Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 8, Year B
June 27, 2021
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
An era has closed. Those who were known for their power and glory are no more, and it is fitting to pause —to give sacred space and silence to mark the profound loss that has occurred. David has returned triumphant from warfare against the Amalekites. But his victory has not been without loss. Saul (his king, but also a sort of life-long enemy) and Jonathan (his beloved best friend) are dead. David’s grief is unspeakable. In fact, he can hardly bear to have the news announced. He particularly doesn’t want it announced in Gath or Ashkelon where such news would be celebrated. He prays that the place where Saul and Jonathan fell in war would become desolate and dry. He bids the women of Israel to cry. He instructs that the “Song of the Bow” to be sung. The “Song of the Bow” is a song about war and about the mighty who fall in war. In this song, David comes face to face with his grief over the loss of Jonathan who was a friend whom he loved with a love so powerful and deep that he feels as if part of him has been severed and cast away.
Think back to times in your life when you have suffered loss. How did you mark that loss? How do you separate the time now – the time before the loss and the time after the loss? How difficult is it to move into new eras when old eras have passed? The Song of the Bow –the fullness of the grief of life – Death before reconciliation – loss of love. Do you sing such songs in your own life?
No matter how far down we have gone, even if we are at the bottom, our voice can rise up to God. This lament and plea of the Psalmist recognizes the sinfulness of human beings as that which prevents us from being able to stand before God – upright and righteous. But our cries for help rise to God where we know forgiveness waits. We also have access to another tool and that tool is waiting in hope. Hope reminds us that even at the bottom, we can rest assured that God will rescue us from the sin that enslaves us.
Think about times in your own life when you feel you have been at the very bottom. Was that too far away from God? Can we not sense that even the presence of God inhabits the very depths of human despair?
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24
(Hebrew Scripture from Track 2)
We have been taught to respect the Circle of Life: birth, life, death, rebirth. No one lives forever and even though death is part of life, we fear it and see it as the enemy – as having the final word. But the writer is clear here – God did not make death. He is not the author of death. God created us for the image of His eternal life – that is our destiny. “…and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them…” We are meant for life and creativity, not for decay. Yes, the Circle exists, but it does not end with death. In fact, it does not end at all. Death is continually connected to rebirth and new life.
In your own life, do you connect with the generative creative forces of the world, or do you find yourself drawn to the death forces of Hades? To whom do you belong? Life or Death? Which do you choose?
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Paul presents an economy here – a Kingdom economy. He is challenging the Church at Corinth to enter into balance – a fair balance. In this economy, no one is pressured to give and yet, those who have need, are cared for out of the abundance of those who have. There is such a thing, Paul says, as having too much or too little; and communities should take care to see that balance exists. Paul speaks of eagerness as being an essential quality. Eagerness is the desire to do something and to follow through to seeing that it is done. If gifts are offered with this eagerness, God will bless the fruits of those gifts.
In our current worldly culture, there are “haves” and “have nots,” and most of us find this arrangement acceptable. What would a “fair balance” look life? Do we have abundance from which to give, and are we eager to participate in a Kingdom economy?
Two stories here – a story embedded within a story – both stories of people on the outside who recognize the healing power of Jesus and want to be drawn into it. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, not part of Jesus’s inner circle, has a daughter who is dying. He is desperate and has encountered this other rabbi who has become famous for his ability to heal the sick. He wants to become part of that rabbi’s circle into which he can bring his dying daughter for health. He believes in the power and Circle of Life which surrounds Jesus. As Jesus moves to carry on the story line of the healing of Jairus’s daughter, another person outside the circle steps up and reaches out to draw herself into the circle. She has been ill for twelve years and has given every cent of her poverty to physicians in an attempt to be made well. Not only is she outside the circle (an impoverished, bleeding woman), she is at the bottom of a hole so deep that no light penetrates. But she also has heard about Jesus, and her faith in his power and gift propels her to step into the Circle of Life which surrounds Jesus. Her belief is so strong that she understands that in order to be healed, she need only lightly touch the hem of Jesus’s cloak. The curious thing is that Jesus perceives the touch. Even though the crowd is pressing beside him, surely jostling him as they walk, Jesus perceives the believing touch of a woman whose fingers make contact only with his clothing. Jesus is endlessly aware of those who seek Him and reach out for Him. The story within the story ends as Jesus heals the woman with the hemorrhage. He continues on to bring closure to the other story. No longer is the daughter of Jairus ill. She is dead. But Jesus is clear that if those who love this little girl will only believe, she will be made whole again. And in their presence, he does just that.
Jesus is always moving within the stories of our lives – moving to bring healing and wholeness – moving to draw us in to his circle. Of course, when we are struggling, when we are at the bottom in our disease and dysfunction, it is difficult to believe that Jesus moves in this way. If only we could believe – if only we could reach out even our fingers to touch the cloak. Jesus will know. Jesus is endlessly aware of those who long to make contact with His healing. How far can you stretch out your hand?
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever. Amen.