21st June 2015
The book of Job looks like a tale about a happy family man whose goodness is tested by God to see if it survives ill-fortune. Even in translation it is quite poetic and has contributed various phrases to our language and themes to our literature. Nearly all of the 42 chapters of the book are long poetic speeches, mostly by his friends telling him to repent because he must have done wrong to be so treated by God; they were the first “Job’s comforters.” But Job keeps interrupting these speeches proclaiming his innocence and wanting an explanation from God Himself. In our reading (Job 38:1,8-11) God begins to speak, accompanied by a whirlwind; but it’s not quite what Job is looking for; God reminds Job that He is the one who is creating this wonderful world; with remarkable imagery God likens His act of creating to that of a mother giving birth, yet we know that this creating can be a struggle over a period of time. So is the message for us that like an infant we should just take what comes and love our Mother, creator?
Whereas in Job creation is an ongoing and developing, sometime awkward process, in our second reading (2 Cor 5:14-17) Paul expresses the Christian understanding that since Christ we experience a new dimension to creation; through His life and death in our ordinary world, there is a transformation – the impact of His resurrection manifesting the availability of a new way of living for all. We don’t know quite what he meant by “for all” because generally at that time and perhaps ever since then, Christians have assumed this graced and elevated life was just for believers, not for anybody. There are different translations into English which indicate the difficulty this idea is for some Christians: the International Standard Version has [with my emphasis] “Therefore, if anyone is in the Messiah, he is a new creation. Old things have disappeared, and—look!—all things have become new!” The King James Bible has “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The New International version has” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Some versions seem to limit the new creation to Christians, others to the whole of creation. At least Paul is saying that we who are followers of Christ should be living in a new way; and this is a message for us.
Though God is the powerful creator and there is a higher dimension to the life in the world, yet there are always going to be difficulties and always a way through them though not necessarily out of them. So now after his collection of parables, Mark begins a new section with miracles, of which we read the first in Mark 4:35-41 this day. It is the account of a mighty storm at sea as the darkness sets in; it is bad enough to really scare the disciples in their boat, despite the fact that many of them are fishermen and should be used to this weather. The crossing has been suggested by Jesus and it is from Jewish territory to Gentile territory; this reflects one of the stormy arguments in the early church about admitting Gentiles to join the followers of Jesus; it is really unimaginable for some people, but Jesus if called upon can calm the storm. This is another instance of the process that goes on in our world where problems and difficulties arise, but God is ultimately in control of everything. The reading is a lesson for us Christians today, not just for the first recipients of the gospels, for we experience this very process of storms and calming in our lives, in the church and in the world as we know it.