Next Sunday’s texts seem to focus on answering this question that often arises when we are frustrated. Things are out of control – who’s running this show? I’m in charge here and am being ignored and need to assert my authority – who’s running this show? We are confused, depleted, burned out, and have nowhere to go – so who’s running this show. We turn to the texts.
Job the good has relentlessly clung to a trust in God who has seemingly allowed Job’s terrible suffering without any hint of intervention. Even so, Job has deigned to question God’s wisdom in a form of the “Who’s running this show?” accusation. The response comes from the midst of a whirlwind – an appropriate metaphor for the ambiguity of the Divine under such circumstances. Martin Buber writes,
“But how about Job himself? He not only laments, but he charges that the ‘cruel’ God had ‘removed his right’ from him and thus that the judge of all the earth acts against justice. And he receives an answer from God. But what God says to him does not answer the charge; it does not even touch upon it. The true answer that Job receives is God’s appearance only, only this, that distance turns into nearness, that ‘his eye sees him,’ that he knows Him again. Nothing is explained, nothing adjusted; wrong has not become right, nor cruelty kindness. Nothing has happened but that man again hears God’s address.”
This Psalm is the natural response of the person who has arrived at Job’s experience of reconciliation with the notion that God’s sovereignty is not dependent upon or even related to our goodness or otherwise. The Holy has its own agency and acts accordingly. We are to attend to our own responsibilities without thought of divine reward or retribution and adopt an orientation to simple trust in what God has deigned to reveal of God’s creative purpose. After all, it is God who is running the show!
The unfamiliar terminology of this text further explains the link between human suffering and ultimate order. The “order of Melchizedek” under which Christ endured a high priestly suffering delves into an ancient pre-Israel notion of the link between striving and destiny. Human striving and divine grace are linked. To ask the question “Who is running the show?” is to place oneself in a place of the possibility of transition to an even deeper query: “How does human suffering find meaning in the light of Christ’s redemptive action?”
James and John want to run the show but they are not yet wedded to the way of Christ. Perhaps they need to enter more deeply into the experience of Job’s awareness and realise that they are walking with a whirlwind. Jesus puts it to them in the form of his own question – can they drink from his cup and enter the same experience of redemptive suffering that he must enter? He ultimately simplifies things for them. If they want to be in charge they must paradoxically adopt a servant’s heart.