This Homily was given at 10AM Holy Eucharist Rite II on October 7, 2018 by The Rev. Liz Golub
Job 1:1; 2:1-10 - Psalm 26 - Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 - Mark 10:2-16
I begin with a question for all of you… what are you thankful for?
So why am I asking this question? The Scriptures do not seem to have anything to do with thanksgiving. In fact they are more in line with this week’s events… political diatribes and a tsunami in Indonesia. Bad news upon bad news.
This morning we begin with the book of Job. Job is not an historical book of the Bible but part of the Wisdom literature, like Psalms and Proverbs. It asks the question: Where is God in the midst of human suffering? Where is the goodness, the thanksgiving and blessing in the midst of personal and communal sorrow?
Job is blameless and upright; a man who fears or rather trusts God and turns away from evil. He is the role model for the rest of humanity. Then Satan enters the conversation. In early Judaism Satan was not the devil or personification of evil. Rather Satan was a member of the heavenly council who patrolled the earth, letting God know who was not living up to the divine standard. Satan challenges God to let him have his way with Job and God agrees. Just don’t kill him, God says. Satan gives Job a terrible skin disease.
This is just one of many trials that Job experiences. His children die and his crops and animals are destroyed along with his reputation. Yet through it all, Job continues to serve God without expecting a reward or complaining about his misfortunes.
I confess that the book of Job makes me feel very uncomfortable. I want to hope that God has designed a world in which people always get what they deserve. But that doesn’t always happen so I ask myself does God care about human happiness especially for believers? Or, the bigger question…does God owe us?
I have a friend who is in the middle of a major family crisis. He is praying for a positive outcome because, as he says “I’ve always tried to do everything right” How many of us might say the same thing from time to time?
What happens when, like Job we are sitting in the middle of the ash heap? Maybe it’s ICU waiting room or the prison visitors’ center. Do we sit in stoic silence and pretend that things are fine? Do we feel like we have to put up a good front because that’s what people expect of us; Especially those of us who are the pillars of our families, workplace or church? Do we allow ourselves to feel the pain and let God in? It took Job a long time to do this, to admit to himself and to God how much he hurt. And for us, do we let Jesus come and sit in the ashes with us?
There was a time in my life a few years back when I felt like Job; when my world seemed to be crashing down. God was silent and very far away. But a close friend came and sat in the ashes with me. I now know that her presence was Jesus’ presence; her comfort, her tears and her refusal to tell me everything was going to be okay was Jesus. When I lost hope she hoped for me. And that is Good News. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus’ suffering and death led to resurrection and new life, not just for himself but for us. When we share the suffering we also share the glory. When we share each other’s pain we also share the grace and blessing.
Maybe some of you have not yet gone through a serious crisis. Give thanks! And continue to pray for others who are in pain. But if you’re going through a crisis right now, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on those around you; ask for prayer and whatever else you need.
If you’ve been through the fire and have experienced Jesus’ presence and power, share it with someone you know is having a hard time. Anyone who has gone through a major personal crisis does not emerge as the same person. We are forever changed. But if we have been able to hold on to even a shred of faith, like Job then that shred becomes our lifeline. God gives us the grace to hold on, but it is always our choice. I think that’s why it is so important to have other people of faith praying and interceding for us in those painful times.
We began with thanksgiving and that is where we end. When things are great, give thanks. When you’re carrying the cross, be even more thankful. “Christ crucified” is the tough and tender grace of a God who loves us unconditionally and calls us into even deeper relationship with him and with each other. And that is Good News.