The God who serves (Year B, 17 October 2015)

Readings
Job 38.1–11 (Psalm 104.1–9, 24, 35c)
Hebrews 5.1–10
Mark 10.35–45

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you… Job 42.5

Two weeks ago, we encountered Job whose whole world collapsed on one day. Not only did he lose his 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys, and his servants; he also lost his seven sons and three daughters. And then he lost his health.

We saw that suffering is not a problem that can be solved, but that it may become an invitation to trust in God more and more. We also saw that there is no real answer to the question ‘Why me?’

Then last week, we saw that suffering can lead to lament; and that the question ‘Why me?’ is itself a lament. We also saw that lament is very common in the scriptures. 58 out of 150 psalms are laments. That’s over a third.

And we saw that lament in the Bible has a simple shape:

  1. We cry out to God in our distress;
  2. We remember God’s goodness and mercy;
  3. We hope in God once more; or at least, we hope to hope in God again.

Today, Job has done lamenting. He finally gets an audience with God.

Job had questions to ask of God. Questions like

Why did I not die at birth,
come forth from the womb and expire? (3.11)

Or:

Why is light given to one in misery,
and life to the bitter in soul,
who long for death, but it does not come… (3.20–21)

Are his questions answered?

Well, what happens is that God asks questions of Job. Hard questions.

Where were you when I laid
the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding. (38.4)

Job is subject to a barrage of hard questions, piled one on top of another.

Who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb? (38.8)

Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep? (38.16)

From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth
to the hoarfrost of heaven? (38.29)

Why is God confronting Job like this?

It’s not

  • to lay the blame at Job’s feet;
  • to accept the blame either;
  • to make Job feel small and puny (though it does).

God speaks to give Job some good news.

God is the great creator and everything is in God’s hands. God takes care of each and every creature and thing in creation. Suffering happens as the universe unfolds, but God is there. This is good news indeed.

God tells Job of his care in limiting the ocean:

I… prescribed bounds for [the sea],
and set bars and doors, and said,
‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped’… (Job 28.10–11)

(Mind you, we should not conclude from this that God will not allow rising sea levels to wreak havoc one day if the Antarctic ice shelves collapse, as may happen. If we fail to keep within our own ‘prescribed bounds’, future generations may suffer very dire consequences.)

And this is the other message that God is giving to Job. It’s also good news: There is one God—and Job, it’s not you. I do the heavy lifting, not you.

Job gets the message. His final words to God are

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…

…I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me,
which I did not know…

…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes. (from Job 42.2–6)

God is God. Job is content with this. We can find contentment in this too.

But there is more. God has confronted not only Job, but the whole world. Jesus is God confronting us with compassion, with salvation: Jesus Christ is God coming as a human being for us all, whoever we are.

Jesus doesn’t speak as the creator, but as a servant:

…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10.45)

Jesus becomes truly human. Jesus shows us that true humanity is found in service, not in exploitation. True leadership rejoices in the gifts and achievements of others, not in promoting its own. God showed Job that God cares for each and every created thing: Jesus shows the depths that God is willing to go to in love for the creation.

And we as the Body of Christ are here to serve the world Christ died to save.

So:

  • we may trust God in those times when we suffer;
  • we may work to alleviate the sufferings of others where we can;
  • and always pray that God’s kingdom will come, that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven.
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Filed under Lament, RCL, sermon

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