Thursday July 13, 2017
“Job and the Crisis of Community”
Job 1: 20-22 (NIV)
“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” 22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”
I am reminded and find myself both in awe and despair this morning in reading of Job’s faithfulness- despite such horrible circumstances. Our bible verse today starts with a symbol of mourning that appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures: Ezra 9:3, Isaiah 15:2, Jeremiah 7:29, and Micah 1:16. Take Micah 1: 16 for example where the author states, “Shave your head in mourning for the children in whom you delight; make yourself as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile.” Today we have our own customs around mourning and dealing with our loss and for most of us that doesn’t include tearing off our clothes and shaving our heads. In our context that sounds more like a wild college party than a biblical expression of mourning and faith.
How often in today’s world, as the body of Christ, do we flippantly state some rhetoric to the tune of “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” It’s a statement easy to make when you still have everything and have yet to lose it all-or at least the things you hold most dear. It becomes for many Christian’s a mantra to which we uphold how we believe we will handle extreme adversity and extreme loss. For most of us, thankfully, we will never experience the difficulties and troubles to the degree to which the character Job was afflicted. Of course, the longer we live, the longer we have to experience suffering and of course to experience loss. The Book of Job serves to remind us of but one of many possible responses to God during those difficult times.
I am not sure that if I had lost all that Job had lost I would be able to fall to the ground to worship god and declare so boldly that “you gave it to me and you have every right to take it away as you please”. My best Christian version inside me certainly hopes I would be able to-hoping that I am a mature enough Christian to understand all that I have does come from God so therefore IT IS his to do as he pleases. However, if I am to be honest with myself; my emotional response, as a human response, probably would not be initially as noble as Job’s. Thankfully the author tells us that Job was the greatest and most blameless man of the East and I, however good, am not.
For that I turn to other’s in scripture that dared to question God’s motives. Read Habakkuk 1 for example. That’s some bold and accusatory statements and what does God do? Does God smite Habakkuk? Does God become enraged by a mere human questioning the motives of God? Of course not. God patiently and with patience replies and helps him understand.
Job is a cautionary tale in many ways. For some of us we hold ourselves to a standard set by Job that is very difficult and in many ways counterintuitive to how God made us. That standard can be dangerous to how we interact with others in our communities. Job was alone with no true friends to lean into. His family had been lost, both through death and despair. Job suffered by himself rather than being lifted up by fellow communities of believers. We should come to church to be the body of Christ so that none of us need to suffer alone. We should always raise each other up when needing lifting and help carry each other’s burdens when the load gets too heavy. As the body of Christ, we can’t endure each other’s pain but we can always walk with each other in the sacredness of grief and sorrow. We can pray for each other and we can always support each other. For those that don’t look like us or talk like us or believe like us, we can and must become allies. It is then that we fully live into the body of Christ and the promises of the resurrected and living Jesus.
May it be so.
Rev. Lou Ward
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