25 June 2015

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, 5 July 2015

II Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48
Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123

II Corinthians 12:2-10
St. Mark 6:1-13

Background: The Great Schism
The schism between the Eastern Church and the Western Church took many centuries to develop but came to a head in 1054 CE. The issues largely centered on the liturgical/theological issues of the filioque in the Creed (the question as to whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son), the use of unleavened bread in the west, the papal claim to universal jurisdiction, and the role of Constantinople as a patriarchal see. Such issues were not absent political considerations as well such as the presence of the Normans in southern Italy, and their subsequent conquest of that territory. The loss of the loss of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to Muslim forces in 661 CE, and the increase of Constantinopolitan power also added to the political difficulties. Multiple and mutual excommunications further complicated the relationships. It was a long process, but in 1054, the papal legation entered the great church of Hagia Sophia, and placed a bull of excommunication against Cerularius, the Patriarch of Constantinople. It is also said, and this might be more legend than fact, that the papal legation shook the dust off their sandals at the altar of Hagia Sophia prepared for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. With that in your minds, now read the Gospel for today, and struggle to understand this action and the mind of Christ, and the continuing sin of disunity.

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, "Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel." So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Now we meet David on a trajectory following the demise of Saul. The northern tribes, which had been loyal to Saul, now turn to David, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time it was, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in.” In a more realistic view of David’s accession to kingship we see a scene in which leaders come and ask him to lead. The essential part of their argument is his being kin, and his success at defending Israel. However, it is not only them, for the Lord is quoted in the narrative as designating David as “shepherd of my people Israel.” He is anointed again in spite the prior anointing at the hand of Samuel. The final sentence of the lectionary pericope describes the establishment of the City of David. The whole reading serves almost as a subtitle to the continuing narrative about David. Here he is established as king with the traditions and anointings of the northern tribes standing behind him.

Breaking open II Samuel
  1. What do the people treasure about David?
  2. Why was the notion of David “being kin” important?
  3. In what other ways was David a leader?

Psalm 48 Magnus Dominus

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised; *
in the city of our God is his holy hill.

Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion, *
the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels; *
he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled *
and marched forward together.

They looked and were astounded; *
they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there; *
they writhed like a woman in childbirth,
like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,
in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God; *
God has established her for ever.

We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God, *
in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world's end; *
your right hand is full of justice.

Let Mount Zion be glad
and the cities of Judah rejoice, *
because of your judgments.

Make the circuit of Zion;
walk round about her; *
count the number of her towers.

Consider well her bulwarks;
examine her strongholds; *
that you may tell those who come after.

This God is our God for ever and ever; *
he shall be our guide for evermore.

This psalm celebrates the founding of the city of Zion, an effective follow-up to the first Track 1 reading. It is interrupted by verses (4 – 7) that seem to introduce the story of a military adventure. The enemies are confounded by YHWH, and set a standard of performance and power for the city that the psalm celebrates. Quickly the psalm returns to its central focus on the city and the temple. The second to the last verse gives us a clue as to who might be the intended audience of this psalm, “Make the circuit of Zion; walk round about her.” This is a psalm for pilgrims who are drawn to see the City of David, the place where God dwells. There is a generation aspect as well. The pilgrims are asked to discover and explore the city so that they can tell the next generation about it.

Breaking open Psalm 130:
  1. Why was Jerusalem an ideal capital for David?
  2. What kind of message did it send to the people of Israel?
  3. What did David wish to build but couldn’t/


Ezekiel 2:1-5

The Lord said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD." Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

The verbs that crowd the initial verses of this reading describe the call of Ezekiel: stand up, listen, spirit entered, set me on my feet. We can compare the calls of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others and we will sense the same things. Before the Mortal (Ezekiel) can object or note his deficiencies, God notes the deficiencies of Israel: rebels, transgressors, impudent, and stubborn. This is what the prophet will have to address, and it corrects our vision of what prophets really are. God calls Ezekiel to be God’s spokesperson in the here and now of Ezekiel’s time, “they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”

Breaking open Ezekiel:
  1. Why does Ezekiel object to his call?
  2. How does God see Israel as a people?
  3. What are Ezekiel’s job duties?
Psalm 123 Ad te levavi oculos meos

To you I lift up my eyes, *
to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to the LORD our God, *
until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,

Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.

What is the look of dependence or servitude, devotion or admiration? Hopefully several images will come into your mind – for these are the images that the psalmist wants us to effect as we “lift up (our) eyes (to) the dweller in the heavens.” Again it seems to be something of a waiting game, “until God grants us grace.” That we should wait for God’s grace and mercy is not about the waiting but about the effort and the result. And what obstructs us in our waiting? For everyone that waits up and looks up to the Lord, there is another who affects a contempt and smugness – “the scorn of the indolent rich.” Beyond this, the psalm is silent. It is an exercise in expectation and frustration.

Breaking open Psalm 123:
  1. What do you see when you look for God?
  2. What are your emotions when you find something that speaks to you of God?
  3. What does the psalmist have against the rich?
II Corinthians 12:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven-- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person-- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows-- was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations.

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

We are caught up into two visions of Saint Paul here. By vision I do not mean the one of which he boasts of in the first verses of this pericope, but rather a vision of his sense of self. In many respects, he begins to mirror the prophets here. Moses asks for a vision of God, but is spared the actual sight by God’s hand covering the glorious vision as God passed by Moses hiding in the cleft of a rock. We also might think of Ezekiel (see the commentary on the Track 2 first reading) who is known for his visions. What we learn from this vision is not the nature of its content, for that is not shared with us – it is too ineffable. What we do see is Paul’s stance as a prophet, a visionary, and someone close to God. That vision is contrasted with his own weakness. Whatever the “thorn” was, it is not shared with us (just as the ineffable vision is not). What we see is Paul’s weakness, and his boasting of it, for as he hears, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” One wonders, is the Christian life nothing more than a continuum between these two points, in which God is always present? Such a vision of self ought to make us ready not only to wait upon God, but also to accept the conditions and situations in which God meets us.

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. Why does Paul boast?
  2. What about your life in Christ do you boast of?
  3. In what ways are you weak? Strong?

St. Mark 6:1-13

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

In the first of the two pericopes that form the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Mark both completes the prior scene of Jesus’ teaching and marvelous acts. In the second pericope, Mark sets the scene for the ministry that is given to the disciples. The first scene is a rejection of all that has been evidenced before (the teaching and marvelous acts) by family and friends, and by inference, by the religious authorities. The questions in the first pericope are not positive, “Where did this man get all of this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him?” Etc. Jesus responds with a saying, that actually may serve as the purpose and intent behind the narrative, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own home.” Later in the next pericope, Jesus will comment to the disciples on entering a home. Here, however, the rejection is so total, that Jesus looses some power and ability. Usually it is those who witness Jesus’ teachings and marvelous acts who are amazed, but here Jesus is amazed by their unbelief. In their commentary on Mark, Daniel J. Harrington, and John R Donahue remark, “The power of God that works through Jesus seems limited by human resistance.”[1]  A quote from Erich Gräßer is poignant as well, “just as his power is our salvation, so our unbelief is his powerlessness.”[2] All of the actions in the setting see Jesus as a human being, with all the foibles that come with that. He is “Mary’s son”, and what he has taught and marvelously done seems to be at odds with what his kin are expecting of him. Thus Jesus stands in a long line of prophets who have been rejected.

What is the model of the missionary that Jesus proposes to send out? Recently some commentators see in these prescriptions the “wandering cynic” (threadbare cloak, a satchel, a cup and a bowl for begging, and a staff), while others see the disciples in the guise of Israel, simply clad as it leaves the slavery of Egypt – the urgent journey. Some argue that Jesus model for the disciples is to distinguish them from the wandering cynics, thus Jesus allows a staff, but no bread or bag or money, sandals, however are to be worn. The mission itself is vaguely described. We need to look to Q, or Matthew and Luke to see a fuller version. Here there is just urgency, momentum, and a focus on that which is local “stay there (in the house) until you leave the place.” The rules in case of rejection match what is prescribed as deprecation, an act used when returning from Gentile lands. The important directive is to go out as a response to being sent out. Be received, or be rejected – those are the choices. In short, the mission is to travel light and to be prepared for anything. We never talk about failure when we talk about mission. Perhaps we should.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. Why do family and friends reject Jesus?
  2. Have you ever been at odds with your family? What happened?
  3. How do you “travel light”?
 After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2015, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Donahue, J., and Harrington, D, (2002) The Gospel of Mark, Collegeville, The Liturgical Press, page 188.
[2]Gräßer, E, (1972) Jesus in Nazareth, BZNW, Berlin, page 35.

16 June 2015

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, 28 June 2015

II Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24 or
Lamentations 3:21-33 or Psalm 30

II Corinthians 8:7-15
St. Mark 5:21-43

Background: Laments and Dirges
Reading the Track 1 reading from the Hebrew Scriptures my interest in forms were piqued. What is a lament? How is it different from a dirge? Does it even matter? I do think that it matters that we not only explore the context of a writing, but that we know in some way its form as well. What was it that David sang at the death of Saul? Each of these related forms have been used across a wide cultural swath from the Ancient Near East and the Indian subcontinent to the Christian West and beyond. The author of Second Samuel assigns the lament or dirge at the death of Saul to Daveid, yet dirges were usually performed by women. One scholar suggests that the laments of women form the base for what would later become the Illiad. The Laments that we find in the Bible (see Job) usually focus on an Israel or individuals in crisis, but David’s lament follows the crisis – the death of Saul. So the dirge with its peculiar rythms and poetic structure may obtain here, or it may not. Both serve to narrate the events of a great man or woman’s life.

The aspect of the lament that is most cogent here is that it is often a request for divine help. While a dirge may reflect back the great moments of a great life, the lament seems deeply caught in the web of life and its exigencies. Having these insights can help us see the nuance of what David or the virgin woman who laments in Joel or Jeremiah. Perhaps it’s like learning to pray all over again.

II Samuel 1:1, 17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:

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!

If you have skipped it, you might want to go up and read the Background material that directly relates to this reading. It is interesting here that a soon-to-be great leader, the subject of more than one narrative, is here the singer and narrator. That David can sum up the Saul experience in song and dirge, will serve him well as he begins to rule. In his song David relives his own difficulties. In the comment ‘Tell it not in Gath’ David obliquely refers to his own role as a vassal to the King of Gath, and sets a point from which his own kingship, devoted to Israel will derive. In a series of apostrophe (almost solo voce speeches to persons not present) directed not only to Saul, but to the women of Gath, the daughters of Israel, and finally to Jonathan we see the whole context of David and his role in Israel. Some of the history shared in the lament is oblique and implied. ‘How the warriors fallen, and the gear of battle is lost.’ This is how we really learn of the loss of both Jonathan and Saul – and now we are invited into the lament.

Breaking open II Samuel
  1. Why does David grieve the loss of Saul?
  2. Why does David grieve the loss of Jonathan?
  3. Whom have you grieved for? What were your emotions?

Psalm 130 De profundis

Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the LORD, *
for with the LORD there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Is Psalm 130 the unspoken heart of David’s lament? I think that this is a helpful point from which to hear again this popular psalm.  In the incipit of the psalm we hear a reflection of what we saw so amply in last Sunday’s readings. The depths are the waters of the sea, the waters that symbolize death, the waters whose bounds are set by God. Now we can place the author of this psalm in the place from which he sings about his despair, and his request of God. His penitence emerges from this deep psychological place. We often talk about the fear of God, but rarely explain what this really is. Here we learn what precedes this fear of God – forgiveness. The other virtue is one of patience, the verb for “waiting” is repeated often enough for us to realize that this is a valuable behavior for those who would know God, and request God’s forgiveness. What comes with waiting is expectation, and that is mirrored for us in the images of the watchperson, ‘O Israel, wait for the Lord.’

Breaking open Psalm 130:
  1. What do you fear most in life?
  2. Can you handle it alone, or do you need someone else?
  3. What role does God have in your fear?


Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24

God did not make death,
And he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.

God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.

Although we may be led to expect both “Wisdom” and the thoughts of “Solomon”, neither is present here in the way we might imagine. The book originates, most likely, in Alexandria sometime around the cusp of the Common Era. The book is flavored with influences of Jewish apocalyptic, and the oppressions, lately by the Romans,  that had been imposed upon Israel for several centuries. The beginning comments on death move beyond the conventional wisdom about death (that it is a common element of human life) to a statement that “God did not make death.” This may reflect the influence of Persian thought on resurrection – an influence that was discussed and debated even to the time of Jesus. This is a creation positive apologia that contrasts creation and Hades, and then God’s purposes and the devil’s.

Breaking open Wisdom of Solomon:
  1. What is the good news in this passage?
  2. What are your thoughts about death?
  3. In what way are youj “incorruptible”?

Lamentations 3:21-33

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for one to bear
the yoke in youth,
to sit alone in silence
when the Lord has imposed it,
to put one's mouth to the dust
(there may yet be hope),
to give one's cheek to the smiter,
and be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
reject forever.
Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve anyone.

Lamentations is a collection of five poems, four of which are acrostics, which commemorate the invasion and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6. Their purpose is to relate very realistically the events of the destruction of the city. The form that is used is that of lament, dirge, and corporate lament. (You may wish to review the Background materials above). In most laments, there is the hope of rehabilitation, but here such considerations are completely absent. God is silent.

Never-the-less, the opening lines of our reading give us a start, “therefore I have hope,” We meet again the theme of waiting. All is gone. There is no city, there is no society, there is no temple, and all the author invites us to is waiting.  There is however, only silence, and here the author says something that is really remarkable, ‘for the Lord will not reject forever.” We are called into a future of compassion and “steadfast love.”

Breaking open Lamentations:
  1. What were your thoughts when the World Trade Center was destroyed?
  2. From that vantage point can you share the emotions around the destruction of Jerusalem?
  3. What do you do when God is silent?


Psalm 30 Exaltabo te, Domine

I will exalt you, O LORD,
because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O LORD my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

Sing to the LORD, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.

While I felt secure, I said,
"I shall never be disturbed. *
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains."

Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.

I cried to you, O LORD; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

"What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; *
O LORD, be my helper."

You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

This is a psalm of contrasts and bargaining. All of this is centered in death and we are clued in immediately with the phrase, “you have lifted me up.” The Hebrew vocable here is the same word that is used for drawing water from a well, and the image of water does not go unnoticed. Water is the very essence of death for the Hebrew, and so the image of God “drawing up” the author is a symbol of cheating death. Here begin the contrasts, “you restored my life as I was going down to the grave (Sheol).” And so it continues, tears in the evening, joy in the morning. Then the author begins to bargain with God, “what profit is there in my blood, if I go down to Sheol? Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?” The author counts on the realization that God not only engenders life but desires it as well. Unlike the gods who desired the sacrifices burnt on altars as food, it is praise and acknowledgement that YHWH desires. And so the author offers this psalm of thanksgiving to give an offering to the God who has delivered the author from death.

Breaking open Psalm 30:
  1. What other contrasts can you find in the Psalm?
  2. What do you think of the bargain that the psalmist attempts to drive?
  3. What thanksgivings do you owe to God?

II Corinthians 8:7-15

As you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you-- so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something-- now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has-- not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

"The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little."

We continue with our on-going reading from II Corinthians, and we are deep in a discussion of economics that is related largely to the collection for the church in Jerusalem. Paul poses some questions for the Corinthians to answer – how does the “generous act” of Jesus impact your giving? The model that is set up is incredibly high, “yet for your sakes he has become poor.” We might be reminded of Janet Jackson’s question, “what have you done for me lately?” It was not a zero sum project – give all that you have so that others might have – but rather an exercise in equality. The petition from the Our Father is a good example: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” or, we give so that someday someone might meet our needs as well. Paul relies on Jesus’ own model, and this is what he hopes to convince the Corinthians of.

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. What model of giving does Paul offer us?
  2. What was Jesus’ offering?
  3. What do you offer to others?

St. Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." He went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, `Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Several themes emerge here. We continue with stories that contrast purity and impurity, indeed this pericope is preceded by the healing of the Gerasene Demoniac. Other themes are the importance of women, and in this pericope we have a story about two of them. The final theme is the importance of faith. Each of these themes is engaging and leads us to some fundamental understandings about the Reign of God. Both of the women, the daughter of Jairus, because of her age, and the woman with the issue of blood, due to her illness, are really separated not only from society but from “righteousness” as well. Like the demoniac, they could not participate in corporate religious life. Some of this is related to gender and some of this is related to illness. Jesus is invited into both of them.

I say that he is invited into these situations, but the woman’s story is almost intrusive. She risks spreading her impurity to Jesus by touching the hem of his robe. Her impurity is overcome by Jesus’ presence. What Mark wishes to show us here is the Reign of God rushing in on these two situations in which it is visited on a Jewish household, and on a woman who had no hope whatsoever. There is a full compass to these two stories that guides us to see the gradual revelation that Mark makes about Jesus. Jesus brushes against social convention and popular piety and in doing so he shows the radical nature of God’s visitation. Faith makes whole, and it is seen in the lives of women.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What are the impurities of your life?
  2. How does Jesus overcome them?
  3. In what ways have you been “raised up”?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

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.

Questions and comments copyright © 2015, Michael T. Hiller