Reading Ramblings – June 28, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – June 28, 2015

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

Context: The Old Testament, Psalm, and Gospel lessons today work together around a theme of patience and trusting in the Lord. In a culture where we expect instantaneous gratification and response, where any little delay chafes us and makes us irritable, we are called to faithfulness in God’s plan of salvation wherein we are not the main characters. We are part of His story and His glory.

Lamentations 3:22-33 – After two chapters depicting the suffering and destruction of God’s people in general and the holy city of Jerusalem, chapter 3 takes on a more personal tone. The beginning of this chapter is a brutal depiction of a man in the midst of great and horrific suffering in every sense of the word. Our section for this morning is a call to perseverance in the face of trial and suffering of the worst kind, culminating with the strong assertion that whatever suffering we must endure for this span of time, our suffering will not last forever. In the Lord there is not only the hope of deliverance but the assurance of it. Whether it comes in the time and fashion we would prefer or not is irrelevant. The Lord will deliver us! We would say that this has been fulfilled with Jesus’ death and resurrection, though we will not experience the fullness of our deliverance until He comes again in power and glory.

Psalm 30 – This is a psalm of thanksgiving for the Lord’s deliverance, for the temporal fulfillment of the promises mentioned in Lamentations. The speaker recounts his rescue by the Lord (verses 1-2) and exhorts the assembly to join with him in praise (verses 4-5) because the Lord’s anger with his creation is not forever. As such, we are sometimes prone to pride, assuming that our blessings are within our own power (verse 6). Yet it is the Lord who provides such blessings, and who sometimes removes them, perhaps to call us to proper praise of him (verse 7). In the midst of our sufferings we remember that God has mastery over all things, even death itself, and we call to him for help knowing that He has assured it in advance (verses 8-10). As such we give him praise, praise that is not as temporary as our blessings and life here and now, but eternal praise, fit for the promised eternal blessings of our God (verses 11-12).

2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15 – It is the privilege of the Christian to share one another’s burdens. We lift up prayers for our brothers & sisters in the faith who suffer, but we also take seriously the privilege of providing material assistance as possible. We have any number of ways of doing this, and Christians remain the most generous people in terms of an outpouring of assistance in times of natural disaster and other crises. We should also take this seriously in terms of local Christian community. This means not only a willingness to give of our blessings, but also the humility to be honest about our needs. Culturally we are conditioned to be self-sufficient and we see financial and other physical struggles almost as a moral shortcoming. While sometimes this may be the case, it is the Christian’s privilege to stand with one another and support one another, knowing that our brothers & sisters in Christ should stand ready to come to our aid when necessary.

Keeping a balance is important. Sending all of our gifts and donations overseas might be laudable, unless it results in us being stingy with the people that we know here around us. Likewise excessive focus on local needs to the exclusion of international needs demonstrates a narrowness of vision that prevents us from seeing the Body of Christ in a fuller sense.

Mark 5:21-43 – Several accounts of waiting and deliverance. Jairus desperately wants Jesus to come and heal his daughter. The woman with the flow of blood has suffered for years and years. In each case faithful perseverance results in unexpected deliverance. A massive crowd accompanies them, yet it is only the faith of Jairus and the unnamed woman that are detailed. How easy it is to be a spectator, to gawk even from close quarters, to film on our iPhones rather than engaging with our Lord in prayer and supplication and faith!

Both of the healings are dramatic and public, even though the details are hidden from view. The woman merely touches the hem of Jesus’ robe and is healed. Yet He does not allow her to slink away, but rather calls her out, so that all might know of her healing and that He is the source of it. Likewise none of the mourners are allowed to witness Jesus with the dead daughter of Jairus, but it is clear to everyone afterwards that He is the source of her restoration. To ensure that there could be no confusion, that the girl’s body was not stolen and a conjured spirit sent out to the assembled crowd Jesus orders that they give her food to eat. Her restoration is every bit as full and complete as the woman in the crowd., though the girl herself cannot be said to participate in her restoration at all.

This is important. We might be tempted to focus on the faith of those involved as the reason for healing and restoration. Yet the woman seems to act more out of desperation than clear faith in Jesus. She has lost everything in pursuit of her health, and she has nothing to lose by reaching out and risking castigation for touching Jesus’ clothing (which would make him ritually unclean). As for the little girl, she is passive, a recipient of the goodness of God’s grace so that God might be glorified and the person and work of the Son of God demonstrated to have the power of God in word and deed. It is God’s grace and goodness that should be highlighted in each of these stories, rather than glorifying an individual’s faith.

Yet there is to be commended in each situation a tenacity and trust. The woman is willing to risk disappointment once again. She is willing to try Jesus. Likewise Jairus is willing to trust Jesus when he is told not to be afraid and to believe. It is only the faith of desperation, the faith of last resort, the faith as small as a mustard seed which receives the blessings and promises of God. It is the faith that knows even itself as inadequate that throws itself fully on the mercy and promises of God.

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