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Minnesota Episcopal
Environmental
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We meet quarterly close to the solstice and equinox.


Special Projects:

Creation Season Materials


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Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds


Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations

 

 

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Members of MEESC reside around the Diocese of Minnesota and are available to assist you and your congregation in their environmental stewardship walk.

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Creation Season 2012
October 7– October 28, 2012
(Proper 22 through Proper 25, Year B)

Proper 22, Year B
(October 7, 2012)

Humans Interacting/Reconciling with
'this fragile Earth, our island home'

Homilist's Notes

Welcome! We're glad you're planning on observing a liturgical season of creation. We have prepared some materials for you to use in worship, teaching, and personal reflection.

The Reflections and Notes on the readings for this Sunday are available for you to use. You may

  • copy and paste what you wish from this page directly to your preparation materials or
  • download the materials as part of a reference materials for the individuals involved in preparing religious education, homilies, or special liturgical materials for your Service.

RCL Readings for this Sunday:

Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Job 1:1; 2: 1-10
Psalm
Psalm 26
New Testament Reading
Hebrews 1: 1-4; 2: 5-12
Gospel
Mark 10: 2-16
Creation Theme for this Sunday:

We have divorced ourselves from the fullness of Creation.

God created an exquisitely magnificent interdependent creation/world in which all elements and aspects are valued and essential. We have fallen away from honoring God's creation, and need to seek forgiveness for our abuse and disregard of this gift.

 



 

Job 1-2, 3-27, 28, 29-31, 32-27, 38-41, 42

Good pedagogy does not always begin where one's audience is located, contrary to widespread homiletical insistence otherwise. Sometimes the best way to go is outside oneself, beyond one's regnant frames of reference, outside the walls of one's familiar community. Beginning "out there," beyond an audience's location, we take them by surprise as we arrive together at their unexpected "Aha!" moment of breakthrough into new discovery.

Something like that is what occurs in the great epic poem Job (italics indicating the book, in distinction from the character "Job"). Emphatically impatient Job persists in his "countertestimony" to the orthodoxies of his three "friends." [Cf. Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament (Fortress, 1997), p. 386 for term "countertestimony."] Job's question insists to find out: "Is God reliable?" That is, does life make sense, does history teach us anything? Is there any reliability in God's dealings with us? For example: "Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?" (Job 21:7) That is the question of theodicy, for though it speaks of the wicked it aims protest at God.

That question is left hanging in the air while a second question arises, this one coming from God: "Is Job serious?" Does he serve God "for nothing," as the Satan asks - that is, disinterestedly (not for his own gain), purely for the sake of glorifying God? Tension between Job and God is raised to the nth degree as "both parties have become suspicious of the other." [So Brueggemann, ibid., p. 387] We are far removed here from the usually boring vacuous reassurances in the presence of real-life suffering, far removed too from the legalistic judgments of the overly self-righteous who proceed with unwarranted audacity to speak for God in judgment against Job - as the alleged "friends" do.

Most of Job consists of three cycles of dialogue between Job and his friends (chapters 3-27 and 32-37, the intervening chapters 29-31 being Job's self-defense, and chapter 28 being a poetic interlude on personified Wisdom). This interchange does not arrive at definitive resolutions of the exceedingly painful conflicts that arise therein. The destination of this theological journey is not the point of this profound drama. The quest, the journey is the point - until, that is, the denouement comes in the materials that surround those cycles of discourse. That is where the Creation comes in.

Notice: extraordinarily difficult questions have been raised within this circle of companions as they sit (perhaps around a campfire) out under the stars. No answer to the problem of suffering and evil is given that triumphantly concludes the discussion. Is God reliable? For Job the question echoes and reverberates across his dark landscape, its vibrations torturing deeply within him. Repeatedly in monumental episodes of suffering the epic of Job comes to mind among those who have been caught up in those capricious events. Survivors of the Holocaust, for instance, have often identified with Job.

So, where does Creation come in? The Creator arrives as if "He" had not been paying attention to the tense interactions between Job and, on the other hand, the orthodox but mistaken "friends." That circumstance is clear at the moment (38:1) when "the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind."

The "answer" is curious, coming out of the blue, it seems. The Lord brings to Job the perspective of the Ages in that "moment" when the cornerstone of all Creation was laid, "when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy." The Lord brings to Job "the springs of the sea" and "the recesses of the deep," "the gates of death" and "the expanse of the earth." The Lord startles Job with questions that do not seem to connect with Job's questions. For instance: "Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain…to bring rain on a land where no one lives, on the desert, which is empty of human life, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground put forth grass?" The Lord's answer shows no influence of indirect pastoral counseling, a la Carl Rogers.

Or does it? The occasional utility and relevance of irrelevance may be in evidence here. During three cycles of dialogue no resolution had been reached to the question of divine reliability, nor to the question of Job's genuineness as a persistent righteous one who had suffered huge losses through no fault of his own. In that situation the only breakthrough possible is the one God takes: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" How far removed from preceding conversation can you get? What could appear more irrelevant than this "foundation of the earth" talk? Yet the questions are multiplied through four chapters (38-41), all anchored in the Creation one way or another.

The effect of those rapid-fire questions is to emphasize the reliability of the Creator in contrast to the powerless and limited perspectives of humanity. These questions are existential rather than rhetorical, their function being not to put Job down, but instead to enlist Job in the quest for God "out there" where new beginnings can be made. By putting these questions to Job, God is the wise and caring teacher who leads Job beyond suffering into the greater mystery that there is something and not nothing. [The contrast between rhetorical and existential questions is clearly discussed by J. Gerald Janzen's commentary on Job in the series of Interpretation Bible Commentaries for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985).] Job was indeed serious and persistent enough to hang in there until the denouement (in chapters 38-41 and 42) of this psychological/theological drama wraps him round with God's encompassing grace. In that sense Job spoke of the Lord "what is right," in contrast to the three friends.

We need not only a lamp on the path we tread, but also a lightning illumination of the landscape around us. Creation is the larger context of our lives. Its inherent value for our mental stability and spiritual health needs affirmation in the policies of governance. Mark Twain knew that a riverboat captain had to take readings from the far shore if he would avoid the shoals of catastrophe. Sailors navigate by readings from the stars. Boy Scouts still use compasses that rely on magnetic North and declinations from that to locate true North. Global Positioning Systems guide travel, military movements, and surveys.

We do not know who and where we are until we take readings from far away and long ago that help us know who we are and where we are. The vast scope of the creation, past-present-future, in an analogous way helps us. Especially is that the case when we perceive that the creation is an expression of God's grace, profligate in its inventive genius. The epic character Job again and again was brought out of his quandary and reoriented toward the Creator God who was partially evident in the world around Job, evident as a reflection or echo of the God known in Israelite history. Already in the Prologue (1-2) we see that the entire Job story alternates between heaven and earth.

Other Job Texts (12:7-10, 15, 22-25; 20:27; 23:8-12; 26; 28; 38-42)

On all four Sundays of this Creation Season we do well to focus on the Job story. (Preaching always only on the four gospels is a theological and pastoral mistake. Further, Mark 10 does not address the creation directly.) There is more to preach in the Job texts than these Sundays can contain, though at the moment of filling in on short notice I cannot explore them with you. Notice these: 20:27, both heaven and earth disclose the kind of wealth that is wicked. 23:8-12, all points of the compass see God's sovereignty. 26:10, God's majesty is everywhere apparent, as at "the boundary between light and darkness." 28:24, God "looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens." 36:26ff., "Surely God is great, and we do not know him."

PDF Version of these notes: click here (available early September 2012)

To other Materials for Sundays in this series
Proper 22
October 7
October 14
October 21
October 28
This Page
 

The materials for this Sunday were prepared by John G. Gibbs, PhD.

 

 

John G. Gibbs, PhD , a retired theologian, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he originally prepared these materials in 2012. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John G. Gibbs, or any MEESC member, or mail them to:


MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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