The Comedy of Job: Lenten Sermons 2021

Over the course of Lent 2021 our principal texts for Sunday mornings (when Craig is preaching) will be taken from the book of Job.

    The book of Job is famous for the man Job and his struggle to understand the great suffering which has befallen him, in the context of his belief that God should deal with him justly. A righteous and upright man, Job cannot understand why he suffers.

    The book begins in the heavenly court with a conversation between God and ‘Satan’, that name here meaning ‘Accuser’ and not yet ‘the Devil’. Satan asserts that Job is only righteous because God has blessed him, so God agrees first to Job losing all he has and then to allowing Satan to strike Job’s body, in order to test his piety. Then begins the long poetic debates with Job’s friends who challenge his complaints, presuming that, because Job has suffered so severely, he must be guilty of something significant. After several exchanges around this, a fourth figure adds his assessment of what Job has experienced. Finally, God addresses Job directly from a ‘whirlwind’.

    Job relents after God’s speaks and is both chastised and commended by God; Job’s friends are also chastised. The story ends with the friends being forgiven on account of Job’s prayer for them, and Job being restored to greater wealth and comfort than he had lost at the beginning.

    The book is complex and often in tension with itself, which reflects in part that it is a composite of several traditions. On trial in the text is not so much Job or God but elements of the Wisdom tradition – represented by Job’s friends – which had overly neat solutions to difficult religious and existential questions and constrained God to those solutions.

While this famous text, with its exchange between Job, his ‘comforters’ and God, is usually characterised as being about the problem of suffering, we will use it to develop further our understanding of another Job-like figure – Jesus himself – as the gospel readings for Lent trace his path to the cross.

At this stage, reflections on Job will likely feature on February 14 (Transfiguration Sunday), Feb 17 (Ash Wednesday), Feb 21, March 10, 17, April 2 and 4 (Easter)