Sermon Notes for Sunday 14th. October 2018.
Job 23:1-9, 16-17. Job longs to put his case before God, but he does not know how to find God. If he could get to God’s dwelling place, he believes, he could lay out his case, but God is absent to him.
Psalm 22:1-15. A cry for God’s presence and rescue in a time of great persecution and trial in which God seems to have forsaken the Psalmist. God is holy and the Psalmist’s ancestors trusted God and were saved, but now the Psalmist is being attacked, and is suffering greatly and no rescue seems to be forthcoming.
Hebrews 4:12-16. God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing into the deepest parts of our beings and judging our thoughts and intentions. Therefore we need to keep our trust in Jesus who was tempted in every way, as we are but did not sin. In him we can draw near to God’s throne and find grace.
Mark 10:17-31. A wealthy man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus answers that he must follow the commandments – which the man claims he has done. Then Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him, at which point the man goes away sad. Then Jesus teaches that it is very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s Reign. When Peter points out that the disciples have left everything to follow him, Jesus responds that those who have left behind loved ones and possessions for the Reign of God will receive much more in return, both in this life and in the one to come.
The Reverend Tania writes,
The overwhelming awareness in this week's Scripture passages is of the reality of suffering, and the pain and indignity that it brings. In Job, the suffering of Job is made worse by his sense of abandonment by God, and his longing to put his case before God. In Psalm 22 the sense of abandonment is echoed, as the Psalmist speaks of being persecuted, without any sense of God's presence or rescue.
In Hebrews we find the assurance that Jesus is trustworthy because he was tempted as we are and overcame, and because he offers us mercy. Finally in the Gospel, after graphically revealing how hard it is for the wealthy to embrace the sacrificial life of God's reign, Jesus assures his disciples that their sacrifice - and the persecution which they will certainly experience - is not in vain, and that God will restore good things to them.
A huge part of the struggle for those who suffer is the sense of loneliness, isolation and unwantedness that is brought on by the pain, and that heightens it. Even Jesus shared this experience. However,underlying all of it, is the assurance of God's compassion and the mercy that God offers. And, in Jesus' words in Mark's Gospel, there is the call for us to be agents of God's mercy, grace and friendship.
Every community has suffering people, but often these people find themselves feeling isolated and marginalised even within our churches. Too often we try to avoid facing or acknowledging the reality of suffering, and in the process we leave sufferers feeling hurt, humiliated and lonely. This week, is there a "wealth that you can give to the poor" in your community? Whether it's a wealth of friendship or compassion or support, we do have wealth to offer struggling, sick and lonely people. The friendship, the "standing with" and the acknowledgment is often a far more powerful gift than any material help we can offer - which sometimes only confirms our superiority and further disempowers. Furthermore, when we face suffering ourselves, it is always important that we have the humility to receive the help and compassion of others,and not embrace a proud, stoic aloofness. It is only as we walk through suffering together that we can really experience and reflect the mercy and compassion of God. May we never use our worship as an escape from suffering, but allow it to drive us to be the presence and compassion of God to those who suffer wherever we may.
Prayerfully, Rev. Tania.