Proper 7: The Joy of Questions

20/6/21 – Proper 7
Job 38:1-11
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind, Object 13 (William Blake Archive)

I mentioned last Sunday that the lectionary readings over the coming
weeks and months are something like Jesus’ Summer School. This morning
cannot help but think how amazing it would have been to go on a summer
holiday with Jesus! Imagine going on a picnic with Jesus and there is no
lunch. Think: loaves and fishes. Then going on a boat trip with Jesus. The
storm comes and he is found to be sleeping (I’ve always secretly
wondered if he was pretending just to see what the disciples would do!). In
three words he commands the sea to behave and it does!

In both Job and Mark’s Gospel there are some big questions being asked
by all the characters. God is questioning Job, the disciples question Jesus and then Jesus questions them. Questions are good things, part of our learning. Even the difficult ones. If you have spent any time around children you will know that questions come regularly and at rapid fire. I am sure that many of us have had the experience of being asked a question that we didn’t have answer for! That awful feeling when the teacher asks you and you have no earthly idea
what the answer is. Or those questions that have no easy answer or even an answer at all. What do we do with those ones?

Difficult questions run through the entirety of the book of Job as Job asks and is asked many challenging (if not impossible) questions throughout his ordeal. Questions about the nature of suffering, how God works (or doesn’t), what did Job do to cause his current suffering; surely his current situation is his fault according to the logic of his friends. Job struggles to give them an answer that satisfies because he knows there is nothing that he has done to end up where he is. Job has been lamenting his current condition and trying to make sense of it.

He has literally banging on the door of God’s house to have a word. This feels like a reasonable request as I think that I, too would want a word with the person – God or not – who put me there. Finally, after 37 chapters of lament, complaint and moaning, Job hears from God for the first time You get the feeling that God has almost had enough of Job’s questions so starts with a few of his own. There are 11 questions in 15 verses. God starts easy: ‘who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’ This one is easy to answer – it is Job.

Job now has to ‘gird up his loins like a man!’ I love that! God telling him off in such common language. God’s next questions are much harder:
 Where you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?
 Can you make it rain?
 Who gave you wisdom or understanding to the mind?
 Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
 Can you feed the lions, satisfy the young ones?
 Can you feed the baby ravens when they are crying and there is no food to found?

If you read the last few chapters of Job, you see God fire a barrage of questions at Job; most of which he cannot answer! Job has not, in fact, been in the storehouses of the snow or hail, or sent forth lightening, nor was he present at the birth of the mountain goat and he is unfamiliar with the ordinances of heaven. Neither are we.

In the last chapter of Job, after all the conversation and questioning, Job’s first remark is ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’ Do you know this truth about God? Whatever we throw at him, the
questions we have about anything, wherever we find ourselves, whatever the situation we are in: no purpose of his can be thwarted!

In Mark’s telling of Jesus and the disciples in the boat, we are shown again that no purpose of God’s can be thwarted. Underneath all the questions an uncertainty, pain and suffering we have the one who gets into the boat with us. I love this story of Jesus. The opening chapter of Mark is full of the activity of Jesus’ ministry. Little wonder he fell asleep in the boat! Jesus had been going through cities and villages proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God, curing people. Jesus laid it out in the parable of the sower when told people to bear fruit with patient endurance. Jesus then had some family issues when his mother and brothers showed up. No wonder he needed a nap! And one day he got into a boat with his disciples and had a snooze. How
utterly human.

Even what happened next was not out of the ordinary; the Sea of Galilee is known for its quick change in tide. It can be as smooth as glass one moment and then choppy and windy the next. Jesus was with fisherman who knew that water, had lived and breathed it their whole lives. They are scared! That storm must have been beyond what they were used to. As human beings tend to like security and the familiar, so we get use to things whether they are beneficial or
not. The church is not exempt from this. Now I am not saying that everything has to change right now but over time.

I wonder what the disciples in the boat would have done if Jesus wasn’t with them? Rode out the storm I suppose. How much better though to have the one seated in the boat to rebuke the wind and the waging waves in an instant. There was a calm.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, months and years here – when times of wind and wave sweep down and in times of calm, Jesus is on our side. He’s in the boat. Where is your faith? This is the question Jesus asked the sea-sickened, pale faced disciples and is not a bad one for us today.

Where is your faith when change comes, when what your used to isn’t what your used to anymore? I want my congregations, all the people of the Hambleden Valley to know Jesus, to have their faith in him. To know the one who commands the winds and the water that they obey him. Again, takes some creativity and imagination to read the Gospels and understand at a deeper level what he was doing and what that means for us. So let us ask the questions, of God, of each other and ourselves. Let us avoid the answers that are too easy
but engage with the ones that are hard.

Jesus is in the boat with us on the journey of each our individual lives but also our communal life as a parish and congregation. Let’s see where he
is taking us!

Author: Sue Lepp

Newly appointed Priest-in-Charge of the Hambleden Valley Group of Churches and will start later in January 2021. Time for a new start at the beginning of a new year. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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