Sunday, August 14, 2016

God Speaks to Job

My local church is off-lectionary, exploring Job over 6 Sundays.  The readings for Sunday, August 14, 2016:

Job 31:  35-37 and Job 38:  1-11

In the readings for this Sunday, we see Job wanting God to speak to him--and then God does.  On the face of it, on the first read, we might see this as God saying to Job, "Who the heck are you to question me?"  But upon additional readings, we see a creator who takes the questions of Job seriously.

Job gets a tour of all of creation, perhaps as a reminder that humans aren't the reason why creation exists and humans aren't the reason that God exists.  In many ways, the God that we see in Job seems very modern.  This God that we see this week is a God with much to do, but not too busy to attend to Job's request.  This God is a God of the entire universe, not just a wish granter/magician for humans.

We see a vision of God in control, but not a God who is controlling.  There are boundaries that God has established, but all of creation has enormous freedom within these boundaries.  Luther Seminary professor Kathryn M. Schifferdecker explains in this essay, "God gives his creatures the freedom to be who they were created to be, and that freedom is a great gift to human and animal alike. In this vision of creation, the world is not an entirely safe place for human beings, but it is a world of order and of beauty, and its Creator delights in it."

Many of us may find this vision of God to be very different from the God we might have thought we were worshipping.  We may have been told that if our faith is great enough or if we pray hard enough, all of our prayers and wishes will be granted.  But that's crummy theology--it doesn't take into account free will or the problem of evil in the world or countless other factors that will undermine our faith in the world of that theology.

Job shows us a more mature vision of God--a God that has created the universe with certain laws and boundaries, a God who allows freedom, even though that freedom may bring heartbreak.

For many of us, it's not a comforting vision.  It means that the cancer cells may win, regardless of how hard I pray.  I might prefer the Santa Claus God of my childhood Sunday School classes.  But the Santa Claus God is not the true God, although it may be the more comforting God.

These passages in Job show us a God who has not deserted us, but at the same time, will not necessarily rescue us.  For many of us it's a tough vision.

But throughout the Bible, we see God's promise:  that God will be with us and that God delights in us--and in all creation.  God will be there, not as the magical easy fix, but as a much larger force, one not controlled by humans.

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