Job-Perfect God Broken World-2
JOB-PERFECT GOD BROKEN WORLD-2
JOB 1 & 2
MAY 3, 2015
One of the most famous American abstract artists is Jackson Pollock. I’m sure you have probably heard his name and you probably know his work. Maybe not by name but like Picasso, his work is almost immediately recognizable. Jackson Pollock’s art looks like someone put a canvas on the floor and dripped paint all over it. It looks like that because that’s exactly what happened. Jackson Pollock would hover over his art and spill and drip paint all over it. Today, if you like, you can spend about 140 million dollars for his higher priced pieces.
What I think is even more interesting is the thoroughly unsystematic way this art was produced. Pollock never had a sketch or an outline of what would be created. He responded in the moment and let the art emerge. He didn’t think too much about it, he just did it.
Pollock himself describes his process:
When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of get- acquainted period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.
This brand of art has become known as automatic art. Artists don’t overthink it; they just approach the canvas and release. They don’t worry what critics might say. They don’t worry about whether it is appropriate or right. They approach the canvas and let out whatever is within. Pollock and Salvador Dali are probably the two most famous names associated with this idea of automatic art.
Three weeks ago, I introduced you to the Bible’s version of abstract art, the book of Job. It is a story on canvas that looks altogether messy and yet there is beauty in it. Three weeks ago, I introduced this book and we took a week off to hear the wonderful stories coming from our Mexico house building team. Last week Arvin taught us how to care for others and speak to others who are suffering. We were reminded not to let our theology get in the way of our care. To not foist upon others our theological frameworks when really being present and showing empathy and grace are all that are required.
We are in this series on Job because suffering will visit all of us in our lifetime. It will come in the form of disease or ruined finances or broken relationships or death. It will come in big ways; it will come in small ways. It will come in the form of natural disasters like the horrific earthquake in Nepal. It will come in the form of humans hurting one another like the death of an arrested man and the ensuing riots in Baltimore. Suffering touches us all, and like a piece of big abstract art, we all are prone to try and make sense of it. What does this paint spilled on the canvas mean? For some of us, it causes us to question God and wonder if there really is an artist behind this messy world or if it is just a muddled canvas.
In week one,we talked about the “why” question of suffering. Sadly, we came to realize there may never be an answer to “why.” Last week, Arvin told us how to care for one another in the midst of suffering. This week I want to get to how you care for yourself. If you are not promised an answer to “why,” the question becomes, “How do we respond? What are we supposed to say?”
Depending on whom you ask, you will get different responses. For some people, when suffering comes, they seem almost robotic. They simply say, “God is good all the time,” and they have a completely un-nuanced view of things. It seems like they are avoiding dealing with their pain and deeper theological questions about God in the midst of suffering. They don’t want to show doubt, so they are concerned for what their critics might say. They are concerned that if they question God, he might become angry with them.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who are downright apoplectic with God and everyone else. They scream and yell. They lash out and mourn. They don’t seem to even want to find peace. These people are not looking for God in the maelstrom, nor do they want to. They could care less about redemption or hope or meaning.
I think both of these things are wrong. How do we respond to suffering? This week, I want to encourage you to go the way of Jackson Pollock. I want you to try your hand at some automatic art.
Job 1: 13-19
This is just a reminder from last week,Job had it all. He was rich in the world’s eyes and he was rich in God’s eyes. He was rich in the world’s eyes because he had money, land, a beautiful family and the respect of his fellow man. He was rich in God’s eyes because he shunned evil, pursued justice and longed for righteousness.
Then, he loses everything. This parade of death passes by as reports come out that via natural means (fire, wind) and human means (thieves, murders.) he has lost everything.
Before we get into the response to suffering, it is worthwhile to give a theological reason for why there is suffering. It really started back in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, that passage is often called the fall of man. From that moment on, sin entered the world and it began to multiply and have real tangible consequences. Adam and Eve chose their own way and they chose sin. They passed that on to their children. As I have said many times, sin is not an esoteric offense that hurts God’s feelings. Sin is offensive to God because it is disruptive to his creation. God created the world to work in a certain way. Originally man and woman were to live in the garden communing with God under a certain set of rules, but they chose their own way and the problem is the way of sin that humanity chooses has real consequences. Adam and Eve had children and one of them ended up killing the other one out of jealousy. God did not make Cain kill Abel. He chose sin and he chose to do it. So often we are reluctant to give God the credit when good things happen but quick to give him the blame when bad things happen.
We live in a sinful world and the sins in our own life and the sins of other people can have consequences for them and for us.
The theology behind this can be complex, but I want to give you a simple image to help understand how a fallen world leads to suffering. Imagine a brand new shiny Maserati is parked out front of the church today and people are gathered around it oohing and aahing. Imagine the owner pops the hood and turns on the car so that onlookers can enjoy the complicated inner workings of the powerful engine. Now imagine a small child wanders up from the play ground with a bucket full of sand he has been playing with and before anyone can stop him, he pours the entire bucket into the moving parts of this complicated and beautiful machine. Can you imagine what would happen as the moving parts sucked the sand into every nook and cranny of the engine? Maybe some gets sucked into the carburetor and some gets wedged between the moving pistons. Now then, the car would probably continue to run. It wouldn’t combust or come to a halt right away, but over time, the abrasive nature of the sand would begin to internally corrode the engine. Externally it would begin to weather the casings. The child could be forgiven and the car could be washed out, but the effects of the act would continue to grow, multiply and spread until one day the engine would come to a grinding halt.
When sin entered the world, God was willing to restore Adam and Eve to a point, but the sand they threw into the system began to erode their surroundings. Their sin and the sin of others began to boil over and cause real pain and real suffering for themselves and others. Now, pair with this understanding of our fallen world the autonomy that our God has lovingly granted to us. We are not born as robots but rather free beings that can choose the way of grace or the way of sin. When there are a lot of people choosing the way of sin, then a lot of consequences will begin to ripple out from those choices. If you see suffering this way, it begins to make sense. It would be easy to look at the Newtown shootings and say, “Why did God do this?” God didn’t do this; a hateful young man named Adam Lanza sinfully chose this. Why did God cause the stock market to crash? God didn’t do that, greedy people deceived millions and practiced /promoted illegal investing policies that catered to the get –rich-at-any-expense appetite of Americans and the whole thing came crumbling down.
Why did God kill my loved one in the car crash? He didn’t, the person who got drunk and still chose to slide behind the wheel did.
This line of explaining suffering becomes more difficult when we discuss natural disasters or innocent bystanders, but I think it is no less true because we can’t tie it all together. It is easy to see the hate of Adam Lanza causing the death of someone else but what about natural disasters or diseases? Let me just say this, I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t think we know how far reaching the implications of sin are. When farms were succumbing to pests in the early 20th century, famers finally found a remedy to this scourge. They discovered the chemical compound of DDT was a very potent pesticide. During the 1940’s-1950’s DDT was as common on the farm as milk. It was liberally spread all around crops and not just cotton. Vegetables that people would eat. DDT was so common and so liberally dusted that it would waft through the air for days. Maybe you remember seeing pictures or video of trucks spraying DDT through neighborhoods to mitigate mosquitoes. Very early on people began to claim that DDT was a poison that was dangerous to humans, animals and the earth, but the DDT business was huge, averaging 40,000 tons per year in the US. It continued to grow and be spread on farms and in neighborhoods. Three decades would pass before a 1972 ban made it clear that DDT could cause birth defects, cancer and death in many who inhaled it or ate food treated by it. For 30 years,this stuff was spread far and wide. Human wisdom, which has been broken by sin, chose this path. When concerns about the safety of DDT came out, the greed of the DDT industry refused to stop spreading this poison. That DDT ban was 40 years ago. What will we know 40 years from now about the things that we perpetrate on ourselves through our own human wisdom that are actually leading to human suffering? Sin clearly leads to suffering, but I don’t think we know in the present day how much of our world is being devastated by sin and how far reaching the impact is.
How do we respond?
Job 1: 20-22
In one sense, it sounds like Job has gone “platitudinal.” It seems like he as chosen the trite path of worshiping God no matter what without any nuance. While it may be noble, it doesn’t sound human. I want to show you a few details here. First of all in verse20, Job shaves his head and tears his robe. These were two common ways of showing sorrow and grief in the ancient Near East. In the ancient Near East, your appearance represented your station in life, and it was very important to look the part. To tear your robe and shave your head were outward signs of your inner status. You were proclaiming to the world that you were broken and destroyed. You didn’t care how you looked and nothing really mattered.
We find out later in chapter two that Job not only loses his family and his wealth, but then he loses his health. At that point, it says Job scrapes his flesh and sits among the ashes. More likely than not, ashes were found at the dump. In the New Testament, Gehenna was the dump where waste was burned and there you would find ash. Job’s head is shaved, his clothes are torn or completely fallen off, his body is covered in sores and he is sitting in garbage.
Now then, Job is not hiding his affliction and he isn’t whitewashing it. He isn’t the person in church who has been lambasted by life but still puts on a good Christian faith and says, “Everything is fine. God is good. God works everything together for good for those who love him.” Without a word, he is saying, “I’m wrecked and I am broken. I have lost everything and everybody.”
Some of you today who are suffering might feel like you need to edit yourself before God or others. You might be worried about causing others to doubt because of your doubt. You might be worried about sinning against God by being angry or expressing yourself. I want to encourage you to the way of Jackson Pollock. Let the paint drip where it may. Express yourself before your maker. Let him know you are angry and hurt or alone. Let him know you didn’t think life would turn out like this if you were a follower of Jesus. Don’t think too much about what you think you should say. Don’t worry about the critics. Don’t worry about the spectators. Let the paint drip. Spill it everywhere. God can handle it. Come clean before your maker and your friends.
Don’t stay there. The piece isn’t finished. The canvas is incomplete. Job is a wreck and he doesn’t care who knows it or sees it. Then he says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Be authentic and real. Practice some automatic art and let come what may…but try and tack this on, this amazing, maddening truth. God is God and you are not. All that you hold is his and a gift from him. You can cry, you can scream but try this as a reminder to yourself or to others. Blessed be the name of God. God is here. He is not absent. We don’t know how this will end, but blessed be the name of the Lord.
A photographer came to Jackson Pollock’s art studio in order to photograph the process of his art. He was promised to be able to watch the process from start to finish, but when he arrived, Pollock had already finished his painting. Then unexpectedly, he picked up the brush and started painting again. For thirty minutes, like a whirling dervish he spilled and spread more paint and then finally stopped and said, “This is it.”
The piece wasn’t complete. A little bit more was needed. It was a shocking moment to see this artist stop, consider, then add a little bit unexpected more. Imagine your onlookers, when they know you are struggling with disease, finances and relationships. Wherever you are. Imagine them seeing that canvas and then watching in awe as you pick it up and add those final strokes, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That will amaze people. We often think people will be drawn to faith by all the benefits, better marriage, more peace, more joy, less pain. When in all reality, people many times come to know Jesus when they see how his followers handle pain. When they see authentic cathartic moments followed by otherworldly statements of trust.
Jesus did this at the cross. At the lowest point in his life, not unlike Job, he was naked, dying, covered in wounds, publicly scorned and completely alone, and he let it drip. In his final moments, he cried out “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Then he says no more. What many people miss is the first line of Psalm 22, and every practicing Jew knew the Psalm by heart. When they went to worship, the worship leader would sign the first line and the congregation would then continue the song. The rest of Psalm 22 says things like “the afflicted will eat and be satisfied,”“God will win the day,” “he will care for his people and his work will go forward.”
Your canvas may be a mess today and that is okay. Don’t hide it. Don’t edit it. Let it drip. Let the world see what God is doing in your life and trust that the canvas is not yet complete.