Wednesday, March 13th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 13th: Psalm 17; Job 1:1-22; and Luke 21:34—22:6. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Religion should not be limited to small questions with known answers. We are trying to find and follow God. What could be a greater quest? I love reading the quotes of scientists when they are baffled, especially when they thought they knew the answer, but the answer was not where they expected. They don’t see this as defeat. They don’t insist that the answer must be there nonetheless. What I hear scientists say over and over again is how excited they are by the unexpected because it has the potential to lead to new discoveries and to approach closer to a truth. Religion should be this and so much more because we are reaching out to the very definition of The Unknown.
Job is a hard book to read. It leads to more questions than answers, but maybe that’s the way it has to be in a book that struggles to reach beyond small questions with known answers. The Book of Job wants to know why the good suffer and it basically says that there is no knowable answer. All the pedantic mutterings of Job’s companions lead nowhere.
Satan, just as we saw on Monday, is a contrivance. He’s created to move the story along. Satan in Job is not the evil nemesis of God that becomes familiar in the New Testament. Satan is more the provocateur. Righteous Job is protected by God so that Satan asks: “‘Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?’” This is the conventional position. Proverbs teaches: “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the righteous.”
(3:33) But reality keeps pushing its way into this neat theological construct, and people of faith must deal with the randomness of suffering.
This is where Satan’s dalliance of his test of Job enters the story. God does bless the righteous, but Satan interferes and subverts the moral orderliness. I don’t know how convincing or comforting this argument is to you, but the point remains that the Book of Job attempts to deal with the hard questions of faith. Even these millennia later, the discussions about the randomness of suffering still commonly invoke the story of Job.
Job gets us to thinking, maybe not to answers, but at least to thinking, and the journey of faith moves forward. We move beyond the moral caricatures of life’s justice and seek out God in the world’s necessary randomness. And then during Lent we add Jesus’ unjust Passion, crucifixion and death into the mix. God endures what we must endure. The God who appears to Job with might rather than comfort appears again in Jesus with the compassion and empathy of one of us.
And Jesus would teach every day “[a]nd all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.” The teaching continues and we hopefully find better answers and grow closer to the truth.
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