Tag Archives: Job

Healing, not just pain relief.

Drudgery. Slavery. Pointlessness. Job is feeling pretty negative about life. I have felt squeamish about getting into these readings because of my own battles with depression, my own difficulties with finding a work life balance which works for me and my children and the many depressed people in my life. I have been constantly struggling to feel hope for myself, my situation and the situations of friends who don’t even have enough to live on…let alone the people on Manus Island.

I am reluctant to grapple with the negativity of Job, on top of the negativity around me. What if I simply give a nod to the fact that scripture acknowledges depression and discouragement as part of the human condition. Acknowledges them but does not accept them- there is no acceptance in Job. Job complains, in so many other parts of the bible people complain when things go wrong. At time there appears to be a moralistic tone taken against this complaining (murmuring, whinging) and yet it continues.

Humans suffer.

Humans complain.

Humans make stories even about their suffering.

With relief I turn to the psalm where God is healing the brokenhearted, rebuilding Jerusalem, regathering Israel. I am going to wallow in this hopefulness verse after verse as God heals the brokenhearted (don’t we all want a little bit of that?), binds up wounds. God’s healing goes out to more than just humans, s/he is on first-name basis with every star in the sky. At this point I am cheering and calling for God to come into my world/s of work and friendships and politics and the larger world of the environment. Bring this healing and comfort! We all sorely need it!

The psalmist seems of the same mind, breaking into an ecstatic that God is “great”, “mighty in power” and unlimited in “wisdom”. Well, you’d hope so wouldn’t you? It ends on a very interesting two-liner that is echoed also in the Magnificat

“The Lord sustains the lowly;

the wicked he casts to the ground.”

 

Granted it does not explicitly state that “the wicked” is a synonym for “the privilege and powerful” however the structure of this triumphant challenge comes across as a reversal of the worldly status quo (especially if with Job we are approaching the psalm really disenchanted to begin with). If we are lowly then God will sustain us. If someone is wicked (including us of course) then they will be thrown down.

 

The dangerous temptation here is to rest in the cosiness of this psalm and think therefore we can let all the evil and injustice go on in the world because God will fix it all. As far as personal morality goes, that may well be a great strategy- leave it to God to decipher and change people’s interior life (and stay open to being called to change ourselves and to greater compassion and understanding). But as far as we see people deprived of food or dignity, left out in the scorching streets to fend for themselves or locked up in muddy unfinished gaol-camps we can’t simply shrug and say “ho hum God’s really nice and will fix it”.

 

I’d take this psalm as comfort and a safe space to let go of our anxieties and depressions but not as an escape-hole from the world. We rest for our Sunday meal, our happiness with this healing, fixing God and THEN we are empowered to learn from this God how to bring healing and fixing to others. We are God’s children not God’s puppets. We are apprentices not patrons for the master-craftsman of healing and justice that is Holy Wisdom. What God is, we must yearn to become and what God does we must learn. We may not be perfect and powerful and all wise like God in the psalm but we were created in the image of God, inbreathed with God’s breath and then called and sent to touch each other with God’s blessing and healing.

 

There is so much more in the second reading and gospel but I have already used too many words. I think Bernadette Kiley’s book on Mark has something on the gospel that I couldn’t improve on. If you have had enough of my words you may just want to repray the beautiful psalm. Or pray with me…

 

God of rebuildings and gatherings,

 

Teach us how to stop fracturing and undoing our human relationships and our place as part of the earth. Teach us to plant and nurture, to walk in bare feet and feel love again for our brokenhearted, blue and beautiful earth. Teach us to heal.

 

Show us that we can build tables instead of walls and we can bring people in to sit around the table of grace. Motivate our societies to be less about the miracle of some technology for the privileged 1% and more about the miracle of feeding the 5000. Indulge our curiosity toward the stars, but remind us to reach our arms up to embrace and appreciate the beauty of the stars not to colonise and exploit even the most distant and powerful things in our universe.

 

Surprise us with a different sort of greatness and power, than the one that must build walls. Show us the wisdom where power lies in sustaining the lowly. Be our unlimited wisdom that shines hope even into these days of suicidal politics toward climate change and conflict. Cast the wicked down from their places of power over others, give us back ourselves. Cast down the wickedness in each of us. Throw out our fearfulness and apathy and greed. Re-orient ourselves toward radical and trusting love.

 

Heal us as we praise you (and when we can’t) for we are the broken-hearted.

Call, and call, and call, and call again until we learn how to listen.

 

You are our hope and the Wisdom which is balm.

Be very near.

The kingdom of God cannot be outsourced

I’ve had it with Job, maybe it’s time I gave some attention to the alternative readings. This one by Jeremiah can be read as a simplistic and idealised call to greater faith. I prefer to read it as one of those Utopian visions that confounds the fatalism and inevitability of “this is the real world” thinking. This reading does not call us to apathetically “trust God” to deliver us, rather to believe and commit to a faith that social change IS possible and that God desires it at least as much as we do. So when we take our activist selves up and throw ourselves into the neverending quest for justice we are on God’s team, we are bringing about a vision bigger than ourselves, before ourselves, after ourselves we are building the reign of God.

Therefore even with the defeats and moments of despair we suffer it is worth still pursuing the unique chivalry (with critical possiblities) of God’s table. God will take the weeping and the broken and those in need of consolation and bring them back from their exile in the “real world” of performativity and disconnection and exploitation. God will comfort, lead and adopt. We can read this vision and be moved by it and beg God to give us a place in the plan to help bring it about. I am sure it is meant to be a motivating reading, not an invitation to sit back because God will wait on us hand and foot while we just mumble kyriearchal compliments and grovel.

When God delivers, it is like a dream…there are shouts of joy. But in this psalm, it is significant that the people who God is delivering have worked very hard (and with tears) to sow the seeds tor the impossible harvest which God restores. Again our place is in the struggle, sowing the seeds for God’s deliverance of sheaves of golden justice and joy.

Hebrews seems to be saying the opposite, that we have no further need of “priests” because we have the one “high priest” which is Christ. But in another place we are told we are the body of Christ, so the priesthood is enacted through that body, therefore through all of us. Maybe it is the organised hierarchical view of priesthood that is called into question (and wouldn’t that be a bitter pill for the church) but there is no possibility of reading this as “sit back, relax and Christ will do it all”. If Christ has made the offering for our sins, then we are free- not to sin again defiling the temple that is creation but to move out of sin and behave as the priestly body of Christ in the eternal atonement and redemption act.

Which I realise is no easy task.

But the priestly body that we through Eucharist, through sacrament, through grateful love and radical Christ-orientation become is the perfect body, the sinless body that “always lives to make intercession” for those who seek to approach God through this priesthood. We need to be an advocate, a conduit for the people of God deeper into God, into justice, into the joy of the miraculous harvest.

The blind beggar in the gospel is confronting a world that limits him and leaves him out. He is refusing the polite silence that accepts marginalisation and he is demanding “mercy”. You can read “mercy” as a one off act of compassion but I was educated in a tradition where “mercy” came with ideal of social action for justice and the demand of mercy was to be “loyal in everything”. We were specifically asked to consider how much good would one occasion of charity achieve compared to the louder, more difficult task of demanding a change to systems of oppression. Even though the teachers often addressed us as “ladies” (which was a bit vomitous) the model of discipleship we discussed was not ladylike and didn’t shrink from raising its voice.

The blind man in the gospel is advocating for himself, there is no harm in doing just that. How often do Christians side with the “many” who tell people such as him to be silent, to be invisible or call his thirst for justice, dignity and equality a life-style choice and thus dismiss it as non-urgent. Interesting when he comes to Jesus, Jesus does not do as our society and most well meaning people do. He does not tell the man how he will solve his problems, colonise the man with Jesus’ idea of salvation, dignity or usefulness. Jesus asks the man what help he wants.

When we help do we ask people what help they want? Or do we know better than them?

The man asks to be made well, regains his sight and follows Jesus on the way. Jesus is the way. So the demanding and raucous call for acknowledgement, healing and justice leads to apostleship. Along the way the man will meet others calling for healing, the man will be free to call out and advocate for them also or to offer whatever healing he learns from Jesus.

I have been blind, I have raised my voice. When God heals me I will be commissioned also to walk along with Jesus and listen out for the voices calling for justice. I call out, I am honest about what I want from God. I sow seeds even if I weep with despair as I do it. God’s kingdom happens along the way, it transforms and impassions and conscripts. And then there is joy when we reap the grains of our hope against hope.

The number for heaven is busy, please check your privilege and dial again

My God,

Well here we go! Last week’s pious nonsense has already ended in tears!

Job’s complaining is bitter because God is continuing the abuse despite Job having tried withdraw constant. At the same time God is not taking Job’s calls, or leaving an address. Job thinks that if only he could decode where God is, then he could reason with God. But don’t all abused people think they can reason, love and communicate their way out of abuse? I don’t like this God either, I can understand Job wanting to vanish into darkness. I reject the “God” in this reading, I refuse to have anything to do with him.

My God, my God why have you abandoned me? I don’t have that connection with tradition to be so sure you are going to do anything to rescue me from the pit of fear, despair and grief that so much in my world buries me in.

My God, my God why do I keep abandoning you? Why do I turn to escapism and commodities even though I know they won’t satisfy me? Why don’t I see clearly how to get to you?

Fierce bulls surround me. Papal bulls to keep me in my place are between you and me. Fierce (turn)bulls to keep taking away democracy. Ravening lions eat up the whole earth, eat up the labour of my hands, eat up my time, my energy, my soul. My ancestors trusted in you, but they were naïve. They trusted in you but they judged others. They trusted in you, but they died.

Trust.

Why did you call me?

But you are the midwife that helps us through the various stages of the universe giving birth to us, to the birth of each new self from our old ways of being. You hold us and give us back a piecemeal integrity so that we can be mother to ourselves and bring each successive try at authenticity to birth- Oh yes, that is how far we go back. You bring worlds and universes, societies and each small person into the world through the trauma and tearing of birth- you breathe breath into us you give us into welcoming arms.

We are in thirst and dust and desperation, none more so than the refugees you seem to have abandoned. God when you abandon me in my privilege then I will die. My privilege stops me entering the reign of God- dance me gently through the eye of the needle, God. All things are possible for you? But not all are easy! Do I really have to give up everything?

Were you really “tested as we are”? Were the tests standardised? Did you cry to find yourself so reduced? Did you give into your privileged state and ignore those who were failing? Did you become normal? Were you tempted to ignore your vocation? Did you choose what was hard an unpopular? Did you bury your desires to fit in?

But were you really tempted/tested in every way that we are?

Were you tempted to have babies instead of making decisions? Were you tempted to find some clever thesis to write instead of seeking one that you feel has meaning? Were you tempted to check Facebook one more time instead of studying? Were you tempted to neglect elderly relatives who don’t give you a lot of joy? Were you tempted to influence your children to be straight and conform to their gender? Were you tempted to take handouts from people even though you knew there were strings attached? Were you tempted to stay in a toxic relationship? Were you tempted to drop out of things that gave you life and joy? Were you tempted by the escapism of falling in love with unavailable people? Were you tempted to go on dating sites and sleep with just anyone to gain credibility? Were you tempted to allow people to slut shame you? Were you tempted to go to a strip club so your friends wouldn’t label you a “prude”? Were you tempted to keep drinking long after you knew it was bad for you? Were you tempted to take an E? Were you tempted to pretend you were under the influence of the E in order to have an excuse to touch someone? Were you tempted to be ordinarily successful? Were you tempted to let someone push you around? Were you tempted to cry? Were you tempted to fail on purpose?

Were you really tempted in every way that I was?

Do you know about MY experience? Have you ever been me?

Perhaps through Eucharist you feel what it is to be me- but how then do you not sin? I seem hard-wired to weakness. How is it that you can say you have experienced the weakness of despair and self-hate if you have truly never sinned? I boldly come to ask for the grace to really be represented by you.

How funny when you seem to ask me for the same grace. I make no claim to being without sin, how would I represent you?

If it is our wealth and privilege which keeps us from your reign, how is everything possible with you? Can you really save EVERYONE? Why don’t you? If you can save white, male, millionaires (and such) why do you still let them have a choice, even when their choice affects less powerful “others”? Why is their free will more important than my sister’s justice?

If heaven is means tested what are you going to ask from me? Is it the emotional security that I seek, the economic ease that I will have to give up? At what point do I decide I am not strong enough for your reign?

My God, My God, it is true I keep forsaking you. In cowardice I avoid the bulls and the lions- I become one of them or I hide and let you face them on your own. You have eased me into being; out of my mother, out of my society. We go back a long, long way. Don’t let’s be strangers!

Fulfilling my weekly commitment (uphill)

Doing this more as a discipline than out of wanting to this week, cannot even be bothered doing links (will later perhaps otherwise google “lectionary” if you want to know,,.

That first reading: Job 1:1, 2:1-10. So God uses Job in order to win a bet with the Satan, lets him be tortured for some sort of gentleman’s dick-points competition. Not cool God, not at all cool! And when Job’s wife quite sensibly points out that this is not behavior that deserves Job’s continued loyalty HE says: “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?”

Well THIS foolish woman here, writing the blog thinks yes, if God loves us this sort of abuse is NOT ok. And I would a lot rather be a foolish woman who thinks religion is not worth all this pain and indignity; than to lose my compassion and be foolish like a man who accepts an idea of God who punishes the good merely to impress his enemy. Hypermasculinity like that puts me off. I don’t think God goes out and handpicks misfortune for people but if I thought God was like that I wouldn’t so quickly praise God for it.

Psalm 26 is the sort of smugly complacent stuff a lot of “good Christians” come out with. The sort of people who turn gay people away from their church, and frown upon divorcees, and kick out their own daughters for being pregnant. Oh I am so pure and innocent, also exclusive and don’t let the wrong sort of riff-raff come near me. 26:8 O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

But I put it to you, psalmist that if you loved the house where God dwells, then you would have been into it enough to see that God dwells with the rejected and the unclean; with the poor and the downtrodden, with the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. If you avoid all of God’s housemates then how can you say you love God’s house? Your foot may stand on level ground while you soapbox away how much you thank god for your unearned privilege, meanwhile God isn’t listening because her arms are full of the refugee babies you couldn’t make room for and her feet are running to tend to the suicidal lesbian you pushed out of your congregation, her face is turned toward the victims of your injustice and she is listening and comforting and your “integrity” is cheap and tawdry if you sweep away sinners so easily.

The second reading seems piecemeal, perhaps because someone has taken bits of bible and tried to splice them together, with something missing in the middle and the continuity is ruined. It becomes a lot of pious but not very meaningful phrases, though I like the tracing of Jesus’ exact resemblance to God, that is a cute and loveable little part of a reading I can otherwise (after an exhausting week) not make head nor tail of).

In The gospel, Jesus I think is getting a bit annoyed with those self-important patriarchs who think there are more important things (eg the “law”) than their own families. Women, children…neither are to be dismissed, silenced, cast aside. This reading gets used as being against modern 21st century divorce which is absolute rubbish as a way of understanding it, because in these days to divorce a woman (as if only the male could be the active partner to begin with) does not condemn her to a life of abject poverty. Jesus is saying don’t be hard-hearted, but also you can’t discount, trivialise, silence half of humanity. Humanity complete, with both halves (and yes I realise I am using binary thinking here…God is actually shown in the full spectrum of human gender and sexuality even more fully), complete humanity is the image of God. Maleness only gives us a skewed and unhelpful, unbalanced idea of who God is, because the image of God is far more than that.

from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’”…“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”” This is not an argument for compulsory heterosexuality NOR against divorce, this is an affirmation that humanity reflects God with all those parts that God made. God does not make mistakes, woman is no less than man and both, all genders are vital to our understanding of the fullness and depth and wise love of God. I take that from this reading and all the stuff about lust and adultery and all the rest of it…we could try to do a detailed criticism and zoom in some time but …not now.

Then the little children get brought in, and we can’t have that especially if they are not nice middle-class children or if they don’t know how to behave. Perhaps before the children could approach Jesus they ought to have had a note from their priest and a certificate showing that they have completed all their sacraments and served in their church community as altar servers (if boys) or dish-washing tea ladies (if girls). In fact stuff the girls, we don’t want Jesus to get girl germs! And yes, there is this sort of attitude toward various “little ones” within the church (see last week’s readings that I ought to have written about since they resounded for me).
In the end whoever it is that we reject or place obstacles in the path of, Jesus will turn around and push past our self-importance to embrace them.
“ for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”