October 4, 2015

Pentecost 19 October 4, 2015 Job 1:1-3, 13-22, 2:1-10; Hebrews 2:10-18 **************************************************************** I really don’t like suffering, and I really don’t enjoy talking very long about suffering. And the book of Job is all about the hardest kind of suffering to deal with – the undeserved suffering of the innocent. So as much as I appreciate the wisdom of Job – I admit I don’t find reading Job easy going. I find it difficult to keep my attention focused on all the questions Job raises about unmerited suffering. Questions, which, as Bible scholar Gerald Janzen notes, “…begin by asking after the meaning of such suffering – but in their most extreme form they go on to call into question the meaningfulness of life – and of existence as such….” And probably the reason I choose to read Job in spite of all the discomfort it brings, is simply because Job describes our human condition so well… We like to believe there’s always order and meaning in life. But so often life doesn’t cooperate. As one news article yesterday pointed out, the nine people gunned down in cold blood this past week in an Oregon college writing class, were there to teach and to learn about (quote) “… the art of constructing a reasoned argument (–) when the incomprehensible burst through the door.” We dedicate ourselves to constructing meaningful lives. But then so often incomprehensible things come along, wrecking all that’s reasonable. And yes, the Umpqua Community College story is an extreme example. But life seems so very full of extreme examples lately. In yesterday’s news there’s also the story of nineteen people killed in a hospital in Afghanistan – a dozen hospital staff and at least seven patients in a clinic run by the Nobel Peace Prize winning non-profit Doctors Without Borders. The hospital was bombed by mistake, apparently, by US-coalition planes…. The bombing went on for an hour, in spite of repeated calls from hospital staff to stop bombing… Doctors, nurses, and patients in the hospital must have felt like Job – as his servants came in, one after another, each reporting yet another catastrophe… And in Guatemala this week a mudslide killed at least 56 with 350 still missing and the toll may go much higher…And in Nigeria at least fifteen civilians were blown up by suicide bombers…Something we’ve come to expect on almost a daily basis in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere… And checking news online, I sometimes think God and the angels in heaven must feel like Job every hour, every day…. As messenger after messenger after messenger comes in with news of yet another senseless calamity… (So…) We will study the original story of Job – since we really can’t escape the story even if we try… And even if it’s been a long time since we’ve read it… Even if we’ve never read it… We know the basic story of Job, who is blameless and upright, God-fearing and avoiding all evil. (Although Job is distinctive in his single-minded devotion to God…And in his unusual prosperity – and in his sharing generously with all in need. Still…) In most ways Job’s like anyone who has had a good life, then suddenly finds it taken away, with no clear reason why… Job’s a loving, doting father...

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