Saturday, October 20, 2012

In Darkness

Sunday's Scripture

Is nightfall or dawn?

For several weeks now the Lectionary sequential reading from the Hebrew Bible  has been a journey through the Book of Job.

Job is one of the more interesting Hebrew Scriptures in my opinion. Every time I read it, I come away with new meaning, and new places to become awestruck.

Today it struck me how strongly this passage is a direct contrast to the message of Psalm 139. In fact, I would say that Job is in many ways a counterpoint to Psalm 139.

The psalmist writes..

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
While the psalmist wrote with great confidence of always being incapable of escaping from God, Job speaks of his own incapacity to come into the presence of God. Job says,  

"If I go forward, he is not there;
or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

Have you ever felt that sense of being completely unable to encounter the Holy?

Where do you go to regain access to the Divine?

How do you recover your sense of wonder and  appreciation when it seems that no matter how hard or well you work at being right with God, that you are being unjustly punished?

The story of Job is a drama unfolding both in heaven and on earth.

In Job the Divine Prosecuting Attorney is one of God's servants, not a wayward and disobedient nemesis which Christian literature typically portrays Satan to be. Satan points out to God that it is always easy for humans to sing praise to God when things are going in our favor. Satan, essentially tells God, "sure Job praises you. You've given him everything, Would he still praise you if it all were taken away?"

Now that is an excellent question.

I suspect each of us benefit from spending time reflecting on this very question.

What would be the breaking point for you?

God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
If only I could vanish in darkness,
and thick darkness would cover my face!"   

How would you find your way through to a place where you could once again claimthe certainty expressed by the psalmist? 

 For many years I have used the early morning to anchor my day, by engaging in a peripatetic prayer. 

Fewer daylight hours forces me much of the time to begin my route enveloped by the deep blue black cloak of dawn, if I am to have the time to engage my practice completely. I step out onto the front porch, gaze up beyond the overhang of the porch, stare at the street lamp, then to the sky. I round the front walk, stop at the top of the driveway and look out to the east and gauge both the light and the wind before venturing any further. I hope for the tinge of pink which promises sunrise will soon remove the doubt of the darkness which presently envelopes me. In that darkness sometimes I remember back to a time when a loss was closer and sharper, cutting into the place of peace and gratitude which existed before the loss. In those days of remembering , now, as a chaplain, I lift up in my heart to God those I know now are dealing with their own calamitous situations. 

Lord God, giver of life and hope, source of all good that is, and was, and will be, 
equip me for the work of walking into the darkness that surrounds your beloved child. Equip me to speak words of hope, encouragement and power to restore, for you are the one true hope of all healing, reconciliation, and life.

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