Benediction Online

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Great is God’s Faithfulness!
Job 38:1-11Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Mark 4:35-41

Yesterday morning at 5:32 there was an earthquake. How many of you noticed? I didn’t, I slept right through it. Which gives me a bit more sympathy for Jesus in this morning’s gospel reading. His disciples who are seasoned commercial fishermen are hysterical with fear because there’s a massive storm and the boat is in danger, but he’s fast asleep.

I sometimes feel like God must be having a nap. When I listen to the pain in so many people’s lives, when I look at the situation in Iraq, at climate change, at St Benedict’s financial situation, I wonder what God is up to, and whether s/he is really paying attention.

Our first reading this morning is from the Book of Job, an unusual text which tells the story of the man who lost everything as a result of a bet between God and Satan. Job went from being a highly successful person to being a complete disaster overnight. He lost all his investments, his many children were killed in a nightclub accident and his body was covered in itchy painful sores. Even his friends didn’t recognize him. This highly successful business man just sat on the ground and scratched.

His friends tried to comfort him with conventional wisdom. Surely he had done something to deserve this and if he would just repent all would be well. But Job knew that his walk with God had been authentic and that one day he would be vindicated.
That wonderful aria from Handel’s Messiah, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ is actually a quote from Job. What he meant was that he had hope that there was someone – a redeemer - who would argue his case before God. Much of the wisdom of the ancient Hebrews said that if you lived a good life you would prosper. Job is a contrarian voice; the story of someone who was good and yet disaster befell him. Today we often think that if we love and serve God we will necessarily prosper, and so we think when things go badly that we must have done something wrong.

God is free. That is difficult for us to grasp. God is not obliged to do anything. God is not obliged to reward us for good behavior or to punish us for bad behavior. In fact that ‘have you been naughty or nice’ way of looking at things has very little to do with God and far more to do with Mom and Dad hiding behind Santa Claus.

God is free and God made us free - free to have a relationship with God and to become God’s adopted children, and free not to. Being God’s adopted children does not mean that everything is easy and pain free. We only have to look at Jesus’ life to see that being the child of God is not an easy way out. If you still need convincing, this morning Paul provides us with a laundry list of disaster in the reading from 2 Corinthians. He endured afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger, but he does not turn against God.

Neither did Job. In Chapter 13 v 15 he says ‘Though God slay me, yet I will hope in him.’ This is the benefit of a deep and abiding relationship with the divine, not that we are pain free and wealthy, but that we have hope and peace. We live in a world where there is great suffering as well as much joy and beauty. When we are walking with God our eyes are open to the joy and beauty in a different way because we have hope in the one who redeems us. ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’. Job was certainly not a happy man in the way that we think of happiness, but he had hope in God’s faithfulness and knowledge of God’s freedom.

The short passage we heard this morning comes from towards the end of the book of Job when the Lord answers Job – out of a storm. It’s difficult for us to accept God’s answer because we want everything that happens to have a logical reason. We believe in cause and effect, ‘everything happens for a reason’ we say. So it would be reasonable for God to explain to Job that everything happened because Satan said that Job only loved God because he was prosperous, and God had said not so, and had allowed Satan to try to prove his point.

But God doesn’t even mention their bet. Instead he gives a long speech about his power in creation and Job’s limited nature. Yet there is something about this meeting with God which is life changing for Job and which satisfies him. He says ‘My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.’ The meeting with God in the storm takes away all Job’s questions about why me? His focus changes from, What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to me? To a focus on God’s faithfulness.

I think that is why Jesus was able to sleep through the storm. His focus was not on himself but on God and God’s faithfulness. It is easy for us to get discouraged both individually and as a faith community, but God is faithful and God will see us through everything we face as we realize and acknowledge our dependence on God. Jesus was completely dependent upon his Abba.

We too are completely dependent upon God. Sin is not so much doing bad things as failing to acknowledge our dependence upon God, believing and behaving as though we can do it alone, we can manage without the divine. When we live knowing that we are completely dependent upon God and that God is faithful, then we have hope. Yes we have difficulties, we live with pain and often things aren’t the way we would like them to be, but God is faithful.

Sometimes it is in the storms of our lives or in the times of greatest pain that God is closest to us. God spoke to Job out of the storm. Jesus’ connection with the Creator was demonstrated in a storm. This is not an easy year for St Benedict’s financially. We have once again slipped below our agreed reserve level. The Abundance Shop is not doing as well as in the past. But in this storm, in this time of difficulty we know that God is faithful. It is an opportunity for us to re-acknowledge our total dependence upon God and to remind ourselves that whatever happens, we are still held.

We are held in the unconditional and extravagant love of God. A God who is free and a God who is faithful. In God is our hope.


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