Tag Archives: suffering

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.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Lament, RCL, sermon

Suffering is not a problem (Year B, 4 October, 2015)

Readings
Job 1.1; 2.1–10
Mark 10.2–16

Like a weaned child on its mother,
like the weaned child on me is my soul…        Psalm 131.2

When I was a chaplain at The Wesley Hospital, we noticed something quite concerning. We chaplains saw the way a number of young couples responded when they were confronted with a stillborn child.

These young couples were absolutely floored, of course. They suffered terrible grief, as you would expect. It was something they would never forget. That is the natural reaction to an unnatural situation.

That’s not what concerned us. Our anxiety was because it was obvious that these largely middle class couples had never before come across a problem that couldn’t be fixed.

Even more than that, to them any setback at all was a problem to be fixed. If you or your dad couldn’t fix it, you paid a professional or a tradie to do it for you.

They asked the question common to nearly all people: Why me, why us? But they also asked, Why couldn’t our technology solve the problem?

For some couples, this was the very first time they had been confronted by something huge that just couldn’t be fixed. Their usual way of coping with things just didn’t help.

What they found hard to grasp is that in losing a baby they were not being confronted by a problem. They were being unwillingly plunged into an encounter with loss, with grief, with suffering too deep for words. They couldn’t fix it, solve it, or manage it.

What could they do?

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Church & world, Grief and loss, RCL, sermon, suffering

Come to serve—Sunday 29, Year B (21 October 2012)

Reading
Mark 10.32-45

 

Jesus said:

whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

It’s not easy to be a servant, but it is the Way to Life. There is a Native American story that might help us to reflect on how we should live. It begins like this:

A young brave goes to an elder and says, ‘I’m confused. My heart is filled with good and with bad.’

Like the young brave, James and John were filled with good and bad. They desired to serve Jesus, but they were being led astray by false desires.

Peter, James and John were Jesus’ three main men. Oh yes, there were twelve apostles, and there were others, men and women, who followed him. But they were a core group of three.

The Three had come from the same place, Capernaum in Galilee. Fishing was their trade, and they plied it on the Sea of Galilee.

They were loyal to Jesus, but there were deeper loyalties at work. James and John were brothers, they were the sons of Zebedee. They wanted a core group of two, not three. They wanted Peter demoted.

So they come to Jesus asking a favour:

Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you… Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.

Now, that is so understandable. Ambition isn’t wrong, right?

It’s so understandable—yet so wrong on so many levels.

Let’s look at what has been happening just before J&J came to ask their ‘favour’.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under church year, RCL, sermon

The Way of Wisdom—Sunday 24, Year B (16 September 2012)

Readings
Proverbs 1.20-33
James 3.1-12
Mark 8.27-38

Wisdom is absolutely crucial in the Bible; in fact, Wisdom is part of the Bible’s very structure. There are three groupings of books that make up the Old Testament:

  1. the Law (the first five books, from Genesis to Deuteronomy);
  2. the Prophets (including what we think of as the historical books); and
  3. the Writings. The Writings contain the ‘Wisdom’ books, which include

Job;
Psalms;
Proverbs;
Ecclesiastes;
Song of Songs.

There are two further Wisdom books found in what people sometimes call ‘The Apocrypha’ or the ‘Deuterocanonical’ books: The Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach. We don’t have these books within the pages of the Bibles we use, but they are important books, and they are significantly quoted in the New Testament.

You know, there is a Wisdom Book in the New Testament too. James is a book of wisdom. The wisdom of James teaches us the character of God. But we need to listen closely to hear Wisdom’s words.

It’s not so easy to hear the voice of Wisdom. Many different and conflicting voices clamour for our attention every day of the week.

Advertisers tell us what to buy so that we can be successful. So we wonder why we’re not the centre of attention now we use the right deodorant.

Celebrities remind us that our lives are achingly dull compared to theirs, so we buy magazine after glossy magazine to feel that we’re sharing their happiness too.

Airbrushed photos of skinny models imply that any woman can be like them, and eating disorders are on the rise—including among young men.

Politicians tell us that the other side is rubbish, and they alone have the answers we need. So we vote for them, and are once more disillusioned by the political process.

But there’s another voice too, the voice of Wisdom. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under sermon