Saturday, November 10, 2018

“Buying into the Kingdom” - November 11, 2018




Mark 12:38-44

            One of the most cynical, and funniest, books on my shelf was written in the 1960’s and is called How to Become a Bishop without Being Religious.  It’s a satirical handbook that offers advice for young clergy about matters that aren’t taught in seminary.  It says things like,

“Experience will teach you that it is seldom necessary to make public mention of church business and finance.  On those rare occasions when it is necessary, remember to avoid the use of the word ‘money.’  Speak of ‘bringing the tithes into the storehouse’ or ‘the Lord’s business.’”

And then in a footnote it adds:

“See the author’s article ‘The Effective Employment of the Sacred Euphemism in Raising the Church’s Annual Budget,’ which was included in The Compendium of Practical Theology, now unfortunately out of print.”[1]

Unfortunately, Jesus talked about money all the time, which puts everybody who pays attention to him in an awkward spot a lot of the time.

            There are some people, and always have been, who recognize that what is a good and right impulse – the impulse to give and to offer support, the virtue of generosity that I hope we do encourage and foster – can be used to leverage larger contributions if it’s connected to less desirable impulses like pride and a competitive spirit.  One of my favorite stories of a brilliant but borderline-shady fundraiser is about Abbot Suger, who built the monastery of St. Denis in Paris, the very first Gothic-style building.  He invited the King of France and as much of the nobility as he could to the laying of the cornerstone.  For the occasion, he chose a reading from Revelation [21:18-20]:

“The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth cornelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.”
Every time one of those jewels was mentioned, the royals tossed a precious stone into the mortar for the walls and the nobles were expected to show that they could keep up, too.  There were people there who hadn’t been warned ahead of time and who, rather than look bad, pulled the rings off their fingers to toss into the waiting buckets.  After the ceremony, the monks went through the cement and took out the jewels so that they could be used to fund the rest of the building.

            It was totally effective and totally unethical.  It played off of, and even counted on, human insecurities that were well known to the people whom Jesus criticized for the way that they mixed the search for status with religion.

“As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’” [Mark 12:38-40]

Large donations are wonderful.  They’re welcome.  But they don’t buy anybody a place in God’s heart.  They aren’t needed for that.  God loves even the greediest miser on the planet.  What God does not love, though, is the greed and what it does to others.  No amount can compensate or take the place of genuine human concern for one another.  Watch out if you catch yourself devouring widows’ houses.  A real gift to God is the priceless gift of honesty and integrity.

            That is how this happened:

“He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” [Mark 12:41-44]

There’s something wrong there, too.  Religious institutions should encourage the sort of generosity the widow showed, but guard against its abuse.  However, the entire religious institution that Jesus confronted was set up in such a way that it could lead someone living in poverty to feel that she had to use her last coins to be part of the community of faith, that she had literally to buy into the kingdom of God.

            Let me drop back a little bit here to point out what would have been obvious to those who heard Jesus comment on what he saw.  Maintaining the Temple and the sacrifices offered there was considered so important that about forty years later, when the Romans were besieging Jerusalem and the people inside were starving, the priests continued to offer all of the traditional sacrifices and the meat offering and grain offering were still burnt on the altar.  The water supply was in danger, but they continued to pour out the wine offerings on the ground.  And when the Romans captured the fortress that overlooked the Temple courtyard they fired arrows down on the priests and Levites but they continued on with worship as the scripture directed even as the building went up in flames.  The sort of devotion that could do that was of a piece with the widow’s giving.  She gave everything she had to live on, just as the others would later give their lives. 

            Like them, Jesus’ followers do share the belief that faith does call us to lay everything on the line sometimes.  There are even rare cases where people are called to lay down their lives.  There have been riots in Pakistan this past week over the acquittal on appeal of a Christian woman who had been convicted of blaspheming against Muhammed.  The Pakistani Supreme Court didn’t say she hadn’t done it, just that there had been insufficient evidence.  Even her lawyer has had to leave the country. 

            Christian discipleship for anyone involves wholeheartedness in every part of life.  We are to love God with our heart and mind and soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.  I cannot find a loophole in that, although I admit that in the case of certain neighbors I have tried to find some sort of exception. 

We are to be wholehearted about the use of our wealth, too.  That means, though, that we have to do it wisely, like any other aspect of ministry, and never unscrupulously.  It is wrong to take the means of livelihood from anybody in need.  Jesus was definite about those who

“devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”
Beware when someone announces that if you give $5 to their ministry, that God will send you $10.  (Hint: if that’s how things work, why aren’t they sending you $5, trusting God to send them $10?) 

Back to the Bible, here.  Those others making contributions to the Temple’s treasury could have afforded to make a contribution on the widow’s behalf.  We talk about “tithes and offerings”, which means using the figure of a tenth of one’s income as a good indication of serious participation, but the offerings, which are any amount beyond that, ought to consider the help that someone else would provide if only they could.  Even better, they could have tried to figure out what kept her in poverty, even if they discovered they themselves were part of the problem. 

Maybe, too, it behooved them (and behooves us) to find ways to invite participation in the life of faith that do an end run around financial considerations.  When someone doesn’t have a lot of pocket change to spare, but still wants to contribute meaningfully, that desire to share should still be honored.  We do those who are under financial constraints a disservice when we identify money as the one and only way to participate meaningfully in life.  It’s the world that says you have to have good clothes to go to church, or have a formal education before you have any insight into life, or look like a supermodel before being loved.  It’s the world that says that, not Jesus.

For that matter, we fool ourselves if we think everything we need can even be bought.  Consider the gifts of the young people who don’t yet have jobs and cannot contribute financially, or students who need to put away what they make for next semester’s tuition.  We make a big mistake when we don’t see all that they could do with their skills in the arts and construction and communication or with the high levels of imagination and compassion that are just looking for a good way to become focused. 

            It seems to me that we as a people anymore are far shorter on time than on money.  People are so incredibly busy that when it gets to be the end of the day, they are exhausted.  I have heard people say that there are times when they get so tired that the second they try to pray, they nod off.  What if someone checked in with them occasionally, someone who is a step or two outside the rat race, and offered to take some of their concerns to the Lord on their behalf?  I’m not saying that you can have someone do it all for you, but maybe another believer can help.  Or what if somebody has the gift of being a good listener?  In a world where everyone always has something to say, a few moments with someone who does not talk all the time, or who could even just sit quietly with people for a few minutes from time to time – that’s a real gift.

            Jesus said that

“people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.  Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” [Luke 13:29-30]
I sort of like Curtis Mayfield’s take on that:

“People, get ready                               There ain't no room
There's a train a-coming                      For the hopeless sinner
You don't need no baggage                Who would hurt all mankind
You just get on board                         Just to save his own

All you need is faith                           Have pity on those
To hear the diesels humming              Whose chances grow thinner
Don't need no ticket                           'Cause there's no hiding place
You just thank the Lord                     From the kingdom's throne

People, get ready                                So people, get ready
For the train to Jordan                        For the train a-comin'
Picking up passengers                         You don't need no baggage
From coast to coast                             You just get on board

Faith is the key                                    All you need is faith
Open the doors and board them         To hear the diesels humming
There's room for all                             Don't need no ticket
Amongst the loved the most               You just thank the Lord.”[2]








[1] Charles Merrill Smith, How to Become a Bishop without Being Religious (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1965), 50-51.
[2] Curtis Mayfield, “People, Get Ready”, 1965.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

“Remove the Stone” - November 4, 2018



John 11:32-44


            The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”  I expect he wept often, and that he laughed often, too.  This time what happened was that his friend Lazarus had died and, if that wasn’t bad enough, his sister Mary suggested that it was Jesus’ fault for not getting there fast enough when they sent word that Lazarus was sick.  Was Jesus crying for Lazarus, for Mary, or for himself?  The answer is “yes”.

            When we lose someone through illness or through a painful death, we feel for what they may have had to go through, and we feel for the sadness of the other people who loved them, and we feel sad for ourselves, too.

            In one of his stories about ministering to a church in Evansville, Indiana, Walter Wangerin wrote about the way that one woman experienced the death of her husband.

     “’He always came back, you know,’ she says.  ‘When he worked for the L&N Railroad in the dining car – it took him all the way to St. Louis, but he came back.  When he worked at the Vulcan Plow Works during the Depression, he came back.  I used to pack a picnic basket and carry the children on over to Sunset Park, and even if we started to eat without him, well, he would come from work.  We would enjoy the scenery and then walk home and get there by bedtime.  He always came back, Douglas did, always untroubled.’
     ‘But he hasn’t come back this time.’
     ‘And he’s left an ache like stone in my stomach.’ …
     Miz Lillian says, ‘I’ve gotten used to the ache by now.  It’s all right.  It’s all right.  I call it a friend to me.  This aching reminds me all the time of Douglas. Mm.  There is a gravestone in Oak Hill Cemetery, on his grave, you know.  But it’s sort of a stone in me too.  The children and everyone else can mourn by that stone at Oak Hill.  This one is mine.  The widow’s stone.’”[1]

What is anybody supposed to do with that?  (Because everybody at some point loses someone and carries around some kind of grief.)  Sure, you live with the reality of loss, but what form does it take?
            When Jesus met that kind of loss, it touched him deeply.  Standard translations say,

“he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” [John 11:33] 

Peterson’s translation says,

“a deep anger welled up within him.”

That might, given time, have come to form a similar stone in his guts, a lasting and aching sorrow.  Before it came to that, however, he made them take him to the grave where Lazarus was buried and there he stood before a stone that had been rolled across its opening to seal it off.  How could Jesus not, on some level, have seen in that stone, the one that would seal his own tomb very shortly afterward?  How could all his emotions – love for Lazarus and his sisters, anger at the accusations being lobbed in his direction, fear about the pain he would himself be forced to bear, all that we ever feel around anyone’s death (including our own) – how could all of that not have formed one big stone inside his own chest, one big lump in his throat, one big weight heavy enough to crush him to the ground?

            And yet… Jesus said,

"Remove the stone." [John 11:39]

Martha, the practical sister, told him he was just losing it.  That kind of stone is there to wall us off from the decay that goes on, like the emotional stone walls off the strongest emotions so that even when there is grief, it doesn’t consume the rest of life.  There are reasons we do the things we do to get by.

"Master, by this time there's a stench. He's been dead four days!" [John 11:39]

You tell him, Martha!

“Jesus looked her in the eye. ‘Didn't I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 
Then, to the others, ‘Go ahead, take away the stone.’" [John 11:40-41]

Which they did.

“Then he shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 
And he came out.” [John 11:43-44]

They had to unwrap him and uncover his face, and I wish we knew what went through the heads of the people who did that.  We don’t get any description of what the rest of the reunion was like.  I imagine it was a weird mix of happy and creepy, disturbing and joyful. 

In some ways it was like a rehearsal for Easter, which was even stranger, because there it was God who directly intervened and raised Jesus up, pointing to Jesus’ promise that it wouldn’t just be Lazarus who was restored, but that it would be all of God’s people who would have access to eternal life through Jesus.  He had told Martha when she had first met him coming into town,

“I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.  The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live.  And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.” [John 11:25-26]

To live believing in Jesus is what we call “faith”.  And it is faith, not our good deeds or our religiosity or anything else, that lets Jesus set us right with God.

            William Butler Yeats said,

“Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.”[2]

So if Jesus tells us that it is okay, that those who have died are alive with God, it is easier to roll away those stones that build up inside us, and when we name those people, the way he named Lazarus, we feel their life rather than our loss.  At times like that, what we celebrate once again are the good moments, the moments when through such people’s lives a little bit of God’s own grace comes through to us.



[1] Walter Wangerin, Miz Lil & the Chronicles of Grace (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 188-189.
[2] from “Easter, 1916”.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

“I Had Heard, Now I See” - October 28, 2018




Job 42:1-6, 10-17


            C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Problem of Pain in which he analyzed the theological and philosophical sides of suffering, its place in nature and in human development, and so on.  (There’s a copy in the church library if you want to read the whole thing, which is worth doing.)  For my money, though, the wisest part of the book is found in one part of one sentence in the preface, where he says,

“I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”[1]

In fact, that is what Job really learns at the end of his troubles.  And it is enough.

            There are long, long passages that we have not looked at, where Job’s friends try to help him come to grips with his questions about pain and about injustice and about the fairness or unfairness of life.  At first they know enough simply to keep him company, and as long as they do that, Job experiences some of that human sympathy that Lewis said was more helpful than courage.

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”  [Job 2:11-13]

They should have stopped there.  But after a week, they had had enough.  They begin to offer explanations of what has gone wrong.

His first friend starts out hesitantly:

“If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended?”

(Right there you can hear trouble ahead.)

“But who can keep from speaking?” [Job 4:2]

Once the silence is broken, the friends barely shut up, and much of what they say in their well-meaning way still comes out as a series of accusations.  “Look, Job, you must have done something wrong to deserve this.  You must have brought it on yourself somehow, even if you don’t remember or realize it.”

“Can mortals be righteous before God?
   Can human beings be pure before their Maker? 
Even in his servants he puts no trust,
   and his angels he charges with error; 
how much more those who live in houses of clay,
   whose foundation is in the dust,
   who are crushed like a moth.
  [Job 4:17-19]

And if God is punishing him, he should be happy that God is trying to teach him and correct him instead of wiping him off the face of the earth.

“See, we have searched this out; it is true.
   Hear, and know it for yourself.” [Job 5:27]

I’m not so sure those messages are very helpful: “It’s your own fault, and it’s for your own good.”  Try that out on someone who has emphysema: “You shouldn’t have started smoking, so this is your own fault, but at least it should teach you to stop.”  Realistically, as true as that might be, how often does it happen?

            Then there is another friend who reminds Job that they had all been taught very clearly that God sends suffering upon people either as punishment or correction.  So by disagreeing with the standard beliefs that they repeat to him, Job is only making things worse for himself.  He’s adding to whatever personal sin he has committed and (even worse) Job is publicly undermining general morality and respect for religion.

“Should the wise answer with windy knowledge,
   and fill themselves with the east wind? 
Should they argue in unprofitable talk,
   or in words with which they can do no good? 
But you are doing away with the fear of God,
   and hindering meditation before God.”
 [Job 15:2-4]

So now he’s being told that he’s suffering because he’s an unrepentant sinner, and his declarations of innocence have to stop because they present a danger to the faith of anybody within earshot.

            Job doesn’t give in.  He sticks to what he knows in his heart is true.  It turns out that God approves of this.  At the end of the book, God doesn’t let the three friends off the hook;

“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.’” [Job 42:7]

Finally, here is the core of Job’s experience and what sets him apart from others.  The difference is that Job, throughout everything, has dealt with the Lord as a living God, one who is not just some sort of theoretical being way out there, acting as referee for the universe, untouched or unmoved by what happens to us here on earth except as a rule-keeper.  There is no place in biblical faith for karma, the impersonal idea that you get what’s coming to you, good or bad.

In the end, for Job, God is real and free and active in a way that the others don’t quite get, and even more real to him than before his troubles all began.  Job’s friends give him standardized answers, and he will not accept them.  God, when he spoke to Job from a whirlwind, said that he wasn’t going to get an answer; Job could and did accept that.

“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 despise myself,
   and repent in dust and ashes.’”
[Job 42:1-6] 

His troubles had led to a direct encounter with the Lord himself, and that was enough, and more than enough, to make it worthwhile. 

            Really, what we have to offer when others are suffering cannot be platitudes or simplistic explanations that ultimately don’t hold up.  We do not know the mind of God about every situation in our own lives, let alone the lives of others.  What we do know, however, is what we have experienced directly for ourselves, which is the love God didn’t just tell us about, but showed us when he sent Jesus to suffer and die with us and for us.  That is not something theoretical, but something historical.  It happened.  And one of its consequences is that any time of trouble we face has its limit – none of it is eternal and none of it is inevitable– and all patience would have its reward.  We, too, have been given an answer which is so deep that we cannot entirely summarize it right now, but it is an answer that is enough.

            As for later, it will take care of itself, if for now we have Christ.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”  [I Corinthians 13:12-13]



[1] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1962), 10.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

“Where Were You?” - October 14, 2018





Job 28:1-7, 34-41


            Like Job, we want reasons for things.  We want to know why things happen as they do.  If something is going to play out in a way that we would call unfair or unjust, we want an explanation.  Occasionally, we are given a reason, and we might or might not like it.  But beyond being given a reason, God gives something far more precious, which is wisdom, and wisdom helps us to know our place in the world.

            I’m about to tell you a long story, most of which will be background, but it does have a point, so settle in.

            In the summer of 1988, I was one of five student chaplains at what was then the Delaware State Hospital, just south of Wilmington.  Two of us were from Pennsylvania, two were from New Jersey, and one lived just down the road from the hospital itself.  The way that our work was divided, there was one person who covered the intake unit on weekends and took the overnight shift, while the rest of us had separate units where we visited and provided pastoral care.  The hospital had a chapel with Sunday morning services, which we shared, and on Monday mornings when we met, whoever was working on their sermon for the coming week would present their text and an outline for discussion.

            The week in question, the preacher was going to be a guy named George, whose denominational background was Reformed Episcopal.  That meant that he was about as serious a Calvinist as anyone has ever been.  He believed very sincerely and wholeheartedly in predestination and that God exercises his absolute sovereignty and control in all things at all times.

            The sermon review session was due to start at 8:30, but by 8:15 everyone except George was there, and we got talking.  Somebody asked Jim, the weekend intake chaplain, how things had gone.  He said that on Friday afternoon around five or six o’clock the police had had to talk someone down from jumping off the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which they did successfully, but it was a complicated situation and there was a lot of follow-up.  Other than that, nothing particularly unusual had happened.  Then there was some more small talk until George came in, right at 8:30, and handed us each a copy of his outline to look over.  Our supervisor got the conversation going when he asked George to talk about the sermon, which was on having patience.

            George launched into his opening example, which was about how he had needed to get home on Friday and got stuck in traffic approaching the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  He described how he became more and more frustrated as he sat there, going nowhere.  The only part of his car moving was the needle on the gas gauge, which crept closer and closer to “Empty”, and he eventually was able to move toward an exit and get to a gas station, but it took forever and he was afraid the whole time that he was going to stall out.  When he did fill the tank, he had almost reached his boiling point, and was trying to get back into the traffic jam somehow when someone cut him off and he lost it and started screaming and leaning on his horn and doing the whole road-rage bit.

            At that moment, he said, the Lord spoke to his heart, and he was convicted in his spirit for having so little patience and so much anger.  He went on to say that, on reflection, however, he had become grateful that the Lord had chosen to teach him a lesson that he needed to learn, placing him there in that situation.

            So the remaining four of us pushed him on that.  We got him to say that God, in his rule over all things, and his particular care for his chosen elect (specifically, George), had seen to it that he would be delayed and frustrated and that the other drivers’ hearts would be hardened to him, so that, like Job, he would learn patience.

            After this went on for longer than it should have, the supervisor looked at the overnight guy and said, “Jim, why don’t you just tell him?”

            Jim said simply, “There was a jumper on the bridge.”

            George just said, “What?”

            “Yeah, they brought him in on Friday.  The police had to block off traffic to get to him.”

            I don’t remember how or if George changed his sermon after that but what I take away from the episode that I still remember thirty years later is that I may have problems or challenges, and things happen all the time that make life harder or more complicated and confusing and (guess what?) they have absolutely nothing to do with me.  Just because something affects me doesn’t mean that I am necessarily a part of some chain of cause and effect in the wider scope.  The world is bigger than me, and God is bigger than the world.

            Job demanded an explanation from God of what had happened to him.  He wasn’t going to get one.  But God did Job the courtesy of telling him so, and giving him a glimpse of where he fit into the scheme of the universe.  It seems appropriate that God spoke to him out of a whirlwind, an unseen force that picks up the dust that we are made of and to which we return, and spins it around and around, tossing it up into the air until it lands who-knows-where again, because God shakes up our self-obsessed beings and spins us around to look beyond ourselves at the whole breadth of creation and the huge range of things we not only do not but cannot understand, saying, “Look at all of this.  Take in all that is happening, all at once, all across time and space.  Consider the drama, the joy, and the sorrow of all things.”

            Hear how the Bible tells it:
           
“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? 

‘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?’”  [
Job 28:1-7, 34-41]

This is only a small part of the speech where God shows Job the wonders of nature, putting before him the whole of the universe, and asking Job again and again to see himself more clearly.

            We are creatures, beloved by God, part of his immense project.  We see only what is before us or around us.  But God beholds it all at once.  We cannot number the clouds, but God numbers the hairs on our heads, said Jesus, and cares for what happens to a sparrow.  Our purpose is not to understand, although to try to understand is part of who we are.  Our purpose is to be loved by God and to return that love, with heart and soul and mind and strength.  In the end (and I’ll talk about that next week) Job gets that. 

            Last week I read a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet who could, like Job, cried out to God from the dark and even tormented places of his soul.  Yet when he was able to lift his eyes to the world around him, he was able to write this:[1]

“Glory be to God for dappled things –
            For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
                        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
            Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow and plough;
                        And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things, counter, original, spare, strange;
            Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
                        With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                        Praise him.”


[1] Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”.