Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Off the Ash Heap

Job 42:1-6; Hebrews 7:23-26; Mark 10:46-52
October 28, 2012
© 2012
I.                When I first encountered Job in high school, I was troubled by Job’s final speech. In my 17 year old mind, Job had just won the bet for God against Satan. I thought Job should have been congratulated, not humiliated. Why should Job, whom God acknowledged was righteous and had spoken rightly about God, have to despise himself and repent in dust and ashes?
A.           Several of you have spoken to me about how you’ve been digging into Job this month. Today we come to the most challenging and important part of Job for us to understand. After our first Sunday in Job, Kristyn Reid gave me a poem about Job that she had written last June.

Learning Patience
by Kristyn Reid
© June 5, 2012

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3)
I like Job.
When things didn’t make sense
he asked God, why.
When catastrophe struck
he didn’t assign blame
but neither did he accept it.
When his so-called-friends begged him to repent
Job claimed his suffering was senseless and unjust.
His numbskull chorus named him a wicked sinner
urged that he admit his blame.
He must have done something hideous.
Then God himself showed up
better late than never.
Job realized God knows the score
has things under control
and both parties learned
a great deal about the other.

B.            In verse 5 Job told what changed him. He had heard about God, but now he was seeing God, and he was never the same. When Job said he despised himself, he was not speaking of self-hatred but of humility in contrast with what he had now seen of the wild, free, dangerous and good God. Like David in Psalm 131, Job acknowledged in verse 3 that he had been occupying himself with things too wonderful, too marvelous for a human to grasp.

C.            Since chapter 2, verse 8 Job had been sitting on the ash heap. How can he now say, I “repent in dust and ashes”? That wasn’t what happened next in the story. In the Epilog Job got off the ash heap, returned to productive prosperity, had 10 more children and lived 140 years. The problem arises from linguistic complexities in Hebrew. Several alternative translations are possible. The one I have become convinced of is, “I have changed my mind about these dust and ashes.” In effect, Job said, “I have seen God. I no longer need an explanation of my suffering. I am going to get off this ash heap and get about living,” which is what the Epilog says he did.

D.           In Job 1:9, hasatan asks God, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” If we understand the Epilog as God rewarding Job for his faithfulness, then hasatan was right. Job is paid handsomely for fearing God. I believe, however, that the point of the Epilog is that when Job saw God and got off the ash heap, he went back to living. The message of the book of Job is that to be encountered by God is to be empowered to go forward with life.

II.            Mark 10:46-52 tells how when Bartimaeus regained his sight he renounced sitting by the roadside to beg but got up and followed Jesus into life. This is the last incident on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem that Mark records before his Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday.

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

A.           Bartimaeus obviously knew enough about Jesus to call him by the messianic title “Son of David” and to believe he could restore his sight. He had once been able to see, so he may well have asked why he went blind. He grieved his loss of purpose and the humiliation of sitting by the roadside to beg.

B.            Jesus asked Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” But he got a very different answer, “My Teacher, let me see again.” Bartimaeus was ready to learn from Jesus. Sight was more than convenience; it was the gateway to a life of discipleship. Jesus affirmed Bartimaeus’ sight of faith when granting him physical sight.

C.            Jesus did not say, “Be healed” but “Go!” Jesus sent Bartimaeus out to live. And Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the way. The very next thing Mark reports is Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Undoubtedly, Bartimaeus participated. To follow Jesus on the way described those who followed him as his disciples after the resurrection. So though the Gospels don’t mention him again, I imagine Bartimaeus saw Jesus heading to the cross and saw Jesus risen after Easter.

D.           After Bartimaeus saw Jesus he got up from begging and went on to live. Like Job, he knew that to be encountered by God is to be empowered to go forward with life.

III.       Hebrews 7:25 says we all may approach God through Christ who intercedes for us. We cannot get the wild, free, dangerous and good God to do a command performance for us, but Jesus offers us complete access – backstage passes if you will.

A.           Tom Roe was the head usher for the church in which I grew up in California. I don’t know if he ever realized he was one of that congregation’s most influential youth ministers as he trained and coached teenagers to be ushers and along the way imparted great teaching and faith. The Sunday after his wife’s funeral, Tom was at his post like always. Several people told him he deserved some time off. He replied, “You are the people who love me, and I need your love right now. This is the job God has given me and doing it heals me.”

B.            Over 50 years ago, Tom Roe was teaching me that to be encountered by God is to be empowered to go forward with life.

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