4th February 2018
This first reading (Job 7:1-7) is a very brief extract from a poetic story of high literary quality and revealing theology. Our English language has adopted various phrases from it: by the skin of one’s teeth; multiply words without knowledge; miserable comforters. Its story was retold in a Pulitzer prize-winning book in 1950, and there is an inferior children’s version here. Job was a man with multiple woes and unsympathetic, inadequate comforters, who spoke quite forcefully to God about his plight and after a long and tortuous time still remaining faithful to God, found relief through visualizing the awesomeness and grandeur of God and His creation. We all have times of upset and perhaps a sense of injustice – but remember the end of the story, untold in this reading!
Earlier in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:16-23 passim) Paul has dealt with the question of Christians eating some of the food on sale in the marketplace that has been sacrificed to an idol of pagan belief. Some think that Christians should not eat this food, while others think that since there are no real gods other than their one God, there is nothing wrong with eating this meat. Paul agrees with the more liberal view but wants to promote the avoidance of upsetting those Christians who think eating this meat is wrong and hence recommends abstaining from this meat if it gives scandal to other believers and finishers chapter eight writing “if food offends my brother I will never eat meat again so as not to offend him.” But Paul knows that many of the community are liberal in this matter, and that they are aware that he, as a leading Christian in the church, not only is liberal minded but also ought to be an example of this more enlightened view and of the consequent freedom in what one eats. Because of this he now writes to them about restricting one’s own freedom for the sake of others since the good of the community is more important than anything. Paul now exemplifies his attitude with reference to the question of payment for himself as their preacher and pastor – he feels he must sacrifice himself for others.
After the synagogue sermon we read about last week Jesus and the first disciples go to the house of Simon and Andrew (Mark 1:29-39) where it seems they will be staying – an extended family. I always smile to myself when I read how Jesus finds Simon’s mother-in-law not well, so cures her and – almost seems, so that – she can then wait on them. This is obviously an anecdote from Peter himself that Mark has heard of. That evening Jesus frees a lot of people from various difficulties, but it is clear that He really wants to get back to the task of preaching about the kingdom. But notice also that Jesus needs a time of solitude to pray as though as to recharge his energies before he gets on with his task of preaching and freeing people from their demons. We all have some sort of demon that we need to be freed from and we need to follow his example of taking time with God before we get on with our ask in life.