Monday, August 8, 2016

Job's Hope and Ours, Here in the Twenty-first Century

Yesterday, I was the one in charge of services, while our pastor was away.  But we're off lectionary, so I had some tough texts from the book of Job.

I write a meditation for our congregation's blog, so in this post, I'd already written on the text for yesterday:  Job 14:  7-15 and Job 19:  23-24.  In these texts, we see Job wondering about what happens when we die, and it's not exactly hopeful, despite Job's assertion, "I know that my Redeemer lives."

In fact, modern readers won't find Job's vision hopeful at all.  As I said yesterday, it's no meeting of our pets at the rainbow bridge and then going on for family reunions, like Thanksgiving except for no fights.  I pointed out that this vision of Heaven is very recent to Christianity.  It's not wrong, necessarily, since no one can know for sure, but there's no Biblical support.

I talked about our modern view of God, free will, and the problem with the crummy theology that says that if we just pray hard enough, God will cure us of our ills.  What if the cancer gets worse?  Is it because I didn't pray hard enough?  Is it because God wants to see how much I can take?  Does God like my cancer cells better than me?

I said, "Who could believe in a God like that?"  I ended by talking about how God is with us in the suffering, even if God can't magically remove our suffering.

At the passing of the peace, my spouse looked concerned.  "Tough sermon," he whispered in my ear.  "Not wrong, but it will be difficult for some people to hear."

I didn't think that I said anything too off the mark, although if I was suffering some ordeal, it wouldn't be the most comforting message.  I might prefer the warm and fuzzy vision of a magician God.  Or I might prefer the flintiness of Job.

After the service, I stood at the back to shake hands as people departed.  If people were upset over my sermon, they didn't show it.  In fact, one man who has only recently started attending said, "I've waited for years to hear something like you preached.  I've always struggled with why God would allow the suffering of children.  You've helped me answer that."

I have a certain liberty as a lay preacher.  I don't want to lead people astray, of course, but I know that if people want it, they have an out.  They can say, "Well, what does she know?  She hasn't been to seminary?  She's not my real pastor."

But I also know that my preaching yesterday wasn't a departure from what's usually preached in our pulpit.  In that, I feel fortunate.

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