Proper 27, Year C, RCL November 10. 2019
The readings today, individually and together, paint a picture of challenge… of angst, of confusion, of trying to hold on… On first reading, the passage from Job can seem like an affirmation of faith….and it is, but with a little desperation. The book of Job doesn’t paint a rosy picture, where all is well and good and, you live a life, well and good, and are always surrounded by immediate reward and happiness. No, Job is more honest than that. And that’s good…because life can be hard, and unfair. In the verses immediately preceding our readings today, Job describes being in a very bad place-He speaks of being defiled and rejected by his community, accused rather than respected; cast out; abandoned and reviled even by his family. He is angry, and he is, in a heartbreakingly honest and desperate way, shouting out to God. His feelings, his distress, are real.
One of the things I love about Job, and many of the Psalms, is that they are so real…they present an honest picture of what life can be like, what we all experience from time to time, and an honest, very human response- be it anger, or heartbreak, or pleading, while we try to hold on to our faith. In our verses today, we hear Job, calling out, in desperation, to the God he believes in, has served and loves.
The psalm continues the theme… one of expressed desperation… but still clinging to hope, and pleading, praying for comfort, protection, salvation. It reminds me of a patient I once had, a beautiful little baby girl, who was well longed for, and finally arrived, and was loved beyond all measure. She was born with a medical problem that we couldn’t fix, and of course her very loving parents were devastated. Her parents were very religious, and one Sunday, her dad left the unit to attend services in the chapel. He came back very unsettled and when I asked him about it, he said he hoped it would make him feel better, but it didn’t. I asked him if he expressed his many emotions of heartbreak and anger to God that morning, and he was horrified! “I have to respect God, to glorify HIM, I could NEVER say I was angry with him!” he said. I gently mentioned that God loved him beyond all measure, knew him intimately, and all his thoughts and feelings and heartbreak already… loved him and wanted to comfort him… if he would only open up his heart, to let Him in. We have a choice.
Life can be confusing… Like the Thessalonians Paul is speaking to, we too can get mixed messages that challenge what we think we know. Life is busy…This world we live in seems to go full throttle. We are bombarded by voices and opinions and mail and tweets and social media…we are pulled in so many directions at once. It can seem like a lot of noise. It’s easy to become distracted by our own feelings: of need, of inadequacy, of self-interest, of self-doubt. We can become disconnected, pulled in many directions. We can stumble, despite our best intentions. But the good news is, we can always regroup, we can always take a deep breath and start again… God will always be there… He is on our side…He loves us beyond measure…but because we have free will, we have to choose…
The months ahead are so very busy… Celebrations to plan, gifts to acquire, meals to prepare, thanks to give… and then, we move into the time of celebration of the birth of Christ, and then that time of starting over. In preparation, I invite you to intentionally choose to take some time for yourself… you, God’s beloved, deserve it… Listen to your heart and care for yourself, and care for each other. This is an opportunity… it’s a time to give thanks, to be aware of our gifts and possibilities. Because we are not God, we make mistakes, we can be led astray, we can make wrong choices…but the good news is, we can always, always begin again. This sacred time of year is an opportunity to start over.
Jesus has a plan. He put each and every one of us here for a reason…he gave us gifts and interests and passion for a reason…and I believe, each and every one of you, each and every one of us, is here, right here, not by accident, not by whim, but because we are meant to be…for a reason. God put you here with a purpose, a purpose that will build the kingdom of Heaven. It can be overwhelming! How do we figure it out?
One way, I think, is to use this time of stewardship to stop and listen, to examine our priorities, take a breath, regroup, recommit… Spend some time thinking about who you are, and who you want to be. Are you an extrovert? are you an introvert? What drives you, builds you up? What breaks your heart and makes you feel vulnerable? What speaks to you, what draws you in, grabs your attention…fires you up, moves you, makes your heart happy? That’s passion- that’s the reason for the gifts we have been given… that’s God letting you know your place in this busy world.… And that, despite all the noise that distracts us, we are part of something bigger… each and every one of us… we’re connected. So we look at our passions and the gifts we have been given-and make a choice. For me, it’s my daughter, my animals- for all God’s creatures, my friends in Africa; it’s the environment, especially the ocean… and always the children, the future. It’s this place I was drawn to, this amazing little church in Franklin MA. As we evolve and gain more insight and understanding, we need to care for ourselves, our families, and those around us… those we know well, those who only are acquaintances, those we pass on the street, those in our neighborhoods, those close and those very far away…all of us are part of the whole… essential parts of the whole of God’s kingdom. This all sounds wonderful… but it’s hard… sometimes really hard… and we need each other… because past all the noise, there is one essential thing: the kingdom of God, our shared humanity, love. And we have such a short time.
Listen to your heart, care for yourself, and care for each other… Care for our planet, care for our world, vast as the oceans and intimate as our inner thoughts, and everything in between. In thought, in prayer, in word, in action… It is a choice, and it matters. Amen