October 2018 Post-Pentecost Worship Planning Series

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost 2018, Year B

Today marks the beginning of a new four-week series. We are taking a deep dive in the mysterious and complicated story of Job, which is neatly condensed into four lectionary readings in the month of October. Challenge your congregation to go beyond the surface of Job and allow themselves to wrestle with a mysterious piece of Scripture.

Mystery Worship Series, week 1 — DISORIENTED
October 7, 2018

One of the most memorable moments of Madison’s childhood could be found on the beach during the summer. She reveled in the joy of splashing in the ocean, kicking up the sand while running on the beach, and soaking up the golden rays of sunlight. Madison enjoyed hours of play before running into the dimly lit kitchen to grab a cool drink. The change in temperature was always shocking. The feeling of the cool air conditioning stunning her damp yet warm skin, the sensation of hairs raising and goose pimples forming down her spine and back. The stars that seemed to glimmer under her eyelids causing a sense of confusion and bewilderment. What an immediate and unexplainable contradiction she experienced as a child. One second there’s laughter and warm sunlight, the next eye rubbing and chilly shivers.

Life, much like Madison’s experiences at the beach, are filled with moments of disorientation. Whether it’s bumping a toe on the nightstand at night or dealing with the loss of things and people important to us. No person is exempt from being confronted with experiences of having lost one's sense of direction. Despite age, race, class, or gender, all people, at some point in life, will experience a state of mental confusion and difficulty. However, we are never alone. God is always present with us, whether it is in the sunny summers on the beach, or during the long, cold winter nights. God is sovereign, and God’s grace is inescapable in our lives. Wherever we go, whatever we experience, we have an assurance that God is right there with us. God’s spirit lives within us, and God’s grace is always covering us.

Job 1:1, 2:1-10 gives us a front row seat to Job’s experience with disorientation. This story, written with detailed descriptions, unfolds the rise and fall, victories and disappointments in Job’s life. God tests the faith of one of his most committed servants. The life of Job initially appears to be very much like a fairy tale. He is a fair, just, and honest man with a large family, many possessions, and the “ideal life” from the land of Uz. However, behind the scenes, God and a host of angels meet. One of the unlikely visitors who attends the meeting is “Satan.” Some scholars refer to him as “Ha-Satan,” which translates to mean “The Accuser.” As a member of this routine meeting, “The Accuser” asserts Job must be tested to prove his faithfulness to God. This is an unlikely twist in the plot. Why would God welcome Satan or his comments within the heavenly courts? The article ‘The Accuser’ with the word Satan appears in Hebrew and in some other translation, indicating that it is an office, similar to that of a CIA agent. The accuser is therefore in the Lord’s imperial service. This literary element of an antagonist adds not only suspense to the text; however, the irony of the antagonist being a messenger on the Lord’s team adds a level of complexity that speaks to the sovereignty of God (Job 2:1-3). God ultimately is the deity in control, and Satan takes command from God.1

God allows Satan to persecute Job, even though Job has been faithful and true. It is only by the approval of God that Satan begins to destroy and take away everything within Job’s possession. (Job 2:4-6). Job loses his children, cattle, possessions, and even his health. Job is left covered in sores from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet (Job 2:7). He experiences unimaginable pain and no relief. Job could not stand up or lie down; there was no way to escape the discomfort. Job’s only attempt of alleviation came when he began to scrape the sores from his body using broken pieces of pottery. Can you imagine his sense of confusion? His feelings of isolation and frustration? What words can be used to describe Job’s current state of mind?

Job’s wife could no longer watch him suffer in silence. In her rage, she tells Job to “curse God and die.” Job does not heed her angry speech. He simply asks, “Do we accept the good that comes from God and not the trouble also?” (Job 2:9-10) When we are experiencing hardships, we often feel lonely, but we are never alone. Job remains faithful to God, understanding that God is present in both good and troubling times. Job shows a level of faith and maturity that proves sanctifying grace in action. He is more concerned with being faithful to God than caring for his own needs. Job shows us sanctifying grace, the kind of grace that helps us move toward perfection in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Grace is the mystery of God’s love evident in us, through us, and all around us. God is present in the good and the bad. Grace undergirds us during times of difficulty and disorientation, so that we, like Job, can remain faithful to God. The grace of God is the only way theologically we can explain the unexplainable, or biblically understand the mystery of God’s Spirit in this text. We are on a journey as people of faith, moving toward the goal of Christian perfection. Sanctifying grace helps us to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves in light of the challenges we may face in life.

By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, we are given the strength to overcome life’s most difficult moments. If we are seeking God, we will discover internal strength that bears witness to God’s love in the world, even in the midst of external hardships.

When exiting the sunshine of the beach, Madison’s eyes eventually adjust to the dimness of light. When entering the air conditioning, the water drops from the sea eventually evaporate from her skin.

Job trusted God in light of present hardships, and his faith did not grow weary. If we trust God, we will overcome what appears to be insurmountable. God is always with us and has equipped us with grace to withstand challenges. May our prayer be to remain faithful and trust that God is present in the good and the trouble.

Series Writer: Rev. Nathalie Nelson Parker is the National Program Coordinator for for the National Network of Young Adults for SBC21. She recently graduated from Gammon Theology Seminary and is a provisional elder in the North Georgia ANnual Conference. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Rev. Leon F. Parker, III and their son.

1 The Harper Collins Study Bible (New York: Harper One 1989), 694.

In This Series...

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Planning Notes Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Planning Notes Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Planning Notes