Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Job and Friends, in 3 acts

Job & Friends, in three acts
Act 1:
Job: Truly, in a million different ways, in the midst of all the suffering I’ve experienced, I wish I had never been born.
Eliphaz: Hold up? You’re Job, aren’t you? You teach Wisdom’s ways to people, you have been telling folk that if they are innocent they will not suffer, haven’t you? Now that you are suffering, you’re going to renege on that proposition?
Job: Dude! You are about to make it worse, just shut up. You’re not helping!
Eliphaz: No, Job, let me finish. You are a wise teacher, you know that the foolish are a danger to themselves and to their kids. Haven’t you taught that a fool’s children will be crushed, just as your children were crushed? This is your teaching, now you are experiencing it firsthand.
Job: Eliphaz, do you know why you aren’t helping? Because I didn’t ask for your help, let alone ask for your wrapped up in a bow explanations of human suffering.
Eliphaz: Job, chill! This suffering you are experiencing is just correction.
Job: I don’t think you get how painful God’s “correction” is, how horrible it is to have your children crushed!
Suffering is so strange, you experience the pain and the horror, but also the long boring bland moments, time elongating before you forever.
At this point I just want God to finish the job he started on ol’ Job here—kill me!
Eliphaz: Be of good cheer, my man. God will strengthen you! Surely you will recover!
Job: Why would I want to recover? To be strengthened by God? What would I have to look forward to?
Eliphaz: Like you said before this pity party of yours started, is it not right that we receive both good and bad from God? Good when you are good, and bad when you are bad.
Job: How does blaming the victim help the victim? Huh? I bet you’d kick an orphan while he’s down and think you’re doing the kid a favor!

Act 2:
Job: At this point, it feels like you all are just harassing me. So, let me say it plainly. God has wronged me and won’t answer for the wrong.
Heck, to me, God is an oppressive force, an army besieging me.
Everyone sees me as a stranger.
I’m sick! Why won’t you pity me?
God has struck me, shouldn’t that make you sad… or even afraid… you might be next!
Yet, perhaps… even in all this pain, someone will redeem me, someone will write down all these wrongs and represent me against all my accusers!
Don’t act like dispassionate scientists watching a frog getting cut up in a lab, you are next to be pithed! You will be unjustly punished just as I have been!

Zophar: You’re words shake me, friend, and I feel insulted.
It is my duty to respond as best I know how.
The wicked have a short life!
They will be ignored and forgotten!
This is because they followed the wrong path, they should have lived righteously instead of wickedly, but they didn’t, and are suffering for it!
God is sucking up all their unjust gains!
All that was taken wrongly is being taken back.
Heaven has exposed their guilt, and by extension, your own!

Job: Oh Lord! Just listen to me Zophar, please! Just close your damn mouth for a moment, tape it shut if you have to!
Look around at the world as it is, the wicked prosper! I don’t think you get what I’m saying.
You think I’m proscribing things, but I’m describing them, pointing out the way the world really is.
Don’t you get it, I’m with you, let the wicked burn! Punish the children of the wicked. May God never be late in punishing the wicked, make them suffer now! Because…
Because… have you noticed the existential truth of it all? The wicked die and so do the righteous, and guess what, they are both dead!
I truly understand your position, good people ought to be rewarded for their goodness, and bad people ought to be punished for their badness… but open a newspaper man! The wicked prosper, no one can stop them. Making dogmatic, declarative statements to the contrary does nothing… it certainly does not comfort the suffering!

Act 3:
Job: There is injustice everywhere, but God does not act.
Bildad: Surely that is not because God is weak… for God is, ultimately, all-powerful.
No one is pure before God.
Compared to God, humans are so small.
Job: Well! Aren’t you helping the hurting with such answers.
Bildad: Well, yeah, I am! Don’t you know that God’s power subdues even chaos and death!
God’s mighty acts are so loud we can barely hear a complete word about His wonder!
Job: If God is so powerful, why won’t he give me my day in court?
I really can’t in good conscience ask for anything else. I can’t claim to be wicked, that itself would be wicked. The only right thing would be for every horror I’ve experienced to be visited upon my enemies. God will only be just if he throws all that powerful weight you talk about against those who are against me... including you three.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sermon: Invisible, Love, Courage

Invisible, Love, Courage

         It feels like there has to be a way to consolidate the letters of John… 
the amount of repetition, adding a little chunk to the previous statement, 
and then a little more, 
then saying it all in a slightly different way,
then saying that the reverse it true also…
it feels like these words could be turned into a Venn diagram
—you know, those two circles that have overlapping characteristics… 
One circle is God, one circle is Love and not connected to the two is fear…
or alternatively God, Love, and Courage all are intertwined somehow, right!
         Or maybe it al could be put into an equation God=Love, Love>Fear, therefore God, who is perfect love, casts out all fears…
         All I’m entirely sure of is that God is Loveand that Perfect Love casts out fear, and so there is a connection, a relationships between God, Love, and Courage.
Let us pray

         The invisible God is revealed in our lives, when we love one another.
         The unseen God, “The invisible God, made visible in Jesus Christ” as we sometimes say during Holy Communion.
         It would be easy to equate invisibility, unseen things, with unreal, or at least unimportant, things… 
         But that would be foolish… have you ever seen someone look at their debt payment
—debts, all money really, is an unseen thing, an agreement we all make as a society in order to barter for a wide variety of goods…
         If we think about the ancients at all, we often do so by make fun of the them for being afraid of invisible spiritual forces
—but I can only imagine how silly wewould all look to any pre-modern people,
with all our anxieties surrounding invisible, unseen, monetary forces…

         For that matter, have you ever thought about unseenintentions
Often people try to achieve one result, but end up with another
—to put it simply they fail at their goal.
My intention is to make my loved one happy… the seen result… less than….
Have you ever failed?I know I have.
I wonder what people think of when they see my failures? Do they assume I tried to do things that way? Do they assume my intention was to fail, to fall short? I’m guessing some people do…
a misplayed note,
a poorly spoken word,
failing to make a scheduled appointment,
failing to live up to a promise. 
None of these intentional. Yet, how are we to know this, after all an intention is an unseen thing. At the end of the day we hope to be judged by what’s inside, while so often we judge others by their outsides.
         Or… Have you thought about unseen practice?
Have you seen an experienced artist draw a portrait in under ten minutes?
An excellent butcher make precise cuts in mere seconds? 
While part of what they do is natural talent, much of it comes from hours and hours, days, weeks, months of practice. 
They say it takes 10,000 hours (416 days… by the way) of practice before you can be an expert.
They advise writers to produce 1,000 pages before they even think of trying to write something worth publishing.
All these unseen hours invested to do something well!

         The invisible God is made visible in Love—and not just any love—but the love practiced by Jesus when he washed his disciples feet
—the love we celebrate every Maundy Thursday
—Love, one Another!
Love in a concrete, blood, sweat, and tears, way…
love each other like Christ loved his disciples and he hoped and prayed they loved each other
… that’s the kind of love that makes God known,
that perfects love in us,
that affirms the profound truth that God dwells in us.

         Love… love casts out fear… love… creates courage…
         Let me tell you about the courage of Philip?
         The disciples have been hold up in Jerusalem, but Philip—Philip is courageous, he leaves that place of relative safety and goes to Gaza!
         This Ethiopian Eunuch was way above Philip’s station of life—of high estate, high up as well upon a chariot, towering over Philip—but Philip—Philip is courageous, he approaches this man and joins this man on his journey, you’ve heard of carjacking, right, well he practically Chariot-jacks this Eunuch.
         How to interpret this portion of Isaiah, about the suffering servant, was not worked out at the time, and poor Philip, he was a Deacon, not a Disciple, he was called to serve widows, not preach the word, but Philip—Philip is courageous, he reads Isaiah with the Eunuch and is able to tell him about Jesus!
         Then this man asks that pointed question, “What would prevent me from being baptized” and the answer could have been:
“a lot, actually.” 
Leviticus says Eunuchs may not come near God, and Deuteronomy says they may not be among God’s people… but Philip—Philip is courageous, he trusts in the wildness of God’s love and that the Spirit led him there for a reason and baptizes him right there!
         Yes, the Love of God was at work in Philip’s encounter with this Ethiopian Eunuch, he was of good courage, and for that we too may rejoice!

         Think of it, Philip did not look at the Ethiopian Eunuch’s outsideand his own inside, but instead looked with love!
         Philip practiced this compassion, this looking with love, many times, perhaps he even got those 10,000 hours in
—latter he preaches to and baptizes sorcerers,
he is allowed to live long enough to see his daughters become preachers of God’s word! 

         I pray that we too might practice courage and love, seeing the face of God beyond any visible barrier that might separate us
—God dwells in us, let us love one another, that we might know God.                                         A+A