Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Living Death

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 -- Week of Proper 16
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and Theologian, 430
Moses the Black, Desert Father and Martyr, c. 405

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 981)
Psalm 5,6 (morning)     //     10, 11 (evening)
Job 6:1-4, 8-15, 21
Acts 9:32-43
John 6:60-71

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

From years ago I remember reading something that haunted me.  It was a book of fiction, some thriller or murder mystery; I forget the name of the book.  The villain was someone who liked to torture people.  I was about to repeat the part of the book that so troubled me, but as I was writing it, I decided that it is not something I want to spread.  I don't want someone else having to live with a similar image in their memory, even if it is fiction.  Suffice it to say, there are situations where one can only wish to die and beg for its relief to come soon.  I've been with people at those times.  I've begged God for their release.

Job gives word to that terrible anguish:  "O that I might have my request, and that God would grant my desire; that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!  ...What is my strength, that I should wait?  And what is my end, that I should be patient?" (6:8-9, 11)

After many years of being with people during their final passage to death, I've formed a rather simple, literal belief that God works with particular meaning and efficiency around the timing of death.  So often I've seen things happen in the waiting and process of death, usually things that are only recognizable later in retrospect.  God seems to use that liminal time to heal relationships and individuals. 

Yet as I write this, I also recall other sufferings unto death that I have experienced as mere tragedy.  I could no blessing or healing, only extended misery.  In those situations, Job's accusation toward his friends hits home to me.  He tells them, "You see my calamity, and are afraid." (6:21b)  I fear such circumstances for anyone and for myself. 

I can pray that we offer our suffering to God as Jesus did on his cross, trusting God to accomplish something when we are helpless.  I can pray that God will give meaning to our suffering as he gave meaning to Jesus' cross.  I can pray that, in some mysterious way, God will use our human pain as God used Jesus' suffering, for the healing of the world.  I can recognize that we may never know how God might use our suffering.  I know we may experience the kind of utter abandonment and hopelessnes that yeilds such plaintive words as, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)  Remembering such human possibilities puts passion into the petition from the Lord's Prayer, "Save us from the time of trial."  Yet, I can imagine God's presence and work in the darkness. 

We are still at the beginning of Job.  He has yet so much to endure.  It makes me wonder for myself and for those whom I love, what shall we have to endure?  How shall we manage?


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Amy Wilcox said...

During a time of great trial, when I was losing everything despite my best efforts, I could not have managed without the support of you, Lowell,and Suzanne Stoner. Unlike Job's friends, you did not chastise me; in fact, you actively advocated for me and my daughter. You were simply present with kindness and understanding. As the situation evolved and great loss occurred, you both remained present with kindness and empathy. I was welcomed to utilize the services of St. Paul's so graciously that I did not hesitate to accept. Beyond generous advocacy, pastoral care and prayers in the weekly service, Healing Touch and the meditation class (unique to most churches) became a regular practice for me. I experienced such healing from months of giving over to that - God's love manifest in the people and the works at St. Paul's - that I was able to not only move forward, but have joy and a "peace that passeth all understanding". As a result, I was open to positive change: a new love who loves my daughter as his own, and a renewed career. And in a new chapter now, I have begun a Masters program in Social Work, to return to my original calling with new insight and inspiration from my own spiritual journey through darkness. I couldn't have done it without my friends at St. Paul's.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous mike wertz said...

I have been through a bit of a trial lately. Nothing so bad as Job’s – no boils. At times I would catch myself getting ready to mouth that phrase in my mind: “My God, my God… but it would come out: “how have I forsaken thee?’ But I knew I had not. I had not forsaken God, and God had not forsaken me. I know that what I was going through, which was at times, great emotional suffering for me, was part of the path over which I had to pass to follow God’s Love.

God’s rather cavalier treatment of Job – his good servant, always ticked me off. But since I now ken that God is both the devil and the advocate, I know that it was not arbitrary – the treatment or the message in Job. It has to do with walking the lonesome valley of the impossibility of reason.

I don’t know how to explain that except that I understand that for my journey I had to just about lose it all – I am considered to be insane by many, in order to truly find God. It was never too much, but I have had to trust God at a level I never even know existed and I had to come to accept the Love of God in order to survive in some form other than an embittered, cynical (and probably insane) person. I thank God that I did not fall into that hole – it was opened wide for me to see, with people hollering “JUMP.”

It was and is the love of some few persons who did not give up on me that has helped me to survive with God’s Love and Guidance. I don’t think you walk that lonesome valley all by yourself. No one can do it by him or herself. Even Jesus needed friends. Job is OT and that is the law the Christ delivered us from.

Human kind is disappointing in their general selfishness, but there are always those along the road who sense where you are going and are there to lend a hand – and to share the Love of God that is in their hearts. They are often not who you expect and those you expect are so often not what you expected them to be. There are just enough along the way, in the right places, at the right times, to keep you going. But you have to have the Love of God on your inside if you are going to find them. That is the only sure thing I can tell you that you will need when the time of trial comes. You have to trust God, and understand that you are not She, He, It, or Them, but instead a loved child. You are, after all, going home.

And Amy, Lowell was one of those along the way who shared the Love of God with me and for whom I am forever grateful.


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, can we say philosophical discourse on a blog..

I used to ask for meaning in the suffering. That doesn't really help for the most part anymore. I used to say that would be enough for me.

I am reminded of the movie where the Jewish people in the concentration camp put God on trial. The ending of the film is astounding. God is guilty of forsaking them, not keeping his promises, and yet they then walk to their deaths praising God, faith intact in some mysterious leap of trust and tradition. It is a powerful ending, and beyond what words can describe.

Why evil? Why suffering? I can't say there is any meaning or reasoning for much of it. I don't like the way Job ends, with all the fortunes restored and happily ever after..

I rather think that ultimately God wins and thus so do we. But it is not a clear cut fortunes restored simple story. It is deeply involved in the cross, a humble God, a powerful Love, and a goodness that cannot be given up on. I rather think that to look and live deeply at/in life, the reality of the suffering and the beauty (Camus) is the most honest way we can see. If we could see through Christ's eyes on the cross, I think we would say there is suffering and at times it is evil and yet right there, at the same moment there is Love and at all times, even at death, God's Love is enough.

The winds are blowing through the Okanogan wilds and shaking the trailer so!

I so admire Lowell's honest eyes and all the posts are wonderful reads.



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