First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Neil H. Wilson, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


October 7 ~ Sermon ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

Sermon, Oct. 7 2018  “Why I hope we aren’t Biblical Literalists and Prooftexters” by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. “Why I hope we aren’t Biblical Literalists and Prooftexters”
  2. Mini Sermon series
    1. Job and integrity
    2. Mini sermon series – next 4 weeks
  3. Initial thoughts
    1. Limits of sermons – Better unpacked in study vs. sermon – need to wrestle with the perspectives and concepts
      1. Trying to whet your appetite
    2. One of the most direct attempts in the Bible to address theodicy
      1. “the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity’s suffering”
      2. What does it mean to say God is all powerful, all knowing, and all good, and there’s still pain and suffering in the world?
  • A question some of us spend as much time as possible trying to avoid
  1. Ancient folk tale
    1. If I read the Bible literally, the beginning of Job would make me lose my faith
      1. God is gambling with us?
    2. Prologue establishes moral certainty needed for this extended parable\thought experiment
  2. Patience, endurance, Integrity, Wisdom
    1. Asking the question, “are we only good or holy or pious because it benefits us?”
    2. Ha-satan the accuser – Job’s piety is only because he is blessed- take away blessings and he will forsake God
      1. First destroys his possessions and his children
      2. Then afflicts him will bodily injury
    3. Job’s wife
      1. Knows his sinlessness – his devotion, his piety. Seeing
      2. “10 Job said to her, “You’re talking like a foolish woman. Will we receive good from God but not also receive bad?” In all this, Job didn’t sin with his lips.”
    4. His friends (who won’t show up in our Sunday readings. Again, better as a study) look at his downfall as an indication of sin.  Divine punishment
    5. Integrity, like wisdom, is feminine in Hebrew
      1. Wrestles with the inaccessibility of wisdom
    6. the letter of James says “having the patience of Job”
      1. more accurate to translate as endurance or persistence
      2. Job in the story is not patient, calm, quiet. He is assertive, mournful,
    7. Presence of Suffering
      1. in Buddhism –
        1. Essential nature of Suffering – first of four noble truths
      2. In the book of Job, we see underserved suffering exists
        1. But is suffering necessarily punishment?
      3. Essential question of morality and faith
        1. How we treat others,
      4. Integrity revealed in times of distress, or suffering
        1. Endurance and persistence of Job becomes important
          1. Common benchmark, what people are like under duress
        2. “Have you thought about my servant Job, for there is no one like him on earth, a man who is honest, who is of absolute integrity, who reveres God and avoids evil? He still holds on to his integrity, even though you incited me to ruin him for no reason.”
        3. Integrity is lacking these days.
          1. Falling prey to “the ends justify the means” or
          2. Looking out for #1
        4. Are they the basis for our sense of self? Or can we go deeper?
          1. CS Lewis, in the Chronicles of Narnia wrote ““You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
          2. We are sinful and blessed
            1. We are children of God, and we are also sinful
            2. So often, when we feel the one, we need to be reminded of the other
          3. What do we do with our blessings, and with our struggles?
          4. Always the temptation to look outside ourselves, and see it in other people, before we look at our allies, our friends, ourselves.
            1. Log in our eye before the speck in the other
          5. Jesus walking with Job
            1. Early Christians talk about Job as prophesying the coming of Christ, but I wonder more about what Jesus would say to Job.
              1. Both in his richness, and in his affliction
            2. Job in his riches
            3. Job in his despair
            4. To suffering
              1. To follow Jesus, our struggles will INCREASE, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”
              2. Avoidance of suffering is not a good reason to be a Christian
  • Transformation of suffering, redemption of troubles
  1. See this in today’s Gospel lesson in Mark
  1. Today’s reading from Mark picks up directly after last week’s reading
    1. Getting tested by Pharisses
    2. Questioned about divorce
      1. Legal or not?
      2. Jesus First asks what Moses allowed, but then berated the men for having unyielding hearts
  • Jesus transforms the question – from what is legal to what creates the greatest good?
  1. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”
    1. 10 Inside the house, the disciples asked him again about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
  2. Dangers of proof texting
    1. See, Jesus said no divorce. So, nope!
    2. Different social situations
  • Divorced women would be abandoned by society
    1. Hence the unyielding hearts of the men who divorced them
  1. Back then, to divorce was detrimental to women
  2. Modern divorce is beneficial, if necessary
    1. Abusive relationships
      1. Physical, mental, emotional
    2. Divorce (and by comparison marriage) should not be about making life easier for ourselves
    3. Deeper truths
      1. People are not (just) property
      2. One (though not the only or ideal) way to feel and explore God’s love on earth
  • Connections after divorce persist
  1. If marriage is a religious ritual, why isn’t divorce?
    1. Northern Exposure – had an episode where a minister
    2. UCC “Order for Recognition of the End of a Marriage”
  2. Continuing connections – if partners truly cared about each other
    1. Anecdotal stories of divorcees getting back with one another
    2. Continuing feelings – caring for ex partners of deceased individuals
    3. Mutual ongoing connections
      1. Children
      2. Business
      3. Shared community
    4. Not advocating for re-engagement with past partners or making a religious claim about morals and ethics of marriage and divorce
    5. Recognizing deeper spiritual and emotional connections
      1. Not acting out of selfishness, but should act out of self care
      2. Emotional maturity
  • Don’t know each other, until at least the first big problem
  1. Bringing us back to Job.
  1. Another reminder of God’s kingdom and children
    1. Gospel ends with another reminder to be like children with God
      1. Less forward planning? Less cost\benefit analysis?

Readings

Job 1:1, 2:1-10  Common English Bible translation

A man in the land of Uz was named Job. That man was honest, a person of absolute integrity; he feared God and avoided evil.

2 One day the divine beings came to present themselves before the Lord. The Adversary also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to the Adversary, “Where have you come from?”

The Adversary answered the Lord, “From wandering throughout the earth.”

The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you thought about my servant Job, for there is no one like him on earth, a man who is honest, who is of absolute integrity, who reveres God and avoids evil? He still holds on to his integrity, even though you incited me to ruin him for no reason.”

The Adversary responded to the Lord, “Skin for skin—people will give up everything they have in exchange for their lives. But stretch out your hand and strike his bones and flesh. Then he will definitely curse[a] you to your face.”

The Lord answered the Adversary, “There he is—within your power; only preserve his life.”

The Adversary departed from the Lord’s presence and struck Job with severe sores from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. Job took a piece of broken pottery to scratch himself and sat down on a mound of ashes. Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still clinging to your integrity? Curse[b] God, and die.”

10 Job said to her, “You’re talking like a foolish woman. Will we receive good from God but not also receive bad?” In all this, Job didn’t sin with his lips.

 

Mark 10:2-16 Common English Bible (CEB)

Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?”

Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?”

They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.”

Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.[a] Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.[b] So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”

10 Inside the house, the disciples asked him again about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12  and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus blesses children

13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.

Listen to the audio version of Pastor Greg’s Sermon.

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