A Faithful Happily Ever After

Enjoy this morning’s sermon!

And to all of my friends in the northeast – please be careful with the hurricane coming!  Blessings to your and your families.

***

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Mark 10:46-52

A Faithful Happily Ever After

I probably should not admit this from the pulpit, but for lack of a better illustration, here goes nothing. For the past year or so I have been following the reality television shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, here is the general synopsis: 25 men or women come together and vie for the attention of one bachelor or bachelorette. The bachelor or bachelorette spends a few weeks dating these men and women – both in individual and group settings – and eliminates one or two every few days. Eventually there is one man or woman left, the contestant proposes to that person and they live happily ever after.

Well – sort of. Out of the 24 seasons of both of these shows that have been filmed, only two couples are actually still together. That is an 8% success rate.

As it turns out, “happily ever after” may not come as easily as we would like it to.

That being said – I cannot really criticize the show for its tendency to speed up happily ever after. Let’s look at what I did this week. For the past four weeks, the Old Testament passages that appeared in the lectionary have come out of the book of Job. The book of Job follows the story of the trials and tribulations of a man named Job. Throughout his life Job – like all of us – faces many challenges, difficult times and tragedies. All the way through the book, Job constantly asks God why he is suffering, why bad things are happening to him; Job pleads with God. In a painful moment in chapter three of the book of Job, Job curses the day he was born, wishing that he had died at birth. In chapter ten, Job said to God, “I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complain; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul … Why did you bring me forth from the womb? … Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort before I go, never to return to the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is like darkness.” {Job 1:1, 18a, 20b-22}

Job was a very, very unhappy man. Readers often reflect on this book and the world around them and wonder why bad things happen to good people. You can see why many preachers – myself included – shy away from preaching from this book. Yet this morning’s lectionary text comes at the end of the book of Job, in the very last chapter. “Job is humbled and satisfied,” the heading of the passage reads. “Job’s fortunes are restored twofold.” In the end, after living through years of despair and misfortune and unhappiness, Job lived for 140 years, saw four generations in his lifetime and left a generous inheritance to his family. It appears that Job did live happily ever after.

But here is the ironic part for me: After passing over passages wrought with Job’s anger, angst, fear and pain for the past couple of weeks, I decided to jump in and preach from the book this week, when things had finally turned around for Job.

And not only that, but I paired this passage with this week’s Gospel lectionary text: “The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus,” a story about a man – a blind beggar – whose eyesight is returned to him, who receives his own miracle, his own happily ever after.

Maybe my subconscious was telling me something when I picked the scripture for worship this week. Maybe after the past few weeks that I have had – which, most of you know, have been full of funerals, grieving family members, broken legs, a broken ankle and a broken truck – I was looking to preach on something that gave me hope that easier times were coming.

I am sure that some of you – most of you, perhaps – can relate to this sentiment. The world is a scary and difficult place to live in sometimes. Bad things happen; bad things happen to good people; people struggle, no matter how hard they work or how strong their faith is. The bible does not hide this reality from us; we are reminded – often in the Old Testament and very poignantly in the book of Job – that tragedies happen, that natural disasters strike and that sometimes human beings suffer. We see this reality even as our area of the country prepares itself for Hurricane Sandy; we know that there are things in life that are out of our control and that living is not always easy. We weather storms in our lives, both literally and metaphorically.

I started thinking about fairy tales this week. What does it mean, I wondered, to live happily ever after? We see in our two scriptural texts this week that there is happiness in the world; that good things do happen. But do we spend our lives waiting for them to happen? Are we all like Snow White, peacefully sleeping, waiting for a prince to come and wake us up and whisk us off on his horse? Is that what ‘happily ever after’ looks like? Or is ‘happily ever after’ the reality that we live in every single day?

I think sometimes we spend our lives waiting for moments; we wait for the moment that we fall in love in love, the moment that we finally understand how to be a parent, the moment when we become organized, the moment that our faith makes sense to us and the moment that we figure out what we are called to do in this world. We wait for the moment when things ‘click’; like Snow White who awoke with a kiss and the Blind Bartimaeus who was healed with a touch, we wait for that defining moment when things change and we get to live our happily ever after.

But what if that defining moment never happens?

Thinking about fairy tales this week got me thinking about what ‘happily ever after’ really looks like. In fairy tales, the ‘happily ever after’ always comes at the end of the story; but I think that in faith, it follows throughout our entire story.

Let’s talk about faith for a minute. What does a ‘faithful happily ever after’ look like? I think if we look around us – and we choose to see and focus on the good things that are happening – we will realize that we are living a faithful happily ever after. Look at this church for example – look at all that is happening:

  • Our youth are passionate about outreach and missions.
  • Children fill the sanctuary with joy and laughter week after week.
  • Members and friends of this community are working around the clock right now to make the annual upcoming bazaar a success.
  • People are consistently volunteering their time and their talents to keep our buildings in repair and our ministries vibrant.
  • Individuals care – truly care – about one another. They call, send cards, text and email when they know someone is in need.
  • We work hard, we play hard and we worship together, growing in our faith and in our covenants with each other.

When I think about my life over the past several weeks – funerals, grief, broken bones, long days and lots of tears – I realize that there is more to the story than simply what I experienced. The love and the support that I have received from my family, friends and church community throughout these challenging times – calls, notes, meals and more – are a reminder of the faithful happily ever after that we are all a part of.

Even though bad things happen in our lives, even though we experience tragedies and even though we deal with frustrations every single day, we can choose to see the faithful happily ever after that we are living right now. Happily ever after is not riding off on a horse into the sunset; it is waking up every single day, facing the difficult world that we live in and refusing to succumb to that negativity. We can choose to be positive; we can choose to extend a helping hand to someone in need and know that one will be extended to us when we are in need; we can choose to create a faithful happily ever after that we will live into every single day.

Jesus was born into a broken world. But look at what he did; look at the life that he led; look at the ways that he changed people’s lives. How can we make such a difference in our own lives?

It is my prayer today and in the days, weeks and months to come, that every one of you sitting here looks at your life and finds your faithful happily ever after.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>