Genesis 2:18-24 (cited by Jesus) is another passage used against LGBT folk. Perhaps you have heard the ridiculous attacking expression, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” But this passage shows God working with the first human to find a suitable partner. God does not decree who Adam’s partner will be. God instead offers Adam innumerable choices and discovers that only a “one flesh” partner (Genesis 2:24) can awaken Adam’s delight. When we love those who awaken our delight, we follow Adam’s and God’s original example. It is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), so we work with God toward relationships that awaken our delight.

Psalm 8 also speaks of God at work in and through our care for God’s works. “Dominion” is a dangerous word (Psalm 8:6) when used to control nature only for a short-sighted or self- possessed desire. But it can remind us that the future of many species is in fact in our hands. Will they join us in moving toward God’s open community? Or will we stand in their way? God lets us shape that future, for good or ill.

Hebrews 2:5-12 alludes to Psalm 8 in order to continue making extravagant claims (begun in Hebrews 1:1-4) about Jesus. The author speaks so extravagantly because of a conviction that the end of all history was at hand (Hebrews 1:2). After 2,000 years, Christians should be careful not to use these claims about Jesus as excuses to ignore what God has been doing in other faith communities, especially in Judaism. God comes to us in our flesh, on our terms, “in many and various ways” (Hebrews 1:1). We Christians have found the shape of Jesus’ life, death and risen life to be definitive even of the way we think of God (Hebrews 2:8-12). We need not apologize for that, but we should not expect others to apologize for putting things differently — not if we mean what we say about the shape of Jesus’ life!

Both the writers of Job 1:1, 2:1-10; and Psalm 26 refuse to see evil’s apparent triumph as the last word about our lives or God’s life. In the face of evil, Job refuses to put himself or God under a curse. The portraits of God in this book are disturbing, and the book offers no explanation for why the innocent suffer. But Job refuses to “blame the victim” (himself!). At the end of the book, God commends his refusal (Job 42:7). The psalmist likewise refuses to see evil as a judgment from God. Placed alongside the other passages for this day, we are invited to see God working and speaking through this refusal to blame the victim. We even see God revealed in the persistent insistence that God had better turn out to be just, and also in the refusal to see oneself, or anyone else, as defective goods.

Prayerfully Out in Scripture

Giver of all life, move among us and through us, in our loving and our living. Draw us toward your community of welcome. Amen.