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 ~ Acts 2:37-47.
Devotional Scripture ~ Job 42:1-6.
This week we celebrate Pentecost - the birth of the Church through the receiving of the Holy Spirit. The color red reminds us of the “flames” that appeared above the heads of the faithful gathered in worship as described in Acts 2. We invite South Shore UMC Worshippers to join us in our Pentecost Celebration this week by wearing red to worship!
If a person reads Job 1 and then Job 42, we have a nice neat package of "Once upon a time..." and "Happily ever after." What happens in Job 2-41 is real life, and real life is not so idyllic, neat, or pretty.
Job, this upright, blameless man suffered deeply. His identity, livelihood, reputation, property, and progeny were stripped down and stripped away. He suffered publicly - his wounds for all to see - and no balm was present.
He argued with his wife, with his friends, with his God. Why?
He wanted an answer.
But Job did not receive an answer as to why his suffering was so profound and why God remained so mute.
What he did receive was lessons, specifically about God's presence and God's reign.
Through his experience Job was summoned beyond himself, beyond his circumstances, beyond his trials, into an amplified sense of God's presence both in his life and in the world. In Job 38 God speaks to Job from the whirlwind, which, in effect, lifts Job's gaze from his navel to survey and consider the cosmos.
God begins, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge" (38:1)?
... and that may be one of the easier questions volleyed at Job by God ...
Job endured incredible trials. We, too, endure incredible trials. Even if we do not know why we endure these incredible trials, we do well not to make light of or minimize those trials. We do well not to make light of or minimize or patronize our neighbors as we witness them enduring trials. That was a failing of three of Job's 'friends.'
I have found that sometimes the best thing we can do for others when we have no helpful words to share is to sit with them in the mess - silence is a bold witness that they are seen and that they are not alone.
There is temptation when we suffer to allow our suffering to become our identity. An amplified sense of the divine presence invites us not to collapse inward and wallow in despair when we suffer. An amplified sense of the divine presence, whether our God is speaking or silent, draws us to turn outward, to seek, to question, to protest, to wonder. These conscious actions - the result of conscious choices - lead us, in time, toward healing.
Some scholars refer to God's method of response and interaction with Job as 'veiled.' What Job learns in and through God's veiled response is that there is more to God and to God's reign than Job ever imagined.
As much as we try, our God cannot be contained. As much as we try, our God cannot be made to function within our list of terms and agreements. As much as we try, we cannot fully grasp who and what and how and where and why our God is with our minds and with our words.
Our God does not follow human expectations; our God is free.
God's freedom is daunting and it causes confusion. When God's freedom benefits us, all is well, but when God's freedom rubs us the wrong way, how do we respond?
Do we wash our hands of God?
Or do we, however painfully and heartbreakingly, carry on?
The poet Robert Frost once penned, "two roads diverged in a wood - and I - I took the one less travelled by…”
The pursuit of God in all seasons, in all circumstances, I believe that is the road to blessing. The blessing may come in the form of immense joy. The blessing may come in the form of peaceful resolve. The blessing may come after contending with God. The blessing may even come in the form of an ending.
Blessing results when we seek God, but our seeking God is not merely for the blessing.
Blessings are secondary. God is primary.
As we face incredible trials, may we learn from Job's example. May we learn that we can contend with God and live. May we learn to be comfortable with not having all the answers, with not being entirely in control. May we learn the times to speak and the times to be silent. May we learn how to be friend and to best care for those who are hurting. And may we be surprised by God's presence and the effects of God's reign.
I am finding that it is in the surprises that God reveals the greatest and most meaningful blessings.
Reflection: How has God surprised you by and/or through God's presence and God's reign? What blessing(s) have you received after a time of incredible trial?
Prayer: "Wind who makes all winds that blow, gusts that bend the sapling low, gales that heave the sea in waves, stirrings in the mind's deep caves: aim your breath with steady power on your church, this day, this hour. Raise, renew the life we've lost, Spirit God of Pentecost."* Amen!
*”Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow,” The United Methodist Hymnal 538.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal