Sunday, February 8, 2009
Homily for Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 7:1-4, 6-7
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
It’s a long reach from the despair of Job in the first scripture today
to the scenes of Jesus at Simon’s house, healing Simon’s mother-in-law
and anyone who showed up at the front door:
Mark tells us in the gospel that the “whole town”
was at Simon’s front steps!
On the one hand: the despair of Job abandoned by everyone;
on the other hand: crowds clamoring to be close to Jesus
and his healing touch
-- a remarkable contrast.
But the truth is:
we live, all of us, somewhere between those two points.
We’ve known – or perhaps we’re experiencing right now –
the dark thoughts weighing heavily on Job’s heart
and his sense that there's no end to his sadness.
We can pray with Job:
“My nights are troubled
and I am filled with restlessness until the dawn…
my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”
And we’ve known – or perhaps we’re hoping and praying right now –
for Jesus to draw near, close enough to touch us, to heal our pain,
to drive out the demons of our fears and anxiety,
confusion and doubts, loneliness and heartaches –
in ourselves or in someone we love.
Job thought all was lost.
The alienation had grown too great
and the more he longed for things to get better,
the worse they seemed to become.
And yet, he remained faithful in his belief in God.
Job’s friends insisted that he must have done something terribly wrong
to be suffering as much as he was –
but Job held fast to his innocence.
(Are there not times in our own difficulties when we wonder,
“What did I do to deserve this?”)
Job longs to know why he’s suffering
but yet remains faithful to God in his suffering.
Of all Job’s words, perhaps the best known are these:
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that I shall see God.”
But Job doesn’t say this at the conclusion of his story
when his well being is restored in Chapter 42.
He speaks these words in Chapter 19, when things are really bad.
Here’s the context of his bold confidence in his Redeemer:
My brethren have withdrawn from me,
and my friends are totally estranged.
My family neglects me… my breath is abhorred by my wife;
I am loathsome to the men of my family.
The young children despise me…
All my closest friends look on me in horror;
those whom I loved have turned against me!
Pity me, pity me, my friends, for the hand of God has struck me!
But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and from my flesh I shall see God.
My inmost being is consumed with longing for God
whom I myself shall see:
with my own eyes I shall behold him…
Job’s faith is strong even in the worst of times
because his faith is rooted
not in a promise of a reward or happy ending.
His faith is rooted in his love of God.
Job doesn’t understand his suffering.
Nor does he understand why God does not come to his aid.
And in fact, when God does finally speak at the end of Job’s story,
although he restores Job’s prosperity,
-- he answers not one of Job’s questions about his suffering.
There is so much mystery in our relationship with God
and in God’s relationship with us.
And in the mystery, in the love, there is struggle,
and in the struggle there is love,
and often the struggle is great – as in all true love.
The mystery invites us to engage the struggle.
Job did not sit still – he looked and longed for God’s peace.
His being was consumed with this longing.
Still, he felt deeply that he’d never be happy again,
that his life was “like the wind.”
As a friend of mine recently said,
“You can’t change the wind… but you can adjust your sails…”
Job stood with his face to the wind and worked his sails, faithfully.
Our community of faith, the church, is meant to be a safe harbor
where our very gathering can adjust our sails,
where the faith of others can help us navigate the rough seas,
where, at least for a while, there is calm and peace,
enough to hear the Lord’s voice, to hear his word,
and share his company at this table.
Our struggles may be like Job’s but we are not alone:
here we have the prayer and support of others,
like those gathered on Simon’s front steps,
others seeking out the Lord’s healing with us,
longing for the demons that haunt us
to be driven from our hearts and minds.
If you have lost your way in finding God,
if it seems that God has lost his way in finding you,
then come to this table and know that
“For us, our Redeemer lives…”
that we believe
“we shall see God with our own eyes…"
“our inmost beings are consumed with this longing…”
Job 19:25, 26
I know that my redeemer liveth,
and that He shall stand on the latter day upon the earth
And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
[For] now is Christ risen from the dead. . . the firstfruits of them that [sleep].
Posted by Austin Fleming at 10:49 AM