Re the Daily Office Readings August 31 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by NESA by Makers

The Lessons: Job 12:1-6, 13-25; Acts 11:19-30; John 8:21-32

Job’s speech, a terrifying portrayal of unchecked divine power. The perspective has broadened considerably, taking in counselors, judges, kings, priests, the mighty, “those who are trusted,” the enders, princes, and the strong. (Job numbers himself among these when he recalls his past in his final speech [chapter 29].) The result? “The tents of robbers are at peace, / and those who provoke God are secure”—and more cries of the poor and oppressed go unanswered.

There’s a textual problem in Acts 11:20, and translations like CEB (“also to Gentiles”) probably make more sense than those like NRSV (“to the Hellenists”). So while Luke showcases Peter’s preaching to Cornelius, that may not have been the first outreach to the Gentiles. Barnabas (recall 4:36-37; 9:26-27): thank God for the contributions folk with his gifts make to our common life.

“31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” There are many reasons we might pause over these two verses; here are two. First, it’s ironic that v.32 is so often used divorced from v.31, when the “truly” – “truth” link demands that we keep the verses connected. Freedom comes from continuing in Jesus’ word. Second, ‘disciple’ (mathētēs) while used extensively in the Gospels and Acts, is not used elsewhere as a descriptor of Christians. There seem to have been a variety of reasons for that (mathētēs may have been too closely tied to its Aramaic inspiration, may have tended to identify Christianity as a philosophical school). The downside is that the imperative to continue to learn easily slides to the margin of our self-understanding. Heaven help us if Christians become known as the folk who think they have nothing more to learn. (In which case, our new themesong.)

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