A Reading from the Book of Job (42:1-6, 10-17)
Job answered the Lord: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.
1 I will bless the Lord at all times; *
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2 I will glory in the Lord; *
let the humble hear and rejoice.
3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord;*
let us exalt his Name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me *
and delivered me out of all my terror.
5 Look upon him and be radiant, *
and let not your faces be ashamed.
6 I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
and saved me from all my troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
and he will deliver them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
happy are they who trust in him!
A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (7:23-28)
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark (10:46-52)
Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
As those who have been participating in our weekly Adult Forum know, our Sunday readings during this time after Pentecost have consisted of three separate series, with little or no connection tying them together. Our Old Testament readings have taken us through selections first from the books of Samuel and Kings, and then from some of the lesser known books from the collection sometimes referred to simply as “the Writings.” Our second readings have been taken from 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, James and Hebrews. And, except for a five-week break in late summer, our gospel readings have come from the gospel according to Mark
Only occasionally have all three readings for any given Sunday focused on a common theme. Today is one of those occasions. All three of today’s readings have to do with seeing in a new way, seeing more completely and clearly. Our first reading completes the story of Job, in which Job comes to see more clearly the impossibility of answering his questions and opens himself up more fully to living in the impenetrable mystery of God. In our second reading, the author of Hebrews leads his audience to see Jesus as the great and eternal high priest: the source of life for those who trust in him. And in our gospel reading, Bartimaeus comes to see, both literally and figuratively, as he regains his sight and becomes a follower of Jesus.
Sometimes in life, we see things in distorted ways. Either we misunderstand what we see and hear, or we try to reshape reality to make it seem to be it what we want it to be. (If you’re really good at that, you might have a career waiting for you as a political “spin-meister.)
One person who has a way of cutting through some of those distortions and trying to help others see a bit more clearly is commentator David Brooks of the New York Times. He happens to be my own favorite syndicated columnist.
Late this summer, he wrote an article titled “The Credit Illusion,” in which he explores the question of how much credit we deserve for what we have and for what we have supposedly accomplished, on the one hand, and how much gratitude we owe for the opportunities that we have been given and for the other gifts that we have received: opportunities and gifts that have enabled us to have all that we have and do all that we have done, on the other.
In addressing that topic, he takes us through what he calls the four stages in our adult lives. In our 20s, we carry the illusion that we are, by and large, masters of our fates; that, he says, is good because it impels us to make the best use of our time and our talents in order to accomplish important things, confident in own autonomy. In our 30s and 40s, we focus less attention on own autonomy and on our independent gifts and talents, and focus instead on finding our place within larger organizations and within society in general; we see these larger entities as guiding the world, and we see our role as finding ways to negotiate ways in and through them. In our 50s and 60s, we realize that relationships are more powerful than individuals; and we focus on building those relationships as the most important thing that we do, both for our future and for the future of the wider community.
Finally, in our later years, we look back and recognize the fact that all of life has been a gift: that we are what we are and have what we have and accomplish what we accomplish largely because of what has been given to us. We are recipients of a long heritage of culture and religion and learning: a heritage that has formed our values and our approach to life and that has made much of our way of life possible. We are fortunate to have been born in a time and in a place that has enabled us to have so much more than most of our fellow human beings could ever hope to have. We were born to loving parents and have had the support and encouragement of family and friends and teachers and mentors who entrusted us with a desire to learn and succeed, with the opportunities that we needed, and with a confidence that we could successfully use that learning and those opportunities. We are blessed with natural talents and abilities for which we can take no credit whatsoever.
All of these have come to us as pure gifts: blessings that have made possible everything that we have, everything that we have done. As St. Paul asked so pointedly in First Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?”
All that we have is a gift. We have all been blessed abundantly; therefore, we have no reason for boasting. When we come to recognize that fact, when our eyes are opened like those of Bartimaeus, then our only adequate response in life is gratitude.
But gratitude is not genuine if it remains merely a matter of words. Like the word who became flssh and made his dwelling among us, our words of thanks need to take on flesh and blood. They need to lead to action. They must become a living and integral part of our lives.
That, in a nutshell, is what stewardship is all about. Stewardship begins with us seeing in a new way, in a more complete way. It begins with us recognizing the fact that everything that we have is a gift; and it then leads us give thanks. And that thanks, if it is genuine, impels us to give a significant part of all that we have received to help accomplish the work of God: the one who is the ultimate giver of all good things.
As we at St. Mark’s focus this month on our stewardship of our time, talent and treasure, as we work to determine thoughtfully and prayerfully what our offering to the work of God is going to be during the coming year, we need to do so by recognizing first of all that everything that we have is, in fact, a gift. We need to affirm that all we possess – which includes our money, our time and our God-given abilities – that all of these things are not really ours. Instead, all of them belong to God, who has entrusted them to us to use to do God’s work in in the world. And it is only when we affirm that that we can be sure that our eyes have been opened, that we, at last, are seeing clearly, and that we are ready with sacrificial generosity to give thanks in action to the God from whom all blessings flow.