Hey, Sports Fans…sorry that we’re late and a little short this week. It’s just been ONE OF THOSE WEEKS!
Points for Preaching and Teaching
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless
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)
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.
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.
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?)
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.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
A number of years ago I served as the stewardship consultant for a friend’s congregation, including being the “guest preacher” on Commitment Sunday. The lectionary text for that Sunday was the story of the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. In consultation with the pastor I told him that I would find it difficult to preach on this text without offering the opportunity for people to come forward for anointing with oil and the laying on of hands for healing. Though he was worried about the timing involved in adding the liturgy for healing to an already full agenda of two services with communion and the bringing forward of commitment cards, he agreed with my plan. Things went well on Commitment Sunday. Not only did the congregation increase their pledges by a good percentage, we were pleased and a little bit surprised to see almost everyone in the congregation come forward for the laying on of hands.
A few weeks later I received a call from the pastor. He said, “Have I got a story to tell you.” He went to visit a man who has been visiting worship for the last few weeks. He lives in a boarding house just down the street. After a few minutes of pleasantries, he told the pastor that Commitment Sunday was the first time he visited the church. He had just gotten out of rehab and had committed himself to going to church. He said, “I had never been to a Lutheran church before, but it was close and I had no car so I walked over. I went to the 8:00 service and decided to do whatever everybody else did, so when people went up for healing, I went too. And later I went up for communion. I even filled out one of those Commitment cards. I said I’d give as much as I could when I could. After service I went to coffee hour and an adult Bible class and then somebody invited me to come to the congregational dinner after second service, so I sat in the library and read until the dinner. Long story short – it was almost 3:00 pm when I got back to my room. When I walked in I saw my ashtray overflowing with butts and ashes and thought ‘Gee, I haven’t had a cigarette since before church.’ so I lit one up. And it tasted terrible. I spit it out. And then I realized what had happened, why I didn’t like cigarettes anymore. When you prayed for my healing, you asked me what I wanted to be healed of and I said ‘My addictions.’ Pastor, I didn’t mean smoking. I like smoking!”
When you ask for healing, you can never be sure what the result will be. Jairus came to Jesus asking for help for his daughter. He thought Jesus would hurry along to heal her, especially after Jairus told him she was near death. But no. Jesus dawdled along, stopping to talk to an old woman in the crowd, delaying so much that the little girl died. And the old woman Jesus talked to? She didn’t really want to bother him, she really was a little bit afraid of him, but she did gather enough courage to reach out and touch him, hoping that would be enough to cure her.
Jairus wanted Jesus to hurry, the old woman didn’t want Jesus to stop, the man at church wanted to be healed of his addictions – except the ones he wanted to keep. None of them got exactly what they wanted, and all of them were healed in ways they never imagined.
Most of us in the church are looking for something from Jesus. There are as many different desires as there are people. Spiritual peace or spiritual growth, forgiveness and relief from guilt, peace of mind and soul, physical or emotional healing, a sense of direction, a calling, a place to belong, a cause to follow; the list could go on and on. And our Scripture lessons hints to us that asking Jesus for something is a bit dangerous. While you are apt to get what you need, you are also likely to get something you may not have wanted.
An encounter with Christ will change you, whether you want to be changed or not. That is the risk we take coming to church and praying for God to be involved in our lives. We cannot control how God will go about answering our prayers.
God might allow the thing we love the most to die before restoring it to life, pushing our trust and devotion to the very limit. God may force our faith into the open, calling us out in public, giving us no choice but to affirm our commitments in front of others, no matter how uncomfortable and afraid that might make us feel. God could heal us more completely and thoroughly than we want, removing from our lives bad habits and negative attitudes we would prefer to keep.
There’s an old saying “Watch out what you pray for, you might get it.” Well, here’s a new saying, “Watch out what who you pray to; you might get something you never thought possible!”
Amen and amen.