Proper 22B

October 7, 2012

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

Proper 22b



If Job had a street address, it probably would have been Job and Family, 145 Easy Street.  Land of Uz 12832.  Or at least that is how some people may interpret the life of Job prior to suffering he is about to encounter in his life.  I mean- the opening lines of the Old testament reading today give us an account of how fortunate, how blessed Job is.  He has 10 kids, 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen ( I am under the impression that these are some pretty impressive numbers). Not to mention servants- he has many servants.  In looking at all the he has, his neighbors and friends considered him to be the greatest of the East. 

Job’s family was close.  They enjoyed each other’s company.  They held parties at each other’s houses and they ate well.  Life was good.  No reason to complain.  No reason to be upset.  And through it all- Job was faithful.  He didn’t take for granted the goodness of his life.  He was prayerful, he was mindful- he sanctified his family and he offered burnt offerings- just in case.  Like all parents do- they do the extra stuff just to hedge their bets on the safety and well being of their children. 


In my mind I am conjuring up images of soft natural light, Thanksgiving Holiday, warm fire in the fireplace, smells of fresh baked bread and cookies- a hallmark moment, a Norman Rockwell painting.  This is Job’s life.  Where everything is clean and tidy, all unpleasantness is removed leaving Job free to move about knowing that he is the greatest of the East.


Cut to a scene in which the heavenly beings present themselves to the Lord and Satan drops by to pay the Lord a visit.  The Lord inquires as to where Satan has been and Satan says, “Oh you know.  I’ve been walking around on Earth.  To and Fro, here and there just checking things out.”


And the Lord says, “While you have been traveling have you had a chance to check out Job?  There is no one like him on the whole Earth.  He is blameless and upright- he tends to his relationship with me and he turns away from evil.”  The Lord truly knows this man Job- his ins and outs, his resting and his rising- The Lord knows this man.  Enough to the point to almost brag to Satan about how good of a man Job is. 


Satan’s response is one that exemplifies some of the conversations we might have had in regards to jealousy, coveting, wishing…

“Well of course Job is faithful.  Why wouldn’t he be?  He has never been tested.  Have you seen his mailing address- he lives on Easy Street- for crying out loud.” 

The man has never been tested. 

Now, just between you and me, I imagine that taking care of 10 kids came with some testing and frustrations- not to mention taking care of 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and all the other animals they had- I am kind of glad Job didn’t come to yesterday’s pet blessing, we would have been there for a looonnnggg time.  In Satan’s eyes, Job was a fair weather faithful person.  The moment life started going less than stellar, less than easy, Job would jump ship and would be less blameless, less upright.  Or at least that is what Satan thinks and expresses to the Lord in this conversation. 


Okay- Satan has a fair point- to some degree. Follow me for just a moment.  When I was a kid or even a teenager, I used to sit in my desk at school, right before an exam and literally pray, “Okay God.  If I just pass this test- If I just get a C, I promise I will go to Church every Sunday.”  This prayer became more heartfelt the less I studied.  And sure enough- if I got a C on my test then I would make good on my promise- at least for a while.. at least until… something else more important than church would pop up like sleeping in, or hanging with some friends or whatever else would be considered more important to a 16 year old.


Even in my 20s- I had similar moments of Prayer.  Okay God- please don’t let those blue lights in my rearview mirror be coming after me.  I know I was speeding but if the cops just pass me by, I swear, God, I won’t speed more than 5 miles over the speed limit again.”  Not even 5 minutes, not even 5 minutes- my speedometer- would be creeping up and up and up passing the boundary of promise and continuing to rise. 


And I might be stepping on toes but I speak from my own personal experience- if I am in a sticky situation because of decisions and consequences I have made and currently facing- I have been known to say or pray, “Hey God.  If you get me out of this, I promise- I swear- I vow… to go to church every Sunday, to be a better person, to pledge 10%, to read the Bible more, to be a faithful follower of you- completely.”  Oh yes.  I have said all that and so much more because I am human.  I am sinful.  I am broken.  AND because I am a child of God.  Far from perfect.  Far from righteous.  Far from unblemished but not far from God.  Sometimes my relationship with God is a little wonky as these examples can testify to.  The moment life gets a little hairy or hard, Satan believes that Job is going to stop being faithful and start using God as a safety net, as an entity one calls out to for quick fixes instead of being in relationship with the Holy, with our Creator, with God.  In fact, Satan goes as far as to think that Job will get angry with God, curse God and fall away from God.


This week’s passage in Job doesn’t reveal the story of what happens next.  We get just the set up- Job is faithful, so faithful that the Lord is quite taken with Job.  Satan says, “Yeah right.  Let’s see what happens if I test him.” The Lord agrees but says do what you want but spare his life.  Spare Job’s life.”  This means pretty much everything but the death of Job is on the table. I took a peek at next week’s readings and even though we are still in Job- we miss a bunch of the story. The book is worth a read if you haven’t read that book in the Bible before or if it has been a long time. 


Satan cover’s Job’s body with sores.  Weeping, oozing, painful, gnarly sores. The only source of relief Job could get involved taking a shard of pottery to scrape and itch himself.  His wife, in a helpful way- I am sure- says to Job, “Just curse God already and be done with this life.”  Thinking that death would bring relief for her husband, she encourages him to go against the way of his own faith.  However, Job’s truth is this- Death would not be his relief, relief comes from being in relationship with God.  Maintaining faith in God is Job’s relief.  No matter what happens, I still have my relationship with God. 


Lets revisit for a moment those kinds of “prayers” some of us pray in times of great need- like a need to pass an exam, not be pulled over, getting out of a sticky situation.  We reach out to God.  We go to God first.  We go to God knowing that how we are in the present moment can and does need improvement- we have not loved you with our whole hearts.  The way we have treated others probably could use some work as well because most of the time it is in our treatment of our neighbors, friends and family that we see just how much we can disappoint others.  We have not loved our neighbors as our selves.


God- I know I have screwed up.  I have screwed up big time.  I didn’t study, I was speeding, I was sinful. 


In our darkest moments, those who believe in God, those who have a relationship with God- we reach out to God, to center ourselves, to ground ourselves, to find our true north, to find some peace in the middle of the storm that rages around us.  We might be mad as all get out at God- but we still acknowledge who God is and God’s place in our lives. 


Satan was wrong.  Even in our deepest hurts, in our greatest sorrows, in our most confusing and perplexing experiences, we still reach out to God, long to be near to God- to be drawn nearer still to God for guidance, protection, for just a little bit of comfort- Job teaches us this idea again and again as his story is told.  Even in our own lives if we were to take a few moments to consider and ponder some of our more troubling times- our hearts long for the Holy, to be connected to our creator.  One way to establish and maintain that connection is to continue to be in relationship with those who are sitting to the left and right of you, behind you and in front of you- the very bodies and hearts surrounding you are the hands and feet and eyes of God.  It is in loving God and loving our neighbor that we are guided through this life, that we navigate our downfalls and shortcomings and it is in this same relationship with God and with one another that we hold each other accountable to living into the promises that we make- not the ones of “if I pass this test or if I don’t get pulled over.”  No.  I am talking about the promises that we made in our Baptism- To continue to seek and serve God.  To continue in the fellowship of the breaking of the bread.  To continue seeking ways to be connected to God- regardless of how life may test us, no matter which way the road bends- keep our minds and our hearts in the love of God- that is how we too can be in harmony with the world around us, that is how we are in relationship with God. Amen.