Dr. Rev. Hadi Ghantous
Job 1.1-5; 42.1-9
One of the most obvious characteristics of the Lent Season is the general atmosphere of prayer and worship which covers this season. Special daily worship services take place in different churches all over this season. Special attention is given to prayer and worship by believers from the different traditions. Many Christians, who are not usually church goers or committed to prayer, give special importance to attending services and to prayer during this season. Even Protestant churches, which often do not celebrate daily services during the Lent Season, give often special attention to and call their members to focus on prayer. Thus, generally speaking, worship and prayer have a special place and play an important role during the Lent Season.
Such a relationship between fasting and prayer is in a full coherence with the Bible, which witnesses to an organic relationship between the two. In both the OT and the NT, fasting is, and must be, related to and accompanied by prayer. Jesus himself relates the two and indicates the special power which they have with each other. Thus, prayer and worship must be an essential aspect in the Lent Season and in our preparation for the Good Friday and Easter.
However, since the Lent Season is a time of reflection, giving a special attention to worship and prayer in this season includes reflecting on our worship and prayer. Lent Season is a time to pray and worship, but also a time to question our understanding of worship and prayer and of God whom we worship and pray for. Such a reflection and a questioning are so important in the Lent Season, as a period in which we accompany Jesus Christ in his journey toward the Cross and Resurrection.
One of the most special examples of worship in the Bible is the one, which is practiced by Job at the beginning of his book. Job, who is said to be the greatest of all the people of the east and the blameless among humans, is the only figure in the Bible to offer preventary sacrifices. Job does not only offer the usual offerings and follow the usual rituals of worship. In addition to that, he offers sacrifices to cover any possible unknown sins, which his children may have committed. In other words, Job is an example of a person, whose life dedicates a special place and attention to worship and prayer. Job, here, is a person who gives special importance to worship in his life and fulfills all the rituals of worship and goes beyond that.
However, after losing everything and going into his famous trial, Job’s perception of God and of worship is deeply changed. After his long dialogue with his friends and after his meeting with God, Job does not only have a new understanding of life and suffering, but he also has a new understanding of God and of his worship of that God. At the end of the book, Job proclaims that it is then and only then that he got to know God rather than just offering him some superficial rituals. And it is only then that God asks Job to offer now sacrifices for others, but this time not as a fulfillment of some habits, but rather as an act of a true worship of a God, with whom Job has a personal relationship now. Job’s worship then is centered around God and others rather than around himself and his own interests as it was at the beginning of the book. Therefore, after his experience, Job’s understanding of God, relationship with God and worship of God, as well as his understanding of life go into a new level.
It is noteworthy here that throughout his experience Job goes into a kind of an experience of fasting, when he sits among ashes and loses all pleasures of life. It is also noteworthy that Job’s suffering and restoration are usually compared to Jesus’ suffering and resurrection. Thus, Job and his experience with God and worship become very relevant for us in the Lent Season, while we are walking with Jesus his way to the Cross and Resurrection. Job challenges us to reflect and to keep reflecting on our worship and our understanding of the God whom we worship. Job challenges our worship to be a living worship of the living God, whom we know and have personal relationship with rather than a mere practices and rituals. Job challenges our worship to be centered around God and serving others rather than around ourselves and our own interests.
This call to know God and to have a new understanding of God, which is presented by Job, is also presented by the beautiful prayer of Ephesians 3, which calls us to have Christ as the center of our lives in order to be able to have a better understanding of God and a better worship of that God. Both Job and Ephesians call us to reform our understanding of God and of our worship, which should be centered around God himself, who is the only one who can take us into a deeper level of life and understanding of life.
Once when my mother was making a ham for dinner, she got her pan out, got the ham out, cut the ends of the ham off and put it in the pan. I was watching closely as I often did (this is how I learned to cook after all). So I asked, thinking there was some magic kitchen secret in this procedure, “Mama, why did you cut the ends of the ham off?” She paused in her preparation and thought for a minute and said “Well, that’s the way my mother did it. Maybe we better call Grandma and ask her why.” So we called Grandma asked her why she cut the ends off the ham before she cooked it. And her answer was very simple…she said “the only way the ham would fit in my roasting pan was to cut the ends off of it!”
Dear friends, we are called to make prayer and worship essential aspects of our lives. We are called to reflect on our worship and our understanding of God and keep renewing and reforming that worship and that understanding. We are called to have a personal relationship with God and to have living worship of God. We are called to allow God to be in the center of our lives and to let him lead us towards a deeper understanding of him and of life. And we are called to do that everyday in our lives, but especially in the Lent Season, while we are preparing ourselves to celebrate the Cross and the Resurrection of the God, who has challenged and is still challenging, in his Cross and Resurrection, all our images and views concerning him.