Monday, October 30, 2006

Getting closer

By the end of last week, I came to believe that "restoration," for both Job and Bartimaeus, has more to do with being reconciled with a community than it has to do with gaining wealth, children, or even vision.

And this week, it seems like our Bible stories just keep luring us to draw even more closely together.

First, Ruth's story begins with tremendous grief (and you thought things would get better when we finished Job's story!). Right on the heels of grief, though, is a bold choice: Ruth chooses to cling to her mother-in-law, and to return with her (Naomi) to Naomi's homeland, a foreign place for Ruth. Now, choosing belonging to mothers-in-law may sound odd in our own culture, but Ruth's choice was daring for even more reasons. Somehow, though, God lures her to take up this solidarity. And we know the end of the story: Ruth enables Naomi to become a mother again, and one of her descendents will be Jesus.

Then, Jesus reminds us of the greatest of all the commandments: to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love neighbors as ourselves. The closeness comes not only in loving neighbors as ourselves, but in how close this work brings us to God's kingdom.

This is good stuff: after all those weeks when the disciples kept getting it wrong, we finally get a glimpse of what would be right (or close-to-right, which may now count in horseshoes, hand grenades, and God's kingdom-building...). It's in loving others.

And I suspect that when he says "neighbors," Jesus means to direct us to love others who may be more difficult for us to love.

(Maybe even as difficult to love as that creepy guy who seems to lead the "Others" on Lost... I digress.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Film Series--films for thought

Join us on Saturdays in November for a series of 3 thought-and-dialogue-provoking films. We'll watch them the first 3 Saturdays in November, at 6:30 p.m. in the Cove. All are welcome, and it's FREE.

Nov. 4--Invisible Children
discover the atrocity in Northern Uganda through the eyes of 3 young SoCal filmmakers

Nov. 11--Gunner Palace
a view of the war in Iraq, told through the voices of soldiers stationed in a former palace
(my husband, Matt, who was stationed breifly at the Palace where this film is set during his year in Iraq, promises to come for this one...)

Nov. 18--Wal-Mart: the high cost of low price
a look at the deeper costs of Wal-Mart’s policies, and an invitation to look at what we value most

We hope you'll join us as we let these films raise questions for our discussion.

See you there?

happy ending?

This week we get to the end of Job's story (literally, even--he dies, old and "full of days").

Here's a link to Job 42

At first read, it looks like a happy ending.

But there are still some questions--
like that it's not entirely satisfying that he suffered so much at all, or that God would allow us to be used in a contest with Satan;
and that it feels odd he had to "repent" before receiving his blessings, when he hadn't really deserved the suffering that raised his questions;
and that, even though he got new riches and new kids, God certainly didn't undo the depth of grief he went through. As Karen keeps reminding me when we talk of Job, the kids in the "happy ending" weren't the same kids.

The Gospel lesson this week provides similar challenge, especially as we seek to be a community that is truly inclusive of people living with disabilities: we read of and celebrate Bartimaeus's healing from blindness, but resist believing that blind people need to be healed to be whole.

You can read Mark 10:46-52

Perhaps the "happy ending" we seek is much harder to describe and to envision.

My own experience is that good endings in the stories of my friends' lives are seldom tidy. New love kindled out of grief does not erase grief. New joy in a child's birth does not undo the pain of a long struggle for fertility.

Instead, new restoration invites us to a place we've never been before, to a new possibility and hope lived out not in getting back to what we knew before (in the "good old days"), but in moving forward to new possibilities.

Monday, October 16, 2006


We continue to follow Job's story this week. And now, after having seen this "deal" between God and Satan, the suffering of Job, the inadequacy of his friends' answers, and Job's big questions, we finally get God's answers. And it puts everything in a whole new perspective.

Makes me think of that Far Side cartoon where two bugs sit back (on a blade of grass or mushroom or something), look up at the stars, and muse about how the night sky makes them feel small...

God is so much bigger than we are--it's mindblowing to even begin to imagine God's own perspective.

Our reading this week is Job 38:1-7, 34-41. Plus, to deepen the conversation, Mark 10:35-45.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

a bigger picture of God

Last week, our scripture in worship let us in on the tragic part of Job's story: he loses everything he has (children and property), and even his own health. All this is organized as a sort of a test--to show Satan that Job is more faithful that he belives possible.

We become aware of at least one time that the suffering experienced in a lifetime is not necessarily a result of the sin of that person.

This week, we hear Job asking demanding questions of God. His friends have given him unsatisfactory explanations for his suffering. He has questions for God that he longs to have answered.

The view he has of God--certainly the view of God shared by his friends--isn't big enough for his experience of life.

I think this is how we so often grow in faith, too--the things we thought we believed become unsatisfactory answers, and we're pushed to deepen our relationships with God.

And the beautiful part, as I see it, is that God is way, way deeper (and more complex) than any of the explanations we know how to offer.

Our questions take us into that depth.

They do not disqualify us from the community of those trying to be faithful.

Have questions you asked to God deepened your own relationship with God?

Monday, October 02, 2006

homework, suffering and Job

For the next four weeks, we're going to be using pieces of the book of Job in worship. I invite you (here's the homework) to read the whole book.

The book wrestles with questions like why bad things happen to good people. But it all starts from the perspective of a story, Job's story.

So check it out. There'll be a lot to talk about...