By Barbara Klugh
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, David grieves the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, Paul promotes good financial stewardship, and Jesus heals a woman and a girl.
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27: This week we read David’s heartbreakingly beautiful poem, called “The Song of the Bow.” It’s a song of lamentation over the deaths of King Saul and his son Jonathan in a battle with the Philistines.
Despite the fact that the way is now open for David to realize his God-ordained destiny and become king over Israel, he is devastated over their deaths and calls on all Israel to mourn. Three times he intones the phrase “How the mighty have fallen” intensifying his profound distress. News of their deaths must not be told to their enemies, because they would celebrate. David calls on the mountains of Gilboa, the place of the battle, to become desolate because they have been defiled by the blood spilled there. David proclaims the valor of Saul and Jonathan in battle, describing them as “swifter than eagles” and “stronger than lions.” In the final two verses David pours out his personal grief over the loss of “my brother Jonathan” and proclaims his love and devotion toward him.
Psalm 130: Known as De profundis (Out of the depths), this is one of the seven penitential psalms. The psalmist calls upon the Lord to hear his supplication. He waits with hope and trust for God’s forgiveness. In the final two verses, the psalmist calls upon Israel to join him in penitence and in waiting for God’s saving grace, “With him there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.”
Psalm 130 is one of the liturgical selections for funerals. Both hymn 151, “From deepest woe I cry to thee” and hymn 666, “Out of the depths I call” are based on Psalm 130. Here is a video of the psalm in Anglican chant by the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15: In chapters 8 and 9, Paul shifts gears and turns his attention to financial stewardship, specifically a relief effort for the suffering mother church in Jerusalem. It’s interesting to me that the way we give and share our resources has been a measurement of our spiritual maturity right from the very beginning of the church.
In this week’s reading, Paul begins with praise and encouragement: “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.”
Earlier in the chapter Paul held up the Macedonian churches that were struggling financially, but gave generously to the Jerusalem church. Paul wants the Corinthians to follow suit.
This was not a command, however. It was a way of “testing the genuineness” of their own love, so that, in responding, they might truly imitate Jesus Christ. Jesus became poor that we might become rich and find peace with God. For Paul, it was important that the Corinthians were eager to share their gifts, “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have.” The goal was that no one would have too much or too little. This moderation or sharing would thus bring greater glory to God and benefit for all people. Paul’s message is still valid and worth following 2,000 years later.
Mark 5:21-43: In this week’s reading we have another example of the Markan sandwich, like we had earlier this month. Mark liked to use the sandwich technique in which one story is sandwiched in the middle of another story, so that each story informs the interpretation of the other. Our reading has the story of an women who has been suffering from hemorrhages in the middle of the two-part story of Jairus and his ill daughter.
Our reading begins with Jesus teaching a crowd beside the Sea of Galilee. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, came and begged Jesus, “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.” Jesus stopped what he was doing and went with him.
The crowd followed, and an unnamed woman who suffered from hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Jesus and reached out and touched his cloak. She believed that if she just touched his cloak, “I will be made well.” Her bleeding stopped immediately and she was healed. Jesus felt the power leave him and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” The woman came forward in fear and trembling, and told Jesus the whole truth. Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” This is huge. For twelve years the woman had been ritually impure, excluded from the community. So she is restored in her health and in her social standing.
Just as Jesus is turning away from the woman, some people came from Jairus’ house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But Jesus said, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus calls for faith even in the midst of deep sorrow. When they arrived at the house, people were already mourning. Jesus said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” The people laughed, but Jesus went to her room and took her hand and told her to get up. The girl obeyed and began to walk around. Everyone was amazed; Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone, and to give her something to eat.
Both the unnamed, marginalized woman and the synagogue leader Jairus have faith in Jesus’ power to heal and they make an effort seek him out. Jairus had enough faith for both himself and his daughter. I think this means that we need to take action to seek out Jesus during tough times, and if our faith is weak, we should seek out someone whose faith is strong—and that will be enough.