The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: October 4, 2015
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector, St. Michael’s Church
I speak to you in the Name of God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.
Today is a day to rejoice. Today we celebrate St. Francis of Assisi, the thirteenth century founder of the Franciscan Friars and the Golden Halo winner of last year’s Lent Madness. In honor of this most blessed of saints, we invite you to join us this evening at 6:00pm for the blessing of the animals.
Today also marks the second spectacular Sunday in our Rejoice St. Michael’s stewardship campaign. Now is a time to be thankful for the gifts we have been given
and to focus on our spiritual discipline of giving to others.
Today for me personally marks the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood—a calling that I love and am thrilled to share with you as your new associate rector.
Today is a day to rejoice and celebrate the life of our community. And what better way to celebrate these amazing things than a reading from Job!
The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?
There is no one like him on the earth,
a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.
He still persists in his integrity,
although you incited me against him,
to destroy him for no reason.”
The story of Job—the story of a good and righteous man handed over to suffer at the hands of God doesn’t really put us in a rejoicing mood. Instead, Job’s story leaves us to doubt and question our own faith and relationship to God.
“Why should I work so hard to be a good and faithful Christian if God hands us over to suffering like it’s some game?”
“If God did that to Job, what’s stopping him from doing the same to you or me?”
But then, I remember Jesus.
Let us considered God’s servant Jesus, the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being on earth—the Son of God who sustains all things by his powerful word. Jesus who for a little while was made lower than the angels so that God himself might taste suffering and death for everyone. So that God might share in Job’s suffering, in your suffering and mine. So that God can remain with us always.
For Jesus we can rejoice. For Jesus shares in the fullness of our joys and sorrows
—the God who binds himself in love to our every lot in life.
In Jesus, God meets us, works with us, comforts us, and helps us to grow in places we least expect—places of pain, brokenness, disappointment, frustration, and disillusion.
But what about Job? What Job teach us about rejoicing in the midst of hardship and suffering?
It was the summer of 2007—my last summer before entering the real world. I had decided to take the plunge into the wonderful world of white water rafting. After six weeks of training, I became an official raft guide and it was great. I got to spend all day on the river in the beauty of nature. I got to work with all kinds of people from all over the world. I was really coming into my own as a raft guide and as a person. And just when I was at the top of my game–untouchable, I lost just about everything.
Now for those of you who don’t know, raft guiding is different for guys and gals. Guys have stronger bodies, so they often have no problem steering the raft in strong, fast currents. When all else fails, A man can rely on his own strength to muscle through and get the job done.
Ladies, we aren’t built the same way. We can’t rely on just our muscles to get the job done. In white water rafting, women have to guide utilizing the strength of their whole body and the strength of their crew. And women also have to use the strength of their mind to read the water so they can utilize the full power of the river to guide the raft along.
Guess which way I chose? Yup, rather than use the strengths of the people and things around me, I tried to muscle through relying on myself alone to get the job done.
Week after week of relying on me, myself, and I, the strength in my right hand was nearly gone.
If you’ve ever had a hand injury, then you know, everything from the extraordinary to the mundane becomes nearly impossible.
For me, I couldn’t play violin, I could barely write my name, and opening ketchup packets had become the greatest chore on earth.
Suddenly my whole life’s work—my college degree in music, my years of practicing violin, and my future career lay in jeopardy.
So here I was, this accomplished college graduate stuck in the wilderness forced to eek out a living restocking first aid kits and repairing hockey helmets. How could this happen to me?
Many of us are caught up in the rushing, rapid currents of today’s society. Swept up in the busyness of doing, we often try to rely on ourselves to muscle through on our own without the help of the resources and people around us. Swept up in the busyness of doing, we forget the important business of being. We forget to be mindful of ourselves and our own needs. We forget to be fully mindful and present to others and embrace the strengths they have to offer. And we forget to be mindful of God flowing and swirling in and around us.
When we get so busy wrestling the rapids of life on our own, we tend to forget it is not what we have or what we do that makes us who we are as beloved children of God. It is simply in being that we are loved. It is simply in being that we are blessed.
When all was stripped away, when all seemed lost, I found in the midst of my suffering an opportunity to simply be before God. By simply being, the tiresome toils of the day
Transformed into hours of reflection, prayer, and discernment. By simply being, I came to understand the wisdom of Job—the value of being the little I am sitting before the Great I AM. And by simply being, I was able to hear God’s call for me to become a priest.
There are times in life when we like Job will undergo hardship, suffering, and loss.
There will be times of adversity and valleys of desolation when it seems that God is absent from our lives—when God’s silence will seem deafening. Times when we will feel like we are pawns in some game between God and the adversary. Times when it seems that God’s righteousness and justice have disappeared from the world.
Such times are not far from our hearts and minds this morning as we recall the tragedies in our own world remembering especially the shootings this past week in Oregon.
And yet it is during these times of darkness, it is in these valleys of desolation where we like Job can grow the most. Where we can come to know God and ourselves more fully and deeply than ever before. Where we can encounter the compassion of Christ
in the most unexpected people and in the most surprising places. It is in these times,
in these places where we can realize and utilize our true strengths.
For we like Job have the strength to believe in God even when God is silent. We have the strength to bring forth the light of Christ even in the darkness. We have the strength to bless and forgive others even in the midst of suffering, violence, and death. We have the strength to wrestle with God at the break of every day—to grapple with God until we are broken open and blessed.
And we have the strength to simply be.
For we like Job have the strength to rejoice in the midst of suffering and cry as Job cries,
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that he shall stand at the last day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed,
yet shall I see God,
who my eyes shall behold as a friend and not a stranger.”
Rejoice for the wisdom of Job. And for this we can rejoice!