Today is Sunday. I watched a live-stream worship service, the first I ever attended online. Like many other churches, worship services have been cancelled in attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Part of the preventive over-arching norm called social distancing. Initially, I intended to read scriptures for my Sunday prayer time at home this morning. Instead, I tuned in to my Palo Alto church’s service online. I am so thankful that I did.
Never did I expect that experience to affect me strongly, like the pastor was speaking to me directly. It felt like I was receiving the words of teaching and counsel from the Father Himself, through the preacher’s mouth. I was being spoken to, with no one else about me. Just me and my laptop – and that powerfully moved me to tears. Amazing and awedly strange.
The overall title of the sermon series is Shattered – expository deliberations on the life of Job as shared in the bible. Very appropriate in these times of confusion and anxiety, when fear of sickness, suffering and death engulfs the world due to the onslaught of corona virus. And in our own local communities, this fear has inflexed a mass hoarding of goods resulting in empty store shelves. In anticipation, we have built mini fortresses equipped with all sorts of supplies within the confines of our homes. Practically speaking, maybe this should be so.
We always want to be sure of how life pans out. Why do we all work so hard? Because we desire to hold sufficient provisions for our day-to-day living and stack up for our future. Why do we eagerly look to weather reports? Because we’d like to know there will be blue skies and bright sunshine ahead, or rain if that’s what we hope for. About this present scare, however, we do not know. But how many of us have missed the point? Mass anxiety over uncertainties is a form of human suffering. But are we missing the true message?
Pastor Paul’s sermon struck to the core of our belief. It did to me. It’s a story of Job’s pain and suffering which he assumed was God’s infliction on a righteous man. When we suffer – isn’t it a human tendency to think that it’s a punishment? And if it were so, why would the Almighty afflict one like Job who thought he did everything right in the eyes of the Lord? Isn’t that the question of our hearts when we’re in pain or in grief? So why does He allow the dreadful virus, still moored in a cocoon of mystery, to shake the world and disrupt lives? Isn’t that a wonderment stirring among us?
Punishment – is that what it really is? Over four years ago, I lost my husband to sickness. Did my pain and grief denote punishment? Since Thursday last week, my right shoulder felt excruciatingly painful after a short exercise at home. It was unbearable, I thought. Was that punishment? I’m just thankful I telecommuted Friday which gave me some rest for my swollen shoulder and forearm, at the very least, from having to drive to work.
I thank God for Pastor Paul’s preaching. Why did I cry when I listened to him? Because he touched the very sentiment in my heart — my pain was my punishment. But as Job learned in the biblical story, God more than teaches through pain – He uses pain to transform, to transform people’s hearts, to transform lives. Job learned that God does not need his self-righteousness. God does not need us to be God. We need God. A God so loving, compassionate and merciful. And because He knows our every need, He comes down to us as He did in the person of His son, Jesus, to again open the door to His kingdom that He meant for us. It is not because of our own righteousness that He wills good for us, but rather, because of God’s own righteousness.
So, while still on this earth, we turn our hearts to Him – praying as we remain trusting, hopeful, loving, faithful and humble. Humility is the wellspring of wisdom. And wisdom from God is the path to a life well lived in this world.
Thank you for my church’s live-stream worship service online.—facilitated through the Lord’s great gift of technology. I look forward to next Sunday’s.