Being Where We Are Supposed To Be

A sermon for Proper 12; 2 Samuel 11:1-15, Psalm 14, Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21

When Samuel grows old Israel tells him “You are old, and your sons do not follow in your ways” (1 Samuel 8:5), which is a reminder of Eli’s disastrous sons. The elders ask Samuel to appoint a “king to govern us, like other nations.” Samuel seeks God’s guidance. God tells him to solemnly warn them, about ways of the kings. Samuel tells them “The king who will reign over you:

  • will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;
  • he will appoint for himself commanders and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
  • he will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
  • he will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards
  • he will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards
  • he will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work.
  • he will take one-tenth of your flocks You shall be his slaves. (1 Samuel 8:5-19)

The people didn’t care so the Lord tells Samuel, “…set a king over them.” (1 Samuel 8:22). Saul is anointed; it begins well enough, but it ends badly. David is anointed as Saul’s successor and after a brutal civil war becomes king over all Israel. In the last few weeks, we have heard about David’s success in establishing Israel, Jerusalem, and himself.

You have seen those string of firecrackers where one fuse is twisted around the next, so when it goes bang, it lights the next fuse which goes bang and so on. Well, there is a firecracker string effect in the story of David’s rape of Bathsheba (Bratt).

David is not where he should be (Brooks). It is spring, the typical time for military campaigning in the ancient Near East. While kings did not always go it is customary for them to accompany their armies (Keener and Walton). David does not go to the siege of Rabbah (Birch), so he is at home and sees Bathsheba, he rapes her, then he involves his commander in the murder of her husband, to cover up his sin. Bathsheba is in her rightful place. The ritual bath David sees is required by Levitical law as part of a ritual cleansing rite in order to return to temple worship (Brooks; Keener and Walton). It is unlikely that David does not know her (Keener and Walton). David is solely responsible for his actions. Bathsheba is powerless against the king (Harrelson). There is no justification, no scapegoats, no rationale, no romance, the king simply does what the king wants to do (Birch). In the only words she speaks Bathsheba reveals she is pregnant (Harrelson). We know the rape takes place at the end of her purification bath, following her period, so there is no question, David is the father (Birch). 

David schemes to cover up his rape. He calls for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, one of his long-time faithful warriors, to bring him a report about the progress about the war. He asks only a few general questions, which may have raised Uriah’s curiosity (Gaventa and Petersen). Then David tells him to go home. Uriah does not, he stays faithful to his fellow soldiers and the Ark, and sleeps in the doorway, with the rest of David servants. The next day David tries again, this time with the addition of a little, no ~ a lot of wine. Uriah stays faithful. Not to be deterred, David sends Uriah back to the front with orders for Joab, to put Uriah in the front of the most dangerous place so he will be killed. Now the second firecracker goes off, David is successful in killing Uriah. The third goes off, at almost the same time, because Joab is now involved in David’s growing sin.

The effects of David’s sin continue. Among David’s adult children are Absalom, and Tamar by Maacah and Amnon by Ahinoam (1 Chronicles 3). Amnon falls in love with his sister and following in his father’s footsteps, takes Tamar (Birch). Bang – the next firecracker. Her brother Absalom kills Amnon in revenge; bang. Later he leads a revolt (2 Samuel 15) and Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, betrays David in favor of Absalom’s conspiracy; bang (Keener and Walton). The revolt is put down; but, Absalom is killed; bang, bang.

It gets more complex; because all this contributes to Solomon becoming king. And yes, he is said to be the smartest man in the world; however, he splits God’s Kingdom, in two, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah. This results in civil war; many bangs. The weakened kingdoms are more vulnerable to the war campaigns of neighboring kingdoms. This results in the Northern kingdom being defeated, exiled, and is gone forever; bang, well ten bangs for the ten lost tribes. The Southern Kingdom is also defeated, sent into exile; she returns, but is never again an independent kingdom; she is finally destroyed by Rome in 77 AD. Bang, bang, bang, bang, are we running out of firecrackers?

The rape and dehumanization of Bathsheba and Tamar are horrific stories. They are the story of women and men everywhere who disappear as their stories go untold, or unbelieved (Brooks). They, and how they are seen in today’s world, deserve a deeper study of their own. They are part of the story of the arrogant misuse of power for personal whim, and strip bear the illusion that the powerful are in control of their own destiny and can define the terms of the morality that governs their actions (Birch). These stories demonstrate that kings everywhere will do what kings will do; and how lies, deceit, and murder follow in attempts to cover their offenses.

David’s story reveals the tragic consequences of not being where you are supposed to be.

In John’s Gospel story this morning Jesus is where Jesus should be, among God’s people. Jesus sees the large crowd, and asks the disciples “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5) Philip answers with the very practical observation “Six months wages wouldn’t do it.” Given the remote location, it is unlikely that the surrounding villages would have enough bread even if there is been enough money (Keener and Walton). Andrew observes “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (John 6:9) Another rational observation (Harrelson). Jesus has the crowd sit down on the grassy field. Then, Jesus becomes the host who welcomes and invites the community to share in God’s hospitality. Following Jewish tradition, he takes the food, gives thanks for it, perhaps using a blessing something like, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth” (Keener and Walton; Birch). Then Jesus gives it to the people, as much as anyone wants (Birch). After they are done, Jesus has the leftovers gathered up; there are 12 baskets! The crowd recognizes the similarity to Elisha miraculous feeding in 2 Kings (chapter 4), and the Moses telling the people not to leave any extra manna (Exod. 16:19) and realize Jesus is a powerful prophet (Birch; Hylen; Keener and Walton). They want to make Jesus King. Sound familiar.

However, Jesus knows better, he does not want to be made a king who will just keep producing more wonder bread (Hoezee). So, he withdraws to the mountaintop to show them, and anyone else who hears the story, including us, that he will not be held to the world’s expectations of him. (Harrelson).

That evening, although it is a bit odd, the disciples leave for Capernaum on the other side of the lake, without Jesus. A strong wind comes up; however, John says nothing about them being at risk (Hoezee). When they are a good way across the lake, they see Jesus walking on the sea and coming near their boat, and then they are terrified. (John 6:19) They are not afraid of Jesus, they do not mistake him for a ghost (Hylen). They realize who he is, they know they are witnessing a theophany, a revelation of God and fear is an appropriate response (Hylen; O’Day). Jesus says to them “I am, ~ do not be afraid.” This is the first of Jesus’ “I am” statement in John, which connect Jesus to Moses, and to Yahweh, the Great I Am of Israel (Hoezee; Gaventa and Petersen; O’Day). In perhaps the strangest verse in all scripture immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going (John 6:21). This is a theophany in itself; it shows that Jesus shares in God’s work and identity; it reveals that God provides the safe passage to those in distress (O’Day). It reminds us [that] when you’re in the presence of God, you are always right where you should have been all along and where you will always want to be from then on (Hoezee).

Jesus’ retreat to the mountaintop shows how difficult it is to receive Jesus’ gifts on his terms and not immediately translate them into our own model for life. To do so risks twisting divine grace into existing false systems of power and authority, that destroyed it. The glory, revealed in both stories, is lost if one does not recognize its presence in the quiet places of Jesus’ grace (O’Day).

We have seen, in David’s story, how being in the wrong place leads to sinful actions that have consequences beyond any expectations. We have seen, in Jesus story, how being where you are supposed to be, leads to grace and glory meeting our needs for food, and rescue from danger (O’Day).

Being where you are supposed to be, is a result of knowing who you are, which leads to how you decide what’s decided. David is in the wrong place in part because he has forgotten whose he is, God’s servant, and he acts from kingly power, as we understand power, and we have heard the tragic consequences. Jesus is where he is supposed to be, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, feeding the crowd. He avoids the earthly powers of a king’s crown, so he is able, again, to be where he is supposed to be, walking across the lake which reveals who he is.

Today we are where we are supposed to be, together ~ in community, sharing God’s word, sharing Eucharist (in a minute), in thanksgiving for the week just done, and getting ready for the week to come by reconnecting with the divine glory, and sharing grace that sends us back into the world to continue Jesus’ mission – sharing the presence of the kingdom of God – healing the sick, and – feeding the people. Tomorrow, we will have to decide how to treat those we meet, which is in part determined by our deciding where to be. And it helps to know that we are God’s people; that God is always with us to feed us, to get us where we ought to be, and to remind us I am is I am where ever we are.

References

Birch, Bruce C. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Frist and Second Books of Samuel. Ed. Leander Keck. Vol. II. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015. X vols. OliveTree App.

Bratt, Doug. 2 Samuel 11 B(12). 29 7 2018. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/&gt;.

Brooks, Gennifer Benjamin. “Commentary on 2 Samuel 11:1-15.” 29 7 2018. workingpreacher.org. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3020&gt;.

Cox, Jason. “Take, Bless, Break, Give, Pentecost 10 (B).” 29 7 2018. Sermons that Work.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 29 7 2018. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts, and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel John 6:1-21. 29 7 2018.

Hylen, Susan. Commentary on John 6:1-21. 29 7 2018.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

O’Day, Dail R. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of John. Vol. VIII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols. App Olivetree.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

The Living Church. More than Forgiveness. 29 7 2018. <livingchurch.org>.

 

 

 

Leaving our Palaces

A Sermon for Proper 11; 2 Samuel 7:1-14a, Psalm 89:20-37, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel made the national papers twice this past week. The first is the story of an expectant mom, waking up at 4:30 in the morning, in extreme pain. Her twins are not due for two months. But they are coming ~ now! She hollers for her mom, grabs her 2-year-old son, and off they head to the hospital. Only the one around the corner is closed, and it is 100 miles to her new doctor and hospital. They drive to Hayti, that obstetrics unit is also closed, the staff tells her the nearest hospital is St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo., nearly 80 miles away. After a 25 minute wait, she is rushed to the hospital, then rushed into surgery where her twins were born by cesarean.

Her story is not unique. At least 85 rural hospitals, about 5 percent of the country’s total, have closed since 2010. Fewer than half of the country’s rural counties still have a hospital that offers obstetric care. More than 179 rural counties have lost hospital obstetric care since 2004. Kennett’s is now one of them. Mom is now home, back to work at her $8.50 an hour job. She was raised to be independent; she has always worked. There is rent to make, baby clothes to purchase, and now $80 of gas to buy for the coming week so she can go see her twins in neonatal intensive care 100 miles away (Healy).

The second article begins with some better news. Arkansas has the lowest priced housing in the nation. Those making $29,000 a year, $13.84 an hour, can afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Arkansas’ minimum wage is $8.50 an hour. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s annual report estimates a one bedroom apartment is affordable for minimum wage workers in just 22 counties, in five states (Jan).

With news like this and no matter which of the political divide you are on this week, it is easy to feel like the Op-Ed piece Raising My Child in a Doomed World. Roy Scranton begins by sharing how he cried when their daughter came yowling into the world. He cried a second time when

he looked at the rows of cars in the hospital parking lot, the strip mall across the street, the box stores and drive-throughs and drainage ditches and asphalt and waste fields that had once been oak groves. A world of extinction and catastrophe, a world in which harmony with nature had long been foreclosed.

Be it politics, local, nation or international, climate change, or economics, there are lots of sources of fear and doubt. Yet, Scranton still felt a love he’d never known before. He knew he would do anything for his daughter, kill for her; even as he rages at all the challenges in the future she is doomed to live in. Scranton goes on to write that our real choice is if we are willing to live ethically in a broken world. He continues

Living ethically means understanding that our actions have consequences, taking responsibility for how those consequences ripple out across the web of life in which each of us is irrevocably enmeshed and working every day to ease what suffering we can. Living ethically means limiting our desires, respecting the deep interdependence of all things.

Confessing he cannot protect his daughter, he realizes he can teach her: how to be kind, how to live within nature’s limits, how to be tough but resilient, adaptable and prudent, how to fight for what’s right, and to realize none of us is alone in this (Scranton). And knowing that he, she, and we are not alone, brings us to the reading from 2 Solomon this morning.

Some weeks ago, we heard the story of David facing Goliath, the Philistine warrior hero. King Saul tells David

You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth. (1 Samuel 17:33)

David answers

The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

After the distraction of Saul’s armor, that is way too big for him, David goes into the field, with his staff and sling, with which he protected the sheep and defeated both bear and lion. As you know he defeats Goliath.

Last week we heard the story of, as Bishop Benfield put it, the marriage of the God and Jerusalem. When the verses that are edited out are included, it is not the happy story we heard. It really is very much like a wedding gone badly wrong with one partners’ mother furious at her husband, the banquet canceled so all the guest go home with a consolation, goodie bag with a little meat, some bread and a slice of raisin cake. (Benfield).

This morning we hear how David, under God’s guidance, has conquered the land, established himself as King, settled in Jerusalem, and built himself a fine palace. It sounds as if he wants to give God an equally fine palace to live in after all God is God. But, if we recall the political motivation behind bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, it is sensible to ponder if David is now trying to gain a political advantage, by locating the home of God in David’s city, which he controls. The prophet Nathan agrees, but that night the word of God comes to Nathan with a different plan.

A parenthetical aside; anyone who is asked to give divine guidance should remember this story, and spend to serious time in prayerful, thoughtful discernment. Back to our story.

God asks, “Have I ever asked anyone to build him a house?” Answer “No!” God then recounts their shared journey:

  • God taking David from the field, making him a prince,
  • going with him everywhere defeating every enemy David ever faced

God promises

  • that David’s name will be great
  • that Israel will live in peace, and
  • that God will make David a house, make David a Dynasty, whose offspring will build a house for God’s name.

David may have forgotten who saved him from the paw of the bear and lion, God has not.

It is my habit to read the lesson for the coming week Sunday afternoon or Monday, read commentaries through the week, and keep an ear tuned to my daily readings for related current stories. This week I noticed the last phrase of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians

In [Christ] the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the word; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

He is calling the Ephesians a dwelling place, a palace, for God.

In Mark’s Gospel story, we read that a great crowd follows Jesus and the disciples to Gennesaret bringing with them all manner of sick family, and friends and that everyone is healed. You have heard me say, healing is a sign of Shalom, the wholeness of life which includes the presence of God.

Sometime this past week I began to wonder why when David recognized the inequity between his Palace and God’s tent, among the people, that he didn’t try to be more like God, leave the palace and move into a tent among the people. A day later I began to wonder why it has taken me some 25 years to recognize the question.

The common thread between last week’s and this week’s reading from 2 Samuel is David’s effort to bend God’s presence to his will, instead of humbly submitting to being God’s servant. We will read the consequences of that continuing effort in the weeks to come. It is not a happy story. The unhappiness we heard in this morning’s three opening vignettes are all the results from our continuing efforts to contain God in a house we built for purposes of our own design. But, as always, there is also hope.

The hope in these stories is in God’s promise not to abandon Israel, that God’s presence, in Jesus, brings about amazing healing, and that Paul sees the emerging church as a community of God’s presence. The promise in this morning’s vignettes is in Mr. Scranton’s realization that no matter how deep the approaching doom we can prevail because none of us is in this alone. God stands with all of us, and by God, all of us stand with each other, and with each other, we can all be healed, all of us can know shalom.

Will it be easy? No. Will we have to change? Yes. Does it seem impossible? Yes, but no more so that Jesus’ resurrection, the truth that has brought us together this morning.

So, I encourage all of us to leave the palaces we have constructed, move into a tent, and live, with God, among the people, physically, politically, socially, economically, or metaphorically, does not matter. I encourage us to confess the deepening doom that is gathering around us. I encourage us to look beyond the darkness and see the power in the relationships we have with others, all equally children of God, and offer a friendly hand and a gracious word. I encourage us to go into the world, trusting that God’s love is always here, that divine faithfulness endures, and that we, the temple of God, abiding participants loving and serving the Lord, in what the darkness whispers can never be done, will prevail.


References

Benfield, Larry. “Sermon Proper 11 B.” 15 7 2018.

Bowron, Joshua. “Sheeple, Pentecost 9 (B).” 22 7 2018. Sermons that Work.

Bratt, Doug. Proper 11B 2 Samuel 7:1-14a. 22 7 2018. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

Brooks, Gennifer Benjamin. Commentary on 2 Samuel 7:1-14a. 22 7 2018. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 22 7 2018. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Healy, Jack. “It’s 4 A.M. The Baby’s Coming. But the Hospital Is 100.” 17 7 2017. nytimes.com. <nytimes.com/2018/07/17/us/hospital-closing-missouri-pregnant.html>.

Jan, Tracy. “A minimum-wage worker can’t afford a 2-bedroom.” 13 6 2017. washingtonpost.com. <washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/13/a-minimum-wage-worker-can’t-afford-a-2-bedroom-apartment-anywhere-inthe->.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

Scranton, Roy. “Raising My Child in a Doomed World.” 16 7 2017. nytimes.com. <nytimes.com/2018/07/16/opinion/climate-change-parenting.html>.

The Living Church. The House of Contemplation. 16 7 2018. <livingchurch.org>.

 

 

 

Cowboy Jesus?

A Sermon for Proper 9; 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10, Psalm 48, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

(Listen to at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RePtDvh4Yq4)

Cowboys ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold
They’d rather give you a song then diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levi’s
and each night begins a new day
If you don’t understand him and he don’t die young
He’ll probably just ride away

Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love

Cowboys like smokey old pool rooms and clear mountain mornin’s
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night
Them that don’t know him won’t like him
And them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him
He ain’t wrong he’s just different
But his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love
Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such


I have heard Willie Nelson sing Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys for almost as I can remember caring about music. But because I had a hard time hearing them, I never could understand many words other than the chorus line. So, it wasn’t a surprise when the divine muse whispered that song title when I read this morning’s gospel. But, when I looked up the lyrics it was a surprise how relevant they are. And no, I’m not saying Jesus was a cowboy, but still, there are few lines that are worthy of thought.

Our first line is

 ‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone Even with someone they love.

We don’t think much about children growing up, leaving home and making their way into the world. Of the five of us

  • one lives in the same county,
  • a second lives in metro Atlanta,
  • a third lives in the state,
  • I live 3 to 5 states away, depending on how you drive and
  • another lives half a country away.

We are not unusual. In Jesus day it was unusual to leave your village. It happened, there was a large Jewish population who lived across the world; however, the expectation was you stayed in the village where you were born. Jesus’ village is so convinced of his ordinariness that it is hard for them to believe in his amazing teaching (Harrelson). They know him as a carpenter, a local craftsman, not an educated person. For him to attempt to rise above his established social position creates resentment (Perkins). Like the cowboy, Jesus never stays home.

Jesus is also often alone, even with the people he loves, and who love him. He is alone in his hometown; his family and friends can still love him even when they are resentful. And how often is Jesus alone as his disciples, his twelve chosen followers, completely miss the point. How lonely is he when they fall asleep in the garden? How lonely is he when one by one all twelve desert him?

A second line that caught my eye is

Them that don’t know him won’t like him. And them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him.

It is true that many who don’t know Jesus don’t like him. Almost all the Jewish leaders don’t like him. There are those people who approach him, but most of them have some need they believe he can help them with, I wonder how that translates to like? And as we hear this morning, even those that do know him don’t always know how to take him.

A final line to explore is

He ain’t wrong he’s just different. But his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.

Jesus is different. Being sometimes known as The Son of God makes you different. Jesus’ deeds of power make him different in a visible way. However, it is his teachings that make him different in ways that disturb people. His teachings are counter to long-held values and they challenge values that give people some privilege. People don’t like to have their privileges challenged. So yes, Jesus is different.

We need to make a little adjustment with the next bit because it is not Jesus’ pride, but his dedication to God’s ministry that

 won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.

But I’m caught by the phrase “you think.” The cowboy’s family and friends want him to change. Jesus family and friends want him to change. I’m not at all sure we don’t want Jesus to change. However, we’ve all got it backward, it is us who need to change. I can’t speak to the cowboy’s ways, but I know for certain, that Jesus’ ways, as uncomfortable as they make us, are right.

As I am writing, or perhaps in the midst of a somewhat unusual listening to the muse session, I’m beginning to hear

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be evangelist, disciples, or ministers

I’m not quite sure what to do with picking guitars, but at least around here old trucks still fit. I’m wondering why we value doctors and lawyers and such over cowboys, and prophets and such. I suspect it has to do with part 2 to this morning’s gospel story. Jesus and his crew leave Nazareth. He sends them out in groups of two. In part for safety, travel was dangerous in those days; but also, because it takes two to be a credible witness (Deut. 17:6; 19:15) (Keener and Walton; Perkins). Jesus sends them out to heal, to testify to the truth of God’s love and to call out evil (Peters).

Now as mamas and papas, we would be proud of our babies who grow up to be doctors or other healing professional. As mommas and papas, we would be proud of our of babies who grow up to be lawyers or other professionals that value truth and justice. As mamas and papas, we might be proud of our babies who grow up to call out evil; but we would certainly be leery because we all know calling out evil is a dangerous business. We don’t understand it, in part because it is never done from a place of power (Peters). Naming evil is an act of faith. We cannot control God’s power, so calling out evil is ultimately an act of trust that God is present will protect (Epperly). It requires us, as Paul says, to accept God’s grace as sufficient, and that divine power is perfected in what everyone else sees as weakness.

Most of us might be willing to trust God, and grace with ourselves. But I’ll confess the hardest thing I have ever done is to trust God with my kids. I know grace is sufficient, but it is invisible, it is mystical, it is ultimately unknowable, and therefore unjudgable, by any human standards. To trust those we love the most to the internal and mystical runs absolutely counter to all we learn from our perceptible and visible world, it is just different, it is hard to accept, it brings us to the very edge of our relationship with God.

And now I find myself with another unexpected realization. I can’t recall any bible stories about smokies pool rooms or puppies, but Jesus does like clear mountain mornings, children, and ladies of the night. I’m wondering if there is more cowboy to Jesus than I at first expected. And that has me thinking that if we seek to raise our children to be like Jesus, perhaps we should let them grow up to be cowboys and cowgirls. They may not be understood, they may wander far from home, they may know lonely times, they may be different, their dedication may make them hard-headed. On the other hand, they may sing a new song; they may sing to the Lord, to all the earth, a song that: is a blessing the Lord’s name; tells of salvation, declares God’s his glory to the nations, and God’s marvelous works among all the peoples. (Psalms 96:1-3) as they heal the sick, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit those in prison (Matt 25:35), and proclaim the love of God revealed in the Gospel (Mark 16:15). Who knows they may even cast out demons, as with prophetic voices, speaking hard truth, they call out evil.

I am beginning to wonder how to tell my mama I’m off to find my own inner cowboy. You are welcome to come along for the ride.


References

Bruce, Ed and Patsy Bruce. “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys lyrics ©.” Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, n.d.

David, W. Peters. “Hometown, Pentecost 7 (B).” 8 7 2018. Sermons that Work.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 8 7 2018. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

Perkins, Pheme. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of Mark. Ed. Leander E. Keck (NIBC) Bel and the Dragon. Vol. VII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings. “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” By Ed and Patty Bruce. n.d. You Tube. 8 7 2018. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RePtDvh4Yq4 >.

 

 

 

 

Make the Difference 

A sermon for Proper 8 and Independence Day; 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43

I have all kinds of 4th of July memories

  • family friends coming over to swim and eat abundant hamburgers and hot dogs
  • community picnics at the park pavilion going to parades on Peachtree St. my brother in a wheelchair, and  seeing the crowds part  giving us a front-row view, then after my brother was well  us kids wanting to keep the wheelchair  so we could keep getting the good places
  • at seminary the Sewanee 4th of July parade that always invited all kids to decorate their bikes and ride along.  One year our youngest wanted to ride so we helped her, then somewhere along the way one nut that held the back wheel tight got loose:  we struggled to tighten it, but I did not have enough hand strength:  suddenly the owner of the house we were in front of showed up with a wrench and in a minute, our daughter was back in the parade.

I think that is my favorite of all because it is a small, but such a powerful example of what freedom means. It is a simple but powerful example of how we are interrelated. I’m convinced it is not the big efforts that make the difference, but the rather the accumulation of the small efforts, beyond counting, that makes the difference in who we are.

You know my focus on faith and healthcare and I expect you expect me to say something about the two healing stories from Mark. They are good stories, with lots to share. But, the divine muse leads me to Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians.

Corinth was a particularly prosperous city and so was the church there (Keener and Walton). Paul notes that they are rich in knowledge, giftedness, faith, earnestness, and love. He continues that it be a shame if the only area where they did not excel was in their charitable giving. He refers to God’s gift of manna where no one had too much, and no one had too little (Ex `6:18) (Hoezee). The phrase giving “according to what one has” is a reference to the making of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 35:21-29). In this effort, everyone brought from what they had. Some brought precious metals or gems, some yarn or linen, some wood, some spices or oils, and other skills:  weaving, metalworking, carpentry and so on (Gaventa and Petersen). Both are foundational stories for Jews and us, are similar to our country’s foundational stories, George Washington and the Cherry Tree, or Paul Revere’s ride. These stories subtly define who we seek to be.

Paul is saying that our abundance is not solely personal and should be used with consideration to the needs of others (Epperly).  Grounding the call to generosity in Jesus making others rich …  by [being] a beggar, by being one of the disgusting have-nots, and by giving out of his nothingness (Fredrickson)  makes it clear that giving to help meet the needs of the poor is a theological, spiritual concern, not a mere economic calculation (Hoezee).

I was drawn to the verse

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. (NRSV Luke 12:48).

 It sounds like Luke is saying the same thing Paul is. Close. It comes from the end of the parable of The Faithful and the Unfaithful Steward (Luke 12:41). It shines the Gospel light on our daily practices and our consideration of God and divine plans. The foolish steward did not consider God or divine plans (Harrelson). The parable reveals that God’s reign is opposite to our cultural values of allegiance and economics, that reject concerns for those on social or economic margins  (Gaventa and Petersen). While this parable is not concerned with charity it does enlighten Jesus teachings about making charitable decisions.

All this comes together with my 4th of July memories in how we relate to each other. In the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot in the news about international trade and tariffs. One thing I keep hearing is that the economy is deeply interrelated. Many US companies buy products from overseas to make products they sell here and overseas. In an article, I read this week, and I cannot remember the source, but the phrase won’t go away, the author wrote the world economy is no longer interrelated; it is interdependent. Both Paul and Luke speak to how we are more than related to each other we are dependent on each other. A principle in the Anglican world is the that of mutual respect (responsibility) and interdependence. Each national church within the communion respects all other national churches and each acknowledges that we are all interdependent on each other. It emerged after WWII as part of the effort to eliminate power down relationships between the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church with emerging third world national Churches. In the last few decades we have struggled, especially over issues of gender and sexuality, however, the processes are still in existence, and it has made, it is making a difference.

Both liberal and conservative thinking has wandered far away from the truth that we are interdependent on each other. Both overemphasize their preferred ideologies of individualism, sometimes on personal expression, sometimes on personal possessions. Both of those are important, but neither of them is a defining principle of who we are, as God’s children, or as the continuing presence of Christ’s ministry as the church.  We are made ’âḏâm, humankind, male and female (Genesis 1:26-27) and all other differences we perceive in the image of God.  We are not complete without each other.

And here I do come to a principle of faith and health care. In both the miracle stories we heard this morning Jesus does heal. He heals the woman and heals Jairus’ daughter. But there is much more than physical restoration. He calls the woman daughter.  Because of here bleeding she has been unclean, and therefore, forbidden to be in her community, she could not even go to the Temple to offer a sacrifice to bring about healing. Calling her daughter restores her to her community, her healing is complete. The woman does not seek to follow Jesus.  There are lots of possible implications here, one of which is her community needs her.

After healing Jairus’ daughter, Jesus gives her back to her parents by telling them to give her something to eat. This is often interpreted as proof she is not a ghost. I think he is restoring the parent-child relationship by reestablishing the parent-child responsibility of care by having the parents feed her.  Jairus seeking out Jesus to heal his daughter, and remember in his culture daughters are not highly valued, shows how he is dependent on her to be complete.

In both stories, the continuing relationship will be challenging. The daughter is 12, and I don’t think teen – parent relationships are all that different today than they were in Jesus day. The woman has suffered much and been subject to social exclusion. It will be difficult for both her and the community to reestablish a normal relationship. However, both stories have already introduced the necessary ability. Jesus tells the woman her faith has made her well. Jesus tells Jairus “do not fear, only believe.” ‘Faith’ and ‘believe’ are the same word in Hebrew. Both indicate, relying on, trusting in the presence of God to provide what is necessary to know shalom, wholeness, in the challenges that the woman, that Jairus, that you that we face.

The world needs healing, we need shalom. Each person, every community, small or large, hamlet or nation, has an abundance of traits or possessions that another lack. Therefore, every person, every community has the opportunity to share “according to [their] means” (2 Cor 8:11). And that is not easy to do, because it requires everyone to know everyone one else as a child of God and therefore worthy of our shared abundance. It also requires everyone to acknowledge that we are lacking some vital means or another, often it is one that someone or some community deemed undesirable or worthy, has to share with us. Such mutual respect, such mutual interdependence requires faith, and belief. Mark shares with us stories of such faith and belief. Paul shares with us the truth of abundance and charity in our lives. The psalmist shares with us that “with the Lord there is mercy” (Ps.130:6). The need is here. The abundance is here. I’m convinced it is not the big efforts that make the defining difference, but rather it is the accumulation of the small efforts beyond counting that makes the difference in who we are, as individuals, and as a community.

Our challenge is  to believe that we can act,  within our means,  by faith,  trusting in the grace of God,  known in Jesus,  by the Spirit  often by the accumulation  of the small efforts,  beyond counting,  that makes the difference  so that all the people  of this and every land  may have liberties  in righteousness and peace  right here, right now  (The Episcopal Church 242).


References

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 1 7 2018. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Fredrickson, David E. Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:7-15. 6 9 2015. <workingpreacher.org>.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Lectionary Epistle – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15. 1 7 2018. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermonstarters/&gt;.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

Logue, Frank. “A Beloved Child of God, Pentecost 6 (B).” 1 7 2018. Sermons that Work.

Olive Tree. Olive Tree Cross References: Expanded Set. Harper Collins Christian Publishing, 2015.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

The Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Publishing, 1979.