Today’s Scripture Readings
Job 9:1-12, 14-16, Psalm 88:10-15, Luke 9:57-62
I believe the way to think about today’s readings is summed up in the phrase, “all in.” As far as I know it comes from playing poker when someone “goes all in” by betting all their chips on the cards they are holding. This is a situation with no going back. Either the person wins this bet or they are totally out of the game. They are betting everything on this one set of cards. I think that’s what today’s readings are telling us about being a Christian believer, we need to bet everything we have on this one belief.
Luke’s Gospel displays this attitude pretty clearly. In the three short anecdotes Jesus tells, it seems clear that people who follow him aren’t supposed to worry about where they sleep or be concerned with other big events in life so they won’t take their eyes off the path that lays ahead of them. However, there is more here than a simple exhortation to line up on the Lord’s team to the exclusion of all else in life. Both our Psalm and the first reading from Job raise some serious questions about what it might mean to be “all in.”
The Psalm is probably the clearest summary of the situation that I see presented here. The Psalmist is calling for help and the Lord isn’t answering. The Psalmist questions if the dead are the ones who get God’s favors? Is God working wonders for those in the grave? The reason is the Psalmist doesn’t see any response to his prayers. Something even more radical is going on for Job. Job has experienced the total loss of this family, including children, land and possessions. In today’s verses he can’t imagine that God in all God’s majesty would ever listen to him. God is doing all the big things in the universe. God certainly couldn’t be interested in what is happening to him. The key here is neither Job nor the Psalmist questions that there is a God. They are questioning or despairing of their situation and what God is doing in it. That’s the question that is relevant for us.
On any given day, or for too many people in any given length of years, it could appear that God is ignoring us. I would argue that Psalmist and Job are acting in line with what Jesus calls for in the Gospel. They are both “all in” with their relationship with God. Neither knows what’s going on, neither is happy with a terrible situation and neither has given up on a relationship with God. Job may not think God would listen to him but it’s because God is so mighty and powerful that, “Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” Job wonders even if, “I were right, I could not answer him.” Job simply doesn’t know what to do with this situation. The Psalmist is more confrontational in these verses, calling out “daily” to the Lord and asking, “Will you work wonders for the dead?” The Psalmist has come to the conclusion that God rejects her even if she doesn’t know why.
We aren’t given an answer to either Job or the Psalmist’s pleas. Jesus just makes it clear that his disciples need to be “all in.” There is stuff in life that seems to say there is no joy, no love, no mercy, no God. Will we modify our thinking and behavior to accommodate an unforgiving reality or are we “all in” like Job and the Psalmist continuing the relationship by questioning God, complaining to God, feeling the loss of God, arguing with God, accusing God. In doing so, we keep God as part of our world. Betting it all on this hand.