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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Church news 10/7: "Job: the Battle for the Soul"

On Oct. 4 we began a four-part study of the Book of Job, regarded as the most profound and literary book of the Old Testament.

Fr. David pointed out that the Book of Job addresses life's hardest questions, like "Why do the innocent suffer?", "What is the basis of faith?", and "Should we give thanks only for blessings?"
Our reading comprised Job 1:1 and 2:1-10, which shows the first step in the testing of Job and the purification of his faith. The end point of Job's journey will be to know God personally and to understand the meaning of life, beyond simply believing in God for the blessings he was receiving.

"Satan evidently thinks Job has selfish motives for his faith," Fr. David explained. In his role as the accuser, Satan goes before God and says Job's faith won't stand up under pressure. "He believes that even the best of mankind will curse God if they are afflicted. So God allows Satan to work on Job, taking away everything but his life and his wife. Yet Job persists in his integrity -- having faith integrated into his values and thoughts."
We find Job, formerly a well-reputed and wealthy man (perhaps even the wealthiest man in the Land of Uz, later known as Edom) sitting on an ashheap, scraping boils that have appeared on his body, and contemplating the loss of all his property and the deaths of his children. Even his wife, who could have provided comfort, turns against him with a sarcastic comment about the uselessness of integrity, telling him to "curse God and die."
Job gently rebukes her, telling her she speaks like a foolish person. "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
That stops us in our tracks. We wonder why would ever allow evil to occur against those who believe in Him or why the innocent suffer. 
As the 19th Century theologian Octavius Winslow wrote:
Unmingled good is not the portion even of the saints of God. ...Unmingled good is reserved for heaven. There, all is pure unmixed bliss, deepening as the ocean flows on through eternity. But here the good and the evil in our history are wisely and happily combined: "Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and shall we not receive evil?" The origin and the source of all the disciplinary dealings of the believer are unfolded. They are not as from accident, but are from God.
Under the weight of sin and evil, "Even Jesus, at the place of the cross, cries out 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" Fr. David pointed out. "But then He continues His trust in His Father and cries out, 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.'

 "Why can't we go along and believe and not be pushed so hard? Is suffering about a process of refinement and an education in cooperation with God through the removing of our blessings, or is suffering for some further purpose also? When we find the answers to these questions, as we will by walking with Job and examining our faith, we will find the deeper dimension to our faith and our lives."

NOTES: Lectors needed! The October/November schedule of readings is available outside the chapel each Sunday; please sign up for this most appreciated ministry. The Women's Book Group met on Tuesday night and chose Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Catching Fireflies by Patsy Clairmont as the two selections for December. Bon-Ton coupon booklets are still available -- $5 buys numerous high-value coupons to use Nov. 14 and the money goes 100% to All Saints. See Alison Stone for details.

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