are filled with hope.
I like that.
Hope is something that often feels
like it is in short supply these days.
It seems so much easier somehow
to focus on the negative,
to fixate on what’s wrong with the world,
to lament how things are so much worse
than they were back in the ‘good old days’
–although when those ‘good old days’
actually took place depends on who you ask.
Today’s readings remind us that
no matter how bad things might be,
there is still reason to hope,
and they remind us that
sometimes we worry about things
that in the long run just won’t matter.
In our reading from Hebrew scripture
we hear powerful words of hope
from non other than Job.
You might remember Job,
sitting on an ash heap,
wailing and crying out to God,
lamenting his great loses.
The book of Job reminds us that he was
an upstanding, righteous man
who remained faithful to God,
and yet Job lost everything
—his family, his life’s work,
all gone for no explicable reason.
Job loudly laments this state of affairs,
crying out to God, proclaiming his innocence,
only to have three of his friends tell him in turn
that it must be his fault,
that he must’ve done something wrong,
that he must deserve his bad fortune,
because such bad luck can be nothing
but punishment from God.
Job, however, rejects the counsel of his friends
and continues to maintain his innocence,
and to rail against God
—a God who seems to him
to be indifferent to his suffering.
It is in the midst of these laments that we hear Job’s cry:
O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
(Job 19: 23-25)
For I know that my Redeemer lives.
These words resonate deeply with us,
for they are words that testify
to a deep hope,
a great faith residing deep within Job
even in his suffering.
In the depths of despond
and suffering that is unrelenting,
his friends offer no solace
and his God seems to be indifferent to his plight.
Yet Job still hopes,
still believes that at some point,
some how, he will be redeemed.
The word that we most often
hear used to describe Job is patient.
But in fact, I’m not sure patience
is the best word for this situation.
What carried Job through this crisis
was not patience
so much as it was steadfastness
—steadfastness in his faith
steadfastness in his hope for
something better yet to be.
Job continues with his lament,
and finally God speaks to Job from a whirlwind
—but not to apologize,
not to console, not to explain,
not to give the answers Job has longed for,
but rather to proclaim again
God’s power and majesty.
Even without answers, though,
this meeting with God is transformative for Job
who ultimately proclaim his hope, saying:
I know that You can do everything,
That nothing you propose is impossible for You.
(Job 42:2, Tanakh translation)
Job’s witness, his certainty
that at the end he would be redeemed
gives voice for us to a hope
that is a light shining into a future
we cannot always see or even imagine..
I know that my Redeemer lives.
That phrase takes on new resonance
for us as Christians
because we trust that
Jesus Christ our Redeemer does live.
It is through Jesus that we find
a new life and a new hope
—a hope we hear echoed in today’s gospel
where we find Jesus in conversation
with some Sadducees
(another group of Jewish religious leaders)
who set Jesus up by asking him
about the resurrection
—and it is a set up, because the Sadducees
don’t believe in the resurrection.
Jesus not only gives them a straight answer
—in the resurrection such earthly matters
as which husband gets the wife
just don’t matter
(like so many other issues
we get hung up on) —
he also and perhaps more importantly reaffirms
that resurrection is a real hope,
a notion that he grounds in Hebrew scripture.
In his affirmation of the resurrection,
Jesus holds out for us an eschatological hope
—hope for the end times when
we too will be living with God.
That is good news for us, but it doesn’t stop there.
We are not living just to get to the end times,
not merely biding our time.
Instead we are living in a time
that theologians like to call
—an “already-not yet” world.
The kingdom of God is already here
and the kingdom of God is not yet fully realized,
not yet complete.
God is with us
–our redeemer lives—
now and in the last day.
It is in living firmly in this hope of God
—a God who loves us and is with us,
who redeems us both now
and in the world to come –
that we can go on in a world
that sometimes seems hopeless.
It is this common thread of hope,
a thread woven not only through today’s readings,
but also through out scripture
from the story of creation, through the prophets,
through Job, through the psalms
through the gospels,
each proclaiming in its own way
the Good News of Jesus,
it is this thread of hope that I want to draw on,
to connect some ideas as we turn our thoughts
to stewardship for a moment.
God has greatly blessed us here,
as individuals and as a parish.
We haven’t done anything spectacular
to earn those blessings;
they are not rewards for our outstanding ministry,
or our exemplary faith.
Nor do they come with strings attached;
God won’t take them away as punishment,
just as Job’s suffering was not punishment.
Nonetheless, the blessings we’ve received,
the abundance we’ve been endowed with
– and I use that term intentionally –
even the wealth we feel we’ve earned
through the dint of hard labor,
comes with a burden of responsibility,
the responsibility to remember
that we are stewards,
caretakers, not owners,
of this abundance,
and the responsibility
to offer proper thanks to God.
Job modeled for us a remarkable and steadfast faith
in a God who had seemed to abandon him.
And God in turn reminded Job
that we humans have an inadequate understanding
of the scope and majesty of the universe
that is under God’s provenance.
Jesus reminds his followers
that we something spend
way too much time and energy
worrying about things that ultimately don’t matter.
Jesus reminds us that God will love and provide for us
as God does for all of creation;
Jesus reminds us that we are called
to trust in that providence
rather than fret and worry
about how much we do or don’t have.
In the passage we’re highlighting
for stewardship this year,
taken from the Sermon on the Mount,
“Where you treasure is
there your heart will be also,”
Jesus reminds us that how we live,
how we make our every day choices,
how we set our priorities
is not only a measure of our faith,
but also something that continues
to shape that faith as we go forward.
As Jesus goes on to say,
we cannot serve both God and wealth.
This week’s e-blast,
contains a lot of information about stewardship
–what it means,
why we give to the church,
and the like,
and if you have more questions,
I hope you will ask me.
In the next couple of days,
you will receive a pledge card in the mail.
For many of you this is old hat,
for some of you this may be new.
We’d like you to fill out this card,
and return it next Sunday,
offer it up as we collect our weekly
offerings and oblations.
As we set about to do that,
the question before us
is how we are going to respond
not only to the blessings and abundance we enjoy but also to the responsibility they bring with them.
We are called, I believe,
to take a good look at how
we use our treasures,
how we store them up,
and what that says about
where our hearts truly are,
as a parish and as individuals.
We are called to examine our faith,
and to consider what we are willing to let go of,
trusting in God’s care for us,
holding onto our hope for our future with God.
And we are called to remember
God’s generosity to us
as we return a portion of God’s bounty
in gratitude for all that God has given to us.
These are not small tasks, my friends,
but they are within our reach
if we but trust in God
and hold fast to our faith in God,
and set our minds and hearts
on the mission of God and the hope of God.