Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prayer and Repentance

Using Job 1-12 and Esther 8-10 as the allocated texts for my time to pray with the CalPac Prayer and Repentance 80 hours of prayer and scripture reading, I was put to the test.

This, I share as part of my prayer reflection, living in the moment, and praying for discernment, and using the power of pulling the text out as it spurs my thought.

I wonder at the kind of repentance we are called to as a conference dealing with the hanging of Haman, and the destruction of all those who opposed the Jews

I am mindful of the text from Job, which reads "Job 1:9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied." - fear is awe and revere, lift up, not a matter of running from, in the NIV. And I question the levels of which we have allowed God to become too intimate, and not mysterious enough, listing away from the power of awe and reverence, to the point at which we might actually "fear" God, as the punisher - because that is the intimate we know: Fear and Danger, unmitigated anger, and grace which must be arbitrarily imparted, at the whim, not of God, but of the angels who attend our God.

And then in verse 16 the servant attributes to God, that which rightfully in action belongs to Satan, "16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”"

Imagine then my confusion at being confronted with worship in a new context:

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

A new context for worship is that which acknowledges God as the one of power, mystery and wonder. This is worship as praise. And I am mortified to think of the last time in my tragedy I praised God, not for the action that was perpetrated, or for anything other than the greatness of God, unassigned to any actual action, but instead to the very being of God.

And then this interchange between God and Satan:

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Satan is doing his level best to make God go against the nature of God to create and make whole, by asking God to strike against Job, and God, in wisdom, actually allows Satan his own wholeness, despite the anger he seeks to draw out of Job, and the pain he wants to assert. Definitely, an interesting little bit for my contemplation about healing and repentance. I might need to more seriously consider repenting of hindering others, even when they are seeking to diminish and destroy, as I have not allowed them to be whole in themselves, or I failed to impart healing which would bring about a different state of wholeness.

And that (pause) just brings to life a completely different, but related thought - I guess I always assumed that wholeness for one would look an awful lot like wholeness for another. And if I give credence to that earlier thought that the side of Satan that sought to inflict pain, and incite malice against God, was in fact leading to Satan's wholeness, then wouldn't it also follow that some people might have a similar path to wholeness?

Then I consider what it was to be a friend to Job, and marvel at the stamina of his friends, as I have a hard time staying even an hour

Job 2:

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

What would it mean not to repent, or even to heal (in the sense of the miracles of healing as Jesus performed), but to heal in the sense of being "wholly with" another who is in pain, with torn robes, and in ashes - perhaps that means wearing a hospital gown to visit with those in the hospital (and now I am stuck wrestling once again with Simone Weil [which drove me nuts in seminary, and every time since])

And then this lament from Job:

20 “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil."

How often have I heard this from people with terminal illness? There is no rest. There is no peace. As much as they would give up, there is still life within them. There is no plan or progress, and no sense of what might be - other than death. And yet, as much as they give up and give in, without committing suicide and ending it themselves, this pain will not cease.

And here begins the litany of empty words offered from the friends of Job. So often I feel like my visits are the same. The only real healing that I can offer comes not from my words, or from the lack of physical wholeness I could provide, but instead from my simple presence. And maybe that is the healing I need to offer more clearly (and I might even submit that for actual repentance, I might need to do the same - be with those whom I have wronged, in a simple state, an act of being with, and nothing more of expectation, except that I walk with[and again I am drawn to Simone Weil - boy I wish I had something else to work with on this - Bonhoeffer perhaps?])

Edit: Job 6:14-23 seems to make the same point - your words are empty and your presence is that which is most valuable.

And I find that Eliphaz the Temanite is eerily reflected in the text of Isaiah 40. Both seeking to offer hope, despite great oppression, one for an individual and the second for a nation. And I find myself back in the comforting arms of a mysterious God that cannot be fathomed.

I also am slightly cowed by the sense present in the earlier monologue of Job, and the current monologue of Eliphaz that God inflicts injury. However, I have to find the space to reconcile (be healed? Repent of my wrong-headedness?) that thought and conception of God by humans (and perhaps all of humanity, with the God who does not actually do harm, but allows another to do so to fulfill his (Satan) sense of wholeness.

[At this point I stopped with the blogging prayer of discernment, due to time constraints, and trying to finish reading the scripture, and taking some time to pray with my daughter at bedtime (which did include prayers for healing and repentance*grin*)]

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At March 28, 2011, Anonymous David Youngdale said...

David thank you for these insights from the Book of Job and Esther. There is so much Godly wisdom here shared.
My experience with the Cal-Pac Prayer and Repentance here at Ojai United Methodist I felt was so unique and unforgettable. There were two of us- Pastor John Robison and myself who met at our sanctuary at 9:30PM. We alternated and read the entire minor prophets, from Hosea through Malachi, a total of 56 pages from my King James Bible Version. It took us three and one half hours as we alternated in the reading, while the other prayed and meditated. Not a word nor the import of it was missed.

David Youngdale


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