Let us praise God in every place, every language, with every people around the world! Listen to “Joyful, Joyful,” by the Angel City Chorale.
Call to Worship
L: Come, all who thirst—come to the water!
P: You who long for the water of life—come and drink!
L: Dip your soul in the river of God’s goodness;
P: quench your thirst at God’s well of grace.
L: For God is here among us, whether we’re separate or together,
P: offering living water to all who would drink!
L: Let’s worship God together!
You have given us an unfailing promise: the gift of everlasting life for all who believe. Sustain us with this assurance, that hope might shine out of all we do for the sake of Jesus our Lord, Amen.
Reading from Scripture Job 14: 7-15; 19: 23-27
14: 7 “For there is hope for a tree,
if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
8 Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant.
10 But mortals die, and are laid low;
humans expire, and where are they?
11 As waters fail from a lake,
and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so mortals lie down and do not rise again;
until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
or be roused out of their sleep.
13 O that you would hide me in Sheol,
that you would conceal me until your wrath is past,
that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14 If mortals die, will they live again?
All the days of my service I would wait
until my release should come.
15 You would call, and I would answer you;
you would long for the work of your hands.
19: 23 “O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
24 O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
This is our third week in the book of Job, which you’ll remember is a sort of legendary story which teaches us extraordinary lessons about life, death, despair and faith. We’ve seen this righteous man, Job, who has had everything in his life suddenly taken away from him— his home, his wealth, his place in society, even his children, and finally his health. Last we saw him he was sitting in a pile of ashes, scraping at his sores with broken pottery. Job’s friends have visited him, first sitting with him in his misery, and then giving him a variety of advice about his situation, none of which Job took. He was lamenting everything that had gone wrong in his life— speaking directly to God about his misery and somehow hoping that God was listening to him. In his lament, he also gives us permission to lament our own losses.
And so we come to this week’s reading— and basically nothing has changed. Job is still sitting in misery, sitting in shame, but now he has a new approach to God. See, Job had been talking to God about his life. And now he’s moving on to talking about his death.
Most of the early readers of Job would have believed that when you died, you were in a place of darkness, with everyone else who had died, both the just and the unjust— resting with your ancestors, is how it was phrased often. They called this place Sheol. Job says, “mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they?” They’re nowhere anymore. It wasn’t necessarily a frightening place, or a place of suffering— in fact this whole section of Job is basically Job asking God to let him move on to that place, so that his suffering would end. Job was so desperate that this was all he could think of to relieve his pain. Maybe, he ponders, one day God would remember him and they could be reunited.
Our culture isn’t okay with death. And although we as Christians may have a strong belief in what will happen after we die, there’s still uncertainty. There are still questions. What about our families, we wonder. What will it be like in heaven? Will we be floating around on clouds all day? Will there just be prim and proper people, or will there be people we actually want to hang out with? And so we have some fear of that time- a fear of the unknown. Every commercial we see on tv is trying to sell us youth and longer life— an avoidance of impending death. The country song says, “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.”
For the last 6 months, we’ve had to face illness and death all around us, in a way that is new in our minds. We’re required to wear masks, not so much for our own safety, but for the safety of those around us. We’re staying home to protect ourselves from the virus. And still the death rates grow. If you’re like me, the most stressful thing about it is the unknown— what is safe now? Should my kid go back to school? What about my daughter the teacher? What about my husband, the front line worker? What about my parents, who are older with other health conditions? How do I do my job in the midst of this? And maybe first and foremost, when will things get back to normal? There really aren’t any good answers to these questions.
It’s hard to think about death for most of us, even those with the strongest faith. In the midst of this, John Knox has lost two beloved members to death. Larry Baker, who had only been at the church for a few years, and now Jean Goodson, who had been a member for as long as most of us can remember. We grieve their loss, especially in this time when we can’t properly recognize the occasions of their deaths together, at the church, in a way that helps us cope with those deaths. That time will come, but it may be a long wait.
In the midst of our fear and suffering though, and in the midst of Job’s suffering, he has this glimpse of hope. He is wondering aloud, perhaps as we’ve wondered:
If mortals die, will they live again?
All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.
You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of
Will they live again? Somewhere deep in his soul, Job seems to know the answer, because he knows who God is. God is the loving source of life. God is the one who longs for the work of his hands— who longs for us. Job knows— we know— that God hears us, and that God will answer us. We know that longing that Job has; the longing to see God, not just because we’ve heard about God’s powers or read about it in a book, but based on our own experiences of God’s care. We know that God cares about us because even in our own grief and sorrow— about our friends’ deaths or about other worries in life— we have experienced that care. We have somehow gotten through it. And we will get through these trials as well, with God’s help.
Will Larry live again? Will Jean live again? Most definitely. This is our sure and certain hope. For as Job so beautifully affirms, “I know that my redeemer lives.” Every word is important here— I know that my redeemer lives. I know that my redeemer lives. I know that my redeemer lives. As Christians, we have heard the good news about Jesus of Nazareth— that he preached and healed, suffered and died, and on the third day he rose from the dead? We sing and we pray and we confess that Jesus lives, even now, sitting on the right hand of God the Father.
And you know it too, don’t you? That your redeemer lives? Job cries this out in the midst of his suffering, and we can cry it out in the same way. We don’t need to ignore the reality of our grief, but even as we grieve, we know God hears us. And because God hears us, God will redeem us. We will all die, but we will live with God in God’s time. The beautifully written Brief Statement of Faith says this about our lives:
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God's new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Music and Offering
During this time, or after our prayers, you may make an offering to John Knox by going to our homepage and scrolling to the bottom where you will see a link to online giving. When you give this way, consider giving a little extra to defray the cost of this service. If you prefer, you may mail you offerings to the church directly. Even though we are far apart, the church's expenses remain the same. We give out of pure gratitude for what God has done.
Listen to this offertory music, taking a few minutes to reflect on the scripture. “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” from Handel’s Messiah, performed by Lynne Dawson with the the Choir of King's College Cambridge, Brandenburg Consort, & Stephen Cleobury.
Prayers of the People
We are a world that is desperate for you, God.
When powers struggle for dominance,
and war, oppression and abuse result;
When groups of people oppose one another
because of ideology, religion or culture;
We need a God who is bigger than ourselves,
and our personal interests.
hear our prayer.
When people are disregarded and devalued
because of poverty, geography or disease;
When compassion and justice is withheld to some
because of sexuality, race or gender;
We need a Savior who is more compassionate than we are
who includes even those we would exclude.
Christ our brother,
hear our prayer.
When resources are mismanaged and abused,
and the world and its creatures are destroyed;
When motivation is scarce and creativity is in short supply
to address the challenges that we face;
We need a Spirit who is more powerful and more creative
than we could ever be.
hear our prayer.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
we offer you these prayers
because we need you so desperately.
Captivate us, call us and fill us,
that we may be carriers of your eternal life
to this world that you love so dearly. Amen.
And now with confidence as the children of God, let us pray as Jesus taught his disciples: 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 debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.
Benediction: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, and bring you peace. Amen.
Today’s prayers are from
- Clergy Stuff Worship Resources, Bloomington, Minnesota, 2016-2019.
- John van de Laar © 2008 Sacredise.com (adapted)