October 24, 2021
We’ve finally made it to the end of the book of Job! God has just finished speaking, pointing Job to all the wonders of creation as the answer to his complaint. Job seems to understand what God is getting at. He realizes that he is not able to see the whole universe the way that God can, so even though he doesn’t understand fully why suffering happens—and we don’t get to learn either—he can say that God knows what’s up. And if God knows, then that’s enough. So then the story is rounded out with the epilogue where Job receives twice as much stuff as he started off with. Which feels…odd.
The restoration of Job has made a lot of readers of this book uncomfortable. For forty some chapters, we’ve been reading a masterful work of poetry that is just tearing apart the idea that God rewards the righteous with material blessings, and punishes the sinful with curses. Then, in the space of a few verses, it seems like the story gets so uncomfortable for the writer (remember Job is a parable meant to teach us, not a direct retelling of a history) that the writer feels the need to give it a Disney-fied ending where everyone lived happily ever after. Job does, in fact, get rewarded for his righteousness. So…were his friends really that wrong after all?
October 17, 2021
These past few weeks, we’ve been making our way through the book of Job, to learn what it is trying to teach us and to understand what the Spirit meant by including it in the Bible. It started with the disaster that fell on Job, calling into question the idea that righteousness is always rewarded, and evil is always punished. Then we heard Job’s lament to God, and how lament is an act of faith because it trusts that God will hear and that God can fix the problem. And then we come to this week. This week, God answers Job.
And how does God answer Job? Out of the whirlwind. That phrase just captures the unbridled power of God suddenly appearing the midst of Job and his three friends, and the wonder such an encounter with instill in all of us. But God speaks with a unique voice in Job, and that voice is sarcasm. God fills the encounter with rhetorical questions—from how the sun rises to where the rains are stored, how the earth was made and how to tame the great sea creatures. God’s words are huge, and God’s sweeping focus is monumental.
October 10, 2021
Last week we started to look at the book of Job, to explore why the Spirit put it in the Bible and what we’re called to learn about God from it. It started with the impossibly righteous Job having everything taken away from him, throwing him into deep suffering that called into question the worldview that God rewards the righteous and punishes the sinful. Shortly after that, three of Job’s friends showed up, and after sitting in the grief and ashes with him, the four of them got into a long, long, long conversation.
For 20 chapters Job has been in a circular argument with the other three. It’s long, and repetitive, and it keeps coming back to the same point: Job’s friends insist he must have sinned to be punished this way, and Job insisting that he is innocent and doesn’t understand why it’s happening. According to at least one commentary, the argument of Job’s friends is supposed to feel pedantic and tedious (and if you’ve read it, it is), the way anyone’s useless comments about the cause or purpose of our own suffering might feel. But also, they’re all stuck in that worldview, all four of them, that God must reward the righteous and punish the sinful. They can’t see another way of the universe operating.
October 2, 2021
Job is a difficult book. It’s a difficult book with a difficult lesson, and that’s why I think it’s important that we spend time with it for the next few weeks that it shows up in the week’s readings. The Spirit has occasionally done some odd things with what books were included in the Bible, and since Job is in it, it means God has something important for us to hear in its pages. But before anything, I think we should address this opening narrative, and just how uncomfortable it makes us all feel about how God is portrayed.
We hear about a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz, who was “blameless.” Not included in our reading today is all of his stupendous wealth in herds and servants. Then, as the book continues, we get this strange behind-the-scenes look at the heavenly court. And it is confusing. God is there, but so is Satan? And it seems like God and Satan make a wager that treats Job like a pawn in some game he had no idea he was playing. And all these terrible things that happen to Job apparently happen with the explicit consent of God—very disturbing. Very confusing.
September 26, 2021
Esther is a book that we only get once every three years, which is a shame because it’s a really good book. It was a book written by the Jewish community in Persia some time after the fall of Jerusalem, when the destruction of their homeland and the subsequent exile caused Jews to scatter around the known world in what is known as the Diaspora. Now, when you’re a community like that, you do tend to develop a certain worldview. Particularly, Jews worried that the ways that they were so different from their neighbors, the ways they kept to themselves, and the fierce loyalty they had to God would lead to persecutions (which did happen). Esther is, in a way, a book written to talk about that worry and what God was doing about it.
So Esther was an orphan who was taken care of by her uncle Mordecai. Due to some disruptions at court, the position of Queen had opened up and the King held basically a national beauty contest to find a new one. Because of her beauty and some strategic help from a palace eunuch, Esther ended up being the one the king chose. The catch was that the King never knew that Esther was a Jew.
September 19, 2021
In 1975, the United Nations declared it the International Women’s Year. The General Assembly wanted to highlight all the gains women had made in the progress toward equality, from Switzerland granting women the right to vote in 1971, to women getting the right to apply for their own credit card without their husband’s signature, to all the other progress that had been made and all the progress that could be made. Well, in commemoration for the International Women’s Year, the women of Iceland decided to do something big.
See, in 1975, Icelandic women earned only 60% of what their male counterparts made for the same work. But women were also culturally expected to be the main ones taking care of the home—raising the kids, cleaning the house, keeping up with the chores, that kind of thing. So in 1975, a movement gained steam for women to stage a “walk out” of all kinds of work. On October 24 at 2:05, 90% of the women in Iceland stopped working for the rest of the day. The whole country saw exactly how much it relied on the hard work of women to function, and by the following year, the parliament passed equal pay for equal work.