Let us praise God in every place, every language, with every people around the world! Here’s the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Call to Worship
Gathered in the name of Jesus Christ,
inspired by the Holy Spirit,
and blessed by God,
we come to worship one, holy God.
O God, our own God,
how wonderful is your name in all the earth.
Your majesty is the music of the starry skies.
yet even children of dust can sing your praises.
In the name of the Healer, the Provider and the Enabler
let your gratitude and joy be made known.
O God, our own God,
how wonderful is your name in all the earth!
You created all and know all, and yet you care about each one of us. Humble us with grateful hearts for all that you have done, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Job 38: 1-18, 40: 1-2
38: 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?--
9 when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
13 so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal,
and it is dyed like a garment.
15 Light is withheld from the wicked,
and their uplifted arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.”
40:1 And the Lord said to Job:
2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Anyone who argues with God must respond.”
If you’ve been following along with our messages on Job the last few weeks you’ll notice a distinct change in tone in today’s reading. Here’s a synopsis of what’s happened so far.
Job was a legendary righteous man and had a lot to show for it— material wealth, a large, strong family, security, prestige, and good health. But due to a deal between God and “ho satan,” or the adversary, to see just how faithful Job actually was, everything was taken away. For a long time after that, Job sat in ashes, scraping his sores, telling his friends that he knew God was good and faithful in spite of all this, wondering why he was ever born, lamenting his current situation, and pleading with God to simply let him die. From chapter 2 to chapter 37, Job cried and pleaded and lamented.
And now finally, in chapter 38, we hear from God again.
And what God basically says is: You’re welcome.
Now if you’ve seen the Disney movie Moana, this might sound familiar. In the movie, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson voices the character Maui, who is a mythical Polynesian demigod who performed such acts as harnessing fire for the humans, raising up the sky so that people and trees could stand upright, and pulling up islands from the sea. After the movie’s main character discovers him and demands that he help her fix what’s wrong with the world, he sings a hilarious song called “You’re Welcome!” in which he basically takes Moana’s demands as a thank you, and sings “What can I say, except you’re welcome?” and starts listing all the dozens of things that he did to help humanity in the past, all accompanied by dancing muscular tattoos and no lack of bravado. The link to the video is included on the church website as a bonus song after the worship service if you’d like to watch it.
God’s response to Job’s demands are similar, though taking a different tone. God says, Job, you’re talking about things you know nothing about, so if you’re really going to ask me these questions, get up out of the ash heap and get yourself ready, because I have some things to say to you. And then God gets into it, and he talks for like four full chapters straight, without a whole lot of interruption. This is one of my favorite, most majestic speeches of God throughout scripture, and I like how God even gets a little sarcastic in it.
“Where were you, God asks, when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (38: 4-5)
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
and where is the place of darkness,
that you may take it to its territory
and that you may discern the paths to its home?
Surely you know, for you were born then,
and the number of your days is great! (38: 20-21)
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
or loose the cords of Orion?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? (38: 31-33)
“Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars,
and spreads its wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
and makes its nest on high? (39: 26-27)
“Can you draw out Leviathan [Leviathan was a terrifying sea dragon that God had created] with a fishhook,
or press down its tongue with a cord?…
Will it make many supplications to you?
Will it speak soft words to you?
Will it make a covenant with you
to be taken as your servant forever?
Will you play with it as with a bird,
or will you put it on leash for your girls? (41: 1,3-5)
God is pulling no punches here. Clearly he intends for Job to say, “thank you.” And surely after reading these three long chapters we may want to say those words too.
But in the midst of all the gratitude that we’re supposed to be feeling, we see something else here about God. When God is speaking of the workings of the cosmos, the stars and the seas, and the multitude of creatures and their ways of living, we hear not only of God’s power, but of God’s persistent engagement with the whole creation. God cares about what the seas and the stars are doing. God knows how the eagles fly, how the bears care for their young, how rains water the earth, how the tides move in the oceans. God didn’t just make the earth and put us here and wander away. What God has created— every bit of this marvelous creation— still matters to God.
In this time when we’re fighting over how much effort we should put into saving the earth and its inhabitants from our own destructive acts (from the mess we’ve made of it), we need to remember these words from Job which so powerfully testify to God’s love not only for humanity— not only for us, but for the whole thing.
There is no doubt that even as Job sat there scraping his sores and lamenting his life, that God still had everything working all around him. And that God never did desert him or forsake him, and this is the good news: God never stops being faithful to us.
So how do we say thank you to God? How do we take this powerful speech and respond not only with our words but with our actions? It’s a challenge right now. John Knox has always been an active church— a busy church. A lot of things happen all the time at John Knox and it’s easy to get caught up in all of it— meetings and celebrations and visits and worship and music and classes and social activities and of course all the ways of service toward our neighbors. We want to thank God by doing stuff.
But it’s hard to do stuff, especially stuff that shows our gratitude to God, when we’re also trying to stay home and not spread the virus around. So here are a few suggestions for showing our gratitude, even as we struggle to get up out of what feels like the ash pile of 2020. Here’s some stuff to do
1. The Outreach Committee will soon be starting to collect food for the East Spring Branch Food Pantry— specifically we’re going to be assembling Thanksgiving Bags. It seems early, but it will make sense when you get the instructions. Stay tuned to emails for information when we get started.
2.Make a creation commitment— find ways to use less plastic, less packaging, less fossil fuels in general. Plant a tree. Plant butterfly and bee gardens. Contribute to conservation groups like Trees for Houston. Write down your commitment and stick to it.
3.Adopt a school or a teacher— teachers are stressed even more than they usually are this year. Call up a local school and let them know of your support. Send a tray of food, written cards, tokens of appreciation. Let them know you’re praying for them.
We’ve all heard it a million times, and until we absorb it into our core, we will hear it even more— friends, God loves you beyond all love, and God is always faithful. Let’s get out of this ash heap and give thanks to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
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. This is Pie Jesu, by Gabriel Fauré, sung by VOCES8, in the Gresham Center, London.
Prayers of the People
People of God, as we come to prayer
let us remember that we do not
have to twist the arm of a reluctant God
to seek good things for this world,
nor find ways to persuade a distant God
to come near and listen to us.
Let us remember that as we pray
we kneel alongside Jesus Christ,
in the presence of God,
with the help of the Spirit.
So let us bring to mind now
those people who are in need of our prayers:
those who are ill, or anxious;
those who are lonely or sad;
those who are despairing or defeated;
those who are hungry or homeless;
those whose relationships are breaking apart;
those who are bullied or abused;
those who cannot find work;
and those who are over-worked.
In silence now, let us make our own specific prayers
for those on our hearts and minds today.
In the presence of God,
alongside Jesus Christ,
with help from the Spirit
may we go into this week
to live out our prayers through our lives.
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.
Bonus Song— “You’re Welcome!” from Disney’s Moana:
Today’s prayers are from