Year B — The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8)

Commentary for July 1, 2012
Click here for today’s readings

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
One might assume that David had plenty of reasons to exult over the death of Saul. The mad king had taunted him, hunted him, and perhaps would gladly have spilled David’s blood had he had the chance. Yet, David’s grief at Saul’s passing is evident in this song of lament.

Saul’s tormented reign brought with it much to be sad about, no doubt; yet, there is no life that is completely devoid of goodness or accomplishment. David reminds Israel of the days when Saul “clothed [them] with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on [their] apparel.”

The depth of David’s grief is reserved for his friend and Saul’s son, Jonathan. War is costly, and its price is illustrated far too vividly here. No wonder David would later write the poignant line, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem….” (Psalm 122:6)

Psalm 130
If God were determined to “keep score” of our iniquities forever, there would, indeed, be none of us who could stand before God’s righteous presence. But, the good news of the psalm text is that God does forgive — and in the great power of forgiveness there is redemption. This is a message that is badly needed still in our world today.

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24
God’s good intent in creation was — and is — for good.

Lamentations 3:22-33
No wonder the oft-used saying has such power: everything looks better by the light of a new day. Jeremiah tells us why — “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never end; they are new every morning.”

Take a minute to stop, look, listen, and feel all around you the ways that God’s mercies are reborn with the new day.

Psalm 30
There is hardly a more soul-healing verse in all of scripture than v.5: “God’s anger is but for a moment, but God’s favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Yet another reason to hope for the next new day.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 
A great passage on the balance that comes in our giving out of our resources to meet the needs of another’s lack. This is far more than a text for the annual stewardship emphasis; it is a look into one of the core competencies of Christian discipleship. We give because Christ gave; we share out of what we have, not out of what we don’t have.

In God’s miraculous plan of economy, nobody has too much and nobody has too little. (I have to wonder, would this really be too difficult for our elected officials to understand?)


Mark 5:21-43 
Oh, the power of touch!

This wrapped-about twin healing has always fascinated me — Mark mentions (parenthetically) that Jairus’ daughter was twelve, and the woman in the crowd had been bleeding for twelve years. I have wondered if they both began their journey toward Jesus on the same day twelve years earlier? (Sorry if that’s a bit of a theological red herring, but I can’t help thinking of stuff like that!)

At any rate, the request for Jesus to come and “lay hands” on the little girl is interrupted by a woman who wants to “just touch” — not Jesus — but the edge of his clothes. Just a brush, an “I-hope-he-won’t-notice-but-I’m-going-to-give-it-a-go-anyway” act of faith.


One might argue that Jairus is bold and that the woman is a bit cowardly, or at the very least embarrassed. Maybe there is no great risk on the part of either of them since they have nothing to lose. 


What’s really cool, to my way of thinking, is that it doesn’t matter to Jesus: he takes whatever faith we are able to place in him and makes it work. 


The power of a touch.
 
Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

“Of Faith and Fear

Early one fall morning when I was nine years old, I awoke to a cold and silent house. I got up and looked around. My brothers were not in their beds in our communal bedroom; the lamp would not turn on. I stumbled downstairs to the kitchen; no one was there. I ran through the entire house; it was empty. I tried every light switch, and the TV and radio. Nothing worked.

I ran out to the barn; still no one. And still, nothing worked. Then I did what every reasonable nine-year-old fundamentalist child would do; I fell on my knees and cried for Jesus “to come back and get me,” for I assumed that the rapture had come and I had been “left behind.” There was, in biblical terms, much “crying and gnashing of teeth,” as collapsed onto the cold, dewy grass in my underwear.

At that moment, I heard a tractor coming over the hill from behind the house. I had indeed been “left behind;” by my forgetful Daddy when he gathered up the family to help him get a wagon load of cured tobacco from the storehouse to take to market. That and a power outage explained my personal “rapture,” moment.

In our Gospel lesson, I was struck by the words fear and faith. 

After the woman with the flow of blood touched Jesus and he stopped and asked who touched him, it says she “came in fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him the whole truth. He (Jesus) said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

In the wrap-around story of Jairus’ daughter, at this point, the text says, “some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But Jesus says to the man, “Do not fear, only believe (have faith).”

When I was a child I had a lot of faith; I also had a lot of fear. My faith was faith in the reality of God, not any sort of trust in the goodness or compassion of God. And my fear was rooted in a fear of the power of that real but vengeful God I had conjured up from Sunday School and fundamentalist preaching and comic books and horror movies and God knows what else.

As I have grown older, faith and fear have remained in dynamic tension in my life. Just as my faith has matured and become more sophisticated, my fears have grown less generalized and more realistic. 

But they are still there as they are for all of us. All of us fear things: terrorism, avian flu, economic collapse, earthquake, fire and flood, to name a few. 

And the last few years have shown us that our fears are realistic and founded in reality, not fantasy as were mine. And the question is, as we face these realistic fears, where do we place our faith, our assurance, our hope for the future? In money and its accumulation and clout? In armies and governments and secret agents?  Where? In whom?

The scriptures call us to trust in God, a thing much easier said than done. Lamentations reminds us “that the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, (God’s) mercies never come to an end.” and then goes on to talk about those times when one feels abandoned by God. This is a realistic look at faith in the face of fear. 

The Psalm repeats this theme, as in “then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear” but also cries out, “O Lord, My God, I will give you thanks forever.” And our lesson from 2 Corinthians reminds us not to hoard our money in time of other’s need, but to share our resources with the needy, trusting in God to provide for us in our time of need. Generosity is shown to be an act of faith overcoming fear. 

In the last several years the church has been in the midst of uncertain times. The question is: are we going to face the future with fear or faith? 

Are we going to reach out to one another the way the woman in the story reached out to Jesus for comfort and healing? Remember; the church is, we are, the body of Christ, and we have God’s spirit and healing power flowing through us. Are we facing the future with fear or faith? 


Amen and amen.

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