Sunday, April 3, 2011

Job finds healing, Job 38-42 selected verses

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
April 3, 2011

Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:26-29 - Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.        
Today’s topic is, how nature can heal our wounds; or to put it more bluntly -  how nature can put us in our place and give us proper perspective about who we are, and who God is.  I was out at the Pecos Monastery this past week.  The spirit of that place is one of: Don’t worry about a thing. come as you are.  Experience the love and grace of God in this place.  It’s nice!  I wish every place we went to could speak to us that way.

Picture of the Pecos Monastary

With me I was carrying some burdens, some worry and anxiety. On my mind were some mistakes I had made; things I had done, things I had left undone.  Actions of others where weighing on me. Yes, I was caught up in my own little world, but I also carried my concern for the world around me.  Along the lines of the Lenten Lifestyle for Creation theme this Lent, it seems everywhere I turn we humans are doing an awesome job of destroying God’s creation, without giving it much thought.  

When I arrived there, the first thing I did was go out and sit by the pond to just spend some alone time with God....more on that later.   In an attempt to relativize my sufferings, I know what have I been through in my life doesn’t even come close to some of the terrible things that people go through in this life.  I’ve met homeless people who have lost everything they had practically overnight.  I know refugees from around the world who flee from the evils of war. I know innocent people who are victims of violence. I know families who have lost loved ones in car crashes.  I know people who have been told they have terminal illnesses.  And have you considered Job.  The servant God is so proud of.  

At the beginning of the book, the image is one of God gathering all of the divine counsel, and in comes Satan.  God impressed by Job’s faith and loyalty, makes a wager of sorts--doesn’t God know not to make deals with the devil?-- and the deal is like something from the movie Trading Places:  “It was the Dukes it was the Dukes!”--
“My servant Job is so faithful,” says God.
and Satan says, “destroy his life and see how faithful he is then.”
“Deal” - wink and shake.
And In the blink of an eye, Job losses all that was dear to him, his land, his crops and livestock, his family.  He is left with his wife who just nags him, “Curse God and Die, why don’tcha.”

While it may be troubling for us to reconcile this behavior of God with Job’s predicament,
what we do know: suffering in the world is real, and it seems that when the Job became part of the ancient Hebrew Bible back in the 7th century BCE, people identified with and found comfort in his his story.  Why do we suffer?  Who is responsible for our suffering? What is to be our response to suffering? Where is God in our suffering?

Job offers an answer.

As Job is stripped of everything he ever had, made ill, displaced and left in an ash heap, He asks, Why? People offer him answers.  “You suffer because of your own sin,” some said. “Why ask why, Try bud dry.” Said others..

But Job says, I want to hear from God’s very self. God needs to tell me why this happened.

And finally 38 chapters later, he gets his wish. Be careful what you ask for right.  God shows up in the whirlwind--and ancient symbol of threat and terror; and God speaks.... 123 verses to Job’s 9.  God is not gentle with Job, God does not pick him up and kiss his wounds.  God basically says to him:  “you want answers!”  
“I think I’m entitled them.”
“You want answers!”
“I want the TRUTH!”  
“You can’t handle the truth!” God says...sort of.

Cindy Piatt and I will read selected verses of God’s answer to Job found in Chapters 38-42.  verses I hope will capture the essence of God’s answer.  I would encourage all of us to go and read the entire response from God at home sometime this afternoon.  Job is given the best panoramic picture of the Creation Story found in the bible.  

Let us listen for God’s word to us:

1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.  "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

¿O quién encerró con puertas el mar? Puse puertas y cerrojos, y dije: "Hasta aquí llegarás, pero no más allá; aquí se detendrá el orgullo de tus olas"? ¿Alguna vez en tu vida has mandado a la mañana, y hecho conocer al alba su lugar, para que ella eche mano a los confines de la tierra?

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?  Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?

¿Puedes cazar la presa para la leona, o saciar el apetito de los leoncillos, ¿Quién prepara para el cuervo su alimento, cuando sus crías claman a Dios, y vagan sin comida?  ¿Quién dejó en libertad al asno montés? ¿Y quién soltó las ataduras del asno veloz,     al cual di por hogar el desierto, y por morada la tierra salada?  Se burla del tumulto de la ciudad, no escucha los gritos del arriero.                 

"The ostrich's wings flap wildly, though its pinions lack plumage. For it leaves its eggs to the earth, and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them, and that a wild animal may trample them.

¿Das tú al caballo su fuerza? ¿Revistes su cuello de crin? ¿Le haces saltar como la langosta? Terrible es su formidable resoplido; escarba en el valle, y se regocija en su fuerza; sale al encuentro de las armas. Se burla del temor y no se acobarda, ni retrocede ante la espada.

"Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes its nest on high? It lives on the rock and makes its home in the fastness of the rocky crag. From there it spies the prey; its eyes see it from far away. "Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you; it eats grass like an ox. Its strength is in its loins, and its power in the muscles of its belly. It makes its tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are knit together.  Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like bars of iron. "It is the first of the great acts of God— only its Maker can approach it with the sword.

Ciertamente alimento le traen los montes, y todas las bestias del campo retozan allí. Bajo los lotos se echa, en lo oculto de las cañas y del pantano. Lo cubren los lotos con su sombra; los sauces del arroyo lo rodean. Si el río ruje, él no se alarma; tranquilo está, aunque el Jordán se lance contra su boca.

Then Job answered the Lord: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. "Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

Y el SEÑOR restauró el bienestar de Job cuando éste oró por sus amigos; y el SEÑOR aumentó al doble todo lo que Job había poseído.

La palabra de Dios.  Te escuchamos O Dios.  

As troubling as the suffering of Job may be to our modern ears, perhaps even more troubling is God.  We want to know why we suffer; and God basically says, who are you to question?  What do you know?  Job’s response to God: You’re right...I’m ready to die now.

Where is the: Comfort, O Comfort my people.

But perhaps these are our own issues, which may not allow us to hear what is going on in this passage.  In our society in which we strongly emphasize a sense of entitlement, and that we deserve the best, on the one hand. While on the other an avoidance of  any pain, and one in which we fear death and seek to escape it using extreme measures; basically, we don’t do well when things don’t go our way.  

But, still, we suffer, maybe not like Job, or others we know, but we do. And there is something about what happens in our suffering.  It is in our suffering, as painful as it can be, as terrible as it is and as much as we wish we did not have to suffer and experience loss, it is during these times that we may by God’s grace experience true transformation, metanioa - change of heart and perspective, very often as we have sought God and answers in the midst of our suffering, we, like Job have encountered God in a profound way.   

And, what is God really saying to Job and his girded up loins?  Simply man up!  or perhaps, put simply in another way: Come with me on a tour of the universe.  Look!  Look all around you.  You are not at the center of the universe. I am.  While you are important to me, you are no more important than the lions, and ravens, the mountain goat or the war horse. You’re very being is like the mythological Behemoth, You are no better than any of these wild creatures and by the way have you considered Leviathan? I value them, I care for them, I delight in them.  Look at them Job...Just look at them.  On the wild edges of the world.  And see how free they are.  

When you suffer how much are you thinking you should be controlling things, and not God.  Be free, and allow God to be God.  This was God’s answer. Which evidently comforted Job to some extent.  God’s answer may or may not bring comfort to you.  But for me, I find them extremely helpful. I’m not in control. Frightening but wonderful. I can rest and not always be banging my head up against the wall trying to get things to work they way I want them to; trying to get life to work out for me the way I want it to.  

It also reminds me, as Jesus does, to look out and look up. Look at the world around me, and allow what God has created to heal me.  The wonders of God’s creation, the beautiful sun sets, the freedom of wild animals.  I cannot even begin to imagine what Job suffered in his losses. I cannot even begin to imagine what any of you have suffered in your losses.  But, it is when Job becomes a brother of jackels and a companion of ostriches (Job 30:29), that he finds his place,  “As they are free so are you!”  

What’s your homework this week? Sit outside or go take a walk or even a hike, may we remember our place as creature, and sit with the creator in prayer each and every day.

Be careful, you may find the experience transformative.

On Tuesday at the Monastery, in the cool but not unbearable breeze I sat quietly outside and let the sounds and sights of nature fill my ears and eyes with grace. As I was able to quiet my heart and mind and body, almost in an inverse relationship, the sounds and sights of nature became more present and made aware to me.  Their volume was turned up and it was beautiful.  

I saw a king fisher perch on an electric cable over the rippling water of the small pond, gazing intensely into its depths - Consider the birds of the air.   I saw sparrows dancing around in the air at all levels and heights--his eyes are on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me--.  
A magnificent hawk emerged from the depths of the woods--But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. I saw a northern flicker descend from a tree branch close to the waters, and then ascent up to a small hollow where apparently she had recently hatched nestlings--how I long to gather you under my wings.  I saw a raven flying high in the sky.  

God said to Job:  See the Lion and the raven Observe the mountain goat and the deer; Watch the ostrich and the warhorse, marvel at the hawk and the vulture. In the wild, outer edges of nature Job found peace. Healing began. and eventually Job was made well.

Thanks be to God. Amen 

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