Ramblings for 7/1/12

Reading
Ramblings

Date: July 1, 2012, Fifth
Sunday after Pentecost

Texts:
Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; Mark
5:21-43

Contextual
Notes:
We remain in the longest season of the Church
Year, the non-festival season of Ordinary Time. Except for a few
other festival Sundays, Ordinary Time will continue until the
beginning of Advent. This time of the liturgical year focuses us on
the work of the Holy Spirit and the Church in light of the
resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. The readings will not
always neatly line up together to form a common theme, but the Gospel
and the Old Testament readings will normally support one another.

Lamentations 3:22-33: If
you want to get a true feel for the majesty of these verses, read the
first 21 verses of Lamentations 3. What a study in contrasts! Here
is a man who sees God as set against him, the source of all his
struggles and woes, a relentless enemy that brings nothing but pain
and suffering into his life. Yet it is this man who is able to
proclaim the steadfast goodness of the Lord, to assure others that
the Lord is good, that the Lord alone is the source of hope. What a
powerful call to faith and trust. To see that whatever happens in
our lives, the Lord remains our source of hope and joy – what a
counter-intuitive thing! If the Lord is not these things, who
or what else could we possibly put hope and trust in?

Psalm 30: This Psalm
tracks very well with the themes from Lamentations. The Lord is our
hope in all things and all situations. We see several rises and
falls in fortune in this Psalm. It begins with the speaker affirming
that the Lord has already done wonderful things for them. In
the face of adversity, God came through to deliver the speaker (vs.
1-3). Verses 4-5 are exhortations to worship, to acknowledge that in
each of our lives, God has fulfilled this role of sustaining us in
the midst of adversity. Verse 6 begins a turn – the speaker had
been overconfident in the Lord’s rescue, assuming that because of the
Lord’s deliverance, the speaker’s good fortune could not change. But
he was wrong – that what the Lord gives the Lord can also take
away. In which case, the proper reaction is not to reject the Lord
but to appeal all the more to the Lord (vs.8-10). That so long as we
live, we are able to proclaim the glory of God and to tell of what He
has done for us to others. Verses 11-12 bring everything to
conclusion – regardless of the outcome, regardless of whether the
current adversity is resolved properly, the speaker praises God and
acknowledges that already his mourning has turned to gladness. Not
necessarily because God has already answered his pleas, but because
God is God. God is worthy of praise regardless of our momentary
circumstances.

2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15:
We remember that the Epistle readings for most of Ordinary Time do
not related directly to the Gospel and Old Testament readings, but
rather represent an effort to simply read through large sections of
Scripture consecutively. We return to 2 Corinthians and an
exhortation from Paul to the Corinthian church to be bold in their
giving for the relief of the suffering of the faithful elsewhere. To
frame this encouragement, Paul reports what the church in Macedonia
has done, how eager those Christians have been to share in the relief
of other Christians. Not because they were rich and it was
comfortable and easy to do so, but because even in their poverty,
they wanted to be a part of such an undertaking (vs. 2-3). Paul is
very bold to encourage the Corinthians in their giving (vs. 6ff).
Not because this is required of them (vs.8), but because it befits
their faithfulness. It is a sign of their faithfulness, even if it
is not a required demonstration of that faith. Jesus always serves
as our example in these sorts of matters (vs. 9). We give not
because someone asks us or we feel guilty or compelled to give, but
because Jesus was willing to give all He had and all He was for us.
Compared to this, what are a few dollars given to those in need?

Paul
also clarifies – he is not making a general encouragement for
wealth redistribution (vs. 13-15). We give not out of guilt for what
we have been blessed with, but because there is actual need that
should be redressed. Even when it hurts us to give some, we do so in
mind of the greater need of others. Paul does not rebuke the
Corinthians for their comparative wealth, but this passage as a whole
reminds them of their true wealth in Jesus Christ, which enables them
to be generous with others. I suspect that there are some good
principles for you and I to consider in this respect still today!

Mark 5:21-43:
After last week’s excursion into Luke in honor of John the Baptist,
we return to our primary Gospel source for this year, Mark. The
reading for today is in two parts, dealing with an unexpected healing
and a resurrection. Mark is recounting the works of Jesus in rapid
fire succession. After almost three chapters recounting some of
Jesus’ teaching, Mark returns to accounting for the miracles of
Jesus. Since the beginning of Mark Jesus has demonstrated his
ability and willingness to heal and cast out demons, but this is the
first account of Jesus raising the dead to life. Combined with the
calming of the waves at the end of Chapter 4, Jesus has now
demonstrated his mastery over all the powers that most frighten us –
the natural world around us with it’s unpredictable and devastating
power, evil spirits, sickness and disease, and now death itself.
Jesus demonstrates his power and authority over each of these aspects
of the curse from Genesis 3, constant reminders to us that all is not
as it should be and that none of us are immune or safe from the
effects of the curse.

The
woman in the crowd and Jairus both demonstrate great faith. After
years of suffering, the woman is able to trust that God can heal her
through Jesus. She demonstrates the faith in action of someone well
acquainted with Psalm 30 and Lamentations 3. Her faith remains,
regardless of years of suffering. Her hope has remained in the Lord,
and she is willing to risk severe chastisement (since she is ritually
unclean, being in a crowd and touching Jesus’ clothing are both
forbidden) that the Lord might heal her. Jairus has come to Jesus
despite knowing that his daughter is practically dead. One woman
suffers for 12 years before receiving healing, the girl lives for 12
years before dying and being resurrected by Jesus.

There
are plenty of things we could ask questions about. Was Jesus really
confused as to who had touched him in the crowd? I doubt it. But He
gave the woman the opportunity to present herself not only to him but
to everyone else. He gave her the opportunity to legitimize herself
and to give witness to the Lord’s care and compassion for her even
after her long years of suffering. On the other hand, Jesus demands
that those who know about the girl’s resurrection keep quiet. The
Holy Spirit is working powerfully through Jesus, but it is not yet
time for his suffering and death, and He frequently commands people
to remain silent about the wonders performed through him. Note that
Jesus commands that they feed her – to demonstrate that she truly
is alive and not an apparition.

Our
Lord has power over all things and all situations. Nothing is beyond
his power. We are to rest in this, to trust this. Not simply so
that things will go the way we would like them to, but because there
is no place else to rest. No other source of power or comfort or
hope. No other source of peace in the midst of suffering and loss.
No other source of redress for the wrongs the world and our own
sinfulness inflict on us and those we love. Our God knows us, has
created us, has sacrificed his only Son for us, and has promised us
that whether our prayers are answered as we hope in this life or not,
we look forward to an eternity of joy in his presence. Our prayers
can and should always be tempered with “not
my will be done, but yours”
,
knowing that our God knows what is best more than we ourselves do.  

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