What If

World Communion Sunday arrives Oct. 3, the same day the lectionary cycle turns to the Hebrew Bible book of Job. Since the whole world has been suffering through a pandemic for almost two years, I thought the lectionary might be inviting us to see this old book through new eyes. So I will guide us through a study of it for a few weeks.

This week’s passage begins with the fact that Job had done nothing wrong, but Satan felt that if Job fell on hard enough times, he would lose his faith. God allows Satan to take away Job’s children, workers, wealth, and sustenance, and finally to afflict his health. Now the stage is set.

What fascinates me about the book is not the question whether God and Satan make wagers about how someone’s faith will hold up under adversity. This book is about the basic human sense of what’s fair and what isn’t. Why is there suffering when God loves us? And then, can we eliminate suffering? What would that look like? Is that the goal of social justice? Medical technology? Consumerism? If so, have we achieved it? If not, why not?

Another line of questioning that actually forms the focus of most of the very long book of Job (42 chapters!) is, How do we respond to the suffering of others? Do we blame them? Do we try to remove the cause of their suffering? Do we tell them to get right with God? Do we try to understand their suffering and be with their experience of it? Or ignore it because it’s troubling to us?

In a time when we are all suffering effects from COVID, join with me this Sunday to explore how the Bible teaches us to grow in our relationship to suffering in times such as these. It is a hopeful and exciting teaching that coincides perfectly with celebrating the suffering Jesus did on the cross, so that we may commune with him in the bread and the juice and glimpse the salvation his suffering brought. See you Sunday in the sanctuary or the livestream.