Getting Comfortable with Mystery

The most important thing to know about Job is that it was written as a play, a piece of literary art, and it addresses the hardest question of faith –– why bad things happen to good people. 

A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon on the book of Job. While most people run screaming from Job, I have a tender place in my heart, in large measure because I took a wonderful course on it with Dr. Carol Newsom when I was in seminary. We spent weeks digging through the words, images, uses of prose and poetry. For an English major, it was heaven.

The most important thing to know about Job is that it was written as a play, a piece of literary art, and it addresses the hardest question of faith –– why bad things happen to good people. But the punch line is that there are no good answers. We get all the way to the end of the book, and we are left with a bunch of answers, none of which fully or adequately address the question.

That is why the book of Job had to be written as a play. It had to allow for mystery and nuance and poetry and narrative to intertwine in a dance swaying around the “problem of evil” without addressing it directly. It is madness for the modern, data-driven mind. That is why it is so beautiful.

I am convinced that the deepest levels of human experience are dealt with best not by analysts –– not by detached, objective, rational reporters, but by people who get inside of an experience, and seek to share that experience, even though they know they cannot adequately explain it. The deepest things in life cannot be fully described … they can only be hinted at. They cannot be looked at directly, but obliquely. That is why it takes artists, and poets, and musicians to deal with the deep things of life, because they have the sensitivity necessary to deal with mystery.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could recover a lost sense of wonder? Wouldn’t it be great if we could look at life with the eyes of the spirit and see the hand of God at work everywhere? If we could experience life like that, we would want to break into poetry or into song or, at the very least, to stand in silent reverence before the magnificent and mysterious works of God.

I am becoming more comfortable with mystery. I am becoming more comfortable saying that there is much in the Christian gospel I do not fully understand. And the reason is this: I deeply believe that God is like Jesus. The way we know about God’s presence and about God’s action is to ask, “Does it look and sound like Jesus?” Because I believe that is true, I also believe that the part of God and the part of life that I do not fully understand is not unlike that which I do understand. That means it is like Jesus … and that means, finally, it is good.

Sparking Ministry Conversations

What are the mysteries and questions that have shaped your life? What gifts have they given you that others in your church might learn from?

About the Author
The Rev. Cameron Trimble is Executive Director of the UCC’s Center for Progressive Renewal. Cameron is convinced that our future is in cultivating the highest quality of soul-filled ordained and lay leadership
Categories: Congregations Weekly

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