This is from a sermon I preached at Emerson UU in Marietta, Ga.
Thanks so much for allowing me to speak today. I greatly appreciate the welcome and love I have received from you all. I came to share a little bit about the book of Job and what it can show us- if we let it. I realize that it’s a bit pornographic with violence and some
have suggested that God here is torturous. I know it can definitely trigger PTSD within our own stories. But I read it differently than that.
Allah, God, or G-d isn’t the main character in the story. The story is about a man who is called righteous. This book is contained within the Koran, the Tanak, and the Christian Bible. Most scholars suggest it is the oldest book, and perhaps one of the earliest stories told by the near eastern ancient people. It’s an oral tradition that someone decided to write and put into print. We know it’s very old because Job operates prayers and sacrifices for his family and his household- so the story dates before the institution of the priestly system or the Levites. The book is gorgeous poetry. It’s great literature and offers metaphors on life that can speak to us if we dare listen.
So we can read a little bit from the book itself- but most of you are familiar with the story.
The bible, the Tanak, the Koran all say Job was a righteous man. He owned a lot of cattle and various other animals. He was wealthy for the time. He had servants and hired workers. He had many children. He had a nice home. He had his health. And he had a beautiful love for the divine.
Yet some bad mojo went down- some super funk junk. Bad things happened to him. All of his cattle, oxen, sheep, goats, and livestock were stolen by invading armies. messengers ran to tell him of these misfortunes and before one could finish sharing of each calamity another came. One told of fires that fell from the heavens and consumed the livestock. Then one servant shared that all of Job’s children were killed while having a party. A strong wind came and tore down the home of Job’s son. His children decimated. His wealth gone.
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:22 ESV)
And if all this wasn’t bad enough Job develops sores from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. Painful boils. On places we won’t and don’t talk about in the temple, synagogue, mosque, and cathedral. Places where wet wipes go. Painful places.
Now this doesn’t mean he didn’t doubt or have WTF moments. But all texts say he remained righteous.
Job’s wife told him to just curse God and die. Job did not sin.
And then Job’s friends come along. They came to comfort. For seven days they were silent. (Imagine – if we could console our grieving friends and family and not say dumb stuff right off the bat/ seven days! Wow) after seven days Job speaks. It’s a beautiful gut wrenching expression of sorrow. I challenge you to read the raw emotional poetry contained within Joel 3. If only after Job lamented his friends could have staid silent-yet then they begin to speak. Some not so nice things. What did they say? Do you recall?
They maintained his suffering was HIS FAULT. They begin to go back and forth debating his righteousness. Then they suggest things to him like he has sinned. Job you should have not sinned! Job you should have been righteous. Job you should have sacrificed more. You should have prayed more. You should have given more. And on and on it goes. They should on Job. Do you like being should on? Do you like when others accuse you or suggest that you deserved suffering? NO OF COURSE NOT. Yet we are judgmental a-holes. We all are. We equate poverty, homelessness, the imprisoned, or someone suffering most often with bad choices or personal decisions. Why?
Is it easier for me to judge you as a heathen, heretic, sinner, anathema, apostate, wrong doer, coke user, whore, drug addict or drunk rather than a child of God or a human?
Namaste- I see you as the imago Dei, part of God’s own handiwork, or fully evolved? No I’m judgmental and I should on you. Why? As a Christ follower- I could take Matthew 25 seriously as an opportunity to daily find Christ in everyone I encounter. Yet I should on people.
Now, I know all of you in my audience are amazing enlightened creatures, or evolved wonderful humans, or righteous women and men. I know you’d never ever judge anyone around you. You aren’t racist, mysogynistic, homophobic, jingoists, nationalistic, able-ists or somehow jerks to others are you? No ya’ll are fine folks. But me- pull out in front of me on I-20 and go 10 miles below the speed limit or neglect to use a blinker on 285, and I’m not all like “praise God for this opportunity to Grow- be patient- and bless that beautiful creature, IMAGE OF god, CHILD OF god, BELOVED OF God in the blessed vehicle in front of me. No way, I’m saying all kind of stuff that I won’t repeat in your gathering space. If only, I was more like Christ and I stopped “shoulding” on those who suffer. Many of our neighbors experience homelessness and they are “should” on by many in our society.
I judged folks. I should on people. Why? Is it easier?
I learned a lot growing up in West Georgia. As the Epicenter of all culture and great education, I learned a lot about the world. Specifically, camouflage, Taxidermy, and the King James Version of the Bible. And everyone loved Jesus in Douglasville. But some of them were biggots. I learned a lot about people experiencing homelessness- I heard they were whinos or lazy or bums or made bad decisions. That wasn’t always true. Sad, we have those stereotypes.
What if we stopped shoulding on folks?
What if we weren’t “experts” but humbled ourselves to learn and listen? Job’s friends acted like experts. They didn’t know the back story. The wagers Between God and the character called Satan. They did not know God allowed suffering to happen. They didn’t know That stuff. Yet they should on him.
Why? We don’t like suffering. Perhaps we care too
Much about American success or like to worship stuff or given into consumerism. Although some of the prosperity gospel teachings contain truth, it has spread a false sense that if we don’t have or are poor, homeless, sick or somehow marginalized we have sinned or don’t have enough faith. That’s BS. Scripture says many are the afflictions of the righteous. We are promised to suffer. Christ followers hear in Timothy that suffering and persecution are promised! THERE’s a promise of God!!! Get Pentecostal ya’ll! Happy Clappy! Come on!
We don’t like suffering. We don’t like being humble. Why? Why do we should on each other?
Don’t should on me.
Help us not to should on each other
(At this time I talked about my own story of being should-on in life and my feelings of rejection by the Church and embrace- I then shared about the work we do at the Gateway Center)
The Unitarian Universalist Church was so kind. They took up an offering that will be given to Gateway Center.