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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost July 1, 2012 (lectionary 13).

Lamentations 3:22-33

Psalm 30(1)

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Mark 5:21-43

First Reading

Lamentations 3:22-33 -- What doyou say to yourself or to another when the bottom falls out? In the news today is a fatal car accident. A pastors wife and two children were killed when another car crossed the median and hit them head on. He and another young son survived. Is it better to be dead or alive on that day? Every day people ponder that question, sometimes too much. They dream of the release and relief of death from living in grief or pain or hunger or war. Israels lament from capti vity in Babylon clings to the thread of hope chat to be alive is better, if only "to sit in silence and wait quietly for the Lord." This may be the best way to understand the ministry of presence so important to people who have good reason for hopelessness. We have the great honor of being with someone, perhaps for many days, not to say the right words or do something productive, but only to sit nearby and wait, a flesh and blood testimony to the goodness and steadfast love of God.

Psalm 30--"I he testimony on the day of salvation, after many days of waiting in silence, sounds like Psalm 30. "O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit." People in grief often describe a long fog. In my grief after my mother died in 2005 I wrote, "everything seems gray and my body has to work to move through the thickness of the dense air. Even though the world goes on around me, I see it and myself in slow motion, and sounds are far away and hollow." This is existence in the Pit. And then, whether suddenly or over a period of time, that fog lifted and the world shone in color again. I found myself surprised to be living in it and liking being alive. My movement was no longer labored, but easy like dancing. And the sounds were not far away; they were bright and coming from within me, no longer silent but able and eager to praise God again.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 -- Continuing his pleas to the Corinthians, Paul turns his focus to the offering he and Titus are collecting for the church in Jerusalem that is undergoing a severe famine. I am always impressed with Paul's wide range of fundraising tactics. He stops at nothing to achieve his goal. He starts out with some flattery in verse 7. He incites a little competition in verse 8, maybe even challenges some integrity. In verse 9 he pulls out the big gun: "For you know the generosity of Jesus, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that YOU might become rich!" However, he isn't finished yet. Appealing to the type A personalities among the Corinthians, he encourages them to finish what they started. Moreover, to those among them who care about fairness, he finishes with a comment about equity among people in what they have. Paul is absolutely uninhibited in his appeal.

We do not know if the letter "worked" Did the Corinthian church finish their collection and send an abundance of resources to the church in Jerusalem to alleviate the famine? 1 hope so. How could they not? Do we believe in our congregations at least as much as Paul believed in die cranky Corinthians? If so, we need to ask our people to excel in generosity as a reflection of Jesus' generosity. We need to be witnessing to God who hears the cries of the poor by not closing our own ears and hearts to those cries. In addition, we need never to apologize for asking that people invest their money in the missions of bringing food to the hungry, health to the sick and hope to the despairing. If there is ever a time to be uninhibited and fearless in ministry, this is it!

Mark 5:21-43--Jesus continues his ministry to the sick by healing a young girl, the daughter of Jairus who is a teacher in the synagogue. On his way there, a woman touches his cloak and is healed from twelve years of hemorrhages. Jesus makes a young girl move, maybe even dance, again and removes a fathers foggy grief. Jesus ends twelve years of wondering if it is better to be alive or dead. Jesus is the incarnation of the steadfast God that comes after a period of silent waiting to raise one up from the pit. Jesus is the incarnation of God who hears the cries of one who is despairing. Please do not teach these stories as history lessons. Preach these healing miracle stories as if they are still happening--because they are. Jesus is alive and incarnate in the body of Christ, the church.

Pastoral Reflection

Maybe this is the Sunday to make the appeal or start a campaign for ELCA World Hunger or the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Don't miss the opportunity to do so with the weight and words of all these readings to help. Lamentations are the voices of the hungry in Ethiopia and Somalia, as they live each day starving, waiting to die and surrounded by their children dying around them. Lamentations are the voices of those who die from malaria, a totally preventable, treatable, and curable disease. Psalm 30 are the voices of those who are fed and healed because the incarnate body of Christ continues Jesus' mission without reservation and because we never apologize for expecting and asking God to use us and our gifts to do even greater things.
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Title Annotation:Preaching Helps
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
Words:957
Previous Article:Fourth Sunday after Pentecost June 24, 2012 (Lectionary 12).
Next Article:Sixth Sunday after Pentecost July 8, 2012 (lectionary 14).
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