Week of Proper 21: Wednesday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  A Maine Coon Cat Kitten

Alleged Friends and Real Friends

OCTOBER 3, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Job 9:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Job said in reply:

Indeed I know that it is so:

Man cannot win a suit against God.

If he insisted on a trail with Him,

He would not answer one charge in a thousand.

Wise of heart and mighty in power–

Who ever challenged Him and came out whole?–

Him who moves mountains without their knowing it,

Who overturns them in His anger;

Who shakes the earth from its place,

Till its pillars quake;

Who commands the sun not to shine;

Who seals up the stars;

Who by Himself spread out the heavens,

And trod on the back of the sea;

Who made the Bear and Orion,

Pleiades, and the chambers of the south wind;

Who performs great deeds which cannot be fathomed,

And wondrous things without number.

He passes me by–I do not see Him;

He goes by me, but I do not perceive Him.

He snatches away–who can stop Him?

Who can say to Him, “What are You doing?”

God does not restrain His anger;

Under Him Rahab’s helpers sink down.

How then can I answer Him,

Or choose my arguments against Him?

Though I were in the right, I could not speak out,

But I would plead for mercy with my judge.

If I summoned Him and He responded,

I do not believe He would lend me His ear.

Psalm 88:10-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10  My sight has failed me because of trouble;

LORD, I have called upon you daily;

I have stretched out my hands to you.

11  Do you work wonders for the dead?

will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?

12  Will your loving-kindness be declared in the grave?

your faithfulness in the land of destruction?

13  Will your wonders be known in the dark?

or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten?

14  But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

15  LORD, why have you rejected me?

why have you hidden your face from me?

Luke 9:57-62 (The Jerusalem Bible):

As they traveled along they met a man who said to him,

I will follow you wherever you go.

Jesus answered,

Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

Another to whom he said,

Follow me,

replied,

Let me go and bury my father first.

But he answered,

Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of kingdom of God.

Another said,

I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.

Jesus said to him,

Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following jumps around Job, so I begin by summarizing what we have skipped over since the previous post.  Eliphaz the Temanite, in Chapters 4 and 5, is convinced that God is punishing Job for something and argues that God rewards the righteous and punishes the unrighteous.  Eliphaz utters many pious-sounding statements, such as:

See how happy is the man whom God reproves;

Do not reject the discipline of the Almighty.

He injures, but He binds up;

He wounds, but His hands heal.

–Job 5:17-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Job, in Chapter 6, complains about unhelpful alleged friends.  As he says in verse 15,

My comrades are fickle…. (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then, in Chapter 7, Job addresses God and admits less than complete innocence:

Why do You not pardon my transgression

And forgive my iniquity?

For soon, I shall lie down in the dust;

When You seek me, I shall be gone.

–Job 7:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Bildad the Shuhite replies to Job in Chapter 8 and insists that Job is wrong to deny that his suffering results from sin.  A just God, Bildad insists, does not punish the innocent.  Then, in Chapter 9, as we read, Job states that he cannot win an argument with God.

Now for the rest of the post…

Each of us walks around with certain assumptions.  The most basic ones are those we do not recognize as being assumptions.  Those of us who are both religious and monotheistic conceive of God in certain ways.  We have learned theology from sources such as books, families, and faith communities.  Sometimes what we have learned proves to be both inaccurate and inadequate.  Life includes circumstances which contradict our assumptions.  What are we to do then?

That is the quandary facing our characters in the Book of Job.  Is God just?  If so, must Job’s suffering constitute divine discipline?  Yet the beginning of the book tells us that Job’s suffering does not flow from his sins, so his suffering cannot constitute divine discipline.  So, is God just?

All of this is part of a story, of course.  We are reading poetry with prose interjections, not history.  The book does contain much truth, however.  The most basic truth it teaches might be that God defies our comfortable theologies; God will not fit inside our metaphorical boxes.

Here is another great lesson from the Book of Job:  Be a real friend, not a pain.  If someone is suffering, offer comfort and help, not condemnation.  This might entail tough love, but so be it if that is so.  Job’s alleged friends did not help; they uttered pious-sounding defenses of their God concepts while making Job more miserable.  There is a good reason that many people like having fur-bearing animals as companions; the creatures are present and do not condemn or offer meaningless words of comfort, such as,

I know how you feel.

Now I offer a preview of a coming attraction:  God in 38:2, addresses Job and accuses him of having darkened counsel and spoken without knowledge.  That same critique could apply to anyone else who speaks in the Book of Job.  Maybe the error is in one’s concept of how God acts and works, or perhaps it pertains to how one things God ought to act and work.  Look for that dynamic in this great text from the Hebrew Scriptures.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/alleged-friends-and-real-friends/

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