At some point or another, we are all seeking something in life. Often when we take notice of this it is because we are seeking something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than life. In the story about the tourist that meets the monk they are both identified as travelling through, only being temporary inhabitants of their surroundings. The monk will spend his entire life at the monastery and still tells the tourist that he is just passing through. He does not have attachments to an abundance of worldly objects, he is on a journey, greeting fellow seekers on theirs. Because the core of his life is focused on the next, preparing his soul for eternal life, and seeking ways to make that path made more clear and more focused on God. The readings we have heard tonight are all about seeking God. They teach us about the human search for God, that we are all taking part of, even as believers of God. In particular, the readings from Job and the Gospel of Mark are about the different times and ways that we seek out God.
In the first reading Job is seeking God during a time of great suffering. Last week we were introduced to Job’s story, a man that was blameless and upright, who feared God and turned away from evil. But God had a special interest in Job and told Satan how much Job persisted in his goodness. But Satan challenged God, and our reading today picks up months later after Satan has been inflicting all sorts of troubles on Job. At this stage Job is searching for God’s intervention in his pain and difficulties, he has been desperately praying that God give him some explanation or comfort. Job prays “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. ” He practices what he would say if he knew God was listening. Although Job does not curse God he is struggling with why God seems to have abandoned him. Job asks himself the questions we sometimes do when life is overwhelming, why do bad things happen to good people? And can a good person ask God to stop the suffering?
An upright person could reason with God, Job says in this passage. But we know that this is not the case, that suffering isn’t a punishment reserved for the deserving, it falls to everyone. But that doesn’t start us from wondering why, and wondering when good things will begin to happen again to those people that face constant strife like Job did. The feelings of Job will be echo’d by Jesus at the end of his life. When Jesus is crucified one of his last words are “my God why have you forsaken me?”. Immense suffering causes us all to question God’s role and nearness. There is value in this passage because there are no answers, it does not fix us when we relate so closely to Job but the comfort we take is letting go of the guilt we experience when we are seeking those answers from God. That we can admit to feeling weak, or hopeless.
The story of Job was written so we could see that humanity is all about seeking, we will never have all the answers but it has always been within us to keep asking God those questions that burden us. In the Gospel a man approaches Jesus and says, “Good Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” We do not know what events in the man’s life have brought him to this question but he is seeking truth from Jesus. Jesus tells him some of the ten commandments, in order to have eternal life we must be obedient to God. But the man is not satisfied with that, he says that he kept the commandments so his seeking heart is not calmed by Jesus’ response. Jesus adds to his answer: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. ” The man was confident in his adherence to the law, he did not murder or steal or dishonor his parents, but when Jesus told him that he needed to care for the poor and place his value on heavenly things he walked away grieving, because he now had many changes to make. The man’s interaction with Jesus reveal a truth about most people when they are seeking, sometimes we do not like what we discover. In this man’s case it was revealed to him how deeply he valued his possessions. Even though he was seeking a way to ensure eternal life he had difficulty weighing what was more important to him, his current way of living or the life that would await him. The man knew all of the laws and commandments and found himself seeking something deeper within himself to become closer to God. And it’s good that he struggled with Jesus’ words, because Jesus issued him a challenge to change his life, and this change would not come easily or quickly.
C. S. Lewis wrote that the Christian faith prepares us for life by giving us a compass instead of a map. A map would give us some direct and obvious guidance, a marked path laid out for us to follow. But we only know the end point, that awaiting all of us is eternal life. So what about that time between birth and death, how do we travel through that time in between? And that is when we use the guiding power of God, not a map that will dictate every step for us, but a compass that will give us some direction and lead us to where we need to be right now. We can refer to that compass, the word of God and our time of pray, anytime, and it will set us right when we have wandered off. But we always remember, we are all travelling through, we are all seekers, we continue to question and to pray, and be led in a way that leads us closer to God.
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