Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday.

The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

You can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Proper 8B/Ordinary 13B/Pentecost 6 July 1, 2018

Raising of Jarius' Daughter by Gabriel Max, 1878

O God, in the paschal mystery of Christ, who became poor for our sake and obedient even unto death on a cross, you have chosen to enrich us with every good gift and to give us a share in Christ's exalted life.  Let us fear neither teh cost of discipleship nor the inevitability of sharing in the cross but gladly announce to all our brothers and sisters the good news of life healed, restored and renewed.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 5:21-43

"Jesus called a woman unnamed in scripture from the shadows of anonymity. He called her 'daughter,' a designation that signifies kinship, relationship and lineage."

Commentary, Mark 5:25-34, Deborah K. Blanks, The African American Lectionary, 2009.

"Who knows what kind of story Mark is telling here, but the enormously moving part of it, I think, is the part where Jesus takes the little girl's hand and says, 'Talitha cum' - 'Little girl, get up' - and suddenly we ourselves are the little girl."

"Jairus' Daughter," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog. "Funeral," from Whistling in the Dark.

"Can the Christian community alter the conditions of people's lives? Can it, too, bring healing into troubled circumstances? Must it not also cross boundaries -- whether they are related to ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, politics or any other boundaries that divide our society -- and advocate life-giving meaning and change?"

Commentary, Mark 5:21-43, Emerson Powery, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

Oremus Online NRSV Text

This week we move from an act of God in Jesus' voice which stills the stormy sea to the work of God in Jesus as his power heals a woman and raises a girl to life.

This passage comes after the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac.  In our narrative for this Sunday we are on our way; and we might remember we are always in Mark on our Way to the cross.  Jarius, a man who led the local synagogue, approaches Jesus. We cannot help but see that in contrast to other religious leaders and other religious crowds, these are people flocking to Jesus and his teachings.

Jarius tells Jesus that his daughter is urgently in need of saving so that she might live again.  Urgency, resurrection, and living again are all very particular and clear words used in this passage.  We cannot but hear, perhaps as Mark's first readers, the parallel with the urgency by which Jesus makes his way to the cross, the death and resurrection which is to take place, and the opportunity we receive to live again.  If we read the Greek here what we discover, in keeping with many scholars, is that his daughter is not sick but dead!  (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 366)

As Jesus makes his way he is touched by the hemorrhaging woman.  She is aware of being made well, he is aware of the healing, and he tells her that it is her faith that has made her well.  Jesus looks at her.  We are reminded of his looking upon his followers and calling them his new family.  He looks upon her and he calls her daughter.  She becomes family, a follower, a believer, she is able to live life again; but in a new way.

The woman who is healed from her 12 year hemorrhage is paralleled in the new family by the other daughter of 12 years old who is healed and made to live again as well.  Unlike the pouring out of his spirit that takes place with the woman, Jesus' intervention here with the girl is more like the stilling of the storm or the Gerasene demoniac.  Here we see in the midst of the room, mourners cast out, death in power, a God of creation at work remaking the world.  Death is vanquished with powerful words and she rises.  (Marcus, 372)

This story is about Jesus' power and his authority.  It makes real his teaching that God is at work in the world and the reign of God is at hand. These works of power are creating, perhaps recreating, the family of God. While it is true that in the very next chapter Jesus is going to be rejected because of this work, we the readers and hearers of this Gospel lesson are perhaps set in a mindset of amazement at the power of God to make all things, all people, even myself, new.

As I ponder these things I have in my minds eye the congregation that will sit before me as I preach. I am mindful of my own self presented before these texts.  I am aware that Jarius sits before me.  He sits in the pew and he is hoping God will save his daughter; save her from drugs, or alcohol, perhaps depression.  He is sitting there and he is praying.  The hemorrhaging woman is sitting there praying for deliverance from her physical ailing; her cancer, or her auto immune disorder, her pain.  There will be people there who have lost their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters.  I will be there with my own pains and desires for healing. I will be there with those things I have done which I am sorry for. I will be there with those things which I have not done and am sorry for. I will be there with my failings and my fear.  We will all be there; the wounded and wounding brothers and sisters of Jesus.

It is an opportunity to be reminded that Jesus loves us and is with us in our suffering and in our wounding.  That God is with us and that this story is about a God who loves and whose mercy is sure and steadfast. This is a story about a powerful God - yes. It is also a story of a loving God.  As Dr. Paul Zahl puts it, this is a story about a God with one way love.  Powerful, forgiving, healing, resurrecting love.  This is a story about a God who looks at us as we reach out to him and calls us brother and sister. This is a story about a God who offers himself for the recreation of our lives in this world and the next. 

In a conversation with Canon Kai Ryan we began to play with the ideas of who is part of this unfolding kingdom? We imagine that Jarius' daughter is worthy because of Jarius and that by the world's standards the woman with the hemorrhage is not worthy. Jesus is very much about making both worthy in the kingdom of God. This is true as we hold this passage up and turn it in our minds eye. But what is also true is that we see, we come to this passage from our own world's perspective. In other words we preach it from this view of worthiness. What struck us both is something similar to what Walter Brueggeman says about prophetic imagination...we don't often make the kingdom's story compelling. So, instead of coming at this from a binary perspective what does it look like to come to the text from a non binary unitive kingdom perspective? What does it mean to see that the reign of God is all encompassing and that she was worthy all along. How do we tell the story from a kind of Jesus perspective that sees not judgment for one and not the other, or scapegoats the world's perspective but instead proclaims a kingdom worth living in?

If we think about this regarding our own story in this country, we can see clearly that some people get access to this or that, or Jesus, and some people do not. People of means have power to get Jesus to come to them...think of that for a moment. People without have to hope to touch the hem of his garment. Both have faith but both don't have access. In one situation Jesus comes to you (Jarius and his daughter) in the other situation you come to Jesus. Both get healed but they are not the same thing at all and both have different meanings in the life of the individuals in the story.

After all, these are short time measures. Remember we are on the Way. The narrative tale of Mark's gospel reminds us quickly that the final deliverance from our sin and physical brokenness is in fact to be redeemed upon the cross.  It is there in the midst of resurrection that the new creation of our lives springs forth. This one way loving, forgiving, and merciful God heals the world's wound.  God is present with us in our sorrow and he turns it to joy.

This week I hope I can offer a gospel of God in Christ Jesus that heals the sin sick soul, and binds up the wounds of the heart, mind and body.  I hope I can preach a Gospel that is worthy and filled with worthiness for Jarius and the unnamed woman. May we all preach and teach a gospel that is healing and filled with grace!  That is what the world is longing to hear.  Yes. I think so. They are longing, as my own soul longs, to hear that God loves them and we are being gathered in as his family.  We are being embraced and held and loved.  We are being gathered in, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. 

From Psalm 42:
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

"The answer just might lie in churches that are begging - begging for the privilege of standing with those in need and applying a holistic gospel to the systems that deprive people of their dignity."

Begging to Give," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2003.

"...for Christians, equality and justice are measured not only monetarily, but also relationally."

"Pressed into Service," Daniel Harrell, The Christian Century, 2006.

"While this text certainly forces us to think about what we do with our resources and, therefore, should inform our stewardship drives, Paul's passion in this text relates first of all to the gospel."

Commentary, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Carla Works, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

Oremus Online NRSV Text

What happens when people chose to fight over issues of great importance and neglect the mission of the church? We get a letter like the correspondence of Paul to the Corinthians.

It is typical for us to be culture-centric and believe that our problems are more severe than problems of the past. It is easy to believe that they really were not complex people in those days or that they didn’t understand what real difference means. When we do this or say these things what we do is create an argument that allows us to release ourselves from the call of unity in the apostolic age.

There are a lot of problems in the first one hundred years of the church’s infancy. People are arguing about a lot of substantive issues that they feel (I imagine as we feel) are key to the orthodoxy of the faith.

I imagine them saying if you believe this then you are redefining what it means to be a Christ follower. I imagine that they are saying if you follow that person or do these things you cannot call yourself a Christian. And, I believe they are desirous (as all human beings are) to have it their way and to go it alone.

Certainly this is the battle of wills that is essentially driving the correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians. Furthermore, Paul is not only trying to get them to come along he is pointing out in this passage that their using disagreements to release themselves from the shared and unified funding of the church’s mission is not faithful.

Paul is blunt, “Now finish doing it.” Finish raising the funds even if you disagree with the church in Jerusalem or disagree with me…

Paul is clear that the purpose of all that they undertake is the spread of the Gospel and that this work takes money and unity. Regardless of the circumstances and feelings about the wider church people in Corinth are to give. They are to give in accordance with their means, they should be eager and committed to the cause of the Gospel, and they should themselves seek a good balance in their own life helping others while not creating a financial crisis of their own.

Paul is very clear that the Christians, those who claim to follow Jesus, are to give such that people have sufficient to live on and that there are no huge disparities between the wealthy and those without.

2 Samuel 1:1-27

"After the death of Saul, David places himself by this lament as being close to Saul, a natural heir and successor, and from this position he offers fulsome praise of Saul?s prowess in battle, and of his conduct in the face of death. This is in part a generous act when the relationship between the two has been so strained. It is also, however, good politics, offering the best chance for reconciliation and the best chance for a unification of power under David."

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27, Pentecost 4, 2009, The Old Testament Readings: Weekly Comments on the Revised Common Lectionary, Howard Wallace Audrey Schindler, Morag Logan, Paul Tonson, Lorraine Parkinson, Theological Hall of the Uniting Church, Melbourne, Australia.

"We in the church can model the capacity to grieve and speak of people honestly when we are in those situations."

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27, Pentecost 4, 2009, Commentary, Background, Insights from Literary Structure, Theological Message, Ways to Present the Text. Anna Grant-Henderson, Uniting Church in Australia.

"The Amalekite messenger thinks the news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan will be good news to David. He is wrong. This psalm tells us that David feels a deep sense of loss and sorrow because of their deaths. David genuinely grieves over the news he receives."

We skip a bit forward again. Samuel has anointed David King of Israel. Saul has been jealous. If we read straight through we would have seen a constant procession of people making their allegiances to David as the power is shifted in the narrative. David is parading around with a small army and building support among friends and enemies alike. Saul gets paranoid and is becoming weaker. Saul even tries to kill David but fails.

In the end Saul in his final battle chooses suicide. Jonathan too is killed. Though they save Israel there is a great loss. The passage we have is a lament by David over the loss of Saul and Jonathan.
Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty. Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
Deep within this text is an important theme of understanding who I am, who you are, who David was, Saul, Jonathan...all of the - all of the - people. Who am I? We often remember Moses' question to the burning bush: who are you?...we forget that his second question is: who am I? (Exodus 3) Once we have some notion of who this God is we reframe the question.  If you are this God...then whom I? Moses of course wants to know who is he that he should go and how can I be victorious? God says of course, "I am," or "I am who I am", and you will be victorious because, "I am with you." But God does not answer the middle question, the reflective question, "who am I?"

Moses answers the question for himself saying he is unworthy. Isaiah says he has unclean lips. Jeremiah says he doesn't know what to say, he cannot speak. Rabbi Sacks writes:

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik called this a covenant of fate, brit goral. It lies at the heart of Jewish identity to this day. There are Jews who believe and those who don’t. There are Jews who practise and those who don’t. But there are few Jews indeed who, when their people are suffering, can walk away saying, This has nothing to do with me. 
Maimonides, who defines this as “separating yourself from the community” (poresh mi-darkhei ha-tsibbur, Hilkhot Teshuva 3: 11), says that it is one of the sins for which you are denied a share in the world to come. This is what the Hagaddah means when it says of the wicked son that “because he excludes himself from the collective, he denies a fundamental principle of faith.” What fundamental principle of faith? Faith in the collective fate and destiny of the Jewish people. (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 
In this great moment when David is giving voice to the lament over Israel he is making a proclamation: I am David, I am distressed for you. David in this moment reminds us that we are intimately connected one to another. Even though Saul tried to kill him, he loved him as family. God is who God is, and we are God's. This individual piece is true, but the greater truth in David's lament is that we are forever united to the community around us. We cannot separate ourselves out from the creation or from God's created people.

Here too then we hear the words of echoing through the Gospels about who this Jesus is... And, his own words to his friends, "Who do you say that I am?" The answer is that he is God who is with us. And, that this God who is with us, with our brothers and sisters, with our neighbor and our enemy, is a God whose community we cannot walk away from. We do not separate ourselves from the lowly, the oppressor, the victim, the rich or poor, the community is our concern because we are God's. We lament and prophesy, we feed and free, we live and have our being within the great relationship between God and humanity. There is no isolation.

When Paul writes in Romans 4,  in Galatians and Ephesians that we are Abrahams heirs. In becoming Abraham's heirs then one of the sins that is not given to us it the ability to shirk our responsibility for the wider community. We cannot shake lose who we are, whose we are, and who others are. We cannot walk away from those who suffer.

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-2:24

Oremus NRSV Text

This is a passage about immortality and the notion that humanity is meant for it. Death comes into the world when Cain kills Abel. It is part of the memetic sibling rivalry that has perpetuated itself throughout the world. God, having not created it, does not delight in this invention. There is indeed death at old age but even this is not meant to be our end. We are designed to be with God in this world and the next.

For those who do not believe, who do not walk with God and are not God fearers, they make a kind of deal - die with the most toys. All is chance and all is fate.
For we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been,
for the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts;
when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat. 

This was Sir Isaac Newton's greatest fear - that the science of the universe be an uncaring godless and cold place left to the fates.
For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back. 
Newton writes, "[God] is omnipresent. In him are all things contained and moved; yet neither affects the other; God suffers nothing from the motion of bodies." He also wrote at the end of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (London, 1687), "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of His dominion He is wont to be called Lord God.” For Newton God is constantly watching over his creation though God is not tied down by it.

The author of our passage does not have any such hope for the philosophy of the fatalist and athiest. The one who is not a God fearer sees only emptiness and a non carrying universe. This passage offers an almost epicurean philosophy to such a non believer's life. It is filled with good things but if there is a God it is distant. Moreover, they are not even good to those who share their lot - their neighbor and common human.
‘Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry;
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
or regard the grey hairs of the aged.
But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless. 
We though, who have life and faith, who see that we are meant for more than this life and believe in immortality see unity with God at our life's end.

Lutheran pastor and author Clint Schnekloth writes:
It compares the unrighteous, who summoned death (1:16), to the righteous one who overcomes death (2:12-22). This is a Jesus text before there was a Jesus. It sounds like a Hellenistic version of Isaiah. “He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord” (2:13).
This passage is a great play on the notion that God may desire something else out of those with faith. In other words don't get too stuck on immortality. Yes we are meant for life. But the passage in reverse implies life lived differently for the ones who have accepted this notion of immortality. Here is what I  mean by this.

Because we see life as continuing and filled with joy we understand a purposefulness to life  - not mere chance. We live a life of the Holy Spirit. And, so we not only see ourselves marked for eternity but we see others marked as well. They may not chose to live this way...but we see them as people who have a larger purpose than managing their calendars and diaries in this world. They are called like us and invited like us to an eternal life. We then see life as opportunity and likewise we believe for the non God fearer there is an opportunity too.

Yes, we will enjoy life, but instead of crowning ourselves let us crown one another. Let us share what we have that others may have. Let us leave more than signs of having lived, let us leave signs of having made a difference. Let us leave signs of having changed people's lives. Let us raise up the poor man, let us help the widow, let us care and visit the aged. Let us not use might as the wicked do but instead let us use love. As Christ dies weak upon the cross, let us take up our cross and show that in laying down our lives others may in fact gain life. In serving another, in helping, in not overpowering or killing, we see great purpose. (Wisdom 2:6-11)

Because we have been given life and life eternal, let us wait for the righteous, and let us support them. Let us in fact support those who have not yet come to believe. Instead of accusing the seeker let us come to their aid. Let us help others to see how a life of service transforms one's character. Let us embrace the unclean, as Jesus does. Let us not put God to the test nor the ones who do not yet believe. Instead let us support them. Instead of condemning them to death, let us discover in the unbeliever their own eternal life so that they may come to see it themselves. Let us walk the Way of Jesus and show those who have not yet heard of it how it goes. Let us become pilgrims together instead of seeking out each other's early death. (Wisdom 2:12-20)

I think with a little art this could be a great sermon. Don't simply preach on what the text says, preach on what the text implies for the one who has accepted life in Jesus.

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