The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, 1 July 2018

Track One:
II Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130


Track Two:
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33, or Psalm 30

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

Background: Lament

In both Tracks for this proper we have examples of the lament. Laments were either said, but most usually sung as a poem or in song form. Often the lament is an expression of loss either through personal misfortune or loss in death. The oldest laments we know of were formed in Sumer with The Lament for Sumer and Ur. We see them in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and they are known in a great deal of literature from the Ancient Near East. Laments seem to have been the special provenance of women, who performed them in song and in moaning. We know them in the Hebrew Scriptures in Lamentations, the Book of Job, and in some of the psalms (see Psalm 3or 44) as well. In the Hebrew Scriptures laments are often addressed to God, a cry for justice or recompense for individuals, or for the nation.

Track One:

First Reading: 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!

One understands why the intervening verses of this pericope have been elided due to the length of the reading, but it is a sad loss. If the intent of the lectio continuain Track One is to tell the story, then this is an example of where important aspects of the story are left behind. The background of this reading is a chiasm, David has struck down Amalek, and an Amalekite has struck down Saul. This is what leads up to the lament that David sings over Saul, and especially Jonathan. This is a telling mark of the lament – that it happens in the moment as a reaction to a significant event. 

David’s lament is full of political irony. In I Samuel 27, we understand David to have been a vassal to the King of Gath. Now in his lament, David, filled with sorrow over the death of Saul and Jonathan, sings “Tell it not in Gath,” not wanting the Philistine daughters to know of the death of these men, and to sing not a lament but a hymn of victory. This is the first of several apostrophe (Tell it not in Gath, O hills of Gilboa, O daughters of Israel) that bring our focus to what has been lost. Thus, Gath = Israel, Gilboa = Saul and Jonathan, and finally, Daughters = Jonathan. There is a great deal of poetic freedom here. “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided.” Such was hardly the truth since the both were estranged from one another. Laments are gracious, however. It is in the apostrophe devoted to Jonathan that we see David’s emotions regarding Jonathan, “a brother,” “your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”The lament ends as it began with a vision of the fallen mighty.

Breaking open Psalm II Samuel:
  1. What have been the big sorrows in your life?
  2. To where did you direct your grief?
  3. How did your faith comfort you?

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.

The psalter describes this as a psalm of ascents, but it is really a penitential psalm. It does describe an ascension from the depths to forgiveness. The depths symbolize to us the depths of the sea, in other words death – the death that results from our sinning. Here God is depicted as one who watches upon the wall – looking for the enemy. The psalmist moves from the individual sinner who might be noted by God to a more universal prospect, “O Lord, who could stand?” At this question, the psalmist moves to the opposite point – to the forgiveness which rests in God. Thus, we wait, just as the watcher on the wall waits (and just as God waits, looking upon the people God has called). In verse 6 we move from an individual penitence to a more general penitence, “O Israel, wait for the Lord.”There are reasons given for such a stance and patience, ‘for with the Lord there is mercy.” 

Breaking open Psalm 130:
  1. What depths have you known?
  2. How did you rise above them?
  3. What do you do when you confront them again?


Track Two

First Reading: 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.

Written sometime either immediately before or immediately after the birth of Jesus (perhaps 30 BCE), this book displays the influence of Greek culture in Jewish writing. Composed in Alexandria, it is a product of the Diaspora, and displays the tensions of Jews and Gentiles in Egypt. In its initial chapters, and in this pericope it attempts to apply wisdom to a contrast of the righteous and the wicked. 

The author departs from conventional biblical wisdom in the belief that “God did not make death.” There is however an assignment of death to the unrighteous, “but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.” The righteous, however are immortal. “God created us for incorruption.”These hints of innocence link this reading to this morning’s Gospel and to the innocents that a relieved of their suffering.

Breaking open both readings from the Wisdom of Solomon:
  1. Where is there death in your life?
  2. Where is life in the midst of difficult things?
  3. How might you yet be reborn?

Response: 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 for ever.
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.

This reading comes from the third of five poems that comprise the book of Lamentations, “A Supplicant’s Confidence in the Covenant.” Unlike the first two poems that focus on women and children, this poem is sung with a male voice. It continues the focus on hardship and suffering seen in the first two. It is a typical lament psalm, moving between grievance and praise. The psalm begins with the statement of a grievance, “I am one who has known affliction under the rod of God’s anger.” You may want to read through the initial versesof the poem to see the contrast of these two aspects of the poem. Our pericope is filled with praise verses calling to mind the mercy of God. These verses balance out the sorrow of the first part of the poem and become a dialogue that is at the center of any believer’s relationship with God. When we realize that this material was written in remembrance of Jerusalem’s destruction in 587 BCE, we can understand the full spectrum of emotion displayed there.

Breaking open Lamentations 3:
  1. If you have any grievance against God what is it?
  2. How will you resolve this?
  3. What praise do you have for God?


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.
     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,
10    "What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
11    Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
Lord, be my helper."
12    You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
13    Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

This is a thanksgiving psalm. In it the author rejoices in a restoration of health by a merciful God. The psalm has five sections:

1.     Verses: 1-3 – Thanksgiving
2.     Verses 4-5 – Others are invited to give thanks
3.     Verses 7-8 – The crisis recalled
4.     Verses 9-11 – A restatement of the petition
5.    Verses 12-13 – Praise

There is a bit of bargaining, worthy of Abraham’s contention with God at Sodom. “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you?There are also several contrasting word pairs that emphasize the dialogue of the poem: anger/favor, moment/lifetime, weeping/joy, night/morning, mourning/dancing, sackcloth/clothed with joy, silence/praise. It is a very human expression of what it means to be in relationship with God.

Breaking open Psalm 30:
  1. Have you ever bargained with God?
  2. What was the bargaining about?
  3. What eventually happened?

Second Reading: IICorinthians 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.”

The theme and mood change dramatically with this reading, so much so that some have suggested that chapters 8 and 9 really comprise a different letter from Paul. At the very least, there is a change of subject to “sacrificial living.” The Corinthians had agreed to providing help to the Macedonians, and now Paul wants to make certain that the Corinthians follow through with what they had promised. So, he teaches a lesson on giving. His first example is “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ,”which is followed by the contrast of Jesus being rich, yet becoming “for your sakes” poor. Paul wants them to balance two things, their abundance and the need of the other (a lesson for our own time as well.) 

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. How has God been generous to you?
  2. Whom do you know has real needs?
  3. How have you been generous?

The Gospel: 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.” So, 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.

What follows the incident on the sea (last Sunday’s Gospel), is a series of healings, each with marginalized people: the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20), the woman with the issue of blood, and the young daughter of the leader of the synagogue. Each of these represents a group of people that might have been passed by. The technique is similar to that used in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. There are implicit reasons for walking by (here mental illness, a woman with a flow of blood – a double indemnity, and a young girl with no social standing). Jesus pushes all of this aside and makes life possible for these individuals. Jesus calls forth a true sense of human values in these healing stories – the demoniac, once healed, wishes to follow Jesus, but Jesus sends him out to tell the message. The woman has the value of courage and asks, in faith, for healing. The young girl simply follows the command, “Talitha cum”, she gets up, she walks. If I were preaching on this Sunday, I would be tempted to enlarge the Gospel reading, and use all three of these poignant examples. They lead us to a question of mission and ministry. Who needs to hear the message?

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What needs calming in your life?
  2. What storms do you see in the lives of others?
  3. What kind of prayer can you make for calm and peace?

Point of Departure:                      Who might they (the demoniac, the woman, and the daughter) be in our time/experience? (Gospel)

Proposition 1:                                A look back at the Gerasene Demoniac and looking forward to a ministry to the mentally ill. (The Dialogue in Psalm 30 or 130)

Proposition 2:                                What is our ministry to women? What are the tough issues of faith and reality that may hinder it?

Proposition 3:                                How do we restore a future to our youth? Where do we find our youth (if they are not already present in our midst)?

Proposition 4:                                What is our wealth – what assets do we have that can be employed for others? (Second Reading)

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 © 2018, Michael T. Hiller


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