Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Job's anger and honesty

On Sunday morning in Crêt Bérard I heard an extraordinary sermon about the anger of Job. Pierre André Pouly the director of Crêt Bérard decided to try and apply some of what we had been learning in the seminar with Virginia Klein to the story of Job.
Pierre André began by looking at how Job is described at the beginning of the book of Job as "blameless" - the Hebrew is even stronger than that - Job would seem to be without fault. There's a long list of Job's possessions and lots of detail about the burnt offerings he assiduously makes to God just in case his children have done something wrong during the parties they habitually hold at certain times of the year.
Did Job not trust his children? Was he perhaps a little supersticious ... blameless but rather joyless perhaps?
At the end of the first chapter tragedy strikes and the trials of Job begin, at first he keeps his peace and does not blame God but as the skin disease affects him and his suffering continues and increases, goaded by his wife, he begins to wish he had never been born, to scream out against God. His friends sit with him, they give him "friendly" advice, he must have done something wrong ...
Job shouts, he is suicidal, he harrangues God. Chapter after chapter of it - biblical imprecation:
Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

I loathe my life;
I will give free utterance to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

But I would speak to the Almighty,
and I desire to argue my case with God.
As for you, you whitewash with lies;
all of you are worthless physicians.

And Job is angry with the counsel of his friends and with the action of God, with the way God seems to have decided his own fate but also more widely about how God seems to be ruling the world. And so it goes on, and on ... it makes for a pretty cathartic read I always find!

Then at the very end, as anger somehow seems spent, as perhaps something like wisdom may have been achieved, or perhaps only just a glimpse of understanding, God says something quite strange to Job's friends - and it is repeated - "only my servant Job has spoken truly".

Pierre André said it was as if Job's anger and rage, his questioning had actually pulled him back into proper relationship with God. Job's anger is his real unadapted emotion. God does not want "adapted, submissive children" but wants us to be fully ourselves, anger and all, so as to be able to enter into real relationship with him.
I'm very sad that Pierre André didn't have a text for his sermon - it was a tour de force and has given me much to think about as I ponder my life. Who though other than God can cope with such anger, even of one individual?