9.3.23 Worship Preview
This Weekend: “The Patience (and Testimony) of Job” - The Way of Christ and the Will of God series continues. Scriptures: Job 1:1-11 and Matthew 5 (focusing on 17-24). Rev. Christopher Eshelman preaching. (Cover Art: "Come Ye Blessed" by South African artist Nathanial Mokgosi, 1980).
This week as we continue to explore the way of Jesus and how we understand and talk about God’s Will, we will begin drawing from some of the Wisdom literature of the Bible. The first five books of the Bible are known as the Torah (or Law) and the books of the Prophets make up much of the rest of the Old Testament – so when Jesus says, in Matthew 5:17, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill…” he is summarizing the Hebrew Scriptures. There is another component of those texts though, known as the Writings or Wisdom Literature. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job are prime examples. These texts seek to both grow and challenge our understanding of the “Law and the Prophets.” Jesus’ teaching is very much rooted in the Wisdom traditions of the Old Testament.
Last week we read from the Prophet Micah, speaking the word of God calling for the people to testify, to “plead their case” before the mountains and hills. We paired that with an overview of the Sermon on the Mount and theologian Walter Wink’s discussion of how the teaching in verses 38-48 about “turn the other cheek” or “go the 2nd mile” are not passive, but rather calls for the poor and oppressed to assert their humanity while also not resorting to violence or the logic of “an eye for an eye.” Jesus challenges us to see things differently and to share in his humility – and his grace, which – as we discussed a couple weeks ago “is sufficient for you.”
This week we will wrestle with another call for testimony with an overview of the very challenging, and for me, very encouraging, book of Job. It presents a very difficult view of God as rather capricious – giving “the adversary” a nearly free hand to destroy Job’s life. He loses everything, set up as a test of his faith. We talk of “the Patience of Job” but the book is much more complex than that. Most scholars agree that much of the first chapter, and perhaps the last few verses predate the rest of the book. These verses – written in a prose style rather than the poetry of the rest of the book - are a simple morality story presenting Job as a fully upright and remarkably blameless man, and patient in the face of great suffering. The rest of the 42 chapters of this epic work however, challenge and invert that simplistic model. Job, three friends, and a young observer, engage in a great debate about God and God’s justice. In the face of the friends’ dismissals, distancing, and blame, Job angrily proclaims his innocence, thus God’s injustice, and demands a trial. Some of his speeches at least seem to border on blasphemy… then God speaks… and says Job is right and the friends are wrong! Job receives not what he demanded, but what he needed, God's presence.
Along with my recent sharing about seeing an old IBM film called Powers of Ten that led to an understanding God’s active presence at both the microscopic and cosmic level - so certainly in this life we lead, this week I’ll, share another major turning point on my faith journey – the deep encounter with the Book of Job during a Disciple Bible Study class I that had, at my wife’s invitation, rather reluctantly, joined. I discovered that Scripture itself questions and wrestles with meaning! Sunday we will look at these great chapters and continue to dig deeply into how we talk about God’s Will and how Jesus points us to its fulfilment, not with simple formulas or legalistic demands, but with shared presence and compassion.
No matter where you are on your own journey of faith, you are invited to join in fellowship, worship, and celebration at 301 S. National, coming just as you are, with your questions, doubts and hopes - and to experience the transformative, healing love and grace of Christ - which makes us whole. Visit our web site at www.firstumcfortscott.org and click “New Visitors” for more information on what to expect.
Upcoming Events: Wednesday, September 6, 5:30 pm Feeding Families in His Name– this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. Note: Please do not block nearby driveways while waiting. Thank you.
Ways to Help: Would your group like to help prepare a meal or volunteer in other ways – contact Pastor Christopher or our coordinator Bonnie Milburn at the church (620) 223-1950. Donations to sustain this ministry are also deeply appreciated and can be directed to Feeding Families in His Name, c/o First UMC 301 S. National, Fort Scott, KS 66701.
New Support for Grieving Mothers: Cindy Valdez will be starting a group called Support for Grieving Mothers in and around the Bourbon County Area. The group will be meeting every Thursday from 6-7:30 in the Church Parlor at the First United Methodist Church at 301 South National. The meetings will run from 9/21/23-11/16/23. This is a group for mothers who’ve lost children no matter how they were when they passed. If you’d like to join, you’ll need to contact Cindy Valdez at 620-224-8515 or email me at freckles4624@zimbra cloud.com to reserve your spot.
Mark Your Calendars – Sunday, October 8th at 6pm, Presley’s Branson and RFD TV performer Chuck Crain will be in concert at First UMC. This is another freewill donation show, so bring a friend and enjoy some great Gospel music here in Fort Scott!