Archive for the ‘Fortieth Bundle’ Category

MARK 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 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.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The hemorrhaging woman, whom we are taking to represent the action-oriented aspect of faith, had great obstacles to overcome on her way to Jesus. First, the status of females in those days discouraged women from approaching men publicly with their intentions and requests.

Second, this particular woman was suffering from an issue of blood, which would have qualified her as an “untouchable” in first-century society. Her medical status as unclean therefore compounded her social status as the inferior gender to make her challenge all the greater.

Finally, add to this the further complication of the pressing crowd round about Jesus and you have a significant obstacle course for her faith, indeed!

This woman had every reason to abandon the task of getting to Jesus. Societal barriers, the burden of her illness, and the thick mob in the way – all of these together, not to mention just one of them alone, were enough to defeat her hopes of being made well. Except that her hopes were anchored in a determination to have her need answered, and that power is second only to the power of God’s determination to save.

When she had successfully achieved her goal in reaching Jesus and touching his clothes, he turned and confirmed her salvation (healing) by attributing it to her faith. True, redemption came from beyond her, but she had to reach out to make it her own.

And therein lies the lesson of the story. As the little girl who could only wait for the gift of life from beyond her, so does our salvation depend utterly on the generosity of God. And as the resourceful woman who pushed her way through every obstacle in order to reach Jesus, so it is necessary for us to make the effort and leap into God.

MARK 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 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.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

We introduced the possibility that the little girl and the woman in this story are really – that is, symbolically – two aspects of a deeper complex. As the “inner child” of the woman, the little girl awaits the gracious gift of health in the healing touch of Jesus. As the helpless and dependent part, all she can do is wait in expectant surrender.

As the “grownup” in the story the woman takes responsibility for her health, in getting to what she hopes will be the source of her recovery. She cannot simply wait for Jesus, but needs rather go out and find him. Two aspects: one that depends absolutely on the grace from beyond, and the other that determines to do whatever it takes to get healthy again. What we have here are the two sides of faith – faith as a complete and total release to the Divine beyond us, and faith as the planted foot that leverages our leap into that beyond.

The aspect of faith that we might think of as passive is less understood in our busy, action-oriented, and somewhat superficial culture today than ever before. This idea of inward release in trust to God as the ground of our existence and meaning is hard to grasp for those of us who have been shaped in our thinking by a philosophy that ascribes reality only to things tangible, measurable, and subject to definition. We can manage trust in God as a being, located apart from and above us in the order of existence. But can we entrust ourselves to God as the essential ground of our being? In this case, we don’t go out to meet God but constantly rely on and rest in the Divine.

MARK 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 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.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Looking closely we can see what appears to be a double-image, of the little girl needing the healing touch of Jesus on one side, and the desperate woman reaching out to touch his clothes in hopes of being restored to health on the other.

We are encouraged to this view by the technique used by the storyteller, called sandwiching, where the full cycle of one episode (the one with Jairus’ sick daughter) is interrupted and implanted with a second episode (the one with the hemorrhaging woman). As can only be done in the narrative art of storytelling, a complex and multi-layered image is focused on the retina of the reader’s imagination as a single truth.

First, we notice the extremity of need on the part of both the little girl and the woman swamped in medical bills. They are each at hope’s end. Further, we are told that the woman, for her part, had been suffering for twelve long years, and that the sickly little girl was herself twelve years old. You can pass it off as incidental, or you can take it as one more bit of resonance between these seemingly separate character, to reinforce the truth of their deeper identity.

We sometimes speak of our “inner child,” the still present core of innocence, dependency, and need that lives within each of us. The little girl would thus be the inner child of the woman who is making her way to Jesus.

2 CORINTHIANS 8:7-15

Now 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. 10 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— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 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 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 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.”

Our sense of justice when we are very young is centered in our notions of fairness. To be “fair,” all of us around the table needed to get an equal-sized piece of the pie. To be “fair,” everyone needed to get what they deserved (which sometimes worked against us personally). Even after we’ve grown up this early sense of justice continues with us, to shape and condition our adult views of work, wealth, and social equality.

To guess what must have been going on behind the scene there in Corinth, we might suspect that some church members were complaining over the unfairness of having to share their hard-earned wealth with the distant and faceless poor across the sea in Jerusalem. It just didn’t seem right that they should be obligated with charity for people they didn’t even know, and who probably didn’t deserve it anyway.

But Paul held their opinions and excuses against the greatest paradigm of charity the world had ever witnessed – the self-emptying generosity of God revealed in Jesus Christ, who gave everything for the sake of our salvation. What are your meager possessions when compared with the redemptive self-sacrifice made by Jesus on your behalf? What right do you have to withhold your wealth and love from the anonymous poor, when God so loves all of us – maybe especially the poor – with a charity so undeserved that even you fall short of its measure? Grow up!

2 CORINTHIANS 8:7-15

Now 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. 10 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— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 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 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 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.”

Besides his missionary task of planting Christian communities (churches) throughout the Greek-speaking regions of the Mediterranean world, the apostle Paul also worked diligently to bring a collection from his start-up congregations to the mother church in Jerusalem. As Christianity’s first real inner-city mission, the financial needs of the Jerusalem church were constantly overwhelming the resources of church members. The first mission to the poor and sick, the precursor to our shelters and hospitals, was here in Jerusalem, and Paul sought to enlist the worldwide Christian community in its support.

We can hear a bit of impatience in Paul’s appeal to the Corinthian Christians. The later proverb which states that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” carries his caution nicely. “What you talked about doing last year needs to be completed now,” he advises, “because talk is cheap and safe and easy. Now is the time to act and make a real difference for the kingdom.” 

It seems these Christians were suffering from an ailment that frequently hampers the purpose of God still today: complacency. When we lose the compassion that is the underlying drive of all redemptive justice and social concern, we render ourselves effectively useless to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

PSALM 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

Although David was personally acquainted with King Saul’s corruption, he never asked God to eliminate him from the field, however much simpler and more peaceful that would have made his own life. He understood from experience that God desires faithfulness and full devotion to the purposes we’re called to, but that God also is enough aware of our internal conflicts and external challenges to not expect that we will consistently perform even to a fraction of our capacity. In other words, David knew God to be forgiving, always ready to pick up and try again, to move on and get past the past.

Because God forgives – not conditionally as the reward for genuine repentance, but unconditionally as an act of astounding and undeserved generosity – even old Saul couldn’t be dismissed as beyond hope of redemption. In fact, if we should push this line of thinking to its obvious conclusion, then we would need to restrain our moral impulse to judge the scoundrels and miscreants of the world as worthy only of hell.

God forgives because He perceives the deep and enduring worth in even the most wayward of us. Besides, as the psalmist says, if God should mark iniquities, then who could stand? It’s our tendency to excuse our own sins with a quick reference to the other side of the tracks where others are doing far worse and truly reprehensible things.

2 SAMUEL 1:1, 17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.

17 David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18 (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:

19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
    How the mighty have fallen!
20 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.

21 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.

22 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.

23 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.

24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
    who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
    who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25 How the mighty have fallen
    in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
26     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.

27 How the mighty have fallen,
    and the weapons of war perished!

We might well wonder what David is up to here, mourning with such deep anguish the death of Saul and his son, Jonathan. Jonathan we can understand, for his friendship with David had been strong and bound with a vow of everlasting trust and honor. But Saul? Hadn’t this king been on David’s heels for months, seeking his life out of jealousy for David’s popularity and obvious talents?

A number of psalms were very possibly composed during the period that David was fleeing Saul’s wrath, and the desperate cry for shelter and salvation we hear in them leaves us somewhat dumbfounded that David could have had any affection left for Saul at all.

In the story of David’s call and rise to power, we encounter a constant refrain when it comes to his appraisal of Saul – still king but wholly obsessed with destroying this Chosen One who had been anointed by the judge and prophet Samuel to be his successor.

David has nothing but respect for the mad king, not for his personality and demeanor but for the fact that he was also God’s anointed. His belief in the sovereign will and providential plan of God was so deep as to inspire his loyalty to Saul, even though Saul was his greatest enemy. David knew that Saul had a place in God’s plan for Israel, and he treated him with the highest respect because he trusted so fully in God.