21st Sunday after Pentecost
October 18, 2015
Job 38:1-7; Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45
Take Job for instance – a good man who honoured God in all his ways. And therefore, according to the wisdom of his time (and often the wisdom of our time as well) he was a successful man in any way that we would count: riches, family, respect.
Suddenly, Job is beset by troubles and personal disaster of every sort imaginable, affecting his wealth, his family, his standing in the community and his health. And therefore, said the common wisdom, Job must have sinned terribly in some way not obvious to the rest of the world.
Job and his friends spent months trying to unravel this mystery, with no helpful results. Finally, Job calls for an audience with God to plead his case and demand an explanation. Eventually God pulls up in a whirlwind and says to Job, “Stop it right now! You were not rich because you were good; you are not suffering now because of sin. What do you know about cause and effect? In fact, what do you know about the world?”
(If this line of thinking – that the hard-working good prosper and the lazy sinful suffer – was true, then every African woman would be wealthy beyond measure and well cared for. But that is not the case, is it?)
Back to ‘connecting all the dots’. This is a conceit of our own thinking in the modern, scientific era – that we can figure everything out logically and explain it to ourselves and others. Granted, we have all benefited from our ability to follow our curiosity and match up details to produce wonderful concepts which become amazing reality. But God, and God’s ways are not so easily fathomed. Some things are beyond your comprehension so we shouldn’t drive ourselves – and others – crazy trying to connect all the dots all the time.
But what to do as we find ourselves in the middle where things do not connect? Sometimes in pain; sometimes in crisis; often in confusion looking for certainty.
Throughout scripture we are reminded that we can depend on the presence of God (though not always understandable) to be with us. We know this especially through the ministry of Jesus Christ, who the writer of the Hebrews calls the great high priest. This is the one who acts as a bridge, standing with us in the middle:
- Standing with us in the middle of violent conflicts;
- Standing with us in the middle of broken relationships;
- Standing with us in the middle of theological skirmishes;
- Standing with us in the middle of enormous gaps that exist
- between the rich and the poor;
- between the people of the First Nations and European colonists;
- between desperate refugees and frightened settled people
Jesus stands with us in the middle between God’s vision of shalom and the disharmony of contemporary life.
And because we are born anew in Christ, then we are by virtue of our baptism, also priests in the order of Christ; and as such we too stand in the middle, where things don’t make sense. We stand in the middle, suffering because all the dots don’t connect AND we stand in the middle as priests whose calling it is to act as a bridge to God for folks who are struggling with the confusion of a world that refuses to match up in the ways that we had expected or hoped.
The pain and suffering do not cancel out the beauty of the world and the awesome presence of God around us, just as the awesome presence of God around us and the beauty of the world does not cancel out the pain and suffering we are experiencing. They are all very real. Being ‘in the middle’ can enhance our ability to link others to God by standing with them, representatives of Jesus who teaches and heals and connects us to the power that we, like Job, cannot understand. Amen.