Wednesday, 4 October 2023 Job – a happy ending BUT no restoration of what is lost. The Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi
Job 42: 10
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.
photo credit David Coleman
By and large, God doesn’t restore but rather recycles, repurposes, and rebuilds. We see this in Job where none of the people or property Job loses in a series of no fault disasters are returned. He does, however, have a good death, old and “full of days.”
I wonder if there’s any original metal remaining in the current version of the Flying Scotsman, which has fallen – and been taken – apart so many times, only for something, which looks a bit like the locomotive of 100 years ago, to steam onto the tracks. Whither steam locos burning so much coal, and whither the crass pollution of the Red Arrows, or Edinburgh Festival fireworks, if we ever get really serious about care for Creation? But maybe there’s another way of enjoying what they do for you? Something different, just as good (or better) without trying to “bring back what’s gone”. Literature, such as ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ explores this fallacy.
‘Restoration’ is a concept which has inveigled its way into Christian devotion. Though in a broken world putting things back the way they were is rather dodgy. Our timescale for restoration often begins in times of suffering and injustice that not all our neighbours would be so keen to go back to.
As such, restoration is one of the most perniciously misleading and disabling concepts of current spiritualities. Along with the glossy clickbait of stopping or fixing the climate crisis; “saving the planet” rather than engaging to adapt, mitigate, transform, or even, heaven forbid, changing how we think, speak, worship, pray, and act. Even ‘rewilding’ suffers sometimes from the ideology of ‘return to Eden’ rather than moving on to a healthier more wholesome way of managing land, with all the knowledge and wisdom available in the meantime.
Our Christian faith is inspired not by restoration or resuscitation but by resurrection. Not going back. My three-year old daughter’s interpretation: ‘Jesus was dead on the cross…. and then he was better!’ Think on that.
God who picks up pieces: how many tears have we wasted on spilled milk?
How many backward glances to furrows we have ploughed which cannot now be sorted!
Keep us moving, changing, praising you Sustainer and Remaker; Keep our lifeblood flowing: Not haemorrhaging, hoarding but handing over what we’ve loved and trusted into the rainbow flow of possibilities received and opened up with you as God. Amen
The Rev’d David Coleman is a URC Minister and Chaplain to EcoCongregation Scotland.