God’s Servants-Job and Us Sermon for Sept 6th

September 15, 2020

God’s Servants— Job and Us

Preached at Newark Valley United Church of Christ

September 6, 2020

Rev. Barbara J. Schwartz

Job 38.1-11, 19-27, 31-41; 42.1-6, 7-9

Today I’m wrapping up the series of sermons from the book of Job.  It’s one of my favorite books in the whole Bible— has been ever since I was in high school.  It’s also one of the most provocative books, because it challenges easy answers and conventional religious thinking.  I’m going to give a brief introduction, and then we will hear passages from chapters  38 and 41 read by members of the congregation.  We are going to let this book speak for itself.

In the book of Job, only the narrator and the audience— that would be all of us— know the true cause of Job’s terrible sufferings:  The LORD God has inexplicably decided to allow a cynical heavenly bureaucrat, the Satan, to test this righteous and right-living man’s devotion to God.  The test is to determine if Job would curse God, if everything is taken away from him.

So in a single afternoon, Job experiences the complete destruction of his wealth and the tragic loss of all his young adult sons and daughters.  Soon afterwards Job is afflicted with a terrible skin disease with open sores over his entire body.  He sits day and night in the garbage middens and scratches at his sores with a potsherd.  He still doesn’t curse God.

Three friends come to sit with Job.  They represent the saying, “With such friends, you don’t need enemies.”  Using conventional religious ideas, they try to convince Job of the cause of his tragic losses.  In their speeches, they argue that God inevitably visits misfortune on sinners and evildoers.  Therefore Job must have committed major sins at some point, and now he is experiencing a just God’s punishment for his deeds.

Job refutes their arguments and consistently maintains that he is innocent.  In chapter 31, which I urge you to read on your own, Job describes how he has worked for justice in his community, defended the poor, helped widows and orphans, and maintained marital fidelity and integrity in his personal relationships.  He knows has done nothing to warrant his terrible sufferings, and he longs to confront God directly.

Throughout the many chapters of poetic speeches by the “friends” and Job, the LORD God is silent.  Finally the Holy One speaks to Job: 

Job 38.1-11

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

   I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

   Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

   Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

   or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

   and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

‘Or who shut in the sea with doors

   when it burst out from the womb?—

when I made the clouds its garment,

   and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed bounds for it,

   and set bars and doors,

and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

   and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?

Job 38.19-27

‘Where is the way to the dwelling of light,

   and where is the place of darkness,

that you may take it to its territory

   and that you may discern the paths to its home?

Surely you know, for you were born then,

   and the number of your days is great!

‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

   or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

which I have reserved for the time of trouble,

   for the day of battle and war?

What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,

   or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

‘Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,

   and a way for the thunderbolt,

to bring rain on a land where no one lives,

   on the desert, which is empty of human life,

to satisfy the waste and desolate land,

   and to make the ground put forth grass?

Job 38.31-41

‘Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,

   or loose the cords of Orion?

Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,

   or can you guide the Bear with its children?

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

   Can you establish their rule on the earth?

‘Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,

   so that a flood of waters may cover you?

Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go

   and say to you, “Here we are”?

Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,

   or given understanding to the mind?

Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?

   Or who can tilt the water skins of the heavens,

when the dust runs into a mass

   and the clods cling together?

‘Can you hunt the prey for the lion,

   or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

when they crouch in their dens,

   or lie in wait in their covert?

Who provides for the raven its prey,

   when its young ones cry to God,

   and wander about for lack of food?

For the sake of time we are reading a very condensed version of God’s response to Job.  The Almighty One goes on to talk about other creatures— mountain goats, wild donkeys and wild oxen, ostriches, horses, hawks, and even Behemoth and Leviathan— terrifying swamp creatures in whom God takes particular delight.  God provides for all God’s creatures, and not just for human beings, who are not mentioned at all in this passage.  God provides for humanity, giving humans the intelligence, skills, and mutual care to sustain families and communities, but human beings are not the whole picture of the beautiful, flourishing, orderly, but not always safe universe that God reveals to Job.

And Job’s response indicates that he now realizes his human limitations:

Job 42.1-6

Then Job answered the LORD:

‘I know that you can do all things,

   and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

   things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

“Hear, and I will speak;

   I will question you, and you declare to me.”

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

   but now my eye sees you;

therefore I recant my words,

   and repent in dust and ashes.’

Job’s persistent hope to see the LORD God has been fulfilled, even though there is no answer to the question of why his sufferings happened.  But the next verses show that God vindicates Job’s righteous life:

Job 42.7-9

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.’ So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

God refers four times to “my servant Job.”  God vindicates Job by stating that Job has spoken rightly— to God, not about God.  Not talking about God presumptuously, as the three friends had done.  That God directs the three to ask Job to pray for them affirms God’s trust in Job’s integrity and personal responsibility.  Job is God’s partner in opening up a path of correction and forgiveness for the three friends, and perhaps they will be better for it.

The book ends with the restoration of Job’s fortunes, especially a second family of seven sons and three beautiful daughters.  However, based on my own life experience and that of other people I know, I suspect that not a day went by in which Job and his wife didn’t think of the sons and daughters they had lost.  The people we love and lose are not interchangeable with the new people we learn to love.  The real gift is finding the hope and courage to start over and love again.

Like Job, we are God’s servants.  From his story, we learn that we can bring all our issues and feelings— the good, the bad, the embarrassing— to the Holy One and be heard.  Being honest and direct, not censoring ourselves, is speaking to God rightly, as Job did.

We serve God by living according to God’s vision of justice, compassion and mutual care, integrity and humility in our relationships and communities.  We serve God by recognizing that we are just one part of

the whole complex picture of life on earth, and by acting responsibly in our use of earth’s resources and our fellow creatures.  Sometimes the causes of the suffering of innocent people are clear.  Sometimes they are not.  Where we can prevent unnecessary suffering, we need to do so.  Where we can relieve suffering, we must do so.  In all conditions and circumstances of life, we look to Jesus Christ as our teacher and guide in the service we give.

Let us pray:  God, guide us in our lives of discipleship and service.  May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth.  Amen.


Sunday Message-Forgiveness

September 14, 2020

Please Join Us This Sunday, Sept 13th at 11 AM, either online OR in person at the church.

September 13, 2020

It’s a Communion Sunday! Please Join Us This Sunday, Sept 6th at 11 AM, either online OR in person at the church.

September 6, 2020

Sermon for August 30th: “And Who Is My Neighbor?”

September 6, 2020

Scripture for this morning.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Luke 1:39-56

Galatians 5:13-25

Sermon

My goal here is to look at our Christian faith and the writings in Scripture as a measuring stick or plumb line against which we can assess proposals about actions to take and the future they will usher in.

Several weeks ago I based my sermon on Walter Wink’s book: The Powers That Be. Part of Reverend Wink’s premise is that: “If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence.  It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience unto-death” to quote Reverend Wink. If violence is what we personally turn to when all else fails then violence is our religion. If others, including government officials, turn to violence when they don’t know what else to do then violence is their religion. And if the government’s religion is violence then that’s what they will try to impose on the country. And as Reverend Wink notes, the religion of violence demands absolute obedience. We can see this in the interplay between police and protesters who say they want peaceful change. When police choose violence in their response to peaceful protesters they will eventually be met with violence on the part of some. It is build into our primitive brains. Fear invokes one of 3 automatic responses: fight, freeze or flee. And the reverse is true also. If the police take a nonviolent stance with protesters, talk rather than fight, and protesters have a violent response the police will choose violence. The religion of violence promotes violence as the way things are. Once the religion of violence is chosen it is very difficult to choose a different path.

Our country has had a week of continuing turmoil, violence and death. Unjust practices that are embedded in our culture have become visible through individual citizens taking videos with their cell phones and posting them on line. Certainly the death of George Floyd at the hands of a few police officers has pointed out those unjust practices that have a long history. The resulting peaceful, if noisy, protests have been met with violence and the violence then escalated, as Reverend Wink described. The god of violence demands response in kind.

 The economic picture is troubling. Many people are unemployed. Unemployment insurance payments are delayed for many. Small businesses have closed, for some it will be permanent. The unemployment rate has reached levels not seen since the depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Social safety net programs such as food stamps, social security and medical care programs are under attack. Most of the country’s wealth is held by a small minority with many citizens left in poverty. God’s vision for creation is abundance, more than enough to meet people actual needs. The story of the feeding of the 5000 points to abundance not scarcity. In the Luke passage we hear from Mary, Jesus’ mother, that the current disparity in wealth is not what God envisions for creation.

“[God] has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

Jesus’ mother was describing a reordering of society.

We have finished the Democratic and Republican party’s political conventions. Each has forecast a bleak future if the other party wins the fall election. Each party predicts a better future if they are elected. As voters we need to keep in mind God’s vision for creation of peace and abundance for all as we cast our votes. And use it as a template to measure what the political parties say and propose.

The COVID virus is running rampant in parts of our country. A little good news: New York State has reduced its COVID infection rate significantly and to keep it down we need to wear masks when we are in groups of people, maintain social distancing and get tested if we feel ill or have been exposed to the virus. New York state followed the science which depends on God’s gifts of thought, reason and a world that has cause and effect built in. Cause and effect is needed for science and medicine to be possible and for justice to be possible.

In addition to all this we have to begin to address global warming that will make our planet uninhabitable if we don’t make major changes in our behaviors. Our lives are not normal and won’t be. There will be many new ‘normals.’

The world, including the U.S., finds itself enslaved to economic systems that creates a small group of wealthy people and leaves the rest in increasing poverty. That can lead to a slave and master relationship between those who don’t have enough wealth for basic needs of shelter, food, and meaningful work.

I see parallels between Scripture and the challenges we face today. In the passage from Deuteronomy we read of the challenges the Israelites faced in becoming God’s people, following God’s vision for creation. In the beginning “God found creation very good” [e.g. Genesis 1]. The story in Exodus, revisited in Deuteronomy, is the story of God freeing God’s people from slavery and their journey to a free future.

This morning’s Deuteronomy text is a retelling of the part of the Exodus story, a story of testing and sorting of the kind of society the people will embrace. The Exodus story is set when the Israelites are about to cross the Jordan River into the land promised to them.  In the earlier chapters Moses reviews the promises of the land across the Jordan if the Israelites follow God’s vision for creation and the difficulties if they do not. And this retelling concludes in the text we heard this morning “15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. …today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,” That description applies to our time as well. In a couple of months we will have a national election. As a country we can envision a future that has life and blessings for all and take steps to make that vision a reality.

Our mistreatment of Creation has created an existential threat, called Global Warming, to the environment and life, including human life. Our greed and self centered demands threatens the very environment our lives depend on. That greed and narcissist demands threatens the fabric of a community that our social lives depend on.

Paul’s letter to the church in Galacia lays out how paying attention to the teaching of of our faith and Scripture can help today. It frames our assessing the responses proposed by the political parties and candidates. St. Paul says:

13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 1,,,,,,, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.”

Other kinds of responses are not part of God’s vision for creation

In these chaotic and challenging times our faith and the teachings of Scriptures offers us a firm foundation on which to stand as we move into whatever the future holds. Amen


Please join us online for our Sunday Celebration at 11 AM. Sermon: “And Who Is My Neighbor?”

August 22, 2020

Aug 16th Video Worship Service

August 17, 2020

Please Join Us for a Sunday Celebration August 16th, 11 AM

August 16, 2020

Gathering Prayer

One: Here we can come together,
people searching for healing and hope
All: here we are met by the One
who would bless us with abundant life.


One: Here we are called to gather
as the family of God
All: we may find those who are strangers,
yet are sisters and brothers of ours.


One: Here we discover the truth that God
makes no distinctions among us

All: here we are welcomed and embraced
by the One whose arms are open to all.

Call to Reconciliation: (From Thom M Shuman)
Unison Prayer of Confession
     We admit, Providing God, that we have difficulties living as your children. We could live in unity, but our words fracture relationships
with family and friends. We have been shown the way to your kingdom, but turn into blind guides when asked for the directions by others. When we could offer others the precious oil of peace, we hand them the vinegar of despair and rejection.
     Have mercy on us, Healing Heart, have mercy on us. When you call to us, may we listen with open ears, understand with embracing hearts, and share your grace with others, even as we have been graced by Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news for you: God has provided hope for you, filling you with joy, with mercy, with peace.
As mercy leads to mercy, take these gifts to share with the world. Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Readings for Sunday

Genesis 45:1-15

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there — since there are five more years of famine to come — so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord:
    Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my deliverance be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
   to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
   and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
   and hold fast my covenant —
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
   and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
   will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
   for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
   who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
   besides those already gathered.

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

(Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”)

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Sermon Message: Expanding Our Circle

Invitation to Share:

May we not offer you the leftovers of our resources and our lives, Blessing God, but let these gifts be but part of what we give back to you, as we seek to serve your people and your creation.  Amen.

For those wishing to send a donation to help us expand our services locally and expansively, please consider sending to: Newark Valley United Church of Christ, 32 S. Main St., Newark Valley, NY 13811. Various outreach includes:

  • We worship together on Sunday mornings or evenings, work to expand musical expression and prayer, and share time with each other with food and friendship.
  • We host a monthly Sunday evening meal where all are welcome, before our evening Communion service (Suspended during Covid)
  • We support Northern Tioga Neighbors in Need
  • We host the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for all
  • We support expression through the Arts by hosting Arts and Music Shows and Competitions
  • We sponsor children in Scouts and through Compassion, and Global Ministries
  • We support Fair Trade with our supply of Fair Trade Coffee and Chocolates for sale
  • We provide AARP income tax preparation assistance

And we are always looking for ways to reach out to the community both locally and beyond


August 9th Video Worship Service

August 11, 2020

Hope! Aug 2nd Sermon

August 11, 2020

Hope

Preached by Rev. Barbara J. Schwartz

Newark Valley United Church of Christ

I’m continuing today with the third of four sermons from the Book of Job.  For people who may be joining in for the first time today, I’ll give a little background information, and then John will read the sermon text, Job chapter 19, verses 1-29.

The Book of Job is part of the Wisdom Literature in the Bible, that is, a collection of texts that challenge conventional religious ideas.  In this book, only the narrator and the audience— that would be all of us— know the true cause of Job’s terrible sufferings:  The LORD God has inexplicably decided to allow a heavenly bureaucrat, the Satan, to test this righteous and right-living man’s devotion to God.  The Satan had claimed:  If Job lost everything, would he then curse God?

Thus in a single afternoon, Job experiences the complete destruction of his wealth and the tragic loss of all his young adult sons and daughters.  Then Job is afflicted with a terrible skin disease with open sores over his entire body.  He sits day and night in the garbage middens and scratches at his sores with a potsherd.  He still doesn’t curse God.

Three friends come to sit with Job.  Using conventional religious ideas, they attempt to help Job understand the cause of his tragic losses.  In several speeches, they argue that God invariably visits misfortune on sinners and evildoers.  Therefore Job must have committed major sins at some point, and now he is experiencing a just God’s punishment of his deeds.

Job refutes their arguments and consistently maintains that he is innocent.  He has done nothing to warrant his terrible sufferings, and he longs to confront God directly.  We will now hear Job chapter 19.1-29.

Then Job answered:

2 ‘How long will you torment me,

   and break me in pieces with words?

3 These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;

   are you not ashamed to wrong me?

4 And even if it is true that I have erred,

   my error remains with me.

5 If indeed you magnify yourselves against me,

   and make my humiliation an argument against me,

6 know then that God has put me in the wrong,

   and closed his net around me.

7 Even when I cry out, “Violence!” I am not answered;

   I call aloud, but there is no justice.

8 He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass,

   and he has set darkness upon my paths.

9 He has stripped my glory from me,

   and taken the crown from my head.

10 He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone,

   he has uprooted my hope like a tree.

11 He has kindled his wrath against me,

   and counts me as his adversary.

12 His troops come on together;

   they have thrown up siege-works against me,

   and encamp around my tent.

13 ‘He has put my family far from me,

   and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me.

14 My relatives and my close friends have failed me;

15   the guests in my house have forgotten me;

my serving-girls count me as a stranger;

   I have become an alien in their eyes.

16 I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer;

   I must myself plead with him.

17 My breath is repulsive to my wife;

   I am loathsome to my own family.

18 Even young children despise me;

   when I rise, they talk against me.

19 All my intimate friends abhor me,

   and those whom I loved have turned against me.

20 My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh,

   and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

21 Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,

   for the hand of God has touched me!

22 Why do you, like God, pursue me,

   never satisfied with my flesh?

23 ‘O that my words were written down!

   O that they were inscribed in a book!

24 O that with an iron pen and with lead

   they were engraved on a rock for ever!

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,

   and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;

26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,

   then in my flesh I shall see God,

27 whom I shall see on my side,

   and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

   My heart faints within me!

28 If you say, “How we will persecute him!”

   and, “The root of the matter is found in him”;

29 be afraid of the sword,

   for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,

   so that you may know there is a judgement.’

If some verses in the scripture lesson sounded familiar, it’s because they are used in Handel’s oratorio Messiah, in the beloved aria “I know that my redeemer liveth”— in a very different context.  Today we are focusing on Job’s context, and on our own context in this century.

Job fears that he will die before his suffering ends, and any chance of vindication will die with him.  He wants his words, his testimony, to be written in a book, and then even more permanently, the words carved into a rock and lined with lead.  He is confident that after his death, a redeemer will take up his case and prove to the community that he suffered unjustly.  The redeemer in ancient Israel is a close male relative who serves as an advocate and defender of vulnerable family members.  He still hopes that he will see God in his lifetime.

Job wants to believe that God is faithful and just, and that there is justice in this world, and he knows he is innocent of wrong-doing.  His self-awareness is the basis of his desperate hope that God will somehow see him and hear his case, as in a courtroom.

This hope is not wishful thinking, or a casual desire for favorable conditions or a good outcome, as in “I hope we have good weather tomorrow,” or “I hope the Red Sox win their game.”  This hope is a stubborn commitment that refuses to give up, even in the face of one’s friends’ assertions of conventional religious ideas about evil-doers experiencing the consequences of their deeds.

Steed Davidson, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, writes that “Job’s self-certainty stands against the confidence of his friends in the received [religious] traditions.  Most persons of faith are socialized not to stand against traditions of any sort, particularly the traditions of the church and God, with one’s individual experience.  Yet, ironically, those who dared to point to other paths, other ways of seeing and being, other modes of thinking, have often been the ones to effect reform and progress in church and society.”

In the last several days we lost two heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. C. T. Vivian, a key strategist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and later became a prominent educator, and Congressman John Lewis.  We are more familiar with Congressman Lewis, at least I am.  Some of us may remember the March 7, 1965 attempted crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, when peaceful civil rights marchers were brutally attacked by mounted state police.  John Lewis was badly beaten, suffered a fractured skull, and carried those scars for the rest of his life.

He could have given up back then in 1965, but he never gave up.  Lewis’ persistent hope and faith carried him through a life of service that challenged established ideas about race and justice in the 1960s and continued to challenge injustice and work to overcome it through the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st, even when he was an old man living with terminal cancer.  I wouldn’t say that he had the patience of Job.  He had the persistent hope of Job.

We will conclude the story of Job on the first Sunday in September.  In the meantime, let’s think about our deepest hopes— the ones that show up as persistent commitments that lead to actions again and again.  What is it, what are the things, that we never give up on?

In closing, let’s think about Prof. Davidson’s final comment about Job.  It’s a question: “Can Job’s daring claim to innocence, his insistence on his vindication from outside the establishment, and his belief that he will expose power be useful for today’s politics in church and society?”

Let us pray:  O God, our hope is in you.  May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth.  Amen.