A “confluence” in a river is where two sources of water merge to create a new one. We find these in life at times, too. Sometimes we call them serendipitous moments, or moments of epiphany. I experienced a confluence of Scripture(s) and ministry yesterday…
I’ve started using a new guide to prayer, which integrates the daily lectionary. As I was reading yesterday, part of the readings came from the book of Job, where 30:16 stood out to me:
“And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me.”
In its context, it is part of Job’s “complaint,” before God, about the suffering he is experiencing though he has not sinned. The larger book is an exploration of the Hebraic notion that good follows the good and bad follows the bad; it serves as counterpoint to the more simplistic wisdom literature (such as Proverbs) that routinely promise good things if you are moral and bad things if you are bad. In Job, a righteous man experiences loss and suffering, and is not afraid to express it in complaint to God.
Job also serves as a reminder of the mortality that we all face. I’ve been thinking about mortality to some degree, as I watch my father bounce in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation center. Our bodies are amazing works of art (or evolution, if you prefer), and yet they are made of such frail stuff. Paul put it well when he talked about the treasure of our God-breathed spirits encased in “jars of clay.”
I already had in mind that later in the day I would be visiting a church member who had a blood clot diagnosed in his leg, at the same time that his cancer was found to have spread much wider. Someone facing the very same mortality, and prospect of “days of suffering,” that Job was experiencing. Then I read the gospel passage for the day…
The gospel selection was the first part of John 11 (v. 1-16), where Jesus is told that his friend Lazarus is seriously ill. Jesus doesn’t rush to Lazarus’ side, doesn’t hurry to heal his friend. Instead, he actually stays where he is for another two days (ostensibly remaining in the place where John had baptized, teaching the crowds, as he is doing at the end of Chapter 10). And then Jesus sets out.
We know the rest of the story: Jesus arrives, and miraculously raises Lazarus from death, and promises life to all who believe in him. The resurrection of Christ is at the core of Christian faith, the linchpin upon which faith rests; and it is the promise that God will not allow death to have final victory, but that through Christ’s death and resurrection, death loses its sting.
I was inspired and comforted by how the two passages came together for me yesterday. The lectionary does not always correspond intentionally, but there are times when God works in Spirit to bring insight and truth to us; to affirm our faith; to undergird our trust.
I was reminded that mortality is but a temporary state. Yes, we have mortal bodies that face myriad trials, pains, difficulties; yet, as Paul has said, these light and momentary afflictions are nothing compared to the glory that is to come.
Was God present in this moment of “confluence”? Perhaps. (See my next entry, currently still being composed/edited, for reflections on the presence of God.) Clearly my sense of God’s presence and work in the world was enlightened, even if only momentarily