Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Faith Problem

When people are confronted with pain and suffering they turn to God, which is a good thing. The not-so-good thing is when someone suggests that God didn’t save someone who may have suffered some tragedy. The tragedy is often in the light of some accident or other sudden illness. Most people I have met eventually come to terms with the death of loved one who succumbed to a long term illness. The “faith problem” as I might call it, comes when we are suddenly face-to-face with death.

The reality of sudden tragedy has been a real part of human life since the very beginning as we are reminded in today’s reading from Genesis. When Cain killed his brother Abel, Adam and Eve were faced with the sudden ugliness of the fallen world. Adam and Eve, as we will read tomorrow, continued to honor their relationship with God and had additional children. They didn’t blame God. They didn’t ask why He allowed their son to die. They most likely figured that, as God had already told them, life would be a struggle from now on, and they could either accept the struggle and push forward, or they could sit pouting that God hadn’t hear their prayers.

The reality is that life is hard, and just because tragedy happens, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love you. Just because a loved one is healed in the way we wish, doesn’t mean they haven’t been saved by God. As Orthodox Christians our salvation is not found in our earthly life, but in our eternal life in heaven with God. Take a  moment and read today’s readings and you will see that life has always been a struggle, but God has always had a plan to rescue us from the struggle. His promise isn’t to always rescue us while we are still alive, but He for sure will rescue us from eternal struggle if we learn to love Him and live in communion with Him. That much is your choice during the Great Fast. Will you spend energy wondering why God didn’t save your friend or loved one? It is the faith problem that Great Lent is meant to help you solve!

Here are today’s Old Testament Readings:
Isaiah 5:7-16 (RSV) - Thus says the Lord: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!  Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.  The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: "Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.  For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah."  Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them!  They have lyre and harp, timbrel and flute and wine at their feasts; but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands.  Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge; their honored men are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst.  Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and he who exults in her.  Man is bowed down, and men are brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.  But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
 Genesis 4:8-15 (RSV) -  Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.  Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"  And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.  When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth."  Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me."  Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.
Proverbs 5:1-15 (RSV) - My son, be attentive to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.  For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.  Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house; lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien; and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, "How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!  I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.  I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation."  Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.

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