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Even though we can’t gather together this Sunday, we can still find time for worship in our own homes and hearts. Feel free to use the resources below to bring worship into your home, or use your own instead. (Don’t worry: It doesn’t have to start at 10:00 AM nor last an hour.)

A Time for Children and Families
Pam Cochrane

Read Matthew 17:1-5 (or click here!), then share your favorite mountain top stories!  Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain top to pray and be with God. A great light shown upon Jesus and his disciples felt the presence of God. Is God’s presence only found, felt or seen on mountain tops?  Is God with us when we are coming down the mountain, in the valleys, in our snow covered towns, in our homes?  Build a blanket fort in your family room and imagine you are setting out with Jesus to climb the mountain. Use a flash light to bring the light to your mountain top, a reminder that Jesus is the light of the world and God is with us in all places. Sing “This Little Light of Mine.”  

Another idea: Parents can prepare post-its or cut pieces of paper. Then color or draw a symbol of light on to each piece of paper. Give each child a bag, box, basket of the paper slips.  Send the kids on a house hunt searching for all the light sources in your house, lights, light switches, flashlights, candles, lanterns, night lights, and any other illuminated things, they mark each one with one of their slips of paper.  When done, ask them to take you on a tour of the light sources, then gather around your favorite light source and share John 8:12, that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  Imagine Jesus as a light source, imagine you are a light source. Give each child one of the post its to wear or tuck in their pocket for the day.  Enjoy sharing stories!

A Time for Prayer
Alex Shea Will

Prayer isn’t always easy. It seems like it should be, but it often isn’t. How are we to pray? What are we supposed to say? If you struggle to pray outside of worship, know that you are not alone. If you’d like to try praying today, consider praying as we do during morning worship: Pray for those you know, and then pray for those you may not. Begin by bringing to mind all those you love – those whom you are grateful for and those who might need a special prayer. Feel free to say their names out-loud, or hold them in your heart. After, offer a pray for all those you don’t know. Bring to mind our unhoused brothers and sisters, including those whom we care for through the support of our ministerial partners. No special words are needed, although you may find it meaningful to light a candle. Just bring them to mind, and offer them to God. If you can do that, whether in your heart or together as a family, you can pray.

The Scripture Reading; Job 38 (selected verses)

            In this passage, God speaks to Job from out of a whirlwind, offering up an astounding celebration of the plethora of unique creatures and conditions that together make up our world. Undergirding this list of wonders is God’s continuing questions: did you make this? Can you do this? The point seems to be that God alone is God, and we are not. 

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

 

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

 

‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

which I have reserved for the time of trouble,

for the day of battle and war?

What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,

or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

 

‘Has the rain a father,

or who has begotten the drops of dew?

From whose womb did the ice come forth,

and who has given birth to the hoar-frost of heaven?

The waters become hard like stone,

and the face of the deep is frozen. 

The Sermon: “And Still It Snowed”
Paul Shupe

            Do we remember the story of Job? Job is by all accounts a good and just and faithful man, who becomes the subject of a bet between God and Satan. Satan argues that Job serves God only because God showers him with material blessings. “Take away his blessings,” Satan says to God, “and Job will curse and ignore you like all the rest.” On the other side, God takes the position that Job loves God simply because it is right to do so, and to prove it, God permits Satan to do to Job whatever he wants, short of killing him. Say what you like about this character Satan: he is good at plotting chaos and destruction and all manner of evil. Job loses everything: wealth, family, health. Job is beset with “friends” who compound his pain by telling him that surely he has sinned, that he should confess his sin so that the punishment will relent. Job insists that he has done nothing wrong. His friends argue then that God must be evil to push all this evil onto him. Job insists that God is right and just, and not to blame for this calamity: God gives, he says, and God takes; blessed be the name of God.

Now the book of Job is a story, not a historical report. It is a clever and inventive way to discuss the great human questions of suffering and calamity. Why are some people so blessed, while others live lives of poverty and deprivation? Where does suffering come from? Who causes it? Is suffering related somehow to what we do? If suffering isn’t a punishment for wrongdoing, then what is it? Why do bad things happen to good people? And of course, the most pressing human question of all: why me? Throughout the story, Job appears to bear his suffering with great patience, his faith strong and powerful, but equally so his sense of himself as a good and upright person, who has not brought this suffering upon himself. And for more than thirty chapters, he bears up.

Until at last, he’s had enough. Straightening what’s left of his back and standing on his barely working feet, Job shakes his fist at God and demands answers to all these very human questions. His plea is impassioned, and as we read we feel ourselves being swept up in it with him. We urge him on, insisting that he give it all to God and insist upon answers to our questions. At last we have a champion! And Job does his level best.

Only to have God speak from the whirlwind, offering not answers, but more questions. Where were you when I laid the foundations of all that is? Where were you at the Big Bang? Answer my questions, and I’ll answer yours, God says, but then God is off on a rant to end all rants. Where you when I made the ostriches and the hippos? Can you do something like that? If not, perhaps you don’t have the right to insist that I answer you. Can you make it rain? Have you entered the storehouses of the snow? Who made the ice; water hard as stone? And on and on God goes, for four full chapters, extolling the marvels of the creation, over which God is the creator, and as we read, we realize that we’re not going to get answers to our questions, that perhaps, even with the reality of our suffering, they’re not the right questions.

It started snowing in Massachusetts just about two weeks ago, with a storm so big it was given a name. We were not surprised. We live in New England, after all, and it is February. Looking back we can see that what is surprising is not that it snows in February, but that it really didn’t snow much in December, or January; winter, like a certain football team apparently, holding back its full fury until the fourth quarter. We were ready for that first storm. We agreed not to drive our cars. We chuckled at the pictures of depleted grocery store shelves, of carts filled with jugs of milk and loaves of bread and batteries to power the world, smiling because we knew that in a day or so the roads would be cleared, and we’d again be able to drive to the store, where more bread would appear. And the storm came: we hunkered down and enjoyed a snow day at home. And the storm went: and we shoveled and cleared, greeted our neighbors good naturedly as we did so. We returned to work and school, proud of ourselves for having weathered the storm.

And still it snowed. Did the second storm have a name? If so, I missed it. But none of us missed the snow. It fell on us with a fury. And it was too soon, everyone said. Too soon. We had no time to finish clearing the first one. There was no time for our shoveled banks to settle and sublimate to shrink down. Our backs still ached, but we shoveled again, harder this time because of injury and because each load needed to be thrown higher than the last. We began to make nervous jokes: where will we put the next one? Traffic in Boston became a real problem; everyone had a story: two hours home from Cambridge, late to work because of delays on the T, driveways shoveled, but roads still unplowed or the opposite roads plowed but the driveway too drifted in to get a car out.

And still it snowed. They began to run together now, the storm days seeming more common than the days of peace between them. And now things began to unravel. People began to get irritated, with plows that plug up painfully cleared driveways, with a T that stopped entirely, with shoveled banks now higher than our heads, with mayors and governors and bureaucrats who seemed increasingly powerless and ineffectual. We began to envy, not Floridians basking in the sun, but merely the cool efficiency of Montreal which gets more snow and deals with it better. Businesses suffer. Who wants dinner and a movie when it takes snowshoes and sled dogs to go? We began to shake our heads at the unfairness of it all. We are too sophisticated now to blame God for the weather, or to think that somehow nature’s wrath is punishment for our sin. But did your aching back not begin to stiffen? Could you not feel your mittened fists begin to shake? Did not the long delayed impatient, impertinent questions of Job begin to rise unbidden to your throat? Did it not begin to feel beyond unpleasant, but downright unfair?

And still it snows. We’ve averaged about four to six inches a day for two full weeks now. Snow days are no longer a delight: they’re going to cost us holidays and warm days in June. Our travel stories are old now, even the ones that just happened. We squeeze our cars through impossibly narrow channels, nose bravely forward into intersections where we can neither see nor be seen, in search of parking places that don’t exist, all the while hoping not to strike the pedestrians who have no where to be but the street. We are frustrated, impatient, inconvenienced, unhappy.

We are tempted, of course, to blame the snow, to blame the storms for the stress that we feel. But I am increasingly coming to believe that the snow has not caused our stress: it has merely revealed it. We schedule ourselves impossibly. We count on everything around us working perfectly. We expect travel delays, but only of certain duration. We hold ourselves to very high standards, and we need all the pieces to fall smoothly into place if we are to achieve them. As a society we act as if everything that we do is so important that the world will crumble if it is left undone, even temporarily. We exalt our agendas, and pursue them with vigor, and we are not good at accepting failure, even when failure is not our fault. The still falling snows are teaching us a lesson that we perhaps would rather not learn: that there are things in this world that we cannot control, cannot master, cannot push through. The storms are pushing us toward patience, and we are not sure that we want to accept the possibility that there is nothing we can do.

When Job launched his great protest, he did so with the certainty that that his agenda was right, and just, and that he saw matters with sufficient clarity to warrant God’s rearrangement of the universe to suit him and his purposes. God objected. And Job learned at last the great human lesson: that we are mortal, temporary, that we see only from our own eyes which can never see all that is, and that as important as we think ourselves to be, we are only a part of the equation of life, that we share this planet with preposterous and wonderful creatures, serving not our purposes, but God’s alone. The book of Job ends as he enters into a new humility before the wonders and mysteries of God and God’s creation. Here are his words:

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.
“Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.”
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.’

I am praying that the storms of February 2015 will teach me a new humility about myself and my wants and my agenda and my purposes. A humility that will better permit me to see with the eyes of others, which will lead me at last, to see God better than I ever could from my own private conceits. Like Job, I know that God can do all things, even saving me from myself and my anxious worrying about my agenda. Let it be so. Amen.