2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
July 1, 2018 – Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
It is a small thing, but I note that as of today we have been together for three years. It still feels like we are just getting started, but it also seems like much has happened.
Happy Birthday this week, too, to the colonies who, 242 years ago, declared that they were, and of right ought to be free and independent states. In making this bold declaration.
They told the world that they made this bold declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of a divine Providence, and in making it they said they mutually pledged each other their lives, their fortune, and their sacred honor.
There are some things you have to do completely and totally without holding anything back…not a penny of your fortune…not even your life…and not even caring about what history might say about your motives 242 years later.
Or 2,000 or 3,000 years later. We begin our reading this morning with a psalm with which we have proclaimed that our whole being hopes and we wait for God’s promises.
We read David’s funeral oration for Saul. They had had a complex relationship and when the end came for Saul, the messenger that was sent from the battlefield did not need to be instructed. He delivered Saul’s crown and armlet…the symbols of the office of the king of Israel…to David.
David had been secretly anointed by Samuel, so the messenger did not know about that. But David had been the commander of the army who had won spectacular victories time and again.
As surely as Samuel anointed David on behalf of God, that Amalekite messenger anointed David on behalf of his people.
We can read in 1 Samuel 18 that “the women sang to one another as they made merry, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’” It is easy to understand why Saul might have been as jealous of David as he was grateful to him. Maybe all Israel felt that way about him.
David does not waste his breath on personal issues, though. The funeral oration does not come during the glory days of Israel, but at a time when its future was very much in doubt. David honors the king that has fallen, thanking him for the great deeds he has done and looking forward to the day when the nation can be made safe.
All Israel needs to be united. They cannot afford the friction of factions. The Philistine War is still on and they have just lost a decisive battle. “Look how the mighty have fallen,” David cries…and Israel with him.
He comes not to bury Saul but to praise him. He was“faster than eagles, stronger than lions!” So are they. A culture of unbridgeable factions is a luxury that they cannot afford. This is a time of peril. They must all be one.
And David does not just focus on the nation’s loss. The loss is personal to him, too. “You were so dear to me! Look how the mighty have fallen!”
David grieves and lets the nation know that they have been blessed by the one they all celebrate that day …so all the nation can move on together, as one. They face an existential threat and that is more important than anything that can divide them.
Fred Buechner, one of the most prominent 20th Century Protestant theologians remembered the entry of America into the Second World War. Writing in the post-Vietnam era he said it was difficult to explain to people then how united the country had become overnight with the raid on Pearl Harbor.
If he had waited to write in the days following 9/11 it might have been easier to make the point. I went to Course of Study my first year in 2002, the summer after 9/11. I went to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and we had a Long Island fireman in our class.
Lifelong resident of New York, he spoke with awe at the solidarity of the city that had pushed and shoved its way to work and back every day. People were still holding doors for each other. Cabbies were letting people cut into their lane in traffic in rush hour.
He said that shortly after the attack, a subway train was stalled and one of the passengers had a panic attack, thinking that they were going to die.
A first responder happened to be in the car, diagnosed what was happening, and asked if anyone had a sedative they could spare for the person who had been stricken. Half the people in the car immediately stood up and offered one of theirs.
These days we are fighting each other hammer and tong, it seems, with one side shouting at the other and the other shouting back. You know why we do that?...because we can.
We feel secure enough to complain bitterly about our situation and we are satisfied to blame all our problems on ‘them’ and we never stop to look in our own hearts…we never pause long enough to calm our own fears.
We are agitated and irritable. We have an opioid addiction crisis becoming one of the leading causes of death in America. What are we to do – as agitated as we feel – but walk around with an emergency supply of sedatives in our purse or pocket?
“What else can we do?” you ask. I’m glad you asked.
1.We can pray…sit quietly for a few minutes every day to speak to the author of all truth and all love, pouring out our hearts to one who cares enough for us to invite us to his table and offer himself up as our Passover lamb.
“This is my body you eat,” he tells us. “This is my blood you drink. And I offer it willingly for the salvation of all humankind…that you can be one as God and I are one. Love one another.”
2. We can read the Bible, alone or together, and see that humankind has always been in a crisis of one sort or another and the difference between them and us is that we have higher quality problems than they did.
We want to use less energy in our daily lives. They hoped to have enough food to eat, clothes to wear and a little place to sleep.
3. We can take a walk and shoot some pictures or just enjoy the scenery. Walk with a friend and talk about whatever comes to mind, like our widows’ group. That’s how we get to know our neighbors and ourselves…and come to know that we are not alone.
4. We can prepare a meal for someone who needs it and we can serve it to them. Come in to our meal. If you want to get out of a funk, do something nice for someone who can never…or will never…pay you back.
Always do the right thing, always have a kind word on your lips, even for people who do not wish you well. It will please some people and astonish the rest. And you will feel better about yourself…and them.
The people who approach Jesus today are desperate. The hemorrhagic woman has had bleeding for 12 years and the leader of the synagogue is about to lose his 12 year old daughter.
It is forbidden for a woman with blood flows to touch or be touched and Jairus has to humble himself among his important peers to seek out the help of this unqualified rabbi from the hill country.
But they need help and they ask for it…and they get it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always No. So they ask and receive…they seek and they find…they knock and the door is opened to them.
We are so anxious about everything these days. We are anxious about things that happen on the other side of the world…things that cannot happen until tomorrow…things that have already happened and we cannot undo them.
We are giving our God-given power away when we obsess about problems we have no control over, and we fail to use the greatest power we have when we do not look into our own hearts and ask ourselves “What is my part in these bad feelings I have” or “What can I do here and now to make the world a better place?” “Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day?”
Name your fears. Name your loves. Be aware of them and deal with them consciously. Get woke. Knock.The door will be opened to you.
All we have is each other and the only moment we have is Now. That’s life.
In late August of 1776 the British army and navy had the Continental Army pinned down at Brooklyn Heights. They waited until the next morning to finish off the rebels and capture Washington, their leader.
That is when one of those odd moments of Divine Providence rescued the American cause. The British meant to pin them in with their fleet on the one side and their army on the other. The colonials gathered their weapons and ammunition and started moving toward the East River. Wagon wheels were muffled and soldiers were ordered not to speak.
A fog settled in and concealed the retreat from the British pickets, just as it had at Dorchester Heights. The wind came up in such a way that the Americans were able to use sails with their boats to move troops to Manhattan Island…but the British fleet could not close in from the sea.
At 7:00 a.m. on August 29th, just as the Hessians and the Red Coats were closing in, Washington, the last man to leave, stepped into a boat and completed the evacuation. The entire Continental Army had been saved. Not one soldier was lost.
They had been forced to act with blind faith, pursuing the only way open to them. In return, they had seen such a wonderful result, compared to what it might have been, that it could not help but restore their faith in their cause and in Israel’s: the cause of freedom.
As Paul writes to us today,“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for our sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.”
And Jesus lived the perfect life, his destiny could not have been greater than it was. No destiny ever has been. He showed us what we can do with the moment God has given us NOW to make the world better.
Let your faith heal you. Lean into your gifts and give them away. Then they can never be taken from you.
Lean into your understanding right here and now and get woke. Then you will be aware of the good that is around you every second of every day.
Lean into your heart and do something good and lasting, even if it is to a perfect stranger who is having a panic attack in the middle of a bad day on the subway.
If you are alive, start acting like it. If you want to be happy, start acting like it. The reality of the goodness around us all will appear.
Steer your ship with hope and leave fear astern. You may find that being alive is just like being rich…seeing how completely you are loved is just like being rich…and it is your faith that will heal you.
E pluribus unum to you and all who call America ‘the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.’ Although we are many, may we realize that we have already become one in seeking after the vision that the Continentals had and in keeping the faith that they kept.
May we be one with each other, one with Christ, and one in ministry to all the world. May our faith heal us. What, O Lord, would you have me do in your world this day? Amen.