Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Faith Formation
Mystery Worship Series, week 2 — DESERTED
October 14, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
Job 1:1, 2:1-10
Fellowship—Snacks or a Meal. (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) — In pairs, discuss: “When have you felt most alone?”
Optional Opening Exercise — Have participants draw or color an image that represents being deserted. An alternative exercise, especially for the more tech-savvy participants, is to have them use a cell phone, tablet, or other device to find images that represent feelings of being deserted. Have participants share their images with the group. Another option is to have participants talk about times they have felt deserted.
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read: Job 23:1-9, 16-17 (read the entirety of chapter 23, if time permits)
- According to Job 23:1-7, what are Job’s desires? (lay his case before him, learn from his answers, be acquitted)
- If you could ask God any question, what would it be?
- Which word(s) best describe your relationship with God?
- How is it possible that we affirm that God constantly desires to draw us closer in relationship and that God seems to hide from us?
- (R) Many saints of the church, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. John of the Cross, have attested to long periods of feeling deserted by God. Have you had a similar experience? What can be gained by such times? (See note below about the Dark Night of the Soul.)
- (R) See the note below on lament. Read one or more lament passages. Allow participants to write their own laments. After everyone has finished (or at the appropriate time), place the laments in the center of the table or room or hold them up symbolically. Offer one or more prayers over the laments. Allow time for silent prayer before ending.
Lament —The Bible has a number of laments. A lament is a passionate plea directed to God that is based on a personal experience of suffering. For examples, see Psalm 3, 6, and 42-44, among others. See also the Book of Lamentations and passages of lament, such as Amos 5:1-3. Even Jesus laments over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:31-35, 19:41-44).
Dark Night of the Soul — The poem, “Dark Night of the Soul,” by St. John of the Cross from the sixteenth century, does much more than refer to difficult life circumstances or a spiritual crisis that clouds our experience with God. Rather, the reference to a dark night or nights of the soul concerns God’s seeming absence during periods of purification and ambiguity that God uses to bring us closer in relationship with God.
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (1 minute). Ask for a volunteer to lead the group or read the following prayer in unison:
We know, O Lord, that if we follow close to you, nothing shall be able to separate us from your love. Give us the grace today to make your work our home, that we may know you more clearly and serve you ever more. Amen.
From Rueben P. Job, Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People (Upper Room Books, 1990) 220
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
1 “Then Job answered [his friends]: 2 ‘Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find [God], that I might come even to his dwelling! 4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. 6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. 7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. 8 If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; 9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him….
16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; 17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!’”
Introduction to Job 23
Job’s friends didn’t understand why bad things had happened to Job. They thought that he sinned or did something wrong, and God was punishing him. But Job explained that he was innocent; he did not disobey God. Job’s friends argued with him. He felt alone when they didn’t believe him.
Our verse for today is Job chapter 23, verse 3: “Then Job answered: … ‘Oh, that I knew where I might find [God], that I might come even to his dwelling!’”
Let’s think about what this means.
Job felt discouraged and lonely when his friends didn’t understand him.
He wanted to find God, to be close to God, and to speak with him face to face.
Job knew that God is the one to turn to in our time of need. He wanted to go right to the Lord.
God’s dwelling place is in heaven, and he can seem far away from us at times.
We do not always feel God in our lives. But God always listens to us whenever we pray.
Can you think of ways that friends could encourage you when you feel alone and God seems far away?
(Affirm the responses. Add other suggestions as you feel led.)
Dear God, thank you for being as close to us as a prayer. Please help us be faithful in worshiping you. Thank you for loving us all the time, even when we do not realize it. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.