• The Rev. Arianne Rice

Are You There, God? It’s Me.

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Mark 10:17-31

10/12/21



I am someone who needs to surround herself with words. Not so many pictures. I sometimes feel the tug of “should” when I go to other people’s houses and see all the photos of people, family and friends - but what can I say? I’m just someone who needs to look again and again at the same - words.

My laptop has a sticker - choose kindness

When you walk in my kitchen the first thing you see is a big frame that says - Grateful, thankful, blessed.

Sit down at my table - look up and there’s - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.

Walk into my office - Let your light shine. Sit at my desk - look to the wall on your left - Love is patient. Love is kind. You know the rest.

Look straight ahead - Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say Rejoice

And to the side - a few posters with words - but I’ll just share this one - To see and to be seen that is the truest nature of love.

I can assure you I doubt I will ever find on Pintrest or in Home Goods - a framed picture that reads - Children - it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.

That’s a hard one. It’s one of the teachings in this gospel and you, me, Joel Olsteen - we can all wrestle with it in our own way.

What I’d rather talk briefly about this morning - is simply the wrestling. Because that’s why I surround myself with all those teachings - all those words. It’s the wrestling that we share. Scripture stories are about wrestling - sometimes with angels. What to do - how to be - what to say - etc. etc. I need support and guidance and reminders - of what is.

In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer says - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That’s what is. Love is what is. God is Love.

Before Jesus responds with his challenge for that man - we read - Jesus, looking at him, loved him. That’s what I believe God knows we need when we’re wrestling.

I have so much love for Job and his wrestling. But before I go there....

Do you remember the book - Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. It’s the story of a sixth-grader - Margaret. And she’s wrestling. She is moving and she is scared. She has parents of two different religions so they don’t raise her in any - and she has lots of questions - especially because her grandmother is religious - and doesn’t approve.

She also has a lot of questions about what is happening to her body. I won’t make any of us too uncomfortable on a Sunday morning - but - she sees things happening to the bodies all around her - and she’s like - what about me?

There’s a famous prayer Margaret prayed - that many of us prayed at many a girl’s sleepover. You can google it - or chuckle at the memory.

The book was published in 1970 - instant best-seller - and it’s been a bestseller ever since. This summer - production wrapped on the movie. Judy Blume, the author, said it was her third book - but it was her first real book. She wrote in 6 weeks. She said “it was the book where I just let go - I didn’t know what I was doing - I just did it - and this is what came out.”

Exactly!

Are you there God, it’s me Job. That’s what matters about this scripture. We have the privilege of listening to this person - this everyman of this fable - let his heart pour out because he does not understand what in the world is happening to him and why.

This morning - we’re near the end. Job - the ultimate upright and blameless man - had everything taken from him and is dealing with lots of physical maladies. It’s a giant situation that deserves to be under the category of - Not Fair.

And it’s so overwhelming when any of us are experiencing - Not Fair - Usually coupled with - this makes no sense. And so often - that’s when you and me - like Job - are as real as we can be - and let what’s in our heart pour out.

First to his friends - who are the lamest friends ever. They blame Job for his problems - you must have done something to deserve this from God. God denounces their “advice” at the end - good to remember that.

And after all those unhelpful words - Job has some choice words for God. This morning we find him desperately demanding to be heard!

Are you there God - it’s me Job - and I have no idea where you are - I look left - I look right - I can’t find you. This is utterly terrifying and you would think you, Almighty that you are - hearing my case!

Job is being real with God. That’s why I find a parallel with that book - Are you there God - and it’s why it’s been on the bestseller list for so very long.

It’s also why - until I think the late 1990s it was on the American Library’s list of most controversial books.

Being real can be controversial for us. Not for God. God wants us to be real.

That’s where I find the good news in the gospel - and in Job.

Jesus looks at that man - who is honestly - eagerly - genuinely asking a question near and dear to my heart - and maybe yours - please tell me, what do I do to get it right - to inherit eternal life?

Jesus looks at that man - and really loves him. Jesus offers him a way of being - that requires less having - and more trusting.

Answers are something we all want to have. Trusting, giving, loving, being those ways are hard - when we are unsure - scared - hurt - disappointed - all the ways poor Job is surely feeling.

The answer God gives Job - is simply - God. You are Job - and I am God. God is as real with Job - as Job is with God.

Jesus is as real with that young man - as the man was with him. And as he went on to be - grieving - because he could not do, at this point, what Jesus asked. I don’t think Jesus stopped loving him.

I surround myself with words - to stay grounded in what’s real.

How about you? What real prayers do you need to bring to God today? What demands do you want to make? What way of being - might Jesus be inviting you towards - what “having” might you need to let go of? What might you need to grieve?

Some days - my complaints are bitter too - and on those days - I choose to trust God is as real as on the days when I can wholeheartedly shout - rejoice in the Lord always - and again I say - rejoice.




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