Welcome of Creation: Waters of Life 9/8/13

Job 38:1-18 Then YHWH answered Job from the heart of the storm: “Who is this obscuring my plans with such ignorant words? Hitch up your belt like the fighter you are; now I will ask the questions and you will answer me!  Where were you when I created the earth?  If you know the answer, tell me! Who decided its size?  Do you know?  Who stretched the measuring line across it? Into what foundation were its pillars sunk?  Who laid the cornerstone while all the choruses of morning stars sang and the heavenly court shouted for joy? And who held back the sea behind partitions when it burst forth from my womb, when I created clouds as the earth’s raiment and thick darkness as its swaddling clothes— when I drew limits around the waters and locked the partitions in place and said, “This far and no more; this is where your mighty waves stay”? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or told the dawn that its assignment for the day was to grasp the edges of the earth and shake out its wicked? When the dawn lightens things to a clay red, like a garden died to a brighter color, the wicked are denied the light, and their threatening arms are broken.  Have you traveled as far as the source of the sea, or walked in search of the Abyss? Have you discovered the gates of death?  Have you seen the gates of the Place of Darkness? Do you comprehend the breadth of the earth?  Declare, if you know this.

Luke 5:1-11  Push Out into Deep Water    Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd. 4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5-7 Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8-10 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon. 10-11 Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

Sept. 8, 2013

Welcome of Creation: Waters of Life

Praise God at all times. Praise God at all times. Pray without ceasing, and praise God at all times. The Psalms are a wonderful guide to praise and pray – to our feeble attempts to reach toward the God of all Creation. This month, as we strive to worship that God of Creation, as we celebrate Creator God’s welcome to life abundant, we will be reading Psalms. And we will also read Job.
The later chapters in the book of Job have some of the most profound portrayals of the almighty God of Creation in the whole Bible. I warn you this God of all creation is not the most likable, not the nicest, but the welcome to life that the God of all creation gives to us is worth the price of digging in to these tricky understandings.

Amelia had grown up with a sense of God’s presence and love. Her church was an important place for her growing up and she had felt good about what she was taught there. When she was just 14 years old, however, her mother died and she was devastated. People from the church tried to be helpful to Amelia, at least some brave people. Some didn’t want to talk to her. They didn’t know what to say. They felt so awkward and sorry, and they didn’t want to make her cry.
The brave people from church who did try to talk to Amelia sometimes made a worse mistake. They wanted to make some sense out what was happening, and they wanted to assure Amelia that Jesus cared deeply about her and that God was in charge and on top of this situation. So they told her that God had a bigger plan and that this hard time was part of God’s plan. Even though this was really hard on her right now, they said, some day she would understand and accept that God had a reason for everything and this was just part of that bigger purpose.
Amelia stopped going to church for a while after that.  She still had friends there and some of them still came to talk with her, but she really could not believe what these church people were telling her and she did not believe that her mother’s death was part of God’s bigger plan. There was no way that she could accept that.
The next summer, Amelia went away to camp as she had for four years before that. She loved her three weeks at summer camp and she had made a bunch of friends there in previous years.  She went back in a kind of a daze, just because that’s what she had done before. She packed up her broken heart and dragged herself.
The camp was in Michigan right near Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is a sea really. It is huge. When you stand on one side of the lake, you can’t see to the other side. That summer, Amelia spent a lot of time by that lake. Whenever she could get away from the activities of the camp, she would go and sit in the sand and watch the water, listen to it’s rhythmic pulse and watch the waves go in and out.  She would sit and watch as the sun set over the distant horizon. Often she sat and sulked. A few times she sat and cried.  She felt so alone. She cried and cried.
The change was so subtle that she didn’t notice it right away. In fact, she didn’t acknowledge how important that summer was until years later. Years later she remembered the voice of the waves and how they kept her company. Years later, she recognized the healing that she received from crying to the sunset. Only years after that summer could she acknowledge that something happened during those days of sensing the power of something bigger than herself, not worried about her or trying to fix her, just there, steadying her life. She still carries the deep wound of her mother’s death, but that summer by the sea, she began to heal.

The book of Job portrays God as finally speaking out of a long silence to chastise Job for losing track of who is really in charge of the universe. The book makes the Creator out to sound pretty harsh after all that Job has been through, but the language is absolutely beautiful.
The book is really an argument against the mentality that every bad thing that happens must be a punishment for something bad we have done and vice versa. It makes the point well. Church folk can still get lost in that kind of thinking, but the God of Creation is always bigger and more mysterious than any of our attempts to feel like we are in control, that we are the ones who can explain everything.
The ocean itself can speak to us. May we find healing and humility as we praise God at all times. Praise God at all times in good times and hard times. And even if we can’t always praise God, the Creator will help to heal our souls. This is God’s good news.

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