“I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another. How my heart yearns within me.”
We made it!! For us as a community following Jesus, this Easter declaration by Job in the midst of his intense suffering, pain, and loss is a fitting bridge from the season of Lent into the great light of resurrection.
We began the Lenten journey over six weeks ago and have persevered through a long, arduous journey toward and through the cross. Today is Easter Sunday, and we declare with S. Lewis Johnson that “the resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ to Jesus’s statement, ‘It is finished.'” The intense birthing pains and excruciating suffering of Friday have now given birth this day to the resolute hope that we find in an open and empty tomb.
Job’s declaration in the above scripture is a resignation to joy. He has lost all else. He thus resigns himself to seize the only thing that yet remains: “I know that my Goel (kinsman-redeemer – a relative who restores honor and rights to an enslaved family member) lives.” Job realizes that while his friends have been a complete failure to him and even his wife has told him to curse God and die, Yahweh is Job’s Kinsman-Redeemer.
The kind of suffering that Job has experienced gifted him with the ability to live in an elevated awareness of truth. It is this gifting that allowed Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga to describe the murder of his friend as “A Beautiful Gospel Time.” His friend, a fellow priest, was killed at a police station where he had gone to protest the mistreatment of two indigenous women.
Have we not seen over and over in our work that suffering and pain have a relentless way of driving us into the realm of truth? In our Street Psalms networks we often find ourselves marinated in contexts of affliction. Easter thus becomes for us an opportunity for heightened awareness of the great gift of living truth that has been bestowed upon us.
I want to challenge us to lean into our gift in a new and fresh way this year. In the bold, clear declaration of truth that is birthed in pain, we as a community of the incarnation live out our prophetic role in the world. It is part of our unique charism to have the privilege of pointing to the “beautiful Gospel times” in hard places that others often do not have the capacity to see.
I am especially drawn to Job’s use of the pronoun “my” when referring to the Redeemer who lives in the midst of his pain and incalculable loss. The Redeemer – who in the end will stand upon the earth after Job’s skin has been destroyed – will be seen by Job in full clarity. Luther wrote somewhere that “the marrow of the Gospel is in the pronouns,” and this is vividly true in Job’s personal declaration of truth. My young daughter once brought this home to me when she told me I was the “best Papi in the world.” Selfishly wanting to hear her reasons for making such a declaration, I asked her why she thought this to be true. She simply smiled at me and said, “Because you are mine.”
I am well aware of Martin Buber’s admonition that “woe to the man so possessed that he thinks he possesses God.” It is not that Job thinks he “possesses God” – the reality of his pain and suffering would never allow him to make that leap into arrogance. Rather, God allows himself to possess Job in a fierce and tender kinship that restores honor from disgrace. It is that truth that transports Job into such a state of wonder and awe that he can make this declaration. It’s a declaration we share this Easter morning.
Gustavo Gutierrez writes, “Job’s declaration is a kind of paradoxical resignation to joy that is nothing else than the recognition of the strengthening presence of God and the community – a recognition in which our fears, doubts, and discouragement are routed by the power of God’s love.”
What an indescribable joy it is for us as the Street Psalms Community to declare on this Easter Sunday that we know our Redeemer lives! This is indeed a most Beautiful Gospel Time.
Joel Van Dyke