Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:26-38.
Devotional Scripture ~ Job 10:1-2.
Early in Star Wars Episode 1 two Jedi are dispatched to the planet Naboo to help mediate an agreement between the Trade Federation and Queen Amidala of the Naboo. But the mediation never happened. The Jedi came under attack by the Trade Federation; they stowed away on landing craft destined from Naboo. The Jedi made their way to the palace where Queen Amidala sat in consultation with her government leaders.
The situation is grim.
The leaders sought counsel from their senator via video conference, and the connection began to flicker before it was interrupted – then disconnected – entirely. One of the Naboo governors said, “A communications disruption could mean only one thing: invasion.”
The Trade Federation’s army was coming.
I quoted the governor’s observation many times in a former pastoral appointment - most frequently during Little Orange Friend season. When we did not hear from the LOF distributor or driver, it meant that invasion (delivery) of LOFs - numbering in the thousands – was at hand.
Now when I think of this quote, it more so resonates with me on when I disrupt the regularity of my communication with God – not that I am going to invade God, but that God – in God’s wonderful, masterful, faithful and care-full ways – is going to invade me. Invade my circumstance. Wake.me.up. Shake.me.out of my pride that tells me I can handle it – whatever it is – because God is shouting I have already handled it.
Despite my attempts to tell a different story, it is God who has the whole world in God’s hands…the whole world is not in my own.
The story of Job in Scripture is an incredible one, especially as it turns this idea of ‘invading’ on its head. Job’s good and fruitful life fell into absolute ruin. Some say God stood by as it happened. Others say God let it happen. The common denominator is that it happened.
Job loathed his life. Job lost his livelihood, members of his family, his reputation. His faith came under scrutiny – from himself and from his ‘friends.’ Through all that mess Job had a choice – to run away from God or to run towards God. And though he raged and railed against his loss and raked God over the coals…the only direction he ran was towards God.
Job invaded God’s space seeking answers, seeking justice, seeking restitution. Some say Job received all those things. Others say Job received none of those things. The story ends in Job’s redemption, which I believe is the result of his relentless pursuit of God – of invading God’s space in the expectation – that God transformed into confirmation! – that God was not absent. That God was in the midst of the mess with Job. That God was committed to seeing Job through to the other side. That God already handled every present circumstance and was preparing Job for what was next.
Friends, God is not absent from our mess. God is committed to seeing us through to the other side. God is actively handling every present circumstance we encounter, and is preparing us for what is next. What would it be like if we took on Job’s posture? What if we became relentless in our pursuit of God? Trust me, friends, God can handle if we come before God raging, railing, and raking – because doing so means we are running towards God. It means that rather than breaking down communication, we are committing to it.
The nights experienced this week are some of the longest all year because of their proximity to the winter solstice. Into this true and physical darkness, the Light of the World is born. Into our pain and hurt and unmet expectations, God confirms in the birth of Jesus the gift of Emmanuel.
Let’s run towards God in the manger. And then from the manager, run towards God with Jesus into his ministry. And then from the ministry, run towards God into furthering the Kingdom. There will be moments of hardship. There will. And we are not alone. Not ever.
God is with us - this is the gift of Emmanuel.
Reflection: Have you ever gone through an incredibly hard season in your life? During that time, did you run away from God or run toward God? If you ran from God, how do you think that affected your experience of suffering? If you ran toward God, how do you think that affected your experience of comforting?
Prayer: “And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing! For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old, when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.”* Amen.
*“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” The United Methodist Hymnal 218.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal