Job 23: #whereisGod #loneliness #depression #God

Job 23: Summary- If only I could find God and yell at him, then surely things would change….but where or where is God?

 

Job cries out,

 He cries out that the world is wrong

He cries out that God is righteous, so why is his world wrong?

“Let me Explain” Job says, “Just talk to me” Job is convinced he has done something wrong, so why do bad things happen.

 

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good people suffer, if Job “righteous” and God’s exemplar servant (literally) is not able to avoid wrong. Who can?

Who can?

This story is pre-Jesus, there is no savior taking on the troubles and heartaches in a way that we can see (not yet anyway)…so this story is about the reality that human life is hard and that bad things happen to everyone the good and the bad (the rain shall fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike).

It is a comfort, though,

It is a comfort to know that if Job can suffer, then we do not need to be ASHAMED of our suffering…those who suffer from mental illness, addiction or long term debilitating illness, those things are not shameful

Yelling at God when things go wrong…that’s ok too. After all, God can take that anger and turn it into praise (only God can turn anger into praise in Psalm after Psalm after Psalm)

Because God is Grace, God is the stooping God, the kneeling parent, the carrier in the sand. We are NEVER going to be perfect enough for God. But God will always be perfect enough to help us to get to him.

This why we have communion…to connect us to God even when we feel unconnected.

The earliest written communions have
sursum corda (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) which is still included today

Lift up Your Hearts

We Lift Our Hearts to the Lord

Let us Give Thanks to the Lord Our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Lift our hearts…we are lifting our hearts…and we are also praying that God lifts our hearts with us, because we can’t lift them up high enough. God stoops. God helps us

When we celebrate communion we speak to God’s Godhood, how God was the beginning and the end, how God was, is and will be present with us.

Then we pray, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come to the elements, we ask for God to fulfill that promise of presence here and now. Giving a prayer of Great Thanksgiving just as Christ did before he broke the bread and passed the cup, and praying the prayer that Jesus himself taught with the Lord’s Prayer

….lifting our hearts to meet his…God meets us…in the bread and in the wine, Christ is present, promising particular and real presence in the elements.

“This IS my body broken for you…do this in remembrance of me” To remember who Christ is NOW, not just the past

“This is the cup of the new covenant sealed in my blood…whenever (whereever, however) you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim my death until I come again” in the future…this is a seal of my promise to you and your promise to me…proclaiming the death, til the end of time….

and we share in those elements, and we become the Body of Christ…so that Christ is no longer simply with us.  This broken ragged people, in different situations with imperfect bodies and hearts that are often in pieces….God lifts our hearts, moves us to celebrate his love, so that we too end up in giving thanks and praise….

We are the Body of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter, Narrative and the Bible

http://www.onpoptheology.com/2014/08/harry-severus-david-danger-of-single.html

 

“Harry cannot hear the alternative narrative, one in which Snape is a complex, complicated man who has earned the trust of Harry’s own much-admired mentor. Only after Severus’ death is Harry able to hear – or see, rather – the alternative narrative, as Snape’s memories reveal a deep and unwavering love for Lily Potter and a steadfast commitment to protect her only son which resulted from that love.”

Job: Who’s Fault is it Anyway!

Reading almost any selection from the Middle of Job, you will get the picture. Job’s Friends finally get to the heart of the matter–what did you do?

Here is a short interchange
Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
“If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
    But who can keep from speaking?
3 Think how you have instructed many,
    how you have strengthened feeble hands.
4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
    you have strengthened faltering knees.
5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
    it strikes you, and you are dismayed. ‘
17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
    so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.[a]
18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
    he injures, but his hands also heal.

Job9:21-24
Job:  “Although I am blameless,
    I have no concern for myself;
    I despise my own life.
22 It is all the same; that is why I say,
    ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When a scourge brings sudden death,
    he mocks the despair of the innocent.
24 When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,
    he blindfolds its judges.
    If it is not he, then who is it?

Job 11: 10, 13-16
Zophar “If he comes along and confines you in prison
    and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
“Yet if you devote your heart to him
    and stretch out your hands to him,
14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
    and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
15 then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
    you will stand firm and without fear.
16 You will surely forget your trouble,
    recalling it only as waters gone by.

Job 19: 7-10
“Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response;
    though I call for help, there is no justice.
8 He has blocked my way so I cannot pass;
    he has shrouded my paths in darkness.
9 He has stripped me of my honor
    and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
    he uproots my hope like a tree.

Who’s fault is this?
Someone must have done something wrong…
And we know God isn’t in the wrong so….

When terrible things happen, we are good at sympathy for a while. When disaster strikes or invasive/long-term illnesses, accidents or poverty happens, we try to help.

And what we think (in our confused human brains) would be helpful is to find the cause of the trouble. Who is to blame.

Are we poor because the economy is down? Did I make bad choices? Is it the government’s fault? The corporation? Mine?

Even for illnesses we start to blame things, Did I get cancer from food? Talking on the cell phone too much? Did I not pay enough attention to my body, should I have noticed things sooner? …..Since preaching this sermon I have had two people have major problems with cancer, and I bet they have had all of these thoughts…..

We try to blame someone or something…..Because if we can figure out what the cause is maybe we can “fix” the problem…

There was a recent article about a woman who was on food stamps with a corvette, and people tried to figure it out “why do you have a corvette if you are on food stamps” (the woman pointed out that she knew it didn’t fit) and offering “help” in the form of fixes “you should just sell your mercedes if you need money so much...but the truth was the car was paid off and reliable and there was no way a cheaper car wouldn’t in the long run “cost more” so they kept it…but there were people, judging the situation. This wasn’t helpful in the least, the family would still be struggling and poor whether they took people’s advice or not.

The truth is, these problems can’t be fixed.
Our job, as Christians is to be present with the brother-in-law who had an allergic reaction to the surgery meds, to the sister who finally was able to undergo sexual re-assignment surgery, to the friend who is now helping another person with cancer, to a congregant who has been given 4-6 months to live…

My assumption is to (at least try) think that every individual is doing AS MUCH AS THEY CAN TO BE THE BEST THEY CAN BE at work, at home, as a parent, congregant, friend, and if that person is not measuring up they probably already know it. Our job is to listen to where people are, to hear their problems, hear what is difficult, and to be present with them at that time, without judging.

Just to be
Be Present
Sit with them
Cry with them
Note the little things that help with them
Get angry at the big things that hurt

Not to fix, not to blame
but to be present

That is our job as Christians, its the hardest job, its harder to watch and wait and be than to do….

To talk, discuss and analyze in order to help to process–but not to figure everything out because some things are just too big for us to fix.

Be present….for we know God is present with us

Job, Jesus, #depression, and No Right Answers

 

Here we have Job, who is just too a good a guy it seems. Getting another dose from the devil.

Job is, at the very least, environmentally depressed. Environmental depression means that the atmosphere is so chaotic and hard that you are thrown into depression.

His wife, I would say, is more than environmentally depressed, she is probably clinically depressed from all of the stress they have undergone. Clinical depression can be triggered by environmental factors (stress, trauma, violence) but the chemical in your brain are not properly functioning.

1 in 10 Americans report being depressed. Probably more people experience it than are reported. The thing about depression, though, is that you can’t really reason your way out of depression. You can’t tell yourself that you just shouldn’t be that way and then stop.

Also, a problem with depression is that it can make you a nonfunctional being. Making you feel as if you should just stay in bed all day long.

Note: When you are coming out of depression, you actually have energy for the first time, which is why sometimes people attempt suicide when they start to become medicated. The medication doesn’t just fix the depression immediately (and oft should be accompanied by therapy). That’s why a side effect of medication can be suicide.

All these facts about depression, should be really well known, because many humans experience depression at one point or another during their lives. And depression, like any other major ongoing illness, whatever it be cancer, addiction or mental illness, cannot just be “fixed.” There is no “right answer” no way to just put someone back on track so they can get back to living their lives. It has been too disrupted. But because we don’t know what to do, many people hide the reality of living with longterm illness.

So, if the disasters in Job’s lives are atypical, his response to it, and the fact that no one knows how to cure his ills…is not.

This is brought sharply into focus by a week where Airplanes full of Aids researchers are brought done, factions are fighting more and more in Gaza and Ukraine and children are stuck in limbo at the United States border. No one has “THE” answer for these situations, if it was easy, we wouldn’t be arguing over it so hard.

So what do we do. What does Job do, when he has lost everything, is depressed and is so sick and cannot even afford the doctor? His wife tells him to “Curse God and Die”…to just give up….because she can no longer see anything worth living for….

His friends (at first) get it right. They simply sit with him.

They offer to no words of comfort, no solutions, no platitudes. The sit beside him, and keep quiet for 7 days, because his suffering is so great, there is no solution.

This is our call as human beings. When people suffer so greatly that we have no answers. When the situation is impossible, and there is literally no such thing as a “right” answer, a place where answers are useless.

Our job, at this time, is to sit with that person in need. To be present with them. To become fully aware of who they are and how they are suffering and to affirm to them that

“yes I can hear how you are suffering”

simply that, not try to argue against, fix or wipe away the worry. Because it really doesn’t matter if the voices that are threatening you are real or a delusion. All that matters is that those voices are causing pain and suffering that a person has to go thru.

Jesus knows this.

Jesus went thru depression, on Gethsame, when he looks at the task before him and he just wants to go home and go to bed.

Jesus knows what it is to experience human suffering, not because suffering is holy, or we have to suffer for Christ. No, Jesus experiences this as a human, because God knows our suffering. God also knows that to experience suffering as a human being is a way that God can minister to us. 

So God sent Jesus, and Jesus, being fully human, suffered. And when things got really bad, he got depressed.

And what did he want in that time “Friends sit with me while I pray”

This is our calling. Don’t Solve, sit. Don’t judge, listen. Don’t fidget, wait and Enact God’s love.

After all, haven’t all of us been Job at one time or another. And hasn’t Jesus been one of us at one time or another?

 

 

 

Naked as the day you were born: Job 1:13-22

For Job becoming Naked as the day he was born means loss. Loss of status, loss of goods, loss of food and security

Loss of family<–that one really gets me

Loss of respect, Loss of manhood (esp. in that culture), loss of legacy, loss of history.

and Job says “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

i.e. naked as the day he was born. An oft heard expression. Here Job acknowledges that those things that he claimed, his wealth, his house, even his family were not actually secure. For security is actually in God.

We have experienced this in the financial crises, when all the “security” in our money went down the drain. We experienced this at 9/11 when we realized that terrorism can strike anyone at any time. We realize this when a family member experiences disease or struggle, such as cancer (or perhaps even more difficult addiction or mental illness). Why? Because none of these things were really secure to begin with. What is actually secure is God, and Job is able to acknowledge this.

The other oft quote passage from this is “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away” (KJV sounds so much more authoritative doesn’t it)

Here is where I think Job gets it wrong. Because its not God who is taking all these things away….

Its evil. Whether it be Satan or the challenger, evil is what is taking things from Job, NOT God.job07a job08

What I find interesting about this interchange is that it is easier for people to believe in evil than good. I have met many people who have all kinds of beliefs, who are far more able to believe in Evil and evil forces than in God or good forces.

But (as my son pointed out this morning) the Devil can’t take God from Job<–from the lips of a child.

So, here is the question. Why is it easier to believe in evil than good? Why is it easier to believe that it is God who is angry or vengeful than to believe in a fully good and loving God who makes good things happen even admidst the bad.

After all, As it is so well stated in Dr. Who…the good things don’t negate the bad, but GOOD things can happen in the midst of bad! The Bad things don’t have to ruin the good ones.

So here is the question, why is it easier to believe in evil than good?
And what does that mean? Where does that put us. I can’t believe that there isn’t good and purpose for humanity. Honestly, my mind can’t even get around it. Good is stronger than evil, and I, ultimately, believe in Good. The Good of our Loving God.

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Job Ch 1: “What a Setup” or Biblical Fairy Tale

The beginning of Job is a total setup.

Once Upon a Time there’s Job: upright and blameless was he. Job was one who had plenty of sons and not too many daughters–sons whose hospitality was great (they really knew how to party people into the kingdom), and they hosted their sisters often.

Job’s hospitality was even greater, making sacrifices and worshipping on his children’s behalf, praying for them, asking for forgiveness if ever they wronged God (because Job admits he may not have been the perfect parent)

God and all the heavenly beings gathered together, and God asks Satan (otherwise known as the accuser/challenger) what he had been up to…

“The usual” Satan answers “Wondering around, looking at earth and earthlings?”

“Oh, did you notice my servant Job?” asks God.”Because he’s pretty much everything I could hope for, upright, honest and true (i.e. he fears God and turns away from evil)

“Why” asks Satan, “You know he only likes you because you take such good care of him, he is well blessed, he has every reason to be good. If you ruined him, all that would change”

“hmmm….” God says, “We shall see…tell you what do what you want to Job’s family, friends and possessions, as long as you leave Job alone, you can do what you want….”

Job is sure set up here. First he is set up to have everything, and then its what’s the phrase? “too good to be true” he is almost “too blessed” and as a result he becomes tested. Here God gives Satan, the tester, rights to do whatever he wants to Job (Excepting touching Job himself) to see just how faithful Job can be….

What a setup!

Don’t we pray for God NOT to lead us into temptation, what is with this? This doesn’t seem fair, how is it that evil can happen to Job and what does it all mean?

Here’s the setup, we are in for a good story, one where evil exists, but not without good, one where suffering is not greater than God, one where temptations and tests are less about who God is and more about who we are……

How will this work?

Plus, this happens in the mythical land of Uz, you know
a-long-time-ago

In fact the “Satan” character could be named “challenger” instead of Satan, because its unclear if the character is evil or just throwing challenges up….

So why does this perfect guy get setup in this way?
Because we’ve all experienced this, the question of why do bad thing happen to good people, theodicy, Why does evil exist, we all have experienced this reality in our lives.

And we all talk about God, its a human thing to talk about God and the role of evil in our lives, It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in this is a topic of conversation. So here we are, in a Biblical fairy tale (yay fairy tales!)

Asking the good questions, starting with
Once Upon a Time….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMzQCaRR_wk

Millennials, Fantasy & Faith (and why does Katy keep putting them together)

Here is an article about our continued consideration of the “God is dead” question…

“Was Nietzsche right in thinking that God is dead? Is it truly the case that—as the German sociologist Max Weber, who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, believed—the modern world has lost the capacity for myth and mystery as a result of the rise of capitalism and secularisation? Or is it only the forms of enchantment that have changed? Importantly, it wasn’t only the Christian God that Nietzsche was talking about. He meant any kind of transcendence, in whatever form it might appear. In this sense, Nietzsche was simply wrong. The era of “the death of God” was a search for transcendence outside religion. Myths of world revolution and salvation through science continued the meaning-giving role of transcendental religion, as did Nietzsche’s own myth of the Superman.

Reared on a Christian hope of redemption (he was, after all, the son of a Lutheran minister), Nietzsche was unable, finally, to accept a tragic sense of life of the kind he tried to retrieve in his early work. Yet his critique of liberal rationalism remains as forceful as ever. As he argued with masterful irony, the belief that the world can be made fully intelligible is an article of faith: a metaphysical wager, rather than a premise of rational inquiry. It is a thought our pious unbelievers are unwilling to allow. The pivotal modern critic of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche will continue to be the ghost at the atheist feast.”

 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117082/nietzsche-and-death-god-new-books-peter-watson-terry-eagleton

 

Deep, deep thinking in this article and in these reviewed books. This is a response not only to this, but also the Pew Research Poll on Millennials (which I believe I was surveyed for)…..its time for us religious folks to look beyond culture and get creative in trying to understand where people are and why they are there–ie the unattached, economically underemployed yet hopeful millennials

This is an article the re-examines the “God is Dead” question from a modern perspective….Here is the way I understand it. Nietzsche, in light of the prominence of science, tried to make a moral code not dependent on religion.

Interestingly enough, this move away from religion relied heavily upon a “Superman” theory, in my nonexact layman’s terms think of it as the “myth of progress” which is the story/belief/mythology that humans are getting better and will always continue to get better, It is a different theory than the theology of Reformed Christianity, which states that the human condition is an imperfect/broken one, but that God intervenes to work within and among the gaps to create his new kingdom.

Here is one of the most exciting parts of this article, for me “Yet Watson is not mistaken in thinking that throughout much of the 20th century “the death of God” was a cultural fact, and he astutely follows up the various ways in which the Nietzschean imperative—the need to construct a system of values that does not rely on any form of transcendental belief—shaped thinking in many fields.”

Why, because I see where that played out in culture/the fantasy genre, and I THINK ITS CHANGING in the 22nd century!

If you are a fantasy reader, you quickly notice a trend in 20th/most of the 21st century fantasy (ie since Tolkien  formalized the genre)–technology is on the rise, and magic is recessing…sercreting itself away and becoming more and more inaccessible. Imagination is on the decline, the elves are retreating across the sea, the Ents are disappearing, Oz is put under an invisible bubble, the Neverland Fairies keep on dying, Narnia is very remote and mysterious, there is only one unicorn left and she is the last. The fantasy genre usually is a reflection of the Western understanding of spirituality. The more science comes, inevitably the less faith will play a part…..this belief was so true in 20th & 21st century.

Behold the changes

J.K. Rowling & Harry Potter: Muggles and Magic live parallel and not so separate worlds, and once you know about it, you are a part of things (and muggles and wizarding folk are all related in a myriad of ways)

Charles De Lint/Neil Gaiman: Fay are a PART of the cities, they integrate into the varied spectrum of the city, oftentimes helping to explain the richness of human interaction. Ex: Charles De Lint “ I’ve taken to calling my writing “mythic fiction,” because it’s basically mainstream writing that incorporates elements of myth and folktale, rather than secondary world fantasy.

Once Upon a Time/Fables/10th Kingdom: The meta-fairy tale genre is relatively new in literature and cemented itself in the mainstream media with Once Upon a Time. No longer are we “stuck” in one fairy tale/one kind of understanding of magic/one culture–but sectarism gives way to the fact that we can all learn from one another and get a greater understanding of ourselves and the human existence! (rather like how the internet now instantaneously exposes you to so many other stories/people than ever before)

 

I really, really think that we should be studying this change, because it signals a CULTURAL shift in how we understand the human condition and faith. No longer are we sure that technology will change everything. Instead, the increased exposure, the uncertainty of the economy and the advances in technology have all influenced the Millennials.

By giving us a …

By giving us a window into the folk wisdom of an earlier age and revealing the wishes, hopes, fears, disappoinmtents, and frustrations of that time, these stories help us to understand just what is at stake in our own cultural stories. The tales we tell each other and our children not only reflect our own lived experience and our psychic realities, they also shape our lives, enabling us to construct our desires, to cope with our anxieties, and to separate fantasy from reality.” Maria Tartar Cambridge, 1997

Grimm’s Grimmest p. 15 copyright 1997 Chronicle Books, San Francisco

We tell stories to find truth. Tolkien called this the eternal truth in his Mythpoeia essay/poem.

Myths, Lewis told Tolkien, were “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”

“No,” Tolkien replied. “They are not lies.” Far from being lies they were the best way — sometimes the only way — of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.

Katy’s thoughts Stories help us to understand the human condition in light of the eternal truth, God….our charge is to tell the Gospel wherever and whenever possible, and since Christ’s story is our story, and our story is Christ’s story….the t

wo help us to find where God is…

What we are doing now, our job, is to speak our knowledge/prophecy/stories of God in love. Because that is our window to truth!

And ultimately Fairy Tales are stories about love! 1st Corinthians 8-12 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” In essence the next verse is the Mythopoeia thesis “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

All right,” sai…

All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying

humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

 

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

Susan and Death, The Hogfather by terry pratchett

Stories are an essential part of being human.

Fantasy helps us to work towards the world in God’s image, dreaming and imagining is a part of that

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”  (NIV, Joel 2:28)