First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon ~ October 28, 2018 ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

“Restoration, Refusal, and Reformation: finding comfort in the ashes and dust” – 10/28/18   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. Restoration, Refusal, and Reformation: finding comfort in the ashes and dust
  2. Two scripture stories about restoration – about “being made whole again”
    1. One in a series of theological “re-“ words.
    2. To go back (or re-turn) to a previous condition
      1. Redeemer
      2. resurrection
  • reclaim
  1. reunite
  2. renew
  3. revitalize
  • rebuild
  • restore
  1. Reform
  2. Revolt “from old French, to turn around”, like revolve
  1. Job’s Re-storation
    1. Rings a bit hollow to modern ears – can’t replace the loss of a child with a new one
      1. Children viewed as property or signs of prosperity, instead of people
      2. 3 beautiful daughters, with inheritances of their own – What a catch!
        1. So wealthy even supports his daughters – progressive for then, not so much now
      3. Before he was restored, he relented. He found, if not peace, then contentment in his interaction with God
        1. “He found comfort on dust and ashes”
        2. Interesting phrase. Contentment in the midst of suffering.  Not yet knowing he’d be restored
  • Job’s weakeness was centering his argument on his own righteousness, instead of God’s
  1. Added back in two verses that were excluded from the Lectionary reading
    1. Reminder this hasn’t just been Job and God, but a series of conversations with Job and his incorrect friends
    2. Job speaking correctly and his friends called to repent and sacrifice.
  • Then Job will pray for them and “they will not be made fools of”
  1. Job and this week
    1. Yesterday – 11 Killed in Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre – shouted anti-semitic slurs and had just hours before posted online of his hatred of a jewish refugee resettlement non profit
    2. Wednesday – Two black shoppers were shot at a Krogers in Kentucky by a white attacker, and is now being investigated as a possible hate crime. Reports are he first tried to enter a predominantly black church nearby
      1. And the fact that I had to debate whether or not to include this, wondering, is this violent enough?
    3. Also earlier this week – “the former Democratic president, vice president, attorney general, secretary of state, a Democratic congresswoman, a major Democratic donor, CNN/the former head of the CIA, and Robert De Niroall faced assassination attempts in one of the most ambitious terrorist attacks this country has ever seen.”
    4. The flip side of the Job story. We think often about unjust punishment from God, but what about justified punishment?
    5. God showed mercy to Job’s friends “won’t make fools of you”
      1. We give thanks for the Mercy of God, but so often we mainline Christians don’t like to talk about judgement for sins. I prefer to think of it as justice, as re-storation of Balance
    6. Paradox of my faith – I want to think that God welcomes all people, yet I also want to see justice for the downtrodden, which includes laying low the powerful
    7. Very aware of that paradox today.
      1. Why we should pray, not for what we want, but for what God wants.
        1. Every sermon starts off with a prayer to that end
      2. It’s dangerous when the two get confused – as we’ve seen this week
    8. Gospel of Mark and the story of Bartimaeus, the Blind Man
      1. Re-fusal – Unabashed entreaty
        1. Wouldn’t be quiet when he was told to
        2. When Jesus called for him, he threw off his cloak
      2. Asking for Mercy
      3. “What do you want me to do for you?”
        1. Jesus asked the same question in last week’s readings of James and John
        2. Compare what What he asks for, vs. James and John
          1. Mercy – relief from affliction vs.
          2. Enhanced status and reputation
          3. Jesus granted Bartimaeus’ wish
        3. “Your faith has healed you”
          1. What was that faith? Just piousness? Knowing the secret name for Jesus, son of David?
        4. I believe His faith was his loud persistence
          1. Dr. Theodore W Jennings, one of my seminary professors said about Bartimaeus
          2. “this faith is not right belief nor pious resignation to inscrutable providence . . . it is demonstrated as the refusal to be silenced, as the refusal to wait for a better time, as the refusal to wait for an appointment. It is the rude insistence that the calamity be attended to now.”
  • So what do we focus on – The rudeness, or the calamity?
    1. Also seen in Job not being silent in the face of his suffering
  1. After healing, he chose to follow Jesus, despite being invited to go on his way
  1. The Reformation – like Bartemaus
    1. Two examples of outspoken faith, Job and Bartimaeus
      1. Not quiet, not polite
    2. Neither was the Protestant Reformation, which we celebrate today
      1. Martin Luther, monk, objected to the church’s selling of indulgences to get people out of sin. Wrote his grievences, now called the 95 theses – some say he nailed them to a cathedral door, others say he sent them to his bishop
        1. Thesis 86 asks: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money”
      2. Problem came when he re-fused to re-cant (or take back) his position
        1. As he was pushed to recant, he became more outspoken
        2. At a questioning in October of 1518, The hearings degenerated into a shouting match.
      3. Not the first person to refute Papal doctrine – but the one that seemed to set things off
        1. Largely due to new technology of the printing press, and Bible translations into reader’s native languages
      4. Rabble rouser – progressive in some ways, not as good in others –
        1. anti semitic
      5. Restoration of faith, through Reformation of Faith
        1. Every 500 years, big change in the church
          1. 400-500 CE – Christianity becomes accepted and the state religion of Rome
          2. 1060 – split between Orthodox and Roman Catholic
  • 1500’s – Protestant Reformation
  1. I believe we are at one now
    1. Shifts in Xity, new fault lines
    2. New technology of the internet and immediate knowledge and connection
    3. Discord in world and national politics and society in the last century (two world Wars, civil rights, women’s rights, the subsequent backlash, radical increases in wealth)
  2. For a time such as this – FCUCC Charlevoix and the world
    1. Not just a search for a new pastor but a call to be a re-new-ed church
      1. Job – stands up to his friends incorrect theologies, and is humbled and changed by God, though he hadn’t done anything wrong
      2. Bartemaus – refused to be silent, was given the same chance as the disciples did, he did not focus on securing his own position, but asked for mercy – after receiving it dedicated his life to God
  • Protestant Reformation – transformation from very imperfect beginnings. A challenge to all authority, including religious authority with secular powers. Use of new technology to empower people
  1. All of this, “finding Comfort in the midst of dust and ashes”
  1. Challenges to unity and Christian teachings
    1. How do you decide when being pulled in opposite directions?
      1. Stay silent to keep what you have, and lose those needing a prophetic voice
      2. Speak up, and perhaps lose some, but be speaking the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
        1. Civil war
        2. Civil rights
        3. Women as pastors
        4. Now, lgbtq, and immigrants\refugees, and climate change and the increase in geo-political uncertainty with the rise of more refugees
          1. You collect money for hurricane relief, shows direction of your hearts – but what if more emphatic action is needed?
        5. Check your leaders, civil, religious, and otherwise. If they don’t speak out about these hate crimes think about whether you should really be supporting anything they do.
      3. Congregational meeting and the interim time
        1. New leaders
        2. New questions, new challenges
        3. Prayers for Restoration, for Refusal to be silent or complicit, for Reformation, all in the redemption and reclamation of Jesus Christ


Job 42: 1-8, 10-17

Job answered the Lord:

I know you can do anything;
    no plan of yours can be opposed successfully.
You said,[a] “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?”
    I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand,
    wonders beyond my comprehension.
You said,[b] “Listen and I will speak;
    I will question you and you will inform me.”
My ears had heard about you,
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore, I relent[c] and find comfort
    on dust and ashes.

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, he said to Eliphaz from Teman, “I’m angry at you and your two friends because you haven’t spoken about me correctly as did my servant Job. So now, take seven bulls and seven rams, go to my servant Job, and prepare an entirely burned offering for yourselves. Job my servant will pray for you, and I will act favorably by not making fools of you because you didn’t speak correctly, as did my servant Job.”

10 Then the Lord changed Job’s fortune when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all Job’s earlier possessions. 11 All his brothers, sisters, and acquaintances came to him and ate food with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him concerning all the disaster the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a qesitah ( a sum of money) and a gold ring.

12 Then the Lord blessed Job’s latter days more than his former ones. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named one [daughter] Jemimah, (Dove) a second Keziah, (Cinnamon) and the third Keren-happuch (Eyeshadow) 15 No women in all the land were as beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave an inheritance to them along with their brothers. 16 After this, Job lived 140 years and saw four generations of his children. 17 Then Job died, old and satisfied.


Mark 10:46-52

46 Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus’ son, was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” 48 Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, show me mercy!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.”

They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.”

50 Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus.

51 Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.”

52 Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way.

Listen to the audio version of Pastor Greg’s sermon  below: