28 June 2015

The grace of God, and the challenge to live graciously and lovingly, shine through in the readings of the Lectionary this week. From David’s grief over both his enemy, Saul, and his friend, Jonathan, to Jesus’ healing of both the poor, rejected woman and the wealthy synagogue leader’s daughter, God’s grace is seen to extend to all people. As those who seek to serve and worship this God, then, our capacity for love and grace can expand and grow to become inclusive, healing and transforming.

May the grace we experience in our worship this week overflow into our lives and relationships to the glory of God.

READINGS:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27: In spite of Saul’s persecution of him, David sings a song of grief for Saul’s death, and that of Jonathan. David’s respect and praise for Saul, and his love for Jonathan, are expressed in the beauty of the poetry, and no anger or hatred of Saul is present in David’s grief at all.
OR Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24: God seeks eternal life for human beings, and fills the universe with creative power that does not bring destruction.

Psalm 130: A cry to God for redemption and rescue, in which hope in God’s faithful love is expressed.
OR Psalm 30: A song of thanksgiving for God’s salvation, and for God’s strength. The psalmist encourages all of God’s people to offer praise, and remembers the time when, because of his arrogance, he strayed from God, but God drew him back and brought him great joy.
OR Lamentations 3:21-33: God’s faithful mercies do not fail, but are renewed every morning, and it is good for God’s people to wait for God’s deliverance in hope, patient endurance of suffering and trust that God does not enjoy the suffering of human beings.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15: Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to share their abundance with others who are less fortunate. He explains that he doesn’t want them to go without for the sake of others, but rather that their surplus can help others who have lack. In time the situation may be reversed and this ensures that all have enough and are equal.

Mark 5:21-43: Jesus is asked by a synagogue leader, Jairus, to go with him to heal his daughter. On his way, a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years touches him and is healed. After insisting that she make herself known, and speaking words of grace to her, he goes on to Jairus’ house, where his daughter has now died. Then Jesus raises her from the dead to the amazement of all.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The grace and care of God for humanity, and the call for us to care for one another shines through all of the Lectionary readings this week. In the continuous Old Testament reading, David grieves for Saul, even though the dead king had been his enemy and persecutor. He also grieves for Jonathan whom he had loved dearly. David’s grace and care, and his instruction for the whole nation to join him in grief for their king, demonstrates the faithful love and grace of God, and provides an example of the kind of character that God seeks to nurture in us. In the Gospel reading, Jesus heals two people – the daughter of a wealthy religious leader and a poor, excluded, “unclean” woman. Here, the indiscriminate love and grace of Jesus is reflected, as he meets both rich and poor, powerful and weak, at their point of need. Both Psalms and the sections from Wisdom and Lamentations all reflect on God’s faithfulness and grace and the hope and trust we can place in the God who seeks to rescue us and bring us life. Finally, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church he encourages them to care for other believers and share their abundance in order that all may have enough. All of these readings reveal God’s compassion and love for all people, and the challenge for us to love as we have been loved, while sharing our resources and preserving the dignity of others. It’s a call to allow our faith in God’s nature and mission to lead us into gracious and generous relationships in which we care for and bring wholeness and life to one another. After last week’s call to live in and serve in God’s authority, this week’s Lectionary shows us that our service is to all, and it’s a service of generosity and love, not dominance or judgement.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
Perhaps one of the most unsustainable facets of global human culture at this point in history is our tendency toward “us and them” thinking. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We share with those who are like us or who “belong” with us, but we take from or ignore those who are different, or who are part of “us”. We draw lines across racial, socio-economic, political, national, generational, ideological, religious, sexual, and tribal lines and we withhold dignity, compassion, and generosity from those who do not fit into our particular circle. The result of this way of thinking and living is that we become violent against those whom we consider to be enemies, we celebrate the downfall of those whom we oppose, we deny grace and service to those whom we feel do not deserve or warrant it, and we exploit or neglect or ignore those for whom we have no good reason to care, or from whom we can expect no return. The Gospel message – and the Lectionary readings for this week – are an indictment on this behaviour and a challenge to change. We are encouraged to trust in God who rescues us and who does not desire for any human being to suffer, in spite of our unfaithfulness and our tendency to sin and rebel. We are challenged by the example of David, who experienced genuine grief both for his dear friend and for his enemy, and by the example of Jesus who willingly healed both the poor, excluded woman, and the wealthy synagogue leader’s daughter. Finally, we are called, in Paul’s letter, to live generously and with care and concern for others, and in this way to experience and share God’s grace and goodness. If we could begin to focus on what connects us and not so much on what divides us; if we could begin to share and respect one another and honour one another’s dignity; if we could find ways to serve and share with one another, we might be able to address the unnecessary suffering (hunger, homelessness, disease, and war) that devastates our world. The Lectionary challenge is to recognise how the smallest acts of connection and service can contribute to global healing and peace.

Local Application:
It is all too easy to live lives from a critical and judgemental perspective. In some ways it can feel like social cohesion is enhanced through exclusivity, gossip, and demonisation of those who are different from us. The truth is, though, that our failure to love and serve the “other” leads to greater division, suffering and insecurity in our homes, neighbourhoods, and countries. Whenever we are tempted to view another person as “not like me” and then to judge, exclude or criticise them as a result, we have contributed to the suffering, division, and violence in our world. When, however, we are willing to serve, love, accept, forgive, share with, and understand those who are different, we contribute to the peace of our communities and of the world. This is what the Scriptures for this week are trying to teach us. If, like David, we can honour and respect those who may have treated us as enemies; when like Jesus we can treat both rich and poor with equal grace and dignity; when, as Paul instructs the Corinthians, we are willing to share with others, the world becomes a friendlier, more compassionate, more gracious, and more secure place for all. Loving enemies or outcasts is never easy, but it remains a central call of the Gospel, and a central mark of the truly Christ-centred life.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Glorious The Grace
We’re Not That Different
Inappropriate Grace
The Call Of Compassion

Hymn Suggestions:
All Are Welcome
Fill The World With Love
Come Let Us Sing Of A Wonderful Love
O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
You Are
Servant Song (Link to YouTube video)
With Kindness

Liturgy:
A Liturgy of Compassion

Video Suggestions:
Woman With The Issue Of Blood: A Risk Worth Taking
Equality
Jairus’ Daughter Raised From The Dead

Drama:
You’re Not Like Me

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