Monday, June 25, 2012

Death: Ordinary 13, Year B

In Memory by Kirsty Hall
This Week's Lectionary Texts:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 or Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 130 or Psalm 30 or Lamentations 3:23-33
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

This Week's Reflection:
If you are a pastor, maybe you can relate to this. I attend more funerals than one person should and I often hear family members say things like, "Well, it was God's will." Because I am a pastor with a at least a tiny sense of good pastoral care, I usually smile knowingly, hug their necks, and say something like, "May the peace that passes all understanding be with you." It occurs to me that I may lean on this phrase "passes all understanding" because I do not understand it at all. God's will? Really? This is God's will? That we should grow to love others only to have them ripped from this world by death? I can't understand it and I certainly don't want to blame God for it!

So, the passage from the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon which reads, "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living" brings me great comfort and makes more sense to me than "It was God's will."

Skulls 02 by Kirsty Hall
Uncle Pete died this last week. He wasn't really my uncle and in adulthood I must admit that I didn't see him often, but as a child I spent more time with he and his family than with most of my other "real" uncles. Uncle Pete was my dad's best friend and he had been since they were teenagers. At his funeral, his son told me that he had a picture of my father next to the TV so that he could look at Daddy throughout the day. When my father died, Uncle Pete was more distraught than any of us. At Pete's funeral on Friday, my husband mentioned to me David and Jonathan. Not surprising to find that the reading from 2 Samuel for this upcoming Sunday is David's lamenting Jonathan's death. "How the mighty have fallen." No passages about God needing Jonathan in heaven or God's will being fulfilled. Just good and honest grief over his best friend's death.

I still grieve my father's death. I want him here laughing with us again. There is comfort in knowing that he is alive, made whole again in eternity, and that he and Uncle Pete are reunited. That is what I give God credit for - resurrection, life, light in the midst of darkness.

Healing of Bleeding Woman depicted in catacombs of Rome
Jairus had a 12 year old daughter who was very sick (from the Mark text for this week) and marched up to Jesus and asked for help. On the other hand, a woman whose name we do not know, sneaked up through the crowd to simply touch Jesus' clothes. She had been bleeding for the entire time that Jairus' daughter had been living. She was at her wits end and felt she had only one last shot at being made whole again. And, she was right. The Giver of Life provided her with healing, with health and wholeness. In other words, he brought her back to life - because she was an outcast unable to live the life she had dreamed for herself, being shunned because she was unclean - lonely and lonesome, broken and abused. This healing, this stoppage of bleeding, made her whole again, brought her back to life. In the meantime, the wealthy man's daughter died and all seemed lost, but not so with Jesus. He walks up to her and tells her to get up . . . and . . . she did! Life from death, wholeness from brokenness, light from dark.

Beloved by Linda Crossan
Death. That seems to be the theme in this week's lectionary texts. Is it time to talk about how the Church seems to be on life support and needs a miracle? Is it time to address a congregation's brokenness? Is it a day to ask for healing? Is it time to stop just talking about resurrection and actually experience it? (See 2 Corinthians passage.) Whatever we choose to focus upon, may we not simply smile and nod and give pat answers. May we call out death for the evil that it is. May we seek healing from the only one who can give it. May we celebrate resurrection. May we proclaim The Giver of Life! And, may we live into that life with everything that we are.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You Can't Judge a Shrub by its Seed: Ordinary Time 11, Year B

This Week's Lectionary Texts:
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 20 or Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13), 14-17
Mark 4:26-34

This Week's Reflection
Albert Bridge via Wikimedia Commons
I read a lot and over a year ago I made the leap to using an e-reader which I won't name for trademark reasons, but it rhymes with spindle. One thing I have found that I miss in using such a device - beyond the sheer joy of turning pages - is the book cover. I love the covers of books! The old adage is absolutely true that you can't (necessarily) judge a book by its cover, but I do anyway. Back in the days of yore when I would actually shop for books in a bookstore, I was overwhelmed with joy in simply walking the aisles and looking at the covers. (Boys and girls, a "book store" is like Amazon's book section, but with actual physical books that you could browse, touch, smell, feel, and determine whether or not you would buy it and take it home.)

When I read the lectionary passages for this week, one of the things that crossed my mind was that phrase, "You can't judge a book by its cover." In the 1 Samuel text, Samuel is sent out by God to name the new king after Saul had gotten on God's last nerve. So, he calls everyone together including Jesse and his sons. I get the impression that Jesse knew why they were there. Or, maybe there were rituals surrounding the sacrifice that I don't understand. Either way, Jesse presents his sons to Samuel one by one starting with the oldest and the one who seemed most "king-like." Whatever Jesse thought was going on that day, he didn't even bother to bring David with him. Someone had to look after the sheep and he was the most logical choice being the youngest, smallest, and least likely to be chosen for much of anything.
Shepard Fairey’s Trayvon Martin art commission for Ebony Magazine

Isn't it hilarious how God almost always turns things upside down? Of course, anyone who attended Sunday school even a handful of times knows that David was the choice for king and that his outward appearance had very little to do with his ability to do so when God called him to such a task.

Paul is just as clear in his writing to the folks in Corinth. In the same way that God told Samuel to not judge by what was on the outside, Paul very plainly states that as Christians, our primary focus is what is on the inside - our spiritual nature - rather than what is on the outside - our physical nature. This includes our bodies, but also other outward appearances like our cars, houses, clothes, etc.

Finally, Jesus himself brings the point home with that strange little tale about the smallest of small seeds. In other words, "You can't judge a shrub by its seed."