Who Do You Think You Are?
Service for Vonore UMC, Sunday, October 21, 2018
Bringing in the Light of Christ
Greetings & Announcements
Introit Great is the Lord, TFWS 2022
Call to Worship Responsive Reading
One: Praise God in the sanctuary!
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul.
One: Look at God!
One: Robed in majesty.
One: Clothed with honor.
One: Dressed in glory.
One: Garments of wonderful light.
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul.
One: Look at God!
One: Flung heaven across the sky.
One: Walks on the clouds.
One: Rides on the wind.
One: Speaks through fire.
One: No one is greater than our God!
All: Bless the Lord.
One: For God is Great!
All: Bless the Lord.
One: For God is Wonderful!
All: Bless the Lord.
One: The whole earth declares your glory.
All: Bless the Lord. Bless the Lord. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
God, we come today with more preconceived notions and beliefs than we have unanswered questions, and we have so … many … unanswered … questions. We come to you with more self-righteousness than repentance, and more need to control what happens in our lives than trust in giving it all to you because you do have control. Forgive us, God, and let your Spirit fill us today. Let her open our hearts and our minds and our ears and our eyes. May our praise and worship this morning please you and remind us that You are God and we are not. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Opening Hymn Bless His Holy Name, TFWS 2015
Passing the Peace
Sharing Joys & Concerns
God, You are so very great! Your mercies are new every morning, and your faithfulness never fails. We thank you for the many blessings we have received and give special thanks for the blessings we failed to recognize. Please forgive us for not recognizing them when they were received or even now as we stand before you.
Receive our petitions and hear also the unspoken prayers that your Spirit groans to you on our behalf, God, and, if it be your will, grant healing, comfort, peace, and grace wherever they are needed. There are so many in the world, God, that are hurting, hungry, scared, or grieving, so many that are ravaged by war or devastated by natural disasters, and too few who intercede on their behalf. We ask that they, too, regardless of who they are, how they live, or in what manner they worship, receive your abundant blessing and grace.
We pray for your protection and blessing upon first responders and others who are able to intercede. We especially pray that you will make your will known to the leaders of this world and remind them that it is not their kingdoms they build and lead, but yours. We pray this to you now in the way that Christ your son taught us:
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Anthem He Is Exalted
Scripture Reading Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
(1-7) 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?
(34-41) “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 waterskins 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?
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our heart be pleasing unto you, O Lord, our rock and redeemer.
Message: Who Do You Think You Are?
Just a quick summary of Job’s story:
Job is blameless and upright. When his story starts, he’s one blessed fella. He has kids, a wife, land, and a bunch of sheep. Unbeknownst to Job, Satan comes along and issues God a challenge: Satan declares the only reason Job’s such a good guy is because Job has been so well blessed by God, and that if those earthly blessings were taken away, Job would dump God in a New York minute. God accepts Satan’s challenge, and Satan unleashes a force that kills all of Job’s family except his wife, kills his servants, and reduces his homes to dust.
Through all that death and destruction and loss, though, Job remains loyal to God. He refuses to denounce God. Satan isn’t satisfied, though, goes back and challenges God again. God says do whatever, but do not kill Job, and this time Satan gives Job a nasty rash, boils, and blisters all over his body.
It’s at this point that Job starts to get a little bit testy about all of this. After all, he was loyal to God, and look what happened – his earthly possessions, his children were all wiped out. Literally. He still stayed loyal to God and now look at him! He’s covered in a rash and boils and blisters! Job still doesn’t renounce God, but he does start insisting that he deserves some kind of explanation—wouldn’t you want one? All he’s getting from God, though, is silence. Job’s wife is so tired of Job’s problems, she finally says, “Just curse God and die!”
Not long after this, Job’s buddies Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar decide to pay him a visit. They find Job in such a sorry mess that, for seven days, they simply sit and grieve with and for him, but after that seventh day is over, they decide to give him some advice. They declare they know the reason this is all happening to Job: Job has done something to make God angry. He’s committed some kind of sin against God, and everything that has happened to Job is all Job’s fault. He need only repent and all will be good again.
Job is not, however, satisfied with their explanation. He’s done nothing. He’s been a perfect example of how to keep God’s laws. He’s prayed, he’s worshipped, he’s made every sacrifice, he’s observed the Sabbath. Nope. He’s totally blameless and by golly, God owes him an answer.
About that time, a young man named Elihu (Ella-hue) shows up. Elihu is known for being a truth-teller. Elihu tells Job that, while Job may not have sinned, Job still has no right to question his fate. After all, God’s universe is still endowed with immortal power.
And still Job frets and fusses and cries out to God, demanding an answer until we arrive at that point in his story as was told in our scripture passage today: God shows up in a whirlwind and basically says to Job, “Just who in the heck do you think you are?!?”
Now, I don’t want to leave Job hanging there in mid-ending so let me wrap the Book of Job up for you real quick: God’s questions to Job in Chapters 38-41 leave Job feeling more than a little humbled, in fact near speechless, which is saying a lot considering 21 of the 41 chapters of the Book of Job are just Job praying, defending God and his own actions to his friends, or crying out to God.
Finally in chapter 42, Job acknowledges that, as a mere mortal, he can’t possibly understand everything in an immortally ruled universe. He repents and goes back to doing what he had always done before his hard times began and even during … minus the demands to God, eventually God gives Job double what he had at before the challenges, and Job lives to a ripe old age.
This isn’t the first time I’ve read the book of Job. This time, though, what struck me the hardest was what God said to Job … that “Who do you think you are?” passage in Chapters 38-41.
Raise your hand if you’re a parent who has ever looked at a child and said, “just who do you think you are?” Or, “who do you think you’re talking to?” How many of you remember hearing that same rebuke by your parents? Me, too, and I brought one with me today just to keep me honest about it.
It got me to thinking about the question. Just who do I think I am? Am I blameless and upright like Job? The answer to that would be mostly no, but sometimes things do go wrong for no apparent reason and still, I cry out to God and ask what I’ve done to deserve all the bad stuff going on in my life, in essence blaming God for my afflictions.
And here’s the thing. God gives Job a lesson, alright, but that lesson isn’t all those afflictions Job suffered. God didn’t put those afflictions on Job and he didn’t put all the “bad” in my life on me.
God didn’t make my roof leak, put the French drain in wrong, and cloud the minds of the builders so they would forget to seal the foundation walls causing the basement to leak and mold to set in. That was the stinginess of the builders and the previous owner who decided to skip the roofing felt step when he put a new roof on. That was the neglect of my husband and I when we first started noticing shingle damage after storms.
God didn’t give my husband severe COPD that put him in the hospital four times since this past June. And it was that neglect on my husband and my part that has made it so he’s now staying a state away with my oldest daughter and her family until I can figure out how to fix the problems created by those builders and the previous owner and exacerbated by my husband and my neglect.
Who in the heck do I think I am that I can lay all that on God? That I can assume, arrogantly, it’s just God’s plan for my life? Do I not remember Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope”?
God doesn’t cause financial failure or job loss or give people terminal illnesses or take children home to heaven before their time in order to teach someone a lesson for some unrecognized sin! God doesn’t visit tornados and hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis on places because of some kind of societal or cultural sin!
To think that, to blame God for that, to even suggest that is so very wrong, and to sit back in silence and let anyone suggest such a thing or believe such a thing is even more wrong! When our friends and family and people we interact with suggest to us “it’s God’s plan” or “God must have needed an angel” or “God’s punishing this or that city or country because of this or that law or action”, we need to say “NO, you’re wrong, that’s not God’s way.”
And we know it’s not God’s way if we really think about it. We know because, if such afflictions were God’s plan, there would have been no reason, no need for Christ – God Incarnate, the Word made Flesh – to come here, to take human form, and to die for us, taking on all sins past, present, and future. Blaming God for any kind of affliction whether personal or collectively is to say Christ died that horrific death on the cross for nothing.
No, afflictions of any kind are, nearly invariably, man-made through neglect, through carelessness, through irrational, baseless fears that get fed by others with an agenda of power and control, and sometimes they are simply the result of nature.
What is true is that, no matter what comes, God is right there with us, sometimes holding back the storm and more times letting the storm rage on and simply holding His child. Too often, we miss the parts where he’s holding us, though, and I think I know why.
You see, the other thing that struck me when I read it this time was the silence of God.
Job didn’t know why all these bad things were happening to him! No one on earth knew. Not his wife, not his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, not even Elihu. The afflictions that came upon Job were known only within the heavenly body. So up until God arrived in that whirlwind, what Job was getting from God … at least in my perception … was silence.
Andrew Peterson wrote a song about “The Silence of God.” The lyrics say:
It’s enough to drive a man crazy; it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the heaven’s only answer is the silence of God
It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart
When he has to remember what broke him apart
This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God
I wonder, though, if God is really being silent or if we’re just, like Job, making so much noise through our lamenting and carrying on about who’s right and who’s wrong and crying out to God for relief, that we often don’t let ourselves hear God, or that we blind or harden ourselves to the blessings He gives us along the way to show us He’s right there with us, holding us in whatever storm we find ourselves.
Which leads me back to the original question that came out of my reading of Job this time: Who in do you think you are?
It seems it’s easier to put the burden of our afflictions on God’s shoulders rather than lay them at his feet.
It seems easier to be angry and offended, to believe entire populations or areas or countries are being punished by God because of something done there or by them that we find offensive rather than to follow Christ’s instructions to love one another even your enemies and to remember what he tells us in Mark 10:43-45: “… whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
It seems easier to make so much noise through our lamenting this or that or carrying on about them or those others or crying out to God to hear our prayers laden with how we want things to be and life to go and the world to work rather than just “be still and know that He is God” or remember that He is, “doing a new thing”, especially if that “new thing” might be something that we can’t seem to wrap our brains around.
Fortunately, I know some of “who we are” because the Bible tells me so. We are each, every single one of us here and every single person out there, created in the Image of God. Even the ones who don’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us.
We are each, every single one of us here and every single person out there, a child of God. Even the ones who don’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us.
We are each, every single one of us here and every single person out there, an heir to the Kingdom of God. Even the ones who don’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us.
We are each, every single one of us here and every single person out there, loved by God and forgiven by God through Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. Even the ones who don’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us.
And those of us who hear Christ’s teachings, every single one of us here and every single person out there who have heard Christ’s teachings, are called to be servants to everyone else.
Let us pray:
Gracious God, we confess that too often we blame you for our afflictions, that in our lamenting and carrying on and crying out, we silence you and then blame you for that silence.
Forgive us, Lord. Too often we forget who we really are. Cause us to be still and trust you. Teach us to stop blaming others for our smallness and that true greatness comes from humble service. Show us how to roll up our sleeves, dig in, and lend a hand, even when no one else will. Preoccupy us with humility, then greatness can come when we least expect it. Give us the grace to live as humble servants. Give us strength to rise up and speak when we see others making these same mistakes. Amen.
God of great blessing, but even greater lessons, remind us again who gives life and who receives it. Sometimes, like Job, we need to have our questioning answered with a lesson –we need to learn that we are not the ones in charge in the universe, we are not always right about what your plan is, and we are seldom right in our judgment of others. The gifts we bring this morning are not a down payment toward future favor, but a token of a debt we will never be able to repay. May we gain wisdom in the giving, and may these gifts be blessed for your glory, not ours. In Christ, we pray. Amen.
Closing Hymn Make Me a Servant, TFWS 2176
May the Lord Jesus Christ, who ransomed himself for your salvation, bless you and keep you. May the Lord, who came not to be served, but to serve, bless you with humility. Go now, seeking neither glory nor fame for self-righteousness. Go to seek greatness by serving others to the glory of God. Go now as humble children of God, ready and willing to serve. Amen.