UNION — Biblical stories of suffering that ended in triumph were the subject of the sermon delivered by the Rev. A.L. Brackett of St. Paul Baptist Church during the final Community Lenten Service of 2016 at Grace United Methodist Church this past Wednesday.
Lent is the six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday and for those six weeks Grace United Methodist Church has hosted a series of Community Lenten Services each Wednesday. The celebration began on Ash Wednesday and concluded this Wednesday during Holy Week, the last week of Lent which includes Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
Holy Week celebrates the last week of the life of Jesus Christ which began on Palm Sunday with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In the days that followed, Jesus was anointed at Bethany; drove the money changers from the Temple, celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples on what is now called Maundy Thursday; was crucified, dying on the cross on what is now called Good Friday; and His body buried in a borrowed tomb, remaining there on what is now called Holy Saturday.
That’s where things stood until that Sunday, the day that became the first Easter, that Resurrection Morning when Christ rose from the dead in triumph.
It was this New Testament story of suffering resulting in triumph and an earlier Old Testament story of suffering turned to triumph that was the subject of Rev. A.L. Brackett’s Meditation sermon at Wednesday’s Lenten Service.
Brackett began by reading from the Old Testament Book of Job which begins with a dialog between God and the devil about the book’s protagonist, a man named Job. God points out Job, praising him as a devout, righteous, moral, and decent man. The devil responds by saying that Job is only those things because God is protecting and blessing him, claiming that if God were to withdraw His protection and blessing from Job, then Job would cease to be faithful to Him. God then allows the devil almost free rein over Job, allowing him to take everything from Job that God has blessed him with including his wealth, children and even his health, everything that is but his life.
The devil quickly gets busy and does just that, leaving Job penniless, physically tormented by ill health, and emotionally devastated by the death of his children. In spite of it all, however, Job does not lose his faith in God and does not, as he is urged to do, curse God and die. Ultimately, Job’s faithfulness is rewarded as God restores to him his health and gives him a long life lasting another 140 years; blessing him with a new family that includes seven sons and three daughters; and restores and multiplies his previous prosperity and wealth.
In his Meditation sermon, Brackett said that while Job is a story of suffering, it is also a story of triumph, of a man faced with an unrelenting series of tragedies, nevertheless remaining faithful to God. He pointed out that Job’s time of suffering is actually a short interregnum in a life that is, prior to that period, greatly blessed by God, and, in the remainder of Job’s life following it, blessed even more by God.
“The end is greater than the beginning,” Brackett said.
Brackett said the story is not only about the triumph of Job’s faithfulness, but also a story of a triumph over the devil that shows just how weak he is compared to God. He said that the story of Job is the story of God’s power over the devil who can only do what God permits him to do. Furthermore, Brackett said that, in introducing Job into the story, God manipulates the devil into doing what He wants Him to do, something that will show just how powerless the devil really is, not only compared to God, but in the face of the faithfulness of those who remain faithful to God despite their earthly trials and tribulations.
This great triumph, however, is just a precursor to the even greater triumph of Jesus Christ on the morning of that first East Sunday.
Brackett pointed out that the celebration of Holy Week gives Christians the opportunity to “relive in our minds and hearts” the events of that week, the week that Christ was betrayed, abandoned, arrested, beaten, whipped, mocked, condemned to death, crucified, died and was buried. This tragedy, however, is only the prologue that leads up to the Resurrection on Easter Morning and Christ’s triumph over death, hell, and the grave.
As in the case of the tragedies that befell Job, Brackett said that the suffering and death that Christ endured for His children was only for a brief time before giving way to a triumph far greater than what had gone before it. He said the story of Job and even more the story of Christ are reminders to Christians that God will allow them to be tested but He will always be there for them during that time of testing, waiting to bless them and reward them for their faithfulness.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or [email protected]