A Pastoral Word
We began our summer sermon series on June 15th and this year, we are focusing on the Book of Job. I'm sure everyone is thinking, Why Job? It is an odd sort of book, a book that goes into lengthy descriptions about a man sitting on an ash heap, scratching his festering boils with broken pottery. The Book of Job contains forty-some of the most depressing chapters in the Bible, and so it is no surprise that we find ourselves asking, Really? This is what the preacher picks for our summer series? The Book of Job?
Yes! Yes, I did pick the Book of Job for our summer series. And here's why: because behind those fortysome depressing chapters is a great faith story. Behind the descriptions of suffering and ash heaps, the Book of Job shows us that no subject is off-limits when it comes to talking about our faith. It shows us that no subject is too taboo that we can't bring up with our God and with one another.
"Job suffered. His name is synonymous with suffering. He asked, "Why?" He asked, "Why me?" And he puts his questions to God. He asked his questions persistently, passionately, and eloquently. He refused to take silence for an answer. He refused to take clichés for an answer. He refused to let God off the hook. Job did not take his sufferings quietly or piously. He disdained going for a second opinion to outside physicians or philosophers. Job took his stance before God, and there he protested his suffering, protested mightily. It is not only because Job suffered that he is important to us. It is because he suffered in the same ways that we suffer- in the vital areas of family, personal health, and material things. Job is also important to us because he searchingly questioned and boldly protested his suffering. Indeed, he went 'to the top' with his questions… Reading Job prayerfully and meditatively leads us to face the questions that arise when our lives don't turn out the way we expect them to. First, we hear all the stock answers. Then we ask the questions again, with variations, and hear the answers again, with variations. Over and over and over. Every time we let Job give voice to our questions, our suffering gains in dignity and we are brought a step closer to the threshold of the voice and mystery of God.
Every time we persist with Job in rejecting the quick-fix counsel of people who see us and hear us but do not understand us, we deepen our availability and openness to the revelation that comes only out of the tempest. The mystery of God eclipses the darkness and the struggle. We realize that suffering calls our lives into question, not God's. The tables are turned: God-Alive is present to us. God is speaking to us. And so Job's experience is confirmed and repeated once again in our suffering and our vulnerable humanity." (The Message)
So I hope everyone comes and joins us as we travel into the tempest, as we come face to face with the mystery of God. I cannot promise you by the end of this sermon series we will have more faith or that we will be able to confidently say yes to God in times of hardship and suffering. Instead, what I can do is extend an invitation to see that Job's story is our story and that the character of Job, the character we hold as people of faith is what this whole story, what our story as people of faith, actually hinges upon.
As people of faith, we need to realize that when we come face to face with the greyness of life, we have a lot at stake in the conversation, but God has a whole lot more at stake than we do.