Reading Ramblings – July 1, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 1, 2018

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

Context: What a counter-cultural thought we get in Lamentations 3:27! It is good that a man should learn suffering in his youth? If there’s one thing our culture seems intent on eliminating, it’s any notion of suffering, particularly in our children. The eras of helicopter parenting and tiger moms insists that our children should experience only unmitigated success and accomplishment, and anything that might make them unhappy should be eliminated if at all possible. Yet the Holy Spirit says that learning to suffer when younger is actually good for us, as in this process we learn the Lord’s faithfulness, and learn to anticipate that when difficulties come He is with us and will lead us through them. The readings focus on the Lord’s ability to deliver and save even when hope appears to be lost. We place our hope in God and teach ourselves through practice and experience that He is good and that He loves us in spite of our condition, rather than by promising us nothing but an easy life.

Lamentations 3:22-33 – The emphasis of this section is the Lord’s faithfulness to us. He is always good, always loving. We might like to imagine this means He will preserve us from anything unpleasant, but that would be a rather peculiar form of love in our broken and sinful world. Rather, He uses the suffering of the world as a means of teaching us to rely on him, to wait upon him and his deliverance. For this reason we do not give up hope even when things are unpleasant or difficult. We are to trust in God’s intrinsic nature of love and mercy. It is this mercy and love that leads him to rescue us so that we are not cast off forever (v.31) even if our temporary conditions are dire. We see his love best for us not in trying to discern his unseen hand or motive in the events of our lives, but rather in the life and death, the resurrection and ascension and promised return of his Son on our behalf.

Psalm 30 – A psalm of praise and confidence and trust in God, who has delivered the speaker from dire circumstances. He recounts in general terms his condition in verses 1-3, which God has saved him from, before extolling the assembly to join him in praising God (vs.4-5). Suffering comes, but it does not last. It cannot for those who are in God. However this confidence can be misplaced, as verse 6 seems to indicate. When things are going well for us we are convinced that nothing can ever change, and perhaps our good fortune is something we put our faith and trust in rather than God. God may be the source of our blessing but He can and will remove that blessing as well if we begin to make assumptions about our blessings and our relationship with him (v.7). The psalm both acknowledges suffering or want and acknowledges God as the ultimate one who can and will deliver from these adversities.

2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15 – Paul now turns more explicitly to his hopes that the Corinthians will show zeal in their generosity. Paul is gathering a collection for the relief of those suffering from famine in Jerusalem. Towards this end he holds up the Macedonians as an example, because they gave generously even though they did not have much to give from. Paul also compliments the Corinthians, knowing that they will undoubtedly respond to his request and he practically has no need to even ask. He doesn’t ask for them to put themselves in a bad situation (v.13), but rather to give from their plenty so that those with little can have enough to survive. Christian charity has always sought to respond in this way, giving from the abundance God has given for the relief of those who for whatever reason are in need.

Mark 5:21-43 – One might be tempted to ask why God had let the woman suffer for so long, through so much, with her bleeding affliction. Or why He allowed Jairus’ daughter to grow sick and die. We often ask such questions when faced with tragedy, whether our own or someone else. Yet God uses both these situations to his glory and to the glory of his Son. In all situations we can pray to attune ourselves so that God will be glorified to those around us, even in the midst of suffering and loss. This may seem ridiculous and naive to others. But God is God, and can do as He pleases, even reversing what seems like the finality of a long-term affliction or even death. There is nothing beyond his power, nothing that we should be afraid to pray from him. We leave the solution in his hands, trusting in his wisdom to respond in the best possible way. But how often are we inclined to not even ask, as the conclusion already seems foregone?

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