24 October 2021

Then Job answered the LORD:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 42:1-3

How do you bless the Lord?  Commands to bless the name of the Lord are all throughout the Bible.  Psalm 34:1 is in the lectionary for this week and we used part of it in the Call to Community this morning.  It reads, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  The Psalm goes on to give a few ways that we are able to bless the Lord.  We can boast in the Lord.  We can magnify the Lord.  We can seek the Lord (Psalm 34:2-4).  These are three key ways that we give God our blessing.  We have touched on all three of these during this season of Pentecost, and our Christian discipleship requires that we keep returning to them.  Paul wrote in Corinthians, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).  When he wrote to the Romans, he affirmed, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5).  Boasting in God is a good thing because we are confident in God, and we want others to know that they can be confident in God too.  We bless God through magnifying the Lord, as Mary attested to when she stated that her soul magnifies the Lord in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46).  Magnify is to make larger.  We are making the knowledge of the name of the Lord larger by living out our faith openly.  When I asked the question on Facebook, “How do you bless the Lord?” one of my friends responded, “When I sing to God.  I’m not good at it but it flows from my heart with love.”  This is one way the soul magnifies God; it is from the bottom of our heart and we put our all into it.  Third, we seek the Lord.  We desire God.  We have spoken to this often.  The moment that we stop desiring God is the moment that we bow to idols, because we desire them more.  The moment that we stop seeking God is the moment that the forces of evil in this world can overcome us.  We bless the Lord by following God, not the world.  April Yamasaki, a pastor, noted three similar ways to bless the Lord: By offering our worship and praise, by remembering who God is, and by doing God’s will.  We have also touched on each of these.  Worship and praise is only one way that we bless God.  We also bless God by remembering God’s saving power in our darkest moments, by remembering who we put our trust in, and by allowing God to lead us through our trials.  Another friend had said, “I thank God every day for the life He has given to me, and I try to live to glorify Him.”  Thanking is one way of showing that we remember.  We also bless God by seeking God’s will for our lives through prayer, study, and conversation.

Job blessed the Lord.  Though he questioned God, he did not turn from God.  Ultimately, he was rewarded for it.  Job lived an additional one hundred and forty years so that he could see four generations of his family (Job 42:16).  He remained faithful.  One of the most familiar verses that we may know from Job is the following: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  He was ready to bless God even when things were taken away from him.  Are you?  God does not mind when we ask God why something happens.  God will remind us that God is and always has been in control, if not of every aspect of our lives, of our final destination.  What does make a difference is if we turn from God and try to seek condolences and/or comfort elsewhere.

Just like there are multiple ways that God can speak to us, there are multiple ways that we can speak to God.  Speaking to God blesses God.  We can speak to God in prayer and we can speak to God through our actions.  But what God sees most is how much effort we put in to blessing the good name of the Lord.  Do not just settle for one way of blessing God.  It won’t go well for you if you say that you bless God through song and leave it at that.  Pouring your heart and soul out with your passion through song is huge.  Seeking the Lord every day, remembering God in every moment, and magnifying the name of God by doing God’s will is even greater.

How is the church magnifying God in today’s world?  As a member of the Northwest Ohio Association’s Witness and Proclamation Team, I am studying the impacts of the border crossing in the southwest regions of the country.  Over the summer and this fall we have been having a lot of conversations about what we do with the information we are receiving from the border.  We have had some interactions with communities in the area to learn about how they are handling the humanitarian crisis and what they are doing to respond.  It is a blessing to hear about these first-hand accounts.  All of the organizations we have interacted with so far deal with only documented immigrants, so there is certainly more to unpack.  One of our team has even traveled to the border and has brought back a report as we have been considering further ways to raise awareness and support their ministries as an association.  First and foremost, we are showing love.  Homeless shelters such as the Humanitarian Respite Center of McAllen, Texas house legal immigrants for a short while until they can get a job or connect with a friend or family member somewhere in the states.  Arise SOTEX of the same town hosts mission trips for youth to have a first-hand experience interacting with documented immigrants and helping to sort through donations.  They always need hands and donations; many of these centers process hundreds of people per week.

Here in our community the Pass it On Clothing Closet and Fish and Loaves are going strong.  Sometimes more donations come in than we have shoppers.  We are trying to get the word out to lower income families who may not have heard of these programs but who would benefit from the ministry.  Pass it On does not limit itself to only Bellevue residents, as it really is one-of-a-kind for our area.  We have a Bellevue Homeless Shelter that is looking for volunteers to join the board so that they can fix the place up and start housing people again.  We have a camp owned by the Heartland Conference at Templed Hills that often has trouble finding volunteers to lead youth through a fun Christian experience.  It is essential to be able to draw our youth to God, especially given that eighty percent of the nation’s youth are unchurched, and our Executive Director of Outdoor Ministries, Jill Frey, is doing her best to make programs happen.  The Willows has reached out to the Bellevue Ministerial Association asking for help leading services on Sundays and Wednesdays for the residents.  When prisons open again, there is need for volunteer Bible Studies so that we do not forget about winning back the incarcerated for God.  The need is here within our community; there is opportunity to serve and magnify the faith of those who will be impacted by these programs.  In our church, we have the Giving Tree.  We have the meal ministry.  We also have our book group.  When I think about these needs, I want to help in all of them, but I realize that I cannot.  It is our responsibility to teach and enable one another to be new leaders of the church so that we can fill these roles.  Be open to God’s calling.  Pick one or two ways to magnify God’s name, and help either myself or another to help enable you to the task.  Ministries are shutting down around Bellevue and around the conference because volunteers are either too busy or do not believe that they are qualified.  You are qualified.  God wants to use you.  What holds you back from magnifying the name of the Lord through your actions?  Worship and praise are one way to bless God.  Study and prayer are another.  If we want to have a balance, we also bless God by seeking, by desiring, by remembering, and of course by serving the will of God.  The more people that we reach, the more people are changed and/or inspired by God’s grace.  We are vessels for God’s grace and glory.

We do not grow as a church community by just reaching out.  We grow as a result of who we are.  As Nayiri Karjian, General Minister of the Living Water Association, notes, “Everything that grows has to be nourished by food and nurtured by energy.  Church growth is no different.  When the church lives its purpose and its calling, when it does effective ministry that changes the world, when it lives God’s love in the world, it grows.  Growth is the consequence of its healthy and purposeful living which becomes its energy and fuel for growth” (Streams of Connection, 10.21.21).  Jesus modeled this for us too.  He did not say to everyone, “Come, follow me.”  He responded to those who called out to him, “Have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47).  He does not discourage others from seeking him as the disciples were doing.  He accepted the outcasts of society and even went out of his way for them.  The man was blind and was a beggar.  Many assumed that ailments were a direct result of having sinned, by either himself or his family.  But Jesus saw that this was not the case.  What he saw was the faith through the persistence of the blind man.  We don’t suffer because we have sinned.  We suffer because it is an unfortunate part of our life.  Jesus heals that.  And we are the Jesus that the people of today’s world get to see.

Tracy Hartman, a Baptist pastor and a professor of Homiletics in Richmond, noted that this ending of Job is not entirely satisfying.  She writes that it is not uncommon to be disturbed “by the implication that the children Job lost in the divine contest can simply be replaced with new ones.  You don’t comfort grieving parents with the platitude that it is okay, they can have another child.  They do not want a new child; they want the one they had” (NP B.207).  Why does God allow such suffering to stand and remain silent before the pleas of the afflicted?  We do not get this answer in Job.  We only learned that Job stayed faithful even when he did not know the answers.  What we can learn from this is that there are always more questions than answers.  There are always going to be unanswered questions.  The one question you can answer is where you turn when you have unanswered questions.  You may not get the answers, but if you turn to God and seek to bless the Lord anyway, the Lord will bless you back.  If you don’t bless the Lord anyway, you have allowed the evil in the world to begin taking over your soul.  Find ways to bless the Lord.  Worship, magnify, and remember God.  We need all three.  There is no better path than Jesus Christ.  Jesus has the power to lead you back from despair or depression.  Jesus has the power to give you a cause to believe in.  Jesus has the authority to forgive your mistakes and make you whole again.  All that God asks of you is your blessing.  Job’s transformation occurred even before his suffering abated.  It is the awareness of God’s presence that transforms.  And God shines through our actions.  Let us sing our praise to God for finding us and bringing us out of our suffering.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
42:1 Then Job answered the LORD:
42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
42:3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
42:4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’
42:5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
42:6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
42:10 And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
42:11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.
42:12 The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.
42:13 He also had seven sons and three daughters.
42:14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.
42:15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.
42:16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations.
42:17 And Job died, old and full of days.

Hebrews 7:23-28
7:23 Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office;
7:24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
7:25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
7:26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.
7:28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Mark 10:46-52
10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
10:49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
10:51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”
10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

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